Picking the best travel backpack can make or break an adventure. It’s essential to have the right one, but choosing it can be a daunting task.
We’ve tested a lot of travel backpacks over the years. After using the best packs on the market in our travels, we have a high standard for a good travel bag, especially a well-constructed carry-on backpack.
The Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L was hands down the best travel backpack we tested. It’s durable, feature-packed, and very comfortable. We also highly recommend the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L and Peak Design Travel Backpack.
Each backpack on this list excels at one thing in particular. I’ll walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of each so you can find the perfect pack for your needs.
- Best Travel Backpack Overall: Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L
- Best Budget Travel Backpack: AmazonBasics Carry-On Travel Backpack
- Best Travel Backpack for Women: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L
- Best Travel Backpack for Men: Aer Travel Pack 3
- Best Travel Laptop Backpack: NOMATIC Travel Bag
- Best Travel Backpack for Europe: Minaal Carry-On 3.0
- Best Business Travel Backpack: Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus
- Best Lightweight Backpack for Travel: REI Ruckpack 40
- Best Carry-On Backpack for International Travel: Topo Designs Global Travel Backpack 40L
- Best Small Travel Backpack: NOMATIC Travel Pack 20L
- Best Large Travel Backpack: Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L
- Best Camera Backpack for Travel: Peak Design Travel Backpack
- Best Rolling Backpack for Travel: Eagle Creek Gear Warrior
- Best Waterproof Travel Backpack: Matador GlobeRider45
- Best Backpacking Backpack for Travel: Osprey Farpoint/Fairview
Why You Should Trust Us
Every member of the TravelFreak team is an avid traveler and adventurer. We have a soft spot in our hearts for a great backpack. Most of us have lived out of a backpack at one time or another, whether doing one-bag travel around the globe or long-distance thru-hiking.
A fair number of packs have gone through our hands over the years. Over the past two decades, we’ve tested over 100 travel packs and learned much about what makes a good carry-on backpack.
We know how hard it is to find the perfect pack and want to make the process easier for you. So we got our team of gear junkies and former product engineers together to develop the most comprehensive backpack test methodology and rating system possible.
We tested most backpacks on this list hands-on during our travels. These include the Tortuga Travel Backpack, Peak Design Travel Backpack, Cotopaxi Allpa, Aer Travel Pack 3, Nomatic Travel Bag, Bellroy Transit, Topo Designs Global Travel Backpack, and Osprey Farpoint. We chose the remaining packs based on extensive research of existing reviews, specs, features, and design.
Individual Product Reviews
1. Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L: Best Travel Backpack Overall
The best all-around travel backpack must be ready for anything, from cross-country business trips to long-term globetrotting. It needs to be comfortable enough for remote treks, spacious enough to live out of, and durable enough to last forever.
Out of all the packs we tested, the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L stood out for its impressive comfort, durable construction, and clever (but not overly complicated) design. This is a backpack that fits seamlessly into every travel routine.
Like most good travel backpacks, the Tortuga Travel Backpack has an easy-access clamshell opening, durable zippers and construction, a padded external laptop compartment, and a good array of pockets. It is carry-on compatible for virtually any flight in the world, but it has enough space for one-bag travel.
So, what makes this backpack stand out?
First is comfort. Most travel packs have decent padding and support, but the Tortuga Travel Backpack is built like a hiking pack. It has a rigid frame sheet that provides impressive structure and support. The removable hip belt is burly and has a ton of padding.
The shoulder straps have a generous curve and tons of padding. They also have load lifter straps! These little adjusters are rare on travel backpacks, and they go a long way toward making this one of the most comfortable carry-on packs we’ve tried.
The design and organization are also just about perfect. There are plenty of pockets to keep you organized, but not so many that you forget where things are. The front organization pocket is ideal for your passport, pens, keys, a Kindle or tablet, and more.
The high-tech waterproof sailcloth and PU-coated zippers make this one of the most water-resistant backpacks we’ve tested. That’s a huge plus if you’re traveling around Southeast Asia in the rainy season.
The downsides? Well, it is one of the most expensive bags on this list. Oh, and it only comes in black.
Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L Specs:
|21.7″ x 13.8″ x 7.9″
2. AmazonBasics Carry-On Travel Backpack: Best Budget Travel Backpack
I get it; sometimes, you just need the cheapest gear you can get. Fortunately, even if you’re on a tight budget, you can still get a completely functional travel backpack at a price that won’t feel like a gut punch.
The AmazonBasics Carry-On Travel Backpack delivers many of the same features as higher-end travel backpacks, just at a fraction of the cost.
My experience of this backpack can essentially be summed up with two words: good enough.
Is it the most comfortable carry-on travel backpack out there? No, but it’s comfortable enough. The shoulder straps have some padding, and while I’d prefer a padded hip belt, the webbing waist strap does help a bit with weight distribution.
Is it durable enough to survive anything? No, but it’s durable enough for occasional travel. I’d be extra careful with the zippers and try not to force them. Those will be the first thing to break.
Is it the best-designed pack on the market, with tons of features that make travel easier? No, but it does have a good range of features that make it surprisingly functional.
So, who is this backpack for?
If you’re a frequent traveler, I highly recommend spending a bit more on a backpack that will last longer. The Cotopaxi Allpa and Topo Designs Global Travel Bag are much better packs with a reasonable price point.
For someone who travels less frequently, spending more money may not be worth it. The AmazonBasics Carry-On Travel Backpack is an excellent option at a fantastic price.
AmazonBasics Carry-On Travel Backpack Specs:
|21.5″ x 15.8″ x 8.3″
3. Cotopaxi Allpa 35L: Best Travel Backpack for Women
When we were searching for the perfect travel backpack for women, the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L kept popping up. Our team tried it out and was impressed by the comfort, organization, and durability of this bag.
It isn’t always easy for women to find travel backpacks that fit right. The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L has a slightly shorter torso length than the larger 42L size, which makes it perfect for smaller frames. The shoulder straps also have a fantastic S-shape, making them very comfortable.
This bag has most of the standard features you’d expect from a modern carry-on backpack. Its clamshell opening hinges out flat like a suitcase. The shoulder straps and hip belt tuck away for a more manageable package on the airplane. The padded laptop compartment is easy to access
One place where the Cotopaxi Allpa stands out is in durability. This bag is made from a 1000D polyester fabric with a heavy-duty TPU coating. This fabric feels bomb-proof. Combined with the chunky YKK zippers, this pack is ready to take a beating.
The internal organization is also better than most travel packs. Inside the main compartment, there are four zippered mesh panels that open compartments of varying sizes. This design makes it super easy to keep everything organized. It’s kind of like having built-in packing cubes! Yes, that is awesome.
My biggest gripe with this bag is the lack of water bottle pockets. I hate putting my water bottle inside the main compartment, but the Allpa doesn’t give me any other options besides clipping it on with a carabiner (which is dorky and annoying).
While aesthetic is subjective, I love the styling of the Cotopaxi Allpa. It’s sleek, simple, and streamlined. You can choose a professional all-black look, a tan “desert” color that has colorful zippers and details, or go full rainbow mode with a pack from the Del Dia collection.
Cotopaxi Del Dia packs are made from scratch by the individual sewer using leftover materials. That means every bag is 100% unique. Plus, because it uses cast-off materials, it also keeps fabric scraps out of the landfill.
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Specs:
|18″ x 12″ x 7″
4. Aer Travel Pack 3: Best Travel Backpack for Men
With its bomber construction, streamlined functionality, and no-nonsense, not-quite-tactical styling, the Aer Travel Pack 3 is an excellent choice for a men’s travel backpack. You can go a bit more rugged and adventurous with the olive green colorway or stay sleek and professional with black or gray.
Again, this carry-on backpack has all the features you’d expect. It’s a front-loading backpack that opens wide for easy packing. There are handles on four sides. It has plenty of pockets for staying organized (including a padded laptop compartment).
A few features make this bag stand out from the crowd, though.
The carrying comfort of this travel bag is far better than average. It has beefy, padded shoulder straps with a nice curve to them. The chest strap, load lifter straps, and padded hip belt all help dial in the fit and distribute the load.
Many of these comfort features are typically found in full-on hiking backpacks. This is a comfy bag; its smaller size makes it even better since it will never be overly heavy.
The front organization panel is also among the best I’ve seen in any travel pack. It has eight individual compartments that are perfect for headphones, charging cords, pens, a passport, a tablet, and more.
The zip-away water bottle pocket is also a really cool feature. Some travel backpacks don’t include a water bottle pocket because it messes with the aesthetic. This design is a great way to get the best of both worlds: a bottle pocket when you need it and a clean, minimal exterior otherwise.
While most travel backpacks focus on a single use case, the Aer Travel Pack 3 packs a lot of versatility. The 35L volume is on the smaller end, and side compression straps can shrink this bag to the size of a daypack. That means this pack can do double duty for everyday commuting and one-bag travel. It’s also a perfect size for international trips.
The main compartment opens wide for easy packing, but there isn’t much organization inside. If you like to keep things compartmentalized, you’ll probably want to get a few packing cubes.
Aer Tech Pack 3 Specs:
|21.5″ x 13″ x 9″
5. NOMATIC Travel Bag: Best Travel Laptop Backpack
Traveling with a laptop can be stressful. Pulling it out for security is cumbersome, and there’s always a worry that it might get damaged. A good travel laptop backpack needs a highly protective laptop compartment that is easy to access.
The NOMATIC Travel Bag is one of the best travel backpacks for carrying a laptop. There are a lot of innovative design features that make this bag stand out.
Obviously, the key feature here is the laptop compartment. This is one of the only backpacks we tested that can fit a big 17” laptop. Check your device measurements to be sure it will fit, but this is the best travel backpack for larger computers.
While the laptop compartment isn’t external, it still is very easy to access. This pack opens with a wrap-around zipper that lets the whole back panel fold open. The laptop compartment is in the back panel, so when you open the pack, you get direct, easy access to your device.
The NOMATIC Travel Bag has a unique hybrid design that can be carried like a backpack or a duffel bag. Unlike most travel backpacks, it’s designed to lay down flat on its front (with the back panel facing up). This is good because when you set the bag down, the laptop compartment is right at the top—easy to access and safe from impacts with the ground.
The biggest downside of the NOMATIC Travel Bag is its lack of comfort. The shoulder straps are thinly padded and don’t have much curve to them. The back panel is not breathable at all, and there isn’t much structure or support.
This is a fantastic carry-on pack for traveling with the laptop, but it’s best for trips where you don’t need to carry it on your back for extended periods.
Oh, and it comes with a travel laundry bag for your dirty clothes. So that’s cool.
NOMATIC Travel Bag Specs:
|21″ x 14″ x 9″
6. Minaal Carry-On 3.0: Best Travel Backpack for Europe
Most people don’t want to look like a tourist while traveling, but Europe is one place where you really don’t want to stand out as a tourist. If you want the most authentic European travel experience, your goal should be to blend in as much as possible.
The Minaal Carry-On 3.0 is a sleek, minimalist carry-on backpack that looks right at home on the streets of European cities. It also is specifically designed for EU carry-on size limits.
This travel backpack is packed with features that make it great for travel in Europe. One example is the hidden pocket for passports and other valuables. Pickpockets are a known problem in some European cities, so it’s important to have a secure place to stash valuables while still keeping them accessible.
The sleek, stylish design conceals an awesome array of pockets and features. There are multiple internal and external pockets to keep your travel gear organized, and the side compression straps keep everything from bouncing around when it isn’t fully packed.
The main compartment access is through a wraparound zipper at the back panel. This provides easy, instant access to everything inside, and it makes it easy to pack.
The dedicated laptop compartment can be accessed from either the side or the top of the bag. It has plenty of padding and protection from bumps.
While 35L is on the smaller end for a travel backpack, it’s a great size for traveling in Europe. For one thing, this doesn’t look like a huge, bulky travel backpack. You also just don’t need as much space when traveling in Europe as less in developed regions. Laundry, shops, and any other modern conveniences are readily available. As long as you pack light, 35L is plenty for extended trips in Europe.
The Minaal Carry-On has impressively comfortable shoulder straps. Unlike most travel backpacks, it even has load lifter straps to help distribute the load.
This pack is compatible with Minaal’s padded waist belt, but unfortunately you have to buy it separately. This is already an expensive bag, so it’s a bummer that you have to buy the waist straps as an accessory.
You can also carry it like a shoulder bag, but again, you have to buy the shoulder strap as an additional accessory.
Minaal Carry-On 3.0 Bag Specs:
|21.6″ x 13.7″ x 7.9″
7. Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus: Best Business Travel Backpack
Any business traveler needs a functional, professional-looking backpack that can carry a laptop and the rest of their travel gear. The Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus is a perfect solution that was designed specifically with business travel in mind.
The styling of the Bellroy Transit is very sleek and professional. You get two color choices: black or navy. This is definitely a travel backpack I’d feel comfortable taking into a conference room, which is more than I can say about some of the more colorful backpack designs.
The laptop compartment is big enough for 16” devices, and it’s easy to access through a dedicated zipper. That makes it easy to breeze through security checks or whip out your computer for a meeting.
There is a full-width flat mesh pocket that is designed to keep button-up shirts crisp and wrinkle-free.
Multiple internal pockets and elastic adjustable straps for compression mean you won’t need packing cubes unless you really like to stay uber organized.
Carrying comfort is good, but not great. The shoulder straps have decent padding, and the back panel is moderately breathable, but there’s not as much support as I’d like. This isn’t a bag I’d recommend for carrying heavy loads for a long time. Fortunately, it does have a stowable waist belt, which helps take some load off the shoulder straps.
Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus Specs:
|21.6″ x 15″ x 9.5″
8. REI Ruckpack 40: Best Lightweight Backpack for Travel
REI is best known for hiking backpacks and other outdoor gear, but they started adding more travel-oriented gear a few years back. The Ruckpack 40 is their versatile carry-on travel backpack, and it is the lightest travel pack we tested.
At 2.85 lbs, the Ruckpack 40 is a full pound lighter than many packs on this list. It achieves this by using lightweight ripstop nylon, having fewer layers of material, and cutting out many not-strictly-necessary features.
If you like lightweight simplicity, this travel backpack is a great choice. It’s a perfect one-bag travel backpack suited to adventurous travelers who like to get off the beaten path.
As you’d expect from an outdoor company, the REI Ruckpack has a similar construction to what you’d find in hiking backpacks. The hip belt and shoulder straps have tons of padding and support, and there is a full internal frame made of spring steel. This is easily the most comfortable pack we tested for carrying heavier loads.
If you are used to the fit and feel of a lightweight backpacking pack, you’ll like this travel pack. The harness stows away behind a zippered panel, though, which makes this better for air travel.
The adventure-oriented design goes beyond the comfortable shoulder straps and waist belt, though. This pack has two big stretchy water bottle pockets and a hydration sleeve for a water bladder. It has the bones of a hiking backpack, with a design and features that are optimized for travel.
The panel-loader design gives easy access to the main compartment, and there are several external pockets for keeping essentials handy. There isn’t much organization inside the pack, though, so you may want to buy some packing cubes.
One thing to be aware of is that the full dimensions of this travel bag are a bit oversized for carry-on luggage. Fortunately, since it’s soft and flexible, it should be easy to stuff into the airline size checker or overhead bin. Still, this may not be the pack if you’re anxious about luggage checks.
Also, REI says the Ruckpack has a laptop sleeve, but it doesn’t have any padding or protection. I would only carry a laptop in this bag if I had a padded laptop case.
REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Specs:
|25″ x 14.5″ x 9″
9. Topo Designs Global Travel Backpack 40L: Best Carry-On Backpack for International Travel
Most international airlines have slightly different carry-on size restrictions than US domestic flights. For international trips, it’s important to have a pack that fits these limits while carrying everything you need.
As the name suggests, the Topo Designs Global Travel Backpack is built specifically with international travel in mind. Not only does it fit carry-on size limits worldwide, but it is also highly functional and durable enough to rely on far from home.
The boxy, retro styling of this pack is hard not to love. It just looks like it belongs on the back of a veteran world traveler, and it has the durability to match.
With recycled ballistic nylon fabrics ranging from lightweight 210D to burly 1680D, this pack is built to last. These thick materials are paired with big #10 YKK zippers for impressive durability. You might be able to break this bag, but you’ll have a hard time doing it.
This is also one of the most organized packs we tested. There are pockets and zip-away panels galore. It’s easy to stay organized without using packing cubes, though I also found myself forgetting where I put things.
One thing I don’t love is that you have to unzip and open two panels to get into the main compartment. Once you open the main zippered panel, there’s another organization panel covering the main compartment. While it’s great to have the extra pockets, it’s annoying to have to zip this panel out of the way to get inside.
I also don’t love the laptop sleeve. The zipper is too short, which makes it hard to get my device in and out.
Most packs on this list will work for international trips, but this one is purpose-built with impressive durability and organization.
Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L Specs:
|22.5″ x 14″ x 7.5″
10. NOMATIC Travel Pack 20L: Best Small Travel Backpack
If you’re an ultralight packer or only take shorter weekend trips, you may not need a big 45L travel backpack that maxes out the carry-on size limits. If that seems overkill, a smaller travel backpack like the NOMATIC Travel Pack 20L may be a better option.
Most of the packs on this list average around 40L, so a 20L travel pack seems almost absurdly small. Normally, I’d say it’s too small to be considered a travel backpack (unless you like to travel with just a change of clothes and a toothbrush), but this little bag can actually expand by 50% to provide a total of 30 L of volume when needed.
Is it big enough for long-term one-bag travel? Probably only for uber-minimalists. It’s great for shorter trips, though. The size is great for versatility. It’s big enough to use for weekend trips but small enough to be a good daypack.
When you get past the small size, the NOMATIC Travel Pack has a lot of the same design features as any other travel backpack. The clamshell main compartment access makes it easy to pack and unpack your travel gear. The luggage handle pass-through lets this bag attach to the top of a suitcase.
Of all the travel backpacks we’ve tested, this one is probably the best for organization. NOMATIC is known for loading their bags with pockets and features, and this one is no exception. There is a total of 18 separate pockets and compartments, which means there is a place for everything.
Of course, not everyone will need or want all those pockets. I personally like something a bit simpler and found the extreme number of pockets a bit over the top. YMMV.
Not small enough for you? There’s also a 14L version that expands to 21L.
NOMATIC Travel Pack 20L Specs:
|18.5″ x 12″ x 6-9.5″
11. Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L: Best Large Travel Backpack
On the other end of the spectrum, the Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L is designed to be the largest possible carry-on. In fact, that’s what MLC stands for: Maximum Legal Carry-on.
While you won’t need this much storage space if you’re packing light, most travelers will welcome the extra room. Even if you don’t pack it to the max for every trip, it’s nice to know you have the volume.
Like many travel backpacks, the Patagonia Black Hole Pack has a nice clamshell-style opening, multiple grab handles, stow-away shoulder straps and hip belt, and a luggage handle pass-through.
One unique feature of this pack is that it has two big zippered clamshell openings. The first opening grants access to the main compartment. The second opening reveals a massive organization panel with a padded laptop sleeve and tons of pockets and pouches of varying sizes.
Inside the main compartment, there are also multiple zippered mesh compartments to separate clothing and other items.
This pack is fairly comfortable to carry with a sternum strap and padded hip belt. However, for such a large bag, I wish it had more padding and structure. I would shy away from carrying this for long distances.
The 300D polyester used on the whole bag isn’t the most durable fabric out there, but it should stand up to some abuse. Plus, this bag comes with Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee.
Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L Specs:
|22″ x 14.5″ x 7.6″
12. Peak Design Travel Backpack: Best Camera Backpack for Travel
Peak Design is well known for their wide range of sophisticated photography gear, from carrying clips to backpacks to camera cases to tripods. Finding a good backpack for traveling with a camera isn’t easy, but Peak Design is the best in the business.
The Peak Design Travel Backpack is designed to be the ultimate one-bag travel solution for creators and photographers. It’s loaded with features and works perfectly with Peak Design’s camera accessories and packing cubes.
While the Peak Design Travel Backpack is a fantastic all-around backpack for travel, it really shines when you pair it with their Camera Cube. The travel pack doesn’t have built-in camera storage, so the Camera Cube is a must-have accessory for photographers.
The Peak Design Camera Cube has tons of protective padding and an array of removable dividers that you can use to organize lenses, camera bodies, and other gear. It clips perfectly inside the Travel Backpack.
With a Camera Installed, the Travel Backpack has side-access zippers that let you easily get to your camera without even setting the bag down.
Even if you aren’t a photographer, the Peak Design Travel Backpack is a fantastic choice for one-bag travel. It’s loaded with more clever and functional features than any bag we tested.
It has full panel access from either the front or the back, and it has a zipper to expand from 35L to 45L. The shoulder straps stow away behind magnetic flaps in the back panel.
Whether you’re a photographer or not, the Peak Design Travel Backpack is one of the most feature-rich travel backpacks out there.
Peak Design Travel Backpack Specs:
|21″ x 13″ x 6.5″ (7.5″ Expanded)
13. Eagle Creek Gear Warrior: Best Rolling Backpack for Travel
While backpacks are great, they aren’t always the best way to carry your travel gear. If you prefer to wheel your carry-on luggage through the airport, a roller bag is more convenient and keeps the weight off your shoulders.
What if you could combine the hands-free carrying of a backpack with the wheelability of standard carry-on luggage?
There are a few transformer rolling luggage-meets-backpack products on the market, but I particularly like the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Convertible Backpack.
I’ve tried other backpack/suitcase hybrids before, and usually the backpack straps seem like an afterthought—thin and uncomfortable.
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior breaks that mold, and it definitely feels like the carrying harness is central to the design. The shoulder straps have a nice S-shape and plenty of padding, and there’s even a fully padded hip belt.
This bag is by far the heaviest on this list, at nearly 7 lbs, and you feel that weight when you carry it. That’s just the tradeoff for the roller wheels and extendable handle.
Eagle Creek builds high-quality gear, and overall this pack is very well-built with huge beefy wheels and reinforced wear areas.
The main zipper, however, is smaller than I’d like. Since zippers are where most bags fail, I would much rather have a big #10 zipper like many bags on this list use.
Eagle Creek does have a solid lifetime warranty, though, so if this pack does break, they will likely repair or replace it for you.
But wait. There’s more.
When you buy the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior, you’re actually getting TWO backpacks. In addition to the main carry-on-sized bag, there is a compact daypack that attaches to the outside of the main pack.
You can use the daypack as your personal item on a flight or your run-around-town bag when you get to your destination. It adds a whole new level of functionality to this already-unique
This pack falls short of most others in this list for organization. The main bag is essentially just a big main compartment with stretchy compression straps and a few mesh internal pockets. No water bottle pocket, no padded laptop sleeve, and no external zippered pockets.
While it seems to be a do-it-all bag, in my mind the Eagle Creek Gear Warrior is more of a specialist pack for people who really want to switch between rolling and carrying their stuff. If that’s what you want, this bag will be awesome, but it isn’t for everyone.
Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Specs:
|Main Travel Pack
|21.8″ x 14″ x 9″
|18.3″ x 11″ x 6″
14. Matador GlobeRider45: Best Waterproof Travel Backpack
If you travel to (or live in) a rainy location, getting caught in a storm is inevitable. When that happens, a waterproof backpack can be the difference between arriving at your destination with a bag full of soggy clothes, or not.
Sure, you could use a rain cover, but that’s one extra thing to carry, it’s annoying to put on, and it looks weird.
Matador is a Colorado-based company that builds an awesome range of travel and hiking backpacks, all of which are highly water-resistant or waterproof. The GlobeRider45 is the brand’s signature carry-on travel pack. It combines the organization and functionality of an urban travel pack with the materials, construction, and comfort of a rugged outdoor backpack.
This pack combines highly waterproof coated nylon with YKK PU-coated sealing zippers for a highly water-resistant finish. No, it isn’t totally waterproof. This isn’t a dry bag for whitewater rafting. Instead, it’s waterproof enough to keep the contents dry through several hours of rain.
Like many other travel backpacks, this front-loading backpack has a wide clamshell opening for easy packing. The built-in organization is impressive. There are multiple zippered pockets in the main compartment, minimizing the need for packing cubes. There are also pockets and zippered compartments scattered throughout the pack, giving you a place for everything.
The main body of the pack is a combination of 420D Dyneema-reinforced ripstop nylon and plain ripstop nylon. These materials have been used for years in long-distance backpacking bags and have proven themselves highly durable. I still wish there was a 1000D Cordura option though.
45L is the maximum size for a carry-on compliant bag, and this pack feels big. It has tons of packing space, and it’s easy to use for longer trips. It’s a great option for digital nomads or frequent travelers who want a travel backpack with lots of storage space.
The downsides? One is the price. This is one of the most expensive backpacks on this list, and you may be just as happy with a significantly cheaper bag. Another is that while the features and pockets are awesome, the sheer number can be a bit overwhelming. It’s definitely possible to put something in one of the many pockets and forget where it is.
Matador Globerider 45 Specs:
|22″ x 12.8″ x 11″
15. Osprey Farpoint/Fairview: Best Backpacking Backpack for Travel
If you want to head off the beaten path when you reach your destination, you need a backpack that’s designed for hiking long distances. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice travel-friendly features.
Carrying comfort is probably the most important element of a travel backpack for hiking and backpacking. If you’re walking long distances, a little discomfort can quickly turn into pain.
The Osprey Farpoint is based on Osprey’s legendary range of hiking packs. It’s built from the ground up to be comfortable to carry. It has structured hip straps, a sternum strap, and load-lifters. Unlike most travel backpacks, the Farpoint has a full internal frame made of aluminum. This makes for much better weight distribution.
The main compartment has a big, easy-access panel opening, but this pack doesn’t have much in terms of organization. If you like to stay organized, you’ll definitely want to invest in some packing cubes.
Osprey uses durable materials, and if you ever do manage to break one of their bags, they have an impressive All-Mighty Guarantee. Essentially, you break it, they’ll fix it. Period. It doesn’t matter if your pack is 20 years old; Osprey will still cover it with repairs for life.
Honestly, the biggest downside for most people is going to be the style. The whole bag definitely looks a bit “outdoorsy.” If that’s your vibe, great! But it isn’t for everyone.
Osprey Farpoint/Fairview Specs:
|22″ x 14″ x 9″
What We Considered
We break our testing and rating for travel backpacks into five categories: comfort, materials/durability, ease of use, organization, and company rating. Within each category is a series of specific metrics and conditions we use to evaluate each bag as objectively as possible.
Comfort is one of the most important factors when choosing a new backpack. If a pack doesn’t fit right, it won’t be enjoyable to use, no matter how fancy and feature-packed it is.
Based on our proprietary scoring system, if you’re looking for the most comfortable, supportive pack possible, you’ll want to check out the REI Ruckpack 40, with the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L and Osprey Fairview 40 as close competitors.
We found several key objective test metrics that were common across the most comfortable backpacks:
- Shoulder strap padding: A comfortable backpack starts with ample padding in the shoulder straps. Thick foam padding helps distribute the load and eliminate pressure points. We specifically looked for high-quality closed-cell foam thicker than ¼”.
- Shoulder strap shape: A pack can be as padded as a pair of cycling chamois, but it won’t be comfortable if the straps are the wrong shape for your body. While this can be somewhat personal, we’ve found that straps with a contoured S-shape are the best.
- Frame: A saggy, floppy bag puts extra strain on your shoulders and back. The most supportive travel packs have full internal frames like backpacking bags. Most travel packs just use a plastic frame sheet, which (done well) can still offer great support. We try to steer clear of anything less than that.
- Hip belt: You may think a hip belt looks dorky, but you’ll want one if you’ll be doing much walking with your pack. We gave higher ratings to packs with supportive padded hip belts rather than flimsy webbing hip straps (or nothing at all).
- Sternum strap: Most travel backpacks have sternum straps to dial in the fit. We’re a bit skeptical of bags that don’t.
- Load lifters: These little adjusters at the top of a pack’s shoulder straps can help with better weight distribution. Less than half the bags we tested have this feature.
- Breathability: Wearing a backpack can easily lead to a sweaty back. We give higher ratings to backpacks that use
- Weight: More weight on your back means, well, more weight on your back. All else equal, lighter travel backpacks are more comfortable.
We value quality and durability highly because a travel pack is an investment that should last years or decades.
We’ve spent enough time traveling and testing backpacks to know where packs fail and what makes the difference for the ones that can handle abuse.
The two packs that stood out from the rest for durability were the Cotopaxi Allpa 35 and the Topo Designs Global Travel Backpack 40L. If you want a bag that will go through hell and back, these are the ones to check out.
- Material: We looked for heavy-duty materials like 1000D Cordura, X-Pac, and canvas.
- Zippers: YKK zippers are generally recognized as the best in the industry, but zipper size matters too. We gave higher ratings to bags with beefy #10 main zippers.
- Components: Straps, buckles, and adjusters are all potential failure points. We looked for high-quality oversized straps and components.
- Reinforcements: The best packs use heavier materials in high-stress areas like bottom panels and the top of the shoulder straps.
- Water resistance: Packs with waterproof fabrics and coated sealing zippers got the highest scores.
- Recycled materials: Sustainability is important, so we rated packs that use recycled materials the highest.
Ease of Use
Just because a bag is packed with features doesn’t mean it’s easy to use. In fact, too many features can make a bag overly complicated and confusing. Rather than looking for the most features, you should look for capabilities that streamline and simplify your travel process.
We narrowed down a specific range of capabilities that make a pack easier to use while you’re traveling. The Matador GlobeRider45 won the prize as the pack with the best features for usability and functionality.
- Main opening style: You have to open a bag to pack it, and wide-opening panel or clamshell opening designs are just easier to pack than half-zips or top-loaders.
- Expansion/compression: Some of the backpacks on this list have zippered expansion. This adds more volume and makes for a more versatile carry-on backpack.
- Volume: 35-45L is the sweet spot. Big enough to carry what you need and small enough to be comfortable and carry-on legal.
- Handles: The more the better (within reason). We like handles on the top, sides, bottom… pretty much anywhere.
- Laptop accessibility: You usually need to pull your laptop out to go through security. External laptop sleeves make that much easier than internal sleeves.
- Stowable/removable shoulder straps: Backpack carry isn’t always the best option, especially while boarding a plane. We prioritized bags with stow-away harnesses, so you don’t have shoulder straps flapping all over the place while trying to stuff your bag in the overhead bin.
- Luggage Handle Pass-Through: Your backpack might not be your only piece of luggage for every trip. A luggage handle pass-through lets you attach your backpack to the top of a suitcase to keep the load off your back.
Organization is key while traveling, but it can be hard to prevent your backpack from becoming a pit of chaos. Packs that offer good organization features can make your life easier. As the saying goes, a place for everything, and everything in its place.
- External pockets: External pockets are great for keeping small essentials within easy reach on the outside of the pack.
- Internal pockets: Internal pockets help keep everything organized and separated inside the main compartment.
- Laptop sleeve: A dedicated laptop pocket with a false bottom is the best way to keep your device safe. We looked for ones that fit at least 15.6” devices.
- Organization panel: We like packs that have a dedicated area with an array of small compartments to keep little things like keys, wallets, passports, headphones, and cables organized.
- Water bottle pockets: Staying hydrated is important, and accessible water bottle pockets help.
- Key clip: Don’t want to lose your keys, eh?
- Warranty: Travel backpacks are a significant cash investment, so you want to be sure to have a solid warranty backing it up.
- Shipping: Free shipping is better than paying for shipping.
- Returns: We gave a higher rating to backpacks that come with free returns and longer return windows.
- Sustainability: It’s important to us to support products and brands that reduce negative impacts on the world.
This isn’t one of our rating categories, but it is important. We believe in investing in high-quality gear that will last. It’s better to buy a better (but possibly more expensive) product the first time rather than buy a cheaper one and end up replacing it later. That said, you don’t have to empty your bank account to get a good travel backpack.
The packs we tested come in a wide range of price points, and we considered bang for your buck a critical factor in choosing our recommendations.
Ultimately, this list still represents a wide range of price points to suit many different budgets, but the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L impressed us with the quality and functionality it provides at a relatively affordable price.
How We Review Backpacks: Sources and Methodology
It’s easy to just test a bunch of backpacks and subjectively pick the ones we like the most, but that wasn’t good enough for us. We’re in the business of recommending products to fit your needs. That means we needed a better way to test and rate backpacks as objectively as possible.
Fortunately, our team is full of avid travelers, obsessive gear junkies, and one former product design engineer. When we set out to improve our rating system, we aimed to build the most detailed and comprehensive backpack test methodology in the world.
It all starts with the list of factors in the “what we considered” section above. We assign each factor a score of 0-10 based on an objective, standardized scale. For example, here is the rating scale for shoulder strap padding:
Once we assign a score for each individual factor, we use a weighted average formula to calculate individual scores for the five rating categories (Comfort, Materials & Durability, Ease of Use, Organization, and Company).
Each scoring category contributes a specific amount to the overall product score. The chart below shows this breakdown.
We developed our comprehensive, objective, metric-based rating system that we developed after years of travel and testing dozens of travel packs. It gives us confidence that we are rating packs on an equal footing, not just by personal preference.
You can dive into more detail by reading our full article on how we test travel backpacks.
Travel Backpack FAQs
What is the best travel backpack for flying?
The Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L is the best travel backpack for flying that we tested.
Which brand is best for a travel backpack?
Tortuga makes some of the best travel backpacks on the market.
What is the best size backpack for airline travel?
A carry-on backpack should be less than 22” x 14” x 9”
Why are Herschel backpacks so popular?
Herschel backpacks are inexpensive, durable, and stylish—perfect for everyday carry.
Will TSA open my backpack?
TSA doesn’t open all the bags, but there is a chance your backpack will be searched.