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Before heading out on your next big trip, make sure you’re equipped with a reliable travel bag. You’ll want to look for something lightweight but durable, with plenty of room for your belongings. And while a tote 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 travel bags, you can’t beat the convenience, versatility, and space of the best travel backpacks.
The best travel backpacks provide 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, these backpacks physically keep your stuff close by — and away from potential pickpockets.
How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack
Not all backpacks are made equal. Here are a few things to keep in mind while choosing the best travel backpack for your adventures.
Comfort: The best travel backpacks are made of lightweight, padded materials for a comfortable travel day. Also be on the lookout for adjustable straps, and even other carrying options (i.e. drop handles).
Size: The most important feature of any backpack is its storage space. 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. If you’re packing clothing, go with a larger main compartment and fewer secondary pockets. If you’re mostly packing gadgets, toiletries, and other small items, go with something that has more small pockets for better organization.
Weather Resistance: Backpacks for travel should be able to hold up to all conditions. All of the picks on our list are made from weather-resistant materials, so it won’t spell disaster if you’re caught in the rain while walking to a train station.
Style: No reason to ruin an outfit with an ugly backpack. Since you’ll likely be using your travel backpack once you’ve arrived at your destination (not just during the journey), we think the best travel backpacks marry fashion and function to haul your stuff in style. Look for neutral colors, timeless silhouettes, and unique materials to go with a range of outfits.
The Best Travel Backpacks to Buy Right Now
Whether you’re setting off to another country, another city, or just your family’s house for the night, read on. We’ve rounded up some of the best travel backpacks for every trip, including heavy-duty options for backpackers and streamlined picks for business travelers.
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). This bag has space for 25L worth of stuff, with storage spread across 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.
Don’t let the leather straps fool you: they actually close with magnets so you never have to unbuckle the bag. The upright design of the bag and the adjustable straps help it sit flat against your back for a more comfortable carrying experience.
2. Tortuga Setout Backpack
Tortuga set out to make the best travel backpack, and we think they nailed it. Designed specifically for air travel, this Setout backpack is loaded with features for an easier day of flying. The backpack has a 45-liter capacity, making it the largest allowable bag for a domestic carry-on, per TSA’s rules.
Instead of opening like a normal backpack, the Setout opens like a suitcase to easily pack clothing and shoes in the large main compartment. Next to the main compartment are two mesh pockets for toiletries, chargers, and other smaller items. A large front pocket, meantime, functions more like a regular backpack pocket with a top zipper, a padded laptop sleeve, and plenty of small pockets for organization.
The Setout is also water-resistant and very comfortable thanks to padding and a waist harness, rounding out an incredibly convenient bag for any frequent flier.
3. The North Face Base Camp Duffel
Duffel bags’ flexibility, space, and simplicity make them great for a range of packing needs, but they can also be tiring to haul through an airport. That’s why duffel bags with backpack straps — such as this one from The North Face — have become so popular.
The Base Camp duffel, as it’s called, boasts a durable ballistic weave fabric that’s suited to both outdoor and urban adventures. Thanks to the integrated backpack straps, shoulder strap, and drop handles, it’s also comfortable enough to carry on long walks (think, through a big airport). We’re also fans of the size (71-liters), which is big enough for about a week-long trip but not cumbersome.
4. Away The Everywhere Zip Backpack
Yes, backpacks are now acceptable in the office — as long as you pick the right one. This Everywhere backpack from Away passes the office-ready test with a chic water-resistant nylon and leather build. It’s on the small side with a 20-liter capacity, but makes up for its size with a thoughtful organization.
Inside the main compartment is a padded laptop sleeve and multiple slip pockets (including one for a tablet), a water bottle pocket, and room for toiletries or a sweater. This main compartment uses a clamshell opening, making it easier to see and access everything inside.
We think the Away backpack looks great too, showcasing a minimal, modern look. There’s also a mesh back for breathability and a trolly sleeve to slide over your roller bag handle.
5. Lululemon Wunderlust Backpack 25L
If you’re setting off for a one-night or weekend-long trip, grab this Wunderlust backpack from Lululemon. Just like the brand’s clothing, the Wunderlust backpack brings activity-ready comfort and a modern, urban sensibility.
The pack is made of water-repellent nylon and polyester, keeping your gadgets safe from any rain, while a variety of pockets allow for smart organization. There’s a 16-inch padded laptop sleeve, interior organization pockets, quick-access exterior pockets, and even external straps for a yoga mat or jacket.
6. Osprey Packs Farpoint 55L Backpack
Heading to Europe for a backpacking trip? Check out this Fairpoint backpack from Osprey. With a 55-liter capacity, it’s big enough to haul about a week’s worth of clothing. It’s also comfortable — even when fully loaded — thanks to a waist strap and ample padding all around.
Inside, there’s a padded pocket for laptops or tablets, as well as other organization pockets. Outside, you’ve got removable sleeping bag straps for camping trips. It’s a great choice for walking-heavy adventures — whether you’re strolling in airports, train stations, streets, or the wilderness.
7. 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 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, and ID. 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, your stuff stays extra secure.
The wider shoulder straps mean weight is distributed more evenly, and the straps are easily adjustable. This is more of a casual backpack, though; you may want something more professional if you’re taking a backpack to work.
8. Gucci GG Black backpack
Need a travel backpack worthy of first class? Pick up this one from Gucci. It features some of the designer’s iconic logo work, including an interlocking GG pattern and striped straps, but overall it’s more low-key than some of Gucci’s other pieces. We think this is perfect for traveling: It’s not flashy, but nice enough to go with bold outfits and posh hotel lobbies. The backpack also has straps for a jacket, two exterior pockets, and a spacious main compartment, making it just as usable as any other (less stylish) backpack.