I have been living out of a bag, off and on now for close to a year and I definitely would suggest to anyone planning on buying one to do their research. There are so many options when choosing a bag that it becomes difficult to decide. One thing I suggest is to spend the money on a good bag the first time or you will regret it.
Size: I prefer to have at least a 50L bag. This has enough space for everything I need. Cloths, books, Ipad, food, sleeping bag, and still have lots of room left over. A 50L would be enough for mostly everyones needs. My original bag was a 75L made by MEC. I never used that much space, it was just big, clumsy and destroyed my back.
Type: Some backpacks come with external frames, internal frames, attachment points for different gear or possibly a separate compartment for a hydration poach. Many people don’t realize how many types there are and find it easier to pick the “best looking” one without giving it much thought. Have a clear idea of what type of travel you plan on doing before going to the store
Always keep in mind the different access flaps on the bag. Nothing is worse then living out of a bag, that every time you need something, you end up making a mess by digging through everything else. I suggest buying a bag with several different compartments / pockets to make organizing easier.
When you find the perfect bag, you will thank yourself. Living out of a bag is such a freeing feeling. Paying a little extra now may save you a lot of grief down the road. You should expect to pay between $150 – 300 for a decent bag. There are bags that are more expensive but unless you plan on doing something out of the ordinary, then don’t let the salesmen trick you into an expensive rig. You will most likely never require the additional “features.” Also having a fancy brand name written down the side of you bag, tells the locals that you have money and may in fact label you as a target. Some high end companies make great products but I would not feel comfortable wearing them in certain countries.
My Backpack – Deuter 50+10 L ($190)
When it came to the second time I was purchasing a backpack, I knew I would never by a large rig ever again. Also I was prepared to spend a bit more money, which would allow me to acquire a bag with better support and overall quality. I drove to the MEC store in Calgary and spent along time looking over the different prices and features of each bag. After I was done my self education process, I called over a representative to assist me with the decision. My immediate thought was that he was going to sell me on the most expensive bag. After explaining the type of traveling I was planning on doing, he immediately pointed me towards the Dueter bag. I was shocked that without hesitation he picked this one over every other bag in the store. (The store probably has over 100 bags.) After a quick assessment it was clear that this was the bag for me and I have never looked back sense. It has done everything I ever asked it to do and it had more then enough room for everything I require. Also the access points are a huge plus. One negative to the material is that it seams to rip easily during transit (damn airport baggage handlers) but this can easily be patched up with some thread.
Deuter ACT Lite 50+10 ($175)
This is a newer version of the bag that I bought that also receives amazing reviews on amazon. If you decide to purchase this bag, I promise you will not be disappointed!