The struggle of finding the best lightweight travel backpack
Finding the right backpack is very important for us as it has to carry all of our belongings for a very long time. After more than six years of continuous travel, Niko and I went through our fair share of backpacks and it has been quite a struggle to find a good and strong bag that can handle all types of weather and travel situations. We always travel with two types of backpacks. We both have a big hiking backpack (65+ L) that fits all of our camping gear and clothing and which we consider as our ‘house’. We also travel with a small daypack, which contains our valuables and gear that we need on a daily basis. We always keep that small daypack with us, at all times.
When we hitchhike, we often store our big backpacks in the boot of the car but we like to have our daypack with us, in case we get hungry or thirsty or if we want to grab our camera to film or take photos. We don’t have many possessions and I like to keep my most valued things close to me – and with valued I don’t necessarily mean something that costs a lot of money but something that I’m emotionally attached to.
To keep those valuables safe, in all kinds of circumstances, we need a sturdy daypack. What is also important, is that this bag is light and practical for carrying and storing our belongings. If you ever had to hike for more than 10 kilometers with all your stuff on your back, you know that ‘traveling light’ is a must! It’s also useful to have a small backpack for when we find cheap or free accommodation in a city where we can leave our big bags and explore our surroundings while only taking the essentials with us.
It can be a daunting process to find the best lightweight travel backpack. There are so many options out there that it’s sometimes hard to know which bag is the best for our situation – long-term hitchhiking and travel in all weather conditions. I had daypacks that seemed to be strong at first but after only a couple of months of (rough) traveling, the seams ripped open or the zippers broke. We both had purchased a rather strong daypack just before starting our hitchhiking journey in Ireland, but I soon figured out that my bag wasn’t exactly waterproof and every time we hitchhiked in the rain, I had to carry the backpack underneath my rain jacket. Not only did I look like a hunchback but my jacket wasn’t big enough to cover both my backpack and my body, so I always ended up getting wet – but at least my bag stayed dry! Niko’s daypack turned out to be a bit better than mine but by the time we arrived in Georgia, the straps of his bag were broken so we were both in need of new and proper daypacks.
Are you interested in how we financially manage it to travel long-term? Read our Money Guide!
Discovering the CabinZero Backpack
In our search of finding a sturdy but lightweight travel backpack, we found the brand CabinZero. Or let’s say that CabinZero found us as one of our Georgian friends (also a traveler and hitchhiker) was using one of their backpacks. I immediately liked the design of the bag. It looked nice, tough and multi-functional, exactly how I like my
men things. I always chose comfort over fashion but after having a look on the CabinZero website, I noticed that they have a wide variety of nice colors. Yay! It looked that I might have found a comfortable, yet good-looking bag.
But… is the CabinZero bag really adventure proof? Would it be durable enough to survive our travels? The only way to find out, was by trying out the backpack. We reached out to the good people of CabinZero, explained our intentions and after a nice chat in which we promised to write an honest review, we could choose our own backpack from their collection!
CabinZero Model Options
CabinZero has four different types of bags: the Vintage line, the Urban line, the Military line and the Classic line. They all have a similar ‘urban’ look that doesn’t shout “I’m a tourist” when you’re on a trip. We first wanted to choose a bag from the Military line as it has a waist and chest belt and is built to withstand tough travel. Unfortunately, they had only 44L bags in this collection, which was just a bit too big for what we needed. These bags would be perfect for someone who goes on a short hiking or camping trip (you can attach a sleeping mattress on the side straps) but we were looking for something smaller in addition to our 65+L backpacks.
The Classic 36L looked perfect, not too big but still spacious enough to fit our cameras and laptops. Niko didn’t care too much about the color – he went for Absolute Black – but I love colors so I chose the Purple Cloud.
Quality and functionality of the CabinZero backpacks
The name CabinZero is derived from ‘Cabin Sized – Zero Hassles‘, meaning that you never have to check in the bag when taking an airplane. If you already know our blog, you know that we’re traveling the world without taking airplanes so this advantage of the bag doesn’t really matter to us. What does matter, is the quality and functionality of the backpack for our type of traveling.
The bags are made out of a waterproof polyester material that feels very sturdy, yet they weigh about 900g, which is lighter than most of the daypacks we’ve had so far. It has thick-padded shoulder straps, a mesh padding on the back which should help with air-circulation, a full lining to protect the inside, heavy-duty YKK zippers that have lock loops to keep the backpack secure and reinforced seams.
The interior has a large compartment which easily fits our cameras and drone, extra clothes, food and a 1,5L bottle of water (and we often still have extra space left). There’s a special pouch for a laptop – which isn’t padded so you might need an extra padded laptop bag for extra protection – and two zipper pockets to store small things. There is also an external pocket that is quite large and can easily fit a folder or a big notebook (always comes in handy if you’re a writer/blogger) and side compression straps to attach a tripod, a sleeping mattress or a bottle of water.
Every bag comes with a 10-year warranty. If you ‘like’ CabinZero on Facebook, they’ll bump it to 25-years. By that time we should have reached our end destination Alaska (we tend to travel verrrrry slowly…).
CabinZero boasts the Okoban lost and found tracking system. It provides free registration of your backpack so if you ever lose it, it can be tracked.
The adjustable straps make it quite comfortable to carry the bag. It would have been even more comfortable if our Classic style bags would have included a waist and front chest strap too, but alas, only the Military bag has these features.
The four styles of bag have each their own features. Think about what is most needed and comfortable for you: do you want a top and side handle and oversized padded straps with air mesh (Classic), a front chest and waist strap (Military), inside zipped and mesh pockets (Vintage) or hide-away padded back straps and a shoulder strap (Urban). Also consider the size you need. Only the Classic varies in size (28L, 36L and 44L), the others have a set size (42L or 44L). Pick your style wisely!
Testing out the CabinZero lightweight backpack – our conclusion
At the moment of writing, we’ve been using the CabinZero backpacks for 3 months. They’ve already traveled for more than 4000km with us across mountains, forests,deserts and even a sea. So far, we’re very happy with them! The bags have been very practical for carrying and storing our belongings. They are light (when they’re empty) and sturdy enough to carry the weight of our stuff and drinking water without ripping. If it wasn’t for the dust and dirt, they would still look brand new!
Is CabinZero the best lightweight backpack out there? I wouldn’t say it is the best backpack but it’s definitely one of the best. It’s a great bag that can be used for all situations. It’s kind of the perfect all-around travel backpack. It’s compact, light, multi-functional, waterproof (I’m not looking like a hunchback anymore when it rains) and very sturdy! The zippers are great and the seams are all still intact. The only thing I would reconsider, is the size. I have sometimes the impression that the 36L is a bit too big for what I need so if I could choose again, I would go for the Classic 28L.
The prices for a backpack vary from £50.00 GBP (Classic 28L) to £ 99.50 GBP (Urban 42L). We are budget travelers and we are always looking for the best deals but one thing we’ve learned is that there’s no point of saving money when it comes to quality travel gear, especially backpacks! We used to buy cheap ones, thinking we saved money. In the end we ended up spending a lot more money to replace our backpacks than if we would have invested in just one great quality backpack! And don’t forget, you get up to 25 years of warranty with CabinZero. Imagine how many trips you can do in this amount of time with the same backpack!
If you are considering to purchase a CabinZero travel backpack, head here for more information.
CabinZero ships to EVERY COUNTRY in the world, with free courier delivery to tons of countries. Check out the rates here.
Disclaimer: Niko and I were given the the bags of CabinZero in exchange for this review. Our opinions are unbiased and are entirely ours. This post contains affiliate links, which means that when you purchase an item through one of these links, we get a small commission at no extra costs for you. This helps us to keep this blog going so we can create more useful content to help others out. Thank you in advance!