How to pick the perfect backpack for a solo trip

Luggage can make or break a trip. You might think you need to bring all your clothes with you whenever you travel (because you never know when you might need those huge boots or that sequin dress), but trust me. You don’t.

If you need help finding the perfect backpack for a budget trip, read on for my recommendations!

My holdall nightmare

I learned this the hard way. The first time I went on an extended backpacking trip, I brought the hugest holdall I could find.

This thing was a huge floppy monster, almost as big as me, and it ripped within a few weeks. Not only that, but it was a nightmare to take anywhere.

It couldn’t even stand up on its own, so I had to constantly make sure it wasn’t falling on people.

You can’t rely on other people to help you shove your suitcase into the luggage compartment or push it for you when you get tired if you’re travelling solo, so you need luggage that you’re comfortable with.

I never used that holdall again and it’s still lying somewhere in the corner of my room, gathering dust.

The backpack from hell

On my next trip, I took a backpack. This would have been fine if the backpack hadn’t previously belonged to my 6’2ft dad.

It was huge – 60 litres at least – and it was heavy, it hurt my arms, it didn’t fit my body, and I ended up with back pain that lasted about two months.

I ended up getting lost in Bucharest for four hours, lugging this huge monstrosity up and down the dark streets as I tried to navigate my way to the Old Town with a dead phone and zero knowledge of Romanian.

This type of backpack has loads of room so it’s great if you’re tall, but avoid at all costs if you’re short!

The perfect backpack

When it came to my big USA trip, I bought a medium size backpack which could be adjusted to fit my 5’2ft body.

It has a mesh back which allows your skin to breath, it has adjustable arms that can be tightened or loosened depending on your height, and it fits everything you need for a 4-5 week trip.

This backpack is also sturdy (I took it all around America and it’s still in good condition), and it’s really affordable considering how durable it is.

This is the backpack I took to America (and bought from Amazon). I really can’t recommend it enough, it made my trip so much easier.

Other luggage tips

For longer trips, I 100% recommend a backpack.

You might think a backpack is harder to carry around because you have to carry the weight, but the weight is evenly distributed.

As you don’t fill your backpack with ridiculously heavy items,  it will be a lot easier to carry a backpack up and down stairs or lift to store in luggage compartments.

You’ll also get a nice little strength-building workout just by carrying it around, which is a perk if you’re not one of those travellers who goes running every morning.

Backpacks are ideal for uneven terrain. If you’re going hiking or walking through a field don’t take a suitcase. It’ll end badly and get messy.


Suitcases are good for shorter trips or trips where you’re only staying in a few places and can leave your bags at the hotel.

It’s a lot easier to keep your stuff neat and tidy with a suitcase because you won’t have to pull everything out and rummage through all your possessions, plus they’re better for people with bad backs.

Look for suitcases with multiple compartments – great for storing toiletries, underwear or dirty clothes – and try to pick a design that stands out so you don’t panic at the airport when every suitcase looks more or less the same.

Spinner suitcases

Spinner suitcases – the ones with four rotating wheels – are great for back pain because they require very little effort. All you need to do is wheel them alongside you.

The downside is that their wheels are more likely to get jammed and they’re normally more expensive than regular suitcases.

Hardshell vs soft shell

Hardshell suitcases are durable but heavy, soft material suitcases are light but more likely to rip.

Whatever you decide, make sure to bring something a little smaller than you think you need – you never end up wearing all the clothes you bring and it’ll encourage you to be economical with your packing.

Avoid prices which seem too good to be true, because they probably are.

I wish you happy, safe and exciting travels!

Get your travel luggage here

Disclaimer: this article includes affiliate links to Amazon. If you want to buy a backpack and click on one of the links in this post you won’t have to pay anything extra but I will get a small commission. I own the recommended backpack and it served me well during my trip around America.
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About Sophia Moss

Writer and social media person at Dirt and Glory media. Freelance comment moderator, freelance writer and travel enthusiast.

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