Crossing Continents Hands-Free: The Rise of Backpack Travel 

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Written by Zach Lazzari on

Zach Lazzari is a freelance writer, fly fisherman, and explorer. He lives on the road full-time, chasing fish and wild places with his dog, Shale. Follow his journey at and @zachlazzari on Instagram.

Man looking at waterfall

Are you searching for the perfect pack to take around the world? A hands-free backpack might just be your best bet.

Structured travel with strict timelines and piles of luggage has its place in the world, but traveling with a single backpack enables more flexibility—especially for travelers who like to hit the ground running the moment they arrive at their destination. With a well designed backpack system, travelers can grab flight deals, jump on trains, and ride buses anywhere in the world with their hands free—and without the burden of dragging along heavy luggage. If selected correctly, the same durable pack can go on treks and cross over into the woods for a camping adventure.

Not all packs are created equal, though, and globe trotting out of a single backpack requires a combination of the right features and a strategic approach to packing gear.

What Makes a Great Travel Backpack?

The best travel backpacks are easy to organize, durable, and capable of working equally well in an airport and the outback. It sounds simple enough, but that is a huge task for a single pack and very few can handle the burden. The Eagle Creek National Geographic Guide Series is on of those lines that can do anything. The Borderless Convertible Carry-On is both a backpack and a rolling duffel that is built to handle intense climates and abuse. If you’re packing for the long haul, step it up to the Guide Travel Pack 65L to take on the world. Outside of the versatility, the packs in the National Geographic Guide Series are water repellant and use lockable zippers that are self repairing (aka: can handle an overstuffed load) and seal against moisture.

If your trips are more geared towards touring museums and cities, the Global Companion Travel Pack is ideal for organizing documents, camera equipment, your laptop, and clothing all in one space. It has strategic outer pockets and bulk storage, and is ready for the elements if needed with a rainfly. These packs are built with the world traveler in mind, and hold enough gear to go just about anywhere. Scale your size based on your adventure: This versatile pack comes in 40L and 65L varieties—in both men’s and women’s fits.

Lastly, the Wayfinder Collection has a mix of exceptional travel backpacks and versatile daypacks. The Wayfinder 40L has just enough space for critical layers along with organizational advantages like the Central Lock that locks up electronics within the pack design. It’s padded, comfortable, and is a favorite for savvy global travelers. The Wayfinder 30L is great for shorter trips—or as a supplemental carry on. The Wayfinder 20L is your best friend for the day-to-day commute, or for that perfect personal item to slide under the seat in front of you with mid-flight essentials.

Loading Your Backpack

Crossing continents with a backpack requires not only a great pack, but also some serious forethought on your equipment, clothing, and gear. Consider the environment and what weather conditions you will face on the clothing front. If you are flying by the seat of your pants, always bring layers and take advantage of lightweight, modern clothing that insulates and packs down into small spaces. Compression sacks are very useful for down jackets and maximizing space on long trips. Pack your least used items in the bottom of the main compartment, stow electronics away safely, and keep your immediate needs within easy access. A windbreaker at the top of your bulk storage and travel documents in an outer pocket will make life easy when you live on the go.

For these packing tips (and more!) in action, look no further than Eagle Creek Travel Expert, Jessica Dodson, who demonstrates how to pack a backpack for travel.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

How to Pack a Backpack for Travel

Packing List for the City

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