The Smart Travelers Guide to Backpacks

Traveling with a backpack only has become my favorite thing. Since I’ve started traveling exclusively with a backpack, I’ve heard all the arguments saying that rolling bags are much better because it’s not as difficult to carry, but I’m here to show you that even though that might be true, backpacks are better.

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Why should you travel with a pack instead of a rolling bag?

When you’re walking on cobblestone, going up and downstairs, or even trying to get somewhere quickly a backpack is the way to go. They’re easier to take on trains and planes, too! It won’t drag you down, and if you pack it well (insert: don’t overpack), your pack is going to be your best friend. If you don’t believe me, ask literally anyone who has ever traveled with a pack. 

Using both a roller bag and a backpack (since I was moving to Europe for 6 months), and I hated having to drag my roller bag around!

How do I pick a backpack?

The first thing that you will want to consider is size. Do you want to be able to use it as a carryon? A checked bag? Both?

A bag like this has an extendable top, so it can be as tall as you need it to be! Check it out My personal pack is a 46L which means that I can easily pack it small enough to be a carryon, but it can also be big enough to have to be checked. I like that there’s versatility there. I have friends who have gone as large as a 65L and been able to carry it on as long as it was packed well. One of the things to consider is the height. The height of your bag will be the reason it will or won’t fit as a carryon. This might seem obvious, but if it has a hardback (most packs do) and the hard part is longer than a carryon is allowed to be, it might not fit in an overhead. If the hard side of your pack is shorter than the carryon requirements, even if the bag can pack up to be huge, if you don’t fill it, you shouldn’t have a problem carrying it on.

Why is it important to be able to carry the bag on? Honestly, it’s not depending on how you like to travel. I know that for me, I hate carrying around heavy bags, so I always make sure mine is a carryon size just because it’s going to be easier to carry. Even when I’m leaving for a month, my bag is carryon size. I’m also really impatient, and I hate waiting for my bag at the baggage claim, so checking saves me those extra 5 minutes.

The next thing you will want to consider is how it zips & packs up. My pack zips sort of like a suitcase. It can be opened all the way around, which I think is nice for packing. If you don’t think that you need that, a top loader will do you just fine.

One of the most important parts of your bag though is the fit. Is it comfortable when you put it on? It should be because you’re going to be carrying it a lot. If you try on a bag in the store and it’s already uncomfortable, imagine how it’s going to feel when it has all of your stuff in it. Bags also come in sizes, so my bag is a women’s fit bag in a size medium. This all depends on your height and how you’re built, so being able to try on your bag before you buy it is really helpful to figure all of this out (especially since my bag is a size medium and I’m 5’11, so was really not expecting that size to fit me best, but it did).

Here’s a cheaper bag too:


  • If your bag has a lot of straps that can’t be tucked in anywhere, they might get torn if you check your bag. If you want to be able to check your bag, consider getting something with less straps OR straps that can be tucked in! One of my friends actually has this bag (pictured on the left) and she loves that you can tuck the straps inside!
  • Get a waterproof cover for your bag! You never know when it’s going to rain or snow.
  • Packing cubes can make packing so much easier!!

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