Although “travel backpack” is not a term whose definition is universally agreed upon, for our purposes it will be used to describe backpacks whose features and design are meant to meet the unique challenges of using public transportation whether at home or abroad.
With that being said, traveling backpacks can be put into two broad categories. The first is backpacks that have been outfitted with wheels and an extendable handle. The second is a type of pack that is extremely lightweight and foldable.
Best Travel Backpacks With Wheels
High Sierra AT605
Even if travel is an infrequent experience, most everyone has either used or encountered the rolling luggage that is so ubiquitous today. Even the largest piece of luggage will likely have wheels incorporated in the design to facilitate ease of transport across the large expanses of airports or train stations. But even more prevalent are the two wheeled carry-on bags that are stowed in the overhead or under the traveler’s seat.
These easily transportable carry-on bags have added to the traveler’s convenience. Backpacks have gone through a similar adaptation. At first glance the traveling backpack may appear to be the same as the common roller bag. But in fact the traveling backpack has some very unique features:
In addition to the skate wheels and an extendable handle, there are shoulder straps and possibly a waist belt attached to the rolling backpack and stowed out of the way in a pocket or sleeve. When needed the shoulder straps and belts can be easily deployed and the entire pack attached to the travelers back.
It is also common, like the High Sierra wheeled back pack AT605, to incorporate a detachable day pack. The traveling backpack can be configured as one unit during the trip. But when your destination is reached and you’re out for a day of sightseeing that calls for a lighter load, the day pack can be detached and worn separately. The High Sierra wheeled back pack line has many other styles and configurations including those designed for carrying a laptop.
So this type of traveling backpack with wheels combines the ease of transport provided by the wheels and extendable handle of the roller bag plus the hands free convenience of the backpack.
The Folding Backpack
Another type of backpack designed for the convenience of the traveler takes an extreme approach to frameless construction. This type of pack, of which Patagonia has several great examples, has a very unique design.
The pack is usually made of a very lightweight, tear resistant material that can be completely folded up and stowed in its own handheld pouch. Consequently it can be taken almost anywhere and only when it is needed for carrying something it can be extracted from its pouch to become a backpack with shoulder straps. They come in different configurations from full-sized, double strap backpacks to smaller single strap shoulder packs and even to large duffel bags.
Folding Backpack – Lightweight Foldable Pack
These packs are not meant to be used as your main pack in the rugged environment of off-road hiking or backcountry backpacking. However they can be great for those short excursions away from base camp when only light provisions are needed.
This nylon back pack is not meant for carrying heavy loads for extended periods of time. There are few bells and whistles with these packs. The shoulder straps are minimal, no padding. The compartments are basic, no form or rigidity just a pouch and a Velcro ; zipper or drawstring closure.
Convenient and compactness, that is what makes folded travel packs appealing to the traveler.
One More Travel Pack
It needs to be noted that some backpacks which are commonly considered adventure or hiking packs have been described as travel packs. REI’s Deuter Quantum back pack is a great example. Although this pack has an 80 liter capacity, large by any standards, it is described as a best travel backpack because of its narrow or slim configuration. Consequently it is expected to get through narrow aisles; doorways; and passages easily, making it convenient for travel on public transportation.
But Best backpacks for travelling abroad like these are most in their element when on the trail or pushing for base camp. You won’t get a pack like this stuffed into the overhead of an airplane or stowed under the passenger seat in front of you. And taking it through security is likely going to be a challenge.
So if you are planning on hitting the road and air, train, or bus travel is in the picture, you will find that backpacks are up to the challenge and can add convenience and ease to your travel.