Nov 01, 2022

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For many of us, backpacks are a lifelong essential – from our early years at school through to university, backpacking and outdoor adventures, our backpacks go through many iterations. Giving us the freedom to leave home and explore with our essentials at hand, backpacks offer convenience and security unlike anything else. In many cases – particularly travelling, backpacking and trekking – backpacks are a real lifeline, carrying everything we need for nourishment, warmth, first aid and survival in general. They’re also essential for commuters, remote workers and freelancers who rely on their backpacks to keep their business-critical belongings safe.

With so many uses for a good backpack, finding one that fits all your requirements can be tricky. After all, a laptop bag may not be the best for camping and a backpacking rucksack might not be best for commuting. To help you find the best rucksack for your needs, today we’ve detailed how to find the right backpack for you, outlining what you need to consider before making a decision. You may find you need more than one for all that you’d like to do, or it could be that one ticks all the right boxes for you.

Narrow down your search

If you’re in the market for a backpack, chances are you have a specific reason for looking. However, if you’re struggling to know what to prioritise when shopping for a bag, you’ll need to narrow down your search: 

Bags for work: If you intend to use your backpack mainly for work, you’re best searching for bags that are designed to hold electronics and laptops (these tend to have a dedicated internal sleeve). Padded straps, secure zips, waterproof coating and even a tough outer shell will also help protect your back and shoulders, as well as your electronics.

Bags for school: Similar to work bags, bags for school and university will likely have a laptop sleeve inside them, however, you may need a bit of extra space for books, PE kits, lunches and other necessities typical for school and universities like pads and pens. Again, padded shoulders and even support straps around the chest and waist can help with heavier loads.

Bags for camping / outdoors: Bags for camping, walking and hiking tend to look a bit more casual and outdoorsy, as they are often made with specific water and windproof materials and focus more on practical features over minimalist design. These will come in various capacities, but typically will include a large main vessel that can be rolled up and down, adjustable bungee cords at the front, plenty of adjustable toggles, padded straps, outer pockets, metal hooks or loops, and are generally designed for outdoor wear and tear.

Bags for backpacking: Backpacking and trekking bags are usually a bit larger than camping or general outdoor bags and are specifically designed to carry heavy/large loads. For that reason, these often come in quite large capacities and incorporate more support features like wider straps and rigid frames. As an essential item for any backpacker, these should be water-resistant, durable, and most importantly, the right size for you.

Once you have identified what type of bag you are looking for, you can get to shopping – we suggest using a trusted brand with plenty of reliable reviews. Don’t forget to try on your bag (packed) before you commit to any long journey, just so you’re sure that it’s the right fit.

Choose the best option (for you!)

With so many options for backpacks available, you’ll find plenty of reviews and lists online detailing the ins and outs of the most popular brands and models. Whether you’re looking for the ideal commuter bag or the best rucksack for backpacking, you must consider all of your specific requirements when choosing a bag in addition to doing some research.

Typically, lighter/smaller bags for things like work and school can be purchased based on general size and reviews, particularly as they tend to be less heavy and you usually wear them for shorter amounts of time. However, those that are designed for hiking, trekking, camping and backpacking will require a lot more research - after all, your bag (and its contents) may be your only real resource along the way, and you’ll likely be carrying it all the time.

With this in mind, below we’ve added a few extra tips for shopping for backpacks.

Best rucksack for backpacking - how to choose the right one

When looking for the best backpacking bags, there are a few things you need to consider. Backpacking bags should tick quite a few boxes if they are to keep your belongings safe and dry, be big enough for all your essentials, remain comfortable, and properly fit your physical frame. Keep the below in mind when looking for the best backpacking bags:

  • Capacity and storage - how much do you need? Consider the length of travel and what you’ll have access to along the way.
  • Overall weight - go lighter where possible, especially for backpacking.
  • Weather resistance and durability - essential features for a lasting bag and dry /safe belongings.
  • Comfort, including adjustability and breathability - you’ll thank yourself for this one!
  • Size - measure before committing - oversized bags can lead to fatigue, poor balance, and injury.

Based on the above, you will have likely narrowed your search significantly. From there, you can read reviews, try bags on, and choose a bag that fits your style and general requirements.

What size backpack for travelling is best?

Backpacks for travelling typically range from 20 litres to 60+ litres, and the one you choose will be completely dependent on what you need to carry, as well as what you’re capable of carrying. Below is a rough guide on the general sizes and what you can carry within them:

  • 20 Litres - standard backpack size.
  • 40 to 50 Litres - medium to large bag that can carry most overnight essentials (including fixtures on the outside for gear).
  • 60 + Litres - extra-large bag for all essentials including hardware like tents, roll mats, etc. Ideal for travelling for long periods with limited access to amenities.

To be extra sure you’ve chosen the right bag (especially when shopping for 60+ litre bags), you should take care to measure yourself to ensure the fit is appropriate. To learn how to measure yourself for a hiking backpack, view our helpful guide.

Happy travels!
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