The Best Travel Backpack? – 10 Best Backpacks For Travelling

Selecting the best travel backpack to travel around the world can be one of the most important decisions you make. You might be living out of the travel backpack for a year on your, you guessed it, gap year. It’s vital that you get it right and get a rucksack or backpack that is not only a great design but a good fit for you.

Over the last 8 years I’ve tried and tested many backpacks in all sorts of conditions. I’ve been to all 7 continents, dragged backpacks through the Arctic Circle, thrown them between boats in Fiji and everything inbetween.

Editor’s Top Backpacks

A lot of people ask “what’s the best rucksack for 3 or 6 months of travel?“ or “what’s the best backpack for a trip to South East Asia or Australia?“ Both of these questions are somewhat irrelevant. Going on a very short trip might mean you only need a small backpack such as 30/40lt IF you travel light but I take the same backpack on one month trips as I do 12 month trips. Just because you have 60 litres, doesn’t mean you have to fill it completely.

You might want to consider that you will do a month trip now and then end up getting the bug and travelling for longer. Why not just buy one decent bag for life? I’ve been using the same backpack for years. Sometimes it weighs 8kg, sometimes 22kg. Having a bigger backpack that’s slightly empty just means you’ll have more room to find things.

The same advice goes for destinations. If you get a decent backpack, like the brands listed below, they will be suitable for all countries that you visit. The Berghaus Backpack I used has been to 7 continents! I now use a Osprey Farpoint as a carry on and the Osprey Sojourn as a wheeled backpack (I’ve got lazy in my old age!)

Anyway, let me help you choose the best backpack for you.

What Size Backpack Do I Need? Is a 40 Litre Backpack Enough?

Yes boys and girls, size does matter, especially on a long round the world trip or Gap Year. However, it all really does depend on you and your travel style. Some people are flashpackers and must take 6 pairs of shoes in which case you might want a bigger backpack. Some people purposely take a smaller backpack to limit how much they are carrying around with them in case they get tempted to shop. General rule of thumb would be anything around the 60 litre mark if you’re doing a round the world. I know some people who travel light with 40 and some who travel with 70.

I’m Travelling Light and Need a Minimalist Backpack. What is the Best Carry On Backpack and Rucksack?

If you’re doing a short trip or going for the minimalist approach to packing, a 60 litre bag will be too much. You can also save money if you have a backpack that is the right size for a carry on and can avoid checked luggage fees. The backpacks below should be the right size for carry on but please be aware that luggage restrictions can vary by airline so please check both size and weight limitations.

What is the Best Day Pack?

These days a lot of backpacks come with a 10-20 litre detachable day bag. Pretty good idea for when you need a small bag for treks or excursions. I’ve found it useful to have my own day pack in addition to the one that comes with my backpack.

I personally use a Berghaus Freeflow for day hikes as it has a fixed curve back that allows air flow, comfortable on the hips and is hydration sack compatible. Just note this is a top loader.

I’ve since started using an Osprey Radial as an all round day pack in addition to my main pack when I need to take a laptop as it has ventilation system also and a padded laptop compartment.

If you want something between the two I’d go for the Berghaus Remote. It’s not rigid like the Freeflow and doesn’t have a laptop compartment like the Radial but it’s still durable, lightweight and a great day pack for extra storage and day trips.

What is the Best Laptop Backpack?

If you’re a fellow digital nomad or perhaps will be working while you’re away, chances are you’ll need a suitable backpack for your trip. Your laptop is more than likely one of the most expensive items that you’ll travel with so it’s important to get a laptop backpack that is fit for purpose and will provide adequate protection. Personally, the Osprey Radial is a winner as it’s perfect for commuting, cycling or just using it as a travel day pack!

Here are some of the best laptop backpacks from trusted brands:

Do I Need a Rucksack or Backpack With Wheels? Are Wheeled Backpacks Necessary?

Despite the potential downside of wheels adding extra weight to the overall pack, the added benefit of being able to wheel you’re backpack means that often the extra weight will actually be an asset. Just make sure that the wheels on the backpack are decent, like on the Osprey packs which have a durable chassis and big wheels meaning that they can tackle any kind of terrain. Paths and roads in lots of countries won’t be perfect but still decent enough for you to wheel a backpack around.

Of course, should you need to carry your backpack, they tend to have stow away straps that will function just like a regular backpack. You’ll get the best of both worlds! Wheeled backpack options:

Ultralight Backpacking? You’ll need a Ultralight or Lightweight Backpack!

For long distance hikes or multi-day backpacking you’ll need a lightweight backpack that not only is large enough to fit all of your food and gear, but also be functional, comfortable and be suitable for all types of temperatures and terrains. Most importantly, if you are doing a thru-hike reducing weight is at the forefront of your ultralight backpacking gear goals. Below are the best lightweight backpacks:

What is the Best Backpack Design?

The most important design feature of the backpack is how it opens. The best kind are backpacks that open like a suitcase. After backpacking for a long time I’ve found that ones that zip most of the way round are the easiest to travel with as you have faster access to all of your belongings. The alternative is to buy a backpack that’s a top loader but a lot of these will also have access from the bottom (such as the Berghaus Wilderness). As they are both travel packs, I recommend either the Osprey Farpoint or the Berghaus Motive.

Fitting your Backpack or Rucksack

I hate to get all Harry Potter on you but you don’t pick the backpack. The best backpack picks you. Make sure that you are getting the correct sexed bag. Female backpacks tend to suit, well females. We’ve compiled a list of best backpacks for women. If you are a tall female it might be worth looking at a male backpack as it might be a better fit. Go in to your local outdoor store and try the backpacks on. You’ll just feel which one is right for you. If in doubt just ask the sales assistant who looks like he doesn’t want to be there.

The Top 10 Best Backpacks and Travel Rucksacks

As I have stated before, the best backpack is one that opens like a suitcase to allow easier access and packing. All of these backpacks are available on Amazon. As there are various stockists and prices, all of the links below link to all available options for the mentioned backpack so that you can search for the cheapest price.

For our North American readers, Berghaus products can be harder to find over on that side of the pond so I would strongly recommend the Osprey Farpoint (below).

1. Osprey Farpoint – Our Recommendation!

Osprey Farpoint

  • 70 litre capacity (also available in 40, 55 and 80)
  • Great as a carry on backpack or for minimalist travellers
  • 40 litre fits within EU carry-on dimensions (and most non-EU but please check)
  • Unisex backpack
  • Durable and water resistant nylon ripstock fabric
  • Opens like a suitcase
  • Straps can be zipped and stowed away
  • Padded top and side grab handles
  • Two lockable compartments
  • Two external mesh pockets
  • Built in padded laptop or tablet sleeve

Check out the Osprey Farpoint on Amazon

2. Berghaus Motive

Berghaus Motive

A newer backpack to the Berghaus Jalan, the Berghaus Motive is also a travel pack that opens like a suitcase. Berghaus are a reputable brand I have used their products for years.

Check out the Berghaus Motive on Amazon.

3. Berghaus Trailhead

Berghaus Trailhead

Check out the Men’s Berghaus Trailhead and the Women’s Berghaus Trailhead on Amazon.

4. Berghaus Verden

Berghaus Verden

Check out the Berghaus Verden on Amazon.

5. Berghaus Ridgeway

Berghaus Ridgeway

Check out the Men’s Berghaus Ridgeway and the Women’s Berghaus Ridgeway on Amazon

6. Berghaus Wilderness

Berghaus Wilderness

Check out the Men’s Berghaus Wilderness and the Women’s Berghaus Wilderness on Amazon.

7. The North Face Terra

Check out the North Face Terra on Amazon.

8. Lowe Alpine AT Lightflite Carry-On 45

Lowe Alpine AT Lightflite Carry-On 45 Hiking Backpack

Check out the Lowe Alpine AT Carry-On 45 on Amazon.

9. Vango Freedom

Vango Freedom

Check out the Vango Freedom on Amazon.

10. Vango Pumori

Vango Pumori 60 + 10 Litre Rucksack - Black

Check out the Vango Pumori on Amazon.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you buy a product after clicking on these links, I earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you) which helps pay for the upkeep of this website.

  • chuck
    Posted at 11:40h, 30 March

    Thanks for the tips!

    I’m trying to figure out which one of these would be for me..
    Which Jalan do you have? Do you have the 60+15? Is it big enough? I think I would prefer a bit bigger, but then it’s the 70+15 with weels, or the Luxe 70+20, plus they are both a bit more expensive..

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 11:45h, 30 March

    Hi Chuck,

    I have:

    It currently holds 22kg. Most carriers only allow 23kg so the size is just perfect.

    I would recommend it. Has served me well the last 6 months!

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • Peter
    Posted at 14:42h, 24 July

    Cheers for the tips.

    Do you know if the Gelert Discovery Rucksack has a padded lumbar support & waist belt? The above link only has one photo of the bag from the front and I can’t make out if it does or not?


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  • DavidM
    Posted at 06:20h, 11 October

    A good list of things to look out for. my only other advice is that once you’ve found what you think will be the best bag for you, use it for long walks or a weekend away, fully loaded. It’s better to find out you’ve made a mistake before you leave so you can flog it on ebay and try again than spend a year with something that just doesn’t work for you.

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  • ponchai sinnawon
    Posted at 03:02h, 20 May

    attempting to pack enough things into a hiking backpack to last me for a month in Africa?

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  • Adventurous Andrea
    Posted at 20:46h, 04 February

    What an awesome resource! I need to purchase a quality backpack soon and will definitely be referencing back to this.

  • Adam - Tropical Nomad
    Posted at 05:42h, 24 May

    I use a Osprey 25 litre for day use and it is a WEAPON of a backpack that comes with a lifetime guarantee for $120…

    As far as big backpacks go, I think North-face and Katmandu have some really good ones.

  • Dazza
    Posted at 21:57h, 12 June

    I have the berghaus jalan luxe 70 + 20, I love all the pockets, compartments, straps, both in main bag and day sack… I used it for a couple of one month trips and storage was great… only thing that bugs me is that I don’t find the straps to be thick enough, when the main bag is fully loaded I find it a bit uncomfortable :/ Don’t know if it’s the bag or maybe I am not packing my things in the right way.

    I am now going on a 6 months or more trip and seriously considering buying another one…

    Any advice?

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 22:47h, 12 June

    I guess my question is, are you sure you’re wearing your backpack right?

    When you do up the waist strap properly, the weight of the backpack is mostly on your hips rather than your shoulders and upper back. This spreads the weight evenly and is much more comfortable on your shoulders.


  • Dazza
    Posted at 22:48h, 18 June


    Thanks for your reply!

    Yes, in fact as soon as I put it on, it is comfortable, but after I wear it for a while, there is a lock on either side of the back straps that kind of loosens with the weight of the bag and the weight of the bag goes back to my shoulders :/

    To be honest, I read so many good reviews about it + it is not that I spend most of the time with the bag on my back, so probably I think I will go with this one, and not buy another, I just really like all the pockets, compartments, etc… I hope it will be the right decision… It feels lie the toughest decision for me 🙂 having the perfect travel bag!

  • Tom
    Posted at 09:37h, 21 October


    I bought the jalan II 60+10 for a good price of 97 euros.
    Now the mistake i made.. i did not noticed this backpack is designed for womans.
    They simply did not wrote it down in the discription.
    Do you know if there are any big differences in the womans and the mans jalan II ?
    I am 180cm long and 80kg.

    Hope to hear from you!


  • Rachel
    Posted at 15:17h, 03 February

    Hi Tom,

    The main difference you’ll find between backpacks with standard back systems and female specific backpacks is that ones designed for women have a shorter back length and often extra padding on the hip belt for comfort. They may also come with shaped shoulder straps, so they curve around the chest, again another comfort feature. Did you return the pack or keep it in the end? I’d be interested to know how you got on 🙂


  • Nomadic Boys
    Posted at 16:27h, 12 February

    Very useful post. I recently found the Osprey Aether 70l which I really liked, but they don’t do it in Small (my size); only M or L, so having to look elsewhere. Thanks for the recommendations.

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  • Pete
    Posted at 19:52h, 15 June

    I badly broke my collarbone in February and now have chunk of metal in my shoulder and a large scar to show for it. Even now carrying a normal rucksack over that shoulder is uncomfortable after a couple of minutes.

    In 2.5 months we’re off on a round the world trip and one way or another I am going to need to get my kit from A to B.

    So… does anybody have any recommendations or thoughts about a bag that:
    – Won’t fall apart if I spend a lot of time abusing a single shoulder strap.
    – Has the worlds most padded shoulder straps.
    – Has a good centre of gravity to put maximum weight through the legs (something like the Karrimor Global Venture above looks like it would constantly try to pull you over backwards… well more than the others anyway).
    – Hopefully won’t result in me needing a metal added to my spine too.


  • Izzy
    Posted at 12:56h, 24 November

    A really helpful guide here, thanks! I think it’s always good to go into a store and try a few out, as everyone will have slightly different preferences and some bags will feel more comfortable that others, depending on your body.

  • Julie
    Posted at 09:39h, 20 November

    I’m going travelling for month to S America – 4 flights – no camping or trekking – but using public transport and staying in 3 star hotels and hostels. So quite a bit of carrying involved. I’m 5′ 7″ and I’m 62 . I’m doing my travelling a bit later in life .. What travel pack or back pack wld you suggest? I guess the best idea is try a lot on ? I’m female.

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 16:03h, 23 November

    Sounds like a great trip Julie! I would definitely try some on to see what’s comfortable but I don’t think you can go wrong with the Osprey Farpoint 55 –

  • Dalmazio
    Posted at 09:26h, 16 June

    Great article. And thanks for recommending the Osprey Farpoint 55. Looks like the perfect bag for extended travel.

  • Trish hurst
    Posted at 18:17h, 29 June

    I’m looking at the Vango Freedom 60L and wondered if it is big enough to cope with a 3 week trip to Cambodia and Thailand?

  • Gap Year Escape
    Posted at 11:01h, 04 July

    Hi Trish! 60l will be more than enough!

  • Trish hurst
    Posted at 22:33h, 05 July

    Cool. I’m not very good at travelling light!

  • guy
    Posted at 08:27h, 28 October

    nice list, still rocking my jansport from high school and its been treating me well all these years

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