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Budget travel backpack

For my next trip I am considering a travel backpack instead of my wheeled carryon. For context, I am not looking for my forever bag. I want to see how much I like it before I invest too much money into a nicer backpack.

I recent went on a very short trip and was happy using a backpack, but it is too small for more than 1 or 2 nights. My next trip will be fairly short (10/14 days) and I won't be hiking around much with the bag. I will be walking from airport to train to taxi to hotel, type of trip. I think the longest walk with the bag will be across the airport!

I am looking at 40L travel backpacks on Amazon that are between $30-45 and have over 1k 4-star+ reviews. I am wondering if anyone here has tried any of the budget bags and if there were any favorites (or duds).

Posted by
8654 posts

Mariam, I understand your distinction between a travel backpack for use mostly as luggage between stops and a backpack as one would use in camping or hiking. I've used a Rick Steves Classic bag classic backdoor bag for >10 years now and it works for me. Very lightweight. I just wish they had more interesting colors. On sale now for $64, so maybe out of your budget. In the lower price range, they are probably similar, just may not last as long.

Posted by
1265 posts

I recommend buying a travel backpack with a hip belt. The hip belt is essential for transferring weight from your shoulders to your waist and makes carrying a load much easier.

The second thing to look for is an internal frame or structure which helps with the weight transfer to your hips. My backpack has two heavy aluminum stays which is on the extreme side. An Osprey uses a lightweight wire frame. Others may use a plastic frame. It is possible to get away from using any internal frame by packing and cinching up your contents tightly. Packing cubes may help in providing some internal structure. As long as the bag is not packed loosely or sagging, most of the weight should transfer to your hip belt.

One nice feature to look for is being able to stow away the shoulder straps and hip belt in case you check in the bag. You do not want those straps flopping around in the baggage hold.

I don't own one but I don't think you can go too wrong with buying one of Rick Steves convertible travel backpacks; they are currently on sale 20% off. I own a SOC Bugout Bag, which is a decent heavy duty carry-on travel backpack, but it is marketed as a military bag. In my opinion the gold standard travel backpack would be an Osprey Farpoint, but they are pricey.

I bought a cheap 40L travel backpack off of Amazon for my wife who was considering switching from her two-wheel roller to a backpack. However, we found that it was considerably smaller than the advertised 40L and held much less than her roller. I should have known better; the length x width x depth measurements were shorter than average. The top was tapered and the corners are all nicely rounded. It looked good but a lot of the volume is lost. If you want to maximize the volume, the pack should look boxy to maximize the volume using the limited carry-on dimensions.

Posted by
2267 posts

I don't have any insights into those cheap ones, but I just thought I'd chime in to share my preference for travel backpacks. I have three: 35-ish ltr from eBags, 65ltr Osprey Porter, and the 96ltr Osprey Transporter.

When I do only carry on it's probably with my full-size rollaboard. Sometimes I'll check that rollaboard and carry the 35ltr pack. My most frequent combo is one of the larger packs checked, a smaller, 'international' size rollaboard, and a small crossbody. Like you, I usually only haul it all from train to taxi to accommodation. But I've hoofed over a kilometer with that just fine, too.

None of them have any kind of integral frame. Only the Porter has a hip belt—I never use it.

Actually, I have the 65-liter bag out right now, clothes all over my bed, and I'm on here procrastinating packing 36 hours from departure.

Posted by
169 posts

Last year I spent a month in Europe and used this bag. I believe it was around $55. Although this particular model is no longer made, Hynes Eagle is a great brand. It was comfortable and held up well. This looks like their current backpack, and it is in your budget.

Posted by
155 posts

I have the Hynes 38 liter backpack. It seem like more like 32 liters. I like it because I’m short and it’s just under 20” in length. It fits me better than the Rick Steves bag (which I also have).
It’s a simple bag, not tons of pockets. I happen to prefer this. I use my eBags light packing cubes and find they fit well.

Posted by
5062 posts

We used the Rick Steves classic convertable bag for many, many years and were very pleased with them. Originally we had bags without hip belts, but later upgraded to ones with hip belts, and that made a world of difference in the weight distribution. Eventually we had to change to roller bags due to aged related back problems. No complaints at all with the bags -- just our backs.

Posted by
7464 posts

Hi Mariam, I purchased a G4Free 40L backpack on Amazon several years ago for around $20. At the time, Sarah Murdoch was taking the challenge to keep her carry on less than 10 pounds total. The backpack is only a pound itself. It is a top loading bag with some clips that cover the top after you tighten the drawstring.

https://adventureswithsarah.net/ultralight-packing/

I’ve used it for weekend camping and to go on short flights domestically to go on vacation for a week. Since it’s lightweight, the straps are not padded and no hip belt support. So, if you’re planning to bring a lot, don’t go this route.

Just for future reference, this is more than you want to spend now: I have a Cotopaxi Allpa 35L. It’s designed well and has good shoulder straps and a nice hip belt. I’ve walked a few miles between a hotel and ferry in Croatia with a total weight of 13 pounds, being comfortable with no issues. (I’m a woman in my 60’s)

Posted by
4351 posts

I don’t have an answer because I haven’t tried this one yet. Unlike you, I don’t want the 40L one and am waiting on the smaller size to come back in blue. (personal weakness) But it’s not expensive and I want one that opens like a suitcase.

Posted by
109 posts

Thanks everyone for your insights. I'm really set on going the budget route this time. I am just not ready to spend the money until I know I want to travel this way.

don't have any insights into those cheap ones, but I just thought I'd chime in to share my preference for travel backpacks. I have three: 35-ish ltr from eBags, 65ltr Osprey Porter, and the 96ltr Osprey Transporter.

@Scudder - I love my eBags 22" roller. I also have a daily backpack from them that I have had for years. The roller works as a carry-on for most airlines, and has lasted years. I also like eBags lifetime warranty. They have been good about replacing items when things go wrong. If I were to upgrade, it would probably be to the eBags MotherLode travel backpack.

No complaints at all with the bags -- just our backs.

@TC - This is my concern. Switching late in life, I wonder if it is smart. The only benefit with age is I am better at packing now!

@Cerastez, @PandaBear, @TexasTravelmom - These are exactly what I was looking at! Thanks.

Amazon has the LoveVook travel back pack. States that it is 40 liters. But, the dimensions are actually less. If the inches are accurate - it’s 33 liters. (18 x 14 x 8). Small enough for an underseat bag.

Posted by
6378 posts

I've used Rick's Appenzell bag for years - ever since our first RSE tour in 2009. My husband bought one a few years ago, and has used it ever since. It's 23 liter, which we find adequate. https://store.ricksteves.com/shop/p/appenzell-day-pack

It's also about $65, so may be out of reach, but I can attest to the quality of this bag. Mine is now almost 15 years old, has been on almost 20 tours, and looks brand new.

Posted by
109 posts

I decided on the eBags Mother Lode Jr. It’s smaller than the 40L, but after reviewing the specs, the interior is about the same size as my eBags roller. There were a few things that factored into my decision.

Previous experience. I have been using eBags for almost 20 years. Their bags last and they have honored all of my lifetime warranty claims.

Cost. eBags had a sale which dropped the price to $72. While this is twice what I was looking at, I like their products and I know I’ll use it for other things, even if this specific use doesn’t work.

Mariam,
For $72 for Ebags mother lode - you did well. I also use an old style etech Ebags bag. Good quality - no problems. With inflation - $72 is practically considered “budget” nowadays. You can spend more than that on a cotton Vera Bradley tote. Enjoy your new bag,