While luggage and packing cubes are certainly important to a traveler’s arsenal, we’re laser-focused on the travel backpack right now — the elusive bag that’s big enough to fit everything you might need while flying but also diminutive enough to comply with the standard size allowance of 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high (including wheels and handles). It’s one of our favorite pieces of carry-on luggage out there, allowing for one-bag travel.
Not only do backpacks allow you to be hands-free as you make your way through airport security and the duty-free shops, but they’re also a bastion of organization, with laptop compartments, battery charging ports and interior and exterior pockets galore, ensuring you’re utterly prepared for the journey ahead. To maximize the backpack’s space, you’ll want to pay attention to its true volume — also known as the amount of usable space within the bag — which is measured in liters. Most travel-appropriate backpacks range from 17 liters (a smaller, slimmer bag) to 45, which is the max we’d recommend for a carry-on.
Whether your travel backpack is carrying a Kindle, laptop, travel snacks and a travel blanket or if you’re using it as a true carry-on, packing it like a suitcase with your trip’s wardrobe and necessities, the key is finding the right one for you. In addition to size, you’ll also want to be on the lookout for one that’s lightweight, that’s comfortable to wear and includes clutch design details like suitcase handle sleeves, cord corrals, locked zippers, key clips and durable materials (or, sometimes, cute materials). It’s also good to know whether the pack is top-loading or panel-loading (otherwise known as “clamshell”).
To get you on your way, we’ve rounded up 37 of our favorite travel backpacks below, ranging from rough-and-tumble, all-terrain options that can go from the airport to the camping trip, to utterly fashionable picks for those heading to date night upon reaching their destination.
Carry-on travel backpacks
Probably the most comfortable backpack on our list, the Dagne Dover Dakota is swathed in a downy neoprene fabric that is not only easy on the eyes but also totally cozy on your back. Available in three sizes, the bag’s medium and large formats are most appropriate for travel, as they contain luggage sleeves and can hold 13- and 16-inch laptops, respectively. Both also come with a shoe bag, a detachable zip-topped pouch and a wild amount of pockets and pouches for stashing everything from your lip balm and cell phone to your keys and headphones.
With more than 2,000 positive reviews and a 4.8-star rating on the Dagne Dover site, the Dakota is a bestseller for the brand. The hardest part is choosing which of the six colors you love the most.
Small but mighty is how we like to describe this petite backpack from luggage brand Away. Made with water-resistant nylon, the bag has a clamshell opening that we’re obsessed with, a design feature that makes it super easy to find your glasses, AirPods or any other accessory while crouched over mid-flight.
Boasting three zipped pockets — in addition to a zipped, padded 15-inch laptop compartment with a magnetic lock — the backpack also has padded straps, a top leather handle and a trolley sleeve to comfortably rest on your luggage. Want to personalize it? For $35, you can.
With nearly 20,000 positive reviews and a 4.7-star rating, this Amazon laptop backpack is perfect for travel, too. Boasting a luggage strap, a top handle, an external USB port and loads of pockets, the backpack can host up to a 15-inch laptop and comes with a lock that can be attached to the zippers, fully securing all your stuff. Available in four colors, the bag’s back and strap undersides are lined with a breathable mesh that will keep you cool, even when you’re racing to your gate.
Longtime luggage maker Samsonite has a slew of travel backpack options, among them the slim, lightweight Modern Utility Double Shot Travel Backpack. Perfect for quick work trips where the user wants professional-looking travel gear from a trusted brand, this backpack can accommodate up to three days’ worth of clothes, a 17-inch laptop and a 10-inch tablet.
We appreciate the slew of pockets — from zippered quick-stash options to water bottle holders and organizational slots galore — as well as the S-curve ergonomic straps that are easy on the back, even when the backpack is completely full.
Launched via Kickstarter in 2017, Nomatic has become a cult-favorite brand in the travel gear landscape, known for bringing innovative, highly functioning products to masses. Among the brand’s bestsellers is this backpack, which has more than 2,500 positive reviews and a 4.8-star rating on its site. Ideal for short trips ranging from one to three days, the water-resistant backpack’s chief selling point is that it’s able to quickly expand in size — from 20 liters of capacity to 24 liters — via a zipped extension panel. "I highly recommend Nomatic’s travel pack, a truly excellent pack," says travel expert and founder of The Broke Backpacker, Will Hatton.
We love that the customizable straps allow you to go from backpack mode to briefcase, thanks to the side carrying handle and that the bag comes with a removable hard shell for sunglasses. More fun details: The clamshell bag has more than 20 pockets (mesh, zippered, hidden … you name it!) a luggage sleeve, a retractable key leash, a full-perimeter zipper for easy access and cord pass-through holes for seamless charging during your travels. Yep, Nomatic has thought of everything.
Away's got another versatile take on a backpack with its F.A.R. bag. Underscored Senior Travel Editor Emily McNutt swears by this bag, thanks to its multi-use features. "You can use it from the airport to touring around a new destination," she says. "There are two hidden pockets, perfect for keeping your important items safe, plus a dedicated laptop sleeve in the large main compartment." It's got plenty of other organizational pockets as well, and we love that it's weather resistant in case the weather turns during your touring.
Actress Shay Mitchell launched the luggage brand Béis with the goal of making affordable, fashion-forward travel accessories — and she surely succeeded with the cult-favorite Backpack. Boasting more than 2,000 positive reviews from Béis shoppers, the clamshell-style bag’s front panel has three zipped compartments, while the interior features elastic compression straps that allow for packing bulkier items like clothing and travel shoes. The rest of your small accessories — pens, phone and gum, for example — can be stored in the backpack’s front pocket, and the laptop heads to a separate padded sleeve in the rear. In addition to a luggage sleeve, two water bottle pockets also flank the bag’s exterior. Oh, and it comes in all-black or a pretty two-tone cream hue. While it's incredibly chic, its thin shoulder straps and lack of padding in the laptop sleeve can be drawbacks. Read our review of the backpack here.
Designed specifically with work-related travel in mind, this durable 30-liter backpack from Able Carry has a dedicated “work” compartment with sleeves for both an oversized laptop (up to 17 inches) and a tablet, not to mention a zippered pocket with slots for your tech gear — backup battery packs, charging cords, zip drives and more. The main compartment has two built-in zippered pockets for storing accessories like headphones, reading glasses and more, while the roomy cavity has room for a weekend’s worth of clothes.
The Max’s water-resistant exterior is chock-full of bells and whistles too, including a hidden top pocket for your phone or Kindle, a zippered bottle pocket (that can fit anything from a standard water bottle to a full-size bottle of Champagne!) and a vertical front pocket with organizational spots for all your necessities, plus a key leash. We love the luggage sleeve, the top loop for hanging on a towel hook and the padded straps and back section that make for a comfortable carrying journey, which is especially important if your flight just got delayed … again.
The Incase A.R.C. Travel pack is one of our favorite backpacks out there. The bag makes it easy to expand and creates more room for your belongings. "One of the things that makes the A.R.C. Travel Pack my go-to is the way it expands for added storage when needed — I even took it on a 16-day European vacation when I wanted to avoid checking a bag," says travel expert and CNN Underscored contributor Holly Johnson. In fact, when fully expanded, you'll find 33 liters of packing capacity. Plus, it's got plenty of organizational pockets and a convenient way to pack your clothes. Read our full review of this backpack here.
This backpack is the perfect option for travelers heading away on longer trips and are looking to replace their rolling carry-on bag with something easier to carry. We love that even though it features a massive 40 liters of capacity in its clamshell-style packing design, it still fits the carry-on size requirements of most airlines. We love, too, that the included hip belt not only helps to take some of the weight off of your shoulders, but it also doubles as a money belt of sorts where you can store your phone or other important items for easy access while you're on the go.
Travel backpacks for men
Up to the task for your biggest outdoors adventures, this backpack from Swedish adventure brand Thule is equally prepared to head straight to the boardroom, thanks to its convertible nature that allows it to transition from backpack to briefcase in a snap. Hyperorganized, the ultra-durable backpack also has lots of fun selling points like a crush-resistant pocket for sunglasses and your phone, two hidden side pockets for your passport and money and lots more stash spots for your keys, cords and everything else. Even your water bottle can be tucked away in a side zipper pocket.
Our favorite detail, however, was that one reviewer raved that despite having the backpack fly off Disney World’s Space Mountain ride, it was found the next day without a scratch and with everything inside intact. Want to spend a bit less? Check out the brand’s equally spacious Subterra Backpack that features fewer pockets and will save you more than a hundred bucks at checkout.
Heading into the great unknown for the foreseeable future? Consider taking Peak’s 45-liter backpack with you. Boasting more than 650 positive reviews and a 4.8-star rating on its site, the backpack is an airline-approved carry-on that can expand to fit more — or contract to become a daypack. Constructed from a durable, weatherproof, recycled nylon shell, the bag’s roomy interior has enough volume to accommodate three of Peak Design’s coordinated packing cubes, which can hold four (or more) days’ worth of clothing.
In addition to a padded laptop sleeve, the Peak 45L also has dual side pockets, a top pocket, hidden side pockets, adjustable padded shoulder and waist straps (that can be tucked away if checking) and external straps for carrying more stuff like rain jackets, sleeping bags or your camera’s tripod.
Cool and refined, this hip backpack checks off all the boxes. Luggage sleeve? Check. Separate laptop compartment? Check. Myriad extra pockets? Check. And all those design details are ensconced in a simple silhouette that comes in five fabrics and colors — ranging from a water-resistant navy to a coated canvas black — making it the perfect backpack for the travel businessperson heading out for a quick work trip.
For the adventurous traveler, Osprey's range of Aether backpacks is a no-brainer. "For longer adventures, it’s pretty hard to beat Osprey’s Aether range," Hatton says. "They are super practical, strong, with compartmentalization and ideal for long backpacking adventures, hiking or even just weekends away." This option features a custom fit to fit most torso lengths with its adjustable straps. It comes in two sizes and three different colors.
We’re big fans of everything Yeti churns out — from coolers and chairs to wine tumblers and water bottles — and that includes this tough-as-nails, clamshell opening pack. Also available in 22- and 27-liter sizes (which are better for day trips), the Crossroads has a water- and abrasion-resistant nylon exterior, padded straps for comfortable carrying, a no-pressure back panel that keeps your lumbar feeling good and two zipped pockets for water bottles and other easy-access necessities.
Inside, the 35-liter pack has a 15-inch laptop sleeve and a zippered main compartment with enough space for a weekend’s worth of clothes. When testing this one out, we appreciated the removable straps on the front of the bag, which are great for quickly attaching your rain jacket or yoga mat. A front vertical pocket is also super handy for storing travel documents or anything else you need to grab quickly while on the road. More to know: It can fit under the seat in front of you on most airlines, and it has a handle for carrying.
Travel backpacks for women
Leave it to Paravel, one of our favorite luggage makers, to dream up the perfect travel backpack solution — one that folds right up. Made from “negative nylon,” a silky fabric created by upcycling water bottles, the backpack’s biggest selling point is just how diminutive it is. Weighing less than a pound, it folds into itself and can be zippered into a cute little pouch that is easy to tuck into your carry-on tote or luggage.
Once unfolded, however, the backpack is a powerhouse, offering loads of room for a change of clothes, souvenirs, a 15-inch laptop and anything else you might need to carry on your back as you explore a new locale. We love the adjustable straps, the luggage sleeve and the fact that you can add a monogram. The hardest part is choosing from the six cute colorways.
Need proof that travel backpacks can be dainty? Look no further than this sweet and chic leather option from Cuyana that can be carried as a tote or a backpack and can fit a 13-inch laptop. Available in black, cappuccino or stone, the Italian-made bag features two roomy front pockets and two interior pockets (one zippered, one not). Our favorite design detail, however, is the uber-feminine adjustable straps.
Mamas gotta travel too — oftentimes with baby in tow — which is why we love this Fawn backpack-style diaper bag so much. Any parent who has traveled with little ones knows that being hands-free throughout the journey is imperative, and Fawn’s multifunctional Original Diaper Bag is just that.
Ultra roomy and made from faux leather, this bag is beloved by mommy influencers far and wide not only for its chic design but also because it’s chock-full of storage (with 12 pockets to be exact) and smart details like a key clip and detachable backpack straps (which can be substituted with a messenger strap or carried via a top handle). Great for corralling bottles, extra clothes, toys and whatever else you’ll need to keep baby busy during that layover, the Fawn bag has more than 300 glowing reviews on its website.
Travel laptop backpacks
Meet Amazon’s No. 1 bestseller in laptop backpacks. With more than 80,000 reviews, the bag is divided into three compartments, and in addition to being able to accommodate a 15-inch laptop, it’s got loads of key design details you’ll want. Think of a top handle, hanging clasps, a USB port and adjustable straps, not to mention a ton of pockets for storing all your things. Boasting a 4.8-star rating, the backpack’s highlight is a padded mesh backing that will keep you as cool as can be, no matter how many times your flight is delayed. Did we mention it’s just $30 right now? Done and done. Read our comparison of the backpack with the Nomatic here.
Amazon knows a thing or two about a thing or two, which is why we’re not surprised that the brand features a beloved utilitarian laptop traveling backpack under its Amazon Basics umbrella that fits all your needs. Boasting four compartments for storing all your belongings, the bag’s main section can fit up to a 17-inch laptop. With nearly 17,000 reviews, a 4.5-star rating and a $40 price tag, this is a bag worth considering.
Parisian luggage brand Delsey has multiple laptop backpack options, our favorite of which is the Maubert 2.0. Priced affordably, the 17-liter bag is eco-friendly, with fabric and lining made from recycled water bottles and vegan leather. Beyond that, the top-panel backpack is hyper-organized, with the main compartment divided to hold a 15.6-inch laptop in a padded sleeve, and all your other things (phone, pens, books and snacks) in the adjacent section. And fear not, the bag includes zippered pockets galore as well as two mesh side pockets for bringing a water bottle with you to fill up after security. Want a bigger option? Check out the Chatelet Air Soft Backpack, which is 10 liters larger.
Travel backpacks with wheels
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