Travel Backpack Vs. Hiking Backpack How To Choose?

Are you going on a trip, and you’re wondering if you should pick up a travel backpack or a hiking backpack? Wonder no more, for we have researched this question, and we have the answer for you.

Whether you should pick a travel backpack or a hiking backpack depends on the activity that you plan to do. The two types of backpacks have their respective advantages and disadvantages, making them ideal for specific activities.

Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each type of backpack in the succeeding sections. Knowing the strengths of one over the other will make it easier for you to decide which one to choose.

Read on!

A comparison between travel backpack and hiking backpack, Travel Backpack Vs. Hiking Backpack How To Choose?

Which backpack type is more comfortable to carry?

Hiking backpacks are more comfortable than travel backpacks. They are made for carrying heavy loads for extended periods while hiking through trails and mountains.

Backpack and boots on top of the mountain

In addition to having thicker and more comfortable straps, hiking backpacks have padded hip straps that allow you to distribute the bulk of the weight of your backpack to your hips. This relieves your shoulder and back of the weight pressure that can lead to shoulder and back pain.

Some travel backpacks also have hip straps, but they rarely have the thickness and cushioning to match a hiking backpack.

Hiking backpacks always have a chest strap, while a travel backpack doesn’t always have one. A chest strap helps stabilize the shoulder straps on your back. This prevents sway that can increase back stress if your backpack is heavy.

Is there a difference between accessing the compartment of a travel backpack and a hiking backpack?

Travel backpacks open like a regular suitcase. They have a zipper along the perimeter of the backpack. This makes it easy to access the items inside your travel backpack because it opens like a clam.

This makes front-loading hiking backpacks easier to pack and arrange. Most travel backpacks have straps that secure the zippers. Zippers also make it easy to add a padlock to make the front opening more secure.

Unfortunately, the wraparound zipper makes it hard for travel backpacks to be totally waterproof.

Hiking backpacks, on the other hand, have a top-load design. The opening on top might use a drawstring or a clasp.

The absence of a zipper makes it difficult to secure a hiking backpack. You will need a mesh accessory to secure it and prevent theft.

On the other hand, the advantage of not having a zipper makes it easy to secure a hiking backpack from the elements.

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The sturdiness of a travel backpack and a hiking backpack often depends on the manufacturer.

A hiking backpack is often made of thin and lightweight materials to make it lighter and more comfortable when carrying them on long hikes. However, being lightweight doesn’t always equate to being less sturdy. Hiking backpacks from popular manufacturers are made from thin yet sturdy materials that are resistant to ripping.

On the other hand, a travel backpack is often made from thicker materials. Similarly, a thicker material doesn’t always equate to a sturdier build.

Size And Layout

Travel backpacks are often boxy and squarish. They often look like a suitcase minus the wheels and handle. Their shape makes it easy to utilize their carrying space.

Unfortunately, the squarish shape of travel backpacks makes them look bulky when full. This can make it challenging to walk through a crowded city.

Hiking backpacks, on the other hand, often have a cylindrical or semi-circular shape. Their profile is often slim and follows the contour of the human body. While this makes it challenging to prevent wrinkles on the clothes that you will bring with you, the shape makes them ideal for traveling crowded streets.

Modern hiking backpack

The cylindrical shape of hiking backpacks makes them ideal for wilderness hiking because they have a lower chance of getting snagged on a branch. A travel backpack’s bulkiness, on the other hand, makes them “unwieldy” during camping or hiking trips.

Empty Weight And Design

A list of ultralight backpacks is often populated with hiking backpacks. Hiking backpacks are made for function without any accessory that will not be useful during a hike or a climb. This semi-minimalistic design makes them lighter than travel backpacks.

Travel backpacks are designed with convenience in mind. They include multiple pockets to carry and protect a laptop, a tablet, and a mobile phone. Unfortunately, the additional compartments for gadgets add to the overall weight of a travel backpack.

Traveler backpack and hat

Another advantage of a hiking backpack is gender fitting. Since hiking backpacks often follow the contours of the human body for a better fit, it is not uncommon to find hiking backpacks that have separate designs for men, women, and even children.

Travel backpacks always follow a one-size-fits-all philosophy when it comes to design. The majority of travel backpacks are unisex in design and form.

Gender-specific designs in backpacks help address the special needs of that gender when it comes to weight distribution, strap shape, and form. Hiking backpacks for the female anatomy have the shape that follows the shape of female shoulders.

This is something that you will rarely find in a travel backpack.

If you plan to travel through an airline, having a lighter backpack is an advantage. A lightweight backpack will help you avoid additional baggage fees for having a heavy backpack.

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Pocket Configuration And Organization

Travel backpacks are known for having one large compartment, a laptop pocket, and a host of smaller pockets to help organize your things. The extra pockets make travel backpacks the champion of organizing your things. Unfortunately, additional pockets equals additional bulk and weight.

However, if you plan to travel with a laptop or a tablet, it will be easier for you to find a bag with a laptop pocket among travel backpacks.

Hiking backpacks are more conservative when it comes to pockets. The few pockets that they have are often made of mesh material to make them lighter. Because of its focus on lighter weight, it will be challenging to find a hiking backpack that has a padded laptop pocket.

Miscellaneous Features

These features are uncommon in both travel backpacks and hiking backpacks but are nonetheless useful to have when traveling.

Shoulder And Hip Strap

Some travel backpacks allow you to hide the shoulder and hip straps. This makes it easier to stash them in overhead bins. It also makes it more convenient to check them in since the straps will not get snagged.

This feature is less common in hiking bags. Only smaller hiking bags often include this feature.

Zipper Design

Additional zipper features are rare, but they are more often available in travel backpacks than in hiking backpacks. Some travel backpacks use zippers with a weather seal that helps protect your belongings from inclement weather.

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Hiking backpacks rarely include additional zipper features because they do not always include zippers in their design.

Top And Side Handles

This is another feature that is almost exclusively found in some travel bag designs.

Side straps provide you with the option to carry your backpack on its side like a duffel bag. One disadvantage of this feature is that the additional strap is also an additional weight.

What are the advantages of backpacks over suitcases?

The biggest advantage of backpacks over suitcases is that you have both of your hands free while carrying your luggage. This is not possible with a suitcase.

Rear view of a young man traveler

Another advantage of backpacks over suitcases is that it is easier to transport a backpack over uneven and difficult terrain. Suitcases are generally made only for the polished floors of airports and even terrain.

Backpacks don’t have any moving parts. This makes them more durable than suitcases.

Backpacks—especially hiking backpacks—are lighter than suitcases when empty. This allows you to bring more things with you from a weight perspective.

You can easily strap large items outside your backpack. Daisy chains in backpacks make this even easier. Suitcases are limited when it comes to carrying additional large items along.

Backpacks can be used for multiple purposes. Some hiking bags with compression straps can shrink for daily use. A backpack can double as a gym bag or a camping bag when you’re not traveling.

Backpacks allow you to blend more easily with the population of your destination.


You should consider the purpose of a backpack to determine which one is best for you. Check the strengths and weaknesses of each type to help you choose.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might find the articles below equally enjoyable to read:

How To Pack A Suit In A Duffel Bag?

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