Best Travel Backpacks – What we took to Southeast Asia

Backpacks… the most crucial product you will use when travelling and the most controversial topic we seem to see. There are so many arguments about “the best bag”, “the most popular bag” or “the bag you need”, and from our experience, most of these arguments are led by tech companies who have no real experience with the bags they are discussing. You rarely see them say that they used the bags, or brought the bags themselves, frequently they have either been sent the bags to review or have countless affiliate links which allow them to earn money from their bogus ‘reviews’.

Don’t get us wrong, in this blog we will include an affiliate link, however, it will only be for the bag we have experience with, the bag we paid for ourselves and have used for nearly half a year while travelling Southeast Asia. The other bags mentioned were simply regularly recommended in our research and are bags we contemplated before deciding on our chosen brand. We will outline the pros and cons of each bag, and go through our experiences with the bag we went with, and if you do decide to get that bag using our affiliate link, we will be hugely grateful, but the other bags are also very good options, we just do not personally have experience with them. 

Backpacks are incredibly unique to each person, what we may find the best, may be completely different from what another person finds the best. So in this blog, we will discuss a few bags and let you use our recommendations, reviews, and options to compare the bags to determine what will be the best for you.

The main aspects you need to take in mind when it comes to a travel backpack are size, weight, features, and quality. You may be like us and want to go carry-on, which means you’re limited to around 40L bags, depending on your height you may find a bag is just too tall to sit comfortably on your back, it sounds silly, but there are a lot of aspects to take in mind before purchasing. When we were deciding, we had a few non-negotiables for backpacks, we wanted carry-on size, suitcase-style rear opening, and great quality material. We found all of these in our Peak Design Travel Bag and we will explain more when we get to that bag below. 

3 Best Backpacks for travelling Southeast Asia

Osprey Farpoint 40L / Fairview 40L

The Osprey Farpoint is likely the bag you will see the most in your search, at least it was for us. They make a male and female version which appeals to a lot of people who are worried about the bag’s fit and feel so this makes the bag a very good choice. 

The bag opens from the front like a suitcase so it enables you to get easy and quick access to all your belongs and makes organizing a little easier. However similar to the Forclaz bag, we didn’t like how the bag opens from the front/middle, we were looking for bags that predominantly opened from the back, so while we were wearing them we knew our stuff would be safe. There are a huge array of pockets for you to organise your items which is extremely helpful when needing to quickly grab something on the move but again this can also mean more pockets for pickpocketers on your journey… so be wary. From what we have read, the bag is incredibly comfortable and light, allowing you to walk around for a while without that back pain people can be scared off. However the bag material is not as strong as Peak Design, which makes the Osprey lighter, but also more easily damaged, and from our experience, your bag will be thrown around like crazy in Asia, we couldn’t even count the number of times we’ve seen ripped/broken backpacks that are made of similar material. The material is also not waterproof, it is repellent so small rain will be stopped, but you will need a seperate rain cover to really protect the bag in Southeast Asia downpoor. There are benefits of this material though, just like the Forclaz, this material stretches so you can mold and force more into the bag, again this could lead to damage so be careful, but that’s one aspect we have noticed using our Peak Design, the material is so tough that it doesn’t allow you to cram objects that would need to distort the material.

These are the dimensions for the Forclaz: Size: 22″ x 14″ x 9″ Weight: 3.5 lbs. The Farpoint 40 is currently around £140 online.

Overall it looks like a great bag and we have honestly seen it a lot while backpacking ourselves, so we would recommend checking it out, trying it on in a store and seeing what you think!

Forclaz 60L Hiking Backpack

The Forclaz 60L is the outlier in this blog, not only is it 60L, meaning bigger than carry-on but it is also significantly cheaper than the other bags in this list. A Decathlon found bag, it is truly great for its price, however, its quality and reviews put us off going for this bag. Below we will go through the features of this bag, pros, cons and why we decided not to go for it.

Similar to the other bags, the Forclaz has suitcase style opening making packing much nicer and easier. It also comes with multiple exterior pockets to pack away and organise your things. Anti-theft is not as good as the Peak Design, but you can hide away the zips to stop would-be thieves getting into the bag as you walk. The bag itself is not waterproof, however it comes with a seperate rain bag to cover the bag for sight waterproofing. 

These are the dimensions for the Forclaz: Size: 25.6″ x 13.8″ x 11.8″ Weight: 3.5 lbs

In all honestly, we knew we wanted to go for carry-on size, so this bag was already low on our lists, however, when we saw the low-quality materials and joints we were pretty worried about taking a bag like this across the globe for a year. In our eyes, the most important product for you while travelling is your backpack, if that breaks it will make travelling a huge pain. We have seen this bag a lot while travelling, in sizes from 50L to 80L, it is very popular, however, this is also the bag we seem to see broken the most, either wrapped in clingfilm to keep it together or zips/pockets broke, we personally would not go cheap when it comes to the main backpacking bag. We also wanted a waterproof bag, knowing how often we would be on ferries, boats, and in spontaneous rain that Southeast Asia is known for, we didn’t want to need to have a separate waterproof jacket for the bag. 

The Forclaz 60 is currently around £80 online, the cheapest out of these 3 bags by far, however, we think that shows in quality and features so really think about what you will be doing with the bag and how durable you believe you need it. It is still a very good bag for the price so if you can, head to a Decathlon and see what you think.

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

As previously mentioned, the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is the bag we chose to go with, we will break down the bag and every thought process we went through before deciding on it. We will also share our experiences and reviews, having both used this bag for nearly half a year so far around Southeast Asia. 

Peak Design started as a camera accessory company, making camera bags, straps, and basically any cool-looking and incredibly helpful camera accessory, they made it. They then ventured into travel bags, and have destroyed a lot of competition with their material quality and features that they have brought from their camera bags to the travel packs. The bag in question has won many awards and has been the editor’s choice by a few well-known travel/outdoor websites, Gear Junkie and Outdoor Gear Lab being a couple.

As with all of their products, the bag has tons of features that make the bag stand out, firstly the bag is expandable, and in its natural form it is 35L, making it perfect for carry-on without fuss. However you can be compressed to 30L to make it even more compact or it can be extended to 45L allowing you to fit all those souvenirs you will undoubtedly accumulate, at least we have. 😂 The travel bag is also made of completely waterproof 400D nylon material, you can get a peak design rain cover, but the bag itself is waterproof, we have had it in all conditions so far and have not used the rain cover once. We’ve been in crazy downpours, boats where water is splashing all over the bags, and never had issues with anything being wet inside. The main feature we liked was the suit-case like opening from the back of the bag, you can also fully open from the front, or the sides, giving you literally all forms of access, however, we lock the zips away on the front making it impossible for anyone to get into the bag while we are wearing it. Every zip also comes with a lockable feature, meaning even leaving the bag in the hostel, no one can get in if you have done all the zip lock precautions. Another feature we really love and have used a lot over the last few months has been the stowable straps, the shoulder & waist straps can be hidden underneath the back flaps of the bags, allowing you to easily carry it through security or on transport around Asia without straps flinging about and getting caught, it wasn’t a feature we really cared about before buying the bags, but have used it a lot. 

However, there are some downsides we have found while using the bag, none that make us regret choosing it, but we have to mention them. Firstly the weight, this is a downside to having far better quality material, the bag is 2.05 kg (4.5 lb) so heavier than all the other bags in this list. You do get a much better quality bag, but having that extra weight can be annoying when packing minimally. The next annoyance is also linked to material, it is incredibly stiff, this means unlike hiking bags and the other bags on this list, you can’t really cram objects in while the material molds around it, the peak design material is one shape and one shape only, it can be a real pain when packing to move to the next location. The only other thing to mention that could be seen as a con is the price, the Peak Design Travel Bag is currently £240, being the most expensive bag on this list, and a lot more than some other bags on the market, however, we personally feel it is worth it for the quality and features that you get.

You also get a LIFETIME warranty with this bag, yes lifetime!!! You get the same with every Peak Design product which is great as it lets you be a bit more carefree, knowing if anything happens to your bag that isn’t your fault, you will get a replacement. As we own a lot of Peak Design gear, we have utilised this lifetime warranty and the guys at Peak Design have always been incredibly helpful in getting us replacements. It is definitely a reason why we believe the extra cost is worth it for this bag.

You can buy the Peak Design Travel Bag here:

Here is a run through of the Peak Design Travel Bag we have:

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Please note that this page contains affiliate links. While we only recommend products that we believe in, we may benefit financially from any purchases you make.

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