The Best Travel Backpack to Buy

If you’re going to travel it makes way more sense to take a backpack than a suitcase. Backpacks are lighter, more versatile, more attractive, and they’re definitely cooler than lugging around your parent’s old suitcase. Finding the best backpack for travelling can be daunting though. There are so many different brands and sizes on the market that you might not know what to pick.

In this post I’ll show you the backpack I bought, tell you why I made a big mistake, and then show you what I consider to be a way better choice.

The Osprey Aether 70 – Mistake

Aether 70When I was in Russia I did some research and determined that Osprey is the best manufacturer of hiker’s backpacks. After locating the sole retailer in Moscow, I took the Metro there and bought the Aether 70 (73 liters of storage space). I chose this large sized backpack because I just didn’t know any better. I knew that I would be living for several years from it, and I thought that I would need all the space I could get.

That was a bad move. It turns out that I don’t need all the space. Nor do I need all the fancy gadgets that come with it, including: sleeping bag straps, ice axe loops, a water pouch section, pouches on the sides of the support straps, and so on. That’s great if you’re hiking, but unnecessary in most modern airports.

The worst drawback of this backpack is that it’s too large to carry onto the airplane. This means that every time I fly, I’m giving the airlines a free pass to lose my backpack. I don’t know what the statistics are, but I feel like this chance is even larger since I often fly to precarious places, like Ukraine and soon Vietnam.

The Porter 46 – Smart Choice

Porter 46In my experience, a 45 to 50 liter pack is the ideal size for most people. It’s large enough to hold more than a week’s worth of clothing, and yet small enough to carry onto the plane. When I traveled through Europe last month I even saw lots of girls using this size of bag. Taking it even further, when I was in Kiev in June I talked to a guy who had been travelling for months. He had a 45 liter pack and thought it was too big!

That’s why if I could do it all over again, I would choose the Porter 46 from Osprey.  With a 46 liter capacity I feel that it’s the best travel backpack ever. I’d probably have to get rid of a few shirts and a pair of basketball shorts, but I wouldn’t even miss them after a week. If you’re just travelling for a few weeks, you’ll be able to fit more than enough into this pack to be comfortable. In Kiev I talked to a guy on a three month Euro tour and he said he loved this pack and it gave him plenty of room. The price is fair too. At $140, it’s about $100 less than I paid for my backpack.

Comparing Backpack Features

It’s only fair to point out that while my backpack is too large, it’s still an awesome piece of equipment. It’s incredibly light, very comfortable, it looks attractive, and the quality is brilliant. In the end though, it’s just not right for me. The Aether is designed for climbing a mountain, not travelling across Europe by train. So to help you pick the right pack, here are a few common features to watch out for

Damn1. Size, often measured in liters. Your average school backpack is about 25 liters, which is fully one third the size of my massive 73 liter pack.

2. Hip straps. These are really, really nice for carrying your backpack long distances, but completely superfluous if you’re just going from the airport to a hostel.

3. Water pouch. Unless you’re planning on actually doing real hiking, this is an additional feature you won’t need.

4. Assorted hiking gadgets, too many to list. There are so many different straps and hooks on my backpack I don’t know what half of them do. That’s what’s so attractive about the smooth, sleek appearance of the Porter 46. After all, unlike this guy, odds are you aren’t going to the airport ready to film global warming in action..

5. Brand. Osprey is the best, why buy anything else? With some basic maintenance this backpack will easily last for a lifetime.

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