What to look for in a good travel backpack

What to look for in a good travel backpack January 27, 2016     1244 views   3 comments

There are a lot of different options out there for getting your stuff from A to B while travelling. A popular choice among young travellers is to go with a backpack in order to be more mobile while travelling.

While it can vary between personal preferences, there are some universal things to consider and look out for when looking for your travel backpack.


What are you using it for?

Firstly, it is important to decide what you are buying the bag for – if it is purely for travel needs (like lifting your bag from the taxi to the hotel room, or from the bus to the hostel) then your requirements are very different from someone who is going to wear the bag on a 3 week hike.

  • The differences mainly come down to the harness and the frame. If you are going to wear the bag for extended periods of time you want a fully adjustable harness and a full frame to support you. If you are using the bag for travel only, then a main focus is to keep the weight of the bag down, so it is better to look for a bag with a little less on the harness, and less of a frame to save weight.


  • Speaking of the harness, it is very important that your travel bag has at a minimum:
    • Shoulder straps with padding
    • Hip strap with padding – it is actually your hips that take most of the weight in a large or heavy backpack. Travel backpacks often scrimp on the hip belt – however it is still essential to have a fully functional padded adjustable hip belt to take some of the strain off the shoulders.
    • Sternum strap – it’s good for the bag to have a strap the sits on your chest between the two shoulder straps to distribute the weight more evenly.A simple buckle and strap is fine for the sternum strap without padding as it doesn’t actually sit on you.
    • Not too many straps – hiking backpacks are chockablock with all sorts of straps – for holding ice picks, sleeping bags/pads, walking poles etcetera. These not only affect the aesthetic of the bag, they greatly increase the chance of the bag getting caught and potentially ruined while it’s making its way through airport transit.
    • Zip away harness: speaking of things getting damaged while on transport – having zip away straps are essential for check in size bags to prevent the straps getting mangled and destroyed while in transit. It’s also a bonus for carry-on backpacks to have this to avoid straps getting caught on everything while boarding, disembarking and stowing luggage on the plane.
  • It is also good if the harness has pockets on the hip straps for easy access to your essentials

Front opening

  • Bags that open zip open like a normal suitcase are a must for a travel backpack. If you use a traditional top opening hiking pack, you will find it’s a nightmare every time you need to access your things. You end up having to unpack most of the bag to find on item.
  • Having a front opening zip means that you can get to what you need

Good quality material, zips and buckles

  • There is nothing more disastrous than a zip falling apart mid-trip. The zipper is the weakest point of the bag – especially when the bag is loaded up to the max.
  • Look for bags with a minimum of 600D polyester fabric (1000D is the most ideal), or nylon ripstop. Water resistant fabrics are also good for when you get caught in the rain.


  • There is no “ideal size” for a backpack – it depends on the person, where you are going and how long you are going for. There are plenty of advantages of just using a carry-on size pack, which we talked about in this post.


  • Weight is especially important for carry on bags, where strict airline weight requirements means every 100g counts! But even for check-in bags, an extra kg to lug around can make a big difference. As a general rule a carry on pack shouldn’t weigh more than 1.7kg, and a check-in pack no more than 2.5kg.


  • Rain Cover – a lot of bags use water resistant material – this means that the bag will withstand light showers, but not pouring rain. This is where a rain cover comes in handy, to protect your gear in the bag if you ever have to go out in pouring rain. It can also be good to put on when you check the bag in for an extra layer of protection.
  • Shoulder strap – an attachable shoulder strap is very handy for when you have strapped away the harness and you need to get the bag around. For the hand-luggage sized packs, it allows the bag to transform into more of a messenger bag style.
  • Detachable daypack – a detachable daypack is a great bonus for check-in sized packs, so that you have a bag to use on day trips once you get to your destination.
  • Carry handles – these are a great feature when it comes to moving the bag around.

Last but not least…Style!

  • When you think of travel the words that come to mind are exciting, inspiring, adventure, one-of-a-kind experiences – so why would you use a boring, ugly, non-differentiable bag?
  • At Elephant Stripes we believe that travel gear can be both functional and desirable items at the same time, and that your bag should be a visual expression of your style and personality while you travel!

Want a bag that incorporates everything mentioned above?? Check out our Elephant Stripes Travel Packs for the ideal travel backpack!

3 responses to “What to look for in a good travel backpack”

  1. Arefa Tonny says:

    Hi There,
    Thanks for sharing the awesome guidelines to choose a good travel backpack. I always love to visit new places, so I need to buy one or two backpacks in a year. I always look for a medium to large size backpack with low weight and good zipper, buckle & padded shoulder strap. As an online marketer, I always like to buy a travel backpack with a laptop compartment.

  2. John Wills says:

    Thanks for sharing great information.