How to Buy a Travel Backpack

If you’re spending several weeks travelling the world, you’ll need a companion to keep your kit together and not give you problems when you’re halfway through a day’s hiking. This travel buddy, of course, is the rucksack. This is the one item you can’t do without and getting it wrong can have consequences later in your trip.

We’re going to break down some of the points to look out for when you are choosing a travel backpack to help you get an idea of the pack that’s right to see you through your journeys – the best travel backpack for you. When chosen right, good travel backpacks will ensure you enjoy your adventure and fit perfectly into your plans.

How big of a travel rucksack do I need?

A rucksack – as opposed to daysacks or hydration packs – will usually start from sizes with a capacity of around 30 litres. In our range, you can get backpacks for travelling as large as 85 litres, which would be more than enough for any sized adventure.

However, it’s important to remember that simply opting for the biggest pack is not a good idea, and it’s important to match the pack’s size to your specific needs.

How many litres backpack do I need?

If you’re camping or staying in hostels, the size of travel backpack you’ll need will be completely different. If you’re only travelling for a weekend, a 30-litre rucksack would be ideal. You would only really be after an 85-litre rucksack if you were going on an extended camping trip.

Carrying a full 85-litre rucksack is extremely difficult over any length of time and in reality, many hikers insist that 60 litres is more than enough for backpacks for travelling around the world.

You won’t need to bring absolutely everything with you as you can and will pick up items as you go along. When you’re packing your bag, it’s worth going through your itinerary several times, removing items that you won’t really need as you go. Check out our backpacking checklist for a stripped down selection of items that will prove useful, but realise that no two trips are the same and you need to find out for yourself what you need to bring.

How do I choose a backpack?

Camping vs Hostels

As mentioned previously, the capacity of your rucksack will heavily depend on whether or not you are camping. Choosing to do so adds on tents, sleeping bags and other camping gear which quickly ramps up the weight of your pack and demands greater room. As a result, it’s smarter to opt for camping if you’ve had the experience and are willing to carry your large and heavy backpack around. If you’re staying in hostels, you can generally opt for a smaller pack as you won’t have to carry these essential camping items.

Other features to bear in mind are sleeping bag pockets that many rucksacks feature at the base for easy storage and access. You may need to buy a separate compression bag to get the sleeping bag down to a suitable size. Many bags will have external straps where you can store your tent or roll mat without having it shake loose from the bag.


Checking a rucksack’s fit is essential and fitting it properly can be the difference between pleasant hours of walking and back pain stopping you in your tracks. Make sure you try out the rucksack before you buy it, and you should also try it out when fully loaded before you start your trip so you have time to adjust it according to your needs.

Some rucksacks feature adjustable backs that lower or raise the hip belt to better suit your body. This is not the case with all travel rucksacks, however, but if it is with yours, you need to focus on adjusting the shoulder straps. Read our rucksack fitting guide for a more detailed explanation on fitting, but remember that if your bag sits uncomfortably, it has the potential to spoil your whole trip and have a detrimental effect on your back’s health.

Other Features

Each of our travel backpacks is different and have many different features that help tailor different styles for different uses. As mentioned previously, many rucksacks feature a sleeping bag pocket at the bottom.

This is also ideal as spare space for storing items separately if you are not carrying a sleeping bag. On some models, this lower pocket will allow access to the main storage compartment so it can be accessed from the top and bottom. This is handy when you want to access specific items lower in your rucksack without emptying the whole sack, saving you the hassle as well as the time.

Other features include compression straps. Not only do these extra straps allow you to secure the bag and stop internal items shifting around while you hike but they can also secure items externally. Almost all travel rucksacks will feature a drawstring-securing main pouch paired with a fold-and-clip top flap for a secure fit. These allow for an adjustable capacity which is essential for backpacking, and they also protect the main pouch from both the weather and prying hands.

You’ll also get a hip belt, which is essential for fitting but also handy for items you want close to hand as they often feature pockets. Another important feature to look out for is an attached rain cover. Rucksacks will offer basic rain protection but if (when) it starts raining heavily, you’ll need to cover it with one of these. We offer rain covers for rucksacks and backpacks, so you won’t have to go without one.

Do’s and Don’ts

Here are a few basic rules to adhere to:


  • Try on the rucksack in-store if possible, or if it’s not, you are usually able to try it on and return it if it doesn’t fit your body shape. You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Always have a dry run before setting out on your main trip. This way, you’ll quickly find out if the rucksack is right for you and your needs.


  • Don’t over-pack. You’ll find places to wash clothes as well as stock up on essential items along the way. This can significantly reduce weight and allow you to opt for a smaller, more manageable pack.
  • Don’t strap too much to the outside of your travel rucksack. While this may seem like a smart way to get more onto a smaller pack, it will throw you off balance and be a nightmare over any distance. Take the time to plan your kit out and buy a well-suited and fitted rucksack accordingly.

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Headed off on a Gap Year or Prolonged Backpacking Adventure? Check out our handy Travel Guide and Packing Checklist.