Which size backpack should I get? How many litres? Will I regret getting a bigger pack? What about a backpack with wheels? The age old questions! I researched all of these for ages. Originally I was only going to buy a backpack for short trips, like my 3 week trip around SEA, but decided to invest in a backpack that would suit ME for a year of travel! I bought three backpacks to try before making a decision, and I think I made the right choice for me. Here’s what I came up with.

Oh and just to get you started, this is the pack I chose, the Macpac Gemini Aztec 70. Macpac is a New Zealand company and make some amazing packs!

Wheels or no wheels?

Right away I decided against a backpack with wheels. I read so many reviews about the wheels making the pack feel awkward and uncomfortable. It will also add unnecessary weight to your pack! I just don’t think it’s necessary, and I don’t think I saw one person with one on my travels! Also, I think the wheels would only be useful on even surfaces and pavement which can be pretty hard to come by sometimes.

Travel pack with suitcase opening, or traditional top loading backpack?

This was the easiest decision. I definitely recommend a backpack that opens like a suitcase, rather than a traditional pack that opens at the top. Why? It’s just so much easier to pack things!

  • You’ll be living out of your pack, and having a pack that opens like a suitcase makes it much easier to search through your pack, and pack things how you like it.
  • You don’t want to be rummaging through your top loading pack in the middle of the night, in the middle of your 15 person dorm (disrupting the peace…), trying to find something at the very bottom in the pitch black room, where you end up having to tip everything out.
  • You don’t have to take everything out of your pack to get something out of the bottom.
  • If you are worried that you may still want to be able to reach into your pack without taking the pack off your back or fully opening your pack,  you can get backpacks that have both the traditional and travel pack openings like the Macpac Genesis Aztec 70 travel pack which my friend has, and is amazing!

Which size backpack should I get/how many litres?

This was my hardest decision!

Basically, I chose 70 litres (55 litre main backpack and 15 litre day pack) because I thought it was a happy medium between how much space I needed, and how much space I wanted to have. I read many blogs and reviews, and many said the smaller the backpack, the better. There are heaps of pros and cons for a smaller backpack, like small backpacks being small enough to be a ‘carry on’ item on planes, and another pro being that with a smaller bag you can’t pack more stuff than necessary, it will be lighter too. However, on my travels, I can’t remember meeting one person in any of the hostels I’ve been to with a backpack smaller than 65 litres.

My pack comes with a 15 litre day pack that has been the most handy thing to have. The 15 litres is included in the 70 litre total. So really my main backpack is only 55 litres. Most of the packs have compression straps to squeeze out any extra space so if your backpack is too big for a smaller trip, you can still make it work really easily. In my bag I have clothes for all seasons so I can easily travel for a year. I also packed heaps of toiletries and medicines which take up quite a bit of space.

If you plan on carrying your own camping equipment like a tent, sleeping bag, portable stove etc., you need a bigger pack, and most people I met on the road carrying this equipment had a main backpack of around 75 litres (excluding the day pack).

I do not regret my choice!

Separate compartment at bottom for wet clothes/dirty boots?

I decided yes to this! The compartment is usually a material flap that zips up to create the space at the bottom, and you fold it to the side when you don’t need it. There is a zip at the bottom of the pack so you can access this space without going into the main compartment.

I use this compartment all the time for my dirty boots and wet clothes, it’s so handy! The Osprey packs don’t seem to incorporate this feature.  I don’t think it is an absolute turn off if your pack doesn’t have it, but I have certainly found it useful!

Inside compartments for separating clothes?

I think compartments are pretty cool! They can be so handy having the compartments already built in. Aside from the separate compartment down the bottom of the pack, my pack only has one other mesh compartment on the underside of the lid. This put me off the pack at first, but to get around it I bought various sizes of packing cells, which I am really stoked with.

I think the packing cells are actually much better as you can take them right out of the bag and organise everything the way you want. So you shouldn’t let the lack of built in compartments deter you too much  :).


So there you have it, my reasoning behind choosing the size and features I wanted in a backpack. Please feel free to ask any questions!

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