The 12 Best Carry-On Backpacks, Tested and Reviewed

Cotopaxi's Allpa is the ultimate travel and adventure carry-on backpack

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Best Carry-On Backpacks

Chloe Jeong / TripSavvy

TripSavvy's Picks

Cotopaxi's Allpa 35L is the ultimate carry-on backpack. It's rugged with many clutch organizational options and comes with a waterproof rainfly. The Vancropak Carry-On Backpack is our top budget pick for its comfort, size, and organizational abilities.

A solid backpack is the key to a successful trip. Think about it: You can use it as a carry-on, and if you pack light, it'll be the only piece of luggage you bring on a trip. It won't bog you down as you rush to catch the inter-terminal train at the airport, and it'll look good on you as you stroll the streets of your destination. Find a good travel backpack and it will serve you for years to come.

There’s a lot to consider when you’re looking for a backpack to take you through all kinds of situations and environments. Waterproof, anti-theft, stylish, lightweight, wheels or no wheels—all things to keep in mind as you shop. To help you make the right move, we found the best travel backpacks around. And don’t just take our word for it: Some of the following options were even recommended by expert travelers.

Below, you’ll find the best travel backpack options, no matter what your priorities are.

Best Overall: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack


Made with a tough, coated polyester, the Allpa Travel Pack from Cotopaxi puts security first with a few special features. There’s a shortcut zipper on the left side of the backpack, which allows the wearer to get into the main internal section of the backpack without having to take it off (meaning that there's less of a chance you’ll leave it somewhere). Plus, the external zippers have been designed with anti-theft webbing that has been sewn across the openings. All of this combined with the lack of front, exterior pockets puts the backpack's access in the hands of the wearer, not anyone else who may be passing by.

Great size! The bag itself is great to pack because although it is fairly "unstructured," it has enough shape where you can easily tuck things into corners to fill it out. I definitley had ample space for packing more stuff. I loved the organization solutions, on one side of the pack there were a few different zipper compartments that effectively nestled into one another. The zippers on the exterior sides allowed easy access into the main compartment of the bag. LOVED the design of this bag. The shape was perfect for fitting items of different shapes and densities. I will say, you may want to be slightly strategic with your packing because it is a more "loosely" shaped bag. I loved all of the various pockets and access points. There was also a convenient laptop pocket that would be helpful for someone traveling with an ipad or laptop. The bag has a slightly more rugged look, but I liked that about it! It aslo came with a super fun, orange raincover that sinched around the main part of the bag. Also loved that it had hand straps on all four sides of the pack making it easy to lift into the over head compartment. This bag was SUPER comfortable. I was so pleased with how the straps contoured to the shape of my shoulders and chest. The material used on the back of the pack is mesh. so its super comfortable. Seems super durable to me. No visible damage after the throw test. Also the rubbery material on the exterior part of the bag seems like it would be resistnat to a lot of types of damage. Also seems like it would stay looking relativley clean. I think this is a GREAT price for this bag. I could get so much use out of this bag. It is also very stylish and super comfortable. I also feel like it would be great for camping/backpacking.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Backpack

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

Best Overall, Runner-Up: Osprey Fairview 40

Osprey Fairview 40


Accessible travel expert Stacey Marlene looks for a triple threat (lightweight, comfortable, and spacious) when it comes to travel backpacks. For her, the Farpoint 40 from Osprey fits the bill. “As a slow-traveler who backpacks on a budget, I love that it's lightweight, you can use it as a carry-on, and it’s very comfortable to wear,” she says. “You can also store away the shoulder straps and hip belt inside the backpack, and there's a big compartment where you can use it perfectly for your packing cubes.” Plus, it matches size regulations for most major airlines (21 x 14 x 9 inches).

The bad git all of the items inside and had plenty of space and compartments left for more. The bag has a lot of compartments and A LOT of straps to hold everything in place. The padding inside felt really nice. This bag is very big on me since I am small but it surprisingly was very comfortable to carry. It was heavy when I carried it with the top handle but that is to be expected because the bag itself is big. It did not hurt my back and I like how most of the weight was shifted to my lower back. My shoulders did not hurt. It was easiest to carry voer the shoulders for me. The bag and the contents inside were not damaged even though it sounded like it was breaking as I threw it on the floor. I would pay $150 for this bag and recommend it. It would last me a very long time. Its a big bag thats comfortable for a small person, which is hard to find. I love the teal color on some of the straps. It gives it personality. I would recommend it to women and men even though it targets women. The only thing I didnt like about the bag was that the one I tested was green. I would buy the black one only.

Osprey Fairview Carry-On Backpack

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

Best Overall: Tortuga Setout Backpack

Tortuga Setout
Courtesy of

The 45-liter Setout backpack from Tortuga not only feels similar to a suitcase (so much room!), but it also opens like one. If you plan on packing up an entire trip’s worth of clothing and essentials in one bag, this is a great option that abides by all carry-on size regulations. Not only does the interior offer great packing space, but there are plenty of zipper pouches—three on the exterior and a sizable laptop pouch on the interior—for storing shoes, toiletries, and tech accessories. There is also a Velcro compartment that holds the backpack straps when they’re not in use, which is a nice touch when you’re storing this bag.

Tested by TripSavvy

The Tortuga Setout Backpack comes with a lot of perks, the first being that it doesn’t look like a backpack. With its minimalistic front and sleek fabric, you’ll have the nicest-looking backpack around.

At first look, the Tortuga Setout’s straps look clunky. And you’re not wrong—they definitely are. But thankfully, whoever designed this bag is a genius. The backpack straps can be neatly tucked away in a sleeve at the very back of the pack. 

The main compartment opens up so you can pack it like a suitcase. It doesn’t look like it holds much, but when you use the front compartment as well as the main one, you can fit enough clothes for a little under two weeks. 

In fact, we were impressed with just how much we could pack. We love how easy it is to carry the Tortuga Setout Backpack, even when it’s stuffed full. This is a great backpack that’ll last you through many, many adventures across oceans and countries. — Rebekah Joan, Product Tester

Tortuga Setout Backpack

TripSavvy / Rebekah Joan

Best Budget: Swiss Gear SA1186 Bungee Backpack

Swiss Gear SA1186 Bungee Backpack
Courtesy of

This backpack from travel gear company Swiss Gear has the basics: comfortable straps, a water bottle holder, a bungee cord section for easy-to-grab items, and a laptop compartment. While this isn’t the best option if you’re looking for something you can pack a week’s worth of essentials into, it is a wonderful choice if you plan on using it for day-to-day activities—especially if you’ll be toting around a laptop.

Tested by TripSavvy

It’s designed in classic SwissGear style, meaning that functionality plays more of a role than appearance. The adjustable straps and back padding utilize SwissGear’s Airflow technology, which is supposed to reduce sweat and heat by being extra breathable. The largest compartment, with a capacity of 26.5 liters, has a laptop-specific pocket, but it feels light on padding. 

The SwissGear Laptop Backpack is one of the smallest travel bags we’ve tested. However, the small size was easy to travel with and didn’t take up much space under a seat or in a vehicle. Because the bag has a fairly simple design, with few external features, we also found that it didn’t snag or get stuck on armrests or handles as other more tactical bags do. The padded straps were comfortable to wear for both our male and female tester. While the outer fabric feels a bit thin, the zippers are strong and durable, holding up well against overfilling and sudden tugging.

While this bag isn’t our favorite in terms of features, it does score points for price. The SwissGear Laptop Backpack retails for $50, which makes it one of the most affordable travel backpacks on the market. — Suzie Dundas, Product Tester

SwissGear 1186 Laptop Backpack

  Tripsavvy / Suzie Dundas

Best TSA-Friendly: Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack

Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack



If you’re wanting to make the TSA checkpoint process even smoother, look no further than Timbuk2’s Uptown Laptop Backpack. The biggest gold star goes to the laptop compartment—the front of the backpack zips fully open and lies flat, meaning you don’t have to take out your computer or iPad when you go through security. In addition to this, the sheer number of pockets and pouches is a dream for business travelers packing a lot of supplies or paperwork.

Tested by TripSavvy

The Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack is one of the most workplace-friendly bags we’ve used. We love the sheer number of small, item-specific pockets throughout the bag. While we were surprised by how much we were able to fit in the 30-liter bag, it’s really only enough for a weekend—and that’s if you’re a light packer who’s willing to re-wear some of your clothing. It’s definitely smaller than what the average consumer would consider a weekend bag. 

Timbuk2’s thoughtful solution to laptop storage is one of the bag’s most compelling features. Rather than a traditional padded laptop pocket, the back panel zips out to reveal a padded laptop sleeve with a Velcro closure. 

This bag scores major points for portability as it weighs just 2.6 pounds. The lighter weight comes in handy when making multiple airport connections or covering long distances on foot or bike. Plus, it has an adjustable chest strap that can be removed. We especially liked the bag’s side handle. Not only does it allow you to carry it more like a briefcase than a backpack, but it’s handy for grabbing the bag in a hurry. — Suzie Dundas, Product Tester

Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack

  Tripsavvy / Suzie Dundas

Best for Business: eBags Professional Weekender

eBags TLS Professional Weekender
Courtesy of

This backpack from eBags was designed to include plenty of space for tech and accessories, as well as a weekend’s worth of clothing. The front of it zips open and lies flat, so you don’t have to remove your laptop or iPad at the TSA checkpoint. It’s also as large as carry-on bags can get, measuring in at 21 x 14 x 8 inches. The straps are versatile and can be configured to be carried as a backpack, cross-body bag, or briefcase.

Tested by TripSavvy

The eBags Professional Weekender is an airport-friendly option that can hold enough clothes for a few days, as well as a laptop up to 18 inches. While it comes with lots of compartments so you can keep track of your stuff, it’s still small enough to fit into an overhead bin.

While we walked around with this bag, we found that it was decently comfortable. We like it best as a backpack, although if you stuff it full and carry it around all day, expect some sore shoulders. One design flaw we noticed is that the deep pocket on the bottom front, which expands inward, is rendered useless if the main compartment is full of clothes.

This bag performs its purpose well, but if you want any extras, it’ll disappoint. Though it looks like it could hold more clothes, its TSA-friendly design makes it hard to fit more than a few outfits. So if you’re traveling for any time longer than a weekend, the eBags Professional Weekender isn’t going to work well for you. — Rebekah Joan, Product Tester

eBags Professional Weekender

TripSavvy / Rebekah Joan

Best for Adventure: Osprey Porter Travel Duffel 30


Chances are you’ve seen the Osprey Porter 30 Travel backpack in many security lines—it’s a favorite due to small design details that make it easier to tote around for long periods of time. Measuring in at 2.8 pounds and 20 x 13 x 12 inches, there’s plenty of room to pack a week's worth of gear (or two with some packing cubes). The bag also has a removable harness hip belt for more adventurous outings.

Tested by TripSavvy

You’ll never run out of room—or pockets—with the Osprey Porter 30 Backpack. This backpack has other nifty design features, too. Osprey’s StraightJacket compression system allows you to save space by tightening the dual straps on the front of the backpack. you can tuck the backpack straps into a zippered sleeve to keep them out of your way. Better yet, if you’d like to use a shoulder strap, the backpack comes with D-ring attachments. We’re not kidding when we say this backpack’s main compartment is huge.

When we started packing this 30-liter bag for a week-long trip to Ireland, we were able to a ton of clothes and some travel-size toiletries. The bag still wasn’t even close to being full. Unfortunately, we were pretty disappointed with this bag’s laptop/tablet sleeve. While there’s plenty of padding on the back, it’s slightly curved, which isn’t ideal for laptop support. And, there’s no padding on the other side.

Overall, the Porter 30 was incredibly easy to carry. Weighing slightly less than 3 pounds, it’s light and small enough to use as a carry-on for a flight. It’s also a fairly malleable backpack, which means that shoving it into a storage bin on a bus, train, or airplane shouldn’t be an issue. — Rebekah Joan, Product Tester

Osprey Porter 30 Travel Backpack

TripSavvy / Rebekah Joan

Best for Storage: Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack

Oakley Kitchen Sink Accessory
Courtesy of

The name says it all: Oakley’s Kitchen Sink Backpack holds a ton of stuff. This bag is designed with plenty of pockets, and you can unzip the bottom section of the bag (usually reserved for wet or dirty items) for even more packing space. Despite being a true workhorse for fitting everything you could possibly need on your trip, it's easy to store in the overhead compartment thanks to its relatively compact size (8 x 14 x 20 inches).

Tested by TripSavvy

The Kitchen Sink Backpack is loaded with useful features for travelers, especially those who put their bags through the wringer. The pack’s material feels very durable and heavy-duty to the touch. Both the bottom and the top of the bag are made from rip- and tear-resistant fabric and the buckles are quite strong; in fact, they almost feel like overkill. 

Depending on your definition of portability, this bag either excels or drops the ball. Even empty, it’s quite heavy, weighing just over 4 pounds. That makes it one of the heaviest we tested and when full, it certainly adds significant heft to your back. However, Oakley has taken steps to make it easier to comfortably carry the weight, with padded shoulder straps that can be adjusted to help you carry the weight higher up.

The Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack is aptly named with 34-liter capacity in the main compartment. We found this to be more than enough for a long weekend of travel as it performs more like a suitcase with straps than a standard backpack. — Suzie Dundas, Product Tester

Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack

Tripsavvy / Suzie Dundas 

Best for Minimalists: Away The Backpack

Away The Backpack


The Backpack from Away is made of a water-resistant nylon, which already makes it a great pick for frequent travelers. But the real draw is the sleek design: a minimalist vibe for a spacious backpack with a few extra features. If you’re an Away fan (a.k.a. you have one of their beloved suitcases), this backpack has a trolley sleeve on the back that helps it attach to the handle of any Away suitcase. We wouldn’t count on packing a full trip’s worth of items in here, but it will serve you well as a versatile carry-on that won’t ruin your outfit when you’re out exploring.

Best Style: Oberworth Matterhorn Backpack

Oberwerth Matterhorn 13" Leather Backpack

Courtesy of B&H

Luxury travel expert Christina Tan reaches for her Oberworth Matterhorn Backpack for all things travel: “I love it because it looks smart, sleek, and elegant with its real leather material. Not only is the style clean, I can easily turn it into a working backpack or camera bag. It is spacious with a 13” laptop pocket and front pocket for tidbits—it’s also very comfortable to carry around.”

This is an investment piece, but worth the cost if you want something that’ll impress no matter where you find yourself. It's especially handy if you find yourself regularly packing camera equipment; the Matterhorn backpack easily fits a DSLR camera, two lenses, and a flash (and then some).

Most Durable: Dagne Dover Dakota Medium Backpack

Dagne Dover Medium Dakota Backpack

Dagne dover

When you imagine the word “durable,” neoprene may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But if you think of the various situations a carry-on backpack is introduced to throughout the process of a trip, the flexible, weatherproof material is a practical—not to mention stylish—option.

Travel expert Jordi Lippe-McGraw agrees: “When I need to strike a balance between practical and fashionable, I grab my Dagne Dover Dakota backpack,” she says. “It suits all my travel needs with a slip computer sleeve, interior zip pockets for all the on-the-go essentials, and removable pouches for versatility. Plus, it can handle an unexpected rainstorm and take a little travel-related beating." The backpack comes in sleek colors and patterns like ash blue, dark moss, and heather gray.

Best Waterproof: Rains Roll Top Rucksack

Clothing company Rains marries Scandinavian design with technical fabrics to create minimal gear that can withstand the elements. The 19-liter Roll Top Rucksack is incredibly stylish, but it also works hard to repel any kind of water. Two straps with rubberized buckles open up into a roomy interior, which includes a padded laptop compartment. In addition to the interior pocket, there’s also a waterproof zipped pocket on the front of the pack for storing items that require quick access. The entire bag measures 13.4 x 18.5 x 4.7 inches.

Best for Packing: Patagonia Paxat 32L Backpack

Patagonia Paxat 32L Backpack

Courtesy of Backcountry

"I typically spend as much as 180 days a year on planes,” says travel expert Brad Japhe. “So owning the proper rucksack was much more a matter of necessity than aesthetics. My main considerations are that it's rugged, durable, and ergonomic.” His favorite backpack, the Paxal from Patagonia, checks all of those boxes. “At 32 liters, it’s large enough to envelop a weekend’s worth of clothing and electronics (I love the dedicated laptop hold), but spry enough to carry through airports and stow under your seat without any complications. Patagonia also crushes the corporate responsibility game. I support them whenever I can.”

Best for Hiking: Topo Designs Klettersack 25L Backpack

Topo Designs Klettersack 25L Backpack

Courtesy of Backcountry

Topo Designs makes the kind of backpacks worthy of a double-take, much in part to their bold colorways. The Klettersack is no exception, with its earthy tones and minimalist silhouette. You wouldn’t think such a good-looking bag would also serve as a total workhorse on the trails, but we’re here to tell you that you can have the best of both worlds. This backpack is great for hikers, thanks to the leather lash tabs on the front of the pack, which make it easy to secure extra gear (think bike lights, climbing rope, and water bottles). The entire pack measures 11 x 20 x 5 inches, so it complies with carry-on regulations for all major airlines as well.

Best Wheeled: Filson Dryden 2-Wheeled Carry-On Bag

Wheeled backpacks are great if you want to cut down on the amount of weight you’re carrying around. The Dryden 2-Wheeled Carry-On from Filson is also a beautiful bag, made with abrasion-resistant nylon and a reinforced base of double-layered fabric and leather. At 21¾ x 14 x 9¼ inches, this carry-on adheres to the size regulations of all major airlines. Reviewers share that they’ve easily fit a week’s worth of clothing into the bag and often skip out on checking another bag altogether.

Final Verdict

If this research tells you anything, it’s that there are a ton of backpacks to choose from. If you’re looking for a solid option that provides a ton of packing space, go with the Tortuga Setout Backpack. It’ll fit everything on your packing list, and the extra space at the bottom for wet or dirty clothing is a rare find. If you need something more visually streamlined, spend the extra money and opt for the anti-theft-focused Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Pack (view at Amazon).

What to Look for When Buying a Carry-On Backpack


Price points for carry-on backpacks will vary pretty widely, so consider what your largest needs are. You can find a spacious travel backpack for under $100—often under $50—but if you plan on facing tough outdoor environments, consider investing a bit more money for something waterproof. Leather backpacks can cost hundreds of dollars; keep this in mind if that material is important to you. Anti-theft travel backpacks can also be a bit more expensive, but are often essential in highly trafficked destinations. 


There are so many different styles out there, you could spend days filtering through the different backpacks on the market. Keep it simple: How will you be using this backpack? If you’re going to be interfacing with clients or business partners, look for something minimal and sleek that doesn’t showcase a million pockets. If you plan on living out of your backpack for the majority of your trip, lean into the pockets. You'll want a bag that zips open flat like a suitcase for easy packing and unloading (this also makes going through security easier). 


If you’ll be using your travel backpack to hike, find something with a removable hip harness, so you can better distribute the weight of your pack when you’re on the move. If you plan on wearing your travel backpack casually—only in the airport or to work—seek out a style with adjustable straps and a padded back. This will help ward off any back pain, especially if you’re carrying a lot of weight. When you’re trying on backpacks, test out the shoulder straps and imagine how they would feel if the backpack were filled with a bunch of rocks. Is there ample padding? Will the material cut into your shoulders? Does the back of the backpack feel like it would be breathable? On this last point, mesh exteriors often help with that.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How should I clean my backpack?

    This will vary based on the material your backpack is made of. For nylon and other water-resistant fabrics, get a damp cloth and spot clean your pack. For leather backpacks, you’ll want to purchase a special leather conditioner and cleaner to properly maintain the integrity of your backpack. If your bag has plastic or metal elements, a damp cloth will do the trick.

  • Do I need a hip harness?

    If you plan on hiking or spending long periods of time carrying your backpack, this is a good feature to have. It will help distribute the weight of your pack better across your body, ultimately providing more comfort. Most backpacks that are focused on outdoor adventures will have this feature. 

  • What are anti-theft backpacks?

    Many backpacks are marketed as anti-theft, meaning it’s tougher for someone else to get inside your pack. Some backpacks have zippers that allow you to open the main interior compartment while you're wearing it—so you don’t have to take it off and risk having someone else pick it up. Others are designed with a webbing over the zipper openings, making it very hard for someone to locate and unzip the bag while you have it on.

  • Do all backpacks come with interior compression cords?

    No, this is not generally the norm when it comes to backpacks. Compression cords make packing a bit easier and function in the same way a compression strap or cord would work in a regular suitcase. Some travel-focused carry-on backpacks do have these built-in. But if you’re looking to squeeze in more items, consider investing in some packing cubes. These will help organize your backpack, too.

Why Trust TripSavvy

Erika Owen researched these options and reached out for the recommendations of people who depend on their carry-on backpacks for seamless travel.

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