Whether you’re going away for a month, a full year, or maybe you’re not planning on coming back, the most important piece of equipment you’ll need for your travels is a reliable bag to see you through your journey. Travelling rucksacks are an investment and there’s a huge choice out there, so we’ve tested ones currently available to find the best, taking into account gender, height and activities planned.
We talked to gap year specialist Real Gap who told us their four top tips to consider before you buy:
Your backpack must be comfortable when you carry it
Just like trying on a pair of shoes, you should have a walk around with it to see how it feels. Make sure you’re comfortable as you‘re going to be spending a long time in each other’s company.
Don’t buy a top-loading backpack
These are not practical, as you end up taking everything out to find what you’re looking for. It’s best to either get one with an opening at the bottom, or better still, a panel-loading one that opens around two-thirds of the pack.
Get a good quality backpack
You really don’t want it ripping or breaking while you’re on the move. Some backpacks have extra straps to attach useful kit, such as a sleeping bag or hiking boots. Some also come with extra pockets for carrying things like water bottles. All these little functions are helpful if they apply to you.
Buy a waterproof cover
They cover the whole of your backpack and ensure your kit stays dry when it rains. You don’t need a waterproof liner, unless your pack is going to be exposed to the elements for a long time.
When testing these products, we looked for overall comfort when wearing the bag over varied terrain, the ease of access to belongings on-the-go and when packing, as well as the weight of the bag itself. We found most bags were between 45 and 80 litres; however the bigger the rucksack the more unnecessary items you’ll probably pack. A 60 litre capacity should be more than enough space.
1. Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL: £140, Deuter
If you’re planning on going away for a longer period of time and you know it will involve trekking, this is the backpack for you. It has 60 litres of space, stretching to an additional ten litres by extending the hood, and has a whole host of handy features that will make packing for your time away (almost) easy. There’s a separate zipped bottom compartment, a pocket for wet laundry, a zipped pocket on the hip belt for valuables, as well as a front stretching pouch for a helmet or football. This rucksack also has breathable back padding and flexible, padded hip fins, which we found allowed us to move freely and kept the weight spread evenly, even when the bag was full to capacity. This is a women’s specific pack, but there are equivalent models for men.
2. Osprey Farpoint 55 Backpack: From £108, Amazon
If you haven’t planned exactly what you will be doing during your travels, this unisex bag covers most eventualities and is a great all-rounder. The stand-out feature of this bag is the detachable 13 litre day pack which is perfect for day trips and is easy to reattach to the main bag. It can also be clipped onto the front harness of your main pack so that it sits on your front – spreading the weight but most importantly keeping your valuables more secure and within easy reach. We particularly liked being able to neatly zip away the harness and hip belt using the foldaway cover which, along with the lockable zips, helped to keep the bag protected from transit damage and secure from interference. This lightweight pack is available in two sizes and a selection of colours.
3. The North Face Base Camp Duffel Medium: £68.25, Wiggle
With adjustable and detachable shoulder straps, this versatile duffel bag is ideal as long as you’re not planning to do long hikes with your kit. It’s the kind of bag that will survive anything (it’s water-resistant) and is also compact enough to be taken on planes as hand luggage – we were fine to take it on Ryanair, easyJet and Vueling airlines. Featuring a handy side zip pocket, which is great for stowing items such as travel documents, a wallet, or phone for quick access, this bag also comes in a variety of colours and sizes.
4. Vango Sherpa 60+10S Rucksack: £74.58, Outdoor Gear
Recommended for those doing the Duke of Edinburgh award, this pack is great value, providing a lot of useful features for the price. Particularly useful is the ability to access the bag from both top and bottom, meaning you don’t have to completely unpack every time you need to find your head torch. We got caught in a torrential downpour hiking with this backpack and were relieved to find the rain cover helped keep all our belongings dry. The reflective points also proved useful on this occasion. It’s a great starting point if you’re going on a one-time adventure and don’t want to spend much.
5. Montane Ultra Tour 55: £100, Cotswold Outdoor
This rucksack is the most stylish out of those we tested, with its minimalist design making it stand out. It has an easy access roll-top close, which is good for quick packing and eliminates excess backpack fabric, but it does mean it lacks a zip which you can lock. However, as it weighs just 811g, this pack is ultra-light and ideal for those looking for a lightweight bag which doesn’t compensate on space. It also has a large, zipped, stretch mesh front pocket which allowed us to squeeze in a few extra last-minute items.
6. Lowe Alpine Air Zone Pro+ 35:45: £110, Cotswold Outdoor
This pack is suited to those going on shorter trips or who like to travel light. At 33 litres – but easily expandable to 40 when you need extra space – it’s small enough to get away with as hand luggage which is ideal if you’re looking to save time and money. The adjustable back system really helps ventilation so you don’t get too sweaty hiking and the zip hip belt pockets are great for those little items you need to access easily.
7. Berghaus Women’s Trailhead 60 Rucksack: £110, Berghaus
We found this pack particularly comfortable, as it’s specifically designed for women. It features a pre-curved hip belt and an easily adjustable back. We also liked that, despite having multiple pockets and walking pole attachment points, it remained compact when full to the brim. At £110 and with a lifetime guarantee, this it is also great value for money. It’s an ideal bag for those looking for a simple, no-fuss, entry-level backpack.
8. Burton Wheelie Cargo Travel Bag: £210, Burton
If you’re going away but not planning to go trekking, this hardy travel bag is one to consider. With 65 litres of space, divided into different sections, and zips that stretch to accommodate for over-packing, it’s easy to fit in clothes for all occasions if you’ve got a working visa and need to take an extra interview outfit. We found the “quick stash” compartment handy for accessing travel documents quickly and the lockable zips provided peace of mind. It’s more expensive than the other bags on our list but it does have a lifetime warranty and wheels for ease at the airport.
The Verdict: Rucksacks for backpackers
For a comfortable, lightweight backpack at a reasonable price, our Best Buy is the Deuter ACT Lite 60+10. This bag will support you through any number of trekking adventures while you’re away. If you’re looking for more of an all-rounder, and you know you won’t be walking huge distances, you can’t go wrong with the Osprey Farpoint 55, which is suitable for everything from airports to hostel-living to day trips.
IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing
- More about: