10 best travel backpacks to prepare for that long-awaited trip
Whether you need a lightweight, mountain-ready bag or a gap year ready pack, we've tested these adventure ready workhorses
Although no one is travelling anywhere at the moment, now is the perfect time to get planning for that trip. And whether you’re planning the hike of a lifetime, an interrailing trip across a continent or a long city break, the right backpack can free you up to enjoy even more of your trip.
We tested these packs for comfort – both fully and part loaded – and for design, looking for bags that had good load distribution – so you can make the most of the volume – and clever packing innovations, like multiple compartments and easy access for important things like waterproofs, snack bars and a camera.
We took the packs for hikes before lockdown happened and tested the others on our daily walk, to make sure they stayed comfy over a distance. We also measured the smaller, cabin bag-size packs against standard luggage compartment dimensions, to make sure they tuck into coach lockers and under plane seats.
We found that around 50-55l was the sweet spot for a travel backpack, particularly if you use all the extra pockets for a first access kit. That leaves you more than enough room for a couple of pairs of shoes, clothes for a week, plus extra room for a camera. Packed for hiking, it was enough to fit our standard camping kit; a small two-man tent, sleeping bag and mat.
For longer trips, it’s important to make sure the bag is a comfortable fit, particularly if you’re doing any hiking or if you’ll be carrying a lot of weight. All the larger bags we tested have adjustable frames: to fit them to yourself, adjust the shoulder straps so the hip straps sit comfortably above your hip bones, then adjust the back length so the shoulder straps tuck in behind your shoulder blades and follow the natural curvature of your back. The American outdoor store REI has a helpful online guide to get you started.
Your hips should take most of the weight of your bag, particularly if it's very heavy, with your shoulders carrying only a very little bit of the load. To make that happen, pick up your pack – keeping your knees bent if it's weighty – and swing one arm through one strap, then the other. Once the pack's on shrug your shoulders to lift it slightly and, as you do so, fasten the waist belt so it's sat just on top of your hips.
Adjust it so you feel like most of the weight is securely carried there, and then tighten the shoulder straps until you feel like they're carrying the rest – but not much – of the pack's weight. Fastening the chest strap, if the bag has one, will help keep the weight centred.
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The verdict: Backpacks for travel
We loved the versatility of Gregory’s system, particularly given how small it packed down when the two bags were docked together. For a long trip, or the hiking adventure of a lifetime, the Osprey archeon is a smart and ethical choice.
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