The Best Carry-on Travel Backpacks
**2018 Update: Some of the original bags listed in this post are outdated so we’ve updated to include the best current carry-on travel backpacks available.**
As I was planning for my Belize trip, I decided it was time to invest in a new travel backpack. Up until now, my go-to pack has been a Deuter backpack for longer trips when I’m constantly on the move or my Osprey Porter 46 for casual weekend trips. I’ve included the Osprey Porter 46 in my round-up of the best carry-on travel backpacks as it is a great, durable option. Yet for my month in Belize, neither of these packs fit the bill so I set off to research more travel backpacks.
While my Deuter served me well on the John Muir Trail, traveling with any backpacking backpack is just plain frustrating. It’s always disorganized, and I’m always pulling everything out just to find that clean pair of socks (which always happen to be at the very bottom). It’s the worst. Plus, you usually have to check this type of pack because of its size and with the multiple access points to the bag’s interior, it’s nearly impossible to keep the contents locked up if that’s something you are worried about.
I’ve also loved my Osprey Porter 46 since I first got it several years back. It’s perfect for a casual weekend getaway, and I’m always amazed at how much stuff I can cram inside. My only complaint about this bag is that it can become quite taxing on the shoulders with a heavy load. It’s not the type of bag you want to be carrying around when you are moving around frequently or have long distances to walk in the airport.
There were several things I wanted if I was going to make a purchase. My new travel backpack had to:
- be large enough to carry a month’s worth of stuff, but small enough to carry-on
- be front-loading and have pockets to keep things organized
- be comfortable to carry when packed to the brim
After researching tons of travel backpacks on the market, here are 6 that stood out as the best carry-on travel backpacks currently available.
The REI Ruckpack is now my go-to travel backpack when I want to carry on. I have the 40-liter version, and I can’t believe how much stuff I’m able to fit in there while still staying organized. I’ve used the pack for three-day weekends and love that it easily fits in Southwest’s overhead compartments (note that it is slightly bigger than the dimensions of an allowed carry-on, but it should fit on all but the smallest planes). The Ruckpack also comes in a Men’s version.
There are a few features that make this travel bag different from other carry-on backpacks I’ve used.
- The zipper for the main compartment fully unzips allowing you to access stuff at the bottom of the bag without taking everything out.
- Organization: The side pocket has tons of organization where you can stash your phone, ID, boarding pass, point and shoot camera, and other small items. There is another pocket on the top of the bag and two mesh pockets on the inside panel, allowing you to separate your different travel items.
- When you get to your destination, this bag is equally good on the trail as it is in the airport. It has a laptop sleeve that doubles as a hydration reservoir, a built-in rain cover, a sturdy hip belt, two expandable water bottle pockets, compression straps, and loops to attach your trekking poles.
Shop: REI Ruckpack 40 Pack
Read more about REI’s new line of travel bags & accessories.
Pacsafe is the leading company in anti-theft travel accessories. The Pacsafe VentureSafe X30 Travel Pack is perfect for those traveling with loads of technology or through areas with increased security risks. Lightweight yet durable the pack features a hidden slashguard, made of stainless-steel wire mesh, to protect from someone cutting your pack. Your credit cards and ID will be safe in the front pocket of the pack with RFIDsafe blocking material to ensure nobody can steal your information. There is a built-in laptop sleeve to cushion your computer or if you’re out hiking this sleeve can hold a 3-liter hydration pouch. There is even a built-in rain cover. The bag features numerous security hooks and buckets to keep your vacation worry-free.
This 46-liter travel backpack is incredibly versatile for all types of traveling and exploring. The Osprey Porter 46 pack has a removable padded hip belt and shoulder harness with a chest strap. To make pulling your technology out at security checkpoints there is a slim back-panel laptop compartment. There are compression buckets on either side that allow you easily reduce or expand the size of the bag. For added security, while traveling there are lockable zippers. You can even attach a lightweight Osprey Daylite daypack to the bag via reinforced cord loops. If you need something larger, the Osprey Farpoint 55 or Osprey Farpoint 70 are both great larger travel backpack options.
This 54 liter, lightweight travel backpack that comes in 6 different colors is the ultimate steal. While it packs just like a suitcase, this bag has a myriad of pockets, an adjustable laptop sleeve, and a full expansion zipper that adds extra volume when you have a large load. The waist belt is a little flimsy, but for $99, you’re not going to find a better travel backpack.
Read our 10 travel tips for flying like a boss.
The Tortuga Backpack was first incepted in 2009 and has quickly turned into one of the most popular travel packs out there. Even with its sleek design, this 44-liter pack holds enough that many travelers report using it on a year-long round the world adventure. The Tortuga is made of top-notch components for long-lasting use and has quick access pockets for travel documents, toiletries, a water bottle, and a laptop.
Shop: Tortuga Backpack
Shop: North Face Surge Daypack
What kind of luggage or travel backpack do you like to travel with?
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