The Best Travel Backpack

Looking for the best travel backpack?

In the past 15 years we’ve traveled thousands of miles, and to dozens of countries from Canada to Thailand and Australia, and to Spain, Portugal and South America all while carrying only a backpack.

Over all those years, we’ve figured out first hand which backpacks are great for travel, and which aren’t. A good backpack, that can carry all you need, can make travel so much more enjoyable however a great backpack also needs to fit you well and match your travel style, while also managing to be stylish and affordable at the same time.

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We’ve done all of the hard work for you by testing dozens of backpacks and picking the top travel backpacks. Keep reading to find the best travel backpack for you.

This is the complete guide to finding the best backpack for travel, with recommendations for the best backpack for Europe, the best carry on backpack, the best women’s backpack, top wheeled backpacks and more.

The Best Travel Backpack 2018

Are you looking for something specific? Just click a link to go directly to that section.

Comparison Chart for the Best Travel Backpacks

Check out our comparison chart with all of the options for the best backpacks for travel that we review here. Click on the column headings to compare!

BackpackPhotoCapacity (l)Best for ?PriceOur rating /10
Osprey Fairview 55 55women9.5
Osprey Farpoint 70


70men9.5
Deuter Quantum 70+10



70+10men9.0
Tortuga SetoutTortuga Setout45Europe/carry-onBUY NOW BUTTON9.0
eBags Mother Lode Weekender54?carry-on9.0
Pacsafe Vibe 40 Anti-Theft40anti-theft carry-on8.5
Osprey Women's Aura AG 6565women's top loading9.0
Osprey Men's Atmos AG 6565men's top loading9.0
Kelty Coyote 6565women's hiking8.5
Gregory Men's Baltoro 6565men's hiking8.5
Osprey Sojourn Wheeled 45
45wheeled7.5

Tips for choosing the best backpack for travel

Getting the best backpack is a mixture of getting a great fit, proper padding, the right size, making sure that it’s organized well for your needs, and finding the right style.

To get you started, we share our best tips for helping you choose the perfect backpack for you. We’ve taken great care to make sure these are the best quality backpacks for travel, and personally checked out every one of them. Although ultimately the perfect backpack comes down to personal choice, you won’t find any badly made packs here.

Does it fit your frame?

Since you’re going to carry your backpack everywhere you go, from planes to trains to hotels, fit is incredibly important in a backpack.

In the past few years, manufacturers have gotten pretty smart about this, and now make backpacks especially for women’s smaller frames and relatively wider hips. Check out our women-specific recommendations here. Many of the higher quality backpacks offer a few choices for torso lengths. There are also great backpacks meant specifically for men’s taller frames, or for women who are taller as well (see our men’s picks here).

I’m a 5 foot five inch woman, and the first backpack I tried on for our first year long trip around Australia and Asia turned out to be far too big. The shoulders didn’t fit properly, and the hip belt didn’t cinch tightly enough on me. After testing it fully packed before our trip I decided just days before we took off to get a backpack that was made especially for a woman’s frame. It was the best decision I could have made – my new backpack fit perfectly, and I could carry a surprising amount, because the weight was distributed nicely on my hipbones and padded shoulder straps.

No matter your size, make sure your backpack fits your frame properly. You should be able to cinch the hip straps snugly. This is important, as a properly fitted backpack will carry a good portion of the weight on your hips to reduce shoulder strain!

Also make sure that the shoulder straps fit comfortably on your shoulders. If they pull down and dig in, the pack frame is likely too small for you. If they stick up above your shoulders, then the pack frame is too big. Most backpacks have adjustable straps however every backpack has that perfect sweet spot that maintains comfort while providing necessary support.

Backpacking with my Eagle Creek day pack back in 2003 at Angkor Wat Cambodia

Backpacking with my day pack back in 2003 at Angkor Wat Cambodia

Do I need to try it on?

If this article was written five years ago, we would have suggested going in store to try on packs, but today it’s easier to buy a backpack online and return if needed. Returns and exchanges are usually a breeze, and there are detailed sizing charts online, making it easy to get the right fit.

That said, if you’re having trouble finding that perfect fit, it might be worth it to go into a store that specializes in backpacks and get a personal fitting. After that, come back here to find our recommendations to see how we fared.

Size, carrying capacity and how much fits inside

Travel backpacks come in a lot of sizes, from small 30 L packs to huge 80 L or even 100 L behemoths.

Packs are usually sized in liters. 1 liter (L) is about a quarter of a gallon or the equivalent of a US quart, so a 40 liter backpack holds about ten and a half gallons.

The size of backpack you need depends on a number of things, like the length of your trip, how many supplies you want to carry, and if you intend to travel carry on only.

Most travelers carry a backpack that’s between 40 to 65 liters. If you need to pack a lot of computer or photography equipment, heavy winter gear, or if you want 10 complete changes of clothes and four pairs of shoes, then you’ll likely need much more than a 40 L backpack.

For women, a 50 or 65 L backpack is a great checked baggage size, without being excessively heavy. Since men are usually larger and can often comfortably carry more, a 65 to 70 L works well. These are just general rules of thumb though. The important thing is getting the right bag for you!

If you’re traveling on a budget, or just don’t want to hassle with checked bags, consider traveling with only a carry-on size backpack. Airlines are charging more and more for checked bags, so a good percentage of backpackers (like us!) choose to travel carry on only. This means that you’ll need a bag that’s 45 L or smaller.

Can you travel with a carry on size travel backpack only? 

Here’s a good rule of thumb: a backpack that’s less than 40 liters (and even some backpacks that are 45 liters) can be taken on a plane as a carry on. However, carry on sizes vary a lot depending on the airline with European and Asian airlines traditionally especially stingy with sizes so check first.

If you travel with only a few changes of lightweight clothes, minimal toiletries, and few electronics or camera equipment, traveling with a carry on size backpack is completely possible. I travel with a carry on backpack (and small personal item) only for most of my solo trips, and I definitely carry more camera gear than most people.

However, if you carry a lot of electronic or camera equipment, or you need a dozen outfits and three pairs of shoes, a 40 L or less backpack will definitely be a challenge.

Tip: Check your airline! Many airlines allow you to carry a personal item as well like a purse, laptop bag, or smaller backpack, free of charge, giving you a nice bit of extra storage space on top of your carry on baggage limit and you can always store a few items like electronics in your coat if you’re really tight on space.

That said, it’s definitely possible to travel carry on only! We traveled carry-on only as a family of four during our last three month trip to South America and had room to spare.

Padding and comfort

Making sure that your backpack shoulder and side straps are padded is crucial for comfort. I’m a big fan of softer fabric on shoulder and hip straps, since the straps are often directly on your skin in hotter climates.

A lot of backpacks also have a mesh or light fabric on the back to let your back breathe, meaning no more sweaty back when carrying your backpack!

A padded back is also essential, as the padding keeps the contents of your pack from digging into your back and kidneys.

Adjustable straps on the shoulders and waist are essential. Plus, a small sternum strap that connects the shoulder straps in front of your chest can save a lot of back strain for heavy loads.

If there’s a laptop slot, it’s a bonus if it’s padded as well.

Organization

Backpack organization is crucial, especially if you’re on the road a lot, and essentially living out of your backpack.

I really love backpacks that have a lot of smaller pockets. This makes it easy to store things like electronic gear and toiletries separately. Bonus points for smaller pockets that are easily accessible from the outside, especially for storing things like phone chargers or a toothbrush. On top of that, we usually bring a portable international WiFi device (we love our little Tep portable WiFi), international electrical adapters, a travel journal, and much more.

I also love to have a smaller, collapsible day pack in or connected to my larger backpack. There are a lot of times that you’ll want to leave the big pack at a hotel or hostel, and just carry a day bag, so it’s well worth investing in one.

Some backpacks actually have an lightweight day pack built in, which is pretty cool. If yours doesn’t, we like the Outlander lightweight daypack below which is totally collapsible and comes in lots of colors.

See prices and more here.

Easy access

I’m personally a huge fan of backpacks that open suitcase style, as they let you easily access the contents at the bottom of your backpack.

With traditional, top loading backpacks, you don’t have this option. I find it incredibly irritating to have to unpack my entire backpack just to get at something I’ve forgotten at the bottom of a top loading backpack.

That said, a some of the best backpacks on the market are top loading and people love that they can usually jam more into their pack than a side loader, so I haven’t ignored them in this list. If you’re organized, and put important things in the side or top pockets, the top loading packs can be a great choice, even though they didn’t rank as our our very best rucksack for travelling.

When you’re traveling, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll be carrying a laptop and charger at all times. All of that means you’re going to need pockets, and plenty of them. Above all, you need to make sure that your backpack is big enough to pack all of your gear.

Water resistant

Many good travel backpacks come with a built in rain cover, but not all top rated backpacks include a rain cover, especially those designed more for urban use. If it exists, the rain cover is often built into the waistband or bottom part of the pack. If your pack doesn’t come with one, you may want to think about buying a rain cover.

Joy Walker makes well rated backpack rain covers for 15-90 L packs. Just select the right size. See prices and more here.

Even if you’re not expecting bad weather, you may get stuck outside in the rain waiting for a bus or ferry. Last year, while in the Galapagos Islands, we were stuck in a surprise 30 minute torrential downpour, without any shelter, and with all of our luggage, waiting for our ferry to dock. Luckily our bags stayed dry. Unfortunately, we weren’t so lucky.

Micki soaking wet on ferry to Santa Cruz Galapagos

My daughter and I soaking wet on a ferry to Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands

Weight

How much does the backpack itself weigh? Sure, the difference between a five and ten pound backpack may not seem like much when they’re empty, but when you’re on day two of carting your full pack through city streets or across powdery sand, an extra five pounds can feel like fifty. All else being equal, a lighter bag is a good thing.

Durability

This is one area where you don’t want to cheap out. Cheap travel backpacks are often uncomfortable, and likely to tear at stress points like where the straps attach to the backpack body.

Don’t be like the traveler I met in the airport in LAX airport a few years ago, who bought a cheap backpack and had to continually repatch it with duct tape for his entire six month trip through South East Asia.

Security

Many backpacks have hidden pockets to hide valuables from thieves. Some of these are perfect for storing extra cash for emergencies.

If you’re concerned with security, look for a backpack that’s easily lockable and either has dual zippers that you can tie closed or a loop close to the zippers that can help fasten the zipper closed. Back in the day we used to travel with mini zipties and would ziptie our zippers together when we had to leave our packs in a not particularly safe area. It wouldn’t stop someone from running away with our packs but it did deter people from quickly rifling through the pockets.

Because travel backpacks are big, they usually aren’t made of slash proof material, since slash proof material is so heavy. That said, some backpacks have an RFID pocket to protect your passport and bank or credit cards from RFID scanners, and we found a great 40 L pack with anti-slash fabric. See our top anti-theft backpack pick here.

If you’re really concerned about safety, take a quick look at our money belt and neck wallet review here.

Style

Unfortunately, travel backpacks tend to be a little more functional than stylish. That said, some packs come in a wide range of colors, ranging from black and grey to blues, greens, and even colorful reds and oranges. Most likely, you’ll end up carrying a black, grey or dark green pack that can take scuffs, like being thrown into lockers, under bus compartments and into overhead plane bins and not leave any marks.

The best travel backpack for women

A backpack that’s made for a woman’s generally shorter torso and wider hips can be a lot more comfortable than wearing a unisex backpack.

Women’s backpacks aren’t necessarily smaller, so you can still get a good size pack that carries a lot, but a pack built for women distributes weight better on your frame, and is a lot more enjoyable to wear than a men’s or unisex model.

I was shocked at how much I was able to carry comfortably when I tried my first backpack designed for women!

The Osprey Fairview 55 backpack review

 The Osprey Fairview 55 backpack has everything that I love in a great backpack for women. It’s designed specifically for women in mind with a broader hip belt, a shorter torso, and comfortably padded, narrower shoulder straps. I find it incredibly comfortable.

Plus, it has the suitcase style opening for the main compartment that I love so much, making it so much easier to access than a backpack that opens only from the top. I’m definitely a fan of easily being able to access pack contents, and I think the Osprey is the best front loading backpack for travel above 50 L.

A huge bonus of this backpack is that it includes a removable day pack.

If you’re traveling through a lot of airports, you’ll like that fact that you can tuck away the shoulder straps and hip straps, so you don’t need to worry about the straps being damaged in baggage.

If you always travel with a laptop or tablet like I do, you’ll love the main compartment’s laptop and tablet sleeve with lockable compartment.

There’s no built in raincover with this jacket, which is part of why it’s so lightweight at 3.8 lbs. You can also buy an add-on raincover from Osprey. See Osprey raincover prices or save a bit of coin and pick up a Jay Walker raincover instead. Jay Walker prices here.

The 55 L Fairview comes in two sizes, XS/S and S/M. The S/M is 24.6″ x 13″ x 11.8″, and the XS is a hair smaller at 22.8″ x 13.0″ x 11.8″, but it’s also only 52 L instead of 55.

There are plenty of pockets for storing things. There’s a zippered front panel slash pocket which is great for chargers and cables, plus a mesh zippered area in the main compartment.

All in all, it’s a smaller, sleek backpack with a lot of features, a great women’s fit, at a good price point.

See the Osprey Fairview 55 prices, availabilityy, reviews and more.

If you’re looking for a slightly bigger pack, the women’s Osprey Fairview also comes in a 70 L size and gets great reviews too. See the 70 L Osprey Fairview prices here.

There’s also a smaller women’s 40 L Osprey Fairview, but it doesn’t come with a removable day pack. The 40 L Fairview is a great carry on pack. See prices and more for the 40 L Osprey Fairview.

Best travel backpack for men

Our pick for the best travel backpack for men is a tie between the Osprey Men’s Farpoint 70 and the Deuter Quantum 70 + 10.

A comfortable men’s travel backpack takes into account men’s generally wider shoulders and longer torso. We’ve also included our favorite slightly larger backpacks in the men’s list.

That’s not to say that these backpacks are for men only! These packs will work well for women with a longer than average torso, or if you simply you want to carry a larger pack.

Osprey Men’s Farpoint 70 Review

This is one of our favorite backpacks. It’s comfortable, packs a ton, compresses well, and has (our favorite!), easy suitcase style zipper access to the main compartment.

The Farpoint is the men’s version of our favorite backpack for women, the Fairview.

Since this backpack can open suitcase style, it’s easy to access anything in the main compartment.

What we really like is the fact that there’s a removable day pack included, which zips off easily when needed. There’s also a laptop and tablet sleeve in the day pack, plus a small slash pocket in front perfect for small electronics.

For security, there are lockable sliders on the main compartment zipper, plus the main compartment of the day pack is also lockable.

For extra storage, there are two front mesh pockets, plus a large internal mesh pocket on the front flap.

To keep your belongings in place, there are front compression straps on either side, plus two internal compression straps, and removable sleeping pad straps. To make it easy to carry, there are padded handles on the top, and on the side (so you can also carry it like a suitcase if you prefer).

It’s super lightweight at 3.92 lbs and 26″ x 14″ x 13″.

There’s no rain cover with this pack, but you can buy an add-on raincover from Osprey. See Osprey raincover prices or save a bit of coin and pick up a Jay Walker raincover instead. Jay Walker prices here.

The Osprey back straps and hip belt can be tucked away and hidden in a zippered rear flap. This is perfect for flying, as it keeps the straps from being torn or damaged when you check your luggage.

It comes in two sizes to make sure you get the perfect fit.

See Osprey Men’s Farpoint 70 prices, reviews and availability here.

If you’re looking for a slightly smaller version, there’s also a Farpoint 55 L and Farpoint 40 L (the 40 L doesn’t have a removable day pack). See the Farpoint 55 prices. See Farpoint 40 L prices and availability.

If you’re looking for something just a little bit bigger, check out the Farpoint 80 L. See Osprey Farpoint 80 prices and availability here.

Deuter Quantum 70 + 10 Review

This is a great pack, which is only bumped out of top place because it’s a top loading pack, and we generally prefer the Osprey Farpoint’s suitcase opening style. You can access the Quantum’s main compartment through a U-shaped front zip, but it’s definitely harder to access than a true backpack suitcase style opening.

Still, the Deuter Quantum’s worth a look and is well reviewed. It’s a comfortable pack with well padded shoulder and hip straps that are fully adjustable.

The pack also has all the bells and whistles you’d expect, including compression straps, a detachable rain cover, stretch side pockets, and a separate bottom compartment. There’s also a zippered lid pocket, which is great for storing valuables.

The +10 in the title refers to the detachable day pack which is a nice bag in itself and can be carried on the front if you want to spread out the weight load.

Get prices, availability and more reviews for the Deuter Quantum 70+10 here.

If the 70 + 10 pack is a little too big, Deuter also makes a 60 + 10 version of the Deuter Quantum. See the 60 +10 Deuter Quantum on Amazon here.

Best travel backpack for Europe

Most travelers to Europe spend more time city hopping that getting out in the wilderness, so a backpack that’s compact and light is a good pick.

After dragging a large suitcase with cheap plastic wheels over the cobblestone streets of Madrid and carting it up flights of stairs every night in Portugal, we learned the hard way that backpacks are a great choice for Europe.

Looking for a tiny carry on backpack for Europe for discount airlines? Scroll on down to see our pick for the best small carry on backpack for European discount airlines.

Tortuga Setout review

Tortuga Setout review

The Tortuga Setout travel backpack packs like a suitcase and carries like a backpack.

It’s a great choice for Europe, where you’ll want a pack that’s stylish, but carries a lot for its size.

At 22″ x 14″ x 9″, it’s small enough to work as carry-on, but at 45 L it’s probably the most spacious pack you’ll get at those dimensions. It has soft sides, so you’ll be able to squish it to fit into those carry on size cages at the airport.

It’s also pretty lightweight, at 3.3 lbs.

The first thing I noticed about my Tortuga backpack was how streamlined and stylish it is. Then I opened it up, suitcase style, and could hardly believe how big it is inside, even though it’s only carry-on size outside. It’s designed to get the most space inside as possible in a carry on size backpack pack. Because it’s so large and open inside, you may want to grab some specially sized Tortuga Setout packing cubes.

Because it carries so much, and it has a stylish feel that will let you blend in while touring Europe, we rated it our best carry on backpack for Europe.

I’ve had my Tortuga Setout for a couple of months now, and it’s quickly become my favorite full size carry on travel backpack. This thing holds a lot! I can’t wait to try it out on our next trip!

It’s designed well for European travel, with straps that tuck away to avoid being snagged by plane conveyor belts, and a size that’s easy enough to lift onto train and into airplane overhead bins.

Here’s a little detail I love: the laptop sleeve is both padded and is suspended off the ground. This means that you won’t accidentally set down the pack and damage your laptop. I did that once, and I’ve insisted on padded laptop sleeves ever since (luckily my laptop survived, albeit with a big chunk out of the plastic corner missing). The Setout laptop sleeve fits up to a 17″ laptop, and the laptop compartment is easy to access and separate from the main compartment, making it really quick to access when going through airport security.

It’s not waterproof, but it is made with a high quality, durable fabric that could easily withstand a light rain shower. You can also pick up a custom fit Setout rain cover if you want.

There’s not much we didn’t like here. That said, the Setout is not height adjustable, and comes in one size, so if you’re very tall (over 6’1″) or smaller than (5’1″) it may not work for you. Tortuga says that it’s made to fit 17-19″ torsos. If you’re looking for a similar pack that fits a longer or shorter torso, or that’s height adjustable, check out their adjustable Tortuga Outbreaker, which comes in 35 and 45 L sizes, but is a bit more expensive and a little heavier. It’s a great pack as well.

Tortuga really stands out from other backpacks, I think, because the founders of Tortuga designed the first Tortuga after backpacking Europe. They found that their traditional top-loading backpack made it hard to access stuff, that there was limited storage for electronics, and they didn’t like that their standard backpack made them stand out immediately as backpackers.

So, they designed Tortuga packs to be great backpacks for urban travelers with plenty of storage (especially for electronics), and a cool, urban look and feel.

See prices and reviews for the the Tortuga Setout Backpack now.

We really love the Tortuga Setout for traveling Europe, but if you’re looking for a bigger backpack for Europe, or a more traditional style of backpack, then see below for the Osprey Porter 46 and Kelty Redwing 44. Both are great choices.

We also have a couple options below if you’re looking for a larger backpack for European travel.

Osprey Porter 46 review

The unisex Osprey Porter 46 is an excellent pack with a lot of good ratings. It only lost out the the Tortuga Setout as best small travel backpack for Europe because it’s a little more conspicuously a standard backpack, so it’ll be harder to blend into crowds. We also feel that we can cram a little bit more into the Setout. However, the Osprey Porter is a fantastic pack as well, especially if you’re looking for a more streamlined traditional carry on pack.

This is an especially useful pack if you’re looking to cram as much as humanly possible into a smaller pack. There are padded straitjacket compression straps that do a fantastic job of squeezing down contents. The suspension is good and comfy, but not quite as fully adjustable as the more expensive Fairview or Farpoint from Osprey.

We also love that there’s easy access to the main compartment through a suitcase style zipper that’s easily lockable.

The Porter is only 22″ x 14″ X 11″, meaning you should be able to use it as carry on size for most European airlines.

It weighs 3.4 lbs, and comes in red, teal, black and grey.

There’s a dedicated laptop pocket in the back of the bag, separate from the main compartment, making it easy to pull your laptop in and out at airports. It can also hold up to a 17″ laptop.

The Osprey Porter has plenty of pockets, a stowaway shoulder harness and a stowaway padded hip belt, as well as a large lower zippered compartment that’s perfect for shoes or an ultra lightweight sleeping bag.

You should be able to use the Osprey Porter 46 as a carry on pack in Europe, if it’s not overstuffed, and if gate agents aren’t overly zealous.

One small downside with this pack is that there’s no exterior water bottle holder however you can grab a well reviewed carabiner style water bottle drink holder.

Get prices and read more reviews for the Osprey Porter 46 now.

There’s also an Osprey Porter 65 L version, if you’re looking for a larger pack. It’s essentially the same pack as the 46, but larger.

See the Osprey Porter 65 prices and details now.

Kelty Redwing 44 L backpack review

You may need to check your Kelty Redwing 44 L backpack, as it’s bigger than carry-on size for most European airlines at 25″ x 15″ x 12″.

That said, the Redwing isn’t that far off from a carry on size, so if you don’t over stuff it, and the odds are in your favor that day, you may be able to get this on board as European carry on. There are no guarantees with this – so be prepared that if they’re bringing a tape measure out at the gate, you may pay for checked luggage with this pack.

This is a top loading, multipurpose, unisex pack that switches easily between city streets and on the trail. There’s even a choice of colors (blue, green and black).

Best of all, it’s incredibly comfortable to wear, extremely lightweight at only 2 lbs 10 oz and absolutely packed with features.

The top lid converts to a sling pack, and there are seven exterior pockets for electronics and travel documents, including a stretch front pouch, zippered side pockets and a front pocket with plenty of organizational features.

See the prices, read reviews on the Kelty Redwing 44 and more now.

If you want something just a bit bigger, consider the Kelty Redwing 50. It’s essentially the identical pack to the Kelty Redwing 44 L, but just a hair bigger at 50 L, 26″ x 16″ x 12″, and over a pound heavier at 3 lbs 11 oz.

Learn more about the Kelty Redwing 50 here.

Best carry on backpack for Europe for budget airlines

Traveling in Europe most likely means dealing with more strict carry on size requirements than in North America or elsewhere.

Many European and Asian airlines, especially discount airlines, limit their carry on bags to tiny sizes. RyanAir has a carry on limit of 21.6″ x 15.7″ x 7.8″ (or 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm). That’s pretty small!

Tip! You’re also allowed a personal item on RyanAir and many other discount European airlines, in addition to your carry-on bag, which does give you a tiny bit more room. On RyanAir, for example, the personal item is 1 small bag with these dimensions: 15.7″ x 9.8″ x 7.8″ (40 cm x 25 cm x 20 cm).

If you want to travel only with a carryon backpack on budget airlines in Europe, make sure that you check carry on sizes. They vary a lot.

Pacsafe Venturesafe X30 Anti-Theft Adventure Backpack

I have this Pacsafe Venturesafe X30 30 L backpack, and I absolutely love it. It’s my go-to carry on pack when small carry on size is important as it’s small enough to use for most European airlines carryon policies (at 20.3 x 11.8 x 7.9 inches).

That said, it’s not exactly roomy, and it will be a struggle for most people to use this as a backpack for more than weekend trips around Europe. It’ll be especially tight if you have any electronic or camera gear, or a lot of clothes.

One great feature of this pack is that it’s has a lot of security features like RFID protection and slashguard fabric, which are great for travel in Europe.

I can easily fit my 15 inch laptop in here as it also has a special laptop pocket.

What I don’t love about this backpack is that it’s top load only, so it’s hard to get to the gear in the bottom. That said, there’s only so much you can cram in a 30 L pack, so it’s not a huge inconvenience. There are also useful front pockets for storing stuff you need to access quickly.

I’d recommend this pack as the best weekend backpack for discount European airlines, but you’ll likely find it too small for longer trips.

See prices and more reviews for the Pacsafe backpack now.

Best carry on backpack

We almost always travel carry on only these days. We’ve learned from experience that lugging around a comically over sized backpack or suitcase is backbreaking and annoying, not to mention expensive when we need to pay for checked luggage. Lugging a 70 L suitcase up a three story apartment in Lisbon cured us of ever needing huge suitcases again forever.

The best carry on backpack (or hand luggage or cabin baggage as it’s sometimes called) should be compact, and fit within the carry on size guidelines for most airlines.

Plus, it should fit well, look good, and be durable enough to withstand travel on airplanes, buses, and everywhere you might go.

Here’s our top pick for the best carry on backpack for international travel.

eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible

The eBags Weekender convertible is a nice looking bag, and small at only 22 x 14 x 9 inches (55 cm x 35 cm x 23 cm).

I own a similar slim version of this pack, and I really like its stylish and city-friendly look that comes in a wide selection of colors. I have the grey (called heathered graphite), and the color hides dirt well and the fabric is nice and sturdy.

The Mother Lode Weekender is called a convertible backpack because it’s designed to be easily convertible to a carry-on suitcase. This makes it great for city travel, and traveling by plane, train and bus. If you judge the Weekender by the reviews alone, it’s the best convertible backpack for travel out there.

One of the best features of this backpack is that it can open up like a suitcase, making it easy to pack, and especially easy to find items once it’s packed.

There are a lot of smart features here, from interior compression straps to an easy access top pocket (for passports and the like) to a water bottle sleeve that pops out of a front compartment.

There are also an expansion zipper and external compression straps, a special laptop sleeve, and hideaway padded backpack straps, plus all the small zippered compartments and storage you could ever need.

See prices and reviews for the eBags Mother Lode Weekender Convertible now.

Tortuga Setout Carry-on Backpack Review

Tortuga Setout review

We’ve included the Tortuga Setout in both our best backpack for Europe and this list of the best carry-on backpacks. It won as our best carryon backpack for Europe because of its stylish look.

The Setout converts to a duffel easily, and it carries a whole lot for its small 22″ x 14″ x 9 size.

The padded shoulder and waist straps tuck neatly away, and it opens wide like a suitcase making it a breeze to pack and unpack.

There’s a lot of storage for electronics and travel documents. Read more on our full review in the best travel backpack for Europe section.

You can’t buy the Setout on Amazon, but you can see prices and more on the Tortuga website here.

Best wheeled backpack for travel

Wheeled backpacks have a couple of big disadvantages.

First, the wheels, handle and frame that are needed to keep the bag stiff make these packs heavier than a standard backpack. This means that they’re harder to carry, and you’ll need to make sure the straps are especially comfortable to handle the extra weight.

Second, the wheels and frame reduce the amount of space in the pack, so you’ll be able to carry less in a wheeled backpack than in a pack without wheels.

We’ve tested wheeled backpacks a few times, and every time we’ve come to the conclusion that their disadvantages far outweigh the convenience of being able to to roll our packs.

That said, backpacks with wheels are improving every year, and the new best rolling backpacks are made with stronger, lightweight materials for the wheels, handle and frame.

We’ve rounded what we think are the three best travel backpacks with wheels out there today.

Osprey Packs Sojourn 45 L Wheeled Backpack Review

The Osprey Sojourn 45 L wheeled backpack is a typical Osprey pack – well designed, robust, and functional.

This is carry on size at 22″ x 14″ x 9″, but it weighs in at a pretty heavy 7.93 lbs (non-wheeled backpacks of this size are usually around four pounds lighter).

The side compression straps mean you can squish a lot of stuff inside, which is great.

There are two rolling wheels on the bottom, and a retractable handle, and the wheels are high enough to roll easily along cobblestone streets.

There are plenty of pockets here, including internal mesh pockets, and pockets on the front lid. The Sojourn has a u-zipper in the main compartments that opens like a suitcase so you can see all of the contents inside.

Unlike a lot of rollable backpacks, the straps on the Sojourn are comfortable enough to be used full time. The shoulder harness, hip belt and back panel are all stowable if you want to use this just as a carryon suitcase.

Admittedly, it’s pricey, but there’s also a lifetime guarantee with Osprey packs.

See prices and reviews on the Sojourn now.

High Sierra AT3 Carry-On Wheeled Backpack Review

The High Sierra AT3 rolling backpack is an option if you just can’t fork out the money for the Osprey.

At 22″ x 13.5″ x 9″ and 9 pounds, it’s very similar in size and weight.

This is a solid bag, and gets pretty good reviews. Even if it doesn’t have quite the durability of the Osprey Sojourn, it’s still a solid bag for the price.

Like the Sojourn, it has straps that can be stowed away. There are plenty of pockets for electronics storage, and dual-side water bottle pockets.

It does have one cool feature: a removable front day pack. A word of warning – it the daypack is full, you may need to pull it off to get the High Sierra to fit in carry sizing bins at the airport.

Click now to see prices and reviews on the AT3.

Osprey Packs Sojourn 80 L Wheeled Backpack

If you’re looking for a larger wheeled backpack, the Osprey Sojourn Wheeled luggage backpack is for you. At a whopping 80 L and 28 inches long, you’ll definitely need to check this beast. Dimensions are 28″ x 14″ x 14″.

It’s essentially an amped up version of the carry-on sized Sojourn 45 (without wheels) that we reviewed above.

You won’t want to carry this long as a backpack. It’s 8.97 lbs and there are some complaints it’s a bit top heavy. That said, the Osprey straps are typically comfortable.

See more information here now.

The best anti-theft backpack

We’ve all heard the horror stories of travelers who’ve had their bags slashed open or stolen. Today, there are some excellent lightweight anti-slash and anti-theft features that can help you ward off problems on the road. Here’s our favorite carry on size anti-theft backpack.

The Pacsafe Vibe 40 Anti-Theft 40L Weekender Backpack review

The Pacsafe Vibe 40 Anti-Theft 40L Weekender is a solid travel carry on with plenty of anti-theft features.

It’s surprisingly hard to find a carry on size or larger backpack with great anti-theft technology. Most anti-theft bags are smaller, and designed as business or electronics bags rather than travel bags.

This backpack is a nice find, as it has a lot of room, a reasonably small size and weight, plus it has some great anti-theft features.

I’ve had a similar Pacsafe Venturesafe X30 backpack for a couple of years and absolutely love it. I’ve especially love the anti-slash feature for busy crowds and it also makes a great quick weekend away backpack.

The Pacsafe Vibe 40 is surprisingly light at 3.01 lbs considering that it’s made from an anti-slash fabric. At 19.7″ x 13.8″ x 7.1″, it should be carry on size with most airlines, whether domestic or European.

The entire body of the pack is made of hidden eXomesh Slashguard stainless steel wire mesh that’s embedded in the fabric, making it slash proof. Smart zippers interlock and can be secured to the locking system. There’s an RFIDsafe pocket for credit cards and passports. The pack’s straps are also made of a carrysafe slashguard material.

See it on Amazon here now.If you’re looking for a smaller anti theft bag, check out our review of the Pacsafe

The best hiking backpack

If you’re planning to get out of the city and into the wilderness these packs are a great bet. They are the best hiking backpacks, designed to carry hiking gear like sleeping bags and trekking poles, and they have a traditional hiking backpack style.

Both the women’s and men’s hiking packs here are large enough for a longer hike like the Camino de Santiago.

Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 liter – Best hiking backpack for men

Gregory bags are beloved by travelers whose primary aim is to be outdoors hiking in the wild, marking them almost always at the top of lists of the best hiking backpacks for men.

This pack, the Baltoro 65 Liter Men’s Backpack, is no exception. It’s a great pack, and even though we’re not fans of the top load it offers, we seriously considered it for our main backpack.

It’s surprisingly light for its size at 4.84 lbs, and 30″ x 13″ x 13″”. There’s a high-strength aluminum frame, and it comes in six colors and three torso lengths.

It has plenty of cool features, like a removable hydration sleeve. The sleeve even converts into a day pack. There’s a rain cover included for inevitable bad weather and tons of straps to attach things to it.

See prices, more reviews and other options here.

Kelty Coyote 65 women’s – Best hiking backpack for women

The Kelty Coyote 65 is a solid, reasonably priced women’s hiking pack, bringing it to the top of our selections for the best hiking backpack for women. It’s a good balance between price, comfort and durability.

At 65 liters, it’s 33″ x 17 “x 14”, and weighs 4 lbs 13 oz. It’s available in black, green and blue.

One major issue is that it doesn’t have sleeping pad straps on the outside, but it does have an inside compartment for your sleeping bag. There also aren’t a lot of adjustments for sizing. That said, it should fit most women well.

We really liked the super comfy padded shoulder and hip straps that helped bring it to the top of our best trekking backpack for women list.

There are a lot of nice design features, including plenty of storage, and a removable top that converts into a light pack.

See details, prices and reviews on the Kelty Coyote here.

Best top loading backpack

We’re big fans of backpacks that open more like a suitcase does, making packing and unpacking easier.

That said, a top loading pack is more traditional for travel and people swear you can pack more into it. Because there are no side zippers, it’s harder to access the interior compartment, so you can also argue that a top loading pack is more secure.

These are our favorite top loading backpacks that are geared more toward all-around travel than hiking.

Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG Review – Best men’s top loading backpack

The Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG is a great pack that’s loaded with features.

The Atmos has a removable top lid, which is perfect for holding toiletries. There are also plenty of pockets, including large zippered front pockets for easy access.

Fit is quick and easy, with an easily adjustable hip belt and shoulder straps. Plus, the entire harness is adjustable, making it easy to lengthen or shorten the torso length fit.

There’s also the Osprey anti-gravity suspension. Essentially, the anti-gravity suspension is a panel of lightweight mesh that extends from the hip belt to the top of the back panel. It’s designed to be lightweight and breathable, and conform exactly to the shape of your back.

For a 65 L backpack, it’s remarkably lightweight at just over 3 pounds, which might make it the best lightweight backpack relative to size on this list. The dimensions are 10 x 16 x 23 inches.

To get your load packed away securely, there are side compression straps, as well as internal compression straps. There are plenty of other features like a trekking pole attachment system.

The Osprey Atmos comes in small, medium and large sizes. Click here to read more about it.

Osprey Aura 65 Review – Best women’s top loading backpack

The Osprey Aura 65 backpack gets mentioned again and again by female travelers as their favorite women’s travel backpack, and it’s easy to see why.

This is a sister pack to our favorite men’s top loading backpack, the Osprey Atmos.

It’s made especially for female travelers, and the frame comes in three sizes, XS, S, and Medium for the perfect fit. There are also fit-on-the-fly hip straps that make it easy to fit well, plus padded shoulder straps that are fully adjustable, and a sternum strap to help ease the load on sore shoulders. The straps are built on an AntiGravity suspension (thus the AG part of the backpack name) that helps distribute weight more evenly.

As a 5’5″ woman, it fits me well, and easily holds a heck of a lot of stuff!

The Aura is a top load backpack, meaning that you load and unload it from the top. I’m usually a much bigger fan of backpacks that open up all the way around the main body (called a u-zip or suitcase style), but the Aura fits so well, and it gets such great reviews that I can almost overlook the top load only.

As a 65 L backpack, it has plenty of room to store everything you’ll need for week long (or longer) international trips.

One thing I find essential in a backpack is having pockets that are easily accessible for storing things like passports, electronics, money, snacks and toiletries. There are a few options in the Aura, including two fairly large zippered front pockets, a front mesh pocket, zippered hip belt pockets on each side, stretchy side mesh side pockets for storing water bottles and other gear, and an (optional) separate bottom compartment.

There’s also a removable top lid, which is especially useful for storing toiletries.

If you’re carrying a sleeping bag, you can stow it in the bottom sleeping bag compartment, which has a removable divider. If not, you can use the lower compartment to store items for easy access, or just remove the divider to have one larger internal area for storage. The video below shows a few of the features.

The compression straps on the side and top make it easy to cinch up.

There’s even an internal hydration reservoir sleeve, a trekking pole attachment, and lower straps for a sleeping pad if you’re planning on hiking with the Aura.

There aren’t a lot of negatives as this is a great pack, but I do miss that it doesn’t have a removable day pack built in. That said, it’s pretty easy to stuff a collapsible day pack like an Outlander in the top lid for easy access. See prices for the Outlander daypack here.

Another negative is that it doesn’t come with a built in rain cover. The backpack is made of water-resistant fabric, but it won’t withstand a heavy downpour. Instead you can buy an Osprey rain cover that fits this pack perfectly. See the Osprey raincover prices here.

Click for the Aura’s current price, more information and reviews on the Osprey Aura.

Check out our business backpack review here, see how we manage to travel carry on only for a family of four, or take a look at our favorite travel toiletry kits.

What’s your favorite travel pack? DO YOU HAVE A BAG that you think is the best backpack in the world? Let us know, and maybe we can add it to our best travel backpack reviews!

One Response

  1. Matt Adams

    I like the Outlander lightweight daypack. I will surely take this for my son as he have to travel a lot these days.

    Reply

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