osprey backpack front and back displayed side by side with text 'best backpacks'

If you’re looking for a great backpack to begin your travels, here are a few things that will help you choose your perfect travel companion.

growing up in India, I was exposed to brands like Wildcraft (which I believed was the best), High Sierra, and some local brands in tourist towns. Until 2016 I never felt the need to get a big rucksack because my trips were limited duration ranging from 2-10 days. It’s only when I decided to quit my job and needed to live out of my backpack for as long as possible that I decided to get a good backpack and I went for Wildcraft. Little did I know what I was missing out on. Today, they do have a wide array of backpacks and they are definitely much better than just four years ago but they don’t match up with the brands who have been in it for decades and have thousands of hours of research behind them.

Top Backpack recommendations

  • Osprey: Osprey is the best brand that is out there for backpacks. I am yet to meet an Osprey owner disappointed in their purchase.
  • Deuter: This German brand from 1898 is also a popular choice among seasoned travellers.
  • The North Face: The fact that Alex Honnold endorses this product says a lot.
  • Vaude: Again a Germany based brand that has a loyal fanbase among travellers.

 

Why I choose an Osprey

Among the gazillion backpacks I had tried, Osprey was the only brand that fit like second skin. Here are a few more reasons I prefer an Osprey over every other brand there is:

  • I was quite disappointed to see either a lack of range or complete absence of backpacks designed for Women. Women’s bodies are different then how can we use the same backpacks designed for broader male bodies.
  • Osprey packs come with lifetime warranty. This means they repair any damage on the backpack even if it was purchased two decades ago and if they can’t fix it for it’s functionality, they are known to replace the backpack even.
  • Osprey has service centres spread across 26 countries and all of Europe that makes getting the pack fixed easier.
  • A full time backpackers spends hours with the backpack on their back so a great backsystem is pertinent. Osprey has a unique backsystem with a suspended mesh that creates space between the back and the pack, allowing for air to slow and load to distribute evenly through the shoulders and hips. This is why Osprey packs feel lighter than other packs with less load in them.

Blue Osprey backpack from back

Feature to look for in a quality Backpack

  • Fit: A backpack can have everything you want but it would still fail on the road if it doesn’t fit well. The right backpack should feel like second skin. When you strap it onto you, it should feel right. Do try backpacks of different brands and sizes to know what that actually feels like.
  • Durability: A good backpack is not a cheap affair. Not just in terms of the cost of the backpack itself but also the its effect on our body. So, it’s best to invest time and money in a backpack that would last years. I have been using my Osprey since 2017. I have lived out of it for at least three years. Some brands offer lifetime warranty, for others it’s good to check the stitching, the design (Personally, I don’t trust zippers too much).
  • Backsystem: The backsystem is the most important feature when looking for a backpack. Cushioning at the right places ensures least injury when walking long distances with the backpack and also distributes weight across the back from shoulder to hips.
  • Volume: It can be extremely challenging to decide what size backpack. I had read a full time traveler should consider a backpack not below 55 lt. But I had been full time traveling for over 6 months when I went looking for a new backpack. The one that I finally fell in love with was 48 Lt, I have used it every single day for 3 years from public buses to dusty trains and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. The point is choose the backpack as per your needs. I don’t travel with a tent and sleeping bag so I didn’t need a bigger backpack. When I did carry a sleeping bag, it fit snuggly on top of my pack.
  • Outside mesh pocket: While hiking, this comes in handy. Easy access to layers makes a hike a lot more comfortable. i have also found it useful to slip in my rain cover to avoid getting water on other things.
  • Water bottle pocket: Water bottles are great to avoid using plastic bottles but some tend to leak when in horizontal position. It’s best to keep them outside, also great to easily access it while hiking without getting the pack off the shoulders.
  • Hip belt: This is crucial in right weight distribution. Even though the heavily padded hip belts look more secure, most don’t fit right on the hips.
  • Hip belt pockets: This is like a fanny pack without messing with hiking gear. I love to keep chapstick, torch, pepper spray, and such tit-bits that I want to be able to access without loosening any of the hundred straps.
  • Hoops on the outside:  Perfect to hang the messy boots when you feel like travelling in flip-flops.

Some places to shop

Fortunately, some things are changing at a rapid pace in India including access to such goods at reasonable prices that was not possible even 4 years ago. In fact, 2 years ago when I had looked for an Osprey on Amazon, the cheapest model was available for double it’s original price at Rs. 25,000.

Now, a variety of models are on Amazon and I would recommend it to be the easiest unless the model you’re eyeing is not available in which case I suggest using trekkinn.com. (charges international shipping).

About Backpacks

I was sitting in a park in Mendoza, Argentina, waiting out last few hours in the town before taking my bus for further north. It was a 40 minute walk to the bus station. At 5 pm, I fastened the straps of my backpack to get up and start my walk towards the bus station and right then I felt a snap. The backpack I had been traveling for a little over two months had already given up. Fortunately, my sewing kit was easily accessible and I’m well averse in sewing so I fixed it just in time to take my bus.

A backpack can truly be a blessing on your big journey and has the potential to ruin it in case of a wrong pick. Walking a few Kilometres can be painful with the wrong pack and walking a few more Kilometres feels not to difficult with the right one. So give it time and save some money to pick your perfect backpack.