Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks for Women in 2023

Here are the best travel backpacks for women so you can pack light, get organized, and be more flexible on your travels.

Here are the best travel backpacks for women in 2021 so you can pack light, get organized, and be more flexible on your travels.

For many travelers, carry-ons are the way to go. They save you money on baggage fees and they’re less of a hassle to schlep around than big suitcases or duffels. Carry-on travel backpacks offer greater versatility and organization and they can be less cumbersome to travel with than wheeled luggage. But what are the best travel backpacks for women?

In this blog post, you’ll find our top carry-on backpack picks to help you pack lighter, get more organized, and provide more flexibility while you travel. I also share a few reasons why travel backpacks are my choice over wheeled luggage and what features to look for.

Looking for the best travel backpacks for women? Below are our top choices for carry-on backpacks.

Best Travel Backpacks for Women at a Glance

Travel Backpacks Comparison Table

See the comparison table below for a quick summary of each of the best women’s carry-on travel backpacks. You can click on the columns to sort by what’s most important to you.

NameCapacityWeightDimensions (in)Laptop SleevePrice Porter 4646 L52.2 oz21.5" x 14" x 9"15 in$160.00 Fairview 4040L50 oz21.3" x 13.8" x 9"15 in$160.00 40L Travel Bag40L55 oz9" x 21" x 14"16 in$290.00 Outbreaker Travel Pack45L74 oz22" x 14" x 9"17 in$300 Black Hole Pack 32L32 L28.5 oz22" x 10.5" x 6.75"15 in$149.00 Allpa 42L Travel Pack42L67 oz21.5" x 13" x 9"15 in$220.00 VentureSafe EXP45 ECONYL45L 61 oz21.7" x 13.8" x 8.7"16 in$260.00 TLS Mother Lode Weekender54L 60 oz10" x 22" x 14"19 in$120.00

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack

Bearfoot Theory Favorite

Key Features

  • Capacity: 46 L
  • Weight: 3 lbs 4.2 oz
  • Dimensions: 21.5″ X 14″ X 9″
  • Laptop sleeve? Yes (15 in)
  • Price: $160

Check price: Osprey

Osprey Porter travel backpack

Great for: Travelers who want a versatile carry-on

Pros: Lots of organization, compatible with the Osprey Daylite Pack

Cons: None that we’ve found!

The 46-liter Osprey Porter travel backpack has been around for a long time and was one of the first travel packs I ever owned. With slight improvements year after year, this has turned into one of the best carry-on travel backpacks for women who want flexibility in their travels. It is incredibly versatile for all types of traveling and exploring, especially when paired with the compatible Daylite Pack, which can be attached via reinforced cord loops.

The U-zip main compartment allows for easy packing and access to your gear while the stowaway shoulder harness and hip belt give you options on how you want to carry your luggage.

Whether you’re heading off for a weekend getaway or an international backpacking adventure, the Osprey Porter will meet your carry-on needs.

Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack

Best Carry-on Backpack for International Travel

Key Features

  • Capacity: 40 L
  • Weight: 3 lbs 2 oz
  • Dimensions: 21.3″ X 13.8″ X 9″
  • Laptop sleeve? Yes (15 in)
  • Price: $160

Check price: REI | Osprey | Backcountry

Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Backpack

Great for: Backpacker-style traveling, weekend trips

Pros: Multiple carrying options, fully zippered back panel for easy access, zippered rear flap to stow straps, lockable laptop sleeve (lock not included)

Cons: The hip belt doesn’t have a ton of padding

The Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack is one of the best travel backpack for women because it is so versatile. It can be carried as a backpack, as a side messenger bag, or as a duffle with a padded, detachable shoulder strap.

Another thing I really love about this pack is that instead of having tons of pockets and organization, it’s pretty straightforward with one main zippered compartment, a large mesh pocket, and a smaller zippered exterior pocket.

BFT team member Courtney carried this backpack throughout Southeast Asia for 5 months and loved how minimal and sturdy it was.

If you need something larger, the Osprey Fairview 55 or Osprey Fairview 70 (not carry-on approved) are both great larger travel backpack options that come with a detachable day pack. This bag is also available for men as the Osprey Farpoint.

NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag

Best Travel Backpack for Organization

Key Features

  • Capacity: 40 L
  • Weight: 3 lbs 7 oz
  • Dimensions: 9″ x 21″ x 14″
  • Laptop sleeve? Yes (16 in)
  • Price: $290

Check price: Nomatic

NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag

Great for: Business travel or shorter trips

Pros: Shoe compartment, laundry bag, excellent organization, carry as a backpack or duffel bag

Cons: No ventilation across the back, backpack straps cinch down but don’t stow completely away

Newer on the market, NOMATIC arose from Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns. These carry-on bags are well designed to be water-resistant, durable, and easy to use. Available in multiple sizes, the NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag has been rated as one of the best travel backpacks for women on the market right now.

We also like how the NOMATIC bags have a modern and sleek design if you prefer that look over the classic backpacker style.

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Pack

Best Suitcase-Style Travel Backpack

Key Features

  • Capacity: 35 L & 45 L
  • Weight: 4 lbs 10 oz
  • Dimensions:
    • 35 L: 20″ x 13″ x 8″
    • 45 L: 22″ x 14″ x 9″
  • Laptop sleeve? Yes (17 in)
  • Price: $300

Check price: Tortuga

Tortuga travel backpack

Great for: Overnight to international trips

Pros: Excellent organization, large hip pockets

Cons: Heavier than other options on this list, expensive

Tortuga is a company that designs some of the best travel backpacks made for travelers by travelers. In fact, they only have two backpacks available in their brand: the Tortuga Outbreaker and a smaller laptop backpack that fits under the seat of a plane.

The Tortuga Outbreaker is available in two different sizes: 35L and 45L. It packs like a suitcase, making it very easy to find what you’re looking for, but it can also be carried as a backpack for convenience. We also love that the back panel features a height-adjustable suspension system, so it could be a good option for women who may find unisex packs too large.

There’s tons of organization in this pack, so if you’re looking for a travel backpack that is similar to a suitcase, this could be a great option.

Patagonia Black Hole Pack 32L

Best Travel Backpack That Doubles As a Hiking Pack

Key Features

  • Capacity: 32 L
  • Weight: 1 lb 12.5 oz
  • Dimensions: 22″ x 10.5″ x 6.75″
  • Laptop sleeve? Yes (15 in)
  • Price: $149

Check price: Patagonia | REI

Patagonia Black Hole 32 L backpack

Great for: Travelers that want a carry-on that can double as a hiking backpack

Pros: Lightweight, made from recycled materials

Cons: Less organization than other packs on this list, smaller capacity than other carry-on bags on our list

Patagonia makes high-quality, durable gear and the Patagonia Black Hole 32L backpack is no exception. It features a water-repellant shell made from 100% recycled materials, a roomy main compartment, a laptop sleeve, and several additional pockets for organization.

We also love that this pack can easily double as a hiking backpack if your travels take you to the trail.

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack

Best Carry-On Bag for Rugged Travel

Key Features

  • Capacity: 42 L
  • Weight: 4 lbs 3 oz
  • Dimensions: 21.5″ x 13″ x 9″
  • Laptop sleeve? Yes (15 in)
  • Price: $220

Check price: Cotopaxi | Backcountry

Cotopaxi Allpa 42 L Travel Backpack

Great for: Rugged travel

Pros: Durable outer material, lifetime warranty and repairs, great organization, included rain cover

Cons: Exterior water bottle pocket is too small for larger water bottles

The Cotopaxi Allpa 42 travel pack is Cotopaxi’s largest and toughest travel backpack. I own and love this bag for many reasons, but mainly because it’s an all-around functional, rugged carry-on bag.

The exterior polyester and nylon shell resists moisture and defends your belongings against rough scrapes or tears during transit and the zippered mesh compartments make storing your items easier and eliminate the need for packing cubes.

You’ll also be amazed by how easy it is to organize. Wear it on your back or carry it on your shoulder, this is a high-quality, reliable travel backpack. It even comes with a rain cover.. just in case!

Like many of the other travel backpacks on this list, the waistbelt on this isn’t quite as supportive as I think it should be for a pack of this size. However, I flew with this from New Jersey, hopped on the train to New York City, and walked in the city to my hotel, and didn’t experience too much back or shoulder fatigue.

If you want to go smaller, you can check out the different sizes Cotopaxi offers here.

Pacsafe VentureSafe EXP45 ECONYL Travel Pack

Best Anti-Theft Travel Backpack

Key Features

  • Capacity: 45 L
  • Weight: 3 lbs 13 oz
  • Dimensions: 21.7″ x 13.8″ x 8.7″
  • Laptop sleeve? Yes (16 in)
  • Price: $260

Check price: Pacsafe

Venturesafe EXP45 ECONYL® Anti-Theft Carry-On Travel Pack

Pacsafe is the leading company in anti-theft travel accessories. The Pacsafe VentureSafe EXP45 ECONYL Travel Pack is perfect for those traveling with loads of technology or through areas with increased security risks.

Some of its anti-theft security features include:

  • Hidden slash guard made of stainless steel wire mesh to protect from someone cutting your pack
  • Lockable zippers
  • A stainless steel cable that you can use to lock your bag to a stationary object

I also love that it’s made with recycled materials like discarded fishing nets and other nylon waste that would otherwise end up in the ocean.

The biggest downside of this pack is that it doesn’t have a hip belt, which may be a deal-breaker for some travelers.

eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender

Best Budget Travel Carry-on Bag

Key Features

  • Capacity: 54 L
  • Weight: 3 lbs 12 oz
  • Dimensions: 10″ x 22″ x 14″
  • Laptop sleeve? Yes (19 in)
  • Price: $120

Check price: Amazon

eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender backpack

Great for: Budget travelers

Pros: affordable, good organization

Cons: A bit big and bulky, not as high-quality or durable as other backpacks on this list

The TLS Mother Lode Weekender is a 54-liter, lightweight travel backpack that comes in a variety of colors and packs just like a suitcase. Plus, it’s one of the least expensive best carry on backpacks for women, making it a great option for budget travelers.

It has several pockets for good organization, an adjustable laptop sleeve, and an expansion zipper that adds extra volume for a large load.

The waist belt is a little flimsy, but for the price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better, more affordable travel backpack.

Travel Backpacks vs Wheeled Luggage

Here are a few reasons why you should choose a travel backpack vs wheeled luggage:

  • Traveling light with a carry-on sized travel backpack gives you flexibility. You don’t need to make travel decisions based on your luggage. No matter where you are, you can just throw your bag on your back and go.
  • No more waiting for luggage at baggage claims or worrying that your luggage could get lost.
  • It’s safer – having a compact travel backpack means you’ll be able to keep it with you in your seat when traveling on buses.
  • It frees up your hands since you won’t be pulling a suitcase.
  • If you’re traveling in places with bumpy cobblestone streets or dirt roads, carrying a backpack is much easier than rolling a suitcase.

I don’t always prefer a travel backpack, it depends on my destination. If I’m flying domestically on a plane, getting in an Uber, and going straight to my hotel, then I’ll bring wheeled luggage. But if I’m on an extended trip with multiple destinations where I’m going to be spending a lot of time walking and riding on public transportation, then I’ll always choose a travel backpack.

What Features Make a Great Travel Backpack?

Our focus here at Bearfoot Theory is outdoor travel. That means all of the best travel backpacks for women that we feature here have the adventure traveler in mind. On your travels, you’ll experience the elements and different weather, and you’ll want something durable that can hold up to getting tossed around.

Here are some of the things I look for in a carry-on travel pack:

  • It must be large enough to carry a month’s worth of stuff, but small enough to carry-on. Ideally, you want something in the 40-50 liter range.
  • I prefer front or back-loading travel backpacks over top-loading. With a front or back-loading pack, there is no need to pull everything out of the pack to reach whatever is at the bottom.
  • A travel backpack must have smart, functional pockets to keep things organized.
  • It needs to be comfortable to carry when packed to the brim, with a supportive hip belt and shoulder straps.

What’s your favorite travel backpack for women? Let us know in the comments below!

Here are the best carry-on travel backpacks for women so you can pack light, get organized, and be more flexible on your travels.

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  1. Great List! I’d love to get your recommendation for a bag like this with compartments specifically for camera gear….I’m always most worried about my “babies” when traveling! Also, what’s your management system for all your carry-on goodies, like toiletries, passports, chargers, etc. I always feel like a hot mess at the airport!

    1. Thanks Johnie! For my camera, right now I’m just using a basic camera insert like this: It’s pretty easy and I just toss it in my backpack with the rest of my stuff. I don’t have enough camera gear at the moment to warrant a full blown camera bag. Maybe soon though!
      For my toiletries, I use this: It holds a TON of stuff (more than I generally carry) and it packs flat, which is really nice because you can just throw it right before you zip up your bag. For the amount it holds, it takes up very little room.
      For chargers, I use this:
      Hope that’s helpful! -Kristen

  2. I love the look of the REI backpack, but isn’t it too big for a carry on? Im new to backpacking, but I’m going on a 6 week trip to Southeast Asia and would like to bring only a carry on backpack. I’m on the search for the perfect one!

    1. Hey Ally – I looked up the dimensions and its 26 x 14.5 x 10 inches. On Delta, the legal carry-on limit is 22″ x 14″ x 9″. So the bag is slightly bigger, but you should be able to get away with it, especially if you remove the detachable daypack. Your trip sounds amazing btw!

  3. Hi! I’m looking for a backpack for a 6 week trip in Europe this coming summer and I am in LOVE with the REI Grand Tour 80. However, to save money, I want to get a bag that I can definitely carry on to planes. I’ve seen conflicting reviews about whether or not this bag can be carried on so I’m trying to see if any one has actually had success with it! Did you actually get it past security to bring as a carry on? I love clothes too much to dream of buying a 65 L backpack haha!

    1. Marilyn – I don’t actually have this bag….I just did some research to figure out what the most popular carry on bags are. But I don’t think you should have a problem if you detach the smaller daypack and put it under your seat and the larger bag in the overhead bin.

  4. Hey check out the Minaal backpack. I have one and have never looked back. Extremely convenient with lots of compartments. 🙂

    1. Michael, thanks so much for showing me this great new pack. It definitely looks like a great new innovative options for a daypack. Let me know if you enjoy it!

  5. Thanks for your thoughts and your additional suggestions. All of these packs are very popular…even if they aren’t the right fit for you, they might be for someone else which is why they were included on the list. As for wheels….I took one of these wheeled backpacks to Belize last year and really liked it. I’ve looked at the Minaal but haven’t tried it. Perhaps one day I’ll add it to the list. Thanks

    1. Kristen I love your gear reviews, but I’m with Ben on this one. Maybe you would think about giving traveling light a try.
      What’s not to love about arriving in a new city too early to check in and having a backpack light enough that you don’t mind sightseeing with it? That’s what happened to me last spring on my tour of Iceland.
      I love my wheeled carryon bag for domestic travel, but took my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 and had everything I needed for a fun week touring Reykjavik and day trips out of town. It was so much more manageable than my wheeled bag on the flights of stairs up to my room. Next fall I head to three weeks in Central Europe with the same bag.
      You really only need something to wear during the day, something to change into at night, and some layers and outwear to be prepared for whatever the weather may be. And I love only carrying 17 pounds around.

  6. Some of these don’t meet the US requirements of 22″X14″X9″ or International 21″X13″X9″. Some airlines just have a 45″ total max. But this has been a chief frustration of mine in finding carry-on luggage.

    1. Hi, Darcy!
      Thanks for your comment. It can be frustrating finding the perfect carry-on bag, but all of these should work out for most US travel even if their technical specs aren’t exact.

  7. You missed the Northface Router, the best travel pack bar none.
    Listed as a “mens” backpack, but incredibly versatile, and durable. Has room for a 17″ laptap, and ipad, and charge cable. Midsection is big enough for all your clothes and more, then the toiletry section is multicompartmented for all kinds of things, plus is full depth. Then the front has two overlapping pockets for all those nick nack things. The backpack is also very versatile as an actual packback, with adjustable contoured shoulder straps and a full lap belt.