You know what it’s like. You’re traversing a new town, taking in the many sights, and channeling your inner Magellan. The fine art of exploration is mastered through routine excursions that take you far beyond the confines of your comfort zone. If there’s one thing that holds you back, it’s that heavy-duty lug of a bag you drag behind you while you’re going about your business.
Ask anyone who has ever negotiated a piece of luggage on an airport escalator or attempted to move it around with some semblance of grace after a nonstop six-hour flight. It’s a tricky task for even the most ardent and committed of travelers. What works better than this challenging song-and-dance that you can never quite master? The travel backpack, easily among the humblest yet most effective accessories one can ever add to his repertoire.
The big deal about the bags you thought you left behind in college: they’re quick to pack, easy to carry, and disperse the weight more evenly. As a result, you’re less likely to struggle as you move from point A to point B, and you don’t have to worry about giving off those dreaded touristy vibes that might otherwise make you an easier target. Here are seven essential travel backpacks to consider before you head off on your next adventure.
Black Ember Citadel R2
You know you’re all grown up when words like “technical backpack” secretly thrill you. No need to conceal your passionate feelings for the Black Ember Citadel R2, though. This bag performs like it was designed for combat. That’s largely because construction is at the heart and soul of everything designed by the brand. The triple-layer material is waterproof, while the ergonomic shoulder straps support heavy loads without creating unnecessary body strain. The greatest advantage for travelers is the 360° clamshell, which means you can unzip it fully and neatly organize all of your essentials right where you want them. An interior divider helps keep things where they belong. Bonus: It’s a super stylish, minimal piece that goes well with everything.
If you’re the type who never settles for anything less than the very best, the GORUCK GR2 is likely to fit the bill. It’s designed in honor of medical rucks used by Special Forces, which means it’s a special brand of tough that goes the distance for you. It arrives complete with interior and exterior compartments, a lay-flat organizational compartment that’s easy to fill up and hoist on for quick exits, and a bombproof (important!) laptop compartment. Naturally, such high quality needs to endure when exposed to the elements, which is why this bag is also fully water-resistant for its protection.
Tortuga Setout Backpack
Your travels could take you clear across the country or halfway around the world—or, you know, just a few miles outside of your own city. No matter where you’re headed, the Tortuga Setout Backpack makes a marvelous companion for your adventures. This one’s a standout because it’s quite literally built with a suitcase in mind. In fact, it’s designed to be packed just like your favorite piece of luggage. The difference is that it zips right up, backpack-style, and features a padded hip belt that pulls approximately 80% of the bag’s weight away from your shoulders. That’s huge if you’re touring a city and want to spend some time on foot instead of going straight to your hotel room, or have to walk from, say, the train station to your accommodations.
Knack Medium Expandable Knack Pack
Few things in life are better than options. Ask anyone who can’t decide—they’re always glad they at least have the option to make a choice. That’s what makes the Knack Medium Expandable Knack Pack such a clever selection. It moves seamlessly from “normal” life to “exciting” life with the quick release of a zipper. Go from a sleeker and more streamlined carryall for your professional pursuits to something roomier for your travels. There’s room for everything here, thanks to the included water bottle holder, fleece tablet pocket, mesh accessory case, detachable key leash, RFID-blocking material, sunglasses holder, and charger and battery pocket. A bag that practically does all the work for you? Sold.
Away The Backpack
The slim and attractive profile of Away The Backpack sets it apart from the rest. Yet for all its less obtrusive silhouette, it doesn’t sacrifice a single thing—something that’s vital to avid travelers who demand space for everything. Slip a magazine or a book inside the main zipper pocket, and use the central zippered compartment for your basics—think phones, tablets, wallets, chargers, and identification. The roomy main section is ideal for holding it all, from clothing to shoes. There’s also a sleek and protective laptop pocket, along with a water bottle pocket and handy padded straps.
DPSTCH Travel Pack
The outdoorsy types out there will undoubtedly appreciate the size and solid structure of the DPSTCH Travel Pack. This rugged backpack is built with all of your myriad on-the-go needs in mind. There are small pockets that you can use to stash little basics, like room keys and lip balm, along with larger spots for clothes, shoes, electronics, and more. This pack was conceived with the understanding that it would be filled to capacity. That’s why it’s built with a hip belt, which makes it easier to support while you’re on the move, along with a luggage strap that you can use to snap the bag onto your suitcase.
Aer Travel Pack 2
Travel is a breeze when you have the Aer Travel Pack 2 slung on your back. This intelligent design is crafted with thoughtful features that catapult it to superstar status: think a spacious laptop pocket, a roomy main compartment, multiple miniature pockets, a water bottle holder, and even lockable zippers for extra security. The real highlight here is the separate shoe compartment, which is large enough to hold up to a size 13 pair. Great for stashing your essentials before a quick getaway, this bag is sleeker than its counterparts, yet offers everything that you need.