When you travel frequently, packing and unpacking your bag becomes routines and you really do get finely attuned to the pros and cons of the bag design you’ve chosen. However if you’re a travel newbie you understandably might not have thought of many of these considerations. Therefore, here are some suggestions of what it’s worth considering.
Overall bag weight.
Bags tend to be over reinforced because manufacturers don’t want to deal with any cases of their bags breaking if people stuff them full with heavy things. The lighter you travel, the less ultra-reinforced you need your bag to be, therefore your bag itself can be lighter. Win-win! Usually the weight of the bag will be included in the product specifications you’ll find online, whereas the in-store staff might not know this information.
Where the zipper is.
Having to load a bag completely via the hole in the top is a pain in the butt! You’ll have to take everything out when all you’re trying to do is find a clean pair of socks that’s hiding at the bottom of the bag. Therefore, try to get one where the main compartment unzips all the way around for easy access. Another option is a bag with a separately accessible compartment at the bottom end – some backpacks have this.
Size on your frame.
Different styles of bags and bags from different manufacturers will differ in how well they fit your body type. If you’re short or have a short torso relative to your legs, then you might need to do a bit more searching to find a bag that feels comfortable to you. Watch a few youtube videos on how to properly adjust a bag before you go to the store and try them on. On a proper backpack, you’ll need to adjust the shoulder straps, hip belt, load lifters, sternum strap, and maybe make other adjustments. Make sure you try out how the bag feels with weight in it, not empty! The weight of the stuff in the bag should be carried by your hips, not your shoulders.
What sort of product support is offered in terms of gear breakage. If you’re buying something very expensive and think “oh it has a great warranty, I’ll be able to keep this forever” then you might want to think about where you’ll probably be when it breaks. How long it going to take to get repairs done internationally, and do you have time to wait around for this? Would you have to pay shipping costs? There are a few companies who have excellent international warranty service but these tend to be at the very high end of products so that level of service is well and truly built into the initial price you pay. In most cases, I’d rather buy something cheaper and then just shoulder the cost of getting repairs done myself. Dealing with companies over warranties is a giant time drain and one of the last things you’ll feel like doing if you’re on an epic backpacking trip.