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No great trek is complete without good gear, and that includes backpacks. Whether you’re an avid globetrotter or an everyday commuter, the best backpack for travel, work, or school should do more than simply holding your belongings — it should also be effective at protecting and organizing your goods.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to finding a great backpack. A bag designed for students won’t necessarily have all of the hooks and clips that an active hiker needs. On the other hand, a frequent flier will want a tech-friendly backpack that flies through security checkpoints.
What Are the Best Travel Backpacks?
There are a few things to consider before buying a travel backpack, such as size, design, storage, security features, and durability. Here’s what to keep in mind:
Size: It’s tempting to buy a large backpack to get the most bang for your buck, but bigger isn’t always necessarily better. Consider a size and capacity that’s appropriate for your body and won’t weigh you down with back pain. If you plan on using your bag as a carry-on, you’ll want to make sure it can fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat. You also don’t want to go overly minimalist with a small bag that feels stuffed to the brim.
Design: Ergonomics and comfort are also key when choosing the best backpack. Look for cushioned mesh on the back and shoulder straps for support and ventilation, and opt for a bag that has chest or waist straps that help balance out the weight. A well-designed bag will also include separate compartments that distribute weight evenly; heavier items like laptops are kept closer to your body, and smaller items can go in outer pockets.
Storage: Lest you want to carry around a black hole of a bag, make sure that your carryall keeps everything properly organized. A good backpack will have back, middle, and front compartments, and individual pockets throughout for water bottles, keys, wallets, passports, and other small belongings. Nowadays, most bags have designated pockets for laptops, tablets, cord storage, chargers, and other tech accessories.
Security: If you’re worried about pickpockets or other risks, consider features like side buckles or a hidden back pocket that makes it harder for others to get into your stuff.
Durability: Water- and weather-resistant fabrics are especially important if you’re traveling to places with humid or wet weather. You also want strong material that won’t easily tear on every scrape or bump.
1. MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack
This travel-friendly backpack is made of water-resistant polyester and was designed to carry laptops under 17 inches. It measures 18 inches tall by 12 inches wide by 7.8 inches deep and fits under airplane seats; it’s also a decent size for students and commuters. The bag is also available in a larger size for laptops over 17 inches.
The backpack is comfortable to carry, thanks to a cushioned back with ventilated mesh for airflow, adjustable padded shoulder straps, and a padded top handle.
It also has plenty of storage compartments for those who need to stay organized. There’s a sleeve-like pocket outside of the laptop compartment that’s ideal for holding magazines or a tablet, while the main area is roomy enough for a set of clothes, headphones, and some books. The front zippered compartment has pockets for phones, pens, keys, and other small items, as well as pockets on the side and exterior.
There’s also a theft-proof back pocket, ideal for holding phones, passports, wallets, and other personal belongings. Two elastic mesh pockets on both sides of the backpack are ideal for umbrellas and water bottles. And frequent fliers will also appreciate features like the back luggage strap, external side USB port, and interior charger pocket.
2. YOREPEK Extra Large Laptop Backpack
This TSA-approved backpack was designed for smooth sailing at the airport. The zip-up laptop compartment folds open completely so that items can be easily removed or scanned at screening checkpoints, and a separate sleeve can hold magazines, notebooks, and other flat items. It’s also made of sturdy, water-resistant polyester and features a tear-resistant nylon lining.
The backpack comes in two sizes and a variety of colorways. The 17-inch version measures 19 inches tall by 14.6 inches wide by 10.2 inches deep, with a capacity of 45 liters. The 18.4-inch size is nearly 21 inches tall by 16.3 inches wide by about 10 inches deep and has a 54 liter capacity.
This bag’s spacious main compartment can hold clothes, travel accessories, books, and more. The exterior has a small zippered pocket as well as upper and lower zippered compartments with separate pockets for pens, keys, charging cords, and other small essentials. The backpack sides also feature zippered pockets and elastic mesh pockets for water bottles, umbrellas, and other items.
Other travel-friendly touches include a side USB port, a charger pocket on the inside, holes for earbuds at the top, a back luggage strap, adjustable buckled side straps for security, and a front carabiner clip.
The backpack also boasts a sturdy steel top handle, while the ergonomic back and the shoulder straps are padded and ventilated for comfort and breathability.
3. Feeke Large Military Backpack
If you’re looking for a carryall that says “practical” and “tactical,” look no further than this military-inspired backpack. Measuring 21 inches tall and 15 inches wide, this water- and tear-resistant bag has side zippers that allow it to expand from eight to 13 inches deep for a maximum capacity of 64 liters.
The backpack was designed for three-day travel, and a plethora of storage and organization features make it ideal for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. It’s also a popular choice for those looking for a bug-out or “go” bag in case of emergencies. For starters, the exterior offers a bundle band, clips, Velcro, and a modular lightweight load-carrying equipment (MOLLE) system for easily attaching and storing gear.
The roomy main compartment offers enough space for clothing, food, books, and larger items, as well as an interior storage area for holding tools and other gear. A middle compartment can hold a 15-inch laptop and tablets. The front compartment has pockets for a small tablet, wallets, keys, pens, and other small items. There’s also a back compartment that can accommodate a three-liter hydration pouch, a side mesh pocket for a water bottle, detachable storage pouches on the shoulder straps, and sturdy top handle.
The back and shoulder straps feature padded mesh for comfort, support, and breathability, while an adjustable chest strap allows better weight distribution.
4. ZOMAK Lightweight Packable Backpack
At about three-fourths of a pound, this space-saving packable backpack is best for those who want to travel light. Since it folds into its own pocket, it’s not super bulky and makes a great option for travelers who want to tuck it away into their luggage for extra baggage later. When unfolded, it measures 19 inches tall by 13 inches wide by seven inches deep.
This lightweight bag is made of durable and water-resistant nylon and has a capacity of 30 liters. It also features a double-layered bottom for extra sturdiness, and two-way heavy-duty metal zippers for security.
As far as storage, there’s a main compartment that can hold a laptop or tablet, two front zipper pockets, two mesh side pockets, and a small exterior pocket. The shoulder straps are also cushioned for comfort, but note that the back isn’t padded.