What are the best backpacks for Traveling?
We’re sure that all seasoned travelers will agree with us when we say that one-bagging it is the best way to go. It just takes the traveling experience to a whole other level because you’re going into it with the mindset of having the best time possible.
Yes, the point is to allow yourself to be free from unnecessary inconveniences, so you can focus on whatever is important – living in the moment. This might seem like a grand thought that’s well beyond the concept of having just one bag, but honestly, it all goes back to this.
Packing light forces you to cut down on what you’re told you can’t live without. It makes you rethink what you actually need. It might surprise you to find out that you don’t need that much at all to be happy and comfortable.
For most people who make the switch to one-bag traveling, they find out a lot about themselves. Stripping your stuff to the bare essentials does tend to do that.
It also makes one a more carefree traveler. In the most traditional sense, you really would have all your possessions on your back, with the whole world ready for your taking.
The best part? You’ll always be that person who has everything within reach. So no more digging around in suitcases and finding stuff in there that you didn’t even really need in the first place.
Plus, for the more active traveler, this allows you to location hop with ease without having much to repack.
Now, choosing the right backpack is not easy. Having to choose from all the available brands and models on the market right now can be quite confusing.
You’d have to factor in how durable it is, how much it’s going to cost you, and if it fits your style. At the end of the day, you’re looking for a bag that is best suited to YOU, and that’s a whole other journey that you’ll have to undertake.
Jump Straight to the Best Travel Backpacks of 2019
NOMATIC TRAVEL BACKPACK – OVERALL FAVORITE
OSPREY STRATOS – BEST BACKPACK FOR HIKING (MEN)
NORTH FACE WOMEN’S TERRA 40 – BEST BACKPACK FOR HIKING (WOMEN)
HYNES EAGLE 44L CARRY ON BACKPACK – BEST FOR JETSETTERS
LOWEPRO TACTIC CAMERA BACKPACK – BEST FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
REI CO-OP RUCKSACK – BEST FOR THOSE ON A BUDGET
PATAGONIA BLACK HOLE – BEST FOR THE ULTRALIGHT PACKER
KNOMO BEAUCHAMP BUSINESS – BEST FOR FASHIONISTAS
TLS MOTHER LODE WEEKENDER – BEST FOR HEAVIER PACKERS
THE BACKPACK (AWAY) – BEST FOR MINIMALISTS
OSPREY DAYLITE – BEST FOR URBAN TRAVEL
The Best Travel Backpacks fits your style of travel
First of all, let’s get one thing clear: it’s not very likely that you’ll find a bag that will suit ALL your travels. However, it is possible to find one that fits a unique scenario. For example, the bag that you’ll want to take to your trip to the Alps isn’t going to be the one that you want to take on your work trips.
Similarly, a bag that might be perfect for a photographer isn’t going to be the same as a surfer’s.
Before you start panicking, we can tell you that we’ve done your research for you. Below, we’ve broken down the factors that you should keep an eye out for when browsing around for the right bag for you. It really depends on what kind of traveler you are or what kind of traveling you will do most. Are you going on trips only weekends? Are going to hit the backcountry for some hiking excursions? Do you want to look stylish while you’re walking the streets of Paris? Are you more practical and take only the most basic items on your trip? These are important questions that we will have answers to in this detailed guide.
All you have to do is focus on the factors that are tailored to your needs. We’ve also tested out a couple of products on our travels as well, so we can let you know what we think about these specific bags.
Why should it be a backpack anyway?
Obviously, a backpack would give you better mobility and, ideally, it would be small enough to be your carry-on, so you won’t have to check it, and you won’t have to wait around the baggage carousel upon landing. We all know that takes a lot of time.
This also means no lugging around heavy rollers in the airport and never having to worry about airlines losing your baggage ever again.
By no means, we’re not telling you what kind of bag you should bring. It really all boils down to your preference. However, we’re going to highlight travel backpacks for the following reasons:
You’d be free to walk around without having to pull something behind you constantly. You’ll also never have to worry about damaging your luggage wheels if you ever find yourself walking through a not so ideal terrain.
They’re also noiseless. Imagine going down the cobblestone streets of Paris, making a racket with your roller bag. Not very romantic.
Plus, everything is easy to access. We all know that checking in for your flight or entering another country will make you reach for your passport and itineraries a couple of times. You’ll be free to reach for whatever you need without having the added hassle of minding all your stuff.
They’re lightweight and optimized for travel
We can’t say this about all travel backpacks, but we certainly can about the best ones. Some of these backpacks are made from the lightest materials and they’ve been designed specifically for travel – meaning, compartments, compartments, compartments!
They’re space savers
If you’re going to be moving around a lot by way of public transit like trains and buses, then having a backpack would take up much less room.
Having a backpack would be much for suited for the more adventurous traveler who always likes being on the go.
It’s also smart to think about others as much as you think about your own comfort. You don’t want to inconvenience anyone else by taking up more space than you should or hitting innocent bystanders with your roller bag.
They can look good anywhere
Gone are the days when “travel backpack” means an unsightly mountaineer bag that looks like a log and screams “I’m staying at a hostel and I love patchouli.” We’ve all been there and, hopefully, we’ve all graduated from that.
These days, travel backpacks can look chic and stylish in an urban setting while having the flexibility to bring it on a hiking trip. That also means that the bag would be suited for both conditions – meaning, it can get wet, it’s splash-proof, etc.
If you go for a roller bag, then it would not be wise to bring that along to a trek. By the same token, you’re going to look out of place if you bring something bulky and neon to a café for a quick coffee break.
Let’s talk dimensions and specs
Ideally, you want to have a bag that’s small enough to fit under the seat in front you in the plane. We understand that this poses a challenge for some people, but if you manage to do this, then you’re much better off.
Believe us; you can fit everything you need in one bag while staying well below 50L. It’s just a matter of finding the right lightweight bag that can accommodate all your stuff.
Make sure that the initial weight of the bag is not that significant. A heavier bag means less stuff you can pack. Also, make sure that it fits the airline’s required dimensions. There is a max legal carry on the rule that airlines will make you comply with.
Exceeding those dimensions means you’ll have to get your bag checked.
What does true volume mean?
The true volume of a backpack pertains to how much usable space it contains. This is where it can get quite tricky. Travel backpacks are measured in liters, but you can tell a lot about the usability of a bag just by looking at it.
You should also pay attention to the bag’s thickness and the flexibility of the material it’s made out of. A thin, strong material would allow for more stuff to go inside it, while having a bag lined with padding would protect your belongings if you’re carrying around something fragile like a camera or a laptop.
Match these specifications for your needs.
Look out for additional flex. If you’re trying to cram more stuff into a bag and filling it to the brim, you’re not going to have much like with this if the bag that you chose has no give.
How the bag was designed and how you plan to utilize this space are the two key factors in determining the usability of a travel backpack.
As a general rule, backpacks that have more of a square or rectangular shape hold more stuff than other shapes. It’s cool and utilitarian too if you’re going for that look. It’s very in nowadays.
Take note of the profile
Choosing a slimmer travel backpack is better for your back. If a pack is close to your back, then it will feel less heavy than it is.
We’re talking about a 40L bag, so that’s a lot of weight to be carrying around. That’s why it’s important to go for a more compact, slimmer form factor.
An added bonus to this is that you won’t be taking up too much space, making you less likely to bother other people. We’re sure you’ve experienced having your face or shoulder nicked as you’re waiting for everyone to board the plane.
Don’t be one of those people.
What’s better, top loader or panel loading?
Panel loading or clamshell packs would be our pick. It functions much like a suitcase while combining it with the versatility of a backpack.
So if you plan to be a regular tourist and you’ll just be staying at an Airbnb or hotel, then this is the better choice.
However, this wouldn’t be convenient if you plan to go on a trek or to camp out. A top loader pack would be better because you won’t have to open the whole bag up like a suitcase to get whatever you need.
Is it weather resistant?
Another thing that you have to consider when selecting your travel bag is if it can withstand different weather conditions – meaning, how good of a job will it do of keeping your stuff safe and dry?
In a lot of traveling scenarios, you and your bag will be exposed to different kinds of weather. Particularly, if you plan to visit places where it’s rainy like all over Asia, this is going to have to be one of your top priorities.
First of all, let’s establish that waterproof and water-resistant mean different thing. For the average traveler, you’d be perfectly fine with a water-resistant bag. That will protect your stuff from a brisk walk in the rain.
However, don’t expect that you can totally submerge this bag in water or that you can trek with this bag in the middle of a storm. That’s asking a bit too much.
If you plan to pack something that absolutely cannot get wet like, say, for example, your laptop or your tablet, then we advise that you get something like a Daka Pouch.
It’ll fit perfectly in your water-resistant bag for the extra protection that you need for those certain items.
Pay attention to the bag’s durability and the quality of its make
You’re going to have to rely on this pack for a couple of days, so you have to make sure that it’s not made out of flimsy materials.
There’s nothing worse than losing stuff from a broken zipper or a torn bag. It makes for a bitterer situation because all it had to take was bringing along a sturdier bag.
You shouldn’t feel bad about shelling out a lot of cash for a bag because it’s insurance for your other stuff and it will most likely last you a long time. You should also understand what you’re paying for here.
Bag manufacturers these days develop tech for better bags. Yes, research goes into the best kinds of materials for just about anything, travel bags included.
So you’re paying more for the tech and for the best-resourced materials. Those sorts of things will never come cheap.
Plus, the more durable the material is, the more items it can carry. It makes perfect sense. Here are some specific things you should check out when considering a travel backpack:
When you’re looking around for bags, you might see numbers like 250D, 500D, and so on. At least, bag manufacturers who are serious about making the best products will be transparent with this. What does the D stand for? Denier – which refers to the thickness and weight of the material.
To get a little technical, it’s the mass per 9,000 meters of thread. That means lightweight fabrics like cotton will have a lower denier.
So when it comes to backpacks, the higher it is, the more durable it’s going to be. However, that also means that it’s heavier.
One fabric that you should look out for is Rip-stop nylon. Although it’s close from being just regular nylon, “rip-stop” nylon does just that. Its special weave in the form of squares will prevent your bag from ripping any further should it be punctured.
A bag made from this kind of material can carry a lot of weight. If you’re planning to go where there are warnings about muggings and theft on the streets, this will also come in handy.
As a little info tidbit, the rip-stop nylon was invented during World War II to replace silk parachutes. Even to this day, it’s still being used.
We’re talking military grade here, so that should be good enough for the well-worn traveler.
If you’re going for something a little more stylish, then consider getting a leather bag. Leather is known to be pretty stretchy and durable, so you can stuff more items in with a little elbow grease.
But leather can be a bit too heavy if you’re planning to move around a lot. Plus, it needs special care. You’re going to have to wipe it with oils and it can’t really get wet.
Don’t get anything made from polypropylene and canvas. Those bags are cheaper for a reason. It’s because they’re easily damaged and won’t last very long.
Let’s talk function
Below, we’ve provided you with a questionnaire that you can use to narrow down your choices.
1 – Is it comfortable?
If a bag can carry and protect all your stuff, but it’s a strain on your back and shoulders, then you can’t really say that that’s the right one for you.
Always check the foam in the straps and how thick it is. If you can’t carry much weight, scout around for a bag that has load lifters or hip belts.
Some bag manufacturers offer different options for different body types. It’s a smart idea to pay attention to what the experts have deemed to be the best for your own specific body type.
2 – How well can you organize your stuff in it?
Check to see if it has compartments or if you would have to buy packing cubes for it. Either way is fine.
The point is that you have to be able to envision how you’re going to be using it. We’re all for being organized here, so throwing all your stuff in there without a thought won’t fly with us.
Also, take note of how easily items can be accessed.
3 – How secure is it?
There are anti-theft bags out there and we recommend that you focus on those if you’re paranoid about that. But you should take precaution with normal bags as well.
Are the zippers exposed? How easy is it to access the laptop compartment? Are there layers to the bag to hide fragile items?
4 – Does it look good on you?
Bags are fashion items too. Yes, its main point is utility, but you’re going to be seen with this thing. It’s important that it fits your overall style.
There are all sorts of bags for different aesthetics. The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to stand out like a sore thumb.
What is the best travel backpack for you?
Now that we’ve got pretty much everything covered, let’s get into our top picks for the best travel backpacks.
Our Overall Favorite
Nomatic 40L Travel Backpack
- Can be carried backpack or duffel bag style
- Made from high-quality waterproof materials
- Customizable straps
- Separate laundry bag for dirty clothes
- A pocket for a water bottle
- Compartment for socks and underwear
- Compartment for shoes
- A laptop compartment
- RFID protection
- Detachable waist straps
- Fleece lined pocket for valuable items
Best Backpack For Hiking (Men)
- Compression straps
- Stretch mesh pockets
- Ice tool loop
- Raincover included
- Hip belt pockets with zipper
Best Backpack For Hiking (Women)
North Face Women’s Terra 40L Travel Backpack
- Improved ventilation (vertical channel)
- Padded shoulder straps for comfort
- Soft air mesh lining for the hip belt
- Sleeping bag compartment
- 8 pockets
- Made from ripstop nylon and polyester
Best For Jetsetters
Hynes Eagle 44L (Airplane Carry-on Travel Backpack)
- 4 carrying options in 1 carry-on backpack, back trolley panel for securely stacking on wheeled luggage
- Dual hide-away contoured backpack straps, top, and side carry padded handles
- Padded back panels with breathable mesh for added comfort
- 1 adjustable sternum strap and removable waist strap for stabilization and maximum carry comfort
- 4 exterior compression buckle straps help to pack more compact, upgraded shoulder straps buckle for long lasting and durability
- 2 quicker access front zip pockets and 1 middle zip pocket with multiple slip pockets for better organize travel accessories, 1 side pocket is designed to keep beverage or water bottle
- Added back laptop compartment is up for 17 inches laptop
Best For Photographers
LowePro Tactic Camera Backpack
- Fits two DSLRs
- Four access points for a quick photo op
- Laptop compartment
- compartment for tripod cup and cinch straps
- Never miss a critical mission thanks four access points: the molded, turret-loading top, quick-grab from both sides, and full, back entry for set-up and security
- Create limitless set-ups with a robust, SlipLock compatible strap system
- Get versatile with five modular accessories – water bottle pouch, accessory case, tripod cup and two cinch straps – all Slip Lock-compatible and included with the pack
- ProTactic features ActivZone System technology to deliver targeted support at shoulder blades, lumbar and waist for comfort on the move.
Best For Those On A Budget
REI Co-Op Rucksack
- Made from rip-stop nylon
- Ventilated mesh back
- Full zip design
- Hidden daisy chain
- Side panels
- Laptop compartment
- Bottle compartment can hold two
- Raincover included
- Zippers can be locked
Best For The Ultralight Packer
Patagonia Black Hole Cinch 30L Travel Backpack
- Simple design
- Made from rip-stop nylon
- Micro daisy chain
- Breathable mesh shoulder straps
- Cavernous main compartment to hold books, or clothes for a weekend getaway
- Back compartment features a padded pocket for your 15-inch laptop
- Secondary compartment offers internal organization for electronics and other supplies
Best For Fashionistas
Knomo Beauchamp Business Backpack
- Made from leather and nylon
- Padded laptop compartment
- RFID protection
- Water-resistant fabric
- Multipurpose pockets
- Protects up to 14″ laptop
- Padded s-shape straps
Best For Heavier Packers
TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible 50L Travel Backpack
- Expands for an extra 1.5”
- Padded laptop compartment (can hold a 19” laptop)
- Lockable rings on zippers for security
- High visibility 210D orange nylon lining
- Water bottle pocket; Secure TLS ID pocket for a luggage tag
- 2 main compartments with many organizational compartments
- Fold-down shelf for splitting the main compartment in half
- Zippered mesh panel inside the main compartment
- Snap-out, easily accessible zippered pocket that can be separated and keep on person
- Front compartment features travel organizer
- Padded air-mesh back panel; removable, adjustable sternum strap
Best For Minimalists
The Backpack – Away
- Sleek and clean design
- Middle zip compartment has a hidden zipper pocket
- Laptop compartment
- Expandable pocket for water bottle or umbrella
- Padded shoulder straps for comfort
- Leather top handle
Best For Urban Travel
Osprey Daylite Plus
- Mesh shoulder straps (can be tucked away)
- Padded interior sleeve for laptop
- Six organizer pockets
- The back panel is mesh-covered for breathability
- Would also work well on a light hike
- Large panel loading main compartment provides accessibility to inside contents
- Dual stretch mesh side pockets provide additional storage options
- The multi-function interior sleeve can be used for either an osprey hydraulics reservoir or tablet
- Attaches to a variety of compatible Osprey Packs
- Front panel shove-it pocket is great for stashing a light rain shell and other smaller items