Selecting the best travel backpack to travel around the world can be one of the most important decisions you make. You might be living out of the travel backpack for a year on your, you guessed it, gap year. It’s vital that you get it right and get a rucksack or backpack that is not only a great design but a good fit for you.
Over the last 10 years I’ve tried and tested many backpacks in all sorts of conditions. I’ve been to all 7 continents, dragged backpacks through the Arctic Circle, thrown them between boats in Fiji and everything inbetween.
- Editor’s Top Backpacks
- What Size Backpack Do I Need? Is a 40 Litre Backpack Enough?
- I’m Travelling Light and Need a Minimalist Backpack. What Is the Best Carry On Backpack and Rucksack?
- What is the Best Day Pack?
- What Is the Best Laptop Backpack?
- Do I Need a Rucksack or Backpack With Wheels? Are Wheeled Backpacks Necessary?
- Ultralight Backpacking? You’ll Need a Ultralight or Lightweight Backpack!
- What is the Best Backpack Design?
- Fitting Your Backpack or Rucksack
- The Top 10 Best Backpacks and Travel Rucksacks
Editor’s Top Backpacks
A lot of people ask “what’s the best rucksack for 3 or 6 months of travel?” or “what’s the best backpack for a trip to South East Asia or Australia?” Both of these questions are somewhat irrelevant.
Going on a very short trip might mean you only need a small backpack such as 30/40lt IF you travel light but I take the same backpack on one month trips as I do 12 month trips. Just because you have 60 litres, doesn’t mean you have to fill it completely.
You might want to consider that you will do a month trip now and then end up getting the bug and travelling for longer. Why not just buy one decent bag for life? I’ve been using the same backpack for years. Sometimes it weighs 8kg, sometimes 22kg. Having a bigger backpack that’s slightly empty just means you’ll have more room to find things.
The same advice goes for destinations. If you get a decent backpack, like the brands listed below, they will be suitable for all countries that you visit.
The Berghaus Backpack I used has been to 7 continents! I now use a Osprey Farpoint as a carry on backpack and the Osprey Sojourn as a wheeled backpack (I’ve got lazy in my old age!)
Anyway, let me help you choose the best backpack for you.
What Size Backpack Do I Need? Is a 40 Litre Backpack Enough?
Yes boys and girls, size does matter, especially on a long round the world trip or Gap Year. However, it all really does depend on you and your travel style. Some people are flashpackers and must take 6 pairs of shoes in which case you might want a bigger backpack.
Some people purposely take a smaller backpack to limit how much they are carrying around with them in case they get tempted to shop. General rule of thumb would be anything around the 60 litre mark if you’re doing a round the world. I know some people who travel light with 40 and some who travel with 70.
I’m Travelling Light and Need a Minimalist Backpack. What Is the Best Carry On Backpack and Rucksack?
If you’re doing a short trip or going for the minimalist approach to packing, a 60 litre bag will be too much. You can also save money if you have a backpack that is the right size for a carry on and can avoid checked luggage fees.
The backpacks below should be the right size for carry on but please be aware that luggage restrictions can vary by airline so please check both size and weight limitations.
What is the Best Day Pack?
These days a lot of backpacks come with a 10-20 litre detachable day bag. Pretty good idea for when you need a small bag for treks or excursions. I’ve found it useful to have my own day pack in addition to the one that comes with my backpack.
I personally use a Berghaus Freeflow for day hikes as it has a fixed curve back that allows air flow, comfortable on the hips and is hydration sack compatible. Just note this is a top loader.
I’ve since started using an Osprey Radial as an all round day pack in addition to my main pack when I need to take a laptop as it has ventilation system also and a padded laptop compartment.
If you want something between the two I’d go for the Berghaus Remote. It’s not rigid like the Freeflow and doesn’t have a laptop compartment like the Radial but it’s still durable, lightweight and a great day pack for extra storage and day trips.
If you travel with your pooch you may also want to consider a day pack for them in the form of a dog travel bag. There’s plenty of practical and stylish options available.
- Berghaus Remote
- Osprey Radial
- Berghaus Twenty Four Seven
- The North Face Jester
- The North Face Borealis
- Osprey Talon
- Osprey Women’s Tempest
- Osprey Quasar
What Is the Best Laptop Backpack?
If you’re a fellow digital nomad or perhaps will be working while you’re away, chances are you’ll need a suitable backpack for your trip. Your laptop is more than likely one of the most expensive items that you’ll travel with so it’s important to get a laptop backpack that is fit for purpose and will provide adequate protection.
Personally, the Osprey Radial is a winner as it’s perfect for commuting, cycling or just using it as a travel day pack!
Here are some of the best laptop backpacks from trusted brands:
Do I Need a Rucksack or Backpack With Wheels? Are Wheeled Backpacks Necessary?
Despite the potential downside of wheels adding extra weight to the overall pack, the added benefit of being able to wheel you’re backpack means that often the extra weight will actually be an asset.
Just make sure that the wheels on the backpack are decent, like on the Osprey packs which have a durable chassis and big wheels meaning that they can tackle any kind of terrain. Paths and roads in lots of countries won’t be perfect but still decent enough for you to wheel a backpack around.
Of course, should you need to carry your backpack, they tend to have stow away straps that will function just like a regular backpack. You’ll get the best of both worlds! Wheeled backpack options:
Ultralight Backpacking? You’ll Need a Ultralight or Lightweight Backpack!
For long distance hikes or multi-day backpacking you’ll need a lightweight backpack that not only is large enough to fit all of your food and gear, but also be functional, comfortable and be suitable for all types of temperatures and terrains.
Most importantly, if you are doing a thru-hike reducing weight is at the forefront of your ultralight backpacking gear goals. Below are the best lightweight backpacks:
- Osprey Exos – 2lb 5oz
- Granite Gear Crown V.C. – 2lb 2oz
- Hyperlight Mountain Gear – 2lb 1oz
What is the Best Backpack Design?
The most important design feature of the backpack is how it opens. The best kind are backpacks that open like a suitcase. After backpacking for a long time I’ve found that ones that zip most of the way round are the easiest to travel with as you have faster access to all of your belongings.
The alternative is to buy a backpack that’s a top loader but a lot of these will also have access from the bottom (such as the Berghaus Wilderness). As they are both travel packs, I recommend the Osprey Farpoint.
Fitting Your Backpack or Rucksack
I hate to get all Harry Potter on you but you don’t pick the backpack. The best backpack picks you. Make sure that you are getting the correct sexed bag. Female backpacks tend to suit, well females. We’ve compiled a list of best backpacks for women.
If you are a tall female it might be worth looking at a male backpack as it might be a better fit. Go in to your local outdoor store and try the backpacks on. You’ll just feel which one is right for you. If in doubt just ask the sales assistant who looks like he doesn’t want to be there.
The Top 10 Best Backpacks and Travel Rucksacks
As I have stated before, the best backpack is one that opens like a suitcase to allow easier access and packing. All of these backpacks are available on Amazon. As there are various stockists and prices, all of the links below link to all available options for the mentioned backpack so that you can search for the cheapest price.
For our North American readers, Berghaus products can be harder to find over on that side of the pond so I would strongly recommend the Osprey Farpoint or Osprey Fairview (40l if you want a carry on or larger for longer term travel).
The Osprey Farpoint (or the newly released female version, Osprey Fairview) offers all the benefits of a solid, dependable travel backpack combined with the ease and versatility of a suitcase. Available in 40, 55 or 70 litre capacity options, there is a Farpoint rucksack to suit every type of adventure.
The 40L size conforms to the EU maximum carry-on luggage size dimensions, while the bigger versions come complete with a detachable “zip and clip” day packs. All versions offer the clever design touches you would expect from Osprey such as internal pockets, mesh covers and padded straps and carry handles.
- Die-cut spacer mesh hipbelt and harness
- Light weight peripheral frame
- Zip away harness and hipbelt
- Panel zip access to main compartment with lockable zippers
- Removable 13L Daypack
The Berghaus Trailhead offers 65 litres of internal space and features the Berghaus signature BIOFIT backsystem for improved fit and comfort. Fully customisable to help you find the perfect level of comfort, the Trailhead is suitable for a wide range of terrains and destinations.
It also comes with plenty of additional storage features including attachment points on the lid, fixed side pockets, bottle pockets, a base compartment with bivi divider and a top lid pocket.
- BIOFIT backsystem for customisable comfort
- Height adjustable removable chest straps
- Walking pole attachments
- Built-in rain cover
- Hydration system compatible
Perfect for multi-day backpacking adventures across all kinds of terrain, the Berghaus Wilderness rucksack offers 65 litre capacity of internal space, as well as a separate 15l capacity in the two expansion side packs.
Utilising the Berghaus BIOFIT back system it offer fully customisable comfort and a pre-curved hip belt for added support and correct weight distribution. The rucksack also has plenty of additional storage pockets and compartments to keep your belongings safe and secure.
- Berghaus easily adjustable BIOFIT™ back system, for customisable comfort
- Height adjustable chest strap and pre-curved hipbelt
- Zipped front panel to the main compartment for easy access
- Expansion pockets offer up to 15L of extra storage space
- Hydration system compatible pocket
Available in 60 or 80 litre options, the Sojourn from Osprey can be rolled with ease or used as a backpack. Using Ospreys signature AG AntiGravity™ inspired, trampoline suspended mesh backsystem, the rucksack can be fully customised to increase comfort.
With an injection moulded HighRoad™ chassis, sealed bearings in the wheels and ErgoGrip™ handles, carry your belongings is easy with this wheeled rucksack combination. It also features compression straps and side-wings to reduce bulk and retain stability.
- AG AntiGravity™ backsystem for customised comfort
- Stable wheels for pulling
- Zip away torso-adjustable, removable harness and hipbelt
- Internal compartments for additional storage
- StraightJacket™ compression to reduce bulk
Combining the functionality of a suitcase with the practicality of a backpack, the Deuter Transit comes in a variety of sizes that are perfect for all types of terrain, and features the unique Vari-Quick backsystem for custom made comfort.
The 50 and 65 litres Transit rucksacks feature a useful detachable day pack with a 12 litre capacity, as well as waterproof pockets to keep your important belongings safe from the elements and a large base compartment for shoes or sleeping bags. The U shaped zipped opening makes accessing your belongings quick and easy.
- Vari-Quick adjustable shoulder harness
- Detachable day pack for excursions
- Breathable padded shoulder harness
- Separate bottom compartment for shoes and sleeping bags
- Small front stash pocket for documents and valuables
This bag can be carried like a rucksack or across you shoulder like a carry-on and offers 40 litres of flexible space to keep your belongings safe. The stashable harness, ergonomic carry handles and compact size mean it is easy to switch between bag and rucksack as and when you need to.
With a dedicated laptop sleeve, internal mesh pockets, compression straps and an easy to access front pocket, the Lowe Alpine Carry On is just right for travellers who don’t want to stow their luggage.
- Conforms to most maximum carry-on luggage dimensions
- Can be used as a rucksack or shoulder bag
- Features useful additional pockets and compartments
- Stow away harness can be hidden when not being used
- Comes complete with lockable, tamperproof zips
Perfect for round the world adventures, the Lowe Alpine AT Voyager is a large, versatile backpack that is comfortable to carry and easy to access. With tamperproof locking zips and a host of internal compartments it is also completely secure.
The detachable day bag means you can leave your belongings behind when you go on day trips and excursions, and the ergonomic hip belt and adjustable shoulder straps make it easy to find the right settings to ensure your comfort even when it is fully loaded.
- Padded spacermesh back panel, harness and hipbelt
- Detachable daypack with hidden pocket
- Compression harness and lash points
- Built in rain cover
- Tamperproof, lockable zippers
Available with either 60 or 80 litre main compartments, the Vango Freedom also features a separate, detachable 20L day pack. Extremely versatile and rugged, this backpack is well is designed and perfect for long distance travellers.
It is hydration system compatible and is built with a Quick Adjust Back System for customisable comfort. It also offers air mesh on all contact areas to keep you cool and a flight cover to protect the straps whilst in transit.
- Large main compartment with internal storage areas
- Detached 20 litre detachable daysack
- Flight cover to protect straps in air transit
- Quick Adjust Back System for customisable comfort
- Hydration bladder compatible
This 60 + 20L Rucksack is two bags in one, and features comfort enhancing additions like extra padding and plenty go handy pockets and internal compartments. The detachable daypack come with a front organiser pocket, while the main compartment affords easy access from the top and the front.
Compression straps help to reduce bulk and the Adjustable Back System allows you to adjust the shoulder straps to find your most comfortable position and prevent unnecessary back pain
- Divisible main compartment
- Compression straps
- Adjustable Back System for customisable comfort
- Detachable 20L day pack
- Internal and external pockets for extra storage
The Venturesafe® EXP65 is an anti-theft travel pack, perfect for those who are concerned about the safety of their belongings during the travels. Featuring PacSafe anti-theft technology this rucksack comes with a locking cable, a mesh slashguard and a puncture resistant, fully lockable zip.
With a 65 litre capacity, the ergonomic, internal frame offers increased balance and support, while the adjustable, padded hip belt adds stability and efficient weight distribution.
- Patented anti-theft technology including lockable zip and a mesh slashguard
- Adjustable back harness for added comfort
- Ergonomic internal frame for increased support
- Internal and external compression straps
- Additional pockets and attachment points
Amar was born and raised in England and embarked on an 11-country round-the-world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second, which ended up being a 23-country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then, Amar has spent the last 14 years traveling the 7 continents.