Finding the Right Travel Backpack

Cody and I will be traveling to the UK and Ireland this November and we have made the bold decision to pack, for two weeks, in one backpack each. For two people who are ALWAYS “that person” who has the overweight suitcase at the airport, this poses to be quite the experiment for us. We knew, traveling in late fall, we would also be packing relatively bulkier clothing so that adds an extra challenge. Here are my steps for how the “over-packer” chose a great backpack to travel with.

  1. Pinterest/Google Search “travel backpacks”

I started my search very broad because I have never packed for more than 2 days in a backpack. I had to get a sense of what a real “backpacker’s” rucksack looks like in order to see just how much weight I would be carrying around. I have to admit, I was pretty overwhelmed at first seeing all the very large camping backpacks that are used most often. Props to all you long distance backpackers, you’re a travel inspiration.

2. Decide what size bag you will actually need

As Cody and I will actually be staying in multiple hotels, not camping, we decided we would only need a bag equipped for carrying clothing and a few small essentials. Our trip will be full of busy day and overnight trips in different places, so we won’t have one main hotel to keep our belongings in day-to-day. Out next search was for “day tripper” so-to-say backpacks. These bags were about 20″x16″x6″ in size and held about 25L of necessities.

3. Finding the right brand for you.

Next up was narrowing down a few brands we thought would be reliable and looks that wouldn’t completely scream “I’m wandering through the wilderness for the next year” (although I really wish we were) since we will be carrying them around all day every day of our trip. The three brands we chose were PolerDakine, and Nixon. All of these brands have great reviews for the quality of their products and had bags we both fell in love with.

4. Finding a shop to try out these backpacks.

It is extremely important, if you are ordering a bag online, to see it in person first. Feeling the quality of the material, poking around in the bag to get a feel for just how much room it really provides, and trying it on to make sure it will be comfortable are essential for something you will have to rely on for two weeks away from home. All of these websites provided a “locate product provider” option to find a retail store near us so we could have a look for ourselves.


The Shred Shop is our local skate, snowboard, ski and outdoor activity shop and they absolutely did not disappoint. Thought they did not have every bag we looked at for sale in their store, they had a great selection of some we saw and some we hadn’t heard of! The staff were extremely knowledgable about all the rucksacks they had in stock and successfully helped Cody and I find the perfect backpacks.

5. Purchasing your dream backpack

Hurray, you’ve found a backpack! Here comes the less fun part, paying for your shiny new bag. Good, reliable bags cost anywhere from $75 to $300 so be prepared to pay. If you have found your bag in a store, great! Close your eyes and hand they cashier your credit card like I did (you’ll find I hate spending money so big purchases make me queasy). If you’re purchasing online, make sure to write down ALL the bag’s information. Include brand, style, sizing as many bag styles have “compact” versions, and any other defining qualities of said bag. Maybe even take a picture if that retail store permits it, some do not.

The bags Cody and I chose are the Dakine Rucksack  and  Nixon’s “The Origami” Rucksack. Both hold about 26L of packing supplies and are made of very durable fabrics.


What are your favorite bags to travel with? Do you have any tips on narrowing down a packing list? Are you a converted over-packer to minimalist? We’d love to hear from you!



*This post contains sponsored links. I may be compensated for any purchase made through these links.


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