The Anatomy of a Travel Backpack

Published 2018-08-29

As an enthusiastic and seasoned traveler, suitcases just don’t do it for me anymore. I travel fast and light. Skipping baggage check and baggage claim is how I roll. Whether I’m flying from Denver to Las Vegas for a weekend of blackjack and desert adventures or going across the country to Washington D.C. and Boston to drink in some American History and big city fun, the versatility of a travel backpack is my preference.

While a favorite for plane rides, travel backpacks also get the job done on road trips. From winter condo stays shredding powder in the Rocky Mountains to a quick weekender in Moab and Arches National Park, a durable travel backpack can be tossed in your vehicle’s trunk or hatch while you haul down the road to your next big send. That said, read on to discover what makes travel backpacks unique and functional travel necessities.

The Big Question: What is the best-sized backpack for traveling?

Pack Capacity and Weight

How big your backpack should be will depend on how long you’ll be gone and what type of traveling you’ll be doing—but what size backpack is the best for traveling on an airplane? Realistically, a 40-45 liter travel backpack is the perfect load carriage and can be stored comfortably in an overhead bin.

MYSTERY RANCH’S MISSION ROVER is a 43-liter travel backpack designed to carry all of your travel necessities comfortably. What’s more, you’ll never worry about what to wear to the airport, because the ROVER is big enough to handle any extra clothing items, such as a light jacket or sweater, in case you’ve got to add or ditch a layer mid-transit. Light and roomy, the ROVER weighs 3.5 lbs but has the capacity to carry enough clothing for a weeklong stay while still accommodating your laptop, shoes, toiletries, magazines and even a few souvenirs.

Pack Dimensions

While all airlines have their own recommended dimensions for carry-on luggage, the general rule of thumb is that your bag must fit with relative ease in an overhead bin. For example, Southwest Airlines’ carry-on dimensions suggest that your carry-on bag be around 24” x 16” x 10”.

The ROVER’s dimensions are a sleek 22” x 13” x 11”, so you’re in the clear on the overhead bin requirements. The ROVER’s narrow rectangular form also allows you to deftly navigate airport crowds and airplane aisles so you’ll avoid bumping other passengers while you make your way to the gate and during the boarding process.

Staying Organized: How to Pack a Backpack for Travel

Interior Organization

Compartments are the key to organizing the inside of your backpack. A compartment for each category of items you’ll be carrying is the perfect scenario, with the most frequently needed items in easily accessible compartments of the backpack.

Lucky for you, MYSTERY RANCH has taken the guesswork out of finding a backpack with enough compartments in the MISSION ROVER. It has solid thought-out organization, allowing you to load and unload items quickly while passing through security. The laptop compartment, which fits laptops up to 15’’, enables speedy access to your electronics while the interior mesh screens allow you to grab out what you need at a glance so you’re not holding up the security line or garnering annoyed looks from TSA agents.

Another handy feature – the shoe compartment – allows you to separate your well-worn sneakers or boots. So, whether your segment on the Appalachian Trail turned out to be muddy-fun or your climbing shoes are covered in chalk and grit, throw them in the shoe compartment and forget about it.

The dirty laundry pocket is another fun and useful accessory that allows you to separate the clean from the funk. Toss in those sweaty skiing base layers or the t-shirt you spilled a little too much beer on during apres skiing.

Additionally, the internal zippered compartments work great to use the “roll and stow” trick with clothes, thereby maximizing storage. You can literally stack pants, shirts, etc., in these handy compartments like sardines in a can. The additional lower-profile zippered pockets (located on the top of the main internal zippered compartments) work well for neatly storing dress shirts and other professional attire in case you’re traveling for both business and pleasure.

Exterior Organization

While the internal organization is ultra-important for when you arrive at your destination, organizing for the time you’re in transit can be the difference between a comfortable journey and a frustrating adventure fail. Luckily, the ROVER offers clam-shell zippers for quick and easy access along with a small detail pocket located on the front of the bag for your passport, pens, boarding pass, or phone. Other quick-access items this traveler carries include sunglasses, chapstick, gum, and ear plugs.

The Perfect Fit that is Functional and Fashionable

Carry Options

How do you carry your bag? On your back like a backpack? In your hands like a briefcase? Over your shoulder like a gym bag? Most bags are easily carried only one or two ways, making it not very suitable for navigating travel situations like public transportation and airports. What if we said that with the MISSION ROVER you don’t have to choose; it has handles, removable shoulder sling, and tuck away backpack straps.

These sling-and-go options make the ROVER a perfect travel backpack for carrying on and ensure that your ROVER is always easy to get out of the overhead bin. You won’t be “that guy” or “that girl” who is holding up other passengers while struggling to get your luggage. As a seasoned traveler, my personal preference is to use the backpack straps; they are beefy enough to handle the weight of several days worth of clothes and they ride like a “real” backpack. The straps are attached slightly lower on the back panel, which lifts the bag up, preventing it from sagging or hitting your lower back.

So, whether you’re hopping between hostels and hotels or renting an Airbnb for a month, the ROVER can be carried comfortably from a plane, to train, to an automobile. It’s also the perfect companion for hoofing it through the countryside or taking in the sights of a new city.


Durability is every seasoned traveler’s first desire to carry on a backpack. The ROVER’s stiffened foam liner gives it structure and keeps the shape intact when being loaded again and again. The beefy fabric—500D CORDURA®—is the same material MYSTERY RANCH utilizes for our Military bags, so your ROVER won’t wear out and can handle years of use and abuse. The ROVER also comes in an assortment of colors: black, coyote (tan), and deep earth (green), so you can choose the look that works with your own personal style.

Additional Pearls of Wisdom

  • Make sure your liquids are in 3 oz bottles and stored in plastic zip bags to avoid mid-air blowouts.
  • Emergency items you should always keep stocked in your MISSION ROVER include earplugs, natural sleep aids such as Melatonin, allergy medicine such as Benadryl, ibuprofen or Tylenol, and medicine for an upset stomach such as Pepto-Bismuth or TUMS. You never know when a debilitating headache or stomach issues are gonna strike.
  • If you’re carrying food onto a plane, it should be noted that many airports are now asking that passengers remove all food from carry-on bags to be checked at the security checkpoints. As such, have all snacks in a gallon ziplock bags and on top of other items so it can be easily removed.
  • Your MISSION ROVER travel backpack is a sexy piece of traveling gear. That said, DO NOT leave your bag unattended in the bathroom or at the gate. Someone with an eye for style and function might just steal it out from under you.