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recommendations for men's backpack & luggage

Just curious what backpack most men have enjoyed. My husband & I just signed up for a RS tour in Italy & he's looking for a backpack to use as his carry-on & to be used as his daypack each day while out & about.

Any thoughts on the RS backpack?

This one had good reviews on Ebags

Any other opinions are welcome.

We'd also appreciate any luggage recommendations . . . seems there may be a lot of walking with our luggage & carrying up/down stairs. We are considering the RS 20in.Carry-On, but we are interested in other thoughts.


Posted by
60 posts

My husband used this one from ebags based on a friend's recommendation. They used it in Southeast Asia, and my husband through Central Europe. Everyone had rave reviews about the bag. The one complaint I've heard about the bag is you can over pack. I used the RS convertible backpack and I had no complaints either.

Posted by
1179 posts

It looks overdesigned and heavy to me. LOTS of zippers, which add to the weight. At 2.5 pounds, it is heavy for its capacity (37L). That means that you'll need heavy duty straps which... add to the weight. Checkpoint friendly laptop compartments add weight to a bag, and are really only useful for people that are repeatedly going through checkpoints. An easily accessible laptop compartment in a lighter bag may be a better option.

For a lighter backpack/daypack, I like the Barefoot Enterprises Wanderlite pack which carries 32L and weighs 9 oz. I've owned this pack for several years and have dragged it over Africa and on several caving expeditions. It's one tough pack. I use a sleeve for my tablet, which is lighter than an actual computer compartment.
Snarky Nomad has a nice post on minimalist all-in-one backpacks.

Me? I use the LL Bean Quickload Convertible (48L , 2.1 lb) and carry the Wanderlite in the lid for day hikes.. I use a computer sleeve in the outside pocket because it is significantly lighter than a pack with a built-in sleeve. I can also attach the shoulder strap to the sleeve and take the bag down to the café. Disclosure: I had a boat anchor of a work laptop. For personal use I just use my smartphone or tablet.

Posted by
3713 posts

My husband uses the RS convertible backpack we bought for him almost 6 years ago. He has no intention of getting anything different unless he physically cannot manage the load anymore. He puts zip-ties on the zippers while in transit to thwart pickpockets. His is orange.

His 2nd carry-ons have been the RS daypack and a crossbody messenger bag. At first he lugged them around daily without using them. The last trip his 2nd carry-on was his CPAP bag with his machine, European extension cord, his meds and his iPad in it. For the past 3 trips he carries...nothing on a daily basis.

I did the same thing on our first trip and dropped the daypack on the 2nd one. I found it very inconvenient to constantly take off to get stuff out and put back on. Now I take a tote and wear a smallish crossbody purse that will fit in the tote when needed. I have mesh bags inside the purse it if we need to buy something. I'd prefer to carry...nothing, too, but I haven't managed to graduate to that yet.

Baggallini has been my go-to option for totes (2nd carry-on) and purses. I have used and have kept these 3 totes and the purse at the end:

  1. Hobo Tote ( I can put my meds and other on-board essentials in this as well as use it daily. But I tend to fill it up. I still use the mesh bags for shopping because it is a little small for that. Mine is red.

  2. Kindred Tote ( This is the perfect size for a carry-on tote, but too big for daily use except for shopping. I can put my purse inside it. Mine is light blue.

  3. Expandable Tote ( This is great for carry-on and shopping and I can put my purse inside it. The problem is that if there is too much weight in it, it digs into my shoulder, so I have to carry it in my hand. Mine is black.

  4. Highrise Crossbody Purse ( This is my favorite crossbody everyday purse for trips. It has enough zipper pockets for hiding stuff and is a good size for me. I can't load it up so much that it's uncomfortable to wear. There is plenty of room for my mesh shopping bags, my phone, my coin purse, etc. Mine is dark blue.

I used my RS convertible backpack on the first 2 trips but switched to the Lipault Paris Plume 22" spinner ( because I just couldn't carry the weight on my back anymore. Its measurements include wheels and handles. At 6 1/2 pounds, it is heavier than I would like, but I start out with the total weight around 20-22 pounds. That can creep up to about 25 pounds during our month-long trips if I get stuck with the dirty laundry, larger sizes of toiletries after we get there, etc. At least I can wheel that stuff around. Mine is turquoise.

The convertible backpacks weigh 3 pounds. While waiting for a Turkish Airlines flight from FCO to IST this fall, we weighed each of our "big" carry-ons and found that they weighed exactly the same, 11.5 kg (a little over 25 lbs). That means that my husband's backpack actually had 3 more pounds of stuff in it than my spinner did.

By the way, this is all we take for any trip. We pack for a week and do laundry ourselves or have it done.

Posted by
5789 posts

I travel using a RS Classic carry-on size backpack and a Patagonia Half-mass (bike) Messenger bag as my "personal" item. While darting through or to airports I carry the Patagonia anterior and the RS backpack posterior.

The RS Classic fits in the overhead and sans wheels and frame is somewhat minimal in weight while being somewhat robust. My RS bag is 5 or 7 years old and holding up. However I would not recommend using the RS backpack as a day touring bag. China shop folks would not be happy with husband walking around with a big bag on back.

I use my 15 Litre Half-Mass messenger bag for day use after unloading electronics, reading material and travel documents. The bag easily holds camera, guide book, maps, water bottle and even a picnic lunch. While rain jacket doesn't fit in the bag, I can sling it over the bag between the shoulder strap.

An alternative to the Patagonia Half-Mass messenger bag is a "guide bag". One of those small shoulder bags for guide book, maps, note pad, pens and not much more. The guide bag (we have a MEC bag that we bought in Canada) is also handy on walking treks for guide book, GPS, compass etc as it can be carried anterior in easy reach. On wet days keep maps in a waterproof map case.

Posted by
31513 posts


Are you looking at a long term purchase to use on many trips, where your husband may need to carry this for longer periods of time and not just from the Bus to the Hotel? If so, I'd highly recommend looking at a "proper" Backpack that provides a robust waist belt and the ability for torso range adjustment. This will allow the weight to be balanced so that the majority rests on the hips and not the shoulders. I've provided information below on some brands you could consider.

A few criteria to consider.....

  • Panel load (zippers) or top load - I find a panel loading pack more useful for travel purposes. Top loaders are probably better for mountaineering. With a panel load pack, it's easy to access all the contents instead of having to dig through everything to get at something on the bottom. The zippers also provide a way to secure the pack with a padlock to prevent "opportunistic theft".
  • Detachable Daypack - I like having a detachable Daypack to use as carry-on during flights, as the larger pack will usually have to be checked. Some Daypacks are expandable (via a zipper) and some provide the option for front-carry, which is a useful feature to balance load.
  • Stowable Harness System - I also like to have a "stowable harness", where the Straps can be placed inside a zippered panel during air travel, as they're less likely to be damaged by airport baggage handling equipment.

Most manufacturers offer Backpacks in several capacities, so you'll have to decide which size will work for you. At the low end, a 50 litre pack should be adequate but if you like lots of room you could look at larger 70-80 litre packs. Keep in mind that a heavy pack is going to be a burden to carry for long periods of time (although a properly adjusted waist belt will minimize that problem). Having a larger pack also allows some room for bringing back "souvenirs".

Once you find a pack that seems to work, it's usually a good idea to try it out fully loaded prior to purchase. Most shops will allow this (after taking a credit card imprint of course).

A few Backpack brands that you could look at......

If you're only planning to carry the Pack for shorter periods and can do without the waist strap, you could also consider some of these products.....

The above two choices don't have the features that I mentioned above (detachable daypack, etc.), but they're excellent quality products and very popular. However, these two brands are at the "higher" end of the price scale.

Good luck with your decision!

Posted by
4125 posts

China, maybe I am just reading this wrong:

a backpack to use as his carry-on & to be used as his daypack

maybe "carry-on" assumes another main bag that is checked. (Around here it's common to strategize about traveling light enough to carry on one's main bag.)

The ebag link describes a bag that is only a little smaller than my main bag. Kind of big (and heavy) for a day bag. For that you want something very lightweight. I can vouch for the RS Civita, but there ought to be plenty of other good choices.

If this the main bag, good for husband, he has the right travel-light stuff! But I'd get a different bag for walking around. If it's not the main bag...I'd get a different bag for walking around.

Posted by
646 posts

Adam -

You're right, I didn't word it very well. He will have a 20-22 inch luggage bag in ADDITION to a backpack . . . the backpack is truly just going to be used to carry around in the cities for a few personal items and for any purchases we make during the day.

He plans on a piece of luggage, plus a backpack for daily use. I plan on purchasing the same piece of luggage as him and some sort of tote/crossbody for my 'daily' bag. While we have tried to get down to ONE bag each, we just can't do it . . . our personal bags are mainly for outings and haul our purchases in. On occasion, I even pack an empty tote also (just in case I buy too much like we did on our Christmas Market tour last year).

Posted by
1217 posts

Not sure of your itinerary, but there are museums out there that require you to check even small backpacks but are perfectly okay with you carrying a fairly large messenger bag into the same space.

My dream urban backpack would probably be a Tom bihn. Not cheap, but well-designed and has a reputation for lasting a really long time:

Posted by
4125 posts

China, in that case I would say, think smaller and lighter for the day bag. And if you are considering that bag to haul a laptop, maybe don't bring the laptop everyplace you go. (Or, even, at all.)

I am a pack-light acolyte, but there is nothing wrong with checking your main bag.

For the main bag, ask yourself if you can live without wheels, which add weight and volume.

Posted by
646 posts

We won't be taking computers/laptops . . . so that is not a need.

I'm all for light bags . . . my issue with NO wheels is how in the world do you all walk so far in airports without the wheels? I'm just not sure I could carry it SO far . . . I'd love to be like you all who never check a bag.

And thanks for all the info on Tom Bihn & Red Oxx . . . both new sites for me . . . still intrigued with the NO wheels concept.

Posted by
1217 posts

I just got a Red Oxx Chica as a casual everyday purse for Christmas, and it is da bomb, as the saying goes, in terms of being ruggedly built. I also like their unconditional warranty policy, so even if your bag gets trampled by a rhino while on safari in Africa or something, they'll take care of the damage for you when you get the bag to them. (And if you write a story about the rhino trampling for their web site, they seem like the kind of company that would probably throw a gift card for a future purchase your way.)

Posted by
5789 posts

Re: . . . my issue with NO wheels is how in the world do you all walk so far in airports without the wheels? I'm just not sure I could carry it SO far . . .

Over the years, I've heard that 1/4 of a person's body weight is an
optimum pack weight and even 1/3 is okay, if you're in good shape! In
recent years, I've been aiming at 1/5 to 1/7 of my body weight.
Currently, for 3-season mountain travel, I'm very happy in the 1/6
range. In the Winter, I add more food, more clothes, a beefier
sleeping bag, extra sleeping mat, more fuel, heavier stove, heavier
boots, snowshoes, and so on. In Winter, my pack weight is more in the
range of 1/5 to 1/4 of body weight.

... but, actually, pack weight is relative! Depending on your weight,
conditioning, terrain, etc., your optimum pack weight, at any given
time, could be 1/4 or maybe even 1/6.

The main point is to figure out for yourself what is optimum - (and
the pack weight to body weight ratio is just one factor to consider) !

Posted by
3713 posts


I'm with you on the walking with the backpack. I simply cannot carry the 20-25 pound weight on my back anymore, and that's only about 12.5% of my body weight. Getting the sucker on and off is a struggle and was even when I was younger, and I always felt like I was going to tip over backwards.

...Except with the ski-touring pack I bought in Amsterdam in the late 70's. Now that was a good, well-balanced pack and the perfect small size for me to pack light. Too bad it was stolen from my car while camping in CA after I got home. Every time this topic comes up and different kinds of backpacks are suggested, I look at them hoping for something that resembles that simple, well-designed and well-constructed pack. So far, nada.

Also, it's not just about airports. It's up and down stairs to get on and off trains, buses, etc. as well as to get to your room if there is no elevator. If you are going on a tour that stays put in one hotel, that's not such a big deal. If your tour moves around a lot, it will be.

After several trips to Europe, it has become obvious to me that almost all Europeans use bags with wheels and that if a person has a backpack they are likely Americans or Canadians or under the age of 25. I think you blend in better using a rolling bag than a backpack. Even RS's family members use them.

Whatever you decide, you need to keep the weight down because you will have to carry it up and down stairs, sometimes by the handles, more often than you might imagine.

Posted by
646 posts

I'm loving these forums - tons of helpful info. We have our luggage narrowed down to either Eagle Creek 20in no matter what duffle or Eagle Creek 20in load warrior.... Yes, both wheeled, but that's a must for me at this point. I am concerned about the weight of the empty bag, but I just can't carry a bag for long distances. If we hadn't had wheeled luggage in Amsterdam from the train station to our B&B, neither one of us would've made it.

We also have my husband's backpack & my tote bag narrowed down to something in the Tom Bihn line. Maybe red oxx for my tote- still debating

Looking forward to continued tips from all of you!

Posted by
123 posts

I take a 20" RS roller and a Tom Bihn Synapse 15 backpack. It worked beautifully for 2 weeks in Rome/Paris last spring. I'm a woman who needs a rolling bag.

The Synapses are so well-designed, and are comfortable to wear, even when loaded. I prefer the Dyneema, which is a bit lighter and more flexible fabric. Fit easily under an airplane seat. Found a good way to secure it to the roller. There are lots of nifty tips for Synapse on the Tb website, such as locking the zippers, organizing the interior with TB pouches. I also take a Side Effect in the Synapse, which attaches with carabiners to a plane seat pocket en route--brilliant.

I have traveled with the RS Civita backpack (and use it a lot when we go to the mountains), but preferred the organization of Synapse for long-haul flights and long trips. We were really happy with our RS rollers. They were a great value on sale.

Posted by
11434 posts

@chinalake67....I did a review of the Eagle Creek No Matter What Flatbed 20 a couple of weeks ago on my website. Unfortunately, I can't give you a link to that site because it is against the rules here. The nice thing about that bag is the optional backpack attachment that turns the Flatbed 20 into a backpack. The attachment only weighs 4 ounces and the bag, empty is 5 lbs, 10 oz. **

@Edgar....the weight issue from that article refers to a fitted, framed backpack and not a convertible bag. Generally, with a convertible bag, you want to keep it no more than about 10-15% of your body weight.

** I wonder if someone is going to go crazy with the 5 lbs, 10 oz number and yell his bag only weighs 6 ounces and rant about why wheels are worse than Ebola?

Whether someone uses wheels or not, it's their choice. No one should travel to make someone else happy. We all have to travel in a way that we enjoy and makes us feel good. There's nothing worse than following someone else's suggestion and hating every minute of it. If you don't like the way someone else travels, don't travel that way. It's your decision, it's your time, it's your money. Do what makes you happy. And don't try to force others, especially those you aren't traveling with, to travel the way you do. Just because one person does it one way, doesn't mean it's right for everyone.

Posted by
1179 posts

@Lo - If you are taking 20-25 pounds in your bag then you are taking too much of something. My bags for a 3 week trip weigh between 13-17 pounds max. Hence backpacks/travel packs are fine.

I own 3 different bags for different trips. I have an REI weekender for under the seat trips (ultra light trips or trips lasting less than 5 days). I have an LL Bean Quickload Travelpack for most of my trips, and I have a Rick Steves Rolling Backpack that I used for work. I was carrying 2-4 reams of paper for work in my carry on, so broke down and bought a rolling bag. The paper took up 1/2 - 2-3 of the bag, my clothing was in the 2nd part.

Each bag suits the different uses.

I must admit that the more I use the RS Rolling Backpack (20 inches) the more I like it. It seems to fit in to a lot of places and I've had no problems using it even for winter trips which require hats, gloves, long underwear, and puff jackets. The backpack straps are nice for post-holing through deep snow or for going up steep stairs.

Posted by
3713 posts


You are probably right. My spinner weighs 6.5 pounds and if I limit it to 20 lbs total, that means my stuff weighs 13.5 pounds. That's where I am more comfortable, even with a rolling bag. Interestingly, I was able to meet that 20 lb goal more easily when packing for colder temperatures than for variable ones. Obviously, if I go up to 22 pounds total, 15.5 pounds of the weight is my stuff.

Your RS rolling backpack weighs 5.5 pounds, so if your total is 13-17 pounds, that means your stuff weighs 7.5-11.5 pounds. You are really packing light. Your LL Bean bag weighs just over 2 lbs, so that means your stuff weighs about 11-15 pounds if the total is 13-17. In that case your stuff weighs about the same as mine.

As previously mentioned, we usually travel for a month and pack for a week. We use apartment washers, laundromats or have our laundry done once a week. I despise washing things out in the sink and will not do it except in a dire emergency. It's worth the extra weight to not have to do that.

I don't know how old the OP is or how big she and her husband are, but I will turn 69 this month and my husband is 66. We are both XL-XXL size people. I can assure you someone's size 8 pants weigh less than my size 18's and take up less room. And if I take a 2nd pair of my size 10 shoes, they will weigh more and take up more room than someone else's size 7's. My 6'4" female cousin would have an even harder time packing very light.

Beyond all that, I have knees that are going to need surgery before too long. I get shots before each trip and it helps, but my doctor has told me to take one step at a time when going up or down stairs and avoid them completely if possible. The last thing she wants me to do is carry extra weight on my knees or my back.

Bottom line, it is highly unlikely that I will ever go back to wearing a backpack. When I can slip the handle of my spinner through the double zipper pocket on my tote and not have any extra weight on my body when wheeling everything around in airports and train stations, I'm definitely going to do that.

Posted by
24 posts

I've used the RS convertible (but no wheels!) backpack for years, and love it ... with one small tweak: I've had to add sternum straps for stability and to reduce the amount of weight on my shoulders (from the shoulder straps). It makes a HUGE difference -- before adding the sternum straps, I literally couldn't go more than 20-25 minutes without getting a backache. Wish they'd add them to the RS backpacks!

I also just bought two Eagle Creek Digi Hauler bags (for Daughters #3 and #4, for an upcoming trip), and got a great deal here:

They're very similar to the RS bags, but come with their own sternum straps :-)

Posted by
11434 posts


Which sternum strap did you get for your RS Convertible and from where?

Posted by
166 posts

I purchased a black Tom Bihn Synapse 19 backpack for a walking tour in Ireland because I wanted a pack that didn't look like a casual hiking backpack since we were doing a lot of travel besides the hiking trip. To secure the bag I purchased several S-Biner-MicroLocks that are made by Niteize. The company also makes the S-Biner SlideLock. I found them at a local store that sells camping, hiking, outdoor products. You can see one of them at

I zip the backpack compartments so that the zippers are grouped together and use one of the locks on them. The s-biners aren't real locks but it takes a certain amount of manual dexterity to unlock the small lock and they served as an effective theft deterrent in public places.

Posted by
646 posts

Thanks Carole, we actually purchased a Tom Bihn Synapse25 for him last month for him to use as his 2nd carry-on & as his day bag.