Best Travel Backpacks
Finding the perfect travel backpack is just as important as finding the perfect flight. From personal experience, I can tell you that a great travel bag can benefit you in a plethora of ways and is ideal for business travelers, world explorers, or hikers. There are many different styles, sizes, materials, and makes when it comes to travel backpacks. Depending on the size of your torso and/or overall body size, it may be a challenge to narrow down which one will be most comfortable. It is also important to take in mind the type of terrain to weight capacity for each choice. Take a look through this guide and find the perfect fit for you.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
Compact with lots of space
Attached built-in rain fly
- Timbuk2 Aviator
- Hyne's Eagle 38L
- Osprey Waypoint 80
- The North Face Overhaul 40
- Deuter Transit 65
- Timbuk2 Uptown
- Osprey Farpoint 55
- Patagonia Headway MLC 45L
- Osprey Porter
- Kelty Redwing 44
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Timbuk2 Aviator
Compact with lots of space
Attached built-in rain fly
Some may consider the bag itself heavy on its own
If you need a travel backpack that's durable, but that also has all the space you need, then the Timbuck2 Aviator is a wonderful choice. There's even an emergency rain fly that's attached to it with its own compartment for when the weatherman didn't tell you it was going to pour that day!Read more
When you first see this bag the shoulder and waist straps seem like they're all over the place, but the good thing is that you can tuck them away. There's a zipper over the top of the bag where you can open and store in the shoulder straps, and the waistband has its own private compartment at the bottom. This is even more convenience for when you want to actually wear the belt because you can either pull it out and around your waist, or stuff the belt easily in the pockets, depending on how much back support you need. There are even clips on the shoulder straps you can use to take the pressure off your shoulders while carrying it.
When you flip this bag open, you'll see lots of space, enough that if you roll your clothes up you can probably make two layers, unless they're thicker items like sweaters or jeans. There are also a good bit of compartments, like the one with the zipper on the back. There's another zipper compartment on the top that's a good place to put your passport or your phone, and you can access it by either flipping open the top lid or from the outside of the bag.
You want your backpack to be durable, whether you're out in nature on long scenic hikes, or if you're going to mostly be on and off trains or in and out of airports and hotels. This backpack is durable, so if you were to get caught in the rain, as long as you're not purposefully standing in it for a long period of time you don't have to worry too much about your stuff getting wet. The bag itself weighs around 4 lbs, and that's because of the materials that it is made out of. Still, some people feel that the extra weight is okay because of the backpack's durability.
2. Hyne's Eagle 38L
Lots of color options
Not as durable as some other options
If you need a nice looking backpack that has a lot of space and won't get you a lot of headache at the airport as carry-on luggage, then the Hyne's Eagle 38L Weekender is perfect for you. This bag has the ability to fit under the seat in front of you, or in the overhead compartment. The new version that we are featuring here now comes with a sternum strap to make carrying a heavy load a little bit easier.Read more
Two easy to grab handles make it easy to carry this bag in three different ways. You can wear it as a backpack, carry it from the top, like a suitcase, or carry it from the side handle, like a briefcase. Because this bag only holds up to 38L, it is difficult to make it too heavy, therefore making it a fairly comfortable bag to carry.
If you are going to be traveling internationally, this bag is going to save you a lot of time and money, because you don't have to check it in at the airport. When you open it up, you'll be surprised how similar to a suitcase it is. Packing and unpacking is a breeze with this bag.
In addition to outer compression straps, the inside of the backpack also features compression straps to hold your clothes in place and save room. There is a dedicated sleeve for a laptop up to 15.6-inches. There is also a large front pocket for quick access items, such as travel documents or a book. For more important items, there is a larger zippered pocket with organization inside.
The Hyne’s Eagle features side compression straps to keep your bag small, reduce stress on zippers, and secure your belongings inside with minimal movement. While this is a great bag and comes at a great price, it is made of out Polyester, instead of the popular and durable Nylon, that we love. This bag should last you for a few years, but we don’t expect it to be a lifer.
3. Osprey Waypoint 80
Detachable 15L day bag
Comfortable to wear for a large bag
You will not be able to bring the entire bag as a carry-on
With a normal backpack, the area between your back and the bag itself can become sweaty on long tours. It's even worse when you're visiting naturally humid places. This Osprey Waypoint 80 has what's called an Air Escape System built into the backside of the bag.Read more
Although this backpack is very large, it's comfortable to wear. But, for the times that you don't want to carry it on your back, there's a handle on the side and one on the top, and they're both cushioned so your hands don't get tired. The back of it is closed up and easily unzips to expose the shoulder and belt straps, both of which have cushioning. The compartment concealer rolls down easily and tucks neatly into the bottom of the bag. You have to adjust this backpack to your unique torso size, and you can do so easily in just a few seconds.
This bag is a two-in-one ensemble. There’s a day bag that attaches and re-attaches in just a few seconds. Four clips are around the day bag when it's attached to the larger one, and the only way that you could get access to the smaller bag is to unclip all four of them, which is a great security feature. The day bag is small in comparison to the larger part, but when you open it up surprisingly it has a lot of space on the inside, a few good storage compartments, and a nice place for your laptop.
While wearing the smaller day bag and carrying the larger part, there's a chance that you may be able to get onto the plane with the entire ensemble. But, worst case scenario, if you can't, you always still have the smaller one that you can bring on board.
Made from Ballistic Nylon, this is one thick, tough backpack. Ballistic Nylon was originally designed as jacket material for World War 2. Between the incredibly strong material of this backpack and the lifetime warranty, you shouldn’t have any doubts about the durability of this bag.
4. The North Face Overhaul 40
Fits airline specifications well
Not suitable for wearing long distances with heavy loads
Need a bag that you don’t have to check at the airport, but still provides you with the space you need inside of a travel backpack? The North Face Overhaul is an amazing travel backpack. It looks like a typical student backpack, but it has plenty of other features that make it a versatile option for travel. The pack has enough compartments to keep your items organized and separate. It's easy to pack and unpack while able to stuff a ton into the pack while not being uncomfortable.Read more
Empty, this bag only weighs three pounds. The shoulder straps and expertly molded for maximum comfort and feature a decent amount of cushioning. There is also extra cushioning added to the back of the bag to ensure comfort. The Overhaul 40 also features a thick hip belt and sternum strap to disperse the weight of the bag evenly on your upper body.
Like most bags on this list, this backpack also features stowable straps so that you can carry this bag by hand. Something unique that this backpack features is a separate zippered bottom pocket which is ideal for shoes or dirty laundry. There is plenty of organization and interior pockets, as well as a side water bottle pocket. This bag is great for air travel or hiking.
This Nylon bag is built to last. If you have any doubts, you can put your faith into the lifetime guarantee offered by Northface.
5. Deuter Transit 65
Wonderful for trips abroad
Multiple color options
May be too big for smaller people
Not carry on size
A well-liked feature of this Deuter Transit 65 is its detachable daypack. You're not going to want to carry the entire bag everywhere you go, and this makes it much more convenient to take just the items that you need.Read more
This bag allows you to be flexible because you can carry it in a lot of different ways. For example, if you get tired of it on your back, you can switch to the shoulder strap. There's a handle on the side that allows you to carry it like a suitcase if you wanted to, along with another handle on the top of the backpack. The straps for both shoulders along with the waistband are tucked neatly inside of the back of the backpack out of sight. The cover for the straps and waistband is thin and light, and when you want to carry the bag on your back, it rolls down easily and fits underneath into a lower pocket.
With the day bag removed, the rest of the bag actually acts as a suitcase. You have full panel access to the larger bag with one zip of a zipper, and the top easily flips open to expose the very spacious interior. There's even a compartment that is specially made to store your sleeping bag, or you could use that space for other items instead.
There are also internal compression straps that you could use to create more space for clothing or to hold an important item in place inside of the bag. There's also a front panel pocket for extra organization.
This bag is made out of 95% Polyester and 5% Polyamide. The tight weaving of the polyamide makes this bag very resistant to abrasions and the polyester material keeps the bag strong and lightweight.
6. Timbuk2 Uptown
Lots of organizational space
Not recommended for long term trips
Sometimes it can be hard to find a backpack that meets your needs and is also stylish. If you do a lot of traveling (especially by plane) this Timbuk2 Uptown travel backpack, is an excellent choice for both business and leisure travelers.Read more
This backpack features strong, cushioned mesh straps. This backpack is smaller than most on our list, and therefore, will not be as heavy, making it more comfortable. If somehow you do manage to pack a lot into this small space, there is a chest strap to help evenly distribute the weight amongst your body and take some tension off your shoulders.
Another comfortable and useful feature is the ventilated back panel. This mesh material has the ability to breathe and won’t overheat you. This also makes the bag more comfortable while resting on your back.
This bag is TSA compliant and makes catching your plane in time a breeze. There’s no need to check this bag and you can arrive at the airport and head straight to security.
The easy-to-access compartments of this bag are also what makes it so popular. It has many different compartments, all ideal for different objects, including a padded laptop slip, up to 15-inches, on the backside of the backpack. Additionally, there is a compartment for a tablet and ideal storage for passports and travel documents.
Timbuk2’s Uptown backpack is made from durable nylon that is water resistant. This definitely isn’t a bag you want to stand out in the rain with, but a little spill won’t ruin it. Between the strong zippers, amazing organization and durable material, this bag will last you a long time.
7. Osprey Farpoint 55
Good for long-term travelers
Handy detachable 15-liter day bag
The material is not so breathable
The Osprey Farpoint 55 is wonderful for long trips. I'm not talking a few days or a couple of weeks. What I mean is, if you wanted to go on a very extended trip (even if it's a six-month tour of many different locations across the world), this would be the backpack that you want to take with you.Read more
Featured on this bag is Osprey’s LightWire frame suspension which helps evenly distribute the weight of the bag among your back, hips, and chest. Some people don't think so initially, but belt straps are so necessary with large travel backpacks like this one. This one is 55 liters large, so when filled to capacity it can get quite heavy depending on what you have on the inside. Good thing it has a belt strap for that extra added support. This way, all of that weight from your backpack won't be focused just on your back and shoulders, but can now be evened out to use more of your hips while carrying it.
Aside from great organization and pockets that we know each Osprey bag provides, one of the coolest features about this Osprey Farpoint 55, is that it has a nice detachable day bag. It has his own shoulder straps for easy carrying and has the compartments that you expect, such as one for your laptop. The smaller bag makes your traveling experience so much more convenient, because you can leave the larger part of the bag back at the hotel, and carry the smaller one for souvenirs that you pick up while you're out and about, maps, travel guides, and brochures.
This is a very durable backpack that will last you for years to come. It is made from 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop material. This is an incredibly strong material and the entire bag is also backed with a lifetime guarantee.
8. Patagonia Headway MLC 45L
Excellent storage compartments
Not a lot of cushioning
If you're a business traveler looking for a travel backpack with good organization and space, this Patagonia Headway MLC 45L may be just what you need. This one will help you to streamline your airport visits and make your traveling life a whole lot easier.Read more
The comfort of this bag depends on how you choose to use it. Be aware that is bag does not feature a hip or sternum strap. Without these extra straps, the weight of this bag can take a toll on your back. Although this backpack doesn't have a whole lot of cushioning or protection from the rain, it would be perfect for a business traveler who isn't planning on backpacking across Europe. This is the perfect carry-on bag because the straps can be tucked away and if you have a roller bag, there's an opening that allows you to slide it down the handle, sitting it nicely on top of a bottom bag.
How much organizational space you have on the inside is going to determine whether or not you buy a particular travel backpack. This Patagonia Headway MLC gives you enough so that your items don't get all mixed up. Although this is not a suitcase, it functions like one, which is one of the most loved features. If you place your shoes on the far right or left, you can roll up your shirts and jeans, place them side-by-side, and see them all at once in the see-through net compartment. In that same large compartment, there is a net and a sealed pocket on the part that opens up. And, you can unzip that area and have even more space in yet another hidden compartment!
The outside section is what makes this feel like a briefcase. You never have to completely open your backpack to get to your pens, day planner, or passport phone. Everything that you would normally put in your day bag is right there in that easy to access compartment.
This bag is constructed from a sturdy nylon material with polyester lining. The Headway bag is also treated with DWR (durable water repellent) finish but isn’t completely waterproof.
9. Osprey Porter
May or may not be airplane carry-on friendly, it just depends on the airline you're flying with
Just because you're traveling it doesn't really have to look like you are, and this Osprey Porter is not only sleek-looking but very efficient. It's lightweight for its size, but that can be deceptive because of the large amount of space that it has inside.Read more
This is a comfortable backpack in itself. The only thing that could affect the comfort level is the weight of the items you pack it with. For a simple 3-day trip, this bag is a breeze. However, if you are trying to use this bag for a month abroad and aren’t a light packer, you will feel the weight after walking around with it for a while.
This bag does have the ability to be carried by hand, instead of on your back. Sometimes travel backpacks can have a lot of loose straps that can get caught up and hung on things as you walk down train or airplane isles. These straps also get in the way when you are at a checkpoint trying to put your backpack on an airport conveyor belt. External straps can be tucked in easily with this backpack.
This Osprey Porter 46 L has so much space is unbelievable. When you open up the 'office section' there's room for your pens, notebooks, tablets, and a laptop, and they all can fit in there at the same time. The best part about it is that it's at the front part of the bag, so you don't have to open the large part just to grab something quickly, such as a phone or a tablet.
Traveling can take a toll on your bank accounts. Obviously, you don't want to overspend on a good travel backpack, but you still want to get one that is of good quality and will suit your needs well. With this one, you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get one that's going to last you for a long time, and get you through many future businesses and/or leisure trips.
10. Kelty Redwing 44
Extra cushioning inside and out
No locks on zippers
Limited compartments on the inside
This Kelty Redwing 44 travel backpack is one you will feel comfortable wearing, whether you're a small or large framed person. The capacity ranges from 44 to 50 liters, so if you're short, tall, male or female, there's one for you. This travel backpack also has a version that's made specifically for females that's 40 liters.Read more
One thing travel backpack consumers complain about is the fact that theirs doesn't have enough padding. This one comes with soft cushioning on the waist and shoulder straps, but what most backpacker's love the most about this one, in particular, is the lower back padding. If you're going to be doing a lot of walking during your tours (as most backpacker's do in the most scenic destinations), this padding lessens your chances of having back pain at the end of your journey. The material this backpack is made of is also very breathable, so when you visit those humid destinations, you'll hardly get that icky, sweaty feeling between the backpack and your back.
There is a lot of space on the inside of this backpack, but some buyers feel they still need more organization. It doesn't have a whole lot of separate compartments on the inside, so, depending on your personal preference, you may want to purchase some compression cubes, small pouches that you can add to the inside of the backpack to separate smaller items from the bigger ones. You also may want to get yourself some zipper locks, because this one doesn't come with them.
When you're out and about enjoying your vacation destination, there will be several bumps to your backpack, whether you notice them or not. You want to have the piece of mind of knowing that expensive items such as your laptop and tablets won’t end up with cracked screens or other damages. Good thing this Redwing 44 has extra cushioning in those specific areas where these items will be kept.
This bag is made from two different types of Polyester and features an Aluminum lining. This ensures that the bag will not lose its shape and will protect itself, along with your items, for years.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Your backpack overall has to feel good while you’re carrying it. It has to fit the proportions of your body. It doesn’t matter so much how much you weigh or how tall you are, but your backpack should line up more with the length of your torso. Travel backpacks come in different sizes, and some even have adjustable suspension for added comfort. The term ‘backpack’ can actually throw a lot of people off when it comes to the weight that they can safely carry for long distances. When initially purchasing a travel backpack, travelers may not realize that most of the weight is going to be supported by their hips, not their back, at least it should be. Someone walking around with a travel backpack that doesn’t have a waistband on it will be putting all that weight on their back. This can cause injury over an extended period of time, and the only way to be sure that you are safe from hurting yourself is to be sure that your travel backpack does have one that’s comfortable for your waist size.
Although most of the backpack weight is supported by your waist, you still want to make sure that yours has a padded back area. It will be generally located near the lower part of the backpack, and if you don’t think that it makes a difference, take a hike in your old travel backpack, then in one with this extra cushioning. An ideal one will have this padding contoured, with the middle portion of the padding cut low. This is so your backpack does not get sticky and sweaty in that area on long tours.
Travel backpacks generally fit people with regular waist sizes from the mid-20s to the mid-40s in inches around. But, there are folks out there who are extra small or large in physical stature, so they’ll have to search a little harder to find a travel backpack that’s right for them. If you’re one of these people with a very narrow or wide frame, some of these backpacks have hip belts that are interchangeable to meet your specific personal needs. These are good to have when getting a travel backpack for a child because as they grow they could adjust it over time. And, of course, your shoulder straps have to be comfortable up top, around and under your chest/shoulder area. Nothing feels worse on a long walk in a backpack than to have the shoulder straps feel like they’re pressing into your body. This is probably because the straps themselves are too thin, and even a little extra weight makes the pack painful to carry. Wide, comfortable, padded straps are what you need, ones that feel snug as you explore your destination.
For this section, we mainly focused on the size of the product and the organization that it offers. Having multiple compartments simply makes it easier to manage things in your travel backpack. Many travelers keep their clothes and shoes in the main largest compartment, the one that they won’t open that much while moving from place to place. Items that they may grab multiple times during their trip they will keep in the compartments nearest the front/outside.
For some people, it is also important to note if the backpack has a designated laptop sleeve. More people travel for business than pleasure these days and that can be a deal breaker.
When you buy a travel backpack, your goal should be to get one that’s going to last you for years to come. This is going to depend on what you put in it, how you pack it, and how frequently you use it. That being said, it is always good when you can find a backpack that has a lifetime guarantee. Only time will tell how long it will actually last, but do your research on the backpack brand itself.
Getting a backpack that has heavy-duty materials will be to your benefit. Generally, travel backpacks are made of nylon or polyester, but you can get a very durable one made out of canvas as well. A leather one is going to cost you a little more, but if that’s what you want, go for it. Still, no matter what materials it’s made out of, you have to always pack your backpack smartly. As with many material things, if you take care of it, it will take care of you, so don’t pack your backpack to capacity (only about three-quarters of the way full).
There are a few repetitive reasons why people normally will toss out a backpack. One of these reasons is the fact that shoulder straps sometimes tear. The person may have gotten the wrong sized backpack for their torso length, then carried it a long time with that uneven torso-to-back pack proportion, until one day the straps just began to give out. Or, the person may have bought the correct size travel backpack, but just continuously packed it too heavy. Don’t put weight in your bag that it can’t handle, or weight that you can’t carry without leaning too much to the front or back while walking. This can also be very hard on your zippers, and when they break it’s another reason travelers will simply throw away a backpack.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Investing a travel towel is a great idea, especially if you will be backpacking. These towels, usually made from microfiber, dry incredibly quickly and can be folded down very small. Even better, these towels are very lightweight. A travel towel is a must have for any backpacker.
Having more than one lock for your bag is advisable. Depending on the type of travel that you'll be doing, you may need a long cord lock to lock your bag to yourself while sleeping. Having an extra lock is also great becuase you can use it for your daypack when exploring touristic areas.
Other Factors to Consider
The last thing you want is a travel backpack that’s not going to protect what you have on the inside. So, don’t get a one that is not waterproof, or at least water resistant. And, padding is just as important on the inside as the outside of a travel backpack. For example, you may not feel comfortable sticking your laptop into a backpack that does not have padding in that particular area.
Alternatively, you could get a rain fly/cover for your travel backpack. These come in all sizes, from extra small to extra large, and some even come with a lifetime warranty. They are very light and easy to store in your backpack. It’s recommended that you store it in a compartment that’s easy to get to, so you don’t have to go through all of your things just to quickly grab it in a situation where you encounter spontaneous rain.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you need a point of reference, people with 18-inch torsos should get small backpacks, folks with 18-inch to 20-inch torsos will feel comfortable in a medium one, and if your torso is larger than 20 inches you should go for a large travel backpack. Travel backpacks come in lots of different sizes, and the best choice for you depends on how long you’re staying on your trips, how you’re traveling, and what you know you need to carry with you for the entire stay. Travel backpacks are generally anywhere from 25 to 85 liters large, and most people find an ideal one to be between 40 and 50 liters. This size may seem to be right in the middle, but smaller is normally better.
Keeping a minimalist attitude when it comes to your backpack will be to your benefit, especially at the airport. This is going to save you money because you don’t have to check in your bags. It’s also going to save you a lot of time, being that you don’t have to wait at baggage claim. Carrying this size bag will also save you a lot of stress. Have you ever noticed how, when traveling, if you carry less stuff you lose/misplace fewer things?
What you want to do first is be sure that what you’re buying is actually a travel backpack. Some people do not know the difference and may feel that anything that resembles a regular book bag will do just fine. The thing that you have to remember is that a travel backpack loads up from the front. This means it has more of the characteristics of a suitcase, and you won’t always have to open your entire bag just to get one thing that you regularly use.
Getting the correct amount of support is also a feature that a travel pack will have versus other types. Have you ever noticed when you’re carrying your regular book bag styled backpack that your lower back begins to hurt at times if it’s loaded up heavily? This is because it very likely does not have a waistband on it. This evens out the weight and allows you to walk for longer distances without feeling pain and/or a lot of fatigue. The way that the shoulder straps are designed on travel backpacks compared to other similar types of bags also contributes to your personal comfort while wearing it from destination to destination. Every backpack in the above review list is an actual travel backpack.
The first thing you should realize is the difference between a travel backpack that’s waterproof and one that’s water-resistant. If you are mostly going to be in and out of airports, up and down city streets, in and out of museums, and touring different other destinations, then a water-resistant backpack will be good for you. This is because when you go out to visit these places you will normally make sure beforehand that the weather is going to be nice, and the worst you’ll probably expect is a light drizzle of rain, or maybe a passing vehicle that splashes some street puddle water on to you while you’re window shopping on the sidewalk!
If your travel backpack is waterproof, it means that you expect to get wet on your trip. Technically, the word ‘waterproof’ means that the material of the backpack could actually be submerged in water, and keep all of your things dry. This type of backpack is ideal if you were, say, rafting on a river in a canoe, or if you wanted to walk through or underneath a waterfall. Still, with the number of electronic gadgets that people carry with them on trips today (laptops, phones, tablets etc.) some travelers still feel the need to get a backpack that’s labeled waterproof to protect these high priced, valuable items.
If you’re visiting a major tourist destination, then there are going to be several places where you’ll pick up small souvenirs and other items. This is why it’s important to not pack your backpack all the way full. You should try to leave about 25% of your travel backpack empty. This is unless, of course, you’re on the way to the airport, and taking every single one of your belongings with you to your next destination.
One of the first things buyers look for in a travel backpack is a laptop holder. These holders are not just good for laptops, but also for magazines, books, and other items that have that similar flat shape. You want to also be sure that your backpack has waist wraps. If you do a lot of traveling, these are going to save your lower back in the long term. Getting a backpack that has extra padding on the back of it for back support as well as padding on the waist belt, shoulder straps, and inside compartments are also recommended.
You should also keep an eye out for a travel backpack that has locker zippers on them, or ones that come with combination locks. There are a lot of pickpockets in airports and unfamiliar distant locations, and in a very crowded area its easy for a thief to unzip your backpack (from behind you while you’re wearing it), grab something quickly, then head in a different direction without you ever knowing, at least not to you get back to your hotel and notice something missing.
- HOW TO CHOOSE & BUY THE RIGHT TRAVEL BACKPACK (2019 EDITION), Travel Blog ,
- BEST TRAVEL BACKPACK | GUIDE TO CHOOSING THE PERFECT BACKPACK (2018), Travel and Advice Blog ,