Photo: All you need is a backpack.

Gear and equipment forum

What do you look for in a good backpack?

Posted by somtam2000 on 19/10/2008 at 08:02 admin

I've just updated the section on what to look for in a new backpack and was wondering what do you look for when you're shopping for a quality backpack?

Got a tried and tested pack that has lasted you for many trip? Please share your advice and suggestions with others on the forum.

In the story I've linked off to a few well-regarded backpacker manufacturers -- please feel free to name drop other brands you think should be listed.

You can read the full backpack report here.


#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,938
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Posted by basho on 27/1/2009 at 15:05

Posted from within Vietnam.

Arc'teryx - the best you can get. True waterproof, very tough and high tech.

#2 basho has been a member since 10/5/2008. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 24

Agoda coupon: Get an extra 7% off selected properties with the coupon code

Posted by TheGoose on 5/2/2009 at 18:51

Smaller the better - as long as you have your passport, you can buy anything else you may need whilst on your travels. It's worth paying more for a waterproof and sturdy backpack.

Remember, a cheap backpack is cheap for a reason.

#3 TheGoose has been a member since 30/1/2009. Posts: 29

Posted by mattocmd on 6/2/2009 at 19:50

Never buy the ghetto cheap backpacks at the thai markets. They really suck, you can just tell by looking at them.

My LL Bean is fantastic and everyone compliments me on it. The quality is great and the salesman will help you find one that fits properly.

Quality is most important, but it must fit you well so that you can walk a long while in it and it doesn't cause much strain. Your back shouldn't hurt after you wear it.

#4 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 366
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Posted by wanderingcat on 7/2/2009 at 08:32

when you're a 5-feet-nothing girl (who can fit into a 75L backpack), helps a lot to get a one designed for smaller female frame & skeletal structure. been using a Tatonka 'Luna' for past 5 years, weight transfers pretty well to hips, stable (important when climbing) & feels like nothing on shoulders at all. pretty tough too.

Arc'teryx is good if you can afford it.

#5 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
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Posted by samuel99 on 13/2/2009 at 10:40

I've always made do with two bags. One a US Army style canvas sausage bag (with a home-made padded rope sling that goes nicely over the shoulder), and secondly a more traditional daypack for just wandering around town.

I found the US Army bag really good for the following reasons:
1) Cheap: cost about $20 at a disposal store
2) Hardy: it's a very hardy, durable piece of work
3) Simple: no more "damn which pocket did I put the condoms in" moment. There's only one place for everything.
4) Antitheft: lowlifes don't seem interested in a scuffed up canvas sack, they're far more likely to go for a $300 snazzy pack

The only negative is that it isn't really all that waterproof. It's ok in light rain, but if it pours then I need a day to dry everything out.

Works for me.

#6 samuel99 has been a member since 13/2/2009. Posts: 3

Posted by KRStamm on 10/4/2009 at 09:38

Go get a backpack fitting at a local outdoor store. Until I did it I was always somewhat uncomfortable and now I love my pack. Since there are so many kinds of packs it is usually worth the hassle of going and talking to someone to find the perfect one for you. I usually write down the info and check the reviews via the internet. I am a big fan of Osprey packs because of the back ventilation and durability as well as numerous zippers to get in the main compartment.

#7 KRStamm has been a member since 10/9/2007. Posts: 38

Posted by SBE on 13/4/2009 at 15:06

What Somtam wrote in the "how to chose a backpack" section is very useful and like the previous posters I'd agree with most of it, but he says not to buy one that needs a cover to make it waterproof. Well, a cover also keeps the pack clean so I'd suggest you use one anyway. My old pack died this last trip after about 10 years of loyal service. Probably bunging it in the washing machine a few times had something to do with its demise, but backpacks get quite dirty after a few months on the road.

Anyway, I had to get a new backpack in Bangkok about three months ago. I spent a day going round all the posh shops selling genuine ones and failed to find an affordable quality replacement that was lockable. Nearly all the models in the shops had drawstrings rather than zippers. The only lockable models I found cost over 300 euros, most had wheels (ie too heavy) and non of them were very comfortable to carry.

I ended up buying one on the street ...a 50L Alpine Lowe (according to the label anyway) for 1100B. I expected it to fall apart within weeks but it hasn't. I've had it three months now and so far no problems at all! The stitching seems solid enough and the zips all still work. It's actually even more comfortable to wear than my old backpack, and has lockable zips, useful compartments and comes with a waterproof cover so it's still looking like new. I may just have been lucky, but from what I've seen so far I think it would probably be adequate for the occasional short term traveler on a tight budget.

#8 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,052
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Posted by BruceMoon on 5/7/2009 at 05:49

On this topic, also go to:


#9 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by MADMAC on 7/7/2009 at 18:02

You're mine kinda guy. I have two of those bags, I should start using one for my periodic trips to Bangkok.

#10 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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Posted by angfonz on 8/7/2009 at 02:13

I am what I'd like to think of as "in the loop" as far as outdoor equipment is concerned. I own several high end backpacks of different capacities and have owned multiple bags from most of the top end retailers.

With that said, REI's new Flash 65 bag is outrageously good for its price. That's a lie, its outrageously good for any price, and its cheap as hell:

#11 angfonz has been a member since 7/7/2009. Posts: 36

Posted by apm12309 on 8/7/2009 at 02:21

I swear by Camelback backpacks as I am fairly active with snowboarding, dirtbike riding, hiking, etc. They have a bladder that you can drink from which is key where a lot of cities you're not supposed to drink the water. I also love that they have specialized bags for your activity and your type - I bought a women's, hiking backpack for a hiking trip and EVERYONE was jealous of my bag. A little pricey but 5 years later and it looks brand new

#12 apm12309 has been a member since 4/7/2009. Posts: 1

Posted by BruceMoon on 8/7/2009 at 09:00

To those with 65++ sized bags, how much of your gear is still untouched when you return home?

I've asked this of many travellers along the way, and most said that when things are shoved down the bottom, they sort of get lost there. Most said that after previous journey's they'd promised themselves not to take as much. They also said that they quickly forget the weight, etc., of these packs and the hassles at airports, on buses, etc. And, they forget to pack less when starting out again.

Which, to my mind, suggests the 65++ pack is for those serious trekkers who go away into the sticks who have to carry everything in/out ONLY, not city/beach/GH/hotel/holiday type tourist.

Go light and enjoy life better!


#13 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by MADMAC on 8/7/2009 at 13:10

Camelbacks are great - but only if you're a serious hiker.

#14 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
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