Looking for a new backpack but feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Based on what kind of traveller you are, let me guide you to the right backpack size, type, and features.

If you’re in a hurry, check out my top choice

Peak Design 45L Backpack

View at Peak Design

What I know about this

I’ve been reviewing backpacks for many years and have used 60+ different backpacks, letting me learn all there is about the best backpack brands and the important features to look for.

But… I’m not an influencer. I don’t do any sponsorships! I just post reviews with my real opinions.

As a full-time travel blogger for over 12 years, I know just how important comfort and convenience are when it comes to your travel luggage.

Let’s find the right backpack for you!

With my trusty Osprey Farpoint 40

What to look for in a backpack

Simplicity vs complexity. This might go against the trend, but don’t be too impressed with backpacks that boast a zillion and a half different features. While these often look great in marketing videos, they usually aren’t so practical to use in real life!

Tropicfeel’s products are a great example of this: tons of different systems, doo-dads, and carry modes. Looks cool, but it also increases the weight, bulkiness, and complexity a lot.

Having 6 distinct pockets is great — having 14 of them just makes you forget where you put all your stuff. A balanced design is better.

Complex backpacks (like Tropicfeel Shell) are not always the best

Weight. This aspect is often underappreciated in online reviews. A lower weight makes a pack easier to carry and leaves more of your precious baggage allowance free to use. I always review packs in person (and, if possible, on an actual trip) so I can get a proper feel for the weight and handling.

Packing light lets you travel carry-on

Carry-on. I HIGHLY recommend travelling carry-on only if you can just for the incredible savings on airfare. This used to be an advantage only on budget carriers, but nowadays on many long-haul flights too.

Every time I’ve flown between continents in recent years, I’ve saved around $200 – $300 on airfare by going carry-on only. Even if cost is less of a concern to you, reducing your luggage to carry-on size will give you increased comfort and mobility.

Not sure how to pack light? My in-depth guide shows you how. If you truly need a bigger pack, I do have suggestions further down the page.

Quality. Finally, the quality of the materials and especially the zippers is super important. This is one reason why I’ve soured on cheap backpacks. A pack that is truly durable, weather-resistant, and doesn’t tear will give you comfort and peace of mind on the road.

How much should you spend?

I have used backpacks across all price categories. My advice is this:

Under $100

I’ve tried ultra-budget brands like Amazon Basics and Decathlon’s entry-level Forclaz and Quechua bags. They can be kind of decent… until they aren’t. The biggest weak spots are usually the zippers and where the shoulder straps attach. I consider this the “you get what you pay for” category.

$150 - $200

You can get some crazy good backpacks in this price range. For example, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is incredible and costs $185. I’ve used one for many years — they’re truly built to last. Cotopaxi Allpa is another great example of an affordable yet highly reliable pack.

$200 - $300

The sweet spot for a high-quality pack with premium features and materials. The options in this price range will be worth it if you travel often. Check out Peak Design, the Pakt Travel Backpack, and others listed below.


There are some truly high-end packs such as the Tortuga Travel Backpack and the Tom Binh Techonaut. But… they may be overkill. Do you really need a backpack made of a three-layer laminated sailcloth? Well, maybe you do. This is definitely the splurge category, though.

How much you want to spend ultimately depends on your budget and how much you expect to travel. If you’re going on a big trip or if you travel regularly, a good backpack will be worth the investment.

What kind of traveler are you? Not all bags are ideal for all types of trips! That’s why I’ve sorted my recommendations in different categories.

Best backpacks for one bag & air travel

Focused on organisational features and conveniences, these packs are best for urban travel, air travel, commuting, and hotel stays.

You might not take them through-hiking in Papua New Guinea (for that you need a fully padded back panel and other features), but for general-purpose travel in cities and developed destinations, these are some of the best picks.

Quick Overview: Best Overall Travel Backpacks

Peak Design Travel Backpack

Best premium travel backpack

  • 35L expandable to 45L
  • Amazingly clever design filled with surprising features
Pakt Travel Backpack 30L
  • Amazing clamshell design with superb organizational features
  • Great medium-size carry-on for urban/air travel

My number one pick for carry-on

For a general-purpose carry-on backpack, my number one recommendation has long been the Peak Design 45L. I’m a big fan of the Peak Design brand overall, which is known for its simplicity and minimalism while still including lots of neat little features you’ll be glad to have.

Peak Design’s 45L Travel Backpack has been my main luggage for 5 years now and I consider it close to perfect. It highly benefits from pairing it with some of Peak Design’s accessories, which are among the best around.

Carrying the Peak Design 45 on a trip to Italy

Using it just feels good. All the little touches — like the magnetic pouches, hidden straps, foldable origami-style dividers, and clever storage spaces — create a completely fluid experience. You can read my full review here.

The default capacity is 35L, which is well within carry-on size limits, though it can expand to 45L. This makes it a versatile pack suitable for many types of trips. Its sturdy 400D nylon shell nicely holds its shape when unloaded.

The only downside of the Peak Design is that the shoulder straps are fairly thin, making it less suitable for very outdoors or adventure-focused trips. While it’s comfortable for, say, carrying it through a terminal to your next flight, you wouldn’t really hike with it or go backpacking. (For this, see my picks further down the page.)

My second favorite carry-on

There are other packs in this category that I think are really great. The Pakt Travel Backpack is another favorite I can highly recommend. I love the internal organization. Most clamshell backpacks offer one deep main storage compartment, but the Pakt takes a different tack by dividing this space into two halves. Sandwiched between them is the laptop compartment. I think this makes perfect sense for both security and comfort.

The Pakt is a really more comfortable to wear than the Peak Design, however at 30 liters it may be a bit on the small side for big trips. The Pakt Backpack is somewhat similar to the AER Backpack, which I also like, though preferring the Pakt’s layout and design.

More premium options

If you have some more money to spend, then you can take a look at the Tortuga Travel Backpack, which is basically the “screw it, we’re doing 7 blades!” of backpack design. Meaning… it’s a pro-level traveller backpack with every possible feature included. If you’re using it for air travel or urban travel it will look the part, but with an adjustable harness, weather-sealing, and highly padded back, it can equally go on some wild adventure trips.

Another premium pack is the Tom Binh Techonaut. I heard so much about it on Reddit and other places that I finally got one — and while I think it occupies a specific niche, it’s a great pack overall. It’s not cheap, but it’s made of very durable materials, and it has a very functional, minimalistic and lightweight design, weighing only 3 lbs (1.3 Kg)

Tortuga Travel Backpack

Why my picks are different

I’ve listed backpacks here based on my own experience. Some packs just didn’t make the cut. For example, I found the Osprey Porter’s shoulder straps very uncomfortable, so I listed other options instead.

Nomatic and Tropicfeel make overly complex backpacks that, in my opinion, can make their interiors feel very cramped. They do have a lot of cool bells and whistles, but I generally recommend brands with more restrained designs — such as Peak Design, Aer, or Tom Binh.

Best backpacks for adventurers

Thinking of, say, city-hopping across Europe by train, an island-hopping vacation in Thailand, or backpacking through South America? Then a different type of pack will be a better fit.

For this style of travel, I recommend backpacks with strong and comfortable back panels, a fully-featured harness (including a waist strap and load lifter strap), and more of an outdoors-focused design overall.

Rambling along cobbled streets in Europe, throwing your pack in the back of a tuk-tuk, or hiking across a tropical island to get to your eco-lodge takes a different kind of pack.

You are more likely to wear it for longer. With potentially lots of location changes, comfort and utility will be important aspects in addition to style.

Quick Overview: Best Adventure Travel Backpacks

Osprey Farpoint 40

Best for backpacking

  • Simple design that is light, affordable and durable
  • A classic pack for backpackers & budget travelers staying in hostels
Cotopaxi Allpa
  • Fun and colorful designs (but black also available)
  • Great features for good value; ideal for budget and adventure travel
Salkan Backpacker

Best for big trips

  • 2-in-1 system (main pack + detachable daypack)
  • Water-resistent polyester that feels like canvas
  • Beautiful pack ideal for big trips

My number one recommendation has long been the Osprey Farpoint 40. You’ll see this one mentioned a lot because it just offers amazing value and great quality.

I did a deep dive into the Osprey Farpoint 40 here along with other models you could consider. (However, I think the carry-on 40-liter version is the perfect size as long as you know how to pack light.)

It’s extremely comfortable to wear and has a back panel you can adjust to your torso height. Even though I’m very tall, you can see in the photo below how it perfectly hugs my back. I’ve even taken this pack with me on treks, which is not what it’s designed for, but it does the job just fine.

Farpoint 40

The Farpoint 40 doesn’t have as many pockets or clever features as some of those fancier one-bag air travel backpacks, but it’s an extremely reliable choice for adventure trips. You can easily add some packing cubes for more internal organization if you’d like. At 1.6kg / 3.5lbs it’s wonderfully lightweight.

My second tip is to look at the Cotopaxi Allpa. It has a sturdier outer material and more internal organization than the Farpoint. I think the comfort level of the harness is lower  than the Farpoint (but only a bit) while in some respects it’s easier to use. Overall it’s also an excellent backpack to bring you with on the travel trail.

Don’t like the sporty look of the Allpa or Osprey? Then check out Salkan, which makes backpacker-style packs with a beautiful retro aesthetic, using a material that feels and looks like canvas.

Salkan’s backpacks are highly comfortable and fully height adjustable. They don’t have a carry-on version, though.

Best backpacks for business travel

If you travel for business (or you work remotely), you likely need a few more pockets and features for storing your electronics and office items. Potentially your backpack should also work in tandem with rolling luggage.

As you can see from my site, nowadays I’m gallivanting around the globe as a content creator. But I once worked at a global corporation, a job which involved regular business travel. I know the requirements for such trips can be a little different than someone who will be backpacking Europe for the summer. Here are my suggestions…

Quick Overview: Best For Business Travel & Nomading

Nomatic Travel Bag

Best for business travel

  • Shoe compartment, shirt folder, etc. ideal for business or formal clothes
  • Works perfectly combined with rolled luggage
Peak Design Travel Backpack
  • 35L expandable to 45L
  • Amazingly clever design filled with surprising features

My number one recommendation for business travelers is therefore the Nomatic Backpack (sold under the Gomatic brand in Europe). While I think it’s a bit overly complex for general travel, if you are a digital nomad or business traveller, you can truly leverage all of its features.

The Nomatic includes many dedicated spaces such as a shoe compartment and a shirt folder, and laundry bag that can hang from a hotel room door.

It takes a little while to get used to the packing system, but once you do, it’s awesome. As a frequent business traveler, you can get into the habit of using all the different compartments and pockets in the way they’re intended, after which the Nomatic truly feels like a Swiss Army Knife.

I’ve seen the Nomatic recommended for backpacking or adventure travel, for which I don’t think it’s suitable, but as a business travel backpack, it’s close to perfect.

For more options, take a look at my recommendations for one bag and air travel at the beginning of this post. Packs such as those by Peak Design and Pakt also feature convenient storage spaces for pens, electronics, or your laptop, making them highly suitable for digital nomad or business trip purposes.

Best lightweight backpacks for minimalists

If low weight is your main priority then here are some excellent lightweight packs to choose from. These can minimize strain on your back, but mostly just give you that bit of extra luggage allowance to work with.

Some airlines have reduced their weight allowance for carry-on luggage to 8 or even 7 kg (15.5 lbs), which can make it more of a challenge to avoid checking in your luggage. However, some packs make it much easier by being a lot lighter.

Quick Overview: Best Lightweight Backpacks

Cabin Zero

Best for low budget

  • Limited features and comfort level
  • But extremely lightweight
Tom Binh Techonaut

Best high-end lightweight pack

  • Clever side- and bottom compartments
  • Great comfort and fit
  • Wonderfully lightweight

If you’re on a low budget, you could take a look at the packs by Cabin Zero. Their Classic packs weigh just 700gr or 1.54 lbs. Now, these are not necessarily the world’s best travel backpacks, having made some serious compromises in terms of organizational features and back panel comfort. To be honest, I wasn’t that wild about their packs when I tested them as they are quite basic. However, if minimalism is your goal, then it can easily free up a kilo or more of baggage allowance compared to using other backpacks.

While not exactly ultralight, the Osprey Farpoint 40 isn’t the heaviest pack around either at just 1.6 kg or 3.5 lbs. For comparison, most packs weigh around 2kg – 2.3kg. So if you are looking for a rucksack that has all the key features while not being overly heavy, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is a great choice.

If you have some money to spend, check out the Tom Binh Techonaut, which weighs only 3 lbs (1.3 Kg). This makes it very lightweight, minimalistic, and easy to carry. The materials are nevertheless very sturdy and durable. While pricey, this can be one of those ‘buy it for life’ products if minimalism is your main goal.

Best larger backpacks for overland travel

If you’re an overland traveller, sticking to carry-on size is surely not your main concern and you’ll likely want to prioritize packing space.

You might be planning a road trip, a big overland journey, or a round-the-world trip where you’re checking in your bags anyway.

When I go on backpacking, I almost always go with a 40-liter carry-on. But I know that’s still considered quite minimalistic by some, particularly on bigger trips where you might need to pack more gear or clothes for multiple climates.

In this case, I recommend going just one or two sizes up, e.g. around 55 or 60 liters. (The ones that are 70 or even 80 liters? I think they don’t make sense unless you’re going hardcore camping, mountaineering, etc.)

Quick Overview: Best Larger Travel Backpacks

Osprey Farpoint 55 Trek
  • Adjustable suspension system, comfortable trampoline-style back & integrated rain cover
  • Perfect for long term travel and/or trekking
Salkan Backpacker

Best for big trips

  • 2-in-1 system (main pack + detachable daypack)
  • Water-resistent polyester that feels like canvas
  • Beautiful pack ideal for big trips

I have two huge favorites in this category:

The Farpoint Trek 55 (not to be confused with the regular Farpoint 55) is a fantastic larger backpack. Its key advantage is back comfort, especially when wearing it for longer periods.

You can easily adjust the backpack to your torso height

Unlike what the name suggests, it is not just for trekking. That’s one intended use, but I think it also happens to be ideal for long-term overland travel or round-the-world trips. You can think of it as an upgraded version of the Farpoint series.

The additional space compared to a carry-on is great if you have to pack for multiple climates. It’s also ready for the outdoors, with an integrated rain cover included, and a much more comfortable suspension system.

The only thing it lacks is a padded laptop compartment, but it’s ideal for travel adventurers who don’t carry such large electronics. (A tablet will still fit in the organizer compartment.)

Besides the Farpoint Trek 55, there is also the women’s specific version, the Fairview Trek 50.

My other recommendation is the Salkan Backpacker. It looks and feels utterly like a retro canvas backpack, yet it’s made of a durable and rain-resistant polyester that emulates this look.

It has a 2-in-1 system, with a daypack and main pack that work seamlessly together. You can buy just the daypack or the main pack, or you can buy them together for a lower price. The main pack is 45 liters (expandable up to 55) and the day pack is 20 liters.

Salkan now has a customized backpack designer, letting you mix-and-match different colors and straps.

Best backpacks for duffel-style travel

For those who want just want one big packing space with multiple carry options.

Duffel-style bags can offer some advantages over the other types of backpacks covered in this guide. They are typically more spacious, usually eschewing individual pockets and sleeves in favor of providing just one big packing space.

Quick Overview: Best Duffel Travel Backpack

Patagonia Black Hole MLC
  • Carry it like a suitcase, duffel, or backpack (straps can be fully stowed)
  • Spacious and extremely versatile

There are duffel bags available that can be carried as a shoulder bag, by a grab handle (like a suitcase), or like a backpack. While the comfort level of the shoulder straps will never match that of a dedicated backpack, the versatility can be a benefit.

Personally, I don’t typically travel with duffel bags, even after trying options like the Peak Design Travel Duffel and the Osprey Transporter. However, I have much enjoyed using the Patagonia Black Hole lately. My partner and I use this as an extra bag for our baby’s clothes and other items when we travel as a family.

It’s a really easy pack to just throw in the car trunk, or occasionally wear by the shoulder strap or handles while we’re making our way through an airport terminal. It has just enough organization inside to make it easy to separate different clothes.

Perhaps you also have some specific uses for a duffel in mind, in which case the Patagonia Black Hole MLC is a great choice. It has a well-thought-out design, a pretty good backpack-style carry (given that the straps are stowable!) and being fairly lightweight.

What size backpack for traveling

Backpack sizes are typically expressed in liters (i.e. the total volume they can contain). Thinking in liters might not be totally intuitive, so here are some pointers.

When in doubt, I think carry-ons (around 40 liters) are often the best backpacks for traveling — at least, if you’re staying in hotels, apartments, or hostels and don’t need to bring any bulky gear (such as for camping). You’ll end up with less weight on your back, more freedom of movement, and much less hassle.

I used to think that “bigger is better, because you never know when you’ll need that space”. But a mid-sized backpack will be lighter, more comfortable, and will prevent you from overpacking. A carry-on can also save you a lot of money on airline luggage fees.


10-25 L

Too small for a main travel backpack. This size is usually for daypacks or commuter bags.

30 L

An interesting mid-size for shorter trips, maybe a maximum of 3-4 days. You could go on longer trips with just a 30L, but you’ll have to be a real minimalist.

35-45 L

A happy sweet spot! Perfect for shorter trips but equally for trips lasting many weeks or months. I usually travel with backpacks of a size around 40L. Packing this light is especially easy when traveling within one climate and when not bringing any bulky gear.

50-65 L

Good if you really need extra space. 65L is recommended for trekking if you’re bringing a small tent or other gear. Some long-term backpackers travel with this size backpack too. Arguably a main pack around 40L plus a large day will give you more versatility though.

70-120 L

NOPE. Only for extreme trekking and camping expeditions. The internal support frames often already weigh several kilos or pounds. This is overkill for most travelers.

Some links may be affiliate links, meaning I may earn commission from products or services I recommend. For more, see site policies.