Searching for the best travel backpacks for your next adventure can be challenging. But we’ve got our top recommendations laid out for you in this post so you can buy with confidence!
Living out of a backpack has never been more fun. Hell, we’ve been doing it for 13 years full-time and still love it more and more every day!
And boy have things changed since we first hit the road. Back then all we needed was a simple bag to throw some clothes in.
Now though us modern travellers have more pockets than ever to carry all our cameras, tech and everything else we can think of, which brings more ways to enjoy our time spent on the road.
But shoving your entire life inside a thin nylon canvas isn’t without its challenges.
There are so many great backpacks out there, perfect for everything from a day spent climbing mountains to a day spent walking around a new city snapping Instagrammable photographs on your selection of top cameras for travel (check out our guide to see what we personally recommend).
So where do you even begin? How do you cut through the millions of styles, brands and features to find the backpack that is perfect for you?
Never fear, fellow traveler. That’s why we’re here!
This buying guide helps navigate a crowded field and highlights the best of the best when it comes to backpacks.
The best travel backpacks make your worst days that much easier. Whether you’re late for a flight, dog-tired with a few miles left to hike or starving on the train home, tiny differences in load-bearing technologies, pocket access points, and extra space for snacks make a huge difference in your day-to-day life.
You won’t always notice it when things are going well. But there is nothing more frustrating than a bad day made worse by faulty equipment.
Don’t let shoddy craftsmanship hamper your next adventure. Follow along and find the travel backpack best for your next grand day out.
The Best Travel Backpack – Our Expert Guide
With so many different lifestyles out there, it can be hard to nail down one perfect carry. That’s where we step in.
We’ve split up the industry leaders into their specific niches and let the best bags of all sizes rise to the occasion.
We’ve carried our lives on our backs over thousands of miles and dozens of countries and judged these packs on everything from security to scalability.
The best travel backpacks in the business all provide a lightweight, affordable price, a few storage options and comfortable features at every corner.
Beyond that, the bags on our list excelled within their specific niches to earn their spot on our list.
Patagonia Black Hole Tote
Peak Designs Everyday Camera Backpack
Peak Design Travel Backpack
First we’ll kick things off with day backpacks. These are smaller than your full-size travel packs, but are essential if you’re planning on doing any exploring around the city.
Even if you travel with a suitcase, we recommend you get one of these day packs so that you can keep your personal belongings with you on the plane, then have something to carry water, cameras, a jacket, etc when out walking.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the options out there.
OUR TOP RECOMMENDATION – Osprey Talon 22
If the Swiss Army Knife was a backpack, it’d be the Talon 22.
From the extra pocket in the shoulder straps to the hydration pack reservoir, every inch of this travel backpack serves a higher power.
For us, the hip belt and sternum straps set this bag apart. These straps aren’t just a few buckles. They’re legitimate, load-bearing protections that help the bag accompany you through extreme situations while skiing, biking and kayaking.
This pack lives to be on a bicycle, and no matter the sport you’ll have a tough time finding a more able companion.
It’s built to reach the summit, but you don’t have to be deep in the woods to reap the benefits of this pack. The Airscape breathability ensures that no matter where you’re going, you won’t show up too sweaty.
The Talon 22 takes the comfort and packability of larger backpacking bags and shrinks them down to a size perfect for the day.
- Hip belt and sternum straps
- Comfortable on the back of a bike
- Fits snugly underneath an aeroplane seat
- Slightly small for a laptop
- Expensive per litre
Patagonia Black Hole Tote
Patagonia pumped out a bag as light as air made from 100% recycled nylon. This flexible behemoth can bend, twist, and be carried in one hand or over your shoulders.
You can stuff it down inside your larger luggage and arrive ready to hit the town.
Once unfurled, this hefty tote can support a surprising 27 litres whichever way you feel like it.
On days you’re ready to tote, tuck away the shoulder straps and start swinging.
A bag trying to carry this much in an ultralight shell can be a risky proposition, but with the Patagonia brand behind the construction, you know you’re getting an environmentally conscious and incredibly durable product.
And of course, they took care of the details. We’d love to see a hip belt on this bag, but it’s ultralight first so don’t expect much of a suspension system.
A true difference maker is the zippered exterior pocket that comfortably holds everything you need to get through security. That pocket elevates this bag from a sack into a minimalist day pack suitable as a carry on bag.
- A stuffable bag that expands up to 27 litres
- Three different carrying options
- Comes with water bottle pockets and laptop storage
- No frame support
- The main compartment is a bit of a black hole
The Ulvö stands out thanks to its Bergshell material. Its 400D rating is one of the highest in the industry.
And the shell provides enough weather protection to get your electronics through a surprise shower intact.
You don’t need to take our word for it, just look around! The familiar fox is a famous look amongst high-budget travellers, becoming so popular it can be hard to believe the travel backpack provides real value.
|Weight||1.4 lbs||Capacity||30 L|
We’re here today to quell those fears! Fjällräven is much more than good marketing.
They take sustainability seriously by cutting their carbon footprint wherever they can and building travel backpacks meant to last. Two separate layers of recycled nylon yarn provide the highest tear resistance in the industry.
Don’t decide between style and function, get you a bag that does both.
- Surprisingly water resistant
- Scratch-proof recycled materials
- Stable enough to run with
- You’ll have to pay a little more for the name brand
- Not many exterior pockets
Pacsafe Venture safe
Meandering through crowded marketplaces is a great way to discover hidden gems, but not everyone showed up to haggle.
Wearing a typical travel backpack on foreign streets is going to draw some unwanted attention. That’s where the PacSafe Venturesafe checks in.
Some call it the Fort Knox of the travel backpack industry. Others simply call it home.
Wearing a front-loading safe on your back and take your security into your own hands.
These reinforcements certify the Pac safe as one of the best anti-theft business travel backpack options, but the bag has a surprising amount of outdoor-ready features.
You’ll find space for a hydration pack or reservoir and a breathable mesh back that keeps the temperature down. All the locking mechanisms make the bag a touch heavy for the summit. But it’s certainly no slouch.
You don’t have to be loaded down with valuables to benefit from extra security. Pacsafe stays low-key while protecting every corner so your backpack won’t stand out in a crowd, and won’t unzip without a key.
- Cut-proof meshing
- Double-covered with lockable zippers
- Frequently voted best travel backpack for women with security concerns
- Only one way to carry
- Not many Pac Safe options larger than 30 litres
Arc’teryx Granville 16
It can be hard enough to find a few partners willing to march through the muck, let alone find a laptop travel backpack that can handle all weather.
There are many daypacks out there that talk about their water-resistant nylon, but there are few bags that can say they are a truly waterproof backpack for travel.
The Granville 16 makes as good of a case as anyone.
This bag is storm-ready, and some users even call it bulletproof. Its weather resistance and ripstop technology mean it might survive a hailstorm in better shape than you could.
There’s no point in taking risks with the gear you could use every day. Arx’Teryx is one of the first names in weatherproofing and durability, so you can expect these backpacks to get the job done for a decade.
It’s just barely big enough to stow a laptop and brings a sternum strap to share the load. And every inch of this backpack has taped critical seams and water-tight pockets, so you can keep your phone, wallet, and keys close by in a storm.
Don’t waste precious seconds searching for your keys to get dry, and don’t stress about a surprise shower ruining your laptop, thanks to the handy laptop sleeve. Use this tough travel pack and go about your business with peace of mind.
- Best water-resistant pack out there
- Large enough for a laptop
- Outer shell protects against cuts and scrapes
- Only one large main compartment
- No water bottle pocket
Peak Designs Everyday Camera Backpack
Our final day pack is the best travel backpack for anyone who wants to keep their toys close by at all times.
There is no other travel camera backpack on the market that wants to serve the needs of modern digital nomads quite like Peak Design.
Perhaps that’s because this bag, and all of Peak Designs’ products, were crowdfunded.
Over 13,000 people donated, suggested, and participated in the design process, and the result is magnificent.
You can totally transform your travel bag with three moveable dividers. Take them all out for a 20L laundry bag, set them up to comfortably organize camera gear, or keep your smelly shoes away from your work clothes.
This comfortable pack holds some serious weight. You can find a few different size options depending on your gear haul.
But even on the smallest size, there’s more than enough space for a DSLR camera, 3-4 lenses and a laptop.
And, most importantly of all, all of this performance comes from completely recycled materials. 400D nylon fabric will keep your bag’s interior dry through small storms.
This updated 2nd generation model implemented even more sustainable fabrics and improved straps based on user reviews.
Peak Design promise that these subtle changes will make the pack last for decades, allowing you plenty of time to maximise the insane potential of such a customizable day bag.
- Plenty of storage options
- Roll-top allows you to modify the size
- Water-resistant coating
- Unwieldy sternum strap
- MagLatch is not easy to trust
Best Backpack for Long-Term Travel
If you’re the kind of traveller that prefers to carry all their gear on their back rather than in a suitcase, then you’ll need something a bit larger than the ones we listed above.
That’s where these backpacks come in!
Keep your gear safe and your back strong with these high quality backpacks for long-term travel.
Gregory Paragon 58
Bring forty pounds of your favourite necessities with you on your next journey, no matter how far you are from the nearest baggage check.
The top-loading wide-mouth Paragon bag provides several key zippered access points that allow you to dig out your sweatshirt at the bottom of your bag without completely unpacking.
Six external pockets and several different looping connectors allow you to clip on solar panels, dirty boots or your sleeping pad to the outside of your pack.
And a reinforced waist belt makes sure you don’t feel all that extra weight directly on your lower back. No matter what weight you’re carrying, Gregory’s Free Float Suspension system and alloy fibreglass perimeter frame will take the load off.
Any backpack you plan on living out of has to hold all your gear and handle the weather. This pack, with its included rain cover, is a shining example of a great middle-class travel backpack.
It’s technically advanced, affordable, and comfortable enough to suit almost any trip.
- Reinforced carrying straps
- Affordable price
- Comes with a daypack
- Not very water-resistant without the rain fly
- The day pack is just a drawstring
Matador Travel Pack
Matador made this lightweight travel backpack for minimalists who want to live out of one bag and one bag only.
The bag features built-in packing cubes and segmented interior sections so you can turn your 40L backpack into a portable closet.
It’s one of the largest bags on our list that is still carry-on compliant, and the exterior laptop compartment will stow everything you need to get through the flight within easy reach.
Trying to live out of one travel backpack can get chaotic, fast. Matador has triumphantly offered up an easy to pack solution.
Anyone looking to really shed weight can use the five individual segments and a laptop sleeve to make the most out of 40L travel. And the quick access pockets at the top and bottom of the pack are a perfect size to stow everything you need to get through security.
Minimalist adventurers who already have a packable backpack may find this is the best backpack for travel carry on size.
- Five storage compartments
- Powerful D rating and waterproofing
- Several carrying options
- Not great for long walks
- Storage compartments have been known to run together
REI Trailbreak 60
The REI Co-op has produced top-quality products that reach every corner of life outside. So it’s no surprise to find one of the best travel backpacks on their shelves for a low price.
Our favourite affordable hiking backpack is the REI Trailbreak, which has a versatile fit that helps hikers grow alongside their bag.
Whether you’re gearing up for your first trip or 50th, you’ll find great value in the roomy main compartment and plethora of stash pockets.
The main attraction amongst the stash pockets is the oversized top lid, which can store all your personal items and then some.
Anything you buy from REI comes with one of the best return policies in the business, so these packs become an even safer choice for a burgeoning explorer.
The low price point and lack of commitment mean you can try out the bag for a few weekends and see if it’s right for your adventures.
- Most affordable backpacking pack on our list
- Adjusts to fit most bodies
- Best return policy in the business
- Not many special features
- Only one large main compartment
Kelty Red Wing
We call this no-frills budget backpack the vagabond special. For good reason, the Kelty Red Wing is the bag of choice for hitchhikers, train hoppers, and rubber tramps of all ages.
The obvious reason for this bag’s popularity is the low price. But take a look beyond the surface, and you’ll be surprised about everything these hiking backpacks are capable of.
Just at the edge of ultra-lightweight rating, comfortable form-fitting straps and loads of zippered pockets allow you to fully customize your experience.
The ergonomic storage space inside these packs can have you packing for multiple week adventures all within an internal back panel frame.
This variety of features and affordable price has earned the bag a reputation as a jack of all trades. It’s not the most advanced option on the market, and Kelty doesn’t add on loads of comfort features.
But this pack has proven to last for years of wandering and will be beloved by anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of inconvenience to save a few bucks.
- Cheapest bag on our list
- Straps built to last
- Seven different pockets
- The smallest size that is too large for carry-on
- Only one way to access the main compartment
Osprey Aether Plus 70
The granddaddy of them all, and the backpack of choice for the owners of NOMADasaurus for the last few years, the Aether series is Osprey’s largest line of travel backpacks.
At its largest size, the Aether is 100 Liters, but hopefully, you’ll never be needed a travel bag that big. 70 litres is good enough for most people, especially when each litre was this well thought out.
A bag this large requires quite the suspension system.
It starts and ends with Osprey’s signature Airscape series that keeps some space between your body and the back panel and plenty of form-fitting options. Designers didn’t just think good thoughts about the Aether model, they sprung into action, creating a top pocket that works as a removable daypack.
This day pack isn’t just a glorified piece of plastic. It’s a bonafide carry on size travel backpack, day trip extraordinaire and hiking companion.
Each water bottle pocket can fit an average bottle of water and a small can of bear spray at the same time, so be careful what you grab when you stop for a drink.
With 70L’s of efficiency, versatility, and load-bearing support systems, these are the best travel backpacks for getting lost deep in the woods.
- Comes with a removable daypack
- Tons of torso adjustment options
- Can hold loads up to 60 lbs
- Too big for a carry-on
- Most expensive bag on our list
Best Carry-on Backpack for Travel
Take it from a couple who have been travelling the world for 13 years full-time – Carry-on luggage is the best.
Unless we’re going on a serious hiking expedition, or travelling to a winter destination where we need to pack specialist clothes, we always go with carry-on.
Saves time (and cost) at the airport, easier to navigate around towns and just much more manageable in every way, these are our personal recommendations for the best carry on backpacks for travel.
EDITOR’S CHOICE: Nomatic Travel Bag
There are a lot of travel backpacks out there you can carry onto a plane, but, until recently, there were few that were up to the job.
Nomatic took one look at that gap in the travel industry and filled it beautifully with this versatile travel companion.
Nomatic combed the guidelines and regulations of TSA and built a backpack that gets around those rules to give you more on our travel days.
The bag stays functional long after going through security. Take advantage of the padded laptop sleeve and anti-theft tablet storage spaces with quick access points, and use the cord pass through’s to give them a spot of juice without unpacking.
Once you’ve made it to paradise, this travel bag really starts showing off. An included laundry bag and shoe compartment help keep everything fresh and organized even if you’re checking in to a new place every night.
And like any good bag should, Nomatic has your back if you get caught in the rain. The weather-resistant tarp will give you enough time to get to cover while keeping your electronics dry.
That’s not even half of the impressive features that make this the best backpack for business travel.
- Secret access back panel
- Built to bend carry-on backpack rules to your will
- Won’t work on challenging terrain
We needed a modern solution for modern camera gear, and Wandrd finally found an easy to pack and carry answer.
To build a backpack ready for tomorrow, Wandrd put pockets anywhere they could find space. Even the back panel has a secret opening that brings a great cover to your passport or sensitive documents.
Stealthy and customizable, this carry-on travel backpack can bend and stretch with your needs and is capable of storing anywhere from 21 to 31 litres.
Your water bottle pocket is large enough to carry a tripod, and three main compartments sort your gear for travelling around the world. An optional camera cube fits snugly into the bottom of the pack and will have every piece of your set-up ready for action.
Because of its slim max capacity, PRVKE doesn’t provide much shoulder padding or waist straps. Instead, this bag hopes to be the best camera backpack for travel and to make your life so easy you’ll spend less time standing in line and more time relaxing at your destination.
- Built to handle camera equipment
- Your bag can be as small or large as you need it to be
- Your gear will survive a rainstorm
- The magnetic clasp is not the strongest
- Not the most comfortable shoulder strap
Osprey Farpoint 40
Osprey backpacks are always a safe choice. You don’t have to be heading out on an outdoor adventure to take advantage of this company’s commitment to sustainability, durability, and detail.
And you don’t have to buy a technical hiking pack to get the product guarantee.
Tackle the urban jungle with the same ease as Osprey brings to outdoor adventures with the Osprey Farpoint travel backpack.
Why choose a carry on backpack from an adventure sports company? Comfort.
Osprey’s compression straps and Airscape system are built to carry the load off your back while you put in serious miles, and they make their travel backpacks with those same protections. You won’t find many comfier backpacks this carry on friendly.
Ergonomic and compact, the Osprey Farpoint wants to be the perfect companion for one-bag travel. A large zippered compartment opens up like a suitcase and makes everything in your bag easy to access, and a front-facing laptop compartment never gets buried by sweaters.
If 40L travel isn’t quite enough, the Farpoint 40’s big brother, Farpoint 65, is the best backpack with wheels for travel, coming with carrying handles and increased portability at the cost of carry-on compliance.
- You can tuck away any unnecessary straps
- Blends hiking backpack comfort with carry-on travel bag convenience
- Opens up like a suitcase
- The main compartment can squish the front compartment
- Not comfortable on long hikes
It’s a favourite laptop backpack for travel that can pack a ton of stuff inside a nonchalant frame that fits every adventure.
A padded laptop compartment just wasn’t good enough for Tortuga, so they added on an extra layer of foam that absorbs contact and helps keep everything in place.
To help further, the travel backpack’s interior spits into six smaller compartments.
Four work together to hold your clothes, cords, toiletries and accessories, and two are specifically designed for electronics.
In every pocket and the laptop sleeve, you’ll find that same luxurious foam that will bring a splash to your carry on travel. Some of these pockets simply serve as a replacement for packing cubes or plastic bags, while others help the Tortuga Outbreaker become even more carry-on friendly.
The best carry on backpack makes sure everything is easy to access. So Tortuga found a perfect place for everything.
You can even find some free space for camera gear and keep a pack of gum in your waist belt pockets. Built by a digital nomad for digital nomads, this travel pack works with its luxurious laptop compartment to bring carry on travel into the 21st century.
- Built for laptop travel
- Choose between 35 and 45-litre models
- Main compartment splits into 6 separate storage spaces
- Not enough versatility to use as an everyday pack
- No padding on shoulder straps
Peak Design Travel Backpack
Our last backpack built to conquer air travel can stretch out over 15 litres to provide anywhere from 30-45 Litres of storage, so don’t stuff it full if you’re flying budget!
No matter where you’re travelling, lockable zippers and plenty of easy access points make the Peak Design travel backpack worth the investment.
A muted grey exterior cap off this carry on travel backpack that is best suited for use as your only travel bag on quick trips.
The front-loading compartment can be accessed without taking off your shoulder straps if you just need to get out some paperwork and lock it shut once you’re through digging around inside.
Peak design travel gear started off to create modern camera equipment, but they just couldn’t help themselves from taking a deep dive into the backpack industry. Now, they have top products for everyday, travel, and professional use.
As their best backpack for air travel, this bag plays a pivotal role in the company. It’s one of the largest backpacks Peak Design produces and the clever use of space has earned the travel backpack several awards over the years.
This backpack knows better than anyone how important versatility is in your travel gear.
- Up to 15L of removable storage space
- Everything from Peak Design Travel is made to handle modern equipment
- Enough space for a weekend trip
- Too heavy for long walks
- At its largest size it could be rejected as carry-on
Choosing the Best Travel Backpack
So how exactly did we come up with this list of the best travel backpacks for carry-on and long-term travel?
Well, besides over a decade of experience, we put them all to the test and broke down our ultimate criteria of designs, features and must-haves to ensure they all suit our needs.
Some of our bags may cater to the same crowds, but no two are serving up the same specs across the board.
Modern travellers have more options than ever, and that fact rings especially true when deciding how to store your camping essentials.
Ideally, you’ll have different storage options that fill different niches. But none of us has the closet space or budget for everything on the road.
The best bag for a business trip won’t be the same as the best travel pack, so we’ve got to build out a range of options that suits our agendas.
READ MORE: Before you hit the road, study our guide of the best travel tips so you don’t make any mistakes out there!
Your pack will be going everywhere you do, and their role is to make sure your belongings get there in good shape rain or shine.
Any bag made for a digital nomad or nomadic traveller should last a decade.
Most key durability features don’t jump off the page at first glance but keep the travel backpack squarely across your shoulders year after year.
Synthetic materials like nylon, canvas or polyesters are great indicators that your backpack is built to last.
Shoppers interested in a durable backpack first should look at a travel backpack for the great outdoors.
This category of backpacks utilises the lightest and strongest materials on the market to qualify for more rugged adventures.
Your bag will employ some combination of nylon, polyester and canvas. Canvas is the heaviest of the three, but also the most durable.
Nylon coated in polyurethane is a great synthetic material to aim for when shopping. Polyester’s main claim to fame is holding strong against the sun.
Loading (Front or Top)
Front-loading backpacks are easier to access and pack. But a front-loading bag will also be harder to carry at a heavy load.
Top loading backpacks can sometimes end up as black holes with all your gear stuffed in one large compartment.
But with enough packing cubes and taking advantage of the laptop compartment, you can still find somewhat easy access.
Front loading is better on a smaller bag while top-loading is better for larger suspension system needs.
Top loaders are also the go-to for hiking and mountaineering adventures.
It’s always important to think about comfort when shopping for travel. Any bag worthy long walks will include a hip belt, sternum straps and superior comfort across all straps.
Padded straps provide lumbar support for heavy-duty suspension systems. Thick cushions on the hip belt and easy-to-adjust torso length systems will make sure the pack fits just right.
Well-thought-out external pockets, water bottle holders and easy-access top pockets to keep your bus pass or tickets handy is practically a requirement for many carry-on backpacks, everyday carry options, and hiking expeditions.
Bags ready to take on outdoor activities should have a few water bottle pockets at the bare minimum.
The best carry-on backpacks should take things a few steps further, with plenty of efficient external pockets. That allows you to keep your travel documents within quick reach.
The larger your bag gets, the more important each pocket becomes. If you’re shopping for one bag that can work as the best travel backpack for Europe, you should equip pockets that work in your favour.
One-bag backpackers know that the key to getting the most out of your bag is organising well, and the best way to do that is through tons of different pockets.
There is one true king of the zipper industry: YKK. The Japanese manufacturers didn’t invent the technology but the entire industry believes they have perfected it.
Any best travel backpack for men should include YKK zippers.
Not only will your backpack protect your gear, but also your lower back. You’ll feel every single sock at the end of a long day.
So a good pack that takes the pressure off your muscles and meets you halfway can prove to be a lifesaver.
Any two shoulder straps will get you to a quick rendevous. But a backpack best built for serious walking needs a snug fit.
This is largely achieved through compression straps that are highly adjustable, a hip belt and padding in all the right places.
The best men’s travel backpack and the best women’s travel backpack will have varying litres of capacity and subtle differences that finish off a snug fit.
You may not think a few minute differences in the wearability of a pack really matters. And it might not, until mile 20.
Packs that allow you to adjust your shoulder, hip, and torso lengths will help your backpack grow with you throughout the decades.
If you spend enough time wandering, you’re bound to hit some foul weather. A carry on backpack may not need to worry too much about rain delays. But any pack heading outside for long periods of time should probably include a rain cover.
A deployable rain cover will come with most backpacking backpacks in its own built-in pocket.
If your travel backpack comes without coverage, it’s easy enough to find an aftermarket poncho protector.
Some bags take weather resistance a step further by building taped seams over YKK zippers or utilizing synthetic water-resistant materials.
There are very few situations where weather resistance shouldn’t come into consideration when choosing your travel backpack.
Even the best rolling backpack for travel should have some waterproofing capability. If a bag is big enough to have wheels it’s big enough to check from time to time.
We’ve picked up too many soaked bags to risk travel without a weather resistant or waterproof backpack
Any great travel pack holds enough to get you through a day at the beach, on the slopes, in the woods or downtown.
A bag built for security will take things a step further by adding lockable zippers, knife-proof wire mesh and RFID blocking pockets that further protects your backpack.
Whether you’re hoping to head off into the woods, unknown countries, or unmatched heights, your perfect travel backpack is somewhere on this list.
Our editor’s choice for its versatility and eye-popping features, the Nomatic Travel Bag just might be that bag.
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