Confession: I always thought that a wheeled suitcase was just as good as a backpack. Actually, I probably would have told you that I preferred it. I loved being able to wheel all my crap through the airport.
***This article contains affiliate links, and we will be compensated for any purchase made by clicking on them. Thank you for supporting The Coddiwomplers and our adventures!*
A wheeled horror story
Until that one time when my wheeled bag was too big for international carry-on standards. I was flying with RyanAir, a budget European airline, and my bag was too big by – seriously – one inch. The crabby gate agent was pretty no-mercy about it. She told me I was going to have to go all the way back through the airport to check my bag, get back through security, and make it to the gate before the plane took off. Which was largely impossible considering the plane was boarding. So I ended up doing what any traveler would do….putting all my clothes on.
I ended up boarding the plane wearing two pairs of pants, a tank top, two shirts, a cardigan, a blazer, a rain jacket, and my winter coat. But dang it, my bag fit!
Why to travel with a pack
After that lovely experience, though, I vowed to travel with a backpack vs a wheeled bag whenever possible. I have learned that I can easily pack for up to 7 days in my backpack that is approximately 40 liters. With a little bit more room, I could stretch it up to 10 days which is all I would ever need. And most gate agents don’t bat an eye at a backpack. Even on pretty small commuter planes with tiny overhead bins, my backpack makes the cut whereas a wheeled bag would be gate-checked.
But the best part of all is that traveling with a backpack makes your life so. Much. Easier. You don’t have to worry about running people over with your bag in the airport and you know your bag isn’t going to fall apart due to cobblestone streets. Plus it’s slightly squishable for stuffing into luggage bins, and on the off chance that your bag actually gets checked on a plane, you know it’s not going to get cracked or come back one wheel short.
Anyway. I could shout the praises of traveling with a backpack all day long. But the reason you’re here is to learn about some kick-ass travel backpacks. So I’ll stop rambling and let’s get down to it!
The best of the best
In my humble opinion, Osprey as a brand pretty much takes the cake for best travel packs. Their durability means they last for years and years – check out almost any website that sells travel packs and see how good the reviews are for this brand!
However, it can be a little intimidating to sift through all the great reviews on so many packs. I’ve picked two that are definitely worth a look.
Osprey Farpoint 55. With 4.7 out of 5 stars, this bag is a definite winner and is the pack I personally am saving up for. Technically a 55 liter pack is over the baggage requirements for a carry-on but most reviewers mentioned carrying this bag on. Like I said earlier, I think most gate agents don’t bat an eye at backpacks. The cool part about this pack is that there is an outer pack that zips off and serves as a daypack if you’re planning on doing some day hiking or other small outings.
The Farpoint 55 also features a padded hip belt which might look a little nerdy but takes most of the weight off your shoulders and makes carrying a pack a complete breeze (seriously, don’t buy a pack without a hip belt. Trust me). Additionally, all the straps are able to be tucked inside a zippered compartment on the outside so that if you do have to check your pack, the straps won’t get caught or tangled. This one is at the top of my list! Grab it here.
Osprey Sojourn 45. If you’re uber-concerned about having a backpack with no option for wheels, the Osprey Sojourn 45 might be the one for you. The Sojourn 45 is hybrid between a rolling bag and a pack. It’s got a hip belt and shoulder straps that can both be zipped away into a compartment on the back. That would be handy for when you want to go into rolling mode.
As a rolling bag, this baby will totally be able to tackle cobblestone streets. The wheels are super durable and the chassis sits higher than normal so you can roll over rough terrain. As a pack, the straps and hip belt work together to keep the load feeling light no matter how much you’ve shoved in here. And bonus points: this pack only being 45 liters means it actually does abide by carry-on rules. Click here to check it out.
For the budget-minded
Venture Pal. This nifty little pack comes in at a lovely $21 from Amazon and has 4.5 out of 5 stars which is great. Its main compartment is 35 liters. That’s a little small for my taste but would certainly work for a light packer. It would probably also work for someone who doesn’t pack as many toiletries (usually 1/3 of my bag is dedicated to makeup and toiletries).
The selling point of this pack is that, when not in use, it folds up into its own little pouch for easy storage. This is super convenient because realistically most of us only travel for a few weeks out of the year. The rest of the time, our bags just take up space in the bottom of a closet. This one is also water resistant which is great for drizzly days spent hopping trains. While this might not be roomy enough for a long trip, it could definitely hold a short trip’s worth of stuff. Snag this affordable, brightly-colored pack here!
eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior. I personally own this bag and hardly know how to take a trip without it. This is the bag that introduced me to the beauty of packing light and traveling with a pack. It has about 40 liters of capacity which is just enough for me to take a long weekend trip. It can even get me by for a week-long trip if I pack extra light. I’ve owned this bag for 3+ years and it has held up wonderfully. All the zippers still zip smoothly and it has hardly even gotten dirty despite being tossed into many luggage bins and being sat on in many train stations.
It has a large open compartment but has a little shelf that can pop up in the middle to keep stuff separated. The shoulder straps are nicely padded and I’m sure the little hip belt would help if I hadn’t lost it (oops). The best part about this backpack is that it lays flat and upzips completely like a suitcase. This is great so you don’t have to dig through absolutely everything to find the pair of shoes you buried on the bottom. Good stuff! Hop over onto ebags.com to check this beauty out.
Kelty Women’s Redwing 40. This pack looks like a perfect all-around choice. It’s not too big and not too small at 40 liters. Plus it has padded shoulder straps and hip belt, and lots of pockets for organization. This one also gets great reviews, clocking in at 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon. This pack is technically designed with hiking in mind but you’ll find that the features come in handy. Straps meant for holding trekking poles become tripod holders or secure your rolled-up travel blanket, for example. This would be a great option for someone who wants lots of pockets in their pack. Click here to see for yourself.
Weekend Shopper Lightweight Canvas Leather Travel. This pack is durable and prepares you for any occasion. It is perfect for a daily commute or longer weekend-length hauls. Made of superior quality water resistant nylon fabric leaving it lightweight and durable. Plus look at how cute it is. You know you want it!
So there you have it, folks! All the best kick-ass backpacks for your travel needs. Check them out and let us know if you buy one! Do you have a favorite pack that you use? Tell us about it in the comments below – we’d love to hear your recommendations!