How To Choose The Best Travel Backpack | Part 2: Form | The Right One Bag Carry-On Pack For You

Welcome to the next video in our series
on how to choose the best one-bag travel backpack for you. In this video we’ll
break down a travel backpack’s form – including the bag weight and size. We’re
big fans of carry-on only, and we think it’s such a better way to travel if you
don’t have to check your bags. We’re going to take a look at weather resistance
and how to protect your gear from the elements. We’re also going to take a look
at durability and quality – including what kind of zippers to look out for, and what
types of fabrics to consider when you’re searching for a pack. So let’s jump right
into it. [upbeat music playing] So for bag weight and size we really prefer carry-on, and this is going to
vary based on different airlines. Everybody has different rules and they
allow you to carry different weight and different dimensions. A good resource for
this is And they kind of break down every single airline
and the weight that you’re allowed on each, and we’ve found it to be a pretty
good resource. It’s pretty well updated and it’ll give you an idea if you’re
able to travel with your bag or not on specific airlines. It’s easy to get
caught up and hung up on all this litre talk when it comes to backpacks. But the
truth is there’s really no industry standard, and it can be inaccurate from
brand to brand. So a couple things to look out for: one being the fabric that
it’s made out of. So you know, if it’s a thicker fabric and you’re not going to be
able to fit quite as much in there. And when it does come to top-loading
backpacks as well, it’s important to consider what the company means when
they say the “volume”. So maybe the marketing team at the company can say
that a bag is “40 litres” but that’s only when the pack is cinched to the top. But
then when it’s cinched down to the bottom maybe it becomes, you know, 34 litres because you’re losing all that extra space when it’s cinched down.
Another thing to consider is that if your bag is a weird shape, if it’s some
kind of trapezoid, it’s going to be a little bit harder to stuff full. And although we
don’t necessarily recommend rectangular packs, sometimes that can come with a bit of an aesthetic penalty, you’re going to be able
to fit a lot more in there. So if you’re looking for a really high capacity, you
may generally want to look for more boxy backpacks that’ll allow you to fit more.
And again that efficient use of space and that true volume can really make or
break the functionality of a pack when you’re on the road. Pack profile is
another consideration that a lot of people don’t consider or talk about. And
when we say pack profile we’re talking about how thin a backpack fits onto your
back. So if it’s you know, thinner to your back it’s generally going to be a better
center of gravity as it’s going be more with you. But if it hangs out quite a bit
out the back, it’s going to feel heavier and it’s going be harder to carry around.
With pack profile it’s also kind of a consideration thing. So if you’re getting
onto a plane, you’re getting onto a bus, you yourself take up less space and
you’re not going to be hitting people in the face with your backpack as
you’re kind of turning around. Another thing we want to take a look at is top-
loading vs. panel-loading backpacks (otherwise known as clamshell). And
basically what it is – as for top-loading it’s a flap that opens up and you’re
able to stuff a bunch of things inside. It’s basically a giant bucket. And then a
clamshell bag is going to function more like your traditional suitcase. So
it’s going to open up all the way. You’re going to be able to have access on
everything inside of it, and you’re going to be able to easier organize your pack.
Now there’s some pros and cons of each one of those styles for travel. The pro
of a top loader is that there’s less that can go wrong. So you don’t have a
zipper going around the entirety of your pack – that if it breaks, you’re kind of
screwed. But with a top loader you don’t really have that issue since it’s just
basically a flap that’s going to fold down. And with the top loader, since you are
lacking some of that access, you’re probably going to want to get some
packing cubes, or other types of organizers for your bags, so you can kind
of group up different items. Because you don’t want to be going to the bottom of
your top loader pack every time you’re grabbing, you know, some toothpaste. So for a consideration we found the WANDRD Prvke to be interesting when it comes
to a clamshell or a top loader. This pack actually does both –
it is a top loader, and it also has a bit of a larger zippered compartment
where you can lay it out clamshell. So this is a kind of interesting pack that
doesn’t force you to choose between one or the other. Weather resistance is
another key thing to consider when you’re taking a look at one-bag travel
backpacks. On one hand you want to be able to survive a light rain, you know,
maybe even a monsoon for 20 minutes if you’re traveling around Southeast Asia
with the setup that you have. But on the other hand, usually with urban travel and
this type of more city travel, you don’t really need something that’s waterproof.
Unless you want to go diving with your MacBook Pro in the back of your laptop
compartment, there’s really no need for all that extra waterproof “tech”. Whether
it’s a water resistant coating on the fabric that kind of helps keep the water
out, whether it’s a fancy material that kind of additionally keeps water out, or
whether it’s a zipper with like an aqua guard on it, or a water resistant zipper;
all that stuff can really kind of help pull together and create a more weather-
resistant pack. But again, you probably don’t need it. So with all this talk on
water resistance, if you do have a couple of pieces that you really want to stay
waterproof with – you know maybe your phone, maybe your passport, some important
documents, your money – consider getting another type of container that you can
put inside of your backpack as a fail-safe. So for instance, if we take a
look at the DAKA Magpul pouches – those are almost waterproof. They are highly
water-resistant and they do work if they’re zipped up correctly. They are
submergible and no water gets inside. However you know it’s not a completely
submergible solution; you can’t go diving with it. But if you do have that inside
of your bag and, you know, your bag falls off a boat – likely when it’s in the water
that stuff is going to stay dry or at least stay dry enough for you to
use it and for you to salvage it, even if your clothing in your bag isn’t
completely dry. Whether you’re traveling for a week, a month or a year, it’s
important to consider the durability and quality of your backpack. You don’t want
something to break, as you’re basically going to be living out of that thing for
the extent that you’re traveling. It’s also good to have something that can
last for multiple years and you can just get more use out of in general. You know,
spend a little bit more on the first run and then end up buying less in the long
run if you have something that’s of higher quality. It’s hard to tell if a
bag is going to be durable right out of the box, but we do try to test bags for as
long as we can before giving them a review. So there are a couple of key
considerations with the materials and the zippers to take a look at when
you’re trying to find a high-quality pack. So starting with the zippers – which
are especially important on clamshell bags – you want to take a look for high-
quality zippers. And YKK is a very popular Japanese brand that a lot of
high-quality bag manufacturers and designers use for their bags. And they
don’t try to mess around in building their own zippers – they just stick a YKK
on there, and it’s normally good to go because YKK makes such high quality. So
how do you look out for that? There are a couple different ways. Sometimes you’ll
see YKK on the zipper pulls. Start looking at something around you – if you
do have a higher quality garment. Like Patagonia will use them in their jackets.
Some backpacks will use them on their bags. Even some pants will use YKK
zippers. And having that YKK little brand of approval on there, it’s kind of a way
to let consumers know that that zipper is of high quality and the manufacturer
didn’t cheap out. YKK has a bunch of different weights. So a #10 zipper
is going to be really big and fat – you know maybe that’s on the main clamshell of
the bag. It’s important to have that strong, thick zipper there that’s going
to hold all your stuff together. And then inside you may see zippers of lower
numbers or lower weights. Maybe a YKK #4 on a pocket that is on the interior of
your pack that, you know, is going to hold less stuff – you know bear
less of a load. And just generally it’s not as big of a deal if a smaller zipper
inside your pack breaks versus the main clamshell. So be on the lookout for that –
any types of weights that companies do use. There’s a couple ways to take a look
at this – sometimes the company will list it on their website and their specs if
they’re, like, really hardcore into bags and they know that their market really
cares about this stuff. Sometimes, but not always, you can see the YKK brand on the
zippers as well as the number and the weight that it is. But just note that you
can’t always tell. The GORUCK GR2 is an example of a pack that really puts
durability first. And when the bag is empty it weighs 4.75 lbs,
which is pretty heavy. But they just have these heavy-duty YKK zippers
on it. It’s made of 1000D Cordura fabric, and it’s reinforced in so many
different places; the durability is totally out of control. And that’s the
backpack that I traveled with for a little bit over a year, and I did
really like it. But there’s an example of a company and a bag that’s super strong,
super durable and doesn’t mess around with cheap zippers. There are a ton of
different backpack fabric and materials out there that are used. And oftentimes
you’ll see them described with a number followed by an uppercase D. And what that
D stands for is Denier. “The D in 1000D refers to the denier, probably
the most talked about stat. It’s a unit of measurement for the weight of yarn but
shouldn’t be used as an indication of strength. How denier is measured is a
little convoluted. It is the weight in grams of 9000 meters of yarn. So
1000D would weigh 1000 grams for a 9000-meter length. In turn,
500D would weigh 500 grams.” So starting with ripstop nylon – it’s a pretty
thin and kind of swishy material, it sort of feels like a windbreaker. So the
Patagonia Alpine Houdini for instance is made of ripstop nylon. A lot of bag
companies use them as a kind of great liner for their products. And basically
what ripstop nylon means – it’s pretty close to nylon, but the “ripstop” element
comes from the specific weave of the fabric. So there is a square weave that’s
going to stop any additional rips from happening. So if you rip traditional
nylon it may continue to rip, but if you rip ripstop nylon it’s going to stop at
those individual square grid points. And it’s
currently used in ejector seats for fighter pilots, so it’s definitely a
pretty bad-ass fabric. Ballistic nylon refers to any fabric that has a
ballistic weave, which is actually pretty similar to a common basket weave. This
gives it an excellent tensile and tear strength especially when layered, but
also makes it heavier than a lot of other materials. So keep in mind that
ballistic nylon is usually black. And why is it called ballistic? It was used by
Airmen in World War 2 to help protect them from shrapnel and other things
flying around. Cordura nylon is a very thick and popular strong nylon that’s
used on bags today. It usually does require some durable water-repellent
coating to help keep that additional water outside of the fabric. A lot of
companies end up using Cordura for their bags because it has some of the best
abrasion resistance out there for the weight. Sure there are more durable
materials but again, those are going to weigh a lot more and Cordura has a very
good weight to protection ratio. Cordura is often used in a lot of protective
motorcycle equipment because it’s very abrasion resistant. And if somebody ends up taking a spill on their motorcycle it’s going to
protect them pretty decently, you know without making them look very stiff in
the process. So it does have that great amount of flexibility. And you’ll always
see a registered trademark next to Cordura because it’s an actual company
that creates this blend of nylon. Kodra nylon is basically the same as Cordura,
but it comes from Korea; same kind of concept. Sailcloth lately has become a
little bit more popular for some bag manufacturers because of its high water
resistance and it’s thinner overall material. The actual material is called
“ultra-high molecular-weight polyethylene” but most known as sailcloth. It’s
basically the same material used for the sail of a sailboat; pretty easy to
understand. It’s a relatively rare material for backpacks, but brands like
Tortuga have taken advantage of it for their bags. This Tortuga Homebase uses it, and it’s a very thin cloth that doesn’t require
much liner and it still has some pretty high water resistance. However it does
have some drawbacks – it’s a little bit crinkly, it’s a tad bit shiny, and also
it’s not super flexible. So if you’re trying to jam your bag shut, trying to
stretch it out a little bit, it’s not really going work. And it does definitely
get some aesthetic blemishes on it. It’s not quite as abrasion resistant as
something like Cordura. Dyneema is another fabric that works really well
for backpacks. And it’s going to be more expensive than nylon but it’s also going
to be lighter. The makers of Dyneema claim that it’s 15 times stronger than
steel, although we haven’t had the opportunity to test that specifically; it
is a very strong fabric. And it’s important to note that nylon is going to
be a little bit more flexible than Dyneema. Dyneema is going to be a little bit harder to jam a bunch of stuff inside of your pack. It’s going to be a little bit
less forgiving than nylon. But traditionally it will be lighter and it
will be thinner, so you will have that extra space to start with. It’s also a
little bit more expensive than nylon so just keep that in mind. If you do see a
Dyneema bag and you’re wondering why it is more expensive than say a traditional
nylon bag, that’s why; because they opted for stronger materials. These materials
are great and all, but again it only matters how the bag manufacturer puts
them together. So again try to find a reputable brand that has a good track
record and you’re going to be happy with your backpack purchase. And also take a
look for warranties – the best bag companies have the best warranties
because they make the most durable stuff that doesn’t break. They can afford to
put their stamp on something and guarantee it; if they’re not receiving a
lot of bags back from consumers because they don’t like them or something broke
on it. So if you take a look at GORUCK and their scars warranty, they really
stand behind their packs. If something does go wrong you just send it in and
they’ll fix it, usually for free. Companies like Patagonia that have a
more ethical stance on production, also stand behind their products with their
ironclad guarantees. So something breaks, no matter how old it is, you can either
send it in for replacement or repair depending on the state that it’s in. And
it’s either free, or they have a little bit of costs associated with it
depending on how the damage was done. Thanks for taking a look at this video
and the “how to choose the best one-bag travel backpack for you” series. Stay
tuned for the next one. [upbeat music playing]


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