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What's the best all-purpose pack?

My wife and I are headed to Beijing for two weeks in September. She needs a pack for the city but can switch gears for short backpacking trips once we get home. What brand and size would you recommend?

Jansport Tehipitie 42 backpack (Photo: Jansport)
Jansport Tehipitie 42 backpack

Comfort is my top priority in any pack, but when I’m traveling in a foreign city I aim for minimalist design. Why? Three reasons:

Lowe Alpine Travel Trekker backpack

Lowe Alpine Travel Trekker backpack

First, a bag with fewer bells and whistles snags on fewer things, like baggage-claim conveyor belts. Second, a lower profile bag won't bump everyone off a busy street or bus. Third, you won't look like an ugly American with all those extra daisy chains and compression straps.

REI’s new Grand Tour 80L ($199;, L is for liters) has some fine travel features, namely a 915-cubic inch zip-off daypack. The main pack is 3,997 cubic inches, which gives the full rig a lot of room and is why, in addition to the main compartment, it also has seven pockets to help stay organized.

Eagle Creek’s Loche 70L ($200; is like a full-suspension duffle bag. The pack front loads, which makes throwing your dirty clothes in easy. It also has multiple carry handles, allowing you to lug it around like a suitcase if you get tired of looking like a backpacker.

Lowe Alpine's Travel Trekker II ND 60 (; $280) is a beautifully simple hybrid, with a comfortable internal u-frame, a large main compartment, and a nice-sized front stash pocket. Like the Loche, it has an extra travel strap and few add ons, making it easier to blend into the crowd—unless you buy it in hot pink.

A smaller day-trip option is Jansport’s new Tehipite 42 ($160; It's black and stealthy, boats a fully padded back panel, can accomodate a hydration bladder, and has a large panel-loading compartment, allowing quick access to key items.

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Filed To: Backpacks
Lead Photo: Jansport