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Backpack only for travel

We are thinking of traveling for 9 days with just a backpack each. Any recommendations?
I was thinking of getting something with optional wheels. Is there anything out there that is expandable?

Posted by
4 posts

I love my eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender bag. It's got a lot of space and a lot of great reviews. Many of the reviews were people who took just that bag on their trip to Europe. Hope this helps. I love Everything that ebags makes. Their packing cubes are the best too!!

Posted by
16593 posts

I'm not just kissing up so they don't ban me from the forum again. But the RS bag is pretty darn good: There is hardly a lighter bag out there and it fits most every airline requirement for carry on. My problem with back packs has never been volume, its always been about weight. Some of the European carriers have pretty severe limitations (about 17lbs on Lufthansa for instance, about 15 on Ukraine International and Emirates) so I go for super light bags. Its fairly comfortable on the back as well.

Posted by
32110 posts

Even though I'm an "older" traveller, I always travel with a Backpack so that's something I'm familiar with. What size Backpack are you considering, and how much weight are you planning to carry?

Although you may only be carrying a Backpack for short periods of time (ie: from train to hotel), one of the most important points is to buy a pack that's been properly fitted according to your torso length. Any competent sales person can measure and adjust the packs. Most of the weight should rest on your hips, not your shoulders. The RS Pack mentoned in the previous reply is not capable of torso range adjustment.

A couple of other features I like are a detachable Daypack (works great for carry on if you have to check the main pack) and also for day touring if desired, and a stowable harness (harness can be zipped away to avoid damage from airport conveyor systems). A couple of brands you could look at are Osprey Packs or Eagle Creek. If you'd like to broaden your search to other types of luggage, you could also have a look at products from Tom Bihn or Red Oxx (pricey but American-made, extremely good quality and tough as nails).

Posted by
55 posts

I'm rather obsessed with carry on luggage these days as I'm too cheap to willingly pay to check a larger bag. Accordingly, we have four different carry on bags - wheeled only, backpack only, and combos that do both. I reserve the wheeled only bags for short domestic trips. We recently did a three week France/Italy with only backpacks (eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible) and loved them. I really like their organizer pocket for pens, receipts, change, etc., that seem to amass during a trip. However, I also like having the option of wheels - like when I'm sprinting between terminals in some giant continent sized airport. And the expanding feature in the eBags bag can get you into trouble. I've found it difficult to fit in into an overhead bin on domestic flights when it is really stuffed.

I recently found a great sale price for a Eagle Creek Lync System22, which is very light, but so far seems very sturdy. It has wheels and backpack straps. So far, I like it. I took it on a 3 week driving trip across Maritime Canada. The only downside is that it has sloping shoulders and has slightly less volume than the more squared off eBags bag. I didn't use the straps often, but it's nice to have them when you do - like climbing stairs at smaller hotels.

For that same Canadian trip, my wife got one of the Rick Steves Rolling Backpacks and she loved it. On sale I think she paid only $130 and it compares favorably to my $260 Eagle Creek bag. To be sure, they are different bags, but the RS bag has both wheels and backpack straps and their customer support is top notch. A seam came loose during the trip (I suspect overpacking was largely to blame) so I e-mailed the RS folks a picture while we were on the northern tip of Prince Edward Island and we had a new suitcase shipped to us by the time we got home. Even a well made bag can be stressed too much. I like the Eagle Creek bag, but in value for your money, I'm very impressed with the RS bag.

The moral of the story? Go with a quality wheeled/backpack combo and you will have the best of both worlds. That, and learn to pack lightly. As Rick says, I've not once come back from a long overseas trip wishing that I had packed more.

Posted by
1284 posts

I support James E and respectfully disagree with Ken. My wife and I each have a RS Classic and we love it.

If you pack light it is easy to carry even without hip support and I don't like a detachable day pack - the attachment adds weight. I prefer a cross body bag which I carry under the back pack.

And I will support the last comment - wheels add weight. For a second opinion to RS' thorough discussion on back packs read

But you need to consider the strength of your back. Are you used to carry a back pack? Or do you have time to get used to it?

Posted by
2526 posts

Pack light and more baggage options appear. OK, so preaching to some in the choir, but it's true. I remain of the backpack faithful. Rick's bags work very well for me. There are other and lighter bags. Surely there is a university course like Selecting A Travel Bag, edging out the fading Ultimate Frisbee 101.

Posted by
842 posts

Packing light is the optimum term. Travel back packs usually weigh 2 - 4 lbs, if you add wheels etc, you are looking at +/- 6 lbs. Taking less stuff is always better!


Posted by
16593 posts

The RS bag weighs 1.95lbs so its at the bottom of the scale. Every 1.5 to 2 lbs is a change of clothes; closer to 3lbs in the winter.

I do agree if you are backpacking your way across Europe then a properly fitted back pack is probably the way to go. But for getting from Airport gate to Taxi with a 15 to 20 pound bag, the RS bag is more than adequate for me.

Still if it weren't for the weight I would prefer a spinner.

Posted by
6103 posts

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but I {heart} my Appenzell. It's been my main travel bag for the last 8 years - 10 RS tours. It holds everything I need - with a few items going into my personal item (a purse-sized bag) - and weighs under 15 lbs loaded.

I'm also an "older traveler" (who, me? Over the hill? What hill? Where? I don't see any hill!) and have no trouble carrying, lifting, or wearing the Appenzell. On the RS site it's listed as a day bag, but I do think it's too big for that. It's very comfortable to wear. I'm not petite, however; a tiny person might not find it quite as comfortable as I do.

Oh, and it's small enough to pass muster as a carry-on on even the smaller European airlines.

Posted by
1071 posts

I've been using the Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L backpack for the last 2 years and I love it. There are multiple security features on the bag that may or may not be important to you but I like it because it fit me perfectly and fits into any airline overhead compartment.

Posted by
308 posts

I've used an Eagle Creek backpack for over ten years now and it is still good as new. A couple years ago I decided that wheels would be nice so bought an REI Stratocruiser, which is carry-on sized with wheels and converts to a backpack. I still use the Eagle Creek backpack on long trips when there are lots of walks to train stations, because the wheeled bag isn't comfortable as a packpack for very long.

Posted by
32110 posts


"If you pack light it is easy to carry even without hip support"

That's the key point - packing light! Hip support will be less of an issue if the pack is light. However I can tell you from personal experience that a heavy pack will very quickly cause discomfort on the shoulders. The OP didn't indicate how much weight they were planing to haul, so the aspect of "weight" needs to be considered.

"But you need to consider the strength of your back"

Even with a strong back, carrying heavy weight on the shoulders will become a "pain" very quickly. If one isn't concerned about a waist belt or load balancing, either THIS product (30L or 45L versions available) or THIS product could also be used, as they have similar design characteristics to the RS Pack.

It's great that the RS Packs work well for you, but the point I was trying to convey is that it's important for each person to choose a pack that's best for their circumstances. There's no "one-size-fits-all" solution when it comes to Backpacks.

Posted by
176 posts

I am 64 and was hesitating carrying a backpack to Europe, thinking I wasn't strong enough. But, I decided that after weighing my clothes and toiletries, which were a total of 8 lbs, that the RS backpack would be light enough. I did a trial run by taking it on the bus to visit a friend where I walked a mile from the station to her house. It was fine except that I realized I needed better shoes for support when walking on concrete. I also recommend weighing every article of clothing on a kitchen scale. I found some shirts that were only 3 oz each and can be washed out in the sink and line dried so I only need two. Jeans are pretty heavy so I am not taking those. The Rick Steves bag is sized for airline carry on restrictions which is why I decided to buy it. The one with optional wheels was much heavier.

Over the years, I evolved from a family sized 26" incher to a rolling 22" to a travel backpack. I have the etech 2.0 JUNIOR bag from ebags. It's my favorite go-to bag. I still use the others for different types of travel. I would either do a rolling suitcase OR a backpack. I would not get a backpack with wheels. The wheels add too much weight and structure. You get into no man's land with a wheeled backpack. Torso length is an important consideration for carrying comfort. Ebags sporadically runs out of the Junior etech bag. Then, you have to wait for them to get restocked. There is a larger version as well.

Posted by
1441 posts

I love the RS soft-sided backpack. It has a snug fit and keeps my hands free for moving through airports, train stations, etc. With wheeled luggage one hand is always occupied. The soft-sided feature helps the bag form-fit to airline overhead bins.

Posted by
13237 posts

Some of the best advice I got here as a newbie to packing light is to start your packing on paper. Then as someone said upthread weigh ~everything~. Don't add to your case just because you have room. For 9 days you should have an easy time with clothing - 2 pr pants (wear one, pack one), 3 shirts, underwear, minimal toiletries. For 9 days I might not pack another pair of shoes but ONLY if I knew I could go 10 miles in the ones I was wearing.

I don't carry a backpack now as the last time I took the RS 22" convertible I overpacked it and after an 8 week trip could barely lift it. I sized down to the 21' roller and that is working for me.

I also have the old Essential Carry on which is now sold at CampMor for under $30. It's pretty basic but very light (1# 12 oz) and reasonably well built for that price point. The drawback is the awful logo which you can stealth out with a black marker.

Posted by
55 posts

The Eagle Creek Lync System22 wheeled backpack combo weighs in at 4.5 lbs. That's within 9 oz. of my backpack only bag. I'll happily sacrifice those extra 9 oz. for the added convenience. As I have a compressed disc and degenerative disc disease, there are times when wheels are a necessity. However, if I pack light - which I do - and my back isn't acting up, I can use the backpack straps probably 80% of the time. I also simply like to have options. Because, as the Little Prince said, "On ne sait jamais!" (One never knows!)

Posted by
9133 posts

P&G -- Where did you find Eagle Creek on sale ? I'm really interested in the Lync system.

Posted by
55 posts

It was on sale at a local brick and mortar retailer. I think I just happened on a great promotion. The EC Lync System22 is normally $260.00 and I got it for $180. I probably never would have paid full price, but I'm glad I got the bag. It also breaks down to close to half its size and stores in a smaller duffel bag. The frame disassembles quickly, which also means that the frame and the telescoping handle could be easily repaired or the offending part replaced. That was the feature that sold me on the EC bag.

Posted by
1008 posts

Another vote for the Eagle Creek Lync system, but I use the 20, not the 22. I really adore it. I took it to Italy last summer for 7 weeks, and I still use it often, as I'm traveling for work almost weekly this year. It's as good as new, no damage at all, and so light and easy to manage. I admit I leave the backpack straps at home now and only wheel it. It's only 4 1/2 lbs empty and along with some ultralight packing cubes, held everything I needed for the long trip. I barely have it half full for my business trips.

My daughter asked for one for graduation this year, but I bought her the Eagle Creek Load Warrior 20 instead. Same light weight but comes without the backpack straps and instead has an expandable section.

They're great bags.

Posted by
175 posts

I want to chime in and agree with the previous posters about the Eagle Creek Lync system. I have an EC Lync 20", and I love it. So far, it fits on even the smallest regional jets, and I never have to check it or use gate check. On domestic flights, it is great to be able to just walk off the plane and not have to wait in the jetway for the gate checked bags! I generally prefer to use the bag as a roller and only carry it for short periods, like going up stairs. Even picking it up with wheels, it feels very light. My son took it to Ireland and used it as a backpack only (he left the wheels at home), and that worked great for him. If you want to get the EC Lync on sale, watch ebags. They include Eagle Creek products in many of their sales, such as "25% off of everything". Through these sales, I have seen the EC Lync discounted by as much as 30%.


Posted by
314 posts

I think it depends on where you're going, although traveling with a back pack is so easy. When I travel domestically it's always with my spinner carryon. European travel is always with a back pack. The longest we've gone with a back pack is 3 weeks, and are planning 4 weeks next summer. The best thing to do is go to a store with a large selection and start trying them on and looking at features. That will give you a sense of what you like/don't like, and of what brands might fit you best.

Posted by
96 posts

Last trip, 21 days in Italy, I used Risk Steves convertible carry-on backpack (expandable), and my husband used a freebie off-brand, lower quality (zipper was hard to work), rolling carry-on backpack. He found the added weight of the wheels was not worth it just to have wheelie bag for the airport. Inside the bag, your packing space can be limited in some cases due to the pull handle, you end up with funny narrow wells into which you might stuff cords and socks, but it can be limiting. This time, for a month trip to Europe, he is using RS convertible carry-on, or the RS Appenzell day pack, if he can fit everything. I will use my Tortuga(expandable), which is same size as Appenzell. I found the convertible carry-on was too large and bulky. I am average height. Getting the proper fitting backpack matters.

I like wearing a backpack because I like having both hands free. We use TSA approved locks to help prevent the pack being unzipped by unwanted human hands or by accident. Also got the little locking carabiners for securing zippers. A low tech solution I like is a twist tie (like on a bread bag) securing zippers together.