A comprehensive guide to choosing the best backpack

I wasn’t always a backpacker. It was a big deal when I transitioned from luggage to a backpack. It meant that I was going to live a backpacker lifestyle and give up on the luxuries of travelling. If you ask any of my friends, they never thought I would trade in my Fendi purse for a backpack. Even though this happened more than 15 years ago, this is still an ongoing joke today! Ha!

However, I’m not exactly what you call a backpacker these days. I’m skipping the hostel option and staying at private apartments the majority of the time. When I am not staying in a local apartment, I stay at my favourite hotel chain because I still get some perks as an elite member.

But I still choose to travel with my backpack wherever I go. I love how my hands are free to do other things and not worry about walking up the stairs with a suitcase. And ergonomically speaking, it is so much better for my back. I love my current Osprey Talon 33L backpack!

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Osprey: well-design backpack

Osprey puts a lot of effort into designing the perfect pack for a specific purpose. They understand all the requirements for a backpacker and use high-quality fabric and hardware. The great thing about the Osprey backpack is their All Mighty Guarantee. If you need to repair any damages to your backpack, just send it back to Osprey. It doesn’t matter if you bought it yesterday or in 1980! And it is entirely free of charge.

I have used this for many years for short-term and long-term travel. I even took it for a hiking trip to Killarney, Ontario, Canada, where you hike into a spot in the national park and set up camp for the night. Not only did I pack my backpack all the way to the rim, but I also strapped as many things as I could on the outside.

My favourite Osprey backpacks

Through a friend’s recommendation, I chose an Osprey Ariel 55L pack. I love this pack! It is much smaller than the previous one, and it doesn’t feel heavy and sits comfortably on my waist. Why did I wait so long to get this?

I am minimalistic in the way I live and travel. A 55L pack was great, but I can use something even smaller. Through trial and error, I went from a 75L pack to a 55L to my current Osprey Talon 33L backpack.

I’ve had this pack for six years, and it has been through many journeys with me. From cities all over the world to the jungles of South America, the pack has been through a lot! I loved my previous pack so much so that I chose another pack from Osprey. Both packs have proven their reliability and durability.

What I like about this pack:

  • A top-load compartment is secured by a drawstring
  • A structured external frame that has a mesh fabric to ventilate your back properly
  • Lightweight straps to distribute the weight evenly
  • A hip belt that sits comfortably on your waist
  • Separate top compartment for miscellaneous items
  • Compartment for a hydration pack
  • Lots of straps on the outside to attach hiking/other equipment

What to look for when you are buying a pack

Buying a backpack is a big deal! It is an expensive purchase! As a solo traveller, having a reliable and durable backpack can make or break your trip. Some backpacks can cost a small fortune, so taking the time to research is essential, as the right pack can last for many years. The quality of your trip is related to the quality of your backpack.

When you are in the market to buy a backpack, keep in mind of the following:

1. Look for the ideal size for you

It depends on the duration of your trip and how much you want to carry

2. Choose a style that you like

It depends on the type of trip you are going on. Is it a backpacking trip? Hiking? Mountaineering?

3. How to access the main compartment of your backpack

This is a personal preference. Some people like to access the main compartment easily (i.e. my 75L pack); others don’t mind the top load (i.e. my 55L and 33L packs)

4. Type of shoulder straps

Each brand has its own version of shoulder straps. Some packs have thicker foam straps, while other packs have thinner straps. Just make sure that the straps are comfortable and it doesn’t feel like a lot of weight is digging into your shoulder. If you choose a large pack, make sure the hip belt is comfortable as well. The weight of the pack should be distributed to your waist, not your shoulder straps.

5. Type of backpack frame

Depending on the kind of trip, you may want a more structured frame (which is suitable for hiking and walking a long distance with the pack).

RELATED POST – My favourite travel gears

Put on a backpack and try it out yourself

If your friends have backpacks, borrow the packs, stuff them with all your belongings, walk around and test them out for yourself. Otherwise, you can go to any of the sports equipment stores and try it out. Most of them have fillers that you can put in the backpack to test it out.

If you have any specific backpacks that you like, let me know! I’m always in the market to find a great backpack!

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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