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Must-have travel items packed in a suitcase

The 4 Must-Have Travel Items I Won’t Leave Without

Anyone who has traveled more than once has them. The first items they lay out on the bed or put into their suitcase. The things that make it on every trip. Their own must-have travel items.

Even for someone like me, who’s a bit of an over-planner, packing is a chore. The only upside to doing it often is that you eventually get pretty good at it. You come to learn which things you absolutely have to pack and which you can leave behind.

While they might be different for everyone, I’ve come up with a few I think are – or at least should be – universal.

Toiletries to pack for a trip

Here are the four must-have travel items I won’t leave home without:

1. Sunscreen

I feel like this is a good indication of getting older and wiser. I used to avoid sunscreen like the plague when I was younger. Now I want it in everything—lotion, foundation, chapstick. I’m currently on a personal mission for the perfect organic moisturizer with built-in SPF. But until I find it, I have managed to find two sunscreens I absolutely love.

For my face, I’m obsessed with the Coola tinted mineral sunscreen. It’s natural and applies so-freaking-smoothly it will change everything you think you know about sunscreen. The other, stickier option I use for my body is the Aloe Gator Gel. The gel is a little harder to apply than creams, but I’ve also found it to be much more resistant to sweat.

(Side note: I’m an advocate for using natural products whenever possible, and now more than ever. There were are least two places in the Riviera Maya that didn’t allow sunscreen (and Hawaii just banned chemical sunscreens!) because it’s harmful to the local habitat. If you opt for something biodegradable, you can feel good about wearing it anywhere you go.)

2. Bug repellent
This is one of the must-have travel items I’ve learned to love the hard way. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been a lighted target for mosquitoes.

These days I’m lucky enough to live in a place where they’re not a problem, but that only makes them more noticeable when I go anywhere else. Because these small, evil creatures have the ability to ruin a perfectly good time, I’ve learned to always be prepared. Don’t be fooled by the climate, either. I’ve seen mosquitoes at low humidity and 10,000 feet of elevation.

Since all-natural options have been unfortunately less effective for me personally, I shamefully opt for the full-strength varieties when it comes to spray. If you’re not sure you’ll need it, I recommend getting one of these small, travel-sized tubes that won’t take up much space.

Better safe than eaten alive, I say.

Woman wearing a buff head wrap while hiking a mountain in Switzerland

3. A Buff Wrap
The Buff wrap is certainly the newest addition to my list of must-have travel items. In recent years it has become a given for hiking trips. But after wishing I had something handy to wipe away the constant stream of sweat I battled in Mexico, I’d gladly take it anywhere.

It’s versatility is what makes it so great. You can wear it as a scarf to keep warm, or a headband to hold your hair back or keep sweat from your eyes. You can put it over your nose to block wind or bugs. In Cancun, our tour guides wore them on the boats and around the islands for sun protection, too.

And they’re so light and compact that you won’t even be mad if you wind up leaving it in your suitcase. Plus it comes in such a wide variety of colors and patterns—there’s definitely something for everyone.

A good Buff wrap is sure to let you flex your experienced-traveler muscles.

People holding up their colorful dock and back towels on the beach

4. Travel towel
We’ve mentioned the advantages of a good travel towel before, and I’m sure we’ll mention them again. Even if you’re going somewhere towels are provided, these things come in so handy.

For example, we stayed at an AirBnb in Playa del Carmen that provided bath towels and beach towels. But the beach towels were massive. They’d take up half your backpack if you brought just one with you. Not to mention how hard it is to free sand from the fluffy ones.

For this trip, I took my Dock & Bay towel with me (though I also love the Sea To Summit options for smaller sizes). And I was so glad to have it. I threw it in my backpack wherever we went and used it any time a chair was hot or uncomfortable. I used it as a wrap walking around the beach or pool, and even as a shawl when my shoulders got hot from the sun.

The best part? After a quick shake virtually all of the sand is gone and it dries so quickly you can use it again and again.

Of course there are several other items, like toothpaste, that I never travel without. But I’ve found that these four must-have travel items can be unexpected life savers on any given trip.

Would you agree? Tell us what you won’t leave home without!

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a Greek town on the Mediterranean

3 Mediterranean Summer Islands You Won’t Want to Miss

Dreaming of Mediterranean summer islands? So are we. And as we quickly approach summer again, it’s time for you to start planning your vacations. Some of you may have been lucky enough to take a winter break, but for many it’s the summer we look forward to most. It’s the time we can enjoy the best of the warm weather, explore the outdoors or simply lounge by the pool or beach with a drink in your hand.

Choosing the right place for you can take a little time and we thought it might be helpful for us to narrow down your search a bit. This time, we’ve decided to focus on the young-at-heart among you who also like to lounge by the beach and pool. Each of these Mediterranean summer islands will give you good weather and good summer vibes. We’ll focus on two Spanish islands and a Greek island to discuss—all of which you’ve most definitely heard of before. It goes without saying that these popular destinations as the ideal location for many travelers.

Here are our favorite Mediterranean summer islands:

Pool at a resort on the Mediterranean Island of Ibiza

Ibiza:
We understand that many people associate this island with super clubs, big crowds and an energetic night life. If this is what you are going for then you already know what to expect. This infamous party island hosts some of the world’s biggest superstar DJs every night during the summer months. But what many fail to see is that the other side of the island offers white sandy beaches, water sport activities and a whole host of nooks and crannies that you can explore when you’re not partying. This island is a perfect mix for both the young and the young at heart, although it is obviously catered for the more energetic crowd.

Woman on the beach in Cap de Ses Salines, Mallorca

Mallorca:
Sometimes seen as the cheaper twin to Ibiza, there is no shortage of things to do in Mallorca. With some companies offering up to 70% off on some of there travel deals, Mallorca is a good choice for those on a tighter budget. Magaluf is the most popular destination on the island because it has countless hotels, villas and apartments for every budget. The nightlife is slightly more subdued, but you can easily find a party or nice sports bar any night of the week. And although the island is rarely explored outside of its major destination hubs, there is plenty to see inland. You can even discover some of the nice trails worth exploring if you’ve had enough of the beach.

Crystal Clear water at Balos Beach in Crete, Greece

Crete:
The last of our Mediterranean summer islands moves from Spain to Greece. Crete is the largest of the Greeks islands and the most popular with visitors. Probably because it offers a huge amount of tourism catering for every taste. Crete has practically everything to offer travelers: beautiful beaches, water sports, and eclectic nightlife and a very well-structured transport network. It’s easy to see why Crete is a perfect summer destination for everybody and every budget! A few weeks here will provide the perfect mix of what a summer holiday is supposed to offer.

 

Whichever island you choose, you can always take time to explore outside of the pool or beach. It’s an added bonus to discover the culture outside of the resort area!

What other destinations are on your summer travel list?

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Grapes on the vine in Georgia

Wine not? Take a Wine Tour in Armenia and Georgia

Why take a wine tour in Armenia and Georgia? For starters, the two hospitable countries of the South Caucasus are often called “the cradle of wine-making.”

Archaeological excavations have shown that ancient civilizations started producing wine in these territories all the way back in prehistoric times. So, for Armenians and Georgians, wine is more than just an alcoholic beverage. It’s an important part of the history and culture. And taking a wine tour through a local tour operator can provide a unique look at the life in the South Caucasus.

Not convinced? We’ve put together interesting facts about wine-making in the region.

Here’s why you should take an unforgettable wine tour in Armenia and Georgia:

Why Take a Wine Tour in Armenia

According to the scientists, the wine-making in Armenia has a history of over 6000 years. In ancient times, the grapevine that often adorned the temples of pagan Armenia was seen as a symbol of fertility. After the adoption of Christianity, people began to view the vines as a symbol of a new faith.

Ancient wine-making tools found in the Arenia caves of Armenia

In more recent history, archaeologists have found many unique artifacts in the caves of the Areni village. One of these finds is the winepress for grapes and jars where the wine was stored. Dating back to around 6000 B.C., this discovery proves that this winery was the first in the world. And because of the cave’s microclimate, scientists have also found several grape seeds that were preserved in perfect condition!

The site of these marvels, in Areni village, is usually where the wine tour in Armenia kicks off. During the Fall harvest season, the village comes to life through an annual wine festival. The festival begins in the morning and lasts until late at night. Giving you plenty of time to taste young, homemade wines as well as famous varieties from local producers! And you won’t want to miss the official grape-crushing ceremony. The display of huge barrels opens the festival, where guests can enjoy traditional Armenian music and dances.

Traditional grape-crushing at the opening of the annual wine festival in Areni, Armenia

Another center of wine-making, and an interesting destination for a wine tour in Armenia, is Ijevan. This region is special because it can grow rare grape varieties for local wines like Pinot Noir, Aligoté, Rkatsiteli and Cabernet. And on a wine tour around Ijevan, you can taste some of the best wines in the cellars of the factory.

Perhaps the best way to end the wine tour in Armenia is with an excursion to Noy, the Yerevan Wine Factory. Located in a 17th-century fortress, there are long underground tunnels and cellars with oak barrels of cognac and wine. Plus a tasting room where you can try the best Noy wine and cognac. But don’t leave without walking along Saryan St., Yerevan, where you’ll find the best wine bars the city has to offer.

Next up: Why Take  a Wine Tour in Georgia

Like in Armenia, wine-making began in Georgia more than 8,000 years ago.

And archaeologists in this region have also found evidence of ancient wine-making, particularly qvevri jugs. These vessels preserved the remains of grapes and seeds. Lucky for us, the ancient tradition of wine-making in qvevri jugs has survived to this day. During the process, the jugs are buried underground and stored at a stable temperature of 12-15 degrees. This unique way of storing and aging the wine helps to retain the entire bouquet of aroma.

Ancient qvevri jugs used to make wine in Georgia

The best way to start a wine tour in Georgia is at the capital of Tbilisi. At almost every step, you’ll see shops with Georgian wines, wine bars and homemade wine sold on the streets. If you ask us, a couple worth visiting include the Mukuzani shop and winery (Cote Abkhazi Str. 27/15), Wine Gallery (Vinamdzgrishvili Avenue 39), and Tbilvino winery (Sarajishvili Avenue 2).

Wine-making is everywhere in the Kakheti province. This amazing region is known for the picturesque Alazani Valley, ancient wine cellars, and the best Saperavi wine. Saperavi is considered one of the best local wines thanks to the fertile soil in the valley, the perfect climate, and unique growing technology. Needless to say, the Kakheti region should be on the must-visit list for your wine tour.

A wine-maker collecting grapes in the Kakheti province of Georgia

Another must-see is the Khareba wine factory. It’s the most popular factory in Kakheti and throughout Georgia. Located the town of Kvareli, the factory still uses ancient traditions of wine-making alongside new equipment and technology. The oak jars with wine are kept in deep tunnels of the factory, making the Khareba’s cellars and tunnels a popular attraction for tourists.

And if you’re looking to stay on a vineyard property, look no further than the Chateau Mere in Telavi. The Chateau is a small, cozy hotel built in an old castle, where they produce their own wine. Here, you can combine a pleasant holiday with a unique wine-making experience and a lovely view of the Alazani valley.

As if you need another reason to take a wine tour in Armenia or Georgia.

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Yoga on the beach

The Best Yoga Accessories for a Better Practice

Leggings and a yoga mat: That’s all you need to do yoga, right? While that technically isn’t wrong, it’s not totally right either. You can definitely get your yoga on with some stretchy/comfy pants and a mat, but if you really want to commit to and grow your practice, there are a few additional yoga accessories you should consider adding to your toolkit.

The 4 Best Yoga Accessories for Improving Your Practice:

Yoga Mat

1. Find the best yoga mat for you
Let’s start with the obvious: your yoga mat. You can find a mat for all types of practices on any budget. There are mats specifically for hot yoga, mats for taller people, and mats with a little or a lot of cushion.

I have personally tried several different brands and the best yoga mat I have found is my Yoga Design Lab yoga mat! It’s beautiful, vibrant, and makes me happy when I roll it out. It’s also great for hot classes and preventing slipping in general. (Side note: if you like hot classes, you may want to consider getting a towel to spare your mat some sweat!) But for me this one has great grip and just the right amount of cushion.

I have the studio version and I find it to be a great weight to throw over my shoulder (it helps if you have a strap for this) when I head out to class while still being supportive and soft under my body. If you want a smaller, even lighter option, you could try the commuter version! This is easily one of the best yoga accessories to invest in!

2. Get good yoga blocks for support
After you lock down a mat you love, you can move onto (in my opinion) the next most important yoga accessories to support your physical practice: yoga blocks and a strap. These props are key to a solid, aligned, and safe yoga practice. In my classes I notice a lot of people resist using props because they think it makes them look like a beginner.

I promise, it doesn’t. I have been practicing yoga for more than 10 years and I still use blocks and a strap every time I step on my mat. Rounding your back because the ground is too far away, or straining your shoulders because you cannot properly bind your hands behind your back isn’t only not cool, it’s not good for your alignment. Think of these props as your friends and know that by using them you’re doing your body and your practice a favor.

No need to go crazy and spend tons of money on these puppies, though. This combo package from Gaiam has both yoga blocks and a strap at a reasonable price. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more advanced, consider getting a yoga wheel.

books on yoga

3. Deepen your practice with books on yoga
Remember that yoga isn’t just a physical practice! If you’re interested in yoga beyond asana (postures) and want to explore the philosophy behind it, I encourage you to read. Read lots of books about yoga asana, meditation, spirituality, and anything else that interests you about the world of yoga.

One of the first books I read about yoga and the yoga lifestyle was “Happy Yoga” by Steve Ross. I love this book because it breaks things down in a simple way. It taught me how to take my practice off my mat and into my life. Ross makes it entertaining and fun by keeping things pretty light and sometimes silly, but also weaving in yogic stories and philosophies. There are also postures at the end of each chapter to help incorporate what you have read into your physical practice. This book also helped me make the decision to become a vegetarian, so be warned and encouraged!

Another great yoga book is B. K. S. Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga”. This one is a little heavier and has more in-depth explanations on yoga philosophy. It’s a great resource if you’re ready to deepen your understanding of yoga, yoga asana, and pranayama (breath). Fair warning with this book: Iyengar can do insane things with his body. It’s important to remember that he practiced his whole life and can only achieve these expressions of the postures because of time and practice.

For more personal, spiritual aspirations, I’d also recommend “Adventures for Your Soul” by Shannon Kaiser. This book helped me through a time of transition and connected me more deeply to my soul and my purpose in life. You can easily pick it up, read a chapter, do the work associated with that chapter, and then set it down for another time. Get yourself a journal dedicated to this book as you will need to do some writing and brainstorming throughout. Kaiser’s writing is entertaining and her story is easy to connect with. There are so many awesome self-help style books out there, and this one is definitely worth adding to your collection.

Yoga Meditation

4. Raise your vibration with a meditation cushion
Lastly, if you are looking to venture into the land of meditation, a good meditation cushion is a great thing to add to your arsenal of yoga accessories. One option is to get a bolster, which you can use for your physical practice, too. But I find that having a dedicated prop used only for meditation helps me actually meditate because it feels special and sacred.

My personal favorite is this meditation cushion by Peace Yoga. You can adjust the cushioning by changing up the amount of buckwheat inside. It also helps to make yourself a little space, even a corner of your bedroom or living room, where your meditation cushion lives. Let that be the space you can come back to each day, to be quiet and still, and tune into yourself.

Wherever you are in your practice, these are all great yoga accessories to develop a solid, educated, aligned, and connected practice. Call it the basic starter kit, if you will, but it’s great for advanced yogis too! Enjoy your new props, books, and anything else you decide to add– and congrats on starting or deepening your practice!

 


 

About the Author: Tacy Nielson is a Yoga Instructor and Reiki healer who is passionate about holistic healing, traveling and living life to the fullest. She was born and raised in Minnesota and is now enjoying life in Minneapolis after studying massage therapy in San Diego. Read more from Tacy here.

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Best Backpacking Backpack

How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack

I began traveling long before I can remember. I must have been only a week old when I took my first trip to Antwerp, Belgium, where my extended family lives, and I have gone back to visit almost every other year since. In between these reunions, I’ve also managed to explore at least 14 other countries as well as a handful of states within the U.S. And it goes without saying that I’ve had to pack a suitcase for each of these trips. Well, except maybe the first few.

In nearly 30 years of traveling, it’s safe to say that I’ve probably tried every variation of suitcase on the market: small and large duffel bags with and without wheels, hard-frame carry-ons, full-sized hard-frames, luggage backpacks, and travel backpacks… you name it, chances are I’ve tested it. Through it all there has been an undeniable evolution of my preferences when it comes to what kind of luggage suits my needs.

Of course, what suitcase I choose usually depends on the type of trip I’m taking. If it’s just for a long weekend, then I still reach for my beloved carry-on duffel. Though anything longer sends me straight for my travel backpack. After trying many other variations, I’ve come to prefer backpacks for a few reasons. The most important being convenience. You can usually get all your things into one place and still have free hands. They’re much easier to haul around than duffels or even wheely suitcases, which is important if you’re taking public transport.

Still, sorting out which backpack is right for you is a challenge all its own. I myself have been through a few experiments before finding what I now refer to as my stuff-soulmate. Luckily, unlike some adventures, you don’t have to go at this one alone. I’m here to lend my experience and expertise to help you sort through the mud and muck so that you can find the right pack for you and be on your merry way. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

In the coming pages, we’ll explore why you should get a pack, and what types work best for what, as well as the best steps to choosing your own. Eventually I’ll even throw in some personal recommendations for good measure. By the end, you’ll know everything you need to know about choosing the best travel backpack for you, and you’ll be ready to hit the road. Alright, let’s get started!

A Guide to Choosing the Best Travel Backpack

Why Get a Backpack for Travel?

I see your question and raise yet another: Why not? Seriously. We use backpacks for plenty of other things, like to hold our school supplies for approximately 20 years or to take our laptops to work or even when we need to carry food and water up and down a mountain. Why, suddenly, when we need to carry more things a little farther than usual, should we turn our backs (pun intended) on such an obviously useful tool? The truth is that travel backpacks are ideal for so many reasons.

I’ve already mentioned the first: convenience. Take an imaginary walk with me. We’ve just gotten off a plane in a new city, and we’re not exactly sure where our hostel is or how we’re going to get there from the airport. We’ve looked at some options (bus, taxi, horse-drawn carriage) but we didn’t book anything. We pick up our bags, me with my backpack and you with your wheely, and decide to take the bus. But we find out we have to walk a half mile to the stop across cobbled streets. We’re starved so we also grab a sammie on the way out.

Here we are, approaching the bus… Well, actually, I’m approaching the bus, sammie in hand, pack on, digging for my change with my spare hand. Meanwhile you’ve stopped, because with one hand on your food and your other on your suitcase, you couldn’t possibly gather change (and I’m obviously not nice enough to pay for you—we’re not that close). Boom. Convenience.

Best backpacking backpack South america

The second reason to get a backpack for travel is storage. These things come in all shapes and sizes (more on that later) and most of them with more ingenious pockets than you can possibly imagine needing. Not only do you need them – literally all of them – but you will soon realize how much you love them. Some travel backpacks come with pockets that are more subtle, making them better places to store things you don’t want to misplace or be within reach of the general public (read: money and/or identification).

Speaking of keeping things safe, backpacks in general are less likely to be swiped than other types of luggage, considering you wear it snuggly on your person. It’s much harder for pickpockets to grab a pack strapped to both of your shoulders than it is for one to grab one out your hand or loosely draped over your shoulder.

And after safety we have: health! The weight distribution of bags is not something we often think about but it turns out long hauls with heavy weight can be really hard on your body. Throwing a strap over just one shoulder can cause overuse of that muscle, and wearing a backpack evens out the distribution of weight across your body. More evenly shared weight means less back pain or muscle tension, which, let’s be honest, you’ll get enough of from the flight alone!

Now that you know why you should get one, let’s talk about which type is right for you in the next phase of our travel backpack review!

Types of Travel Backpacks

Sometimes it seems like there are as many types of backpacks as there are people to carry them. And, well, you probably wouldn’t be wrong if you thought that was true. But the truth is there are really only four main types of backpacks, and the rest are all variations on the same models. When I went on my first trip around Europe, I made the mistake of getting the wrong type of backpack. Now I want to help make sure you don’t make the same mistake!

Lets cover some basics when choosing the best travel backpack

The four main types of backpacks suitable for travel look like this:

  • Hiking
  • Travel
  • Convertible
  • Ultralight

Now, that’s a list we can wrap our heads around. Once you decide which type you need, then you can get into the details, like size and features. But we’ll take it one step at a time, so as not to overwhelm ourselves. Because this, like your trip, should be fun! If you get this right, you’ll have your backpack for years to come. A fully-fledged, tried and true, stuff-soulmate to call your own. So, onto the specifics.

Hiking Backpacks

A hiking backpack is also known as a top-loading backpack. Because they were originally made for thru-hikers and campers, they tend to be lighter in weight and better fit to the body. They’re designed to hold a lot of weight, and are built with solid supports so that you can carry them comfortably for long distances or periods of time. Often, there is no zipper for the main compartment, just a drawstring opening toward the top of the pack. This can make packing and unpacking frustrating for some, but I promise you’ll get the hang of it if this is the route you choose.  This is a very informative guide on the healthiest way to pack your hiking backpack.

Travel Backpacks

On the flip side, travel-specific backpacks are often comparable to hiking backpacks except that they usually have a front or side zipper instead of the opening at the top. This can make it easier to access more things at once, which is especially helpful if you’re not a particularly organized packer. The other way in which they differ from hiking backpacks is that they can be a little heavier. Since they aren’t intentionally designed to be carried for extended lengths, the general design isn’t quite as lightweight. But because, in most cases, you’ll only be moving it to and from accommodations and transportation, the weight shouldn’t be a problem.

Convertible Backpacks

More recently, convertible backpacks have stepped up their game to compete with hiking and travel backpacks. These guys are the ones that have multiple strap options that you can add or remove as needed. In addition to the two standard backpack straps, you’ll often find an extra side handle or an over-the-shoulder option you can stow depending on your mood. Sometimes they even come stock with a removable day pack for those who, like me, get immense satisfaction out of perfectly fitting things into other things. In theory, with these you can put the essentials in the day pack pockets, drop your main pack, unzip and hit the road without even waking your hostel mates. Everyone will want to know how you did it.

Ultralight Backpacks

While we’re on the topic of day packs, this is the last type of travel backpack we’ll cover. And we’ll start with this: these are not for the faint of heart. Day packs, or ultralight backpacks, aren’t really meant to serve as suitcases. They are, for all intents and purposes, meant for day use, like carrying your wallet and your water plus maybe a book and a sweater. You get the idea. However, the advantage of these guys is that they are light and compact, and I almost always want some variation on my travels in addition to my suitcase, so I can bring along my lappy or whatever I need for the day. Or if you’re a magician and can pack a weekend into a day pack, this might be the type for you. And more power to you.

By now, you hopefully have a general feel for what would be the best travel backpack for you. These four types, though basic, should give you some idea as to what would best suit your needs. That said, these categories are incredibly basic, and there are still several other things to consider when buying a travel backpack. We’ll unpack that next.
More Travel Backpack Considerations
At this point maybe you’re thinking, “I either want a hiking backpack or a travel backpack, but I’m not totally sure yet.” Don’t sweat it. There’s still a lot more to explore, and it may help you get clear about what you want. Some of the most important considerations, no matter what type you go with, include size and fit as well as an assortment of other features.

Backpack Fit

When it comes to fit, it’s worth noting that some packs are made gender-specific. And by this I don’t just mean they come in different colors, though some do. What I mean is that in some cases the frame of the pack will be smaller to accommodate for a feminine build. In general, backpack frames are designed to fit a certain torso length, not a certain height, and it’s important to get this right because your comfort depends upon it.

In any case, at this point many backpacks offer adjustable heights, so even if you don’t rely on a gender-specific option, you can find something that works for you. Some of the most important features to look out for include:

  • Shoulder straps – You want to make sure you can adjust them to your comfort with some room to spare. Don’t max anything out before you take it out of the store.
  • Hip belts – Make sure this sits on your hips and is well-padded. The majority of your pack’s weight should rest here, so you want this to feel good.
  • Ventilation – Some travel backpacks offer additional boning or padding in the back to keep your pack from making direct contact with your back. This creates some air flow so you don’t overheat.
  • Compartments – You’ll want to consider how you normally organize and what you usually bring. If you like your water bottle handy or a secret pocket for your money, make sure to look for those options.

And, last but definitely not least, you’ll want to pay special attention to the size. No matter the brand or the gender-specification, backpacks come in a wide variety of sizes, usually ranging from around 30 litres up to 100+. Yet the size of your travel backpack will depend primarily on two things: 1. Your size and 2. Your needs.

Even if you have a tendency to overpack, the last thing you want is to get a backpack that’s too big for you. Actually, this is especially true if you overpack. If you try to carry too much on your back, you run the risk of struggling to get it on, toppling over, or worse, injuring yourself.

For reference, I’m about 5’6” and I have a 45 + 10 litre backpack. That means the main frame of the pack holds about 45 litres and there is some extra fabric at the top that extends to provide another 10 litres of storage should I absolutely need it. Meanwhile, Justin, who is about 6’1” has a 75 litre + 10, but he almost never uses the extra ten.

In general, somewhere between 40 and 50 litres should suffice. Any less than that and you’re essentially looking at day packs. But if you find something that fits well, but you think you’ll need more space, I’d sooner recommend taking another bag or, if you’re backpacking, planning for some caches. Plus, you always learn a few packing techniques to help you take advantage of less storage space.
In all reality, the backpack lifestyle isn’t for everyone. If you’re fairly certain backpacking suits you, let’s carry on (Hah! I just can’t help myself). Next up: we cover the process of picking your pack!

How to choose the best travel backpack for you

So far, you’ve learned about why you should get a travel backpack, what kind is right for you, and what features you should look out for. All that’s left to talk about now is how you go about choosing one. Where should you buy a backpack? When is a good time to get one? And what kind of accessories might you need?

Let’s start with where. Because the fit of a backpack is so important, I’d always recommend visiting a sporting goods store first. Even if you ultimately make the purchase online, you want to try these things out in real life first. It goes without saying that REI has a great selection, but there are many smaller, local shops where you can get an idea of what’s out there.

Make sure that wherever you go, they give you the option to add some weight to your pack during your trial run. REI, for example, has bean bags they can throw in to give you a more accurate feel. Realistically, you’re never going to be carrying an empty backpack anyway. So as a general rule, you’ll want to test the comfort around with around 20 – 30 pounds of weight.

Don’t be afraid to mess with the settings, including the shoulder straps, hip belt, or adjustable frame. And take some time to walk around with the weight, so you can see how the backpack settles in after a while. Whatever you do, definitely don’t rush the decision!

Best Travel Backpack

While we’re on the subject of timing, let’s talk about when you should get a backpack. The only real rule here is that it shouldn’t be the day before you leave. Because in that case, you’ll be in a hurry and you may end up with something you don’t like. (Been there, done that!) Otherwise, the best time to buy might just be around a holiday sale so you can get a good deal.

If you want something to last you for more than a few years, you’ll probably have to spend between $150 and $200 USD, which is exactly why sales come in handy. Travel backpacks aren’t cheap, but they should be seen as an investment—one that will make your adventures easier in the long run.

Accessories are another way to make your backpacking easier. If you’re hiking, or will be somewhere with inclement weather, I’d recommend getting a rain cover. They pack up small and will keep your stuff safe in a pinch.

On the other hand, if you’re one of the aforementioned overpackers, you might want to consider getting packing cubes or compression sacks to keep your stuff organized inside your backpack. Dry bags, a Pacsafe, and water bladders are also worth looking into depending on your adventure.

And with that, you have almost all you need to know to make an informed decision when buying a backpack for travel. Still ahead: we’ll share some of the best travel backpacks we’ve come across.

Our Favorite Travel Backpacks

I’ll cut to the chase. My personal favorite is the one I have: the Deuter Women’s ACT Lite 45 + 10. In addition to being light, it has an adjustable frame, plenty of padding, and pockets in all the right places. Plus it comes in my favorite color. This bad boy isn’t my stuff-soulmate for nothing.
Justin’s personal favorite, and the one he’s had for more than 10 years, is a Gregory. He has top and front access, as well as a coveted rubber bottom to keep everything dry in any sticky situations. Seriously, TEN. YEARS.  His pack is no longer for sale, but the updated versions look fantastic!

Other popular packs include:

The Osprey Fairpoint, which comes in a 40, 55, 70 or 80 litre capacity with unisex dimensions and optional straps, meaning you can store them when not in use.

The North Face Terra

Want more to choose from? Quechua, Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 OutDry Backpack all make reputable gear worth exploring.
Remember: find somewhere you can see them in person and try on several, if not all, of them!

Conclusion

Still reading? I’m impressed. Or, TL;DR:

Why you should get a travel backpack:

  • It frees up your hands for easy mobility (and eating)
  • It’s better for your back and body in general (plus you look cool)
  • You get to join an elite club of backpackers (and you look cool)

What kind of backpack should you get:

  • It depends on how you’ll use it, but generally either something that:
  • Opens at the top (mostly for hiking)
  • Opens at the front or on the side (hiking and / or specifically for travel)
  • Converts (not recommended for extended wear)
  • Is small enough for day use (or wizards and minimalists)

What features are important in a travel backpack:

  • The size, both frame and capacity (because it has to fit)
  • The shoulder straps (which should fit comfortably with room to spare)
  • Comfortable hip belts (this is where you bear the most weight)
  • Ventilation (so you don’t sweat through the one shirt you brought at the airport
  • Size (again, in case you skimmed over it the first time & because: crucial!)
  • Compartments (for organized and messy packers alike)

How to choose the best travel backpack for you:

  • Try them on. Lots of them. All of them.
  • Make sure you add weight and walk around in it
  • Do this well in advance of your trip
  • Bring a friend or ask an employee for an opinion
  • Compare prices online or wait for a sale if you’re patient

What are our favorite travel backpacks:

There. That wasn’t so much to think about, was it? All you need know is a flight and, well, a backpack. If you still have questions, feel free to write us. Thanks for reading and, as always, bon courage!

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