The Best Backpacks for Travelling

One of the essentials piece of equipment you need when travelling is a decent backpack 🎒. 

Most Lightweight
UE Roll 2
Best Backpack
Fugoo Style XL
Budget Backpack
X-Mini Kai X1
How We Found the Best Backpack for Travelling

Experts Interviewed

Backpacks Tested

Real Users

The Best Backpacks for Travelling

A good backpack will mean you can travel the world, but the best will mean you can travel the world in comfort. To find our top picks, we spoke with expert travellers, spoke with a wide range of travellers and checked independent reviews sites to get a list of the top 10. We then tested this list for lightweight, Size, pockets and storage and comfort.

In fact we had an initial list of 30 rucksacks, but we narrowed the list down to 10 – these are the best backpacks on the market.

How We Chose

Lightweight:

This is important especially if you are planning on doing a lot of walking. The more the bag weighs, the higher the bag weight the more you have to carry.

If the bag is just going to be used to in transport and not a lot of walking weight isn’t as much an issue.

Size:

Size really does matter and bigger isn’t always better, but getting the right size is important. Too big and you will take items you don’t really need, too small and you wont be able to pack the essentials.

Pockets and Storage:

This one is more important than you might think. You want a bag with easy access and pockets you can store the essentials and get them when needed.

Comfort:

People usually overlook this point and don’t realise, if you have a day travelling and got your backpack on all day you will soon realise just how important this factor is. When trying on your backpack, fill up the back with all your stuff you want to take with you and try it on.

The bags were then narrowed down into size categories, after all if your going away for a short weekend then you don’t want an 85l backpack.

Large Backpacks

  • Fugoo Style XL
  •  

Medium Backpacks

  • B&O Beoplay A1

Small Backpacks

  • JBL Clip 2

 

Most Portable

UE Roll 2

A great sounding waterproof speaker that's easy to take on the go.
Pros
  • Portability
  • Durability
  • Sound quality
  • Block Party mode
Cons
  • Minimal features

Why we chose it

Portability

The UE Roll 2 is one of the most portable speakers we tested. It has a flat Skittle-shape design that took up less space in our backpacks than more common cylinder or bar-shaped speakers such as the Bose Soundlink Revolve or VAVA Voom 20. The bungee strap also allowed us to strap the speaker tightly to bikes and backpacks for great audio quality on the go. On top of that, the UE Roll 2 is incredibly light and comes in at less than a pound — noticeably lighter than the similar Beoplay A1.

Durability

With an IPX7 rating, the UE Roll2 can survive being immersed in water for up to 30 minutes — good news if you’re taking it out to the beach or going on a boat ride and want to listen to some tunes. The speaker can even withstand being buried in mud.

Sound quality

We were surprised by the sound quality from such a small speaker. Vocals and lead instruments came through crisp and clear. The speaker handled the powerful vocals of Aretha Franklin’s “Think” without any distortion or fuzz.

Audio sites like The Sound Guys confirmed our experience, reporting a strong mid-range with detailed vocals and a smooth treble range without harsh cymbals. What Hi-Fi? echoed the Sound Guys and reported clear guitar strings from the Guns N’ Roses as well as nuanced vocals with Fiona Apple. Both sites did report a little trouble with the bass, but that’s expected with Bluetooth speakers.

Block Party mode

The stand-out feature is the block party mode that allows 3 people to connect to the same UE speaker and share music. By using an app, you and up to two of your friends can play music through the UE Roll 2. In addition, whoever is playing DJ will be able to bounce between everyone’s playlists even if you’re using different music services such as Spotify or Apple Music.

Points to consider

Minimal features

The speaker doesn’t offer a button for skipping or playing previous tracks, so you’ll need to keep paired devices like your phone handy to do so. Competitors like the Bose Soundlink Revolve have controls for skipping songs, and when we returned to the UE Roll 2 we missed the ability.

Best Volume

Fugoo Style XL

A loud and durable speaker for those who need to cover more space.
Pros
  • Volume
  • Durability
Cons
  • Weight
  • Underwhelming features

Why we chose it

Volume

The main strength of the Fugoo Style XL is its volume. Music from the speaker was able to fill a rooftop patio with ease, and our tester reported that even medium volume was more than enough for an office conference room. All of our large speakers like the Libratone Zipp were able to produce higher volumes than smaller options like our other top pick the UE Roll 2. But compared to the Fugoo, the Libratone couldn’t compete.

Durability

The Fugoo is IP67 certified, which means it can handle exposure to dust and be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. Unlike our other top pick, the Fugoo Style XL also floats — the UE Roll 2 relies on a proprietary floatie that isn’t practical outside of a pool and costs $20 to replace if lost or damaged. The Fugoo also had a removable jacket where you could replace it with a durable Sport jacket or a nigh-indestructible Tough jacket. Competitors like the Libratone Zipp also had removable jackets, but these were merely cosmetic.

Points to consider

Weight

The large size and hefty weight of three pounds makes it more difficult to carry. In addition, it doesn’t come with any handles or straps like the UE Roll 2. If you want to add a handle or shoulder strap, it will cost you an extra $8 on top of the already steep $170 price. That being said, the Fugoo wasn’t as bulky as the Libratone Zipp, and it sounded better than the similar-sized Braven BRV-X.

Underwhelming features

Added support for things like Google Assistant and Siri sounded nice on paper, but did not pan out well when we tested them ourselves. We tried to use the phone call feature, but our volunteer on the other line told us, “I can barely hear you,” and eventually asked us to just talk on the phone.

Budget One

X-Mini Kai X1

A loud and durable speaker for those who need to cover more space.
Pros
  • Volume
  • Durability
Cons
  • Weight
  • Underwhelming features

Why we chose it

Volume

The main strength of the Fugoo Style XL is its volume. Music from the speaker was able to fill a rooftop patio with ease, and our tester reported that even medium volume was more than enough for an office conference room. All of our large speakers like the Libratone Zipp were able to produce higher volumes than smaller options like our other top pick the UE Roll 2. But compared to the Fugoo, the Libratone couldn’t compete.

Durability

The Fugoo is IP67 certified, which means it can handle exposure to dust and be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes. Unlike our other top pick, the Fugoo Style XL also floats — the UE Roll 2 relies on a proprietary floatie that isn’t practical outside of a pool and costs $20 to replace if lost or damaged. The Fugoo also had a removable jacket where you could replace it with a durable Sport jacket or a nigh-indestructible Tough jacket. Competitors like the Libratone Zipp also had removable jackets, but these were merely cosmetic.

Points to consider

Weight

The large size and hefty weight of three pounds makes it more difficult to carry. In addition, it doesn’t come with any handles or straps like the UE Roll 2. If you want to add a handle or shoulder strap, it will cost you an extra $8 on top of the already steep $170 price. That being said, the Fugoo wasn’t as bulky as the Libratone Zipp, and it sounded better than the similar-sized Braven BRV-X.

Underwhelming features

Added support for things like Google Assistant and Siri sounded nice on paper, but did not pan out well when we tested them ourselves. We tried to use the phone call feature, but our volunteer on the other line told us, “I can barely hear you,” and eventually asked us to just talk on the phone.

Guide to Bluetooth Speakers

Look at your lifestyle

If you’re someone who likes to take your music on the go, you’d be better served purchasing a Bluetooth speaker with portability in mind such as the UE Roll 2. However, the UE might not be sufficient if you’re trying to liven up an outdoor gathering. That’s where the Fugoo Style XL would be a better fit.

Be wary of battery life claims

Our experts warned us that manufacturers will make misleading claims about their speakers in order to make them look more impressive. For example, the great sounding B&O A1 advertises “up to 24 hours of battery life,” but we learned that it actually only lasts for about 5 hours at 50% volume and as little as 3 hours on max volume.

No matter which speaker you choose, Wiggins advises using weight to debunk battery claims. He told us “if a speaker advertises 24 hour playback but feels too small or light in the hands, there’s not enough battery in there.”

Don’t rely on one Bluetooth speaker for stereo sound

Don’t expect stereo-quality sound from a single Bluetooth speaker. According to Wiggins, you’ll want two speakers placed separately from each other to pick up on stereo sound, “otherwise your ears will pick up a single sound source.”

If you do pair two speakers, our experts advised spacing them about the same distance from each other as you’ll be to your speakers. So if you’re six feet away from your speakers, you’ll want to space them six feet apart. In the case of our top picks, you could pair two UE Roll 2s in order to create stereo sound. However, the Fugoo Style XL doesn’t pair with another Fugoo. That being said, a single Fugoo is loud enough to fill a large room without needing help from another speaker.

Bluetooth Speakers FAQ

How do Bluetooth speakers work?

Instead of through wires, audio is sent across a Bluetooth connection as compressed data. But different devices handling of data compression is varied and often the reason why some speakers offer better sound quality than others.

Which Bluetooth speakers have the longest battery life?

Going based on advertised battery life can be tricky because many manufacturers who use the terms advertise “idealized cases.” Wiggins explained that some speakers “will last up to 24 hours, but only if you turn it on and play no music.” However, our top picks fared better than the other speakers we tested. The UE Roll 2 actually exceeds its advertised battery lifeat 50% volume with 10 hours of playback, while the Fugoo Style XL clocks in with a nearly absurd 27 hours at 50% volume. Max volume will decrease these numbers, but we don’t recommend setting them that high in the first place.

Should I get an omnidirectional Bluetooth speaker?

Unlike a standard speaker, which will focus the sound based on the direction it’s facing, an omnidirectional speaker radiates the sound outward (like a ripple on a pond). Based on your lifestyle and living situation you should only get an omnidirectional speaker if you’re able to place it somewhere open — perhaps, a coffee table in the center of your living room.

Wiggins told us “omnidirectional sound does cause problems when you place them near walls.” He explained “you’ll get some reflection when you place it near walls, which can make sound quality worse; directional will be better for pushing sound where you are at.” Coincidentally, the UE Roll 2 had this capability when you laid it flat, but you also have the option to hang by the bungee strap to focus the sound in a particular direction.

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