The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

There are a lot of great travel backpacks out there, but not all of them are created equal. A travel pack needs to be comfortable to carry, easy to organize, and durable enough to withstand being toted from place to place.

From hitting the road for the weekend to spending months traveling abroad, we’ve put nearly 30 different travel backpacks through the wringer. We tallied our airline miles, punched our tickets, and put our tray tables in the upright and locked position for close to half a decade now, taking domestic and international flights to as far as Iceland and as close as 30-minute island hops. And while there isn’t a single pack that suits every traveler, we’ve highlighted a variety of designs and price points to help you find the perfect travel backpack.

Choosing a travel backpack can be a dizzying experience, and we’ve shaken down the best to sort through the static. Each pack has seen its time on the baggage carousel, hostel luggage cart, and we’ve even had a few go missing for the full experience. We fully pack and live out of these bags to test them, and in the end, we’re confident that the 15 packs collected here are the best travel backpacks available today. Check in and check them out.

For all your travel pack questions, consult our buyer’s guide, where we’ve laid bare all the essentials. Compare each of the packs using our handy comparison chart, and if you’ve still got questions, check out our FAQ section.

Editor’s Note: We updated our travel backpack guide on March 20, 2024 to add the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L — a supremely nice commuter-style travel pack, as well as the Thule Aion 40L and Osprey Archeon 30L.

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024


Best Overall Travel Backpack

Specs

  • Capacity
    45 L (collapses to 35 L)
  • Weight
    4 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Dimensions
    22″ x 13″ x 9.5″ standard, 22″ x 13″ x 11″ expanded
  • Compartment access
    Back panel clamshell design with #10 zipper
  • Material
    Weatherproof, 100% recycled 400-denier nylon canvas shell; 900-denier waterproof bottom


The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Compresses down to maximum airline carry-on size, and then expands once you’ve hit your destination

  • Burly construction

  • No details are overlooked in the design

Cons


  • Price

  • Side-carry handles are offset in an awkward position

Best Budget Travel Backpack

Specs

  • Capacity
    33 L
  • Weight
    1 lb., 10.6 oz.
  • Dimensions
    20.5″ x 13″ x 8″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered top access
  • Material
    Depending on print type, can be 600-denier recycled polyester, 420-denier recycled nylon, 630-denier recycled nylon, or 1,200-denier recycled polyester

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Cheap price

  • Available in many different fabric prints

  • Unique insulated cooler pocket

Cons


  • Not many travel-specific features

  • Straps don’t pack away

Best Carrying Travel Backpack

Specs

  • Capacity
    40 L
  • Weight
    3 lbs., 7.6 oz.
  • Dimensions
    22″ x 14″ x 9″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered back panel clamshell design
  • Material
    Bluesign-approved 450-denier recycled polyester

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Supreme suspension system offers the best carry of any pack we tried

  • External compression straps limit the volume well

  • Comfortably padded grab handles

Cons


  • Not much internal organization

Best Organization in a Travel Backpack

Specs

  • Capacity
    45 L
  • Weight
    2 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Dimensions
    22″ x 13.4″ x 10.2″
  • Compartment access
    Full clamshell interior, additional front zippered access
  • Material
    420-denier nylon exterior, 100-denier Robic Dynatec interior

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Excellent storage organization options

  • High-quality, strong, and lightweight construction

Cons


  • No frame to speak of

  • Shoulder straps don’t pack away

Best Shoulder Bag

Specs

  • Capacity
    45 L
  • Weight
    3 lbs., 10.3 oz.
  • Dimensions
    22.8″ x 8.6″ x 14.5″
  • Compartment access
    Back panel zippered clamshell design
  • Material
    900-denier recycled polyester ripstop with a TPU laminate

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Multiple ways to carry the pack

  • Many different storage and internal organization options

  • Burly external fabric

Cons


  • Doesn’t carry the best as a backpack

  • No hipbelt

Best Commuter-Style Travel Backpack

Specs

  • Capacity
    24 L
  • Weight
    3 lbs., 1.6 oz.
  • Dimensions
    18″ x 7: x 11.5″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered clamshell
  • Material
    840D ballistic nylon 6, 420D HT nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Functions as both a laptop backpack and suitcase

  • Well-structured and protected

  • Full panel loading access

Cons


  • Limited colorways

  • Expensive

Best Personal Item Pack

Specs

  • Capacity
    27.5 L
  • Weight
    2 lbs., 9 oz.
  • Dimensions
    18.9″ x 11.4″ x 5.9″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered top access
  • Material
    420x2000D Cordura nylon, 135D polyester

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Dang good looking

  • High-quality trim and details, including anodized G hooks and supple webbing

  • Supper cushioned back panel

Cons


  • Exterior expandable water bottle pocket is a bit slim

  • Pack straps don’t stow away.

Best of the Rest

Specs

  • Capacity
    45 L
  • Weight
    4 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Dimensions
    22″ x 12.8″ x 11″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered clamshell design
  • Material
    420D UHMWPE-reinforced ripstop nylon, 100D Robic nylon mini-ripstop

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Incredible density of pockets and sleeves

  • Tough UHMWPE outer fabric can be tossed around

  • Shoulder straps tuck away in a novel and smart manner

Cons


  • Laptop sleeve opening is a bit tight

  • Price is up there

Specs

  • Capacity
    40 L
  • Weight
    3 lbs., 3 oz.
  • Dimensions
    13″ x 9.1″ x 20.5″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered clamshell
  • Material
    Waxed P600 polyester canvas

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Maxes out on carry-on-compliant space

  • Internal roll-top TPU bag separates the clean from the to-do laundry

  • Waxed canvas exterior has a classy look

  • Centered side handle carries well

  • Well-cushioned back panel

Cons


  • No shoulder strap stowage option

  • No hipbelt on a 40L is pushing it

Specs

  • Capacity
    30 L
  • Weight
    3 lbs.
  • Dimensions
    20.5″ x 13″ x 11.4″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered top-access
  • Material
    840D ballistic polyester with carbonate coating

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Extra-tough exterior fabric with carbonate coating

  • High-polish details such as seatbelt webbing straps

  • Mini-wing hipbelt tucks away easily when not needed

  • Smart internal storage pockets that lay flat when not needed

Cons


  • Laptop sleeve opening is a bit too snug

  • Compression straps lay over the main zipper

Specs

  • Capacity
    25 L
  • Weight
    1 lb., 14.5 oz.
  • Dimensions
    22″ x 12″ x 9″
  • Compartment access
    Drawstring top-entry
  • Material
    N400r-AC² nylon ripstop

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Tough and waterproof exterior fabric

  • White interior for easy viewing

  • Floating laptop sleeve

Cons


  • Not very much interior organization

  • Simple webbing waistbelt

Specs

  • Capacity
    40 L
  • Weight
    3 lbs., 10.4 oz.
  • Dimensions
    22.5″ x 14″ x 7.5″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered clamshell design
  • Material
    1000D recycled nylon, 400D recycled nylon, 210D recycled nylon, 1680D recycled ballistic nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Overbuilt design with tough materials and chunky zippers

  • Plenty of organizational pockets

  • Bright interior

Cons


  • Not the cleanest strap stowage

Specs

  • Capacity
    28 L
  • Weight
    3 lbs., 4 oz.
  • Dimensions
    19″ x 12″ x 9″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered clamshell design
  • Material
    TPU-coated 1,000-denier polyester, 840-denier nylon paneling

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Burly exterior material holds up for the long run

  • Plenty of zippered mesh storage pockets

Cons


  • On the heavier side

  • TPU-coated nylon can feel grabby

Specs

  • Capacity
    25 L
  • Weight
    1 lb., 13 oz.
  • Dimensions
    13.4″ x 20″ x 9.1″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered top access
  • Material
    400-denier Halcyon, 420-denier nylon ripstop

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • Many different fabrics and color schemes are available

  • Built to last design and materials

  • Removable webbing hip belt

Cons


  • Suspension doesn’t pack away

  • Side wing pockets are a little awkward to access

Specs

  • Capacity
    32 L
  • Weight
    2 lbs., 1.7 oz.
  • Dimensions
    19.2″ x 12.2″ x 11.4″
  • Compartment access
    Zippered top access
  • Material
    420-denier recycled nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Pros


  • TSA-compliant laptop sleeve

  • Many options for organization

  • Water bottle pockets fit 32 oz. bottles

Cons


  • Need to release two buckles in order to unzip the main pocket all the way

Travel Backpack Comparison Chart

Travel BackpackPriceCapacityWeightDimensionsCompartments
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L$30045 L4 lbs., 8 oz.22″ x 13″ x 9.5″Back panel clamshell design
Dakine Campus 33L Backpack$7533 L1 lb., 10.6 oz.20.5″ x 13″ x 8″Zippered top access
Osprey Farpoint &
Fairview 40 Travel Packs
$18540 L3 lbs., 7.6 oz.22″ x 14″ x 9″Zippered back panel clamshell design
Matador SEG45 Travel Pack$20045 L2 lbs., 8 oz.22″ x 13.4″ x 10.2″Full clamshell interior, added front zipper
Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L$23945 L3 lbs., 10.3 oz.22.8″ x 8.6″ x 14.5″Back panel zippered clamshell design
Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L$27924 L3 lbs., 1.6 oz.18″ x 7″ x 11.5″Zippered clamshell design
Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack$20927.5 L2 lbs., 9 oz.18.9″ x 11.4″ x 5.9″Zippered top access
Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack$35045 L4 lbs., 8 oz.22″ x 12.8″ x 11″Zippered clamshell design
Thule Aion 40L$20040 L3 lbs., 3 oz.13″ x 9.1″ x 20.5″Zippered clamshell design
Osprey Archeon 30L$25030 L3 lbs.20.5″ x 13″ x 11.4″Zippered top access
Arc’teryx Granville 25 Backpack$22025 L1 lb., 14.5 0z.22″ x 12″ x 9″Drawstring top-entry
Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L$22940 L3 lbs., 10.4 oz.22.5″ x 14″ x 7.5″Zippered clamshell design
Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack$17028 L3 lbs., 4 oz.19″ x 12″ x 9″Zippered clamshell design
Tom Bihn Synapse 25$24325 L1 lb., 13 oz.13.4″ x 20″ x 9.1″Zippered top access
Osprey Nebula 32 Daypack$14032 L2 lbs., 1.7 oz.19.2″ x 12.2″ x 11.4″Zippered top access
Travel-worn and weary, these packs have done some miles; (photo/Erika Courtney)

How We Tested Travel Backpacks

The staff of GearJunkie is a hot-footed bunch, restlessly plodding across the country or around the globe in search of adventure and whatever else comes our way. And we have a lot of stuff, which necessitates having a travel bag or four in the stable.

Surely any old bindle will do in carrying your kit around, but having a travel backpack that is dialed into the needs of travel can turn a stressful situation into a manageable one. We’ve been testing travel backpacks since 2019 and have put the market slice through the wringer on thousands of miles of travel to weed out the best of the best.

Senior Editor Nick Belcaster has a zeal for international travel, and he leads up our current travel pack testing, logging almost 10,000 flying miles in the last year alone. From Iceland to Utah, Belcaster has carried these packs and lived out of them for weeks, relying on them to support back-to-back travel excursions. In testing, we looked for a number of features in our travel backpacks, including overall capacity, carry style, durability, and aesthetics. It’s important to think about how you’ll use your travel pack, and as such, every pack on our list is carry-on compliant for the worst-case scenario.

We know no trip will be like the next, so we took a broad swath of the travel backpacks on the market in order to create a list that will suit many different travelers. Packs in hand, over our shoulders, or on our backs, we hit the four corners and tested the best travel backpacks of 2024.

Curious about what we pack in our travel backpacks? We’ve penned up a list for both domesticand international trips.

Peak Design Travel Pack 45L at SEATACPeak Design Travel Pack 45L at SEATAC
Freshly plucked from the baggage carousel and hot off an Atlantic crossing, the 400-denier nylon canvas on the Peak Design pack kept it kicking; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Travel Backpack

Travel Backpack User Profiles

The International Jet-Setter: The term ‘One Bag Travel’ is no stranger to you, and you’ve just about got your life distilled down into 45 liters of space. If international travel is your bag, then a backpack that’s up to the task will be essential to see you through to further time zones. Efficiency will be the name of the game here, and going with a pack that is dang-near the carry-on maximums for international flights will mean you can make it through without checking a bag. Look for near to 45-liter packs with plenty of organization baked in, as well as a comfortable (and stashable) carry system.

For international travel, the bag we reach for most often had to be the Peak Design Travel Backpack, with a razor-thin second place going to the Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack. For an emphasis on organization, the Matador SEG45 splits up the volume well, and if you’ll be schlepping bags around a long way, the Osprey Farpoint & Fairview Packs have all the Osprey suspension we love.

Osprey Farpoint Travel Pack in IcelandOsprey Farpoint Travel Pack in Iceland
International travel is the best stress test of a good travel backpack, and Keflavik International Airport in Iceland made a perfect testing area; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

The Weekend-Warrior: Maybe it’s a work trip, and maybe it’s just for fun, but it’s only going to take 2-3 days total, and you’ll need a bag that can pack it in. For weekend excursions, we find packs in the 25-35 liter range work well for the minimalists among us, and the 30-40 liter range for those who like a bit more options.

The Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is easily one of the most stylish packs in our review, only slightly edged out by the Timbuk2 Never Check, and both make the grade for a single overnighter in a foreign locale. For a bit more space, you can’t go wrong with the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L, a fun pack that is a lot tougher than the multi-colored exterior would let on.

Peak Design Travel Backpack on the Back of a Traveller in Seattle International Airport Looking out on the Tarmac.Peak Design Travel Backpack on the Back of a Traveller in Seattle International Airport Looking out on the Tarmac.
The 45-liter Peak Design Travel Backpack is just about the perfect carry-on for international travel, in our opinion; (photo/Erika Courtney)

The Commuter: No flight involved! Duty calls, and sometimes you’ll need to lug around a bit more kit than the old briefcase can allow for. Commuting with a travel backpack is a great way to stay comfortable on longer rides, as shoulder and handbags are cumbersome over the long run. Focus on a bag with a more traditional backpack shape that puts an emphasis on ease-of-access, and is in the 20-30 liter range.

For bumping around town, we’ve come to love the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24, which not only lugs our remote office around with ease, but also looks pretty slick doing it. The drawstring opening here is a huge boon for quickly stashing a jacket, and the tough exterior fears no weather forecast. For a budget just-get-it-done choice, the Dakine Campus 33L will make it happen for less.

Capacity

Most space-efficient travel backpacks will be near 40-45 liters — the max legal carry on size; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

The right size pack for you depends on a few things. First, where are you going? And, how long do you plan to stay? Winter travel often comes with more gear, so you’ll need to pack extra layers. Longer trips often require larger bags.

That said, your personal packing style will be the most important factor. We know minimalists who happily travel for months with only a single backpack in tow and others who want the largest travel backpack possible in addition to a totally stuffed duffel bag. One method isn’t better than the other, but knowing your style is helpful when choosing a bag.

In general, we’ve found that something in the 28-45 liter range is ideal for comfort and packability. Many packs will also offer a compression system to allow you to limit the overall volume of the backpack. We’ve seen many different ways to accomplish this, but the most effective by far were the button snaps and expanding zipper of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. Packs toward the 40-45 liter range will be your carry-on bags of choice, and the 45-liter Peak Design, Patagonia MLC, and Matador GlobeRider are perfect for maxing out your allowed space. The 40-liter Osprey Farpoint/Fairview packs give up a little internal room for the luxe suspension system they’re carried with.

Packs in the smaller end of the range, from around 25-30 liters, make better personal items, and the TimBuk2 Never Check, Tom Bihn Synapse, and Patagonia Black Hole backpacks all fit snugly underneath an airliner seat. These small bags move through a city gracefully and look more like everyday carry backpacks than traditional luggage.

Access

Peak Design Travel Backpack Clamshell AccessPeak Design Travel Backpack Clamshell Access
The broad clamshell design of the opening on the Peak Design Travel Backpack makes packing and quick access a breeze; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

What good would a bag be if you couldn’t get into it? From a simple drawstring to a thicket of Velcro and zippers, there are plenty of ways to keep your bag closed while you’re on the go, but not every one will be amenable to travel.

Zippered Clamshells: Most travel backpacks will use a clamshell-style design that opens up the backpack like a suitcase, allowing you to pack intentionally as opposed to stuffing things in. Oftentimes, an internal strap system will help keep your items contained while you’re on the move.

Packs with this clamshell design may also opt to add internal dividers to the main storage area, and make these dividers removable — should you need the entire storage area uninhibited. For packs without internal dividers or straps, consider adding a few packing cubes to keep your items organized.

In addition to the rear entry, some backpacks will offer additional entry points through the top or front of the pack. This can be helpful when you need to quickly retrieve something like a passport from your bag, without the need to totally spill the contents. The majority of packs in our review close in this clamshell manner, and a few of our favorites are the Peak Design Travel Backpack, Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs, and Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel BackpackOsprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack
While we favor the 40L versions of Osprey’s Farpoint and Fairview packs for their carry-on-ability, the packs are also available in a number of different volumes; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Zippered Top-Access: Much like many traditional backpacks, zippered top-access packs load and unload from the topside, and generally only offer one point of entry/egress into the pack. For this reason, packs of this flavor are generally left packed during travel, as digging around for something at the bottom can be a hassle.

Bags of this stripe, including the uber-nice Tom Bihn Synapse 25 and expandable Timbuk2 Never Check, most often make better personal items over carry-ons, as their smaller volumes make for easier searching within.

Drawstring Top-Entry: While not quite as common as a zippered clamshell or top-access pack, drawstring top-entry packs can make for very quick and easy access to your kit if you’re on the move. These packs will integrate an extended fabric collar to the top of the storage area, which can be compressed when needed, or overstuffed with bulky items like jackets.

Commuters will find drawstring entry bags the most appealing, and the Arc’teryx Granville 25 has become one of our dedicated laptop toters for everything from remote work stints at the coffee shop to jumping on a ferry for work.

Carrying Options

Patagonia MCL 45L Travel Backpack Carry OptionsPatagonia MCL 45L Travel Backpack Carry Options
Slung over your shoulder or carried briefcase-style, the Patagonia MLC 45 is easy to toss around while on the run; (photo/Erika Courtney)

There are plenty of ways to lug your kit to your boarding gate, but not all of them will be comfortable for everything. Over-shoulder backpack straps can support a good bit of weight but typically will need some type of frame to truly be supportive. The Osprey Farpoint/Fairview packs were the best-carrying packs in our testing, owed largely to the wire frame and Airscape mesh back panels, but we also enjoyed the carry of the aluminum frame stays on the Matador GlobeRider.

A shoulder strap travel backpack, like the Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L, can be slung across your body and provide a great amount of accessibility on the go. Don’t expect to carry too much weight this way, however.

And then there’s the classic suitcase style, easily towed anywhere. It’s good to note many travel backpacks will have stowable straps to better streamline the pack for a trip through an X-ray machine or stowed under a seat. The strap storage design of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L impressed us most of all, utilizing magnetic closure flaps to pack away the shoulder and hip straps neatly.

Pockets & Organization

Matador SEG30 Travel Backpack Storage OptionsMatador SEG30 Travel Backpack Storage Options
The multi-tiered organization of the Matador SEG45 was easily the most organized in our testing. There’s a spot for everything; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

There’s an organizational saying: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” And we couldn’t agree more. Keeping track of everything while you travel is key for organization. And while more pockets always seem better, there is a threshold where having too many simply becomes more places to misplace things. Instead, we recommend packs with three to six pockets.

TheCotopaxi Allpa and Topo Designs Global Travel Bags both have ingenious inner organization systems complete with large zipping “pockets.” It has just enough space to find room for everything but not so many compartments that you’ll be hunting all day for your misplaced passport. For even more organization, the Matador SEG45 splits into five different segments that are accessible from the exterior of the pack.

Bringing along a laptop is a necessary evil for some travelers, and having an incorporated laptop sleeve in your travel backpack can keep it safe during travel. Most laptop sleeves will be padded with some type of foam and nestle in close to the back for maximum protection. In order to be TSA-compliant, a laptop sleeve will need to fold entirely flat away from the pack to be scanned.

Because flying with liquids over 3.4 ounces is prohibited in the U.S., carrying all of these items in a separate toiletry bag can make your foray into the screening line a breeze. Many of the packs on our list incorporate many external pockets where such a bag could be stashed and produced when needed.

Durability

Tom Bihn Synapse 25 Travel BackpackTom Bihn Synapse 25 Travel Backpack
Available in a large number of color schemes and fabrics on a rolling production basis, the Tom Bihn Synapse is built burly with 400-denier+ fabrics and #8 and #10 YKK zippers; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Travel luggage takes a beating, so durability is a top concern. Luckily, gear manufacturers realize this and are making increasingly burly yet portable packs. The fan-favorite Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L pack is made with a 900-denier ripstop nylon outer with a TPU laminate for extra durability. It’s nearly indestructible, water-resistant, and versatile.

If you’re traveling somewhere with inclement weather or if your pack needs to double as a climbing bag or hiking pack, durability is extra important. And it’s worth paying more for a backpack that is water-resistant.

Space Efficiency & Carry-On Compliance

Peak Design Travel Pack at SEATACPeak Design Travel Pack at SEATAC
The expandable gills on the sides of the Peak Design bags help keep it under carry-on maximums; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Astute observers will note many of the packs in our review sport a rectangular shape, which is certainly due to designers aspiring to create a more space-efficient pack. This isn’t to say that more shapely packs won’t make it happen, but when you’re struggling to make every liter of space count, maximizing dimensions matters.

Carry-on luggage is any bag that you plan on bringing into an airplane and storing in the overhead bins. Because space is limited, airlines dictate the maximum size that any carry-on can be. In the U.S., the most common size is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, or 45 linear inches (length + width + height). However, this is just a rough guideline; some airlines differ from these dimensions, and you should refer to their information directly.

In general, these dimensions provide a travel backpack with around 40-45 liters of internal volume, so buying a pack that’s as close to that as possible will provide the most space allowed. Many of the packs on our list have the ability to compress to a smaller size, such as the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L.

Be mindful as well, that any protrusions from your travel pack such as shoulder straps or handles will also need to fall within the maximum allowed size. Many travel backpacks today incorporate some type of strap-stowing ability, such as the magnetic panels of the Peak Design packs, the zippered cover of the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview, and the hybrid zipper/panel of the Matador GlobeRider 45. All of these provide a more streamlined profile that should both hit the mark, and fit better into overhead bins.

Price

Say what you want, but budget bags will get you there; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Travel backpacks run the gamut of prices — from affordable to downright pricey. There are a number of factors that play into what you get for the money.

Budget-Minded Travel Packs

Travel backpacks, as a category, are generally a bit pricer than your average luggage, as they incorporate tough materials that can put up with extensive wear over the lifespan. Travel is tough on bags, so it’s unsurprising that even budget travel backpacks will cost you around $100-150. These packs often will incorporate more traditional architectures such as a zippered top access, as opposed to the more complicated (and spendy) full-zip clamshell designs. For example, the Dakine Campus ($75) is pretty much your average school bag.

Volumes, too, will be a bit limited in this price range — added material adds cost. The 32-liter Osprey Nebula ($140) is about the best price-to-volume ratio you can get.

Mid-Range Travel Packs

Mid-range packs make up the bread and butter of travel packs, and can be had for around $150 to $200. These designs are often more of the full carry-on variety, and aim to capitalize on permitted volume as much as possible. The 45-liter Matador SEG45 ($200), Patagonia Black Hole MLC ($239), 40-liter Osprey Farpoint/Fairview ($185), and Topo Designs Global Travel Bag ($229) all shoehorn in just about as much space as a friendly gate agent will let you get away with.

For the price, you also get a good variety of functionality that makes travel easier, such as stowable pack straps, interior segmented pockets and sleeves (done excellently on the $170 Cotopaxi Allpa), and an external compression system that limits the space your bag takes up. Some packs, like the TimBuk2 Never Check ($209), don’t exactly hit these parameters, but instead make up for it in high-quality design and materials.

The Peak Design Travel Pack is decked out in details that scream premium; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Premium Travel Packs

Above $250, you’re likely paying for premium materials or a to-the-hilt design that leaves absolutely nothing on the cutting room floor. The Peak Design Travel Backpack ($300) is a great example, and utilizes super high-quality nylon canvas, custom aluminum hardware, and supple seatbelt material webbing in its build, as well as fitting in just about every conceivable feature you could want in a travel pack. The same can be said of the Matador GlobeRider 45 ($350), which uses high-tech UHMPWE-reinforced materials and sports a total of 19 pockets.

The Tom Bihn Synapse 25 ($243) is a bit of an outlier, as it commands a high dollar amount not for the extreme amount of space it offers or amount of features, but for being a hyper-customizable, hand-made bag that uses the nicest textiles available, as well as the best zippers, webbing, and foam in its design. If you’re a fan of the finest materials, this is your daily driver pack.

What Is One Bag Travel?

The ‘One Bag Travel’ ethos and travel backpacks go hand-in-hand. Simply put, to travel in one-bag style is to be minimalist in your luggage choices, and only take what you can carry onto the plane/train/pack animal. Not only does this do away with the fuss of deciding what exactly to bring along with you, but it also allows for breezing through airports — skipping the need to check baggage, wait at baggage claim, or fear for lost luggage.

In order to most effectively travel with one bag, be sure to read up on exactly the baggage size allowances provided by your transportation. This can affect both overall size and weight, and having an expandable pack is a large benefit here. In this way, you can carry just enough to skirt through under the limit, and then expand the bag when you’ve hit your destination for more breathing room. If you aim for a 35-40 liter backpack, you’ll be right on the money for one-bag travel.

Finally, remember that this bag is going to be the only item of luggage you’ve got, so ensure it’ll be comfortable enough for the long haul. Look for padded back panels and hip belts that’ll transfer the load correctly, and if they stash away — all the better.

FAQ

What is the best travel backpack?

Our team unanimously agrees that the best travel backpack is the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. It’s extremely durable, and it offers plenty of organizational pockets to stash your kit away in. The clamshell opening makes packing a breeze, and we really appreciated the unique shoulder strap storage options available to turn the pack into a stripped-down bag that would slide into any overhead compartment.

Peak Design Travel Pack in DenverPeak Design Travel Pack in Denver
The competition was tough, but the Peak Design Travel Backpack series won us over in the end; (photo/Nick Belcaster)
What size bag do I need for traveling?

The best size bag for traveling depends largely on your travel itinerary and mode of transport. The Cotopaxi Allpa packs range from 28 to 42 liters.

The 28-liter option makes for a compact and comfortable backpack that easily fits in overhead airplane compartments. The 42-liter option is a bit more like carrying a duffel bag on your back, but it still manages to fit in overhead compartments. It’s a great option for maximizing carry-on capacity in backpack form.

Is it better to travel with a backpack or suitcase?

While both have their place in travel, a backpack can offer some advantages over a suitcase. Since they’re much more portable, backpacks can be brought to many more places where a suitcase won’t work. Suitcases can be your large load carriers, but a good travel backpack gives you the freedom to strike out on daily adventures.

Is a backpack considered a carry-on?

Travel backpacks absolutely can be carry-on luggage, given they meet the size requirements. In the U.S., the most common maximum size is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, or 45 linear inches (length + width + height). But this is only a common size, and different airlines will have different specifics. Consult with your airline specifically to determine what they allow.

What is the most comfortable travel backpack?

While different body types will find different travel packs comfortable, we can all agree that a good support system and ample foam make for a comfortable carry. In our own testing, we found the Osprey Farpoint 40 and Fairview 40 Travel Packs were by far the most comfortable due to their plush suspension systems.

What size backpack can fit under an airplane seat?

Because many different airlines operate a slate of different planes, there isn’t a standard under-seat luggage size, although there is an average: 16 inches x 12 inches x 6 inches. Some airlines allow personal items larger than this, but you should consult with their customer service for specifics. Our favorite personal item-sized travel pack was the Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack, which at 24 liters compressed easily slides under a seat.

Whether you’re headed to the office, class, or even the trailhead, here’s our top picks for the best laptop backpacks of 2024.

We tested the best daypacks of 2024 with options for every budget. Top picks include Osprey, Cotopaxi, and more.

Source: gearjunkie.com

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