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Rucksacks / Backpacks

Decent backpacks or rucksacks shouldn't cost you the earth - it's just a bag

I've lost count of the number of people asking me what is a good brand and what price to pay for a decent travel bag and whether it should have wheels or be a backpack. Regardless of what I say it will come down to personal choice. For me it's always the big costs I'm concerned about.

I bought my 50litre rucksack off ebay for $35 some 4 years ago and it's still going strong. I know others that have spent $300 only to have the straps break 6months later. My bag came pre-worn and used, but because it was so cheap I had no qualms using it for a seat or pillow, I didn't care if it got covered in rain or mud (as long as the internal waterproofing held up) and if it ever breaks I'm not going to care too much.

Basically as well as being big enough to carry your stuff, a good rucksack should have

  • Big and beefy zippers
  • Well secured straps
  • Inner waterproofing

Of course it should have decent padded back support as well, but hopefully you won't be carrying your bag for miles on end. Uncomfortable bags are much harder to carry. So instead of forking out a Phat wad of cash on an overpriced suitcase save your money and pick up a decent pre-loved backpack. For those of you on a tighter budget, buying second-hand means you can get a high quality rucksack for the price of a brand new low quality one.

-note- to put the cost of an expensive bag in to context just think about what else you could spend the money on. $500 is an extra fortnight backpacking around Europe.

If you intend to spend the majority of your time abroad on pavements then you may choose a trolley / wheelie bag. They can make a long walk a lot less tiresome indeed. The only problem of course is when the road / pavement runs out and you're forced to carry them or else drag them through grass, mud or over rocks.

If you're very unfortunate you may find yourself in Venice in December, during a King tide where the Adriatic sea reclaims the island for a number of hours – The only good thing about that experience (and venice in general) was that I didn't have to carry a trolley case through two feet of freezing water! – Don't believe me? Check out the picture below!

Flooded Venice king tide


Venice during King tide
Unhappy Backpackers!



Last year my sister decided to have the best of both worlds and buy a half and half rucksack / trolley bag. Unfortunately one of the wheels broke whilst going down the stairs to the tube in London and the handle snapped off while dragging it up again. She then found that her bag was not very comfortable to wear either…she now has a rucksack.

Everywhere I go I see travellers with huge backpacks towering over their heads, and another strapped to their chest – maybe their stuff weighs less than mine – or maybe they are opposed to doing laundry. I would recommend carrying less and getting a smaller rucksack. I pack as little as I think I can get away with and I still don't wear everything. Check out ebay for decent branded / quality bags at more affordable prices.

Backpacks and Rucksacks at


Like many things I do, I tend to leave my packing to the last minute. This naturally allows me to run the risk of forgetting to pack many important articles of clothing, important documents and other essentials. I also try to squeeze as much as possible in to my travels and find myself visiting multiple countries with differing climates. This requires a greater range of clothing to suit the conditions and adds to the likelyhood of forgetting things.

It's for this reason in spite of my travel experience that I don't want to offer advice on packing. What I will happily do is direct you to an absolute expert in travel - Rick Steves. Rick has compiled a packing list for backpackers on his website. I suggest you take a look and print it out for reference. Of course I also printed out Rick's packing list but I still manage to forget things every time - When it comes to packing my backpack I think I'm a bit of a lost case :P

Click here to check out Rick Steves Packing List

"On packing: Lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then, take half the clothes and twice the money"

Susan Butler Anderson

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