Size matters. Seriously.
March 25, 2009 6:14 PM   Subscribe

What size backpack do I need for a 17 day trip that will include four different flights, train trips & hostel/apartment stays?

At the end of May, we'll be flying to Milan from New York then traveling by train through Italy for a little less than a week (and probably staying at hostels) and ending up in Rome. From Rome, we'll fly to Barcelona, stay for 4 days in a furnished apartment and then fly to Paris and stay for four days in another furnished apartment.

I would really really like to be able to bring along only one piece of luggage, preferably a backpack. I'll be bringing my laptop (~6.5 lbs/16"), but because the Barcelona apartment has a washer, I'll only be bringing about a weeks worth of clothes.

I also don't want to check this [hopefully] one piece of luggage. All of the European airlines have the same carry on baggage requirements: It can measure no more than 55x40x20cm and there is no weight limit. I despise those rolling suitcase things so anything of that sort is not an option.

If I do go with a backpack (and at this point, I can't think of any other alternative), how many cubic inches (ballpark) should I be looking at, keeping in mind that I plan to pack as lightly as possible (aside from the laptop), but want to be able to pick up a souvenir or two?
posted by eunoia to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Buy this one. Bombproof. Waterproof. No useless pockets. Tough to get pick-pocketed. Carry-on size.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:29 PM on March 25, 2009

..or maybe go to the next larger size. But really, for long travels, the lighter the better.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:30 PM on March 25, 2009

22L bag? Dont' listen to craven_morhead, after you stick in your notebook and a pair of jeans you won't have room for anything else.

I suggest looking for a bag in the 45L range, lots of room to put clothes, notebook etc it. Look for one that opens from the side or back and not just from the top.
posted by furtive at 6:35 PM on March 25, 2009

The Red Oxx Skytrain. I love mine. (I'm traveling right now and packed in it: 1 jeans, 1 pants, yoga pants, pyjamas, 4 shirts, 1 sweater, underwear/socks for 6 days, 1 pair shoes, big toiletries kit, medication kit, Macbook, camera, 3 books.) And it would still fit more stuff.

I've never checked this bag and it squishes well for tight spaces. The backpack straps conceal away as well. I'm also planning on traveling through Europe for 2 weeks with it in June.

I did a ton of research on a carry-on backpack and my second choice was the Tom Bihn Aeronaut.

For your own research: One Bag and One Bag One World.
posted by meerkatty at 6:36 PM on March 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

For trips of a similar length, I've taken this bag and used this website . The bag can be carried like a suitcase or a backpack, and packs down pretty nicely. Another excellent option: compression sacks .
posted by BundleOfHers at 6:36 PM on March 25, 2009

I made it for 2 months in Europe with a 45L pack. Google tells me that's about 2,700 cubic inches. Most other backpackers I saw had 60L or 75L packs and they were all envious of me. With that said I did have to travel light. Like one pair of pants, three t-shirts, one sweater and one jacket, a towel, plus socks and underwear, and misc crap. This is fine for hanging out in hostels and wandering the streets, but if you have a more diverse set of social engagements and need to bring nice clothes, it might not cut it.

This is another option, a convertible suitcase/backpack from Rick Steves' store.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:37 PM on March 25, 2009

And by the way, you can bring 6 days worth of t-shirts and underwear, or you can bring 3 days worth and pack a travel laundry kit. Though don't trust the suction cups on those cheap clotheslines. (Other 'travel light' tips abound all over the internet.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:53 PM on March 25, 2009

I have an eBags Weekender Convertible that I really like for "backpacking". I've used it all over the world and have no complaints. It easily fits the carry-on requirements because it squishes due to not having a solid frame.

It is also significantly cheaper than the other options I looked at.
posted by smackfu at 7:15 PM on March 25, 2009

I went to south america for a few weeks a few months ago - I took this bag. I found it to be good quality, decent size (a few changes of clothing + other random stuff), and I carried it on to planes - a huuuge plus in my book.
posted by jourman2 at 8:40 PM on March 25, 2009

Ortlieb. Oh man, Ortlieb. It wasn't europe, but i lived out of that very backpack (in black) with a laptop and everything you'd need for the better part of a month. If you've got access to a washer and dryer, you're set.

Orliebs are cavernous, i would get the organizer if there are things you need to access with frequency, otherwise just get a few pouches for odds and ends. They're comfortable, have a padded back, and a waist strap. They're nigh waterproof, and unlike chrome or timubuk2 bags, they won't get moist and mold or mildew, because the vinyl is on the outside, not a canvas. I've had mine for years, and its holding up great.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:51 PM on March 25, 2009

I spent two weeks in SE Asia with a 35L backpack--basically the standard laptop backpack you'd buy for school. Two complete changes of clothes, a DSLR camera, and a lot of 'emergency' stuff I didn't need, and I still had room to spare. I was washing my clothes in the sink every night because it was hellishly hot and I sweated. At the end, I thought I could be comfortable carrying even less stuff.
posted by fatbird at 12:31 AM on March 26, 2009

The smaller the better. The best way to pack you stuff in tight is to have several compression and stuff sacks inside the larger back-pack. it helps to keep things organized. if you put all the socks, or all the undies, into one stuff sack - you can compress it down really really tight, and you can find it easy.
posted by Flood at 4:45 AM on March 26, 2009

How about a carry-on sized travel pack that that has backpack straps AND rolls? Sounds like you'll be in urban areas. You may find the backpack straps aren't as essential as you might think. I've taken one of these to South Africa, and France, and my wife steals it for all her weekend getaways. It's pretty slammin.

Check it out here.
posted by thenormshow at 5:32 AM on March 26, 2009

Another up for the Red Oxx bags here. I have the older AirBoss, which doesn't have the pack option of the SkyTrain. I've traveled a lot with it both for work and pleasure. My longest trip to date has been about 3 weeks, using the One Bag approach. I've never had a problem with taking the the AirBoss as a carry-on. They are tough bags. Mine has been through the wars---and several washings---in 5 years, but it's still in excellent shape.

Another plus I've found: Red Oxx bags are unconventional colours. It's easy to find your bag if you do decide to check it.
posted by bonehead at 7:59 AM on March 26, 2009

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