Travel Backpacking Gear List & Choosing The Right Backpack

Source: Flickr.

Source: Flickr.

Do you like to travel?

Would you like to see new places?

Would you like to see Europe, Australia, South America, or Asia?

Do you have a shoestring budget?

Then this article was written just for you.

Travel backpacking is one of the most fascinating ways to see the world right now. You get to see all the sights and meet the people. If you’re a student of foreign languages it is the perfect way to study, practice your second language skills and have fun all at the same time. If not, it’s still a lot of fun! Someone, somewhere will speak some English. All you need is a backpack and a good pair of shoes.

In this article, we will look at the type of backpack you need and what you should put in it. The author has been doing this for over a decade now and has some tips that will help you get the most out of your travels and exploration of the Globe.

Still need to buy a backpack? These are our favorites.

PictureNamePriceOur Rating
Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack$$$$4.7
Osprey Mens Aether 70 Backpack$$$$$4.8
Osprey Packs Kestrel 48 Backpack$$$$4.8
Kelty Red Cloud 90 Internal Frame Backpack$$$$$4.6
High Sierra Hawk 40 Frame Pack Pacific/Altitude$$4.5
Black Giant Top Load Canvas Duffle Bag$4.4
High Sierra Hawk 45 Frame Pack Pacific/Nebula$$4.4
Mozone 40L Lightweight Travel Backpack$4.3
Osprey Porter Travel Backpack Bag$$$4.9
Osprey Women's Ariel 65 Backpack$$$$$4.6
PictureNamePriceOur Rating

There are 4 main types of travel backpacks you can choose from and each has advantages and disadvantages.

  1. The “Trail” or “Top Loader” backpack
  2. The “School” or “Front Loader” backpack
  3. The “Convertible” backpack
  4. The “Combination” backpack

Let’s start of with the “Top Loader”.

“Top Loader” features:

  • One main Compartment
  • Draw string closure to seal
  • Flap that covers the top
  • Secondary smaller zippered compartments
  • Water bottle holder
  • Designed to be waterproof
  • Form fitting frame
  • Hip belt
  • Chest strap


  • Designed to be worn for long periods of time
  • Water proof
  • Comfortable
  • Usually heavier stitching on seams
  • Lightweight
  • Adjustable to your shape


  • Hard to get stuff out
  • Straps need to be adjusted
  • Straps may get caught up in airport luggage conveyors and may be torn away

Next we have the school type backpack many of you wear when you are at university of college.

“School or Front Loader” features:

  • Zippered main compartment
  • Secondary smaller zippered compartments
  • Water bottle holder.
  • Fold out netting. Lets you carry extra stuff outside.
  • Padded straps
  • Chest strap


  • Easier access to your stuff
  • Not as many straps
  • Reasonably comfortable
  • Chest strap transfers load higher up


  • Not as waterproof
  • Plastic main zipper teeth pop open
  • Zipper jam
  • Zipper tabs break off

The Third type is the “Convertible” backpack.

“Convertible” features:

  • Switches from backpack mode to shoulder bag mode
  • Zippered Main compartment


  • Switches quickly
  • Ease of access to your stuff
  • Stylish lets you blend in and doesn’t mark you as a traveler
  • Lets you grab and go


  • Usually only the Main compartment
  • No zippered secondary compartments
  • No water bottle pocket
  • Comfort padding lacking

The fourth type of backpack is the “Combination” Backpack”

“Combination” Features:

  • Zippered Main Compartment
  • Zippered Laptop Compartment
  • Zippered General Carry compartment
  • Zippered Side Compartments
  • Water Bottle pockets
  • Extendable netting to carry additional items
  • Padded Shoulder Straps
  • Ventilation channel/dolly channel
  • Chest strap
  • Detachable combination tablet/day pack w shoulder strap.


  • Laptop carrier close to the back & protects it and gives rigidity to the pack
  • Main compartment easily accessible
  • General Carry holds items you need to access often or without opening the main
  • Detachable daypack/tablet carrier, let’s you go places while leaving your main pack in your room
  • Back channel allows for cart mounting or ventilation while wearing.


  • Zippers Jam
  • Tabs can break off
  • Not as water proof as the “Top Loader”
  • Laptop adds weight.
  • Does not carry as much stuff as the others

Many seasoned travelers prefer the “Top Loader” it is water proof and more comfortable. The second most popular style is the “School Type” followed by the convertible. With the “Combination” often being the 4th choice.

I would like to go against conventional wisdom however. The “Combination” backpack lets the writer, artist and student travel Europe and practice either their art or record their thoughts and still carry on with day-to-day life.

WiFi and either a tablet lets you communicate around the world even in some of the remote places of the world.

e-Books either in the laptop/tablet or externally in the cloud lets you access the materials you would want to use such as for language or cultural studies. You can also continue your schoolwork and get credit hours for your travels.

Coupled with either a cell phone camera or a digital one, you can create a Journal or blog or even write a book about you experiences with images and video.

Travel light has been my motto for the last ten years and  the combination style pack forces you pack wisely and carry just what you need.

The whole idea of travel backpacking is to experience the culture and what is the point if you don’t have something to show for it afterwards.

The above is the just the opinion of me. I’ve traveled from Europe to the Arctic North, throughout Asia and as far as the steppes of Mongolia and having said all the above. You should decide on what the most important Priorities for your travels ARE and which type of backpack fits your personnel needs and comfort.

Now let’s look at some essential things you should have in your backpack regardless of the type you choose:

  1. Flashlight
  2. Cell Phone with GPS
  3. Waterproof carrier for important documents like id, tickets and passport
  4. Maps & Guidebooks
  5. Compass (In case GPS fails)
  6. One Light Jacket (Gore-Tex works really well). Puffy coats don’t carry well
  7. Extra Socks
  8. Extra pair of shoe laces
  9. Toothpaste/ Toothbrush
  10. Shaving Razor
  11. Shower shoes
  12. 3 changes of underwear, You will do your laundry in a sink.
  13. Tissue in plastic package, doubles as toilet paper and is smaller and lighter to carry.
  14. Ladies will carry additional toiletry items as needed though most can be bought
  15. Plastic rain Poncho, folds and fits into a small space.
  16. Drain plug, lets you do laundry in a sink.
  17. Pair of Jeans
  18. Skirts for the girls
  19. Bathing suit or trunks
  20. 1 long sleeve T-Shirt
  21. Money belt (some people like them, some think they draw unnecessary attention to yourself as being a tourist.)
  22. 2-3 short sleeve shirt/ Tops for the girls
  23. Plastic Ground Sheet. Sleeping outdoor under the sky
  24. Hat or a Buff hat  (lets you blend in)
  25. First Aid kit

This is of course the minimalist list for those of us who have travelled a lot. You really don’t have to carry a lot. Traveling light and buy the consumables you need as you go. The world is becoming smaller and more commercialized. They have Internet and cell phones in Mongolia now. McDonald’s is not far behind.

Travel backpacking is a great way to spend time travelling. Choosing a backpack that suits your needs and expected conditions where you are going is important. Make sure however, it is best quality you can afford and is comfortable. Try it on for size and walk for a few miles to see how much you can carry comfortably. Then pack accordingly, Travel with someone you know. Be Safe and enjoy traveling and Euro Backpacking on you next vacation or holiday break

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