If you do a lot of traveling or plan to, a sturdy, dependable travel backpack is a must. In this guide, I will introduce you to some of the best travel backpacks on the market today.
I have traveled with a luggage roller, and while they have their advantages, overall, I have found that a travel backpack is a superior choice. It is quieter, allows for faster and easier movement, and helps you stand out less as a tourist. And you know what? You just feel more free wearing a backpack than you do lugging around a roller.
But I have also discovered that not all travel backpacks are equal in terms of quality materials and design.
A travel backpack which is made out of cheap materials or which utilizes poor construction will not last a very long. On the other hand, one which is well made out of sturdy materials and which includes a lot of handy features can serve you well for years to come and become your best friend on many adventures.
Having tested a number of travel backpacks, I decided to put together this guide to save you time, effort and money selecting your next travel backpack.
YOREPEK Water-Resistant Travel Backpack
The Best Travel Backpack Overall
If you are looking for a backpack for travel which is water-resistant and features a lot of compartments, consider this one by YOREPEK. You’ll see that it has a lot of impressive benefits, and is available at a reasonable price. Given that, I think it is one of the top values you are going to find when it comes to the best travel backpacks, especially if you manage to snag it at a discount as I did.
- This pack offers 45L of space, which is pretty impressive. A lot of competing travel backpacks do not feature such a large capacity without adding significantly to the weight.
- The pack is TSA-approved. The manufacturer states that this product is TSA-approved, so if you are looking for an option for airline travel, this pack may satisfy your requirements.
- The material is water-resistant. Keep in mind that it’s not actually waterproof, but we would not expect this from a regular travel backpack to begin with. In other words, you don’t want to leave it sitting in a puddle—contents will get wet. But for me, it has done a good job keeping my items dry while walking through some light rain. Just keep in mind that heavy rain or submersion will penetrate to the interior.
- There are 20 pockets for storing items in this pack. For those who want to keep everything super-compartmentalized, this pack is one of the most versatile options.
- Multiple size and color options are available. While this overview is for the 17-inch model, there is also an 18.4-inch model which you could try as well. A number of different colors mean there is a fit for every personality.
- The pack is made of high-quality polyester fabric which is shock-absorbent, and features a high-density nylon lining to resist tears.
- The pack is built to be breathable and comfortable with a unique ventilation design and mesh straps. That way, you sweat less and feel more comfortable wearing the backpack.
- While the material is reasonably durable, the emphasis is on keeping the pack lightweight, and it probably isn’t the sturdiest product you are going to find. So for heavy-duty use, you might want to try something more like the KAKA 351.
AmazonBasics Carry On Travel Backpack
The Best Clamshell Travel Backpack
This popular product was made with airline travel in mind, and is designed for easy packing and unpacking. The main compartment measures 5.5 by 13 to 14 by 21.5 inches, while the main upper packing compartment is 3 to 5 by 13 to 14 by 21.5 inches. It is available in black, blue, or red.
- The polyester this pack is made out of is durable but also lightweight.
- There are a number of features for added convenience and versatility, including compression straps inside and outside of the backpack, multiple pockets, and an expandable zipper that boosts packing space by 10%.
- There is also a sleeve just for your laptop if you need it, but it connects to the main compartment. That way even if you aren’t going to put a laptop there, you can still make use of the space it offers.
- The shoulder straps can be removed if you don’t want to use them, and you can make use of the handles instead. The straps are padded so as to rest comfortably on your shoulders when in use. A sternum strap and waist belt are included too for additional carrying options.
- With its clamshell design, you can open the backpack wide like a suitcase, making it easy to arrange and access your items.
- The weakness of this pack is the back pack strap connectors, which are a bit brittle, and may break. So, try not to overload this pack with too much weight, and be mindful of the straps and connectors so you don’t subject them to too much stress.
- Despite being designed with carry-on in mind, it seems this bag is just skirting the outside of regulation dimensions. So whether you are successful in carrying it on or not will depend on your specific situation. Some people do report success, but theoretically, you can be refused.
NIXON Landlock 30L Backpack
The Best Top-Loading Travel Backpack
While clamshell designs make for easy packing and unpacking, you might prefer a top-loading travel backpack. If that is the case, you can consider the NIXON Landlock 30L Backpack.
- This is actually an upgrade of a previous model of Landlock Backpack, this one with added space. You have 30 ample liters in which to pack all your clothes, electronics and accessories.
- Along with the main compartment, there is a side-entry laptop compartment. Inside the main compartment, you will find a plush-lined watch pocket as well as accessory slips. If you have a tablet as well, there is a top-loading compartment for that in the back panel.
- Straps include padded straps for your shoulder, skate straps you can conceal when not using them, and an adjustable sternum strap.
- The backpack is made out of sturdy 100% nylon.
- The material is not as rugged or thick as it could be, but still should be fine for most buyers.
Beyond Silence Small Ultra Lightweight Packable Travel Backpack
The Best Lightweight Travel Backpack
If you are a very light traveler and you want your travel backpack to be is lightweight and minimalist as possible, you might like the Small Ultra Lightweight Packable Travel Backpack from Beyond Silence.
- Measuring 11.81(L)x 5.51(W) x 14.60 (H) and weighing just 3.7 ounces, this is a compact, lightweight travel backpack. Because it is made out of thin military-grade parachute material, you can empty it out and fold it up.
- The parachute material comprising this backpack also is water-resistant.
- This compact travel backpack features 18 liters of capacity. There are two side pockets, two inner pockets, one main compartment, and one top quick access pocket.
- This pack features a stylish, minimalist appearance.
- This is not a heavy-duty travel backpack. For longer vacations or travel experiences, you’re going to want something more rugged.
KAKA 35l Travel Backpack, Carry On Bag Durable Backpack Duffle Bag
The Best Heavy-Duty Travel Backpack
The KAKA 351 is a heavy-duty travel backpack which is designed for those who are more interested in a product that emphasizes rugged protection for valuable items than something compact, lightweight and minimalist.
- Measuring 20.5 X 11.8 X 7.1 inches, this backpack provides you with 40 liters of space for your items. The laptop compartment measures 18 X 11 X 6.
- In all, there are 10 pockets including a main pocket with a zipper, three front pockets with zippers, two strap pockets, one mesh pocket on the side, and three internal pockets within the large one in the front. That gives you plenty of subdivisions for larger and smaller items.
- The straps feature high-density soft decompression foam so that you can carry the backpack comfortably despite its heavier weight (see below).
- You can lock this pack if you need to in order to secure valuable items such as electronics.
- This is another water-resistant travel backpack.
- Sturdy materials and construction with thick padding provide extra protection for your items.
- It can be a little bit tricky to access items which you pack deep inside the backpack. Sometimes you may find yourself pulling out a lot of things in order to get at something you need which is buried behind everything else.
- This is not the lightest travel backpack you are going to find. It is not uncomfortably heavy, but if you want something super light, you might be served better by a different pack. But again, this is why I chose this specifically as the best “heavy duty” backpack for travel.
What to Look for in the Best Travel Backpacks
What features and benefits should you be on the lookout for when you are choosing a travel backpack?
- Size. While “bigger is better” applies to a lot of items you might purchase, a backpack for travel is not among them. While you obviously need volume for your items, the more compact a pack you can get away with, the better. First of all, if you will be flying, you probably want to try and meet carry-on regulations. Secondly, it is simply more comfortable and ergonomic to carry around a compact pack if you can. You want to be focusing on exploring and discovering, not on that hefty thing strapped to your shoulders.
- Weight. Like size, weight is something you want to minimize for reasons relating both to airlines and comfort. The lighter the pack, the more weight you can stuff inside without breaking airline regulations or producing excess fatigue.
- Shapes of compartments. While this might not seem important at first glance, it is. Basic rectangular compartments are usually most convenient. Unusually-shaped compartments may appear clever, but they also can be way too restrictive from a practical point of view.
- Slim profile. The bulkier a backpack, the more it pulls your center of mass toward the back. Not only can this potentially upset your balance, but it also is not particularly ergonomic, and it can create fatigue since it forces you to do extra work. If the weight is as flush against your back as possible, it will be easier and more comfortable to wear the backpack for extended periods of time.
- Number of compartments. A large number of compartments of various shapes and sizes obviously can be beneficial for keeping organized during your trip.
- How you load the backpack. There are two main configurations of backpacks when it comes to how they load. First, there are backpacks which you load from the top. Second, there are backpacks which you open more like suitcases, which are referred to as featuring a “clamshell” design. Figure out which you prefer.
- Rugged materials and construction. Look at the “denier” listed next to the material a backpack is made of, i.e. 250D or 1,500D to see how thick it is. If you want the most rugged pack, a higher denier rating is preferable. If you prefer to keep it lighter in terms of weight, consider going with a lower denier rating (but not too low). Some common high-quality materials used in travel backpack design include ballistic nylon, rip-stop nylon, CORDURA® and Kodra materials, polypropylene, polyester, leather, canvas and sailcloth. Each has its pros and cons, so you should do some research to determine which may best serve your needs.
- Water-resistance. If you will be carrying electronics or other valuables you want to protect from water, look for a water-resistant travel backpack which can help keep your items safe.
- Zippers quality. Low-quality zippers can break, so try and purchase a backpack which includes sturdy zippers. If you see “YKK” zippers, those are a solid choice. The higher the number behind the YKK, the more robust the zipper.
- Style. Aesthetics may not be as important as practicality, but they do weigh in with something you will be wearing often.
Whether you are looking for a compact, lightweight travel backpack, an extra-heavy-duty rugged backpack, a water-resistant travel backpack suitable for electronics, or a top-loading or clamshell travel backpack, you now have a variety of high-quality products to choose from. Click any of the links in this article to get your ideal travel backpack now. If you are not sure what to choose, consider my top recommendation, the YOREPEK Water-Resistant Travel Backpack.