Tips for Picking the Right Travel Backpack

When I travel, I wear my backpack nearly everywhere. It’s stuffed full of everything I need for a trip — from spare shoes to a tent. I wear it in cities and on 15-mile hikes alike. It has become a part of me. Getting that comfortable wearing a backpack requires some thinking and practice. Here’s how I do it — my methods should be able to help you swap your suitcase for a backpack.

Figure Out How You Like to Travel

Will you actually hike and camp with your backpack? Or will it function as a wearable suitcase? Answer this question before you proceed to step two. It’s important, to be honest here: Sure, it seems cool to paint yourself as an extreme sports adventurer, but if you’re really not, you’ll get the wrong gear.

Don’t Buy a Backpack Because Your Friends Have the Same One

Every person is different, and you need to try before you buy. Find an outdoor store with good salespeople: Explain your plans, your destinations, and what you plan to do. If you find the right salespeople, they’ll have you try multiple backpacks. They’ll help you make adjustments to dial in the fit, and they’ll even load it with some weight so you can see how they feel. This is essential — otherwise, you risk heading abroad with an ill-fitting backpack. And it will be too late to do anything about it.

Look for the Right Features

If you have some hardcore outdoor plans, you might want to daisy-chain gear to your pack using built-in loops like those on my Kelty pack. You might need a slot for a hydration pack, which I consider an absolute must for long hikes. If you’re not planning to hit the outdoors, you won’t need these features as much.

Load Your Backpack Right

I load my pack full of lightweight, quick-drying clothes that resist odors. I particularly like bamboo-cotton sports clothes (shirts, shorts, underwear), though there are even some very cool shirts made with recycled coffee grounds. And I don’t just toss them in; I pack everything into compressible stuff sacks that keep it all organized. I also bring as little as possible — just two pairs of shoes, and I make sure that all the clothes can handle multiple wearings without getting stained and stinky.

Get Your Body Ready

Don’t just show up at the airport and hope for the best. Load your backpack as close to your travel setup as possible, then take it to your local hiking trails and practice. Get comfortable with the load. Get to know the many straps, adjustments, and compartments of your pack.

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