While luggage and packing cubes are certainly important to a traveler’s arsenal, we’re laser-focused on the travel backpack right now — the elusive bag that’s big enough to fit everything you might need while flying but also diminutive enough to comply with the standard size allowance of 22 inches long, 14 inches wide and 9 inches high (including wheels and handles). It’s one of our favorite pieces of carry-on luggage out there, allowing for one-bag travel.
Not only do backpacks allow you to be hands-free as you make your way through airport security and the duty-free shops, but they’re also a bastion of organization, with laptop compartments, battery charging ports and interior and exterior pockets galore, ensuring you’re utterly prepared for the journey ahead. To maximize the backpack’s space, you’ll want to pay attention to its true volume — also known as the amount of usable space within the bag — which is measured in liters. Most travel-appropriate backpacks range from 17 liters (a smaller, slimmer bag) to 45, which is the max we’d recommend for a carry-on.
Whether your travel backpack is carrying a Kindle, laptop, travel snacks and a travel blanket or if you’re using it as a true carry-on, packing it like a suitcase with your trip’s wardrobe and necessities, the key is finding the right one for you. In addition to size, you’ll also want to be on the lookout for one that’s lightweight, that’s comfortable to wear and includes clutch design details like suitcase handle sleeves, cord corrals, locked zippers, key clips and durable materials (or, sometimes, cute materials). It’s also good to know whether the pack is top-loading or panel-loading (otherwise known as “clamshell”).
To get you on your way, we’ve rounded up 33 of our favorite travel backpacks below, ranging from rough-and-tumble, all-terrain options that can go from the airport to the camping trip, to utterly fashionable picks for those heading to date night upon reaching their destination.
Probably the most comfortable backpack on our list, the Dagne Dover Dakota is swathed in a downy neoprene fabric that is not only easy on the eyes but also totally cozy on your back. Available in three sizes, the bag’s medium and large formats are most appropriate for travel, as they contain luggage sleeves and can hold 13- and 16-inch laptops, respectively. Both also come with a shoe bag, a detachable zip-topped pouch and a wild amount of pockets and pouches for stashing everything from your lip balm and cell phone to your keys and headphones.
With more than 2,000 positive reviews and a 4.8-star rating on the Dagne Dover site, the Dakota is a bestseller for the brand. The hardest part is choosing which of the eight colors you love the most.
Small but mighty is how we like to describe this petite backpack from luggage brand Away. Made with water-resistant nylon, the bag has a clamshell opening that we’re obsessed with, a design feature that makes it super easy to find your glasses, AirPods or any other accessory while crouched over mid-flight.
Boasting three zipped pockets — in addition to a zipped, padded 15-inch laptop compartment with a magnetic lock — the backpack also has padded straps, a top leather handle and a trolley sleeve to comfortably rest on your luggage. Want to personalize it? For $35, you can.
Ladies who love their bags will certainly recognize this brand, originally famous for its quilted texture across dozens of styles — backpacks included. This option is a favorite of ours because not only is it extremely lightweight, clocking in at less than 2 pounds, but it’s also got a handy luggage sleeve and top handle in addition to six interior pockets, a phone pocket, a key ring and a cute detachable pouch. Oh, and despite its petite size, it can fit a 13-inch laptop too. Did we mention you can easily wipe down the nylon exterior?
With nearly 25,000 positive reviews and a 4.7-star rating, Amazon’s top pick for laptop backpacks is perfect for travel, too. Boasting a luggage strap, a top handle, an external USB port and loads of pockets, the backpack can host up to a 15-inch laptop and comes with a lock that can be attached to the zippers, fully securing all your stuff. Available in four colors, the bag’s back and strap undersides are lined with a breathable mesh that will keep you cool, even when you’re racing to your gate.
When minimalism meets accessories, the Carry All from luggage brand July is the result. But don’t let all those clean lines fool you — this 20-liter backpack can fit a lot of stuff. In addition to accommodating a 16-inch laptop, which is stored in a separate, zipped and padded compartment, the Carry All’s main section has another zipped divider, perfect for storing shoes or clothes away from your main travel necessities, which all have a home of their own, thanks to internal pockets and dividers. We love the sturdy leather top handle, the comfortable quilted back panel and the secret top pocket with magnetic closure that is a perfect, easy-to-access but also safe spot for your passport. The brand offers a five-year warranty.
Longtime luggage maker Samsonite has a slew of travel backpack options, among them the slim, lightweight Modern Utility Double Shot Travel Backpack. Perfect for quick work trips where the user wants professional-looking travel gear from a trusted brand, this backpack can accommodate up to three days’ worth of clothes, a 17-inch laptop and a 10-inch tablet.
We appreciate the slew of pockets — from zippered quick-stash options to water bottle holders and organizational slots galore — as well as the S-curve ergonomic straps that are easy on the back, even when the backpack is completely full.
Launched via Kickstarter in 2017, Nomatic has become a cult-favorite brand in the travel gear landscape, known for bringing innovative, highly functioning products to masses. Among the brand’s bestsellers is this backpack, which has more than 2,500 positive reviews and a 4.8-star rating on its site. Ideal for short trips ranging from one to three days, the water-resistant backpack’s chief selling point is that it’s able to quickly expand in size — from 20 liters of capacity to 24 liters — via a zipped extension panel.
We love that the customizable straps allow you to go from backpack mode to briefcase, thanks to the side carrying handle and that the bag comes with a removable hard shell for sunglasses. More fun details: The clamshell bag has more than 20 pockets (mesh, zippered, hidden … you name it!) a luggage sleeve, a retractable key leash, a full-perimeter zipper for easy access and cord pass-through holes for seamless charging during your travels. Yep, Nomatic has thought of everything.
Actress Shay Mitchell launched the luggage brand Béis with the goal of making affordable, fashion-forward travel accessories — and she surely succeeded with the cult-favorite Backpack. Boasting more than 2,000 positive reviews from Béis shoppers, the clamshell-style bag’s front panel has three zipped compartments, while the interior features elastic compression straps that allow for packing bulkier items like clothing and travel shoes. The rest of your small accessories — pens, phone and gum, for example — can be stored in the backpack’s front pocket, and the laptop heads to a separate padded sleeve in the rear. In addition to a luggage sleeve, two water bottle pockets also flank the bag’s exterior. Oh, and it comes in all-black or a pretty two-tone cream hue.
Designed specifically with work-related travel in mind, this durable 30-liter backpack from Able Carry has a dedicated “work” compartment with sleeves for both an oversized laptop (up to 17 inches) and a tablet, not to mention a zippered pocket with slots for your tech gear — backup battery packs, charging cords, zip drives and more. The main compartment has two built-in zippered pockets for storing accessories like headphones, reading glasses and more, while the roomy cavity has room for a weekend’s worth of clothes.
The Max’s water-resistant exterior is chock-full of bells and whistles too, including a hidden top pocket for your phone or Kindle, a zippered bottle pocket (that can fit anything from a standard water bottle to a full-size bottle of Champagne!) and a vertical front pocket with organizational spots for all your necessities, plus a key leash. We love the luggage sleeve, the top loop for hanging on a towel hook and the padded straps and back section that make for a comfortable carrying journey, which is especially important if your flight just got delayed … again.
Up to the task for your biggest outdoors adventures, this backpack from Swedish adventure brand Thule is equally prepared to head straight to the boardroom, thanks to its convertible nature that allows it to transition from backpack to briefcase in a snap. Hyperorganized, the ultra-durable backpack also has lots of fun selling points like a crush-resistant pocket for sunglasses and your phone, two hidden side pockets for your passport and money and lots more stash spots for your keys, cords and everything else. Even your water bottle can be tucked away in a side zipper pocket.
Our favorite detail, however, was that one reviewer raved that despite having the backpack fly off Disney World’s Space Mountain ride, it was found the next day without a scratch and with everything inside intact. Want to spend a bit less? Check out the brand’s equally spacious Subterra Backpack that features fewer pockets and will save you more than a hundred bucks at checkout.
Heading into the great unknown for the foreseeable future? Consider taking Peak’s 45-liter backpack with you. Boasting more than 650 positive reviews and a 4.8-star rating on its site, the backpack is an airline-approved carry-on that can expand to fit more — or contract to become a daypack. Constructed from a durable, weatherproof, recycled nylon shell, the bag’s roomy interior has enough volume to accommodate three of Peak Design’s coordinated packing cubes, which can hold four (or more) days’ worth of clothing.
In addition to a padded laptop sleeve, the Peak 45L also has dual side pockets, a top pocket, hidden side pockets, adjustable padded shoulder and waist straps (that can be tucked away if checking) and external straps for carrying more stuff like rain jackets, sleeping bags or your camera’s tripod.
Cool and refined, this hip backpack checks off all the boxes. Luggage sleeve? Check. Separate laptop compartment? Check. Myriad extra pockets? Check. And all those design details are ensconced in a simple silhouette that comes in five fabrics and colors — ranging from a water-resistant navy to a coated canvas black — making it the perfect backpack for the businessman heading out for a quick work trip.
A critically hailed favorite, this Cotopaxi Allpa backpack is loaded with bells and whistles that are bound to impress. First of all, the 35-liter bag can be packed like a traditional suitcase with zippered mesh compartments but strapped on like a traditional backpack. Second, it’s got a padded laptop sleeve. And beyond that, it’s got a bunch of other great design details like four grab handles, a sternum strap and a removable hip belt, not to mention a slew of carabiner loops.
We’re big fans of everything Yeti churns out — from coolers and chairs to wine tumblers and water bottles — and that includes this tough-as-nails, clamshell opening pack. Also available in 22- and 27-liter sizes (which are better for day trips), the Crossroads has a water- and abrasion-resistant nylon exterior, padded straps for comfortable carrying, a no-pressure back panel that keeps your lumbar feeling good and two zipped pockets for water bottles and other easy-access necessities.
Inside, the 35-liter pack has a 15-inch laptop sleeve and a zippered main compartment with enough space for a weekend’s worth of clothes. When testing this one out, we appreciated the removable straps on the front of the bag, which are great for quickly attaching your rain jacket or yoga mat. A front vertical pocket is also super handy for storing travel documents or anything else you need to grab quickly while on the road. More to know: It can fit under the seat in front of you on most airlines, and it has a handle for carrying.
Ever wished you could turn your dry pack into a backpack? Well, leave it to Sea to Summit to get the job done. Perfect for snowy, rainy or just plain wet adventures — white water rafting, anyone? — the 35-liter Dry Pack’s top-loading, roll-top main compartment is completely waterproof, to the point it can even be briefly submerged under water while still keeping your PJs and extra socks safe and dry. And don’t worry, the pack’s shoulder straps are ventilated and quick-drying too.
This nearly 12-liter backpack from Boarding Pass NYC is great for travelers, whether that means you’re hopping on a plane or on a commuter rail to head to a business meeting. It’s got a ballistic nylon exterior and features cordura nylon on the interior. Each of the straps is adjustable and made from leather with brass hardware finishings. Inside, you’ll find a padded laptop sleep, zippered pocket and key clip, and dedicated spaces for pens and your phone.
Let us count the ways we love this lacquered backpack. Enveloped in MZ Wallace’s signature quilted texture, the Metro Backpack Deluxe features a shiny, airport-friendly fabric, and we think it’s one of the sexiest travel backpacks out there. Beyond looks, however, it’s highly functional for travel, with a magnetic luggage sleeve that can be used for storage when not attached to a suitcase, three exterior pockets, six interior pockets and a 15-inch laptop compartment to boot. If the airport security line is your runway, this is the backpack for you.
Leave it to Paravel, one of our favorite luggage makers, to dream up the perfect travel backpack solution — one that folds right up. Made from “negative nylon,” a silky fabric created by upcycling water bottles, the backpack’s biggest selling point is just how diminutive it is. Weighing less than a pound, it folds into itself and can be zippered into a cute little pouch that is easy to tuck into your carry-on tote or luggage.
Once unfolded, however, the backpack is a powerhouse, offering loads of room for a change of clothes, souvenirs, a 15-inch laptop and anything else you might need to carry on your back as you explore a new locale. We love the adjustable straps, the luggage sleeve and the fact that you can add a monogram. The hardest part is choosing from the six cute colorways.
Need proof that travel backpacks can be dainty? Look no further than this sweet and chic leather option from Cuyana that can be carried as a tote or a backpack and can fit a 13-inch laptop. Available in black, cappuccino or stone, the Italian-made bag features two roomy front pockets and two interior pockets (one zippered, one not). Our favorite design detail, however, is the uber-feminine adjustable straps.
Have you ever seen a prettier laptop backpack? We think not. Made from faux leather, the Kaya can accommodate a 15-inch laptop in its back compartment, while the front area is ready to host your book, snack or that extra pair of socks. We love the braided border detail, the dainty zipper pulls and the extra-wide luggage sleeve that will keep your bag ultra secure when racing through the airport.
Don’t be fooled by the sleek, chic exterior of Modern Picnic’s backpack — the vegan leather bag has a roomy interior that is perfect for stashing backup shoes and airplane snacks … and keeping them cold, thanks to the insulated lining. (That lining is also super handy for mamas looking to keep baby bottles chilled!) In addition to a padded 13-inch laptop sleeve, the backpack also has pockets for pens and travel necessities (keys, wallet, phone), adjustable straps and a top handle for carrying. Available in cream, black or saddle croc, this is one of the most stylish options on our list.
Mamas gotta travel too — oftentimes with baby in tow — which is why we love this Fawn backpack-style diaper bag so much. Any parent who has traveled with little ones knows that being hands-free throughout the journey is imperative, and Fawn’s multifunctional Original Diaper Bag is just that.
Ultra roomy and made from faux leather, this bag is beloved by mommy influencers far and wide not only for its chic design but also because it’s chock-full of storage (with 12 pockets to be exact) and smart details like a key clip and detachable backpack straps (which can be substituted with a messenger strap or carried via a top handle). Great for corralling bottles, extra clothes, toys and whatever else you’ll need to keep baby busy during that layover, the Fawn bag has more than 300 glowing reviews on its website.
Meet Amazon’s No. 1 bestseller in laptop backpacks. With more than 75,000 reviews, the bag is divided into three compartments, and in addition to being able to accommodate a 15-inch laptop, it’s got loads of key design details you’ll want. Think of a top handle, hanging clasps, a USB port and adjustable straps, not to mention a ton of pockets for storing all your things. Boasting a 4.8-star rating, the backpack’s highlight is a padded mesh backing that will keep you as cool as can be, no matter how many times your flight is delayed. Did we mention it’s just $30 right now? Done and done.
Amazon knows a thing or two about a thing or two, which is why we’re not surprised that the brand features a beloved utilitarian laptop travel backpack under its Amazon Basics umbrella that fits all your needs. Boasting four compartments for storing all your belongings, the bag’s main section can fit up to a 17-inch laptop. With nearly 17,000 reviews, a 4.5-star rating and a $36 price tag, this is a bag worth considering.
Italic is one of the fastest-growing online companies for a reason. The brand offers a vast array of products that have one thing in common: All are produced in the same factories as luxury competitors (Prada, Miu Miu and All Clad, among others), albeit for 50% to 80% less. The producer of the Rafa travel backpack’s past clients include Away, Boss and ISM. Sleek and simple, the nylon-and-leather backpack can accommodate a 15-inch laptop in a separate back compartment and includes a sturdy leather top handle, a luggage sleeve and a few well-placed pockets.
Parisian luggage brand Delsey has multiple laptop backpack options, our favorite of which is the Maubert 2.0. Priced affordably, the 17-liter bag is eco-friendly, with fabric and lining made from recycled water bottles and vegan leather. Beyond that, the top-panel backpack is hyper-organized, with the main compartment divided to hold a 15.6-inch laptop in a padded sleeve, and all your other things (phone, pens, books and snacks) in the adjacent section. And fear not, the bag includes zippered pockets galore as well as two mesh side pockets for bringing a water bottle with you to fill up after security. Want a bigger option? Check out the Chatelet Air Soft Backpack, which is 10 liters larger.
No surprise here: Herschel knows its way around a backpack! For travel, the Tech Backpack is tops, offering three main compartments, each outfitted with a variety of mesh and zippered pockets that will deliver your most organized journey ever. Accommodating a 16-inch laptop in a padded and fleece-lined compartment, the 30-liter backpack has a mesh luggage sleeve and other perks like a key clip and hidden passport pocket.
More than 5,000 Amazon reviewers agree that this rolling backpack is worth the purchase. Featuring a telescoping and fabric handle, two back inline wheels and two zippered front pockets, the backpack’s main selling point is a big clamshell main compartment that you can pack suitcase-style. The bag also features backpack straps and can fit under most airline seats.
A fancy rolling backpack if we’ve ever seen one, this Matein is packed with selling points. In addition to having a fully water-resistant bottom panel, the bag has a two-height telescoping handle and lockable zippers, the top-panel backpack has three compartments, including a clothing section that can open 180 degrees and has an elasticized belt for easy packing. A separate padded pocket can hold a 15.6-inch laptop too.
Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards.