Travel backpacks can free you from the constraints of conventional luggage. With capacities of 40 liters or more and sizes that fit inside airline carry-on requirements, these packs can hold all the necessities for short business trips or extended sightseeing tours across Europe. The best backpacks include numerous pockets that keep your gear organized and easily accessible. Many travel backpacks are convertible, allowing you to wear them as a backpack or carry them as a suitcase or duffel bag. They feature padded straps for comfort and durable materials that resist tearing, abrasions, and water.
If you’re looking for one of these handy traveling companions, read on to learn about the characteristics to consider when shopping, and don’t miss these recommendations for some of the best travel backpacks on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Asenlin Travel Backpack
- BEST BUDGET: YOREPEK Extra Large Travel Backpack
- BEST FOR MEN: WITZMAN Travel Backpack Canvas Rucksack
- BEST FOR WOMEN: Dinictis 40L Laptop Backpack
- BEST FOR BUSINESS: Inateck 40L Travel Backpack
- BEST FOR CAMERAS: CADeN Camera Backpack Bag
- BEST CARRY-ON: Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack
- BEST WHEELED: High Sierra Freewheel Laptop Backpack
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Packable Backpack
What to Consider When Buying the Best Travel Backpack
When searching for a travel backpack that’s right for you, it’s crucial to find one with a proper fit that fulfills the storage requirements you need, whether carrying a laptop, a set of camera lenses, or a week’s worth of clothing.
Size & Capacity
When it comes to travel backpacks, it’s best to have something lightweight that will hold the essentials you need for several days of traveling without overloading you with a bulky bag and unwieldy amount of weight. A good travel size is in the 35- to 45-liter range. This provides you with enough space to carry multiple changes of clothes, toiletries, a laptop, a wallet, keys, snacks, and a water bottle. If you need more than just the essentials, you can consider going a bit larger to a 50-liter capacity. For shorter trips, a smaller daypack with a capacity of between 20 and 35 liters will do. Most travel backpacks come in different sizes to suit different heights.
On average, travel backpacks weigh between 2 and 3 pounds, with some lightweight packs weighing under a pound. Although this may not sound like a lot of weight, consider that just a few pounds can make a difference if your travels involve walking for miles each day. The max weight of a travel backpack depends on who is carrying it. A 40-liter bag should be able to hold roughly 15 percent of the user’s weight. So, an adult who weighs about 160 pounds should be able to comfortably carry about 25 pounds in a 40-liter bag.
Backpacks use adjustable straps to balance the weight on your shoulders and to keep the weight as flush to your back and spine as possible. Many feature an additional strap that runs across your chest to keep the shoulder straps in place. Some travel backpacks also feature waist straps that distribute weight onto your hips.
When it comes to choosing a backpack, you have the option of a front-loading and a top-loading pack. Top-loading packs have a wide mouth that opens at the top. This style makes it easier to open the bag and access items on the go, such as while sitting in a busy airport. However, it makes it more challenging to access all the items in your bag and harder to pack in an organized fashion.
Front-loading backpacks function like suitcases. They feature a long zipper that spans three sides of the bag. To load them, you place the bag flat on the floor, then pack the entire bag as you would a suitcase. This design allows you to access all of the contents in the bag more easily. The flip side is that this style can make it a little awkward to open in public. For example, retrieving your laptop may require you to display your three-day supply of underwear. Using travel cubes inside your pack or selecting a backpack with multiple internal or external pouches can help you avoid this scenario.
Many travel backpacks are convertible to meet diverse traveling needs, ranging from hiking down a narrow trail through a mountain pass to walking through crowded airports. They feature thickly padded shoulder straps for wearing the bag as a backpack. Some straps even have memory foam that conforms to the shape of your shoulders. These straps are adjustable, allowing you to fine-tune fit for maximum comfort.
Some backpacks also feature handles on the top and sides and removable shoulder straps that allow you to carry these bags as a rucksack or duffel bag. Some travel backpacks also feature straps on the back that allow you to hang items such as a water bottle or even a hiking pole from the pack.
Most travel backpacks have numerous pockets to help keep your stuff organized. Some packs include as many as 20 pockets of varying sizes. This includes small front pockets for wallets, keys, smartphones, and other frequently used items, as well as side pockets for water bottles and snacks. Many include special internal pockets for laptops and other devices. Some include waterproof pockets for separating wet or damp items such as a swimsuit or towel from the rest of your gear.
Zippers are a vital component of a travel bag. They need to be sturdy enough to hold up to heavy loads and significant amounts of stress and repeated use. Quality travel backpacks feature durable metal zippers with explosion-proof teeth, meaning they won’t split apart under pressure.
Most travel backpack models are made in different sizes to fit different length torsos. Male-specific backpacks will generally be longer than female-specific backpacks. Smaller travel backpacks for kids will be much shorter, with narrower shoulder straps and a smaller capacity. Make sure to check the sizing chart from the manufacturer to determine if the size is right for your torso before making a purchase.
Travel backpacks fall into two different design categories. Adventure-style travel backpacks follow the look and feel of hiking or backpacking packs. They feature lightweight materials, bright colors, and numerous exterior loops and pockets for attaching items, fitting water bottles, or attaching bedrolls. They are typically top-loading and have a more streamlined shape.
Other travel backpacks seek to mimic the shape of a suitcase. They are boxier than packs with top-loading designs. They feature multiple handles that allow them to function as both a backpack and a traditional duffel bag. While they are more versatile, they aren’t as streamlined or ergonomic as top-loading backpacks.
How well a travel backpack resists water can be critical, especially if you’re using your bag to carry around an expensive laptop. While backpacks with longer zippers may add convenience, they also will make your pack more susceptible to rain than those with smaller openings.
Most travel backpacks use weather-resistant fabric to protect your gear from light rain. Some travel backpacks include a waterproof pocket that keeps items such as a smartphone protected from the rain. If keeping all of your gear dry is a necessity, consider purchasing a pack that comes with a waterproof rain fly that will cover your entire pack should you be caught in a rainshower.
Our Top Picks
This guide rounds up some of the best backpacks that feature solid construction, numerous pockets for organization, and versatility for different types of travel. Check out recommendations for a variety of scenarios.
When it comes to backpacks, it’s hard to find better thought-out designs than what Osprey creates. The Farpoint 40 is no exception. With its 40 cubic liters of space, it features plenty of room for extra clothing, maps, and smart devices as big as a 15-inch laptop. That space doesn’t help much if you have to dump the bag to find what you need. This is where the Farpoint excels. This bag features a large zipper that gives you access to the bulk of the compartment and a zippered mesh patch inside, along with a large zipper and three external compartments on the front, bottom, and top.
Dual compression straps allow you to cinch this bag to secure the load, while heavy padding on the straps adds comfort for long treks. Side mesh pockets are perfect for water bottles. Understanding that security is a concern, the Farpoint features lockable sliders to prevent others from unzipping your pack.
With its organizing cubes, this travel backpack offers excellent value. In addition to a sizable 40-liter pack, this set also includes three smaller bags of varying sizes. The smallest bag keeps small items like razors, toothpaste, and other toiletries organized, while a larger bag can accommodate shirts, pants, and other clothing.
These packing cubes fit neatly inside the larger backpack. Compression straps keep all of your items secure to prevent annoying shifts in weight. Dual handles on the top and side, and shoulder straps that fold into the pack allow you to convert this bag into a handsome suitcase. Tough Oxford cloth and explosion-proof zippers ensure this bag will hold up for many journeys.
Yorepek packs a lot into this travel backpack at a price that’s a fraction of the cost of higher-end backpacks. This well-designed pack features 20 pockets of varying sizes for fitting full-sized laptop, clothes, notebooks, toiletries, and more. One of its cooler features is a USB port that allows you to use a battery-powered charger from the inside to charge a smartphone on the outside.
Padded adjustable straps add comfort, while U-shaped padding on the back allows air to pass through for ventilation. This bag is made of high-density nylon that resists water, ensuring that your gear will stay dry when caught in an unexpected rain shower. With air travel in mind, this bag unfolds 180 degrees to facilitate trips through airport TSA checkpoints. This travel bag comes in 17-inch and 18-inch sizes in six color options.
Carry your gear in vintage style with this canvas rucksack from Witzman. It’s hard to dislike this pack’s aesthetics, which resemble the travel style rucksacks of the early 20th century. This pack is anything but obsolete, however. It features a large internal pocket for a laptop in addition to large external pockets for organization. Numerous smaller pockets offer convenient places to stow pens, keys, and other small belongings. A large side pocket provides enough room for a water bottle (or canteen if you’re keeping it vintage). It’s made of durable polyurethane leather and heavy-duty cotton canvas. Padded mesh shoulder straps make heavier loads easy on your shoulders.
This bag also is convertible, morphing from backpack to stylish shoulder bag or tote bag thanks to shoulder straps that tuck inside a pocket and an optional shoulder strap. This bag comes in 18.5-inch and 20-inch sizes.
With convenient design and smart looks, this roomy backpack from Dinictis makes for a competent traveling partner. It features 40 liters of space and has the perfect dimensions for carry-on luggage, making this a valuable companion on flights. Its large three-sided opening allows you to lay this backpack flat and load it as you would a piece of luggage. Internal compression straps help with organization. Convenient pouches, including a waterproof interior pouch, allow for safe packing of leakable items such as creams, toothpaste, and makeup.
Two large front pockets offer additional organization while handles on the top and side enable different carrying options. Thick sponge padding makes it easy on the hands and shoulders. This pack’s high-density polyester fabric resists water and scratches. This backpack is available in blue, black, and gray.
With its smart but streamlined looks, high volume, anti-theft features, and convertibility, this backpack from Inateck is a worthy travel companion on business trips. Its dimensions meet airline requirements for carry-on luggage and it features 40 liters of space, making it large enough to carry a large 17-inch laptop along with a 13-inch laptop. The main pocket opens up completely, making it easy to access your gear and convenient for trips through airport TSA checkpoints.
You can use this bag as a backpack or tuck away the straps to convert it into a standard soft suitcase. A rain cover keeps your belongings dry on wet days while lockable zippers keep them secure. Multiple pockets of varying sizes allow for easy organization. There are small pockets built into the straps for commonly used items such as keys and credit cards.
This bag makes traveling with expensive camera equipment a little less anxiety-inducing. It features plenty of separate compartments for a camera, four lenses, flash, tripod, and even a 15-inch laptop in its spacious interior. These interior compartments can be rearranged to suit different needs. Seven layers of high-compression memory foam and protective board line the interior, protecting your expensive equipment from moderate shocks.
The waterproof high-density 900-denier polyester nylon exterior includes alloy zippers that resist rust. Additional features include mesh pouches for a water bottle and an umbrella and straps on the bottom that can hold a tripod. Shoulder straps feature thick padding for comfortably carrying heavy loads. This pack measures 17 inches tall, 2 inches wide, and 6 inches deep.
With its boxy shape that fits carry-on bag requirements, this travel backpack from Hynes Eagle is well suited for airline travel. It features a spacious interior with 40 liters of capacity and comes with packing cubes of various sizes that allow you to maximize the amount of clothing and gear you can fit inside the bag. Compression straps on the interior and exterior of the bag allow you to cinch it tight to secure the load during transport.
This pack allows you to convert it to a standard suitcase in seconds with shoulder straps that hide in an exterior compartment. A large front pocket with multiple slip pockets organizes smart devices, passports, and other essentials. This bag is available in a variety of colors.
Carrying a loaded-down backpack can get tiring, which is why it’s nice to be able to pull it when the opportunity presents itself. This 35-liter backpack features a stout set of tough molded plastic wheels, allowing you to take a load off your back when traveling over smooth surfaces. A telescoping arm with a large ergonomic handle emerges from a zipper pouch at the top of the bag, allowing you to quickly convert this backpack to a rolling suitcase when in airports. Hard plastic corner guards and a rigid kickplate protect the bag when in rolling mode.
This bag also features multiple pockets for organization, including a large main pocket that can fit a 15-inch laptop and an organizer pocket for pens, keys, and smart devices. Mesh padded straps provide comfort for when you have to carry the backpack, while 600-denier fabric resists tearing and abrasions.
Weight can be an issue, especially if your travels involve miles of walking through busy airports or distant locales. Your gear weighs enough without the backpack itself adding to it. This backpack from Venture Pal keeps things light, thanks to its total weight of just 11 ounces.
Despite being lightweight, this bag still boasts 40 liters of capacity. It features multiple compartments for organizing items, both large and small. It also has a designated wet pocket to either keep valuables dry or for storing wet items, such as a swimsuit or damp towels. Exterior straps keep your gear compact to prevent your items from shifting as you walk. Tear-resistant nylon, metal zippers, and reinforced seams at pressure points add durability. Thick padding with breathable mesh makes carrying this bag over long distances comfortable on the shoulders. This bag comes in 11 design options.
FAQs About Your New Travel Backpack
If you’re still wondering which travel backpack is right for you, then it may help to check out the following answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Q. How do you pack a travel backpack?
Pack a travel backpack so that the heaviest items are closest to your spine. This will make the bag more comfortable to carry. With that in mind, load heavy items first, and keep them toward the middle of the pack. For example, you should position a laptop in the bag so it lies flat against your back.
Ensure that items you frequently need during the day, such as a wallet, smartphone, or keys, are in a place that is easy to access. Once you’ve loaded the bag, make sure to use the compression straps to eliminate any slack or space in the bag. This will prevent items from shifting while you’re carrying the pack.
Q. How do you wash a travel backpack?
Never wash a backpack in the washing machine as it may loosen the seams or damage its protective coating. Instead, use warm water and a sponge to spot-clean the pack. Hang it in a shady spot or inside to dry as drying in the sun can cause ultraviolet (UV) rays to fade the material.
Q. What size backpack can you bring on a plane?
While airlines set their own carry-on size restrictions, most will not allow a carry-on bag to exceed 22 inches high by 14 inches wide by 9 inches deep.
Q. What size backpack do I need for a 10-day trip?
If you’re frugal about what you pack and the amount of clothing you need to take with you, most people can get by with a 40-liter backpack. For those who can’t bear to part with certain amenities or require a larger wardrobe, a 45-liter or even 50-liter pack should suffice.
Q. What is a good size bag for a day trip?
Daypacks can be significantly smaller as you don’t need all of the gear and supplies that come with overnight trips, such as a change of clothes and toiletries. Most daypacks have about a 15-liter capacity.