My Travel Backpack

Backpackers photo cred:

Backpackers photo cred

Ever since I decided to join some friends on a trip to Thailand in 2009 and traveled with only a carry-on, I have wanted to be a carry-on only kind of traveler.  This, of course, is not counting the times when I pack up my entire life for one or two years and move to a new country for work.

Carry-on ONLY

When I travel on my various school breaks for 1-3 weeks I can easily pack everything into one carry on bag.  This way I don’t have to wait in lines at the airport, I don’t have to pay fees, and I don’t have to worry about stuff getting lost or stolen at the airport.

My Bag

My Rick Steves backpack after Trinidad

My Rick Steves backpack and packing cubes: still truckin’ it after Trinidad

I use a Rick Steve’s backpack. It seems to be currently unavailable, but this bag, looks exactly like it.  I have had the Rick Steves bag since 2009 when I went to Thailand for 21 days.  I also use the packing cubes, which go with it and help keep everything organized.  If you need a backpack to cart around everything but the kitchen sink and yet still manage to fit in the overhead compartments so you don’t have to check luggage, this is a great bag!

NOTE: I have since updated to a new Osprey bag which is much easier on my shoulders and is more carry-on friendly. 


Durable: I’ve used it in Thailand (twice), Mexico (many weekend trips and 7 day trip), China (10 day backpacking trip as well as shorter trips), Cambodia (9 days), 5 days in the jungles of Canaima in central Venezuela (and many shorter trips), Curacao (7 days), Trinidad (4 days), and it came with me to the Dominican Republic (10 days).  There is no sign of it breaking, ripping, or wearing out even after all the miles I’ve put on it.

Compartments: I’ve always appreciated all of the compartments it has: giant rectangular interior, interior pocket, three exterior pockets, and a mesh water bottle pocket.

Convertible: I love that it can convert into a checked bag when you extend the sides and hide the straps (great for the presents I pick up along the way).


Support: The only downside of this bag is that it doesn’t have a proper hip belt to help support the weight. So, if you are like me and you pack a lot, your shoulders will feel it later! This isn’t much of a problem if you are taking taxis and only need to carry the bag for short trips. However, in Venezuela there are a lot of long layovers (and late planes), which leaves me with an uncomfortable bag to carry around.

For that reason alone, I am thinking about replacing it.


Some bags that I am considering are lightweight, carry-on compatible, and SUPPORTIVE are:

Osprey Porter Travel Duffle 46 Liter  This is the bag that I think I will buy this summer for my upcoming Brazil & Machu Pichu Trips

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack this might be a little small for me!

Osprey Talon 44L Backpack 

Kelty Flyaway 43 Liter Backpack (no longer listed)

Kelty Redwing 50 Liter Backpack This is the bag that my inner hoarder wants, but it might be pushing the limits of carry-on acceptable… but I have read of many people fitting it into the overhead bins.

Do you have a bag that is carry-on friendly, supportive, and fairly lightweight that isn’t on this list?  I’m going to go shopping this summer, so if there is another bag I should check out please let me know!  



5 responses to “My Travel Backpack

  1. Hi Amanda! Could you offer tips for what you pack on these types of trips or do you have a blog post already? My fiance and I will be traveling to Costa Rica and Panama after our wedding for 12 days. He thinks I’ll need a bigger pack than what I have but the ones you mention are much smaller. Any advice would be great!


    • Both of those countries have warmer weather and both of them have beaches, so I’m positive that if you pack like I do, that you can fit everything into one carry-on bag!

      A few things to keep in mind: 1) Usually you can wear some things two or three times without having to wash them; 2) If you wear dresses you cut out the need for extra tops and bottoms; 3) If you are going to spend a lot of time at the beach just wear a sarong over your swimsuit around town (halter style works great); 4) If you really want to change up your look wear the same bottoms but change your top or add a scarf and nobody will notice!

      I guess I will start posting some packing lists!


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