Photo: Morgane Croissant

These Patagonia Backpacks Are the Perfect Travel Bags for Both Short Trips and Long Journeys

Travel Technology + Gear
by Morgane Croissant Jul 21, 2022

Patagonia may have been designed with outdoorsy people in mind, but Patagonia backpacks are for everyone. Case in point: I’m not a hiker or climber, and I’m certainly not a camper, yet I own two Patagonia backpacks because they’re perfect for travel.

Seasoned travelers disagree on the best carry-on to haul around the world: roller suitcases or backpacks? I’m of the opinion that carry-on roller suitcases lack versatility, are too unwieldy, and take too much damn space in the overhead bin, so naturally, I’m a member of the backpack gang.

And because I don’t want to give airlines any more of my hard-earned money to check luggage that will either take forever to make it to the carousel or be temporarily lost, my backpack of choice can hold all of my stuff for several weeks of travel, fit both in the plane’s overhead compartment and under the seat in front of me, and take a decent amount of bashing about.

The Black Hole Pack 25L from Patagonia does all that and more.

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While it’s described on Patagonia’s website as a “burly daypack,” my experience has proven that it’s much more than that.

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Patagonia backpacks for travel: Black Hole Pack 25L

Best Patagonia backpacks: the Black Hole Pack 25L

Photo: Morgane Croissant

Twenty-five liters is plenty of space to carry everything you need. I fit weeks’ worth of clothing, toiletries, my laptop, and even reading material in this Patagonia backpack — and I don’t consider myself a light packer.

The main pocket has two sleeves to keep your laptop and tablet safe and out of the way; some small storage for your phone charger, headphones, keys, pens, etc.; and all the room to take in your carefully folded clothing and a hygiene kit. Because it’s a deep, top-loading backpack, I like to divide all my stuff using packing cubes and a separate toiletry bag so that everything is easy to find as well as neat and tidy.

The zipped pocket on the lid is flat and is the perfect spot to keep a passport, boarding pass, phone, and other important items I need to keep handy. And if you’re wondering why I don’t keep all that crap in my pockets, please consider that I am a woman and that most of my clothing has either no pockets or only has pockets large enough to carry little more than a couple of quarters.

Best Patagonia backpacks: the pockets on the Black Hole Pack 25L

Photo: Morgane Croissant

I personally like to use the zipped front pocket of the backpack to fit one good-size book. I don’t own a tablet, so I also sometimes slip my book in the smaller of the two sleeves in the main pocket and use the front pocket to pack a pair of flip flops or other small, flat shoes. However, I would not carry anything fragile or liquid in this particular compartment as this area can get a little squished when shoved under the seat in front of you.

One of the best things about this Patagonia backpack is its stretchy side pockets. Even when the pack is full of my stuff, I can fit my 26-ounce YETI water bottle and a 16-ounce coffee mug in each without struggling.

The only fault I can find for the Black Hole Pack 25L is the shoulder padding. While this Patagonia backpack itself is lightweight (1 pound, 6.9 ounces), once full, it can create a bit of a strain on your shoulders if you’re doing a lot of walking around. Make sure to use the adjustable straps and the fastener in the front to be as comfortable as possible.

Best Patagonia backpacks: the Black Hole Pack 25L

Photo: Morgane Croissant

I purchased this Patagonia backpack in 2018 because I wanted to have a single pack for multiple purposes. While I use it every time I travel, I also put it to work when I go to the grocery store, an office space for the day, and the gym — all of which I do on foot or my bike in any sort of weather. The weather resistant fabric works beautifully and I’ve never had things insight get wet. Plus, the backpack shows very little sign of wear and tear even after four years of near daily use (including being strapped to my bike’s luggage rack with bungee words countless times.)

If, like me, you thrive to own as little stuff as possible, this 25-liter backpack is the ideal size and design for all of your needs.

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A Patagonia backpack for longer travel: Ascensionist Pack 45L

As the name of this Patagonia backpack suggests, it was designed for climbers. But it also works perfectly for travelers who can’t stuff everything they need into the smaller and less sporty-looking Black Hole Pack.

Patagonia backpacks: The Ascensionist 45L

Photo: Morgane Croissant

I own a 2018 version of the Ascensionist Pack 45L, and I usually take it with me when I need more room than usual (when traveling to several countries with drastically different climates, for example.) Of course, it’s bigger than the Black Hole Pack, so this one needs to be checked when you fly.

Like all travel backpacks worth their salt, this one has a removable frame and hip-belt pads to distribute the weight and keep you comfortable, as well as adjustable straps just about everywhere to adapt the load to your body.

What I like best about this pack is the fact that it’s ultralight (less than 2.2 pounds) and expandable — you can put so much in it, it’s hard to believe it’s only 45 liters. But if you want to keep it to a reasonable size and weight, that’s possible, too. This Patagonia backpack adjusts to your needs. Note that because it’s not a daypack, there’s only one lid pocket, and no sleeves for laptops or inside compartments for bits and pieces.

The Ascensionist model has evolved a little in the past four years since I purchased mine. It’s now only available in 35L or 55L (and there’ll be new colors available in the fall). I would not recommend travelers take a backpack that allows for more than 45 liters — the more space you have, the more you tend to fill it with things you’ll never use, and you don’t want to be lugging too much weight on your back and shoulders when walking around cities, train stations, and airports. Get the 35 liters pack — that’s plenty of space and your body won’t suffer.

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