3 Years of Searching for a New Travel Backpack – My Requirements

I’ve been using the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible since late 2014.

On my first trip with it, around Lebanon and Egypt, two problems were clear: (1) at 3 lb 15 oz, the bag is too heavy, and (2) the convertible shoulder straps are terrible, leaving painful marks on my shoulders when I carry it for long periods.

I’ve looked on and off for a replacement, recently stepping up my effort. I’ve sifted through many manufacturer sites, luggage and outdoors stores and websites, and blog reviews. All have left me disappointed.

There are lots of great options in the medium size (30-40L) range and I love my old, trusted Jansport Odyssey from pre-laptop sleeve days.

For one bag travel I am not so good as I was a decade ago at packing light, so what I want is something a tad larger with the same functionality.

Stepping up to large backpacks (45-55L) you enter a realm of both the boring and the gimmick.

What I Want in a Travel Backpack

I’ve got a candidate that looks good on paper. Delivery will take a week in the color I want, so until then, here are my requirements for a travel backpack:

  • Looks like a regular backpack
  • Not a tactical pack, since I already go to places where people suspect I am military
  • 45-55L capacity
  • No more than 23″ high for carry-on purposes, so not those towering hiking packs
  • Under 3 pounds, or at least under 3.5 pounds
  • Permanent, affixed shoulder straps, no clips, o-rings, etc.
  • NOT CONVERTIBLE to shoulder bag, carry-on, etc, this leads to terrible shoulder straps
  • Few dangling straps, though I can cut those off like I did to my Jansport
  • If if has a hip belt, then ideally it shall be removable, or at least easy to hide or cut off
  • No or minimal laptop pouch, so the padded sleeves doesn’t take up half the pack
  • 2-3 versatile compartments, but not tons of space-consuming organizers, water bladders, multimedia pockets, etc
  • Available in colors other than black, because black is boring and I have a theory that it is more targeted for theft

Something Like This

To give an idea, something along the lines of the discontinued High Sierra Classic 2 Series Rappel 50 Frame Pack is what I am after. A few vendors have it on Amazon.

Newer High Sierra models unfortunately violate many of my requirements. The one time I had a piece of High Sierra luggage I did not like the functionality or workmanship, so this one is a backup if my first choice does not work out.

Stay tuned!

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21 Comments on "3 Years of Searching for a New Travel Backpack – My Requirements"

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John F Caffrey
I had traveled for many years with an older Gerry top loader which has the top compartment folded over the large opening of the single barrel shaped compartment which had an unpadded sleeve for a small laptop or tablet. Even with TSA precheck, you now have to take it out and that was a pain. First, unclip two straps, shove the top compartment up and over the pack then pull the tablet out which invariably got hung up on the sides of the sleeve. Time to upgrade. A lot of research later I bought a Osprey Tropos. The top is… Read more »

I’m guessing that you tried the Mr. Davis Continuum 2.0? Was the Black only color a deal breaker? I agree it’s tough to find the ideal travel backpack

Jay Moore
I went from the MEI Voyageur (3.5 lbs, 44L) to the Tortuga (5 lbs, 44L ) to the Osprey Farpoint (3 lbs, 40L) None of them fit my requirements perfectly but I find the Farpoint my favorite. When not fully loaded it fits under most airline seats allowing me to skirt around basic economy requirements (unless they measure it) It’s also the most comfortable and stylish. If you can deal with the size (don’t think about putting a pair of shoes in there) it’s a great pack, albeit with a large laptop space. Not for those who can’t travel light… Read more »

For our family the Osprey Farpoint 55 has fit the bill. A tick heavier than you want but we love them. They fit in the carryon space with no issues. Love that it is NOT top loading and these packs have held up amazingly well.. Daughters is 5 years old and still looks like when she bought it. Its been abused, squished and put through the paces over many trip.


I have the eBags Weekender as well. On LCC flights with weight limit, I use the CabinMax Metz 44l – it’s the lightest I have found, decent to carry, good organizer, but no unnecessary straps m stuff. I have reviewed it with photos:
They also have a smaller version. A slightly sturdier alternative is the CabinZero, also reviewed on my blog!
Good luck finding the right one…


Easy. Cotopaxi Allpa 35.


RTC, for maxing out my carry-on I rock the RedOx Sky Train (http://sp.ccs.utc.com/sites/CPP/Projects/CHILLERS/XRC%20Two%20Stage/Project%20Documentation/Forms/AllItems.aspx)

I’ve used it for work travel with a slim line laptop I slip in, and then would get it in an ERJ overhead bin. Used it last weekend for a work trip where I slipped away to Guatemala for the weekend from FL (thanks RTC for the inspiration).

It’s 4 lbs, I leave behind the shoulder strap and only use the backpack straps, that’s getting closer to 3.5 lbs. It’s 38.3 Liters.


Love my AER travel backpack!


Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45

I purchased my first one 5 years ago, it has held up great. I will never, ever ever travel with a different bag. As a bonus, anytime another Tom Bihn owner sees you with one they will strike up a conversation with you about how they similarly feel that it is the best – and only bag – they will ever travel with.


The Arc’teryx Miura 45 is this bag for me — although it’s discontinued, unfortunately. Mine has been all over the world and still use for weekenders at home.

I’m partial to climber’s bags since they are usually made to be light, easy access, and without a bunch of gimmicks (or things to snag when you’re on a ledge). Good luck!


Have you looked into Zpacks? They’re backpacking backpacks, but they’re definitely lighter/smaller than traditional ones.


Good Luck!


Interested to see what turns up.