Are you a world traveler? Professional business traveler? Or do you just like to take weekend trips? Then finding the right bag that meets your needs is critical.
For as much as we traveled, we never actually owned our own travel backpacks. We both had carry on suitcases & duffel bags for work trips and weekend getaways but we always borrowed backpacks from family friends. But wheeling heavy suitcases & carrying heavy duffel bags is not only tiring but can also get old when you’re walking across cobblestones or uneven pavement. When the borrowed backpacks started to fray, we knew it was time to find our own. But how do you know which one to choose?
That’s what started the adventure of finding the right travel bag. With so many different types & sizes of backpacks to choose from, it was confusing and frustrating to even know where to start.
So we started to ask ourselves questions about what we needed from the bag and when it would be used to hopefully help us narrow down the options to the best fit.
What type of travel will you be using this bag for?
Backpacking, business travel, weekend trips, hiking, day trips, etc? Knowing the main function is important because it not only helps you determine what type of bag but also the quality, the color, and the capacity.
Our main function was for backpacking trips when we traveled abroad but we were also hoping that these bags could replace our weekend trip bags and maybe even our carry-ons that we use for work trips. Because of this we knew we needed a high quality bag that would stand up to being thrown around, rained on, and set down on some of the dirtiest streets in the world. That also meant that we needed a grey or black bag so you couldn’t see the dirt and so that we could also pull it off as a work travel bag.
Carry-on or checked bag?
This decision is a big one because paying for checked bags can add up! A $50 flight can turn into a $100 flight just because you have to purchase checked bags.
This was the hardest thing to figure out in this search! We knew we wanted a bag that met most carry-on bag requirements. But did you know that European budget airlines have some of the strictest carry-on requirements? I didn’t and I struggled to find what exactly those were. So what are the dimensions for a bag that meets all airline carry-on requirements? 21H x 14W x 9D inches.
Most bags that claim to be carry-on size are larger than the 21” height restriction which may work for some airlines but not all! If you know what airlines you plan to travel with, Skyscanner seemed to have the best chart for seeing the requirements by airlines.
What’s in your budget?
The last aspect to consider is your budget. Once you’ve determined exactly what you need in a bag, it’s about what you can afford. There are many different brands that you can consider all with varying levels of quality & price. So I would recommend doing some google searching with your exact needed specifications and you should come across a variety of options where you can read reviews and make sure that it meets your needs.
We ended up with the Osprey Farpoint 40L (bought at REI) and after Thera’s most recent trip to Europe, she’s in love with it! Not only will she be taking it on all future backpacking trips but she’s also started to take it on her weekend trips instead of carry-on suitcases or duffel bags.
Here are her favorite features:
1. Big front zipper
It opens just like a suitcase. Our old backpacks only loaded from the top so this makes it much easier to find things & fit them in. I fit so much in for her trip to Europe that I kept joking that I should have done a photo log of everything because I couldn’t remember everything I packed.
2. Straps to cinch in clothes
Another feature that I was used to in suitcases but had never had the luxury of having in backpacks. This keeps everything in place so that when you open it, it’s still folded and helps make the clothes more compact so that more fits.
3. Sturdy material & zippers
I am always over-optimistic in terms of what I’ll be able to fit - but who’s not! So naturally I overpacked and I loved the fact that even with the bag being overfull, I never felt like the fabric or zippers would break.
4. Zip in straps when checking bag
Although I never usually check my bag, I did end up checking it for my flight from Milan to Split and I loved the fact that the Farpoint comes with an easy to roll & unroll flap that allows you to zip in the backpack straps so they don’t get caught or damaged by luggage handlers. Another cool feature is that you get a cross-body strap as well if you ever want to use the backpack as a duffel bag instead of a backpack.
5. Waist and chest straps for support
Walking up a steep hill for 20 mins in Dubrovnik to get to our Airbnb, I definitely noticed that the Farpoint chest & waist were way better than our old backpacks. As nerdy as they may look, good support is definitely worth it!
What is your favorite travel bag & why? We’d love to hear from you!