Best Carry On Luggage for Backpackers: The Porter Osprey 30L

If there is one piece of advice I could give to anyone planning their first trip it would be this: it’s not what you pack but how you pack it. While the argument could be made for backpacking with full size hiking packs (i.e. the type that an airline requires you to check in) after months living out of the Osprey Porter 30 Liter I would beg to differ. This lightweight, comfortable, and incredibly sturdy pack is just big enough to fit the essentials but small enough to keep you from breaking your back hauling it around. You are going to get very, very familiar with whatever carry on luggage you end up using; mine doubled as my travel pillow, leg rest, place holder, a comfy seat on the floor of the bus (multiple times), so choose wisely. An ill fitted pack is the last thing you want when heading into a “backpacking” trip. With budget airlines worldwide cracking down on oversized luggage with massive baggage fees this can really make or break your transportation cost.

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Guidelines from AirAsia

Most airlines around the world that have carry on size and weight limits are roughly in the range of the above graphic with weight limit on the cabin baggage at 7kgs/15lbs weight. You’re also allowed a secondary handbag or laptop bag which really allows you to almost double what you can carry on (some flights have overall weight limits, not just limits on the cabin baggage only, so read the fine print for your airline). In the dozens of flights I have been on only once have I ever been stopped and had my carry on checked for proper size and weight but saw it happen to other passengers with questionably large luggage almost every time I was boarding whether it was in the US, Europe, or throughout Asia.

the best carry on luggage for backpackersThe Osprey Porter 30L comes in at 53x36x25 centimetres fully expanded (easily cinch straps down to smaller size after packing it full) and is marketed as “guaranteed to meet all international carry-on requirements”. Below is a list of exactly what I went on the road with last year when I headed out to Southeast Asia! I couldn’t find much like this online when planning my trip and I feel it could be extremely useful as you’d have no idea what all can fit within X kilograms of luggage without seeing it all laid out! While everyone wants/needs different items, this is a great place to start. Aside from a pair of flip-flops in Thailand and several pair of sunglasses (always flying off my head on motorbike rides) I haven’t needed to buy any clothing. In retrospect I would have ditched the Trek and Travel clothing soap as I have yet to use it, it’s simply too cheap to get your laundry done in Asia, but if you need it or will be off the grid for awhile it does work excellently. With this amount of clothing I was able to get away with only doing laundry once a week and rarely having to re-wear my clothing!

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  • Porter 30 at Weighing in at 6.8kg: Large Packing Cube with 2 pair swim trunks, 1 pair khaki shorts, 4 pair gym shorts, 1 pair jean jogger pants, 1 Medium Packing Cube with 10 pair underwear and 10 pair ankle high socks, 1 Medium Packing Cube with 1 tank top, 4 active wear polyester t shirts, 1 regular cotton t-shirt, 1 Medium Packing Cube with 1 polyester polo shirt, 1 pillow case, 1 long sleeve active shirt, 1 Liter Zip-loc bag with 2 100ml shampoo + conditioner bottles, 1 100ml bottle Trek and Travel concentrated clothing soap, 1 100ml bottle Trek and Travel concentrated body wash, 1 100ml bottle contact solution, 6 pair contacts, 50ml toothpaste tube, 2 30ml bottles of face scrub, 2 36ml bottles of mouthwash, 120 malaria pills in 4 pill bottles, 2 packets of 6 count food poisoning pills, two travel size deodorants, 1 toothbrush, 1 reusable razor with 4 blade pack, 1 hair brush, passport, inflatable neck pillow, 50 regular notebook pages of itinerary hotel/flight/tour confirmations and trip notes/maps, 2 packs of gum, 36 cotton q-tips, 1 Quikpod 36’’ extendable sport selfie stick, 1 GoPro hero 3+
    • Note: Kona Trail Running Shoes Size 11, Runners Warehouse $60 (wearing while in airport for weight but can fit inside backpack with rest of luggage)


How does it perform?

I could go on and on about how much I love this pack. Even fully loaded this bag is incredibly comfortable for a standard sized backpack, both for myself as a 180-pound male and for my girlfriend who is 110 pounds. The waist and chest strap, when properly adjusted, really help distribute weight well despite the bag not having a metal frame (which is great for minimizing overall weight). Plus, the bag is incredibly spacious. I can even fit my hiking shoes inside the bag when I’m not heading to the airport and want to wear flip-flops. With a retail price of $80 on Amazon and a 1 year warranty from Osprey, buying this bag literally cost me less than half of what I had calculated baggage fees to come to for my first few months of travel had I decided to check in a solid bag! Definitely a solid investment.

I also brought my laptop bag along, as I wanted to have my computer for blogging, video editing, etc. The Porter 30 shockingly can fit the laptop back and all it’s contents as well, just doesn’t meet airline weight requirements so I split them up for checking in). It’s nothing special at all, just a standard over the shoulder messenger style bag. If I wasn’t on my computer so much on the road I would have ditched the bag and 90% of its contents. Honestly on my next trip I will attempt to lose this bag as the Porter 30 has a laptop sleeve and I am aiming to travel as light as possible!

  • Laptop Bag at 5.5kg: Macbook Pro, Mac charger, GoPro 2 extra Wasabi brand batteries plus wall charger, 1 GoPro to computer USB cord, 3 GoPro backdoor casings and 4 different angled mounting GoPro hardware, cell phone charger, 2 USB wall boxes, 2 micro SD cards, 1 Raqpak microfiber travel towel, 1 collapsible daypack, two headlamps, 1 bobber GoPro floatie mount, 1 Bluetooth speaker with USB charge cord, 1 pen, 1 pencil

Questions? Comments? Have a favorite travel bag of your own? Shoot me a message and let me know!

Now that you know how to pack, learn how to book cheap international flights to and from anywhere in the world!

2 thoughts on “Best Carry On Luggage for Backpackers: The Porter Osprey 30L

  1. Reply

    I d like to point out for most international travel the internal fame on the osprey farpoint 55 is too big for carry on luggage on most airlines which is disappointing.

    1. backpackhow Reply

      Thanks for the info! Yes, the Osprey 55 is not going to make it past most carry-on requirements. The Osprey Porter 30, however, will make it on ANY airline as acceptable carry-on. I’ve taken it onto countless international and domestic flights throughout the US, Central American, Europe, Middle East, and Asia!

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