This article is a part of RS Recommends, an editorial series reviewing products in music and entertainment. Items are independently selected; Penske Media may earn a commission from purchases made from our links.
Before you head out on your next big trip, make sure you’re equipped with a reliable bag for your travels. You’ll want to look for something lightweight but durable, with a ton of room for your belongings. And while a tote bag or messenger bag may seem perfectly fine on paper, they start getting uncomfortable to carry after long periods of time, and frankly, just don’t hold that much stuff. When it comes to the best travel bags, you can’t beat the convenience, versatility and space of a backpack.
The best travel backpacks provide you with a safe and secure place for your gear, electronics, accessories and valuables, whether you’re hiking Machu Picchu, or strolling through the cobblestone streets of Europe. Because they’re worn close to your body, backpacks physically keep your stuff close by — and away from potential pickpockets. The latest travel backpacks are all made from lightweight, padded materials too, so they don’t add extra weight to your shoulders and are more comfortable to carry. With adjustable, breathable straps, they won’t weigh you down with sweat either.
The most important feature of new backpacks though is the ample storage space they provide. The best travel backpacks will have one or two main compartments for larger items (I.e. laptop, magazines, headphones) and multiple small to medium-sized pockets for things like your phone, tablet, wallet and snacks. The more pockets there are, the easier it’ll be to organize — and find — your stuff. Everything will have its place in the bag. All of the options on our list are easily zipped closed, and some come with flaps and buckles too for additional security.
If you’re going to be out and about, look for backpacks with secret pockets that aren’t immediately visible to noisy passersby. The best backpacks with hidden pockets are often called “stash bags,” as they literally give you a place to stash your valuables. These hidden storage compartments are usually tucked behind the straps or at the back or bottom of your bag, protected with a discreet flap or subtle zipper.
The best travel backpacks should also be able to hold up to all travel conditions. All of the picks on our list are made from weather-resistant materials, and can be cleaned easily with a quick wipe. While lightweight, they’re also incredibly durable, with heavy-duty textiles that won’t rip or fade.
When you’re on vacation or just on-the-go, the last thing you want to be worrying about is your stuff. These backpacks with hidden pockets give you room for your essentials, will keep your valuables secure and — hopefully — help keep your travels as organized and stress-free as possible.
1. Herschel Little America Backpack
This Herschel backpack may be dubbed the “Little America,” but it’s got enough storage space to take you on a trip around the world.
The classic “mountaineering” style sack is made from a heavy duty 600D polyester that holds up to almost anything you put in it (most bags use a 300 denier count which isn’t as thick or durable). There are a ton of compartments for your stuff too, including a zipped front pocket, an internal “media pocket” for things like phones and tablets, and a padded laptop sleeve that fits up to a 15-inch computer.
“Hidden” features include a key ring inside the front pocket, and a headphone port, that lets you sneak your headphones out the side of your bag to listen to music, while keeping your phone or MP3 player tucked safely inside.
Don’t let the leather straps fool you: they actually close with magnets so you never have to actually unbuckle the bag.
Multiple colors and prints available.
PROS: The upright design of the bag and the adjustable straps help it sit flat against your back for a more comfortable carrying experience.
CONS: This bag has space for 25L worth of stuff. If you have a larger computer or are looking for more of an overnight bag, you’ll want to take a look at other options on our list.
2. Vintage-Inspired Canvas and Leather Backpack
This rugged, “Augur Series” backpack is great for school or travel, mixing a vintage-inspired design with a ton of convenient and practical features.
The satchel-style bag is made from a durable canvas, with genuine leather trim. The main compartment holds up to a 13-inch computer, and has five different interior pockets for things like your phone, wallet, camera, ID and more. Outside, find three zipped pockets — two on the side and one in the front. There’s a bonus hidden pocket in the back, right near the straps, great for stashing your cash and other valuables. With a drawstring closure and fold-over flaps, you stuff stays extra secure.
PROS: Wider shoulder straps means weight is distributed more evenly. Straps are also easily adjustable.
CONS: More of a casual backpack; you may want something more professional for work.
3. Vaschy Water-Resistant Backpack
It’s totally acceptable to wear a backpack to work — if it looks like this one from Vaschy. Made from a durable polyester blend with leather trim, the bag merges handsome good looks with practical features. The bag has a fold-over flap with magnetic buckles to keep things secure, but it also has a drawstring closure under the flap to further keep out water (or prying hands) from the main compartment.
Two side pockets can expand to hold a small umbrella or water bottle, while the large front pocket can fit a notebook, small E-reader and more.
Inside, find a padded sleeve that fits up to a 15-inch laptop, plus one zipped pocket, one mesh pocket and two open pockets that are great for stashing snacks, earbuds and anything else you want to grab easily. There is also a secret zipped back pocket under the straps, to keep your valuables close by.
PROS: Super breathable back panels and mesh-padded straps means no more sweaty back or shoulders.
CONS: The padding on the laptop sleeve isn’t that thick.
4. WITZMAN Canvas Backpack
Whether you carry it as a backpack, sling it over the shoulder or hold it like a tote, this WITZMAN bag gives you a ton of options for travel.
Made from a durable and tear-resistant canvas with vegan leather trim, the bag can hold up to all conditions, while holding a ton of your stuff.
You’ll find three large front pockets, a side pocket, and a deep main compartment with space for up to a 16-inch laptop. There are also four organizational pockets inside for things like your pens, wallet, earbuds and more. Everything is secured with zippers, buckles and reinforced stitching.
The backpack strap is fully adjustable and extendable; a zippered pocket on the back lets you hide your strap when you want to carry this bag as a tote or shoulder bag.
PROS: One of the largest capacities on our list. Works well as an overnight bag.
CONS: The look is not for everyone.