Zen Backpacks






Travel Packs



Travel packs are generally hybrids of luggage and backpacks, combining the durability and convenience of luggage with the ability to suspend it on your back


Travel Styles

Travel Pack Types


Travel Styles

There are a lot of different ways to backpack internationally, in the urban environment and in conjunction with flights, trains, busses, pack animals, etc.  One way of breaking styles is by pack configurations.


As traveling often involves exposure to other people and often thieves and other criminals, many travel packs have special security features built in.  Travel Pack Security is also discussed on our Backpack Security - Choosing a Backpack Page.


Single Lap-sized Pack - aka Ultralight Backpacking and Minimalists

Backpackers who like to travel light, and often on a tight budget may choose to just carry a single lightweight pack that they can fit on their lap when taking public bus rides, hitchhiking, or use it as a carry-on while flying.  These backpackers are minimalist who carry just the bare essentials and are therefore very mobile.  This type of backpacking is not for everyone but opens up all kinds of traveling possibilities since one is not burdened by heavy and cumbersome gear that needs special transportation and storage needs.


Rick Steves' 40L Carry-On Convertible

Shown expanded to 50L


Pack are generally small at 30L in size or so and vary greatly as per personal preference and what might be found for really cheap overseas.  Anyone interested in minimalist traveling should visit travelindependent.info and Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door for tips and information on many aspects of international travel.



Single Pack often with Daypack

Many backpackers choose to carry a backpack with all of their gear and a daypack for day hikes.  This allows them to travel with extra clothes and perhaps sleep gear and still allows them to travel light during the day if they have a place to store their main pack.  You will see many backpackers traveling around with huge packs.  It seems like a bit much, but some travelers don't seem to mind too much despite the difficulties with public transportation and walking through tightly packed shops.


Many backpackers carry a single backpack (ranging from medium sized to enormous) with all of their essentials.  They tend to carry more comfort items than the ultralight backpacker and often need to drop off their packs at a hotel or hostel or find a place to store them before setting off on day hikes.


Vango Planet-SystemVango Planet-System

Vango Planet-System


Zip off combination pack are quite popular.  They are generally made of pretty durable material with a hideaway suspension system and a removable daypack.  This allows you to easily check in your pack without the suspension getting damaged or caught up during transport and once you've reached your destination, you can remove your daypack drop off the main pack and go trekking with just a small pack.


Multiple Luggage Travelers

Many travelers need to carry multiple pieces of luggage on their journeys.  They may need mission essential equipment for a medical mission, are picking up or dropping off some special items found only in a particular country, or need to pack 14 pairs of shoes to match all of their outfits for their trip.  These travelers will need to travel directly to the hotel after landing at the airport and plan on a private bus or van to get around if moving all of their gear. 


Osprey Meridian 22"/60L

Osprey Meridian 22"/60L
Deluxe Wheeled Convertible Pack


Wheeled luggage and/or even hard cased luggage may be the best option, possibly with a separate daypack as a carry-on.  This may be more appropriate and even ideal for those who don't need to be very pack mobile while moving from hotel to hotel and would like to carry a lot of equipment or comfort items.




Backpack Types

Small Packs

There are so many packs that may be suitable in this category and selection if very backpacker specific.  Volume can be as small as 30 to 40L and still be usable.


GoLite VO24 PACK

GoLite VO24 PACK


Rick Steves is a popular TV and radio travel figure in the US and has a popular and simple line of small packs in the 30L and up categories specifically designed for more minimalist type backpacking.  Some of these allow you to maximize what you can pack into a carryon sized bag by basically making a square bag that fits the dimensions of common airline carry-on restrictions.  Unfortunately, many of the bags designed specifically to be airline carry-ons have minimal suspensions that are not very comfortable for extended use.  The idea of course is that if you are packing minimal amounts of gear, it doesn't really matter what kind of suspension you have as minimal is minimal.


Combination Packs - aka Travel Packs and Adventure Packs

Many of the popular travel packs made of durable ballistic nylon with many common features.  These may include:


Stowable suspension


Stowable  Suspension - the shoulder straps and hip belt can be tucked in the pack or covered with a zippered flap.  This protects them from damage at airports and decreases the chance that they become tangled with other luggage or transport equipment and become lost.


Eagle Creek Grand Voyage

Eagle Creek Grand Voyage with daypack unzipped


Integrated Daypack - Many packs have a daypack that is zippered, clipped and/or strapped to the main pack.  This is a nice feature which allows you to carry a daypack and main pack as a single unit.  Unfortunately, many of the combination packs have less than desirable daypacks built into them and are often quite pricey.  With a little bit of ingenuity, a DIYer can setup their main pack to hold a daypack.


Security Cable


Built in Security Cable - Many packs have a built in security cable that affords you a more secure lock point for chaining your pack down to a bed frame or train seat.


Lockable Zippers - A nice feature since you may have to leave your pack in sketchy hotels or become separated from it during transport (airports, busses, etc.). See Zipper Security of more information.


Popular Combination Packs:


Wheeled Packs

There are several wheeled luggage packs with some sort of pack suspension built into them.  These packs allow you to tow your gear on wheels and when this is not ideal (walking through busy train stations, up stairs, through mud, etc), one can carry the pack on their back.  Some have very basic stowable shoulder straps sewn to them while others have very well developed and comfortable suspension systems built in to them.


Osprey 22" Sojourn

Osprey 22" Sojourn


Popular Wheeled Packs:


Hard Cases

These are useful when you need an increased level of protection against theft, crushing or the elements.  They can often be used as chairs and tables and sometimes as floatation devices.  The weight of these boxes will easily push the limits of check-in baggage weight restrictions once filled and are obviously not intended for carrying on one's back.


Pelican 1650

Pelican 1650

Popular Hard Cases:



Travel Pack Information


Travel packs are often designed to meet maximum airline carry on or maximum airline check in sizes.  Because of this, many are boring and rectangular in size.  The common accepted measurements are around 9inch x 14inch x 22inch or 23cm x 36cm x 56cm.


Check-In Baggage Restrictions (aka Hand Baggage and Cabin Baggage)

Airline Inches Centimeters Lbs Kg
EI Aer Lingus 8x13x21.5 20x33x48 15 7
AM Aeromexico 9x14x22 23x35.5x56 22 10
AC Air Canada 9x16x22 23x40x55 22 10
AF Air France 45 115 22 10
NZ Air New Zealand 45 115 15 7
AS Alaska Airlines 10x17x24 25x43x61 20 9
AZ Alitalia 45 115 11 5
NH All Nippon Airways 45 115 22 10
AA American Airlines 45 115 40 18
HP America West 45 115 40 18
CX Cathay Pacific 9x14x22 23x36x56 15 7
CO Continental Airlines 45 115 40 18
DL Delta Air Lines 9x14x22 23x36x56 40 18
LY El Al 45 115 17 8
JL Japan Airlines 45 115 40 18
KL KLM 45 115 40 18
KE Korean Air 45 115 40 18
LH Lufthansa 9x16x22 23x40x55 18 8
PR Philippine Airlines 45 115 15 7
QF Qantas Airways 45 115 15 7
SV Saudi Arabian Airlines 45 115 20 9
SK Scandinavian Airlines 9x16x22 23x40x55 17 8
SQ Singapore Airlines 45 115 15 7
WN Southwest Airlines 10x16x24 25x40x61
SY Sun Country Airlines 24x16x11 60x40x28 35 16
TG Thai Airways 22x18x10 56x45x25 15 7
UA United Airlines 9x14x22 23x36x56 50 23
US US Airways 10x14x22 23x36x56 40 18


Popular Travel Packs:

Tom Bihn - no lockable zippers, but otherwise ideally designed travel bags

Tortuga - designed as a true travel bag made for air travel with hip belt and locking zippers

Minaal - beautiful Kickstarter travel pack

Osprey - nicely made packs and luggage with great straps and belts.  On the Farpoint and Porter, the zippers are lockable and hidden behind a protective strap.  This increases security while making frequent access more challenging.  These are great "left in your room" bags.

Caribee - nice looking backpack with real shoulder straps and hip belt

Eagle Creek - great made for airport travel packs and rollers

REI - known for hiking style packs - so often more comfortable than other travel packs

Patagonia - Travel style pack without true locking zippers or hip belt



Cabin Max

Goruck - no lockable zippers

MEI - Real padlock zippers




Rick Steves - cute travel packs designed by someone who travels more than most.  He doesn't use locks for zippers and sympathizes with poor thieves.  He also likely has lot of street smarts to make up for any shortage of paranoia.

Sandpiper Of California - great looking packs...if you like that SWAT team look




Please feel free to link to this site so that others can find it.  It's easy to link to this site - simply copy the text below onto your web page.



Zen Backpacking






Copyright 2000-2014