A top-loading travel backpack is a long, slim, tubular-type pack with a drawstring closure covered by a flap at the top.
Top-loaders are mainly designed for trekking, wilderness hiking and other outdoor activities, but lots of around the world travellers use them as well.
These packs are excellent for walking long distances with because they distribute the weight of your gear effectively and balance well.
They also tend to be more weatherproof than travel packs and usually have fewer seams and zippers (almost always the first things to go on
any luggage) to worry about.
If you need to cram lots in, top-loading backpacks are brilliant. You can stuff them to the brim and then stuff them some more!
But there is a problem with this.
Top-loaders make it way too easy to go overboard with the packing . . . and then it can be a huge hassle to get your gear out of them.
If you want something from the bottom of the main compartment of a top-loading travel backpack, you need to pull almost everything out of it first.
Okay, in a hostel room that might not be so bad. But having your underwear out on display in the middle of a busy bus station is not quite so much fun!
Yes, you could just blindly dig around the inside of the pack and try to feel out what it is you're looking for. The novelty does wear off after doing this several times a day for a few weeks though.
If you do go for a top-loader, it's definitely worth paying a bit more (yes, even as a die-hard shoestring backpacker!) for a hybrid-style bag that has an alternative opening besides just the main one at the top.
This could be a zipper down the front, side or bottom of the main compartment, or even a zip all the way around.
An extra opening or two will give you quicker and easier access to your gear without having to empty the whole pack.
And believe me . . . that makes a big difference!
You should also look for an expandable sleeve (officially the spindrift collar) and detachable compartment at the top. They both make it a lot easier to pack your bag.
Plus, it's great if you can take the top pocket right off the travel backpack when you don't need it or use it as a separate packing cube inside the main part of your bag.
If you plan to do a lot of trekking or outdoor adventure sports during your around the world trip, a hydration sleeve might also be worth the extra money. This is a specially-designed pocket that holds a water bladder and has a small hole for a drinking tube to go through.
Hydration sleeves save you from having to constantly carry plastic water bottles around and you can have a drink on the go without stopping to open your pack.