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Before you head 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 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, these backpacks physically keep your stuff close by — and away from potential pickpockets.
What Are the Best Backpacks for Travel?
Material: The latest travel backpacks are made from lightweight, padded materials, 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.
Storage Space: The most important feature of any backpack is having ample 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. 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.
Hidden Pockets: 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.
Weather-Resistance: Backpacks for travel should also be able to hold up to all 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). This bag has space for 25L worth of stuff, and 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. The upright design of the bag and the adjustable straps help it sit flat against your back for a more comfortable carrying experience.
2. The Brevitē Backpack
Brevitē’s cult favorite backpack is a commuter’s best companion. But while this laptop backpack is compact, lightweight, and functional, with 18L of internal space, it can expand into a weekend excursion bag.
You can easily cram in an extra set of clothes and accessories into the main compartment, with a large laptop sleeve that fits up to a 16” Macbook Pro (a weather-proof zipper also provides extra security). This bag can also travel well through an airport and across the world, with luggage pass-through that fits comfortably on your suitcase and a secure passport pocket for peace of mind.
We also like the convenience of features like a hidden pocket for valuables, and an expandable side pocket that fits a water bottle up to 4″ in diameter (that’s roughly to size of large HydroFlask). While the design is fairly simple and streamlined, the bag is made from a durable 600D Polyester that can take a couple hits. Form meets function here for a solid, everyday bag that can make the transition to your next overnight trip.
3. Journal Collection Large Nylon Backpack
This boxy backpack by Zero Halliburton has a professional look with a stylish edge, thanks to leather accents and lightweight nylon tricot fabric. Don’t let the classy exterior fool you into thinking it can’t stand up to longer journeys, since the flexible fabric repels water and abrasions.
It measures 17.5 inches tall by 14 inches wide by nine inches deep, but we love just how much of an organizational powerhouse this bag is. It boasts a roomy interior space with a padded sleeve to stow your 17-inch laptop as well as a variety of zipper, open, and mesh pockets to accommodate accessories of every size (think cables, keys, your passport, etc).
The best “hidden” feature is the bag’s expandable open flap pocket with luggage strap that will keep your wardrobe intact and looking sharp. The one-step luggage sleeve also allows it to be transported easily. Multiple layers of padding in the body just show how useful this bag can be for long distance travel, as well as just everyday wear. It may be a bit pricey, but it’s one of the most thoughtfully constructed bags we’ve seen.
4. Away The Backpack
Frequent business travelers will appreciate the durability and abundance of storage compartments in this Away backpack. Measuring 17.5 inches tall by 12.4 inches wide by 7.2 inches deep, this water-resistant travel backpack has a ample space in its main compartment, which can hold 15-inch laptops, clothes, shoes, or bulky objects.
The middle zippered compartment features a hidden pocket (for money or tickets), and a space where you can throw all your necessities, with a key clip and slip pockets to organize phones, tablets, or batteries. If you’re someone who quickly gets bored waiting for flights or trains, the front side-access pocket fits flat items like magazines or books.
We’re fans of the trolley sleeve that allows you to slip the backpack over your luggage handle for a smooth ride, as well as the expandable side pocket that zips out and can fit not just a water bottle, but something a little heftier like an umbrella, too.
Other flight-friendly features include a top leather carrying handle, comfortable padded shoulder straps, along with all the handy storage areas mentioned for staying organized.
5. 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.
The wider shoulder straps means 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.
6. 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.
7. 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. With one of the largest capacities on our list, it works best as an overnight bag.