One of the most important things you will take along on a backpacking trip is a backpack. Backpacks come in lots of colours, brands, sizes and shapes, with zippers, extra pockets and many other options. The right bag for you might be your traveling partner’s worst nightmare. Preparing yourself for your shopping process will make sure you buy the ideal backpack for yourself. Check out my tips.
Tip 1: Choose a bag depending on how much you will be carrying your backpack
Before going shopping for a backpack it is very important to think about how much you will be carrying your backpack. Are you going on hikes with your backpack, will you be traveling with your backpack every couple of days, or will you just use your backpack as a flexible suitcase?
For every situation there are different backpacks, such as special bags with water systems to provide you with fluids while hiking. And if you are just using your backpack instead of a suitcase you might want to look into buying a duffle bag with wheels and/or straps instead of a backpack.
Tip 2 & 3: Try on the backpack with weights, for a realistic experience
Once you have decided on a hiking, heavy duty or sporadic use backpack, it’s time to visit a shop selling outdoor gear. Look for a store with a large collection so you have the opportunity to try on several backpacks from each brand. Don’t get tempted to just buy a backpack online because it looks good, or you find a good deal. Backpacks are so personal, you need to try it on in a store.
Once you are in the store and you are going to try on a backpack, ask for weights if the clerk doesn’t offer them. When loading your backpack with weights you will create the same situation as when you are traveling with your backpack. This way you know for sure if the backpack fits you right and still feels comfortable when it’s loaded with your travel gear.
Tip 4: Going green
This tip is not relevant for everyone. But if sustainability is important to you it’s worth checking how sustainable your backpack is. I find it very important to watch my footprint while traveling so the latest backpack I bought is a Fjällräven. The backpack is not only made of sustainable materials they are also long lasting. Another green option is to buy a secondhand backpack, see tip 9.
Tip 5: Buying a rain cover or not
Some brands include a raincover with the backpack, but most brands don’t. Before you buy one think about when you are going to be using your raincover. If you are going to hike with your backpack it’s a must, but if you are using your backpack instead of a suitcase you might not find yourself in situations where your backpack is ever going to be seriously wet.
I remember traveling from Cebu (in the Philippines) to a small island north of Cebu, Malapascua. When we arrived at the harbor, and the public bus drove of, a downpour started and we couldn’t find any shelter. We were so thankful for our raincovers, which made sure all the stuff in our backpacks stayed dry. My raincover is actually a large bag with a zipper. This way I can also use it to protect my backpack and it’s straps while flying.
And check out non branded raincovers, they are a lot cheaper than branded raincovers and usually come in all the standard sizes.
Tip 6: Being able to zip open your backpack as if it’s a suitcase
Some backpacks zip open along the sides when you lay them down on their back. It’s a really, really great feature that you shouldn’t underestimate. If you are staying at a guesthouse, hotel, or hostel that doesn’t have closet space, it is great to be able to use your backpack as a suitcase and just pick your clothes from the backpack. But also ideal while traveling when you quickly need to get something from your backpack.
Being able to open it sideways makes it much easier to reach into your bag.
Tip 7: Are there enough different compartments?
Most backpacks have separate compartments at the bottom of the backpack in which you can keep dirty laundry without dirtying your other clothes. Some backpacks like Fjällräven even have a compartment in which you can keep wet clothes behind a mesh, great if you have to travel from one place to another and your laundry hasn’t had time to dry or you just went out for a swim.
Having some pockets on the outside of your backpack is another feature to look for. Being able to pack your last travel items on the outside of your bag saves you lot of time searching for those items later. The pockets are great to put your flip flops or toothbrush and toothpaste in for example.
Tip 8: Check online prices
If you have found the perfect backpack, don’t buy it yet. Go back home and spend some time researching prices online. Online stores will often sell backpacks in odd colors with a discount, have the last of a certain type or last year’s colors on sale. And don’t forget to check prices overseas. By buying my last backpack in Germany instead of Holland I saved € 100 on the exact same backpack as I was planning on buying in a store in Holland.
Tip 9: Buying a secondhand backpack
Buying a secondhand backpack can save you tons of money and is also sustainable. A lot of people buy a backpack, use it once on a trip and then decide to sell their backpack because they won’t use it for a while, or discovered backpacking isn’t their thing. Most backpack’s are very easy to wash, which means you will have a backpack that looks like new for a fraction of the original price. And a new backpack won’t look new for long while backpacking anyways.
When I had my son we wanted to try out baby carriers but were shocked by the prices. The popular brands are over € 200. I searched on Marktplaats (Dutch variant of Craigslist) and found the baby carrier I wanted for just € 60. The family we bought it from had taken great care of the baby carrier and we were able to wash all the essential parts that touched our child. It was a great way to try out a really expensive baby carrier and made us able to do some extraordinary hikes in countries like Indonesia and Costa Rica.
Tip 10: Warranty
If you are buying a new backpack make sure you check out the warranty policy of the store and brand of the backpack. I bought a really, really expensive backpack years back and discovered a hole in the bottom of my backpack after just my first trip. I went back to Bever Sport (one of the biggest Dutch outdoor stores) where I had bought the backpack. They didn’t want to help me and even told me I had been asking for a ripped backpack by traveling to a country like Indonesia. I was really frustrated that my two year warranty didn’t seem to matter to them at all so I contacted the company Deuter who made the backpack. They agreed with me, that a backpack shouldn’t be torn after just one trip, no matter which country I traveled to, and fixed my backpack for free.
I hope these tips will guide you into buying the perfect backpack for you! And of course I’m curious to find out what your favorite backpack is, drop me a line below.h2