Are you searching for the best travel backpack? In the run up to my current six-month Asia adventure, I teamed up with my favourite travel store Nomad Travel and leading outdoor retailer Lowe Alpine to review a pack I’d had my eye on for some time. Five weeks into my trip, it’s time to share why I can’t bear to be parted from my AT Travel Trekker 70+30 backpack.
WHY IS IT THE BEST TRAVEL BACKPACK?
Ok, so five weeks perhaps isn’t enough time to start stating lifespans, but everything about the AT Travel Trekker is put together so well that I can’t see wear and tear or brute force ever having much effect. It feels really strong and sturdy. (Update: 18 consecutive months of use later, it’s still going strong!).
This bag comes in grey or blue, with orange inner lining. Both look really sophisticated and stylish. Great care and attention has gone into the general appearance of the bag, as well as its usability.
The Lowe Alpine AT Travel Trekker has so many fantastic features, it really is the best travel backpack. Its meticulous design means that it’s really easy to use, at the same time as securely protecting your belongings from theft and the elements. Some of my favourite features are described in more detail below.
The main pack is 70 litres and the day pack 30 litres. The day pack is detachable and expandable, making it the perfect size for carry on luggage or day tours/hikes while you’re travelling. Other backpacks with this design often skimp on the design of the day pack, making it uncomfortable to carry around for extended periods of time, but this day pack is really well designed, with adjustable straps and plenty of padding and aeration. The day pack also has neat little hooks on the back that attach to loops on your main pack so that you can carry your valuables on your front to keep an eye on them and for easy access. When you’re not using these hooks, they loop neatly into the shoulder straps.
All of the zips on both bags interlock, which means you can slide a cable lock through them and keep them safely closed during long-distance bus journeys or flights, or when you need to leave bags in dorm rooms or hostel luggage piles.
There’s nothing more annoying than having to empty your entire backpack just to find one small item hidden at the bottom, especially when you’re in a shared dorm and your bag rustles and disturbs people with every movement.
My previous backpack advertised itself as side access, but it didn’t deliver well on this feature. There was marginally more access than a top loader, but I still frequently had to unpack and repack my bag.
The Lowe Alpine AT Travel Trekker opens up like a suitcase. This is one of the best travel backpack features I’ve seen lately. You can lift up the whole front flap and easily access everything. It also has internal compression straps to hold your items together, as well as the option of opening your bag from the top if you really want to.
Both the main bag and the detachable day pack have hidden pockets, which are really useful for storing items you need easy access to, or for hiding valuables. The small zipped pocket at the back of the day pack is perfectly designed to hold and hide a laptop. I keep an 11″ MacBook Air inside and it feels well protected thanks to the additional padding.
AXIOM BACK SYSTEM
In plain English, the Axiom Back System is a design feature that makes adjusting the fit of your pack on your back ridiculously easy. The shoulder harness is attached to an internal slider that can be adjusted using cords attached on either side of the pack. This means you can adjust it while you’re wearing it, rather than having to take it off, change the fit and retry it numerous times until it works for you.
As a backpacker, I hate airports. I always feel jealous of the easy-wheel suitcases as I wind slowly round the barriers queuing for check in, shuffling my backpack awkwardly along the floor or resigning myself to wearing it for however long the wait will be. Reaching the checkout and being told I have to take my pack to a special ‘oversized baggage’ counter simply because it has a few straps sticking out of it is adding salt to the wound.
Thankfully, Lowe Alpine have addressed this issue too, by designing a cover flap that tucks away when you’re not using it, but hides the main straps of your bag when you need to catch a flight. It makes the main bag look like a neat holdall, and you can still lift it using a side handle. I’ve taken my Lowe Alpine AT Travel Trekker on one domestic and two international flights and, so far, no airline has asked me to use a special drop off counter.
This pack comes with its very own waterproof cover, which is tucked away neatly inside one of the pockets. It has lash points enabling you to attach gear to the outside of the bag, as well as easy access pockets for drinks, tablets and ATM cards, and holders for hiking poles. It also comes with its own luggage tag.
This is a really fantastic product, and I believe it’s the best travel backpack on the market at the moment. When you’re backpacking for months on end, you develop a really close connection with your backpack and it’s definitely not an item you want to scrimp and save on. In ‘Wild’, Cheryl Strayed described how her pack ‘Monster’ became an ‘appendage’ after just a few weeks, and I feel the same about my pack.
If pushed, the only negative point I could reference is its weight. 3kg is heavier than some, although it’s still not bad at all. 100 litres is more than the average backpacker needs and I wouldn’t recommend cramming it full. There’s plenty of additional space in mine that I can use for souvenirs if I need to. Five weeks in, I’m still discovering new unique features that I absolutely love about this pack. I would actually go so far as to say it’s perfect.
While the recommended retail price for the Lowe Alpine AT Travel Trekker is £200, you can currently pick one up from Nomad Travel for just £160. Trust me – that’s an investment.