The author with the Salkan Backpack he is reviewing in the post

The Backpacker by Salkan | A Review of My New Bag [2021]

After a decade backpacking to 70 countries with the same Osprey bag, 2021 is finally the year I’ve decided to reassess my personal backpack situation. It’s odd it took me so long, considering that reviewing the best travel backpacks is a big part of my job. But, though I’ve tested out many bags, none of them ever quite checked every box for me personally.

Well, that finally changed when I got my hands on The Backpacker by Salkan, which is a two bag system consisting of Salkan’s Mainpack and The Daypack.

In this Salkan backpack review I’m going to break down why I switched to Salkan and what I love about it. But choosing a backpack is a deeply personal choice — kind of like choosing underwear — so I’ll also explain why the Salkan bags might not be the right fit for everyone.

Ok, let’s dive in:

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support my work by purchasing through the affiliate links on this page, which may earn a commission for this site. Additionally, note that Salkan provided a courtesy sample of the product for this review.

Salkan Backpacker Review – Summary

Top view of the Salkan Mainpack travel backpack with clothes and packing cubes inside

Salkan is small boutique company out of the UK founded by two backpackers. They only produce two bags: The Mainpack and The Daypack. Together, they are sold as The Backpacker combo, which is intended to be the only bag setup you will ever need for an extended backpacking trip.

If you are planning a backpacking trip for 2+ weeks, then it’s absolutely worth it to invest in The Backpacker. Although not the cheapest travel backpack on the market, The Backpacker is a thoughtfully designed product that is practical, comfortable, and built to last.

I wish The Backpacker had been available five years ago when I backpacked to 43 countries in a single year. There are just so many useful features – like the rain cover, laundry sling, and top and front access points – that would have made my day-to-day life on the road so much more convenient.

Salkan Mainpack and Daypack together against the mountains

With that said, I can’t honestly recommend The Backpacker for everyone. It’s probably overkill if you mostly just take shorter trips, or if you tend to travel to one destination and stay put without moving around much. But for hardcore backpackers like myself, this bag was obviously designed with us in mind.

✔️ Pros

  • Extremely comfortable to carry
  • Sturdy construction and quality materials
  • Tons of thoughtful organizational features, like a hidden security pocket
  • Built in rain cover and laundry sling
  • Customizable design, colors, and straps

Cons

  • Just a hair shy of being carry-on compliant
  • Not the most intuitive bag out of the box (so many features means there is a learning curve)
  • Price means its an investment

Who is This Backpack Best For?

The Salkan Backpacker is perfect for:

  • Long term travelers
  • Backpackers seeking a complete 2-in-1 system
  • Outdoor enthusiasts who also need a bag practical for urban adventures
  • Style fanatics who want to customize their look and stand out

Who is This Backpack Not The Right Fit For?

The Salkan Backpacker may not be the best fit for:

  • Frequent carry-on travelers
  • Weekend trippers or infrequent travelers

👉 Decided you want The Backpacker? Head on over to shop it on Salkan’s website now. They offer a 100 day trial and lifetime guarantee, so no harm in trying it out!

Not the right fit for you? Check out the other top travel backpacks I’ve reviewed to find alternatives.

Still on the fence? Read on for a deeper dive into the two bags that compose The Backpacker. Let’s start by breaking down the primary pack, then we’ll review the Salkan Daypack.

Full Review: The Mainpack by Salkan

View of the back of the Salkan Mainpack travel backpack

The primary workhorse in Salkan’s The Backpacker combo is the aptly-named The Mainpack. Overall, it’s a well-rounded bag that is serviceable for just about any backpacking situation.

What I really love about this bag are all the thoughtful touches. Salkan isn’t a big company – it’s a small business founded by two backpackers who shared a bunk bed for 6 months and then decided to make a better backpack together. They still individually number the bags by hand, and even the box your bag comes in is beautiful.

Comfort

Clara modeling the Salkan Mainpack
My partner Clara with the Mainpack (it adjusts for different torso lengths!)

I have tested over a dozen backpacks over the years, and The Mainpack is easily the most comfortable to carry for longer periods. The back panel is very well padded, as are the shoulder straps. The sturdy hip belt is the true star, though. It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever used, places most of your weight on your hips, and even has useful quick access pockets built in.

View of a hand inserting a passport into the Salkan hip pocket
The hip pocket doubles as a sort of fanny pack

The trade off of all that padding, though, is that it does add a bit of bulk to the entire setup. For me, it’s well worth it. I recently had to carry the bag through a 3 hour long immigration line at the Puerto Vallarta airport (so frustrating, don’t get me started!). With any other bag, the stress on my back would have been added torture. But with the Salkan I didn’t feel the least bit sore afterwards.

Organization

The Salkan Backpacker system does have a learning curve involved, but that’s because it offers so many useful organizational features:

Main Compartment – The main compartment is quite roomy. I recommend adding Salkan’s packing cubes to your purchase. They are designed to perfectly nest in this compartment. You’ll also find a large side pocket on one side, and two internal pockets on the other (one of which stores the rollup laundry bag).

Top view of the Salkan Backpacker
Add on the packing cube set for sure!

Laptop Sleeve – Both the daypack and the main pack have laptop compartments which latch shut with a Velcro flap. I keep my laptop in the daypack, but find this a handy place to hide away important documents.

Expandable Side Pockets – There are two pockets on each side of the bag. They are spacious, expandable, and quite deep. You can use them as water bottle pockets, but I’ve also tucked away my tripod, travel umbrella, and flip flops at times.

Quick Access Top Pocket – The top flap includes a handy little zippered pocket where you can quickly access important items. Super convenient!

View of the Salkan's quick access top pocket
Both bags have these nifty quick-access top pockets

Material and Design

Let’s cut to the chase: this is a very high quality pack. Whether you are city hopping, beach bumming, or trekking through the jungles of South America, Salkan’s material and construction are built to last in a variety of high-stress environments.

For heavier downpours, you’ll want to break out the Flight & Rain Suit for added water resistance. But the thick fabric is pretty water resistant by itself, and holds up just fine in lighter showers. Overall, it’s a pretty weatherproof design that is capable of handling just about whatever you’ll throw at it.

I also personally love the style of the entire Salkan Backpacker setup. In an era when so many backpacks are converging around the same minimalist (dare I say, mundane) style, it’s refreshing to see a bag that flashes a little more personality.

Features

View of the author with two Salkan backpack
The Salkan has a much better 2-in-1 carry system than travel backpacks I’ve tested

2-in-1 System

Salkan’s G hook buckles allow you to attach the smaller bag to the back or front of the main bag, so you can easily carry both together.

This is a similar setup to the Osprey Porter and day pack combo I used for a decade. With Osprey, I often found that, with the daypack attached on the back, the entire setup left me unbalanced. Salkan’s The Backpacker smartly sidesteps this problem with a slimmer design that feels noticeably sturdier with the smaller bag latched on the back.

Front and Top Loading

This is an absolutely brilliant feature I wish more travel backpacks would implement. In the past, I’ve always chosen front-loading bags becuase they are just easier to pack when you are laying everything out before your trip, as you would with a suitcase.

View of top entrance to the Salkan Mainpack
Can you load it from the top or like like a suitcase

But I was also always jealous of other travelers’ top-loading bags in crowded hostel dorms, where top access is more convenient than trying to find space to lay it all out. Top access just makes more sense when you’re accessing a locker or have the bag hung off a bunk bed.

With Salkan’s Mainpack, I no longer have to choose. The bag includes a drawstring top opening, and a zippered front opening. The best of both worlds!

📚 Read Next: The Ultimate Guide to Backpacking Europe

Adjustable Back System

It took me a minute to grasp the concept of the adjustable back system, which is likely why the folks at Salkan slipped an explanatory insert in the box. But, now that I get it, I absolutely love it. Basically, there is a slider that is supported by Velcro and you adjust it up or down based on your torso length.

View of insert included in Salkan backpack package, showing how to use the adjustable back system
The included insert helps explain some of the more technical features

For a tall person like me, this was a surprisingly nifty feature that really helped better distribute the weight of the harness system. As the insert helpfully explains, you ideally want 80% of the weight on your hips and 20% on your shoulders. Adjust the back up or down until you get the right balance.

Compression Straps

I am a big fan of compression straps overall, as they can really help a backpack hold a slim form on the road. Salkan’s bag includes two compression straps on each side, which latch together with G hooks. It’s a perfectly serviceable setup. I just personally find that G hooks are a little tricky to use sometimes.

Flight & Rain Cover

Salkan Backpack with the Rain Cover
The rain cover totally covers the bag

Of all the many thoughtful touches in the Salkan Mainpack, the rain cover is probably my favorite feature. I absolutely love that it lives in a pocket on the bottom of the bag like this:

Handing inserting the Flight and Rain cover into the Salkan Mainpack bottom pocket
The flight and rain cover nicely tucks away in this bottom pocket

That means the rain cover is out of the way when you don’t need, but still easily accessible when you do (those Southeast Asia monsoons don’t give much notice). The rain cover is also handy for wrapping the backpack up and protecting it when being checked on an airplane.

Built-in Laundry Bag

A hand holding the Salkan laundry bag
The laundry bag is such a great accessory!

Actually, maybe the built-in laundry sling is my favorite feature. No one thinks about where to put their dirty laundry when they first pack a bag for a trip. I mean, why would you? It’s all clean at that point (well, hopefully it is anyway!). But keeping clean and dirty separate gets harder as your trip wears on. Salkan solves that with its laundry sling, which can be conveniently hooked onto the bag when full.

Carrying Handle and Hanging Hooks

View of hand holding the Salkan backpack's carry hook

The bag includes a nifty carrying handle on the side, which is great for picking it up with one hand quickly. You’ll also find a very sturdy loop on the top of the bag, which is perfect for hanging in a hostel locker or the back of a door.

Technical Specifications

  • Capacity: 45 liters
  • Weight: 5.6 lbs (2.5 kg)
  • Dimensions: 26 inches x 12.6 inches x 8.7 inches (66 cm x 32 cm x 22 cm)
  • Material: 900D COTNA Polyester, nylon lining and webbing, aluminum buckles, YKK zippers

Carry-On Compliance

Wondering if the Salkan Mainpack is carry-on complaint? The short answer is: technically, no. The problem is the length: at 26 inches, Salkan’s backpack is a hair over the 24 inch limit that many airlines apply.

However, with that said, I have personally carried the Salkan on two flights without issue. One of those was on Viva Aerobus, which is a notoriously finicky airline when it comes to checking carry-on size compliance. Now, I did only had the bag packed about 2/3rds full for that flight. But, if you’re willing to risk it, it’s certainly possible to sneak this on as a carry-on.

Full Review: The Daypack by Salkan

The author with the Salkan daypack looking out on mountains

You could buy the Salkan Mainpack separately, but then you’d be missing out on my favorite part of the Salkan system: the incredible daypack.

Unlike other daypacks that can feel bulky even when relatively empty, Salkan’s is a smaller daypack with a lean profile that can expand to fit your use case. It slips perfectly under an airplane seat, easily functions as a laptop bag for digital nomads, all while also having enough functionality for outdoor adventures. All around, it’s the most versatile (and, in my mind, stylish) daypack I’ve ever reviewed.

Comfort

Like its larger cousin, Salkan’s daypack is super comfortable. The best feature here is the extremely generous padding along the back. Even with my laptop inside and the bag fully packed, it still feels very comfortable to carry. If it does get too heavy, the removable sternum strap is a nice touch (the sternum strap helps distribute the weight across the shoulder straps).

As I mentioned earlier, you can also attach the daypack to the larger bag on either the front or the back using the G hooks. If you prefer to just carry it by hand, as I often do when the Mainpack is on my back, then there is a convenient carrying loop. It is also useful for hanging the bag.

Organization

Salkan’s daypack includes several handy pockets, including two water bottle pockets and a super well-hidden security pocket on the left side. The security pocket is great for stashing away pricey tech or extra cash, and is so well hidden that it actually took me days to realize it was even there!

View of a passport inside the Salkan daypack security pocket
The side security pocket is really well hidden!

My favorite pocket, though, has to be the nifty zippered quick access pocket on top. It’s a simple concept, but it has so many useful applications. I tend to throw my keys, hand sanitizer, my external charger, and a few other frequently used grab-and-go items in the pocket. The easy access helps me avoid the need to constantly dig around in the bag.

View of a hand inserting a glasses case into the top pocket of the Salkan daypack
I love the top quick access pocket!

As for the main compartment of the bag, it closes shut with a drawstring, and then there is a flap that connects via a G Hook to hold it all in place. While I sometimes this makes the bag a little inconvenient to quickly access, it definitely offers a lot of security.

Material and Design

The 900D COTNA Polyester is really a fantastically rugged material that I predict will hold up well for a decade or more. Overall, the daypack’s design is pretty stylish (not that I’m qualified to give style advice, lol!). Mine is Grey, but it also comes in Charcoal or Forrest Green.

Laptop Sleeve

Considering how lightweight the daypack is, the laptop sleeve is remarkably well padded. Plus, the Velcro latch means it all feels very secure. Note that the laptop compartment only fits a 15 inch laptop, which might be a little bit of a bummer if you have a larger laptop.

View of a hand inserting a laptop into the Salkan daypack

Technical Specifications

  • Capacity: 20 liters
  • Weight: 1.87 lbs (0.85 kg)
  • Dimensions: 18.9 inches x 11.4 inches x 7 inches (48 cm x 29 cm x 18 cm)
  • Material: 900D COTNA Polyester fabric with wax finish

👉 Ready to buy now? Head on over to Salkan’s website where you can find the daypack as a standalone purchase or buy it as part of The Backpacker combo.

***

Overall, I think Salkan’s bags are perfect for long term travelers or serious backpackers like myself. It’s not a cheap travel backpack, but if you’re going to be traveling long term or doing any serious outdoor adventuring, the investment will pay off.

Still not sure if it’s the right fit for you? Check out my post reviewing the top travel backpacks for alternative options like the Osprey Porter, the Tortuga Setout, and the Tortuga Outbreaker.

No matter what bag you choose, I really hope this Salkan backpack review has been helpful to you! If it has, or if there is something I can improve on, please scroll down and leave me a comment!

The Backpacker

Salkan's The Backpacker is a travel backpack and daypack combo that is well designed for long term backpackers or outdoor adventurers.

Product Brand: Salkan

Product In-Stock: InStock

Editor's Rating:
4.5

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