As any parent knows, traveling with kids is a real adventure. And when you add teens to the mix, your travels take on an entirely different perspective. As a mother to two completely different teens as they come, I’m always on the lookout for luggage that is functional yet stylish, affordable yet unique, and fits my child’s personalities. After much trial and error (and many return packages), we finally settled on Patagonia Refugio Daypack as their go-to bag.
Our family is very outgoing and adventurous. For us, a typical vacation involves a lot of hiking. Anything from urban adventures to country camping, biking, and kayaking is fair game, and as such, I’m always on the lookout for gear that can withstand everything we throw its way. I’ve always loved Patagonia for the company’s ethos of using business to protect nature and build the best products while doing no unnecessary harm.
I first found a version similar to this daypack years ago when we took our first family camping trip to Glacier National Park. My son was seven at the time, and while a traditional backpack was too big for him, a daypack seemed to be the right kind of luggage to keep all of his hiking essentials close at hand. Since then, we have migrated to a larger area; Now holds a 26L Refugio Daypack. This bag doubles as a transit bag that he carries in the car, on flights, and on short day trips. He loves the fact that it’s compact yet roomy – perfect for so many activities without having to switch bags. He uses the bungee cords on the outside of the package to compress the bag when he doesn’t have much to carry around. On the flip side, cords provide additional storage for things like a lightweight jacket or beanie when needed. The four small rings in the front also provide space to attach his flashlight and pocket knife for easy access on the trail.
We love this pack because it’s made from 100% recycled polyester fabric. It also has a durable water repellent coating that repels moisture and keeps the contents dry – a vital feature when we get caught in sudden heavy rain. The backboard is also breathable, which makes it even more comfortable for long walks around town. And if teens are as tech-obsessed as I am, the Desk Bag with a zip pocket and removable padded laptop sleeve (which fits laptops up to 15-inch) comes in handy for storing cords, AirPods, phones, and other gadgets on flights. Perhaps one of the coolest parts of this kit, according to the teens, is the bike light’s cut-out point at the base of the kit – perfect for late-night excursions that seem to be part of every adventure with the kids a little safer.
If you need a little more room to carry your belongings, the slightly larger Patagonia Refugio Daypack 30L provides that extra space. Both packages come in calming, pretty colors like Coriander Brown, Rose Pink, and Desert Column. While this day bag is our gold standard, my teens are just as vocal and choosy about the other luggage they use while traveling. Here are some of the pieces that passed the test:
Bags and organizers
When it comes to luggage, the Dakine 365 Wheeled Roller Bag is a family favorite. Featuring a large capacity of 120 liters and a split-level design with interior dividers for easy organization, the soft-sided bag is a must for any parent packing their kids. The handle is retractable, and the wheels help carry luggage easily, even when full. Packing cubes in Pakt help with extra organization. The set of multiple sizes means it can fit as easily in a daypack as it does inside a travel bag.
For long weekend and overnight camping trips, the kids’ go-to bag is the Kelty Redwing 36. Its advanced surround frame and ventilated back panel make it comfortable on long trips. Additionally, the side pockets contain walkways for hiking poles. The Yeti Crossroads 22L is a close second. It has a fold-out top pocket for easy packing and unpacking. Entering a side zip helps you get to content quickly — useful when traveling with teens who need their things ready every minute of the day.
My 13 year old son also enjoys this nylon ripstop backpack from Filson. The padded shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap and padded back panel make it extremely comfortable and adjustable. With several pockets, D-rings, and cascade chain straps on the shoulder straps, he can store all his outdoor gear, from pocket knives to binoculars and headlights.
More Backpacks & Accessories
The Monos Metro Backpack is a great multi-purpose travel companion. My 16-year-old son especially enjoys the fact that it’s made of water-resistant vegan leather and believes its sleek design and look make it perfect for city trips. She stashes the Parker Clay Mulu catchall bag inside to organize all of her other accessories. Handcrafted using sustainably sourced leather by at-risk women in Ethiopia who earn a fair wage, this is one feel-good accessory you always carry with it.