Choosing the Best Travel Backpack: A Step by Step guide

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When planning your backpacking adventure, the most important pre-trip decision is choosing your travel backpack. And there are a lot of things you need to take into consideration.

Are you going to buy a 70 liter? 60 liter? 40 liter? A travel backpack that is also a hiking backpack? How many pockets? Does it have to be water resistant? Modern or classic? 

Don't worry. I'm here to help!

I've been living out of my backpack for ten years now. I've had a few great bags, and a few terrible bags. I know exactly what you need to look for to find a backpack that is your soul-mate.

To do this, I've taken the best backpacks in the world and explained EXACTLY what kind of person they are for. Each backpack is different depending on how you travel, and what you plan to do. 

This makes things easy on you, so you can easily find a backpack that fits your style. 

There is nothing worse than a traveling backpack causing pain, discomfort and dread every time you pack up to move on.

I'm stoked to unveil my ultimate guide to the best travel backpacks of 2018!

Let's do it. 

Osprey Aether AG 70

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
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Best Overall Travel BackpackBest Overall Travel BackpackNomatic Travel Bag

  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip, shoulder and Shoulder Compression Straps
  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip, shoulder and Shoulder Compression Straps
Check on Nomatic
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Top Men’s Large PickTop Men’s Large PickOsprey Aether 60

  • Size: 60L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Size: 60L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Check on Amazon
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Top Men’s Carry On PickTop Men’s Carry On PickOsprey Farpoint 40

  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Check on Amazon
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Top Women’s Large PickTop Women’s Large PickOsprey Ariel 55

  • Size: 55L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Size: 55L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Check on Amazon
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Top Women’s Carry On PickTop Women’s Carry On PickOsprey Fairview 40

  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip and Shoulder Compression Straps
  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip and Shoulder Compression Straps
Check on Amazon
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Top Wheel PickTop Wheel PickOsprey Sojourn

  • Size: 60L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Size: 60L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Check on Amazon


So Why Choose to Travel with a Backpack?

First things first, why should you travel with a backpack? Wouldn't a suitcase be easier? 

The easy answer is no.... hell no. 

The cobbled streets of Europe, dirt roads of Nepal and busy bus stations around the world are not suitcase friendly. Suitcases are heavy, likely to get damaged, get in the way and in general, piss you off. 

Ultimately, backpacks provide a comfort and practicality that suitcases do not. 

Here are 6 reasons why world travelers use backpacks and not suitcases...

  • 1
    Backpacks have hip straps for back support. 
  • 2
    Backpacks are hands free, enabling you to be more productive while moving (checking maps, posting on instagram, drinking a beer, whatever!) 
  • 3
    Suitcases are not versatile. Backpacks are.
  • 4
    Stairs, cobbled roads and mountains are much easier to ascend carrying a backpack as opposed to dragging a clunky suitcase around.
  • 5
    Backpacks weigh less and are often small enough to be carried on planes - this saves you money on luggage fees.
  • 6
    The best travel backpacks are built to last, and some even have lifetime guarantees. 

What Makes The Best Travel backpack?

Picking the best backpack to travel with doesn't need to be difficult or expensive...

It's easy to grab a great discount deal from a top brand and to be honest if you buy anything from Osprey, Berghaus or Gregory you won't be disappointed. However, not all travel backpacks are created equal and there's a few factors you should always look at when picking a travel backpack...

Size

Size is a personal choice and the best travel backpack has no definitive size. If you are a traveler who needs more space for camping gear, you want to pick up lots of trinkets or you travel with a full wardrobe then a sixty litre plus backpack will suit your travels.

Larger backpacks however mean checked baggage fees and you are less likely to be able to take your backpack into the bus with you, instead you'll have to strap it to the roof and hope it doesn't rain!

The smaller your travel bag, the less you can take, but the big bonus is no checked bag fees and it's easier to keep tabs on your pack at all times. If you can keep your backpack below fifty litres you will save a fortune when flying.

Think carefully about the size of your pack and what's best for you, the best backpacks for travel are different for everyone - personally, I travel with a seventy litre pack as I am often carrying camping gear. 

Straps

Carrying everything you need to travel the world on your back doesn't come lightly... even when you pack light!

Wandering lost, trying to find a hostel in the heat of the day with a travel bag is not fun, even the lightest packers will agree.

So how do you combat this? Well the best travel backpacks will include well designed load bearing straps to help turn that heavy backpack into a fairly light backpack.

The aim of the game is to take weight off your shoulders and onto the hips. This is significantly better for you and you can walk, climb and even jump around pretty comfortably if your pack's weight is distributed evenly. These days most larger backpacks include hip belts as standard. 

For me, quality hip belts are what makes the best travel backpack. Without a hip belt, even the best backpack can turn into a nightmare. Some backpacks have heat-molded custom made hip belts that may appear somewhat gimmicky but are very comfortable. 

Your shoulder straps are equally important and should be comfortable to wear, without the hip belt. Look for shoulder straps that have plenty of padding. 

Pockets

Well organised travel bags make the best travel backpacks. There's nothing more annoying than a typical backpack which only opens from the top meaning that each and every time you need something you'll be pulling literally, everything else but that, out.

Pockets alleviate this problem; allowing you to assign certain segments of your travel backpack to particular items (e.g. clothes, toiletries, passport and money) for easier access. The best pocket is a U Shaped opening pocket as this allows easy access. 

Weight

The best travel backpacks are those which are as light as a feather, right?

Sadly these don't really exist and instead, you need to consider the best weight for what you'll be doing. Backpacks themselves are not weightless, the heavier the frame, the more weight you have to start with. 

In general, you want to go for the lightest, but toughest, pack you can find. Gregory packs are some of the lightest packs on the market but they are simply not as tough as Osprey or Nomatic and that is there downfall... 

Comfort

Your travel backpack will become your new best friend, it's where you will store all of your shit, it will basically become your home; therefore you need to choose a decent backpack that is comfortable.

You'll find the best travel pack by trying it on in the store before buying. When trying it on, load it up with some weight to take it for a proper test drive. I strongly recommend trying a bunch of different backpacks on at an REI or Outdoor Store before making your choice. 

You want an even distribution of weight across your hips, shoulders and chest, and to make sure there are no pressure points that may cause the bag to rub or pinch as you walk. Cushioned shoulder pads and padded hip belts are always a winner my friends...

The better your hip belt, the better your pack will sit upon your body and the more comfortable it will be. 

Material

So it's raining and you're still trying to find your hostel? Or you can see your backpack from the plane window waiting to be loaded and it's sitting in the rain? (Fuck you Kingfisher Airlines).

Water-resistant material is essential when travelling!

Your travel bag will be exposed to rain, puddles or leaks at some point. There's nothing worse than opening the bag to find your clothes soaked and stinking or worse, your electronics damaged. The best travel backpacks are made from strong, durable, stretchy, waterproof material. 

So look out for a material that will last for years - the last thing you want is a ripped bag halfway through your travels!

The Great Backpacker Debate (Must Read!)

Generally speaking, backpackers are some of the most warming, understanding, agreeable people on the planet. 

But there is one decisive issue amongst backpackers.

To travel with a carry on backpack, OR to travel with a large backpack. 

This has proven to be quite the epic debate. Every backpacker has an opinion on the topic, making it difficult for newbie travelers to know which side to pick, and most importantly, which bag to buy. 

Let's go over both options.

In Favour of a Big Bag (60L - 80L)

If you are thinking about bringing a big bag - I commend thee! 

On my adventures, I have always traveled with at least a 65L bag, this is because I'm the kind of traveler who really enjoys getting off the beaten path, being self sufficient and camping out. For my style of travel, I need to have the space to carry food and equipment. Plus, since I travel for years at a time I need to have everything I am likely to need on me. 

But I will admit, if you have extra space you are likely to fill it and traveling heavy is not for everybody. 

Pros of Traveling with a Large Bag

  • If you are camping, hiking or hitching long term - You NEED the extra space 
  • Great if traveling to cold weather destinations (boots/jacket/etc)
  • Great for long duration, off the beaten path travel 
  • Allows you to carry more stuff, giving you more options

Cons of Traveling with a Large Bag

  • Additional strain on your back
  • Have to check it on airplanes and buses
  • Many travelers simply don't need it
  • Not as ideal for urban travel

In Favour of a Carry On Bag (35L - 50L)

While traveling with a  60L+ bag might make sense for some people, it is completely unnecessary for other people. 

First off - if you are sure you will do ZERO hiking, trekking or camping... then you probably have no need for a large bag.

40L bags are still very large and can carry a ton of stuff. If you are not bringing camping or hiking gear, then a 40-50L bag can be more than enough to handle all of your stuff. 

Traveling with a light bag means traveling with less stress. Less stress on your back, less stress in your bag, less stress in your life in general. 

Travelers who carry large bags often fill it with things they don't need. 

But traveling light does require a sense of dedication, and if this minimalist style doesn't appeal to you, then go big baby!

If you are interested in traveling light, check out our monster guide to the best minimalist backpacks, or the ultimate guide to the best carry on backpacks...

Pros of Traveling with a Carry On Bag

  • Less shit to worry about
  • Less stress on your back
  • If your bag is 40L, you can carry it on airplanes, lowering your travel costs (and time)
  • You are forced to bring only what you need (can be a con)
  • Great for urban travel

Cons of Traveling with a Carry On Bag

  • Forget about camping, trekking or hitchhiking
  • Limited space means less stuff 
  • Not a great option if you want to bring a lot of clothes (whether for survival or fashion)

Should you get a Large or Carry On Backpack?

This is completely up to you and should depend on your travel style. 

Take into consideration the type of person you are... is traveling super lightweight attractive to you? Do you plan to camp? Do you plan to travel mostly to cities? Do you plan on flying a lot and want to avoid luggage fees? 

By determining your travel plans and travel style, you'll be able to better make a selection for which travel bag is best for you. 

The Best Travel Backpacks 2018

Best Overall Travel Backpack

Read our full review of the Nomatic Travel Bag!

Here at The Broke Backpacker, we are big fans of Nomatic - and the Travel Bag is their best backpack to date. 

Backed by a HUGE Kickstarter campaign (5 million!), this bag has gotten a ton of hype, which is why it's our pick for best overall travel backpack!

Nomatic bags are designed to be modern, sleek, and provide ultimate packing efficiency. This is accomplished by a great design, tons of features, and more pockets and sleeves than you'll know what to do with .

Whether you are traveling for a business trip or are a Digital Nomad traveling the world, this will keep your laptop and valuables well secured all while looking stylish. 

Size: 40L
Straps: Adjustable, waist straps
Pockets: More than enough
Material: Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave

Feature Highlights: Modern look, well designed for ultimate efficiency 

Pros

  • Looks sexy!
  • Modern and efficient
  • Tons of room
  • Lots of awesome features

Cons

  • Not everyone loves the square shape 
  • Pricey
  • Never good for hiking

Is the Nomatic Travel Bag for you?

If you are a modern traveler who spends a lot of time in urban environments, the Nomatic Travel Bag is an awesome backpack. It looks great, is feature-rich, and can pack a lot more than it looks like. Nomatic is one biggest players in the backpack niche - this bag is why. 

Best Men's Travel Backpack (Large Bag)
Osprey Aether 60

Osprey Aether 60
  • Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment
  • External hydration sleeve in backpanel simplifies refilling and protects pack contents from spills
  • New IsoForm⁴ CM hipbelt balances firmness and cushioning for optimal carry

Our number one pick is my personal all time favorite - the Osprey Aether 60!

The Aether has all the advantages of every pack of the Osprey brand (all-mighty guarantee, durability, comfort), but this model is slightly smaller than the standard 70+ litre. Making it the perfect backpack for travel on long-haul trips when a small travel bag just won't do.

Additionally, it has plenty of pockets and compartments to keep things extra organised. An AirScape back panel to keep you cool on the warmest adventures. I can guarantee it'll last a lifetime, if you don't believe me, just ask Osprey!

Literally guys, they put a lifetime guarantee on every single product they sell to prove that it's a pack that will last a lifetime.  

The only downside to this pack is you can't avoid checked luggage fee's with this bad boy. But at least you don't have to dump any stuff!

This is hand's down one of the best backpacks for travelling around the world on a longer adventure.

I've been traveling with an Osprey Aether for nearly a decade.

Personally, I travel with the Aether 70, read my in-depth review of the Aether 70 pack here, but for most travelers a 60L is adequate and if I could go back in time, I probably would opt for a 60L Aether instead of the 70L. 

Pro Note - Another great large backpack option for men is the Osprey Xenith 75.

Size: 60L
Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Pockets: Multiple!
Frame:  IsoForm5 harness and CM™ hip-belt for a custom fit
Material: 210D Nylon Dobby

Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt. 

Pros

  • Great for hiking, padded hip belt for comfort
  • Comfortable and designed to reduce stress on back
  • Osprey's all mighty guarantee!
  • Tons of awesome features
  • Offered in many sizes

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Slightly heavy
  • Not ideal for minimalist travlers

Is the Osprey Aether 60 for you?

Ask yourself a simple question - are you a man looking to travel with a ton of gear (whether for hiking, trekking, or you just want to extra space)? If so, the Osprey Aether 60 is the perfect travel backpack for you. While it's a bit pricey, this is a lifelong investment, and Osprey's lifetime warrantee makes it worth every penny.

Best Carry On Backpack for Men
Osprey Farpoint 40

Osprey Farpoint 40
  • Large panel zip access to main compartment
  • Stowaway backpanel, harness and hipbelt with zippered rear flap for protection
  • Laptop and tablet sleeve secure in lockable compartment

Not planning on doing any hiking or trekking? Does the idea of traveling ultra light sounds appealing? Do you want to save money, time and stress by being able to carry your travel backpack on a plane with you?

If so, meet the backpack of your dreams - the Osprey Farpoint 40.

The Osprey Farpoint 40 is one of the best travel backpacks on the market and is our pick for best men's carry on travel backpack of 2018.

This bag has tons of features, is very comfortable, and has a more modern look than it's Osprey brothers and sisters. Read the full Osprey Farpoint 40 review. If you want something a bit smaller, the Osprey Stratos 36 rocks, and if you need something a bit bigger, check out the Osprey Porter 46

Size: 40L
Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Pockets: 3 + main compartment
Frame:  The LightWire frame suspension and Hip-belt
Material: 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop

Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt. 

Pros

  • Osprey Farpoint 40 is carry-on size for 99% of airlines
  • Perfect for lightweight/minimalist travelers
  • Simply designed with great features
  • Lightweight
  • Offered in many  sizes
  • More of a modern/urban design

Cons

  • Not an option for hikers/trekkers
  • Might be too small for traveling professionals
  • Not ideal for minimalist travelers

Traveling light is not for everyone, especially for long term travelers. It requires patience, flexibility, and you'll have to do a ton of laundry. 

But, traveling lightweight is one of the most freeing experiences you'll have. You'll scoff at other backpackers breaking their backs carrying around 80L backpacks, as you are able to effortlessly get around in style... 

Is the Osprey Farpoint 40 for you?

Traveling light isn't a crazy idea - it's an awesome idea, and if minimalist, lightweight travel appeals to you, this is the best bag on the market. Being able to take your backpack as a carry-on is possibly the greatest luxury ever, and once you try it - you'll never look back. The link below has the latest prices on the web. 

 Best Travel Backpacks for Women in 2018

Finding the best travel backpack for women requires plenty of research and I am, of course not a woman. So to help me out on this I spoke to a bunch of kick ass women adventurers for advice. The tips, advice and best backpacks below are tried, tested and highly recommended by some pretty awesome ladies.

Most of the points described above need to be taken into account. Size is perhaps the most important consideration along with comfortable straps and weight distribution. This doesn't mean that women have to buy travel bags specifically for them, but the feedback from my girlfriend and friends; is that they're so much better and it's worth splashing out on a women-specific design. 

Other than the different design for a typical woman’s body, there is not much difference between the best women’s and the men’s travel backpacks.

So ladies without further or do, here are the top choices for the best women’s travel backpack recommended by women adventurers themselves…

Best Travel Backpack for Women (Large)
Osprey Ariel 55

Osprey Ariel 55
  • Material: [main] 210D nylon dobby, [accent] 210D high-tenacity nylon shadow box, [bottom] 500D nylon packcloth
  • Volume: [x-small] 49L (2990cu in), [small] 52L (3173cu in), [medium] 55L (3356cu in)
  • Support/Suspension: Anti-Gravity suspension, IsoForm5 harness

The Osprey Ariel 55 is our pick for the best large female travel backpack... and it's not even close. 

While not a rule, females seem to have a tendency to pack more things than men. If you are the type of lady who likes to travel with more stuff, this is your dream-bag. 

Similar to it's brother (the Osprey Aether), the Ariel provides it's users with a sleek, feature rich bag, that pays for itself over and over again. The Ariel is a perfect size, can handle a ton of gear, look great and has a ton of pockets to allow for easy compartmentalisation and storage... 

Size: 55L
Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Pockets: Multiple!
Frame:  Anti-Gravity™ Technology CM™ hip-belt for a custom fit
Material: 210D Nylon Dobby

Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt. 

Read our in-depth review of the Ariel here

Pros

  • Ideal for hiking and trekking
  • Reduces weight on back
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Feature rich
  • Offered in different sizes

Cons

  • Not the cheapest option
  • Heavier than other options

Is the Osprey Ariel 55 for you?

Women have a tendency to pack a little heavier than men do. Unless you are a ultra-light-packing-ninja, we recommend this pack across the board for women. You don't need to use all 55 liters, but the space is there if you need it and the Ariel is one of the best bags on the market. Use the link below for the latest price in 2018. 

Best Travel Backpack for Women (Carry On)
Osprey Fairview 40

Osprey Fairview 40
  • Stowaway backpanel, harness and hipbelt with zippered rear flap for protection
  • Laptop and tablet sleeve secure in lockable compartment
  • Lockable sliders on main compartment zipper

If you don't plan on hiking/trekking and the idea of super minimal travel appeals to you.... this might be the pack for you (or you can also check out the amazing Osprey Talon 33).

Similar to it's  brother (The Farpoint), the Fairview is a stylish, smaller and more affordable alternative to Osprey's larger, more hiking-esque backpcks. 

The Fairview is lightweight, compact, simple to use, and has a super comfortable fit.  Best of all, it's an easy carry on backpack that will save you luggage fees. 

Size: 40L
Straps: Hip and Shoulder Compression Straps
Pockets: One
Frame:  The LightWire frame suspension and hip-belt
Material: 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop

Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt. 

Pros

  • Perfect for lightweight travels
  • Affordable
  • Carry on compliant
  • Simple to use
  • Osprey All Mighty Guarantee
  • Offered in plenty of sizes

Cons

  • No-go for hiking/trekking/hitching
  • Too small for some long-term travelers
  • Laptop sleeve is in front

Is the Osprey Fairview 40 for you?

This carry-on travel backpack has tons of features and is a great option for any woman looking to travel light as a feather. While it's ideal for shorter trips, it's also a great option for any woman interested in minimalist-packing for long-term adventures as well. 

Best Travel Backpack with Wheels for Travel
Osprey Sojourn

Osprey Sojourn
  • Lightweight, high-rolling clearance HighRoad Chassis provides a smooth ride over any surface
  • Long haul capable deployable harness, hip belt and back panel for ultimate carry comfort
  • Back panel suspension components are removable for increased packing capacity

Read our full review of the Osprey Sojourn 60 !

If you are looking for the best aspects of a suitcase and a backpack - look no further! The Osprey Sojourn 60 is a big bag with a lot of space and offers a ton of convenience. 

Acting as both a suitcase and a backpack, this travel backpack is a perfect fit for someone with a lot of gear. 

I've never been a big fan of wheeled luggage but my wife has been using the Sojourn 60 for a few months now and she loves it. The wheels are tough... seriously tough and you can pull this bag along uneven terrain relatively easily.

The pack comes with a full hipbelt and comfortable shoulder straps which fold seamlessly away when not in use - this pack truly is the best of both worlds. 

Size: 60L
Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Pockets: Multiple!
Frame: The LightWire frame suspension and hip-belt
Material: 420D Nylon Shadow Box

Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt. 

Pros

  • A large backpack with wheels!
  • Impressively designed and durable
  • Tons of space
  • Feature-rich
  • Surprisingly comfortable 
  • Osprey All Mighty Guarantee
  • Sized 60-80 liters

Cons

  • It's big and heavy
  • Most expensive option on this list
  • Not ideal for hiking/trekking (but doable)
  • Overkill for minimalist travelers

Is the Osprey Sojourn 60 for you?

If you have a lot of gear and want the convenience of a suitcase and a backpack rolled into one - you should seriously consider the Osprey Sojourn. While the wheels do make it larger and bulkier than other travel backpacks, the overall convenience is totally worth it. 

Best Camera Backpack for Travel #1
WANDRD PRVKE 31

The WANDRD performs amazingly - our very own camera-expert Roaming Ralph took it into the Wyoming's Wind River Range to test it out!

Durable and well-sized, the WANDRD PRVKE 31 is a durable and badass backpack for anyone traveling with expensive and fragile camera gear.

If you are looking for a pack that is versatile, super durable and looks sexy at the same time - the WANDRD PRVKE 31 is the best option on the market. If the size works for you (31L - expandable to 36L) then you'll be super pleased with it's ability to do a little bit of everything. 

Size: 36L
Straps: Chest Compression Straps. Hip and shoulder. 
Pockets: Tons!
Material: Combination of tarpaulin and robic nylon

Check out the full WANDRD PRVKE 31 review here!

Pros

  • Great for camera gear
  • Tons of features
  • Looks great
  • Great durability

Cons

  • Limited space
  • Compartments can be difficult to access
  • Magnetic carrying handles don't perform well

Is the WANDRD PRVKE 31 for you?

The WANDRD PRVKE 31 is a rare chance to have an every day use urban bag, a hiking bag, a day bag and a camera bag all in one. If such versatility speaks to you, this is your backpack. 

Best Camera Backpack for Travel #2
Lowepro ProTactic

Lowepro ProTactic
  • Fits 1-2 Pro DSLRs, one with up to 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached, 8 lenses/speed lights, 15" laptop, tripod and accessories. The ProTactic 450 AW also fits the DJI Mavic Pro drone
  • Never miss a critical mission thanks four access points: the molded, turret-loading top, quick-grab from both sides, and full, back entry for set-up and security
  • Create limitless set-ups with a robust, Slip Lock compatible strap system. Internal Dimensions: 31.8 x 19.8 x 44 cm (12.52 x 7.80 x 17.32 in) External Dimensions: 34.8 x 27 x 48.8 cm (13.70 x 10.63 x 19.21 in). Weight: 2.6 kg (5.72 lbs)

Customizable, durable and well-priced, the LowePro is hands down one of the best camera backpacks for travel. If you have fragile camera gear - this is the bag that protects that gear!

Super durable, the Lowe ProTactic is engineered to handle whatever you throw at it. 

The bag is a bit on the heavy side, but the well-designed straps really help compensate, and make sure the weight is equally distributed, giving you optimal comfort.  

Rich with features (we think the "slip-lock" is cool), this bag is the real deal for anyone traveling with expensive camera gear. 

Size: 60L
Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Pockets: Multiple!
Frame:  IsoForm5 harness and CM™ hip-belt for a custom fit
Material: 210D Nylon Dobby

Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt. 

Read our definitive guide to the best bags for cameras for more options!

Pros

  • Protect your camera gear
  • Feature rich
  • Stylish and modern
  • Surprisingly durable 

Cons

  • It's big and heavy
  • A bit pricey for it's size
  • Only good for camera gear
  • Unnecessary for those without DSLR gear

Is the LowePro ProTactic for you?

If you have a lot of DSLR gear that needs protection, this is the bag for you. LowePro have made a great reputation for themselves, and this bag is one of their flagship products. If you are a photographer and are traveling with DSLR gear, this is your bag (but you'll need another bag for your non-camera stuff). 

More Awesome Backpacks for Travel

Tortuga is one of the biggest up-and-comers in the backpack world, and The Tortuga Outbreaker is one of the biggest reasons why.

Made from the same material that sails are made from (X-Pac Waterproof Sailcloth) this backpack is 1) the most durable non-hiking bag on the market and 2) is an organizational masterpiece. If you are a serious world traveler, this is one of the best backpacks money can buy. 

But we emphasize - this it not a hiking bag. If you are more of a modern traveler, and frequently travel to more urban areas, then the Tortuga Outbreaker is a solid choice for you. 

While this backpack's square shape isn't the sexiest option on the market, it helps load a bunch more stuff. For these reasons, this backpack is very popular within the Digital Nomad community and long-term travelers. 

Size: 35L/45L
Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
Pockets: Tons of pockets
Material: X-Pac Waterproof Sailcloth

Feature Highlights: Great for organization, this is the most durable non-hiking bag on the markey

Check out our full review of the Tortuga Outbreaker!

Pros

  • Incredibly durable
  • Tons of features
  • Pockets-galore
  • An organizational masterpiece

Cons

  • 45L is not carry on for lots of airlines
  • Square-like shape isn't the sexiest 
  • Not a hiking bag

Is the Tortuga Outbreaker for you?

The Tortuga Outbreaker's size, organization, and durability make it hard to beat. If you are a long-term world traveler or a Digital Nomad looking to pack as much as you can into a carry on - this is the best backpack out there. 

Kelty Redwig
126 Reviews
Kelty Redwig
  • Redwing is a tried & true trail value for all day hikes or a quick overnight, a true multipurpose pack from international travel to a day on the trail
  • Features: Top Loading, Top Lid converts to Sling Pack, Zippered side pockets, front pocket w/ organization, Stretch front pouch, Hydration Compatible
  • Suspension Features: HDPE frame sheet, Hex Mesh back panel, shoulder straps & waist belt, ventilating back panel, Sternum strap, Load lifter straps


This is a great all-round backpack and hand's down one of the best backpacks for men. This backpack has literally everything you need to adventure and travel - it's comfortable, tough, well organised and crucially it has an airflow back panel which means it's comfortable to hike with and you won't get insanely hot.

The Kelty Redwing is 44L but feels much bigger, it can be taken on most planes as carry on so you can save money on checked baggage. The Kelty Redwing is one of the best travel backpacks for short adventures.

Size: 44L
Straps: load lifters, hip-belt stabilisers, sternum straps and waist buckle
Pockets: zip side pockets, zip stash pocket, large front pocket with organisation for small items, and the large pocket on the top of the pack.
Frame: LightBeam single aluminium stay and Dynamic AirFlow back panel
Material: 420D Polyester Ball Shadow

Feature Highlights: Top loading, zippered side pockets, stretch front pouch. 

 

Osprey Women's Aura 50 AG Backpacks
56 Reviews
Osprey Women's Aura 50 AG Backpacks
  • Adjustable harness
  • Compression straps
  • Fit-on-the-Fly hipbelt


The women’s specific Osprey Aura is another truly awesome travel backpack specifically designed for the ladies. This is a high-quality backpack for women travelling on epic short or long haul adventures. Osprey as a brand are awesome and their packs are guaranteed to last many adventures! 

With the unique built-in Anti-Gravity suspension system, this bag is designed to carry up to 40lbs without the carrier even noticing! Meaning this travel backpack is stable, strong and can carry the weight without you having to suffer for it! If you're a chick hitting the road, this is the travel backpack I recommend if you want something just a tad smaller than the Ariel 55 or you are planning on doing a lot of hiking and want the best hiking pack for women. 

Size: 50L
Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Side Compression Straps
Pockets: Multiple - including top, front and water bottle pockets.
Frame:  Internal, full peripheral frame
Material: 100D X 630D Nylon Dobby

Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity Suspension, floating top-lid replaceable with FlapJacket, multiple organisation options.

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Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible

eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry-On Travel Backpack - Fits 19' Laptop - (Blue Yonder)
848 Reviews
eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry-On Travel Backpack - Fits 19" Laptop - (Blue Yonder)
  • KEY FEATURES: Full expansion zipper adds over 10% of packing space; Laptop Sling adjusts to cradle laptops sized up to 11.75" x 19"; Convertible from backpack to suitcase
  • TRAVEL BENEFITS: Lockable rings on zippers for security; High visibility 210D orange nylon lining; Water bottle pocket; Secure TLS ID pocket for luggage tag; 2 main compartments with many organizational compartments
  • ORGANIZATION: Fold-down shelf for splitting main compartment in half; Zippered mesh panel inside main compartment; Snap-out, easily accessible zippered pocket that can be separated and keep on person; Front compartment features travel organizer


If you're looking for a backpack like a Mary Poppins suitcase... this is it. Although it has 'weekend' in the name, this backpack can actually extend out to hold up to sixty litres of stuff! Which as we all know, makes one of the best travel backpacks for us budget round the world travellers.

This travel bag is great for those planning to travel light or for those escaping on frequent long weekend trips. For those more adventurous, the only draw back to this travel bag is the lack of waist strap. It does come with an attachable strap that can be used around the waist, but it doesn't offer the same comfort and support as other backpacks.?

I wouldn't recommend to take this pack hiking or on a real backpacking adventure; you wouldn't want to carry this bad-boy fully loaded through the streets of Delhi.

If you're traveling lightweight round the world and need a backpack that can shrink and grow; The Motherlode TLS Weekender Convertible is the best travel backpack for you.

Size: 60L
Straps: Detachable Back straps, Side Handle and attachable shoulder strap.
Pockets: pop-out water bottle holder, side-zip front grab-n-go pocket, inside mesh pockets and laptop slot
Frame:  Internal, full frame
Material: 840 denier twisted polyester

Feature Highlights: Cushy backpack straps that easily unclip and zip inside the bag. It can be carried by a side handle, or by attaching a shoulder strap (also included).

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Kelty Redwing 50

Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack - Hiking, Backpacking, Travel & Everyday Carry Backpack with Laptop Sleeve, Hydration Compatible, Removable Hip Belt, Carry On Bag
466 Reviews
Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack - Hiking, Backpacking, Travel & Everyday Carry Backpack with Laptop Sleeve, Hydration Compatible, Removable Hip Belt, Carry On Bag
  • Take flight with the best-selling pack the Redwing. Whether your journey takes you to the streets of Chicago or the canyons of Colorado, the Redwing has you covered
  • Hybrid-loading U-zipper design works as both a top loader and panel loader, allowing easy access to all your gear
  • LightBeam single aluminum stay and Dynamic AirFlow back panel keep your load stable and comfortable


Although a little smaller than the Osprey Aura, the Kelty Redwing still makes for a quality unisex backpack for travel on long haul trips. Ideal for use in both cities and in the mountains, the Redwing is a versatile, sturdy backpack with multi-functional pockets, a comfortable fit and easy access compartments allowing you to get to your travel essentials whenever you need to. This is one of the best travel backpacks around for compact, convenient travel for both men and women.

Size: 50L
Straps: Side Compression Straps
Pockets: Multiple - including top, front and water bottle pockets.
Frame:  Internal, HDPE frame sheet
Material: Poly 420D

Feature Highlights: Perfect-Fit suspension for on-body adjustments, easy access, and AirFlow back panel for increased comfort.

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Deuter Aircontact 65+10 Backpack

Deuter Aircontact 65+10L Trekking Backpack Forest-Moss
  • Vari Quick system with adjustment to any back length for the perfect fit
  • Pull-forward hip belt adjustment
  • Quick access through the front zip opening


Hands down, this is one of the best travel backpacks to take hiking. This is a fantastic backpack for those looking for comfort, support, breathability and freedom of movement. This backpack is absolutely one of my best picks and if it wasn't for my trusty Osprey, I would probably be a Deuter man.

Size: 65L
Straps: ActiveFit shoulder straps, VariFlex hip fins and Chest straps
Pockets: Lid pocket, Hip belt pocket, wet pocket, valuables pocket, side pockets, front opening and bottom compartments. Also, Daisy chains to secure extra gear.
Frame:  X frame Construction
Material: Polyester: 20% / Nylon: 80%

Feature Highlights: 15% perspiration control - 3D AirMesh cover with breathable hollow chamber foam that blends ventilation through a pump effect that circulates air through. Check out our full review of the Deuter Aircontact here!

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Runner up: Best Carry on Backpack

I have about four different packs now and whilst I am almost always carrying my Osprey Aether, it's well worth having a second backpack which is small enough to get by as carry-on luggage. Carry on backpacks can be difficult to choose, especially when you want it bigger than a weekend backpack, but smaller than a long term backpack.

 I've written an entire post about the best travel daypacks - check it out here. I'm giving the Berghaus Freeflow an honourable mention as I believe it's a truly FANTASTIC value pack and I've been using mine on and off for years... Berghaus are a British brand and they are not well known around the world but they create high quality, affordable, gear. 

Berghaus Freeflow Backpack, Magenta/Cerise Noire, 20 L
  • Hike in comfort thanks to free flow V fresh air Technology to allow airflow between the pack and your back
  • Stay one step Ahead of the elements if the skies open with the integrated waterproof rain cover
  • Hydration pack compatible Allowing you to stay hydrated on the move

For the days when you venture into the wilderness or walk the market streets, you need a pack that is both comfortable and practical. I've been using my Berghaus Freeflow for three years now as my go-to backpack for shorter adventures or hikes.

It's one hell of a pack and is the best budget backpack I've come across. It's pretty cheap considering the quality and it has plenty of pockets for storage, a padded hip belt, a safety whistle on the chest strap (always handy!) and an in-built rain cover.

The Berghaus Freeflow backpack is 35 litres so best for weekends or ultralight hiking rather than long expeditions where you have to carry tents and food. It can just about handle long trips but space is limited so whilst it is one of the best backpacks for travel, it wouldn't be my first choice for a long trip.

Size:  30L
Straps: Height adjustable chest strap and side compression straps
Pockets: Zipped internal lid pocket and front bungee system
Frame: Ultra-light 6001 aluminium frame
Material: Nylon

Feature Highlights: Walking pole attachments and flow or adjustable BIOFIT back system.

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Conclusion

So there you have it amigos, the best tips to help you find the best travel backpacks for your upcoming adventures. Remember, the most important thing that makes a travel backpack one of the best backpacks for travel is the comfort. 

The last thing you want is a bag that rubs on your shoulders or hips while walking. Follow these tips, try some bags on before buying, and you'll end up with a bag to last you years of adventures!

Still not sure which backpack to buy? Check out the table one last time...

IMAGE PRODUCT
tbb-table__imageTop Men's Large PickTop Men's Large PickOsprey Aether 60
  • Size: 60L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
  • Size: 60L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
CHECK ON AMAZON
tbb-table__imageTop Men's Carry On PickTop Men's Carry On PickOsprey Farpoint 40
  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
CHECK ON AMAZON
tbb-table__imageTop Women's Large PickTop Women's Large PickOsprey Ariel 55
  • Size: 55L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
  • Size: 55L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
CHECK ON AMAZON
tbb-table__imageTop Women's Carry On PickTop Women's Carry On PickOsprey Fairview 40
  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip and Shoulder Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
  • Size: 40L
  • Straps: Hip and Shoulder Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
CHECK ON AMAZON
tbb-table__imageTop Wheel PickTop Wheel PickOsprey Sojourn
  • Size: 60L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
  • Size: 60L
  • Straps: Hip, Shoulder and Chest Compression Straps
  • Feature Highlights: Anti-Gravity technology with custom fit, super comfortable hip-belt
CHECK ON AMAZON

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18 Comments

  • Rosalind says:

    Thanks for sharing. Some great idea’s for backpacks. Love the detail you go into. Makes choosing a new backpack so much easier.

  • Peter Byrd says:

    Finally – a comprehensive list of the best backpacks for travellers. I think you’ve persuaded me to pick up the Osprey Ozone. Firstly it looks beautiful but also 46 Litres is the perfect size for me. Thanks for the advice Will!

  • ann says:

    hi will I am looking at the osprey farpoint 70-80 litres, I am going travelling for 6 weeks, I do however have a wedding to attend so I have 2 extra outfits plus 1 extra pair of shoes, It will be summer so not worried about a load of clothes, I love backpack so the travel backpack with the zip all the way around looks great, any suggestions?oh I am 5ft 5in, 68kilos medium build, & have always carried a backpack, oh yeah I do not need a day pack attached, thanks?

  • Nate says:

    Great review. Thanks.
    I’m torn between the Nomatic Travel Bag and the Osprey Farpoint 40.
    I’m going to be island hopping and diving in the Philippines, so it looks like I will be getting the obligatory ‘back sweat’ from wearing backpacks..
    Is the Nomatic comfy? I see you have to purchase the hip straps separately and they are detachable, which leads me to believe thay won’t be particularly comfy or robust.
    Plus the price is probably swing it in favour of the Farpoint 40.. although I wish they did it in more colours..
    I really like the green (that they only appear to do in the women’s version ‘Fairview’.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Sarah Carter says:

    A vote for the Farpoint here, I ‘ve bought two others since I first bought that and gone back to it each time.. so much better build quality and just so comfortable to carry.

  • Alex says:

    Hi Will,
    How does a laptop fit into these travels bags? Im deciding between a 50l deuter bag and a 60l osprey. I think the 50l is enough for me right now but i think i will travel to some colder places in the future and may appreciate the larger size. However, i need to travel with my laptop as well. I dont want to check my laptop in with the checked backpack. Do you think carrying a smaller normal backpack just for my computer would be reasonable?

  • Ash says:

    Hi Will,

    I’m planning on travelling from Australia to Asia, and then on to Europe with total travel time of 9 months (potentially staying on to work). Would you recommend getting something bigger than the womens Osprey 55?

    Love your website – it’s filled with really great and helpful information!!

    Cheers, Ash

    • Will Hatton says:

      Hey Ash! Hmmmm… it really depends on how much stuff you need, and also how tall you are… but personally I would stick to 55 as the max size, if you have something bigger then you WILL fill the space, and you’ll have a real heavy pack!

  • Thanks for such a comprehensive post about travel backpacks, Will! Love how you managed to incorporate the important features of each backpack, the pros and cons, as well as links on where we can buy them. Thanks for also providing additional links on your detailed reviews for each product. It saves us time and headache when looking for the best travel backpack for us. Kudos!

  • steph carr says:

    Hi Will, I’m a very tall girl 5’10 and travelling SE Asia for a few months next year. I used a bag with detachable dayback while in Australia and loved it. I noticed the Fairpoint doesn’t have an adjustable back system. Which would you recommend?

  • JOHN KELEIN says:

    thank you for share this blog with us. I also like travelling and also like hyking on mountains.

  • Thanks for such a comprehensive post about travel backpacks, Will! Love how you managed to incorporate the important features of each backpack, the pros and cons, as well as links on where we can buy them. Thanks for also providing additional links on your detailed reviews for each product

  • It is a very advantageous post for me. I’ve enjoyed reading the blog. It is very supportive and useful information. I would like to visit the post once more its valuable content. Thanks for such post and please keep it up.

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