Elements of a Good Travel Backpack

Travel is one of life’s greatest joys. And truth be told, anyone can see the world with just a satchel and a smile.

But technology has caught up with travel and now designs packs specifically for travelers. They offer the space and convenience of traditional backpacks but with features that help you stay light, mobile and focus on the joys of the travel trail.

So let’s take a look at some of the main features of a travel backpack.


The most universal and convenient feature of travel backpacks is that open from the top or sides like a suitcase.

Traditional packs close with a drawstring at the top. So if you need something out of your bag – or better yet stumble upon a hidden stream and what to go for a quick swim – traditional packs force you to dig through your bag to either take everything out or disrupting your carefully orchestrated packing system just to get at that buried bathing suit. With a travel backpack, you just unzip the bag, open it like a suitcase and quickly grab what you need.


Another convenient feature of many travel backpacks is a detachable day bag.

Most backpack travel trips involve arriving in a new place, finding a hostel and exploring for a few days. Obviously, you don’t want to lug you full pack around. A detachable day pack allows you to lock up your main pack, unclip the day pack and explore with a smaller bag. It also serves as a carry-on when flying. And when it’s time to go, you just reattached it into one sleek compact unit. Obviously any old bag can serve as a day bag, but reattachable day bags that are integrated into the overall design of your pack keep things compact and easy to manage.


An almost universal feature of a good travel backpack is top and side handles.

Anyone who’s been on a local bus in Bolivia or Bangladesh knows there’s not much room. Top and side handles allow you to carry your pack in different ways depending on the situation and to grab it quickly in cramped quarters. It also gives your back a break if need be.


The final element of many good travel backpacks is subject to debate: Wheels.

Where you stand on the wheels versus no wheels debate likely depends on where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.

The positive side of wheeled backpacks is that they give your back a rest and allow you to easily maneuver your bag on flat surfaces – roads, airports, bus stations. The downside is that they can add a little weight and some of the hip straps on wheeled bags aren’t as thick and sturdy as non-wheeled bags.

Your choice depends on your trip. If you’re going to be spending a month in the Brazilian rain forest, you’ll likely have little need for wheels. But if you’re going to be backpacking across Europe for three months, you’ll definitely be glad you have them.

There you have it. So check them out, decide what works best for you and enjoy your travels!

Johnetta Bernard

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