The value of a quality, all-purpose travel-ready backpack cannot be underestimated. United by Blue’s 30L Base Backpack delivers, with just the right amount of bells and whistles without going overboard.  After all, there is such a thing as too complicated. At 30 liters, it’s just the right size to use as a day pack while traveling or as a trail pack for day hikes at home, at 13″ x 17″ x 7″, approximately. You get what you need: a water bottle sleeve, a padded laptop sleeve (accommodating up to a 15″ laptop), exterior zipper pouch pockets and open side pockets, and a felt-lined top pocket for those items you don’t want to be scratched.

The backpack is made with a durable water repellent finish; it shed moisture nicely during a misty trip through the Olympic Peninsula. It resists staining, which is nice for travel days on airplanes and in cars, and adjustable padded shoulder straps and a leather haul strap make it easy and comfortable to cart around. You get a drawstring closure with a top lid and cross-sternum strap, too.

And because I’m probably too superficial, I’ll add that this is a good-looking backpack. The design is just a bit different than most, with its double external pockets and leather accents. You get to choose between several colors and pattern options, including solid black, solid olive, navy with a mountain landscape, a rust and tan two-tone combo that reminds me happily of an orange creamsicle, and two topography patterns in navy and gray (which I think looks more like a creamy white). They’re all really gorgeous.

The design is sleek enough to feel urban (my college kid took mine immediately to use on campus) but functional enough and rugged-looking enough for a day in the outdoors. It did fine on day hikes in my area. I’ll be bringing mine on an extended trip in Central America, too (if I can snag it back from the kid).

Pick one up for $108, not a bad price at all for what you get. You can find them on the United by Blue site, but also on Amazon for a sizable price cut (though in fewer color options). If your travels demand something bigger, United by Blue makes a 45 liter pack too, which is just as durable and practical, though bulkier. This one may not fit under your seat on a plane, but it will still slip into an overhead compartment nicely.

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