Best Travel Backpacks (2018)

Size guide & recommended light and versatile travel backpacks

A few of the backpacks I reviewed. (Not reviewed: my shoes.)

If you're in a hurry, check out our top pick:
Tortuga Setout
View on Tortuga

If you are trying to find the best backpack for travel, it can be challenging to find one that ticks all the boxes. Many retailers and websites just won’t give you the right advice! They will often try to sell you the biggest and most expensive backpack, not the lightest, smartest, or most convenient.

If you travel frequently or if you’re planning a big trip, then it’s often better to go for something light and versatile (and possibly carry-on size), as you’ll want a bag that is always comfortable to carry. In this guide, I will share with you what I believe are some of the top travel backpacks for traveling anywhere. Whether you’re going on a holiday, a backpacking trip, or you need a backpack for your business travels, I’ve got you covered.

This guide was last updated in September 2018 with new reviews of the Aer Travel Pack 2, Nomatic Backpack, and Osprey Atmos 65.

Jump to: Size guideBest carry-onBest larger packsOverview

What I know about this

I’m a frequent traveler and a former full-time nomad. I’ve owned many different backpacks and now regularly review backpacks. This guide is fully independent, so no sponsored content. Oh, aaaand… unlike many other blogs I actually physically own and review these products!

 

 

Key features to look for

  • Front-loading (you will love this!). Many backpacks are top-loading, with a drawstring to close it at the top. This sucks. It means having to dig around awkwardly to get something from the bottom. Bags with a clamshell design are much nicer: you just zip them open face down, with everything within instant reach. Super convenient.
  • Waist strap. Using a waist strap distributes the load around your whole body instead of just your shoulders. It’s essential for frequent travel as it helps avoid sore shoulders and bad backs.
  • Laptop compartment. A separate padded compartment keeps your electronics secure. Of course, you can also use these zipped compartments for books, your travel journal, or many other things.
  • Rain resistant. You don’t want water to leak into your bag! Make sure it’s weather sealed or includes a rain cover.
  • Carry-on sized (if possible). It might not a deal breaker for everyone, but carry-on size lets you save time and avoid additional luggage fees on some airlines.

Other nice-to-haves: lockable zippers (rings that let you attach a padlock or wire lock to prevent opportunistic theft), good carry handles (for when you’re not wearing it on your back) and internal or external compression straps (helps you pack more and organize better). 


Quick Overview: The Best Travel Backpacks

Image Product Details
it-table__imageTop all-purpose travel bagTortuga Setout
  • Maximum carry-on size
  • Front-loading
  • Excellent organizer compartments
View on Tortuga
it-table__imageOsprey Farpoint 40
  • Front-loading
  • Comfortable suspension system
  • Laptop & organizer compartment
View on Amazon
it-table__imageOsprey Porter 46 (US only)
  • Excellent side-pockets and travel organizer
  • Front-loading
  • Laptop compartment at the back
View on Amazon
it-table__imageAer Travel Pack 2
  • Loads of storage spaces
  • Sturdy material but easy access
  • Separate shoe compartment
View on Aer
it-table__imageTop business travel bagNomatic 40L Travel Bag
  • Extremely clever features
  • Highly weather resistant material
  • Plethora of optional accessoiries
View on Nomatic
it-table__imagePacsafe Venturesafe X40
  • Front-loading
  • Fully featured harness
  • Rain cover included
View on Amazon
it-table__imageTop medium-sized travel bagOsprey Farpoint 55
  • All the same features as the Farpoint 40
  • PLUS a removable 15 liter daypack
  • Can clip the daypack to the front, zip it to the main pack, or use separately
View on Amazon
it-table__imageCamping, trekking & backpacking bagOsprey Atmos 65
  • Fantastic suspension system with fully adjustable torso length
  • Very comfortable and highly padded back panel
  • Integrated raincover
View on Amazon

 

Travel backpack size guide

Before we look at some recommended backpacks, let’s stop for a moment to think about how big a backpack you might need.

Backpack sizes are typically expressed in liters (i.e., the volume they can contain). You’ll notice that backpacks sometimes have this number in their product name. Thinking in liters might not be totally intuitive, so here are my 2 cents on some of the common sizes:

15-30 L Too small unless you’re going on a weekend trip, or you’re super minimalist. This size is usually for day-packs or commuter bags.
40-45 L A happy sweet spot! Good for shorter trips but equally fine for trips lasting many weeks or months (that is, if you know how to pack light). Best if you’re traveling within one climate and don’t need lots of bulky winter clothing. This size is usually accepted as carry-on luggage, saving you time and check-in fees when flying.
50-65 L Great if you need extra space. Not everyone is a light packer so some will prefer these sizes despite the extra weight. Consider this if you need to pack more clothing, have additional items to store (e.g. sports gear), or often buy many gifts or souvenirs. It’s also an ideal size if you’re backpacking and need to store a tent or sleeping bag.
70-120L NOPE. Only for the most hardcore trekking and camping expeditions. The internal support frames often already weigh several kilos. This is overkill for most travelers.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a light packer. For example, I typically pack no more than around 7 to 10 days worth of clothes, even if I’m traveling for much longer. I believe it’s much better to wash your clothes from time to time than to carry a huge travel wardrobe around everywhere. Read my guide to packing light for much more on this.

For an example of how much can fit in a smaller-size bag, have a look at the video below. It happens to be focused on packing for Southeast Asia, but you can pack in a roughly similar way for traveling anywhere.

If you’re staying in hotels, apartments, or hostels, I generally do recommend a 40L or so carry-on size bag. You’ll end up with less weight on your back, more freedom to move, and much less hassle. Though you might want to combine this with a smaller daypack, which you can usually take these onto flights as your additional personal item.

Left: a 80L trekking backpack. Right: a 40L travel size backpack.

 

Best carry-on travel backpacks

Tortuga Setout

👍 TOP PICK for all-purpose travel bag

Pros

  • Maximum carry-on size
  • Front-loading (woohoo!)
  • Excellent organizer compartments
  • Laptop compartment at the back (good for load balance)
  • Adjustable waist & chest straps
  • Harness can be stowed and waist belt detached

Cons

  • Zippers are weather-resistant but not rubber sealed

Price: $199 view at tortuga (note: available in US only)

Just launched in 2018, the Tortuga Setout is my new top pick for best carry-on size travel backpack. I love it and it’s my personal go-to bag. It’s versatile and easy to recommend for any type of trip. If you’re using it mainly for urban or air travel, then that’s great! But if you want to take this on a backpacking adventure, then it’s quite suited for that as well.

This big 45-liter backpack gives you the maximum carry-on capacity on most airlines. Meanwhile, its clamshell design gives you easy suitcase-style access to all your stuff. The harness has wide straps making it very comfortable, while the back panel comes with proper padding and ventilation space.

I’m a big fan of the Setout’s well-padded belt with handy storage pockets

The hip belt is nicely cushioned and has two zipped pockets, which is a handy feature normally reserved for trekking bags. For a traveler, that just means having two quick-access pockets whenever you’re on the move.

Don’t need that hip belt? Then you can detach the whole thing! The entire harness is entirely stowable as well, essentially letting you turn the Setout into a duffel bag if needed. I love the flexibility and I think this is one of those rare backpacks that you could easily take on a weekend trip, holiday, backpacking trip, or even on a business trip. The heathered grey exterior and off-white interior look rather stylish but don’t draw too much attention, so this bag will blend in easily no matter what sort of trip you’re going on.

The Tortuga Setout has tons of neat organizational features inside

The Tortuga Setout currently retails for $199 (via Tortuga’s online shop) and is my top recommended carry-on backpack. You can also read my in-depth review here.

By the way…

  • The Setout Divide is a smaller 26L version that can expand to 34L. That makes it usable as a daypack or commuter bag. I tried it out and I like it a lot, and it can be a better pick for shorter or weekend trips.
  • The Tortuga Outbreaker is a more professional-grade backpack that costs $100 more. It has amazing weather-resistance and a suspension system that you can adjust completely to your torso height, but it’s also about 1kg or 2lbs heavier. For this reason I still recommend the Setout.

 


 

Osprey Farpoint 40

Great for backpacking and hosteling

Pros

  • Front-loading (woo!)
  • Comfortable suspension system
  • Laptop & organizer compartment
  • Detachable shoulder strap included
  • Stow-away harness
  • Lockable zippers
  • Lightweight & budget priced

Cons

  • Not as many organizational features as other bags
  • Ugly green interior (on some versions)

Price: $160 view at amazon

Osprey Farpoint 40, one of the best all-purpose travel backpacksThe Farpoint 40 is a great choice for world travelers looking for a light and budget-friendly bag. It’s hugely popular in the backpacking scene and I see them all the time in hostels around the world. I myself took one on a 2-year round-the-world backpacking trip.

Many travel backpacks come with just a flimsy little harness, but not so with the Farpoint 40. It’s super comfortable to wear thanks to a padded back panel, well-padded shoulder straps, and a full-size hip belt. Six different adjustment straps make it easy to distribute the weight fully along your entire back. All this makes it a great pack to carry for longer stretches of time if needed.

It’s not a trekking backpack, but it’s comfortable enough to take on an occasional hike. I even took it trekking in the Himalayas for a week and had no issues. (Mind you, I was staying in guesthouses, so I didn’t carry a tent or sleeping bag. For that it’s simply too small, and you should go with an Osprey Atmos 65 instead.)

It’s a great pack, though it doesn’t quite have as many organizational features as the Tortuga Setout or Osprey Porter 46. I also wish the laptop compartment was placed at the back, where it’s more secure and better balances the weight. While maybe not a perfect bag for a one-bag enthusiast or urban explorer, the Farpoint 40 is a somewhat sportier bag that’s excellent for budget traveling and backpacking.

As of 2017, there’s also the Osprey Fairview 40, which is the exact same bag but with a women’s specific fit and a different color.

 


 

Osprey Porter 46 (US only)

Not quite as comfy, but has better organization

Pros

  • Excellent side-pockets and travel organizer
  • Front-loading
  • Laptop compartment at the back
  • Stow-away harness
  • Stiff outer shell protects your stuff

Cons

  • Harness more easily stowable… but also simpler and not as padded
  • Not quite as easy to squeeze into tight storage spaces

Price: $140 view at amazon

Osprey Porter 46 in teal colorThe Porter 46 is an interesting alternative to the Farpoint 40 that’s available only in North America. It seems designed from a different starting point; the Farpoint 40 feels almost like a down-sized trekking bag made suitable for general travel, while the Porter 46 feels like a duffel bag that got upgraded to a backpack.

It has padded walls that stand up, whereas the walls of the Farpoint 40 will fold in when not packed. It has more side-pockets and a better built-in travel organizer. But also its harness is thinner and not as well-padded, making it less ideal for heavier loads or walking long distances. It’s basically more of a city bag.

I think the Porter 46 is more suited for urban/general travel, while the Farpoint is better for adventure travel. The Porter 46’s frame is slightly clunky and wide and it isn’t quite as comfortable on your back, but it’s a lot easier to store your stuff inside and feels more versatile. It also does a better job of carrying a laptop.

The newest version came out in 2017 which I strongly recommend over the older one which is still sold occasionally. You can tell by the logo: if it’s a monochrome outline, it’s the new version. If there’s an oval badge around it, it’s the old version. You can read my full review here.

 


 

Aer Travel Pack 2

Great all-purpose travel bag (at smaller size)

Pros

  • Loads of storage spaces
  • Detachable waist belt (sold separately)
  • Sturdy material but easy access
  • Separate shoe compartment
  • At 33L it also works as a large daypack or everyday pack

Cons

  • At 33L it’s not maximum carry-on size
  • Laptop compartment has no “hammock”

Price: $230 view at aer

The Aer Travel Pack 2 is a bit smaller than the other backpacks mentioned in this roundup. If you are going on a big trip, I would still recommend getting a maximum carry-on size bag such as the Tortuga Setout. But for a shorter trip or if you’re a minimal packer, the 33 liters of the Aer Travel Pack 2 might be the perfect size for you. Not too big, not too small.

In fact, some of you might find this bag’s size more versatile. After all, maximum carry-on bags are awkward to use as daily carry or daypacks (as they’re simply too big), but this is not an issue with the Aer Travel Pack.

I think this is a really solid and capable backpack. It’s well-designed, has plenty of storage spaces, and a great minimalist look. The material feels a bit more rugged than the Tortuga Setout but not so super stiff as the Nomatic backpack, which I think offers a nice balance between durability and weight. With weather resistant material and zippers, you can also be assured that your stuff will stay dry. A shoe compartment at the bottom and is a clever addition, sharing space with the main compartment.

I have only very minor quibbles: for example, it would be nice if the laptop compartment had a little hammock sleeve, so that the device won’t touch the ground. The harness is comfortable enough, but other backpacks in this list have more padding or more adjustment straps.

But all in all, if you’re looking for a small to mid-size bag, then the Aer Travel Pack 2 is an excellent choice. I reviewed the new 2.0 edition launched in Summer 2018, which has a number of tweaks and improvements over the first edition.

 

 


 

Nomatic 40L Travel Bag

👍 TOP PICK for business travel

Pros

  • Extremely clever features
  • Highly weather resistant material
  • Plethora of optional accessoiries
  • Pass-through sleeve for attaching to rolled luggage
  • Also works as a duffel

Cons

  • A tad over-engineered (you have to use everything exactly as intended)
  • Too high-tech and pricey for just a holiday

Price: $240 to $290 view at nomatic

The Nomatic travel bag is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign that promised to create the most functional backpack ever. It got a ton of pre-release buzz and so I ordered one to try it for myself.

And yep, it is ridiculously clever and innovative. You’ll find way more packing features on the Nomatic Travel Bag than virtually any other backpack. You can even pimp it with optional accessories like a laundry bag, shirt organizer, toiletry bag, and vacuum compression bag — all designed to work as one integrated system.

I do have two pitpicks though. One is that while the exterior is very sturdy and wonderfully weather-sealed, it’s also very stiff. This can make the space inside feel just a bit cramped. Access to the main compartment is also a bit unusual, in that the zippers are on the back panel (behind the shoulder straps). This takes a bit of getting used to.

You could also argue that the Nomatic bag could be a bit too tricked out at times. I mean, do you really need a separate book pocket or even an underwear compartment? Personally I do like all the clever bells and whistles, but I can see how someone might wish for a slightly less compartmentalized design.

Nomatic bag with toiletries bag (front center) and compression bag (front left) – with many other accessories not shown.

This bag is probably overkill for just a holiday. But I think business travelers — who often  carefully hone their packing methods over time — can get the most out of the Nomatic Travel Bag. With the added accessories it’s the perfect hotel/city backpack, thanks to the shirt organizer that keeps shirts wrinkle-free, the laundry bag (which you can hang on your hotel room door), the shoe compartment, compression bag, and so on. A pass-through sleeve will let you easily attach this backpack to rolled luggage as well. If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll be able to really use this bag as intended.

While it’s maybe not the first choice for those who want a simple and affordable bag, it’s an excellent choice for business travelers and digital nomads.

 


 

Pacsafe Venturesafe X40

Best security features

Pros

  • Front-loading
  • Fully featured harness
  • Rain cover included
  • Advanced security features like slash-proof webbing

Cons

  • A little pricey for this type of backpack
  • Do you need this much security?

Price: $250 view at amazon

Pacsafe has long made a name for itself with travel security products such as money belts, passport wallets, and portable locks. They also make backpacks with a focus on anti-theft features.

The X40 is a lightweight carry-on bag with a comfortable harness that’s comparable to the Farpoint 40. I like that it has a back panel mesh as well as wide waist straps that also have zipped pockets in them, which is a handy feature typically only seen on trekking backpacks. Safety features include slash-proof webbing, lockable D-rings, a smart zipper lock for the main compartment, and an included padlock. The built-in rain cover is a nice plus, as is the removable internal divider (can be used to separate clean and dirty gear, among other uses).

 


 

Best larger travel backpacks

Osprey Farpoint 55

👍 TOP PICK for medium-sized travel bag

Pros

  • All the same features as the Farpoint 40
  • PLUS a removable 15 liter daypack
  • Can clip the daypack to the front, zip it to the main pack, or use separately

Cons

  • Too big for carry-on
  • Back panel of the daypack is completely flat

Price: $180 view at amazon

Osprey Farpoint 55 backpack (blue)I love the versatility of the Farpoint 55. It’s essentially two travel packs combined into one integrated system. You can leave the detachable daypack on or off, you can clip the daypack onto the main bag for a ‘turtle shell’ carry mode, and you even can zip away all the straps and carry it as a regular bag. 

I recommend this backpack if you don’t want to go for full minimalism and need just that extra bit of space. Multiple pockets and pouches on the daypack provide easy access to smaller items, though as with the other Osprey packs I do also recommend getting some packing cubes to help you organize the main compartment.

I’ve traveled with this backpack extensively and you can read my full review of the Farpoint 55

Left: the Farpoint 55 main backpack plus daypack (zipped off). Right: the Farpoint 40.

 

 


 

Osprey Atmos 65

👍 TOP PICK for campers, trekkers & backpackers

Pros

  • Fantastic suspension system with fully adjustable torso length
  • Very comfortable and highly padded back panel
  • Integrated raincover
  • Sleeping bag compartment and sleeping pad straps

Cons

  • Contents not as easy to reach as with clamshell style travel bags
  • Not the best pick for minimal/light travelers

Price: $170 view at amazon

This is the backpack to get if your trip will involve any camping or extended trekking. It’s also a fine choice if you’re a backpacker staying in hostels but you want something a bit bigger than a carry-on (or maybe you just want to go for that traditional backpacker look).

The reason I recommend the Osprey Atmos 65 is that it has a good balance between carry capacity and weight. It’s also ridiculously comfortable to wear. Now, there are plenty of other trekking backpacks such as the Osprey Aether 70 that have much heavier frames designed to carry heavier loads. Those are cool if you’re, say, going to be trekking for weeks on end, or you’re carrying tons of heavy mountaineering gear. But for the average backpacker or hiker, I think the Atmos 65 is the better pick.

It has a trekking pole attachment and while a water reservoir isn’t included, you can buy one separately. There is also the Osprey Aura 65, which is the same backpack but with a women’s specific fit.

 

 


 

 

 

What about other backpacks?

There are a lot of backpacks out there, but many I just chose not to list for various reasons.

For example, North Face has the Terra 50 rucksack, but it’s annoyingly top-loading. All the Berghaus, Vango, Lifeventure, and JanSport bags are as well, and they also lack many useful features. I used to list the eBags Motherload and Deuter 55 here, but I now think other bags are better.

I chose to list the backpacks above as they all have neat features and would be ideally suited for frequent travelers.

Why it’s worth the investment

A good backpack is an investment that pays off over time. Spend somewhere in the range of $150 / €120 / £100, and you can likely enjoy using this bag for a long time to come.

You get what you pay for, which is something I had to learn. I once bought a cheaper backpack by Mountain Warehouse (a UK store), and it fell apart just two months into my trip to Southeast Aisa. I had to replace it when I was in Vietnam and still had several months left to travel. I got a (possibly fake) North Face backpack in Hanoi, and it too died on me soon, with the shoulder straps quickly tearing apart. In hindsight, I should have gotten something proper from the start.

Best travel backpack in 2018 comparison table

Finally, a quick comparison of all the backpacks mentioned in this post. The prices are approximate as color choices and sizes can affect this.

Backpack Type Size Price
Tortuga Setout Carry-on 45L $199
Osprey Farpoint 40 Carry-on 40L $160
Osprey Fairview 40 Carry-on (women) 40L $160
Osprey Porter 46 Carry-on/duffel 46L $140
Aer Travel Pack 2 Carry-on (small) 33L $230
Nomatic Travel Bag Carry-on (business) 40L $240
Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Carry-on 40L $249
Osprey Farpoint 55 Mid-size 40L + 15L $180
Osprey Atmos 65 Trekking 65L $170
Osprey Aura 65 Trekking (women) 65L $170

P.S. Links to Amazon and other online stores give me some commission (at no extra cost to you). This is explained more here. This page contains no sponsored or paid-for content.

64 comments

  1. Jade Reply November 9, 2018 at 8:54 pm

    Hey Marek, would you recommend 1) the Fairview 40L plus day pack (e.g Osprey Daylite plus 20L) or 2) the 55L fairview Size s/m – I believe the 40L main pack is often allowed as carry on? and the 15L daypack as my personal item. I keep struggling to decide! Really like the extra compartments in the 40L but like the matching pack on the 55L.

  2. Edward Reply October 27, 2018 at 6:45 am

    I use the Farpoint 40 all the time and I carry my daypack inside it rather than separately (some budget airlines are very strict about a second carry-on), but it still doesn’t always get into carry-on. I am currently in Mozambique for example, and Air Mozambique has a 7kg weight limit for carry-on, regardless of size. They do weight it and refuse overweight as carry-on.
    Also, the dimensions of the Farpoint 40 make it carry-on size for most airlines, but it will not actually hold the full 40 litres unless you stuff it a bit. It’s easy to do and it will take 40 litres, but then it is no longer strictly carry-on.

  3. Michele Reply October 5, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Have a look at ATD1 backpack, just funded on Kickstarter: it was developed with one bag travel in mind!

    • Marek Reply October 5, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Looks interesting

  4. Louis Johnson Reply September 12, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    Great post! Super informative!

  5. Tomasz Reply September 12, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Peak Design has started recently their new Kickstarter campaign and it seems that this will be the greatest travel pack ever: https://3d713501.kckb.st
    The backpack is perfect for light travel, it has a lot of add-ons which makes it a really complete product.
    I was using a lot of different backpacks and always there was something missing, seems that this one covers most of the gaps. Here is youtube video with a deep review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WEwXeU_te8

    • Marek Reply September 22, 2018 at 4:27 pm

      I’m a big fan of their Everyday Backpack and very curious about their new travel pack. I hope to review it soon!

  6. James Reply August 21, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Hi Marek!

    I will be travelling SEA for about 3 months and I am looking at Opsrey Atmos 50L as I feel that Farpoint 40L is pretty small for me. I don’t see any recommndation for Atmost 50L but I see you recommending 65L instead. Should I go for for Atmos 50L for my 3 months SEA trip?

    • Marek Reply August 31, 2018 at 1:20 pm

      Sure, nothing wrong with a 50L size! It’s just over the carry on limit though, so I personally prefer getting a 40 or 45L bag plus a smaller daypack… that gets you up to about 60 liter total and you can still fly without checkin luggage most of the time. If that’s not a concern then you’ll surely be happy with your 50L 🙂

  7. Benny Sanchez Reply August 18, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    I’m going on a 2 week trip around South America. I plan on packing 4 shirts, 2 pants, 2 shorts, 8 socks & boxers, one pair of shoes, a slim fast drying travel towel, and a sketchbook+drawing pens. Not taking it on this trip but handy to provision for a laptop. Any recommendations? Also out of curiosity, which one is the green bag top right of the first picture? It doesn’t look like any of the ones reviewed.

    • Marek Reply August 19, 2018 at 1:10 am

      Well spotted, that bag is a Cabinzero 44L. It’s cheap and comes in many colors but it ultimately wasn’t quite good enough to count as a ‘best’ backpack.

      Sounds like you pack pretty minimally so any of the carryon size ones will do quite well 🙂

  8. Linda Reply August 15, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Marek. Great review of travel backpacks. Is there one that you would recommend that also accommodates a DSL camera and lenses? I am lookin for one that would protect these items when traveling. Thank you.

      • Linda Reply August 15, 2018 at 2:20 pm

        Hi Marek, Thank you for the suggestion of peak design. I checked out the website and I am looking for a combination travel pack with area for camera. I want to use the pack for carry on on airline plus traveling in Peru. Any other suggestions?

        • Marek Reply August 15, 2018 at 5:54 pm

          Hmmm, I thought Peak Design’s new carry-on size packs were already out, but they’re still in Kickstarter phase. Not sure what else to suggest at the moment as camera bags are usually small ones, not full carry on size.

          Right now I travel with a Tortuga Setout along with a LowePro Slingshot bag for my camera + 3 lenses. The camera bag still gets accepted as the additional “personal item” on flights.

        • Laura Reply September 7, 2018 at 3:39 am

          Hi Linda, check out Tenba BYOB camera inserts. After a lot of research on camera backpacks, I landed on these, which can be put into any bag of your choice and have been one of my best purchases. They are highly customizable, using velcro insert walls. I have now used the size 9 one to carry my Fuji XT-2, 30mm f2, 16mm f1.4 (which is hefty), spare batteries, cables, a mini camera stand, and cleaning stuff in numerous bags, including a tiny foldable backpack which I was very worried about putting the camera into. With the BYOB, it worked like a charm across all my Joshua Tree exploring. I use the BYOB as default camera storage at home and often pop it into my daily leather tote, which also works great in carry on situations where I’m not traveling with backpacks but rather luggage. There are 2 more sizes above mine, so you’re bound to find one that works for your gear.

          • Linda September 7, 2018 at 11:16 am

            Wow Thanks Laura! I will check them out.

  9. Bob Reply August 12, 2018 at 7:46 am

    Thanks for a great article. But in your list up above you jump from the 15 -30 litre size and go to the 40 – 45 litre size, skipping the 30 -40 litre size.
    Anyways, traveling the world and having used several other larger bags in the past, I’m now super happy with my Minaal 2.0, a 35 litre convertible backpack/duffel bag clamshell style with zip away should straps with load lifters, removable waist belt, lockable YKK heavy duty zips and included rain cover. I think it’s the last bag I need. And they always let me carry it on the planes. No bag checking, no waiting at the carousels. I love it.

  10. Paul Reply June 5, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks, good article.

    Just wanted to add that I traveled many many times with the Osprey 55 as carry-on without any issues, and fully loaded by the way. Which was truly heavy.

    It’s a great pack, but nowadays Im looking to travel lighter and downgrade to the osprey 40.

  11. Nate Reply May 18, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    Excellent and thorough breakdown and comparison, Marek! I’m curious if you have checked out the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L travel pack? It seems extremely comparable to your Tortuga Setout, both in features and price. The Allpa has all the critical features for the minimalist nomadic lifestyle: carry-on size, padded hip belt w pocket, stowable straps, lockable YKK zippers, suitcase-style opening, comfy & breatheable mesh back support, 15″ laptop compartment, water resistant (+rain cover), as well as modular add-ons like a mesh water bottle sleeve. Although I personally prefer the look of the Setout, the Allpa is aesthetically pleasing, too. Also, worth mentioning that Cotopaxi is a fantastic company, donating 2% of revenue to alleviate poverty, sourcing recycled materials, and organizing an annual nation-wide 24hr “Questival” adventure race. If you haven’t experienced Cotopaxi’s product yet, I highly encourage you do.

    • Marek Reply May 18, 2018 at 6:15 pm

      Hey Nate. I just discovered Cotopaxi a few weeks ago, so I haven’t had a chance to look at their stuff yet. But now that you mention it here too, I think it’s time for me to check it out! I like that they’re doing something very different with their color schemes.

  12. Nick Reply May 14, 2018 at 12:51 am

    Great list and write up! It’s nice to read a pack review from an actual user. The Setout is currently at the top of my list but I was wondering if you have ever tried the Tortuga Outbreaker or the Aer Travel Pack. The Aer is a little smaller and doesn’t have a waist belt but I rarely use them so I’m not really concerned. Thanks!

    • Marek Reply May 19, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      Hi Nick. I have the Outbreaker and am doing a review of it soon. I like the fully adjustable suspension system – this is especially great if you’re a lot taller or shorter than average. If you have a medium torso height, then I think this is less important. I slightly prefer the materials and design of the Setout, and it’s a bit lighter too. Haven’t looked at the Aer Travel Pack yet!

  13. Howie Reply April 30, 2018 at 9:16 pm

    Marek,

    Curious, what kind of shoes are they in the pic with the backpacks? The brown boots, they look dope.

    • Marek Reply May 3, 2018 at 8:03 am

      Hey Howie. They’re walking shoes by Merell. I can’t quite seem to find the exact model on their site though, sorry!

      • Howie Reply May 4, 2018 at 12:41 am

        Thanks Marek! I can’t seem to find them anywhere. You must’ve bought a while ago. Enjoy your travels!

        • Marek Reply May 4, 2018 at 9:58 am

          I got them at a Merell store in Lisbon just a few months ago. They were on sale though so maybe they were the last ones!

  14. Ellen Reply March 13, 2018 at 1:19 am

    What is your recommendation if you also want to carry camera gear? My son and I are going on a trip to Costa Rica in May and plan to stay at hostels. We are taking backpacks to make it easier to go from place to place, but also want to go hiking to take a lot of photos. Your packing video gave me a lot of great ideas. Thank you for all the information. My son backpacks all over the world, and this is my first time going with him.

    • Marek Reply March 14, 2018 at 1:01 am

      Hey Ellen. Great question. Right now I travel with the Tortuga Setout as a main bag, and a small CaseLogic camera bag as a daypack. It’s quite inconspicuous but still fits my micro four-thirds camera + 3 small lenses (it has a special compartment for these). I used to have a Peak Design Everyday Backpack which is incredible as a camera bag and daypack, but it sadly got stolen. For something a bit budget friendly the CaseLogic bags are quite nice to use for during the day.

  15. Caitlin Reply January 10, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Hi Marek

    Have you tried the One Planet packs at all? They are made from heavy duty canvas and all the travel packs have attachments for a daypack. They tend to be a bit more pricey, but are made for the most part in their factory in Melbourne, Australia. I’d love to hear any feedback you may have about them!

    Caitlin

    • Marek Reply January 16, 2018 at 7:13 pm

      Hadn’t heard of these yet – will check them out!

      • Michelle Reply June 16, 2018 at 12:44 pm

        I have a One Planet 65 pack (I believe they don’t make my model anymore)-got it in 2003 and still going strong. Has been all around the world and very durable. Now looking at smaller backpacks but will definitely drag my One Planet out if going on extended camping/hiking trips. Would recommend for sure. Very durable and holds up well in heavy rain without a rain cover even. Great front loader style and can fit pretty much everything in it. No rips/no problems with zips-very sturdy.

  16. Jenifer Moore Reply November 5, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Detailed analysis. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Andy Reply November 2, 2017 at 2:09 am

    Great overview of backpacks, and good timing. I am currently looking to buy a new backpack. Thanks for the tips!

  18. Rick Reply September 26, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    Wow, pretty indepth analysis of all these packs. You really did your homework.

  19. Teruyo Reply July 30, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you brother Marek for your size guide and recommendations for backpacks! I will go to the Malaga of Spain from Finland by Air international Norwegian at Autumn in this year without anyone but with my Adonai Messiah Yahuah.
    My trip plan is from Torremolinos 2 nights→Fuengilola 1 night → Ronda 3 nights → El Chorro 3 nights → Alora 3 nights → Malaga 2 nights
    God bless you!

  20. Anne Betts Reply July 7, 2017 at 10:05 am

    For my last trip, I looked for a travel pack and packable daypack to meet the 7-kg carry-on allowance of regional carriers within Australia, New Zealand and SE Asia. After reading hundreds of reviews, I chose the Osprey Farpoint 40 and Osprey’s Ultralight Stuff Pack. The Farpoint in the S/M torso size is 38 litres and the surprisingly comfortable stuff pack is 18 litres. The best I could do was a packed weight of 8 kg and the size of the Farpoint is such that it didn’t attract undue attention and passed for carry on for all 9 flights. The Farpoint has a great harness and hip belt, making it very comfortable for walking and jumping on and off public transportation.

  21. Sheila Reply March 11, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    I notice that everyone casually accepts the words ‘carry on size’ as if that was a universal given.
    I am perhaps more aware of the sometimes huge variation because AirNZ has a 7kg (118cm 46″ LWH total) carry on limit which means checked in unless you are super good at this lightweight thing

    • Kin Reply March 20, 2017 at 10:09 am

      I did 2 weeks Sydney & NZ South Island in spring with a 35l North Face Terra, weighed 10kg (had to check in at CHC). Looking to upgrade to a panel loader because top loading makes hell of noise when packing in a hostel at 7am!!! Aer, Slicks & Minaal looking real good. Anyone thoughts on these brands?

      • Robert Reply March 31, 2017 at 8:57 am

        I used to travel with the MEI Voyageur, and then the Tortuga, both are great bags, and max size for carry-on. I easily traveled for four months on two south east Asia trips. Once with my MEI Voyageur, and a second trip with my Tortuga. Now I recently bought the even smaller 35 litre Minaal, with the waist belt attachment, and can’t be happier. Being 65 now, I simply don’t want to shoulder a heavy loaded bag anymore. Travelling lite, with a bag I don’t have to check, even makes me feel freer. I can live out of my Minaal for months and months. Even years if I wish. Have safe travels.

  22. Lisa Schofield Reply January 8, 2017 at 9:27 am

    To me, best backpack for traveling is Osprey Farpoint 55 because of its features. I always love backpacks with high capacity. It is extremely useful for long day traveling. I don’t really like the color but the cost if fine. Recommended for any new backpacker.

  23. Richard Remick Reply November 16, 2016 at 3:32 am

    The Osprey Farpoint 55 was the perfect backpack for my 3 week trip to Prague and Munich for Ocktoberfest. Thanks for the advice Marek.

  24. John Reply October 28, 2016 at 3:35 am

    Anyone have any thoughts on the Eagle Creek Systems Go Duffel Pack 60L? Need a new pack and am not sure between this and something like the Osprey Farpoint, but not sure how I feel about the detachable day pack.

  25. Rachel Reply September 27, 2016 at 11:39 am

    I’m looking at getting the Osprey Farpoint 55 but am concerned in case I try to get it through as hand luggage and fail! Would I get charged in countries around South East Asia or be sent to check in my bag and miss my flight etc? I was thinking that if the large part counted as my hand luggage then the small rucksack as the carry-on?

    • Marek Reply September 27, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      The main bag is a little bigger than the usual maximum carry-on size. That said, I’ve not had problems using it as carry-on. Of course there are no guarantees and different airlines have different allowances, but I’d say you should be able to get away with it at least most of the time.

      If it’s a big source of worries, the Farpoint 40 will definitely work as carry-on as it’s within the size limits.

  26. Anne Betts Reply September 16, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Great post, Marek. I especially like the size chart, and your easy-to-scan list of positives and negatives on the various travel bags. Have you tracked down a Tortuga yet? if so, I’d be interested in your comments. I’m keen to see the specifications on the V3 updated model coming out soon. I travel with the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible at 54 litres (expandable to 60). I’d like to go a little smaller, and get a bag with a decent hip belt. The Tortuga might be it.

    • Marek Reply September 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      Tortuga will be updating their backpacks at the end of 2017 and so I’ve got an order in to review them when the newest model comes out… so stay tuned 🙂

  27. Alok Reply August 29, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Guys, I am planning for a trip to south east Asia for one and a half months. Obviously I need to carry lots of stuff for such a long time. I am not able to understand which kind of backpack will be suitable for such a long trip. Any suggestion folks?

    • Marek Reply August 30, 2016 at 12:34 pm

      Get a good travel backpack of 40L or so. The climate in Southeast Asia is quite consistently tropical so it’s easy to pack light. You don’t need a bigger bag because you’re travelling longer, this is actually a misconception! 🙂 Just take what you need for 7 to 10 days and do laundry when needed (it’s cheap and easy to do this in SEA).

      You might benefit from reading my post on how to pack or my book which deals a lot with how to pack for a longer trip.

    • Robert Reply March 31, 2017 at 9:09 am

      No, you do not need to carry lots of stuff. I pack the same whether I go for two weeks in northern Ontario, Canada, or for four months in south east Asia. My present bag for travel is only a 35 litre Minaal. My previous bags were both carry on size. About 45 litre, and I’ve learned how to go even smaller and lighter.
      Why would you need more??? Every item you take, you should ask yourself, “Am I really going to use this enough to justify having it take up room and weight, carrying it around on my back everywhere I go for a month or longer?”

  28. Brad Reply July 31, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    I have tried many bags to travel with and nothing has come close to the Pacsafe bags, strong, safe and stylish, my laptop, phone all very safe, incredible features you don’t find on other bags.

  29. Jayson Reply July 27, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I am heading to Guatemala for a 2-week backpacking trip this August. More often than not I will be staying in hostels, but there is a good chance I will be hiking and camping (max 3 nights). Not too much extra gear: hammock w/ mosquito net and rain cover, hiking shoes, water proof jacket, maybe a few other various items. Would you still recommend a travel pack vs. a trekking pack?

    • Marek Reply August 13, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      I would probably buy your gear for the situations you need it in most. You could go either way, but it sounds like you’ll be camping pretty light so a travel backpack could work just fine.

  30. Anne @ TheYogaNomads Reply April 30, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    HUGE fan of the Osprey Farpoint 40 – been traveling full time with it for the last 2+ years. Fair price and of course the All Mighty Guarantee can’t be beat!

  31. Josie Reply April 3, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    Hi Marek,
    I just wanted to say I was inspired by your more minimalist approach to backpacking, and have taken your advice & purchased an Farpoint 40 pack for my upcoming RTW trip. Having tried it out, I’m so impressed by how much you can fit in it & yet it still feels super light. Happy travels indeed 🙂

  32. Dan Reply January 5, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Hi Marek,

    Recently picked up the Osprey Ozone 46, how do you think it compares to the Farpoint 40?

    • Marek Reply January 8, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      The Osprey Ozone line is mainly wheeled luggage (not backpacks). I believe there’s also an Ozone branded backpack that’s only sold in the US which is possibly the one you have (I haven’t seen this bag as I’m Europe based). I believe it was originally intended for attaching to wheeled luggage. I imagine the Ozone 46 is just as capable as the Farpoint 40, just designed from a different starting point.

  33. Maria Reply January 1, 2016 at 1:26 am

    I’m no ultra minimalist but my Stratos 34 litre backpack works like a magic while I travel the world. All my toiletries are Lush solids so packs to a small space (probably even smaller than most men have it). All excess baggage is just putting a strain on the journey and anything more than mid-30 litres would not allow me to see the world as I best could. Then again, I don’t carry a laptop or too many clothes and my fujix100 is smaller than a dslr. This just as a comment to those who wonder whether a 30 something backpack is enough. It surely is!

    • Marek Reply January 2, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Thanks for sharing Maria!

  34. Lawrence Reply November 22, 2015 at 11:22 am

    For a slim body built person, is a 30L enough to pack everything?

    • Marek Reply December 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      I would like to say yes, and I actually have a friend who backpacked all over Europe with a 30L. I think it takes a very minimalistic approach to packing though (for instance no electronics, or only 1 pair of footwear, etc.). Personally I’d go one step bigger, but if you can pull it off I’d say go for it! 🙂

  35. Lewis Reply October 12, 2015 at 11:37 am

    I went with the Farpoint 40 initially but ended up returning it for the 55, which was my original choice. I really dislike the front laptop compartment on the 40. It seems badly designed and takes away valuable space from the main compartment.

    I need a permanent daypack (rather than a packable one) and don’t mind checking the main bag, so the Farpoint 55 suits me fine.

  36. Che Reply October 5, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Hi Marek,

    The Tortuga backpack might also meet what you are looking for; basically these two guys hated their backpacks and they built their own. It gets pretty good reviews, I was planning on getting one for my RTW trip, have you heard anything good or bad about it?

    • Marek Reply October 5, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      I saw some of the reviews of the Tortuga backpack. They seem to squeeze every last inch out of the carry-on baggage allowance which is cool. The other ones listed here I’ve been able to actually try and see in real life, but not the tortuga one yet. Trying to track one down, so I can maybe add it here later!

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