Travel backpack advice

I was thinking more of old-fashioned upright backpacks for the larger pack where the weight rests on your hips and you can walk great distances comfortably with it. At my age I pamper my back.

I have this one here:

After having a few different ones that had disappointing durability, I happened across this seller (LA Police Gear) that sells to police and military types. The backpack is very solidly made and durable. It’s way cheaper than the ones you referenced, and may not have some of the features (lockable zippers, many interior pockets, padded hip belt, etc) but it’s the right size and versatile.

I have ruined/ripped a few backpacks by hiking training with multiple 2 liter bottles in the pack just to add mass. This one is solid and pretty much untearable. It is a little heavy when empty, if that is important. It also has a bunch of MOLLE straps, which I have never used, but it means you can add accessories to the outside.

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So that sling would be over my chest. I was thinking with the backpack behind me and that in front, might be a little easier on my back compared to adding a daypack to the backpack.

That one looks a lot like the GoRuck… except it’s not $400, which I appreciate. I like the idea of the MOLLE straps at least, get a couple of carabiners and they could be quite handy.

Even if that particular pack is not to your liking, that website has boatloads of other options.

For me, that one was a great fit because durability and price point were unmatchable elsewhere.

I also have this one, that is also made to be quite durable:

It’s a duffel but is also can be carried like a backpack. It’s convenient for carrying short distances, but the shoulder straps are not the type that you would take hiking.
But the 55L size is sort of a tweener for me. It’s too big to carry on an airplane, and it is a little small to carry a weeks worth of clothes. So I mostly just use it for weekend type trips.

Does this backpack have any sort of internal frame, or is it all fabric?

IIRC while the Cotopaxi pack was one of my finalists (2nd place perhaps) I think it got bumped due to lack of smaller pockets that are easily accessible from outside the pack. Since I use my backpack often as my only piece of luggage, it is important to me to have areas to easily stash small items that I want handy access to: phone, wallet, keys, headphones, passport… I think I might have also read something about the hip belt placement not being great for all torso sizes too.


The smaller one definitely does not.

I am pretty sure that the larger one doesn’t have one either. There may be some plastic in the bag’s bottom just to help it keep its shape. When lifted by the duffel strap, it doesn’t really flex like it has no support. I don’t think it’s a frame, but I am not sure if its cardboard or plastic or whatever.

I will check tonight and report back tomorrow.

So far, my top three are: Aer, Osprey, and Cotopaxi, in that order.

The Aer has a lot of pockets, is made from fully waterproof material with water-resistant YKK zippers, and seems to have a bit more structure to it. I kind of like how it maintains its shape better. It is $275 though.

But the Osprey is an inch wider (too bad I can’t compare these in person), a little bit lighter, and less expensive.

The Cotopaxi is nice, but I don’t see a compelling reason why I’d buy it over the Osprey for $50 more. Except it is just fun to look at, if style is important this is the brand to own, imo.

A potential plus for the Cotopaxi is that the inside is very easily accessible. It opens folder-style, like a traditional hard-sided carryon, and every compartment on each side is right there. The top pocket and laptop compartment are accessible without opening the entire thing. Plenty of space for keys wallet, etc. No idea if the hip-belt placement is an issue. I don’t use it.

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In countries with pickpockets, having an outside pocket that can be easily undone or slashed with a knife isn’t a good place to carry valuables.


When I was shopping the Osprey and Cotopaxi backpacks were both available at my local REI to compare. No such luck with your 3rd finalist

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I’m generally taking my bag door to door, and then leaving it at the hotel or flat. So I’m not super concerned about pick pockets. At most they would get something like my Anker battery.

The clamshell style is appealing. Especially for short trips where I may not unpack everything on arrival.

Tom Bihn has also entered the chat. The Techonaut 45 looks pretty workable. Made in Seattle since 1972, I’m told these are true buy it for life bags.

True. One of the things I like about the larger outer pocket of the Osprey is that the zippers can be positioned 2 ways: leave the zipper pulls underneath where the cinch straps cross and it would be damn hard for a pickpocket to get it open. They’d have to uncinch the cross straps and then lift under the flap. For easy access you can just leave the zipper pulls at the top. I do the former at the airport, and the latter while on the street.

There is a small outer pocket that’s slightly more accessible that a pickpocket could get into. It’s covered with a flap with the zipper tucked under so it’s not super accessible but an easier target than some. I wouldn’t put valuables in there on the street, but its fine for a quick stash of your passport and phone getting through security.

As far as slashing, most sturdy nylon packs aren’t that easy to cut through but a determined thief could do it. Unless you want to carry on of those packs with a wire mesh lining, most soft side luggage could have some vulnerability.

FWIW I’ve only had 1 pickpocket attempt made on me in lots of international travel. I busted them before they got into my pack, and even if they had gotten in the best they would have made out with in that pocket was a guide book.

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If there is an REI or other good outdoor store near you I would suggest shopping in person first to see how the backpack feels? I found quite a difference in backpacks from a comfort perspective that can only be gauged by trying it on.

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There are lots of things I like about the pack I bought, but there is one thing I’d change if I could: those outer mesh pockets that I think are intended for water bottles aren’t very good for that. Since the cinch strap crosses them it wants to squeeze them out if your pack is relatively full, and having water on the far outside of your pack isn’t good for weight distribution either. Those mesh pockets are best for things that are light and relatively flat.

90% of my lifetime backpack use has been urban travel. You really don’t want a lot of weight on your shoulders, not if you might be walking any distance in the thing.

Mine has a belt that kind of folds up and goes inside pockets so it looks like a fairly regular bag on the airplane. The shoulder straps also pop opens and each end can be squirreled away. It has a kind of minimal internal frame to hold the shape.

I’m also a big fan of packs that unzip like a suitcase, so you don’t need to completely unpack it, you can live out of it. I don’t think you need a ton of separate compartments, but it’s good to be able to stabilize the heavier items close to your body.

What kind of bag do you have?

So far I’m liking the Aer and Tom Bihn. The Aer has a wide opening to help, as you say, live out of it. It has load lifters and a padded hip belt that’s removable. The Tom Bihn is an inch wider (it’s nearly identical in size to my current roller bag) and a pound lighter, and the quality is top notch. But it does have a slightly narrow opening for the main compartment. And it’s expensive. But I think I’m going to struggle a little bit with one-bag travel, so that one extra inch of width feels important to me.

There is an REI 25 miles from me, but they don’t have any of my ‘bags of interest’ in stock. I have a local Cotopaxi dealer and I may wander up there to see what they have in stock.

Both of the ones that I mentioned that I own have some sort of hardened foam sheet as part of the back/bottom to provide some rigidity, but not so much that you would call it a frame.

Does that give you the understanding that you wanted?