As any parent knows, traveling with kids is quite the adventure. And when you add teens into the mix, your trips take on a whole different perspective. As a mother of teens who are as different as they come, I am always looking for luggage that is functional yet stylish, affordable yet unique, and fits each of my kid’s personalities. After a lot of trial and error (and many returned packages), we finally settled on the Patagonia Refugio Daypack as their go-to bag.
Our family is very outdoorsy and adventurous. For us, a typical vacation involves a lot of hiking and walking. Anything from urban adventures to backcountry camping, cycling, and kayaking are fair game, and as such, I am always on the lookout for gear that can hold up to everything we throw its way. I have always loved Patagonia for its company ethos of using business to protect nature and building the best products while causing 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 the right kind of luggage to keep all his hiking essentials handy. Since then, we have migrated to a larger one; he now carries the Refugio Daypack in the 26L size. This bag works as both an in-transit bag that he carries in the car and on flights, and for short day hikes. He loves the fact that it is compact yet roomy—perfect for a multitude of activities without having to swap bags. He uses the bungee cords on the outside of the pack to compress the bag when he doesn’t have much stuff to carry. On the flip side, the cords create additional storage for things like a lightweight jacket or beanie when needed. The four small loops in the front also offer room to attach his flashlight and pocket knife for easy access on the trail.
We love this pack because it is made with 100 percent recycled polyester fabric. It also has a durable water repellent coating that resists moisture and keeps the contents inside dry—a vital feature when we’ve been caught in a sudden downpour. The back panel is also breathable, making it that much more comfortable on long walks around town. And if your teens are as tech obsessed as mine, the dedicated desk caddy sleeve with a zipped pocket and the removable padded laptop sleeve (which fits laptops up to 15″) comes in handy for storing wires, AirPods, phones, and other gadgets on flights. Perhaps one of the coolest parts of this pack, according to my teens, is the bike-light clipping point at the base of the pack—perfect for making the late-night excursions that seem to be a part of every adventure with kids a little safer.
If you need just a little bit more room to carry your belongings, the slightly larger Patagonia Refugio Daypack 30L provides that additional space. Both packs come in beautiful, muted tones like coriander brown, rosehip, and desert plume. While this daypack is our gold standard, my teens are equally vocal and choosy about the other luggage they use while we travel. Here are a few pieces that pass their test:
Suitcases and organizers
When it comes to luggage, Dakine’s wheeled 365 roller bag is a favorite among the family. The soft-sided suitcase has a large capacity of 120L and a split-level design with interior dividers for easy organization, which is a must for any parent packing for their kids. The handle is retractable, and the wheels help carry the luggage easily, even when full. Pakt’s packing cubes help with further organization. The multitude of sizes a set includes means they can fit as easily in a daypack as they do inside a suitcase.
For longer weekend and overnight camping trips, the kids’ go-to bag is the Kelty Redwing 36. Its advanced perimeter frame and ventilated back panel make it comfortable to carry on longer treks. Plus, the side pockets have pass-throughs for hiking poles. The Yeti Crossroads 22L comes in a close second. It has a flip-top pocket that turns outward for easy packing and unpacking. The side-zip entry helps access contents fast—useful when traveling with teens who need their stuff at the ready every minute of the day.
My 13-year-old also enjoys Filson’s ripstop nylon backpack. Its padded shoulder straps, adjustable sternum strap, and padded back panel make it ultra-comfortable and adjustable. With a multitude of pockets, D-rings, and daisy-chain webbing on the shoulder straps, it can store all his outdoor gear, from pocket knives to binoculars and headlamps.
More backpacks and accessories
The Metro Backpack from Monos is a great multi-purpose travel companion. My 16-year-old particularly enjoys the fact that it is made of water-resistant vegan leather and thinks its sleek design and look makes it perfect for city trips. She stashes the Mulu catchall pouch from Parker Clay inside to organize all other accessories. Hand crafted using sustainably sourced leather by at-risk women in Ethiopia earning a fair wage, this is one of those feel-good accessories that she always carries with her.