How to pick the right backpack? An explanation by pro’s and checklist!

In 2012, Ries bought his first backpack. What he paid attention to when searching for a backpack? To be honest, mainly the price and whether it was big enough. Now years later, we are in the Meern (the Netherlands), at the office of NOMAD®. Product designer Mathijn explains exactly what we should pay attention to when purchasing a backpack.

What to look for when choosing a backpack?

Do you know what to look for when purchasing a backpack? How do you know if a backpack fits well and what the right size is for you?

1. Does the backpack match your way of travelling?

There are several backpacks in front of us. Mathijn asks what kind of trip we are going to make. We look at him with question marks all over our faces. “Uh well, we are going to backpack through several countries”. Mathijn patiently asks a few more questions: “Are you going to do multi-day hikes with the backpack?”, “Are you travelling by public transport?”, “How many items do you want to take with you and is weight important to you?”. After our answers, he comes to the conclusion that for this journey, travel comfort is the most important.

Travel comfort versus wearing comfort

“There are two types of backpacks,” explains Mathijn, “backpacks with travel comfort and backpacks with wearing comfort.”

Travel comfort for backpacks

If you are going to travel for a longer period of time using public transport, in different countries and if your backpack is actually your entire home, then the content must be well protected. The bag that fits you is a sturdy bag, made of a material that can take a beating, has a thick transport cover and a heavier coating. In short, a bag that protects your belongings incredibly well during all those moments in buses, flights and trains. These bags are generally slightly heavier (difference +/- 1 kilo).

Wearing comfort with a backpack

Are you planning to make a trip where you will carry your bag often on your back, for example during a trip with multi-day hikes? Do you try to pack as lightly as possible? Then you are looking for a bag with wearing comfort. These are smaller bags made from a lighter material. They have strings for walkings sticks, special compartments for your water bag and are arranged in such a way that you wear them as lightly as possible.

It is however not that case that a backpack focusing on travel comfort cannot be light as well. Or that a backpack with wearing comfort does not offer good protection to your belongings. It is a distribution that makes it a little easier for you to reach your goal while travelling.Nomad backpack Amsterdam

2. Does the backpack fit you well?

We now know that we will opt for a travel comfort backpack. Now Mathijn explains how to see if a bag fits you well. The most important thing, does it feel good? The intention is that the backpack, when properly adjusted, will distribute the weight well, but with the heaviest part resting on your hips. For this, the hip belt must sit low on your “hip ball,” not above it, in your waist, as many people think.

NOMAD® Tip: a backpack should not be too high. The Karoo bags that we use have an adjustable mechanism that allows you to raise or lower the centre of the bag on your back.

After you have properly adjusted the hip belt, adjust the shoulder straps. The intention is that the bag does not pull you back and that the straps follow the line of your shoulder blades, explains Mathijn. It is important that the straps do not rub on your armpits or neck. This is often a sign that the shoulder straps are too wide.

NOMAD® Tip: Because women and men are differently built, NOMAD® has made special Slim Fit bags. These fit better with a woman’s body with narrower shoulders and waist.

Finally, it is important that the backpack is comfortable in general. When it is fully loaded and you walk with it, it should not move too much and stay in place. The backpack must give you support. Every person is different and so is every brand of backpacks. “It may be that one brand is not comfortable for your body but another is. In that sense you must go for that other brand, “explains Mathijn.Nomad backpack Amsterdam

3. Is the backpack logically arranged & safe?

“These bags have a zipper in the front!” I exclaim, after which Ries looks at me strangely, why does that fact make me so happy? Well, I explain, that way you don’t have to take out your entire luggage from above, but you just open the front, much easier!

The versatility of compartments in the top, a hidden zipper on the inside and the option to put a bottle of water or slippers in the net pockets on the side are also handy. However, this is a personal preference, you may not like many compartments at all because you will lose things quickly. Think about this when buying a backpack.

Flight bag and rain cover

The use of a rain cover and flight bag is important to protect your bag against rain, dirt, oil or damage. It is also a lot safer: if you have a lock on the zippers, one cannot just put something in your bag when it is on a bus, train or plane. A flight bag must be sturdy with a handle that can carry your bag without tearing (we already wore out quite a few flight bags because the handles went loose or caused cracks at the seams).Nomad backpack Amsterdam

4. Is the backpack good looking and does it fit your budget?

And finally, it is of course also nice that you like the look of the backpack. Backpacks are generally not the most beautiful objects, but you must feel comfortable while wearing them. However, I think our Karoo backpacks are beautiful with the special fabric and because of the slim design!

Also important: does the bag fit within your budget? Of course, it is not the intention that you go through all your vacation money purchasing your backpack.Nomad backpack Amsterdam

Checklist: is this the right backpack for you?

With this checklist, you are ready to find your new backpack! Good luck and have fun travelling!

1. Does the backpack match your way of travelling?
☑ Does the bag suit your travel purpose: wearing comfort versus travelling comfort?
☑ Is the backpack large or small enough? If you take a lot of things with you, choose a 60-70 L bag, if you travel as compact as possible then 40-50L is enough.

2. Does the backpack fit well?
☑ Is the backpack securely on your hips?
☑ Is the backpack not too high?
☑ Is the backpack comfortable with your shoulders, neck and chest? Do the shoulder straps follow the line of your shoulders? Does it not pinch your neck, chest or arms?
☑ If you walk, does the bag stay in place?
☑ Is the backpack comfortable in general?

3. Is the backpack logically arranged & safe?
☑ Are there enough pockets and compartments for you?
☑ Can you access the luggage via a zipper in the front?
☑ Is there a flight bag and/or rain cover with sturdy handles?
☑ Are there eyes on the zippers so that you can put a lock on them?

4. And finally
☑ Do you like the look of the bag?
☑ Does the backpack fit your budget?

Click here to open and print this checklist as a pdf.

NOMAD®: a journey of more than 40 years

NOMAD® is a traditional Dutch brand, founded in 1978 by Bob Kooijmans. The company started selling sleeping bags, but soon expanded to tents, bags, clothing and sleeping mats. Funny fact: NOMAD® even made special children’s sleeping mats for a while, when the former director Anouk Kooijmans herself had children with whom she wanted to go out camping.

The brand continues to experiment with new products that make travelling even easier. For example, NOMAD® was the first to introduce bamboo dresses and they came up with Polartec fleece jackets. We ourselves are immediately brainstorming about new products. For example, we hope that packing cubes and foldable cups will come onto the market.Nomad backpack Amsterdam

Dutch pride

Mathijn has been working at NOMAD® for almost 19 years. He knows the products he makes in and out. We notice how much love he has for his work! He is not the only one who has been working here for so long, most “Nomads” have been working here all their lives. They are proud of the company and its products.

And that is typical of the brand, the NOMAD® products also last a lifetime. Take a look in an average Dutch household and I am sure you will find at least one NOMAD® sleeping bag, tent or pair of boots. We discovered that the sturdy mountain boots from Ries, which he has had for 15 years, are from NOMAD®. Just like his zip-off pants, a sleeping bag and a camping pillow.Nomad backpack Amsterdam

Charlotte Plans a Trip & NOMAD®

Our visit to the NOMAD® office is part of a long-term partnership that we have with NOMAD®. We have become part of the NOMAD® Family, we are #IAMNOMAD®. This means that we use NOMAD® bags, provide NOMAD® with feedback and sometimes do cool giveaways. Curious about another blogger couple who is also part of the NOMAD® Family? Then take a look here: WeLeaf.

Our backpacks:

We travel through Africa with the Karoo backpacks. Charlotte has the blue 60 L Slimfit Karoo Backpack, Ries the 70 L Karoo Backpack in the colour green. The backpacks come with a flight and rain cover as standard. Click here for more information about the different backpacks that NOMAD® has.

Curious what we take along while traveling? Check out our world trip travel pack list!

Nomad backpack Amsterdam

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