When you’re on the road or dragging your gear through your fourth connection, trust me when I tell you you’ll be grateful you took things down a size. While bringing an extra pair of underwear or two is usually a good idea, you can always get away with packing less. One easy way to downsize is to drop your travel backpack down a few liters.

I always try to convince myself I can leave my 50-liter bag half empty and compressed to ensure it still qualifies as a carry-on, and it usually works out on the way there. After a few stops in coffee country and a detour through the legendary Guatemalan ropa americana, I’m deciding which bootleg Nikki shirt I’ll have to leave behind and staring down extra baggage fees.

No, the only way to travel light is with a small backpack, and the benefits span much further than what’s inside the pack. A swift and nimble bag, ideally still with a sternum strap, helps you go from sticking out like a sore thumb to bouncing around like you own the place, handling Tight streets, busy markets, and draconian requirements with unparalleled lightness.

Once you go light, you’ll never go back. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as zipping up an Eastpack and heading to Thailand. Bigger bags can hide flaws inside black hole compartments that store anything, but you’ll need a bag with a few tricks up its sleeve when dealing with smaller dimensions and less capacity.

A great small travel backpack is as hard to find as a great set of inline skates, but today, we’re going mobile. We’ll follow the clues and critical features to discover what makes up a great pack.

Compact backpacks can be revolutionary, whether just a few sneaky pockets, a splash of mesh in all the right places, or a bag that harnesses the ability to expand and contract like an accordion. Leave a t-shirt or two at home and trust in the best travel backpack to do more with less.

Osprey Qasar
I do love Osprey backpacks.

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Key Features to Look for in a Small Travel Backpack

You can boil down the differences in most packs to a few crucial ingredients.

Size and Capacity

It’s not about how big your backpack is; it’s how you use it. Today, we’ll define small backpacks as anything under 40 Liters. Bags within this size range will easily qualify as your free bag on any airline besides the cheapest scum of the Earth like Spirit and Ryan Air.

Some bags we’ll look at might have to squeeze into the overhead bin instead of underneath the seat, but they’ll all confidently waltz onto the plane as carry on packs.

Size matters in small travel backpacks, too. There is a delicate balance between shrinking things down small enough to fit everywhere and shrinking things down so far you can’t go more than a day without returning to your dresser drawers.

You should consider going for the smallest bag that still packs enough space for your trip. Anything under 10L isn’t much more than a small backpack purse for travel, perfect for your phone, wallet, keys, a book to read, and maybe a raincoat. 10-20 Liters is an optimal day bag size, perfect for fitting everything you need for long flights or an afternoon in the woods.

20-30 Liters will start to get you through an overnight trip or a long weekend at the beach. This size range is also perfect for a day of extreme sports. 22-26 starts to work on powder days and extreme adventures when I want to layer up and down while also finding space for a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

30-40 Liters is the large end of a small backpack travel, generally sufficient to go without laundry for seven days. Grizzled travelers obsessed with minimalism can even make it months on these bags—anything more extensive, and you’ll need to check out a different article. 

There is a lot to be said for a small backpack.
There is a lot to be said for a small backpack.

Weight

A small travel backpack carry-on is useless if it doesn’t embrace weightlessness. However, a few crucial additions might be worth an extra ounce.

 For example, my Osprey Talon comes with a complete Airscape back panel. It makes the pack weigh more than many similarly sized backpacks but also makes the bag feel lighter than air across my shoulders. It might sound ridiculous, but it’s true: sometimes, more weight will help your load feel lighter. 

We’re dealing solely in small travel backpacks today. You won’t need to work out to grab and lift any of these bags. Every option is lightweight enough to smash air travel. A mini backpack that works as part of a team should weigh around 1-4 lbs, while a one-bag travel option might creep up to five. 

You should only go for a featherweight pack if you plan on logging serious miles. There comes a point in every long walk where you’ll feel every single ounce. Until then, emphasize other features. 

Durability

Durability is the number one reason to invest extra cash in a backpack. Budget options can replicate many special features and add zippers, but unless they are YKK zips, it doesn’t matter.

A small backpack for air travel might not need to pay as much attention to the Denier rating as a backpack for the backwoods, but the higher your bag’s D-rating, the longer it will take to start to crack. Nylon is the most common backpack material, a great choice thanks to its lightweight, abrasion resistance, and longevity against mould.

Better than your typical nylon is ripstop or ballistic nylon. Ripstop is often found in Hot Air Balloons, meaning nylon woven with thicker fibers scattered throughout the standard weave. 

Organization

Consider how much trouble you can have trying to find your house keys or a lighter in your purse. It doesn’t matter how small our backpack is; it should have a separate pocket for your phone, wallet, and keys. 

Other organizational features will depend on your backpack size. A 10 Liter bag can have too many pockets; a 40 Liter bag is better with a smattering of exterior pockets and interior mesh dividers.

Try to write a packing list for a month in Europe before buying your backpack. You’ll have cords, clothes, and candies to consider, as well as passports, headlamps, and earplugs. The best luggage brands tend to be able to keep things where you need them in an effortless fashion.

Do you want to know how many times I’ve brought a pair of earplugs to my hostel, only to spend 20 minutes digging around my bag trying to remember where I put them? More times than I’m willing to admit on paper. 

My lost earplugs bring me to the flipside of organization. Nineteen separate pockets in a backpack are a whole lot of power. Some bumbling backpackers, like yours truly, need to set a lower limit than others. If you know exactly where everything is in your room right now, you’re probably a person who will benefit from a bag with many organization options. 

If you’ve got over 2.5 junk drawers sitting around right now and a few loosely labeled dresser drawers, ensure you’ve got a separate space for your electronics and the things you’ll need on travel days, and worry about the rest once you get to the hotel. 

And make sure you’re wearing clean underwear on travel days!

Oh.. and what NOT to pack too!

Comfort and Ergonomics

Because this specific article is focused on the best small backpack for travel, we’ve got a bit less to worry about in the comfort department. A 15-liter load will feel alright on your shoulders no matter what kind of mesh is underneath the strap. Still, you should never underestimate the power of a great back panel. 

You don’t need a symphony of features and adjustability to be comfortable, especially with a smaller backpack. You just need the freedom to decide if the most weight will fall upon your shoulders, hips, or back. Rotating between the three helps me do more, which every traveler should consider. 

There is a world out there where every step is lighter, and you feel like taking the long way home, and in that world, you’ll likely have both sternum and hip straps holding things down. Personally, I will never buy another backpack without these two straps again. 

Another comfort element no wanderer should live without is padded straps. Even a gym bag can wear down on your shoulders after a few miles, thanks to the thin drawstring loops they try to pass for support.

Again, you don’t need a set of Tempurpedic straps across your back for your small backpack for air travel, but you should always spring for a thicker, wider strap, and a bit of mesh never hurts anybody. 

Design and Style

Unfortunately, we live in a busy world where the things we wear, the cars we drive, and the backpacks we store our snacks define us. Our small travel backpack is where functionality dances with looks, and practicality saunters with personal expression. 

Gone are the days when travel backpacks were strictly army-style canvas or backcountry backpacking specialists, devoid of charm and personality. Today, we embrace a new era where the things we carry and what we carry our belongings in reflect our individuality. Your bag style should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, not the whip that guides it. 

In 2024, minimalism is the dominating style, especially when looking for a small backpack for digital nomads. Clean lines and recycled polyester shells look good no matter the outfit without sticking out of the crowd. A crisp minimalist bag somehow says, “yea, I’ve been here before, and I know the price.”

Alongside newer trends, small leather travel backpacks still reign supreme. They last longer than most synthetics with proper care and create a bag that exudes robust practicality.

The Gregory Rune
The Gregory Rune

Security Features

The most essential security feature of your backpack is subtlety. If you don’t want to get robbed between the airport and your hotel room, don’t book a place in Las Ramblas, and don’t pick a flashy backpack.

It’s tough for a traveler not to stick out like a sore thumb, especially in a new country. No matter what we wear, we can be spotted half a block away, alternating between looking up at the pretty buildings or trees and looking down at our phones, hoping we’re not hopelessly lost. 

Security becomes especially paramount in small travel backpacks, where you keep your valuables. I’ll happily throw my bag full of old dirty clothes and nuts underneath the bus, but you’d have to be a crazy person to put your laptop backpack down below. 

Besides choosing a lowkey exterior and keeping your bag by your side at all times, if you’re traveling around with expensive electronic equipment or not trying to spend quality time at your local embassy, there are a few more perks you can look for in your backpack. 

Most modern backpacks nowadays have lockable zippers – all that means is a hole big enough for a small lock to slip through. Others will have RFID-blocking pockets or secret stash pockets that hug up against your back. 

At the top of the charts are so-called slash-resistant materials. While none of them will break a blade in half, some materials can make it more trouble than it’s worth to quickly slit open your backpack while it’s sitting underneath your seat.

Additional Features

Whether it’s a secret shoe compartment or an additional portable closet, the best carry on backpacks have gotten creative to differentiate themselves. 

The most common feature that we haven’t yet highlighted is water resistance. There are a lot of backpacks that will get you out of a surprise shower in one piece, but very few can survive a flipped canoe. Look for a rain fly or taped seams as signs that a backpack can take on the rain. 

Besides taking on foul weather, some bagmakers like to drop a bevy of attachment points on your backpack’s exterior, especially bags made for the backcountry. These hooks and straps can be a clutch for trekking poles, but they can also get caught in the carousel. You should only add on what you’ll benefit from.

Inside your bags, two great features to look out for are compression straps and expandability. These two perks work hand in hand to help your bag fit into a smaller place and store more souvenirs. What kind of trip couldn’t use more space that takes up less room?

Another cool feature on some of these bags is their external straps, many of them are inadvertently some of the best travel skateboard bags we’ve used as a result too.

Top 17 Small Travel Backpacks On the Market Today

These bags are legendary members of a larger packing team but are also ready to strike out on their own.   

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    Cotopaxi Allpa 35 L Travel Pack

    Cotopaxi Allpa 35 L Travel Pack

    This bag is gunning for the crown as one of the best modern packs in the business, so I had high expectations, and the Allpa smashed them out of the park. The highlight is the clamshell opening that reveals four separate storage pockets, and Cotopaxi follows through with sneaky perks throughout.

    The bag isn’t a hiking backpack, and it’s not a typical duffel-style suitcase. It’s somewhere in the middle, creating a new category of gear. Most travelers don’t need many features that come with intense backpacking bags, but for a long time, it was either that, a duffel bag, or a briefcase.

    The Allpa is all three. Tuck away the shoulder straps and hip belt, and you’ll still have three easy handles that help the bag swing through security checkpoints.

    Pros
    • Pockets, pockets, and more pockets
    • A rugged exterior keeps most rain out
    • Backpack and duffel-style carrying options
    Cons
    • I’ve seen the exterior shell rip slightly after the first trip
    • No interior compression straps
    • Some of the bright colorways stick out in a crowd

    Kodiak Kobuk Leather Backpack

    Kodiak Kobuk Leather Backpack

    There’s just nothing like Kodiak Leather. From the boardroom to the Kingdom of the crystal skull, some of the best-laid plans of mice and men have unfolded with quality top-grain leather across their backs. The Kobuk is here to carry on the tradition of quality we’ve come to know from leather and modernize the category.

    The leather backpack is a biking messenger bag and an old Western warrior all rolled into one. You just can’t beat leather’s durability, and this backpack pairs up the fabric that lasts a lifetime with handy exterior pockets and essential organizational quirks to create a helluva stylish bag. If you’re after one of the best roll top backpacks out there, then you can’t go wrong with this one.

    Pros
    • Old school leather with a new school look
    • Shrinks down to a small size and can expand to 42 Liters
    • Padded laptop sleeve can fit a full-sized 15” laptop
    Cons
    • Top-grain leather doesn’t come cheap
    • Roll-top opening sticks out a bit from the otherwise square pack
    • Front exterior pocket is a bit too easy for wandering hands to access

    Able Carry Daybreak 2

    Introducing the brand-new Daybreaker 2, a 25L ultralight activity backpack meticulously designed for your everyday adventures. This lightweight wonder boasts a spacious and user-friendly design that will elevate your on-the-go experience. We’ve listened to your feedback and made thoughtful enhancements, such as a full-length zipper for effortless access while wearing it, an intelligently redesigned interior storage system tailored for adventure, and a back-panel cushion with an air-channel for superior comfort. All of this comes in a remarkably lightweight package, just 660 grams (718 grams for the X42 model).

    These subtle yet impactful improvements promise to transform your everyday outings into stress-free, enjoyable adventures. Whether you choose durable Ripstop Nylon or laminated X-Pac with reinforced stitching, the Daybreaker 2 is your trusty companion for exploring the world around you.

    Nomatic Travel Pack 14L

    Nomatic Travel Pack 14L

    The Nomatic Travel Pack is perhaps the classic Nomatic flagship product and this is the 14 – 21L, “under the seat” version. It is a versatile and feature-heavy backpack designed specifically for travel purposes. Here are some key features and details about the Nomatic Travel Pack 14L:

    • Design and Size: The Nomatic Travel Pack has a sleek and minimalist design with a capacity of 14 -21 liters (it extends its capacity by zipping up/down). It is an under-seat, carry-on size backpack that meets all known airline requirements (including Ryaniair), making it suitable for both short trips and longer travels.
    • The backpack is designed for efficient organization and has loads of different compartments and pockets. It features a full-perimeter zippered clamshell opening which allows easy access to the main compartment. Once inside, you’ll find multiple mesh and zipper pockets for organizing all of your belongings, including separate compartments for clothes, shoes, and toiletries.
    • The Nomatic Travel Pack includes a padded laptop sleeve that can accommodate up to a 16-inch laptop, providing protection for your electronic devices during travel. It also has a separate tablet pocket to keep your tablet or e-reader safe and easily accessible.

    Overall, the piece is designed to provide travelers with efficient organization, durability, and comfort. It is a versatile backpack suitable for various travel styles, whether you’re embarking on a short business trip or a long-term adventure. Check out my Nomatic Travel Pack 14L review for more info.

    Pros
    • Amazing organisation potential
    • Technically advanced backpack protected by a water-resistant shell
    • RFID-blocking pockets for credit cards and sensitive information
    Cons
    • Only available in black
    • The most expensive pack on our list that is made out of synthetic materials
    • Pretty heavy

    AER Day Pack 2

    Aer Day Pack 2

    Behind a simple exterior lies a powerhouse tech backpack. AER’s zipper hides not one but two electronic sleeves – one suitable for a king and a full-sized laptop, the other slightly smaller in stature and great for tablets, kindles, or paperwork. And that’s just in the main compartment! 

    Another front pocket provides a space for cell phones and crayons and a sneaky zippered section perfect for stowing tickets to ride.

    I’ve always had a nasty habit of shoving things into dark recesses as soon as they come into my possession, which can get tricky when I’m handed boarding passes for four different legs. Not any longer. It all goes in a comfy section that keeps the tickets right where I can see them. 

    Pros
    • Sturdy bottom helps the bag stand up on its own
    • Three separate compartments bring big bag organization
    • An expandable water bottle pocket practically disappears when not in use
    Cons
    • Not built to store much clothing
    • Heavy and stiff for such a small pack
    • More of an EDC pack than a bonafide traveler

    Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L

    Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L

    You can choose between a 30 or 40-liter model of the Tortuga Travel backpack, both primed for carry-on travel. The bag packs like a suitcase in one compartment and a classic backpack in the other, both with plenty of organizers to separate your cords from your corduroys.

    All this packability in this waterproof small backpack is wrapped up in sail cloth and a solid set of comfortable shoulder straps. A removable hip and sternum set takes the load off when you need it and disappears when you don’t. 

    Pros
    • Padded laptop compartment stores a 17” computer
    • Comes with seven sleek exterior pockets
    • The high-tech bag employs recycled polyester
    Cons
    • The bag sits in an awkward square position on your shoulders
    • Might have trouble sneaking this backpack underneath your seat
    • Would like to see more unique storage options inside the main compartment

    Osprey Nebula 32 Pack

    Osprey Nebula 32 Pack

    Osprey has achieved backpacking greatness, and the brand is taking its groundbreaking approach into the urban jungle with the Nebula. Osprey stripped down some of the more backpacking-focused features to whip up a lightweight pack that fills myriad roles within your closet. 

    This pack delivers the goods with flexibility and comfort. You don’t need to be running a company from your laptop to appreciate the Nebula. It keeps a lot of classic backpack features and adds fun value where it counts, like the exterior compression straps that ensure the Nebula squeezes underneath your seat. 

    Pros
    • Classic backpack style with a modern Osprey boost
    • Equally capable of taking you to school and to Scotland
    • Made from 100% recycled materials
    Cons
    • Doesn’t come with the same Airscape panels as other Osprey backpacks
    • Hip belt is comically inadequate
    • Not as water-resistant as many other backpacks on our list

    REI Ruckpack (18 – 28L)

    REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Recycled Daypack

    REI makes some of the best budget outdoor gear on the planet. While you can’t trust a lot of sub $100 backpacks to take you through the muck, the Ruckpack does the job affordably. The Co-op produces the Ruckpack in a wide range of sizes, from 18 to 60 Liters. The bag’s smaller end takes the same look, shape, and comfort as a larger pack and goes mobile. 

    Comfort is king with the Ruckpack. You won’t find many other 18-liter backpacks with this kind of back panel and strap adjustability, although REI stopped short of adding a legitimate hip belt to this pack. It squeezes tight across your chest and hangs loose on your shoulders to keep you moving. 

    The Ruckpack rounds out the edges with daisy chains and side panel loaders, bringing a bit of modern convenience and backcountry versatility to a solid shell sourced from recycled materials. 

    Pros
    • You can often find this bag on sale for less than $50
    • Protected for a year by the generosity of Return Everything Incorporated
    • A few clutch compartments inside greatly boost the convenience of the bag
    Cons
    • Only one water bottle holder
    • REI cut some corners to save a few bucks
    • More suitable for the backcountry than the front of the line

    Wandrd Prvke Lite

    WANDRD PRVKE Lite

    This compact, versatile pack is the perfect bag for someone looking to change how they carry it. First and foremost, the series is a camera bag, perfect for packing camera equipment and whipping out lenses before the Blue-footed boobies fly off. That doesn’t mean you must be a professional photographer to feel provoked.

    If you want to get creative, the built-in camera cube and six different zippered pockets can store all sorts of equipment in a soft, spongy environment that will survive a few bumps and bruises on your way to the mountaintop. We rate this as one of the best camera bags on the market right now.

    Pros
    • Special camera compartment is always only quick zip away
    • Eight exterior loops hook tripods and yoga mats
    • One of the most serious camera holders on the market
    Cons
    • Not a great choice if you don’t have a camera to store
    • Can’t synch the bag to your shoulders
    • To get the most out of this pack, you’ll have to buy additional accessories
    The best present of all… is CONVENIENCE!

    Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.

    So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉

    Buy on REI!

    Osprey Daylite Plus Pack

    Osprey Daylite Plus Pack

    The Daylite Plus Pack is the crown jewel of Osprey’s most lowkey backpack line. The Daylite series is all about working as a team. The Pack isn’t built to be the only one in your closet, but it fulfills an essential role as your constant partner for quick trips to town and leisurely treks to waterfalls. 

    The Daypack is a frameless bag, a clutch feature for a small travel backpack. My Talon 22 doesn’t quite bend and change shape to fit inside larger suitcases, but my Daylite is much more cooperative. I often shove the Daylite inside a larger pack to get my ticket without paying for baggage and await an offer to gate check. 

    You can whip the Daylite out, put your bulky bag in the overhead compartment, and keep everything you need for a longer flight. The same goes for arriving at your final destination. I don’t want to unpack everything before going out in search of dinner, and with this simple pack, I don’t have to.

    Pros
    • Costs the same as REI’s rucksack
    • Includes a simple laptop stowaway
    • Front storage compartment brings features usually reserved for more expensive packs
    Cons
    • Doesn’t have the same level of Airscape support as other Ospreys
    • Super simple sternum and hip belts won’t be that comfortable on longer walks
    • We would love to see a better exterior pocket for stowing wet gear

    Salkan The Daypack

    Salkan The Daypack

    Salkan’s Daypack is a crisp-looking minimalist pack that sneaks in a few fun customization options. A great backpack is all about the little details, and Salkan helps you make them your own by choosing your daypack strap color to accentuate your pack.

    It also helps out with a secret back pocket. Salkan provided a stowaway for your phone, wallet, and keys, accessible without taking your backpack off your back and invisible at first or second glance. Everything on this pack was a conscious decision made by full-time travelers who built a bag for the journey, not the destination. 

    Pros
    • Easily attaches to Salkan’s Mainpack for a complete travel set
    • Wax-coated exterior wicks off moisture
    • Laptop pocket comes with straightforward access
    Cons
    • Made using recycled materials but lacking transparency on the percentages
    • A relative lack of external pockets compared to other bags on our list
    • Laptop compartment will struggle to fit a 15” MacBook

    Osprey Quasar

    Osprey Quasar 26L

    The Quasar slightly takes things up from Osprey’s Daylite pack without diving into backcountry territory. The main upgrade is a bungee-style holder that lines the pack’s back with an oversized carry-all compartment. You’ll also find a boost in comfortable mesh shoulder straps and a two-toned exterior shell that compresses down. 

    While it has a few technical features across the zippers, this pack is still about commuting first. The interior laptop compartment is split into two sections for plenty of space to stack paper. Right smack in the middle of the bright bag’s upper half are two sneaky zipper pockets for the little things. 

    Keep the important things tucked away, and access tickets, cell phones, and Clif bars in a flash. Those are my two keys to success for a commuter backpack, and the Quasar does those two things as well as anyone. 

    Pros
    • Walks a great line between comfort on a day hike and fitting in on the subway
    • Exterior bungee is the perfect spot for a raincoat
    • Comes with three separate tablet, laptop, and document sleeves
    Cons
    • The pack doesn’t bring the same suspension system as Osprey’s more technical backpacks
    • No space for a hydration reservoir
    • Not much ventilation for a 26-liter pack

    Topo Designs Mini Quick Pack

    Topo Designs Mini Quick Pack

    Unlike the other small backpacks on our list, this bag is more of a fanny pack on steroids. It’s a sling or waist style option that loops off one shoulder or buckles across your waist. Topo Designs Mini Quick Pack has many perks that make it great for bicycle commuting or good old-fashioned joy riding. 

    Topo Designs split storage into a stash pocket with a keyring and a roomy main compartment. You can keep your snacks and small change within easy reach and separated from your cell phone and other electronics. This comes in clutch on many rides where single-compartment fanny packs would bring keys and quarters smashing into my cell phone. 

    Outside the two-pocket system are a surprising amount of connection points. There are two carrying handles in addition to the waist/shoulder straps, and compression straps along the bottom help you pack oversized objects. 

    Pros
    • Quick adjusting buckle helps to stay stylish
    • Main compartment has a quick-access pouch where my chapstick lives
    • Comes in tons of fun two-toned colorways
    Cons
    • There are a lot of hanging straps and cords for such a mini backpack
    • While there are two compartments, the more your store in one, the less you can pack in the other
    • Only one liter of storage

    Lojel Niru Daypack

    Lojel Niru Daypack

    Lojel’s Niru has embraced modern, stylish choices and fitted out a hot backpack while sneaking in design features that make this daypack feel different. A set of cheeky buckles helps the bag shrink in different sizes based on your fill. It will squish to the size of a small briefcase and open up to 20 Liters of storage.

    To better take advantage of the three different expandable sides, this daypack zips open on one side briefcase style instead of up top like most backpacks. These design shifts make the Niru feel like a fashion-forward bag with fashion-forward functionality. 

    Pros
    • You have a lot of control over the size of this backpack
    • Made from 100% recycled nylon
    • The pack weighs relatively little for 20 Liters of storage
    Cons
    • You won’t find a lot of features that encourage a comfortable carry
    • No external pockets
    • The zipper being on the side feels exposed to theft

    Deuter Speed Lite 20 Pack

    Deuter Speed Lite 21 Pack

    No daypack can do it all, but the Speed Lite gets damn close. This daypack is just as comfortable bombing the hills as it is meandering through crowded city streets. That’s largely due to the excellent back panel system, which may be one of the best uses of mesh I’ve ever used. 

    While it’s not quite as comfortable as Osprey’s Airscape panel or as bendable as a backpack with no back support, it brings excellent comfort and packability together. You won’t find many other packs that would stay comfortable across your shoulders all afternoon and then condense to such a small size for storage. 

    Pros
    • There is perhaps no backpack that would be comfortable in more situations
    • Exterior lash points hold onto trekking poles and travel pillows
    • Small enough to qualify as a personal item
    Cons
    • Not as many organizational pockets as other day’s hiking-ready backpacks
    • There is no way to zip the elastic outer compartment
    • Inside sleeve is a bit too small for most laptops

    Fjallraven Kanken No. 2 Laptop Pack

    Fjallraven Kanken No 2 Laptop Pack

    Fjallraven added a bit of detail work onto their classic Kanken to come out with another great bag for students and commuters. This laptop pack brings in a bit of leather detailing and extra padding to provide a more mature look.

    It brings that extra effort in all sorts of places, but nowhere stands out more than in the included seat pad. I’ll be honest with you – I just threw my seat pad away. It adds extra weight, and I don’t mind a misty ass occasionally. Still, it’s a notable inclusion to the pack that someone else may find a game-changer.

    In addition to a removable tushie cushion, the Kanken Laptop Pack brings standout features like a completely separate zippered compartment for your laptop. It ties it all together with FjallRaven’s signature look for a great small travel backpack that brings confidence across your shoulders.

    Pros
    • Leather tote-style carrying handles make this bag feel extremely versatile
    • Stands up on its own when full
    • Comes in several different sizes that fit all sorts of laptops
    Cons
    • Seat padding and a separate laptop compartment force the bag into a square shape
    • The foxy Fjallraven logo always comes at an inflated price
    • Side pockets won’t hold a Nalgene bottle

    Wandrd Veer Packable Backpack

    WANDRD VEER 18L Packable Bag

    Allow us to introduce you to the most ambitious packable backpack on the market. The bag shrinks to the size and weight of a travel pillow and expands with the help of your breath to a true powerhouse. You can inflate your own back panel and camera cube setup to get the most comfort and compartmentalization out of this 18 Liter unit. 

    You won’t find many packable backpacks that can store much more than 18 Liters, and you certainly won’t find many with more features than this one. Wandrd’s bags are built for photography first, but the Veer does an excellent job storing everything you need for a day trip, camera or not. 

    Pros
    • Packable backpack with four separate compartments
    • Uses weather-resistant nylon
    • An ultralight option still capable of turning some tricks
    Cons
    • Designed to work with an inflatable camera cube, but the cube is sold separately
    • An ultralight backpack built for a full-size camera is slightly redundant
    • Relatively expensive for the packable backpack category

    Troubadour PIONEER BACKPACK

    Troubadour PIONEER BACKPACK

    Our last backpack means business. The Pioneer combines Recycled polyester and vegan leather trim into an incredibly professional backpack. It makes it easy to make it to the top without harming the Earth along the way, but this bag is more than a sexy, sustainable option.

    It also brings some incredibly forward innovations that other companies could benefit from “borrowing.” The collapsable compartment at the bottom of the Troubadour leads the way, which forms a pouchlike pocket for gym clothes or shoes but can also collapse down to nothing if you’d rather save space in the main compartment.

    Speaking of the main storage area, Troubadour fills it out with a laptop compartment and two more mesh zippered pockets that help you pack for a day at work, a post-work gym session, and dinner and drinks without heading home.

    Pros
    • The bag brings an extra inch or two of length that helps you stuff it full without sticking out
    • Super large front compartment
    • Comes with a sneaky shoe compartment
    Cons
    • Zippers get stuck rounding corners
    • No hip or sternum straps
    • When stuffed full, the top pocket can get floppy

    How to Choose the Right Small Travel Backpack for You

    Some of us can get by for six months on three t-shirts and one pair of shoes; for others, that might not even get you through an afternoon. There is no wrong way to travel as long as you’ve got the right backpack for the job. We just looked at seventeen great options, each one someone else’s perfect match and not one capable of packing for everyone.

    Digital Nomads heading to a new city to get some work done and sample the nightlife will need the best travel buisness backpack with plenty of tech pockets and space for a set of boogying shoes. Casual travelers going to the budget route on Ryanair will want a bag with compression straps and other tricks up its sleeve to shrink down in size.

    A business traveler heading to a meeting will want a backpack that will guarantee your tools and your outfit get there in one piece, maybe even splurging for a small travel backpack with wheels to roll into the office feeling confident. Who knows better than you do? Not even god.

    To find your perfect backpack, you’ll have to look inward. Consider what kinds of transportation you want to take, how far-flung you want to head, and whether or not you want to try skydiving. It all matters, and it all leads you closer and closer to your perfect backpack.

    Once you’ve had a few tough conversations about your travel persona and narrowed your list, it’s time to get your hands on a few backpacks. Head to your local REI or the closest thing you’ve got to an outdoor store and start poking around.

    You’ll want to touch on the back paneling, exterior fabrics, pocket locations, and adjustability options. Many backpacks make big promises – like shoulder straps you can tuck away or comfortable dynamic mesh backings. 

    It sounds brilliant on paper but can often be severely lacking in execution, resulting in shoulder straps that still dangle or bulky front zippers you can’t reach without removing the whole backpack. Don’t be shy— strap those backpacks on and stroll around the store. 

    This is where you can identify the features necessary to you. For example, I felt the butterflies in my stomach when I picked up the Allpa bag for the first time and saw how the laptop compartment separated itself from my shoe collection. 

    On the flip side, based on the internet reviews and spec sheet of the Osprey Fairpoint, I was sure it would be a pack that solved a lot of my problems, but when I picked it up in my hands, I felt it was too rigid and bulky for what I’m looking for. 

    After you’ve got your hands on a few bags, it’s time to take a nervous glance at the price tag. Getting a feel for different aesthetics is important before letting price scare you off. If you’re looking to stay hydrated, then make sure you check out the lineup from CamelBak too.

    When traveling, practically nothing matters more than the bag you pack up your life into and hit the road with. You can save money on a budget bag now, but you might be starting over and shopping again in a year or two. Higher-quality backpacks should have more protections and guarantees to keep you moving for decades. 

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      Get Ready For Your Next Trip With the Broke Backpacker

      The Salkan Daypack and its big brother, the main pack.
      The Salkan Daypack and its big brother, the main pack.

      The perfect small travel backpack for Europe is not necessarily the most expensive but the one that offers the right balance of quality, features, and affordability. Read reviews, seek the truth, and compare prices to find the hidden gems that provide exceptional value.

      In our quest to find the one, we put the industry through the wringer, stepping all sorts of bags onto the scales and tossing them around for good measure. The few that survived were stuffed full, swung around our shoulders, and locked down as we head for the open road. 

      Traveling on a budget is more fun with the best travel backpack stuffed full of the best gear, and it’s a lot easier to come by with some quality advice from a Broke Backpacker. Our wide-ranging team occasionally stops in one place long enough to provide comprehensive guides to budget travel. 

      Together, we’ve logged hundreds of thousands of air miles but moved too slowly to get frequent flier benefits out of them. There are plenty more in-depth reviews and off-the-beaten-path destination recommendations where this came from.

      Whether you’re headed to Cancun or sticking your thumb out towards an off-the-beaten-path destination, use our resources, pack one of the bags on our list, and we’ll meet you out there—dibs on the bottom bunk.