Choosing the Best Travel Backpacks: A Step by Step Guide

Jump To:   Best Overall Backpack  |   Best Hiking Backpack   |   Best Carry On   |   Best Daypack |   Buyer Guide

When planning your backpacking adventure; the two most essential items for any aspiring traveller are a good pair of shoes and a quality traveling backpack. Your backpack will carry every single one of your possessions on the road: it will become your home. You need your chosen backpack to be strong, durable, comfortable, and compact enough to save you some space! I for one, love my trusty old backpack – it’s become a travel buddy while I explore the world.

Choosing the best backpack for traveling is a bit of a minefield but I’ve been living out of backpacks for ten years now and I know what to look out for when choosing the best backpack to travel with. To find the best bag for travel I did a heap of research and a ton of trial and error over the years. All of that experience has culminated in this guide!

I’m here to answer the age-old question: what is the best travel backpack? Join me as I explore several bags and what makes them more or less suitable for each person’s specific needs.

a man with his best travel backpack surveys a lake

I’m stoked to unveil my ultimate guide to the best travel packs of 2019!

 

Quick Answer: These are the Best Travel Backpacks of 2019

JUMP TO -> The Best Travel Backpack Reviews

 

I’ve taken the best travel packs in the world and explained EXACTLY what kind of traveler they are for. Each backpack is different depending on how you travel, and what you plan to do on any given adventure.

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.

Let’s do it.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
tbb-table__image Best Overall Travel BackpackBest Overall Travel BackpackNomatic Travel Bag

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Nomatic
tbb-table__image Best Travel Backpack for Men (Large)Best Travel Backpack for Men (Large)Osprey Aether 60

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 60
  • Material > 210D Nylon Dobby
  • Best Use > Trekking, backpacking, hiking, international travel
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 60
  • Material > 210D Nylon Dobby
  • Best Use > Trekking, backpacking, hiking, international travel
Check on REICheck on Amazon
tbb-table__image Osprey Farpoint 40

  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on REICheck on Amazon
tbb-table__image Osprey Aura 50

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 50
  • Material > 210D Nylon Dobby
  • Best Use > Trekking, backpacking, hiking, international travel
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 50
  • Material > 210D Nylon Dobby
  • Best Use > Trekking, backpacking, hiking, international travel
Check on REICheck on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Carry-on Backpack for WomenBest Carry-on Backpack for WomenOsprey Fairview 40

  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on REICheck on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Daypack for TravelBest Daypack for TravelActive Roots Foldable Day Pack

  • Price > $
  • Liters > 34
  • Material > 420D Nylon Shadow Box
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $
  • Liters > 34
  • Material > 420D Nylon Shadow Box
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Full Size Carry On (Unisex)Best Full Size Carry On (Unisex)Tortuga Outbreaker

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 35 and 45
  • Material > X-Pac waterproof sailcloth
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 35 and 45
  • Material > X-Pac waterproof sailcloth
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Tortuga
tbb-table__image Best Travel Bag for Digital NomadsBest Travel Bag for Digital NomadsNomatic Travel Bag

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Nomatic
tbb-table__image Best Travel Bag with WheelsBest Travel Bag with WheelsOsprey Ozone

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 42
  • Material > 210-denier nylon honeycomb/450-denier packcloth
  • Best Use > Travel, international wheelpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 42
  • Material > 210-denier nylon honeycomb/450-denier packcloth
  • Best Use > Travel, international wheelpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Camera Backpack for TravelBest Camera Backpack for TravelWANDRD PRVKE 31

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 31 – 36
  • Material > Combination of tarpaulin and robic nylon
  • Best Use > Travel photography
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 31 – 36
  • Material > Combination of tarpaulin and robic nylon
  • Best Use > Travel photography
Check on WANDRD
tbb-table__image Best Travel Bag for LaptopsBest Travel Bag for LaptopsTortuga Setout Laptop Backpack

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 25
  • Material > 900D heathered polyester
  • Best Use > Travel, digital nomad lifestyle, carry on, day pack
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 25
  • Material > 900D heathered polyester
  • Best Use > Travel, digital nomad lifestyle, carry on, day pack
Check on Tortuga

 

So Why Choose to Travel with a Backpack?

If there is this much research to be done to find the best backpacks for traveling, why travel with one at all. Wouldn’t a suitcase be easier? The easy answer is no, it would not.

The cobbled streets of Europe, dirt roads of Nepal, and busy bus stations around the world are not suitcase friendly. Your suitcase is likely to get damaged, get in the way and, in general, piss you off. Trust me, carrying your suitcase because the wheels have fallen off while you search for the hostel, is not a great start to a trip plus you look like an idiot. Backpacks to the rescue!

The best backpacks for travel make life when travelling, easier. Strapped to your back, with a good hip strap you’ll barely feel the weight of your travel pack on your back. On your travels, you will often pick up your luggage and hoist it over your head to access luggage compartments, lofts, treehouses, bunk beds, etc… This is significantly easier with a backpack compared to a suitcase.

Crucially, when travelling with a backpack your hands are free to use Google Maps to find your hostel, tackling stairs is not a problem, and you can officially join the backpacker hordes! No one likes a suitcaser.

The best backpacks for travel are made with budget travellers in mind! If you travel with a compact backpack you can save a fortune on luggage fees and simply take your backpack on a flight as carry on.

A women boarding a train with her compact backpack

So simple!

Still not convinced? What if I told you that once you invest in the best travel bag you shouldn’t ever need to buy another one! Good quality travel backpacks last years and do not get damaged as easily as suitcases. I’ve been dragging my pack around the globe for nearly ten years and it’s still going strong… even better, my pack has a lifetime guarantee.

The best backpacks for travel will be flexible in size and shape so when they are not full, there is more chance that you can take them on board planes. Some travelling backpacks even come with detachable day packs to make things even easier.

 

Best Travel Backpacks for Men vs Women

There are literally thousands of travel backpacks on the market and the best packs tend to be made with one gender or another in mind. Unisex backpacks usually will fit pretty much anybody but you can get a man’s backpack, which will take into account broad shoulders, for the same price so I definitely recommend finding a gender-specific backpack when you hit the road.

Finding the best travel backpack for women requires more research than nice colors and comfortable straps. 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.

A woman hiking with a medium size backpack

The best travel backpack for women takes into account the feminine frame.

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.

Other than the different design for a typical woman’s body, there is not much difference between the women’s and the men’s travel backpacks. Most of the points that you’ll below apply to both genders so keep these in mind.

 

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Best Travel Backpacks of 2019

Let’s kick this off with what I feel is the best backpack for travel. Minimalists and digital nomads behold…

 

Nomatic Travel Bag 40L – Best Overall Travel Backpack

nomatic travel bag: the best backpack for travel

It’s easy to see why the Nomatic Travel Bag is our pick for best travel backpack of 2019.

Read our full review of the Nomatic Travel Bag!

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

Feature Highlights: Modern look and well designed for ultimate efficiency.

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

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 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.

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.

View on Nomatic

 

Osprey Men’s Aether 70 – Best Hiking Travel Backpack (Men)

Osprey Men’s Aether 70: best travel hiking backpack

The best hiking backpack for men (see women’s choice below!)

  • Size: 70L
  • 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 a custom fit, convertible top-lid day pack.

The Osprey Aether has all the advantages of every pack of the Osprey brand (the Osprey ‘All-Mighty Guarantee’, durability, comfort), but this model is slightly smaller than the standard 80+ liter. 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 organized. 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 it. 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 hands down one of the best backpacks for travelling around the world on a longer adventure.

Check out our review of the Aether 70 pack here. 

View on Amazon View on REI

 

 

Osprey Aura 50 – Best Travel Hiking Backpack (Women)

Osprey Aura 50: best travel abckpack for women

Osprey makes quality backpacks, and this one is a classic 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.

The ladies-specific Osprey Aura is the best travel backpack for women. This is a high-quality backpack for women travelling on epic short or long haul adventures. Osprey as a brand are awesome and they guarantee to last many adventures! Seriously, all Osprey travel bags come with a lifetime guarantee making them undeniably the best value backpacks.

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 lady hitting the road, this is the travel backpack I recommend.

Overall, you should get the Osprey Aura 50 if you are traveling in a variety of weather (humidity and snow) and hike and backpack often. This backpack will be a great fit if you are looking for a high-quality backpack that can handle wear and tear.

Check out our awesome Osprey Aura 50 review here.

View on Amazon View on REI

 

Osprey Farpoint 40 L – Best Carry-on Backpack (Men)

Osprey Farpoint 40 L: best carry on backpack for men

The best carry on backpack for men (see women’s choice below).

Fairpint 40 Highlights:

  • 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.

Overall, you should get the Osprey Farpoint 40 if you are traveling the world, and like to pack super light (like me).

If you are looking for a nearly indestructible carry on backpack which can actually carry, and compartmentalise, a lot of stuff – this backpack might be your match made in heaven.

Because of it’s 40 liter size, the Farpoint 40 is a near-guarantee to carry on no matter the airline. This will save you hundreds of dollars in checking fees, and countless hours waiting in baggage claim. And as we will look at later, there is plenty of space to make sure that light-traveling does not mean bad-traveling.

In my opinion, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is the best value carry on backpack on the market right now.

Check out our epic Osprey Farpoint review here

View on Amazon View on REI

 

Osprey Fairview 40 – Best Carry-on Backpack (Women)

Osprey Fairview 40: best carry on backpack for women

Sleek and practical – this is a great carry on travel bag

  • Size40 Liters
  • Material:  210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use:  Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle

The Osprey Fairview 40 was designed specifically for women – making this category an easy choice! To clarify for the ladies…

ANY of the bags mentioned prior can be used for women. Whether you are interested in Minaal, Tortuga, Nomatic, or any of the others – all of these bags are unisex.

Except for the Osprey Fairview 40, which was designed specifically for women.

Feature Highlights: 

  • All of the pros of the Osprey Farpoint 40.
  • A hiking and carry on backpack specifically designed to fit women!

Just as the Osprey Farpoint 40, the Farview 40 is a masterpiece, and is taken to the next level by being tailored for women.

This travel backpack can transform into a duffel bag, which is made even more awesome by the included shoulder strap, and the ability to stow the bag’s harness and hip belt. At a square 40 liters, you’ll rarely have to worry about this bag being checked.

Is the Osprey Fairview 40 the best traveling backpack for you?

If you are a lady, and want all of the glory of Osprey in a bag that is specifically designed for you, then hell yes! Please, don’t be hesitant to purchase any of the other bags (as they are all unisex!) but if you want a badass hiking pack that also functions as a carry on backpack, this is an easy pick.

View on Amazon View on REI

 

Active Roots Foldable Daypack – Best Daypack for Travel

Active Roots best daypack for travelers

Foldable backpacks are awesome.

  • Size: 34 liters
  • MaterialWater-resistant nylon
  • Pockets: 7

This foldable backpack is the best daypack for travel because it is extremely lightweight and (only 10o oz), yet still durable enough to handle any adventure. This is a great daypack to take on any of your travels because you can pack it away when not in use, yet always have a daypack for urban and hiking outings.

I even like bringing this daypack on multi-day treks, so I can leave my base camp  and still pack the essentials. With a 34 liter capacity you have PLENTY of space to bring extra water, food, and layers.

I love that it offers 7 easy-access pockets and pouches to organize your belongings. Honestly, I haven’t seen a foldable backpack with so much organization.

Finally, with each purchase, Active Roots donates to one of the several environmental charities they work with that help clean up our planet. If you don’t love your foldable backpack, they have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

I Want the Active Roots

 

Tortuga Outbreaker – Best Full Size Carry-on (Unisex)

best minimalist backpacks

The Tortuga Outbreaker 35 L is my top pick for best carry-on backpack for minimalists.

  • Size: 35 and 45 liters
  • MaterialX-Pac waterproof sailcloth
  • Pockets: Multiple

The Tortuga Outbreaker’s real perks are in its design. The design does two amazing things in particular.

  1. It has tons of pockets/compartments. This is amazing for organization, and a godsend for a serious traveler with a ton of stuff (like myself).
  2. It packs huge. The design will leave you fairly impressed with how much stuff it can fit.

The first thing I noticed when packing my new Tortuga Outbreaker, was just how massive the main compartment was. It has the capacity to carry a ton of clothes. If you are a world traveler, then this is great because it means you have to do less laundry – score!

The Outbreaker’s design enables its the main compartment to be opened like a suitcase – which is 10 times more convenient than a traditional backpackers backpack. Reaching my stuff was simple, and because of the organization of the compartments, it was easy to know what was where.

Inside the main compartment are six smaller compartments. The first four smaller compartments are enclosed within the main compartment.

While there might be some gray-area on the size of this bag and how many times I’ll actually have to pay to check it, the Tortuga Outbreaker is still without a doubt one of the best backpacks on the market. It’s quality build, intuitive design, fantastic organization, and smaller size make it the perfect compact travel bag for anyone who wants to travel light, but travel in style.

Check out out our must-read Tortuga Outbreaker review here.

View on Tortuga

 

Osprey Ozone – Top Wheeled Backpack for Travel

Osprey Ozone the best travel backpack with wheels

The best of both world perhaps?

  • Size: 42 Liters
  • Straps: Compression straps, shoulder straps and hip strap.
  • Pockets: Stretch Mesh Pockets
  • Frame: Ultra-light 6001 aluminium frame
  • Material: Nylon

Feature Highlights: This pack will attach to any of the wheeled luggage by Osprey’s attachment system to create a single rolling unit so you are nimble on the way to the airport. But then again, who needs wheels…

Designed for the savvy traveller, Osprey’s Ozone Travel Pack 46 is pretty much one of the best travel backpacks out there. The padded hip-belt and shoulder harness stow away for easy transport. It can clip on to the wheeled range by osprey for easy transport and it is super breathable. It even has an inside zipped compartment perfect for smelly hiking boots!

I’ve been using this pack on and off for two years: you can fit a TON of stuff in it – a genuinely surprising amount considering it still qualifies as hand luggage most of the time – however, once it’s heavy it quickly becomes a tad uncomfortable – not ideal if you plan on taking it hiking. This is one of the best backpacks for travel if you have a ton of valuables you want to keep in your hand luggage – i.e. if you are a digital nomad!

View on Amazon View on REI

 

WANDRD PRVKE 31 – Best Travel Camera Backpack

wndrd prvke 31: best new travel backpack on the market

WANDRD is one of the best new backpack companies – and this is their flagship product

  • Size: 31 Liters
  • MaterialCombination of tarpaulin and robic nylon
  • Pockets: Multiple pockets and 3 main storage compartments

For those who want a backpack that can does a little bit of everything, is durable, and looks damn good in the process, the WADNRD PRVKE 31 is an excellent investment. At 31 (expandable to 36) liters, this backpack can hold quite a bit and there are plenty more pockets to hold everything else.

Thanks to its robust weather-resistant design, your belongings will be safe as well. Add in some customizable straps and sleek sexy design and you have a backpack that can do damn near anything.

Though the PRVKE 31 has lots of padding and additional straps for distributing weight, it lacks certain key features that make it truly adept at carrying heavier loads. During our tests, both of the women on our trip struggled somewhat while carrying this bag as it did not fit snugly against their bodies.

I was impressed with the number of customizable options that PRVKE 31 offered. Between the many loops found on the pack as well as the ability to attach adjustable accessory straps (sold separately), users will be able to find many alternative means of packing. Overall, a badass camera backpack!

Check out out WANDRD PRVKE 31 review here.

View on WANDRD

 

Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack – Best Travel Laptop Bag

Tortuga Setout Laptop Backpack

This backpack was designed for smooth laptop travel

  • Size: 25 liters
  • Material900D heathered polyester
  • Laptop Fit: Up to 15 Inch

This one is pretty obvious – the Setout Laptop Backpack is great for…. laptops!

But seriously, if you are looking for a sturdy pack to carry your laptop around– look no further, this bad boy is as good as it gets. This is for a few reasons.

First off, Tortuga Backpacks are possibly some of the most well designed and durable backpacks on the market.We’ve reviewed tons of their products and they all have an incredible amount of detail to them, and are made of the highest quality materials. High quality/durable materials means your precious laptop will be safe and sound.

Secondly, to make the world’s greatest laptop backpack, Tortuga put a lot of time and effort into the laptop-features of this backpack.

Simply put? This backpack has tons of organization features, all of which are designed specifically for laptops. Notice in the pictures above and below, that this bag is loaded with ways to keep your gear safe, and very organized.

Tortuga markets this bag as an“organized daypack for air travel”– and it’s certainly true!

The design and features of this backpack make it perfect for air travel. Whether it’s the sleek laptop sleeve, the easy to lock zippers, the luggage handle pass through or the hideaway shoulder straps, this bag thrives in airports and airplanes.

Whether you are a road warrior looking for an upgraded carry on backpack, or you just love to travel the world, this is the backpack that will make your life easier and stress free while traveling via air.

Check out our in-depth Tortuga Setout Laptop backpack review here. Also, check out out review of the full size Tortuga Setout here!

View on Tortuga

 

What Makes a Great 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,Nomatic, or Tortugayou 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…

 

Your Traveling Backpack’s Size

Size is a personal choice and the best travel packs have 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.

A 70 L backpack for travel and hiking

Osprey in action! | Photo: @themanwiththetinyguitar

Your Traveling Backpack’s 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 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 a great travel backpack. Without a hip belt, even the best backpack in the world can turn into a nightmare. Some travelling 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.

A swagman with a durable backpack

Before the days of heat-molded custom straps with anti-gravity bearings and attached safety whistle.

 

Your Traveling Backpack’s Pockets

Well organised travel bags make the best travel bags. 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.

Nomatic backpack: the top travel backpack

Nomatic and all those sexy, sexy pockets.

 

The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Bag.

Read our full review!

 

Your Traveling Backpack’s Weight

Great 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…

Osprey Renn 50: a light travel backpack

The lighter the pack, the easier the walk!

 

Your Traveling Backpack’s Comfort Level

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 tray and choose the most comfortable backpack.

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.

osprey exos 58 review: one of the most comfortable backpacks

The longer the walk, the more comfortable you want your backpack.

Your Traveling Backpack’s 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 most durable 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!

a most durable backpack in snowy mountains

Weather resistance is key!

 

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.

Carry on backpacks vs. large traveling backpacks

And… fight!

 

 

In Favor of a Big Backpack (60L – 80L)

Osprey Aether best backpacks for hiking

Big backpacks are heavier and more of a burden, but you can (obviously) carry a TON more stuff

 

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 and 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 Favor of a Carry On Bag (35L – 50L)

tortuga: best small travel backpack

You are going to have to leave a lot of stuff at home to travel with a smaller backpack.

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

First, if you are sure whether 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 Travel Backpack

  • 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 Travel Backpack

  • 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? Will you be 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.

 

Best Travel Backpacks of 2019 Review

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
tbb-table__image Best Overall Travel BackpackBest Overall Travel BackpackNomatic Travel Bag

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Nomatic
tbb-table__image Best Travel Backpack for Men (Large)Best Travel Backpack for Men (Large)Osprey Aether 60

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 60
  • Material > 210D Nylon Dobby
  • Best Use > Trekking, backpacking, hiking, international travel
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 60
  • Material > 210D Nylon Dobby
  • Best Use > Trekking, backpacking, hiking, international travel
Check on REICheck on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Hiking Backpack for Multi-Day AdventuresBest Hiking Backpack for Multi-Day AdventuresKathmandu Vardo gridTECH 75L

  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 75
  • Material > 420D gridTECH™ Ripstop Nylon with Cordura
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 75
  • Material > 420D gridTECH™ Ripstop Nylon with Cordura
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Kathmandu
tbb-table__image Osprey Farpoint 40

  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on REICheck on Amazon
tbb-table__image Osprey Aura 50

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 50
  • Material > 210D Nylon Dobby
  • Best Use > Trekking, backpacking, hiking, international travel
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 50
  • Material > 210D Nylon Dobby
  • Best Use > Trekking, backpacking, hiking, international travel
Check on REICheck on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Carry-on Backpack for WomenBest Carry-on Backpack for WomenOsprey Fairview 40

  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > 210D Nylon Mini Hex Diamond Ripstop
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on REICheck on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Daypack for TravelBest Daypack for TravelActive Roots Foldable Day Pack

  • Price > $
  • Liters > 34
  • Material > 420D Nylon Shadow Box
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $
  • Liters > 34
  • Material > 420D Nylon Shadow Box
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Full Size Carry On (Unisex)Best Full Size Carry On (Unisex)Tortuga Outbreaker

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 35 and 45
  • Material > X-Pac waterproof sailcloth
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 35 and 45
  • Material > X-Pac waterproof sailcloth
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Tortuga
tbb-table__image Best Travel Bag for Digital NomadsBest Travel Bag for Digital NomadsNomatic Travel Bag

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 40
  • Material > Tarpaulin/Ballistic weave
  • Best Use > Travel, international backpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Nomatic
tbb-table__image Best Travel Bag with WheelsBest Travel Bag with WheelsOsprey Ozone

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 42
  • Material > 210-denier nylon honeycomb/450-denier packcloth
  • Best Use > Travel, international wheelpacking, urban lifestyle
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 42
  • Material > 210-denier nylon honeycomb/450-denier packcloth
  • Best Use > Travel, international wheelpacking, urban lifestyle
Check on Amazon
tbb-table__image Best Camera Backpack for TravelBest Camera Backpack for TravelWANDRD PRVKE 31

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 31 – 36
  • Material > Combination of tarpaulin and robic nylon
  • Best Use > Travel photography
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 31 – 36
  • Material > Combination of tarpaulin and robic nylon
  • Best Use > Travel photography
Check on WANDRD
tbb-table__image Best Travel Bag for LaptopsBest Travel Bag for LaptopsTortuga Setout Laptop Backpack

  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 25
  • Material > 900D heathered polyester
  • Best Use > Travel, digital nomad lifestyle, carry on, day pack
  • Price > $$$
  • Liters > 25
  • Material > 900D heathered polyester
  • Best Use > Travel, digital nomad lifestyle, carry on, day pack
Check on Tortuga

 

More Awesome Travel Backpacks for 2019

Here are even more ultimate travel backpacks to get you inspired for your next adventure…

 

Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible

The Choice in Convertible Backpacks

Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible backpack

This backpack is a shocking 60 liters!

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

This compact backpack 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 pack 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 a 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).

View On Amazon

 

Osprey Aether 85 Backpack

A BIG Travel Backpack

Osprey Argon 85 Backpack

If you are a hiker, this backpack will fit everything you need.

Looking to head into the back country in search of adventure? Whether it is a couple of days hiking or an epic adventure The Osprey Aether 85 backpack is the best travel backpack on the market by far.

I’ve been adventuring with my Aether for nearly ten years now. The best thing about Osprey is that they operate an all-mighty guarantee. This means that they will repair any damage done to your pack, no questions asked, for free. Forever.

Osprey packs are expensive but you are effectively buying a pack for life. I’ve had my pack repaired once by Osprey, four years ago, and I will soon be sending it in for some more minor repairs to belt buckles and a ripped external pocket.The backpack is extremely durable; in ten years of constant backpacking I have never damaged or ripped the main pack’s body and only minor things have broken (usually after five years).

The Osprey Aether 85 is a big expedition backpack; it’s 85 litres, extremely comfortable thanks to the custom-molded hip belt, is compatible with hydration systems, has plenty of sections for storage and can easily be loaded up with a ton of stuff – I once strapped three tents to the outside and had a fourth tent on the inside plus cooking equipment, sleeping bags, food, clothes, electronics etc…

You can fit everything in this pack and it will remain comfortable and manageable. I cannot recommend Osprey enough. The best backpacks for travel are all made by Osprey. 

  • Size: 85L
  • Straps: Removable hip belt molding straps, comfortable shoulder straps
  • Pockets: Multiple including one mesh pocket on the right side, large enough to store a 1 liter size water bottle and a zippered storage pocket on the left side.
  • Frame: HDPE/aluminium rod
  • Material: High tenacity nylon
  • Feature Highlights: Removable top lid has one compartment with a waterproof zipper and lash-on points; converts to a lumbar pack with AirScape lumbar pad.

View On Amazon

 

Kelty Redwing 50

An Excellent Unisex Backpack

Kelty Redwing 50 the best travel backpack for both men and women

Kelty Retwig makes a great uni-sex backpack

Although a little smaller than the Osprey Aether, 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 bags 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.

View on Amazon View on REI

 

Deuter Aircontact 65+10 Backpack

A Cheaper Travel Backpack Osprey-Alternative

Deuter Aircontact 65+10 Osprey Alternative Backpack

Deuter is the best Osprey alternative on the market

Hands down, this is one of the best backpacks for 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.

View On Amazon

 

More of the Best Carry on Backpacks

I have about four different travel backpacks 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. Below are three of my all time favourite travel bags to take as carry on.

 

Aer Travel Pack 2

Best Backpack for Minimalist Carry-on Travel

aer travel pack 2 backpack

Aer Travel Pack 2: Sleek, organized, pretty great.

This is a wonderful backpack for digital nomads on the go. It can fit your laptop as well as any other travel gear you tote around. Use it as a daypack around town or bring it on the pane for one bag travel.

There are many different compartments, pockets, and zippers to keep you organized. There’s a laptop sleeve and a very handy place just for shoes.

The minimalist outer design helps deter thieves, and what the outside lacks in pockets it makes up for with well-designed internal storage.

You can read the Aer Travel Pack 2 review here.

  • Volume: 33 liters
  • Weight:  3.7 lbs  
  • Material: 1680D Cordura Ballistic Nylon Exterior
  • Laptop Compartment: Yes
  • Carry-On Compliant: Yes

Go to Aersf!

 

Arcido Akra 35L

An Affordable Lightweight Backpack for Travel

Arcido Akra review

The Arido is sleek and streamlined – a great modern backpack!

This is the perfect carry on travel backpack for urban travelers. Its laptop harness, organizational pockets, and integrative packing cubes (in the Arcido Akra and Vaga Daypack Bundle) make this the perfect travel backpack for digital nomads too.

At only 2.4 lbs, this is a lightweight backpack for travel that can become even lighter when the sternum straps and waist belt are removed.

In essence, Arcido makes simple, tough, and well-designed travel backpacks equipped with enough storage and organizational features make any modern traveler happy. We love that this is an affordable backpack for its high-quality design.

Check out our full Arcido Akra review, here.

Go to Arcido!

 

Berghaus Freeflow 30L

A Lightweight Backpack for Shorter Journeys

Berghaus Freeflow 30L best lightweight travel backpack

If you love the look then you’ll also love the durability of Berghaus bags

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 it’s a backpack 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
  • StrapsHeight adjustable chest strap and side compression straps
  • PocketsZipped internal lid pocket and front bungee system
  • Frame: Ultra-light 6001 aluminium frame
  • Material: Nylon
  • Feature HighlightsWalking pole attachments and flow or adjustable BIOFIT back system.

View On Amazon

 

Another Hiking Backpack for Photographers

A final few of the best travel backpacks this time with the photographers and aspiring photographers in mind.

 

National Geographic Explorer

“Keeping all your electronics safe”

National Geographic Explorer - Best hiking backpack for photographers

Unleash your inner photographer with National Geographic’s bag!

I’ve only had this pack for six months but I absolutely love it. Whilst it is not the most comfortable pack to carry on long hikes it is the best hiking backpack for photographers. It is super strong, probably the most durable backpack I’ve ever owned, and is beautifully designed with photographers in mind.

There are separate sections for lenses, cables, camera bodies etc and plenty of options to attach your tripod to the outside of the pack. Best of all, you can get into the pack from the top and from the front, meaning you can have your camera assembled and ready to go in record time.

If you want to truly turn it into one of the best backpacks for hiking, I recommend pairing this with the peak design camera clip so you can carry your camera on your hip or on the chest strap of your bag, making it accessible in seconds.

  • Size:  11.8 X 7.0 inches
  • Straps: Adjustable padded ergonomic shoulder straps.
  • Pockets: Includes generous external pockets and pouches. Modular dividers let you customise to fit your gear.
  • Frame: None
  • Material: Made of environmentally friendly hemp and cotton that has been treated for water resistance.
  • Feature Highlights: Modular dividers let you customise to fit your gear, concealed pocket to keep valuables, made of environmentally friendly hemp.

View On Amazon

 

Another Awesome Travel Laptop Backpack

These days, travelling without my laptop is just not going to happen. For many of us, a laptop is just as essential as a phone and if you are a digital nomad hitting the road, you need to protect your baby. So amigos, let me share the best travel backpack for laptop lovers.

 

Incase Icon Pack

Incase icon slim pack travel backpack

Great for laptop travel.

The Incase Icon Pack is the best travel backpack if you’ll be working on the road and need a sturdy, durable pack to keep your laptop safe while exploring new areas. Featuring multiple exterior and interior pockets, the Icon laptop backpack allows maximum organisation and easy access to your belongings, with a dedicated laptop compartment to stow your gear away safely.

Check out our in-depth breakdown of the best laptop backpacks for more intel!

  • Size:  9 x 13 x 19 inches
  • Straps: Shoulder and Chest Straps
  • Pockets: 5 exterior pockets, 1 interior zippered pocket
  • Frame: None
  • Material: 100% Nylon
  • Feature Highlights: Dedicated laptop compartment, multiple organisation options, airflow channels in back panel.

View On Amazon

 

Osprey Renn 50: a light travel backpack

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

GET IT HERE

Conclusion of the Best Travel Backpacks Mega-List

So there you have it amigos, the best tips to help you find the best travel packs for your upcoming adventures. Remember, the most important thing that makes a travel bag 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?

OK, let’s break it down… The best backpacks for travel are:

You are now armed with all of the best travel backpack options. Our hope is that you find the backpack of your dreams and have many, many awesome adventures with your new best friend.

Happy travels!

Active roots foldable backpack: best day backpack for travel

Something heart-meltingly fantastic to send it off. Be safe, amigos! But not too safe 😉

 

Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible…

Yay for transparency! The links in this post are affiliate links. That means if you buy any of the products using our links we’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Never fear, we actually use and/or want all of these things. We don’t endorse crappy stuff!


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