Are you trying to find the best travel backpack for you based on your budget? Then you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been a professional traveler for over 10 years, so I know from experience what to look for in a travel backpack.

I’ve also reviewed numerous backpacks — and I’ll share only my absolute favorites here. I actually test every product on real trips. This isn’t merely a quick list of products someone’s found online, but the result of 8 years of trying out every backpack I could get my hands on. I hope you’ll find this buyer’s guide useful!

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

Peak Design 45L

View at Peak Design

Of course, different criteria are important to different people. After all, a business traveler has different requirements from a budget backpacker.

With this in mind, I’ve selected the best travel backpacks that best suit different travel needs for 2022.

Note: some links are affiliate links with which I may earn a commission.

Key aspects to look for

Weight

Weight is a key factor for comfort. For carry-on backpacks, any extra weight will also eat into your precious luggage allowance, so often lighter = better.

Comfort

The back panel, waist and shoulder straps, padding, and carry handles all hugely affect the comfort level. Some premium backpacks allow you to adjust the entire suspension system to your torso height.

Usability

Clamshell designs are typically more usable as they give immediate suitcase-like access to your main compartment. Some backpacks also just feel better to use thanks to a sensible design and clever placement of key features.

Durability

The materials determine a travel bag’s durability as well as its degree of weather resistance. All backpacks listed here are highly durable. Some adventure-focused backpacks come with separate rain covers.

Quick Overview: Choosing the Best Travel Backpack

Peak Design 45L Backpack

Best premium
travel backpack

  • Carry-on size
  • Amazingly clever design filled with surprising features
  • 35L expandable to 45L
  • The best backpack to buy if you don't mind the price tag
Nomatic 40L Travel Bag

Best for business travel

  • Carry-on size
  • Works seamlessly together with rolled luggage
  • Shoe compartment, shirt folder, etc. ideal for hotel travel
  • Best for business travel or digital nomads
Cotopaxi Allpa 35 or 42

Best budget
carry-on pack

  • Carry-on size
  • Colorful design (but black also available)
  • Fantastic internal organization (no packing cubes needed)
  • Great features for good value; ideal for budget & adventure travel
Osprey Farpoint 40
  • Carry-on size
  • Basic features, but it's light, affordable and durable
  • An all-time favorite with light packers and backpackers/hostelers
Tropicfeel Shell

Best 3-in-1 backpack

  • Adapt it to each trip; resize from 22L to 40L
  • Use as daypack, weekender, or full backpack
  • Best backpack that can be used in every situation
Pakt Travel Backpack 30L
  • Amazing organizational features
  • 30L size good for trips up to about a week
  • A great pick if you're looking for a medium size carry-on
Salkan Backpacker

Most stylish adventure backpack

  • 2-in-1 system (main pack + detachable daypack)
  • Water-resistent polyester that feels like canvas fabric
  • Height-adjustable harnass
  • Ideal for gap years, RTW travel, backpacking & adventuring
Osprey Farpoint 55 Trek

Ideal for long-term & RTW travel

  • Like a premium version of the original Farpoint
  • Adjustable suspension system, comfortable trampoline-style back & integrated rain cover
  • Perfect for long term travel and/or trekking

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.

Peak Design Travel Backpack

TOP PICK for premium carry-on travel bag

Price $299

Pros

  • Versatile; carry-on size (35L) but can expand to 45L
  • Incredible design full of beautiful touches
  • Weatherproof materials & zippers
  • Lightweight yet sturdy, holds its shape

Cons

  • I can't think of anything!

Honestly, Peak Design’s 45L Travel Backpack is close to perfect. Using it just feels good. If price is not your only concern and you just want the best, then this is my top recommendation.

All the little touches — like the magnetic pouches, hidden straps, and clever storage spaces — create a totally fluid experience.

Carrying the Peak Design 45 on a trip to Italy

Some backpacks tack on too many features, leading to too heavy materials, overly cramped spaces, or just too many extraneous elements. Not so with Peak Design’s backpack, which is thoughtful and restrained.

Despite having a ton of functionality, this pack remains lightweight and easy to access.

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

To get the most out of this backpack, I recommend getting the Peak Design accessories. In particular, the toiletry bag, electronics pouch, and packing cubes are cleverly designed and fit the backpack perfectly.

This has been my main backpack for 3 years in my work as a full-time travel blogger and its durability has not let me down.

Want to know more? Read my full review here.

Or watch my video review:

 

Cotopaxi Allpa

TOP PICK for budget-friendly carry-on

Price Starts at $200

Pros

  • Fresh and colorful design
  • Shoulder straps and raincover included
  • Amazing internal organization (no packing cubes needed)

Cons

  • The rubbery 1000D polyester outer shell is love-it-or-hate-it

Starting at $200, the Cotopaxi Allpa is not as expensive as the professional backpacks like Peak Design’s. However, it still comes with all the features you’ll need — whether it’s for a quick weekend trip or an epic adventure.

I like its ‘just right’ balance between features and value. Because it has great internal organization, you can likely save money by not needing any packing cubes.

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.

There are two different sizes:

  • Cotopaxi Allpa 35 is recommended for most travellers. It’s the best-selling option and it’s a bit more streamlined.
  • Cotopaxi Allpa 42 is the version I reviewed. I travel a lot so I prefer bigger packs. I’m also quite tall so a bigger pack fits with my torso length. The 42 is still carry-on, though it’s pushing the limit of carry-on compliance for some airlines.

The Allpa has a clamshell design ensuring easy access. One side has a big open compartment for your big 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 all this you likely won’t need any additional accessories (apart from maybe a toiletries bag).

The Allpa has a very comfortable suspension system, with a height-adjustable hip belt that can also detach should you not need it. You can read more about the details in my full review.

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. You can compare the different Allpa versions here.

 

Tropicfeel Shell

One backpack that does everything

Price From €249

Pros

  • The most versatile backpack I've used - truly multi-purpose
  • Integrated wardrobe makes organizing easier
  • Detachable toiletry bag is a nice touch

Cons

  • Suspension system a bit more basic (when pack is at maximum volume)

The Tropicfeel Shell has an ingenious design with different modes making it work as a daypack, weekender, or full-size travel backpack.

By default it holds about 22L, which is roughly the size of an everyday or school backpack. But with several clever extensions, you can expand the volume up to 40L. If you like this kind of versatility, you will definitely love the Shell.

The catch? Well, in order for the Shell to not look unbalanced when it’s in daypack mode, the shoulder straps and hip belt are a bit on the thin side when it’s fully expanded. Hybrid designs always have to compromise a bit somewhere.

Luckily, the back panel is wonderfully padded and soft, which still makes it comfortable when fully packed. While it wouldn’t be my first choice for (very long) hiking, for travelling it’s great.

Another neat trick of the Shell is the integrated wardrobe. Use it to organize all your clothes, then quickly hang it up at your accommodation, freeing up the backpack for use in your daily sightseeing. You can see how the wardrobe works here.

The Tropicfeel Shell is a great choice for a backpack that you can truly use year-round. It’s not as specialized as some other travel bags, but it will work for various kinds of trips. If you want a 3-in-1 or extendable backpack, this is the one I recommend.

 

Osprey Farpoint 40

A budget pack loved by backpackers and adventurers

Pros

  • Lightweight & budget-priced
  • Decent internal organization
  • Comfortable suspension system (you can walk with it for hours)

Cons

  • Not many organizational features
  • Ugly green interior on some versions
  • Front laptop placement not ideal for load balancing
Note: the Farpoint series is currently being revamped. The old editions can be found in clearance sales at the moment. The new editions are expected to arrive by mid November 2022. The new designs are much-improved. I posted an early look at the new Farpoint 55 on YouTube, but I’ll be doing complete reviews of all the Farpoints in November.

The Farpoint 40 is hugely popular in the backpacking scene. I see them constantly in hostels around the world. I myself once took it on a 2-year round-the-world trip and was glad to have it with me!

There are a few things other bags do better: for example, the laptop compartment is not super strategically placed and the main compartment lacks clever storage spaces.

Basically, it’s not going to hit you over the head with the latest and greatest in backpack gadgetry. But… you can’t beat the Farpoint 40’s combination of price and reliability.

This is an amazing backpack for any budget traveler. For example, if you’re planning to backpack around Southeast Asia or hostel-hop around Europe for the summer, you can’t go wrong with the Farpoint 40.

Besides affordability, the best aspect of the Farpoint is comfort. Thanks to a padded back panel, well-padded shoulder straps, and a full-size hip belt, it’s just great to wear. Six different adjustment straps make it easy to distribute the weight along your entire back.

Osprey mostly makes trekking bags and some of this expertise has clearly made it into the Farpoint line of travel backpacks.

There’s also the Osprey Fairview 40, which has a women’s specific fit. If you’re going to travel a long time (e.g. a gap year or round-the-world trip) and don’t need your pack to be carry-on sized, consider the Osprey Farpoint Trek. It’s a more recent design with several improvements, though it also costs a bit more and isn’t carry-on size.

What about the Osprey Porter 46? It’s a similar pack, but it exceeds carry-on limits and its shoulder straps aren’t as comfortable. While not my favorite, you can check out my Porter 46 review.

 

Nomatic 40L Travel Bag

TOP PICK for business travel backpack

Price $240 to $290

(Depending on accessories)

Pros

  • Many clever features and add-on accessories
  • Highly weather resistant material
  • Flexibility: can expand from 20 to 30L, also works as duffel or on top of rolled luggage

Cons

  • A bit over-engineered (a few features may be a bit gimmicky)

Nomatic promised to create the most functional backpack ever — and I believe they succeeded, with a few caveats.

Firstly, the design is quite ridiculously clever and innovative. You’ll find more clever features on the Nomatic Travel Bag than almost any other backpack. This is even more true when you add accessories like the laundry bag, shirt organizer, toiletry bag, and vacuum compression bag — which are all designed to work as one integrated system.

Just two nitpicks. One is that although the exterior is sturdy and weather-sealed, its stiffness can also make it a little bit cramped. This only happens if you overpack it, but sometimes I wished it was a bit less rigid.

Also, I think this backpack is probably best for frequent travelers who can make the best use of its detailed features. Do you truly need a separate book pocket or an underwear compartment? Well, maybe you do.

I think business travelers who are on the road often can make particularly good use of all the bag’s clever elements. Once you get into the habit of using the Nomatic as intended, it becomes amazing.

Thoughtful touches such as the shirt organizer (which keeps your shirts wrinkle-free), the shoe compartment are really made for professional travelers. The laundry bag is a great hotel-room accessory and the Nomatic 40L pairs very well with a rolling suitcase with a pass-through sleeve. This makes it my top recommendation for business travelers or digital nomads.

 

Pakt Travel Backpack

A 30L back perfect for minimalist travel

Price $299

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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 elegant size.

The Pakt will fit within virtually all carry-on restrictions, even the more stringent airlines in Europe.

Most clamshell backpacks offer one deep main storage compartment. 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.

For more, read my full review of the Pakt Travel Backpack.

Standard Luggage Co. Carry-On

Price $219

Pros

  • Suitcase-like design with color accents
  • Loads of pockets and spaces
  • Shoulder straps and raincover included

Cons

  • Raincover a bit difficult to put on

The cool thing about this carry-on backpack by Canadian manufacturer Standard Luggage Co. is that it has a suitcase-like design. I include it here because its appearance is so different from other backpacks.

The suspension system is deliberately kept simple to make it fully stowable, though it does include an adjustable sternum strap, two padded straps, and a nicely padded back. This makes it suitable for any type of trip.

Standard Luggage Co. travel backpack

This pack has loads of storage spaces. Most notable is the laptop compartment, which is better than I’ve seen in most other backpacks. You can put your precious laptop inside a protective sleeve, which in turn is held vertically by two straps, and this harness, in turn, sits securely inside the back compartment.

Best larger travel backpacks

Salkan Backpacker

Amazingly stylish and functional backpack for big trips

Price £350 / $440 / €415 (for both packs)

Pros

  • Super stylish design
  • Very comfortable to wear; fully height adjustable
  • Loads of space and pockets
  • Integrated main pack + day pack system

Cons

  • 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

Price $219

Pros

  • Adjustable suspension system (4 heights)
  • Super comfortable trampoline-style back
  • Integrated compression system

Cons

  • 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 back system.

What I like most is that the suspension system can also be fully adjusted to your torso height, making it much more comfortable than the regular Farpoint. If you’re not of average height (like me) this can make a huge difference.

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 but also went trekking with it for 5 days, and it definitely passed the test in both modes of use. If you’re looking for a backpack that works well in both travel and trekking situations, then this is it.

You can read more in my full review.

You can easily adjust the backpack to your torso height

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

While many retailers will often push you the biggest or most expensive backpacks, I think carry-on size backpacks are often ideal for most trips. It’s better to have something light and convenient, not something that will bog you down. Carry-on size also lets you save time and avoid additional luggage fees on some airlines.

In some cases you may, of course, need something a bit bigger.

Backpack sizes are typically expressed in liters (i.e., the volume they can contain). You’ll notice that travel packs 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.

35-45 L

A happy sweet spot! Perfect for shorter trips but equally for trips lasting many weeks or months (if you know how to pack light). Ideal for traveling within one climate and don’t need to pack for every type of weather. This size is usually accepted as carry-on luggage, saving you time and check-in fees when flying.

50-65 L

Good if you need extra space. Not everyone is a light packer so some will prefer these sizes despite the extra weight.

70-120 L

NOPE. Only for trekking and camping expeditions. The internal support frames often already weigh several kilos or pounds. This is overkill for most travelers. But if you need to store a tent and other gear, this might be the size for you.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a light packer. In my guide to packing light, I show you exactly how I pack my carry-on bag.

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. You’ll end up with less weight on your back, more freedom of movement, and much less hassle.

Finally, all the top backpacks in this guide:

Other backpacks I reviewed:


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