The first thing to consider when choosing a backpack is the size. You may be tempted to buy a large backpack: perhaps 50-80 litres. This is almost certainly not what you want. You want to think about packing as light as possible, definitely under 15kg in your pack. The best backpack for travelling is probably 30-40 litres, which allows for everything you need and stops you from packing extraneous things which you’ll seldom use and will hurt your back.The best backpack for travel will also be light. Surprisingly, many backpack harnesses and materials are unnecessarily heavy. You need to consider the durability of the material against the type of use you’re likely to put it through. Some ultra-light materials can be very durable but will rip if caught in an airport conveyor belt. If you’re flying often consider tougher material.The best backpack for travel must be able to be locked. If you have a hiking-style top-loading bag, it’s unlikely to be easily locked. You may need another “overbag” to cover and lock it for flights, left luggage, and when you leave it behind in your hostel or hotel room.The size and shape of your backpack is possibly the most important factor, however. There’s no amount of reading that can help you with this: you need to try the bag on, with some weight in it, and enlist the help of a friend or shop staff to fit it correctly. You might find the harness doesn’t sit right on your hips or around your breasts. You might find the length is too long or too short – creating pressure in the wrong places.At the end of the day, the best backpack for travelling around the world is a personal decision, but you can learn a lot by reading travel blogs and asking the people who have been travelling for a long time. There’s a lot of people willing to help with your travel plans.
Somewhere before my bus broke down in Australia, I was called a flashpacker. Despite traveling for 18 months, it was the first time I’d heard the term. A flashpacker is defined as someone, unusually in their mid 20s to early 30s, who travels like a backpacker but has more disposal income as well as electronics such as a camera or laptop. Flashpackers also expect better hostels and services.Neither fully backpacker nor tourist, flashpackers are new to the traveling vocabulary. Flashpackers sleep in hostels, use a backpack, and want cheap transportation but blow their wad on meals, beer, tours, and parties. They usually aren’t walking into a hostel randomly or wearing the same shirt for a week. Many hostels are up scaling to accommodate the increasing wants and desires of flashpackers and you’ll find these hostels in all corners of the earth. Flashpackers still have no fixed journey and all the time to roam around but don’t pinch every penny. They are backpackers with means.Backpacking is not about a look, it’s a lifestyle. Just because a person doesn’t have a certain style, doesn’t mean they lack the character of a backpacker. It doesn’t make them less of a backpacker. It goes against the backpacker mentality to look down on someone because they travel differently. Aren’t we supposed to be embracing different ways of life?It all comes down to what makes a backpacker a backpacker. That’s spirit. The desire to explore new places and experience new people. Backpacking is about opening your mind to new things and looking differently at the world. It’s not about the stuff you carry. As your spirit is the same, what stuff you carry shouldn’t matter.We’re all flashpackers, whether you like it or not. We may not be driving up to the hostel in a limo but we all expect a little “flash” nowadays. According to a Hostelworld study in 2006, 21 percent of people travel with a laptop, 54 percent with an MP3 player, 83 percent with a mobile phone and a whopping 86 percent travel with a digital camera.Think about your last holiday- how many travelers did you see with cameras? iPods? Laptops? I can’t remember seeing one person without a camera, and at least 3/4 of the people I saw had iPods.The truth is we all travel with costly electronics now. We check our email and Skype our friends. We all have a camera and most of us have an iPod. We are flashpackers and it’s not a bad thing. All these electronics allows us to stay better connected with our friends, our family, and helps us better document our travels. The key is to once in awhile to put down the camera, turn off the computer, and enjoy the culture you came to see.The backpacker who set off with 1 shirt, a small pack, and two baht to his name is getting hard to find. Many of us have a little more money and want a little more but we still carry the backpacker spirit. We still seek new cultures, exotic locales, and long term travel. We still look for cheap hostels and transport. We camp on that jungle trek. The divergence is that now we also want a place to plug in our camera, check our e-mail, and take a hot shower. We just want to be pampered…once in awhile.