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Best Type of Backpacks for Backpacking: How To Pick the One!

Best Type of Backpacks for Backpacking: How To Pick the One!
Miriam Jaffe
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Miriam is a writer whose content focuses on travel, and other adventures abroad like studying or working as an English language assistant. Her favorite places she's visited (so far) include London, UK, Angers, France, and the entire country of Norway. She loves traveling; when she's not dreaming of new locations to explore, you can find her singing, acting, or dancing (probably all three), fueling her Harry Potter addiction any way she can, or trying to come up with clever puns.

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Since it’s not called suitcasing, we know that to go backpacking, you need a good backpack. What’s the best one to get, though? It all depends on the kind of backpacking you’re doing and what you’re wanting to put in your backpack. Trying to decide what backpack to get? Let’s see if we can help!

Different types of backpacks on a wall
Photo by Marjan Blan | @marjanblan on Unsplash

Backpacking backpacks

If you’re thinking about going on a backpacking travel adventure (maybe to Europe), you’ll be using your backpack to carry everything you need during your trip. Depending on how long you’re traveling for, how much you want to carry, or what your preferences are, there isn’t one specific recommended backpack. There are some more reliable brands, though! You can’t go wrong with OspreyTortuga, or Patagonia

For some packing ideas, take a look at our Europe packing list for backpacking to get an idea of how much space you need. You’ll want to prioritize backpacks that are comfortable, but that can also carry everything you need easily (be sure to also be mindful of the size if you’re hoping to use the backpack as a carry-on for airline travel). 

Backpacking traveler exploring a garden
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Short trips

A backpack is a great thing to use for day trips, or for shorter trips where you don’t need to bring that much with you. If you’re looking for a backpack for your essentials, you’ll want to look for something small, lightweight, and easy to carry. You don’t need anything fancy, but especially if you’re using it for travel, be sure that it’s secure, and not easily accessible for pickpockets. Fjallraven and Jansport have excellent small backpack selections. 

Fjallraven backpack on a grassy field
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Backpacks for women

When you google travel backpacks, a lot of them are designed for men, which means they can be bigger. If you’re short, chances are that those backpacks won’t be a good fit for you, and that’s where backpacks specifically designed for women come in handy (that being said, choose whatever backpack works best for you, regardless of whether it’s unisex or not). 

For day travel, an Away backpack, although on the spendier side, checks the boxes for style and comfort. With a sleeve specially designed to attach it to a rolling suitcase, you can travel with it that way or wear it on your back as you adventure. It’s a great versatile backpack for all kinds of travel backpacking.

If you’re looking for a specific carry-on backpack, check out this Tortuga bag. Covered with water repellent coating to keep it safe in a rainstorm, along with the numerous organizational pockets, and dividers, and the large volume of this backpack make it perfect for a backpacking travel journey.

A women with her backpack hiking
Photo by Connor Olson on Unsplash

Going hiking

Backpacking doesn’t have to be only for travel, sometimes you want to go on a hike instead. If that’s what you’re wanting to do, you’ll still want a reliable, sturdy backpack. For outdoor adventures, looking for a waterproof or water-repellent backpack is also a good idea. 

The most important thing to consider when looking for a backpacking backpack is the fit since you’ll be carrying it around for a long time. Your torso length is an important measurement to keep in mind. Also, be sure to check where the hipbelt clips sit as you want the majority of the backpack’s weight to be supported by your hips. 

hiking and backpacking travelers with their backpacks
Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash

Things to consider while choosing a backpack

Regardless of why you’re wanting to buy a backpack, there are a couple of things you should consider before swiping your credit card. 

  • Who is doing the backpacking: Is it an experienced backpacker, comfortable with carrying a lot of weight for long periods of time? Or is it a kid going on their first backpacking adventure?
  • The fit: It’s crucial to make sure that your backpack fits properly, especially if you’re going to be using it as luggage. Make sure the straps fit comfortably, that it fits your torso, and that any hip belts actually hit your hips.
  • Kind of trip: The size of your backpack will be dependent on the kind of backpacking trip you’re looking to do. You’ll need a smaller pack if you’re hoping to go carry on the full way, but you can get a bigger one if you’re wanting to go camping for an extended amount of time, or travel with checked luggage. This feeds into…
  • Compartments: Be sure to pick a backpack that has enough storage for what you need. Specialized camping backpacks might come with a sleeping bag pocket, whereas travel ones will have more pockets for your various needs
  • Length of trip: The longer you’re planning on backpacking, the bigger your backpack should be. This also ties into figuring out what you need to pack in your backpack since you want it all to fit. Check out this handy graphic from REI to help with this decision!
Guide and type of backpacks for types of travel
Image Courtesy: REI

Top tip: Buy a rain cover for your backpack to keep it dry in case of showers (you never know)!

Where to buy your backpack

In addition to the brands we’ve already mentioned, there are some other great outlets for backpacks. If you prefer to do your shopping in person rather than online, REI is an excellent resource, especially for hiking backpacks. 

If you’re looking to read backpacking tales and advice from fellow backpackers, you can head to Reddit as well. There’s a handy sub called r/backpacking, which is a great resource for backpackers of all levels of expertise. 

Cute day backpacks
Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Let’s get backpacking!

Going backpacking is a great way to see the world, or even your backyard, without having to worry about carrying that much luggage. No matter how you choose to backpack, though, you want to make sure you have one that fits your needs, and one that works for you!

Want to go backpacking somewhere but not sure where to start? Absolutely no worries! If you’re looking for advice on how to start planning, we want to help. Whether you’re looking to backpack in Europe, take your backpack with you on a tour somewhere, or even a backpack-less trip, we at Pilot want to make travel fun. Head over to our website for itinerary planning ideas, destination inspiration, budgeting tips, and more to make travel a breeze. See you there!


Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our community. We may earn a small commission fee with affiliate links on our website. All reviews and recommendations are independent and do not reflect the official view of Pilot.

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