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The 11 Best Carry-on Travel Backpacks of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

These spacious and comfortable carry-on backpacks can easily replace a suitcase.

best backpack air travel

In This Article

  • Our Top Picks
  • Others We Liked

Our Testing Process

  • Tips For Buying
  • Why Trust T+L

Travel + Leisure/Joy Kim

Skip the stress of checking a bag or lugging a traditional carry-on suitcase around an airport by adding a carry-on backpack to your travel gear. Practical, functional, and hassle-free, a carry-on backpack can fit up to a week’s worth of clothes, depending on your wardrobe and packing prowess. Whether you’re backpacking through Europe or embarking on a weekend getaway, this style helps make your trip as efficient and enjoyable as possible.

We evaluated 89 carry-on backpacks in more than seven separate tests in our New York City lab and even utilized our airplane set — complete with a row of real plane seats and overhead storage bins — during the process. We then took each bag out into the world for at least six months to test its worth on a variety of trips.

Why I'm the Expert

After taking part in every single backpack test we've done since 2022, personally testing more than 50 bags, and even owning two packs from this list, including our best overall winner, I'm confident there is a carry-on backpack for every type of traveler here.

Best Overall

Cotopaxi allpa 35l travel pack.

  • Capacity 5 /5
  • Design 5 /5
  • Durability 5 /5
  • Comfort 5 /5

I've used this pack for over four years and I'm confident I can fit more in it than a carry-on.

There isn’t a designated water bottle holder.

The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack earned our top pick as the best carry-on backpack with its perfect performance in all categories of our testing. We loved its high capacity and thought the unstructured style was ideal for wedging clothes into every corner, maximizing packing space in the clamshell-style compartments. The shell is made of a TPU-coated 1000D polyester with a rubbery feel, and although it feels resistant to liquids, the backpack comes with a rain cover to ensure that your belongings stay dry while traveling. Handles on all four sides of the backpack make it easy to carry and lift into an overhead bin from any angle. The only downside to the bag is that it doesn't have a water bottle holder on the sides, so you'll have to carry one or try to fit it in the top pocket in the front.

During testing, we weren't surprised to see that the durable-feeling materials weren't damaged at all after we repeatedly tossed the bag onto the ground. Aside from testing this bag in our lab, I personally own it and have used it for countless trips in the last four years. The quality hasn't wavered in the slightest and I typically reach for the bag since I can fit more than I could in a carry-on. Plus, with the rising costs of bringing luggage on an airplane, this bag has been a real money-saver since I can usually fit my personal items inside, too.

The Details: 35 liters | 20 x 12 x 8 inches | 3.8 pounds | TPU-coated 1000D polyester, nylon | Padded laptop sleeve

Travel + Leisure / Jhett Thompson

Travel + leisure / Jhett Thompson

Best for Long Trips

Away the outdoor convertible backpack 45l.

  • Design 4.5 /5

We love how comfortable it is on your shoulders and back thanks to the soft materials and cushioned shoulder straps.

At nearly 22 inches tall, this pack may be too long for those with shorter torsos.

You'll be surprised by just how spacious this backpack is. The main compartment opens up like a clam shell for easy access to items that allowed us to fit an entire four-day packing list with ease — plus a few extra items. There are multiple large compartments, compression straps, and a few pockets in this backpack that are ideal for organizing clothes, gear, and accessories. While the 45-liter backpack can grow heavy when completely filled, the padded shoulder straps are supportive and keep you comfortable when walking for long periods of time. Plus, the convenient duffel handles allow you to switch up your carrying style if you do grow fatigued.

This backpack also sports a well-padded laptop sleeve that protected our testing laptop when we threw the fully packed bag off a counter three times. There was also no sign of rips, scuffs, or tears in the bag's fabric after our tests. This water- and abrasion-resistant backpack would be perfect for avid travels who are looking for a sleek backpack to take them from city explorations to camping adventures.

The Details: 45 liters | 21.7 x 13.6 x 9.5 inches | 3.32 pounds | Water-resistant

Travel + Leisure / Joy Kim

Best Budget

Asenlin 40l travel backpack.

It’s spacious and comes with three packing cubes to stay organized while traveling. 

After six months of use, the bag is scuffed up with noticeable scratches.

Perfect for travelers on a budget, the Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack impressed us with its packing features and comfortable fit. We thought the bag provided excellent organization thanks to the interior and exterior compression that provided extra room for packing. The backpack comes with three different packing cubes in small, medium, and large. We also like that this backpack includes both a suitcase strap and a handle to hold it horizontally. The backpack itself also features straps inside and a laptop sleeve to easily hold down items and pack electronics.

The design didn’t blow us away like those from some of the more costly brands, but it does have a laptop sleeve and a water bottle holder. We also liked the flexibility of being able to wear the Asenlin as a backpack, hold it like a briefcase, or use the trolley sleeve to slide it onto a roller suitcase’s handle. However, a bigger adjustment range for the chest strap would have been ideal. During our durability tests, the backpack didn’t scuff or show signs of damage. We think this budget pick is well worth the low price for those looking to get a durable, comfortable, and spacious carry-on backpack. 

The Details: 40 liters | 18.5 x 12.5 x 9.5 inches | 2.7 pounds | Polyester | 17-inch laptop pocket

Best for Photographers

Peak design travel backpack 45l.

  • Value 4.5 /5

You can access the main compartment on the bag from four different exterior zippers.

This is one of the most expensive backpack on our list.

This 45-liter backpack has a main compartment that is spacious enough to fit clothes for at least four days, and its expansive design is helpful for packing bulky items like jackets and shoes. Placing the clothes and shoes into the bag during testing was efficient and simple thanks to a removable divider sleeve and compression straps to hold everything down securely. Designed with photographers in mind, this backpack functions similarly to a camera bag . It can fit camera cubes, and it has four points of entry to the main compartment, allowing travelers to quickly grab clothes or accessories without unzipping the backpack. There is a padded laptop sleeve and stretchy side pockets for water bottles or a camera tripod. 

Peak Design didn’t let any space go to waste on its backpack, so even the hip belt has a small pocket on it for storage and can be packed away when you’re not looking for extra support. It’s also easy to adjust all of the straps to prevent weight imbalances and pinching. Made of weatherproof and water-resistant recycled nylon, the bag held up perfectly after we tossed it on the ground, showing no signs of scuffs or damage — exactly what you want in a durable backpack . Although the price of this bag is steep, it comes with plenty of helpful features for travelers, and the stellar performance leads us to believe that it would last a long time. 

  The Details: 45 liters | 13 x 22 x 9.5 inches | 4.8 pounds | Nylon, polyester | Laptop sleeve | Expandable

Travel + Leisure / Conor Ralph

Best Compression

Tropicfeel shell backpack.

  • Design 4 /5
  • Comfort 4 /5

It can be converted from 40 liters for traveling to 22 liters to use as a daypack. 

The handle on the top of the bag wasn’t as comfortable to hold onto as we hoped. 

We love this backpack’s thoughtful features geared toward all types of travelers. The Tropicfeel Shell Backpack has the ability to store up to 42 liters worth of clothing for a weekend or week-long trip, but you can also use it as a 20-liter backpack for day trips, sightseeing, and everyday use. After regularly using the bag for six months, we found it to be incredibly sturdy and durable. We had no issues fitting our full packing list and found that there was plenty more room thanks to the variety of buckled straps that allow you to adjust the size of the bag. You can loosen the front buckle to allow the roll-up opening flap to expand to fit more items, and there is a kangaroo pouch at the bottom of the backpack that provides an additional six liters of space for shoes or other items you want to keep separate. There’s also a padded compartment in the back of the backpack that can fit laptops up to 17 inches long. We thought the backpack was comfortable to wear after adjusting the shoulder and waist straps, but we found that it might take some effort to get the buckles into your desired setting. 

The Shell Backpack didn’t show any signs of damage throughout testing, and the material is weather-proof. For travelers looking to add upgrades to their backpacks, the brand has an organization system and accessory pouches that you can add on for additional fees. If you need an all-in-one backpack, we think this backpack’s versatility makes it well worth the higher cost. Bonus, if you want a sustainable backpack , this one is made from made 100 percent recycled nylon and 64 percent recycled polyester. 

The Details: 20 to 42 liters | 12 x 20 x 7.5 inches | 3.3 pounds | Recycled polyester

Best Organization

Topo designs global travel bag 30l.

Topo Designs

  • Capacity 4 /5

There are tons of pockets and a laptop compartment to help you organize your belongings.

After six months of use, we noticed the bag can feel quite heavy if packed full.

Packing for a trip can often feel tedious, but the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L helps make it easy and efficient. We loved how convenient it is to store a laptop up to 15 inches in the padded compartment in the back of the bag, and there are two front pockets for easy access to a tablet or phone charger. There are a ton of compartments and pockets that offer plenty of options for staying organized with small or loose items in the absence of packing cubes, with places to stash cords, travel documents, electronics, water bottles, and more.

The adjustable shoulder straps and straps that go across the chest and waist help evenly distribute the backpack's weight, making it more comfortable to carry around, although we noticed during our long-term testing that the bag can still feel heavy if you pack it completely full. The 100 percent recycled nylon material felt durable and would likely stay in good condition over time. 

The Details: 30 liters | 12.5 x 20 x 7 inches

Best Expandable

Nomatic travel pack.

  • Capacity 4.8 /5
  • Comfort 4.5 /5
  • Durability 4.5 /5
  • Value 4.8 /5

The expandable zippers add an extra 3.5 inches of space which increases the capacity to 30 liters.

Some of the pockets feel unnecessary.

The Nomatic Travel Pack is the ultimate versatile carry-on backpack thanks to its expandable zippers that add an extra 10 liters of space. Ideal for an overnight trip or a long weekend getaway, the bag has a variety of pockets and compartments to efficiently organize shoes, clothes, accessories, and technology. While the number of pockets on the interior was a bit overwhelming at first, travelers who like to be extra organized will appreciate the designated padded laptop sleeve, sunglasses case, discrete passport pocket, and plethora of slip and zippered pockets in the main compartment. The handles and padded shoulder straps are comfortable for carrying the bag, and the small-to-medium size of the backpack makes it super comfortable to carry since it doesn’t feel bulky or heavy. We used this bag on a variety of international trips throughout four months of testing, and it still looks new, despite rough handling and being shoved under airplane seats.

The Details: 20 liters (expands to 30 liters) | 18.5 x 12 x 6-9.5 inches | 4.16 pounds | 16-inch laptop pocket

Travel + Leisure / Jessica Juliao

  • Travel + Leisure/Jessica Juliao

Matein Travel Backpack

  • Comfort 4.8 /5
  • Durability 4.3 /5

It has several compartments for keeping clothing, shoes, tech, and accessories organized.

The materials feel a little lower in quality than other backpacks we tried.

If you’re not ready to invest in a pricier carry-on backpack, you can always dip your toes with this functional and spacious one for under $60. This 40-liter backpack has one large main compartment that can fit several tops, bottoms, and a toiletry case without any issues. We particularly love the separate footwear compartment to prevent the bottom of your shoes from coming into contact with clean clothes and that storage can even fit pairs up to size 12. In addition, there is a laptop pocket and a large front pocket with spots to put items like phone chargers, headphones, and other small accessories that could get lost easily. Compared to the pricier bags we tried, this one feels a bit lower in quality, but none of the nylon fabric tore and scuffed during our durability tests, so we still think this bag has a good lifespan ahead of it. 

The Details: 40 liters | 20 x 13 x 8 inches | 2 pounds | Water-repellent nylon

Best Waterproof

Tortuga travel backpack.

This bag is basically a suitcase without wheels thanks to its large capacity and clamshell-style opening.

The bag can feel a bit heavy to carry when it’s fully packed.

If you’re traveling somewhere with a rainy climate, you’ll want a carry-on backpack like this one from Tortuga that can ward off the elements. It’s made with the brand’s 100 percent recycled and waterproof Shell200 or “sailcloth” material to protect your belongings and prevent bad weather from putting a serious damper on your trip. During a rainy overnight camping trip, the Tortuga Travel Backpack essentially sat in a puddle for hours, yet none of our gear or clothing inside got wet at all, and the bag was easy to clean with just a wet cloth.

This is a seriously spacious bag at 40 liters, so we found that you can seamlessly fit a week’s worth of clothing (or more) between the two clamshell compartments. Because of the split style of the bag, packing it up is hassle-free since it’s easy to see exactly how much space is left on each side. And if you run out of space in the main compartments, there are top, front, and side exterior pockets to store a laptop, accessories, water bottles, and more items that you’ll want to have handy while traveling.

The Details: 40 liters | 21.7 x 13.8 x 7.9 inches | 4.5 pounds | Waterproof sailcloth | 16-inch laptop pocket

Travel + Leisure / Taylor Fox

Best for Foot Travel

Osprey fairview 40.

The compartments and various straps made packing effortless. 

It’s a large bag, but it wasn’t so heavy that it was uncomfortable to wear.

For travelers journeying on foot, the Osprey Fairview wowed us with its spacious interior and comfortable fit. The straps for walking longer distances are really the best part — making your bag feel like you're carrying less since the weight is so well distributed. The bags have the same storage capacity and general style, but Osprey’s women’s backpacks are designed to fit a smaller torso with waist and chest harnesses that sit upward and outward for a more comfortable carry. In testing, the main compartment and mesh zippered pouch on the front flap proved to be spacious. There are two internal compression straps and one external strap that kept belongings secure through our rough handling, so we think the bag would provide sufficient protection if you do need to check it in for a flight. 

We appreciated the padded shoulder straps and back that made wearing the backpack comfortable, despite the weight of its contents. The Osprey Fairview bags have an internal suspension the brand calls “LightWire” that distributes the weight from the harness to the hip belt, and our shoulders didn’t hurt after carrying the backpack since most of the weight shifted to the lower body.

The Details: 40 liters | 22 x 14 x 9 inches

Travel + Leisure /Jhett Thompson

Best Convertible

Calpak terra 26l laptop duffel backpack.

With a modular design, we loved being able to carry this spacious pack as a duffel or backpack.

We found it was most comfortable to carry as a backpack when packed full.

The two-in-one design of this carry-on backpack from Calpak makes it the perfect piece of luggage to add to your collection. If you need to carry the backpack long distances, the padded straps offer plenty of comfort to protect the shoulders from feeling the weight of the pack, and they can be tucked away when they're not needed. For rushing off an airplane or grabbing the pack quickly, the duffel bag strap makes it easy to sling the pack over the shoulder within seconds. In testing, senior commerce editor Lydia Price preferred using the backpack straps after noting that the generous padding in the back and on the straps made the bag noticeably more comfortable to carry. I also own this bag and prefer to use the backpack straps, but I love having the option to carry it multiple ways as my needs change on the go.

Although the bag is medium-sized with a 26-liter capacity, it still has plenty of room to fit enough clothing for four or five days' worth of traveling thanks to the numerous pockets. The clamshell-style opening also makes it easy to organize items between the two compartments. The ripstop polyester fabric didn't scuff or scratch during our durability tests and we especially love that the outer material is water-resistant, which is helpful for all types of adventuring from urban to outdoor settings.

The Details: 26 liters | 18 x 12 x 7.5 inches | 2.9 pounds | Recycled ripstop polyester | 17-inch padded laptop pocket

Other Carry-on Backpacks We Liked

While we tested plenty of high-scoring carry-on backpacks, there were some that almost made our list but didn’t quite make the cut due to several weaknesses revealed during testing. 

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus : We loved the adjustable sternum and waist straps that you can tuck into the bag when not in use, but we think there are better bags out there for a fraction of the price. 

AmazonBasics Carry-on Travel Backpack : It had plenty of compartments for staying organized and the material felt durable, but there weren’t any standout features that made it a must-have backpack. 

Vancropak Carry-on Backpack, Extra Large 40L : This backpack fits all of the packing items, and it even fits under an airplane seat, but our budget pick performed slightly better and it costs less. 

On more than seven separate occasions, we tested carry-on backpacks in our New York City lab to make sure we were creating this list with the best options from trusted luggage brands. For our latest tests, we built a specially designed airplane set that includes a row of real airplane seats and an overhead storage bin. To date, we've put over 89 carry-on backpacks through a series of trials that compared capacity, design, comfort, durability, and overall value. After completing our in-house testing, we sent the backpacks out with our Travel + Leisure editors to give us insight into how they fared during real-world travel. We have been updating this article with long-term testing insights as soon as they become available. 

To test for capacity, we began by packing the bags with three shirts, two pairs of pants, one jacket, one pair of shoes, and a toiletry bag. We noted if any space was left over as well as how functional the compartments were for organizing the contents packed. We evaluated the overall design of the bags by paying attention to how they fold out, how well the zippers and buckles work, and the functionality of each pocket or compartment. 

Next, we put on the backpacks and walked around for 10 minutes to rate comfortability. The highest scoring backpacks were exceptionally enjoyable to wear with the weight evenly distributed on the shoulders or hips.

Then, we threw the backpacks a few feet or off a countertop to test for durability. The highest-rated bags had no scuffs or tears after rough handling, and the packed items inside remained unharmed as well. 

Our testers had no previous knowledge of the cost of each backpack until after testing was completed. This allowed us to give an unbiased rating of overall values, where the top bags were determined to be fairly priced based on a high-quality performance, especially for the pricier bags. After our lab tests, the backpacks were sent out for real-world testing for up to six months.

Tips for Buying a Carry-on Backpack

Consider under-the-seat versus carry-on bags.

Not all carry-on backpacks will fit under the seat of an airplane, but if that’s your intended use, we recommend checking an airline’s underseat dimensions before heading to the airport. Similarly, with a carry-on backpack for the overhead bin, you’ll want to double-check the airline’s carry-on size restrictions to avoid paying unwanted fees if the bag is stuffed full of clothes. 

Keep in mind what the bag will be used for

It may seem obvious, but to find the perfect travel backpack you need to first consider its primary function. For those traveling by foot, a smaller, lightweight backpack would be better for portability and comfort. For those traveling by air, a compression bag or backpack that has plentiful organization could be a better choice so you get the most out of the limited airline baggage space. When traveling by air, you might also want to consider an option with wheels for added convenience, like a rolling backpack, weekender, or duffel bag .

Frequently Asked Questions

During our test, we packed three shirts, two pants, one jacket, one pair of shoes, and a toiletry bag into each bag and often had extra space for more clothes. Many backpacks come with a laptop compartment , but you’ll want to make sure that feature is included before purchasing yours.

Carry-on size restrictions vary by airline, and it’s possible for a carry-on backpack to not fit within some limits. Most bags will have a product details section highlighting the dimensions of the backpack. If you’re looking to fit the bag solely under the seat , you should check to make sure the bag fits the dimensions while it’s packed.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

After moving to New York City in the spring of 2022 to test travel gear for T+L, Anna Popp has spent countless hours personally testing more than 50 backpacks including bags on this list from Cotopaxi, Calpak, Peak Design, and Nomatic. She has been traveling with our top pick for more than four years — and even had to get everyone in her family the same bag so they would stop stealing hers.

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Related Articles

The 11 Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Our simulations reveal which bags you can count on

best backpack air travel

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .

TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong

A solid backpack is key to a successful trip. Think about it: You can use it as a carry-on, and if you pack light, it'll be the only piece of luggage you bring on a trip. It won't weigh you down as you rush to catch the inter-terminal train at the airport, and it'll look good on you as you stroll the streets of your destination. Find a good travel backpack, and it will serve you for years to come.

There’s a lot to consider when looking for a backpack to take you through all kinds of situations and environments. Waterproof, anti-theft, stylish, lightweight, wheels or no wheels—all things to keep in mind as you shop. To help you make the right choice, we tested 32 carry-on backpacks in our New York testing lab and in the real world. We tested for capacity, design, comfort, durability, and value.

Final Verdict

Product selection, how we tested, other carry-on backpacks we tested.

  • What to Look For

Why Trust TripSavvy

Best overall, cotopaxi allpa 35l travel pack.

  • Capacity 5 /5
  • Design 5 /5
  • Durability 5 /5
  • Comfort 5 /5

Super durable material

Very comfortable with multiple carry methods

Lighter and more rugged than previous models

Nothing yet

Does the perfect travel backpack exist? We’re not sure, but we can’t think of one that comes closer than the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L. This second version of Cotopaxi’s best-selling backpack is rugged and comfy, has excellent organization capabilities, and is the perfect size to throw in an overhead bin, toss in a vehicle, and huff around from train to hostel.

The pack uses burly TPU-coated 1000-denier polyester and lightweight 840-denier ballistic nylon paneling. It has excellent weight distribution with comfy shoulder and sternum straps and hip belts, or stow the straps and carry the pack with side handles. The inside features multiple pockets of different sizes that we found perfect for separating clean and dirty clothes, electronics, and shoes. Bonus: It comes with a rainfly to protect it from the weather.

Capacity: 35 liters | Weight: 3 pounds, 8 ounces | Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 8 inches | Materials: TPU-coated 1000-denier polyester and 840-denier ballistic nylon

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

Best Overall, Runner-Up

Osprey fairview 40.

Quite spacious while remaining carry-on sized

Keeps belongings secure

Good padding and weight distribution

Osprey’s women-specific Fairview 40 pack impressed our tester with its size, space, and compartments. “This bag has a lot of compartments and a lot of straps to hold everything in place,” our tester reported. Despite the bag fitting a bit large, our tester said it was still very comfortable to wear. Osprey employs its proprietary Lightwire Frame Suspension, which helps spread the weight across the back panel and from the harness to the hip belt.

Despite being a 40-liter pack, it weighs just about 3 pounds, thanks to the lightweight nylon ripstop material and frame. “It did not hurt my back, and I like how most of the weight was shifted to my lower back,” our tester mentioned. Besides the fit, we also appreciated that all straps are stowable, making it easy in case you need to check the bag on a plane (which is possible on smaller planes with this larger-capacity pack). For the men’s version of the same pack, check out the Farpoint 40 .

Capacity: 38 liters (extra-small/small size) | Weight: 3 pounds, 1 ounce | Dimensions: 19.3 x 13.8 x 8 inches | Materials: 210-denier nylon mini hex diamond ripstop and 600-denier packcloth

Best Budget

Vancropak 40l travel backpack.

  • Capacity 4 /5
  • Design 3 /5
  • Comfort 4 /5

Great for a short-to-medium-length trip

Could double as a business travel pack

Feature packed and user friendly

Lacks tech compartment

Cloth material could get dirty easily

This 40-liter pack checks all the boxes, including excellent value. Vancropak says it fits enough for trips between three and seven days, and we’d have to agree. “It fit everything even though I packed quickly and not thoughtfully or strategically,” our tester said. “It’s perfect for a weekend trip when you want to pack extra ‘just in case’ outfits or items. It even expands to provide more room. It has extra pockets, opens like a suitcase, has many different handles, and backpack straps that can be tucked and zipped away.” Compression straps also help shrink the bag back down after being packed.

And if you weren’t convinced yet of its value, it also includes packing cubes. “Its business-casual aesthetic makes it ideal for short business trips, too,” a tester added. One nitpick? There’s no laptop sleeve. But our testers thought the other features—and comfort—more than made up for that slight issue.

Capacity: 40 liters | Weight: 3.98 pounds | Dimensions: 20 x 13.7 x 6.2 inches | Materials: Water-resistant polyester

Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack

Functional straps

Multiple ways to carry

Not too weighty

Our tester didn’t love the style

If you didn’t dig the budget pack above, behold another excellent value travel pack. Like the Vancropak, the Asenlin Travel Backpack also includes three packing cubes. Our testers found they could easily fit everything needed for a weekend trip. They also liked the internal straps for organization and the external straps for compression. “It offers three different carrying methods, which is nice,” the testers reported. “It has a lot of different pockets and storage areas. The bottle holder on the side also unzips to expand, which is a thoughtful addition.”

Our testers liked how comfortable the bag was to wear and that it wasn’t overly heavy (the brand claims it weighs less than 3 pounds). We also believe this could double as a business travel bag.

Capacity: 40 liters | Weight: 2.7 pounds | Dimensions: 18.5 x 12.5 x 9.5 inches | Materials: Water-resistant polyester Oxford cloth

Best for Business Travel

Nomatic travel bag.

  • Comfort 3 /5

Fits about a week’s worth of items

Loads of internal organization

Comes with an additional laundry bag

Uncomfortable to carry at times

Some scuff marks after tossing around

While we certainly love this bag's sleek and simplistic aesthetic, there’s a lot more to it than just looks. It’s durable and water-resistant and has multiple carry options (e.g., duffel and over the shoulders), a separate shoe compartment, lots of tech organization, and a TSA-ready laptop sleeve.

Our testers loved the capacity of this pack. “It easily fit everything on the list with plenty of room to spare,” one tester said. “I think everything you would need for up to a week away would fit easily.” The pronounced rectangular shape of the bag made it extra easy to pack and helped organize folded clothes. “The bag had two different shoe pockets, a laptop sleeve, and many other compartments for both smaller clothing items and even some work supplies,” a tester reported.

The one drawback of this pack was our testers didn’t find it the most comfortable. Specifically, the straps were stiff and dug into one tester’s neck. Overall, though, our testers were very pleased with the pack and thought it was worth the fit, especially for the design and ease of packing.

Capacity: 40 liters | Weight: 3.4 pounds | Dimensions: 19 x 21 x 14 inches | Materials: Not listed

Best Multi-use

Peak design travel backpack 45l.

  • Value 4.5 /5

Excellent capacity

Easy to handle

Thoughtful storage solutions

This 45-liter travel pack from Peak Design debuted at the Outdoor Retailer Expo in 2018 and promptly won many awards. A few years later, it still holds up. Peak Design basically thought of everything when designing this pack. The outside features weatherproof recycled 400-denier nylon canvas and ultralight padded foam. It includes grab handles on each side, stowable hip belts, and a sternum strap. The inside has multiple pockets for organization and loads of room for trips of four days or longer.

Our testers loved the size and the zippers allowing access from four different sides of the bag. “It was super easy to pack, and there were just enough organization solutions to provide options for different packing strategies,” a tester said. “I also loved how many handles there were. A grab handle on all four main sides of the bag makes it super easy to maneuver, especially when putting it in the overhead compartment.”

Testers also liked the sheath built into the pack to stow the hip belt and the small pocket on the belt for stashing quick-grab items like lip balm, keys, or cards. They also enjoyed the water bottle pockets on both sides and the pack's comfort. Oh, and this pack is 100 percent carbon neutral. The only issue they saw was the price—it’s one of the most expensive on this list. But if you can look at this as an investment, the durability suggests it should last for many years. It's certainly carry-on luggage that any travel-savvy guy can appreciate.

Capacity: 45 liters | Weight: 4.5 pounds | Dimensions: 22 x 13 x 9.5 inches | Materials: Weatherproof 100 percent recycled 400-denier nylon canvas external shell and 900-denier waterproof bottom liner

TripSavvy / Conor Ralph

Most Comfortable

Topo designs global travel bag 40l.

Topo Designs

Excellent internal organization

Many different carrying options

Great for long travel days

Could be roomier

If your travel involves carrying your backpack for long periods, we recommend Topo Designs' Global Travel Bag. This super durable pack is also super comfortable with plush and padded shoulder straps and a hip belt. We also love that there are multiple ways to carry this pack with a comfy and padded sling. Its construction includes durable and recycled nylons with a canvas feel. And it meets Fair Wear certification standards, ensuring fair labor practices.

“There are a ton of compartments and pockets, so a lot of options for staying organized with small or loose items in the absence of packing cubes,” one tester said. “I could easily see places to stash cords, travel docs, electronics, water bottles, and more.”

While our testers liked a lot about this bag—including its durability—the comfort won them over. “All the features built into the bag suggest it's intended to create maximum comfort for someone who anticipates carrying the bag for a more extended period of time,” our tester concluded.

Capacity: 40 liters | Weight: 3 pounds, 10.4 ounces | Dimensions: 22.5 x 14 x 7.5 inches | Materials: 1000-denier recycled nylon, 400-denier recycled nylon, 210-denier recycled nylon, 1680-denier recycled ballistic nylon

Best Splurge

Bellroy transit backpack plus.

Flat opening made for easy packing

Comfortable to carry

Long lasting

Minimal internal organization

If you weren't convinced by our business travel pick above, consider this your alternative. This pack's sleek, durable, and comfortable design makes it ideal for business and formal travel. Our testers found it easy to fit enough items for up to three or four days away. Lighter packers could stretch this to five days. The inside is designed more like a typical carry-on pack with one large compartment.

“This bag felt super light on my back and was padded in all the right places,” a tester reported. “It has adjustable sternum and waist straps that you can tuck into the back of the pack when you don't want to use them, which is a genius feature.” Our testers were also impressed with the bag's durability, as it survived being tossed around our lab with zero marks or scuffs.

Capacity: 38 liters | Weight: 3.3 pounds | Dimensions: 21.7 x 15 x 9.4 inches | Materials: Recycled Dura nylon

Samsonite Silhouette 17 Backpack

  • Design 4 /5
  • Durability 4 /5

Suitcase-like opening allows easy access

Eco-friendly materials

Suitable for long travel days

Internal organization may be overcomplicated for some

Launched in 1958, Samsonite’s Silhouette collection is likely the oldest on our list. But those six decades of innovation have helped make this one of the best and most versatile bags out there—not to mention one with excellent style. You can also feel good about your purchase knowing that it features 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET bottles.

Our testers liked the size of the bag and the opening, similar to a suitcase, which made it easy to pack and access items. There were many—almost too many—pockets and compartments. And our testers loved how comfortable and supportive this bag was to carry, noting its excellent weight distribution. “I would recommend this bag to someone looking for a backpack they can use as a primary form of luggage,” a tester concluded. “It has enough room and compartments to fit all of the essentials and keep them organized. It's also comfortable, supportive, and easy to carry.”

Capacity: Not listed | Weight: 3.31 pounds | Dimensions: 20 x 12.5 x 7 inches | Materials: Polyester and Recyclex

Best for Techies

Thule subterra backpack 34l.

Functional and looks good

Bag included for dirty laundry

Portable charger

Not the most comfortable

We’ve been pleasantly surprised with Thule’s line of luggage. And that certainly includes the Subterra backpack. This rugged pack could also be a good commuter option as it has a magnetic rolling top closure, a padded laptop sleeve, and a PowerPocket for charging items on the go. We love that it has many access points and comes with a packing cube and garment bag for dirty clothes.

"I loved being able to put my normal packing cubes inside the big cube that comes with the bag, and I was able to use the bag as a day bag anytime I needed to carry extra, and it never felt super bulky,” a tester reported—however, they noted that the bag didn’t particularly help their already-sore back. Not surprisingly, considering its construction, the pack aced our durability tests.

Capacity: 34 liters | Weight: 2.75 pounds | Dimensions: 20.5 x 12.2 x 9.1 inches | Materials: 800-denier nylon

Best for Storage

Mystery ranch mission rover.

Mystery Ranch

Sturdy with grab handles around the pack

Well-designed internal storage

Different ways to carry

A bit heavy

If you’ve never heard of Mystery Ranch, let us introduce you to the Bozeman, Montana-based brand, which makes super rugged packs for backpacking, hunting, the military, and firefighters. This travel-focused pack is incredibly solid on the outside and has many excellent organization and design features inside.

Highlights include a stowable hip belt and shoulder straps, multiple carrying options, a dirty clothes compartment, three inner divided pockets, and lockable zippers.

Capacity: 30, 45, and 60 liters | Weight: 4.3 pounds | Dimensions: 21 x 13 x 12 inches | Materials: Plain spun nylon, 210-denier nylon

We recommend the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack thanks to its incredibly durable polyester and nylon materials, well-designed internal storage, and included rainfly. Another great pick is the Vancropak Travel Backpack , which rings up at a fraction of the cost of some other options on the market.

We selected products to test based on the expertise of TripSavvy editors and writers and on internet research. Not surprisingly, TripSavvy editors and writers travel a lot. And they have many carry-on backpacks they like and don’t like.

To ensure we weren’t missing anything, we also researched what other prominent sites have featured and looked at top-rated and reviewed backpacks on sites like Amazon and REI. Once an initial list of products was selected, we narrowed it down to the final 28 for testing based on style, function, and price.

We tested the backpacks for capacity, design, comfort, durability, and value. In our New York City-based testing lab, we asked testers to pack each backpack with three shirts, two pants, one jacket, one pair of shoes, and a toiletry bag to test for capacity. We asked the testers to consider all aspects of the backpack’s construction, organizational capabilities, and any design innovations.

Testers then carried each backpack around using the different carrying styles. We asked the testers to rate how comfortable the bag felt fully packed. After the comfort test, we asked testers to toss and throw the bag several feet multiple times. We looked for damage on the outside of the bag and any damage to products inside the bag. Lastly, we asked testers to rate the bag for overall value after a price reveal.

We have since sent the backpacks to testers to continue testing as they travel. We will update this document accordingly as their insights are submitted.

Aer Travel Pack 3 : This pack was comfortable to wear thanks to its supportively firm and cushioned back, while its rugged fabric stood up well to rough handling. Our tester subtracted some points for capacity, as it was a squeeze to get everything on the list to fit, and for the more function-forward style.

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack : This bag is very nice to look at and proved quite durable. However, it's on the small side and the features aren't particularly travel-oriented—namely, the inflexible bottle holder and the magnetic flip top that is easily displaced when the pack is full.

Minaal Carry-on 3.0 Bag : Our tester appreciated the comfort of the straps and the practical capacity of this bag, though the price was on the higher end and the packing experience was a bit of a learning curve.

Monos Metro Backpack : Another looker, the design of this bag got high praise. We liked the 270-degree opening, the easy-release front pouch, and the comfortable straps. At 18 liters, this back is more of a complement piece to other luggage and could use a better weight distribution system.

Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable : The expansion feature was a hit once we figured out how to use it and the durability of this pack was undeniable. It was difficult to look past a faulty zipper design that got caught frequently when trying to close.

What to Look For in a Carry-on Backpack

Prices for carry-on backpacks vary widely, so consider what your greatest needs are. You can find a spacious travel backpack for under $100—often under $50—but if you plan on facing harsh outdoor environments , consider investing a bit more money for something waterproof. Leather backpacks can cost hundreds of dollars; keep this in mind if that material is important to you. Anti-theft travel backpacks can be a bit more expensive but are often essential in highly trafficked destinations.

There are so many styles out there you could spend days filtering through the different backpacks on the market. Keep it simple: How will you be using this backpack? If you’re interfacing with clients or business partners, look for something minimal and sleek that doesn’t showcase a million pockets. If you plan on living out of your backpack for most of your trip, pockets are more of a priority. You'll want a bag that zips open flat like a suitcase for easy packing and unloading (this also makes going through security easier).

If you are using your travel backpack for hiking, find something with a removable hip harness to distribute the weight of your pack better when you’re on the move. If you plan on wearing your travel backpack casually—only in the airport or to work—seek out a style with adjustable straps and a padded back. This will help ward off any back pain, especially if you carry a lot of weight. When you’re trying on backpacks, test out the shoulder straps and imagine how they would feel if the pack was filled to capacity. Is there ample padding? Will the material cut into your shoulders? Does the back of the backpack feel like it would be breathable?

The size of backpacks is generally measured in volume (liters) or dimensions (inches or centimeters). While it is essential to refer to the specific requirements of the airline you'll be flying, a good starting point for a carry-on when flying domestically is 22 x 14 x 9 inches or 45 total linear inches (115 centimeters) including all handles and wheels. This size comes out to a 43-liter pack, so anything smaller should easily meet any U.S. airline size restrictions. However, this is only the beginning, and several factors may increase or decrease your allowance, such as the size of the plane and flight class you book.

This will vary based on your backpack's materials. For nylon and other water-resistant fabrics, get a damp cloth and spot-clean your pack. A damp cloth will also do the trick if your bag has plastic or metal elements. For leather backpacks, you’ll want to purchase a special leather conditioner and cleaner to maintain the integrity of your backpack.

This is an excellent feature if you plan on hiking or spending long periods carrying your backpack. It will help distribute the weight of your pack better across your body, ultimately providing more comfort. Most backpacks that are focused on outdoor adventures will have this feature.

Many backpacks are marketed as anti-theft, meaning it’s tougher for someone else to get inside your pack. Some backpacks have zippers that allow you to open the main interior compartment while wearing it—so you don’t have to take it off and risk having someone else pick it up. Others are designed with webbing over the zipper openings, making it very hard for someone to locate and unzip the bag while you have it on.

No, this is not the norm when it comes to backpacks. Compression cords make packing easier and function the same way a compression strap or cord would work in a regular suitcase. Some travel-focused carry-on backpacks do have this built-in. But if you want to squeeze in more items, consider investing in some packing cubes . These will help organize your backpack, too.

Nathan Allen is TripSavvy’s Outdoor Gear Editor. He has traveled to five continents, including plane, train, and bus travel. For most travel scenarios, he prefers backpacks over spinners or roller suitcases because of their ruggedness and different carrying methods. He currently uses Cotopaxi’s Allpa 35L, Thule’s Subterra, and Topo Design’s Global Travel Pack the most. Each product recommended in this review was thoroughly researched and tested.

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The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

best backpack air travel

There are a lot of great travel backpacks out there, but not all of them are created equal. A travel pack needs to be comfortable to carry, easy to organize, and durable enough to withstand being toted from place to place.

From hitting the road for the weekend to spending months traveling abroad, we’ve put nearly 30 different travel backpacks through the wringer. We tallied our airline miles, punched our tickets, and put our tray tables in the upright and locked position for close to half a decade now, taking domestic and international flights to as far as Iceland and as close as 30-minute island hops. And while there isn’t a single pack that suits every traveler, we’ve highlighted a variety of designs and price points to help you find the perfect travel backpack.

Choosing a travel backpack can be a dizzying experience, and we’ve shaken down the best to sort through the static. Each pack has seen its time on the baggage carousel, hostel luggage cart, and we’ve even had a few go missing for the full experience. We fully pack and live out of these bags to test them, and in the end, we’re confident that the 15 packs collected here are the best travel backpacks available today. Check in and check them out.

For all your travel pack questions, consult our buyer’s guide , where we’ve laid bare all the essentials. Compare each of the packs using our handy comparison chart , and if you’ve still got questions, check out our FAQ section.

Editor’s Note: We updated our travel backpack guide on May 21, 2024, adding the JanSport Journey Pack as our new best budget travel pack, as well as the feature-rich and burly Able Carry Max Backpack .

  • Best Overall Travel Backpack: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
  • Best Budget Travel Backpack: JanSport Journey Pack
  • Best Carrying Travel Backpack: Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs
  • Best Organization in a Travel Backpack: Matador SEG45 Travel Pack
  • Best Shoulder Bag: Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L
  • Best Commuter-Style Travel Backpack: Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L
  • Best Personal Item Travel Pack: TimBuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

  • Capacity 45 L (collapses to 35 L)
  • Weight 4 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Dimensions 22" x 13" x 9.5" standard, 22" x 13" x 11" expanded
  • Compartment access Back panel clamshell design with #10 zipper
  • Material Weatherproof, 100% recycled 400-denier nylon canvas shell; 900-denier waterproof bottom

Product Badge

  • Compresses down to maximum airline carry-on size, and then expands once you’ve hit your destination
  • Burly construction
  • No details are overlooked in the design
  • Side-carry handles are offset in an awkward position

Perfect is a dirty word in product design, but we’re about stumped when it comes to drumming up a quibble about the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45 L ($300). This redeye-ready clamshell design is made to the highest of standards.

It’s made of quality materials, utilizing aluminum hardware and a burly 400-denier nylon canvas — and it easily ticks all our boxes for the best overall travel backpack. The interior of the bag is split into two compartments: a larger main area for storing the majority of your kit and a secondary sleeve at the front of the bag with five zippered pockets. The main pocket also sports a foam-padded laptop sleeve and three more pockets.

One of the more impressive aspects we discovered along the bag’s inaugural leg from Seattle to Anchorage was how easily the straps of the Travel Backpack stow away into the bag. Two foam panels on the back of the bag flip away to secure them and then close with a magnetic closure — very slick. This was our favorite strap-stowage system, with the zippered panels of the Matador GlobeRider45 coming in a close second. We find the Peak Design bag compresses smaller.

Then there are the little details. An ID-size sleeve on the back panel provides all the information should your bag get separated from you. Zipper pulls thread through one another to keep what’s yours safe. And a collapsible system adjusts the bag from a full 45 L to 35 L.

In our review, there’s little about the Peak Design pack that misses the mark. The company leans heavily toward the camera-toting travelers among us, but the 45 L Travel Backpack makes no compromises and works just as well for any user group. The high price is undeniable, but for the scope of the travel pack, it’s a buy-once-cry-once purchase we would make again.

Also available in a 30L size , the range of Travel Backpacks from Peak Design is so well-thought-out that you can practically see the cogs turning in their creators’ heads. We think they make the best travel backpacks on the market.

JanSport Journey Pack

  • Capacity 28 liters
  • Weight 1 lb., 13.6 oz.
  • Dimensions 19.5" x 12.5" x 7"
  • Compartment access Zippered top access
  • Material 100% 600D recycled polyester + 1680D ballistic boot
  • Electronic storage 15" laptop sleeve

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Compact and clean profile
  • Plush foam back panel and shoulder straps
  • Compression straps on bottom of pack tote around a jacket
  • Smooth-running zippers
  • Good internal organization
  • Laptop sleeve won't fit some large modern laptops
  • Water bottle pockets sized for slimmer vessels

At $95, the JanSport Journey Pack does a lot for a little. As a campus commuter, airline personal item, or do-it-all backpack, this pack leverages its lack of specificity to make it amenable to being used on just about any day. Part of a trio of new travel packs from the legendary campus bookbag brand, the Journey surprised us with a more high-end build than expected, and for the money, it made an excellent travel companion.

While the Journey isn’t trimmed out in some of the more boutique fabrics, it is still solidly built and uses the good stuff where it counts, such as the 1680D ballistic boot material that’s reinforced with recycled car windshield liners (news to us). The 600D polyester used elsewhere has a rugged nailhead finish, and shoulders wear well.

The thick EVA foam used in the shoulder straps and back panel is cushy and applied liberally. On the inside, the laptop sleeve is lined with plush tricot material, along with an organizer pocket for stashing your readers or sunnies.

The organization of the pack is similarly uncompromising and is broken down into a spacious main compartment, front stash pocket, small bits and bobs organizer pocket, and a 15″ laptop sleeve — which easily toted our tester’s MacBook Pro safely.

When packed as a carry-on, we were able to stuff in an assortment of layers we might need along the way (rain jacket, warm puffy, hat), along with our headphones, book, travel pillow , and lunch for the flight, and still had space for an empty water bottle or two.

As a 28-liter pack, there’s no alternate sizing available and no hip belt to go along — though, in our opinion, loads this light doesn’t need one. Compression straps are limited, though you do get a set at the bottom of the pack that doubles as a dock for your beach towel, picnic blanket, or rolled-up jacket.

Like the TimBuk2 Never Check , the side water bottle pockets on this pack are really only ideal for thin bottles or flasks, and while we could shoehorn a Nalgene in there, it didn’t look happy.

Compromises aside, for less than $100, the JanSport Journey Pack doesn’t take the easy way out and phone it in with fewer materials or a more simple organizational layout. We had a pocket or sleeve for anything we needed to stash (besides a dedicated passport pocket), and the Journey made for an easy personal item on the handful of flights we took it on — easily stashing beneath the seat. If you’d rather ball out on your big-ticket luggage and just need a travel backpack that’ll plain work, this is the bag for you.

Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs

  • Capacity 40 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 7.6 oz.
  • Dimensions 22" x 14" x 9"
  • Compartment access Zippered back panel clamshell design
  • Material Bluesign-approved 450-denier recycled polyester

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Supreme suspension system offers the best carry of any pack we tried
  • External compression straps limit the volume well
  • Comfortably padded grab handles
  • Not much internal organization

No stranger to producing supremely comfortable suspension systems, Osprey injected a good bit of its tech into the Farpoint and Fairview packs ($185), which both sport LightWire frames, load lifters, and breathable framesheet and suspension straps. Our Farpoint pack was easily the best load carrier of any we tested and a close contender for the best travel backpack overall.

Far beyond what any of the other travel packs offer, the pack even allows you to adjust the torso length — unheard of in the typical travel pack. Newly updated, these packs have been tweaked to ride the line between traditional backpacks and functional luggage, a claim we can substantiate.

The 40-liter capacity is just about the sweet spot for domestic carry-on luggage limits, and these packs make good use of the space. We could easily pack away a long weekend’s worth of travel essentials into the bag with a little space to spare.

Whereas many other travel packs stash straps away into the body of the pack, the Farpoint and Fairview move in the opposite direction with a deployable strap cover that neatly seals in the suspension for safekeeping when checked. This produces a clean profile that’s ready to be slung around, but it’s not quite as easy and quick as the magnetic panels of the Peak Design Travel Backpacks, as you need to unclip straps to tuck them away.

The interior of the pack is rather spartan, incorporating only one zippered pocket, a laptop sleeve, and two internal compression straps. We would have rather seen a bit more organizational features involved like those that the Matador GlobeRider and Topo Designs Global Travel bags incorporate, but for those who stuff more than pack, the Farpoint and  Fairview may very well punch the ticket.

With one foot on the platform and one on the trail, these packs from Osprey will get you where you’re going and carry a trip’s worth of kit with ease.

Matador SEG45 Travel Pack

  • Capacity 45 L
  • Weight 2 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Dimensions 22" x 13.4" x 10.2"
  • Compartment access Full clamshell interior, additional front zippered access
  • Material 420-denier nylon exterior, 100-denier Robic Dynatec interior

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Excellent storage organization options
  • High-quality, strong, and lightweight construction
  • No frame to speak of
  • Shoulder straps don’t pack away

Aiming to do more with less, the Matador SEG45 Segmented Backpack ($200) proposes a future free of packing cubes and splits up the bag for you, making the organization of your travel pack a breeze.

The full 45 liters of volume is shared among the five segments (6, 9, 15, 9, and 6 L) and trades volume between the full clamshell compartment and the segments. Each of these segments is accessible via its own water-resistant zippers and can be collapsed as your needs change.

We found organizing by clothing type made the most sense in our own packing, but you could even pack based on the day of the week or the use. The clamshell-accessed main compartment was ideal for holding larger items like spare shoes or quarantining spent outfits.

Known for its overbuilt but lightweight bags, Matador didn’t spare the SEG45, utilizing 420D UHMWPE-reinforced nylon in the pack body, as well as 100D Robic Dynatec weave on the interior. It should be noted that this travel backpack doesn’t have any kind of frame and will rely on being packed well to carry correctly. Because of this, this pack won’t carry as well as bags like the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview, so consider packing mostly clothing in the SEG45.

Our testers felt this bag excelled as a travel bag you might deploy once you’ve hit your destination, as it packs away into larger bags so well. Unfortunately, however, the shoulder straps don’t pack away into the bag itself, so you’ll have to wrangle them into place to keep things tidy.

No matter what you’re up to, everything has got a spot to live in the SEG45 . Need a bit less space? Matador offers the SEG28 ($250) for that.

Read Review: Dresser in a Backpack: Matador SEG42 Review

Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L

  • Weight 3 lbs., 10.3 oz.
  • Dimensions 22.8" x 8.6" x 14.5"
  • Compartment access Back panel zippered clamshell design
  • Material 900-denier recycled polyester ripstop with a TPU laminate

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Multiple ways to carry the pack
  • Many different storage and internal organization options
  • Burly external fabric
  • Doesn’t carry the best as a backpack

Looking to squeeze out every last liter of allowed space? Patagonia named this pack in honor of the cause: the Patagonia Black Hole Maximum Legal Carry-On 45 L ($239). This bag can be carried in a number of different ways, but we found it shined during travel as a shoulder bag.

Borrowing fabric from Patagonia’s line of burly Black Hole Duffels , the MLC 45 is made for the long haul. The 900-denier polyester ripstop is coated in a TPU laminate and feels ready to take on the surliest baggage carrier. We certainly felt no remorse in tossing the bag around.

At 45 L, the MLC is certainly right at the cusp of the maximum allowed size, but thankfully that space is well divided up inside the pack. Inside the main clamshell-accessed compartment is a blizzard of zippers and mesh pockets and dividers. Anything we tossed inside was well-stabilized.

Because there isn’t much of a frame to speak of, the Black Hole MLC doesn’t carry the best when slung over both shoulders and can sag when not entirely full. But over a shoulder with the included shoulder strap, this pack feels great and can be easily accessed on the go. This is one of the only packs in our testing to feature a shoulder strap (the other being the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag).

On top of all this, we greatly appreciate that the Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45 L is made with 100% recycled body fabric, lining, and webbing. Perfect for grabbing and going, this pack is ready to move.

Read Review: Patagonia Black Hole MLC Bag Review: An Organized, Carry-On-Size Wonder

Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L

  • Capacity 24 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 1.6 oz.
  • Dimensions 18" x 7: x 11.5"
  • Compartment access Zippered clamshell
  • Material 840D ballistic nylon 6, 420D HT nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Functions as both a laptop backpack and suitcase
  • Well-structured and protected
  • Full panel loading access
  • Limited colorways

With an understated look that betrays the truly impressive fit and functionality inside, the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L ($279) doesn’t need to brag — it knows it’ll tote your kit through the worst of your travel or everyday commutes without missing a beat. This bag is our newly anointed best commuter-style travel backpack.

From a fabrics and materials standpoint, it’s clear that someone at Evergoods truly nerded out when they brewed up this bindle. The 840D ballistic nylon 6 that makes up the exterior of the pack is burly (errantly spilled coffee wipes right off), and complements the thick #10 zippers and spacer-mesh back panel. Even the Evergoods logo is low-key: a simple 2×2” patch on the front of the bag with a slash. That’s it — and we dig it.

Bar none, the Civic Panel Loader has the best laptop sleeve we’ve ever encountered in a backpack, and that’s saying something. The side-accessed zippered aperture can hold a 17” Macbook Pro, and nestles into a fully padded space at the rear of the pack.

This sleeve is suspended from the bottom of the bag, as we’ve seen in many forward-thinking bags, but goes a step further and protects the laptop from the side with an aluminum stay — the primary functionality of which is to support the side handle on the bag. Genius.

The high-polish finish on the CPL24 feels reminiscent of the attention to detail we loved about the Tom Bihn Synapse 25, but we ended up enjoying this pack even more for a simple reason: side carry. The broad handle on the side of the pack is reinforced by that aluminum stay, and it creates a perfectly supported carry for jostling through crowded terminals.

On the interior of the pack, two large pockets are subdivided with a few smaller sleeves and pockets, which are oriented to be accessed with the bag on its side. We carried this pack for a month straight of remote work, lugging it to coffee shops and co-working spaces, and it supplanted all other packs we’ve used previously.

“It’s hard not to love a pack that makes your life easier,” says Senior Editor Nick Belcaster. “This pack does that. Laptop, headphones, notebooks — a whole lot goes into the pack without a care.”

Up there with Nomatic, GORUCK, and Tom Bihn, Evergoods is certainly among the pack-makers that put intelligent design and smart material choice above all else. The Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L is the final word when it comes to a travel pack you can carry every day. We certainly do.

Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack

  • Capacity 27.5 L
  • Weight 2 lbs., 9 oz.
  • Dimensions 18.9" x 11.4" x 5.9"
  • Material 420x2000D Cordura nylon, 135D polyester

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Dang good looking
  • High-quality trim and details, including anodized G hooks and supple webbing
  • Supper cushioned back panel
  • Exterior expandable water bottle pocket is a bit slim
  • Pack straps don't stow away.

Pulling off a good expandable backpack can be a tough task, with fabric accordion folds often taking up valuable real estate on the interior when collapsed in lesser bags. Not so with the TimBuk2 Never Check ($209), which takes a simple backpack shape and elevates it with premium materials and design to create one of our favorite travel backpacks for tucking under an airliner seat.

Unlike a lot of the pure-function rectangular bags in our lineup, the Never Check is a real looker — easily one of the best styled in our testing so far, and we’d have no qualms about bringing it along as a business bag. Small details like rubber-covered zipper pulls, anodized G hooks, and supple webbing keep it looking sharp. The 27.5-liter size is just about dead-on for most airline ‘personal item’ size requirements, and this bag easily slides under a seat.

The main compartment is accessed through a clamshell zipper on the front of the bag, which is gusseted to hang open while you’re loading it up. During the few national and international flights our Senior Editor Nick Belcaster deployed the bag on, this was easily enough space for everything you might want during a plane ride. And for everything else, a front pocket is lined with multiple drop and zip pockets for organizing small gadgets like chargers or keys.

The back panel of the Never Check is a plush ½-inch of comfortable foam, and combined with the equally padded shoulder straps made for a very nice carrying bag. The straps unfortunately do not stow away, but on a lower volume pack such as this, it’s a much less useable feature in our opinions. 

And finally, one of our favorite features: the wide laptop sleeve. This 15” opening is generous enough to accommodate the larger laptops of today, and is suspended from the bottom of the backpack to ensure bumps don’t turn into bruises.

Just like the name suggests, the Never Check Expandable Backpack provides a svelte solution to bringing a bag with you during airline travel — or even just to the office. Its clean profile and attention to detail impressed us, and it would make an excellent work-to-weekend bag.

Able Carry Max Backpack

  • Capacity 30 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 14.4 oz.
  • Dimensions 20.4" x 12.6" x 7.9"
  • Compartment access Zippered clamshell design
  • Material X-Pac and 1000D nylon face fabric, ripstop 420D nylon interior

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • High-quality fit and finish with top-shelf materials
  • Dedicated work compartment is well organized and padded
  • Shoulder straps and back panel are cushy Zotefoam
  • Fits 17" laptops
  • No hipbelt can be nice for storing, but needed for heavy carries
  • On the higher end for travel pack pricing

Sporting many of the same features and functionality as the leading travel packs in our review, the Able Carry Max Backpack ($278) leaves little on the cutting room floor, decked out with ultra-durable Cordura nylon and X-Pac materials to pull together a travel pack that you could kick, throw, or loft across the airport to no ill effect. This is one tough pack.

At 30 liters, the only thing not ‘Maxed’ out on the Max is the capacity, which lands at less than the maximum legal carry-on size for most domestic airlines, but will be ideal instead for those who are operating with a little more room in their checked baggage, freeing up the Max for the important stuff. We also find slightly smaller packs such as this fly much easier on worldwide flights, where carry-on sizes can be a bit more diminutive.

That space is wisely dispersed, organized, and split between the laptop and main compartments. The laptop sleeve won’t hold any remote worker back, as it will host up to the 17″ mondo laptops of the modern age. It is flanked by an accessories pocket lined with four stretchy pockets for swaddling your chargers, cords, memory cards, and wireless mouse.

The main compartment leaves the organization up to you and is accessed through a broad clamshell opening that gives you full access to the entire space. A couple of packing cubes won’t go to waste in this space, and while Able Carry doesn’t supply the straps themselves, a couple of daisy chain webbing loops run the length of either side of the interior, meaning you can wrangle unruly items if need be. The back panel tucks away a few more zippered pockets, and a water bottle pocket also collapses away when not needed.

On the exterior, the Max is crisscrossed by seatbelt webbing on almost every facet, which will appeal to those who are looking for a modular pack for attaching and switching kit around as it’s needed. The VX21 X-Pac material is a rough and tumble weave that might not have the slick finish of the canvas on the Peak Design Travel Backpack but is easily as weather and abrasion-proof. We also highly appreciated the 1000D Cordura nylon on the boot of the pack, which made shuffling it around a worry-free exercise.

There are a lot of high-quality travel backpacks in the 30-liter space, and while most all will get the job done, it’s the construction of the Able Carry Max Backpack that keeps drawing us back to it. The stitching on this pack is exact and plentiful and works to hold a number of high-quality materials together in a thoughtful design.

Fully loaded, we did sometimes wish for a removable hip belt to help shoulder the weight a bit, but only the most jammed-full load-outs elicited this desire. For anyone after a dialed-in travel pack, the Max lives up to the name.

Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack

  • Dimensions 22" x 12.8" x 11"
  • Material 420D UHMWPE-reinforced ripstop nylon, 100D Robic nylon mini-ripstop

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Incredible density of pockets and sleeves
  • Tough UHMWPE outer fabric can be tossed around
  • Shoulder straps tuck away in a novel and smart manner
  • Laptop sleeve opening is a bit tight
  • Price is up there

With a pocket or sleeve for pretty much everything, the new Matador GlobeRider 45 ($350) gives the Peak Design Travel Pack a run for its money when it comes to the best overall travel pack. 

Our Managing Editor raved about the GlobeRider after serious testing where she pretty much lived out of it for 3 months: “If you travel often and look for crucial components like internal and external pockets, laptop storage, and backpack and hip straps, consider the Matador GlobeRider 45. It’s a unique design in that the [pack] seems to have it all — every feature I’ve needed so far, both living out of it and in my travels — in a pretty packable size.”

What impressed us most was the way the GlobeRider was able to balance both an eye-watering amount of organization and versatility, and burly durability that ensures that this pack won’t shy away from tough travel conditions. In total (and we double-counted) there are 19 individual pockets on the pack, in all types of stretch mesh, zippered, and collapsible configurations. When good organization is key, the GlobeRider reigns. 

On the back panel of the GlobeRider, one of the more novel stowage systems we’ve seen packs away the shoulder straps and hip belt for when you want to slim down the bag. Two zippered panels — similar to the structure of the Peak Design packs, save for the closure — envelop the straps when not in use, and provide a lump-free panel for toting around. 

When it comes to downsides, the GlobeRider doesn’t miss much. The laptop sleeve aperture is a bit small at 9.5”, which in today’s age of mondo-screened computers may be limiting to some with larger devices. There also is no ability to convert the pack to a shoulder bag like the Patagonia MLC does, which can be handy when moving quickly through the airport.

Dang-near the top of the list, the Matador GlobeRider 45 would be an excellent choice for anyone who practices one-bag travel, or desires to have a place for everything in their journeys. The price does sting a bit, but based on the long-term testing we’ve completed so far, we’ve seen no indications that this pack will fade away anytime soon.

Read Review: I Lived Out of This Backpack for 3-Plus Months: Matador Globerider45 Review

Thule Aion 40L

  • Weight 3 lbs., 3 oz.
  • Dimensions 13" x 9.1" x 20.5"
  • Material Waxed P600 polyester canvas

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Maxes out on carry-on-compliant space
  • Internal roll-top TPU bag separates the clean from the to-do laundry
  • Waxed canvas exterior has a classy look
  • Centered side handle carries well
  • Well-cushioned back panel
  • No shoulder strap stowage option
  • No hipbelt on a 40L is pushing it

Better known for their roof boxes and racks, it’s fair to say that Thule knows travel, and the addition of smart, organized, and comfortable travel packs like the Thule Aion 40L ($200) makes all the sense in the world to us. This pack is a finely-honed bag for international and local travel alike, and is decked out in some high-class materials.

Like the Patagonia Black Hole MLC pack, the Aion 40L aims to go for the maximum allowed capacity, and at our measurements (21.5” x 15” x 8”), the pack slides in just half an inch less than the normal 45 linear inches typically allowed. That’s efficient. The space is split up into two main compartments and a laptop sleeve, with the larger opening with a full clamshell zip.

This inner compartment hosts a few zippered pockets and internal compression straps, but the star of the show here is the integrated TPU rolltop bag. This sack can be used to cordon off your liquids (and easily presented for inspection), as well as separate your pile of ‘to-do’ laundry. This reminds us of the ActiveShield compartment in the Gregory Border Traveler pack, but we enjoy the removable aspect here even more. 

Round the back of the pack, the spacer-mesh swaddled laptop sleeve rivals the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader , and has an additional sleeve for items like tablets, notebooks, or chargers. The back panel itself is impressively cushioned (one of the more luxe in our testing) and that extends to the shoulder straps. 

Unfortunately, there’s no shoulder strap-stowage system here, so you’ll have to wrangle those yourself, and while we typically enjoy the lack of a hip belt in smaller travel packs, the absence in a 40-liter pack is a little puzzling. Fully loaded, the Aion could certainly benefit from one, and while a separate sling bag can be added to function as one, you’ll need to fork over $50 for it.

Ranking high up there with your Peak Designs and your Ospreys, the Thule Aion 40L nails the style and material departments, and with a full 40 liters of space on board, has all the room to pack for your week-long trips — no roof box required.

Osprey Archeon 30L

  • Weight 3 lbs.
  • Dimensions 20.5" x 13" x 11.4"
  • Compartment access Zippered top-access
  • Material 840D ballistic polyester with carbonate coating

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Extra-tough exterior fabric with carbonate coating
  • High-polish details such as seatbelt webbing straps
  • Mini-wing hipbelt tucks away easily when not needed
  • Smart internal storage pockets that lay flat when not needed
  • Laptop sleeve opening is a bit too snug
  • Compression straps lay over the main zipper

First off, one word: Rugged. The Osprey Archeon 30L ($250) is a high-end build that spares little in the material department, and looks dang good while it’s at it. The 30-liter size makes this bag weekend travel-ready, and we greatly appreciated the fit and finish.

The overall design of the Archeon reminds us a good bit of the Peak Design Travel Bag (certainly the all-waterproof exterior zippers and curved side-entry pockets), but it’s the exterior fabric that really impressed. The 840D ballistic polyester is coated with a carbonate polyurethane coating, a bolstered recipe that increases durability by a magnitude over traditional PU coatings. In testing, we wore out before putting a dent in it.

The pack itself breaks down into two main compartments, with the main pocket opening behind a curved clamshell zip (we did have a little trouble with the zipper passing behind the exterior straps. Removing them fixed that). Inside, three expandable tech pockets tuck away all of your small kit, and do a good job of keeping things tidy on the interior.

On the exterior, Osprey doesn’t disappoint when it comes to suspension straps, which are comfortable, adjustable, and stashable. The mini wing-style hip belt earns special praise on packed flights, where we find traditional hip belts to be a hassle to store, and combined with the slick shoulder-strap stash pocket, the Archeon converts to minimal mode in under a minute.

Something the Archeon certainly could use, however, is a slightly larger aperture into the laptop/tech compartment. As-is, the zipper doesn’t quite extend down far enough to truly open up the pocket, and as such it can feel a bit like rummaging around in the dark looking for cords and chargers in the bottom of the pack. Extending these zippers down to the middle of the pack would seem to fix the issue, and we hope a later iteration might address this.

Nonetheless, we were still impressed by the Osprey Archeon 30L . There’s also a 40-liter version if you’re looking for a max-capacity carry-on, and even a smaller 24-liter for kicking around coffee shops day-to-day.

Read Review: Hack Carry-On Rules: Osprey Archeon Kit Gives Power Back to Passengers

Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L

  • Weight 3 lbs., 10.4 oz.
  • Dimensions 22.5" x 14" x 7.5"
  • Material 1000D recycled nylon, 400D recycled nylon, 210D recycled nylon, 1680D recycled ballistic nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Overbuilt design with tough materials and chunky zippers
  • Plenty of organizational pockets
  • Bright interior
  • Not the cleanest strap stowage

Chunky zippers, an overhead-savvy profile, and multiple ways to sling it over your shoulder: The Topo Designs Global Travel Pack ($229) has honed in on much of what we love in a travel backpack.

During a recent trip from Seattle to Southern California, we were heavily saddled with the maximum the airline would allow. But this pack made use of every inch of space and reached the allowance of what we could check as our carry-on. The 40 liters of internal capacity is broken down into a series of dividers and pockets, which made condoning off things like electronics from the rest of our kit easy. And the interior of this pack is a cheery canary yellow, which helps with ease and visibility.

On the exterior of this pack, three separate carry styles are available to get you through the concourse in whatever way you choose. We found the full-featured backpack straps to be our go-to, which even sport load-lifters for a comfy carry. This suspension system does tuck away for when you might want to check the bag, though we found the hipbelt to be a bit tricky to fully retract.

Rounding out this travel-ready backpack is a tough build that makes use of 1000D recycled nylon and heavy-duty zippers, and we had no qualms with tossing this bag around during our trip. Perfect for anyone who subscribes to the one-bag travel ethos, the Global Travel Pack from Topo Designs makes the grade for those who want the most out of their carry-on.

And if you’re only going to be away for a short trip, the Global Travel pack is also available in a 30L capacity .

Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack

  • Capacity 28 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 4 oz.
  • Dimensions 19" x 12" x 9"
  • Material TPU-coated 1,000-denier polyester, 840-denier nylon paneling

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Burly exterior material holds up for the long run
  • Plenty of zippered mesh storage pockets
  • On the heavier side
  • TPU-coated nylon can feel grabby

The Allpa 28L Travel Pack ($170) will change the way you travel. It’s sleek, durable, and able to fit an incredible amount of stuff in a small space. The zippered mesh pockets keep clothes organized. And the compression straps maximize what you can pack.

The tough polyester and nylon construction can take a beating without any signs of wear. And we appreciate that the externally accessed, padded laptop sleeve makes pulling out your electronics at security checkpoints a breeze. There’s also a small outer compartment to keep essentials at hand.

You can completely tuck away the backpack straps and carry the pack like a briefcase, or wear it comfortably as a backpack. We’ve stuffed this pack to the gills countless times and have never had a problem with the zippers. Light rain showers or spills roll right off the TPU-coated exterior, but for legit rainstorms, just pull out the included rain cover.

The Allpa also comes in 35L, 42L, 50L, and 70L capacities. As our editor noted in the 42L review , “Building on its fun and functional ethos, Cotopaxi beefs up its bestselling product. The Allpa Travel Pack earns big points for clever design, clean aesthetic, and a surprising number of handy — and hidden — features.”

Yes, the Cotopaxi Allpa packs are an investment, but anyone who travels regularly will find it a worthy one. These powerhouse travel backpacks are sturdy, versatile, and built to last.

Tom Bihn Synapse 25

  • Capacity 25 L
  • Weight 1 lb., 13 oz.
  • Dimensions 13.4" x 20" x 9.1"
  • Material 400-denier Halcyon, 420-denier nylon ripstop

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Many different fabrics and color schemes are available
  • Built to last design and materials
  • Removable webbing hip belt
  • Suspension doesn’t pack away
  • Side wing pockets are a little awkward to access

Refined and clean-looking, the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 ($250) is a high-end travel backpack we just can’t stop staring at. It just looks that good. Made of burly textiles and zippers, this pack was built to stand the test of tough travel and come out shining on the other side.

The Synapse 25 is the larger version of Tom Bihn’s Synapse 19 , a popular backpack made for daily carry. The bump in volume is appreciated in this travel-oriented version and is doled out in one large compartment as well as a set of pockets on the front of the pack.

We found all the pockets easily accessible, save for the side wing pockets. While these were excellent for the organization of smaller bits and bobs, the openings were a bit awkward to jump into.

Topped off by a cushioned suspension (the foam is a half-inch of supple EV50), this travel backpack didn’t weigh us down on long days of travel when fully packed. And when we wanted to go light, even the webbing hip belt was removable. In terms of the ability to bop around town as a daily driver, this pack is up there with the TimBuk2 Never Check (we liked the back panel on this pack the most).

Along with being carry-on compliant, the Synapse is also one of the few bags on our list that are compact enough to fit under most airline seats without hogging too much precious legroom.

Osprey Nebula 32 Daypack

  • Capacity 32 L
  • Weight 2 lbs., 1.7 oz.
  • Dimensions 19.2" x 12.2" x 11.4"
  • Material 420-denier recycled nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • TSA-compliant laptop sleeve
  • Many options for organization
  • Water bottle pockets fit 32 oz. bottles
  • Need to release two buckles in order to unzip the main pocket all the way

When it comes to backpacks, Osprey has put in the time — and it shows. The Nebula 32 ($140) feels like all the brand’s most popular packs morphed into one. Most of all, we love how it seamlessly goes from city streets to trails.

This backpack can do it all, whether you’re hauling your laptop and books around town; water, food, and layers on an easy hike; or all of the above and then some for a weekend away.

The internal storage pockets are great for organizing all of your things for easy access. And while the Nebula 32 is top-loading, the main pocket opens up wide enough so you won’t have to unload everything to get to the one thing you want at the bottom. The sternum strap and hip belt are comfortable as well, especially when carrying a heavy load.

On smaller volume packs like this, sometimes design concessions need to be made to accommodate all the functionality, and on the Nebula, it’s in the side compression straps. Like on the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview, the compression system of the pack overlays across the main compartment zipper, meaning you’ll need to undo some straps before rifling around in the storage area. Not a deal breaker, but a little annoying when the TSA line starts to back up behind you.

Overall, the Nebula 32 won’t disappoint if you make it your go-to smaller-volume travel backpack.

Travel Backpack Comparison Chart

best backpack air travel

How We Tested Travel Backpacks

The staff of GearJunkie is a hot-footed bunch, restlessly plodding across the country or around the globe in search of adventure and whatever else comes our way. And we have a lot of stuff, which necessitates having a travel bag or four in the stable.

Surely any old bindle will do in carrying your kit around, but having a travel backpack that is dialed into the needs of travel can turn a stressful situation into a manageable one. We’ve been testing travel backpacks since 2019 and have put the market slice through the wringer on thousands of miles of travel to weed out the best of the best.

Senior Editor Nick Belcaster has a zeal for international travel, and he leads up our current travel pack testing, logging almost 10,000 flying miles in the last year alone. From Iceland to Utah, Belcaster has carried these packs and lived out of them for weeks, relying on them to support back-to-back travel excursions.

In testing, we looked for a number of features in our travel backpacks, including overall capacity, carry style, durability, and aesthetics. It’s important to think about how you’ll use your travel pack, and as such, every pack on our list is carry-on compliant for the worst-case scenario.

We know no trip will be like the next, so we took a broad swath of the travel backpacks on the market in order to create a list that will suit many different travelers. Packs in hand, over our shoulders, or on our backs, we hit the four corners and tested the best travel backpacks of 2024.

Curious about what we pack in our travel backpacks? We’ve penned up a list for both domestic and international trips .

Peak Design Travel Pack 45L at SEATAC

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Travel Backpack

Travel backpack user profiles.

The International Jet-Setter: The term ‘One Bag Travel’ is no stranger to you, and you’ve just about got your life distilled down into 45 liters of space. If international travel is your bag, then a backpack that’s up to the task will be essential to see you through to further time zones.

Efficiency will be the name of the game here, and going with a pack that is dang-near the carry-on maximums for international flights will mean you can make it through without checking a bag. Look for near to 45-liter packs with plenty of organization baked in, as well as a comfortable (and stashable) carry system.

For international travel, the bag we reach for most often had to be the Peak Design Travel Backpack , with a razor-thin second place going to the Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack . For an emphasis on organization, the Matador SEG45 splits up the volume well, and if you’ll be schlepping bags around a long way, the Osprey Farpoint & Fairview Packs have all the Osprey suspension we love.

Osprey Farpoint Travel Pack in Iceland

The Weekend Warrior: Maybe it’s a work trip, and maybe it’s just for fun, but it’s only going to take 2-3 days total, and you’ll need a bag that can pack it in. For weekend excursions, we find packs in the 25-35 liter range work well for the minimalists among us, and the 30-40 liter range for those who like a bit more options.

The Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is easily one of the most stylish packs in our review, only slightly edged out by the Timbuk2 Never Check , and both make the grade for a single overnighter in a foreign locale. For a bit more space, you can’t go wrong with the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L , a fun pack that is a lot tougher than the multi-colored exterior would let on.

Peak Design Travel Backpack on the Back of a Traveller in Seattle International Airport Looking out on the Tarmac.

The Commuter: No flight involved! Duty calls, and sometimes you’ll need to lug around a bit more kit than the old briefcase can allow for. Commuting with a travel backpack is a great way to stay comfortable on longer rides, as shoulder and handbags are cumbersome over the long run. Focus on a bag with a more traditional backpack shape that puts an emphasis on ease-of-access, and is in the 20-30L range.

For bumping around town, we’ve come to love the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24 , which not only lugs our remote office around with ease, but also looks pretty slick doing it. The drawstring opening here is a huge boon for quickly stashing a jacket, and the tough exterior fears no weather forecast. For a budget just-get-it-done choice, the JanSport Journey Pack will make it happen for less.

best backpack air travel

The right size pack for you depends on a few things. First, where are you going? And, how long do you plan to stay? Winter travel often comes with more gear, so you’ll need to pack extra layers. Longer trips often require larger bags.

That said, your personal packing style will be the most important factor. We know minimalists who happily travel for months with only a single backpack in tow and others who want the largest travel backpack possible in addition to a totally stuffed duffel bag . One method isn’t better than the other, but knowing your style is helpful when choosing a bag.

In general, we’ve found that something in the 28-45 liter range is ideal for comfort and packability. Many packs will also offer a compression system to allow you to limit the overall volume of the backpack. We’ve seen many different ways to accomplish this, but the most effective by far were the button snaps and expanding zipper of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L . Packs toward the 40-45 liter range will be your carry-on bags of choice, and the 45-liter Peak Design, Patagonia MLC , and Matador GlobeRider are perfect for maxing out your allowed space. The 40-liter Osprey Farpoint/Fairview packs give up a little internal room for the luxe suspension system they’re carried with.

Packs in the smaller end of the range, from around 25-30 L, make better personal items, and the TimBuk2 Never Check , Tom Bihn Synapse , and Patagonia Black Hole backpacks all fit snugly underneath an airliner seat. These small bags move through a city gracefully and look more like everyday carry backpacks than traditional luggage.

Peak Design Travel Backpack Clamshell Access

What good would a bag be if you couldn’t get into it? From a simple drawstring to a thicket of Velcro and zippers, there are plenty of ways to keep your bag closed while you’re on the go, but not every one will be amenable to travel.

Zippered Clamshells: Most travel backpacks will use a clamshell-style design that opens up the backpack like a suitcase, allowing you to pack intentionally as opposed to stuffing things in. Oftentimes, an internal strap system will help keep your items contained while you’re on the move.

Packs with this clamshell design may also opt to add internal dividers to the main storage area, and make these dividers removable — should you need the entire storage area uninhibited. For packs without internal dividers or straps, consider adding a few packing cubes to keep your items organized.

In addition to the rear entry, some backpacks will offer additional entry points through the top or front of the pack. This can be helpful when you need to quickly retrieve something like a passport from your bag, without the need to totally spill the contents. The majority of packs in our review close in this clamshell manner, and a few of our favorites are the Peak Design Travel Backpack , Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs , and Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack .

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack

Zippered Top-Access: Much like many traditional backpacks, zippered top-access packs load and unload from the topside, and generally only offer one point of entry/egress into the pack. For this reason, packs of this flavor are generally left packed during travel, as digging around for something at the bottom can be a hassle.

Bags of this stripe, including the uber-nice Tom Bihn Synapse 25 and expandable Timbuk2 Never Check , most often make better personal items over carry-ons, as their smaller volumes make for easier searching within.

Drawstring Top-Entry: While not quite as common as a zippered clamshell or top-access pack, drawstring top-entry packs can make for very quick and easy access to your kit if you’re on the move. These packs will integrate an extended fabric collar to the top of the storage area, which can be compressed when needed, or overstuffed with bulky items like jackets.

Carrying Options

Patagonia MCL 45L Travel Backpack Carry Options

There are plenty of ways to lug your kit to your boarding gate, but not all of them will be comfortable for everything. Over-shoulder backpack straps can support a good bit of weight but typically will need some type of frame to truly be supportive. The Osprey Farpoint/Fairview packs were the best-carrying packs in our testing, owed largely to the wire frame and Airscape mesh back panels, but we also enjoyed the carry of the aluminum frame stays on the Matador GlobeRider.

A shoulder strap travel backpack, like the Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L , can be slung across your body and provide a great amount of accessibility on the go. Don’t expect to carry too much weight this way, however.

And then there’s the classic suitcase style, easily towed anywhere. It’s good to note many travel backpacks will have stowable straps to better streamline the pack for a trip through an X-ray machine or stowed under a seat. The strap storage design of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L impressed us most of all, utilizing magnetic closure flaps to pack away the shoulder and hip straps neatly.

Pockets & Organization

Matador SEG30 Travel Backpack Storage Options

There’s an organizational saying: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” And we couldn’t agree more. Keeping track of everything while you travel is key for organization. And while more pockets always seem better, there is a threshold where having too many simply becomes more places to misplace things. Instead, we recommend packs with three to six pockets.

The Cotopaxi Allpa and Topo Designs Global Travel Bags both have ingenious inner organization systems complete with large zipping “pockets.” It has just enough space to find room for everything but not so many compartments that you’ll be hunting all day for your misplaced passport. For even more organization, the Matador SEG45 splits into five different segments that are accessible from the exterior of the pack.

Bringing along a laptop is a necessary evil for some travelers, and having an incorporated laptop sleeve in your travel backpack can keep it safe during travel. Most laptop sleeves will be padded with some type of foam and nestle in close to the back for maximum protection. In order to be TSA-compliant, a laptop sleeve will need to fold entirely flat away from the pack to be scanned.

Because flying with liquids over 3.4 ounces is prohibited in the U.S., carrying all of these items in a separate toiletry bag can make your foray into the screening line a breeze. Many of the packs on our list incorporate many external pockets where such a bag could be stashed and produced when needed.

Tom Bihn Synapse 25 Travel Backpack

Travel luggage takes a beating, so durability is a top concern. Luckily, gear manufacturers realize this and are making increasingly burly yet portable packs. The fan-favorite Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L pack is made with a 900-denier ripstop nylon outer with a TPU laminate for extra durability. It’s nearly indestructible, water-resistant, and versatile.

If you’re traveling somewhere with inclement weather or if your pack needs to double as a climbing bag or hiking pack, durability is extra important. And it’s worth paying more for a backpack that is water-resistant.

Space Efficiency & Carry-On Compliance

Peak Design Travel Pack at SEATAC

Astute observers will note many of the packs in our review sport a rectangular shape, which is certainly due to designers aspiring to create a more space-efficient pack. This isn’t to say that more shapely packs won’t make it happen, but when you’re struggling to make every liter of space count, maximizing dimensions matters.

Carry-on luggage is any bag that you plan on bringing into an airplane and storing in the overhead bins. Because space is limited, airlines dictate the maximum size that any carry-on can be. In the U.S., the most common size is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, or 45 linear inches (length + width + height). However, this is just a rough guideline; some airlines differ from these dimensions, and you should refer to their information directly.

In general, these dimensions provide a travel backpack with around 40-45 liters of internal volume, so buying a pack that’s as close to that as possible will provide the most space allowed. Many of the packs on our list have the ability to compress to a smaller size, such as the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L .

Be mindful as well, that any protrusions from your travel pack such as shoulder straps or handles will also need to fall within the maximum allowed size. Many travel backpacks today incorporate some type of strap-stowing ability, such as the magnetic panels of the Peak Design packs, the zippered cover of the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview, and the hybrid zipper/panel of the Matador GlobeRider 45. All of these provide a more streamlined profile that should both hit the mark, and fit better into overhead bins.

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Travel backpacks run the gamut of prices — from affordable to downright pricey. There are a number of factors that play into what you get for the money.

Budget-Minded Travel Packs

Travel backpacks, as a category, are generally a bit pricer than your average luggage, as they incorporate tough materials that can put up with extensive wear over the lifespan. Travel is tough on bags, so it’s unsurprising that even budget travel backpacks will cost you around $100-150.

These packs often will incorporate more traditional architectures such as a zippered top access, as opposed to the more complicated (and spendy) full-zip clamshell designs. For example, the JanSport Journey Pack ($95) is pretty much your average school bag.

Volumes, too, will be a bit limited in this price range — added material adds cost. The 32-liter Osprey Nebula ($140) is about the best price-to-volume ratio you can get.

Mid-Range Travel Packs

Mid-range packs make up the bread and butter of travel packs, and can be had for around $150 to $200. These designs are often more of the full carry-on variety, and aim to capitalize on permitted volume as much as possible. The 45-liter Matador SEG45 ($200), Patagonia Black Hole MLC ($239), 40-liter Osprey Farpoint/Fairview ($185), and Topo Designs Global Travel Bag ($229) all shoehorn in just about as much space as a friendly gate agent will let you get away with.

For the price, you also get a good variety of functionality that makes travel easier, such as stowable pack straps, interior segmented pockets and sleeves (done excellently on the $170 Cotopaxi Allpa ), and an external compression system that limits the space your bag takes up. Some packs, like the TimBuk2 Never Check ($209), don’t exactly hit these parameters, but instead make up for it in high-quality design and materials.

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Premium Travel Packs

Above $250, you’re likely paying for premium materials or a to-the-hilt design that leaves absolutely nothing on the cutting room floor. The Peak Design Travel Backpack ($300) is a great example, and utilizes super high-quality nylon canvas, custom aluminum hardware, and supple seatbelt material webbing in its build, as well as fitting in just about every conceivable feature you could want in a travel pack. The same can be said of the Matador GlobeRider 45 ($350), which uses high-tech UHMPWE-reinforced materials and sports a total of 19 pockets.

The Tom Bihn Synapse 25 ($250) is a bit of an outlier, as it commands a high dollar amount not for the extreme amount of space it offers or amount of features, but for being a hyper-customizable, hand-made bag that uses the nicest textiles available, as well as the best zippers, webbing, and foam in its design. If you’re a fan of the finest materials, this is your daily driver pack.

What Is One Bag Travel?

The ‘One Bag Travel’ ethos and travel backpacks go hand-in-hand. Simply put, to travel in one-bag style is to be minimalist in your luggage choices, and only take what you can carry onto the plane/train/pack animal. Not only does this do away with the fuss of deciding what exactly to bring along with you, but it also allows for breezing through airports — skipping the need to check baggage, wait at baggage claim, or fear for lost luggage.

In order to most effectively travel with one bag, be sure to read up on exactly the baggage size allowances provided by your transportation. This can affect both overall size and weight, and having an expandable pack is a large benefit here. In this way, you can carry just enough to skirt through under the limit, and then expand the bag when you’ve hit your destination for more breathing room. If you aim for a 35-40 liter backpack, you’ll be right on the money for one-bag travel.

Finally, remember that this bag is going to be the only item of luggage you’ve got, so ensure it’ll be comfortable enough for the long haul. Look for padded back panels and hip belts that’ll transfer the load correctly, and if they stash away — all the better.

Our team unanimously agrees that the best travel backpack is the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L . It’s extremely durable, and it offers plenty of organizational pockets to stash your kit away in. The clamshell opening makes packing a breeze, and we really appreciated the unique shoulder strap storage options available to turn the pack into a stripped-down bag that would slide into any overhead compartment.

Peak Design Travel Pack in Denver

The best size bag for traveling depends largely on your travel itinerary and mode of transport. The Cotopaxi Allpa packs range from 28 to 42 liters.

The 28-liter option makes for a compact and comfortable backpack that easily fits in overhead airplane compartments. The 42-liter option is a bit more like carrying a duffel bag on your back, but it still manages to fit in overhead compartments. It’s a great option for maximizing carry-on capacity in backpack form.

While both have their place in travel, a backpack can offer some advantages over a suitcase. Since they’re much more portable, backpacks can be brought to many more places where a suitcase won’t work. Suitcases can be your large load carriers, but a good travel backpack gives you the freedom to strike out on daily adventures.

Travel backpacks absolutely can be carry-on luggage, given they meet the size requirements. In the U.S., the most common maximum size is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, or 45 linear inches (length + width + height). But this is only a common size, and different airlines will have different specifics. Consult with your airline specifically to determine what they allow.

While different body types will find different travel packs comfortable, we can all agree that a good support system and ample foam make for a comfortable carry. In our own testing, we found the Osprey Farpoint 40 and Fairview 40 Travel Packs were by far the most comfortable due to their plush suspension systems.

Because many different airlines operate a slate of different planes, there isn’t a standard under-seat luggage size, although there is an average: 16 inches x 12 inches x 6 inches. Some airlines allow personal items larger than this, but you should consult with their customer service for specifics. Our favorite personal item-sized travel pack was the Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack , which, at 24 liters compressed, easily slides under a seat.

best backpack air travel

The Best Laptop Backpacks of 2024

Whether you’re headed to the office, class, or even the trailhead, here’s our top picks for the best laptop backpacks of 2024.

best backpack air travel

The Best Daypacks of 2024

We tested the best daypacks of 2024 with options for every budget. Top picks include Osprey, Cotopaxi, and more.

best backpack air travel

Hailing from the hemlocks and hanging mosses of Washington State, Senior Editor Nick Belcaster is an adventure journalist following threads of stories across the West. Cruelly stolen from the alpine swales of rural Wisconsin at a young age, Nick made do ascending the snows and granite of the North Cascades while completing a journalism degree. A long stint on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 codified a life bent on sleeping on minor slopes and picking devil’s club out of his shoes.

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How To Choose The

Best Travel Backpack

The minimalist's guide to selecting a carry-on backpack for one bag travel.

  • 01. Introduction
  • 02. Our Picks
  • 04. Function
  • 05. Aesthetic
  • 06. Conclusion

Fitting your life into one bag is no small task. We’re here to help.

Best Travel Backpacks

Click to learn more about why we love these top picks.

  • 9.2/10: Aer Travel Pack 3 (Best for one bag travel)
  • 9.1/10: GORUCK GR2 (40L) (Best for rugged adventures)
  • 8.9/10: Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L (Best for travel photographers)
  • 8.8/10: TOM BIHN Synik 30 (Best for built-in organization)
  • 8.6/10: Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L (Best for suitcase-like organization)
  • 8.5/10: TOM BIHN Techonaut 30 (Best for multiple carry modes)
  • 8.3/10: ULA Equipment Dragonfly (Best for lightweight carry)
  • 8.3/10: Able Carry Max Backpack (Best for daypack-like feel)
  • 8.2/10: Osprey Farpoint 40 (Best for budget travelers)
  • 8.2/10: Minaal Carry-On 3.0 Bag (Best for business travelers)
  • 8.0/10: EVERGOODS Civic Travel Bag 35L (CTB35) (Best for carry comfort)
  • 7.6/10: Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L (Best built-in packing cubes)
  • 7.5/10: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack (Best for showing a little personality)

See all reviews: Travel Backpacks

How to Select The Best Backpack for One Bag Travel

There’s something so freeing about traveling with only one bag. All of your important stuff is within arm’s reach, and it forces you to cut down on many of life’s seemingly necessary consumer goods that you can probably live without. With one bag, you easily glide from location to location, always having just enough but never too much.

Digital Nomad Packing List ATP Tom

Choosing the perfect travel backpack for one bag travel can be a challenging endeavor. There are so many brands and models to choose from with varying degrees of durability, price, and try-on-ability (we made this word up for trying something out before buying it online). Add varying views and opinions into the mix from folks with different values, needs, and body types—and you’ve got a veritable clusterf*ck of options to wade through. Whether you’re a new traveler gearing up for your first trip, a digital nomad going through a “sell-all-my-stuff-and-put-it-in-a-backpack” phase, or somewhere in between, it’s essential to have the best travel backpack that works for you.

Here’s the bottom line: There is no “best” backpack that is perfect for every traveler in every scenario. However, we believe everyone can find a pack that’s perfect for their unique needs. In this guide, we’ll break down the factors we think are most important when choosing the ideal one-bag travel backpack for you.

This guide is written and informed by Pack Hacker staff, many of whom are frequent travelers and digital nomads. That means we’re using and testing these products every day to better understand what’s available out there and how each bag may appeal to different types of travelers.

If you’d rather skip all this info and get straight to the backpacks we’ve reviewed, you can take a look at our highest-rated travel backpack list in the next section, or all of our Travel Backpack Reviews . We’re constantly updating this list as we review and rate new bags frequently.

Is It Better To Travel With a Backpack or Suitcase?

We’ve found that backpacks give you much greater mobility. You can breeze through airports. You’ll never stand around a baggage carousel after a long haul again. And as long as your pack is carry-on size compliant, you’ll never lose your luggage, ever. Depending on your travel style and what you’re hauling, it comes down to your personal preference—both roller luggage and backpacks can be good options. In this guide, we’ll focus on travel backpacks for a couple of reasons:

They Feel Freeing

You’ve got both of your hands-free, and you’re not constantly dragging something behind you. No matter what terrain you’re walking on, you’ll never have the annoyance of loud or unsteady wheels behind you from standard travel luggage. Sure, roller bags work like a charm on smooth airport and hotel floors, but how about the winding cobblestone roads of Paris or a sandy beach in Ko Pha Ngan? You can traverse almost any terrain when you’re wearing a backpack.

Best Travel Backpack | Traveling with the Osprey Farpoint 40 in India.

Travel Backpacks are Versatile & Usually Lightweight

If you pack light enough, you can comfortably have all of your belongings with you at once . Did you arrive earlier than your hotel or Airbnb check in? No problem, just take your pack around with you for the day—no need to stop by and drop your luggage off. Versatility at its finest.

We can’t necessarily guarantee the pack will be lightweight if you fill it up with a bunch of heavy stuff (like camera gear), so we made a Travel Camera Guide too 🙂.

They Provide Flexibility

You’ll take up less room on the airplane or in public transit. You’ll generally feel more agile vs needing to drag around rolly luggage, with the added benefit of not looking like an out-of-place tourist. It caters to a more adventurous lifestyle by always being ready to go. And, you can easily catch that train that’s about to depart without awkwardly side-running with a roller bag or two.

Heimplanet Travel Pack 28L (V2) in Cambridgeshire, England

Utilizing a Backpack in Travel Contexts

In this guide, we’re going for travel versatility. We want you to look good carrying these bags around in an urban environment and have the flexibility to head out on a hike for a couple of days of camping without having your backpack ruined by the elements. If you’ve got a piece of roller luggage, it’s going to be hard to do that spontaneous half-day trek on the trail to the neighboring city you’ve been wanting to check out. Likewise, if you’re going to post up at a coffee shop for a day of office work, you’re going to look out of place with a bulky, multi-colored hiking bag. The packs mentioned in this article will blend into most city environments and are durable enough to withstand the abuse of longer excursions.

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Some of our top-rated bags for your travel backpack consideration.

Aer Travel Pack 3 Review

The Aer Travel Pack 3 takes some of our favorite travel backpack features and puts them into one bag: helpful load lifters, easy-to-engage compression straps, and easy access to different compartments. It has Aer’s sleek signature style and is made with quality materials like CORDURA® ballistic nylon and YKK zippers, which add a ton of durability and make this a reliable bag that can withstand extended travel. In fact, this is one of our highest-rated bags and a Pack Hacker Pick because of how it’s held up on trips across the U.S., Thailand, South Korea, and more.

The organization is streamlined for easy packing, and it even includes a hidden pocket where you can tuck a smart tracker—a great feature for keeping track of your bag if it’s stolen or gets lost in transit. The harness system is super comfortable even when the bag is fully loaded and includes wide, cushioned shoulder straps with keepers to cut down on dangling. We also like that there’s an option to add a hip belt because it helps take a ton of weight off your shoulders when the bag is loaded. If you don’t need as much liter space, we recommend the Aer Travel Pack 3 Small because it takes key features from its bigger sibling and puts them in a smaller package built for shorter trips and smaller frames.

Why We Like It

  • It has just-right organization and open space
  • Compression straps don’t impede access to the compartments, so it’s easy to grab gear quickly

What You Should Know

  • Magnetic compression buckles sometimes come undone on their own
  • There isn’t a huge false bottom to the laptop compartment, which impacts tech protection—more of a nitpick, as we’ve found it’s still reliable

GORUCK GR2 In Detroit, Michigan

If you’re looking for a durable pack that can handle any adventure you throw at it, look no further than the GORUCK GR2. It’s a little on the heavier side (courtesy of the CORDURA® Nylon and beefy YKK zippers), though we think the durability is worth the weight sacrifice. We’ve fit its boxy shape under the seat in front of us on some budget airlines, which is great if you’re trying to avoid fees while you travel the world (who isn’t?). In fact, this is the bag that Pack Hacker’s founder Tom used to travel the world for over 2 years.

Though the organization inside is simple, there’s still plenty of room for packing cubes and pouches. It’s covered in PALS webbing, which we use to attach MOLLE accessories like pouches that we fill with items we want quick access to on the plane or while exploring. The customization options mean you can make the pack fit your specific needs, whether it’s Digital Nomad travel or a weekend fishing trip with your family. Plus, GORUCK has one of the best lifetime warranties in the business and a killer repair program, so if you have any issues, contact their customer service.

  • The external fabrics are some of the most durable we’ve seen—it even held up when we dragged it behind a car
  • Plenty of PALS webbing, so it’s easy to add modular MOLLE attachments to customize your organization
  • The rugged materials and hardware add a lot of weight to the pack
  • It has a tactical look and feel that’s hard to disguise if that’s not your style

Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L Review

Since this is a bag from Peak Design, it has some great camera features. There are plenty of attachment points inside and out for your photography gear. However, it’s an excellent travel backpack even if you don’t take a DSLR on every trip, thanks to its clean lines and clever design.

The main compartment has well-structured sides and opens clamshell to make it easy to pack, although we’ve noticed that anything we store on the bottom blocks built-in mesh pockets, so you’ll have to choose between gear storage or smooth access. They’re useful for gear you won’t need until you reach your destination, and side pockets help you get to things that you need as you travel, like your passport. There’s a well-padded sleeve for your laptop, and the front pocket has organizational features for tiny gear, which is great for getting to your essentials while sitting in your airplane seat or waiting at the gate. For times when you’re not packing as much, the compression system does an excellent job at holding gear in place.

If you find that 30L isn’t enough space or you want bring more of your photo kit, we recommend the Peak Design Travel Backpack , which has the same great features and added room for your gear. It expands to 45 liters if needed and has compression snaps to lock it down if you want to use it as a daypack.

  • It has a comfortable harness system, with a sternum strap that won’t slip out of place
  • Structured sides and clamshell opening create a bucket shape that’s easy to load with gear
  • ID pocket on the back panel is easy to overlook, so a stranger may not see it if they find your misplaced bag
  • Some main compartment pockets aren’t as accessible as we’d like, which slows you down when searching for gear

Tom Bihn Synik 30 In Detroit, Michigan

Going with a lower-capacity pack reduces size and weight, meaning you can even use it as a daypack once you arrive at your destination. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be short on features. Enter the TOM BIHN Synik 30. It’s a smaller version of the Synapse and features the same top-notch and customizable organization we’re used to seeing from TOM BIHN. That means it has multiple exterior pockets for storing gear and numerous attachment points on the interior for attaching modular pouches. While we like the ballistic nylon options because they’re sleek and durable, you can opt for a different material if you want (TOM BIHN has a ton to choose from).

The style won’t be for everyone, and its round shape can make it more challenging to pack some packing cubes and pouches, causing you to lose out on some storage space in the corners (or lack thereof). However, once you’re used to the internal organization, this is one of the smartest-designed internal layouts we’ve seen in a travel backpack.

  • The internal organization is great for both travel and daily carry
  • Plenty of options to add modular pouches to customize gear organization
  • Has a heritage look that may not be everyone’s taste
  • Rounded edges can make it harder to pack with some organizers and pouches

Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 30L Review

The Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L has a thickly padded harness system, from the shoulder straps to the hip belt and the back panel, along with vertical height adjustment and load lifters for extra support. All of these features together make for a comfortable carry even when the backpack is completely full. There are plenty of places to pack your gear, including water bottle pockets on each side, a top pocket for small items like keys, a front pocket for wide but flat items, and smaller pockets on the hip belt. You can stash your tech accessories in a well-organized admin panel, and there’s a dedicated laptop compartment as well. It includes a zippered pocket for accessories, which we love for the trips where we don’t need to bring a separate tech pouch.

The large bucket space of the main compartment is simple, with no dividers to get in the way. This means you can pack however you please, whether you load up on packing cubes or fold your clothing into neat piles—though we recommend packing cubes so that things don’t get too jostled. A mesh compartment hinges along the main compartment opening for some built-in segmentation, and you’ll find a similar feature on the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L . While the 30L is great for smaller frames, we think the larger version is excellent if you want more space to pack. It’s even a Pack Hacker Pick !

  • The smaller size means this travel backpack doubles as a daypack if desired
  • Simple organization in other pockets while the main compartment is open to organize as you see fit
  • Can be slow to access the large mesh pocket in the main compartment because it opens toward the inside of the pack, not the outside
  • The harness system can feel a bit overkill for a bag of this size if it’s not full

Tom Bihn Techonaut 30 Review

The Techonaut 30 is a classic example of what makes a TOM BIHN bag great. There are a ton of durable fabric and colorway options—we like the 525D ballistic nylon because of its strength-to-weight ratio, though there are stronger and lighter-weight options available depending on your preferences. Plus, it has clever, functional organization that’s easy to load with all your gear. When we need to keep even more small items in check, we add TOM BIHN pouches to the included O-rings around the bag (we’re partial to the Ghost Whale pouches because of their size, but almost any will work).

You can carry the Techonaut 30 like a backpack, briefcase, or messenger bag, although you’ll have to get a separate strap to carry it as a messenger. We prefer backpack mode because the back panel is supportive even when all 30 liters are fully packed.

Inside, it has a variety of pockets, including an integrated water bottle pocket and two quick-grab pockets, which work in either horizontal or vertical orientation, meaning you can store gear based on the way you’re carrying the bag. Briefcase mode? Use the top pockets. Backpack? Go for the sides. However, if you need to carry some hydration, we find that the integrated water bottle pocket can cut into the main compartment, so you’ll have to trade some storage space. Though the main and bottom compartments are separated, you can expand the former via a collapsible floor, which is handy if you need a bit of flexibility with the available space. This is great if you like traveling with shoes but don’t want to buy a separate shoe pouch.

  • Bottom pocket unzips to merge with the main compartment for even more storage space
  • It can be carried three ways, and all of them are comfortable
  • It’s tricky to see inside the top pocket because of its sideways opening
  • The dedicated shoe pocket struggles to fit large shoes, which isn’t ideal for those with large feet

ULA Equipment Dragonfly Side

At less than 2 pounds, the Dragonfly is one of the lightest travel backpacks we’ve tested (and we’ve tested hundreds), yet it’s not lacking in features. The reason it’s so light is the Ultra 800™ Fabric. It’s 15 times stronger than steel by weight, twice as abrasion-resistant as nylons of the same denier, and waterproof to 200 psi, so you don’t have to worry about a rainstorm ruining your gear. The bag also has quality YKK AquaGuard zippers and Duraflex hardware. While it’s missing a ULA logo on the front, we appreciate the minimalist aesthetic.

As for gear storage, there’s a built-in carabiner and leash for your keys in the top quick-access pocket, and there are both internal and external UltraStretch™ mesh pockets to organize your gear, including large water bottle pockets. In fact, they’re so large that we’re even able to hold things like a travel tripod. Inside is a sleeve that can hold up to a 15-inch laptop or a hydration bladder, depending on what you plan to do that day. Once you’re all loaded up, internal compression straps help to hold your clothing or packing cubes in place.

However, you sacrifice a little in the harness system in the name of weight. A sturdy back panel has thin padding with aeration, and the shoulder straps have similar aeration but not as much padding. The sternum strap is also thin but helps take a little weight off when the pack is full. Plus, there are a lot of attachment loops all over the pack, which is great for modularity.

  • The oversized bottle pockets fit a variety of bulky gear and up to 64-ounce bottles
  • It has a quite spacious main compartment
  • It can be hard to zip when fully packed
  • The shoulder straps aren’t overly padded, which may not be suited for all body types

Able Carry Max Backpack | Using the backpack in Detroit

The VX21 X-Pac material on the Able Carry Max Backpack gives it a sporty look that we like, and there’s also 1000D CORDURA® nylon on the underside for durability. You won’t have to worry about the sturdiness of this bag, as it’s well-constructed, with reinforced stitching in key areas. There is plenty of room in the laptop compartment for up to a 17-inch computer and organization for your tech gear. Loops and strips of webbing around the bag give you the flexibility to pack it however you wish, and there are two quick-grab pockets for gear you want to get at as you travel. You can even get a third quick-access spot if you use the internal bottle pocket instead of the one outside the bag for hydration.

The Max Backpack is really comfortable to carry and easy to adjust. The shoulder straps have dense padding and breathable mesh undersides, with X-Pac on top for durability and style. While the tablet pocket is a bit shallow, we don’t have too many problems during regular use.

  • It’s easy to customize organization thanks to webbing and loop attachment points
  • The durable fabrics are held together with equally-sturdy stitching
  • The X-Pac material may not suit everyone, though you can always opt for CORDURA® nylon
  • A rear pocket is a bit narrow and tricky to access

Osprey Farpoint 40 V2 Review

This durable bag is made with recycled and bluesign® approved polyester and a PFAS-free DWR coating, which is great if you’re an eco-friendly traveler. It has a bit of an outdoorsy look, which is to be expected from Osprey. However, the external storage is hard to beat if you’re the adventurous type. A large front stash pocket holds a water bottle or damp gear like a rain jacket or towel, and there’s also a decent-sized top pocket for smaller accessories. We like that it’s big enough to tuck your 3-1-1 bag inside to keep it within reach through the security line at the airport. The main compartment opens fully clamshell, and is easy to pack since you can see all the space at once. A couple of mesh pockets inside help organize your gear, and compression straps hold clothing or packing cubes in place as you travel. The large laptop compartment is accessible from the outside of the bag, so you can get some work done as you wait for the plane to board.

What’s really great, though, is how comfortable you’ll be while carrying this bag. The breathable mesh back panel keeps things airy, and the harness shifts higher or lower so you can adjust it to your height and torso length. If you have a more petite frame but want to carry the same amount of gear, try the Osprey Fairview 40. As opposed to coming straight over your shoulders, these curve in and around, making it easier to carry for more petite users of any gender.

  • The harness system is comfy even when the pack is fully loaded
  • An ample-sized main compartment makes this a great pick for one bag travel
  • You can’t remove the bulky hip belt even if you don’t need it
  • There aren’t any dedicated bottle pockets, and the front pocket can be tight for larger bottles

Minaal Carry-On 3.0 in Detroit Michigan

The 35L Minaal Carry-On 3.0 for one bag travel is aesthetically sleek and has smart features to improve quality of life on your trip. If you carry a lot of tech, you may appreciate that the laptop compartment lays completely flat, making it easy to load and access on the go. It has a suspended laptop sleeve that you can adjust to different sizes, so your 13-inch MacBook Air isn’t drowning in a pocket designed for a big gaming computer. Plus, the shoulder straps hide away behind a zipping panel, which we find makes it easy to slide this backpack into an overhead bin.

The main compartment opens clamshell for easy packing and includes some built-in organization. However, unlike most other backpacks, you load the bag into the “scoop” section (the front of the bag) instead of the back. This takes a little getting used to, though it’s easy to use once you do. While we recommend taking advantage of packing cubes for most of your gear, there is a large mesh pocket at the top, along with a nylon pouch below it where you can pack shoes. Two external pockets give you quick access to your wallet, phone, and small accessories, and there’s also a security pocket behind the back panel for your passport. Just be careful when using the water bottle pocket, as they can slip out even when the bungee is tight.

  • It’s great to be able to securely carry devices of different sizes in the adjustable sleeve
  • Excellent accessibility since both compartments open fully clamshell
  • You have to pack it “scoop side down,” which can get unwieldy without packing cubes
  • The bungee designed to hold a bottle in place doesn’t always work as intended, and some bottles slip out

EVERGOODS Civic Travel Bag 35L (CTB35) Review

Some packs are designed with a specific use in mind, and others are designed to be as versatile as possible. Every once in a while, you’ll come across a bag that does both (and does it well). The features on EVERGOODS’ Civic Travel Bag 35L, or CTB35, make it one of the most versatile travel backpacks we’ve seen on the market.

There’s plenty of organization to choose from without going over the top, meaning there’s a spot for large and small gear alike. The main compartment has ample space, so we’re able to fit everything from a camera cube to bulky shoes inside, and it even has a few zippered pockets for small items like tech. As for external storage, there’s a built-in yoke pocket on the top and a vertical zippered pocket on the front that we like to use as a dump pocket for our phone, wallet, keys, and more while going through airport security. Plus, there’s an easily accessible laptop compartment if you work on the go. The harness system is contoured nicely, which makes this backpack incredibly comfortable to wear even when fully packed, so we have no problem carrying it all day long.

We like the 35-liter option because it’s big enough to work for long trips. However, if you’re into the organization but want something smaller, it also comes in a 26-liter size (which we like equally as much).

  • The harness is well-padded and comfortable even when the pack is completely full of gear
  • It strikes a balance between built-in organization and empty space, so you’re not pigeonholed into packing your gear a specific way
  • Since the organization is so minimal, you’ll need to find a way to manage things like clothing—we recommend utilizing packing cubes
  • We find it difficult to stow the hip belt without it twisting a bit, so it takes a bit of finesse to get right

Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L In Use

We like the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag so much that we chose it for the first iteration of our Vacation Packing List . The large size makes sense because you can fit more gear; however, there’s a smaller 30-liter size that we find is better for smaller-framed folks and people who want to save space. Why do we like it so much? We’re happy you asked!

These packs have built-in organization options inside the main compartment, including a divider with zippered pockets that we use to stow smaller items like socks and underwear, but it’s also great for tech or miscellaneous gear. There’s also a large second compartment, a dedicated laptop compartment, and a quick-grab pocket on the front that’s handy for gear you’ll need throughout the day. While all of this organization is great, it’s worth mentioning that all of these zippered pockets are pretty shallow, so you’ll have to pack strategically to ensure your bag will zip up when everything is loaded in. On the plus side, the liner is brightly colored, which makes finding your stuff that much easier!

If all of that space isn’t enough for you, there are attachment points on the front of the bag where you can attach an additional daypack. The harness system isn’t our favorite because there’s no frame sheet to add structure and it can feel pretty heavy when it’s all packed out, but the hip belt does a good job taking some weight off your shoulders.

  • There’s ample organization to segment your gear, making it easier to find
  • The bright liner material adds a ton of visibility when we’re looking for our stuff in the multiple zippered pockets
  • Can be difficult to slide a laptop into the dedicated compartment when the bag is fully packed because of how it starts to bulge
  • It’s not the most comfortable bag we’ve worn for extended periods because the back panel lacks significant structure

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack Review

While some travel backpacks fit best in an urban setting, the Allpa 35L Travel Pack works as a hiking or work bag as well as a travel pack. However, just because it can serve other purposes doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the travel department. It has a refined design and ample space that make it easy to pack for vacation, with mesh dividers and organizers inside to help you keep your gear sorted. While the exterior materials aren’t very structured, you’re unlikely to reach for this large of a bag unless you plan to pack it out, so it’s not always noticeable. The polyester is coated with TPU for water resistance, so your gear is safe as you walk in nearly any weather.

If you’re getting started on your journey into one bag travel, you can get the Allpa with an accessory bundle that includes mesh laundry bags, a nylon shoe bag, and a snap-on mesh water bottle sleeve. You also have the option to add-on Cotopaxi’s Batac Daypack, so you can have a complete travel system ready with just one click. And in case you needed another reason to consider Cotopaxi, you should know that their bags are made in the Philippines in a factory committed to fair labor and environmentally-sound practices, so you can feel good about your purchase, too.

  • It’s a ruggedly durable backpack if you’re a more adventurous traveler
  • The bag feels roomy and conveniently-placed pockets for small gear storage
  • Hip belt isn’t removable if it doesn’t fit, and the pockets often feel too snug when wearing the bag
  • It’s on the heavy side for its size

Decisions, decisions… Navigating the not-so-clear world of travel packs.

Video Guide Part 2: Form

Feel free to watch this guide section in video format. We’ll keep the written content on this page up to date.

Be sure to subscribe to Pack Hacker on YouTube and never miss a video. We also have these videos in a series playlist format on YouTube so you can watch them easier.

Best Backpack Size & Weight for Carry-On Air Travel

We favor smaller bags that fit in the overhead bin. Yes, it can be a challenge to fit your entire life into a 40L bag, but wow, is it worth it!. Trust us—you can fit your entire life into an 18L backpack if you’re disciplined, and we highly recommend staying under 50L for one bag travel. Life is just easier with a smaller & lighter backpack. If you want to cheat a bit and get some extra space, you can also go the sling bag on the front, backpack on the back route.

Airlines can get pretty stingy around the amount of weight you can bring on board. It’s essential to make sure your backpack itself isn’t too heavy, or you won’t be able to fit in as much clothing and other travel gear. We’re all for less clothing and gear, but we are not for getting hit with extra fees if your carry-on is overweight. Starting out with a bag that’s already too heavy before you’ve packed it is just setting yourself up for failure! We calculate a carry-on compliance score for every travel backpack reviewed on our site using its dimensions and data we collect from most airlines worldwide.

True Volume

It’s easy to get caught up in all this talk around liters of a backpack. There’s really no “industry standard” around this, and the liter size of a pack can vary from brand to brand. What’s more important is the “True Volume” of a backpack and how usable the space is. Some weird, trapezoid-shaped backpack will certainly be more of a challenge than something with a larger, rectangular compartment. The thickness and flexibility of the material matter as well. A thin, strong material will leave you with more space inside of a backpack than something with thick padding in the liner. However, a rigid material—Dyneema, for instance—doesn’t have much additional flex and isn’t very forgiving when you’re trying to pack your bag to the brim. The efficiency of space can make or break the usefulness of a pack.

Pack’s Exterior Profile

The slimness of a pack can help out quite a bit. Not only does it seem less heavy because the weight is close to your back, but it has the added benefit of giving you a smaller, slimmer form factor. With this, you won’t be taking up too much room on public transit or smacking people in the face when you’re boarding the airplane—it’ll be a better experience for you and everyone around you.

Max Legal Carry-On

Otherwise known as “MLC,” Max Legal Carry-On size covers the largest acceptable backpack size for carrying on most airlines. Make sure to check with your airline before arriving at the airport, though—size limits can vary based on the airline you’re flying with.

Peak Design Travel Backpack in Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Peak Design Travel Backpack is a well-executed travel bag from a company with an excellent track-record of bringing innovative and unique designs to the backpack world. This maximum legal carry-on can easily handle one bag travel, photography, or digital nomading with ease—and it will be a joy to use for any of those activities.

Top-loading vs Panel-loading (Clamshell) Backpacks

There’s a big debate around clamshell and top-loading packs. We’re personally a fan of clamshell for one-bag travel, as it gives you more open space to work with. Clamshell functions more like a suitcase and opens literally like a clam. You can easily open it up flat and see everything inside, so it tends to be easier to organize all your travel gear.

The Able Carry Max Backpack is a clamshell-style backpack that opens to give you easy access to a spacious main compartment—this works great for packing cubes or rolled up clothing—whichever you prefer! Also, it’s got a large but low-profile water bottle pocket.

Top-loading packs are great if you’re on a long, multi-day trek or participating in other outdoor-focused activities as there’s no main zipper that can fail you (which could be catastrophic if you’re halfway up Mt. Everest).

Thule Subterra in Spain

The Thule Subterra 34L is a top-loading backpack with a roll top opening. A top loader’s usual pitfalls are fixed by an easy to access side zip that allows entry to the main compartment. This zip comes in handy when you don’t have time to mess around with the roll top, or you want to grab something located at the bottom of the bag.

Weather Resistance

Best Travel Backpack | The GORUCK GR2 features “weather resistance” but it’s not “waterproof.”

Weather resistance is another key component to consider for one bag travel. With all your tech gear and expensive possessions in your pack, you don’t want it to get wet. We look for packs with some great weather resistance that’ll easily get you through light rain and ideally through 20 minutes of a monsoon in Southeast Asia. There’s a big difference between waterproof and water-resistant bags. We’re mainly focused on the latter, as this will be plenty in most situations. Sure, waterproof is more secure, but unless you’re leaving your pack outside in a torrential downpour for hours on end or plan to go snorkeling with your laptop on your back, there’s no need for that extra tech.

Mission Workshop Fitzroy VX

The Mission Workshop Fitzroy VX utilizes weatherproof materials and weather-resistant zippers. We’ve found it to hold up decently in a downpour. Even if you’re caught in a pretty torrential rainstorm, you should be okay with the PET waterproof membrane.

Got something that needs some additional weatherproofing? Consider picking up a DAKA Pouch . It’ll give your valuables that extra layer of protection without requiring you to purchase an entirely waterproof bag—plus, these pouches double as organizers, separating your precious gear from the rest of your loadout with some additional protection to boot. It’s a win-win.

Durability and Quality

Whether you’re traveling for a week, a month, or a year plus, your backpack is pretty much your home, so you don’t want it to break. Take it from us—the last thing you want is to find out that you lost your phone charger because your zipper broke during the journey to your next accommodation. Investing in a good backpack will prevent loss and damage to your gear, and higher quality products will last for several years. It can be a challenge to tell if a backpack is durable right out of the box, which is why we test bags as much as possible to notice any faults. Higher durability usually means higher weight, but not always. Here are a couple of key considerations we’ve found when it comes to durability.

When it comes to durability, the Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L doesn’t mess around. The 1000D nylon, beefy YKK #10 zippers, and simplistic design all come together to create a bag that won’t let you down.

Best Travel Backpack YKK Zipper

YKK zippers are some of the best around, so naturally, the best travel backpack brands tend to use them. They’re super strong and have different weights depending on the area of the pack they’re used. A YKK #10 will keep a main compartment secure, whereas a YKK #5 may be suited for smaller side pockets that don’t receive as much use or tension.

YKK is obsessed with quality, and they do everything in-house. They smelt their own brass, forge their own zipper teeth, and even make the machines that make their zippers and the cardboard boxes they ship in! Needless to say, you probably won’t end up with any broken zippers with YKK on your side. YKK zippers also account for about half of all zippers in the world, so that says something. Although less popular, RiRi zippers are pretty great too. Both RiRi and YKK are superior to any other zipper made in-house by a bag manufacturer, and Zoom Zippers are climbing up on that list as well, though we still find intermittent issues with them.

Backpack Fabric and Material

There are a ton of fabrics and materials out there, too. When looking at fabrics, you’ll often see a number followed by a D—250D, 950D, 1500D, etc. The D stands for denier, a term used to measure the fabric’s thickness and weight—specifically the yarn. The formal definition is the mass (in grams) per 9,000 meters of thread, so lightweight fabrics (like silk) have a very low denier, while heavier fabrics have a higher denier. When it comes to backpacks, a higher denier is not necessarily better. In general, a higher denier will be more durable (depending on the fabric & weave) but also heavier. While the denier can tell you the weight and thickness of a material, the type of material, weave, and manufacturing involved will ultimately tell you more about its strength and durability. Here are some materials you’ll come across when selecting your pack, along with the pros and cons of each one.

Ripstop Nylon

Rip-Stop Nylon

Pretty close in property to standard nylon, “ripstop” nylon has a unique square weave that prevents further tearing from happening after a puncture. It has an incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio, and, as the name implies, it is highly resistant to rips and tears. The reason why it’s so strong is that additional fibers are sewn into the weave. Ripstop Nylon was developed in World War II as a more robust alternative to silk parachutes and is currently used in ejector seat parachutes for fighter pilots!

Ballistic Nylon

Ballistic Nylon

Ballistic Nylon refers to any nylon fabric with a “ballistic weave,” a variation on the simple basketweave. This gives it excellent tensile and tear strength—especially when layered—and makes it heavier than a lot of other materials. Keep in mind that ballistic nylon almost exclusively comes in black. Why is it called ballistic? It was initially used on flak jackets for World War II airmen to protect them from artillery-shell and bullet fragmentations. PSA: We do not recommend the use of backpacks for protection in war zones.

CORDURA® Nylon

CORDURA® Nylon

CORDURA® is not a fabric in and of itself—it is a brand covering a whole host of different materials, from cotton to nylon to polyester. What they do is take fabric from various mills, inspect it to make sure it’s up to their standards, and then slap that CORDURA® tag on it. Yes, it’s a bit deceiving, but they do put out some high-quality stuff. You’ll mostly always see a “®” next to “CORDURA” (in all caps) because #branding and #lawyers.

Kodra Nylon

Kodra Nylon

Kodra is virtually synonymous with CORDURA® but made in Korea. Peak Design opted for this in V1 of their Everyday Backpack.

Polyester

Polyester is one of the most common fabrics on the planet. It’s made from plastic fibers, and you can find it pretty much everywhere—in clothing, pillows, seat belts, upholstery, rope, the list goes on… Oh, and backpacks. Polyester is not the most durable fabric, so you’ll usually find it on lower-end packs (think of those classic Jansport backpacks everyone had in high school). It’s really not the most suitable choice for a travel pack—as it just won’t hold up through the years. Besides lacking in durability, polyester is also fairly heavy compared to other fabrics like nylon. If you’re looking for a low-budget day pack, polyester is fine. If you’re looking for something more serious, stay away from it.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene & Nylon Blend

Polypropylene is a polymer that is used to make fabrics. This stuff is seriously everywhere—it is the world’s second most widely produced synthetic plastic! It’s used to make ropes, carpets, labels, plastic lids on tic-tac containers, plastic chairs, long underwear…basically, if you see something made of plastic, there’s a solid chance there’s some polypropylene in it. You’ll find it mostly in minor backpack components, but it’s also used to make drawstring bags and totes like the ones that are handed out for free at a college fair or festival. Polypropylene fabric has a few things going for it. It’s cheap, it’s a good insulator because it doesn’t transfer heat very well, and it won’t absorb water since it’s hydrophobic. The major problem with polypropylene is that it is not very UV resistant. If it’s repeatedly exposed to sunlight, the fabric will fade and break down over time. This is not great for backpacks. You may, however, see polypropylene used as a liner on the inside of some packs as it won’t be affected by UV light and adds some additional protection.

Canvas

You could say that canvas is the OG backpack material. Back in the day, canvas was just about the only thing you would use for a “backpack,” outside of maybe a burlap sack thrown over your shoulder. In World War II, GI’s carried all their equipment around in canvas packs and slept in canvas tents. Canvas very thick and sturdy and was historically made from cotton, linen, or hemp coated in wax for waterproofing. Today, canvas tends to be made from things like nylon and polyester. Most modern backpack companies shy away from canvas because it’s usually heavy, not overly water-resistant, and easily damaged by abrasion. If you’re looking for a canvas one-bag travel pack, you’re not going to find much out there. However, if you want the nostalgia factor, you can still find a bespoke canvas bag to satisfy that.

Leather

We may need to scrap our statement on canvas because leather is arguably as OG as it gets. Its use has been traced back as far as Ancient Greece and Rome! Like canvas, you’re not going to see many travel packs made of leather. While a leather bag can make for an excellent, stylish daypack, it’s not ideal for a long-term travel pack, mainly because of its weight. There is also a lot of potential care involved. Between protective oils and various cleaning techniques, it can be a hassle to deal with if you’re on the move. There are three grades of leather—genuine, top-grain, and full-grain.

Contrary to popular belief, genuine is the lowest grade of leather while full-grain is the highest. Full-grain is used for heavy-duty use-cases like weapon holsters and work belts, so if you’re dead set on a leather pack, we’d recommend looking for full-grain leather. Ideally, you’ll want to find something thin enough to not be overly heavy while still thick enough to ensure durability.

Sailcloth

The actual material is called ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene… but most know it as sailcloth (yep, the same material used on a sailboat). A relatively rare material for backpacks, brands like Tortuga have taken advantage of sailcloth due to its lightweight and water-resistant properties. It is by far the most lightweight and waterproof material on our list (no need for DWR or liners), but it does have some drawbacks. It’s stiff and crinkly with zero stretch, which can cause problems if you’re trying to utilize every nook and cranny of your pack. It isn’t quite as indestructible as some other materials listed, but it’s reasonably durable and can be patched. It also tends to be one of the most expensive backpack materials out there.

Dyneema® Composite Fabric

Dyneema® Composite Fabric

In May 2015, Dyneema purchased Cubic Tech, the creator and manufacturer of Cuben Fiber, and rebranded it as Dyneema® Composite Fabrics. So, Dyneema® Composite Fabrics = Cuben Fiber. This stuff was initially designed for high-tech sails on racing yachts because it is ridiculously light and robust. As such, it has been adopted wholeheartedly by the ultralight backpacking community. It’s sort of like the carbon fiber of the backpack world—high-tech, super strong, super light, and…super expensive. While Dyneema® Composite Fabric is popular within the ultralight backpacking community, it has yet to become commonplace in the one-bag travel scene. That being said, if you do see Dyneema® Composite Fabric, you should know that you’re getting some of the best stuff around.

tpu material best travel backpack guide

Thermoplastic polyurethane —TPU for short—is a polymer used to add strength to a material, either through a manufacturing process or coating. You’ll recognize it on products like inflatable rafts, phone cases, wire cables, and footwear. Think stuff that needs to be as durable as possible to avoid things going south for the user. It easily sheds water and oil, resists abrasions, and won’t crack in high or low temps, making it ideal for frequent outdoor use. Unlike polypropylene, TPU is UV-resistant and won’t be subjected to the same amount of fading over time. If you’re the type of traveler who wants extra peace of mind on the go, you’ll want to keep an eye out for TPU because of the extra strength it adds to a pack, but we wouldn’t consider a lack of TPU a deal-breaker.

x-pac material best travel backpack guide

X-Pac is not so much a fabric as it is a bunch of fabrics smooshed together. With the help of lamination technology, it combines complementary materials to make an overall higher-performing product. Though there are variations in denier and waterproofing, it’s most commonly made up of a nylon face for durability, polyester mesh for strength, and waterproof film that won’t disappear over time. Like Dyneema® Composite Fabrics, it was inspired by the efficiency of sailcloth but is a less costly option that provides a similar level of ultralight performance. It holds its shape over time, won’t fade with UV exposure, and easily sheds moisture, making it great for outdoor enthusiasts who hike and bike with their pack on the regular. However, it may be a bit overkill for casual travelers unless you’re looking for a backpack for epic mountain climbing adventures.

Ultimately, the production process and design will dictate whether your gear will stay together. If a bag is made with 1000D CORDURA®, but it doesn’t have good zippers to match, it doesn’t matter how good the fabric is. Look for brands that proudly back their product with generous warranties, like GORUCK and their “SCARS warranty” or Patagonia and their “Ironclad Guarantee.” These brands know they make quality products, so they’re happy to back it up. If a brand offers no warranty or a short warranty, there’s probably a financial reason for that, and the quality may not be as high. We’re all about buying quality pieces that last versus something that’s going to need repair or replacement year after year.

Whether you’re hopping on a plane or navigating city streets, you need a backpack that can hold up.

Video Guide Part 3: Function

Best Backpack for Comfortable Wear and Extended Travel

Comfort is a big deal when it comes to one-bag travel—especially if you plan to carry the bag around with you for hours on end. You’ll want a high-quality harness that works with the shape of your body. When selecting a bag, it’s crucial to take your height and body type into consideration. Although this matters more for hiking backpacks where you’re carrying a ton of gear, it’s less important for smaller, one-bag travel packs. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it before you make a purchase. A backpack suited for someone that’s 6’5″ and 250 pounds probably isn’t the best travel backpack for someone that’s 5’3″ and 140 pounds. Buying something that doesn’t fit your frame correctly will make for some seriously uncomfortable travel.

Men’s Focused Fit Vs Women’s Focused Fit

Osprey Farpoint vs Osprey Fairview

Some backpacks are only available with a “one size fits all” harness system, but there is an ever-increasing number of women’s focused fit and men’s focused fit travel backpacks on the market. For example, the Thule Landmark 40L , REI Ruckpack 40 , and Deuter AViANT Carry On Pro 36 are all available in two different fits. The differences are subtle but have a big impact on how comfortable the harness system is on your frame. Compared to a men’s focused fit, a women’s focused fit backpack will typically feature:

  • Smaller hip belt with a more pronounced curve

Backpack Straps

You’ll want to look for bags with high-quality straps that work for your body type. A mismatch here could lead to an uncomfortable carry, even with only a little weight inside.

Matador Globerider45 Review

Even though the GlobeRider45 has the functionality and looks of a travel backpack, it carries more like a daypack. Its shoulder straps feature dense padding that curves and falls naturally to the body. A relatively high top area does give it a very slight hiking backpack feel, but it’s an overall tameable bag to travel with, considering its 45-liter storage capacity.

The thickness of straps doesn’t necessarily matter. Thinner straps that use high-quality foam may be more comfortable than thicker, bulkier straps.

If you’re concerned with weight, look for bags that include load lifters – these are the adjusters that appear at the top of the straps. This concept is borrowed from larger hiking backpacks and does wonders for fitting the bag well to your back with different loads.

Some straps swivel and pivot to cater to different shoulder widths and make it easier to quickly flip the pack around to access the goods you’ve got inside.

Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L (V4) Strap

We’re middle-of-the-road on hip belts for one-bag travel backpacks. They can help a ton if you’ve got a heavier load or plan to carry your pack for long stretches but aren’t necessary if you pack minimally in a smaller pack.

A good hip belt should be comfortable and secure without becoming too cumbersome. There are few things worse than hitting people with your bulky hip belt while walking down the aisle of an airplane. We’d recommend taking a look at travel backpacks that feature a detachable or hideable hip belt, so you don’t have to use it when you don’t need to.

Sternum Straps

Nearly all travel backpacks include a sternum strap. They’re designed to distribute some weight away from your shoulders and secure the shoulder straps across your chest.

While sternum straps are all pretty similar across the board, there are a couple of things we’d recommend looking out for. First, some will feature an elasticated portion that allows the strap to flex with your body as you walk. We’re big fans of these. Second, some sternum straps can be detached, leaving them vulnerable to falling off when not in use. We’re not kidding; this has happened to us on multiple occasions. Not good, especially when you’re traveling halfway around the world in remote locations! A detachable sternum strap is great when you don’t always need to use one, and it makes adjusting the height easy. Just make sure it’s secure and adequately anchored to the shoulder straps.

Osprey Fairview 40 Back Water Bottle

A well-designed back panel can make things much more comfortable. Although it’s hard to avoid the old sweaty back with more extended periods of wear in hotter climates, well-ventilated mesh and foam can help with this. A curved frame can help with ergonomics and ventilation, but we don’t see this on many travel-focused backpacks. Sometimes, it seems like overkill.

How Do you Pack the Thing?

With all these fancy features, it’s essential to consider how you should use them and how you pack your bag. Generally speaking, you want to load the heaviest items closest to your back. This’ll ensure the heaviest bits of your bag are the closest to your center of gravity, pulling you down less from the back of the bag.

Best Travel Backpack | Configuring a backpack.

If you’ve got all the features mentioned above, you want to strap and tighten your hip belt first, then adjust the shoulder straps, then tighten the load lifter straps (the straps on top) to a 45° angle, and finally, adjust and tighten the sternum strap.

Heimplanet Travel Pack 34L V2 Review

The Heimplanet Travel Pack 34L (V2) has a horseshoe zipper at the top front of the pack, which opens up to allow you to reach into the main compartment and grab essential items rather than opening up the full clamshell. It also features liter independent compartments and pockets, which are great for packing to the absolute limits. Check out the smaller 28L version, too.

Modular Backpack System

If you want more options for customization, check out modular gear. To put it simply, this is gear that brands design to work with their bags. They allow you to make a bag suit your preferences, adding and swapping parts as needed instead of trying to fit your gear into the organization already installed in your pack. Anyone who uses a bag with PALS webbing, for example, will tell you how convenient it is to have loops ready where they can stick MOLLE accessories. Whereas PALS webbing and MOLLE attachments are one of the better-known standards out there, brand-specific modularity and attachment systems also exist.

In fact, some brands, like ALPAKA , TOM BIHN , Boundary Supply , and Roark , are known for it. We like to count how many O-rings we can find on each TOM BIHN bag we buy because that’s where we can clip the brand’s key leashes, admin pouches, packing cubes, and more.

Tom Bihn Ghost Whale Pouches On A Desk

These great for carrying tiny travel accessories wherever we go. Sizes range from Super Mini, which can hold AirPods, chapstick, and similarly sized items, to A5, which is big enough for an A5-size notebook and pens. They’re made from scrap fabric, so you can feel good about saving them from the cutting room floor. They clip to the O-rings in a TOM BIHN bag or a loop on another backpack to save you from digging for small gear.

ALPAKA Elements Backpack Pro Accessories

ALPAKA’s HUB Ecosystem lets you swap your keys, sanitizer, card holder, and more between your bags. Pull the Hypalon tab to release the magnetic fastener to swap your gear, then attach it to different points throughout their bags or the HUB ModPanel hanging in your house. Then you’ll always be able to find your keys.

Boundary Supply Prima System In Detroit

The Prima System includes a 30L travel backpack, the Fieldspace admin panel, and Verge Camera Case. The Fieldspace holds a tablet or small laptop, plus small accessories, docking to the laptop compartment with a magnet, so it’s removable if you don’t need it. The camera case is also fully customizable and can sit inside the pack, connect to its exterior, or be carried separately.

Organization: Multiple Travel-Focused Features or One Big Compartment?

Some backpacks take the approach of having a massive inner compartment with no organization. This is great if you’re planning on using some packing cubes or compression sacks, but not so great if you want a little more internal organization out of the box. More things to consider: is there a dedicated place to put a pen or two for those pesky customs forms? Is it easy to grab? How about a dedicated laptop compartment (or, for that matter, a dedicated laptop bag )?

Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 40L (V4) Review

This iteration of Tortuga’s travel backpack design gives more control to the user. It has fewer organization options than its predecessors, but the extra space and weight savings can be better used for packing cubes and organizers. Those already invested in such accessories will find the wide and spacious main compartment easy to fill and navigate.

Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes Flat Lay

Packing cubes can be a great addition to your luggage regardless of whether the bag is one massive compartment or has a couple of smaller pockets inside. Packing cubes allow you to organize clothing between type, outfits, clean or dirty, and much more.

Osprey Transporter Global Carry-On Back

The Osprey Transporter Global Carry-On’s size and shape make it easy to pack with cubes. Plus, the light gray interior makes it easy to find your gear.

Compression and Expandability

If you’re going with one bag, versatility is essential. Ideally, your pack will cater to different amounts of items that are packed in the bag.

Some packs even offer detachable daypacks, but they tend to be slightly larger in liters to justify the additional use of materials (extra zippers and extra straps.) If you’re looking for a small travel daypack , consider some highly compressible bags from Matador . There won’t be any padding on these, but you could also pair these with a padded field pocket from GORUCK or a padded laptop compartment if you want to cafe-hop and work for the day.

If you are looking for a more padded daypack, a Mystery Ranch In and Out Packable Daypack , or something like a Fjallraven Kanken 13″ Laptop Backpack could work. At the end of the day, you’re packing another set of straps, padding, and zippers—all space and weight that’s being subtracted from your main pack.

We like sticking to one bag whenever possible, and there are some bags out there with the right size and look that can be used as a daypack and for one bag travel.

Thule Aion 28L Backpack Review

The Thule Aion 28L Backpack expands to 32L when you need more space for a trip. Use the extra room when you’re traveling, then empty it and compress it back down when you arrive at your destination to have a slimmer bag that can be used as a daypack while walking around.

Another great option is the Osprey Farpoint 40 , mentioned above. One of our team members has utilized the compression straps to carry his tripod while traveling to numerous countries.

Security Backpacks

Be on the lookout for packs with great security features. Are the zippers lockable with TSA approved locks? Are there separate secret security compartments to place your passport and other valuables in hard-to-reach places? Is it made of a solid material to prevent the quick slash-and-grab? Are the outer pockets minimized to make it hard for a thief to unzip and grab what they want quickly?

A lot of safety when traveling comes down to common sense and your own self-awareness, but there are a couple of pack features that can make your trips a little bit safer.

Lockable Zippers & Anti-Theft Backpacks

Peak Design Travel Backpack Lockable Zips

Some packs offer lockable zippers, or special looped zipper pulls that can be configured to deter thieves. Locking the zippers on your pack won’t turn it into an anti-theft backpack—someone can still take it or cut through the fabric—but it can help stop wrongdoers from quickly unzipping your bag for a quick-grab, or make them move to the next easily accessible bag on a train or bus. No backpack is impenetrable, though, and some of these features on backpacks can be gimmicky—included just so the purchaser has some peace of mind—even if the benefit isn’t that great. Peak Design’s security features (example below) and PacSafe’s Tough Zip put a lot of emphasis on that extra layer of security.

The zippers on the Peak Design Travel Backpack come with multiple locking features. This won’t necessarily deter all theft, but it’ll stop anyone from the old unzip & grab trick, and it won’t be against TSA Guidelines.

Anti-Theft Backpack Materials

Some bags offer more robust fabric that naturally enforces the bag. As we mentioned before, materials like Ballistic Nylon, CORDURA®, and others are super helpful with this. Some companies even include special mesh wiring, like Pacsafe’s eXomesh®, that almost theft-proof your backpack, allowing you to lock it to a fixed object for added security. EXomesh® is either lined inside the fabric and can also be purchased externally with other backpacks. For the type of traveling we do, we think this is a little paranoid and adds some weight plus another thing to carry. But depending on your situation, it could be helpful. Strolling through Tokyo? Probably not necessary. Heading to Barcelona for the first time? Yeah, we’ll take that extra layer of security.

RFID Blockers (Identity Theft-Proof Backpacks)

We feel that having a bunch of RFID-blocking tech covering an entire backpack is overkill. Sure, it’ll stop folks from electronically scanning your passport, but If you’re concerned with this, you could get a special wallet or wrap your passport & cards in aluminum foil. Let’s face it—it’s much less effort for a thief to physically grab what they want from you than dicking around with RFID technology. But again, whatever helps you sleep at night. If it’s a 100% secure backpack you seek, we’re not going to stop you.

Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP35 Travel Backpack Review

If you’re looking for a secure travel pack, the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP35 offers some great features for exactly that. From the eXomesh® slash-proof material to the secure zippers and RFID secure pockets, there is some great thinking that went into this pack along with some solid materials.

You know what they say—“It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look.” Or something like that...

Video Guide Part 4: Aesthetic

Finding the Best Travel Backpack Style For You

At the end of the day, the look and feel of a travel backpack should be right for you and your tastes. There are many things to consider as far as aesthetics go we’ll pull in here for consideration. Stylish “urban travel” backpacks became a lot more popular within the last couple of years, and that’s the look we prefer. Gone are the days of international travel with a big blaze-orange hiking backpack. Those certainly have a utility, but that utility is in the wilderness. Here are a couple of overall style points for your consideration:

Minimalist Travel Backpacks

minimalist travel backpacks

When you’re in a new country, think a bit about how you want to be perceived. If you’re heading to a more crowded or dicey area, nothing screams tourist like having a large, colorful backpack while looking up at tall buildings or a landmark in awe. It’s easier to keep a low profile and blend in a little if you’re not carrying around a monstrosity of a bag that acts as an advertisement for thieves and wrongdoers looking to target travelers for their own gain. It’s an added bonus if you can roll into a meeting wearing one of these things. As one-bag travel has become increasingly popular in recent years, we’re seeing many solid urban packs coming out that are built specifically with one-bag travel in mind.

  • Minaal Carry-On 3.0

Tacticool Backpacks

tacticool travel backpacks

There are a ton of great, high-quality bags out there that are made to military spec. There’s some really great utility to things like MOLLE for customizing your pack and including other accessories on your bag, and the stronger materials make for highly durable bags. Keep in mind that some folks may perceive you as being in the military if your bag has too much digi camo going on. It’s one thing if the pack is all black & subdued, but another if it’s camo and filled with patches. If this is your look, go for it, but this type of pack might also bring about some “unwanted attention” in certain parts of the world.

  • Mission Workshop Radian

Outdoor & Hiking Backpacks

Outdoor & Hiking Travel Backpack Aesthetic

Think sportier packs with lots of pockets, brighter colors, and louder material. For a long time, outdoor backpacks were the only option for long-term one-bag travelers. They tend to be bulky and are built to carry big, heavy loads over long distances. This typically means lots of straps and a tall pack that will peek up over your head. Great for an extended camping excursion, not so great for a trip through the airport or a newly-discovered city square. They also tend to scream “TOURIST.” No one casually walks around with a giant hiking backpack.

  • Gregory Zulu 40

Backpacker Backpacks

Backpacker Travel Backpack Aesthetic

If it’s not already obvious, the “Backpacker Backpack” is designed specifically for backpacking around the world. Typically from manufacturers that also make outdoor and hiking backpacks, this is the go-to style for anyone on a gap year looking to tick off as many countries in Southeast Asia as possible. And because of that, they’re some of the most popular bags on the market today. Sure, you’ll still look like a tourist—albeit not as much as you would wearing a hiking backpack—but that’s fine because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

  • Gregory Detour 40

Heritage Backpacks

heritage travel backpacks

These bags are engineered with a classic look in mind. Most will be some variation of the one-compartment style with leather straps, subdued colors, and some type of canvas-y material. These packs look great but can sometimes lack functionality and comfort. Although there are a few bespoke style travel bags (we like Vinta and Rivendell Mountain Works), most will fall into the daypack category.

  • Red Oxx C-ruck Carry-on Rucksack

Having said all of this, aesthetic is subjective, and beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. This is why we conduct weekly polls over on our Instagram to get our communities’ take on the look of bags. Follow us on Instagram to cast your votes! You can find all the results of the polls on our individual review pages too, so you can see how well a bag you’re looking for has performed.

The humble backpack: It’ll get you through anything and everything...

There Really is No “Best Travel Backpack”

Although, there is a best travel backpack for you. All this boils down to your preferences.

When we first started creating this guide, we admittedly thought there would be one best bag for travel, but the deeper we dug, the more we realized it depends on your needs as an individual traveler. Sure, there are generally guiding principles to follow, and a bag made out of cardboard objectively won’t last, but there are too many quality backpacks out there to pick just one. If you’re on a short trip, a lighter, less durable pack will suit you well. If you’re headed to Southeast Asia during the monsoon season, you may want some heavy-duty weatherproofing.

We wish you the best of luck moving forward with your selection. Still want more? Be sure to check out our other guides and travel gear reviews too!

Our team at Pack Hacker developed the “best travel backpack” guide in partnership with our friends (and bag experts) at Carryology . We’re constantly updating this guide as new backpacks are released, and the travel landscape changes.

mm

Author: Tom Wahlin

Tom has lived out of a 40L backpack for 2 years of travel, helping him learn what to pack and what to leave behind. His top achievements include designing for Apple and eating large quantities of ramen (ongoing).

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The 8 Best Carry-On Backpacks

Portrait of Katherine Gillespie

In this article

  • Best overall
  • Best duffel-backpack
  • Best for business travel
  • Best for lumbar support
  • Best for long trips
  • Best for short trips
  • Best for rugged trips

Even though much of my job as a travel writer involves testing suitcases , I usually prefer to fly with a carry-on backpack when I have the choice. You just can’t beat the sense of freedom that comes with strapping your possessions to your shoulders and heading to the airport — to me, a suitcase says “business trip” whereas a backpack says “adventure.” Not to mention the fact that backpack wearers are almost never singled out at the gate to check their luggage.

As backpack reviewer Geoff Grisdale of One Bag Travels explains, a carry-on backpack means “you can move around a lot quicker — it’s a lot easier to travel around cities with one.” Suitcases become cumbersome as soon as you’re confronted with cobblestone streets or multiple flights of stairs, adds freelance backpack designer Jeff Mullins. “And you have to have room to store them when you get home, whereas a backpack can be compressed.” Below, you’ll find the best carry-on backpacks for different sorts of trips, as tested by myself and other globetrotting experts. While you’re here, I’ve also written guides to the best travel pillows and the best toiletry bottles .

What we’re looking for

For trips longer than a weekend, you’ll require a carry-on backpack with a capacity of at least 28 liters, says Grisdale. From there, the size you choose will depend on your packing style, how long the trip is, and whether you need room for warm layers or extra shoes. Most of the experts I spoke with agreed that the sweet spot is somewhere between 28 and 35 liters.

Some carry-on backpacks can be as large as 45 liters, which is actually five liters more volume than an Away carry-on suitcase . While this size of backpack can be useful for long-haul trips, just note that it will be “really big and heavy — and you lose a lot of the mobility you’d get when carrying a smaller backpack,” says Grisdale. Mullins agrees: “If you’re a smaller woman, for example, I don’t think you should go over 35 liters.” Even though I’ll happily hike with an ultralight 55 liter backpack, I’m not a fan of wearing carry-on bags larger than 40 liters — they’re significantly bulkier, and the back pain afterwards just isn’t worth it.

Packing style

The best carry-on backpacks are designed for ease of packing. Rather than unzipping at the top, they’ll either open up like a clamshell (with separate zippered compartments on either side), or like a duffel bag (with one big compartment that’s accessible from the front of the bag). If you’re an intentional packer who likes to keep organized on the road, the former option is likely best. But Grisdale notes that duffel-style bags are usually quicker and easier to pack because “you can just stuff your gear in there and off you go.”

Your backpack will be crammed into overhead bins or underneath aircraft seats, so look for one that’s fairly rectangular in shape, with straps and a hip belt that can be removed or tucked away. “Anything that dangles has to be gone,” says Mullins. He also notes that there should be a handle on pretty much every side of the bag, so you can grab it from whichever space it’s wedged.

Organizational features

A nice thing about living out of a backpack as opposed to a suitcase is that exterior pockets provide easy access to small items like wallets and passports. I also love that backpacks typically have loops or straps on the outside to which you can attach carabiners and clips. A good backpack will enable you to “get to all your small stuff without fully opening it,” says Mullins. “Whether that’s your phone, earbuds, book, glasses, or food.” You still don’t want a backpack with too many pockets, as these will steal real estate from the main compartment inside. “I like enough exterior pockets to be able to hold gear but not so many pockets that they take up a lot of room in the bag,” says Grisdale.

Best carry-on backpack overall

Cotopaxi Allpa 35 L Travel Pack

Capacity: 35 liters | Packing style: Clamshell, tuckaway straps, removable waist belt | Organizational features: External laptop sleeve, top pocket, carabiner loops

The Cotopaxi Allpa is truly a backpack for suitcase people. Its clamshell design unzips fully to reveal a large mesh compartment on the right-hand side and three smaller ones on the left, mimicking the layout of rolling luggage. It also has a hidden laptop sleeve in the back that’s generously padded (I once checked my Allpa with a MacBook inside and the laptop survived unscathed), as well as an easy-access storage compartment on top that can fit snacks, a book, and your passport. The bag is comfortable to carry, with a sternum strap and removable waist belt for extra support. It comes in three different sizes, but this 35-liter version will be the best for most people — it’s big enough for a week’s worth of clothes but small enough that you can use it as an airline personal item or large daypack. (Strategist contributing writer Margaret Eby took one on a flight to Italy in addition to a rolling suitcase, and says the tuckaway straps helped her squish it under the seat in front of her.) One gripe: There’s no external water-bottle holder on the Allpa 35, although you could easily attach a carabiner to any of its handles or lash loops.

The best carry-on duffel backpack

Patagonia Black Hole Mini MLC

Capacity: 30 liters | Packing style: Duffel, tuckaway straps, tuckaway waist belt, convertible shoulder strap, trolley sleeve | Organizational features: External laptop compartment, top pocket, water bottle holder

Patagonia’s Mini MLC is constantly sold out, and for good reason. This is an unusually roomy and rugged bag that can be used as your main piece of carry-on luggage (it’s available in a 45-liter version as well, if you prefer to overpack) or as a personal item that sits atop your wheeled carry-on. (Former Strategist associate editor Louis Cheslaw refers to his as a “ secret second suitcase ,” because it lets him pack heavy without checking a bag.) Unlike the Allpa, the Mini MLC opens duffel-style, revealing a deep interior compartment that can fit several outfits and a pair of extra shoes. There’s also a laptop compartment, small stash pocket on top of the bag that’s big enough for a passport or wallet, and stretchy water-bottle holder.

The best (less-expensive) carry-on backpack

TomToc Navigator-T66 Travel Laptop Backpack

Capacity: 40 liters | Packing style: Duffel opening, compression straps | Organizational features: External laptop compartment, water bottle holder, quick-access front pocket

At less than half the price of the Allpa or Mini MLC, TomToc’s Navigator is a thoughtfully designed carry-on backpack with a large capacity and helpful organizational features. It zips open at the front to reveal a generous duffel compartment that can be filled with several outfits, whether or not you’re using packing cubes . There’s also a front pocket that’s big enough for a book, as well as a laptop sleeve in the back that can be fully unzipped, revealing extra storage space for documents, cables, and stationery. It’s an excellent affordable option, according to Grisdale.

The best carry-on backpack for business travel

Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro

Capacity: 30 liters | Packing style: Clamshell, removable waist belt | Organizational features: External laptop compartment, top pocket, front pocket, water bottle holders

Tortuga’s backpack designs are highly respected among gear reviewers across the internet. I’ve been testing out its very professional-looking Travel Backpack Pro, which opens clamshell-style to reveal two suitcase-style compartments and also features a nicely padded laptop sleeve with a false bottom for extra protection. The sternum straps are extremely comfortable and can be tucked away when not in use, the bag’s rectangular shape means it slots easily into overhead lockers (as well as airline baggage sizers — mine recently passed the Spirit Airlines personal item test with flying colors), and I like that the exterior fabric is highly waterproof and easy to wipe down. It’s also much more anonymous-looking than Cotopaxi’s colorful Allpa or Patagonia’s gorp-y Mini MLC, which makes it ideal for business travelers and digital nomads.

The best carry-on backpack with lumbar support

Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Backpack

Capacity: 40 liters | Packing style: Duffel, adjustable tuckaway hip belt and harness | Organizational features: External laptop sleeve, external toiletries pocket

When spending her year abroad as the inaugural New York Times 52 Places traveler, journalist Jada Yuan learned the hard way that rolling luggage is terrible for long-haul travel. “I don’t know how I got through 16 stops of my trip before buying the Osprey Fairview,” she recalls. “My back and shoulders hurt all the time. I needed something with strong lumbar support, a waist belt, and a chest strap so that I could make it through the trip without getting crippled.” The Fairview’s packing style she says, is perfectly bare-bones: “Just one giant cavity, plus a zippered section for your laptop and a bunch of straps on the outside for carrying, say, a bulky jacket.” It’s definitely the most comfortable backpack on this list, says Grisdale: “Osprey’s packs are good because they have a lot of padding, they’re really thick, and they’re also adjustable. So if it doesn’t fit you right out of the box, you can move things around.”

Best carry-on duffel backpack for long trips

Away The Outdoor Convertible Backpack 45L

Capacity: 45 liter | Packing style: Duffel, compression straps, removable shoulder straps, trolley sleeve | Organizational features: External laptop compartment, hidden top pocket for valuables

Away is best known for its hard luggage, but the DTC brand’s outdoor gear shouldn’t be overlooked. Brand marketing consultant Jennifer Olson came across this big duffel-backpack while gearing up for an eight-month road trip through South America with her partner. “We’d be living in a converted Land Cruiser and needed baggage soft and malleable enough to be thrown around the back of a truck and wedged into small spaces,” she explains. “Though we’d be hiking here and there, we weren’t doing any hardcore treks, so we didn’t need a traditional trekking backpack — but rather something in between.” True to Away’s suitcase-y roots, the bag’s internal storage compartment features compression straps that are designed to secure a set of packing cubes , which Olson says really helped keep things organized on her big trip. And the convertible straps have come in handy now that she’s returned home: “I usually use it as a duffle when I’m on weekend trips or using it as a carry on, and when the bag is a little more loaded with my things, I use it in backpack mode to disperse the weight.”

The best carry-on backpack for short trips

ULA Ultra Dragonfly

Capacity: 30 liters | Packing style: Duffel, compression straps | Organizational features: Internal laptop sleeve, stretchy side and front pockets, front bungee elastic

I first heard about the ULA Ultra Dragonfly when lurking on the 729,000-member-strong sub-Reddit r/OneBag , which has popularized the idea of bringing no more than one smallish bag on trips and vacations. And while many One Baggers own Allpas and MLCs, this is the bag they covet most. It unzips duffel-style, with a Goldilocks-size 30-liter capacity that means it can hold a decent amount of stuff but still slide underneath a plane seat if needed. There’s no hip belt, but uniquely shaped shoulder straps are designed to be worn for hours at a time without discomfort. There’s a laptop sleeve for digital nomads, and the Ultra fabric is slightly stretchy (allowing for a bit of overpacking), unusually durable (similar to ripstop nylon), and highly waterproof (which makes it appropriate for treks and other more rugged adventures). There’s just one catch: Due to stock issues, you can only purchase the Dragonfly Ultra once a week on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. ET. Within a couple of hours, the bag sells out and its buy button disappears for another seven days.

The best carry-on backpack for rugged trips

Timbuk2 Impulse Travel Backpack Duffel

Capacity: 45 liters | Packing style: Duffel, tuckaway shoulder straps, compression straps | Organizational features: External shoe compartments, external laptop sleeve, passport pocket

More duffel-shaped than some of the very suitcase-y backpacks on this list, Timbuk2’s unique carry-on has zip-up shoe pockets at each end, allowing you to separate dirty footwear from the rest of your stuff — an especially nice feature for anyone packing a pair of hiking shoes . I also like how waterproof this bag is. All of the fabric is easy to wipe down, and the bottom of the bag has an extra protective “boot” which means you can plonk it down anywhere without worrying about it getting muddy. “The very considered design is ideal for someone who is most at home hopping on and off planes and trains,” says Andrew Barker, the former chief content officer of the travelers club, PRIOR . He appreciates the TSA-friendly slip pockets, which give easy access to your laptop and passport.

Our experts

• Andrew Barker, former chief content officer of the travelers club PRIOR • Louis Cheslaw , former Strategist associate editor • Margaret Eby , Strategist contributing writer • Geoff Grisdale, backpack reviewer at One Bag Travels • Jeff Mullins , freelance backpack and soft-goods designer • Jennifer Olson , brand marketing consultant • Jada Yuan , Washington Post reporter and inaugural New York Times 52 Places traveler

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The Best Travel Backpack

Geoffrey Morrison

By Geoffrey Morrison

A travel backpack easily carries all your stuff while letting you navigate airports, subway stations, and city streets. After traveling with travel backpacks for years across dozens of countries, we recommend the new versions of Osprey’s Farpoint 55 and Fairview 55 travel packs.

These bags fit everything we need for trips ranging from just a week to months of continuous travel. They come with a sizable daypack and are even airline-carry-on friendly.

They’re also highly adjustable and well padded, meaning that not only can you get a perfect fit, but the packs will also remain easy to carry and comfortable to wear for long treks, even if there are stairs, cobblestones, or narrow alleys in your way.

Everything we recommend

best backpack air travel

Osprey Farpoint 55 Men’s Travel Pack

The best travel backpack for those with taller torsos.

Comfortable, adjustable, and carry-on capable, the Farpoint has everything we needed for a week, or even months, of travel.

Buying Options

best backpack air travel

Osprey Fairview 55 Women’s Travel Pack

The best travel backpack for those with shorter torsos.

Comfortable, adjustable, and carry-on capable, the Fairview has everything we needed for a week, or even months, of travel.

best backpack air travel

REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ Recycled Travel Pack (Men’s)

Larger, for people with longer torsos.

Thick padding and highly adjustable straps make this pack just as comfortable and easy to fit as any other we tried for people with longer torsos. However, it’s too big to carry on a plane.

best backpack air travel

REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ Recycled Travel Pack (Women’s)

Larger, for people with shorter torsos.

Thick padding and highly adjustable straps make this pack just as comfortable and easy to fit as any other we tried for people with shorter torsos. However, it’s too big to carry on a plane.

Upgrade pick

best backpack air travel

Salkan The Backpacker

More stylish, with more padding.

This attractive but expensive travel backpack has customizable straps and great, cushy padding. It comes in only one size, however.

I traveled with a Farpoint 55 for years, across dozens of countries for months at a time. In 2023, Osprey released new incarnations of the Farpoint 55  and the sized-for-smaller-torsos Fairview 55 .

These new versions mostly kept what we liked about the previous ones and fixed what we didn’t. Best of all, they’re among the least expensive travel backpacks available. After several years as runner-ups, the packs are once again our top picks.

The front of the main pack still unzips like a suitcase, so you can easily fit and access a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries. The daypack, which attaches to the front of the larger pack, has room for camera gear, daily essentials, and a small laptop (via a built-in sleeve). The main pack’s straps can tuck behind a zippered flap, so they won’t catch on anything if you check your luggage.

The best change: The main packs are now overhead-bin-sized for most airlines. (You’ll have to use the daypack as your underseat bag.) Other notable updates include height-adjustable shoulder straps and big exterior pockets on the daypack. Previous versions of these bags used ripstop nylon. The current one uses a heavy-duty recycled polyester, which held up well during a six-week trip across Europe.

Osprey offers a lifetime warranty.

If you want something a little larger than the Osprey packs, the REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ Recycled Travel Pack - Men’s (for travelers with longer torsos) and the REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ Recycled Travel Pack - Women’s (for travelers with shorter torsos) are just as adjustable and comfortable. The Ruckpacks had been our top picks for several years—we now prefer the new Ospreys because they’re carry-on sized.

The Ruckpacks have a smaller daypack than the Ospreys, which isn’t as good for photographers and digital nomads, but the main packs are larger, which can be good if you’re carrying bulkier items like a heavy jacket. While not carry-on-sized, the main pack’s overall dimensions are still manageable. The Ruckpack 60+ is also a little cheaper than the Osprey packs.

The Ruckpacks are made from a tough, recycled ripstop nylon that stands up to wear. REI offers a return period of up to a year if you’re a member (90 days if you’re not). However, if the problem is a manufacturing or materials defect, the packs are covered by REI Co-op’s warranty, which has no specified expiration date.

The Salkan The Backpacker looks and feels like a higher-end travel backpack. The polyester cloth feels extremely rugged, and there’s extensive padding in every place the pack touches your body.

Available in black and lightish green, The Backpacker has nine color options for its exterior compression straps, so you can mix and match based on your preferences—or even change them up. This gives The Backpacker the most customizable palette of any of our picks.

While looking more stylish on TikTok and Instagram isn’t generally a primary consideration for us, overall The Backpacker feels well made, and it has many of the same thoughtful features as our top and runner-up picks, including lots of pockets, smooth zippers, and height-adjustable shoulder straps.

These are offset, however, by a much higher price. Also, the main pack is technically too large to be a carry-on for most airlines, and the bag comes in only one size. (Salkan says it’s best for people 5-foot-6 to 6-foot-4).

The research

Why you should trust me, who this is for, how we picked, how we tested, our pick: osprey farpoint 55 travel pack and fairview 55 travel pack, runner-up: rei co-op ruckpack 60+ recycled travel pack, upgrade pick: salkan the backpacker, the competition.

A selfie of this guide's writer on top of the Rock of Gibraltar, with a picturesque view of the sea and the city behind him.

I’ve lived, worked, and visited 60 countries on six continents, as well as all 50 US states. I spent the majority of 2014 through 2020 traveling. Over the last few years, I’ve done a mix of extended road trips and multi-month international adventures. For all those years, I lived out of a backpack while abroad. I’ve also traveled in Africa, China, and throughout Europe with a variety of terrible backpacks and luggage, so I know what’s best to avoid.

In addition to covering travel gear here at Wirecutter, I write about travel and tech for CNET , Forbes , and The New York Times itself, and I have my own YouTube channel . My first travel book, Budget Travel for Dummies , comes out in January.

A travel backpack is for people who want to travel around the world unencumbered by heavy, slow-moving wheeled luggage. An internal-frame backpack in the 50- to 65-liter range has more than enough room for all of the possessions you need to travel anywhere for an indefinite amount of time—as long as you’re okay with doing laundry once you get to a destination. (If you’re going to carry heavy jackets, going-out clothes, multiple pairs of footwear, or other bulky gear, you may want something a tad bigger .)

A travel backpack is not for business travelers who’d like to maintain appearances, nor is it for outdoor enthusiasts looking to spend six weeks hiking in Patagonia. If you prefer something that rolls, check out our guide to the best carry-on luggage . And if you want something that you can carry on your back for shorter periods of time, that’s business-casual-friendly, and that you won’t ever need to check, see our review of the best carry-on travel bags .

Based on my experience and research, we looked for travel backpacks with the following qualities:

  • Fifty to 65 liters, including a daypack: We looked at bags between 50 and 65 liters (including an integral, removable daypack). Packs this size can easily hold everything you need for any length of trip, while being small enough to remain manageable while you’re wearing it.
  • Clamshell opening: For extended travel use, backpacking backpacks have annoying qualities, including that they tend to load only from the top and are sealed with a drawstring. This design saves weight and means there’s one less thing to break. But it’s a total hassle when you want something from the bottom of the bag because you have to unload and reload the entire pack. We looked for bags where the front zips fully open like a suitcase, making it easy to pack or repack and find things during your trip.
  • A well-framed structure: A fully loaded backpack, even a small one, can easily weigh more than 20 pounds. My old Farpoint 55 usually hovered in the mid-30s, though that included a DSLR, three lenses, a battery pack , a laptop, a 360 camera , and other work-related gear. A fully supported internal-frame pack distributes the weight onto your hips, which are much stronger than your back and shoulders. If you’re going to be doing a significant amount of walking, you’ll want something with a frame.
  • Durability: We looked for features to help the pack last, like some sort of cover to contain the straps (for easier storage on planes and trains), as well as lightweight and water-resistant materials.
  • Plenty of storage (and separation): I’ve done all of my traveling in the past five years with a 55-liter backpack (which includes a 15-liter daypack). I tend to overpack a bit, but 55 liters lets me carry everything I need (the full list is below) for weeks, or even months, at a time.

Here’s what I usually bring for any length of trip (and this is our standard kit for testing):

  • main pack (the command module , if you will)
  • daypack (the lunar excursion module )
  • pair of walking shoes or sneakers (along with the shoes I’m wearing)
  • five shirts, one pair of shorts, one pair of jeans (not shown because I wear them in transit), one merino wool underlayer
  • warm hat (because my head lacks insulation)
  • five pairs of underwear, five pairs of socks, one extra T-shirt for laundry day, one bathing suit (I really recommend packing cubes )
  • rain jacket in an Eagle Creek bag
  • various adapters , camera batteries, chargers, etc.
  • various toiletries, vitamins, etc.
  • Osprey rain cover
  • razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
  • well-worn flip-flops
  • travel towel
  • portable Bluetooth speaker
  • prescription dive mask
  • merino wool jacket
  • inflatable pillow
  • smartwool half-zip midlayer
  • sun hat (because my head hates sun)
  • extra travel adapter for daypack (when the daypack is my carry-on)
  • pen (vital!)
  • a small laptop (a 15-inch MacBook fits in all of our picks)
  • GoPro batteries and filters
  • earplugs and noise-cancelling headphones
  • Writer Emergency Pack
  • USB battery pack #1
  • USB battery pack #2
  • backup headphones
  • iPod Classic (because you can’t always stream music)
  • USB charger
  • Sigma 30 mm f1.4 (with a wireless mouse to its right)

For our first version of this guide in 2016, we narrowed our choices to 11 possible contenders. For that initial round of testing, I poked and prodded the different packs to sort out whether they had any obvious flaws or issues. I had adults of various sizes try each pack to get a sense of what short and tall people preferred.

For each subsequent update, including this one, I tested with similar methods whatever new or substantially redesigned packs were available. In between updates, I took one of our picks on some extended travels.

The Osprey Fairview 55 and the Osprey Farpoint 55 travel backpacks.

The Osprey Fairview 55 and the nearly identical Osprey Farpoint 55 have been one of our picks since the first version of this guide came out in 2016. (The Fairview is for people with 15- to 19-inch torsos, as measured from the top of your hip bone to your C7 vertebra, the one that sticks out when you press your chin to your chest. The Farpoint is for those with torsos from 17 to 22 inches long.) They’re now our top picks again, and here’s why.

Two green Osprey Farpoint 55 travel backpacks - the main pack on the left and the daypack on the right.

You can carry them on the plane. Once you detach the daypacks, the main packs are now carry-on-sized, making them the most versatile travel backpack we’ve tested. Interestingly, the total capacity remains roughly the same as those of our other picks—that is, we were able to stow the same amount of clothing in this bag as we could in the REI Co-op packs and the Salkan . The daypack, in this case, would count as your personal item—on most airlines, this would mean you couldn’t also bring a large purse or a briefcase.

Or check your bag—your choice. The shoulder straps can be secured behind a zippered panel, so if you want to check the bag or put it in a packed luggage compartment on a train or bus, they won’t catch on anything. Doing this essentially turns the main pack temporarily into a duffle bag, complete with sturdy and well-padded handles on the top and side.

The straps of the Osprey Farpoint 55 travel backpack.

They’re adjustable. Like our other picks, the main pack has height-adjustable shoulder straps. This crucial feature lets you get an all-important personalized fit that makes carrying the pack for any length of time far easier. The straps were padded enough for our testers’ comfort (though not as cushy as the Salkan’s, and slightly less so than the REI Co-op’s).

They have comfortable, easy-to-use daypacks. The daypacks are roughly the same size, or a little larger, than those of our other picks, something travelers who plan to cart lots of camera gear or other daily essentials will appreciate. The top of the shoulder straps connect to form a sturdy handle, which is extremely, ahem, handy. Each daypack easily holds a 15-inch MacBook and is comfortable to wear over long treks. There are two large exterior mesh pockets for water bottles . Though the daypack is a little short on organizational slots and pockets, its comfort made it the best overall.

The backpacks are tough. The Farpoint and the Fairview are made from 450-denier recycled polyester, which feels thick and sturdy, though more “plasticky” compared to the Salkan. (Denier is a measure of the fiber thickness in a fabric.) I put the Farpoint through six weeks of train, bus, and airplane trips across Europe, and it didn’t show any signs of wear or breaking.

You can attach a lock, if you want. Unlike the Salkan The Backpacker, both the main pack and the daypack’s main zippers are lockable.

The backpacks come in more color options than our other picks. Currently, the Farpoint comes in black, green, blue, and grey. The Fairview comes in black, green, red, and purple.

The packs include a lifetime warranty. Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee covers repair of any damage or defect for life—or replaces the pack, if repair is impossible. If you just want to return the pack unused, you have 30 days.

It’s been a pick in this guide for seven years—and counting. I have put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. After testing this 2023 pack, I liked it so much that I bought one for myself, replacing an Osprey Farpoint that had been my go-to pack for years of travel.

It comes in additional capacities. If you already have a daypack that you like, the Farpoint 40 and the Fairview 40 are just the main pack from the 55 (they’re also picks in our guide to carry-on travel backpacks ). You can add the daypack later if you want. If you want more space and don’t mind checking your luggage, the Osprey Farpoint 70 and the Osprey Fairview 70 are slightly larger versions of their Farpoint 55 and Fairview 55 counterparts—anything we’ve said about the Farpoint 55 and the Fairview 55 also applies to them. They would work well for those who want to go with the Osprey but need more room in the main pack for, say, clothes for multiple climates, bulky items like ski parkas, and the like.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • The U-shaped opening of the daypack is surprisingly small, restricting access. You can’t easily spot things at the bottom or carry bulky items. On the other hand, this does limit what might spill out of the pack if you forget to fully close it, something that has happened to me several times with the old half-clamshell design.
  • Previous versions of the Farpoint and the Fairview had large zippers that basically fused the daypack to the main pack. With this version, the daypack hangs off the back, secured only by the nylon compression straps. The straps loop through reinforced parts of the daypack, so it seems reasonably secure, and this new design does let you stuff more things in both packs—but as someone who carries a lot of expensive gear in the daypack, I’m less than excited about it.
  • The pack isn’t as comfortable as the heavily padded Salkan. Osprey seems to have prioritized weight and breathability over padding. In warmer climates, though, this could be a good thing.
  • Unlike our other picks, the Farpoint and the Fairview don’t include a rain cover. One is available separately, however. Osprey recommends the large size for the 55 L packs.
  • The new design is slightly smaller than the old one, as well as being a little smaller than the REI Co-op and Salkan packs.
  • Lastly, while looks are entirely subjective, the Farpoint and the Fairview are very much “backpack-looking backpacks.” The dark color choices are safe, to put it mildly.

Two blue REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ Recycled Travel Packs - the main pack on the left and the daypack on the right.

The REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ Recycled Travel Pack - Men’s and the REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ Recycled Travel Pack - Women’s were previously our top picks, until they were replaced this year by the improved Osprey packs.

It’s easy to get just the right fit. The Ruckpack has well-padded and height-adjustable straps, closer in size and padding to those of the Salkan than those of the Osprey . Like the Osprey but unlike the Salkan, the Ruckpack comes in two models, one marketed toward men and the other toward women. The men’s model, available in black or blue, is for people with torsos between 17 and 21 inches. The women’s model, available in black or reddish orange, fits torsos between 15 and 19 inches.

It’s sturdy. The Ruckpack uses a recycled, 210-denier ripstop nylon. It feels similarly sturdy as the Osprey, though not as sturdy as the Salkan. Previous versions of the Ruckpack have held up well over time, and we’ll continue testing to see how the 2023 version wears.

It’s bigger than the Osprey, although the daypack is smaller. Capacity wise, there’s a bit more room in the Ruckpack’s main pack than in the slightly smaller Osprey’s. The daypack, however, is a little smaller. Which backpack works better depends on what gear you carry and how you want to carry it. If you have a lot of things you want on your person at all times, the Osprey is better. If you have more or bulkier clothes, and no camera or less-bulky daypack gear, the REI might be better.

The blue REI Co-op Ruckpack 60+ Recycled Travel pack daypack.

It has more pockets than our top pick. These pockets are on the inside (three are accessible via external zippers) and the outside (on the hip belt, for instance). This is especially convenient if you want to quickly stash items or get to them without having to open the main compartment. And, unlike the Osprey packs, the Ruckpack includes a rain cover.

You will have to check it. The Ruckpack’s dimensions make it too large to qualify as a carry-on, even if you detach the daypack from the main pack. The main pack’s straps can be stored behind a zippered panel when you check your bag.

The main pack’s zippers are easily lockable. However, the daypack’s zippers don’t have the standard holes for easy locking. Instead, you have to thread the lock through the holes in the pull tabs. This isn’t a huge deal, but it’s an odd oversight.

REI has a good return policy. REI has a one-year “ 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed ” return policy if you’re a member (90 days if you’re not). This is not quite as epic as Osprey’s lifetime guarantee, but you should have enough time to determine whether or not you like the pack. However, if the issue is a manufacturing defect, you should be able to return it any time.

The gray Salkan The Backpacker travel backpacks - the main pack on the left and the daypack on the right.

The Salkan The Backpacker is a higher-end travel backpack for people who want the comfort of our top pick but are willing to pay more for swappable design options and more organization.

It has more organization than our top pick. The capacity of the main pack is 45 liters, basically the same as that of our main picks . It has more organization and compartments than the Osprey packs, however. There are two large water-bottle compartments on either side and a laptop compartment inside, as well as several other small, zippered compartments. In addition to the main zippered hatch, the top opens with a drawstring like a hiking backpack, allowing fast access or storage. This drawstring design does allow you to stuff a bit more into the pack than the Osprey or REI Co-op packs. However, the main pack is technically too tall to be a carry-on for most airlines.

The straps of the Salkan The Backpacker travel backpack.

It has the best padding. The shoulder straps are well padded—the best I’ve seen—and height adjustable. The back panel and hip straps are generously padded, too. All this does make the pack nearly twice as heavy as the Osprey, though we’re talking only a few pounds (under 8 pounds compared with the Farpoint’s 4-plus pounds). For reference, the Farpoint, fully loaded with all my clothes, heavy camera gear, and so on, was around 35 pounds, including the bag itself.

You can customize it. The pack is available in two main colors: black and light green. In addition, the straps have complementary color options, including orange (shown above), pink, and maroon, plus five other choices. This allows for more personalization and flair compared to the Osprey and REI Co-op packs. Salkan also sells several accessories to go with The Backpacker, such as packing cubes, water bottles, and a laundry bag that attaches to the inside of the main pack.

It’s sturdy—but has not-so-great attachments. The bag’s 900-denier polyester fabric (even stronger than our top pick’s 450-denier fabric) is extremely strong and should resist rips or tears. What zippers The Backpacker has run smoothly, but the design oddly eschews them in key places. While the main compartment has a zipper, as do multiple smaller compartments, the main and daypack’s top openings do not, using drawstrings and a flap instead. These flaps are secured with aluminum “G”-shaped hooks (Salkan calls them buckles) that slide into nylon straps. The hooks feel nice in your hand and could well last longer than the plastic clips on the Osprey and REI Co-op packs. However, connecting them takes a few moments longer than using a clip or zipper would—time that adds up. They also feel less secure, like they could slide loose under load and movement. (These hooks are also what connect the daypack to the main pack.)

It has a great warranty. Salkan has a “ ‘No Landfill’ Lifetime Guarantee ”: “If there is something wrong with your backpack that shouldn’t be, then we’ll try to repair it, and if we can’t, we’ll replace it.” In addition, the company has a 100-day trial period within which you can return or exchange the pack if you don’t like it.

But it’s pricey. The Backpack costs much more than the Osprey or REI Co-op packs. While it’s arguably better-looking than either, this doesn’t add much functional difference. The pack’s comfortable, but so are the others. It’s adjustable, but so are the others. It comes with a rain cover, but so does the REI Co-op pack, and Osprey’s is $40. Is the Salkan’s extra cost and organization worth the better aesthetics? That’s not for me to say.

And we couldn’t attach a lock. There’s no way to lock either the main pack or the daypack. There’s no way to attach a lock to the “G” hooks. The nylon drawstrings at the main pack’s top opening, as well as the daypack’s, offer no practical way of attaching a lock. For such a well-designed and feature-rich pack, this is a surprising oversight. Is this a dealbreaker? Probably not, at least for most people. With the daypack buckled and the drawstring closed, it’s highly unlikely someone could reach in while you’re wearing it without you noticing. However, I frequently leave my pack in luggage rooms at hotels or the occasional hostel without lockers, and not being able to lock it when it’s out of sight would concern me.

This is not a comprehensive list of everything we tested in previous iterations of this guide—just what’s still available.

During our research, we checked out a number of companies that make great packs, but none of those packs met all of our criteria. In most cases this was because the company specialized in top-loading bags, bags with wheels, bags that were too big, or very large bags that didn’t include daypacks. These companies included Black Diamond, Berghaus, Dakine, Eagle Creek, eBags, EMS, Ferrino, Gregory, High Sierra, Kathmandu, Kelty, Minaal, MEI, The North Face, Ortovox, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Rick Steves, Thule, Timbuk2, and Victorinox.

The Deuter Aviant Access Pro has many of the features we liked, but its daypack is too small. The pack’s also more expensive than our top picks.

The men’s and women’s Thule Landmark 60L are well-made, sturdy packs, with a wide main-pack opening and most of the same features that we like in the other packs. They’re more expensive, though, and the daypacks aren’t as comfortable.

The Tropicfeel Shelter Backpack is a highly customizable pack to which you can add “modules” that expand capacity or change its use. It’s a cool idea, and the pack seems well designed, but it’s extremely expensive and doesn’t really add that much practical use over our main picks.

This article was edited by Ria Misra and Christine Ryan.

Meet your guide

best backpack air travel

Geoffrey Morrison

Geoffrey Morrison is Wirecutter’s former AV editor, current editor-at-large, and a travel writer and photographer. He covers action cameras, gimbals, travel backpacks, and other gear. He has been to all 50 states and 60 countries, and he is the author of Budget Travel for Dummies and the sci-fi novel Undersea .

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5 best backpacks for every travel style

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Editor's Note

My purple camo Trans by Jansport backpack served me well for 20-plus years. It accompanied me to several countries, on countless road trips and along many hikes.

However, as I improved my packing strategies and my needs changed, I realized my current backpack situation was not ideal.

My bag lacked padding for my laptop, which I never travel without these days. It didn't include enough compartments for me to stay organized, either. Also, I've lost more than a handful of water bottles over the years, thanks to the short and loose side pockets.

Backpack benefits

The best travel backpacks are durable, well-organized and roomy enough for all your travel essentials.

They can also be more comfortable for frequent use. Because they're better at distributing weight, they're less likely to cause musculoskeletal damage that lugging a heavy tote bag on one shoulder might.

"Carrying heavy weight on one side of the body can cause a forward tilt of the shoulder, and poor posture, which can lead to shoulder and back pain long-term," said Dr. Jenny Yu, head of medical affairs at Healthline Media (which is owned by TPG's parent company, Red Ventures).

Backpacks are also easier to manage than rolling carry-ons, making your sprint to your connecting flight a little more efficient.

It was time to level up. Choosing the perfect replacement was a daunting task, though. I researched several models from different brands in varied price ranges.

Considerations when choosing a backpack

The type of bag you choose depends largely on how you plan to use it. Will it serve as your go-to bag for day trips, work commutes and road trips? Or, do you need a sturdy backpack for camping, hiking and long-haul flights or extended travel?

Once you narrow down your needs, it's easier to hone in on your other requirements.

best backpack air travel

Your travel plans and how you plan to use your backpack will likely determine how small or large your bag should be.

A park day out with the kids or a cruise port shore excursion may just require a small (6–10L) bag. Daypacks, typically 10–30L, are fine for your work commute or hiking. For travel purposes — from weekend getaways to multiday vacations — backpacks in the 30–45L range are your best bet.

On most U.S. airlines, a 45L backpack is the maximum size carry-on allowed. If you're flying on a budget carrier, you'll probably want to stick with something under the 40L range.

For packing purposes, a 45L bag is a good option if you're not bringing another carry-on. It should be able to hold four large packing cubes, a medium packing cube and a toiletry bag. This size fits in the overhead compartment.

Storing your backpack in the overhead bin? It shouldn't be larger than 22 by 14 by 9 inches.

You can fit two large packing cubes, a medium cube and a small toiletry bag in a 35L backpack. It should fit under the seat in front of you on the aircraft.

If you want to ensure your backpack fits under the seat, it can't exceed 18 by 14 by 8 inches, according to airline policy.

Related: How to tell if your backpack counts as a personal or carry-on item.

Backpacks can feature a variety of anti-theft components — some styles are more robust than others.

You may not need your bag to be at a Fort Knox level of security, but it should inclfeatures that can protect you (and your belongings) from thieves or pickpockets.

Consider a backpack constructed with slash-resistant material and straps, as well as lockable zippers.

Bags that offer RFID protection are lined with a special material that blocks accidental payments and intentional skimming of credit cards. They can prevent criminals from electronically accessing your personal information.

Compartments

If you use packing cubes, this might not be as big of a consideration for you. Even with packing cubes, I like having smaller sections for things I need to access easily — my phone, chargers, reporter notebook (yeah, I'm old school), passport and other necessities.

What do you typically pack in your backpack? As I mentioned, a laptop pocket is essential for me. I also like to have hidden pockets to store my passport, COVID-19 vaccine card and wallet. Separate areas to stash my sunglasses, chargers, keys and other important items I travel with are important, too.

Keeping the above features in mind, I reviewed five backpacks ranging in price and style. Here's the round-up.

Related: Here's what to pack in a carry-on bag every time you travel

Patagonia — Black Hole 32L Travel Pack

best backpack air travel

What I liked

The Patagonia Black Hole 32L Travel Pack is completely constructed with 100% recycled materials, including the body fabric, lining and webbing. It comes in a handful of colors — gold, red, black and gray/blue. The shinier shell has a polyurethane coating that makes it water-resistant.

This bag is also Fair Trade Certified™ sewn (as are all Patagonia products). Since the program launched in 2014, it has impacted more than 75,000 workers in 10 countries.

The lightweight bag packs flat and is very flexible. At first glance, I wondered if it would be structured enough to protect my laptop. However, the padded pocket worked well and fits most 15-inch laptops. The pocket is also slightly elevated from the bottom of the bag, which can protect your laptop if the bottom of your bag gets wet.

Both my 28- and 40-ounce insulated water bottles fit easily in the side pockets.

I tested this bag (along with the Away F.A.R. backpack) during a recent long-haul trip to South Africa. I packed:

  • My 13-inch laptop.
  • A 28-ounce insulated water bottle (filled once I passed through security).
  • Compression socks.
  • Travel pillow.
  • Cross-body bag containing my passport, credit cards and money.
  • A small reporter's notebook.
  • Two paperback books.
  • Makeup bag.
  • Toiletry bag.
  • A large Ziploc bag filled with snacks (protein bars, as well as bags of almonds and trail mix.

Filled, the backpack weighed just under 10 pounds.

I was impressed with the number of items I was able to pack. This backpack is like the clown car of backpacks. The sturdy straps held it in place and it never felt cumbersome to carry.

The pocket section of the bag zips open so you can lay it flat for going through the TSA scanner. (If you have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck , you won't need to worry about that, though.)

I liked the two rows of daisy chain-style loops on the outside of the bag. It's good for hanging bulky items or things you don't want to get crushed inside.

If you plan to long-distance hike with this bag, there's a hole at the top for the hose of your hydration pack.

Other considerations

The Patagonia Black Hole Travel Pack doesn't offer RFID protection. However, if the wallet that holds your ID and credit cards has the RFID protection feature, you should be covered.

Although this bag has an air mesh back panel for increased ventilation, other reviewers commented that the airflow wasn't substantial enough to prevent a sweaty back. I didn't encounter that issue. This bag doesn't include a hip belt, which could provide more stability. I typically don't use hip belts on backpacks, so I didn't mind it missing here.

Sizing: 16.93 by 7.87 by 23.03 inches, 1.1 pounds (empty).

Price: Around $249 on Amazon.

Arlo Skye — The Backpack

The brand's luggage line consistently garners high praise from reviewers, so I figured its one backpack offering, The Backpack , would be pretty solid. Color options are mint and black. It arrived tucked in a large reusable drawstring bag that included a handy silica gel pack, one of my essential travel accessories .

best backpack air travel

I tested a black backpack. I liked the bag's sleek design and leather top handle and trim. The water-resistant material is a nylon and polyester blend.

A tiny zip pocket at the top of the bag is the ideal spot to stash my earbuds, charger or a small pair of sunglasses. If you don't have a clunky set of keys, they may fit as well. I set off my car alarm attempting to shove mine into the small pocket.

The front section has a zippable mesh pocket, and two RFID-lined slip pockets for secure storage of your credit cards, ID and passport. A decent-size (9.5 by 7 inches) front pocket with a zipper provides easy access to your smartphone, keys and other items. There was room enough to store my Kindle (without its cover). There's also an attached key leash.

A middle section provides an open pocket for a tablet or iPad, and two smaller pockets — one of them, an expandable mesh. The third (back) portion of the bag is a padded laptop compartment that fits up to a 15" laptop.

The backpack also features a wide back sleeve that fits securely over the handle of carry-on luggage.

If you need a backpack that could serve as your one and only carry-on, this may not work for you. It's roomy enough for basics and a minimalist packer could possibly fit a weekend's worth of clothes and essentials in it. However, I think it would be a better option for your daily commute, weekend road trips or day trips.

The water bottle pockets were kind of useless to me. The pockets don't expand and there is no give in the material, so you're somewhat limited in bottle size.

It barely fit my 28-ounce insulated water bottle (I couldn't push the bottle all the way to the bottom of the pocket). However, you would probably be fine with a purchased 16-ounce plastic bottle of water.

I don't like storing my water bottle inside my backpack because of potential leaks (and water damage to my laptop), so I ended up carrying my 40-ounce bottle separately. There is a metal hook on one side of the bag so you could attach an insulated bottle to it with a carabiner.

Sizing: 11.8 by 7.5 by 17.7, 2.1 pounds (empty).

Price: $250.

Away — F.A.R. Backpack 26L

best backpack air travel

Away has a sizable fan base ( including TPG staffers ) thanks to its stylish hard-side rolling luggage.

F.A.R. (For All Routes) is the brand's recently launched outdoor line. The collection is designed with frequent travelers and outdoor adventurers in mind. Bags in the collection are constructed with lightweight 100% recycled polyester, and are abrasion- and water-resistant. The zippers and webbing are also made with recycled materials.

I tested the 26L backpack . The bag arrived wrapped in a plant-based compostable plastic bag, which is in line with the brand's push toward offering more sustainable and environmentally friendly products.

It's available in five colors — black, vivid blue, red-orange, burgundy and (dark) green.

As I mentioned above, I tested this bag on my return long-haul flight from South Africa. On the trip home, it contained everything I packed in the Patagonia backpack, as well as two small bags of souvenirs I snagged at the airport on the way out.

Since it's a bit smaller than the Patagonia backpack I carried first, I was concerned it wouldn't hold everything I started my trip with. I was pleasantly surprised it did with no issues.

The two side pockets for water bottles are roomy. The features list reads that the pockets fit up to 32-ounce bottles, but my 40-ounce insulated bottle fits easily (though I traveled with a 28-ounce bottle).

This backpack had lots of pockets and hidden storage. The front compartment has interior slip pockets for easy access to small essentials like your wallet, smartphone, passport, a book or two, chargers and other items. It was a slightly tighter fit once filled, but I suspected it would be given the size difference.

The main compartment features a larger slip pocket for your laptop. The padding wasn't quite as thick as the Patagonia laptop pocket, but it was enough that I didn't worry about it being damaged.

Two hidden zipper pockets on each side are so well concealed I wouldn't have found them if I hadn't read the features card included with the backpack.

You can attach your keys or other items to the bag's wide front webbing loops. Also, the thick backpack trolley strap slips easily onto your luggage handle.

In addition to the backpack I tested, the F.A.R. line includes three sizes of duffles, a 45L backpack, a water bottle bag, a packing cube, a zippered pouch and a messenger bag.

Of the five backpacks I tested, this was probably my favorite. Based on my experience with this brand, I will likely add more F.A.R. products to my travel arsenal.

Sizing: 19 by 12.6 by 7.7 inches, .78 pounds (empty).

Price: $130.

Solo Re:Claim

best backpack air travel

One of the products in Solo's Re:Cycled collection, the Solo Re:Claim is made from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a type of strong, lightweight and 100% recyclable plastic. The collection is reasonably priced and includes additional backpacks, totes, rolling cases, laptop sleeves and other products (all constructed from recyclable plastic).

The bag I tested was heather-grey. It also comes in burgundy and navy (though the navy backpacks were unavailable at the time of writing this).

The backpack is water-resistant and comes with a five-year limited warranty. It features a smaller padded front zippable pocket with compartments for pens, cards, your phone and a tablet, as well as a small clip for your keys. A roomy fully-padded compartment fits 11- to 15.6-inch laptops.

There are mesh pockets on each side for water bottles. Although the pockets give a little, I struggled to squeeze in my 28-ounce insulated bottle. Once I got it in, though, I felt confident it wouldn't fall out.

A tag was included in the packaging with information about Solo's partnership with the National Forest Foundation. The company plants trees with every bag sold from its Recycled Collection.

I didn't really care for the two handles at the top of the backpack. They were located on each side of the opening with a wrap-like velcro to connect them. It was kind of annoying to have to take it apart every time I wanted to unzip the bag.

I usually travel with a 40-ounce bottle, which did not fit in the side pockets.

Sizing: 16.5 by 12.25 by 6.75 inches, 1.2 pounds (empty).

Price: About $67.26 on Amazon.

Briggs & Riley — @Work Large Cargo Backpack

best backpack air travel

This backpack is ideal for work commuters and business travelers who need a sleek and professional-looking bag to carry their business essentials. It's also roomy enough to pack clothes and toiletries you'd need for an overnight stay if needed.

The hefty price tag might intimidate you. However, when you consider the company's lifetime replacement warranty and consistently positive customer reviews, I feel like it's worth the investment.

It has an interior organizer, main and laptop compartments, a durable fabric lining, an RFID-blocking pocket with two hidden credit card pockets that hold a wallet and passport.

There are also three elastic slip pockets with leather tabs to organize smaller items such as cords and USB drives and two more slip pockets to store other items.

Its top cargo pocket on the front panel holds travel accessories. It features two elastic pen loops, a large main compartment, a full-length slip pocket in the main compartment for storing folders or files, as well as two elastic pockets in the main compartment for storing cables and chargers.

It also includes a laptop compartment with a padded sleeve, plus a padded tablet pocket in the laptop compartment.

The exterior is 1600D ballistic nylon that resists wear, moisture, dirt and abrasion. The front panel also has a leather nameplate on the front (that you can monogram), a deep zip pocket on the front panel for easy access to items such as sunglasses or a smartphone, top-grain leather carry handles and a gusseted side u-zip pocket with an elastic band for a water bottle.

The backpack has adjustable padded straps, an aerated mesh back padding and a slip-through back panel that allows the backpack to slide over a luggage handle and bottom corner guards to protect the backpack from wear and tear.

It's very comfortable. I'm surprised at how light it feels given its large size. I tested it during my daily office commute. It holds my laptop, charger, wallet, phone and an extra pair of shoes.

I also appreciated the light contrasting shade of the bag's inside lining — it's so much easier to find my items.

Color choices are limited to black and dark grey. However, if you're using it for daily work or business travel, you want something that looks professional and this definitely fits the bill.

Additionally, there aren't any real external gear attachment options. The bag does include a removable luggage tag, which is nice.

Sizing: 19 by 15 by 8 inches, 3.2 pounds (empty).

Price: $379.

Related: What your luggage brand says about you

Bottom line

A well-organized and sturdy travel backpack is worth its weight in gold.

If you expect a lot out of your bag and want it to last through all your future travels, you may want to spend a little more on it. If you travel occasionally and just need a backpack for convenience, lower-priced options should suffice for your needs.

Before you buy your next backpack (or other travel essentials), check out TPG's guides to airline and shopping portals, as well as the best credit cards for online shopping. That way, the gear you buy for your next trip can also help you pay for it.

Do you have a backpack you can't do without? Let us know in the TPG Lounge or email us at [email protected]. We're always on the lookout for products that make travel easier and we would love to hear from you.

Table of contents

10 Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

best backpack air travel

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Back view of a guy wearing the Cotopaxi Allpa travel backpack in a green park with a bridge overhead

Paring down to the essentials into one single travel bag, whether you’re heading a few hours away or traveling thousands of miles, can be fun and freeing as long as you have the right gear – and the right backpack to pack it in.

Our team at CleverHiker has spent the last 10 years traveling all over North America, from Calgary to Cancun and Hawaii to Hartford, testing more than 20 of the top travel backpacks. This guide represents the best of the best backpacks when it comes to price, comfort, and durability, as well as considerations like carry-on size and weight.

If you’re looking for more room and versatility out of your travel bag, pop over to our guide to the best duffel bags . For those who love a well-organized backpack, consider picking up some durable, compressible stuff sacks or packing cubes . And when you need easy access to your small essentials, you can’t beat a quality fanny pack .

Quick Picks for Travel Backpacks

Check out this quick list of our favorite travel backpacks, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Best travel backpack overall:  Cotopaxi Allpa ($200)

Best budget travel backpack:  Ebags Mother Lode ($100)

Most organized travel backpack for one-bag trips:  Tortuga Outbreaker ($350)

Best travel backpack for photographers:  Peak Design Travel Backpack ($300)

Most versatile & stylish travel backpack:  Nomatic Travel Pack ($300)

Best travel duffel bag:  Patagonia Black Hole Duffel ($159)

Travel backpack with the best safety features:  Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 ($290)

Durable & highly compressible travel bag:  Osprey Farpoint Men’s ($185)  / Fairview 40 Women’s ($185)

Most protective travel backpack:  Osprey Sojourn Porter ($195)

The CleverHiker team has been testing tons of new travel backpacks against our go-tos while we’ve traveled across the country on planes, trains, and automobiles – and there’s been quite a shakeup in the order of our list.

  • The Cotopaxi Allpa moves to the number one spot due to it’s excellent balance of organization, functional pockets, cushy padding, and upbeat colorways.
  • Thanks to impressive affordability and a burly build, the Ebags Mother Lode  is a close second that stands out for it’s expandable design and efficient compression straps.
  • We added the Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 for it’s industry-leading durability, precise sizing as an airport carry-on, and cavernous main compartment.

best backpack air travel

Cotopaxi Allpa 35

Best travel backpack overall for organization, durability & style

Price: $200

Weight: 3 lb. 8 oz.

Dimensions: 20 X 12 X 10 in.

Options: Allpa 28 & 42

  • Main compartment opens fully
  • Streamlined organization
  • Hideaway straps
  • Raincover included
  • Material marks easily

The Cotopaxi Allpa has everything we look for in a travel pack – streamlined organization, easy-access pockets, a comfortable carry, and unique style. The main compartment organization is about as close to perfect as it comes for us. There are four zipper compartments of different sizes for keeping things tidy – s0 there’s no need to add organizing cubes or stuff sacks – and they’re all made of mesh which makes it easy to see what’s inside. The trendy colorways stand out but aren’t abrasive, offering a more interesting design and flair than the endless wash of black backpacks out there. We’ve been using the durable Allpa pack for several years of travel now, and the stitching, hardware, and outer materials look just as good as the first time we used it.

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  • Ebags Mother Lode

Best budget travel backpack

Price: $100

Weight: 3 lb. 15 oz.

Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 10

Other Options: Mother Lode Jr.

  • Fits large laptops (up to 19")
  • Lightweight
  • Laptop compartment isn’t as padded as others

With the features of a premium bag and a price tag from the bargain bin, the  Ebags Mother Lode travel backpack is an incredible value for the money. This expandable bag opens up suitcase-style to a tidy internal organization system with one large mesh zipper pocket and a modular “shelf” with compression straps. The shelf helps keep things, like clean and dirty clothes, separate, or it can be unclipped to make one large compartment for packing whatever way you like. We love a well-organized and durable bag, and this model from EBags has an impressive number of smartly-placedpockets, burly zippers, and 4 highly effective compression straps. As long as you don’t mind the lack of a hipbelt, the Mother Lode is an excellent choice for travelers with expensive taste and a small budget.

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Tortuga Outbreaker 40L

Most organized travel backpack for one-bag trips

Price: $350

Weight: 4 lb. 8 oz.

Dimensions: 21.7 x 13.8 x 7.9 in.

Other Options: 30L Weekender

  • Tons of organization
  • Adjustable & supportive suspension system
  • Heavily padded TSA laptop pocket (up to 16”)
  • Lots of electronics storage
  • Large waistbelt with compartment
  • Sleek design
  • Heavier than others

If you’re the type of traveler who wants everything to have its own designated space, the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L will be your new favorite travel companion – you won’t find a better organization system on this list. The spacious main compartment opens up fully like a suitcase and has a handy mesh pocket to separate dirty clothes. It also has quick-grab pockets on the exterior for wallet items, small essentials, and a huge TSA-ready electronics compartment. If you’re carrying electronics on every trip, this bag has our favorite laptop compartment; it’s heavily padded and fleece-lined to keep your valuables protected, and can fit laptops up to 16 inches.  So many pockets may be overkill for some, but it’s perfect if you have a lot of little things to keep tidy or you love a solid, intuitive storage system. All of these features make this travel pack feel much larger than it is, and at 40 liters you’ll be able to fit everything you need for up to a wee – or longer.

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Peak Design Travel 45

Best travel backpack for photographers

Price: $300

Dimensions: 2 x 13 x 11 in. (fully expanded) / 22 x 13 x 9.5 in. (compressed)

  • Highly padded
  • Lots of access points
  • Handles on all sides
  • TSA laptop pocket
  • Hideaway harness
  • Theft-deterrent zippers
  • Heavier than some others
  • No compressions straps / bulky

The  Peak Design Travel Backpack is the epitome of smart, elegant design. With its multiple access points (back, side, and front) and slick expansion system, this bag can be tailored to countless uses whether you’re heading into a high-mountain expedition in Nepal or just taking a quick daytrip to your local trails. It really shines when you have a lot of camera gear, gaming equipment, or electronics to tote, but don’t think that this bag is just for the techy crowds. Its stylish look and streamlined organization will work well for anyone wanting a single bag that can fit many niches – our take on this pack is if you’re traveling anywhere, you’ll need a pack just like this to stay organized and stylish. The biggest downside is the steep price tag, but the heavy padding, weather resistance, and stellar safety features are worth every penny for a backpack that will last for years and years of travel.

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Nomatic 30L Travel Pack

Most versatile & stylish travel backpack

Weight: 4 lb. 2.3 oz.

Dimensions: 18.5 x 12 x 9.5 in.

Other Options: 40L Travel Bag

  • Waterproof zippers
  • TSA laptop compartment
  • RFID safe pocket
  • Removable hipbelt / hideaway straps
  • Durable materials
  • Bulky profile

The  Nomatic Travel Pack is definitely the most sleek-looking bag we tested, and it’s also chock-full of useful features. This bag is a modern and sleek take on suitcase-style backpacks, and easily transitions from a professional business tip to a trendy daily carry whether you’re in the city, suburbs, or open country. It expands from 20L to 30L making it versatile enough to work as an everyday backpack, a commuter bag, and a travel bag. We also love how many different types of storage there are, including cleverly placed magnetically expandable water bottle pockets, TSA-ready laptop and tablet sleeves with plenty of padding, and a large zippered mesh internal pocket. The Nomatic Travel Pack is very expensive, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bag if style, durabilty and versatility are what you’re after.

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Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 40

Best travel duffel bag

Price: $159

Weight: 2 lb. 8 oz.

Dimensions: 21 x 13.7 x 10.6 in.

Other Options: 55L, 70L, 100L

  • Water-resistant
  • Multiple carry options
  • Fewer pockets
  • No padded compartment for electronics
  • Not the most comfy backpack

For those times when you want to just throw everything in a bag and go, you can’t beat the convenience and durability of the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel . We’re cheating a little bit here: while the isn’t a dedicated backpack, it easily turns into one thanks to beefy padded straps that can be tucked away when not in use. Made from burly 900-denier recycled ripstop polyester, you can put this thing through the wringer season after season without having to worry about it. The outside of the pack features 20 lash points, and seam-sealed zippered pockets on the outside of the duffel make access to smaller items fast and easy The Black Hole Duffel works great for quick trips when you need to just grab and go, or for packing those extra bulky things that won’t fit in your carry-on. Check out our list of the Best Duffel Bags  to see how it compares with our other favorites.

best backpack air travel

  • Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45

Travel backpack with the best safety features

Price: $290

Weight: 4 lb. 4.8 oz.

Dimensions: 21.7 x 13 x 7.9 in.

  • Built-in anti-theft & safety features
  • Comfortable carry
  • Takes a second to open due to safety features

The  Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 is the ultimate pack for those travelling with valuables that need to be kept safe. It comes with locking zippers, a cable lock, and slash guards in the straps. The zippers take a minute to open when they’re in the locked position, but they open up to a nicely organized bag with simple pockets. In our experience, many travel backpacks aren’t necessarily designed with comfort in mind, but the Venturesafe was the most comfortable all-day carry for us thanks to a heavily padded back flexible hipbelt, and a sturdy chest strap – a more technical feature that’s common in hiking backpacks. If keeping your things secure is your main concern, but you don’t want to sacrifice a modern aesthetic, the Venturesafe is the pack for you.

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Osprey Farpoint 40 & Fairview 40

Durable & highly compressible travel bag

Price: $185

Weight: 3 lb. 8 oz. / 3 lb. 7 oz. (Farpoint/Fairview)

Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 in.

Other Options: Farpoint 55 & 70 (Men’s sizes), Fairview 55 & 70 (Women’s sizes)

  • Comfortable
  • Good compression system
  • Laptop compartment is not as padded as some others
  • No internal organization / pockets

The Osprey Farpoint  (men’s sizes) and  Fairview 40 (women’s sizes) are comfortable bags with quality construction. They have some of the most burly hardware (zippers, buckles, straps) of all the backpacks we tested, so they’re especially great for folks who tend to be hard on their gear, and for the rigors of travel – from rolling around in overhead bins and trunks to laying on the dirt, cement, and train station platforms, these packs are built to last. The Farpoint and Fairview have a simple approach to organization with little in the way of internal infrastructure, so we recommend picking up inexpensive packing cubes to maintain order. No matter how packed your bag is, we’re big fans of the well-placed internal and external compression straps that cinch it all down into a neat package. The Farpoint and Fairview can be tailored to many different travel styles with the option to carry as a backpack, a briefcase, or a messenger bag.

best backpack air travel

Osprey Sojourn Porter 46

Most protective travel backpack

Price: $195

Weight: 3 lb. 7 oz.

Dimensions: 18 x 15.8 x 12.2 in.

Other Options: 30L, 65L

  • Good compression
  • Good suspension
  • Streamlined pocket organization
  • A little large for carry-on with some airlines
  • Sidewalls can get in the way when packing

If you’re a rugged adventurer who needs an equally tough bag, you’ve found it in the Osprey Sojourn Porter . Whether you’re throwing it under your seat on a plane, carrying it on cross-country travels, or heading to the nearby park, you can rest assured that your things are protected thanks to the padded sidewalls. These rigid sidewalls can be a little cumbersome when trying to pack the bag, but they’re excellent for compressing the load, so the bag feels streamlined even when it’s packed to the gills. The opening of the Porter is more similar to a duffel, so the interior organization is minimal. Pair the Porter with some packing cubes  if you prefer things to be more organized. The Porter is great for those looking for a simple, durable bag for the most adventurous excursions.

best backpack air travel

What’s Most Important to You in a Travel Backpack?

Traveling isn’t cheap: plane tickets, rental cars, hotel stays, and all of the essential gear can cost a pretty penny. That said, we’ve found that paying a little extra for a top quality bag means cost savings in the long run, since your bag will last for years. Luckily, a good travel bag doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. You’ll find stellar options at every price point below.

Best budget travel backpacks:

  • Patagonia Black Hole Duffel

Best value travel backpacks:

  • Cotopaxi Allpa

Best high-end travel backpacks:

  • Tortuga Outbreaker
  • Peak Design Travel Backpack
  • Nomatic Travel Pack

CARRY-ON SIZE

We’re big fans of one-bag travel. Not only do you save money on checked-bag fees, but you also have less stuff holding you back from adventuring. While most of the backpacks on this list are carry-on friendly, these are our favorites that fit the most common dimensions. Be sure to check measurements ahead of time with your airline and airpot, because carry-on size varies between companies.

Best carry-on size travel backpacks for most airlines (22 x 14 x 9 in. / 21.7 x 15.7 x 9 in.):

Best small travel backpacks for small airplanes (ex. IcelandAir: 21.7 x 15.7 x 7.8 in.):

  • Cotopaxi Allpa 28
  • Ebags Mother Lode Jr.

ORGANIZATION

Dumping everything out of our packs as soon as we reach that hotel, hostel, or spare room is part of the experience of travel – but we want everything organized and efficient inside the bag until then. When it comes to traveling, we prefer streamlined backpacks that have a small number of highly functional and well-placed pockets. Bags with built-in dividers are also our top contenders when it comes to maintaining order.

Best travel backpacks for staying organized:

Best travel backpacks with a good balance of pockets & simplicity:

Your backpack is your constant companion for trips where you’re moving around a bunch, whether you’re on a plane, a train, or navigating your way to your next stop. It’s important to find a bag that’s comfy enough to carry all day, so that you can focus on enjoying the experience. Consider options that can be used as a messenger bag, briefcase, or backpack for versatility.

Most comfortable travel backpacks:

  • Osprey Farpoint (Men’s)  / Fairview (Women’s)

We’ve all been there before: you get your bag packed with your favorite outfits and hiking gear and that extra pair of shoes – and then you remember that pesky weight limit. We recommend starting with a lightweight bag to ensure you’ll use your weight allowance for the essentials.

Lightest travel backpacks:

VERSATILITY

Your bag may have to take on many different roles – daypack, purse, briefcase – so it’s good to look for one that can fill multiple niches. If you’re traveling for many hours or you’ll be hoofing it over large distances, a bag that can be carried multiple ways puts less strain on the body and is more comfortable throughout the day.

Most versatile travel backpacks:

We’ve also had our bags come out of the luggage carousel looking like they were thrown into the propellers – it’s not a good look. Travel is hard on bags, so we prioritize bags that have excellent stitching, durable fabric, and a sturdy frame.

Most durable travel backpacks:

  • Osprey Sojourn Porter

best backpack air travel

THE CARRY-ON SIZED NOMATIC TRAVEL PACK IS HIGHLY ORGANIZED ON THE INSIDE & SIMPLE ON THE OUTSIDE

best backpack air travel

THE TORTUGA TRAVEL BACKPACK 40L IS THE NEW AND IMPROVED VERSION OF THE OUTBREAKER

best backpack air travel

PACKING CUBES HELP KEEP YOUR THINGS ORGANIZED IN YOUR BAG

best backpack air travel

THE PATAGONIA BLACK HOLE DUFFEL CAN BE USED FOR TRAVEL, CAMPING, THE GYM – JUST ABOUT ANYTHING

best backpack air travel

THE PEAK DESIGN TRAVEL BACKPACK IS WELL PADDED & MADE WITH DURABLE FABRIC TO PROTECT ELECTRONICS

best backpack air travel

THE PACSAFE VENTURESAFE EXP45 HAS A TON OF SAFETY FEATURES BUILT IN

Critical Travel Backpack Considerations

What size to choose.

The right size backpack is going to vary from person to person, but we typically think less stuff equals more comfort. We usually go for travel backpacks that are between 30 and 40L to maximize capacity for necessities while keeping everything in a small, tidy package.

best backpack air travel

GETTING ORGANIZED

Keeping things organized is key to a stress-free experience. Some travel backpacks come with a pocket or compartment for everything, but we prefer organizing our things in  packing cubes  for a more customizable way to keep everything neat.

best backpack air travel

The most important travel safety tip we can give is to stay hyper-aware of your surroundings, especially in places with lots of foot traffic. For additional safety, consider bringing along  small luggage locks  to lock zippers and swap out your current wallet for a  RFID technology wallets  or  card sleeves  to protect sensitive information sitting in your back pocket.

best backpack air travel

Carry-on size varies a lot between airlines, check your airline’s website to make sure your bag fits their dimensions. Also be sure your  toiletries and liquids  meet the standard of 3-1-1 (3.4 oz. liquids in 1 bag sized at 1 quart max) for carry-on. We love using refillable  GoToobs  for our shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries.

best backpack air travel

Why trust us?

We understand how tough it is to find trustworthy gear advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built CleverHiker. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these guides very seriously.

  • Our recommendations are completely independent and based on hands-on experience.
  • We test outdoor gear for a living – we’ve logged over 20,000 trail miles and 1,000 nights in the wilderness.
  • Our team has thru-hiked some of the most iconic long trails, including the Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, Colorado Trail, Long Trail, Oregon Coast Trail, Arizona Trail, Pinhoti Trail, Superior Hiking Trail, as well as extensive peak bagging, and international treks.
  • We field test every product we recommend, which is sadly not the norm.
  • We travel to industry trade shows to stay up-to-date on product innovations.
  • We continuously update our guides throughout the year and when new products launch.
  • We treat recommendations to our readers as if they were for our family and friends.
  • We’re lifelong learners and we’re always open to feedback. If you think we’ve missed a worthy product or got something wrong, we’d love to know about it.

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13 Best Travel Backpacks of 2024, Tested by Experts

Keep all your belongings safe and organized in a lightweight backpack.

four travel backpacks side by side on a blue background

We've been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

Our top picks:

Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Best Overall Travel Backpack

Cotopaxi allpa 35l travel pack.

Travel Backpack

Best Value Travel Backpack

Coofay travel backpack.

Travel Backpack 45L

Most Versatile Travel Backpack

Peak design travel backpack 45l.

F.A.R Convertible Backpack 45L

Best Weekender Travel Backpack

Away f.a.r convertible backpack 45l.

40L Travel Backpack

Best Carry-On Travel Backpack

Asenlin 40l travel backpack.

Porter 46L Travel Pack

Best Travel Backpack for Backpacking

Osprey porter 46l travel pack.

Alpha Bravo Search Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Business Travel

Tumi alpha bravo search backpack.

Aion Travel Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Flying

Thule aion travel backpack.

Silhouette 17 Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Work

Samsonite silhouette 17 backpack.

Daylite Plus Daypack

Best Lightweight Travel Backpack

Osprey daylite plus daypack.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab evaluates backpacks both in Lab and with consumer testers for durability and comfort. From the best laptop backpacks and backpacks for college students to the best duffels and daypacks , we've seen it all. To find the best travel backpacks, we test everything from tear strength to strap strength and abrasion resistance to make sure the bag can stand up to rough handling for years to come. We also work with consumer testers who try them out on various trips under real-world conditions. We also consider the amount of padding in the straps, useful extras and overall weight to find the most comfortable backpacks.

Our picks are top performers from testing along with new styles that have exciting features and rave reviews. Check out our top travel backpack picks below and keep reading to learn all of our ultimate backpack shopping tips to find the best pack for you. Pair your new travel backpack with packing cubes and a hard-side suitcase for your next vacation.

We were shocked by just how much we could fit inside this travel backpack during our packing tests. In fact, it outperformed multiple carry-on suitcases for its generous capacity and well-designed interior. Similar to hard-side luggage, the bag completely unzips for easy packing and, in this case, features helpful mesh to help separate compartments.

On top of that, we liked the helpful ergonomic features, from the padding along the back to the hip strap and sternum strap, which offer comfort and support. Plus, when testing the laptop sleeve, we found there was room to spare after placing a 16-inch laptop in it. The only note of caution is that the bag doesn't have a luggage sleeve, so if you're hoping to stack it on top of rolling luggage, it may not be the right fit.

a close up of the interior of the cotopaxi backpack, including many organization components

When we surveyed our own editors and staff for their favorite bags, this one from Coofay was a hit for its organizational pockets and personal-item-friendly size. One staffer told us, "This backpack can definitely fit a week of clothing if rolled properly."

Like many popular travel backpacks, this one unzips like a suitcase for easy packing and has tons of small compartments to help keep your belongings in order. We particularly appreciate the compression straps on the side, allowing you to pack more while keeping the bag within the personal item size limit of most domestic airlines. Plus, there's a wide range of colors to choose from.

Designed with intention, Peak Design's travel backpack is truly a standout within the industry. While it's hard to find a travel bag that can tackle all sorts of trips, this one manages to do just that . It's truly one-of-a-kind and allows you to access your belongings from the front (like a suitcase), the back (like a top-loading traditional backpack) and the sides.

Compression features allow you to easily convert it from a 30L capacity to a 35L or 45L bag for all your travel needs. The backpack straps can be hidden away to keep it streamlined while using the simple luggage sleeve. The only challenge comes with packing: While the interior is spacious, there aren't too many separate compartments, so if that's important to you, the brand offers a selection of compatible packing cubes , including protective ones for camera equipment.

a shot of a completely open peak design travel bag

With a massive 45L interior, this bag from Away can hold everything you need for a weekend away, including multiple outfits, toiletries and even an extra pair of shoes. It's the go-to travel backpack for GH's Home & Apparel Reviews Analyst Amanda Constantine , who's brought it on everything from short weekend getaways to longer trips abroad.

Constantine notes, "The straps are comfortable and feel sturdy, and I love that the backpack straps can be tucked away if I'm carrying the bag like a suitcase instead of on my back." In addition, this pack also has all the top-notch organizational features you'd expect from Away, from compression straps to convenient mesh pockets. The caveat? The zippers are a little too easy to open and sometimes have a tendency to come undone.

This backpack includes the ultimate organizational system: Three packing cubes , a laptop case, a water bottle/umbrella pocket and a small front pocket. The packing cubes are ideal to keep your clothes compact and wrinkle-free while traveling. We also love the padded straps and side buckles to make sure everything stays in place.

It has a clamshell opening and both sides lie down flat, which makes this backpack easier to pack and organize as you don't have to stuff items in from the top. This pick is ideal as a carry-on for international travel as you can easily pack your clothes and what you'll need on the flight.

Finding a good backpacking bag can be a challenge. You'll want a bag that's spacious and supportive enough that it won't cause injury. Luckily, Osprey is known for its ergonomically designed packs, making it a favorite brand amongst some hiking enthusiasts at GH. One GH analyst has even taken the brand's bags on a two-week backpacking trip to Thailand, calling them comfortable and well-designed.

This model comes with a generous 46L capacity and helpful compression straps, both on the exterior and interior, allowing you to bring everything you'll need and then some. Additionally, this bag features the brand's helpful chest and hip straps for support, along with helpful pockets throughout. Take note, however, that it comes in a unisex style, so users accustomed to women-specific packs may find the shoulder straps stiff.

Carrying a TUMI backpack is a status symbol no matter where you are — the brand is known for its luxury travel products worldwide, particularly for its long-lasting quality and service . Buying a travel product (e.g. a bag or luggage) from the brand typically comes with a five-year warranty and free repairs plus a lifetime registration and tracking service for finding lost bags. Even after five years, you can ask the brand to repair your bag for a small cost.

TUMI's Search Backpack is sleek enough for conferences and work trips, making it great for business travel or everyday use. One GH analyst has used this bag for over 10 years, throughout school and work and on multiple domestic and international flights. While the top-loading configuration isn't as seamless for packing, testers were still impressed by how "surprisingly spacious" and "high quality" it felt.

a person wearing the tumi search backpack

Having the right backpack can make all the difference when going through airport security. This one from Thule, one of our favorite luggage brands, comes equipped with helpful features like a small easy-to-reach pocket for your passport and boarding pass plus a convenient laptop compartment . Within the bag, there's a helpful divider for organization along with other mesh pockets and panels.

The bag also comes in two sizes — 28L and 40L — each of which makes the perfect personal item or carry-on respectively. And if 28L sounds a bit too small, this size expands to 32L to accommodate more essentials. The only caveat is that the 40L version doesn't come with any hip straps, which is rare for a backpack of its size. The brand suggests pairing the bag with the Aion Sling , which slots in easily for support.

Ideal when traveling for business or even everyday commuting to work, the Silhouette 17 backpack has all the essentials and then some. In fact, it's designed to replace your carry-on, which can slow you down when on a last-minute business trip. Moreover, Samsonite's soft-side luggage has proven be abrasion-resistant and strong in our tests , staying in great shape, so we are confident in the durability of the brand's similar products.

Beyond the durable nature, it opens up like a hardshell suitcase, complete with functional sections, and has a padded laptop sleeve for easy access. Plus, it easily convert from a backpack to a briefcase or shoulder bag. For longer trips, you can even slide it onto checked luggage instead of maneuvering two suitcases through the airport.

Often used on day hikes for its lightweight design, a daypack can be a great option for those in search of a not-so-heavy travel backpack. And when it comes to the best daypacks , Osprey reigns supreme as the top-performing brand, earning especially high scores for their amazing ease-of-use features and fitting everything in our packing test .

Recent testers have loved that Osprey bags have "lots of compartments" and "comfortable cushioned shoulder straps." Some even highlighted the helpful sternum strap, which keeps the weight evenly distributed, preventing shoulder pain. You can also expect an interior sleeve to fit a laptop or tablet or a hydration reservoir for hikes, plus a slew of pockets in the front including two mesh water bottle pockets.

Herschel Kaslo Backpack Tech

Kaslo Backpack Tech

When we tested this laptop backpack , we were surprised by how lightweight yet protective it felt. The detail and care are evident throughout: The bag has reinforced stitching in areas where you'd expect extra tugging like the top handle, straps and luggage sleeve. There's also a separate laptop compartment with a fleece lining to help minimize potential scratches.

One Textiles Lab analyst swears by this bag, using it as both her everyday bag for commuting as well as her go-to travel backpack, especially on business trips when she'll need her laptop handy. In our packing test, we found the 30L capacity large enough to fit a 16-inch laptop plus three to four days of clothes and toiletries. If that’s not the right size for you, it also comes in a 20L capacity for those with more petite frames.

an unzipped black backpack from herschel with a separate laptop component

patagonia Patagonia Black Hole Pack - 25 L

Patagonia Black Hole Pack - 25 L

Whether you're backpacking through a new country or flying to a nearby city, this Patagonia pack is up for the adventure. It's made with polyester that has a durable water-repellent finish to keep all your belongings protected. One tester shared that this bag is the "backpack to end all backpacks" because it's great for all types of vacations and features a sternum strap you can easily adjust to suit your height.

While the 25L capacity may look small, the bag lives up to its "Black Hole" name, fitting much more than you'd expect, especially when you roll your clothes up , or you can opt for the 32L style . Plus, in Lab tests, water rolled right off the main fabric of the bag with ease, so you can rest assured it'll protect your belongings even in unpredictable weather.

a patagonia backpack with an adjustable sternum strap

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack

Dakota Neoprene Backpack

No one wants an uncomfortable backpack, which is why we loved this bag from Dagne Dover. It's made of neoprene fabric, which feels soft and squishy instead of stiff like some other bags. The brand also does not skimp when it comes to details like an interior pocket to hold a water bottle or cell phone and a pouch that can be attached on a leash inside the main compartment to find small stuff quickly.

The main compartment has a laptop sleeve and is large enough for a weekend trip. Plus, it even has a sleek luggage sleeve, slipping easily onto a carry-on suitcase at the airport. Take note: We found that if you’re rough with the bag, the neoprene fabric may pill (though pills can easily be removed with a fabric shaver ). This pick comes in small and medium sizes too.

a tan backpack with a luggage sleeve on a pink carry on suitcase

How we test travel backpacks

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The Good Housekeeping Institute has been testing travel products and backpacks for decades.

Headshot of Grace Wu

Grace Wu (she/her) is a product reviews analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute 's Textiles, Paper and Apparel Lab, where she evaluates fabric-based products using specialized equipment and consumer tester data. Prior to starting at Good Housekeeping in 2022, she earned a master of engineering in materials science and engineering and a bachelor of science in fiber science from Cornell University. While earning her degrees, Grace worked in research laboratories for smart textiles and nanotechnology and held internships at Open Style Lab and Rent the Runway.

Headshot of Emma Seymour

Emma Seymour (she/her) is a senior product analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute 's Textiles, Paper and Apparel Lab, where she has led testing for luggage, pillows, towels, tampons and more since 2018. She graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor of science in fiber science and apparel design and a minor in gerontology, completing research in the Body Scanner Lab on optimizing activewear for athletic performance. 

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Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

From short weekend getaways to far-off international adventures, our top travel packs make it easy and comfortable to organize and carry the essentials.

Travel backpacks (walking around El Chalten with Topo Designs and Cotopaxi packs)

Switchback Travel ( Brian McCurdy )

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Whether you’re traveling across the globe or headed out on a quick weekend getaway, a thoughtfully designed travel pack can help you stay comfortable and organized while on the move. Key considerations include carry-on compatibility for air travel, enough capacity to stash your belongings, pack weight, and preferences on storage and organizational layouts. Below we break down the best travel backpacks of 2024, ranging from minimalist options for a couple nights away to larger bags with removable daypacks for extended trips. For more background information, see our detailed comparison table and buying advice below the picks.

Editor’s note: We updated our travel backpacks guide on March 29, 2024, to add The North Face Base Camp, which is a fully featured option at a competitive price, along with swapping the Patagonia Black Hole MLC from the 45-liter capacity to the 30-liter version due to its more manageable shape and size.  

Our Team's Top Travel Backpack Picks

  • Best Overall Travel Backpack: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L
  • A Close Second (That's Great for Carrying Electronics): Peak Design Travel Backpack
  • Excellent Carrying Comfort for Gear-Intensive Trips: Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 L
  • Best for Staying Organized: Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L
  • Best Budget Travel Backpack: Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack
  • Best High-Capacity Travel Pack for Long Trips: Osprey Farpoint 70

Best Overall Travel Backpack

1. cotopaxi allpa 35l ($200).

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L travel backpack

When compiling our list of the best travel packs, we prioritized functional organization, easy on-the-go access, durable materials, and carry-on compatibility. Cotopaxi’s Allpa 35L Travel Pack checks all those boxes emphatically, earning it our top spot for 2024. Along with the vibrant styling and multi-colored patterning that the brand is known for, the Allpa is exceptionally durable with a mix of 1,000-denier, TPU-coated polyester and panels of 840-denier ballistic nylon. In use, we found the Allpa to be remarkably tough and highly water-resistant, and the pack also comes with a stowable rain cover for truly inclement weather. We also love the dual access to the main compartment, including a full wraparound zipper and secondary side zip next to the backpanel for easily retrieving items while on the move. And the electronics sleeve is big enough to handle both a laptop and tablet at the same time, which isn’t often the case. Overall, the Allpa is well made, stylish, and very nicely appointed for travel.

What’s not to like with the Cotopaxi Allpa? While the 35-liter variation here is nicely sized for long weekend trips or shorter getaways abroad, it’s smaller than competitors like the Peak Design Travel Backpack, Osprey Sojourn Porter 46, and many other carry-on-friendly designs below (Cotopaxi does sell a larger 42L version for $220 that still meets most airline requirements). Further, while overall carrying comfort is good, there are no load-lifter straps to bring the pack closer to your body. Additionally, the interior pockets are a little awkwardly sized, and the lack of external compression straps makes it hard to secure bulkier loads. A final omission is water bottle storage, although it’s not a critical feature for most and does little to dampen our enthusiasm for an otherwise well-rounded and great-looking bag. And for those looking to check their luggage, the Allpa roller bags are equally tough and user-friendly. See the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L

A Close Second (That's Great for Carrying Electronics)

2. peak design travel backpack ($300).

Peak Design Travel Backpack

Peak Design’s Travel Backpack may look relatively unassuming on the outside, but don’t be fooled: This bag is packed with thoughtful travel-ready features. First is the expandable design, which allows you to alternate between 35 and 45 liters by simply zipping or unzipping the frontmost zipper. Access is another highlight, including entry points at the top, side, front, and rear for easily retrieving items pretty much anywhere in the pack. Storage is also excellent with padded laptop and tablet sleeves, a divisible main compartment, large and stretchy dual side pockets (not common on travel packs), and multiple interior pockets. And it’s all wrapped up in a thick nylon canvas shell that’s durable, streamlined, and very modern.

What complaints do we have about the Peak Design Travel Backpack? Price is the most glaring downside: At $300, it’s one of the most expensive designs on our list. And while the bag is undeniably sleek, it’s pretty utilitarian-looking and less everyday-friendly than more vibrant options like the Cotopaxi Allpa above and Topo Designs Global Travel Bag below. It’s also on the heavy end at 4 pounds 8 ounces, which isn’t unreasonable but does add considerable heft compared to many competitors. Finally, the Travel Backpack is technically not carry-on compliant when expanded, measuring 22 x 13 x 11 inches (the standard U.S. domestic carry-on limit is 22 x 14 x 9 in.). But it works at the compressed 35-liter size (or smaller 30L option) , and photographers in particular will love the shape, which nicely accommodates multiple camera cubes, lenses, and other accessories. If you fall into that group, another staff favorite is Wandrd's Prvke , which features a more modular design with specialized add-ons for camera gear. See the Peak Design Travel Backpack

Excellent Carrying Comfort for Gear-Intensive Trips

3. osprey sojourn porter 46 l ($195).

Osprey Sojourn Porter 46L travel pack

Osprey is a leader in the backpacking pack market, and much of that technology and expertise has trickled down nicely into their travel pack collection. The Sojourn Porter 46 L is case in point, combining the impressive carrying comfort that the brand is known for with a practical, carry-on-friendly build and feature set for travel. Starting at the outside, you get a rigid foam backpanel with well-cushioned shoulder and hipbelt straps that feel reminiscent of Osprey’s backpacking designs, a handy compression system to effectively cinch things down, lockable zippers for the main compartment, and a beefy side handle for hauling the pack duffel-style. The inside is a similar story with ample pockets of varying sizes, compressions traps to keep clothes tidy, and padded sidewalls to help protect valuables during travel.

Despite offering 11 more liters of capacity than our top-ranked Cotopaxi Allpa 35L (for $5 less), the Sojourn Porter 46 L is still carry-on compliant, making it the largest option here that still meets most domestic and international airline restrictions. It’s also impressively sturdy and durable and includes reinforced cord loops to attach to Osprey's Daylite or Farpoint/Fairview daypacks (sold separately). We do wish Osprey offered the design in a women’s version for those with smaller torso and waist measurements, but the unisex sizing is standard in the travel market (their Farpoint/Fairview below is one of the few models to come in a separate women’s version). In the end, if it fits you well, the Sojourn Porter offers a hard-to-beat mix of capacity, features, and comfort for the price, making it our favorite option for longer, gear-intensive adventures. See the Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 L

Best Travel Pack for Staying Organized

4. topo designs global travel bag 30l ($199).

Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L travel backpack

Topo Designs flies a little under the radar compared to well-known brands like Cotopaxi and Osprey, but don’t let that deter you—this company makes exceptionally built and good-looking packs for everything from commuting and travel to more technical pursuits like biking and climbing. Their Global Travel Bag 30L here is a shining example and stands out in one major way: internal organization. Put simply, there’s no shortage of options for divvying up your belongings, from the vertical daisy chain webbing on the front to the expandable side water bottle pockets, ample zippered storage inside and out, a laptop sleeve along the backpanel, and several interior mesh pockets. Like the Cotopaxi Allpa above, the Global Travel Bag is also well equipped for rough use, including a mix of 1,000- and 1,680-denier ballistic nylon that gives the pack a noticeably burly, confidence-inspiring feel—at a very manageable 2 pounds 10 ounces to boot.

That said, the extensive feature set does add some complexity when it comes to organization. We like the big clamshell opening to the main compartment, but we had to reorganize to make everything fit into the various compartments (they're optimized for Topo Designs' Pack Bags , which are smaller than our standard packing cubes). The tall and slim shape is also best suited for clothing rather than bulky gear, which may be limiting for outdoor adventures that involve camping or backpacking. We also wished there were a little more padding along the shoulder straps and hipbelt while walking through airports with the pack stuffed full, but it distributed the load pretty well (and the hipbelt can be tucked away when not in use). In the end, no pack is perfect, but the Global Travel Bag 30L is a well-built, durable, and stylish option for overnights, short weekend getaways, and even minimalist adventures abroad. It’s also sold in a larger 40-liter variation for longer trips, although we found the smaller pack to be much more manageable. See the Topo Designs Travel Bag 30L

Best Budget Travel Backpack

5. amazon basics carry-on travel backpack ($46).

Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack

Travel packs are an expensive bunch, but Amazon makes an affordable but still surprisingly capable option in their Carry-On Travel Backpack. We’ll start with the good news: As its name implies, the bag is carry-on compliant, and it comes with most of the standard features we look for in a practical travel pack. These include a zippered laptop sleeve, internal and external compression straps, easy-access pockets for travel documents, and good organization in the main compartment. Like the Peak Design Travel Backpack above, the Amazon Basics can also be expanded to boost packing space while still meeting carry-on restrictions. And at just around $50 at the time of publishing (colorways vary on Amazon), the 40-liter Carry-On Travel Backpack is a great value for what you get, undercutting most similarly sized models on this list by $100 or more.

Now for the bad news: This Amazon Basics pack is far less capable than many of the picks here for shuttling a full load. The shoulder straps are lightly padded, while the hipbelt is a thin and basic webbing design that won’t feel comfortable under the weight of a full pack. The rest of the design has a cheaper feel, too, including a shiny and dated-looking exterior, a lot of plastic (read: breakable) components, and standard, non-lockable zippers. You don’t get dedicated water bottle storage either, which isn’t a necessary feature but certainly is nice to have. But if you’re an occasional traveler and aren’t yet ready to make a more sizable investment, the Amazon Basics pack is a perfectly serviceable entry-level option at a great price. For another capable budget design that comes with packing cubes and lots of colorway options, we also like Asenlin’s 40L Travel Backpack . See the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack

Best High-Capacity Travel Pack for Long Trips

6. osprey farpoint 70 ($230).

Osprey Farpoint 70 travel pack

The packs above are great for vacationers and travelers headed out for a week or two, but those embarking on longer and/or gear-heavy trips abroad will almost certainly need more storage and capacity. Enter Osprey’s Farpoint 70, which comes with a 15-liter daypack that can be attached to the front to maximize capacity or used separately for around-town adventures once you reach your destination (Note: The travel pack itself is 55L). Importantly, both come well appointed: The daypack boasts a dedicated tablet/hydration sleeve and water bottle pockets, while the main pack has great cushioning along the straps and backpanel (it’s an Osprey, after all), a well-ventilated backpanel, easy access via the large front panel, and an adjustable torso system for dialing in a good fit. It's all wrapped up in a thoughtful and sustainable package, including recycled and bluesign-approved fabrics, along with a dedicated women's version called the Fairview.

All that said, there’s one glaring downside to opting for a larger-capacity design like the Osprey Farpoint 70: It doesn’t meet most carry-on size requirements. For reference, the standard domestic carry-on limit within the U.S. is 22 x 14 x 9 inches, while the Farpoint measures 25.6 x 15 x 12.6. Another complaint is that the daypack obscures the pack’s main compartment when attached, making it tedious to access your belongings. Even so, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more versatile and comfortable system for less (the daypack is a $65 investment on its own), making the Farpoint 70 our favorite high-capacity pick of the year. It’s also available in a larger 80-liter version, as well as smaller 40- and 55-liter capacities, although only the Farpoint 55 and 70 include the detachable daypack.  See the Osprey Farpoint 70   See the Women's Osprey Fairview 70

Best of the Rest

7. eagle creek tour 40l ($159).

Eagle Creek Tour 40L

Eagle Creek first started making packs in the mid 1970s, and their Tour 40L travel pack reflects that longstanding history in the market. From the get-go, we were immediately impressed by its highly practical design. The bag has great exterior storage, including a stretchy side water bottle pocket and expansion zipper for 5 liters of additional capacity in the main compartment. Additionally, the book-style opening provides quick access to the contents of the bag, and interior and exterior compression straps make it easy to snug things down. We also appreciate that it comes in two torso sizes (S/M and M/L) for maximizing fit, which is uncommon in the travel pack market and a really nice plus at this price point. And the cherry on top: The Tour checks in at a very competitive 2 pounds 10 ounces, which is tied with Topo Designs’ 10-liter-smaller Global Travel Bag above as the lightest on our list.

Other notable features on the Eagle Creek Tour 40L include side and top grab handles for easy loading and carrying, an integrated rain cover that stows away at the bottom and doubles as a backpanel cover if you check the bag, puncture-resistant and lockable zippers that are easy to operate even with gloves, and good overall carrying comfort. It’s not the toughest design out there—the water bottle pocket started to fray on our pack after just one trip—but uses durable 600-denier polyester elsewhere and is reasonably hardwearing overall. Final nitpicks include no pass-through sleeve for securing to a suitcase and a fairly bland exterior, but those do little to detract from the Tour’s otherwise well-rounded build.  See the Eagle Creek Tour 40L

8. Gregory Border Carry-On 40 ($190)

Gregory Border Carry-On 40 travel backpack_0

Like Osprey, Gregory is a leader in the hiking and backpacking markets, and their Border Carry-On 40 retains many of their well-loved technical features in a travel-friendly design. The big news here is the pack’s split-case design, which creates two distinct areas within the main compartment accessed via one large, clamshell-style opening. On one side, a zippered mesh panel with added zippered storage and compression straps keeps your clothing and some accessories organized, while an odor-resistant “ActiveShield” compartment at the opposite side effectively separates dirty clothes. As expected from Gregory, carrying comfort is also great with good adjustability at the sternum, a well-cushioned backpanel, and thick straps. You don’t get load lifters for bringing the pack closer to your body, but we didn’t have any issues, even when running through the Montreal airport to a connecting flight en route to Patagonia.

That said, the Gregory Border Carry-On’s split-case design does have a noteworthy pitfall: With both compartments zipped, storage feels pretty limited. Unzipping the larger mesh panel does help maximize space (especially when stuffing the pack to the brim), but it also defeats the purpose of the dual compartments. Compared to the competition, the Border also uses thinner materials than Osprey’s Sojourn Porter and Farpoint offerings, although the rest of the feature set stacks up similarly. In the end, it’s another comfortable and well-built travel pack, and the split-case design has its merits for those who pack light. See the Gregory Border Carry-On 40

9. Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L ($350)

Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L

Travel packs are a dime a dozen in 2024, but Tortuga’s Travel Backpack 40L—which replaced their Outbreaker 35L—stands out as one of the most well-appointed and thoughtfully built options on the market. Organization is a clear highlight, including a large front pocket with several sleeves for divvying up small valuables and documents, a convenient clamshell-style opening with zippered compartments for separating clothes and shoes, and padded laptop and tablet sleeves with zippered mesh pockets at the other side for storing cords and accessories. Rounding out the feature set are easy-to-access water bottle pockets that can fit most standard-mouth bottles (our wide-mouth Hydro Flask was too big), zippered hipbelt storage that can accommodate a smartphone and passport, and lockable, water-resistant zippers. Finally, the design is well padded with thick cushioning along the backpanel, shoulder straps, and hipbelt, which is fairly uncommon among travel-specific brands. 

It's worth noting that the Tortuga Travel Backpack has a slightly more streamlined storage layout than its predecessor, although you do get an additional 5 liters of capacity and a bump in usable space. However, the Tortuga is no featherweight at 4 pounds 8 ounces, which is a notable downside for long treks through the airport and around town. It’s also tied with Matador’s GlobeRider below as the priciest on our list at a steep $350. On the bright side, Tortuga does offer a lifetime warranty against defects, and they will repair/replace the pack or refund your money if a replacement isn't available. All told, it’s a nice dose of added assurance and helps justify the steep price, but the hefty build and lack of value push the Tortuga slightly down in our rankings. For another well-executed design with all the requisite travel features, check out Aer’s Travel Pack 3 , which is cheaper at $249 but 5 liters smaller and doesn’t include a hipbelt with purchase. See the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L

10. Yeti Crossroads 35L Backpack ($250)

Yeti Crossroads travel backpack

Yeti's coolers and insulated drinkware are their bread and butter, but the focus on premium craftsmanship doesn’t end there. On the travel side, their Crossroads 35L Backpack is exactly what we’ve come to expect from the brand: excellent durability and functionality in a modern package. The body of the pack is made with Yeti's tough and confidence-inspiring TuffSkin nylon (which was inspired by motorcycle gear), while the PU-coated base adds a nice dose of assurance when setting it down. All of the other components have an equally durable and supportive feel, from the foam-heavy shoulder straps to the thick, protective backpanel. It’s all wrapped up in a sleek and streamlined design that’s offered in a nice selection of colorways, from bright Harvest Red to subdued Alpine Brown (shown in the photo here).

Yeti clearly put a lot of thought into the outside of the Crossroads, but the interior is well executed, too. The clamshell opening folds back to reveal a pocket-equipped mesh panel and generous main compartment that still can be accessed when wearing the pack. You also get dedicated storage for a water bottle and laptop, as well as a pass-through sleeve for securing to a roller bag. Our biggest gripe is the lack of padding: The detachable hipbelt is made of thin webbing and doesn’t offer much support, and the shoulder straps and backpanel have a noticeably thick and rigid feel, which is great for durability but detracts from overall comfort. And as with most Yeti products, the pack isn’t particularly cheap or light at $250 and nearly 4 pounds. Finally, the 35-liter Crossroads is on the smaller side and will require precise packing to fit more than about three to five days’ worth of belongings. But again, build quality is top-notch, and minimalists used to packing light may not mind the small sacrifices in comfort and storage. See the Yeti Crossroads 35L Backpack

11. Matador GlobeRider45 ($350)

Matador Globerider45 travel backpack

Matador may lack the name recognition of brands like Osprey and Cotopaxi, but don’t let that fool you: This Boulder-based upstart is quickly growing thanks to their outside-the-box thinking. From their travel collection, the new GlobeRider45 stands out as a very intentionally built design that spares no expense in terms of features. In addition to being on the larger end, the carry-on-compliant GlobeRider offers solid comfort and support with good padding along the straps and backpanel, a light but sturdy aluminum frame stay, and a well-executed suspension system that’s reminiscent of a backpacking pack. Organization also abounds with a large external stash pocket, thoughtfully designed electronics pockets, vertical daisy chain webbing, and a practical interior layout that includes a packing cube-like space on one side and open clothing storage on the other. All told, it's an intriguing new pack that does a great job merging the utility of both backpacking and travel designs.

It's worth noting that we previously had Matador’s cheaper and lighter Seg45 ranked here, which boasts a unique segmented design that allows you to customize organization by day or activity. When unzipped, the five compartments at the front of the pack reveal independent (and stowable) storage cube-like areas for clothes and other soft items, while the main compartment below provides added space for dirty clothes, shoes, and other bulkier gear. While innovative, however, the Seg45 falls well short of the GlobeRider in carrying comfort, which is largely a result of the thin webbing hipbelt and lack of frame. The pocket-heavy exterior also made it hard for us to remember where we put certain items and detracts from the amount of usable space inside the main compartment. Both packs are arguably overbuilt for infrequent travelers, but the GlobeRider stands out as the more balanced option for those willing to splurge. See the Matador GlobeRider45

12. The North Face Base Camp Travel Pack ($169)

The North Face Base Camp travel backpack

The North Face’s expedition-ready Base Camp duffels have long been popular among serious adventurers, and the Base Camp Travel Pack is a logical and carry-on-friendly addition to the collection. We found a lot to like about the pack during testing, including its burly and abrasion-resistant exterior and myriad storage options. We particularly enjoyed the Base Camp’s front pocket layout, which makes it easy to divvy up travel documents and electronics with a variety of mesh, zippered, and fleece-lined pockets. The smaller details are equally well sorted, from the well-padded shoulder straps and backpanel to the fleece-lined laptop sleeve and generous daisy chain system for attaching gear externally. Finally, despite being a little smaller than many of our top picks, the 35-liter Base Camp includes water bottle pockets that easily swallowed our 24-ounce Hydro Flask.

However, despite checking all the boxes for most travelers, the Base Camp starts to look a little less competitive when stacked up against options like the Eagle Creek Tour above. For $10 less, the Tour boasts an additional 5 liters of capacity and includes helpful additions like a hipbelt, load-lifter straps, and a rain cover—all for around a pound less. Another alternative worth considering is REI’s Ruckpack 40 , which costs the same as the Base Camp and is more capable of crossing over for hiking: The laptop sleeve can fit a 3-liter reservoir, there are attachment points for trekking poles, and the suspension system is more in line with standard daypacks. Depending on your needs, the Ruckpack might be the better option, but the Base Camp offers better organization for travel in a more modern-looking package than the Eagle Creek. A final note: Those with broader builds may experience discomfort where the shoulder straps meet the backpanel, but our narrow-framed female tester had no comfort-related issues. See the TNF Base Camp Travel Pack

13. Thule Aion Travel Pack ($200)

Thule Aion travel backpack

Swedish brand Thule is best known for their bike and roof racks, but they make sneaky-good packs, too. Our favorite in their collection this year is the 40-liter Aion, which combines the premium build quality that Thule is known for with a nice assortment of travel-ready features. One unique—but very functional—addition is the removable TPU rolltop bag for stashing dirty laundry, which prevents odors and dirt from making their way to the rest of your belongings. The rest of the design is nicely appointed, including dedicated water bottle storage, an easy-to-access clamshell opening, plenty of zippered spaces for electronics and valuables (including a padded laptop/tablet sleeve), internal compressions straps to keep items secure and tidy, lockable zippers, and carry-on-compliant dimensions. 

What pushes the Thule Aion down to a mid-pack finish? At this price point and capacity, we’re surprised to see that the bag doesn’t come with a hipbelt. You can purchase Thule’s compatible Aion sling bag separately, which can pull double-duty for around-town use, but it’s a fairly expensive addition at $50 (and a feature we consider critical for a pack of this size). To be fair, the rest of the build is very well executed, including a noticeably thick and robust 600-denier waxed canvas shell and PFC-free DWR coating for fending off moisture. If you don’t mind the added investment for the waist belt/sling bag, it’s a promising design with competitive specs to match. Of note, if you’re looking for something a little different for travel, the Aion collection also includes a roller bag and a 35-liter duffel . See the Thule Aion Travel Pack

14. Pacsafe EXP45 ($290)

Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 travel backpack

Travel can be an exhausting endeavor, especially if you’re constantly worried about your luggage or valuables getting stolen. That’s why anti-theft designs like Pacsafe’s EXP45 are becoming increasingly common, particularly for international trips. Like most of Pacsafe’s offerings, the EXP45 is packed with protective features, from cut-resistant materials to lockable and puncture-resistant double zippers and built-in stainless steel cable locks. Importantly, these are nicely integrated and don’t detract too heavily from the Pacsafe's functionality as a travel pack—it’s still well organized with ample interior and exterior pockets and compression straps, offers multiple carry options, and is carry-on compliant.

That said, the Pacsafe EXP45 is a pretty niche design that prioritizes safety over carrying comfort and access. The pack is on the heavier end at over 4 pounds due to all the protective features, the padding along the shoulder straps and hipbelt is firm (albeit decently thick), and there are no load-lifter straps to pull the pack closer to your body. Another downside is that the laptop sleeve is positioned at the front of the bag—we prefer when heavier items are situated close to the back for better weight distribution—and accessing items here can be difficult due to the half-length zipper design (we wish it had a clamshell opening like the main compartment). In other words, comfort- and convenience-focused travelers will likely want to look elsewhere, but the Pacsafe has its place for those who prioritize safety and security. For a cheaper and lighter option that doesn’t skimp on safety features, we also like Pacsafe’s Go 44L , although frequent travelers will likely prefer the more premium EXP45. See the Pacsafe EXP45

15. Patagonia Black Hole Mini MLC 30L ($199)

Patagonia Black Hole Mini MLC 30L travel backpack

Patagonia’s Black Hole is legendary in the world of duffel bags, and the Mini MLC 30L travel pack variation shares that bag’s excellent durability and good looks in a more organized and carry-on-friendly design. Like the duffels, the Black Hole pack is made of strong (and recycled) polyester ripstop that’s highly tear-resistant with a TPU film on the exterior for fending off precipitation. It also boasts the signature daisy chain webbing along one side for securing extra gear. Importantly, however, the travel focus is clear: You get three carrying options (backpack, over-the-shoulder, or briefcase-style), compatibility with a roller bag, and a generously sized opening with two separate chambers for customizing organization.

Why do we rank the Patagonia Black Hole Mini MLC 30L here? The most glaring downside is its 30-liter capacity, which is undersized for trips lasting longer than a few days (unless you’re a staunch minimalist). Patagonia does offer a larger 45-liter variation for $40 more, although we found it to be lacking in structure, which caused the pack to feel noticeably bulky and cumbersome when stuffed full. Thankfully, both options feature the same well-executed backpanel design that we love, which comprises sleeves at one side for a laptop and tablet with zippered and drop-in pockets at the other for divvying up cords and accessories. Again, the Mini version is underbuilt for extended trips abroad but remains an excellent pick for commutes, daily use, and as a secondary bag for travel. See the Patagonia Black Hole Mini MLC 30L

16. Nomatic Travel Bag 40L ($290)

Nomatic Travel Bag 40L

Many of the picks above are built by reputable backpacking manufacturers, but Nomatic is a travel company first. Their Travel Bag 40L embodies that focus, combining thoughtful organization and storage with easy access in a sleek and minimalist package. Feature highlights include a customizable strap design that allows you to easily alternate between backpack and duffel carry, dedicated compartments for shoes and clothing at the top and bottom of the bag, and even a mesh laundry bag to keep dirty clothes separate during travel. We also love the exterior pocket at the right side, which opens wide for easy access and features an array of mesh, fleece-lined, and zippered spots to organize electronics and cords, along with an RFID pocket for passports and other scannable documents. All told, it’s clear that Nomatic put a ton of thought into the design. 

It’s worth noting that Nomatic offers another intriguing option in their Navigator , although we consider the Travel Bag the more competitive all-around design. In parsing out the differences, the Travel Bag costs $110 less and is lighter by nearly 2 pounds, although it forgoes the Navigator’s expandable main compartment that allows you to alternate between 32 and 41 liters depending on your storage needs. The Navigator also includes load lifter straps and a sculpted foam backpanel for a boost in carrying comfort, but the Travel Bag is no slouch. And from a features perspective, we appreciate the Travel Bag’s dirty shoe compartment and included laundry bag. Those with smaller frames may have trouble dialing in a secure fit—our female tester (5’6” and 135 lb.) maxed out the Travel Bag’s hipbelt, for example—but the intentional organization layout and travel-ready feature set are undeniable selling points. See the Nomatic Travel Bag 40L

17. Mystery Ranch Mission Rover 45 ($249)

Mystery Ranch Rover 45 travel pack

Along with Osprey’s Sojourn Porter 46 above, Mystery Ranch’s Mission Rover 45 is a great option for those of us who aren’t particularly adept at packing light. Touted as a “workhorse gear hauler,” the Mission Rover offers three functional carry options (as a suitcase, shoulder bag, or standard backpack), has a well-organized main compartment with zippered dividers and a wraparound clamshell opening, and even includes separate areas for shoes and dirty laundry. As expected at this price point, you also get most of the standard travel-ready features that we look for, including a stowable hipbelt, lockable zippers, a sleeve to secure to a rolling suitcase, and a padded laptop space that can accommodate computers up to 15 inches wide. Finally, like many of Mystery Ranch's backpacking offerings, the Mission Rover has a premium feel with a thick nylon exterior and water-resistant YKK zippers.

However, as with the Pacsafe EXP45 above, the Mission Rover’s laptop sleeve is situated at the front of the pack, which detracts from carrying comfort and convenience. The Mystery Ranch is also on the heavier and pricier end of the spectrum at 4 pounds 4.8 ounces and $249, although the 45-liter capacity is undeniably generous (and the pack is still compliant with most carry-on size restrictions). Finally, the bag is relatively dated-looking and lacking in modern appeal compared to offerings from Topo Designs, Peak Design, Cotopaxi, and others above. In other words, the Mission Rover doesn’t stand out in any one area (hence our ranking), but it’s another durable travel pack with a nicely executed feature set. See the Mystery Ranch Mission Rover 45

Travel Backpack Comparison Table

Editor's note: "Carry-on" refers to whether or not each pack meets standard domestic and international air travel restrictions, which must be under 22 x 14 x 9 inches or 45 linear inches when adding L+W+H.

About Our Testing Process

True to our name, globetrotting is a big part of what we do at Switchback Travel. Managing editor Sarah Nelson put together our initial list of 16 picks in 2022 after a trip to El Chaltén in southern Argentina with fellow staff members and gear testers. From takeoff to our return flights home, we put our packs through their paces by stuffing them to the brim with two weeks’ worth of clothing and gear, schlepping them through domestic and international airports, shoving them into overhead compartments and below our seats, and getting intimately familiar with organizational layouts for divvying up our documents and electronics. Upon our return, we also evaluated each pack closely for signs of wear like tears and stains.

Our current list of 17 picks reflects our own experiences as well as feedback from our freelancers, travel-savvy friends, and the online travel community. We continue to test travel packs on adventures near and far, adding and removing designs as the market shifts and as we get firsthand experience with more options. For example, on a recent trip to Chilean Patagonia in February 2024, we brought along two new-to-us travel packs: The North Face Base Camp and the Nomatic Travel Pack, both of which are now featured in the guide above. We’ll be sure to add any other standouts and favorites to the list above with each update.   

Travel backpacks (walking around El Chalten with Matador%2C YETI%2C and Patagonia packs)

Travel Backpack Buying Advice

Size and capacity.

  • Carry-on Size Restrictions

Organization: Pockets and Main Compartment Access

Carrying comfort, grab handles and alternate carry methods.

  • Other Features

Construction and Durability

Fit and sizing, women’s-specific travel backpacks, sustainability, packing cubes and other accessories, do you need a travel backpack.

The first question to answer when choosing a travel pack is how much capacity you anticipate needing. For reference, the options above range from 30 liters on the small end (the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag ) all the way up to 70 liters for the Osprey Farpoint 70 (with the 15L daypack attached). Most travelers will land on something in the middle, with the sweet spot for many being in the 40- to 45-liter range—it’s no coincidence that well over half of the models above fall into this grouping, which is largely due to their carry-on-compliant dimensions.   

Travel backpacks (lineup on the ground)

In general, we’ve found that packs of this size can easily accommodate a week or two of clothing, toiletries, and other travel accessories (and even more if you pack light). For reference, we had no issues fitting 14 days’ worth of belongings into the 40-liter version of Topo Designs’ Global Travel Bag on a recent trip to Patagonia. If you stick to weekend adventures, you can keep things lighter and more compact (and save some cash in the process) by opting for the smaller, 30-liter variation. On the flip side, those embarking on longer expeditions abroad might need to step up to a larger design like the Osprey Farpoint 70 or 80 (at the sacrifice of carry-on compatibility).  

Travel backpack (interior of the Eagle Creek Tour 40L)

Travel Backpack Dimensions

Dimensions are a crucial consideration for most travelers, and especially those headed abroad. With that in mind, we’ve listed the length, width, and height measurements for each travel pack above both in the write-ups and in our comparison table . As you may notice, similarly sized travel packs don’t vary too considerably in terms of dimensions. This is mainly due to carry-on size restrictions, which we break down more in depth below. Carry-on Size Restrictions Right off the bat, we’ll note that there is technically no standardized size requirement for carry-on luggage domestically or abroad. That said, the universally accepted dimensions within the U.S. are 22 x 14 x 9 inches or 45 linear inches when adding L+W+H. We’ve indicated whether each travel pack above meets these requirements in our comparison table, and REI Co-op does the same on each of their product pages. The only exception above is the Osprey Farpoint 70 , which measures 25.6 x 15 x 12.6 inches.  

Travel backpack (walking through airport)

It’s also important to call out expandable models here like the Peak Design Travel Backpack , which is carry-on compliant when compressed to 35 liters (22 x 13 x 9.5 in.) but not when expanded to its maximum 45-liter capacity (22 x 13 x 11 in.). You may be able to get away with carrying these bags onboard, but don’t count on it, especially if you’re traveling during peak season to a popular destination. When in doubt, you can always check with your airline ahead of time.  

All of the packs above are purpose-built for travel with extensive organizational layouts and thoughtfully placed pockets for separating valuables, electronics, and other accessories. That said, some layouts are more functional than others, and a final decision will largely come down to your intended use and what works best for the items that you plan to bring along. For instance, sleek options like the Peak Design Travel Backpack and Nomatic Travel Bag are great for digital nomads and remote workers who need to organize a lot of electronics, while backpacking-inspired designs like Osprey’s Farpoint and Sojourn Porter offerings have fewer tech-focused features but work great for adventure travel. We break down some of the key organizational components below, from laptop and tablet sleeves to water bottle storage and pack opening styles.  

Travel backpack (backpanel layout inside Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45)

Laptop and Tablet Sleeves Laptop storage is a requisite feature in a travel pack, and all of the picks above come with a dedicated spot to stash larger electronics. In terms of dimensions, most sleeves can accommodate up to a 15-inch laptop, and many come with separate smaller compartments in the same space for a tablet, too. This area is typically well padded to protect electronics and positioned along the backpanel for the best access and weight distribution (keeping heavier items closest to your back will help maximize comfort and balance). A couple exceptions to this rule are the Pacsafe EXP45 and Mystery Ranch Mission Rover 45 , both of which have the laptop sleeve at the front of the pack and can feel a little less well balanced with heavier electronics situated farther away from your body.  

Travel backpack (pulling laptop out of the Cotopaxi Allpa)

Water Bottle Pockets Unlike laptop sleeves, side water bottle pockets aren’t a standard feature on travel packs. Some models that include them are the Topo Designs Global Travel Pack, Peak Design Travel Backpack, Osprey Farpoint 70 (on its removable daypack), Eagle Creek Tour , and Thule Aion, while the Cotopaxi Allpa and Amazon Basics Carry-On leave them out. And it’s worth noting that the Farpoint’s removable daypack is also compatible with a hydration reservoir, including a sleeve and access ports at either side for a tube (Note: This area on the daypack doubles as the laptop sleeve).   

Travel backpack (YETI Crossroads 35L water bottle pocket)

Opening Styles and Access Easy access is a hallmark of a good travel backpack. The clamshell-style opening is far and away the most popular design and for good reason: With the pack laid flat, you can easily see and access the entirety of the main compartment. Some backpack-inspired designs, like Osprey's Sojourn Porter 46 and Farpoint 70, utilize generous U-zip designs instead, which are pretty functional but make it a little harder to reach contents at the very bottom of the bags. Finally, it's important to note that some bags come with multiple access points: The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L, for instance, includes both a full wraparound zipper and “shortcut” side zip next to the backpanel for easily retrieving items while on the move.  

Travel backpack (organizing clothing in the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L)

Comfort can be somewhat subjective, but a few features help certain travel packs stand out from the rest of the market. Typically, the most comfortable designs boast shoulder straps and hipbelts with thick padding and good adjustability for dialing in fit. Sternum and load-lifter straps can also be very helpful in effectively distributing a heavy load. One brand that stands out in this area is Osprey, which makes sense given their expertise in the backpacking pack market. One of our favorite options for shuttling heavy loads over long distances is Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 , which features thick cushioning and good adjustability at the shoulders and waist belt and comes with load lifters for bringing the weight closer to your back.  

Travel backpack (revealing shoulder straps and hipbelt)

On the flip side, models without hipbelts are generally the least comfortable, especially when wearing them for extended stretches. From the list above, only the Thule Aoin doesn’t come with one, although their Aion Sling Bag (sold separately for $50) can be attached to serve as a hipbelt. Thin webbing designs—like what you get with the Amazon Basics Carry-On and Yeti Crossroads —aren’t much better, providing very little support and structure for keeping the weight of the pack on your hips (rather than your back). If you plan to be walking long distances with your pack through airports or city streets, we consider a well-padded waist belt a critical feature and worth the added investment.   

Travel backpack (standing at bus station with Cotopaxi Allpa)

The models above are designed to be worn on your back as backpacks, but many travelers appreciate the ability to carry their pack suitcase-style or over the shoulder. These options are especially helpful when standing in line to check in at the airport or retrieve travel documents. For instance, the Peak Design Travel Backpack boasts 360-degree grab handles that make it quick and easy to take the pack off and carry it one-handed through security checkpoints or narrow airplane aisles. Designs like the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L also come with detachable straps for shoulder carry, which can be helpful when you need to access items inside but want to keep the pack off the ground and remain hands-free. Finally, many of the offerings here can be secured to a roller bag via pass-through sleeves, which we cover more below.  

Travel backpacks (different ways to carry)

Other Travel Pack Features

In addition to pockets and electronics sleeves, there are a few other features specific to travel packs that are worth having on your radar. Lockable zippers are fairly standard at the mid to upper end of the market (budget designs like the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack forgo them), as are removable and/or stowable straps and compression straps or dividers to keep things tidy in the main compartment. As is common with backpacking models, some travel packs also come with built-in rain covers that stow away when not in use, including Cotopaxi’s Allpa 35L and Eagle Creek’s Tour 40L. Finally, many will appreciate the ability to attach their travel pack directly to a rolling suitcase via a pass-through handle or sleeve (like what you get with Yeti Crossroads 35L and many others above).  

Travel backpack (lockable zippers on Eagle Creek Tour)

Given the inherently rough nature of travel, all of the packs above are well built and hardwearing enough to withstand frequent use. That said, some are certainly more durable than others, and looking at denier (a measurement of fabric thickness) can help differentiate between models. For instance, the Gregory Border Carry-On 40 is pretty average with a mix of 210- and 450-denier (D) materials, while the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L is one of the thickest and most abrasion-resistant options on our list with a combination of 1,000D polyester and 840D ballistic nylon (Topo Designs' Global Travel Bag uses a similar combo but with 1,000D nylon and 1,680D ballistic nylon). Pacsafe’s EXP45 is another standout, with stainless steel wire mesh built into the 400D nylon body to guard against theft. At the thinner end, Matador’s GlobeRider45 uses a mix of mostly 100 and 420D fabrics, although the nylon body is coated with a PU laminate to boost weather and abrasion resistance, and Matador included reinforcements in high-wear areas.  

Travel backpack (closeup of Topo Designs Global Travel Bag exterior)

Other durability-related additions to keep an eye out for are thick padding along the interior to promote structure and protect your belongings, weather-resistant details like YKK zippers and DWR coatings on the outside to fend off precipitation, and thicker materials at the base to help protect the pack when you set it down. And we should note here that cost often correlates pretty closely with overall quality. In other words, a budget pack like the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack feels noticeably cheaper than most other options above and will likely wear down far more quickly. If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s almost certainly worth investing in a pricier and more premium option that will last.  

Travel backpack (YETI Crossroads 35L backpanel)

The weight spread isn’t huge among travel pack designs, but even a 1-pound difference may still be noticeable during long treks across town or the airport. For reference, the lightest options on our list are Eagle Creek’s Tour 40L and Topo Designs’ Global Travel Bag 30L (both 2 lb. 10 oz.), while the Osprey Farpoint 70 is the heaviest at 5 pounds 6.6 ounces. Most models fall somewhere in the middle, with the majority of 40- to 45-liter designs hovering somewhere between 3 and 4.5 pounds. In the end, weight won’t be a primary consideration for many travelers, but those backpacking through Europe or expecting to cover serious ground will probably want to shop toward the lighter end.  

Travel backpack (ordering coffee with Cotopaxi Allpa 35L

Unlike their backpacking pack counterparts, travel packs are most often only offered in a single unisex option. This can make it difficult to dial in fit, especially for those with particularly narrow or broad builds. One exception above is the Eagle Creek Tour 40L , which is offered in both S/M and M/L torso sizes, while a couple others (which we cover below) are sold in dedicated women’s models for better customizing fit. Regardless of which option you choose, we always recommend trying on multiple packs before buying to see which fits you best (or at least purchasing from a reputable manufacturer with a generous return policy). You’ll want to be sure that you can adjust the shoulder straps and waist belt to be snug around your torso and waist. Sternum straps and load lifters can also be helpful for bringing the load closer to your back to maximize comfort and weight distribution.

Travel backpack (wearing Matador GlobeRider at airport)

As we mentioned above, most travel packs are unisex by design. In fact, only one model on our list is offered in a dedicated women’s-specific version: the Osprey Fairview (the Farpoint’s counterpart). Key differences include varying colorways, minor weight variations, and slightly smaller torso and waist measurements. The Fairview also has more contoured shoulder straps and a curved hipbelt to better conform to narrower torsos/shoulders and larger hips, although the packs share an otherwise identical overall construction and feature set. Regardless of designation, we always recommend choosing the pack that fits you best.  

Travel packs (sitting at bus station)

In 2024, it’s pretty common to see pack manufacturers incorporating eco-friendly practices into production, including measures like recycled and bluesign-approved fabrics and PFAS/PFC-free DWR coatings. A couple examples include Pacsafe’s Venturesafe EXP45, which uses polyester that's made from recycled water bottles and other plastics, and Patagonia’s Black Hole Mini MLC 30L, which uses recycled and bluesign-approved (i.e., environmentally safe) polyester and is certified to the Fair Trade standard. A final feature to look out for is a PFC-free DWR coating, which forgoes the use of per- or polyfluorinated chemicals—"forever chemicals" known to be harmful to the environment. With many states stepping up to ban the sale of items that include PFCs, the outdoor industry is seeking better solutions for water- and stain-resistant finishes (for more, you can read about Patagonia’s take on the issue ).  

Travel backpack (Gregory Border Carry-On 40 closeup)

Packing your travel pack can often feel like playing a hard game of Tetris, especially for those of us who aren’t great at traveling light (this author included). To help, many of the brands above offer compatible accessories for their packs, from packing cubes to protective hard cases for electronics and more. Importantly, these add-ons are often modular and fit neatly into the main compartment of a compatible backpack. Some of our favorites include Topo Designs’ Pack Bags , Peak Design’s Packing Cubes and Tech Pouches, and Eagle Creek’s Pack-It compression cubes. In the end, these accessories aren't a necessary purchase for many travelers (and you certainly don't need to buy them from the same manufacturer as your pack), but they can go a long way toward maximizing organization and space and streamlining your load.  

Travel backpack (packing cube closeup)

The packs above make it easy and comfortable to shuttle your belongings across the globe, but not everyone needs a specialized design for travel. Duffel bags are another popular way to fly with a lot of clothing and gear, and many modern designs come with deployable backpack straps for more easily hauling through airports and around urban areas. However, duffels lack the impressive assortment of dedicated storage compartments and pockets for items like keys, passports, and electronics, are generally less comfortable to carry over long distances, and often don’t meet carry-on size requirements.  

Travel backpacks (duffel bags alternative)

Alternatively, some travelers may opt to use a standard backpacking pack . This can make a lot of sense when you’re traveling to hike, backpack, or embark on other adventures and plan to use your pack both for travel and for outdoor use when you arrive. Again, however, the lack of travel-specific features and organization options can make it harder to effectively divvy up your belongings. In the end, if you plan to fly domestically or abroad with any regularity (more than a couple times a year), we think most will find the investment in a dedicated travel pack worth it. Back to Our Top Travel Backpack Picks   Back to Our Travel Pack Comparison Table

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The 18 Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks for Easy, Breezy Packing

From basic rucksacks to nifty new features, these backpacks are a traveler's dream come true.

travel backpacks

Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.

Team T&C are experts in the field of traveling light and packing efficiently . And because we know every traveler has different preferences and needs, our editors took it upon themselves to research, test, and share their favorite and most reliable styles on the market. Ahead, find the best carry-on travel backpacks designed to go the distance.

Samsonite Silhouette 17 Backpack

Silhouette 17 Backpack

A backpack that packs like a suitcase? Why didn't someone think of this sooner? This Samsonite bag is perfect for the traveler who wants to travel light without sacrificing that packing method they've perfected.

One reviewer writes: "Durable yet lightweight. Streamline design and not bulky at all. Perfect carryon size with backpack straps for convenience."

Dimensions: 20" x 12.5" x 7"

Weight: 3.6 lbs

Material: Recyclex

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack

The ReNew Transit Backpack

This bag has compartments, on compartments, on compartments—including an exterior laptop pocket, making it extra easy to slip your computer in and out for TSA.

One reviewer says: "I initially purchased because I needed more storage to function as my work bag. It just so happen I was traveling abroad in that same month as well. I did not realize that it had a strap on the back to make it super convenient to connect to my carry on luggage. The storage in this bag is phenomenal. 10/10 recommend!"

Dimensions: 17.5” H x 12” L x 7.25” D

Packing Capacity: 27L

Material: 100% recycled polyester with a water-resistant finish

Fjallraven Kanken Water Resistant Backpack

Water Resistant Backpack

These Scandinavian bags have been tested, tried and true since the 1970s. According to T&C 's Associate Shopping Editor Sophie Dweck, who owns several Fjallraven Kankens, they don't offer a lot of frills or features, but they are as practical and reliable as they come. Cute enough to be your day bag but spacious enough to fit all your carry-on essentials, this bag is two-for-one. Plus, there's no shortage of color options!

One shopper says: "This is my second backpack and I just love to use this during my travels. It’s stylish, lightweight and can surprisingly fit my essentials."

Dimensions: 14" H x 10" W x 4 ½" D

Weight: .7 lbs

Material: Vinylon

Calpak Luka Laptop Backpack

Luka Laptop Backpack

Calpak is known for creating travel bags and accessories with smart engineering in mind, and this backpack is an incredibly popular pick for obvious reasons. Thanks to its many compartments, it can hold a ton—shoes, notebooks, bottles, you name it—and is designed to protect a 15-inch laptop in one of the inner sleeves. Even better, it comes in a variety of pretty colors, such as this rose gold hue.

One shopper says: "I love this backpack. My laptop fits perfectly and it’s very roomy to carry a travel umbrella, glasses, electrical cord, notebooks, and more. I love the puffy exterior and have the matching Luca mini. Together, creates a great weekend getaway."

Dimensions: 16" x 12" x 7"

Weight: 1.8 lbs

Material: Polyester

Monos Metro Backpack

Metro Backpack

The unique feature on this pack from Monos is the detachable, interchangeable pouch that fixes to the front of the bag. This smaller bag is the perfect spot to keep the items you need quick and easy access to, like your passport, headphones, keys, and charging cables.

One shopper says: "I love this backpack! The trolley sleeve is a huge plus, but my favorite feature is being able to remove the Metro Kit. I like that I can conveniently place the backpack under the seat and the Metro kit can hang off the pouch in the seat in front of me, making it easy to grab the essentials mid-flight."

Exterior Dimensions: 11.5" × 16.5" × 6"

Exterior Weight: 2.4 lb (nylon) / 3 lb (vegan leather)

Metro Dimensions: 8.75" × 6.75" × 2"

Metro Weight: .6 lbs

Material: Nylon or vegan leather

Cuyana Leather Backpack 16-inch

Leather Backpack 16-inch

For a travel bag that sacrifices neither function and fashion, you turn to Cuyana. The brand's minimalist backpack is crafted with premium Italian leather and tricked out with convenient features, like a spacious main compartment with pockets and a laptop sleeve, two additional exterior pockets, a magnetic snap closure for easy access, comfortable straps that don't dig into your shoulders, and a top handle that allows you to tote the bag around by hand.

One shopper says: "This is the perfect work and travel backpack. I got it in navy and looks amazing. My laptop, notebook, and computer accessories all fit in very neatly with plenty of room for other items. I was a little worried about my water bottle fitting in the front pocket, but it is just fine there and the magnets even help it stay in place. It is simply PERFECT!!!"

Dimensions: 15.1" x 11" x 7"

Weight: 2.6 lbs

Material: Leather

MZ Wallace Metro Backpack Deluxe

Metro Backpack Deluxe

MZ Wallace's bags are absurdly lightweight, insanely roomy, and the signature quilting adds interest to an otherwise understated bag. This backpack is no exception. T&C 's Senior News Editor Emily Burack is a massive fan of the brand .

One shopper says: "Bought the Dawn metro backpack deluxe for a recent trip. I squeezed in so many items such as electronics, iPad, cosmetics, a jacket and small crossbody purse. Love the back sleeve that you can attach to your suitcase, and then can convert it to a pocket by zippering the bottom. And finally side pockets that can fit a water bottle."

Dimensions: 2.20" × 6.90" × 16.50"

Weight: 1.3 lbs

Material: REC Oxford

Carl Friedrik 72-Hour Backpack

72-Hour Backpack

For the packer who's serious about one-bag travel, Carl Friedrik's aptly-titled pack is a great option. The 25-liter carrier is designed fit up to three-days worth of outfits and is perfectly sized to fit under the seat in front of you. Also worth noting: The front panel fully unzips, there's a laptop sleeve, and various pockets so you can make the most of every nook and cranny.

And if that's not enough to convince you? Succession 's The Roy family is fan of Carl Friedrik , as is T&C 's very own Leena Kim .

Dimensions: 11.8" x 18.1" x 7.1"

Packing Capacity: 25L

Material: Nylon

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Those who are often guilty of overpacking will get a kick out of this pick. No matter how much you stuff inside of it, the bag is lightweight to carry day in and day out. It's made of a blend of tough, TPU-coated polyester and durable nylon paneling, and has padded shoulder straps which add to the comfort. Also notable is its harness feature that distributes weight and prevents you from suffering from any back or shoulder pain later on.

One shopper says: "The Cotopaxi was my real working bag for carrying 3-4 days' clothing & toiletries. I am impressed with the quality build, the cool appearance of the bag, the organized storage, the way the compartments hold their shape without using heavyweight material. The interior feels well enough secure for my purposes but also has easy access smaller compartment for a light jacket."

Dimensions : 20" x 12" x 10"

Weight: 3 lbs 8 oz

Material: Polyester and nylon

Lo & Sons The Rowledge

The Rowledge

At last, your very own Mary Poppins bag. Well, not quite, but it might as well be. Don't be fooled by this bag's streamlined look—it can fit a lot. Yet, its dimensions qualify as a personal item, meaning it fits perfectly under the seat in front of you.

One shopper says: "I love traveling with this backpack. It is compact enough to wear I am not hitting people with it every time I turn around on the plane. It has a compartment for everything and is great quality. Excellent customer service from Lo & Sons, too!!!"

Dimensions: 11.5" x 6.75" x 16.5" (large); 10.75" x 6" x 16" (small)

Weight: 3.2 lbs (large); 2.9 lbs (small)

Material: Nylon and leather

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack

Dakota Neoprene Backpack

First of all, this bag is made with 23 recycled water bottles! So it's already a winner. Water-resistant and roomy, it comes with a zippered pouch that can be used as a shoe bag, or for any other essentials you want easy access to. We also love its sleek look—how could you not?

One shopper raves: "I wanted a small backpack that could still carry all my stuff, but also look stylish and sleek. This was it. The Dakota and small is the perfect backpack. Big enough to carry all my stuff as a mom of three while traveling but small enough to not feel too heavy. The material is soft but durable. I’m definitely a forever fan now!"

Dimensions: 11.5” L x 5” W x 17” H

Weight: 2 lbs 3 oz

Material: Premium neoprene and performance air mesh

Aer Travel Pack 3 Black

Travel Pack 3 Black

A true traveler's bag, the main compartment of this backpack lays open flat, so you can pack it like a regular suitcase. It has designated laptop and organizational compartments, plus multiple additional pockets for all your other must-haves. The zippers are also lockable, and there's a pocket just for your AirTag !

One shopper says: "This backpack does everything I need. Keeps things really organized, looks great, comfortable to carry heavy stuff... I really like how it collapses to a smaller profile once it’s empty for both easy storage, and a slimmer profile for a day to day pack."

Dimensions : 13" x 21.5" x 9"

Weight: 4.12 lbs

Tumi Celina Backpack

Celina Backpack

Tumi is one of the most trusted names in luggage, so you can be sure this bag is of high quality. It has lots of pockets and compartments, but the best feature has to be the Tumi Tracer, which will allow you to track and locate your bag should you misplace it.

One shopper raves : "So light empty and so roomy. Lots of pockets and fantastic construction. A quality backpack that will last for years and years, worth every penny!"

Dimensions : 16.0" x 10.6" x 6.5"

Shinola Detroit The Runwell Backpack

The Runwell Backpack

If you're looking to invest in a bag that can really go the distance, it's gotta be high-quality leather. You can trust that this will hold up, and best of all, it'll only look better as it wears in during all your trips to come.

One shopper says: "I purchased this Runwell backpack in the summer of ‘19 to use as my work bag and waited a few years of daily use to review. I can truly say it’s almost perfect; it looks small on me but that’s my fault for not reading measurements. It easily fits my laptop, plenty of cables, paperwork, gym clothes, a shower bag, and many more random things. The pockets in the interior are great; it’s very functional. Although I do clean/condition it every few months, it’s developed a wonderful patina."

Dimensions: 17" H x 10.38" W x 6" D

Weight: 3.9 lbs

Beis Travel The Expandable Backpack

The Expandable Backpack

With pockets and compartments galore, the Beis backpack has endless room for all your essentials. And once it's all filled up? You can unzip the expandable zipper for even more space! Never thought you'd be so excited about a backpack? We get it.

One reviewer writes: "The expandable feature makes it great for travel but un-expanded, it’s great for work. The pockets are so functional and the extra padded laptop sleeve is great. Also got caught in a rainstorm this week and the inside of the bag stayed perfectly dry!"

Dimensions: 13" x 15" x 5-7"

Weight: 1.67 lbs

Material: 100% recycled poly

Troubadour Aero Backpack

Aero Backpack

This top-loading backpack not only features a main inner section with a ton of clever pockets, but there's also a 3D top pocket for easy access to your toiletries, a dedicated space for shoes, and a separate padded compartment for a laptop. Even better: It doubles as a duffle carrier for days when you'd prefer carrying your things as a crossbody.

One shopper says: "Just perfect. Enough pockets in the right place without being annoying or irritating and it looks sooooo good."

Dimensions: 13.4" x 20" x 7.9"

Weight: 2.75 lbs

Material: Recycled polyester fabric, recycled polyester lining, vegan leather trim

Away The Everywhere Zip Backpack

The Everywhere Zip Backpack

Known for the suitcases everybody can't get enough of, Away also offers a range of backpacks that feature the same intelligent designs and user-friendly features. The aptly-named Everywhere knapsack is made with water-resistant nylon and features a wrap-around zipper for extra access in the main compartment.

One shopper writes : "It may be a little much to say this backpack changed my life, but it changed my life.. It's comfortable. It's SO well designed, with a logical place for everything. It holds a LOT. It's stylish and stays upright when you put it down. Most importantly (and the reason I bought it in the first place), I'm no longer sore after walking around and carrying my stuff all day. I may never go back to wearing a shoulder bag again. Worth every penny."

Dimensions : 12" x 5.9" x 17.7"

Weight : 2.45 lbs

Material : Nylon and leather

Paravel Fold-Up Backpack

Fold-Up Backpack

The genius of this backpack? Its compact size can fit a ton without weighing a ton, and when it's not in use, it folds up flat and zips into a space-saving pouch. Bonus: Get yours customized with your initials for a personalized touch.

One shopper says: "I couldn’t believe that a roomy backpack could zip up very easily into a pouch! It is very roomy with several zip up compartments for extra storage. It looks very nice. I am going to Europe and was searching for a lightweight backpack. This is perfect!"

Dimensions: 13" x 16" x 9"

Weight: .63 lbs

Material: Nylon from recycled water bottles

What to look for when buying a carry-on travel backpack

carry on travel backpack tips

A carry-on travel backpack is a great in-flight companion because it's conveniently designed to be super spacious and a hands-free way to carry your belongings.

When shopping for the best option, it's important to choose a bag that can fit underneath the seat in front of you. While sizes vary depending on the airplane, most domestic airlines in the United States require a personal item to be somewhere around 17 inches tall, 13 inches wide, and 8 inches long.

Equally as important: Look for a backpack with functional features, such as organization pockets, full zip openings, a laptop sleeve, and adjustable straps for a comfortable fit.

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Meg is the Associate Fashion Commerce Editor at ELLE.com where she researches trends, tests products, and looks for answers to all your burning questions. She also co-writes a monthly column, Same Same But Different . Meg has previously written for Cosmopolitan and Town & Country . Her passions include travel, buffalo sauce, and sustainability. She will never stop hoping for a One Direction reunion tour.

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Sophie Dweck is the associate shopping editor for Town & Country, where she covers beauty, fashion, home and décor, and more. 

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Home » Gear » best carry on backpacks

Travelling Light in 2024: The Best Carry on Backpacks (INSIDER Tips)

Choosing a carry on backpack is never quite as straightforward as it maybe should be.

For one, there is an endless array of (purportedly) carry-on ready backpacks adorning the market right now and so the sheer choice on offer can be seriously bloody overwhelming. And of course while some of these packs are amazing, some are utter, utter gubbins.

Moreover – the term ‘carry on’ itself is not even all that clear cut and carry on bag allowances vary quite widely between airlines. What some airlines allow, others will not, and what others will, Ryanair will almost certainly not!

For all of these reason, we decided to put together this epic guide to the best backpacks for flying in 2024!

Whether you are looking for some extra space for your camera gear in your bag travel, looking for a dedicated laptop pocket or just a lightweight carry on backpack for one bag travel? We’ve got you covered!

Quick Answers – The Best Carry On Packs of 2024

The best carry-on backpacks, how we tested to find the best carry on backpack, best carry on backpack – comparison table, faq about the best carry on backpacks, final thoughts on the best carry on bags.

  • Nomatic 40L Travel Bag – Best Overall Carry On Backpack
  • Tortuga Travel Pack – Best Carry On Bag for International Travel
  • AER Travel Pack 3 – Best Carry On for EU Residents
  • Monarc Settra Duffel Backpack  – Epic Recycled Carry on Duffel/Backpack
  • LOJEL Urbo 2 Travel Pack – Best Urban Carry-On Backpack

Stubble & Co Adventure Bag – Best Carry On For Minimalists

  • Tropicfeel Shell – Best Organised Carry On Backpack
  • Osprey Sojourn 45L – Best Backpack Suitcase Hybrid
  • WANDRD PRVKE 31 – Best Carry on Camera Backpack
  • Kodiak 30L Weekender Duffel  – Best Leather Carry on Bag

tortuga travel backpack

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best minimalist backpack

Nomatic Travel Bag

  • Cost: > $289.99
  • > Excellent ergonomics
  • > Not available in EU

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack

Tortuga Outbreaker

  • Cost: > $350
  • > Retractable plugs: Euro, UK, USA / Japan, Australia / China
  • > Charge a laptop and two usb devices at once

aer travel pack 2 backpack

Aer Travel Pack 3 Backpack

  • Cost: > $249
  • > Good organization features
  • > Laptop compartment

Monarc Backpack

Monarc Setra Duffel Backpack

  • Cost: > $175
  • > Carry on Compliant
  • > Made from recycled bottles

osprey stratos carry on

Osprey Stratos (33 or 36 liter)

  • Cost: > $220
  • > New updated design
  • > Ventilated mesh back panel

Tropicfeel Shell Backpack

Tropicfeel Shell

  • Cost > $249
  • > Adjustable Capacity (22-40L)
  • > Sleek Design with built-in wardrobe

best backpack air travel

Osprey Sojourn (46 liter)

  • Cost > $195
  • > Doubles as rolling suitcase and backpack
  • > Compression straps help keep your gear safe and secure

Wandrd PRVKE Series Camera Bag

WANDRD PRVKE

  • Cost: > $239
  • > Tons of awesome features
  • > Custom made for cameras

best backpack air travel

Swiss Gear SA1186 Bungee (26 liters)

  • Cost: > $59.99
  • > Good organization options

Kodiak Sitka Leather Messenger

Kodiak Weekender

  • Cost: > $189
  • > Stylish and durable
  • > Fully carry on compliant

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Enough talking, let’s get right to it. Have a look at our favourite carry-on travel backpacks. Each of them has been tested to the max and reviewed so that you know exactly what to expect. If you do happen to need more space than a carry-on, be sure to check out our epic best travel backpack guide . You’ll find even more options there!

Nomatic Travel Bag 40L – Best Overall Carry On Backpack

Nomatic Travel Bag 40 L

Price (USD): 289.99

Capacity (Litres) : 40

Dimensions (CM): 35.56 x 53.34 x 22.86

Weight (KG): 1.55

Nomatic Travel Bag is 40L of backpack-engineering-perfection. This bag is carry on compliant with the large majority of airlines, and you’ll be doing it in style and with optimal efficiency.  This is a bag designed for modern, tech-savvy travellers – NOT for hikers/campers.

Not to be confused with the Nomatic Travel Pack (which we cover later) this brilliant piece of equipment is a modern backpack for a modern traveller. As long as you know how to pack for flying , then this bag has all the space you’ll need.

The Nomatic Travel Bag comes with 20 unique features including a shoe compartment, water bottle container, a secure valuables pocket and a ton of other features like padded shoulder straps and hip belt that made it an easy pick for the best carry on travel backpack. We have tested this pack extensively and several members of of team swear by it. The Nomatic looks and feels great and wins extra points for how softly it sits on our backs.

Between us, we own a few of these and have successfully taken them into the cabin on countless airlines. We love how sturdy the Nomatic feels no matter whether it is packed to the brim or half empty. It kept its shape due to the quality of the external material without adding too much extra weight.

Looking for more info? Check out our full review of the Nomatic Travel Bag! Another similar bag is the Arc’teryx Konseal Backpack .

  • 40L = Carry on compliant
  • Next level organisation
  • Backpack or duffel bag
  • Not for hiking/camping
  • Too much organisation/flash for some

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Tortuga Travel Pack – Best 40L Carry On Travel Backpack

Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L

Price (USD): 350

Capacity (Litres) : 45

Dimensions (CM): 53.34 x 35.56 x 22.86

Weight (KG): 1.49

The Tortuga Travel Pack is a serious piece of equipment. The revamped Travel Pack has been custom designed to be accepted for carry on all over the world. While similar to the Tortuga Setout , many features set it apart.

As well as being globally carry-on ready, it’s also got a phenomenal design, great organization, and it has HUGE amounts of space. Tortuga might be the company that best knows how to create space within their bags so you can pack the compartments to your heart’s content.

If you are looking for a bag for shorter trips, and everyday use, I think the Minaal or Aer will work better. But if you are a serious traveler and expect to be on the road for weeks or months at a time, a 40L will give you tons more space and capacity to take your clothes, and belongings with you.  The ability to take a bag like this on long term travels is amazing.

One thing I noticed about this pack is how durable and strong the zippers are!

Want to know more? Read our comprehensive review of the Tortuga Travel Pack then !

If not, then have a look at the new 40L Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite .

  • HUGE and very spacious
  • Great design
  • Cushioned Shoulder Straps and Hip Belt
  • Inside zipper feels weird to us

Aer Travel Pack 3 Backpack – Best Overall Carry On Backpack for EU Residents

Aer Flight Pack 2

Price (USD): 249

Capacity (Litres) : 35

Dimensions (CM): 55 x 34 x 22

Weight (KG): 1.68

Compact, but spacious enough to fit a ton of gear — the Aer Travel Pack 3 is easily one of the best everyday carry on backpacks .

Pack this bag full for your flight and then carry around just your necessities once you’re at your destination.  It transitions easily from daypack to carry on without screaming, “ Backpacker carrying my entire life in my backpack ” as you walk by, so great for one bag travel. If you enjoy well-made travel backpacks, you’ll love this one.

Most of The Broke Backpacker staff use this bag when we travel and there is a reason why it fast became our top pick… It’s one of the best travel backpacks out there and is great for those who miss out on the Nomatic.

I took this bag on a recent trip to France and it performed great. One of the stand-out features for me was how strong the zips felt. These chunky zippers were still smooth and more importantly whilst travelling with my laptop, lockable!

This section was short and sweet – to get all the deets on this bag, then read our comprehensive review of the AER Travel Pack 3.

  • Laptop compartment
  • Good organisation features
  • Carry on compliant
  • Small water bottle sleeve
  • No rain cover

best backpack air travel

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  Kodiak 30L Weekender Duffel – Best Leather Carry on Bag

Kodiak Weekender Duffel 30L

Price (USD): 189

Capacity (Litres) : 30

Dimensions (CM): 50.8 x 25.4 x 27.94

Weight (KG): 2.18

If you’re not planning a long trip, you won’t need more than 30 Liters of top-grain leather. This sleek duffel bag carries easily and fits into your overhead compartment while providing enough organised space to pack everything you need for a quick trip, perfect for one bag travel. 

No two Kodiak leather bags are the same.  Your weekender duffel  will bend and shift subtly with every trip to give your bag a more personalised look and feel. The reinforced brass straps will keep you out of trouble even if you have to gate check and the rugged interior features sidewall pockets for your passport and phone. 

You’ll have your choice of carrying options, and thanks to the slim dimensions, you’ll never have trouble slinging it over your shoulder or carrying it with one arm unless you’re taking it to bowling practice! 

This bag is the little brother of our favourite leather travel bag, but it’s proven more than capable of holding its own, especially amongst the more conventional travel backpacks on this list.

  • Minimalist design
  • Built to last
  • Two external pockets
  • Expensive per liter

LOJEL Urbo 2 Travelpack – Best Urban Carry-On Backpack

LOJEL Urbo 2 Travelpack

Price (USD): 125

Capacity (Litres) : 25

Dimensions (CM):

Weight (KG): 1.18

With a sleek style and durable outer shell, the LOJEL Urbo 2 Travelpack was an easy choice for our favorite urban carry-on backpack!

Designed to fulfill all your traveling needs, this backpack has enough compartments to put even the most OCD traveler at ease. Starting with the dedicated laptop compartment on the back, it was a tight squeeze but I was able to fit my 16 in. laptop in there snugly with some room to spare for another tablet.

The main compartment is accessed via a top loading, folding flap, paired with a side zipper to give you an easier time when digging around in the pack. Combine this with the inside compartments and anterior pocket, this pack can fit all the tech and travel comfort amenities you’d want to survive a day of traveling.

Sometimes when you come across a shirt in a local shop, it can seem almost unjust to deny yourself the pleasure of indulging. But don’t fret, the Urbo 2 has you covered. This 20-litre pack can expand to 23-litres with the side zipper, giving you 15 percent more space inside the pack for those last-minute treat-yourself purchases.

The overall build quality of the bag feels durable and I have no doubts this pack will stand up to the test of time.

Like the look of the brand but not sure about the bag? There are plenty more backpacks from LOJEL on offer.

Tropicfeel Shell Backpack – Best Travel Backpack for Organisation

Tropicfeel Shell Backpack

Dimensions (CM): 50.8 x 30.5 x 19.1

Weight (KG): 1.5

Let’s be honest, having everything put away neatly can be a full-on game-changer when travelling via aeroplane. That’s when the Tropicfeel Shell Backpack really starts to shine.

Tropicfeels flagship product, the Shell, is a small to medium backpack-sized with big ambitions. First up, it is a 3-1 extendable backpack that starts out as a 22-litre pack, then rolls up to 30 litres before the addition of a detachable pouch turns it into a 40-litre titan – how cool is that?!

Aside from being a 3-in-1 adjustable backpack, which you can adapt to use as a day pack, overnight pack and carry-on pack, the Shell also has another novel feature; its detachable hanging packing cube which acts as a portable, pre-loaded travel wardrobe. Packing and unpacking your backpack has never been this easy. When I first tested this backpack is blew my mind. Not only does it feel good to carry, but the organisational functionality made my packing and unpacking so much easier.

While you’re on the road, the compartment system keeps all of your belongings organised and neatly put away, so you can easily access everything without leaving a mess afterwards.

This by far one of the most unique packs I ever tried. While not everybody will want to use the packing-cane wardrobe all of the time, the pack has rightful found itself a dedicated fanbase. The packs materials and build quality are also excellent and backpack feels like it was built to last a few years.

  • Really fucking versatile
  • Truly novel and unique
  • Packs up easily
  • Fairly priced
  • Not big enough for big trips
  • Not cheap (yet not expensive)
  • Shoulder straps and hip belt could have more padding

Monarc Settra Duffel Backpack – Epic Recycled Carry on Duffel/Backpack

best backpack air travel

Price (USD): 175

Dimensions (CM): 38.1 x 30.48 x 20.32

Weight (KG): 2.04

The realities of travel can really take their toll on the planet. It’s no surprise that Ecological and Sustainable travel initiatives are now really gaining momentum. The Monarc 2-in-1 Duffle-Backpack is the world’s first backpack made from 100% recycled bottles and the producers have been awarded a highly coveted “plastic negative” rating.

But here this, not only is this backpack totally eco-friendly but it’s also a bloody great pack. Firstly, its 2-1 concept design means it can be worn as a backpack or carried as a duffel using the comfortable handle. If you do wear it on your bag, there are adjustable straps to help carry the weight.

Monarc Settra

Then there are the organisational possibilities. Its’ 40L of storage can go pretty far and the pack offers a shoe compartment and a 17” laptop sleeve. Coming in at $149.00, it’s well worth the bucks although if you have the budget we also recommend picking up the full set including camera cube, compression cubes and laundry bags. I will be honest, when I tried this pack I loved it as duffel (and still do) as it made my packing and organisation easy. However, as a backpack it didn’t feel entirely comfortable to me and I would not want to have had to carry it long distances.

Anything else? Oh yeah, it’s also water-resistant, TSA Carry-on compliant and comes with a lifetime guarantee!

Looking for more options? Check out our guide to the best carry on duffel bags .

  • Duffel bag or backpack
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Not as much tech-organization
  • Some people prefer a more modern look

Osprey Farpoint (40 liter) – A Close Second for Carry On of the Year

Osprey farpoint 40

Price (USD): 185

Weight (KG): 1.36

No one likes a tie. But the first two bags are so dominant, it was impossible to the best backpack for carry on travel. If you are trying to decide between the Aer and the Osprey, then it simply comes down to one thing – your personal style.

Specifically, it comes down to one thing. Are you the camping/hiking type? If so, steer clear from the AER, and get excited for the Farpoint 40 (aka the carry on travel backpack of your dreams).

Being 40 liters, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is the perfect size for a carry on, as you’ll be able to take this on 99% of flights. This bag is very well designed, has amazing organization, while still being super minimalistic. It can be used as for traveling, camping, hiking, hitching, and even for your work. This bag is really the best of all worlds, as even digital nomads and tech-savvy travelers use it as their number one backpack.

Osprey farpoint 40 review

Like the AER Travel Pack 3 Bag, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is also both a backpack, and a duffel bag, which enables you to use the bag in different ways depending on your situation.

The Osprey Farpoint is a popular bag amongst all of our team – we bloody love it. One of the stand-out features everyone seems to mention is just how much you can fit inside this for its size. The clamshell opening combined with internal and external compression straps are a gamechanger.

Be sure to read our full Osprey Farpoint 40 review.

  • Can be doubled as camping bag

Stubble and Co The Adventure Bag

Price (USD): 270

The Adventure Bag from Stubble & Co is possibly the most perfectly designed carry-on-sized travel bag I have ever seen.

Not only does it follow the trend of providing a clamshell opening, but it goes one step further by instead opening up into two mesh-covered areas. Not only that but each side is divided up into several different-sized zippered compartments. I am such a massive fan of this and it helps me keep all my gear super organised and fits my packing cubes in perfectly.

In terms of capacity, when combined with the superior organisational features, it offers the perfect size for both long backpacking trips, weekend breaks and short holidays. The size also means the bag is compliant for carry-on travel which is such a time and money saver on the road, not to mention lowering the possibility of your gear getting lost!

The material on The Adventure Bag is tough, durable and weather resistant whilst being completely soft-sided with no rigid elements. This makes the bag pretty light for this style and quality compared to some of the other similar packs I’ve tried out. It also makes it much easier to compress down using the side straps when things are getting a little tight!

Overall, we love the functionality of this bag for both long and short-term trips alike. The high quality of the materials and construction also gives me confidence in the bag’s ability to cope with the sort of abuse that comes with backpacking too!

  • Separate laptop compartment
  • Clamshell opening
  • Lots of organisation
  • PUSHES THE LIMITS OF CARRY ON!
  • Shape is a little boxy
  • On the pricey side

Minaal Carry On (35 liter) –  Best Carry On for Commuters

best travel backpack for europe

Price (USD): 349

Dimensions (CM): 55 x 35 x 20

Weight (KG): 1.41

The Minaal Carry On 2.0 is the sequel to their hugely popular Carry On 1.0 – and wow… they did not disappoint.

Minaal makes super high-quality equipment, as their products are made with incredible craftsmanship, and backed with a lifetime warranty.

Some of the coolest features are its 3D fabric pockets, lockable zippers, adjustable chest strap, magnet clips, and the fact that it comes with a carry on rain cover. Also, we LOVE that the laptop compartment is suspended away from the sides of the bag (to keep your computer extra safe).

Here’s the truth.

The AER Travel Pack 2 and the Minaal Carry On 2.0 are quite similar. Both are well organized, urban-style travel bags that should not be used for hiking or camping. They are both marketing to modern travellers who are looking for a sleek, efficient carry-on. However, the Minaal Carry On 2.0 separates itself from AER by being less of a tech-bag, and more of an urban bag.

Yes, the Minaal still has amazing tech organisation, it just seems more like a bag for the common person. Where a travelling professional or a digital nomad might make more use of AER design, the Minaal definitely seems to cater to non-travelling professionals which gives it enormous appeal.

In practical use one of the stand-out features here is the sturdy and comfortable side handle. It feels strong yet soft in the hand and allows the bag to be carried like a briefcase, making it feel much more professional.

  • Tons of incredible features
  • 35 litres might be the perfect size
  • Sleek, minimal design
  • Not for the super tech-savvy
  • 35 Litres might be too small for some

Osprey Stratos (33 or 36 liter) – Best Hiking Carry On Backpack

Osprey Stratos 36

Price (USD): 220

Capacity (Litres) : 33/36

Dimensions (CM): 68 x 37.26 x 27

Weight (KG): 210

Are you seeing a trend with Osprey bags here at The Broke Backpacker? We kind of love them. But how could you blame us? They make quality backpacks, and the Osprey Stratos 36 is a sterling example of that and it rates as one of the best ultralight backpacks on the market – honestly, you will not believe how light this backpack feels!!!

The Osprey Stratos is a hiking bag first, and a travel bag second. While it may look a bit out of place in an airport, the true backpackers out there will be well used to this style of backpack.

And also, at 33 or 36 litres (depending on the size you buy) you can be 100% assured that this bag is ALWAYS going to be with you on the plane. On that point, this bag comes in two sizes. The S/M is 33 litres and the M/L is 36 litres. While we adore lightweight travel here, 33 litres is small and is not recommended to travel for long periods of time.

The 36 litres could definitely double as a hiking bag and a travel bag – you just need to be prepared to go super minimal. If you do then you’ll have one of the coolest hiking backpacks on the market!

Read our  full Osprey Stratos 36 review if you need more details.

  • Always carry on compliant
  • The cream of the crop for ultra-light hiking backpacks
  • New updated design
  • Ventilated mesh back panel
  • Likely too small for most travelers
  • Only good for hikers/campers
  • Mixed reviews on the pocket sizes

Nomatic Travel Pack – Best Carry on Laptop Backpack

Nomatic Backpack

Weight (KG): 1.56

Nomatic has done it again, and if this bag were slightly bigger, it could be our overall number one choice. But since it’s only 30 litres which is a little small for one bag travel, we thought it best to put it here, as the best carry on laptop backpack of 2024.

The Nomatic Travel Pack is technically a 20 litre, but with some creative engineering, the Nomatic crew has given their Travel Pack users the opportunity to expand into 30 litres. This is probably one of the coolest features of any bag we’ve seen, and because of this, the Nomatic Travel Pack is one of the most badass bags on the market and a great option for carry on luggage.

This bag comes down to one thing – is it big enough for you? (If it’s not, the next one on the list will be). There is also a bigger version with wheels .

If you can swing 20-30 litres, then this bag will be a godsend for you. It’s super stylish, incredibly modern and sleek and also includes a compression packing cube, a waist strap, and a TSA approved lock. This is why it’s one of the best carry on bags for electronics.

As any great laptop backpack should do, the laptop sleeve is also TSA friendly, meaning you can simply unzip the back panel (Where your laptop lays) and can send the bag through security without having to take the laptop out. As any professional traveller knows, this small convenience really adds up over time.

  • Can expand from 20 to 30 litres
  • Sleek and padded laptop compartment
  • Magnetic water bottle pockets
  • Way too small for long term travellers

best backpack air travel

Now, you  could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.

So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card!  REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉

WANDRD PRVKE 31 – Best Carry On for Cameras

Wandrd PRVKE Series Camera Bag

Price (USD): 239

Capacity (Litres) : 31

Dimensions (CM): 48 X 30 X 18

The WANDRD PRVKE 31 is the best camera backpack on the market for non-professional photographers.

We think this for a few reasons…

First off – the bag is extremely versatile and extremely durable. Its versatility and durability are awesome because it means the WANDRD PRVKE 31 can be used for more than just a camera bag. Good for hiking with the comfy shoulder straps, a great daypack, or even a small travel backpack if you pack light – the magic is in the WANDRD’s ability to be more than just a camera backpack.

The WANDRD is also a super convertible carry on! There are lots of ways that you could pimp this bad boy: extra straps for accessories, a clip-on hip belt, packing cubes for different camera kits, and a rainfly for when it rains!

Not to say it’s not a great camera backpack – it totally is! The WANDRD PRVKE 31 can handle a ton of camera gear, but it will not be able to accommodate larger photography kits. WANDRD also do a belting packable backpack which is great for taking along for day trips.

If you’re looking for specialised camera backpacks for your carry on luggage then this is a great shout. The great thing is the packing space can be easily reconfigured if you don’t have camera equipment or you need to remove it for the day.

I’ve personally had this bag now for a couple of years and there’s plenty I love about it, but the main one is organisation. The sections of the bag allow me to keep all my camera equipment together and accessible whilst leaving space in the top section for everything else.

To learn more about this sweet bag, check out our brutally honest review of the WANDRD PRVKE 31 !

  • Very durable and robust
  • Tons of pockets
  • Comes with handy accessories
  • Limited space for cameras/equipment
  • Magnetic handles are just OK

Osprey Sojourn Porter (46 liters) – Best Carry On for Adventurous Techies

Osprey Porter

Price (USD): 375

Capacity (Litres) : 46

Dimensions (CM): 80.01 x 35.56 x 22.86

Weight (KG): 1.79

The Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 is the largest backpack for carry-on on this list – and while it still can be  carry on compliant… you’re rolling the dice a bit with this one.

But for some people though this might be the perfect bag to roll the dice with! Aside from being a great hiking/camping/travelling backpack, the Osprey Porter 46 is hands down the best old-school backpacking backpack that handles a laptop.

There are two distinct reasons why…

  • Do you see that side panel? That panel is basically a tank-like forcefield of protection. Those side panels are one of the stand out features of the Porter 46, as they help stabilize and compress your bag (while keeping your goods safe and secure!). Very good for laptops!
  • The laptop compartment is on the BACK of this bag, which is a fantastic design choice by Osprey. By having the laptop compartment against your back, it means your laptop will always remain flat. This is one of our biggest flaws against the Osprey Farpoint 40. The Farpoint 40 has the laptop compartment in the front of the bag – which means the more stuff you pack, the more pressure gets put on the laptop.

Because of the side panels, the Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 is one of the sturdiest and strongest bags on the market – which has obvious benefits if you are travelling with a laptop, it’s one of the best nomad backpacks for this reason.

Aside from that you are obviously still getting the perks of buying Osprey gear, including amazing customer support, and the lifetime guarantee.

I have had this pack for a few years now and love its style and how study it is. The organisational capacity of it basic but practical and you can pack all you need for a week or so. It is a bit heavier than some other packs but there are side carry handles for when your back needs a rest.

Check out our full review of the Osprey Sojourn Porter!  

  • A hiking bag with great laptop protection
  • Well priced
  • Good for hiking, camping or traveling
  • Big. This is not going to be carry on compliant for all airlines
  • Lacks some features of newer, more modern bags

RIVACASE 7562 Laptop Backpack – The Best Carry On for Business Trips

best backpack air travel

Capacity (Litres) :

Dimensions (CM): 12 x 35 x 45

Weight (KG): 500g

In case puts together some great bags, and this one is our favourite on their line.

The RIVACASE 7562 Laptop Backpack is a well-designed carry on laptop backpack, made with heavy-duty materials, and built for style and durability.

This bag is marketed as a ‘ business professional backpack ‘, but we think they did a great job with the design, and can be used for casual travellers and everyday use as well.

We put this on the list for a few reasons. Obviously, it’s a great bag. But also, out of the three laptop carry on options – this is the smallest. If you are looking for something more manageable (as opposed to the AER 40 litres, and the Osprey Porter 46 litres) the Incase is a great choice for shorter trips (2-3 days max).

This is because of its cool features. Similar to the AER Travel Pack 3, the RIVACASE 7562 Laptop Backpack has a feature that allows it to expand or contract its size. Meaning if you need it to be an everyday backpack – it can be! And if you need it to be a backpack for a three-day trip – it can do that as well!

This bag can double for a day to day bag as well, giving you the best of both worlds.

Looking for something similar but different? Check out the dedicated laptop travel backpacks on offer and see what suits you.

Our team usually travels with laptops and plenty of other tech accessories, and it was the organisation for these bits and pieces that they highlighted as a feature they loved the most about this this sleek pack.

  • Fits up to a 15.6″ laptop
  • Super easy laptop access
  • Nice padding with back panels
  • Too small for a long-term primary travel bag

Tortuga Travel Backpack (40 liter) – THE Longterm International Carry On Backpack

Tortuga Outbreaker

Weight (KG): 2.0

The Travel Backpack was built for two things – organization and durability for long term travellers. And it has absolutely accomplished both.

We put this bag as the best carry on backpack for international travel because of how much stuff you can fit in here. It’s easily the largest carry backpack bag we’ve ever seen, and you’ll be astonished how much you can actually fit in it.

This is because of its luggage-esque design. The Tortuga Travel Backpack has a square shape, so what you lack in style, you certainly make up for in space. Also, the Travel Backpack is made from the same material that boat sails are made from – this is one TOUGH bag, and it will last you a lifetime.

But because of its material, this bag isn’t the most stylish, nor is it the most malleable, but it’s a phenomenal bag for long term, international travel (and also a great carry on backpack for Europe!). The Tortuga Travel Backpack is basically luggage with a well-designed strap system so you can wear it as a backpack.

To answer that you need to consider what is more important to you. Simply put – if you are looking for something more stylish and light, go with the Setout. If you are looking for something a bit bigger and that will last through the apocalypse, go with the Travel Backpack.

The Travel Backpack comes in a 30L and a 40L – both are viable options, but the 40L seems to be much more popular.

When we asked our team of testers what they loved the most about this bag it had to be the shape and clamshell opening. The squared-off corners make fitting in packing cubes easy and simple making it possibly the best carry on backpacking backpack for fellow OCD sufferers!

Need more info? You gotta check out our  full Tortuga Travel Backpack review!

  • Most packing space of any carry on travel backpack
  • Incredibly durable
  • An organisational masterpiece
  • Dedicated laptop compartment is well protected and easily accessible
  • It’s huge, and some airlines will absolutely make you check this bag
  • Very expensive

Osprey Sojourn (46 liter) – Best Suitcase Backpack Hybrid

best backpack air travel

Price (USD): 195

Dimensions (CM): 46H X 40W X 31D

Weight (LBS): 3.45

The Osprey Sojourn is truly a one of a kind product. 1/2 backpack, 1/2 luggage, the Sojourn is the best of both worlds and is truly an incredible and unique bag…

The most important thing to realise is this – this is a rolling suitcase FIRST, and a backpack as a very, very, very far second. It’s got hidden backpack straps that can be unzipped and put into action whenever needed but is too heavy to carry over serious distances.

If you are looking for a straight-up backpack – look elsewhere. While the Sojourn’s backpack feature is well designed, it’s only meant to be used when you need it. If you are looking for a backpack, the Sojourn’s wheel system is giving you additional weight that your back will not appreciate. Use the backpack straps, but do so sparingly. This baby is meant to roll 90% of the time.

While the 46 litres might be a bit big for some budget airlines, you should be good to take the Sojourn as a carry on on most of your flights. However do note that it is heavy when packed and not easy to pop into the overhead compartment.

Like most Osprey packs, we love this bag’s design, organisational capacity and durability (its solid). The Sojourn 46 is easily the best-wheeled backpack carry on available, and if you are looking for some sort of carry on rolling luggage – we think you found your bag.

Still not sold? Check out our monster guide to the Osprey Sojourn .

  • Doubles as rolling suitcase and backpack
  • Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee
  • lockable zippers help keep your gear safe and secure
  • Great organisation
  • It’s heavy when used as a backpack

LowePro Pro Tactic 450 AW (45 liter) – The Most Professional Carry On Camera Backpack

Lowepro ProTactic 45 AW

Price (USD): 275

Dimensions (CM): 30 x 16 x 44

Weight (KG): 2.7

Over the years, we’ve looked at a ton of camera backpacks, yet we always come back to the LowePro.

These bags are designed with the ultimate efficiency and are nothing short of a godsend for professional and aspiring photographers.

This bag can  safely and securely  fit 2 DSLR’s, up to 8 lenses, and a laptop. The design is impressive, as the bag allows for customisation, so you can create compartments personalised for your photography needs. If you combine that with some packing cubes for your clothing, you can easily have a super organised bag that will hold all your gear.

With its size, you can guarantee the LowePro 450 AW is 100% carry on compliant.

The LowePro 450 comes at a hefty price tag, but it’s worth it. Not only do you get this amazing camera bag, but it also comes with a bunch of accessories including a bottle pouch, and a rain case. If you are looking for the best carry on camera backpack – this is it!

Let us emphasise – this is a bag for hardcore camera enthusiasts, and it was an easy choice for the best carry on camera backpack. With all that gear things can get heavy, so you need your bag to be comfy, lucky this guys got padded shoulder straps and a hip belt.

If you are interested in something less professional, check out our best camera bags or the WANDRD PRVKE 31. However, if you’re after something even more professional, the Peak Design travel backpack 45l is a great shout. In fact, there’s a few different Peak Design bags that are also very good for travelling photographers.

After using this bag on a few trips my favourite feature as a photographer has to be the side access. The zip is smooth and easy to use in those situations where you want to whip your camera out quickly.

  • Tons of awesome features
  • Customisable
  • Stylish and well designed
  • Dedicated laptop sleeve
  • Padded shoulder straps & hip belt

REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack – Best Budget Carry On Backpack

best backpack air travel

Price (USD): 149

Dimensions (CM): 60.96 x 35.56 x 25.4

Weight (KG): 1.81

REI deserves a bit more credit for their backpacks – they are well crafted, well-reviewed, and the Rucksack 40 is one of their finest!

If you are looking for the best budget carry on hiking backpack (and you the rucksack look!) meet your new carry on.

The Rucksack is marketed as both a travel bag and a hiking bag – and we completely agree! While certainly a bit more on the camping side than the travel side, this bag can do whatever you need it to do. REI’s bags are extremely durable, so no matter where in the world you take this bag it’ll stand the test of time (while also being carry on compliant!)

The Rucksack is simple – but you get what you pay for.  None of the mouthwatering features on Osprey or AER will be available on this bag. So if you want to keep everything organised it might be worth investing in a few packing cubes and tech pouches.

But! Having said that, this is still a fine bag, it will be very durable, and it’s probably the best value 40l backpack carry on, on the market right now.

For our team, what they really loved about this bag was how much of an all-rounder it was. It’s perfect for urban trips or hiking adventures being comfortable and durable enough to withstand all your activities.

  • Super affordable
  • Classic rucksack look
  • Great ventilation/back support
  • Lacks the features of other bags
  • Preferrable for hikers/campers
  • Might be too big for ultra-light campers

Swiss Gear SA1186 Bungee (26 liters) – The Simplest Backpack for Carry On

best backpack air travel

Price (USD): 58.60

Capacity (Litres) : 26

Dimensions (CM): 45.09 x 33.02 x 17.78

Weight (KG): 0.86

Swiss is a reputable brand, and its backpacks are no exception. The Swiss Gear 1186 is a simple bag – but for the price, it’s actually pretty impressive!

The bag is made of durable polyester fibre, is fairly large and has a bungee cord system in front to further help your organization.

This bag is a bit small, but we wanted to give a budget option for a smaller bag. This is more of a great budget day bag or if you travel super light, it could be good for a 1-2 day trip.

For our testers, they loved how this carry on backpacking pack was simple, durable and didn’t overcomplicate matters. It’s the ideal bag for those short last minute trips.

  • Good organisation options
  • 100% carry on compliant
  • Lacks many features
  • Not the most stylish option

Incase Icon – Best Carry On for Comfort

Incase Icon Slim Backpack

Price (USD): 219.95

Dimensions (CM): 48.26 x 33.02 x 22.86

Weight (KG): 0.79

Just in case you weren’t blown away by any of the previous 14 best carry on bags, we included the Incase Icon as a bonus bag.

This bag is in a similar line to AER and Minaal – very modern, sleek, well organised and tech-friendly. Our team particularly loved how well it fits a laptop, cables, chargers and all the other accessories that come with being a blogger!

  • Feature heavy
  • Great for laptops
  • Super stylish – great design
  • Not a hiking/camping bag

Standard Luggage Backpack – Best 3-in-1 Carry On

Standard Luggage

Dimensions (CM): 54.61 x 34.29 x 19.05

The backpack market is constantly changing and evolving so 2024 sees another contender make it onto our illustrious list!

Standard Luggage has been on our radar, making high-quality packs for a while now. This pack, the dedicated 35 litres carry on pack, is custom designed for the modern airport.

What makes this bag unique is its 3-IN-1 convertible design which allows you to wear it as a backpack, suitcase or shoulder bag. It is also ergonomic and the backpack straps are comfortable and ventilated. Then there is the lockable zips, the rain cover and custom pockets for water bottles and tablet.

Also, many airlines are now asking passengers to check even carry-on bags which causes hold-ups upon landing. Because of the design of this as well as its wearability, you will almost certainly never  be asked to check this one which is a big plus for me.

What our testers loved most about this bad was its versatility, the strap design was easy to reconfigure from a backpack to a shoulder bag for example and was comfy in all its incarnations.

  • Great features
  • Very comfortable
  • Very high-quality materials
  • Not ideal for taking outdoors
  • Not the cheapest on the list

While there is no perfect science at play here, we nevertheless gave these packs a pretty good and solid testing. Over a period of time, various members of our team took these different carry on packs on various trips to out them well and truly through their paces.

best backpack air travel

In all cases we were paying close attention to a number of different factors which are;

Packability

Carry on packs are limited when it comes to how much you can fit in them. Therefore any decedent carry in needs to make sure it maximises the space it does have and facilitates effective packing. Equally though, we also paid attention to how easy the pack was to unpack – being able to retrieve items quickly and easily bags a bag, bags of bonus points!

Weight and Comfort of Carrying

If a pack is overly heavy or awkward to carry then taking it along on trips becomes uncomfortable. Believe me on this, I have had more than my fair share of backpacks that just weighed an ounce or two, too much or perhaps had crappy straps that dug into my shoulders. As such we awarded full marks for packs that minimise weight and maximum comfort.

Dimensions and Carry-On-Ability

You would be surprised at how many “carry on packs” don’t actually fit into the overhead cabins on flights. Basically a well made carry-on is universally “carry-on” compliant, keeps its shape even when fully packed and avoids the malevolent glare of zealous Ryanair employees who seem hell bent on making you check your bag in to the hold.

Some people say that travel gear doesn’t need to look good as long as it functions. Well those people are fools because good gear can be both practical and cool. As such we also awarded points for how sexy a pack looks.

Ideally, in order to really test out how durable a backpack is we would drop it from a plane and then run over it. Unfortunately though that is not entirely feasible so instead, we simply inspected the materials used and the build quality off the packs paying attention to things like the seem sewing, the traction of the zips and other pressure points that tend to break.

tortuga travel backpack

Still have some questions? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:

What size does a carry on backpack have to be?

The dimensions of the allowed carry on size differ from airline to airline, but generally speaking, your bag should fit in the overhead compartment or not exceed the 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches dimension.

What is the cheapest carry on backpack?

Budget travellers will absolutely love the Swiss Gear SA1186 Bungee . Not only is it super affordable, it’s also pretty stylish and comfortable to carry.

What is the best carry on backpack for international travel?

When flying internationally, you’re very likely to have quite a few things to pack. The Tortuga Outbreaker offers plenty of storage space that can fit all your belongings.

Is there any stylish carry on backpacks?

We absolutely love the design of these epic carry on backpacks: – Nomatic Travel Bag – WANDRD PRVKE 31 – RIVACASE 7562 Laptop Backpack

best backpack air travel

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aer flight pack 2 review

There you have it!

These are without a doubt the best carry on bags. With the help of this guide, we know that you’ll easily be able to find the best backpack for flying.

And remember, in case you can’t decide, our top two options are Nomatic Travel Bag 40L (for more modern, tech-savvy travellers) and the Osprey Farpoint 40 (for travellers who like to camp a bit or prefer the old school backpacker look).

What are your thoughts? Have we forgotten any of the best carry on packs of 2024? Let us know in the comments below 🙂

best backpack air travel

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photo of a person holding a smartphone with Holafly logo

Unfortunately, very few if not all of these bags will not be carry-on compliant as of 2024. Especially those that have an inner metal or plastic frame. If you can’t squish your bag down, you may have the same issue I did recently with my Osprey bag which has a 30L capacity. Great bag. Can’t praise it enough, but after the recent crackdown on carry-on bags, I couldn’t get my bag into the carry-on compliance checker (I don’t know what it’s called). After several tries of moving things around, I attempted to bend the frame, thus damaging my bag and it still didn’t fit the checker. So, warnings to you! Get a bag that that can be compacted easily. Probably something that’s no more than 25L.

The Stratos 36 is too tall to go as a carry on. Numerous sites claim that you just need to repack and not topload it, but the metal frame from the ventilation system itself is 2 inches over the limit

Aaron – happened upon your site and approve of your ‘brutal honesty’. Thank you for your research and insightful opinion. Among the ‘pros and cons’ though, there is no mention of the bags respective weights or is this info embedded in your article? Not long ago I was restricted to a single carry-on bag as my only luggage for nearly two months, and with numerous flights and just 7kg, every gram counts! This critical specification was a major factor in choosing the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Travel Bag which weighs about 1kg, but as you rightly say, it all depends on one’s travel needs and style. Happy trails fellow pilgrim! Regards, James

Great article, full of useful information and comparisons to help select the backpack that fits your needs the most. Thank you.

I loved this article. Thank you. I love Osprey in general and really like the Farpoint 40, but I don’t hike or camp and need a bag that is carry on 100 Percent of the time. I usually need to pack for only a few days. My Osprey Porter 30 is perfect.

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Travel Away

19 Carry-On Backpacks to Take on Your Next Flight

This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase through these links. See our full disclosure here .

You simply can’t beat the versatility of a carry-on backpack. These contemporary pieces of travel are insanely practical, comfortable to carry, and, best of all, their functionality extends way beyond the airplane’s cabin.

Built with travel efficiency in mind, our favorite picks seamlessly transition through a variety of terrains and circumstances. Some of them can withstand the worst wear and tear, others come with a dash of refined minimalism, which makes them ideal for city breaks and business trips, and all are brilliantly engineered to magically pack a ton of stuff into a compact, streamlined design.

Here is our selection of the best carry-on backpacks in 2024, one more carefully thought-out than the other.

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45 L

Best Carry-On Travel Backpack

Even in a market saturated with competitors, it’s hard not to fall for Peak Design’s fresh approach to functionality and design. This started nine years ago with the creation of their wildly successful Capture Camera Clip and remains proudly visible in the Travel Backpack 45L .

Fitted out with a weatherproof 400D nylon canvas shell, an elegant expanding mechanism, clever tuck-away shoulder straps, and ultra-light padded foam throughout, this is the ultimate carry-on travel backpack. It’s strong, handsome, and gloriously adaptable.

As well as expanding from a 35 L cabin bag to a 45 L check-in luggage, it also compresses down to a 30 L daypack, offering creative versatility. And don’t even get me started on those magical magnetic closures and smartly positioned access points, which add to both looks and functionality. Last but not least, there are all sorts of zippered, mesh, soft-lined, and hidden pockets for organized packing, including a dividing panel that separates the backpack into two compartments.

I’ve now taken the Peak Design Travel Backpack on a couple of national/international flights and countless road trips, and it’s proved to be an invaluable companion. When paired with the brand’s Camera Cubes, it also makes an excellent pick for traveling photographers.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus

Minimalist travel backpack

Slim aesthetics and modern functionality make this Bellroy pack an ideal choice for traveling professionals and weekend warriors alike.

Lightweight and minimal, the Transit Backpack Plus works well in urban settings but has the robustness and weather resistance needed to deal with more demanding environments.

It’s made from durable, recycled materials, with premium, environmentally certified leather accents, and its space-saving design, with thoughtfully engineered pockets and compartments, takes on-the-go organization to the next level. There’s a quick access 15″ laptop compartment, sleeves for all kinds of miscellaneous items, as well as a number of discreet external-access pockets for wallet, documents, and water bottle.

On top of that, contents are held securely in place with internal compression straps; a removable sternum strap and hideaway waist belt help distribute the load efficiently, and the bag’s breathable contoured back panel makes it comfortable to wear all day long.

After using the Transit on adventures near and far, including multiple plane trips, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone in search of a lightweight carry-on backpack.

Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L

Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L

Even at 4.5 lbs (2 kg), our recent testing revealed that the 40 L Tortuga Travel Backpack is still one of the most comfortable-to-wear options around. But that’s hardly its only selling point. Crafted from super-durable, recycled, and waterproof materials and filled to the brim with organizational features, this maximum-size carry-on backpack is the perfect suitcase alternative for week-long trips.

Its smart, adjustable suspension system, along with the thick, foam-padded shoulder straps, removable hip belt, sternum strap, and load lifters, keeps you comfortable in transit, while the well-designed front panel and protected laptop/tablet compartment make sure you have all travel essentials at your fingertips.

Just as important, the pack has room for a week’s worth of clothes in its huge clamshell-style main compartment and sports lockable, weather-resistant zippers for added security.

Db Ramverk Pro Backpack 32L

Best carry-on backpack in 2024

A sleek, minimalist-looking backpack packed with features, Ramverk Pro Backpack 32L is a clever pick for creatives, adventurers, and anyone in between. It offers more than enough room for a few days worth of travel essentials, and packing is easy as the front panel fully unzips to allow total access to the spacious main compartment. Meanwhile, if you require a compartmentalized protective organization for your photography equipment, this can be customized with padded dividers or a camera insert.

An ingenious top pocket and a series of interior mesh sections offer convenient storage for smaller valuables, while a separate, padded computer compartment fits 16″ laptops. Like most of Db’s bags, this one sports the brand’s unique rib cage construction for extra protection and its patented hook-up system, which lets you attach multiple bags together for ease of transportation.

For a closer look at its highlights, check out our piece on the best backpacks we tested this year .

Carl Friedrik 72-hour Backpack

72-hour Backpack

We like front-loading backpacks for travel, but up until now, we haven’t seen one as elegant as this pick from Carl Friedrik.

Dressed in sleek black nylon and detailed with classy Vachetta leather trims, it’s a sophisticated option for style-savvy wanderers. But look beyond its luxuriously refined exterior, and you’ll find an abundance of modern practicality.

Designed to accommodate three days’ worth of travel, the 72-hour Backpack is laden with clever pockets for organizing essentials, and its main compartment opens flat for easy packing. An integrated luggage holder and a separate external-access laptop compartment for devices up to 16″ make it perfect for business travelers.

Monos Metro Backpack

Vegan leather carry-on backpack

Cut from water-resistant, ultra-microfiber vegan leather, the Monos Metro Backpack mixes reliable toughness with a surprising amount of organization, all within a stylish, structured silhouette that goes effortlessly from work to weekend.

The clamshell opening gives you full access to the roomy main compartment for efficient clothes packing, while thoughtful pockets and compartments organize documents, electronics, and other accessories. There’s even a stretchable, waterproof privacy section designed to keep your shoes and wet bathing suits separate from the rest of your contents. The bag’s smartest feature, however, is the detachable front Dopp kit, which functions as an independent pouch for your essentials while on the move.

Topo Designs Global Travel Bag Roller

Carry-on backpack for young people

Easily the most adaptable carry-on backpack on the list, the Global Travel Bag Roller stands out for its rugged-meets-stylish design and heavy-duty wheels, which add a whole new level of convenience to your ride.

Part backpack, part rolling suitcase, this is one of the lightest carry-on luggage pieces we’ve come across, and it’s a clever choice for multi-taskers and one-bag adventurers alike. Complementing its recycled nylon exterior are tough YKK zippers, a pair of crush-proof wheels, and various handles so you can carry it in different ways.

Built to make traveling easier, this hybrid Topo Designs piece also scores big on organization with two spacious internal compartments and multiple mesh and zippered pockets for smaller items.

With so many great features, it is little surprise that it made our list of the best carry-on luggage for men .

Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack

Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack

Matador bills its GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack as “the ultimate pack for the world traveler”. We’d say it’s a fierce competition, but they’re not far from the truth.

Conceived to withstand any adventure, this carry-on-compliant backpack has all the right features – a clamshell architecture for ease of packing, excellent carrying comfort, and endless organizational pockets for separating your gear. The pack is built around an aluminum frame for added strength, and the durable, water-resistant materials used in its construction are sustainably sourced. Meanwhile, an external padded compartment offers quick access to your laptop, and its outdoor-inspired fit and weight distribution ensure superior comfort on the go.

Troubadour Explorer Aero Backpack

Multifunctional carry on backpack

Troubadour’s Explorer collection blurs the lines between work packs and adventure bags with innovative technical materials and streamlined forms. If you want the packing capacity of a duffel bag in backpack form, look no further than their luxe Aero Backpack , which features an impressive 34L capacity – perfect for traveling – alongside stellar additions like a dedicated shoe pocket, a separate laptop section, and a trolley sleeve that slides over your suitcase handle.

Made with lightweight, waterproof recycled fabrics, this carry-on-friendly backpack is designed around a spacious tube-shaped compartment for stowing everything you need on the go and sports a unique zip-top opening for easy access to your items. The breathable back panel and ergonomic memory foam shoulder straps ensure you can effortlessly carry around the bag all day. There’s also a quick-access top-zippered pocket for keeping your documents and other personal items within reach.

Tropicfeel Nest

Perfect edc backpack for travel

At 16 liters, the Nest may fall into the everyday carry backpacks category, but with its modular add-ons, it morphs into the perfect carry-on backpack, providing plenty of room for your personal items.

Crafted from water-resistant, recycled materials, Nest features well-padded shoulder straps, a breathable back panel complete with luggage pass-through, and a clamshell main compartment that you can organize to your liking using Tropicfeel’s thoughtful accessories. Likewise, a 4L kangaroo pocket that folds out from the bottom of the bag, a 10L packing cube designed to fit within the front pocket, and a detachable divider called Spider Net System increase the backpack’s capacity from 16L to 30L, providing versatile external storage for your gear.

I’ve had it for almost two years, and it’s a great backpack for air travel, and really any scenario.

Samsonite Silhouette 17 Backpack

Backpack that opens like a suitcase

Can’t decide between a suitcase and a backpack? You don’t have to. Samsonite’s Silhouette 17 Backpack offers the best of both worlds in a streamlined, contemporary design, ideal for modern travelers.

Made from the brand’s proprietary Recyclex, a sustainable fabric created using 100% recycled PET bottles, this durable all-in-one bag makes packing a breeze thanks to its convenient split-case opening and meticulously organized interior. Unlike top-opening rucksacks, this backpack opens like a suitcase, revealing a spacious main compartment for easy, organized packing – all while meeting carry-on size requirements. An adjustable garment compression panel minimizes wrinkling, and the WetPak pocket keeps wet items separate.

Additionally, business travelers will appreciate the backpack’s 3-way convertible design, which enables it to be comfortably carried as a backpack, briefcase, or shoulder bag, as well as its smart tech-oriented features, including a fully padded laptop pocket and a removable TecKit complete with USB pass-through & wireless charging capabilities.

Briggs & Riley Medium Cargo Backpack

Best carry on backpack for international travel

Style and practicality meet in this tech-savvy carry-on backpack from Briggs & Riley. Constructed from rugged, moisture-resistant 1680D ballistic nylon, the Medium Cargo Backpack withstands whatever you throw at it while still looking sleek.

It’s a beautiful, sturdy bag with a polished, professional look, but perhaps the greatest thing about it is its internal organization – the three-section interior design, with quick-access laptop/tablet storage and an array of intuitive pockets, makes it easy to pack and stay organized on the go.

A signature SpeedThru pocket keeps your valuables safe and on hand at security checkpoints, while an RFID-blocking pocket protects your passport and credit cards against identity theft/electronic pickpocketing. Top it all off with Briggs & Riley’s legendary lifetime warranty, and you’ve got yourself one of the coolest carry-on backpacks on the market.

NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag

Carry-on luggage backpack

Durable, weatherproof, and chock-full of innovative features, it’s no wonder travelers worldwide are obsessed with the NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag . Designed for trips of up to 7 days, this sleek bag is the max carry-on size and transitions from backpack to duffle in a snap thanks to its patented strap system.

But probably what makes the NOMATIC backpack one of the best carry-on travel bags around is its unrivaled compartmentalization. Separate pockets for shoes, clothes, gadgets, and everything in between provide versatile, efficient organization of all your belongings while also allowing you to pack more in less space. Meanwhile, a hangable laundry bag keeps dirty clothes separate while traveling, and the TSA-ready flap lets you breeze through security checkpoints without removing your tech.

Solgaard Venture Backpack

Travel backpack with removable hanging closet

Stay organized and productive on the go with the Solgaard Venture Backpack , a clever travel backpack made with innovative fabrics created from upcycled ocean-bound plastic and equipped with the brand’s award-winning FlowCloset™ travel system.

Conceived with modern travelers in mind, this recycled, one-of-a-kind bag acts as a mobile wardrobe, complete with a removable hanging closet with compression straps that will keep your clothes tidy and easily accessible.

It also includes a “workzone” and a “lifezone”, so you can organize your work items and personal belongings separately, and it comes with cool features like secret pockets and a suitcase seatbelt strap for effortless mobility.

The large version expands from 20 to 31 liters, providing ample room for a week’s worth of outfits and gear. However, those looking for a carry-on backpack for international travel should instead opt for the medium model.

WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffle Backpack

Best travel backpack carry-on

Whether on outdoor adventures, photography trips, or flights to Europe, protect your gear on the go with this ultra-organized bag from WANDRD. Combining dedicated camera compartments with separate areas for storage of clothes and accessories, the carry-on-sized HEXAD Access Duffel Backpack leaves no desire unfulfilled.

Complete with three large sections and a variety of thoughtful pockets, this well-engineered backpack/duffel hybrid is loaded with utility. Not only that, but it’s made from strong, weather-resistant materials and comes with a convenient clamshell opening, plus dual side access, for easy packing & retrieval of items. Inside, there’s space for everything, including a padded laptop sleeve, an expandable laundry pocket, and a fleece-lined phone pocket. Internal mesh dividers make organizing a snap, while grab handles on all four sides add to the bag’s versatility.

Thule Crossover 2 Convertible Backpack

Thule Convertible Backpack

Designed with smart packers in mind, the Thule Crossover 2 Convertible Backpack offers a streamlined aesthetic and great organization while meeting carry-on luggage size restrictions for most airlines.

Durable, lightweight, and tastefully understated, it’s just as good for one-bag travel as it is as a practical cabin companion on longer trips. Actually, we’d go as far as to say it wouldn’t look out of place at the office, either.

Made from wear-resistant nylon, this 41L convertible travel pack easily transforms from a backpack to a shoulder bag and comes with an RFID-blocking pocket for added safety.

The main compartment opens up flat for effortless packing, and a vast array of pockets, including a dedicated, padded laptop section, keep all your gadgets in place during transit. A pair of tuck-away backpack straps, a removable, padded shoulder strap, and padded handles on all sides provide versatile carrying options, and there’s also a pass-through strap so you can slide it over the handles of your suitcase when navigating airport terminals.

Rugged backpack

If you’re looking for a gigantic travel pack that fits a ton while still falling into the cabin-size category, this is it. Say hello to the largest possible carry-on: the GORUCK GR3 .

Featuring 45L of storage, a rugged 1000D nylon Cordura construction, and a bombproof laptop compartment, this beast is ready to go anywhere and do anything. The extra padded shoulder straps and removable hip belt are extremely practical, given that this bag is designed to handle over 400 pounds. Other nifty details include silent YKK zippers, MOLLE bottom attachment, and an integrated hydration system.

Inside, various pockets, two side compression straps, and a Velcro back panel for additional packing cubes allow for optimized organization of contents during travel.

Knack Convertible Duffel

Knack Convertible Duffel

Take the packability of a duffel and the convenience of a travel backpack, and you get the Knack Convertible Duffel . It’s lightweight, good-looking, and can fit up to 7 days’ worth of essentials inside a carry-on compliant size.

Wrapped in durable, high-density nylon fabric, it features a separate expandable suitcase compartment for packing your clothes, a side-zip padded sleeve for 15″ laptops, and ample pockets for organizing all your bits and pieces. Your passport and business cards are best stored in the secret pocket, and there’s also a cleverly designed water bottle pocket hidden on the side.

By far, this duffel backpack’s best feature is its expandability. With a quick unzip, it enlarges to almost double in size from 24 liters to a max of 40 liters, making for a handy travel accessory for frugal explorers, wandering professionals, and everyone with an appetite for the one-bag life. When not expanded, it qualifies as a personal item, fitting perfectly under the airplane seat.

Horizn Studios SoFo Backpack Travel

Black carry-on backpack

With its expandable design, handy exterior pockets, and smart luggage strap, this sustainable pack from Horizn Studios makes a cool backpack for men . Crafted from vegan, recycled cotton canvas, it’s sturdy, lightweight, and impervious to water.

The breathable mesh padding on the back and shoulder straps make the SoFo Backpack Travel comfortable to carry, and its roomy interior can accommodate up to 5 days’ worth of travel necessities, including a 16″ laptop in its own separate padded compartment.

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What’s your favorite?

Pff… that’s hard to say! I use most of these backpacks, depending on my trips. But I would say that I mostly use the Peak Design 45L (or the 30L one, depending on the length of my stay) and the Db Ramverk Pro (super resistant!).

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13 Best Travel Backpacks in 2024, Tested by Our Gear Experts

Featuring brands like Cotopaxi, Peak Design, Nanuk, and more.

a person wearing a backpack

Our product picks are editor-tested, expert-approved. We may earn a commission through links on our site. Why Trust Us?

Matador SEG45 Travel Pack

Most Versatile Travel Backpack

Matador seg45 travel pack.

Black Hole Pack 32L

Best Lightweight Travel Backpack

Patagonia black hole pack 32l.

Allpa 35 L Travel Pack

Most Comfortable Travel Backpack

Cotopaxi allpa 35 l travel pack.

N-PVD 30L Travel Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Gear Heads

Nanuk n-pvd 30l travel backpack.

Travel Backpack 30L

Most Balanced Travel Backpack

Peak design travel backpack 30l.

Carry-On Travel Backpack Bundle

Best Travel Backpack for Active Travelers

Cor surf carry-on travel backpack bundle.

40L Convertible Travel Backpack/Duffel

Best Travel Backpack for Long-Haul Nomads

Nomatic 40l convertible travel backpack/duffel.

A.T.P. 26 Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Minimalists

Camelbak a.t.p. 26 backpack.

Travel Backpack 40L

Best Travel Backpack Under $60

Matein travel backpack 40l.

Crossroads 35L Backpack

Best Rugged Travel Backpack

Yeti crossroads 35l backpack.

Travel backpacks are a versatile, easy-to-carry luggage pick if you're trying to pack as smart and fast as possible. A travel backpack is also a great choice if you want to bring a bag with you on the plane (instead of a formal carry-on suitcase) to go with a checked piece of luggage. Unlike a regular backpack, a good travel backpack is going to offer a little more size and space (usually between 30 to 40 liters). Most travel backpacks are made to hold at least a few outfits, plus all your electronics and travel gadgets . The generous space helps carry an entire weekend's (or week's) worth of clothes. It can also hold all your flight essentials: your hoodie , plane shoes (great for long flights), travel pillow , headphones , and more.

If you believe you can only carry a significant amount of belongings via a roller bag or duffel bag , think again. All of our travel backpack picks below offer optimized storage with comfortable straps and friendly designs that make navigating your environments that much easier. Ready to see what's out there? Let's dive into the best travel backpacks worth buying in 2024.

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Matador already makes some of the world's coolest, most clever travel gear. Its SEG45 Travel Backpack is no exception. The clamshell-style zipper opens to provide full access to the pocket-free interior. So you can stash everything inside the open-layout interior like a duffel bag (the included carry strap allows for carrying like a traditional duffel, too) if you're a free-wheelin, "I don't need no pockets" kind of guy.

The other option is to pack this bag using the five front zippered pockets, each with a slightly different capacity (together, they total 45 liters). So, for example, you can stash smaller items like your passport, headphones, and snacks in the small top pocket. Larger electronics can go toward the bottom. You get the gist.

There's also a zippered, padded laptop sleeve at the rear, so it sits directly against your back when worn like a traditional backpack. Padded shoulder straps allow for comfortable all-day carry, and they can be tucked away when not in use. An external water bottle pouch and a reinforced water-resistant bottom round out the great features.

Read more: Best Packable Down Jackets

The Black Hole Pack is a tried-and-true favorite among Patagonia fans due to its long-term durability and smart compartment design. The pack holds up to 32L, which is sizable enough for traveling but also small enough for everyday use (if you want even smaller, you can elect to get the bag in a 26L size).

Patagonia designed an external zip-down laptop sleeve that sits on the inside (meaning your laptop would be resting directly against your back) and helps create more open space. Front and top stash pockets are added for storing small goods in streamlined ways that do not impede on the interior storage either.

Now, you do sacrifice a bit of space by opting for the Black Hole Pack instead of a 40L travel backpack pack, but the way Patagonia designs this bag creates an optimized way of fitting clothes, shoes, and more without being too much of a burden to carry. If you're looking for a bag you can use to pair with a checked bag, or if you're looking for a bag that can pull double duty for everyday and outdoor use, then you won't find anything more suitable.

Read more: Best Men's Clothing Brands

Cotopaxi's Allpa is a frequent traveler favorite due to its strong, lightweight material blend of TPU-coated 1,000D polyester and 840D ballistic nylon paneling. Travelers also love this travel backpack due to its booklet opening (like many popular suitcases) and secret laptop compartment on the inside back of the backpack (the laptop sits on your back when carrying). In terms of carrying, the bag has four grab handles so you can move it off your shoulders when you get tired. And to add durability and other cargo add-on options, it comes fitted with YKK zippers, carabiner lash loops, and tuck-away straps.

The Allpa is a do-it-all pack for those who truly want to use their travel backpack as their only bag on the road. The cool part is the Allpa comes in fun colors that are easy to spot on the baggage carousel (assuming you check it ... but you won't because you're better than that).

Read more: Waterproof Hiking Gear

Traveling with serious electronics like digital cameras, lenses, action cameras, tablets, and drones can be nerve-wracking. You want luggage or a backpack that can protect everything for those long-haul journeys. Nanuk's N-PVD line of travel backpacks is purpose-built for just that.

Every bag in the line-up features a well-padded interior that can be reconfigured to accommodate whatever you're hauling. Every removable velcro pad can be flipped, turned, and moved around inside the interior so you can Tetris all your most valuable electronics to fit and protect everything exactly how you want. There's also a padded laptop sleeve and a bonus top pocket that's perfect for smaller essentials you want to keep within easy reach.

"I used the 18L model as my only camera bag on a recent trip to Antarctica," said MH gear writer Mike Richard. "I was able to pack my digital camera, a couple of lenses, a 15" laptop, my GoPro equipment, and a bunch of other must-haves, like snacks and my passport, with room to spare. Plus, the recycled polyester shell held up to daily Zodiac rides, pounding rain, and penguin encounters like a champ!"

Read more: Cool Tech Gadgets

We admit to fanboy'ing over Peak Design, as it seems every product the company reinvents turns to gold. We love the incognito look and simplicity of Peak Design's Travel Backpack. Aside from a top stash pocket, the bag relies on a single zipper that opens out the entire bag. From there, you can add in your clothes and shoes without packing cubes , or you can grab any of Peak Design's matching packing cubes and load in your clothes, electronics and gear.

The inner compartment also holds a padded laptop sleeve that keeps your device tightly secured. Our favorite feature of this travel backpack is the theft-proof zippers, which can be looped into each other when closed and help deter pick-pocket thieves from quickly trying to open up your bag when in crowds.

As far as construction materials, Peak Design went with 100% recycled 400D nylon canvas thanks to its supreme water and abrasion resistance. In terms of comfort, padded shoulder pads, a generous adjustable strap length, and an optional hip belt accessory help limit fatigue, so you can power through long travel days.

The most active travelers demand a lot of their luggage. In most cases, they want their bags and backpacks to pull double duty: They need them to transport everything from A to B on the plane, then haul all their gear essentials around on the beach, the trail, or the slopes. That's where COR Surf's Carry-On Travel Backpack Bundle comes in. The 40L model (it's available in 28L and 40L flavors as well) is roughly the size of a carry-on but way more durable and versatile.

The design opens wide like a traditional suitcase for easy access to everything. This bundle includes a water-resistant toiletry bag and a set of compression cubes to wrangle your clothes, shoes, electronics, and souvenirs on the way home.

The outside is built for all-day wear with wide, padded shoulder straps and a chest strap to help distribute heavier loads. It's built with double stitching all around, so it's ready to go the distance wherever you travel.

We especially like that it's available in a handful of colors, so you can color coordinate with your personal traveler's vibe (if that's your thing). Plus, it's crazy affordable at around $125 on sale.

In the "new era" of next-gen travel backpacks we're currently living in, Nomatic was one of the OG brands to seriously reinvent the game. Its convertible travel bags are still some of our go-to favorites. The 40L option is sized like a traditional carry-on but carries like a duffel or travel backpack. With clever built-in straps, it transitions seamlessly between either carry method, so it's comfy to tote around even on your longest travel days.

It boasts 20 clever features, all targeting the needs of modern nomads. There are plenty of compartments to organize your clothes, shoes, tech, and other gear. A water bottle pocket helps you stay hydrated, and the included laundry bag helps keep your funky clothes quarantined away from your clean threads. It's all wrapped in a rugged, water-resistant tarpaulin material that's vegan-friendly and 100% synthetic.

If you're looking for something a little more streamlined, Nomatic's 30L model has all of the same features in a more compact footprint.

If you're an ultra-minimalist traveler or are just looking for a compact, rugged bag to supplement your carry-on, CamelBak's A.T.P. is just the trick. The 26-liter model is perfectly sized for hauling everything you need and nothing you don't. (It's also available as a smaller, cheaper 20-liter model )

In stark black or pure, undyed white, the exterior aesthetic is about as clean and streamlined as it gets. There are no extraneous pockets or design flourishes—this bag is all business. The interior is accessible either via the top flap (like a traditional top-loading hiking backpack) or through a long zipper topped with a snapped "collar" closure of sorts that almost resembles a zip-up hoodie. It makes accessing the inside way easier than most travel backpacks. The open-concept interior includes a laptop pocket, a water bottle pocket, and several small drop pockets for smaller travel essentials. Outside, compression straps allow you to cinch it all down to the exact size you need, so there's never any wasted space.

One of our favorite features of this travel backpack is the ultra-green manufacturing process. CamelBak touts this as its "first pack to ever earn the highest rating on our sustainability scale. The A.T.P. is made from 100% recycled CORDURA re/cor and creates half the greenhouse gas emissions produced in traditional manufacturing processes." Nice!

Made with water-resistant nylon, this best-selling 40L travel pack promises organization through multiple zippered compartments. Starting from the front of the bag, there are four small zippered pouches, followed by a large zippered compartment for clothes and shoes , and then finished with a laptop sleeve compartment.

At under $60 retail (often less than $40 on sale!), you'd be hard-pressed to find a travel backpack this functional and durable for less. It's true the bag might not have the longest lifespan as others on this list (the zippered compartment design worries us about pockets potentially getting damaged), but in terms of getting solid bang for your buck, it's a great pick.

Yeti brings the design chops from working on the best, most rugged coolers to the world of travel backpacks. The Crossroads 35L is one of the toughest travel backpacks around.

For starters, the outer material of the Crossroads 35L is something you won't see on other travel backpacks. Why? Because Yeti opted for a textured Tuffskin nylon and a strong 700D nylon that's both water and abrasion-resistant. Yeti says it feels more like motorcycle gear, and we agree.

Second, the bag's clamshell opening allows for easy access to the laptop sleeve and for the ability to roll your clothes up and bag them down into the bag tightly. Last is the strength of the zippers, which are waterproof and tough as nails from the outer stash pockets all the way the main compartment zippers.

The only downside some might have is the shoulder pads could be more cushioned, but we found them to provide just enough comfort while stepping through the airport. But, if you're looking for a rugged backpack that's down for whatever, you can't go wrong with this pick.

The North Face Base Camp Duffel - Medium

Base Camp Duffel - Medium

One of our favorite duffel bags, the North Face Base Camp, also works great as a convertible travel backpack. The straps on the Base Camp might have some of the best paddings you can get, making it that much more comfortable in terms of all-day carry. And as far as materials, the strong 1000D recycled PVC with water-resistant zippers is damn-near-bulletproof, ready to repel any and everything.

Our only gripe about this bag is the interior storage configuration. It doesn't have any special laptop compartments or unique pocket designs: It's a simple, straightforward duffel at the end of the day. But remember, if you ever get tired of carrying this on your back, you can carry it by the hand straps or sling it over your shoulder. So you've got options here.

Read more: Best Dopp Kits

Away F.A.R Convertible Backpack 45L

F.A.R Convertible Backpack 45L

Talk about a behemoth! Away's F.A.R. Convertible Backpack is equal parts duffel bag and ackpack. It holds a whopping 45L, which makes all the difference if you want to add another pair of shoes or bring home souvenirs you pick up on your travels.

While you don't have a ton of compartments on the inside of this bag, it does have built-in compression straps, which allow you to clamp down your clothes and keep everything condensed. This travel backpack is made from water- and abrasion-resistant polyester that's strong enough to handle pretty much anywhere unless you're planning on getting far off the path (like a hiking or camping trip, or a trip to somewhere less developed).

While the bag can feel a little heavy on your back if packed to the gills, the good news is you can always convert it to duffel carry. You get the best of both worlds here.

Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 Travel Pack

Sojourn Porter 46 Travel Pack

The Porter 46 reminds us a lot of a hiking backpack in looks and in its durable design. It holds a whopping 46 liters, which can be deceiving thanks to the outer clamp-down straps. On the front of the bag is an easy-access laptop sleeve, and on the side are grab handles for briefcase-like carry if your shoulders get tired. If you want to know our favorite features of the backpack, though, it's the U-zip opening design, which allows the user to pack in and access their goods with ease—it's especially easy to get items on the bottom of the bag when the back is laid down and opened.

A couple of qualms include the straps being a bit too narrow, which can cause some discomfort for long travel days. The other is there aren't a lot of stash pockets. So if you like to use those to wrangle your favorite travel essentials, you might want to look for a different backpack design. But if you're looking for a big-time hauler that fits a rugged, traditional hiking backpack design, then this is a solid choice.

Read more: Best Hiking Boots

Why Trust Us

commerce breaker

In order to keep up with new new innovations and product releases, the Men's Health editors and writers are continually testing all of the latest packing tools and accessories to make sure our recommendations reflect the top products within the travel space.

When it comes to travel backpacks, our gear enthusiasts in the office tested a total of 30 different travel backpacks over the past two years. We inspected the bags in office first before taking them out on assignments and vacations. Then, after wear and tear, we accessed the condition of the bag and added in our testing notes. Lastly, we considered what each travel backpack does best by applying them to all the different types of traveler needs—like size, versatility, weight, and more.

Read more: How We Test Products

What to Consider When Shopping for a Travel Backpack

best gifts for men under $50

There are a couple of features you want to keep an eye on when shopping for a travel-worthy backpack. Overall, your travel backpack should be lightweight, organized, and suitable for the types of travel you typically take. These are the most important considerations.

As mentioned earlier, a good sweet spot for travel backpack capacity is between 30L and 40L. This amount of space usually allows you to pack a couple of outfits and a pair of shoes or allows you to pack all your airplane essentials. Some of the travel backpacks above go up to 45L. We love the generous capacity, but if you go above this sizing, you might be veering away from carry-on size requirements or you might find a bag packed that fully becomes a little heavy on the shoulders.

TSA Carry-On Approved

Pretty much all travel backpacks are TSA-approved for carry-on use. If you're someone who likes to keep a bag under the seat, you'll want to pay closer attention to the exact dimensions and how your bag looks when it's fully packed. Some airlines—especially ultra-budget carriers—are getting mighty strict on baggage size requirements these days.

Outer Materia ls

The good news about our travel backpack picks above is they're all made with some sort of water-resistant material. Most have abrasion resistance too. Aside from looking for these two qualities, most travel backpacks use nylon or polyester blends. A truly tough bag might don an outer material of 500-denier nylon or higher, which is a material grade that ensures the nylon is strong, water-resistant, and tear-resistant—all great features in a travel backpack.

Packing Organization

Last to consider is your personal packing style. The vast amount of travel backpacks on the market has led us to have all sorts of bag openings and packing configurations. Some have lots of compartments (interior and exterior), while some have a single main compartment and only one stash pocket. Most travel backpacks have openings that help you pack clothes down tightly and allow for easy access if you need to get something at the bottom of the bag. A few common bag opening designs include U-shaped zipper openings, suitcase openings, and clamshell openings. There's no one best design; it's all about what's right for you .

How We Selected the Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

We consulted with Men's Health writers and editors on the best travel backpacks and carry-on backpacks for 2024. Experts, including our gear and commerce editor, John Thompson, and gear expert, Mike Richard, reviewed dozens of packs to evaluate their design, performance, durability, and features. We also considered price point, as some travel backpacks promise a better overall value than others. In the end, we decided on these 13 models as our picks for the best travel backpacks worth buying in 2024.

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The best travel backpacks, according to experts

Split image of the lo&sons travel backpack on a suitcase, the Peak Design Travel backpack 45L and Wandrd backpack

Packing can be hectic. Outside of your luggage , it's a task to fit all your essentials in a way that’s easily organized, but accessible.

A travel backpack can help ease the load and is a versatile accessory for your adventures. They usually have various storage compartments, are adjustable and will keep your hands free to carry your other devices.

We spoke to travel bloggers to learn about the best travel backpacks and what to look for when buying one.

SKIP AHEAD The best travel backpacks | How to shop the best travel backpacks

Selected. Our top picks

Lo & Sons Rowledge

How we picked the best travel backpacks

To pick the best travel backpacks, we consulted travel bloggers and experts. Here is what they recommend keeping in mind as you shop:

  • Multiple compartments : Every travel backpack we recommend below has an easily accessible compartment for your laptop or tablet. There are also extra compartments on the inside for your passport or wallet.
  • Adjustable straps : Every travel backpack has adjustable back straps so you can modify their length to your desired height for comfort.
  • Lightweight : Every travel backpack weighs below five pounds.

best backpack air travel

select Make your summer travel easier with the best hardside and softside carry-on luggage

The best travel backpacks of 2024.

Here are the best travel backpacks that are highly recommended by our experts.

Lo & Sons Rowledge

Lo & Sons Rowledge

Lo & Sons Rowledge

The Lo & Sons Rowledge is a favorite of Maggie Espinosa , a travel blogger and journalist. “This backpack is both stylish and useful, “ she says. “It has leather handles, a separate laptop compartment and fits under an airline seat." The luggage comes in small and large sizes, though the small size can only store electronics that are nine by 12.75 inches, so your laptop may not fit. The zippers and nylon exterior are water-resistant too, so a simple coffee spill or light rain shouldn't damage them, according to the brand. The backpack is also available in several colorways.

Material: Nylon | Weight : 2.9 lbs (small) 3.2 lbs (large) | Water resistant : Yes

Wandrd Prvke 21L

Wandrd Prvke 21L

The Wandrd Prvke 21L is recommended by Nadine Sykora , a travel video content creator who’s been traveling for more than 13 years. She called it her “go-to camera bag” as it has removable cubes for keeping gear during her adventure-style shoots. She’s also used it for several years and finds it durable. It also has a passport pocket, a water bottle sleeve and a fleece-lined pocket for your sunglasses or tech. The bag, which comes in three sizes, has both a removable sternum strap and magnetic tote handles, should you want to hold your bag instead of wearing it as a backpack.

Material: Waterproof tarpaulin and nylon | Weight : 2.8 lbs | Water resistant: Yes

Targus Balance 15.6-Inch Backpack

Targus Balance 15.6" Backpack

The Targus Balance is the most affordable backpack on our list. Sykora recommends it for its protective features, like the inbuilt cradle that suspends your laptop to save it from impact if the bag ever falls. There’s a sternum strap if you want a more snug fit, and padding on the lower back and shoulders, which the brand says makes this bag more ergonomic. This travel backpack will also sit upright when you place it on the floor, making your belongings easy to access.

Material : Re-polymerized plastic spun into yarn | Weight : 2.61 lbs | Water resistant : Yes

Osprey Fairview 70 Travel Pack

Osprey Fairview 70 Travel Pack

This travel backpack comes with a detachable day bag ideal for shorter day trips or excursions during your vacation. It’s also convenient: “This backpack opens like a suitcase for easy packing and access to items, and is very comfortable for wearing for long periods, “ says Sykora. The handles are padded for comfort and there are two internal compression straps to protect your electronics and other items. There’s both an adjustable sternum strap and a hip belt to keep your bag snug during any activities, and an included rescue whistle on the sternum strap if you’re lost or in danger. There are multiple internal zipped pockets for extra storage and external attachable loops, to clip your portable speaker to.

Material : Polyester | Weight : 4.5 lbs | Water resistant : NA

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

Sykora loves this bag for its multiple compartments that make it convenient to organize your travel essentials, like your passport, sunglasses and e-reader. There are expandable side pockets to store your water bottle, a zipped top pocket for your passport and internal zippered mesh compartments for any electronics. There are padded waist and shoulder straps for comfort and padded foam surrounding the exterior to protect it from scratches. a waterproof bottom and a weatherproof exterior build, according to the brand.

Material : Nylon | Weight : 4.5 lbs | Water resistant : Yes

best backpack air travel

select Minimize chaos on your next trip with these expert-approved accessories

How to shop the best travel backpacks.

While shopping for the best travel backpacks, our experts recommended considering the following:

Organizational features : Look for multiple compartments on the interior, so you can store your devices, travel documents and cosmetics separately. “Separating electronics and gear from clothes, liquids or items prone to getting dirty during travel is essential,” says Sykora.

Water resistance : We prioritized options with a water resistant exterior.

Compression Straps : If you’re prone to overpacking, a compression strap will help keep your bag compact.

Zippers : You’ll want to choose a bag with zippers that can accommodate locks, this way you can add extra security to your belongings. You also want to avoid bags with open exterior compartments, as items may fall out.

Durable materials : Look for backpacks with fabrics that are water and scratch resistant, like nylon, says Sykora.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Maggie Espinosa is a travel journalist and author. She’s been featured on Travel Channel, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, USA Today, Huffington Post and more
  • Nadine Sykora is a leading travel video content creator, with over 500k+ subscribers.

Why trust NBC Select?

Nishka Dhawan is the former associate editor at NBC Select. For this piece, she interviewed travel bloggers and journalists on what to look for in a travel backpack, and the best travel backpacks to shop for in 2023.

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal finance , tech and tools , wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

best backpack air travel

Nishka Dhawan is a former associate commerce editor at NBC Select.

Protect Your Trip »

The 3 best travel backpacks for men (also good for work).

Explore the top hands-free travel bag options for every type of journey.

The Best Travel Backpacks for Men

Man with his back turned wearing the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L in a field.

Courtesy of Peak Design

The Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is the top backpack choice for men.

Whether you're into rugged adventures in the wilderness or getting lost in bustling cities, a backpack may be the most essential piece of travel gear there is. If you choose your pack right, it doesn't need to be something you only use for your vacation: Some of the best options out there are ideal for both leisure and business travelers, and they're so stylish and professional that you can easily take them with you to work. No matter what kind of traveler you are, this trio of the best backpack options – compiled with the help of travel experts and consumer reviews – has got you covered.

Read on to discover the top travel backpacks for men from U.S. News.

The Top 3 Travel Backpacks for Men

  • Best Overall: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
  • Jump to features and traveler insights ↓

Best Overall, Budget Pick: Inateck 40L 17-Inch Carry On Travel Backpack

Best small: zomake ultra lightweight packable backpack 25l.

For more information on how to choose a backpack for travel – and how to pack it – check out the FAQ section at the bottom of this page.

(Note: Prices were accurate at the time of publication; they may fluctuate due to various factors. We update this article quarterly to ensure the bags we're recommending are in stock and continue to have great overall reviews from consumers, while also considering new product launches. Dimensions are listed in order of length by height by width.)

Best Overall Travel Backpack: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L in black and sage against white background.

Dimensions: 13 x 22 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 4.5 pounds

What sets it apart: If you're looking for the ultimate in convenience while traveling, Peak Design's 45-liter Travel Backpack is a serious winner. The bag's two main compartments can be accessed from the front, back and sides, so there's no need to stress about accessing those socks or shirts you packed in the deepest part of the bag. It's the kind of bag where everything has its place: There are mesh pockets inside the main compartments, two hidden external pockets for valuables like your passport, and an easy-to-access top pocket on the outside for anything you need to get quickly, from keys to boarding passes. A padded sleeve inside also helps to keep your laptop or tablet safe. There are also straps to attach equipment like a tripod to the outside of the bag.

The Travel Backpack isn't just for weekend trips – if you're not a compulsive overpacker, it's feasible to use this as your main piece of luggage for a weeklong trip or more. The bag can be both expanded and contracted beyond this size, in case you do some shopping along the way or want to use it as a daypack. In its non-expanded form, this carry-on backpack is also within the size limits of many international airlines and some domestic ones. It's only a half-inch too deep for some airlines like United and Delta, so if the bag isn't jam-packed, you may still be able to get it on board – although this is very much at your own risk.

With an industrial-strength nylon-canvas shell that's waterproof, this backpack is also a safe bet for outdoorsy travelers who may be exposed to the elements. You can choose between two colors: classic black, or the muted-green sage option. Travelers looking to save have the option to buy pre-owned backpacks directly from Peak Design's website for substantially reduced prices (although stock and prices for these secondhand items vary).

Travelers appreciate: Owners of this bag praise it for its massive capacity, with several saying it is deceptively small for the amount of clothes, shoes and toiletries the bag can fit.

Price: $299.99 or less Shop now: Peak Design | Best Buy

Dimensions: 21.65 x 13.4 x 7.87 inches | Weight: 3.52 pounds

What sets it apart: This sleek black backpack from German company Inateck checks a lot of boxes. It's both professional and stylish, with plenty of capacity for a weekend trip or longer, and with a price tag under $60. With a rectangular shape and a main compartment that can be zipped open, this 40-liter bag can be packed like a suitcase. That compartment also has mesh pockets with zips so that you can squirrel away smaller items without losing them in the bag's spacious interior.

A smaller zippered compartment that sits next to the wearer's back offers a safe place to stash a 17-inch laptop and a 13-inch tablet, as needed. Security-conscious travelers, take note: Both the laptop compartment and main compartment feature dual zippers that can be locked (although you'll need to provide the lock).

There are two smaller pockets on the front of the bag for easy access to essential items while traveling, and a semi-hidden pocket on the back (which would sit alongside your body) as a safe place for passports and other valuables. If you're not using the bag's full capacity, there are also compression straps to make the pack a little more compact. The company also includes a waterproof cover in case you're traveling through rainy weather.

Given its size, this Inateck pack should be accepted as cabin baggage on a fairly wide range of airlines both domestic and international. Of course, be sure to double-check your airline's baggage rules, as a limited number of airlines draw the line at 21 or 21.5 inches in height, such as Aeroméxico, Air Canada and Canadian carrier Westjet.

Travelers appreciate: Buyers of this bag rave about how much it can fit and its hidden pockets. Many note its lightweight construction makes it comfortable to carry, and that it works well for business travelers.

Price: $58.99 or less Shop now: Inateck | Amazon

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Dimensions: 16 x 10.6 x 7.9 inches | Weight: 0.64 pounds

For a small but mighty bag that's ideal for day trips up to overnight or weekend trips, look no further than this uber-functional option from Chinese company Zomake. Sold in a wide selection of colors from neutral black or gray to light blue or bright orange, this lightweight pack is made with water-resistant nylon for anyone embarking on outdoor activities.

The backpack offers three zippered compartments: The main chamber should comfortably store bulkier items like everyday clothes or a light jacket, as well as a small to midsized laptop up to around 15 inches.. Meanwhile, two front pockets offer easy access to essentials like snacks, important documents, a cell phone, or whatever else you may need to access quickly or repeatedly. There are two mesh pockets on the side for water bottles or other necessities.

For flyers, this backpack could count as your personal item, leaving you free to bring another main piece of carry-on luggage if your airline ticket allows this. Alternatively, the bag can be folded up into a tiny pouch measuring 5.5 by 6.7 inches – so if you're on a bigger trip, you can pack it in your other luggage and grab it out for day-to-day use while traveling.

If you're in need of something bigger or smaller, Zomake has a range of other bags with similar designs, mostly around the $20 mark.

Travelers appreciate: Wearers of this bag like the wide and comfortable straps, along with the amount of items that fit in the bag, and the way it folds and packs easily

Price: $20.99 or less Shop now: Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many details to consider when it comes to choosing the perfect travel backpack. Whether you want it big or small, stylish or functional, or equipped to protect laptops and other important items, one of the most important features to look for is the bag's organizational layout.

Rudy Maxa, host of the TV series "Rudy Maxa's World" and a convert to travel backpacks, likes options with lots of nooks and crannies to hold everything from earphones to magazines to travel documents. Wendy Perrin, travel expert and founder of travel planning site WendyPerrin.com, agrees, saying she's a fan of compartments when it comes to her travel backpack and likes the ability to get to her items quickly.

Tom Wahlin, travel gear expert and founder of Pack Hacker, says he prefers a backpack that combines spacious sections with smart organization. He recommends using packing cubes to organize items in the backpack's main compartment.

Weight should be a consideration as well. While you may need something more durable for long outdoor adventures or round-the-world trips, a lightweight travel bag can be easier and more comfortable on your back for daytrips, sightseeing or day-to-day travels. Wahlin errs on the side of going lighter, noting a backpack can be both lightweight and durable. (However, if a heavier bag has the appropriate supports, such as chest or hip straps, the bag's weight may be less of an issue.)

Wahlin also suggests choosing a bag with durable zippers. "We typically look for Japanese YKK zippers," he says. "They're tried and tested and are on most of the best bags out there."

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question – the perfectly sized backpack might depend on whether you're a heavy packer, whether you need it for multiday trips or quick flights, and various other factors. However, there are still some general guidelines to consider. Take note: Backpacks are usually measured by their volume in liters, even in the United States.

If you only need a smaller backpack – for example, for daylong excursions or to carry on the plane while most of your stuff goes in a separate suitcase – a 20-liter (5.3-gallon) backpack should suffice. If you're using a backpack as your primary baggage, you'll want to choose something a little larger. Bags in the 25- to 30-liter range are usually considered good for shorter trips, from an overnight stay or weekend away up to five nights (at least if you pack wisely). For longer trips where your backpack is your main luggage, you may need a pack with a volume of up to 40 or 45 liters.

But, pay attention: If your travel plans involve flying, make sure that you're bringing a backpack that fits within the carry-on limits of every airline you'll be taking. This is particularly important if you're flying with budget airlines, as they tend to have more restrictive rules on baggage size (and often enforce those rules rather strictly). Backpacks with a volume of 35 liters or less should be accepted on most airlines, and you may be able to take a backpack of up to 45 liters on airlines with a more generous allowance, so check with your carrier before you leave.

Think about two things when preparing your backpack for travel: what to pack and how to pack it. If you're bringing a backpack in addition to other luggage such as a checked suitcase , try to put only the necessities in the backpack. For a long flight, for example, these items could include important travel documents like passports and boarding passes; a few basic toiletries such as your toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant; a laptop or tablet for work or entertainment (plus headphones); some extra clothing (especially if you're going someplace with a different climate); and snacks and a bottle of water or something to drink.

If you're flying, remember to comply with the Transportation Security Administration's rules for what's allowed in your carry-on : Containers of liquids and the like can't exceed 3.4 ounces each and must fit in a quart-sized bag, so you can't bring drinks through airport security, although an empty water bottle is allowed.

When you're packing your bag, keep the items you'll need more often in the most accessible places. So, consider putting your passport , headphones and lip balm somewhere close, such as the exterior pocket – and definitely not at the bottom of the main compartment underneath all your other possessions.

Once you've put those necessities in easy-to-reach places, you can pack the rest of your belongings and travel accessories . Think about weight distribution here: Ideally, you'll want to put the heaviest items (for example, laptops) close to your body, so your backpack won't weigh so heavily on your shoulders and will be more comfortable. Pay extra attention when packing delicate or breakable items, like sunglasses or electronics. It's best to put these in the exterior pockets of your pack so they can't be crushed by heavy items in the larger main pockets. Protective cases are also a wise purchase for items like glasses. Of course, if you're carrying a laptop or tablet and your backpack has dedicated pockets or sleeves for these items, use them.

Read: Things You Should Always Pack in Your Carry-on Bag

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

Tim Forster is a U.S. News & World Report contributor. As someone who mostly travels with carry-on luggage, he's an expert when it comes to backpacks. Forster used his travel experience and research expertise to write this article.

You might also be interested in:

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Ready, Set, Jet: Shop the Season’s Most-Coveted Travel Bags

By Nicole Kliest and Alexis Bennett Parker

Image may contain Rosie HuntingtonWhiteley Clothing Coat Person Accessories Bag Handbag Overcoat and Car

All products featured on Vogue are independently selected by our editors. However, we may earn affiliate revenue on this article and commission when you buy something.

You’ve booked the flight, scouted the hotel, and assembled a packing list of your very best vacation-ready essentials . But what to put them in? The best travel bags that complement your OOO aesthetic are among the most important investments for those with a penchant for stylish escapes.

The Designer Travel Bag Shopping List

  • The Durable Hero: Longchamp Le Pliage 18" travel bag , $160
  • The Cool Canvas: Hereu Cala canvas tote bag , $485
  • The Timeless Option: Staud Allora tote , $495
  • The Luxe Logo Bag: Gucci Jackie 1961 large duffle bag , $3,850
  • The Modern Marvel: Saint Laurent chain embellished weekend bag , $3,600
  • The Minimalist Magic: Khaite Perre weekender , $3,400
  • The Woven Warrior: Bottega Veneta Intrecciato duffle bag , $5,400
  • The Investment Piece: The Row George leather & canvas duffel , $6,190
  • The Foldable Find: Loewe Puzzle fold tote , $4,250

The season’s very best options check off all the boxes of a luxuriously-crafted bag that can weather even the most far-flung adventures. Saint Laurent’s giant quilted duffle remains a celebrity favorite (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Olivia Wilde are fans), while Prada’s geometric-pattern trunk will feel exquisite slung over your shoulder en route to somewhere beautiful. And there’s no denying the enduring appeal of The Row’s sleek, streamlined black leather tote bag.

If you’re heading somewhere close to home, an oversized tote might feel more appropriate—we love Totême’s leather-trimmed canvas option for this. And for a budget-friendly pick, Alex Mill’s vintage-inspired canvas bag (aptly named “the perfect weekend tote”) is always a favorite. From luxe leather duffels to timeless utilitarian silhouettes, shop 28 of the season’s best travel bags ahead.

Image may contain: Accessories, Bag, Handbag, Tote Bag, Canvas, and Purse

Saint Laurent

chain embellished weekend bag

NET-A-PORTER

NEIMAN MARCUS

Image may contain: Bag, Accessories, Handbag, Tote Bag, Canvas, and Purse

Perre weekender

Image may contain: Bag, Accessories, Handbag, Tote Bag, and Purse

Cala canvas tote bag

BERGDORF GOODMAN

Image may contain: Bag, Accessories, Handbag, and Tote Bag

Puzzle fold tote

Image may contain: Accessories, Bag, Handbag, Tote Bag, and Purse

George leather & canvas duffel

SAKS FIFTH AVENUE

Image may contain: Accessories, Bag, Handbag, Tote Bag, and Canvas

Jackie 1961 large duffle bag

best backpack air travel

Louis Vuitton

Keepall 55 bag

best backpack air travel

Brunello Cucinelli

canvas striped duffel bag

Image may contain: Accessories, Bag, Handbag, and Tote Bag

Weekend XL leather-trimmed suede tote

Image may contain: Accessories, Bag, Handbag, Tote Bag, and Baggage

Hunting Season

The Weekender bag

OVER THE MOON

Image may contain: Bag, Tote Bag, Accessories, Handbag, and Canvas

Le Pliage 18" travel bag

best backpack air travel

ES giant YSL travel bag

Image may contain: Bag, Tote Bag, Accessories, and Handbag

Caramella Transformable stripe duffle tote bag

Image may contain: Bag, Accessories, Handbag, and Briefcase

Bottega Veneta

Intrecciato duffle

BOTTEGA VENETA

Image may contain: Bag, Tote Bag, Accessories, and Handbag

Allora snake-effect trimmed textured-leather tote

Image may contain: Accessories, Bag, Handbag, and Purse

large Book tote

Image may contain: Bag, Tote Bag, Accessories, and Handbag

Main Line canvas duffel bag

Image may contain: Accessories, Bag, Handbag, Tote Bag, and Purse

IVY striped tote bag

Image may contain: Bag, Accessories, Handbag, and Briefcase

Gotham duffle bag

Image may contain: Accessories, Bag, Handbag, Tote Bag, and Purse

large travel bag

best backpack air travel

Leatherology

Kessler large duffle

LEATHEROLOGY

best backpack air travel

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  • At the airport

Checked bag policy

Checked bag allowances.

Changes to bag allowances and fees have been updated as of February 20, 2024.

Travel within / between the U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands – 1st checked bag fee is $40 ($35 if you pay online) and the 2nd checked bag fee is $45.

Travel to / from Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Guyana – 1st checked bag fee is $35 and the 2nd checked bag fee is $45.

All bag fees are non-refundable and apply per person, at each check-in location, each way, even if you purchase or get an upgrade that includes free checked bags. If you believe you've been incorrectly charged for bag fees, contact an American representative for help or file a refund claim within 45 days.

  • Bag limitations
  • Bag and optional fees

Checked bags

How many bags can you take?

Check up to 10 bags on american airlines operated flights if your trip is:.

  • Transatlantic
  • Transpacific

Check up to 5 bags on American-operated flights if you’re traveling to / through / from:

  • Mexico / Caribbean / Central America*
  • South America*
  • Bag regions

*There are seasonal and year-round bag restrictions

We calculate the size limits of your bag by adding the total outside dimensions of each bag, length + width + height.

For all regions, except to / from Australia or New Zealand, your checked bag allowance is:

  • Dimension: 62 in / 158 cm
  • Weight: 50 lbs / 23 kgs
  • For First / Business, weight is 70 lbs / 32 kgs for complimentary bags and 50 lbs / 23 kgs for excess charged bags

For all confirmed customers on flights to / from Australia or New Zealand:

  • Weight: 70 lbs / 32kgs for complimentary bags and 50 lbs / 23 kgs for excess charged bags
  • Oversize and overweight bags

What it will cost

In some cases, you won't have to pay the fees for up to 3 bags when traveling on itineraries marketed and operated by American Airlines. If you qualify for complimentary bags based on your AAdvantage ® status or one world ® status, the benefits are based on your highest status level at time of ticketing or check-in.

If your status level is:

  • Higher at ticketing than at check-in, show your ticket receipt to the airport agent
  • Lower at ticketing than at check-in, current benefits will automatically apply

Free checked bags may not apply to codeshare flights operated by our partners. Visit the website of the airline operating your flight for details.

Other airlines

1st checked bag is complimentary for:

  • Eligible AAdvantage ® Aviator ® and Citi ® / AAdvantage ® cardmembers (on domestic American Airlines operated itineraries)
  • AAdvantage Gold ® status
  • GOL Diamond Smiles members
  • oneworld ® Ruby

or when traveling to these destinations:

  • El Salvador*
  • New Zealand^
  • South Korea^
  • Transatlantic*

*Excluding Basic Economy

^Excluding Basic Economy for tickets issued on / after June 7, 2023

1st and 2nd checked bags are complimentary for:

  • AAdvantage Platinum ® status
  • one world ® Sapphire members
  • Confirmed Domestic First customers
  • Confirmed Business customers
  • Confirmed Premium Economy customers

1st, 2nd and 3rd checked bags are complimentary for:

  • Confirmed Flagship ® First and Flagship ® Business Plus customers*
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum ® status
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro ® status
  • one world ® Emerald
  • Active U.S. military and / or dependents with ID traveling on orders (1st - 5th bags free of charge)**
  • Active U.S. military with ID on personal travel**

*Applicable only to Flagship ® First International, Flagship ® First Transcontinental and Flagship ® Business Plus. AAdvantage Executive Platinum ® status, AAdvantage Platinum Pro ® status and oneworld ® Emerald members traveling in Flagship ® First may check a 4th bag at no charge

**Free checked bags apply when traveling on American marketed and operated itineraries. Free checked bags don't apply to codeshare flights operated by our partners.

Save time, pay online

Don’t wait in line at the airport – get the best price available and check up to 3 bags when you check-in on aa.com or in the app.

Pay for your checked bags online within 24 hours of departure and receive the best price available for travel on domestic flights within and between the U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska, and select markets in the Caribbean and Central America.

For tickets issued on / after February 20, 2024, save $5 on the 1st checked bag fee for travel within and between the U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

For more information about paying for your bags online, visit our customer service FAQs.

Customer service FAQs

All published bag fees apply at each check-in location and are base rates according to travel dates and destination; applicable taxes are not shown.

All bag fees are non-refundable and apply per person, each way, even if you buy or get an upgrade that includes free checked bags. If you believe you were incorrectly charged for bag fees, contact an American representative for help or file a refund claim within 45 days.

^Main Plus includes 1 extra free checked bag in addition to the Main Cabin allowance (max of 2)

^^A $30 1st checked bag fee and a $40 2nd checked bag fee applies for tickets issued on / before February 19, 2024. A $40 1st checked bag fee ($35 if paid online) and a $45 2nd checked bag fee applies within / between the U.S. (including HI / AK), Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands for tickets issued on / after February 20, 2024. Otherwise, a $35 1st checked bag fee and a $45 2nd checked bag fee applies for tickets issued on / after February 20, 2024.

*Free bag excludes Basic Economy: For Basic Economy travel to / from Haiti, a $30 1st bag fee applies for tickets issued on / before February 19, 2024 and a $35 1st bag fee applies for tickets issued on / after February 20, 2024. For Basic Economy travel to/from Panama / Colombia / Ecuador / Peru a $45 1st bag fee applies. For Basic Economy travel to / from South America (excluding Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname) a $45 1st bag fee applies for tickets issued on / before September 19, 2023 and a $60 1st bag fee applies for tickets issued on / after September 20, 2023. For Transatlantic Basic Economy travel, a $75 1st bag fee applies. For Transpacific Basic Economy travel for tickets issued on / after June 7, 2023 a $75 1st bag fee applies and for tickets issued on / before June 6, 2023 there is no 1st bag fee.

**For travel to / from Panama and South America (except Guyana and Suriname), a $65 2nd bag fee applies for tickets issued on / before September 19, 2023 and a $100 2nd bag fee applies for tickets issued on / after September 20, 2023.

Flights departing Canada

Find out how much you'll pay for checked bags and other fees on roundtrip and one-way flights departing Canada, displayed in CAD.

Bag and optional fees - Canada

If your region isn’t listed, we can still help:

  • Reservations and ticket changes

Through checked bags

We only through check bags if all your tickets are in the same reservation and you’re connecting to another American Airlines or one world ® flight.

Each passenger traveling to Cuba may only check up to 2 bags* with a maximum weight of 70 lbs / 32 kgs per bag, plus 1 carry-on bag and 1 personal item.

  • Carry-on bags

*Seasonal exceptions apply to Havana, Cuba effective for travel on / after March 14, 2023

*For travel to Cuba, a $30 1st bag fee applies to Basic Economy and Main Cabin for tickets issued on / before September 19, 2023. For tickets issued on / after September 20, 2023 a $30 1st bag fee applies to Basic Economy and there is no 1st bag fee for Main Cabin. For tickets issued on / after February 20, 2024 a $35 1st bag fee applies to Basic Economy and there is no 1st bag fee for Main Cabin.

**For travel to Cuba, a $200 2nd bag fee applies seasonally for travel from November 16 – January 9. A $150 2nd bag fee applies otherwise. Excludes Main Plus for tickets issued on / after September 20, 2023.

^Main Plus includes 1 extra free checked bag in addition to the Main Cabin allowance (max of 2).

What else can you travel with?

  • Mobility and medical devices
  • Traveling with pets
  • Special items and sports equipment

Restricted items

There are some items that are only allowed in checked bags or your carry-on. Check to see how to pack and travel with restricted items.

Flying on a partner airline?

Find helpful information if your trip includes 1 or more flights with our partner airlines.

  • British Airways
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qatar Airways

You may also like...

  • Paying for bags online

Expedia Rewards is now One Key™

Elektrostal, visit elektrostal, check elektrostal hotel availability, popular places to visit.

  • Electrostal History and Art Museum

You can spend time exploring the galleries in Electrostal History and Art Museum in Elektrostal. Take in the museums while you're in the area.

  • Cities near Elektrostal

Photo by Ksander

  • Places of interest
  • Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
  • Central Museum of the Air Forces at Monino
  • Peter the Great Military Academy
  • Ramenskii History and Art Museum
  • Bykovo Manor
  • Balashikha Arena
  • Malenky Puppet Theater
  • Balashikha Museum of History and Local Lore
  • Pekhorka Park
  • Saturn Stadium
  • Orekhovo Zuevsky City Exhibition Hall
  • Noginsk Museum and Exhibition Center

Members can access discounts and special features

Elektrostal, visit elektrostal, check elektrostal hotel availability, popular places to visit.

  • Electrostal History and Art Museum

You can spend time exploring the galleries in Electrostal History and Art Museum in Elektrostal. Take in the museums while you're in the area.

  • Cities near Elektrostal

Photo by Ksander

  • Places of interest
  • Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
  • Central Museum of the Air Forces at Monino
  • Peter the Great Military Academy
  • History of Russian Scarfs and Shawls Museum
  • Ramenskii History and Art Museum
  • Bykovo Manor
  • Balashikha Arena
  • Malenky Puppet Theater
  • Military Technical Museum
  • Church of Our Lady of Kazan
  • Drama Theatre BOOM
  • Balashikha Museum of History and Local Lore
  • Pekhorka Park
  • Pavlovsky Posad Museum of Art and History
  • Saturn Stadium
  • Borisoglebsky Sports Palace
  • Church of Vladimir
  • Orekhovo Zuevsky City Exhibition Hall
  • Shirokov House
  • Noginsk Museum and Exhibition Center
  • Zheleznodorozhny Museum of Local Lore
  • Stella Municipal Drama Theater
  • Fairy Tale Children's Model Puppet Theater
  • Fifth House Gallery
  • Fryazino Centre for Culture and Leisure
  • Likino Dulevo Museum of Local Lore
  • Malakhovka Museum of History and Culture
  • Art Gallery of The City District

IMAGES

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  3. 27 Best Carry-On Backpacks for Air Travel in 2022

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  5. The 23 Best Travel Backpacks That Fit Under Your Airplane Seat in 2021

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  6. 32 Best Carry-On Backpacks for Air Travel

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COMMENTS

  1. The 11 Best Carry-on Travel Backpacks of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

    Away The Outdoor Convertible Backpack 45L at Awaytravel.com ($220) Jump to Review. Best Budget: Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack at Amazon ($40) Jump to Review. Best for Photographers: Peak Design ...

  2. The 6 Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks for 2024

    Best small carry-on bag for most situations: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack. Best large bag for most situations: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. Best mobile office: Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L ...

  3. The 11 Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2024

    Final Verdict. We recommend the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack thanks to its incredibly durable polyester and nylon materials, well-designed internal storage, and included rainfly. Another great pick is the Vancropak Travel Backpack, which rings up at a fraction of the cost of some other options on the market.

  4. 13 Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2024, Tested & Reviewed

    Best Overall: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack. Price: $200 or less. When it comes to bag travel, the Cotopaxi Allpa packs a serious punch. The carry-on backpack is available in three sizes - 42L ...

  5. 35 best travel backpacks 2024: Carry-on backpacks for light travel

    A good travel backpack is a key part of any traveler's arsenal. ... The 35 best travel backpacks in 2024 ... the backpack is an airline-approved carry-on that can expand to fit more or contract ...

  6. The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

    Best Budget Travel Backpack: JanSport Journey Pack. Best Carrying Travel Backpack: Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs. Best Organization in a Travel Backpack: Matador SEG45 Travel Pack ...

  7. Best Travel Backpack: How To Pick In 2024

    Click to learn more about why we love these top picks. 9.2/10: Aer Travel Pack 3 (Best for one bag travel) 9.1/10: GORUCK GR2 (40L) (Best for rugged adventures) 8.9/10: Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L (Best for travel photographers) 8.8/10: TOM BIHN Synik 30 (Best for built-in organization) 8.6/10: Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L (Best for suitcase ...

  8. Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks 2024

    The best carry-on backpack for business travel. Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro. $325. Capacity: 30 liters | Packing style: Clamshell, removable waist belt | Organizational features: External laptop ...

  9. The 5 Best Carry On Travel Backpacks of 2024

    The 5 Best Carry On Travel Backpacks of 2024. We thoroughly tested travel backpacks from Osprey, Cotopaxi, Tortuga, Peak Design, The North Face, and other brands to help you pick the ideal adventure partner. By Hale Milano, Liz Chamberlain, and Hayley Thomas ⋅ Apr 17, 2024.

  10. The 3 Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

    Comfortable, adjustable, and carry-on capable, the Fairview has everything we needed for a week, or even months, of travel. $220 from REI. $220 from Osprey. The Osprey Fairview 55 and the nearly ...

  11. 5 best carry-on backpacks to use when traveling

    For travel purposes — from weekend getaways to multiday vacations — backpacks in the 30-45L range are your best bet. On most U.S. airlines, a 45L backpack is the maximum size carry-on allowed. If you're flying on a budget carrier, you'll probably want to stick with something under the 40L range.

  12. 10 Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

    Best travel backpack overall: Cotopaxi Allpa ($200) Jump to Review. Best budget travel backpack: Ebags Mother Lode ($100) ... Be sure to check measurements ahead of time with your airline and airpot, because carry-on size varies between companies. Best carry-on size travel backpacks for most airlines (22 x 14 x 9 in. / 21.7 x 15.7 x 9 in.): ...

  13. 13 Best Travel Backpacks to Carry On in 2024

    To find the best travel backpacks, ... Airline compatibility: Carry-on: Advertisement - Continue Reading Below. 7. Best Travel Backpack for Business Travel. TUMI Alpha Bravo Search Backpack.

  14. Best Carry-On Backpacks 2024

    Best Large Carry-On Backpack: Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Backpack. Best Convertible Carry-On Backpack: Lambert Sadie 2-In-1 Backpack. Best Expandable Carry-On Backpack: Aer Travel Pack 3. Best ...

  15. Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

    Best Overall Travel Backpack: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L. A Close Second (That's Great for Carrying Electronics): Peak Design Travel Backpack. Excellent Carrying Comfort for Gear-Intensive Trips: Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 L. Best for Staying Organized: Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L. Best Budget Travel Backpack: Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack.

  16. The 18 Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks for Easy, Breezy Packing

    Perfect carryon size with backpack straps for convenience." Dimensions: 20" x 12.5" x 7". Weight: 3.6 lbs. Material: Recyclex. $95 at Everlane. This bag has compartments, on compartments, on ...

  17. 22 Best Carry On Backpacks (for Your Next Trip in 2024)

    Quick Answers - The Best Carry On Packs of 2024. Nomatic 40L Travel Bag - Best Overall Carry On Backpack. Tortuga Travel Pack - Best Carry On Bag for International Travel. AER Travel Pack 3 - Best Carry On for EU Residents. Monarc Settra Duffel Backpack - Epic Recycled Carry on Duffel/Backpack. LOJEL Urbo 2 Travel Pack - Best Urban ...

  18. 19 Carry-On Backpacks to Take on Your Next Flight

    Fitted out with a weatherproof 400D nylon canvas shell, an elegant expanding mechanism, clever tuck-away shoulder straps, and ultra-light padded foam throughout, this is the ultimate carry-on travel backpack. It's strong, handsome, and gloriously adaptable. As well as expanding from a 35 L cabin bag to a 45 L check-in luggage, it also ...

  19. Best Travel Backpacks in 2024, Tested by Gear Experts

    In the end, we decided on these 13 models as our picks for the best travel backpacks worth buying in 2024. We reviewed brands like Cotopaxi, Peak Design, Away, Patagonia, and more to determine the ...

  20. The best travel backpacks, according to experts

    The best travel backpacks are weather resistant and have multiple storage compartments. lo&sons; Wandrd; Peak Design May 11, 2023, 9:53 PM UTC / Updated June 14, 2024, 10:50 PM UTC By Nishka Dhawan

  21. The 3 Best Travel Backpacks for Men (Also Good For Work)

    The Top 3 Travel Backpacks for Men. Best Overall: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. Jump to features and traveler insights ↓. Best Overall, Budget Pick: Inateck 40L 17-Inch Carry On Travel ...

  22. 22 Best Travel Bags for All Your 2024 Adventures

    The Durable Hero: Longchamp Le Pliage 18" travel bag, $160. The Cool Canvas: Hereu Cala canvas tote bag, $485. The Timeless Option: Staud Allora tote, $495. The Luxe Logo Bag: Gucci Jackie 1961 ...

  23. Checked bag policy − Travel information − American Airlines

    Travel within / between the U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands - 1st checked bag fee is $40 ($35 if you pay online) and the 2nd checked bag fee is $45. Travel to / from Canada, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Guyana - 1st checked bag fee is $35 and the 2nd checked bag fee is $45. All bag fees are non-refundable and apply per ...

  24. Visit Elektrostal: 2024 Travel Guide for Elektrostal, Moscow Oblast

    Cities near Elektrostal. Places of interest. Pavlovskiy Posad Noginsk. Travel guide resource for your visit to Elektrostal. Discover the best of Elektrostal so you can plan your trip right.

  25. Elektrostal, Russia: All You Must Know Before You Go (2024

    A mix of the charming, modern, and tried and true. See all. Apelsin Hotel. 43. from $48/night. Apart Hotel Yantar. 2. from $28/night. Elektrostal Hotel.

  26. Visit Elektrostal: 2024 Travel Guide for Elektrostal, Moscow Oblast

    Travel guide resource for your visit to Elektrostal. Discover the best of Elektrostal so you can plan your trip right. Vacation Packages. Stays. Cars. Flights. Support. All travel. Vacation Packages Stays Cars Flights Cruises Support Things to do. My Account. Members can access discounts and special features.

  27. THE 10 BEST Things to Do in Elektrostal (Updated 2024)

    THE 10 BEST Things to Do in Elektrostal. 1. Electrostal History and Art Museum. 2. Statue of Lenin. 3. Park of Culture and Leisure. 4. Museum and Exhibition Center.