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Best Backpacks for RTW Trips

The backpack is the single most important gear item for your round-the-world trip. Your backpack will be your home for the next 6 months or how ever long you’ve been lucky enough to score off for travel – so you’re going to want it to be perfect. If your backpack is too small, not padded enough, or poorly designed for your tastes it can seriously put a damper on your trip.

When choosing a backpack for a RTW trip, you’re going to want to consider four things: size, weight, comfort, and design.

Size: For RTW trips, look for backpacks in the 40 to 75-liter range. Most backpacks have their size built into the name such as the Jade 50 or Ariel 75; the numbers behind the name signifies the carrying capacity of the bag in liters.

Although backpacks are available in the 80-liter plus range, I highly advise against choosing a backpack in that range. These bags are huge and all it means is that you will be packing more stuff meaning more weight on your back. My best advice for choosing the right sized pack is to find the most comfortable pack in the 40 to 75-liter range with the features that you want and adjust the amount of stuff you bring based on the size of your pack.

Lighter is almost always better.

Comfort: Personally I find the comfort the most important factor in selecting a pack. This past summer I picked up the Gregory Jade 50 simply because it fit me so perfectly. I hated that it didn’t have a separate sleeping bag compartment, but the fact that it seemed to hug my shape like a second skin won out over any design flaws.

You’re going to be lugging this bag all over the world so it needs to be darned comfortable. I strongly suggest that you measure your torso and try on a ton of different packs that fit your torso size. Look for packs with padded straps and back panels as well as designs that promote air flow. Make sure to try on the pack fully loaded so you will know that the pack will fit comfortably regardless of how much gear you are carrying. Also, women’s specific backpacks are great for smaller bodies.

Hopefully you will find several packs that are both comfortable and fit your size and weight specifications so you can choose the best pack for you based on design and features. Look for bags with lots of pockets so you can keep organized on the road. If the bag is top loading, make sure it has front access zippers so you don’t have to take everything out of your pack to get something out of the bottom of your pack. You may also want to choose a pack that is made from water-resistant fabrics or has a built-in rain cover if you are headed to humid climates.

Here are some recommendations for great round-the-world trip bags:

GoLite Odyssey 78

The GoLite Odyssey 78 gets my vote for best RTW trip bag of the year. At less than 4 pounds, it is one of the lightest bags out there. Eight pockets offer plenty of organization for your gear and padded straps and an airmesh back panel keeps things comfy and breezy. GoLite is stoked on creating environmentally sustainable products and this pack is made from 50% recycled ripstock nylon so it is easy on the conscience as it is on your back. If you like what you see with the Odyssey, but would like a smaller pack – check out the 67-liter GoLite Pinnacle.

Torso Size –  15.5 – 19.5 inches
Average weight – 3 lbs 2 oz/ 3 lbs 8 oz
Volume – 78/98 Liters
Price – $200 at REI Men’s and Women’s
Number of pockets – 6 + 2 main compartments

>> Buy REI: Men’s and Women’s & Amazon: Men’s and Women’s

Gregory Baltoro 65

The Gregory Baltoro 65 is an updated version of the Gregory Baltoro 70. If you like a lot of pockets, you will love this pack. Eight plus pockets keep your gear well organized and easily accessible. You can get at your main compartment from the top, side, and bottom – a feature you’ll surely appreciate when you get sick to death of packing and unpacking your backpack.  Only downside is the pack weighs nearly 6 pounds, which is definitely not lightweight.

Torso Size –  18 – 20.5 inches
Average weight – 5 lbs 10 oz
Volume – 65 Liters
Price$269 at REI
Number of pockets – 8 + main compartment

>> Buy REI and Amazon

Osprey Aether 70

The Osprey Aether gets high rankings for its good suspension system and adjustability. An IsoForm hipbelt can be custom molded to fit your hips perfectly and the shoulder harness is easy to adjust. This pack is a great choice if you’re planning on doing a lot of trekking during your trip. It is a bit heavier than others, but is extremely durable and supports heavier loads without sagging or shifting about with its stellar internal suspension system.

Torso Size –  18 – 20.5 inches
Average weight – 5 lbs
Volume – 70 Liters
Price$259 at REI
Number of pockets – 4 + main compartment

REI Flash 65

The REI Flash 65 is a pretty lightweight pack with all the essentials and a not so steep price tag. The bag has a nice mix of features with plenty of pockets and lash points to secure gear to the outside of the bag along with a comfortable suspension and lots of padding on the straps.  Just remember when you’re choosing a lightweight bag you may be giving up some durability since lightweight materials tend to be not as tough.

Torso Size –  16 – 19 inches
Average weight – 3 lbs 2 oz
Volume – 65 Liters
Price – $169 at REI: Men’s and Women’s
Number of pockets – 5 + main compartment

>> Buy REI: Men’s and Women’s

Gregory Jade 60

Love, love my Gregory Jade 50, which is also available in the 60-liter size. This women’s specific pack gets high marks for adjustability and comfort. The harness and hipbelt are designed to fit a woman’s shape and the harness is narrower than a unisex pack. Love the cush shoulder straps, the breathable back panel, hipbelt pockets, and the slim fit.

Torso Size –  16 – 18 inches
Average weight – 3 lbs 15 oz
Volume – 60 Liters
Price $229 at REI
Number of pockets – 6 + main compartment

>> Buy REI and Amazon

Deuter Futura Pro 42

The smallest of the bunch, the Deuter Futura Pro 42 is fabulous if you’re some place hot and humid or if you just tend to sweat a lot. Deuter’s patented Aircomfort suspension design keeps the bulk of the bag off your back so fresh air can circulate between the pack and your body. I’ve been using the Deuter Futura Pro 34 for years and can vouch for its superior breathability. At 42-liters this pack is for the uber light traveler and it has a built-in rain cover – gotta love that.

Torso Size –  17 – 21 inches
Average weight – 3 lbs 14 oz
Volume – 42 Liters
Price$159 at REI
Number of pockets – 6 + main compartment

>> Buy REI and Amazon

[Photo by Phillie Casablanca]

Just got back for a round-the-world trip, what pack did you use?