Whether you are planning to go camping for a weekend or you are setting off for a month long journey through Europe, you’ll need something to throw your stuff into. Unless you suffer from spondylosis or some other spinal condition which makes a suitcase with wheels a better choice, you’ll need a nice and comfortable backpack. But, among many types, which one is the perfect one for you?
First, you have to decide what kind of trip you are planning on taking – is it going to be a short or a long trip, do you need your sleeping bag and tent with you, what season it’s going to be, etc. Depending on all of these factors, you have to decide on the capacity of a backpack you want to buy and whether it is going to have internal or external frame. The capacity of a backpack is expressed in liters – for day trips a 15-35 liters should be sufficient, 40-70 liters is a backpack large enough for overnight trips up to a week, larger than 70 liters is used for long journeys, winter overnights or by masochists. Internal frames have a design which provides great balance and freedom of movement, but aren’t as good when it comes to carrying heavy loads as backpacks with external frame. Backpacks with external frames are also better for hot weather because they are cooler on your back.
Whichever rucksack you decide to buy, it has to be comfortable: the length of the pack has to fit the length of your torso, the hip belts and shoulder straps must be well padded because they support your pack’s weight. It is nice to have the back of the bag padded to keep your gear from poking to your back.
Pay attention to pockets – you’ll love pockets! You can put a bottle of water, hide a sandwich or stash your dirty laundry into it. If possible, buy a lockable backpack so you don’t have to worry when you leave your luggage in a hostel room. Also, it’s nice if a backpack has front loading or even the internal shelving system, so you have an easy access to your things without excavating the entire pack for a pair of socks.
Buy a backpack made from tough material. Lightweight packs are made from light materials, but they are vulnerable to scratching when traveling by bus, train or plain. If you are traveling to Southeast Asia, consider taking a cheap or old bag you can throw away since you can buy an excellent backpack there for a price 6 times lower.
One more thing – if you travel by plain, it’s not a bad idea to buy a smaller backpack you won’t have to check in. That will save you luggage checking and claiming time and, if you use low-cost flights, your money as well.
Of course, these are just basics. It is of the utmost importance to find a backpack that’s comfortable, reliable and meets your needs since it is going to be your co-traveler for many days and years.