Choosing the best travel backpack is the most crucial part of traveling, as it can literally make or break a trip. Ever made the wrong choice with a backpack? I have, and it resulted in miserable days with bad back pain and more effort in carrying my things than it ever should have been.
Whatever type of travel that you are doing, you should really put time into really thinking about what you will need.
What size backpack will be best for the trip? Will you need padded straps or a sturdy frame? All these questions should be addressed before you make your choice because at the end of the day, a backpack is an investment and putting extra thought to your purchase is something we highly recommend.
To help you make the right choice, we’ve put together a list of our personal recommendations of the best travel backpacks in 2023 for traveling the world.
- Our Picks for Best Travel Backpacks 2023
- Comparison Table
- Best Travel Backpacks for Women
- Best Travel Backpacks for Men
- More Great Travel Backpacks
- Best Travel Daypacks
- Osprey Quasar
- Why Travel with a Backpack Instead of Rolling Luggage
- What to Look for in a Travel Backpack
- Travel Backpack: Getting the Perfect Fit
- How Do I Choose the Right Travel Backpack?
- Why It’s Worth Investing in a Good Travel Backpack
Our Picks for Best Travel Backpacks 2023
- Best Overall Travel Backpack – Nomatic 40L Travel Bag
- Best Women’s General Backpack – Osprey Fairview 55L
- Best Women’s Backpack for Gear – Osprey Sirrus 50L
- Best Men’s General Backpack – Osprey Farpoint 55L
- Best Men’s Backpack for Gear – Osprey Stratos 50L
- Best Convertible Bag – Osprey Meridian 60L
- Best Daypack for Digital Nomads – Nomatic Backpack
- Best Daypack for Camera Gear – Thule Convert DSLR Rolltop Backpack
|Nomatic 40L Travel Bag||$$$||40L||Water-repellent Tarpaulin||Digital nomads | Carry-on||Read Reviews|
|Nomatic Backpack||$$$||20L + 4L||Water-repellent Tarpaulin||Digital nomads | Everyday use||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Fairview 55L||$$||55L||210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop||Women | General travel||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Ariel 55L||$$$$||55L||210D Nylon Dobby||Women | Backpacking | International travel||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Sirrus 50L||$$$||50L||210D Nylon Crosshatch||Women | International travel | Outdoor use||Read Reviews|
|Kelty Redwing 40||$$||40L||420D Poly Small Back Stafford||Women | General travel | Carry-on||Read Reviews|
|Deuter Aircontact lite 35+10||$$$||35 + 10L||600D Polyester||Women | Backpacking | International travel||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Farpoint 55L||$$||55L||210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop||Men | General travel||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Stratos 50||$$$||50L||210D Nylon Crosshatch||Men | Backpacking | International travel||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Atmos AG 50||$$$||50L||100D X 630D Nylon Dobby||Men | Backpacking | International travel||Read Reviews|
|Kelty Redwing 50 Tactical||$$||50L||500D Kodra||Men | General travel | Outdoor use||Read Reviews|
|Deuter Transit 40||$$||40L||600D Polytex||Men | General travel | Carry-on||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Meridian 60L||$$$$||60L||420D Nylon Mini Check Dobby||Versatile use | Wheeling or carrying||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Porter 46L||$$||46L||420HD Nylon Packcloth||Versatile use | Carry-on||Read Reviews|
|Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Backpack||$$||40L||Ripstop Nylon||Anti-theft||Read Reviews|
|Peak Design 45L||$$$||35 + 10L||400D Nylon and Poly Melange||Carry-on | Camera gear||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Daylite Plus||$$||20L||210D Nylon Double Diamond Ripstop||Daypack||Read Reviews|
|Osprey Quasar||$$||28L||420HD Nylon Packcloth||Daypack||Read Reviews|
|Outlander Packable Daypack||$||35L||Ripstop Nylon||Daypack (packable)||Read Reviews|
|North Face Jester||$$||26L||600D Polyester||Daypack||Read Reviews|
|Timbuk2 Uptown||$$||30L||Ballistic Nylon||Digital nomads||Read Reviews|
|Thule Convert DSLR Rolltop Backpack||$$$||30L||Nylon||Photographers||Read Reviews|
Best Travel Backpacks for Women
In general, backpacks designed specifically for women have a smaller back length because women tend to have a smaller torso. Women’s packs may also have narrower shoulder straps, shorter waist straps, and a smaller carrying capacity.
The packs in this section tend to have the above-mentioned features. That said, women can still use men’s packs and men can still use women’s packs! It all boils down to personal preference and what you’re looking for specifically.
Here are our picks for the top travel backpacks for women.
Pros: Front loading | Detachable daypack | Harness and hipbelt stow
Cons: Small hipbelt | Too big for carry-on
- Stowaway harness and hipbelt
- Front and internal compression straps
- Laptop sleeve
- Front mesh pockets
- Zip-off daypack on 55 and 70L
All owners of a traditional top-loaded backpack have had that deep sigh of despair when realizing they have to unpack everything to get to what they need. With the Osprey Fairview, you can say goodbye to that sigh and hello to easy access to all of your belongings.
While opening like a suitcase is the main draw of the Fairview, this is one of the best backpacks because it is made of durable materials, has internal organization compartments, and comes in different colors and sizes.
The best part about the larger Fairviews is that the 55 and 70 liter backpacks come with a zip-off daypack on the front. How cool is that!
Finally, all Osprey gear comes with the guarantee that they will fix anything that is damaged or broken, no questions asked, regardless of when it was purchased.
So this Osprey backpack is truly an investment that will last you for years to come!
Pros: Anti-gravity technology | Side access to main compartment | 3 sizes
Cons: Top loading | Too big for carry-on
- Anti-gravity technology for comfort and ease
- Dual compression straps
- Removable top-lid for day pack
- Zippered sleeping bag compartment
If you’re an avid camper, backpacker, or just looking for a traditional backpack that will fit everything you need for a trip, the Ariel is a great choice for you.
A technical pack with anti-gravity technology, this pack is great for carrying heavy loads on outdoor journeys. The anti-gravity technology makes transport extra comfortable from the suspended, lightweight mesh panel and customizable hip belt.
The top-lid is removable and functions as a small daypack, perfect for small loads and keeping your belongings close by on day trips.
The size is perfect for all of your camping and backpacking needs without being overwhelmingly big.
Even if you aren’t looking for a camping backpack, the Ariel is suited to travel all over the world with you on any adventure you have in store.
Pros: Integrated rain cover | Side access to main compartment | Many zippered pockets
Cons: Too big for carry-on
- Front panel for storage
- Side access to main compartment
- Integrated rain cover
- Sleeping bag compartment
- Compression straps
This sleek-looking bag has everything you need to pack for a successful trip. Not only does the Sirrus look super fly, it comes in 36 or 50L so packers of all types have something suited to their needs.
Designed with women in mind, the Sirrus has adjustable torso lengths to fit different sizes and body types, as well as ventilation, suspension, and pockets galore.
My favorite part of this pack is the integrated rain cover that will keep your belongings nice and dry, no matter the weather. Don’t forget the side access to the main compartment so you can grab what you need without having to open the pack up all the way.
This backpack is a total win in our books but if you are not totally convinced you can check out our full review of the Osprey Eja 58L backpack. This light hiking backpack is a similar great alternative to the Sirrus 50L.
Pros: Laptop sleeve | Organization features in pockets | U-shaped opening
Cons: Zippers aren’t lockable | Difficult to remove waist belt
- Padded & ventilated back panel
- Front, side and water bottle pockets
- Laptop sleeve
- Padded shoulder and waist belt
- Side, front and water bottle pockets
The Kelty Redwing 40 is an awesome hybrid backpack.
It has a U-shaped opening on the top that opens up all the way, instead of a draw string like most top loading backpacks. This allows you to see more of what’s inside, giving you easy access to what you need at a moment’s notice.
Besides the awesome opening, another feature that sets the Redwing apart from other traditional backpacks is the internal organization. Most top-loading backpacks only have that one large inside pocket, but this backpack has many different compartments inside allowing you to stash valuables and stay organized.
The outside pockets are plentiful with internal organization as well, with a couple on the front and two on each side. The side pockets are one of the best features because they stick out from the backpack, allowing you to fit more than if they were just built out of the side, the way they are in most backpacks.
On top of these badass features, the Redwing has the standard components of any good backpack like compression straps, a padded hipbelt, shoulder straps and back panel, and durable materials.
Pros: Extendable 10L | Cushioned back panel | Removable lid
Cons: Not many pockets
- Breathable padding
- 35L with an extra 10L
- Sturdy shoulder and hip straps
- Side compression straps
- Shorter back length and narrow shoulder harness
Deuter boasts that this backpack is made by women, for women meaning that it has all the components to keep you comfortable and organized on the go.
The back length is shorter and adjustable, and the shoulder harness is narrower, meant to fit a women’s frame. The bag is well ventilated to keep you cool while carrying it and the hip belt is made especially for managing excess weight in your load.
The best part about this pack is that while it’s 35L by design, it also has an extendable 10L pack collar to give you a little more space for bringing home souvenirs or fitting some extra gear.
We've scoured the internet for the best ALL-AROUND travel shoe and Tropicfeel wins by far. We've taken ours through rivers, jungles, and cities and they're still alive and kickin'. Check them out below.
Best Travel Backpacks for Men
If you’re looking for a gendered option, there are plenty of backpacks made specifically for guys on the market. These typically feature a longer torso and possibly a more rugged frame. There are thicker shoulder straps for carrying more weight and they often come in “manly” colors like black and green.
All of this being said, remember that just because “man” or “woman” is slapped onto the name of the bag doesn’t mean that you can’t use if if you don’t fall into that category. They’re just designed with specific specs that may make them more comfortable for the indicated gender.
These are our choices for best men’s travel backpacks.
Pros: Detachable daypack | Front loading | Stowaway hip belt and harness | Lightweight
Cons: Not enough pockets
- Stowaway harness and hip belt
- Front and internal compression straps
- Laptop sleeve
- Front mesh pockets
- Zip-off day pack on 55 and 70L
Essentially the same bag as the Osprey Fairview (mentioned above), this bag was designed with men in mind.
With features like a front-loading main compartment, internal organization, a stowaway hipbelt and harness, and stash pockets throughout, there’s no wonder this is one of the top travel backpacks on the market.
This bag comes in 40 (show in image above), 55, 70, and 80L, allowing you to choose which size is best for you and your travels. The 40 and 55L bags are perfect if you want to pack everything for your trip in a single bag and carry it on, and the 55L and 70L even feature a detachable daypack on the front!
Read our full review of the Osprey Farpoint 40L backpack.
They say the perfect bag doesn’t exist… but have they seen the Farpoint?
Pros: Side access to main compartment | Sleeping bag compartment | Integrated raincover
Cons: Top loading | Not many small pockets
- Airspeed Suspension
- Ventilated backpanel
- Integrated raincover
- Hydration reservoir sleeve
- Removable top-lid
- Front panel shove it pocket
- Side stretch mesh pockets
Another awesome bag from Osprey, the Stratos is the men’s version of the Sirrus.
This backpack comes in 25, 34, 36, and 50L giving you a wide range of options in terms of picking one that’s best for your trip.The 50L is especially good for travel because not only will it fit all of your clothes and belongings, but it’s the right size for fitting in some adventure gear as well.
Outfitted with several pockets throughout, the Stratos will have you prepared for anything. There’s a compartment for a sleeping bag, side access to the main compartment and a detachable top panel that you can use as a daypack when needed.
Coming in a range of different colors, gear up with this sleek pack that’s ready for any kind of adventure.
Pros: Removable floating top | Dual compression straps | Sleeping bag compartment | Zippered hip belt pockets
Cons: No rain cover | More expensive
- Anti-gravity suspension
- Flapjacket for when top is removed
- Pole attachment
- Trekking pole attachments
- Internal hydration reservoir sleeve
- Front and side stretch mesh pockets
- Dual compression straps
An award-winning pack with an award-winning design, the Atmos AG is an awesome pack for outdoor adventures or traversing through cities.
Made by Osprey, the Atmos has tons of features that make it a pack worth checking out.
For dudes on the go, detach the lid and use it as a daypack, and just flip the flapjacket on top to keep your gear protected. There are also side pockets, a sleeping bag compartment, attachments for poles and a sleeping pad, and even an internal hydration reservoir sleeve. These make it totally adventure-proof!
The backpack itself is super lightweight so it won’t add on those extra pounds when checking it in, and it’s well-ventilated to keep you cool. Users claim that it feels like it’s a part of your body, so what’s not to love here?
Pros: U-shaped opening | Many outside pockets | Laptop sleeve
Cons: Zippers don’t lock
- Hybrid-loading U-shaped opening
- Single light beam aluminum stay
- Removable waist belt
- Hydration compatible
- Laptop sleeve
- Organizational pockets
True to its name, this backpack is tactical and ready for any trip on land, air, or sea.
Like the other backpacks in the Redwing family, this Kelty backpack has a U-shaped opening that gives greater access to the contents inside than traditional top-loading backpacks.
There are so many pockets throughout, you’ll always be able to find what you’re looking for, whether it’s from the zippered front compartment (with extra pockets inside), the zippered size pockets, or the laptop sleeve in the main pack area.
Made to last, this backpack is made from durable 500D nylon and single light beam aluminum stay. Plus, you’ll always be able to manage a heavier load with the hip belt and shoulder harness to balance weight throughout your body.
Pros: Carry-on compatible | Separate bottom compartment | Multiple carry Options | U-shaped opening | Internal organization
Cons: Bottom compartment cramped when bag is full
- Stowable shoulder harness
- Multiple carry options
- U-shaped opening
- Separate bottom compartment
- Laptop sleeve
- Side pockets and small front stash pocket
- Water and abrasion-resistant
Our final pick for the best men’s backpack (last, but certainly not least), is the Deuter Transit 40 which will make a great travel companion wherever you’re off to.
The size makes it perfect as a carry-on bag, but still allows you to fit everything you need. Plus, the stashable harness will make getting it into the overhead bin that much easier.
The straps are padded and there are two extra grab handles for the moments when you’ve tucked the straps away. Not to mention, there’s also the detachable cross-body strap for turning the backpack into a duffle bag!
The main compartment is easily accessed with a U-shaped zippered front panel instead of a traditional top-loading design. There’s a separate bottom compartment which you can use for shoes, adventure gear, or your dirty laundry. You’ll also be thankful for the laptop sleeve, internal organizers, side pockets and the stash pocket on the front.
As far as the best travel bags go, this is a very worthy contender.
More Great Travel Backpacks
Here are some gender-neutral backpacks with a range of different functions.
Check out this section for some unbeatable backpacks with various added benefits like wheels, duffle bag straps and increased organization for all you digital nomads and photography junkies looking to up your backpack game.
Pros: Water-resistant | Tons of pockets | Multiple carry options | Laundry bag | Looks great | Carry-on compatible
Cons: Expensive | Poor zippers
- Made of water-repellent tarpaulin
- Carry-on compatible
- Water bottle pocket, RFID-protected pocket, shoe compartment, laptop pocket, tablet pocket
- Laundry bag included
- Detachable waist straps
Nomatic gives Osprey some serious competition with this water-resistant 40L travel bag that has everything you could ever need in a carry-on sized travel bag.
People claim that this is the best bag they’ve ever owned, and for good reason.
Its spacious design allows you to pack everything you’ll need for a long or short trip, there’s an insane number of pockets (laptop, shoes, internal zippered ones, side pockets and more), and it’s crazy good-looking to boot!
The waist straps have pockets for your passport or phone, and detach for when you don’t want to use them. There’s a laundry bag included and a roller bag sleeve, so if you want to take an additional bag you’ll be able to carry both with ease.
Speaking of carrying the bag, besides shoulder straps, there are additional straps on the side of the bag that come together to allow you to carry the bag like a duffle when you don’t want it on your back. How well thought-out is that?
With an exterior made of 100% waterproof tarpaulin, it’s hard to find any flaws with this bag. Looks like the Nomatic 40L lives up to all the positive reviews!
Pros: Structured sides | Multiple carry options | Fits a ton | U-shaped opening | Zippered laptop pocket
- Straightjacket protection and compression straps
- Stowaway harness and hip belt
- Huge U-zip opening
- Compatible with Osprey Daylite Daypack
- Front panel organization pocket
- Side handles
Another Osprey backpack that’s been hailed as one of the best for travel, the Porter has numerous features that make it an awesome option for both men and women.
To fit all of your belongings, choose between the 46 or 65L bag (that comes in 4 colors!) and pack away. Users of this backpack overwhelmingly boast how much this bag can fit, and the structured sides keep everything nice and safe while in transit.
Osprey describes this bag as a hybrid between a duffle and a traditional backpack but for “when a duffel isn’t enough and backpacking bags are too much.”
The harness and hip belt stow away for when you want to check a bag and the U-shaped opening gives you access to the main compartment with ease. There are tons of pockets and organization mechanisms throughout the bag, and there’s even a rear panel lockable zippered pocket for your laptop or tablet.
This is a really solid backpack that’s comfortable to carry and will last a long time. Plus, it will fit everything if you’re an overpacker who insists on taking with you!
Pros: Lightweight | Durable | Anti-theft technology | RFID-blocking material | Built-in rain cover
Cons: Not lockable
- Ripstop nylon
- Laptop compartment
- Breathable, padded shoulder straps
- Top quick access pocket
- Side compression straps
- Sternum and waist belt
- RFID-blocking pocket
- Water bottle pockets
Keep your belongings safe from wandering hands with this awesome anti-theft travel backpack!
At 40L, this bag is big enough to fit everything you need for a trip, while still meeting TSA requirements as a carry-on bag.
With tons of pockets and a large main compartment, you’ll have no trouble finding a place for each of your items. The shoulder and waist straps are comfortable, breathable and balance the weight for heavier loads. The back panel also features a hidden compartment that’s able to be locked to keep your valuables safe and sound.
Plus, you can access the main pocket from the back panel, meaning that you don’t have to completely open up the bag when you need something quickly.
Finally, the built-in rain cover and RFID-blocking pocket are some added benefits that make this backpack ideal for traveling around the world.
Pros: Carry-on size | Good for cameras | Instant access to internal pockets | Tablet and laptop access from outside
Cons: Expensive | Camera cubes sold separately | Heavy
- Rigid sidewalls and full-back panel load
- Zippered dividing panel for separation and organization
- Expansion zips give extra 10L
- Grab handles on side
Photographers and digital nomads rejoice! This may be the perfect bag for you.
A camera bag that will fit everything else you need — ts that even possible? With Peak Design’s 45L travel backpack, it sure is.
This backpack was designed for nomadic photographers by creating a big enough main compartment to fit clothes and other necessities, and a front compartment designed to keep a DSLR and other camera equipment safe and sound.
The only downside is that the camera cubes are sold separately — but totally worth the investment if this is the kind of backpack you’re looking for.
The rigid sidewalls offer extra protection (although they do add to the weight of the bag), as do the separated compartments that allow you to store different items in different areas of the backpack. There are tons of different compartments throughout the bag and a padded laptop sleeve as well. The side access zippers also allow you to grab what you need quickly without opening the entire backpack up.
You’ll be shocked at how much this bag can fit and if you’re a photographer on the go, I can almost guarantee you will never need another backpack.
Best Travel Daypacks
It’s a great idea to have a daypack to complement your main travel backpack. You can use this to store valuable and other fragile items, as well as personal items like a passport, wallet, books and change of clothes.
Here are some of the best travel daypacks out there.
Pros: Waterproof | Removable organization panel | 20+ added features | High quality Cons: Expensive Key Features:
- 15″ laptop sleeve
- Expands from 20 to 24L
- Top and side carry straps
- Removable organization panel
- RFID-blocking pocket
- Roller bag sleeve
One of my personal favorite daypacks out there is the Nomatic Backpack.
This high quality, durable bag is perfect for those carrying a lot of electronic gear while on the go. The 20L body expands to fit 24L, allowing you to add that extra camera or sweatshirt, while ensuring the bag doesn’t get too bulky.
The Nomatic Backpack has all the traditional features of a solid bag like padded straps, a laptop sleeve, and plenty of pockets, but it also comes equipped with so much more.
A awesome feature about this bag is that it comes with a removable organization panel for fitting things like a tablet, keyboard, mouse and papers, as well as cables and other accessories. This is ideal for digital nomads who are traveling with supplies to work on the go or for those looking to have a clutter free interior pocket.
Being able to remove it allows you to load it up with gear for an adventure, because it’s rugged enough for a quick trek through the woods or a stroll through a new city.
Other notable, well thought out additions to this bag are an RFID-blocking pocket for your passport and important documents, chord passthroughs, a retractable key leash, a removable protective shell for your glasses, and a magnetic water bottle pocket.
The Nomatic Backpack also has a sleeve to attach it to a roller bag for when you’re traveling with a bit of a heavier load.
As far as daypacks for travel go, in my opinion, this is number one.
For more information read our full Nomatic Backpack review.
Pros: Lightweight | Attaches to larger packs | Front pocket with mesh organizer
Cons: Too small for most laptopsKey Features:
- Compatible as an attachment for most Osprey packs
- Side mesh pockets
- Front pocket with mesh organizer
- Comfortable straps and carry handle
- Interior sleeve for hydration or tablet
- Front shove-it pocket
Besides making kick-ass travel backpacks, Osprey also makes some awesome daypacks… but is that really a surprise?
The Daylight Plus is the ideal daypack for those looking for something light, durable and comfortable to carry. It’s great for taking on hikes or just fitting your odds and ends while traveling. Plus, if you have an Osprey travel backpack, this one should be able to clip onto the front when not in use.
There’s an inside pocket that fits a tablet or hydration sack — however, due to its small size, it may not fit your laptop, sadly.
The back panel is super breathable and is designed to keep you cool during activities, and there are mesh pockets on the side for your water bottle as well.
This is a solid daypack choice if you’re looking for something to take on adventures with you, but may not be the best if you’re a digital nomad or looking for something to carry more electronics and gadgets.
Pros: Padded laptop sleeve | Front panel organization pocket | Durable | Lightweight | Large capacity
Cons: Uncomfortable shoulder straps when heavyKey Features:
- Padded laptop sleeve
- Side mesh pockets
- Front panel organization pocket
- Removable hipbelt
- Front panel bungee compression and storage
Need more space? A step up from the Daylite Plus in size and carrying capacity, you have the Osprey Quasar.
This daypack is full of compartments and pockets (that are filled with even more compartments!) so staying organized is a breeze when using this bad boy.
It has a padded laptop sleeve for keeping your electronics safe, as well as front pockets that are big enough to hold a phone, keep your chords in place or stash your passport. The back panel is breathable and the backpack itself is relatively lightweight.
This is an awesome travel companion if you’re looking for the ideal bag to complement your main travel bag.
Another similar Osprey day pack alternative is the Osprey Sylva 12, which we recently reviewed and tested while hiking.
Pros: Extremely lightweight | Packs into itself | Zippered pockets | Durable | Inexpensive
Cons: No structureKey Features:
- Water-resistant ripstop nylon
- Packs into itself
- Weighs 0.7lbs
- Multiple zippered compartments
- Mesh side pockets
- Carabiner for carrying compressed
Okay, at such a cheap price, you’d think this backpack is a total no-no, but with over 3,000 positive reviews, Outlander must have done something right!
This is one of the best packable daypacks on the market and it won’t break the bank either.
The best part about this backpack is it only weights 0.7 pounds and folds into itself, making a tiny package that you can stow away when not in use. It has two front zippered pockets, two side pockets, and a large main compartment that will hold anything else you need for a day spent traveling or exploring.
Plus, it comes with a carabiner so you can clip it onto another backpack until you’re ready to unfold it and fill it up.
Finally, Outlander carefully crafted this backpack with ripstop, water-resistant nylon so it’s sure to last you trip after trip.
Pros: 35 color options | Padded laptop leeve | Lots of organization | Mesh water bottle pockets
Cons: Zipper doesn’t open all the wayKey Features:
- Large main compartment
- Padded laptop pocket
- Mesh water bottle pockets on the side
- Sturdy shoulder straps
- Classic look
- Durable materials
Outdoor gear powerhouse North Face doesn’t disappoint with this awesome daypack that’s ready for adventure.
The bag is made from sturdy, ventilated materials, which makes it comfortable and durable at the same time. Besides the super roomy main compartment that has a padded laptop sleeve, there’s a front pocket with zippered and mesh organizers, sure to keep your belongings separated and organized.
In true North Face fashion, there are mesh water bottle pockets on either side (a staple in almost all North Face backpacks).
This is an awesome daypack for multiple uses, with a sleek look and solid feel.
Pros: Padded laptop sleeve | Separate tablet compartment | Lots of internal organization | Water bottle pocket | Sleek look
Cons: Main compartment on smaller sideKey Features:
- Ventilated back panel
- Main compartment for carry-on essentials
- Padded laptop sleeve
- Tablet compartment
- Organized front pocket
- Zippered front panel
- Water bottle pocket
For digital nomads and others who love traveling with their tech, this Timbuk2 backpack is a great choice for visiting cafes for a day of work or carrying onto planes.
The main compartment has a padded laptop sleeve and a tablet sleeve that unzips completely to lay flat when going through security. What an awesome added benefit for those who are constantly on the go!
The front compartment has all the organization you could dream of, with space for pens, notebooks, passports and additional gadgets. There’s a mesh side pocket for a water bottle and top zippered compartment for keys and other small items. The bag also has enough room to fit books and other travel essentials so you’ll have everything you need in one place.
This backpack was really well-designed, and while it may not be the best for hiking, it’s quite possibly the best for digital nomads and remote workers on the go.
Pros: Designed for DSLRs and camera equipment | Removable camera pod | Separate laptop compartment | Roll top for personal items
Cons: Expensive | HeavyKey Features:
- Fits DSLR and drone gear and accessories in camera pod
- Camera pod removable
- Quick side access to cameras
- Separate laptop compartment
- Roll top storage for belongings
- Organization features throughout bag and pockets
Our last daypack pick is for all you traveling photographers, and is made by the ever reputable Thule.
Thule is known for their stylish and functional bags and this one is the best for fitting all of your camera gear!
This backpack was designed specifically for items like a DSLR, drone and other camera equipment and packs them all into a padded, removable pod. This is an awesome feature because besides easy access and packability, it comes out as needed!
There’s also a zippered side compartment that goes right into the camera equipment so you can grab what you need without digging around in the backpack.
Besides comfortably fitting all of your camera gear, there’s an ultra-padded back compartment specifically for your laptop or tablet and a roll top section for personal items. Plus, there are plenty front compartments with organization features so you can quickly find whatever little items you’re looking for.
Another plus point? This backpack is not only wildly convenient and well-designed, but it’s also super good looking too!
This is definitely one of the top camera backpacks on the market right now that’s an awesome daypack for your travels.
Why Travel with a Backpack Instead of Rolling Luggage
There’s nothing like the freeing feeling you get from strapping your backpack onto your back and meandering through unpaved city streets, crowded bus stations or up the steps to a hostels.
With a roller bag, you have the opposite feeling as you try to prevent your luggage from toppling over on dirt roads or squeezing through loads of people on your way to the train. Not to mention having to lug it up flights of stairs with no end in sight!
Here are just a few reasons why you should consider traveling with a backpack instead of rolling luggage.
Enjoy Hands-free Travel
Okay, so besides all the reasons listed above, traveling with a backpack is just practical. Think about getting dropped off at the wrong spot and having to find your way to your accommodation. You’ll definitely need your hands to check out Google Maps or make a phone call while on the go. This simply isn’t possible while pulling a heavy suitcase behind you!
Stay Organized with Pockets and Compartments
Backpacks are filled with pockets and compartments for all of your belongings, while with traditional rolling luggage, you’re stuck with that huge internal compartment, with maybe a single outside pocket (if you’re lucky).
Backpacks Are Versatile
Finally, backpacks are just downright versatile. You would never take a rolling bag camping, would you? (Gosh, I hope not!) With a backpack, you can travel through cities as well as countrysides, not to mention up mountains and to more rugged parts of the world.
Traveling with a backpack gives you so much more freedom than rolling luggage, I promise. It allows you to be spontaneous, instead of stuck where there are paved roads for your wheels. Traditional suitcases are made for staying in one place, while backpacks are made for traveling around.
What to Look for in a Travel Backpack
With so many backpacks on the market, it can be hard to figure out which one is best for you. Here are some things to look for when exploring your options.
Top Loading vs Front Loading
The first thing to consider when looking at different travel backpacks is whether you’d like one that’s top loading or front loading. This is a huge debate among travelers, and might be a bit confusing if you’ve never heard either of these terms.
Here’s a breakdown for you.
Top loading means that you pack your backpack from top to bottom. It only opens from the top, meaning you need to reach all the way down to find what you’re looking for. Top-loading packs close with a drawstring and tend to be much bigger than a front-loaded pack (however, there are exceptions to this, of course).
Top-loading packs are best for hiking, backpacking and camping, and often fit all the additional gear you need for activities like this. In top-loading packs, you’ll generally find hooks for hiking poles, a space for a sleeping bag, and a roomy enough interior to fit a camp stove, tent and other adventure gear.
Alternatively, you can go for the convenient front-loaded packs which open like a suitcase. These backpacks are best for travel and more casual use because they’re way easier to navigate. It’s easier to find what you’re looking for without all that digging around.
There are some insanely cool front-loaded backpacks on the market right now which are ideal for long and short trips alike. However, to fit everything you need for a longer trip in these smaller bags, you’ll have to pack smart (tip: use packing cubes!).
But more on these backpacks in the reviews section.
Another huge consideration when choosing a backpack is what size you want. Again, this brings up a huge debate among travelers and that’s whether to travel with a larger, checked backpack or have a carry-on sized pack that fits everything you need for an entire trip.
Here’s a quick breakdown of general backpack sizing, with longer explanations after.
Day Pack – 15 to 30L
Carry-on Pack – 35 to 45L
Adventure Pack – 50 – 70L
Hardcore Trekking – 75 – 120L
Carry-on sized backpacks are typically between 35 and 45 liters and, are best for those taking shorter trips or light packers. Smaller backpacks are great for keeping things to the bare minimum, and the smaller size will also stop you from packing everything you own.
Only packing in a carry-on has lots of perks. First, your backpack won’t be as heavy, making it easier to move around with it. Second, it also means you’ll never have to worry about losing your luggage because it will be with you on the plane!
On the other hand, if you need something big enough to fit camping, backpacking or adventure gear, a larger backpack is more practical. These backpacks are between 50 and 70 liters, and should fit everything you need for short expeditions or longer trips around the world.
While there are backpacks bigger than this, I would recommend steering clear of them unless you’re going on a month-long trek or something similar, because they’re very hard to maneuver with and are all around inconvenient.
I have personally been traveling with a 50 liter top-loaded Osprey backpack for years and while it has served me well, I’m ready to downsize to a carry-on bag. I have to admit, the checked luggage fees are really starting to add up and waiting for my bag after the flight is quite annoying as well.
Finally, the top-loaded bag is just plain inconvenient when I want to find something quick. Unpacking everything I own on a hostel floor to find one dress is so annoying!
If you’re looking at backpacks with large external frames, quickly exit that browser and never look at it again!
Nowadays, the best backpacks are made of lightweight internal frames, specially designed to make things easier. While I have used a couple of backpacks with no frames, I also recommend against it as they usually end up causing a lot of back pain, especially if you are carrying your pack for long periods of time.
Most daypacks don’t have any type of frames which is fine as you tend to keep the weight of your daypack to a bare minimum.
But as far as the packs that you’ll keep most of your belongings in, definitely opt for a lightweight internal frame.
Straps are a super important thing to look at when choosing a backpack! They contribute to the backpacks portability and weight balancing.
The right straps are essential to a comfortable and safe backpack carrying experience.
Carry straps are the first thing to look at on your backpack. Are they thick? Are they padded? The answer to both of these questions should be yes. A thick strap will balance the weight more evenly on your shoulders and the padding will make it more comfortable for you. There’s nothing worse than a backpack strap cutting into your shoulder so make sure those straps are padded well!
A waist strap (or belt) is also an important component, especially on bigger, heavier backpacks. Having a strap that buckles and tightens around your waist takes the pressure off your shoulders and distributes weight throughout your whole body. This makes carrying a heavy load so much easier, and is essential for long trips with your bag on your back.
Compression straps are also a good feature on larger backpacks. These straps will be generally be on the front of the pack and when tightened, they’ll smush everything down in your pack, making it more compact.
While there are tons more straps on most all backpacks, these are the main ones you should take a look at when considering different options.
Definitely take a look at the weight of your backpack to make sure it’s not too heavy.
Of course weight varies depending on material (more on that in the next section), but you don’t want to have a backpack that is heavy itself.
The best backpacks are made from lightweight materials, with a lightweight frame and features. This will allow you to have more weight inside the pack, than on the pack itself.
Backpacks are made from many different materials, all varying in durability, weight, and strength.
No matter which material you choose, you’re going to want one that’s weather sealed so that it will keep your belongings protected in a variety of conditions. While having a rain cover is a good idea anyways, you don’t want a backpack that will soak through in a quick shower.
Most backpacks will have the material with a number followed by a D, which stands for denier. This is an indicator of how thick the fabric is. The higher the D, the more durable the fabric should be.
Some main backpack materials you’ll come across are:
Nylon – Lots of backpacks are made from nylon because it’s lightweight, durable, and water-resistant. Nylon can come in different forms, offering users different benefits.
Ripstop nylon is a popular one, and has a threaded weave that prevents small rips from turning into full blown tears.
You’re also bound to run into ballistic nylon which has a different kind of weave that also makes it tear-resistant. However, ballistic nylon is typically layered which makes it a bit heavier than other materials.
Polyester – This is another common material that backpacks are made from. But it’s not as durable as nylon and definitely heavier so it’s typically found on less expensive backpacks. It’ll serve you fine for a few trips, but don’t expect it to last you for years to come. If you’re seriously investing in a backpack, double check that it’s not made from polyester.
Polypropylene – Many backpacks will be lined with polypropylene which is a material used widely in plastics and other fabrics. Water doesn’t absorb into this material which is why it makes a great insulator. It will protect the contents of your pack if the exterior gets wet!
Compartments and Pockets
A last thing to look for when buying a travel bag is whether it has lots of compartments and pockets. If the answer is no, keep looking!
Compartments and pockets are essential beca
use they’ll keep your belongings organized, protected and separated as needed. A good travel backpack will have inside, as well as outside, compartments. Many of them should have zippers (especially on the outside) or some sort of seal to keep the contents in place.
Good pockets to look for are:
- zippered ones on the top flap (for top loaded packs)
- compartments on the side for water bottles or other items you may need quick access too
- an inside zippered pocket for valuables
- a stretchy pocket on the outside for shoving things like a raincoat into
For carry-on backpacks, I highly recommend choosing one with a laptop sleeve to keep your computer protected and separate from other items.
If you’re a photographer, definitely opt for a travel backpack designed with specific camera pockets! You can find these backpacks further down.
Travel Backpack: Getting the Perfect Fit
Good backpacks don’t come as a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
A lot of backpacks now encourage you to order bags which would correspond to your exact weight and height. Take the time to measure your torso, your height, and anything else needed, and then take this all into consideration when choosing what size backpack to take with you.
While each bag manufacturer has a general size that they stick to, we tend to always look at Osprey’s sizing chart as they are very similar to others. Use this comprehensive sizing info to help you select the right backpack for you.
Now that you know all there is to know about travel backpacks, here are some awesome ones to narrow down the immense selection on the market.
How Do I Choose the Right Travel Backpack?
Choosing the best travel backpack doesn’t have to be a hard task. In fact, if you take certain considerations into account, you should be able to narrow the pool down drastically! Here are some tips on how to choose the right travel backpack.
Decide on Your Budget
The first thing is pretty straight forward. Decide on your budget as this will determine the amount of options you will have.
If you are going cheap you will be looking at brands like Outlander. If you have a bigger budget Osprey and Nomatic will be in your range.
What’s your main use for this backpack? Do you need it for a trip around the world? Going camping? Looking for something that combines the two?
If you’re just looking for a standard backpack, you can go for a front-loading, smaller pack that will fit everything you need for a trip. However, if you’re looking for a backpack that does it all and you can use for a variety of different activities, go for something a little bigger that will be able to fit that extra gear.
Choose the Right Backpack Size
Think about how big a backpack you want.
Do you want something to carry on the plane with you? Would you rather have a checked bag that fits more? This is another important consideration.
A smaller bag is great if you are a master packer, taking a short trip, or just like to pack light. But if you’re looking to stock up on souvenirs or simply can’t live without unlimited clothing options, you’re going to want something bigger, that’s for sure.
If you’re looking for a special fit, you may find great benefit in choosing a backpack that’s specifically designed for your gender.
A smaller torso is best suited to a bag designed for women, while those looking for a more rugged fit may benefit from a men’s backpack.
If you have a bad back but still want the benefits of a backpack, you should go for a convertible roller backpack which people have found great success with. If you want something with additional carrying options, then go for a backpack that has straps to turn it into a duffle bag or has extra carry handles.
These are all things to keep in mind when choosing the right backpack for you. With the reviews and product breakdowns above, I’ve done my best to include something for everybody.
Why It’s Worth Investing in a Good Travel Backpack
A good travel backpack won’t come cheap, that’s just the reality of it. But a good travel backpack will also serve you for years to come.
Backpacks are an investment.
I got my first Osprey backpack (a 50L purple bag; not sure of the model but it’s badass!) 5 years ago when I set out for my first big Asia trip. To this day, I’m writing this post in Bali, with that same trusty backpack sitting by my side. Sure it cost me a pretty penny, but it has held up and never experienced any wear and tear that comes with less expensive bags.
It was a super sound investment and I bet if I wanted, I could even pass it onto my kids down the road (very, very far… down the road). That’s just how durable a great backpack can be, and why they’re worth spending money on.
The last thing you want is to be on the adventure of a lifetime and have a broken strap or buckle. Not only is it inconvenient, but it will put a total damper on your trip!
But if that does happen, if you invest in the right backpack, you’ll likely get a warranty or guarantee with it. As mentioned above, Osprey has an unbeatable guarantee which is if anything breaks, is damaged or fails, they will fix or replace it for free, no questions asked, regardless of when it was purchased. Seriously, if that guarantee isn’t worth a couple hundred bucks, I’m not sure what is.
I hope this guide has helped you find the travel backpack of your dreams, or at least give you some things to think about when choosing one from the incredibly large market.
If you need help packing your bag, be sure to check out one of our destination packing lists, and always remember: less is more!
Need more awesome travel gear? Read our guides
- Ultimate Guide to the Best Travel Cameras
- Best Travel Jackets for All Your Adventures
- Best Women’s Hiking Boots
- Best Shoes for Travelling
- G-defy Shoes: The ULTIMATE Review