Choosing travel backpacks is the most crucial part of traveling, as it can literally make or break a trip. Ever made the wrong choice with a bag? 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, time should be put into really thinking about what you will need. What size bag 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 bag is an investment and putting extra thought to your purchase is something we highly recommend. To help you make the right choice for you, we’ve put together a list of our personal recommendations of the best travel backpacks for traveling the world.

Best Travel Backpacks for Women

Obviously, there are great travel backpacks out there that are unisex but we highly recommend female specific bags. Designed with a woman’s body in mind, these bags will fit snugly around your body whether you are short or tall or with wide or slim hips. Many of the bags generally have a narrower yolk for our torso which ensures maximum comfort and equal weight distribution when the straps are joined.

Osprey Sirrus 50 Review

The Osprey Sirrus 50 backpack is a popular choice – and for good reason. It is lightweight, versatile, and has a top quality ventilated back system to increase comfort in warm weather. At 50 liters, this bag is suitable as a travel backpack but is mostly favored among women who are avid hikers and campers.

Similar to most of the Osprey female backpack line, the Sirrus 50 is designed to mold to the female back. Before you even buy the product, your height and torso will be measured to give you the most accurate sized bag. Once you have the product, you can then adjust the shoulder, hip and chest straps to fit you perfectly.

We love Osprey products purely for the ultimate comfort they provide. The Osprey Sirrus 50 in particular gives you this effortless experience, while also providing you with a large capacity and several compartments to carry everything you need. Click here to check the price and get more details

Product Specs:

  • Size: 13 x 27 x 14 inches
  • Weight: 3.4-3.5 (depending on size)

Our Favorite Features:

  • AirSpeed Suspension: proper ventilation is crucial for comfort, especially when you’re spending long hours hiking in warm climates and carrying a heavy load.
  • Women Specific Fit: ergonomically shaped hip belt, harness, yoke, and backpanel, help with weight distribution and therefore comfort.
  • Compartments: the removable top pocket, rain cover and sleeping bag compartment are perfect for all the equipment you may need for camping. The side of the pack also has a single vertical zip, allowing direct access into the main compartment without having to open the lid top.

Kelty Catalyst 46

If you’re reverting to carry-on-traveling only, or like to take weekend backpacking trips, the Kelty Catalyst 46 backpack will be perfect for you. A favorite among female travelers, don’t be surprised if this bag is sold in some websites.

A small to medium backpack that is big enough to hold everything you need, you would think there is a secret to its magic, but there’s not. The only trick is well thought out and quality features! With a lined interior pocket, a front storage pocket, trekking pole loops, stretch mesh belt pockets and water bottle pockets, let’s just say there is no shortage to where you can store your things and they are super easy to get to.

The thing we love most about this backpack is the comfort. The shoulder straps, HDPE reinforced waist belt, side compression straps and the adjustable sternum strap all work together to ensure a comfortable position for the wearer where the contents are optimally distributed. No matter how heavy your bag, carrying the weight on your hips rather than your shoulders makes all the difference. Click here to check the price and get more details

Product Specs:

  • Size: 30 x 13 x 13 inches
  • Weight: 4 pounds

Our Favorite Features:

  • PerfectFIT Suspension System: accurate on-body size adjustment to customize your fit. This bag says one size fits all and it means it!
  • Load Lifter Straps: these relieve stress on your shoulders.
  • Adjustable Sternum Strap: these prevent chafing under the arms and on the shoulders which you’ll be thankful for when hiking or wearing the bag for long periods!

Deuter ACT Lite 35+10

The ultimate backpack for the active traveler, this bag is at its best if you’re an avid skier, mountaineer, hiker or climber. The sleek Deuter ACT Lite 35+10 is an incredibly lightweight backpack, yet it offers the potential to carry additional gear. With features such as the padded hip belt and pocket, the stretch side pockets, the lid pocket and bottom compartment, the whole design of this bag is focused on optimal load placement whatever the weight being carried.

An obvious important feature to have for the use of this bag is the Aircontact System. When carrying a heavy load and being incredibly active, it’s great that this feature provides enough ventilation that results in up to 15% less sweating. Click here to check the price and get more details 

Product Specs:

  • Size: 6 x 23 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds

Our Favorite Features:

  • Lid Pocket and Adjustable Lid: this provides additional space if needed.
  • Compression Straps: reduces pack volume to improve load stability
  • Vari Quick System: for easy adjustment to any back length.

The male version of this backpack is: Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL

Best Travel Backpacks for Men

Other than the specific design for a typical woman’s body, there is not much difference between the women’s and the men’s backpacks. Men’s backpacks are often slightly bigger and wider but carry a similar capacity. For men, the most important thing when choosing a backpack is going for the right size. Men can usually get away with carrying less stuff so take that into consideration. Just because you can easily carry 70L backpacks, it doesn’t mean you should!

Osprey Atmos 50

If you’re looking for a bag that can hold up to adventure and carry all your gear, Osprey Atmos 50 is a great choice. Winning an Innovation Gold award, this pack is perfectly designed to make your load lighter, even when the bag is filled to maximum capacity. Features that make this possible include the AntiGravity™ back system, the ExoForm™ Biostretch™ harness, the load lifter bar and the Fit-on-the-Fly™ hip belt. As well as ensuring you’re unburdened, these features also provide unrivaled ventilation. Will you be trekking through jungles and exploring in hot climates? If you are, this backpack will keep you cool and comfortable while making your gear feel weightless. Click here to check the price and get more details

Product Specs:

  • Size: 8 x 17 x 29 inches
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds

Our Favorite Features:

  • AntiGravity 3D Suspended Mesh Backpanel/Hipbelt: this creates a continuous ventilation and provides excellent load-carrying.
  • Stow-on-the-Go Attachments: perfect for carrying trekking poles to cycling helmets.
  • Fit-on-the-Fly Hipbelt: makes a backpack feel empty even when you’re carrying a full pack of kit!

Osprey Exos 48

Similar to the Atmos 50, the Exos 48 has all the load-carrying and ventilation advantages that Osprey backpacks are known for but at a weight of just over 1kg. You heard me, Osprey mean lightweight when they say it! Although an amazingly light pack, the Exos 48 doesn’t sacrifice any other qualities; it still has a high load capacity and provides ultimate comfort.

The best thing about this backpack is its ability to adapt to your load. Due to its ladder system and FlapJacket™ feature, you can extend or reduce your capacity to fit your load accordingly. This might not sound beneficial, but combined with the multi-point compression system on each side, it keeps the contents tighter in the backpack which optimally distributes the weight. Every element of the Exos has been designed to provide the lightest and most comfortable product possible, and I think they’ve nailed it! Click here to check the price and get more details

Product Specs:

  • Size: 6 x 14 x 22 inches
  • Weight: 2.6 pounds

Our Favorite Features:

  • Ladder System: allows you to extend/reduce the capacity of your pack
  • ExoForm™ Harness and Hipbelt: ensures a comfortable and stable fit.
  •  AirSpeed™ backpanel: provides adequate ventilation and a stable load-carrying platform.

Deuter Transit

This bad boy is more a traveling companion than an adventure necessity, so think weekends away rather than trekking. To make it fit for purpose, this backpack is lightweight with a robust multi-purpose fabric and is found in a block stylish design. When it comes to convenience, this pack has some tricks. Armed with a detachable padded carry strap and even a compact detachable daypack, you can adapt this backpack to whatever load you’re carrying and carry it how you want to. This backpack is most suitable for average conditions, so if it’s a large bag that can hold up to wear and tear that you’re looking for, Transit 50 is ready for service. Click here to check the price and get more details 

Product Specs:

  • Size: 7 x 10 x 10 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds

Our Favorite Features:

  • A Compact Detachable Daypack
  • U-shaped Zip –  allows full access to the main compartment of the bag.
  • Separate Bottom Compartment – perfect for bulkier items such as shoes or a sleeping bag.


Best Travel Daypacks

Apart from your big backpacks, carrying smaller day packs is a great way to always keep your valuables close. When I get on long bus rides, my larger backpacks usually contain all my clothes and travel gear while my daypack carries all my electronics and valuables. I pretty much have my daypack with me all the time!

While some settle for smaller carry-on sized daypacks, others also opt for slightly larger ones which they use as their main bag. Here are a few of our top picks for daypacks!

Numinous Packs Anti-Theft

If you are a digital nomad or are prone to carrying a lot of electronics with you, you will need a daypack like Numinous Packs to keep them safe. Created by travelers, for travelers, these quality backpacks which have amazing security features will give any traveler peace of mind.

Gone are the days of padlocks and bike locks! Numinous backpacks provide handy features such as built in TSA approved locks and wire locks to attach your bag to bed posts etc while you’re away from them. Cool right? What’s even cooler is that these bad boys are also made out of Kevlar mesh. Bags that are ultra light and stab proof? Yes, please! For a traveler that wants security and is going to give their bag some tough love, these packs are perfect.Click here to check the price and get more details

Product Specs:

  • Size: 5.9 x 17.7 x 11.8 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds

Our Favorite Features:

  • Anti-Slash Technology
  • Built in Locks
  • Anti-Puncture Zippers

Read: Numinous Backpacks Review: Are They Really Theft Proof?

Osprey Tempest 20 | Osprey Talon 22

For a lover of city breaks and weekends away, I needed a light daypack that could carry everything that I needed. Enter, Osprey Hiking Packs! The female Tempest 20 and male equivalent, Talon 22, are perfectly lightweight, all-rounder day packs. Again the female version has unique features such as a shaped harness and a narrower yoke to take our different body shapes into account.

Perfect for city breaks, days out hiking or climbing, or even just shopping, these packs are light yet support and control a heavy load on your back. Complete with a back panel for ventilation, body straps for weight distribution and multiple compartments for all of your things, it’s no wonder that these bags are considered “everyday packs.” Click here to check the price and get more details: Tempest 20 | Talon 22

Product Specs:

Osprey Tempest 20

  • Size: 14 x 20 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds

Osprey Talon 22

  • Size: 14 x 14 x 11 inches
  • Weight: 1.4 pounds

Our Favorite Features:

  • AirScape™ Backpanel with foam ridges for ventilation
  • Stretch Mesh Side Pockets with InsideOut™ compression
  • Zippered Panel Access

Read: Osprey Hiking Packs Review: Are They Really Everyday Bags?

Mountaintop 40 Liter Hiking Backpack

As the name suggests, the Mountaintop 40 L Hiking Backpack is more suited as an activity day pack to use on the odd adventure.  Although pretty niche, they can also be used as general backpacks, as they contain useful features such as multiple pockets, hooks, and straps. Made from lightweight and waterproof material together with a comfortable strapping mechanism, it’s no wonder why these bags are amongst the top 100 best sellers on Amazon. Click here to check the price and get more details

Product Specs:

  • Size: 20.5 x 12.6 x 9.1
  • Weight: 2.1 pounds

Our Favorite Features:

    • 6 Adjustable Straps – you can use these to carry your sleeping bag, mat, hammock, tripod etc.
    • Zippered Access – to the main compartment.
    • Deep Shoulder and Hipbelt Padding– these offer improved comfort
    • Multiple Pockets – 2 front pockets, 1 hidden pouch, 2 mesh pockets and a main compartment with a sleeve to separate your items.


How to Pick the Best Backpack for Travel

So after we’ve laid out a few of our top picks, how do you choose from the items above? Here are a few tips to help you choose the right backpack for you.

Size

As mentioned previously, the size of your pack will help you determine which one to buy. Some opt to travel with large backpacks so they can fit in things like camping gear and items for cooking. While most people think the length of your trip would help you choose the right size, this is something I disagree with. Choosing the size of backpack all boils down to what you will be comfortable carrying. I traveled Southeast Asia with a small 40L bag for months at a time and had no trouble finding things to wear. If you want to keep things to a bare minimum, take a smaller bag. You will be less tempted to bring a lot of items with yu given the weight limitation. A lot of backpacks now encourage you to order bags which would correspond to your exact weight and height. Good backpacks don’t come as a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Instead, take the time to measure your torso, your height, and take this all into consideration when choosing what size 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 are they are very similar to others. Use this comprehensive sizing info to help you select the right backpack for you.

Backpack Frame

If you’re looking at backpacks with large external frames, wuickly exit that browser and never look at it again! The best backpacks now made up 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 us causing a lot of back pain, especially if you are carrying your pack for long periods of time. Most day packs don’t have any type of frames which is fine as you tend to keep the weight of your daypack to a bare minimum.

Material Durability

Another important feature to consider when selecting travel backpacks is looking for material durability. Although backpacks seem like an expensive purchase, if you choose the right one, they will usually last you a long time. My very first REI backpack lasted be ages until I decided to finally replace it. Good quality backpacks dries up very quickly and should be somewhat water resistant. While you won’t necessarily need a fully waterproof backpack as that’s what rain covers are for, a good bag should keep your stuff dry during light rain and other harsh weather conditions.

Top Loading vs. Front Loading

Considering HOW your bag opens is a huge part of bag selection. For me, top load backpacks are a pain as you will have to take out all your things and empty your bag every time you need something. While packing cubes solve this predicament, the best solution is to consider getting a bag that is front loading. This to me makes all the difference as I like being able to access things quickly without having to remove everything that I have.

Compartments

I am one of those people that love having multiple compartments as I feel they help me organize my bag in an efficient way. I like backpacks with water bottle holders, side pockets, and for people who travel with a lot of electronics, having built in laptop holders and sleeves also come in handy. Think of what you will be bringing with you and consider this when looking at different bags.

Personalized Buying

Buying and selecting a good backpack is like choosing a travel companion. You guys are hitched (for a good period of time) so make sure you select one that fits YOU. I highly recommend against borrowing backpacks as the comfort of carrying these bags highly rely on how they fit you. Measuring your height and weight and choosing which size to get is something that we highly recommend you take the time to do. While the capacity of backpacks don’t change, they often come in various sizes (extra small/small, medium, large, etc.) When it comes to backpacks, your torso length matters more than your height. Get a tape measure and measure from the base of your neck to your hip bones.

Hopefully, these tips and recommendations will help you select the best travel backpack for your trip. Remember, the lighter the better! If you need tips on packing, check out a few of our destination-specific guides which come with a complete packing list on what to bring! Good luck and happy backpack shopping.

becky rogers wearing an osprey bag


Need more travel tips? Check a few of our other articles

Inspired? Pin it!Backpacks | Looking for the best travel backpacks? Here are our top picks!

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  • Danik Bates

    Great post and loving the look and detail of these backpacks but are there any similiar for men?

    • The middle part of the article has suggestions and reviews for men’s backpacks @danikbates:disqus

  • Great guide – I don’t generally need this kind of backpack, but should I do so I’d definitely revert to your guide as a way to find the best pack for both men and women

  • Tamara Wilcox

    These are very nice looking bags. Tell me, when you travel by plane or are not backpacking, do you still use one of these for your only bag? I’m not a backpacker, but these bags look like they’re more lightweight and more flexible than your typical carry-on sized suitcase.

    • I travel with a backpack full time…and this year, I’ve vowed to stick to just a carry on bag. They are pretty light weight and super flexible!

  • Marlene Marques

    This post couldn’t have come in better time. I’m planning a trip to Indo and since I’m bringing a board bag, I’m researching on the best backpaks. Loved your tips in the end on how to choose the best backpack. Couldn’t agree more with some of the essentials you have to look for.

  • Looks very practical. They seem to have been designed well for travel.
    I am on a traveling spree these days and was always wanting something more easy to take along. Thanks for these choices.

  • Melody Pittman

    Wow, who knew there was so much to consider when choosing a backpack? Interesting read. I prefer the Deuter ACT Lite 35+10 one but I would base it solely on which one I found to be most attractive and how the pockets would hold my stuff.

  • Everywhere & Back

    I don’t use a backpack like these but I have thought about getting on for future travel. They seem very well designed and like it would possibly be a good thing for me to have! From your list I am most interested in the Numinous Packs Anti-Theft

  • A quality pack with good weight distribution goes a long way. We backpacked through Thailand last December and it was amazing how good of a job our packs did in holding all our stuff and still wearing well.

  • Buddy The Traveling Monkey

    I love my Osprey backpack! I’ve used it on a lot of weekend trips and have been able to pack it with a lot but still travel comfortably. The shoulder straps are really well padded!

  • Carol

    I am not a backpacker (already 68) but, wow, there are so many options!