If you’re going travelling or planning a gap year, chances are in you’ll be in the market for a travel backpack. Knowing which one is right for you can be a bit of a minefield, so we’ve selected our best backpacks for 2018 from our current range. In this post, we’ll discuss the key features of each pack to help you make a more informed decision when choosing a backpack for your gap year. So here we go, our best travel backpacks for 2018, in no particular order…
1) Highlander Explorer 45+15
The Highlander Explorer is a great option for travellers on a budget and makes our list year after year. Available in three sizes to suit trips of different durations, the Explorer comes in a 45+15, 60+20 or 80+20L size.
Our top pick would be the 45+15, as many travellers are now opting for 40-50 litre backpacks and Highlander’s 45+15 Explorer offers a generous amount of space. The Explorer also comes with a ‘breathing space’ zip out expansion, which provides extra packing space should you pick up one too many souvenirs during your trip.
When it comes to the features you’d expect from a travel backpack, the Explorer ticks all the boxes with an adjustable back system, lockable zips, detachable daypack and side opening design. The choice of three colours (black, teal and raspberry) across the range also gives travellers more options when it comes to choosing their backpack.
The Explorer can also be accessed through the bottom of the bag and features an internal drawcord divider to help separate and organise its contents when required.
- Good value – great for backpackers on a budget
- Zip out expansion for added packing space
- Dual access – through side and base openings
- Internal mesh pocket/wash bag for organisation
- Adjustable back system
- Lockable zips
- Detachable 15L daypack – also clips to the main harness
- Choice of three colours & sizes
[+] Read our full review of the Highlander Explorer
2) Vango Freedom II 60+20
We’ve been selling the Vango Freedom travel backpack for as long as we can remember, and it’s seen its fair share of updates over the years. 2018 brings an update of the Freedom in the form of the Freedom II, with new ground-breaking Protex 4:2 fabrics, colour ways and updated features. The Freedom II is available in 60+20 and 80+20 litre sizes, as well as a choice of colours across the range. For the 60+20 model, you have a grey/blue, grey/teal or blue option to choose from and for the 80+20 you have either grey/blue or blue.
The new Protex 4:2 fabric is designed to be lightweight and extra durable and certainly looks more robust compared to the previous model. The front panel also benefits from a PU coating for water-resistance and the base is reinforced for added strength and reliability.
In terms of features, the Freedom II is fairly similar to its predecessor but its daypack has been improved with an airmesh padded back panel and shoulder straps. You also get twin compartments for organising your essentials and it clips to the front of the main backpack harness for added security. Unlike many other backpacks on the market, the daypack attaches to the front of the backpack using clips (most use a zip attachment), which makes it easier to attach when your bag is packed to capacity. The main bag comes with a side opening design, internal laundry pocket and drawcord gaiter for compression of its contents.
- Choice of two sizes & colours (three colours available in the 60+20 version)
- Detachable 20L daypack – also clips to the main harness
- Internal zipped organiser pocket
- Internal drawcord gaiter to stabilise & compress contents
- Full length zip opening for easy packing
- Lockable zips
- Durable & lightweight Protex 4:2 fabric – abrasion & water-resistant
- Adjustable QA back system
[+] Read our full review of the Vango Freedom II
3) Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 55
The Osprey Farpoint is one of the most popular backpacks for travelling, and you’ve no doubt come across it while researching travel bags. Our top pick is the Farpoint 55, which comprises a 42 litre main bag and 13 litre detachable daypack.
In AW17 Osprey introduced the Fairview, the female-fit counterpart to the Farpoint. The Fairview has been well received in the travel world and is proving to be as popular as the Farpoint – the only difference between the two is the female fit back system on the Fairview (and choice of colours, but we’re getting to that!).
The Farpoint is available in 40,55, 70 and 80 litre options, with a choice of either Volcanic Grey or Jasper Red. The Fairview is available in 40,55 or 70 litre sizes, with a choice of either Misty Grey or Rainforest Green.
Both backpacks come with a side opening design with interlocking zips and an internal mesh laundry pocket. The daypack comes with a padded laptop sleeve, large zip pocket and small ‘scratch-free’ electronics pocket. The daypack is only 13 litres, but fits everything you need for day trips inside (and then some). You can also clip the daypack to the front of the main harness for extra security.
Comfort-wise, the Farpoint and Fairview both come with a fixed padded spacermesh back system. The Fairview comes in one size (WS/WM – for back lengths of 38-53cm) and the Farpoint is available in S/M for back lengths of 38-51cm or M/L for back lengths of 46-60cm.
- Farpoint: Choice of four sizes in two colours – 40, 55, 70 & 80L
- Fairview: Choice of three sizes in two colours – 40, 55 & 70L
- Farpoint: Padded spacermesh back system (fixed) with a choice of S/M or M/L back length
- Fairview: Padded spacermesh back system (fixed) Female specific back system (WS/WM)
- Detachable 13L daypack with laptop pocket – also clips to the main harness
- Full length zip panel opening for easy packing
- Lockable zips
- Large internal mesh laundry pocket
[+] Read our full review of the Osprey Farpoint
[+] Read our full review of the Osprey Fairview
4) Lowe Alpine AT Voyager 55+15
Lowe Alpine updated their AT Voyager backpack for AW17, giving it an overhaul in terms of appearance, capacity and features. The AT Voyager is available in two sizes with a 55+15 litre option for men and 50+15 litre option for women. The men’s version comes in Anthracite or Azure and the women’s comes in Anthracite or Mallard.
Lowe Alpine are experts when it comes to constructing a comfortable backpack and the fixed travel back system on their Voyager pack is one of the best we’ve come across, offering plenty of padding and ventilation, thanks to its central cut-out section that allows air to circulate more freely. The men’s version is designed for back lengths of up to 46cm and the women’s is designed for back lengths of up to 41cm.
This is a feature packed backpack with plenty of travel-related features. The main backpack has a side opening and opens out like a book for easy packing and access, as well as including two large internal mesh pockets for laundry. Zips are lockable and tamperproof for added security and the daypack attachment zip converts into a large front storage pocket when the daypack is removed from the main bag.
The daypack is fully featured with a 15 litre capacity, ability to clip to the main harness, hydration compatibility and a hidden security pocket in the back panel for storing valuables.
- Choice of male or female fit – 55+15 for men & 50+15 for women
- Choice of two colours
- Book-style zip opening for easy access
- Detachable 15L daypack with hidden security pocket – also clips to the front of the main harness
- Tamperproof lockable zips
- Padded spacer mesh back system (fixed) with cut out sections for ventilation
- 2 x large internal mesh organiser pockets & 1 x side mesh pocket for accessories
- Daypack attachment zip converts into a large storage pocket
- Rain cover included
[+] Read our full review of the Lowe Alpine AT Voyager
5) Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP65
If you’re travelling to countries with a high crime rate or are concerned about the security of your luggage, the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP65 is the perfect backpack for you. Pacsafe are the leading brand in anti-theft backpacks and their Venturesafe EXP65 is designed to outsmart opportunist thieves and keep your gear safe throughout your trip. The Venturesafe EXP is available in a 65 or 45 litre size, which differ slightly in terms of their features and the colour ways available (choice of colours in the 45 litre model).
The Venturesafe EXP65 doesn’t come with a daypack, but offers a large 65 litre main bag with a separate front compartment for organisation. The main bag has a side opening design and includes two internal mesh pockets and compression straps. The front compartment is packed with pockets for organisation with a small and large pocket, as well as two mesh pockets, key clip and a pen holder.
As the Venturesafe EXP65 is all about keeping your gear safe, it comes with a range of anti-theft features including; a steel locking cable for securing your bag to secure fixtures, puncture resistant zips with an interlocking design, central Roobar locking system to lock both compartments in one place and eXomesh slashguard panels in the fabric to stop thieves from cutting into your bag.
The Venturesafe EXP65 also comes with an adjustable back system with a lightweight, ergonomic internal frame and accommodates back lengths of 40.5-53cm.
- Choice of two sizes – 45 or 65L
- 45L model available in a choice of colours
- Side zip panel opening for easy access
- Padded & adjustable back system
- Puncture-resistant zips with interlocking zip pullers
- Central Roobar locking system – locks both compartments in one central point
- 2 x internal mesh pockets
- Front compartment with multiple internal organiser pockets
- 3mm stainless steel locking cable for locking the bag to secure fixtures
- eXomesh slashguard panels to prevent thieves cutting into your bag
[+] Read our full review of the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP65
6) Eagle Creek Global Companion 65
Another newcomer for 2018, the Eagle Creek Global Companion is a stylish and feature packed backpack for travelling. As with the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP, it doesn’t include a daypack, but its range of features more than make up for this.
The Global Companion is available in a 65 litre or 40 litre size, with the latter being suitable for using as carry-on luggage. The backpack also comes in either a unisex (for 40-53cm back lengths) or female fit (for 38-51cm back lengths) and a choice of colours, including black or blue for the unisex model and black, purple or blue for the women’s model.
The Global Companion opens out like a book and features split packing compartments with mesh dividers for suitcase-style packing. The dividers also feature smaller mesh pockets for storing accessories and you get a padded 17″ laptop sleeve, which can be accessed through the front or back of the bag. The Global Companion features a front ‘U-shaped’ opening, which gives you quick access to one of its internal compartments.
Although this backpack doesn’t include a detachable daypack, it makes up for it with a range of organiser pockets on the front of the bag, which are great for storing items you need to keep close to hand. Not all backpacks include a rain or transit cover, but the Global Companion features both with the inclusion of Eagle Creek’s RainFly cover to protect the bag during rain showers and flights.
- Choice of two sizes – 65L or 40L
- Choice of unisex or female fit
- Choice of colours
- Adjustable backsystem, padded with moisture-wicking mesh fabric
- Book-style zip opening for easy access
- Split packing compartments for suitcase-style packing
- Lockable, self-repairing zips
- Multiple external organiser pockets
- Internal 17″ padded laptop sleeve
- Front, side & back access to internal compartment
- Rain & transit cover included
[+] Read our full review of the Eagle Creek Global Companion
7) Deuter Traveller 70+10
If you’re the type of traveller who has a lot of gear or tends to overpack, the Deuter Traveller is a great choice of backpack for your trip. Deuter have been manufacturing premium rucksacks and travel packs for years and their Traveller backpacks are extremely well-built and perfect for long-haul adventures.
The Deuter Traveller is available in a 70+10L or 80+10L size, as well as a 60+10L size in a female fit, making it accessible to most travellers. All three models come in grey with accents of colour and a removable flower detail on the women’s model.
The main draw of the Traveller series is the zip out expansion, which gives you an extra 10 litres of packing space, this is particularly useful if you’re bringing anything back from your trip. The Traveller is also easy to pack thanks to its full length zip opening, 3 internal mesh pockets for organisation and internal zip divider, which creates a separate base compartment for shoes and other items. The base compartment can also be accessed through the bottom of the backpack, so you don’t have to open the entire bag to access its contents.
Deuter have given their Traveller backpacks an Aircontact back system, with breathable padding and special hollow chamber foam for ventilation. The hip belt is well padded and contoured for optimal weight distribution and you can adjust the back length using Deuter’s simple Vari-Quick adjustment. You also get a detachable shoulder strap, which is great if you want to carry the bag in a different way at any point.
The removable daypack is 19 litres in size and clips to the front of the main harness for security. It also features a good amount of padding on its back panel and shoulder straps for comfortable carrying. In terms of storage, the daypack includes a small front pocket as well as a small mesh pocket and large pocket inside its main compartment.
- Choice of three sizes – 60+10, 70+10 & 80+10
- Female fit option available (60+10 only)
- Aircontact back system with Vari-Quick adjustment
- Zip out expansion adds 10 litres of packing space
- Full length zip opening for easy access
- Separate base compartment with zip divider
- Lockable zips on main & base compartments
- 3 x internal mesh pockets for organisation
- Detachable 19L daypack with organiser pockets – also clips to main harness
- Detachable shoulder strap for alternative carrying