There are a lot of things to consider when planning a trip. Domestic trips come with questions like: How can I get there? and What is there to do? International trips come with extra questions like: Do I need a visa? What currency do they use? and How will I get around?
But there's one universal question that can apply to any trip, whether you're going halfway around the world or just to the next city over: What should I pack?
And the first thing to decide when it comes to packing for travel is what kind of luggage you're going to use.
There's SO MUCH luggage out there to choose from, and if you go into luggage shopping without an idea of what you need and want, you're likely to get overwhelmed by it all.
So, to help you out for your next adventure, here are all my recommendations for the best backpacks, luggage, and bags for travel.
As I've gotten older and my travel style has somewhat shifted, I've more or less hung up my backpacks, so to speak (they're actually currently sitting on a shelf in my closet). But for the first few years of my travels, I traveled almost exclusively with a backpack. And I can confidently say that there are some travel situations where they're just the right choice.
When backpacks are ideal: Backpacks are best for independent travel to destinations where you either a.) want to keep your belongings close on travel days or b.) will need to carry your bags over uneven ground or unpaved roads. Backpack-friendly trips that come to mind are non-luxury travel in Southeast Asia, when using public transport in most of South America, and overlanding trips in Africa.
And my top picks for travel backpacks are:
Kelty Redwing 44
The only downside is that, when fully packed, the Kelty Redwing slightly too large to pass as a carry-on on most international airlines. But the upsides far outweigh this in my opinion!
Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP65
Suitcases / rolling bags
Backpacks aren't suitable for everyone or every trip, though. (And, to be honest, I've used a backpack only twice since 2013!) Sometimes a bag with wheels really is more convenient and therefore more ideal to travel with.
When rolling bags are ideal: I go for a rolling bag or suitcase for any trip when I know I won't need to carry my belongings for long distances or need to lift them over my head. They're best-suited to more developed destinations where you won't be pulling them over uneven ground or up/down lots of stairs. I've used rolling bags all over Europe, the US, and even New Zealand.
My favorite wheeled bags are:
Osprey Sojourn 60
An added bonus to this bag is that it comes with removable backpack straps in a separate compartment in the back, meaning it's actually a hybrid bag. I've admittedly never used the backpack straps (I use the compartment for shoes and toiletries instead), but it's nice to have the option.
DELSEY hardside luggage
Even though I usually just suck it up and check a bag on longer trips (it helps when you get free checked bags through mileage programs/airline credit cards), there are plenty of times when I don't need to pack so much. In that case, having good carry-on-only options is a must.
When going carry-on-only is ideal: For shorter trips when you don't need to pack as much, traveling with just a carry-on bag is a no-brainer. It's also smart to do when you have really short layovers or multiple layovers on a long international trip (because lost/delayed luggage is never fun!).
My favorite carry-on-friendly bags right now include:
Osprey Farpoint 40
DELSEY Cruise Lite
(If you travel a lot within Europe, check out the smaller 19-inch version of this bag, which complies with most international carry-on size restrictions.)
Charging for carry-on bags is unfortunately becoming the industry standard for many airlines, but so far you're still allowed to bring a “personal item” onboard for free! Usually this means a small backpack, tote, or handbag that can fit under the seat in front of you.
I've tried out a lot of different personal-item-complying bags over the years, and these are my current favorites:
Pacsafe Camsafe V17
(There's also a larger version of this bag here, but note that this one is too big to fit under an airplane seat.)
Travelon Bucket Bag
So there you have it: the best luggage and bags for travel, based on my opinion and experience. Hopefully I've given you some inspiration for your next trip!
What are some of YOUR favorite bags or luggage brands for travel?