Picking the best travel backpack can make or break an adventure. It’s important to have the right one, but choosing it can be a daunting task.
In this breakdown, I’ll cover a variety of different travel backpacks that meet a range of needs. That includes the best carry-on backpack, wheeled backpacks, travel daypacks, laptop backpacks, trekking packs, and more, all from the top backpack brands on the market.
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IF YOU'RE IN A HURRY,
The Peak Design Travel Bag is our top choice, and we consider it to be the best all-rounder travel backpack on the market. Its clever, high-tech design will suit almost all travelers for most purposes.
Whatever your travel requirements are, you want to be comfortable and stress-free. At the end of this article, we’ll cover some of the things you should look for when choosing the best travel backpack for you.
I’ve spent years testing these travel backpacks—yes, every one of them—and feel confident recommending any bag on this list.
But at the end of the day, the best travel backpack is a matter of who you are and what you’re looking for.
Best Backpacks for Travel in 2021
We’ve tested a lot of travel backpacks in our day. You might even say we’ve got a thing for a good travel bag, especially a well-constructed carry-on backpack.
Whether you’re a digital nomad, avid hiker, city traveler or just love a good adventure, this list of the best travel backpacks has what you need.
1. Peak Design Travel Bag: Best Carry-On Travel Backpack
The founder of Peak Design, Peter Dering, was sick of less-than-perfect camera bags. If you’ve ever traveled with a camera, you know his pain. He wasn’t willing to give up though, so he decided to make the perfect camera bag himself.
Started in 2010, Peak Design is 100% crowdfunded which means they only have their target market to answer to—not investors. That means Peak Design creates products their customers actually want, because they only get funded if they make travel bags that meet a certain level of quality and versatility.
The Peak Design Travel Bag is our top choice, and we consider it to be the absolute best travel backpack on the market. While it’s not suited to hiking through the backcountry, it’s the best all-rounder backpack we’ve tested. Its clever, high-tech design suits most travelers for most purposes.
Better yet, it’s approved as carry-on luggage. And If you want to downsize it, you can compress this bag from 45L to 30L in one easy movement.
Sometimes one bag isn’t quite enough when you’re traveling. We generally like to travel with a travel backpack and a daypack. If you like a two-bag setup, it’s a great idea to pair the Peak Design Travel Bag with their smaller daypack, the Everyday.
The other thing we love about Peak Design is that, among their products, they’ve created an ecosystem in which all the accessories are interchangeable. If one accessory works better for you in the Everyday backpack than in the Travel Bag, you can switch it up as you go.
The Peak Design Travel Bag is an outstanding backpack for traveling, with the added bonus of having an organized setup for all that camera gear (and a laptop pocket). Its many pockets and access points help keep you organized!
Click here to read our full Peak Design review.
- Great for a 1-2 week trip
- Lifetime warranty
- Meets most carry-on rules
- You can remove the divider in the main section of the bag or keep it as two compartments
- Three points of access
- Stylish colors (black and sage)
- Extra accessories work with all Peak Design bags
- 100% recycled, water-resistant nylon shell
- Even at its compressed 30L size, it’s a little big for a commuter bag
- There isn’t enough space to fit both camera gear and enough clothing for a trip longer than a week or two
- Chest and waist straps are not hiking-grade
- At 4.5 pounds, it’s heavy
Peak Design Travel Bag Specs:
|Dimensions||21”H x 15”W x 5.75”D|
|Capacity||30L min, 35L normal (max carry-on size), 45L max|
|Fabric||100% recycled, weatherproof 400D nylon canvas|
2. Osprey Farpoint 40L or 55L: Best Backpacking Travel Backpack for Men
Osprey is one of the best-known backpacking companies. They’ve been around since the 70’s and their mission is to make adventure a reality for everyone.
And the Farpoint 40 is the best-selling backpack Osprey has to offer. For good reason.
We’ve chosen the Osprey Farpoint 40 as the best backpacking travel backpack for men because of its versatility.
What’s even cooler is that the 55L version of this bag comes with a detachable daypack. This saves you needing to travel with a second backpack for day-to-day use.
This compact bag also has external slash pockets and lockable sliders on its zippers to keep thieves out.
The Osprey Farpoint comes in a range of capacities from 40L all the way up to 80L. The advantage of the 40L, though, is that it’s carry-on sized! All the other sizes need to be checked-in.
If you’re not sure which size is best to choose, I’d go for the 40L. For a longer trip, the 55 is a good option.
It also comes in two size profiles, Small/Medium and Medium/Large. The difference here is not capacity but torso-length. If you’re under 5’9”, go for the Small/Medium. If you’re taller, go for the Medium/Large.
Click here to check out my full Osprey Farpoint review.
- The suspension system is amazing, and the well-padded hip belt and sternum strap bring the weightlessness to the next level
- The lockable zip sliders and the external compression straps keep thieves away
- The suitcase-style opening system means easy access
- Two bags in one: A travel backpack and a daypack
- You can pull the pack closer to your back while you’re wearing it
- Laptop and tablet storage
- Lifetime guarantee
- There is only one internal pocket so you’ll need some packing cubes
- The sides of this backpack aren’t rigid
- When you open the suit-case style front panel, things spill out all over the floor
- The laptop/tablet sections are in the middle of the pack, not at the back, so the laptop can weigh you down if it’s not right next to your back
- The Farpoint is lined with this toxic-waste-green mesh (it’s godawful)
Osprey Farpoint Specs:
|Dimensions||24”H x 13”W x 12”D||25”H x 13”W x 12”D|
|Weight||3.75 lbs||3.9 lbs|
|Fabric||210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop, 600D Packcloth||210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop, 600D Packcloth|
3. Osprey Fairview 40L or 55L: Best Backpacking Travel Backpack for Women
The Osprey Fairview is the women’s version of the Farpoint and therefore also steals the title of the best backpacking travel backpack for women.
The Fairview is pretty much identical to the Farpoint but the frame is optimized to work with women’s backs. There’s no real difference between the Farpoint and the Fairview in terms of features or functionality.
The Fairview takes women’s generally smaller stature into account. It comes in Extra Small/Small and Small/Medium. Again, the major difference is torso-length. If you’re a woman between 4’11” and 5’5”, the Extra Small/Small size will be a game-changer when it comes to backpack comfort, especially thanks to the Robust sternum strap.
However, if you’re 5’5” to 5’9”, you won’t see much difference between the Fairview and the Farpoint’s Small/Medium sizes.
This Fairview 55 also has a detachable daypack that you can take hiking (hence the extra 15 liters), as well as a clamshell opening. There’s a zippable external slash pocket, and both internal and external mesh pockets to keep you nicely organized!
The Fairview comes in 40L to 70L capacities. It misses out on the 80L size, but that’s too big for most women anyway.
Click here to check out my full Osprey Fairview review.
- Perfect for vertically-challenged women
- Fantastic suspension system
- You can slide a padlock through the zips
- Clamshell access to the main compartment
- You can pull the pack closer to your back to increase comfort
- Lifetime guarantee
- There is only one internal pocket so you’ll need some packing cubes
- The sides of this backpack aren’t rigid
- When you open the suit-case style front panel, things spill out all over the floor
- The laptop/tablet sections are in the middle of the pack, not at the back, so the laptop can weigh you down if it’s not right next to your back
Osprey Fairview Specs:
|Dimensions||22.8”H x 13”W 11.8”D||24.6”H x 13”W 11.8”D|
|Weight||3.8 lbs||3.8 lbs|
|Fabric||210 Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop, 600D Packcloth||210 Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop, 600D Packcloth|
4. Tortuga Outbreaker: Best Travel Backpack for Europe
Tortuga is a new kid on the backpack block. They’ve made quite an impression, though.
Tortuga was founded by a couple who realized that most luggage isn’t made for city travel. They decided to change that. Tortuga focuses on urban efficiency with this travel backpack that’s perfect for travel in Europe.
Most travelers in Europe choose a wheeled suitcase. Suitcases can be a huge pain, though, especially in Europe. You have to contend with cobblestones. The pedestrian crossings usually drop down to the road with a step. There are so. Many. Stairs.
Nothing about Europe is wheel-friendly, so we recommend choosing a good travel backpack for Europe instead.
Style is important in this case, too. You won’t feel like a big dork with the Outbreaker as you roll into Berlin or Budapest. Its suitcase-style clamshell opening system with two internal mesh zippable pockets suits cramped European dorms and it also comes with a ton of room for tech-storage.
Plus it comes in 35L and 45L sizes, has a laptop sleeve and tablet pocket, and the entire bag is durable and well-padded.
Click here to read our full Tortuga Outbreaker review.
- The rigid sides stop everything from spilling out.
- It’s easy to pack A LOT of clothes in this bag
- The separate tech compartment is a game-changer for digital nomads
- A wallet in a backpack: The front pocket keeps all your bits and pieces organized
- It has special pockets to keep pens, keys, everything
- Too big for carry-on luggage on some budget airlines
- No hideaway backpack straps
- The simple suspension system isn’t ideal for long distances
Tortuga Outbreaker Specs:
|Dimensions||20.3”H x 12.9”W x 8.2”D||22”H x 14”W x 9”D|
|Weight||4.6 lbs||5.1 lbs|
|Fabric||VX21 waterproof sailcoth, ariaprene foam, weather resistant YKK zipper||VX21 waterproof sailcoth, ariaprene foam, weather resistant YKK zipper|
5. Osprey Atmos AG 65: Best Hiking Backpack
Can you tell we’re big fans of Osprey packs yet? Our pick for the best hiking backpack is the Osprey Atmos 65.
The Atmos 65 is great for hiking, as opposed to heavier trekking. At 65L, it’s a good size for a day or overnight hike. You can strap a small tent onto the pack, as well as stash a sleeping bag in the purpose-built compartment. While the Atmos 65 is on the larger side, it’s still good for a general travel backpack, too.
It’s built for serious trekkers, with an anti-gravity suspension system, an internal hydration reservoir sleeve, a sleeping bag compartment, and a well-padded, adjustable hip belt. The dual ice tool loops make it a year-round bag!
Click here to read my full Osprey Atmos AG 65 review.
- Tons of room for extra travel gear like tents and sleeping bags
- Comfortable – Osprey knows what’s what when it comes to suspensions systems
- The back panel keeps you sweat-free
- You can adjust the hip and shoulder straps on the go
- You can also move the backpack closer to your back without removing the bag
- Wear and tear: The pack wears on the bottom of the frame where it meets your back
- The mesh side pockets can snag on branches and door handles
Osprey Atmos AG 65 Specs:
|Dimensions||32.28”H X 15.35”W X 16.14”D||34.25”H X 15.35”W X 16.14”D||36.22”H X 15.35”W X 16.14”D|
|Weight||4.48 lbs||4.56 lbs||4.64 lbs|
|Fabric||Main: 100 Derner X 630 Denier Nylon Dobby, Accent: 210 Denier High Tenacity Nylon, Bottom: 420 HD Nylon Packcloth||Main: 100 Derner X 630 Denier Nylon Dobby, Accent: 210 Denier High Tenacity Nylon, Bottom: 420 HD Nylon Packcloth||Main: 100 Derner X 630 Denier Nylon Dobby, Accent: 210 Denier High Tenacity Nylon, Bottom: 420 HD Nylon Packcloth|
6. Nomatic Travel Bag: Best Business Travel Backpack
Nomatic makes high-quality, functional products that emphasize versatility. Nomatic is fully crowd-funded and they raised $3 million to get the Nomatic Travel Bag off the ground.
It’s one of the highest funded Kickstarters in history.
If you’re going on a business trip, you’ll love the Nomatic Travel Bag. It looks professional in the office, and stylish on the street. The shoulder straps double as duffle bag handles.
It’s not just stylish: it’s super comfortable, with a detachable hip belt and zippered hip belt pockets. In fact, there’s no shortage of pockets on this thing. And I love the zippered side panel with organizational sections for small items.
It’s super-accessible and carry-on sized. It’s also heavy on tech storage. You’ll be able to carry along a laptop and a tablet. Everything about it is built for the business traveler: a collapsible and removable laundry basket, a side pocket lined with RFID-safe material for secure passport and credit card storage, and a pass-through cord function.
The Nomatic Travel Bag comes in two sizes: 30L and 40L. Both are sized as a carry-on bag, so I’d go for the 40L so you’ll have extra space. The 30L might be better suited for an everyday daypack.
If you’d like to learn more about this bag, check out my full Nomatic Backpack Travel Bag Review.
- Sleek design
- Sturdy carry and side handles
- Extra features like the waterproof pocket, laundry basket, shoe section, and an RFID-safe pocket
- Detachable hip belt with zippered pockets for easy access to cash and other small items
- Use it as a backpack or a duffel bag
- Loop-over roller luggage function
- There are no load-lifters so the backpack gets pretty heavy on your shoulders
- The hip belt sits too high if you have a long torso
- The laptop pocket is bulky
Nomatic Travel Bag Specs:
|Dimensions||21”H X 14”W X 9”D|
7. Tortuga Setout Divide: Best Laptop Backpack for Travel
When it comes to making tech-driven travel packs, Tortuga is masterful.
The Tortuga Setout Divide is our favorite laptop backpack for travel. It’s expandable, lightweight, and the organization is outta this world. Best of all, it’s carry-on sized. You can fit a couple changes of clothes too if you know how to pack.
If you’re an organizational guru, the Tortuga Setout Divide is perfect. It has an internal mesh divider, an organizational panel, and laptop and tablet sleeves.
The hideaway water bottle pocket and shoulder straps (along with the compression straps and the removable hip belt) keeps this backpack nice and sleek, no matter how full it is.
- You can shave off (or add) 10L thanks to the expandable compartment
- Ventilated harness system that actually…VENTILATES
- Nifty luggage handle pass-through sleeve
- The shoulder straps tend to slip off the shoulders
- Stay out of the rain (or cover your laptop with plastic) — the zippers aren’t water-resistant
Tortuga Setout Divide Specs:
|Dimensions||20”H x 13W” x 6”D (expands to 8”)|
|Capacity||26L (expands to 34L)|
|Laptop||Fits a 15” Macbook|
|Fabric||900D Polyester, durable water repellent coating, injection-molded foam and air mesh padding, and YKK zippers|
8. WANDRD PRVKE: Best Travel Camera Backpack
WANDRD was founded by a couple of brothers who weren’t satisfied with the travel camera backpacks on the market. They felt they had to either go for a functional camera bag that was U.G.L.Y, or a lesser bag that looked better.
Even though the Peak Design does a stellar job at carrying photography gear, the WANDRD PRVKE gets our vote as the best backpack for traveling photographers because it’s marketed only as a photography travel backpack. This bag deserves to be on this list but couldn’t fit any other category.
It comes in two sizes, 21L and 31L, and both are carry-on sized for pretty much every airline in the world.
So, should you buy the WANDRD PRVKE 21L or 31L? If you only need a couple of lenses and a lighter-weight camera, you’ll do well with the 21L. If you’re carrying 5+ lenses or your camera is on the heavy side, the 31L is better. The slick-looking rolltop adds 5L of storage if you need it, and if nature photography is your thing, a rainfly is sold separately.
The WANDRD PRVKE works better as a secondary daypack in a two-bag setup rather than as a main travel backpack. If you want something for a one-bag setup that fits a camera and some clothes, check out the HEXAD Access Duffel.
You can also read my full WANDRD PRVKE review.
- Slick-looking rolltop adds 5L of storage if you need it
- Side camera access
- Removable camera cube (with lots of space) for added protection
- The laptop pocket is easy to access in airport security lines
- Magnetic handles
- Expandable water bottle/tripod pocket
- Secure passport pocket
- Rainfly storage (sold separately)
- Three access points!
- The rolltop looks great, but you can’t cinch it in enough — it tends to unravel
- The lockability of this backpack is pretty much non-existent
- If you’re broad-chested, the sternum straps can pop off
WANDRD PRVKE Specs:
|PRVKE 21||PRVKE 31|
|Dimensions||17″H X 11″W X 6.5″D||19″H X 12.5″W X 7.5″D|
|Weight||1.3 kg (2.8 lbs)||1.5 kg (3.4 lbs)|
|Capacity||21L to 25L (roll top fully extended)||31L to 36L (roll top fully extended)|
|Fabric||Waterproof Tarpaulin, Robic 1680D Ballistic Nylon, Weather Resistant Zippers||Waterproof Tarpaulin, Robic 1680D Ballistic Nylon, Weather Resistant Zippers|
9. Tortuga Setout: Best Backpack for International Travel
For urban-inspired travel packs, Tortuga is one of our favorite brands.
Checking-in luggage is a drag, especially on international flights. That’s why a lot of travelers want a versatile, roomy backpack that is carry-on size. And the Tortuga Setout is our pick for the best backpack for international travel.
The interior is front-loading spacious like a rolling suitcase. The backpack design gives freedom of movement so you can handle all terrains. It’s a great backpack if you do a lot of travel in countries with differing conditions. This travel bag will see you through the streets of Bogota just as well as Tokyo.
This bag is a treat to carry around, with a padded, removable hip belt, load lifters, and hideaway shoulder straps. The lockable zippers will keep your travel gear safe!
The Setout has a men’s and women’s fit. You can choose between 35L and 45L capacities for both versions and they all meet carry-on rules. Check out the full Tortuga Setout review here.
- Carry-on sized
- Three colors: black, heathered gray, and navy
- The spacious interior stays organized in cramped hostels
- The hip belt is not adjustable
- The pack sags when it’s filled to the brim
- The material covering the frame is flimsy
Tortuga Setout Specs:
|Dimensions||21.5”H x 13.5”W x 7.5″D||22″H x 14″W x 9”D|
|Weight||3.4 lbs||3.9 lbs|
|Fabric||900D polyester from recycled plastic bottles, Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating, injection-molded foam and air mesh, YKK zippers||900D polyester from recycled plastic bottles, Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating, injection-molded foam and air mesh, YKK zippers|
10. Peak Design Everyday Backpack: Best Travel Daypack
You can choose either the 20L or 30L size. Both are all-rounder daypacks with a bunch of room for tech and camera storage. You can tuck away the hip belt, sternum strap, and the exterior straps too.
It has lots of pockets and holds a full camera kit, and with 8L of internal expansion, you can carry a whole lot. I love the no-look, one-handed closure system with the magnetic clasp. It also has a tripod/water bottle pocket — what more could you want?
Due to the rigidity of this pack, it’s not the best choice for a hiking travel backpack. If you’re after a daypack for hiking, take a look at the Osprey Talon 33.
- Perfect for laptop-based digital nomads who stick to one place for a while
- Durable and well-structured sides keep the bag organized and sleek
- The side zipper function is great when you need to access something halfway down your bag
- Customizable dividers so you can lay your bag out as you want it
- ALL THE POCKETS
- This bag is uncomfortable when it’s too full
- The side zippers slide open if it’s packed too tight
- You can’t lock it with a padlock
Peak Design Everyday Backpack Specs:
|Dimensions||18”H x 12”W x 6.75”D||20”H x 13”W x 7.75”D|
|Weight||4 lbs||4.5 lbs|
|Fabric||100% recycled, weatherproof 400D nylon canvas||100% recycled, weatherproof 400D nylon canvas|
11. Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Convertible Carry-On Backpack: Best Rolling Backpack for Travel
Eagle Creek has been around since the mid-90s. They make tons of different, affordable bags for every purpose.
If you’re going to catch a cab from the airport straight to the hotel, a backpack with wheels might be a good option for you. You’ll love the shoulder straps when you inevitably find out your room is on the 10th floor.
Oh, and the elevator is out of order.
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Convertible Carry-On Backpack is the best rolling travel backpack because it’s sturdy. It has four wheels, and the tires are MASSIVE. It’s like the 4X4 of wheeled luggage. It’ll handle any old cobbled streets you throw at it.
It’s really two bags in one: a roller suitcase plus backpack. The carry clips to attach the day-pack to the wheeled bag. If you’re safety-conscious, it comes with sternum straps with a safety whistle, reflectors for night visibility, and lockable zippers.
Side note: If you have a bad back, full-on backpacking might be hard on your body. The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Convertible might be the best option for you. It’ll give those shoulders a rest.
- The four-wheel setup allows you to glide the case alongside you, like a well-trained dog
- The zip-away suspension is moisture-wicking
- Lightweight tube handle extends to 42”
- Top, side, and bottom handle
- Two bags in one – roller suitcase plus backpack
- Wheels aren’t as good as shoulders, especially in Europe; this is a better bag for modern cities in North America and Australia
- It can be hard to zip shut when it’s full
Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Convertible Carry-On Specs:
|Dimensions||14”H x 21.75”W x 9”D||11”H x 18.25”W x 6”D||25”H x 40”W x 15”D|
|Weight||5.15 lbs||1.2 lbs||1.2 lbs|
|Fabric||100% Recycled Poly Neo Diamond, 600D 100% Recycled Poly, 210D Exo Skeleton||100% Recycled Poly Neo Diamond, 600D 100% Recycled Poly, 210D Exo Skeleton||100% Recycled Poly Neo Diamond, 600D 100% Recycled Poly, 210D Exo Skeleton|
12. Pacsafe Venturesafe X40: Best Anti-Theft Backpack
Pacsafe got started in 1998 by a pair of globetrotters who had had a fair few brushes with danger along the road. There’s nothing that ruins a trip more than getting robbed.
Pacsafe knows that people enjoy their adventures more if they feel secure. Their whole brand is built around the idea that, with their travel backpacks, global travel becomes a little bit safer.
The Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 is LOADED with features, particularly on the security front. To be honest, it’s almost overkill! I’ve been to some hairy places around the world and the only time I ever experienced danger was one block from my friend’s house in a gentrified suburb in Australia.
But, if you like to play it safe, that’s fair enough. The Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 might be the best anti-theft backpack for you.
Its built-in steel wire mesh panels prevent thieves from slashing your bag. The interlocking zip sliders are also puncture-resistant, and the anti-theft anchor lock and cable allows you to lock down your zippers and straps to a secure fixture. There are two additional zippered mesh pockets, a key/wallet clip, and extra pouches in the front compartment.
On top of that, it’s comfy! The bag comes with padded, adjustable straps, and a sturdy waist belt and sternum strap. The external side compression straps and stowable straps keep this bag sleek and tidy.
- Super secure
- Bright color is easy to spot
- Good organization, especially in the front pocket
- Flap cover to disguise locking system
- The outer zip pocket needs to open wider — it’s hard to access everything
- The bright blue color makes you stand out in the street (which seems pretty counterproductive for a backpack so focused on security)
Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Specs:
|Dimensions||21.6”H x 13.7”W x 8.6”D|
|Fabric||420 Denier Nylon Full HD Oxford|
13. Wilsons Leather Vintage Nebraska Leather Backpack: Best Leather Travel Backpack
Wilsons Leather took their present form in 1988 when they moved from Minneapolis to California. Everything they make is handcrafted and built-to-last.
The Wilsons Vintage Nebraska Leather Backpack is our pick for the best leather travel backpack. It’s beautiful. Aesthetic value has to be the #1 reason to go for a leather backpack.
This brown leather backpack is charming and rugged. It’s the perfect leather travel backpack if you want retro but you need your tech, and the padded laptop pouch doesn’t detract from the vintage feel.
It’s not a bag for one-backpack travel, but it’s a great secondary daypack. It has a spacious main compartment, a large zippable interior pocket, and two side pockets with magnetic closure.
The brass buckles and double closure system lend itself to better security. It’s one of the few occasions where looks assist functionality.
- This is a very roomy backpack for its size
- Vintage rugged design meets tech
- The buckled top flap and the drawstring make this bag pickpocket-safe
- Comes in either a gorgeous brown or tan color
- It’s smallish
- The straps are light on padding, so your back will get fussy if you’re carrying a heavy load
- There’s no warranty on this one
Wilsons Leather Vintage Nebraska Leather Backpack Specs:
|Dimensions||15”H x 13”W x 5.5”D|
14. Gregory Baltoro 85 Pack: Best Large Backpack for Travel
Gregory Packs makes a huge range of high-functionality travel backpacks. They do great things when it comes to long-trek packing solutions.
If you’re going on a long trek and you need to carry a bunch of stuff to, well, survive, then you’ll need a BIG backpack. The Gregory Baltoro 85 Pack is it.
The custom-fit hip belt and shoulder harness suspension system, as well as the wishbone aluminum frame, are ideal for long days of trekking. The suspension system and back panel are super breathable, so you’ll be comfortable no matter how sweaty you are.
It has a phone or camera storage in the water-resistant hipbelt pocket, and scratch-proof sunglasses storage on the shoulder straps. The coolest part? The Removable hydration sleeve converts into a daypack. Talk about an excellent use of space!
Other nifty features include full front panel opening for easy unloading, stretch mesh side pockets for extra water bottles or snacks, dual front zippered pockets, and a double-barrel top lid. There are dual loops and upper locks for trekking poles or ice axes.
In other words, this is a serious bag for serious adventurers!
- Perfect size for a long, survival-type trek
- Super comfortable, super breathable – that’s everything when you’re going on a long trek
- Comes with a bonus day pack and rain cover
- Uber organized – I love the sleeping bag compartment
- It is expensive!
- You can’t adjust the torso length – make sure it fits before you buy it
Gregory Baltoro 85 Pack Specs:
|Dimensions||28″H x 15″W x 14″D|
|Fabric||Nylon, multi-density EVA foam, 210D Honeycomb Cryptorip HD, 210D High Tenacity Nylon, 630D High Density Nylon, High Density Embossed Polyester|
15. Kathmandu Transfer 28L Travel Pack: Best Small Travel Backpack
Kathmandu is a heavyweight when it comes to travel backpacks.
The Kathmandu Transfer 28L Travel Pack is the best small travel backpack. It packs A LOT into a tiny space. The design is very future-focused, so that adds a little something unique to this backpack.
The Transfer Travel Pack is made for air travel. The detachable pod holds your devices, earplugs, travel documents, and other in-flight needs.
It even has a hook that you can attach a solar panel to (sold separately) so you can charge your phone!
The teal version of this travel backpack is even made with 22 recycled plastic bottles.
This is definitely the future.
As futuristic as it is, it also has all the features for comfort, including an AirPod System harness that comes with cooling mesh panel and tuck-away hip belt. There are top and side handles, and a sleeve to slide over wheeled luggage handles.
And you won’t have to worry about keeping your things safe. This bag has a lockable main zipper and a secure back pocket for travel documents and passports.
At 28L, it’s a small backpack. If you travel light, you can feasibly go abroad with just this backpack and a small daypack. It’ll fit enough clothes for a week without a wash.
- Super lightweight but still loaded with features
- Store your laptop in a separate back pocket
- Comes with a hip belt – uncommon for a small backpack!
- Future-ready with a place to connect a solar panel
- The teal version is made with 22 recycled plastic bottles
- Separate laptop compartment keeps everything organized
- The colors other than teal are not made with recycled material
- It’s a long backpack for its size, so it’s too big for smaller people
- The lid can get heavy, and this weighs down the bag
- The padding gets in the way of the laptop compartment zip, so it can be fiddly to get it open and shut
Kathmandu Transfer 28L Travel Pack Specs:
|Dimensions||59″H x 32″W x 25″D|
|Fabric||100% recycled polyester or new polyester|
16. Arc’teryx Bora AR 50: Best Backpack for Adventure Travel
Arc’teryx is a well-known maker of travel backpacks for adventure travel. And they’re one of our all-time favorite outdoor brands, full stop.
I love Arc’teryx because the quality is simply unparalleled. I’m a strong believer in buying travel gear for life, and hiking backpacks from Arc’teryx you’ll own forever.
It’s by no means cheap, but this backpack will see you through decades of strenuous adventure. Its adjustable, high tech hip belt moves with your natural stride, and the shoulder straps adjust in both width and height. The aluminum frame is ultra lightweight.
This bag is durable and weatherproof, and even if you do somehow damage it, the lifetime warranty will have you covered.
The Bora AR 50 is a compact size and is made for 2-3 day treks.
- The quality of the suspension system is near perfection
- It’s super durable and weatherproof – this is a bag for life
- LOTS of pockets (including two large water bottle pockets)
- Multi-purpose functionality
- The hip belt moves with you, so you don’t get any nasty chafing
- Two top lid pockets
- Side-access zip to main compartment
- It’s pricey (yikes!)
- It’s heavy for today’s standards
- No sleeping bag compartment
- You can’t tuck away the hip belt, so you have to detach it
Bora AR 50 Specs:
|Dimensions||13”H x 6.75”W x 26”D|
|Fabric||420D and 630D nylon, weatherproof AC2 fabric|
17. Osprey Porter 65L: Best Budget Travel Backpack
We don’t believe in scrimping on quality, so we’ve chosen a budget travel backpack from a very reputable brand. You’d be hard-pressed to find any travel backpacks for $150 or less, but this one from Osprey Packs is!
With the brand name alone, you know you’re getting outstanding quality for a fantastic price.
The Porter 65L is one of the best all-rounder travel backpacks. It suits light hiking as much as it suits city adventures. It has plenty of room to work with and a decent amount of features. Especially for $160 bucks!
This bag is practical. It features large panel zip access to the main compartment and there is a lower compartment for shoe storage. It has reinforced cord loops to attach an Osprey Daylite daypack, and d-rings to attach a separate shoulder strap for satchel-style carry.
And you’ll love wearing it. The stowable harness with a sternum strap and a whistle (as well as the padded top and side handles) makes it a super comfortable pack!
- Affordable – $160 for an Osprey is a bargain
- Lockable rear panel laptop/tablet sleeve
- Lightweight and sturdy
- Lifetime guarantee
- The harness is basic
- The shoulder straps lack padding
- The zippers get caught if the backpack too full
Osprey Porter 65L Specs:
|Dimensions||25”H x 14”W x 12”D|
|Fabric||420HD Nylon Packcloth, 420D Nylon Wave Ripstop|
Why Choose a Backpack for Travel?
I’ve watched too many people lug suitcases up flights of stairs and over icy gravel. They always look miserable. Who wants a trip like that? Don’t they know there’s a better way?
If you’re a traveler who goes straight from the airport to a cushy resort, then a wheeled suitcase is okay.
If you’re on this website, it’s safe to presume you’re not one of them. Chances are you’re looking for an adventure. You’re semi-broke and living in hostel dorms. I’d go for a backpack 99.9% of the time unless you are CERTAIN you’ll be traveling in luxury.
A backpack offers way more versatility and freedom than a suitcase could ever hope to do.
Carry-On Backpacks vs. Checked Backpacks
Carry-Ons Save on Time and Price
We hate airport lines, so generally try to avoid checking-in luggage. When on shorter trips, we recommend taking a 30-40L travel backpack and a small daypack.
But what is considered to be a carry-on backpack?
Well, the rules vary between countries and airlines. For example, the rules for carry-on luggage in the U.S. are relaxed compared to Europe.
Generally speaking, anything under 20” in height and under 15 pounds is a-okay. Check the airline rules though, especially if you’re flying with RyanAir *shudders*.
Checked Bags Give You More Space
If you’re going on a trek, you typically don’t have a choice but to bring a bigger travel backpack that you have to check-in.
Our rule of thumb? If you’re not doing activities that require a tent, sleeping bag, or survival gear, a 30-40L carry-on backpack is plenty. Throw in a packable daypack to be safe (you’ll find the perfect one in our list of best packable backpacks).
What to Look for in a Travel Backpack
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the best travel backpack for your trip. If you’re a digital nomad, you’re going to require something totally different than someone who prefers adventure travel.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, it all depends on you and your travel requirements. But there are a few key things to look at.
A Quality Brand Name
Don’t buy a no-name brand. Just don’t do it. You don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a backpack with a broken strap, or caught in a downpour without a rain cover.
Here’s a quick-and-easy guide. First, choose your travel type, then pick a brand, then the best travel backpack based on that.
- Adventure/Hiking Travel Backpacks: Osprey, Gregory, Berghaus, Deuter, Arc’teryx
- Urban Travel Backpacks: Tortuga, Nomatic, Peak Design
- Photography Backpacks: Peak Design, WANDRD, LowePro
An Opening Style You Love
Top loader: These are the norm for hiking and trekking backpacks. The benefit of top loaders is that they provide the most stability of all opening systems. However, it’s a little difficult to access the stuff at the bottom of a top-loading backpack without unpacking the whole thing. That’s a drama in a dorm.
Clamshell opening: A clamshell-style backpack gives you the only benefit of a suitcase – you can open it right up. Everything stays organized and you can access it all quickly. These types of backpacks generally have rigid sides. These are a much better option for travelers in hostel dorms.
Front opening: They’re similar to clamshell opening packs, but they’re more like a flap than a rigid lid. Front openers are good for hostels but because they’re soft, they can spew out the contents of your bag. Avoid dorm shame with packing cubes.
Drawstring top: It’s pretty rare to see a backpack with only a drawstring top. They’d have a serious lack of security and are not water-resistant. If you do see a drawstring top backpack, I’d leave it in the store. It’s a pickpocket target. If, however, they’re combined with a floating top lid, they’re a good option. They add some extra space at the top of the travel backpack.
Side zip: Side zips are having their time in the sun at the moment. They’re great when they’re paired with top loaders. They make it easier to access the bottom half of a backpack without messing up all the lovely packing. Side zips are handy when you need to put your laptop through the airport x-ray machine.
Combo: Combo opening systems are great because they offer the best of both (or several!) worlds.
Size/Dimensions That Fit Your Body
When it comes to the best travel backpacks, size counts. And we’re ever the evangelist for light travel.
If you want to travel carry-on only, go for something under 45L.
Even if you need to check-in your luggage, go for a smaller option. You can easily go on multi-month long trips with a travel backpack under 55L.
Don’t pick a backpack that’s the wrong size for you. You risk major muscular-skeletal pain.
Grab a tape measure. Check the length of your spine from that bony bit at the base of your neck right down to the coccyx. Once you have that measurement, check the torso measurement of the backpack. The one closest to your spine length is the one for you.
Side note: You’ll get a better fit if you ask a professional in a backpack store to set your pack up for you.
Weight That’s Relative to its Quality
You should consider how much a travel backpack weighs.
Some backpacks are heavier than others. As a general rule, the stronger the frame and the harness system are, the better the backpack. A strong frame and harness system is important if you’re looking for a trekking backpack.
The trade-off? It’ll be heavier.
Having said that, lightweight technology is pretty impressive these days. If you come across an expensive bag that’s super light, it’s probably made of high-tech, durable material. That will bring the weight right down.
If it’s light and cheap, it’s probably crappy.
If you’re sticking to urban centers, find something in the middle.
The Right Capacity for Your Trip Type and Length
It can be hard to envision how much you actually will need to pack before you set off on a trip. Whether you’re on a multi-day trek or a year-long trip as a digital nomad, here’s a quick guide to picking the right capacity for your needs:
- Daypacks: 15-30L
- What Fits: Your devices, headphones, a bottle, sunglasses, snacks, a book, keys, wallet, a light sweater, and anything else you need on the regs.
- Carry-On Size: 30-45L
- What Fits: The above PLUS a camera. Then put enough clothes for a week. Now take out half of them. Done.
- Checked Luggage, Long-Term Travel or Overnight Hikes: 45-60L
- What Fits: Devices, a jacket, extra water, maybe some light camping gear. Now put enough clothes in for 10 days. Halve it.
- Epic Trips and Intensive Treks: 60L+
- What fits: Heavy-duty survival gear is key here. Then add two weeks of clothes. You guessed it, take away 50%.
Durability & Quality to Last a Lifetime
Why would you waste your money on a crappy travel backpack? You’ll save money in the short-term but it’ll break halfway through your travels.
Invest in a high-quality traveling backpack and it’ll last a lifetime. Most good quality travel backpacks have a long warranty, too.
Weatherproof Fabric & Materials
The best travel backpack stands up to chicken buses, run-ins with the Yakuza, and freak weather events.
Synthetic textiles are amazing. They’re tough, they don’t rip, and they’re lightweight. Many of them are even breathable. Here are some of the best materials:
- Ripstop nylon
- Ballistic nylon (anti-shrapnel material!)
- Nylon canvas
These are weatherproof. I once got caught in the tail-end of a hurricane with an Osprey Farpoint 40 for cover. They’re made of ripstop nylon. My clothes were bone dry.
Zippers That Won’t Leak or Break
Look for zippers with thick upholstery and big teeth that won’t jam or bend. Look for weatherproof zippers if you’re paranoid about rain. YKK makes the best zippers. Tortuga uses them.
Sweaty backs suck. You’ve gotta keep that air flowing. Look for two things:
- A mesh back
- The backpack should sit very close to your back, but not on it.
Harness, Shoulder Straps & Hip Belts
You’ll see heavy-duty suspension systems with NASA-grade sternum, hip, and shoulder straps on trekking backpacks. Good harness systems in hiking backpacks are vital, so try out a few.
City backpacks for travel have a basic strap and belt. If your backpack is 40L+, you need a simple hip strap.
Most backpacks under 40L don’t have a hip belt. That’s usually fine for light loads.
A Price That You’re Comfortable Paying
You get what you pay for when buying a travel backpack.
If you invest in a good backpack, it’ll last forever. You’ll actually WANT to use it because a) it’ll be comfortable and b) you’ll feel guilty if an expensive pack gathers dust.
You don’t have to go crazy, but a good mid-range backpack costs between $200 and $400. If you must go for something cheaper, go for a discounted product from a reputable brand like Osprey.
There you go! You now have all the information you need to pick out the best travel backpack for your next trip. Don’t agonize over it for too long, though. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you get out there!