Whether you’re browsing street shops in Shanghai or hiking through the Catskills, a high-quality travel backpack is essential gear. You want something with plenty of storage space and decent construction, but you also don’t want to look like a tourist -- or, at least, you don’t want to look like an oblivious tourist.
We checked out some of the best backpacks currently available, evaluating for style, durability, and functionality, and make recommendations for various price points. Before you hit the road, make sure you’ve got a pack that fits your travel style; regardless of your preferences, we’ll help you find a solid choice.
If you’re not out to splurge on travel gear, these backpacks will give you the basic necessities, and they’re durable enough to serve as your main packs on multiple trips. They’re less stylish than some of the other options on this list, but they won’t leave you feeling like a tourist with a fanny pack, either.
While this backpack doesn’t have many high-end features, it’s remarkably well made for the price. The shoulder straps can be suppressed, so you can carry it as a duffel, and a side bottle pocket will help ensure you stay hydrated while exploring your destination.
The backpack has a 40-liter capacity, and its dimensions meet International Air Transport Association (IATA) flight carry-on maximums. There’s also a front-zip pocket with several interior pockets, which should help you stay organized if you opt to use this as your main carry-on.
When evaluating backpacks, we value comfort above everything else, and this option’s adjustable sternum strap and padded shoulders should make it an excellent choice for most buyers. While the quality of the craftsmanship might not be as high-end as some of the pricier travel backpacks on this list, overall, this seems like a perfectly serviceable choice for travelers on a budget.
We appreciate the stylish minimalist aesthetic of the plain black backpack pictured here, but if you’re looking for something more colorful, other options are available, too.
Best for: If you’re on a budget, or if you travel infrequently, you won’t be disappointed. With that said, don’t expect premium craftsmanship at this price level.
Most of the packs on this list are designed to serve multiple purposes. They’ll meet IATA carry-on requirements and they have plenty of bells and whistles to serve the needs of different types of travelers.
When compared to those products, the BackSak is a fairly specialized piece of equipment. It’s designed for hikers, campers, and outdoor use, and its main selling point is its waterproof construction. Made with 500-denier PVC, it’s fitted with welded seams, so it should keep your stuff completely dry -- which is overkill if you just want a place to keep your souvenirs, but if you’re planning an active trip, you’ll need the extra protection.
It’s available in 25- and 35-liter sizes, and it’s light enough for comfortable wear in a variety of environments. Backed by a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
Best for: Hikers who want an affordable waterproof pack. This probably won’t take the place of your carry-on, but if you’re an active vacationer, it’s worth a look.
This is the second Hynes Eagle backpack we reviewed, and it has many of the same features as the (slightly less expensive) first. For another $10, however, you get a few decent upgrades: A trolley panel lets it securely stack onto wheeled luggage, it’s somewhat waterproof, and it has a 44-liter capacity.
It’s also fairly bulky, and that’s its main drawback. While it’s fairly comfortable on short journeys thanks to padded back panels, the large size makes it difficult to recommend for smaller wearers.
Best for: Travelers who want to carry a ton of stuff -- or travelers who aren’t planning to wear their backpack out on the town for significant periods. If you need to keep all of your stuff with you at all times, this is a great pack for the price.
The Spire offers pleasant aesthetics and rugged nylon construction. You wouldn’t want to wear it while walking down a runway -- but then again, would you want to wear any backpack on a runway? Do you even want to walk a runway in the first place?
Featuring a 30-liter capacity and a large main compartment, this roomy backpack has plenty of smart features for active travelers. It has an internal organizer for small items, a dedicated compartment for laptops (up to 15 inches), daisy chain webbing with attachment points for carabiners, and an on-strap bottle opener (hey, it’s a minor convenience, but it can be a lifesaver on a hike).
One caveat: The nylon fabric is fairly rough, and some users claim that it damages soft garments. That’s probably not a major deterrent if you’re planning on hitting the streets in a t-shirt and jeans, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Best for: People looking for a somewhat stylish “active" backpack with plenty of storage space. If you’ve got more money to spend, there are better options on this list, but this is our favorite in the under-$100 category.
At this price point, you don’t really have to worry about poor craftsmanship. These mid-tier bags should provide the functionality you need to enjoy your trip with peace of mind, and they’re fairly aesthetically pleasing (though not quite as stylish as some of the luxury bags we’ll cover later in this list, of course!).
Vacation with all your favorite tech in tow thanks to a luggage-type backpack built for extended travel. The Incase Travel Backpack is stuffed with clever pockets and compartments designed to protect your mobile devices, and that’s its main draw. The laptop compartment fits laptops up to 15 inches while a non-scratch slip pocket protects tablets, too.
You can keep your charging cables organized in a variety of smaller, easy-to-access pockets. Even with all your favorites onboard, this pack still has plenty of room for clothes and other essentials. The main compartment unzips to open flat -- a design feature that reportedly boosts the total carrying capacity by at least 35 percent.
This pack has the dimensions of a standard carry-on rolling bag, and it should fit under most plane seats. The only drawback: It’ll last forever, but its minimalist style is a bit too...well, minimalist for some folks’ tastes. The navy-blue heather option looks nice, but the black version looks like luggage.
Best for: Vacationers who can’t live without their mobile devices. This is a decent carry-on with good hardware, but the design screams love it or hate it.
It is possible to carry all your luggage on your back without looking like a hitchhiker, and it’s all about color coordination.
The Dakota Backpack from Dagne Dover makes outfit matching easy with an incredible range of designer colors. The shape of the bag is classic and chic; it won’t draw too much attention, except for those in the know. It’ll also carry plenty of outfits and easily slip into overhead bins as a piece of carry-on luggage.
But this bag’s real strength is the range of colors it’s offered in. Choose between 13 stylish hues in any of three sizes to make sure you show up at the airport in style. We’re partial to a shade called Bark, but Dagne Dover offers everything from subtle heather gray to a bold, glowing yellow called Sunbreak.
Best for: Fashion-conscious travelers who don’t want to trade style for storage space. This bag is ideal for a quick road trip or a jet setter’s weekend abroad.
If you’re spending more than $200 on your backpack, you’re a dedicated traveler. You’re not buying a bag for a few months of travel; you’re buying something that will last. At this price point, expect a respectable blend of form and function.
If you like to travel light, but you’d rather not sacrifice utility just to avoid the baggage claim, Osprey’s convertible luggage provides a nice solution. It’s not significantly more expensive than a high-quality wheeled carry on, and the detachable 16-liter daypack lets you explore your destination while keeping all of your essentials within reach.
As you’d expect, the Meridian meets the carry-on requirements for most airlines as its size doesn’t exceed 45 linear inches, but it might be too large to carry onto some economy flights. The daypack features a padded 15-inch laptop sleeve and zippered pockets for toiletries. The ventilated back panel adds some comfort, but regardless, this is a fairly hefty pack.
Best for: Travelers looking for a complete piece of luggage. It’s well made, and the ballistic nylon should provide years of faithful service. Note that the daypack is larger than most of the other options on this list.
This bag may be the perfect match between style and function. It’s a rucksack-style backpack that locks tight with multiple speed clips -- a feature you'll appreciate when you’re trying to grab your paperback on a crowded plane.
The look is pure high-end fashion, with a handsome black finish and a drawstring accent. Access the 14-inch padded laptop pocket through a clever side-zip.
Another narrow slip pocket in the back of this bag is ideal for safely storing your passport and credit cards, while the front compartment zips open for quick access to travel essentials. Durable nylon construction gives the Randall the toughness it needs for long treks through the urban wilderness.
Best for: Busy professionals and style-conscious vacationers. This bag is expensive, but it also looks expensive, and that counts for something. It’s got plenty of storage space for a day-trip or a full-on vacation.
Let's be honest: If you’re spending this much on a backpack, you care about quality. You’re not planning on buying another pack any time in the future, and you’re willing to pay a fair price for something that will last for dozens of trips. You also want something stylish -- and, fortunately, there are plenty of exceptional options available. Here are two of our favorites.
There’s no other way to say it: Coach’s Bleecker backpack is downright gorgeous. The genuine sport calf leather shines, and the company’s high-quality hardware should provide years of dependable functionality. The modern styling is exceptional in every way, and if you want a backpack that turns heads, this lives up to its hefty price tag.
What’s most surprising are the functional touches that elevate this from a designer item to a truly useful piece of travel gear. An inside sleeve provides storage for a laptop (up to 13 inches), while an outside strap pocket keeps your essentials at hand. An exterior zipper lets you access the interior easily, and drawstring and dogleash-clip closures enhance usability without sacrificing style.
There are drawbacks, of course: You certainly won’t want to take this bag on a physically intensive hike. If that’s not your travel style, however, and you’ve got the budget for a truly high-end backpack, the Bleecker is worth every cent.
Best for: Travelers who are willing to spend the money to get the best bag available. It’s not for everyone, but if you can make the investment, you won’t be disappointed.
Named after the famous street in New York, the Rivington is slightly less expensive than the Bleecker, but slightly more functional. The water-resistant jacquard adds durability, and a lightweight leather finish looks fantastic.
Travelers will appreciate the mesh spacer panels and multi-function pockets, including a 15-inch laptop enclosure. Outside snap pockets are perfect for storing cell phones, water bottles, and other items that you want to keep at the ready, and the soft shoulder straps make it a comfortable carry.
Best for: Buyers looking for a luxe travel backpack that will also function well when it comes to everyday use. It’s not cheap, but with proper care, it may be the last backpack you ever buy.
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