How to Buy Your First Travel Backpack:
To make it easier for you, whether you’re buying your first backpack, or you are an experienced traveler, we’ve made a list of our top recommendations for backpacks that are available on the world wide web! We’ve also made our own pros and cons list so that you can decide for yourself what is important to you, based on comfort, cost, color, extra features, and everything else that you can think of for the best travel backpack!
We’d hate to see you end up buying your plane ticket for your first, second, or even tenth adventure and find yourself both looking and feeling like an inexperienced traveler. Travelers, for either pleasure and business, who are obviously inexperienced with international and other long-distance travel can become targets for pick-pocketers and other petty theft. We hope that we can help you to avoid that situation, and save you some trouble when it comes to locating your luggage on the conveyer belt at the baggage claim! Skip the baggage claim altogether with a backpack that meets carry-on requirements, and makes traveling easier and more fun!
You Can Thank Us Later…. We’ve Done Our Homework! (So, You Don’t Have To!)
Here's Our TOP Backpack List for the Wise (and Not Weary) Traveler!
My first “real trip” abroad (and by that, I mean, not Canada, Mexico, or US owned islands) was to Rome, Italy). I had signed up for an international volunteer program, the training for which took place in Rome. Cool, right? Although in the end, I learned a lot about volunteering and living abroad, teaching English, and surviving in a foreign culture without understanding the language, I also gained significant knowledge and wisdom about all the things I should and should not have packed in my bag. Furthermore, I discovered that there were other luggage options, despite the fact that my two clunky red suitcases were somewhat satisfactory for my trip since I wasn’t constantly traveling. The bottom line: had I known what I know now, I would have packed a lot differently, and I may have also changed my luggage selection.
I was, however, surprisingly slightly better packed than one of the other volunteers (also an American) who came through the Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy lugging two huge army-style duffels that could be neither rolled nor carried on your back with ease! Somewhat relieved that I packed at least a little better than someone else, I thought I had accomplished some sort of feat. At least, I wasn’t “THAT GIRL,” but, in fact, I was still “THAT GIRL,” who didn’t know how to pack a bag or select luggage.
Another female volunteer from Hong Kong, and my soon-to-be American travel buddy and I learned quite a bit from the travel and packing habits from our new Chinese friend quickly. When she arrived, she came with a backpack that was rolled up tightly and fit squarely on her back. My new American friend and I sat stupefied that her backpack made it so much easier it was for her to move through airports, the city, and her personal travels.
The backpack was one of only a few of her travel secrets. Inside her pack, she had everything from a plastic clothesline to vitamin C tablets to a multi-function charger that featured all the possible charging cables you could ever need, yet was somehow still miraculously all connected to one cable and one plug. Her bag was full of miracles, but the larger miracle was the backpack itself. As we sat on her bed and she showed us all of her gear, we sat amazed at how much she was able to fit inside her backpack. Plus, she was still able to carry it.
Here's Why a Backpack Is a Traveler’s Friend:
A cloth backpack is almost always an excellent choice for a backpacking sack or a traveler’s favorite companion in comparison to bulky hard-to move hardback suitcases, assuming that you’re the on the go type. If you’re just planning to fly to Disney, camp out at the same hotel all week, and then go home, your hardback suitcase isn’t really a problem.
For some of us, more serious travelers, a backpack is the solution to many of our troublesome travel-related issues. First off, I understand that the impulse to go to Amazon.com and click “add to cart” when you find the cheapest, yet also most stylish-appearing, rolling suitcase, but the rolling suitcase works well only if you plan on staying in paved areas, you don’t mind the weight of the actual bag, and you don’t plan on changing locations during your trip. Let’s also talk about the weight difference between a rolling suitcase and backpack. A well-designed and well-made backpack can weigh somewhere between 1.0 and 4.5 pounds before being loaded.
Now, I dare you to go into your closet, find your suitcase, and weigh it.
Yikes! Not only is your suitcase probably at least 10 pounds in and of itself (empty), it also doesn’t give you a lot of packing freedom and liberties. The actual metal frame, the wheels, and the entire design of a rolling suitcase doesn’t allow you to compress your personal belongings in a way that saves space. Conversely, a soft backpack has the ability to expand, and the items that you would like to bring can settle into the bag without wasting precious space.
But How Do I Get the Backpack On?
If you’re new to carrying a backpacker’s style backpack, it might still a little difficult. For example, to my eyes, even my Chinese friend’s backpack seemed a little challenging to wear, and it probably was because I think even she brought the kitchen sink, so that’s probably why! The truth is, that if you pack too much stuff in your bag, and or if you’re not used to carrying that much weight on your back, it can be a challenge to strap on a serious backpacker’s rucksack under any circumstances.
The good news is that you’re not just carrying the weight on your back, a well-designed backpack will place the majority of the weight on your hips. Some backpacks (primarily a backpacker’s/hiker’s backpack) feature a belt around your waist, which is also a little slightly dorky looking (sorry!), but also very crucial. This enables the majority of the weight of your pack to be shifted to your hips, and not on your back, shoulders, or arms! Ta-da!
Trust the Experts: If You Want to Travel, You’ll Want a Backpack.
The Osprey Farpoint 40 travel Backpack is a high-end, well-designed backpack, made to keep your comfortable, without sacrificing on good looks too, that we think is the best! The Osprey Farpoint 40 travel backpack is a unisex, nylon backpack with a padded shoulder strap, a hip belt, and a harness system Both the hip belt and harness system can be easily tucked away into the side pockets for quick and efficient travel, which makes it easy for you to get moving quickly. In addition to its practical features, the Osprey Farpoint 40 also comes in three colors: Caribbean blue, jasper red, and volcanic gray.
Furthermore, it features a main compartment, with loops on the zippers, so that it is lockable, as well as multiple pockets on both the outside and the inside of the bag. Perhaps more importantly than all of the Osprey’s features is the size: it’s not too big and not too small. Since the Osprey Farpoint 40 is a 40-liter backpack, it will fit in most airline’s carry-on compartments without trouble or extra unwanted looks from airport security. It is even slightly smaller than the maximum-sized luggage allowed as a carry-on in both Europe and the USA, which makes it the ideal size.
The Osprey Farpoint 40 is the way to go if you plan on traveling light, staying comfortable, being able to use this pack as a carry-on on a plane, and want to be able to stow the hip belt and harness system. This bag also features a soft padded side handle, so when you don’t want to carry it on your hip and back, you can grab it quickly and go!
- Compartment made to conceal hip belt and harness
- Comes in three colors: Caribbean blue (sky blue), jasper red(dark red), and volcanic gray (gray)
- Made with lightweight materials
- Appropriate size
- Will be accepted as a carry-on with most airlines
- Smaller than the maximum size for mostcarry-ons.
- Laptop pocket is facing the front of the backpack
- Compression straps when not in use can be bothersome!
- More expensive than other models
See the Osprey Farpoint 40 live in action with this video:
The eBags Mother Lode Weekender backpack is perfectly named, as it really does hold a motherlode of belongings! The TLC Mother Lode is the perfect carry-on travel backpack if you’re interested in maximizing the number of things you can bring with you, without having to check a bag under the plane. Similarly, it serves itself very well for both short and weekend car trips, however, it is not necessarily meant to go rock climbing or backpacking through the Grand Canyon.
The TLC Mother Lode features a large main compartment (21.5" H x 5.5" D x 13 to 14 W) and a medium-sized front compartment. In other words, this bag was designed for you to pack the maximum that you can carry (45 liters) and includes a zipper that can expand the size of the pack if needed. Additionally, it comes in several beautiful colors, three versions of blue (a sky blue, a denim blue, and a periwinkle blue), an olive green, a light purple, red, gray, and black. The TLC Mother Lode is also highly comfortable due to its contoured airmesh backpack straps and light weight (only 3.7 pounds!).
It is an excellent choice for value, cost, and design. Made with high-quality materials, eBags is confident that you’ll be more than satisfied with their product and therefore offers you a limited lifetime warranty. Take this bag with you on the go, travel easier, faster, and smarter.
- Carries up to 45 liters
- Fits in over the head bins on the airplane
- Competitive pricing
- Multiple color choices
- Features airmesh backpack straps
- Ideal for packing the most possible without needing to check a bag on a plane
- If packed to its maximum capacity, this pack can be bulky and may or may not fit under the seat on a plane
- Very large bag = risk of bringing too much stuff!
See the eBags Mother Lode live in action with this video:
Introducing the Osprey Porter Travel 46. This is a serious backpack, be warned! Serious inquiries only! We’re joking, but not really. If you want to compromise between checking a bag and packing your bag to the max, the Osprey Porter Travel 46 is your best friend with 2772 cubic inches worth of space. With a 46-liter capacity, this backpack can probably fit more stuff than you really should even consider bringing!
Much like the Osprey Farpoint 40, the harness system can easily be tucked away into its own compartment. This backpack was designed to last, its durable, made of Nylon, and also features a large front panel designed for a laptop or tablet with padded sides. The Osprey Porter Travel 46 also has its own compression straps which prevent the contents of your bag from expanding or shifting too much while you’re traveling. In case you need even more space, the bag features four chord loops that would allow you to attach the Osprey Daylite pack to the top of your Porter Travel 46. Although we don’t recommend going overboard with your packing habits, this backpack has all the space you’ll need and more, as well as lockable pockets. Additionally, it weighs only 3.2 pounds. How much lighter can get it, let’s be honest? A 46-liter bag, like the Porter Travel 46, should be considered the maximum carry-on size in both the US and Europe.
Customers have reported that they have used it for city trips, but it might be a bit large if you intend to use this bag for hiking or backpacking. As seen on Amazon.com, three color choices (red, green, black), its enormous size, large compartments, and supportive shoulder harness system with a hip belt, the Osprey Porter Travel 46 is great for hauling your belongings at an excellent price.
- Carries up to 46 liters
- Multiple color choices
- Made of Nylon
- Produced in the US (and abroad)
- Features supportive shoulder harness system and belt strap which tucks away
- Front pouch is padded specifically for carrying a laptop or tablet
- A bit large if you plan on taking this bag for hiking or backpacking trips.
- You can fill this bag very full which also brings the risk of bringing too much stuff!
- Caution: maximum carry-on size
See the Osprey Porter Travel 46 live in action with this video:
The Cabin Max Metz Backpack is both stylish and comfortable, which is why we love it. Like the two Ospreys we already mentioned as well as the eBags Mother Lode, the Cabin Max Metz features a lightweight design and weighs even less than the earlier reviewed bags, weighing in at only 1.5 pounds. It’s also made of water resistant composite nylon material which should make it easier for you to travel around even in a light rain (although we hope you don’t get rained on!)
The Cabin Max Metz features shoulder straps, carrying handles, and side adjustable straps, but not a harness system. This backpack is stylish, light, fun, and is a carry-on size like the others, but is not meant for walking extremely long distances. Another important note is that the Cabin Max Metx features so many colors and patterns you’ll go crazy trying to pick your favorite one. However, there’s a catch, customers have noticed that the size of the bag may vary along with the color. Be 100% certain that you’ve checked the specifications of your bag in the color you like before clicking order!
Customers have also noticed that fully packed you may experience some technical problems with the bag. Therefore, we highly recommend that you don’t try to overfill this bag and still try to close the zipper! Regardless, it been verified as a carry-on on most American and European airlines, including airlines such as Easy Spirit in the US and Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe, which are some of the trickiest airlines to satisfy when it comes to carry-on baggage! It may or may not be troublesome for some US airlines because it was designed based on European flight regulations. The Cabin Mex Metz comes with a 1-year limited warranty and we think you’ll love it if you’re looking for a large-sized, yet also stylish carry-on.
- Large-size carry on
- Very large color and pattern variety
- Verified as a carry-on by various American and European airlines
- Amazing price!
- Extremely lightweight (1.5 pounds)
- Made of water resistant composite nylon material
- May or may not fit under the seat on an airplane
- Beware that size may vary along with color selection.
- Lacks a harness system
- You can fill this bag very full which also brings the risk of bringing too much stuff!
- No laptop compartment
See the Cabin Max Metz live in action with this video:
The Cabin Max Oxford Carry-On Hand Luggage is quite similar to the Cabin Max Metz Backpack with regard to its features and functionality, however, its material, design, and style, are quite different. The Cabin Max Oxford, like the Cabin Max Metz, is more of a casual travel backpack than a hiker’s backpack, however, if you are looking for a simple piece of carry-on luggage that should meet size requirements for most airlines, the Max Oxford is an excellent choice. Measuring 50x40x20cm the Cabin Max Oxford will fit in most overhead airline bins, however, it may be slightly too large for some American airline companies, because this bag was designed to meet European travel standards, not American.
The Cabin Max Oxford does haul quite a bit as it is a 44-liter bag, and it does feature a laptop compartment. It is, however, a very simple backpack in design and function. It does not feature a harness support system or belt strap. Americans love the Cabin Max for its style, price, and functionality when traveling to Europe from America and needing a bag that will meet European airline regulations.
It is made of canvas, rather than nylon, and overall, is a pretty sweet bag. Its main compartment is spacious and roomy and also zips open flat so that you can easily access your items. One word of caution is that some customers have reported minor issues with stitching and wear and tear. The Cabin Max Oxford comes in just two colors- blue and gray, but it’s a truly lovely backpack produced specifically to be used as an airplane carry-on bag!
- Carries 44 liters
- Excellent price
- Perfect for use with European airlines
- Simple loveable style
- Features a compartment for your laptop
- Some customers have reported minor issues with stitching and zippers after use
- Will be accepted as a carry-on with most American airlines, but caution is advised
See the Cabin Max Oxford live in action with this video:
The Top Power 8006 Convertible Carry-On Travel Backpack is a well-designed backpack with a laptop compartment. There are two different sizes that this brand offers, one which is a 35 liter and one which is a 22 liter. The 22-liter version features a detachable inside pack, while the 35-liter version does not feature a detachable pack. Both versions have several color options as well. We only insist that if you’re interested in this travel backpack, be certain that you are ordering the version and color that you want, as it comes with both detachable and fixed packs inside which convert to daytime backpacks.
This backpack is also the friend of the organized traveler, as its many zippered pouches and compartments make it easy to sort through your personal belongings while on the road! Padded shoulder straps allow you to carry this backpack with ease in and around the airport and through town. Adjustable chest straps also assist with carrying the load.
The 35-liter Top Power 8006 Convertible Backpack weighs 2.8, whereas the smaller version weighs only 2.1 pounds. This is the ideal backpack for the traveler who is successful at packing light. If you know that’s not you, this might not be the carry-on luggage for you. We recommend the Osprey Farpoint 40 for a medium-sized carry-on luggage. If doing the laundry a few times while traveling a few times and or washing your shirts in the hotel or hostel sink doesn’t bother you, don’t miss reviewing and considering this gem!
- Two versions: 35 or 22-liter
- 22-liter version features a detachable daypack, which is very convenient!
- It will fit in overhead airline bins and even under the seat if it is not over-stuffed
- Great small size
- Features a compartment for your laptop
- Contains multiple organizational compartments
- If you’re looking for a large carry-on, this isn’t the bag for you!
- Not very functional as a backpacking bag; Primarily for use as a carry-on, or daytime travel bag
The Hynes Eagle 381 Backpack is a very good option for carry-on luggage due to the price, quality, and size. The Hynes Eagle 381 is a unisex backpack made of 600D polyester, with polyester lining designed to fit in most over-the-head airline bins, even airlines with the strictest rules. It has a 38-liter carrying capacity, measures 13x7.9x19.7 inches, and has a shipping weight of 1.8 pounds. The Hynes Eagle 381 features a top handle, a side handle, and compression buckle straps to make it easy for you to make your bag as small as possible.
Hynes Eagle states that the main compartment can fit 3 pieces of packing cubes as well. We find that it is a good piece of carry-on luggage if you’re looking for an inexpensive bag, however, it doesn’t come with a lot of extra bells and whistles. Additionally, some customers have reported issues with wear and tear and lack of use of quality materials.
With a very reasonable price and an excellent hauling capacity, the Hynes Eagle is a great carry-on option but is not meant for grand backpacking trips, like many of the other carry-on bags that were reviewed in this article.
- Very large carry-on bag with a 38-liter capacity.
- Will meet most airline requirements for size
- Reasonable price
- Not very functional as a backpacking bag
- Some customers have reported experiencing issues with wear and tear on this carry-on bag
- Lack of color options or style
See the Hynes Eagle 381 live in action with this video:
Need a budget bag and not worried about style and color? Try the Crazy Ants Backpack! The Crazy Ant Backpack was designed more so for camping and hauling large amounts of supplies than as carry-on, in our opinion. This bag is a 55-60-liter bag, which means, you can carry even the kitchen sink, but, that’s if the backpack holds up. We found mixed reviews on Amazon.com, where multiple customers have reported issues with failing zippers, seams, and straps. That didn’t leave us too convinced that this is the best carry-on bag.
The Crazy Ants Backpack can be carried on one or both shoulders and its mesh backing does make it more comfortable to carry. Although this is one serious-looking bag, we’re not sure if the low-price is also consistent with the low quality, to be honest. It is, however, very lightweight for its size, and can haul as much as you can carry. The bottom line is that if you buy this bag, you’re taking your chances on whether or not it’s a good quality bag!
- Impressive hauling ability (55-liter)
- Designed for hauling large amounts of goods, hiking, camping, etc.
- Very affordable price
- Mesh backing
- Can be carried on one or both shoulders
- Does not seem like it will be counted as a “carry-on” for most airlines
- Multiple customers have reported experiencing issues with stitching and the zipper after first or second use
- Lack of color options or style
- Questionable quality
See the Crazy Ants Backpack live in action with this video:
You’ll get your bang for your buck with the Outlander Backpack, and you get what you see when it comes to this backpack! It’s a reliable durable backpack, that weighs next to nothing (6 ounces), and can easily be used as carry-on for any airline. It’s perfect for day travel, light travel, or use as a second bag. We wouldn’t, however, necessarily recommend it as a primary bag since it’s quite small and lacks significant padding, a harness system, and other extra features that you’ll find with a brand like Osprey, for example.
The Outlander Backpack is available in two sizes: the 20L or the 33L, both of which have a wide variety of color options including pink, red, orange, green, light blue, dark blue, purple, black, and gray. The Outlander Backpack can be purchased from Amazon, which makes it an excellent backpack for the price, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a full-size piece of luggage because it’s not! It does feature a spacious main compartment, two front zipper pockets, an internal zippered pocket for small or loose items, and a side pocket.
It has the classic school bag look with high functionality for use a simple, small carry-on bag or daypack. The Outlander is made of water resistant nylon fabric and includes a lifetime warranty, exchange, or return guarantee. All in all, if you are looking for a good, solid, lightweight, regular old backpack, Outlander has you covered at a great price!
- Simple, sleek backpack
- Designed to be used for day trips, as a second bag, or as a carry-on for airplanes
- Very affordable price
- Extremely lightweight (6 ounces!)
- Made with water resistant nylon fabric
- Excellent color and size options
- Not a heavy-duty large backing bag
- Does not have extra features or padding
10. Timbuk2 Uptown
The Timbuk2 Uptown is a real gem when it comes to having a solid on-the-go bag, which can be used as an airplane carry-on or even a daily commuter bag. The Timbuk2 Uptown features an array of pockets that will allow you to pack everything for your day or trip from your laptop measuring up to 15”, for which it has its own compartment facing the back of the backpack, to your lunch, your personal accessories, and or a few changes of clothes.
This backpack features virtually endless pockets for someone who wants to get and stay organized. The first pocket facing the front is a thin small pocket ideal for storing documents or your passport, while the second compartment is loaded with internal pockets so that you can pack small items. The third pocket is a medium-sized pocket perfect for a few files, a jacket, or a book, then you have the main spacious compartment, and the padded laptop compartment facing the back of the backpack.
The Timbuk2 Uptown is an outstanding backpack designed to be lightweight (2.4 pounds), with supportive shoulder straps, a protective space to carry your laptop, and comes in multiple colors. Additionally, you should have no trouble fitting the Uptown under your airplane seat or above the head storage space. One word of caution is that if you do intend to use this backpack for hiking or extended travel, you probably should expect to do some laundry since it is not an overly large backpack. Overall, the Timbuk2 Uptown is definitely the way to go if you are searching for a well-made carry-on bag or commuter backpack!
- Features multiple versatile zippered pockets
- Ideal for daily commuting or use as a carry-on for airplanes
- Includes padded laptop compartment
- Various color options available
- Use of high quality materials
- Relatively small if you plan to take an extended trip
See the Timbuk2 Uptown live in action with this video:
Once again from the top-notch brand Osprey, comes the Osprey Daylite 12, for travelers skilled in packing light! This 13-liter backpack is highly versatile, includes a small zippered front pocket, a main compartment, and a comfortable design. With approximately 750 cubic inches of carrying capacity, you will have the ability to pack quite a few of your belongings in this bag. Since this bag was designed to be more of a daypack, it is perfect as a carry-on or for day and weekend trips. If you plan on taking only the Osprey Daylite 12, you might want to be certain that you don’t mind washing a few shirts on the road. Customers have reported they use this bag for hiking, running, daily commuting, and day trips.
Additional features include a multifunction interior sleeve ideal for a tablet and a padded back panel. It’s also incredibly light, as it weighs only 1 pound. The Daylite 12 also comes in three vibrant colors: red, blue, and purple. If you want to keep the weight you are carrying to a minimum, the Osprey Daylite can help you get and stay organized! Although the Daylite 12 is not currently available on Amazon. If you’re looking for a small, high-quality affordable day bag or carry-on Osprey has you covered!
- Can be used effectively while hiking or running
- Ideal for daily commuting or for use as a carry-on for airplanes
- Will fit two days-worth of clothing
- Various color options available (red, blue, purple)
- Very lightweight (weighs 1 pound)
- Relatively small if you plan to take an extended trip (plan to do laundry!)
- May or may not fit a full-size laptop
See the Osprey Daylite 12 live in action with this video:
Last, but certainly not least, is the Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack, a manly-appearing backpack with plenty of hauling space! The Oakley Kitchen Sink backpack allows you to bring just about everything but the kitchen sink, in fact! It is made of 100% nylon, features a padded sleeve that can hold up to a 15” laptop, a front panel perfect for small items, and padded shoulder straps. Two of this backpack’s special features includes a bottom shoe compartment and a compression-molded back panel.
The Oakley Kitchen Sink is available on Amazon.com and comes in three colors: herb (a brown/tan camouflage pattern) and two different blacks. Additionally, it features almost endless pockets and a large roomy space in the middle compartment. We noticed, however, that there were, however, mixed reviews regarding what sized laptop you can fit in this bag, as some reports stated that a 17” laptop will fit and others suggested that even a 15” laptop may or may not fit in this bag.
Some customers also reported that the largest internal compartment does not allow for too much flexibility. Although the Oakley Sink appears to be a very durable backpack, if you are aiming to carry the most stuff possible, this backpacks design may hinder you from accomplishing that goal, if you intend in bringing a serious of items that will not bend to fit the shape of the bag. Regardless, the Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack has reinforced clip and zip closures, multiple pockets, lots of padding, and a serious, stealthy look.
- Great for day trips, hiking, or use a carry-on
- Made of 100% Nylon
- Features padded shoulder straps
- Comfortable & stylish (primarily for men)
- Internal space may not be very effective for packing
- Reports on what size laptop this bag can hold are not consistent
See the Osprey Daylite 12 live in action with this video: