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What to Look For When Shopping for Travel Backpacks

There are many details to consider when it comes to choosing the perfect travel backpack. Whether it’s big or small, light or heavy, or offers protection for laptops and other important items, one of the most important features to look for is the bag’s organizational layout.

Rudy Maxa, host of the TV series “Rudy Maxa’s World” and a convert to travel backpacks, likes options with lots of nooks and crannies to hold everything from earphones to magazines to travel documents. Wendy Perrin, travel expert and founder of travel planning site, agrees, saying she’s a fan of compartments when it comes to her travel backpack and likes the ability to get to her items quickly.

Tom Wahlin, travel gear expert and founder of Pack Hacker, says he prefers a backpack that combines a spacious bucket area with smart organization. He recommends using packing cubes to organize items in the backpack’s main compartment.

Style is also an important consideration, especially for business travelers. Samantha Brown, host of PBS’ hit series “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love,” thinks having a stylish travel bag can make a great first impression. “I like to have a nice looking bag,” Brown says. “When you look good, you do get better service.”

Weight should be a consideration as well. While you may need something more durable for long outdoor adventures or round-the-world trips, a lightweight travel bag can be easier and more comfortable on your back for daytrips, sightseeing or day-to-day travels. Wahlin errs on the side of going lighter, noting a backpack can be both lightweight and durable.

He also suggests choosing a bag with durable zippers. “We typically look for Japanese YKK zippers,” Wahlin says. “They’re tried and tested and are on most of the best bags out there.”

U.S. News compiled this list of the best carry-on luggage based on recommendations of travel experts and consumers. Whether you’re an adventurer looking for the main pack for your next hike or a business traveler who wants to safely carry your laptop while looking stylish, read on to learn more about the top travel backpack picks from U.S. News. (Note: Prices were accurate at the time of publication; they may fluctuate due to supply chain issues.)

What Is the Best Travel Backpack?

Best Overall Travel Backpack:

Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack 40: Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer or a busy executive, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is a sturdy backpack that can hold everything you need. Our pick for the best overall travel backpack, this bag is lightweight and meets most airline carry-on bag size restrictions at about 20 to 21 inches tall. It’s unique in its suitcase-style front-load capability, meaning it can be fully unzipped from the front and packed like a suitcase.

The carry-on backpack features padded handles, a shoulder strap and a removable padded waist strap to keep pressure off of your back. It also has a laptop pocket and two front mesh pockets ideal for drinks or an energy bar. Available in black, red and grey, travelers say this is a solid, functional bag that can be used in place of a traditional suitcase. Travelers say they especially like the tuck-away waist strap.

[Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack: $299.76 or less. View deal.]

Other top overall travel backpacks to consider:

(Courtesy of Peak Design)

Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack: This versatile backpack meets standard carry-on requirements, but it can also expand to 35 to 45 liters (9 to 12 gallons). When you’re ready to put it away, you can tuck in the shoulder straps and hip belt. The bag is designed to survive repeated use with hardy zippers and weatherproof fabric and features. It has room for water bottles, as well as spots for a laptop and tablet in padded sleeves. Additionally, travelers say the pack is easy to grab thanks to handles on the top and back, which also make it easy to slip the carry-on backpack over a luggage handle.

[Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack: $299.95 or less. View deal.]

Away The Zip Backpack: Weighing less than 3 pounds and measuring 12 inches, Away The Zip Backpack has one main compartment with a clam-shell opening with a zippered front pocket. You can stow your water bottle in the interior bottle pocket and your laptop (up to 15 inches long) in a separate sleeve. The backpack easily slides over the handle of the company’s Away The Carry-On, a feature travelers really appreciate. Available in three colors including navy and black, consumers say it is stylish and praise the strap design.

Best Carry-on Travel Backpack:

(Courtesy of Peak Design)

Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L: If you’re looking for convenience during air travel, the Peak Design Everyday Backpack is designed to provide easy access to everything you need. This bag is made from weatherproof fabric and offers quick access to its top pocket. There are three interior dividers for maximum organization and separation. You’ll also find many pockets and a sleeve for your laptop, and the pack can even hold photo gear. The bag comes in two sizes: 20 liters (approximately 5 gallons) or 30 liters (approximately 8 gallons). Side pockets expand to hold water bottles or a tripod, and the backpack’s straps tuck out of sight when needed. Travelers say the bag isn’t ideal for long hikes but works great for everyday use.

[Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L: $329.95 or less. View deal.]

Other carry-on travel backpacks to consider:

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack (Medium): Available in an array of colors, including onyx, dark moss and storm, this Dagne Dover backpack weighs 2 pounds and measures 11 inches tall. The day pack can hold up to a 13-inch laptop and comes with a bag for shoes, a key clip and exterior side pockets. Made from neoprene, it’s also water-resistant. Travelers say they love the bag’s chic style, colors, size and pockets.

[Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack (Medium): $185 or less. View deal.]

Best Travel Backpacks for Women:

(Courtesy of MZ Wallace)

MZ Wallace Metro Backpack Deluxe: The MZ Wallace Metro Backpack Deluxe comes in several neutral solids, one print and a lacquer rouge finish option – all with a sleek black Italian leather trim. The top-loading travel bag has a laptop slot, multiple interior pockets, a detachable pouch and side pockets for water bottles or umbrellas. A separate sleeve allows you to easily attach the backpack to your carry-on luggage handle, and it comes with a dedicated phone pocket and key ring strap. Standing 16.5 inches tall, the bag weighs just 1.6 pounds. Reviewers say the backpack is stylish, functional and holds up well.

[MZ Wallace Metro Backpack Deluxe: $275 or less. View deal.]

Other travel backpacks for women to consider:

(Courtesy of Cuyana)

Cuyana Leather Backpack: Look hip and modern carrying the Cuyana Leather Backpack. Made from Italian pebbled leather, the bag comes in black, cappuccino or stone. Travelers can also choose between the smaller 13-inch size or the larger 16-inch size. Carry this beauty on your shoulders using the adjustable straps or in your hand using the top handle. And while it’s undeniably stylish, it’s also practical thanks to a sleeve that holds a 13- or 16-inch laptop and a large pocket for phones and other items. The bag’s exterior features two large pockets, and its top is designed for quick access with a magnetic top-loading closure. Reviewers describe the Cuyana Leather Backpack as a high quality, stylish bag that’s just the right size and very comfortable to carry.

[Cuyana Leather Backpack: $478 or less. View deal.]

Best Travel Backpack for Men:

Thule Crossover 2 Laptop Backpack: Protection is one of the hallmarks of this versatile bag from Thule. Its crush-resistant SafeZone compartment is designed to protect smaller items like sunglasses. You’ll also find a front pocket for easy access to small electronics, plus handy features like elastic loops and a zippered mesh pocket. There’s an RFID-blocking pocket to protect your credit cards, passports and other identifying information, as well as a cord-management system to help you charge while in transit. You’ll find protective spots for your laptop and tablet, and easy storage for water bottles or umbrellas in the side pockets. The bag stands 18.5 inches tall and weighs about 3 pounds. Travelers say this backpack is rugged, comfortable and holds a lot of items.

[Thule Crossover 2 Laptop Backpack: $269.95 or less. View deal.]

Other travel backpacks for men to consider:

STM Goods Dux Backpack: The STM Goods Dux Backpack is a rugged, functional backpack with clever storage capabilities. It stands 20 inches tall and weighs about 4 pounds. Inside, you’ll find multiple “shelves” that you can position as desired with a hook-and-loop system, plus a removable pouch. Travelers can easily access items from the side, bottom and top of the backpack from within its water-resistant shell. The bag is designed for maximum protection of expensive items with a unique suspension area for laptop and ample padding throughout. You’ll also find side pockets, a key clip and an area to store your cords and cables. Reviewers describe the STM Goods Dux as lean yet comfortable, noting its exceptional protection of their belongings.

[STM Goods Dux Backpack: $249.95 or less. View deal.]

Best Small Travel Backpack:

Away The Small Zip Backpack: This bag hides your laptop in a discreet cushioned zippered pocket. The fabric is designed to keep water from getting inside and can accommodate laptops that measure up to 13 inches. The bag’s layout features a large main compartment, as well as a front zip pocket for your passport, phone and more. There’s also an interior pocket for water bottles and a detachable key clip. At just 10.4 inches, this small bag fits a lot in a compact design. Reviewers say the bag has a simple, streamlined design with a good mix of organization options.

[Away The Small Zip Backpack: $175 or less. View deal. ]

Other small travel backpacks to consider:

TUMI Carson Backpack: The fashionable nylon TUMI bag measures 17 inches tall and fits a 15-inch laptop in its designated compartment. The bag comes in four colors, including mink and dark turquoise. At just 1.6 pounds, the lightweight sack has a water-resistant water bottle pocket, an accessible phone pocket with a magnetic snap, a tablet pocket and card and pen pockets. You can opt to have the bag’s detachable leather key ring monogrammed, and its padded shoulder straps provide plenty of comfort. Travelers can also take advantage of the TUMI Tracer program, which helps track down your bag should it ever get lost. Reviewers say they love all the pockets in the TUMI Carson Backpack and report it is just the right size and comes in beautiful colors.

[TUMI Carson Backpack: $395 or less. View deal.]

Best Large Travel Backpack:

(Courtesy of Knack Bags)

Knack Series 1: Large Expandable Knack Pack: Available in either gray or black, this professional pack has a place for everything. Measuring 21.5 inches and weighing around 3 pounds, the Knack Series 1 backpack has water-resistant, antimicrobial fabric to mitigate smells from sweaty clothes or shoes. The bag’s compartments are designed to house both a change of clothes and tech items like cords or batteries. The sections are RFID-blocking to protect your identity, and mesh pockets make it easy to find anything you need. The backpack’s straps are easy to remove and stow, and users can conveniently hide the water bottle pocket. Plus, the bag is designed to slip over your luggage handle for easy traveling. On top of that, reviewers say the Knack Series 1 is not only great for travel, but also carrying computers, accessories and cords to and from work.

[Knack Series 1: Large Expandable Knack Pack: $265. View deal.]

Other large travel backpacks to consider:

(Courtesy of STATE Bags)

State Kane Double Pocket Large Backpack: This 17-inch bag fits a 15-inch laptop in a padded sleeve, while leaving plenty of room for shoes, clothes, snacks, books and electronics. Still, it remains lightweight at just over a pound. Available in black or navy, it features two side pockets to hold a large water bottle, as well as a zippered front pocket for smaller items. The straps are padded and easily adjustable for comfort. Buyers say the State Kane Double Pocket Large Backpack is high-quality and easily fits everything they need.

[State Kane Double Pocket Large Backpack: $150 or less. View deal.]

Best Travel Laptop Backpack:

Matein Mlassic Travel Laptop Backpack: Practical and affordable, the Matein Mlassic Travel Laptop Backpack comes in two sizes and can hold a 17-inch laptop in a special compartment. This water-resistant bag is designed for comfort; it allows airflow on the back and features padded straps to provide support. A handy front pocket is designed to hold smaller items, while a hidden pocket on the back is the perfect spot for money and important documents. What’s more, you can charge your devices with the built-in USB charger while on the go. Travelers reported this backpack holds plenty of clothes. They also noted that their laptops are well supported in the interior laptop compartment, and that the bag as a whole holds up well.

[Matein Mlassic Travel Laptop Backpack: $41.99 or less. View deal.]

Other travel laptop backpacks to consider:

Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack: To carry your laptop in style, try the faux leather Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack. Available in multiple colors like navy, mauve and caramel, this sophisticated backpack holds a 15-inch laptop and still boasts extra space and pockets for more items. Measuring 15.5 inches, the backpack weighs 3 pounds and comes with adjustable shoulder straps, plus and a sleeve to slip over your luggage handle for convenience. Reviewers say the bag is sturdy, fashionable and professional.

[Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack: $118 or less. View deal.]

Best Leather Travel Backpack:

(Courtesy of Leatherology)

Leatherology Parker Backpack: For a stylish leather option, consider the Leatherology Parker Backpack. Available in colors like navy, cognac and charcoal, the 18-inch backpack has a front pocket and a main compartment with hidden zippers. You’ll also find a laptop sleeve that zips, plus two open pockets on the sides. Opt to have your initials debossed or hand-painted onto the leather for a personal touch. Consumers say the bag is well crafted and an excellent size.

[Leatherology Parker Backpack: $330 or less. View deal.]

Other leather travel backpacks to consider:

WITZMAN Multifunction Canvas Backpack: The uniquely designed canvas and leather WITZMAN vintage bag combines a duffel bag and a backpack. One of the larger backpacks on our list at 22.5 inches, this bag will hold plenty of your belongings, including a 17-inch laptop. Despite its size, it’s designed for comfort with breathable fabric, sternum straps and a belt for back support. Its front pocket offers lots of nooks and crannies for smaller items, while the interior can hold many sets of clothes. The bag’s zippers can be locked for extra security. Travelers say this is a great bag for travel, noting it’s both sturdy and comfortable.

[WITZMAN Multifunction Canvas Backpack: $83.57 or less. View deal.]

Best Cute Travel Backpack:

Knomo Beauchamp Laptop Backpack: Turn heads with the Beauchamp Laptop Backpack. This sophisticated option by Knomo, a company based in London, is made of nylon and offers two zippered pockets on the front. The bag is available in four colors and boasts chic accents like silver or gold hardware. The interior can accommodate a 14-inch laptop and features contrasting colors to make it easier to find what you need. Purchasers say the bag is stylish and has great organizational features.

[Knomo Beauchamp Laptop Backpack: $240 or less. View deal on Knomo or Amazon. ]

Other cute travel backpacks to consider:

(Courtesy of Dagne Dover)

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack (Medium): The medium version of this fashionable backpack works for travel or everyday use. Color options include onyx, storm, dark moss and ash blue, among others. The backpack is made from neoprene, which is water-resistant and durable, and features two side pockets, a key clip, adjustable shoulder straps and interior zip and mesh pockets. Reviewers say the bag is comfortable and chic, adding that it can hold everything they need.

[Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack (Medium): $185 or less. View deal.]

Best Travel Backpack with Wheels:

Osprey Packs Meridian 60L Wheeled Luggage: While backpacks with wheels can be helpful when your back needs a break, they tend to be pricier than bags without wheels. The Osprey Packs Meridian 60L is no exception. The bag measures 22 inches and weighs 8 pounds, and it can be carried as a backpack thanks to its mesh back panel, hip belt and shoulder straps. It also comes with a detachable daypack. Your laptop and tablet will fit conveniently into padded pockets, and you’ll find four side pockets to house even more gear. Interior compression straps help ensure everything fits snugly. Travelers say this bag can easily hold enough to last three weeks and report it’s comfortable to carry.

[Osprey Packs Meridian 60L Wheeled Luggage: $349.95 or less. View deal.]

Other travel backpacks with wheels to consider:

Samsonite Wheeled Backpack: Designed with organization in mind, this rolling backpack has a laptop compartment large enough to hold a 17-inch laptop, pockets for small tech devices and accessories, plus a music headphone entry. Constructed of durable tear-resistant fabric, the bag has in-line skate wheels and extra-padded contoured straps. Users of this bag say they like the functionality, the smooth wheels and organizational details.

[Samsonite Wheeled Backpack: $124.99 or less. View deal.]

Best Backpack for International Travel:

(Courtesy of Pacsafe)

Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350 ECONYL Anti-Theft Backpack: The Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350 backpack is a good, cost-effective option for those concerned with security. The backpack offers a range of features to protect your items inside including locking zippers, fabric that protects against slashes and RFID-blocking material to keep thieves from stealing personal information from your credit cards or other IDs. Travelers say the comfortable bag holds a lot and helps them feel at ease when traveling abroad.

[Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350 Anti-Theft Laptop Backpack: $129.95 or less. View deal.]

Other backpacks for international travel to consider:

Osprey Fairview Travel Pack 55: The highly regarded Osprey Fairview Travel Pack 55 measures nearly 25 inches and weighs about 4 pounds. Like other Osprey backpacks, the Fairview allows travelers to pack it like they would a suitcase by opening it fully. The backpack was designed with women in mind and offers an option to zip on a daypack. The Osprey Fairview Travel Pack 55 also includes a padded laptop sleeve, a backpack divider to separate dirty and clean clothes and a top pocket for phones, glasses and lip balm. What’s more, you can use the front mesh pockets for drinks or other items you need within quick reach during your adventures. Users love the detachable daypack and describe the backpack as lightweight and comfortable.

[Osprey Fairview Travel Pack 55: $180 or less. View deal.]

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