Backpack or suitcase? Straps or wheels? 60 L or 80 L? What is the best backpack for travel?
These are questions I debated back and forth before setting out on this most recent trip around Europe.
When I first set out on my big 15-month round-the-world trip I carried a 60L backpack. Even though the size of my pack forced me to adopt a minimalist packing style, I still found the weight to be a little too much for me. Sure, it was super convenient because I didn’t have to worry about staircases, uneven terrain, or cobbled streets, but I have a small frame and I found that if I had to carry my backpack longer than 10 minutes I would end up with really sore shoulders.
For this next trip, I knew I would be gone 5-6 months and I couldn’t bear the thought of hauling around a backpack again, so I took a bit of a gamble and decided to pack a suitcase.
That was a mistake.
My suitcase (which was designed by a pretty well known airline!) lasted a grand total of 1 month. First one of the wheels exploded (how does that even happen?), and then a second wheel got filed down by rough pavement to the point where it wasn’t even round anymore. Not only did the wheels let me down, but I also found it really difficult to use a suitcase to get around Europe. The lack of escalators in the metro system (I’m looking at you Paris!), the construction and renovations along major streets, and the compact apartment buildings with no elevators (try hauling a suitcase up to the 6th floor!) made it a bit of a pain to get around.
By the time I arrived in Amsterdam in August, I was dragging a limp suitcase that no longer rolled. I needed a new piece of luggage ASAP so my first order of business was to get myself to a travel equipment store and find the best backpack for travel.
So what is the best backpack for travel?
There’s a wheeled backpack that I have been eyeing for well over a year and even though it comes with a bit of a heavy price tag, I was kind of hoping they would have it in the store. Well, imagine my surprise when I walked into the shop and right at the centre of their display was the Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage (28-Inch/80L) tantalizing me with its straps-and-wheels combo – the best of both worlds.
I did a look around the store to see if there were any similar models out there, but in the end I knew which one I wanted. Retailing at $319 USD this is easily the most expensive piece of luggage I have ever purchased, but considering this wheeled backpack is like my home and carries my possessions from place to place, I figured it was a worthy expense. I bought it and have now been using it for 2 months – so far it’s been a dream!
Why I think the Osprey Sojourn is the best backpack for travel:
It is a backpack and a suitcase rolled into one.
The thing I love most about this bag is the versatility. I wheel it around most of the time, but if I ever encounter stairs or uneven ground, I know that I can pull out the straps and use it as a backpack. These are two key functions that I think any piece of luggage should have. I’m still amazed that there aren’t more brands designing this suitcase / backpack crossover.
It has large wheels.
The wheels on this suitcase are big! I think back on the little wheels of my old suitcase that let me down, and it’s no wonder they didn’t last me. The ones on the Osprey are made for the road.
It’s a tough bag.
Everything from the material to the zippers feels really strong and ready to withstand whatever you throw at it. So far my Osprey Sojourn has been hauled up trains, thrown in coaches, and endured that mysterious journey down airport conveyor belts. She’s still going strong.
It has lots of little compartments.
The Osprey Sojourn has two long compartments that run on either side of the bag’s interior, and as well as smaller compartments (one on the back and one on the front) of the bag. This combined with packing cubes makes it really easy to keep everything in there organized.
It comes in different sizes.
Since I tend to go on longer trips and I often have to pack for more than one season, the 80L Osprey Sojourn backpack is great for me, but they also have a smaller 60L model that works for shorter trips or light packers.
The verdict? This bag is so good that now even Sam wants to swap his old Osprey backpack for the Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage. I think that says it all.
*This post does contain some affiliate links, but I’m only recommending this bag because I use it myself and I absolutely love it!