If you’re looking for the best backpack for travel, then I should say right away that no single backpack is literally the “best” in every respect.
There are always certain trade-offs in terms of comfort, features, price, weight, or durability. However, some backpacks do truly stand out from the pack (so to speak) and will make your life on the road a lot easier.
Because every traveler is different, in this buyer’s guide I’ll help you narrow it down to a backpack best suited to your travel style.
If you’re in a hurry, check out my top choice
Tortuga Travel BackpackView at Tortuga
How I review backpacks
My number one rule: Every backpack I review goes on at least one real trip. It’s hard to know a product just from unboxing it!
Sometimes I look at review samples, while other times I simply buy backpacks when they seem worth checking out.
As a professional travel blogger for over 10 years, I’ve done a lot of travelling, and I even lived out of a backpack for some time.
Having used over 60 different backpacks — yep, I’m a backpack freak! — let me share with you here my absolute top picks.
This article contains affiliate links.
Quick Overview: Best Travel Backpacks
Tortuga Travel Backpack
- Rugged, durable, and loaded with organization features
- Super comfortable height-adjustable harness
- Best option if price tag is not your only concern
Peak Design Travel Backpack
- 35L expandable to 45L
- Amazingly clever design filled with surprising features
- Straps not quite as comfy as Tortuga (but cleaner aesthetic)
Nomatic Travel Bag
Best for business travel
- Shoe compartment, shirt folder, etc. ideal for business or formal clothes
- Works perfectly combined with rolled luggage
- Fun and colorful designs (but black also available)
- Great features for good value; ideal for budget and adventure travel
Patagonia Black Hole MLC
- Carry it like a suitcase, duffel, or backpack (straps can be fully stowed)
- Spacious and extremely versatile
Osprey Farpoint 40
Best for backpacking
- Simple design that is light, affordable and durable
- A classic pack for backpackers & budget travelers staying in hostels
Pacsafe VentureSafe EXP45
- Security features you'll actually enjoy using
- 1 integrated lock to close all compartments; wire lock to secure the bag itself
- Fantastic carry-on backpack overall
Pakt Travel Backpack 30L
- Amazing clamshell design with superb organizational features
- Great medium-size carry-on for urban/air travel
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
Osprey Farpoint 55 Trek
- Adjustable suspension system, comfortable trampoline-style back & integrated rain cover
- Perfect for long term travel and/or trekking
- Like a premium version of the original Farpoint
Best carry-on travel backpacks
These backpacks you can take on board most airlines without having to check them in. Even if you’re not flying, they are a great medium size.
Tortuga Travel Backpack
(available in US only)
- Balanced design with numerous storage options
- Amazingly comfortable straps and suspension system
- Durable and rugged materials; waterproof zippers
- None worth mentioning
The newest 4th generation Tortuga Travel Backpack has just about everything a frequent traveler might want.
Organization is made easy with numerous pouches and zipped compartments, the back panel and harness are wonderfully padded and fully height-adjustable, and premium materials are used throughout — including a highly weather-resistent SHELL200 exterior, weatherproof zippers, and soft fleece lining inside the laptop compartment.
Packed with features and made of super durable materials, is the Tortuga overkill for a casual traveler? Possibly. This is basically the “screw everything, we’re doing five blades” of backpack design. But if you’re looking for the “best” travel backpack, this absolutely gets my vote.
At 2kg it’s not quite the lightest — and the price tag is pretty hefty too. But it has a Swiss Army Knife worth of features, and it’s more comfortable to carry than the comparable Peak Design 45L.
Note that it only sells in the US. For a somewhat similar option with international shipping, consider the Peak Design Travel Backpack.
Read my full review here.
Peak Design Travel Backpack
- Versatile; carry-on size (35L) but can expand to 45L
- Incredible design with premium materials and wonderful touches
- Optional accessories that are 100% amazing
- Shoulder and hip straps could be more padded
Peak Design’s 45L Travel Backpack has been my main luggage for 3 years. For a mostly urban or air travel style, it’s close to perfect.
Using it just feels good. All the little touches — like the magnetic pouches, hidden straps, and clever storage spaces — create a totally fluid experience.
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 minor downside is the harness. The straps could be a bit more padded and it’s annoying that the sternum strap is detachable (making it easier to lose).
While it’s perfectly comfortable for carrying to your airport gate or to your hotel, this backpack is less ideal for walking for many hours on end. If your travel style involves a lot of hiking or outdoors adventure then other options will be more suitable.
That said, I love taking it on regular trips as it actually makes organizing fun. To get the most out of this backpack, I recommend getting the Peak Design accessories. The toiletry bag, electronics pouch, and packing cubes are all cleverly designed and a joy to use.
Read my full review here.
- Fresh and colorful design
- Shoulder straps and raincover included
- Amazing internal organization (no packing cubes needed)
- The rubbery 1000D polyester outer shell is love-it-or-hate-it
Starting at $220, the Cotopaxi Allpa is one of the best-value backpacks around. I like its ‘just right’ balance between features and price. Its harness with a height-adjustable hip belt is also comfortable to wear for extended periods, making it suitable for adventure trips.
The Allpa stands out with its range of funky Andean-inspired colors, but if that’s not your thing there is also an all-black version.
The Allpa is super easy to organize, with its clamshell design ensuring easy access. One side has a big open compartment for your bulky clothing, the other has three zipped cubes for storing smaller items. A rain cover is included as is a shoulder strap for duffel-style carry.
Given its many organizational features, you may not need any packing cubes nor additional accessories (apart from maybe a toiletries bag).
There is a 35L and a 42L size, both carry-on. Cotopaxi Allpa 35 is the best-selling option and recommended for most travellers. I quite like the Cotopaxi Allpa 42 as I prefer using maximum carry-on size packs. You can compare the different Allpa versions here.
The one controversial aspect? Probably the rubbery 1000D polyester outer shell, which can look a bit blobby if the bag is not full. This material is very sturdy however, so it will protect your gear very well.
This is an especially great pack to use for backpacking around, say, Southeast Asia, South America, or Europe. But it works equally well for city trips.
You can read more about the details in my full review.
Nomatic Travel Backpack
- Features and add-on accessories make it ideal for business travelers
- Flexibility: can expand from 20 to 30L, also works as duffel or on top of rolled luggage
- Perfect as a secondary bag for digital nomads as well
- Some features a bit too gimmicky (depending on travel style)
The Nomatic 40L has a range of clever features that business travelers will easily benefit from most, including a shoe compartment, a shirt folder, and laundry bag that can hang from a hotel room door.
If you need to keep your wardrobe tidy or prefer having more of a packing system over just one big main compartment, then the Nomatic 40L is easily one of the best backpacks you can get.
The exterior is sturdy and weather-sealed, though the stiff materials can make it feel a little cramped inside. While it’s perfect for a 3-5 day trip, for longer trips I would combine it with some other luggage. Thanks to the pass-through sleeve, it pairs perfectly with a rolling suitcase.
Note: Nomatic uses the alternate brand Gomatic in Europe.
Read my full review here.
Patagonia Black Hole MLC
- Amazing versatility: use as backpack, suitcase, or duffel
- Relatively lightweight
- Maximum carry-on size
- Many organization options
- Shoulder straps are very basic, so it's not ideal if using exclusively as a backpack
Strictly speaking, the Patagonia Black Hole MLC (which stands for Maximum Legal Carry-on) isn’t a backpack. It’s primarily a duffel-style bag that can also be used in “backpack mode”.
Duffels are really awesome when you just want to throw lots of items into one big burly compartment. But unlike other duffels that I’ve used, such as the Osprey Transporter or the Peak Design Travel Duffel, the Patagonia MLC actually still has lots of storage options as well as a laptop compartment.
The clever bit is that the backpack straps can be fully stowed (turning it into a suitcase) or detached and used as a shoulder strap (turning it into a cross-body bag). It’s in the latter mode that the Patagonia Black Hole MLC is by far the most comfortable.
The harness is quite basic, so don’t expect the ultimate level of comfort while carrying it on your back, but this may be compensated for with its greater versatility.
Re-released with a new design in 2023, the MLC is ideal for carry-on air travel. You can also easily use it as, say, an extra duffel on an overland trip. I took it campervanning (a trip with less demand for needing to carry it as a backpack all the time) for which it was perfectly suited.
Osprey Farpoint 40
- Extremely comfortable suspension system
- Simple and lightweight design
- Excellent durability
- Basic internal organization (recommended to use packing cubes)
For a lightweight and budget-friendly backpack that can also be used on hikes or long walks, you can’t go wrong with the Osprey Farpoint 40.
This is a classic backpack that’s long been a favorite of many world travelers (myself included) and for good reason. Its design was also completely updated and improved with a new model introduced in late 2022.
The main benefit of the Osprey Farpoint 40 is comfort. The ribbed back panel, trampoline surface, adjustment straps, and fully height-adjustable harness are features you might normally find on a hiking pack and not on a travel pack. They all help ensure the Farpoint 40 is extremely comfortable to carry even for longer periods. This makes it a highly popular budget backpack for hosteling/backpacking in particular.
This is the perfect pack for those who want to be light on their feet and travel carry-on. It doesn’t have numerous pouches or zippers on the inside, opting to keep things simple, but if you prefer to be more organized you can always use some packing cubes.
Osprey packs are known for their reliability and quality. I traveled around the world continuously for 2 years with just a Farpoint 40 on my back.
There’s also the Osprey Fairview 40, which has the exact same features but with a women’s specific fit.
I’ve used other Osprey packs such as the Osprey Porter 46 or the Osprey Farpoint 55, but I think the Farpoint 40 is the best of the bunch. The Porter 46 isn’t as comfortable, while the Farpoint 55’s main pack is missing some internal organization features.
Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45
- Unique feature lets you secure all compartments with one lock
- Integrated security system that you'll actually enjoy using
- Highly comfortable straps and handles
- Security being the main focus, there's no quick access pocket of any kind
- Laptop compartment is in front (back would be preferable for balance)
While many backpacks have lockable zippers, they’re often fiddly to use, involve seperate padlocks, and don’t allow for quick access.
The Pacsafe’s major achievement is having an integrated lock system that is highly satisfying to use — and so you actually end up using it consistently.
You can easily close both main compartments using the same ingeniously designed bolt lock. It can be further secured with an included steel cable lock, which can fix the entire backpack to a pole, fence, or luggage rack. The pack’s outer material is slash-proof to boot.
Security is the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45‘s main selling point, but it’s also just a great carry-on backpack. It has all the expected organizational features, including a tablet/laptop sleeve, and is comfortable to carry.
Are you merely moving point-to-point between hotels using taxis? Then you may not strictly need the security feature.
But if your travel style involves, say, using nightbuses/trains, exploring crowded places, or destinations with lower security levels, then this backpack will provide some excellent deterrence against theft.
You can read my full review here.
Pakt Travel Backpack
- Amazing internal organization
- Many unique features (waterproof compartment, secret pouch, waist strap can become a sling bag)
- Highly comfortable
- Waist strap doubles as sling bag
- 30L size may be a bit small for very long trips
- Doesn't easily fit big shoes
At 30 liters, the Pakt Travel Backpack is smaller than the 40 to 45-liter backpacks mentioned so far. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a more streamlined size for shorter trips.
The Pakt will fit within virtually all carry-on restrictions, even the more stringent airlines in Europe.
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.
Due to the split main compartment, it won’t as easily fit big boots or tall hiking shoes. However, this layout makes it way easier to keep your items organized. You can use packing cubes with the Pakt but you can certainly go without them too.
In terms of comfort, access, and organization this is my favorite 30L size backpack.
Read my full review here.
Best larger travel backpacks
Planning a big adventure? Will you be overlanding or checking in your luggage? Then these backpacks will be your friend.
Price $350 (both packs)
- Super stylish design
- Very comfortable to wear; fully height adjustable
- Loads of space and pockets
- Integrated main pack + day pack system
- A bit on the heavy side (less ideal for carry-on travel)
This pack has two very cool tricks up its sleeve.
Firstly, 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’s not just a stylish backpack but one you can take on any adventure and in any weather.
Secondly, the Salkan Backpacker is 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.
I didn’t know what to expect since Salkan is a newer brand, but when it reviewed it in-depth, it blew me away.
It’s not carry-on size, so it’s less ideal for weekend trips or short-haul travel. However, the large space and features make it perfect for any globe-trotting adventure.
The main pack is 45 liters (expandable up to 55) and the day pack is 20 liters. This is exactly the pack I’d want to have with me for, say, backpacking Asia or city-hopping around Europe. It offers ample space, lots of storage options, and it looks great too!
It may cost a bit more than comparable backpacks such as those by Osprey, but it sports some amazing looks and has every feature you’d need on a big trip. Better yet, Salkan now has a customized backpack designer, letting you mix-and-match different colors and straps.
Osprey Farpoint Trek 55
- Adjustable suspension system (4 heights)
- Super comfortable trampoline-style back
- Integrated compression system
- No padded laptop compartment
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 of time.
Unlike what the name suggests, it is not just for trekking. That’s definitely one intended use, but I think it also happens to be ideal for long-term overland travel or round-the-world trip. You can basically 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.)
I’ve traveled around with this pack and also went on a 5-day trek with it and it definitely passed the test in both modes of use.
You can read more in my full review.
By the way, besides the Farpoint Trek 55, there is also the women’s specific version, the Fairview Trek 50.
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.
Need help packing a carry-on backpack? Then don’t miss my tips for packing light!
Too small for a main travel backpack. This size is usually for daypacks or commuter bags.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, all the top backpacks in this guide:
- #1 Tortuga Travel Backpack — Best Premium Carry-On Backpack
- #2 Peak Design 45L — Best Expandable Premium Backpack
- #3 Nomatic Travel Bag — Best for Business Travel / Digital Nomads
- #4 Cotopaxi Allpa — Best Value / All-Rounder
- #5 Patagonia Black Hole MLC — Best Suitcase-Style Backpack
- #6 Osprey Farpoint 40 — Best For Budget Backpacking (Men’s)
- #6 Osprey Fairview 40 — Best For Budget Backpacking (Women’s)
- #7 Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 — Best Security Features
- #8 Pakt Travel Backpack — Best Smaller Carry-On
- #9 Salkan Backpacker — Best For Epic Trips
- #10 Osprey Farpoint Trek 55 — Best Larger Travel Backpack
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