How to Choose your Backpack for a Trip around the World

A trip around the world is no laughing matter. To pull it off you need stamina, a great plan, and quality gear well-suited to your specific needs and destinations. The most critical decision you make could be your pack. Choose the wrong one, and you will be uncomfortable for a long time, or be forced to leave things at home that could be the difference between a good trip and a great adventure.

If you are an avid backpacker, chances are you already own a great pack – one that has stood the test of time and been there for you through thick and thin. But, for a trip involving multiple modes of transportation and variable types of lodging, you are going to want to leave your outdoors model behind.

Outdoors backpacks are great until it comes time to check them at the airport. Even worse, have you ever tried to extricate one from the luggage compartment of a bus? The frame and straps seem to catch on anything and everything within five feet. For this reason, the best bag to take on a trip around the world is a travel pack. They offer most of the walking comfort of a traditional backpack but are made specifically with travel in mind.

Don’t Sacrifice Comfort for Convenience

Travel packs get a bad rap because they are essentially hybrids – a cross between a suitcase and a backpack. Most are designed with an emphasis on one or the other. Choosing the right pack depends largely on how much hiking your travel plan contains.

The best in this class offer an internal frame, usually made of aluminum. They do not provide the comfort of a backpack made specifically for long treks, and an experienced hiker will notice the slimmed down hip belt and narrow shoulder straps immediately. But, if you take the time to choose a pack which fits correctly, short walks can be undertaken with minimal discomfort.

Make sure to look for bags with integrated covers for containing your straps when not in use.  This makes storage much easier when on the go. Also, steer clear of top loaders. There is no reason a travel pack can’t zip open like a suitcase. This makes it easier to pack and to access your clothes when on the road. Especially convenient are travel packs with exterior pockets. You definitely want to have quick access to your best rechargeable flashlight without searching the main compartment in the middle of the night.

How Big is Big Enough?

Backpacks come in a variety of sizes. What is right for you might not work at all for someone else on a similar trip. For an extended itinerary, it’s good to have as much room as possible. Of course, every extra liter of capacity means more weight.

It’s possible to hit the road for a long time with a medium sized pack. If you have a great sleeping bag compression sack, and other ways to limit how much space your gear occupies, you might get away with a pack as small as 45 liters. Any less and you will probably be leaving a lot of things at home.

Most travel packs fall in the fifty to sixty-liter range. At this size, you can still bring many creature comforts, and the total pack weight won’t bog you down when you’re running to catch a train. What’s the point of searching for the best night vision scope for the money if you can’t take it with you because of pack size? If you like to travel with an array of gadgets, or are planning on bringing your own stove and cookware, definitely consider packs at the higher end of these capacities.

A determining factor in deciding the size of your pack will be the range of seasons you expect to encounter while on your journey. Foul weather gear takes up a lot of space. If you are bringing a tent, including a rain fly will eat up precious space. To best determine your pack size, determine a pack list first with every possible item included. This should tell you exactly how large your bag needs to be.

A few manufacturers have begun offering expandable bags. Most can be converted quickly by unzipping a few compartments and can be extended by ten or 20 liters. You might not need eighty liters when you start your trip, but souvenirs can take up space. With an expandable pack, you won’t have to pass up a single snow globe at the airport.

Protecting Your Gear

A major concern with world travel is security. Protecting your stuff in the remote outposts of the world can be tough. Travel packs are easier to secure than traditional backpacks but can still be difficult. Fortunately, they are usually made of thicker and more durable material than their lighter cousins. And, their zipper configurations make applying a lock much easier than a top loader with a drawstring.

The smaller a pack is, the easier it is to keep an eye on. Huge bags end up in the luggage compartment or up on the roof rack.  Small packs can usually be kept on person. Depending on where you are traveling, this might be a difference maker in choosing the size that’s right for you.

There are devices on the market which can be hidden in your bag and transmit its location.  When used in conjunction with a smartphone app, you can know where your bag is at all times.

Wrapping Up

Travel packs have come a long way from their humble beginnings. Today, the better models offer many features formerly reserved for high-end backpacks. Lumbar adjustments and torso extensions are great to have if you are walking great distances, but they add to the price. If you are not planning on hiking, much plainer packs are available for far more reasonable prices.

On a trip around the world, it is better to be prepared than not. Choosing your pack wisely will allow you to bring everything you are bound to need, plus a few extras from the “just in case” list. Often, these are the items that let you be flexible when plans change and to maximize your enjoyment when on the road.


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