Best Travel Backpacks for Carry On

10 Best Travel Backpacks for Carry-On in 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

(Last Updated On: June 28, 2021)

If you’re looking to travel around the world, your carry-on backpack will soon become your best friend. You’re going to learn to enjoy the way it looks, the room it provides, and even the way it smells. It will move your precious possessions from one place to another, you will rest your head on it at airports and bus stations around the world, and it will be with you every step of the way.

Choosing the best travel backpack for carry-on is a vital part of planning your journey. Too large and you’re going to have too much excess weight to haul around or you might not be able to get your luggage on the plane! Too small, and you’re never going to get all your stuff into that bag! Ideally, the capacity of a good travel backpack is 40L. Pick a non-water-resistant bag, and your things will be ruined in the rain.

In a Hurry? The test winners after 14 hrs of research

eBags Professional Weekender Carry-On Backpack for Travel

eBags Professional Weekender Carry-On Backpack for Travel – Premium Pick

Why is it better?

  • Fits on all airplane overheads and under seats areas
  • Great organization of zippered areas and pockets
  • Backpack shoulder straps are solid, adjustable, fit perfect
  • Hardened storage compartment is wonderful for fragile item (sunglasses, etc.)

AmazonBasics Slim Carry On Travel Backpack

AmazonBasics Slim Carry On Travel Backpack – Best Value

Why is it better?

  • Lots of back cushion
  • Dedicated pockets for everything
  • The quality of the zippers are great
  • Expandable, large, pretty much the same size as a carry-on

Best Travel Backpacks for Carry-On – Overview

Looking for the best carry-on backpack for travel? Then it might be a struggle to find one that ticks all the boxes! A good travel bag must be convenient, easy to organize, and sturdy as well. If you’re looking for an inexpensive backpack for low-budget travel or a luxury backpack for your business trips, This guide outlines the best travel backpack for carry-on and some tips about what to look for when you pick your backpack.

Travel Backpacks for Carry-On Reviews

1. Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Travel Backpack for Carry-On

Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Travel Backpack for Carry-On

Just because your commute occasionally takes you cross-country instead of across town doesn’t mean you need more than a laptop backpack. The Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Travel Backpack for Carry-On has designated spots for your laptop, iPod, and peripherals as well as your non-gadgety items. Plus, it opens up to lay flat on its way through security. It has a large main compartment for books, jackets, and other carry-on essentials.

It also comes with a stretchy external side pocket for a u-lock or water bottle. The custom-fit strap design results in a truer, more comfortable fit. Other features include a channeled airmesh ventilated back panel, reinforced grab handles on all sides for an easy heave-ho, and a tricot-lined floating pocket that protects your sunglasses or smartphone.

Key Features:

  • Laptop compartment fits 15 inches MacBook plus iPad in a separate pocket
  • Front zip pocket for keeping small items in check
  • Large main compartment for books, jacket, and other carry on essentials
  • Channeled airmesh ventilated back panel

Specifications:

  • Brand: Timbuk2
  • Capacity: 30L
  • Dimensions: 19.5″ H x 11.2″ W x 6.5″ D
  • Weight: 2.38 lbs
Pros
  • It has different small pockets, and big compartments for bigger items
  • Easy to put into the overhead compartments
  • The laptop compartment is padded well
  • Almost completely unzips so as to lie flat
Cons
  • It doesn’t have a strap for keys

2. eBags Professional Weekender Carry-On Backpack for Travel – Premium Pick

eBags Professional Weekender Carry-On Backpack for Travel

Loaded with pockets to keep all of your essentials organized, the eBags Professional Weekender Carry-On Backpack for Travel is simply perfect for every trip. The Weekender is crafted from twisted poly fabric and features a convertible design so that it can be carried as a backpack, briefcase, or hands-free crossbody bag.

With a protective, padded laptop compartment, a clothing compartment to hold overnight essentials, and an organizer to hold all sorts of small accessories, this bag is detailed with unique features such as lockable D-rings and zippers, a side-mounted water bottle pocket, exterior pockets, and a zip-around front organizer with multiple mesh pockets and slip pockets. The Professional Weekender even has hide-away backpack straps so it can maintain its minimalistic look while on the go.

Key Features:

  • Fleece-lined padded tablet sleeve
  • Side zip water bottle pocket
  • Breathable, padded air-mesh back panel for comfort
  • Pass-through sleeve secures bag to rolling luggage
  • Top carry handle

Specifications:

  • Brand: eBags
  • Capacity: 32L
  • Dimensions: 21″ H x 14″ W x 8″ D
  • Weight: 3.43 lbs
Pros
  • Fits on all airplane overheads and under seats areas
  • Great organization of zippered areas and pockets
  • Backpack shoulder straps are solid, adjustable, fit perfect
  • Hardened storage compartment is wonderful for fragile item (sunglasses, etc.)
Cons
  • Bottle holder is kind of short

3. AmazonBasics Slim Carry On Travel Backpack – Best Value

AmazonBasics Slim Carry On Travel Backpack

Make traveling much easier with this AmazonBasics Slim Carry On Travel Backpack—perfect as carry-on luggage and for quick overnight trips. The small bag provides an excellent amount of organized space for all those must-have electronics and personal items. It gets you where you’re going, without weighing you down. The Airmesh back panel offers a fully vented and well-padded design to ensure comfort, whether carrying the backpack over one shoulder or evenly over two.

Designed with modern travelers in mind, the backpack provides a fleece-lined top-load tablet pocket and a dedicated laptop sleeve, which help keep devices and computers safely stored and easy to access. The backpack’s front pocket provides tons of useful storage space for smaller items, and its zippered side-mounted water-bottle pocket is there when you need it and zipped away when you don’t.

Key Features:

  • Laptop sleeve and top-load, fleece-lined tablet pocket
  • Front storage pocket
  • Zippered side-mounted water-bottle pocket
  • Airmesh back panel
  • Low-profile top and side grab handles
  • Vertical and horizontal luggage handle pass-thru panels

Specifications:

  • Brand: AmazonBasics
  • Dimensions: 18″ H x 12.5″ W x 7.8″ D
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs
Pros
  • Lots of back cushion
  • Dedicated pockets for everything
  • The quality of the zippers are great
  • Expandable, large, pretty much the same size as a carry-on
Cons
  • Lack of suitcase or clamshell opening in main compartment

4. Oakley Men’s Kitchen Sink Carry On Travel Backpack

Oakley Men's Kitchen Sink Carry On Travel Backpack

Outfitted with serious hardware and versatile storage options, the Oakley Men’s Kitchen Sink Carry On Travel Backpack is a complete package with heavy-duty appeal. Whether taking a day trip or extended excursion, specialized pockets inside and out organize items while abrasion-resistant fabric keeps them safe, including shoes and most 17″ laptops.

A padded back and adjustable mesh-lined shoulder straps keep you comfortable and cool when hauling over long distances. Equipped with a hard media-player compartment and reinforced clip and zip closures, the Kitchen Sink Backpack blends toughness, style and diverse function ideal for the unpredictable day. The bottom shoe compartment provides spacious storage.

Key Features:

  • Front organizer panel and mesh optics pocket
  • Compression-molded back panel
  • Adjustable shoulder straps for comfort
  • Bottom shoe compartment

Specifications:

  • Brand: Oakley Mens
  • Capacity: 34L
  • Dimensions: 20″ H x 14″ W x 8″ D
  • Weight: 4.2 lbs
Pros
  • Side straps on the pockets
  • Clamps keep backpack closed. Easy to detach by hand
  • The way the bag is designed, you could stand in the rain and none of your electronics would get wet
  • The front pouch is still accessible while strapped which is nice
Cons
  • On the heavier side

5. Eagle Creek Global Companion Travel Backpack for Carry-On

Eagle Creek Global Companion Travel Backpack for Carry-On

The Eagle Creek Global Companion Travel Backpack for Carry-On will take you from the mountains of Kilimanjaro to the scenic streets of Copenhagen in rugged fashion and secure design. Constructed from 450D Geo Ripstop. Zip closure with self-repairing lockable zippers featuring easy-grip zipper pulls are designed to keep working for you trip after trip. Lockable top zippers can be double secured with a small padlock looped through the Central Lock Point.

Top, bottom and side haul handles enable easy pickup from any angle. Shoulder straps, back panel, and hip belt are designed ergonomically for maximum comfort with padding and moisture-wicking to reduce sweat on the body. Sternum strap features a safety whistle. Traditional suitcase style butterfly opening reveals two zippered peek-through mesh packing compartments including one with an additional mesh pocket for organization.

Key Features:

  • Ergonomically shaped with padded shoulder straps and hip belt with an external pocket
  • Fixed 19″ suspension features padded, moisture-wicking backpack straps, back panel and hip belt for long term comfort
  • Book-style opening reveals split packing compartments for maximum organization
  • Padded 17″ laptop sleeve in the main compartment

Specifications:

  • Brand: Eagle Creek
  • Capacity: 40L
  • Dimensions: 22″ H x 14″ W x 9″ D
  • Weight: 3.7 lbs
Pros
  • The waist and other straps help a lot when distributing the load
  • The pockets on the front are very helpful for chargers and other small items
  • The bag stretches plenty so even when it seems like the zipper won’t close it can be squashed down
  • Plenty of pockets for all your needs
Cons
  • Not much air flow to your back, so you usually end up at your destination a bit sweaty

6. Kensington SecureTrek Anti-Theft Travel Backpack for Carry-On

Kensington SecureTrek Anti-Theft Travel Backpack for Carry-On

When you’re traveling for business, the Kensington SecureTrek Anti-Theft Travel Backpack for Carry-On not only protects your laptop from damage, it offers an anti-theft security system. Safeguard your backpack’s contents by clicking the hammerhead zipper pulls into the patent-pending SecureTrek Lock Base, then add a Kensington Lock to secure the backpack to a fixed object. Or you can use a TSA-approved laptop lock when flying.

Protected by durable Poly Twill material, your laptop and tablet stow in padded compartments and are shielded by an anti-puncture zipper. There’s ample space to organize all your stuff, including clothing for an overnight trip, a padded back for extra comfort, and a unique pass-thru that lets you strap it to a wheeled bag.

Key Features:

  • Lock Loop ideal for a TSA-approved travel lock
  • Checkpoint-friendly design can lay flat through the scanner
  • Padded device compartments hold up to 17” laptop and 10” tablet
  • Workstation pocket organizes all your chargers, pens, business cards, keys and more
  • Wheeled luggage pass-thru conveniently straps to an extended handle

Specifications:

  • Brand: Kensington
  • Dimensions: 19.5″ H x 13″ W x 8″ D
  • Weight: 3 lbs
Pros
  • Loads of space (clothes, accessories, toiletries and electronics)
  • Bag retains shape and ‘stands’ on its own and does not collapse in on itself when there are not items in it
  • Professional-looking
  • Durable and sturdy
Cons
  • Bulky looking on your back

7. Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 Men’s Travel Backpack for Carry-On

Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 Men's Travel Backpack for Carry-On

Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 Men’s Travel Backpack for Carry-On is perfect for a weekend getaway in the city or the wilderness. The LightWire frame suspension transfers the load from harness to hipbelt. A mesh backpanel improves ventilation and the mesh on the harness and hipbelt reduces chafing under load. The entire suspension stows away under a zippered panel creating a sleek silhouette for transport. Unzip the lockable sliders to access the main compartment. Inside there’s a mesh pocket for small items.

Dual compression straps keep cargo from shifting during transit. Outside you’ll find a zippered front panel slash pocket to keep you organized and sewn attachment points to lash on extra gear. No matter how much you choose to carry, StraightJacket compression straps stabilize the load. The padded top and side handles give you purchase when you need to toss the Farpoint 40 into the back of the bus.

Key Features:

  • Features a spacious main compartment with internal compression straps for keeping gear secure
  • Has hideaway zip panel on the rear conceals shoulder straps and hip belt.
  • Adjustable shoulder straps hip belt and sternum strap for load management
  • Contains zip mesh pocket in the main compartment

Specifications:

  • Brand: Osprey
  • Capacity: 40L
  • Dimensions: 21″ H x 13″ W x 9″ D
  • Weight: 3.2 lbs
Pros
  • Carry handles are very comfortable and low profile
  • Main compartment is useful for packing lots of clothing
  • The compression straps in the main compartment and the exterior can help save some space for carry on use
  • Materials and construction seem durable enough to last through most abuse
Cons
  • Not enough pockets to aid in organization or quick retrieval of items from outside the pack

8. Osprey Packs Fairview 40 Women’s Travel Backpack for Carry-On

Osprey Packs Fairview 40 Women's Travel Backpack for Carry-On

The Osprey Packs Fairview 40 Women’s Travel Backpack for Carry-On is perfect for a weekend getaway in the city or the wilderness and is built to meet most airline carry-on requirements. The LightWire frame suspension transfers the load from harness to hipbelt. A mesh backpanel improves ventilation and the mesh on the harness and hipbelt reduces chafing under load. The entire suspension stows away under a zippered panel creating a sleek silhouette for transport

A women’s specific backpanel, hipbelt and harness system can easily be stowed and zipped away for a slimmer profile when traveling. This creates a slimmer profile for the bag, making it a better-checked bag. It also utilizes an internal LightWire frame suspension system that helps transfer load from the harness to the hipbelt. Don’t forget to also check our guide to the best travel backpacks for women.

Key Features:

  • Large panel zip access to the main compartment
  • Lockable sliders on main compartment zipper
  • Dual front compression straps and mesh pockets
  • Heat-embossed scratch-free zippered slash pocket
  • Padded top and side handles

Specifications:

  • Brand: Osprey
  • Capacity: 40L
  • Dimensions: 21″ H x 14″ W x 9″ D
  • Weight: 3.16 lbs
Pros
  • 4 ways to carry it (by the top with a handle, on the side with a handle, as a backpack, or by a shoulder strap)
  • Depending on how full the pack is, it will fit under the airplane seat
  • There are tightening straps both on the inside and on the outside
  • Great quality, doesn’t feel cheap in any way, shape, or form
Cons
  • No water bottle mesh holder at the sides

9. NOMATIC Travel Bag for Carry-On

NOMATIC Travel Bag for Carry-On

The NOMATIC Travel Bag for Carry-On is the ultimate travel kit with everything you’ll need to stay organized and stress-free on your next trip. It comes with one NOMATIC Travel Bag. The NOMATIC Travel Bag was designed for a 3-7 day trip. By combining the best features from a backpack, duffel bag, and general luggage, we have created the ultimate travel bag to help you spend less time fussing with your luggage and more time enjoying your journey.

The NOMATIC Travel Bag has over 20 features that make it the most functional travel bag ever. On top of being packed with incredible functionality, the bag has a sleek minimalist design, is made of strong weather-proof materials and is built to last. The NOMATIC Waist Straps are the perfect companion to your new NOMATIC Travel Bag. These detachable straps help distribute the weight from your back to your hips and also feature two waterproof pockets to store your valuables for quick and easy access as you travel.

Key Features:

  • Designated pockets
  • Laptop compartment lays flat 
  • Includes Laundry bag and detachable waist straps
  • Waterproof zipper on all exterior zippers

Specifications:

  • Brand: NOMATIC
  • Capacity: 40L
  • Dimensions: 21″ H x 14″ W x 9″ D
  • Weight: 4 lbs
Pros
  • Made of durable materials
  • Backpack straps that easily convert to duffel bag
  • Fits in all major airlines overhead
  • All pockets are functional and have their own purpose
Cons
  • Water pocket is is a pretty tight fit

10. Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Travel Backpack for Carry-On

Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Travel Backpack for Carry-On

The Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Travel Backpack for Carry-On is designed for the adventure traveler in mind. Offering superior performance, security, and functionality, the bag contains built-in anti-theft features and built-in rain cover to protect your gear from the elements and thieves. Comfortable and breathable shoulder straps, a padded waist belt, and a u-shaped aluminum frame make it easy to haul heavier loads, while the main pocket can be adjusted into two pockets for organization. An interior sleeve can be utilized for a hydration bladder or hold up to a 15-inch laptop.

Anti-theft features on the Venturesafe X40 plus include eXomesh Slashguard, a lightweight flexible, stainless steel wire mesh that protects your gear from a quick slash-and-run theft. The Turn & Lock security hook allows you to secure the bag to a fixture for added security, and the ultra-strong wire-imbedded Dyneema webbing straps help prevent cut-and-run theft. The RFIDsafe blocking pocket helps prevent your data (such as from e-passports, credit cards, and key cards) from falling into the wrong hands, while the smart zipper security makes it difficult for pickpockets to quickly access the main pocket. Make sure you also check our selection of the best small backpacks for travel.

Key Features:

  • Comfortable, breathable shoulder and waist straps
  • U-shaped aluminum frame for heavy loads
  • Lightweight, hidden exomesh slash guard
  • Built-in rain cover

Specifications:

  • Brand: Pacsafe
  • Capacity: 40L
  • Dimensions: 21.7″ H x 11.8″ W x 8.7″ D
  • Weight: 3.97 lbs
Pros
  • Holds a lot of stuff
  • Comfortable and adjustable harness system
  • Lots of smart, streamlined security features
  • Just-right organization without going overboard
Cons
  • Hip belt is bulky and cannot be hidden

Buying Guide

Front Loading

The front-loading pack is one that helps you to zip the face from the side and access all your things. The top-loading bag only allows you to reach your stuff from the top end. This makes it very difficult to get your stuff (especially if it’s at the bottom of your bag). Often get the “frontloading” backpack and you have easy access to all your equipment.

Lockable Zippers

If buying locks, be sure the packaging states they’re TSA-friendly locks— these locks include a special key that enables the TSA to unlock the lock without cracking it so they can search the luggage. You can buy TSA locks from any big retail stores, such as Target or Walmart.

Materials

Much of the backpacks built for actual travelers should be made of durable, lightweight materials that will last for years to come. Rip-stop or ballistic nylon are common options because they give additional protection against wear and tear. Pack-cloth nylon, “Cordura” or air-treated nylon are both lightweight and engineered to be resistant to scratching and abrasions, while cotton fabric offers a retro look and feel, but is heavier to wear.

Comfort

All the straps on your backpack should be comfortable to your body. The hip belt and torso belts will have strong, durable and protective padding, mostly made from dual-density foam or EVA. The shoulder braces should be contoured to provide more protection and help reduce muscle exhaustion and discomfort. Many bags may also have subtly angled backs or holes in the padding to allow airflow. It is particularly important in hot countries where your back can get sweaty pretty quickly.

Weight

If you’re carrying your bag full of large items like hiking boots, of course, it’s going to be difficult to cart around with you. Nevertheless, it’s not just the weight of the backpack that needs to be remembered when it’s loaded, because some manufactures and models can weigh a fair amount even without any equipment. Most of the bags are made of sturdy fabric and are made of heavy frames that can feel heavy even when bare. Most new backpacks, though, are made of sturdy, lightweight fabrics that shouldn’t damage your shoulders before you have left the airport.

Frequently Ask Questions

How to pack a carry-on travel backpack?

To make the best use of space, we recommend using packing cubes for travel to separate your different types of clothing. For your backpack, you want to make sure the heavy items are placed at the bottom so the weight can be distributed evenly.

What size should I get for a travel backpack for a carry-on?

We generally recommend a pack between 35-45L of space and dimensions of 22″ x 14″ x 9″. Most companies will adhere to these guidelines while making the most of the space. A 45-70L backpack will be more suited for camping or backpacking trips. And anything over 70L Is for expedition trips and make sure to have some packing cubes for backpacking as well.

What is the best bag for traveling through Europe?

If you’re planning on backpacking through Europe. Check out our guide for the best carry-on luggage for Europe and the best travel backpacks for Europe.

Conclusion

We hope this guide was helpful for finding the best travel backpacks for carry-on as well as our guide on features to look for in a travel backpack for carry-on. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this guide, feel free to let us know in the comments section.