Choosing the Right Backpack for Travel

Which Backpack is Right for You?

Which Backpack is Right for You?

Picking the right backpack was by far one of the toughest parts of our first around-the-world adventure…well, it was for me anyway. You see, I had never carried a backpack before except in college and then it was only to hold a notebook and an extra-large bag of M&M’s (for energy). Backpacks were as foreign to me as the lands we planned to visit. I was a suitcase-only woman. To me, backpacks were strange.

Case in point. When I first started looking, I had no idea there were women-specific models for shorter torsos (for people like me who were less than tall), ultra light models, and simply gynormous packs that promised to hold anything you would ever want to pack. Internal frames, external frames and no frame at all added more choices. Then there were the extras…pockets, pouches, dangling things and hidden places to stuff stuff. SO many choices! Because you will be spending lots of time in close proximity to this piece of baggage, it’s very important to make sure you choose wisely.

Here is what I discovered to be most important when CHOOSING THE RIGHT BACKPACK FOR TRAVEL:
• Decide what you absolutely have to carry with you BEFORE you buy the pack. What you’ll for an ATW world trip is much different from a weekend hiking adventure. I bought too small the first time around and now a perfectly good backpack is sitting in the garage.
• Be certain you can CARRY it comfortably. Not just around the block, but imagine slogging uphill for miles in the pouring rain with a soggy backpack. If it is not comfortable, you will be miserable.
• Ease of ENTRY. Getting in and out of a pack at the hostel in the pre-dawn darkness…you get the idea. Pawing through the entire contents of your clothes and toiletries just isn’t an option. Whether it’s top load or side-entry, pick what works best for you.
COLOR. I know it sounds shallow, but be sure you like the look of your bag. This pack will be your sidekick, your footstool, your pillow, and your albatross every single day while you travel. It helps if you don’t hate the way it looks. In addition, a distinctive look can help distinguish your pack from everyone else’s stacked together at the airport.
These are the models we chose:

Kelty Coyote 4750 Backpack (Cheryl)

Kelty Red Cloud 5000 (Women’s) (Lisa)

NOTE: Mine was too big. WAY too big.  So after about a week of pitching forward every time I stood up, I ditched it for a rolling suitcase and never looked back. Now Cheryl, on the other hand, loves her backpack. She feels more like a traveler and enjoys the space she finds within all of those cavernous spaces. We’re both happy. Isn’t that what traveling is all about?

What’s YOUR favorite backpack? How did you choose it? Or did it choose you?

About the author

Lisa is a traveler, photographer and pharmacist. She and her partner Cheryl MacDonald enjoy sharing inspiration and good health with fellow travelers!


Leave a comment
  • I got my pack in 2005 and it’s still going strong! It’s pretty basic though. One master pouch and that’s it. I like the simplicity. The big backpacks scare me!

  • Hi Lisa, I am looking at the Kelty Coyote 4750 Backpack for my wife. Do these backpacks have a hydration system? Also, do they have a chest strap so the weight is evenly distributed?

    • Hello Adam, Our Kelty Coyote 4750 did not come with a hydration system, but there is a port near the top should you choose to incorporate one into the pack. There is also a sternum strap across the chest to help distribute the weight. I hope you wife enjoys the new pack and thanks for the comment! Safe travels.

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