Whether it's a day trip in the city or a long-haul flight to the next continent, the best travel backpack is the one that lets you comfortably carry your laptop, one of our best portable charger picks and anything else that you need for a long trek. These backpacks vary widely, offering a range of designs and features that can make them invaluable for any traveler.
We've scoured the top sellers and most-recommended bags from across a wide range of travel blogs, review sites and customer feedback-driven picks to compile our list of the best travel backpacks out there.
- Back to class: Best backpacks for school
- Best phone battery life in 2021: The longest lasting smartphones
Our favorite travel backpack overall is the Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack, which offers lots of carrying capacity and a 2-in-1 design with its detachable day bag to take hiking or sightseeing for a lighter load.
For price-conscious shoppers, our favorite budget pick is the MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack, which offers a decent mix of features, plus volume for less than $40.
For business travellers, our favorite professional travel bag is the SwissGear 1900 Scansmart TSA Friendly Laptop Backpack, which provides a Transportation Security Administration-friendly design that makes airport security a breeze, and comes in several work-appropriate color options.
Picking a good travel bag
While the definition of travel backpack can be a little vague – almost any backpack can be taken on a plane, after all – there are some common denominators across the wide range of products we looked at to find the best travel backpacks.
First and foremost, a good travel backpack offers a carrying capacity that accommodates your stuff. While a school backpack might be made to carry a few books, a travel backpack needs to be large enough to stow at least a day or two worth of clothing, including shoes. This is specifically a question of volume, measuring how much stuff can fit in the bag.
MORE: Best Backpacks for Back-to-School
The smallest bag on our list holds 20 liters worth of clothing, gadgets or other accoutrements, but some carry as much as 55 or 60 liters, large enough to haul an entire wardrobe. Given that some travellers can live for weeks out of a single bag, that larger capacity is essential.
Many travel bags are designed to work as carry-on luggage, staying within the airline standard dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches. They're great as carry-ons because they stow neatly under a seat or in the overhead bins, and you can use the same bag for all of your travel activities, whether you're on the road for business or pleasure.
Other bags will feature travel-friendly features, like luggage straps that let you attach the bag to your roll-aboard suitcase, locking zippers in the event that you need to check the bag, and internal organization to help you make the most of the limited storage space.
A few bags do double duty as roller bags, with built-in wheels and extending handles. Others offer a combination of bags, with a larger compartment for storing all the gear for your trip, and a second detachable day bag for carrying the essentials while the bigger bag stays at the hotel.
The best travel backpacks of 2021
If you want a pack that lets you take nearly anything almost anywhere, the Osprey Farpoint 55 is a good pick. The bag has a two bag, detachable design that lets you haul a lot of clothes and gear in one pack, thanks to a 55-liter capacity. Then, when you want to take a day trip to a nearby tourist spot, you can remove the detachable second pack for a smaller, lighter load while the bulk of your luggage stays in the hotel.
But the two-piece design is only part of the Farpoint's appeal. For easier handling at the airport, the backpack has a zippered rear panel that tucks the shoulder straps out of the way, giving the bag more of a duffle-like appearance, making it less of a hassle to check your large bag. And for those times you need to carry it for a longer haul, the bag has a built-in suspension system that even regular backpackers should appreciate.
If some of these prices seem a little steep, check out one of the best-selling bags on Amazon, the MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack, which offers a standard backpack design for just $32. Other travel-friendly features include a luggage strap for easily attaching the bag to rolling luggage, and a zippered passport pocket on the back of the bag that keeps valuables safely against your body.
The backpack's padded laptop sleeve fits notebooks up to 17 inches in size, and the main compartment is large enough to hold clothes for a weekend away. Gadget use on the go is enhanced with a USB-charging port, which connects to a battery backup in the bag, and lets you plug in your phone or other device (battery not included) without opening the backpack. A headphone pass-through provides similar convenience for audio.
Available in 7 different colors, the Matein Travel Laptop Backpack is made from water-resistant polyester, and features lockable zippers for secure traveling.
In addition to carrying your stuff on the go, the ideal bag for business needs to look presentable in the office, and hold your laptop and other work gear. For these professional travel needs, we recommend the SwissGear 1900 ScanSmart TSA Friendly Laptop Backpack. The item comes in a variety of colors, from a two-toned red and black to mixtures of gray, black and other office-appropriate colors.
But beyond the color fabric used, the SwissGear backpack includes several handy traveling features, such as a chunky reinforced handle and separate internal pockets for a laptop and tablet. And for regular travellers, there's a main compartment that zips open to fold flat, making it easy for TSA agents to scan the contents of the bag and move you through security faster.
The SwissGear brand is known for quality construction, and the bag utilizes SwissGear's comfortable cushioned shoulder-strap design, which makes for a bag that will hold up against all sorts of abuse while remaining comfortable mile after mile.
If you need your pack to serve as more traditional luggage, the Osprey Meridian rolling bag should do the trick. In addition to this backpack's 60-liter capacity – the largest of any bag on our list – the Meridian also features built-in wheels and an extendable handle for easy rolling up and down the concourse.
The wheelbase features an elevated design that keeps your stuff off of the floor or ground, and the extendable handle collapses down and out of the way when not in use. The Osprey also has a zippered back panel that opens to provide backpack straps for carrying your pack comfortably, but also lets you stow the straps out of the way when checking a bag.
MORE: Best Smart Luggage
And for added flexibility, the Meridian has the same detachable design offered on the Osprey Farpoint, letting the larger portion of the bag serve as the mothership for most of your luggage while giving you a lightweight pack that's perfect for shorter jaunts around town.
There's nothing more nerve-wracking than keeping your carry-on close, to protect your laptop and other gear, only to be asked to check your bag at the gate. Thankfully, the Kensington SecureTrek Backpack is outfitted with one of the best locking solutions we've seen, capable of securing the zipper pulls to keep unwelcome hands out of your bag (you can also leash the bag securely to a stationary object using a Kensington cable lock.) The SecureTrek even has an anti-puncture zipper, protecting you from low-tech attacks that bypass bag locks by separating the cheap zippers used on many bags.
The Kensington SecureTrek is also a well-designed bag, aside from the security features. The cube-like design makes the most of the bag's carry-on-friendly dimensions, providing 28 liters of space divided into three main compartments. A padded laptop sleeve will handle 17-inch notebooks, and internal organization pockets let you keep chargers and peripherals handy without a tangled mess of cords. The pack zips open to lay flat for quicker TSA screenings, and a luggage strap on the back makes it easy to carry atop a roller bag.
For capacity on the go, the Under Armour Hustle 4.0 Backpack should do the trick. Available in all sorts of bright colors and color combinations, this bag offers decent capacity for a change or two of clothing, and has one unusual feature: a separate zippered compartment on the bottom of the bag designed just for shoes or dirty clothing.
Aside from that, the Under Armour is outfitted with a 15-inch laptop sleeve, internal pockets for stashing your valuables, water-repellant material to keep your stuff dry, and straps made of breathable, moisture-wicking material that should keep you cooler and drier when carrying it. And with more than 20 color combinations, the Hustle 4.0 can be found in just the right color for you.
Made specifically with travelers in mind, the Nomatic Travel Pack Is replete with thoughtful features that frequent flyers will appreciate. In addition to backpack straps, the bag includes a briefcase-style handle on the side, a built-in luggage sleeve for slipping it onto the handle of roller bag, and has unique touches like radio-frequency ID (RFID) blocking, so that you can safely carry credit cards and passports without fear of high-tech thieves stealing your data.
External water-bottle pockets have magnetic closures, so that they disappear when not in use, and zippered expansion boosts the bags capacity from 20 liters to 30. A number of interchangeable organizer panels slip inside the bag and can be used to keep all of your gear straight. The sleek-looking design is well-suited to business use, and a TSA-friendly design zips open wide for quick security screening.
For a bag that's just as at home on the trail as it is on a bus or in the back of a cab, the Cotopaxi Allpa is the travel pack of choice. Equal parts rugged backpack and travel-ready luggage, the Allpa features a suitcase-style zipper that wraps all the way around for easy packing. Handles on the top and side let you carry it briefcase-style, and the shoulder straps can be tucked out of sight for easier checking.
MORE: 15 Best Hiking Apps, Trail Logs and Navigational Aids
The Allpa also comes with features for the more adventurous, with a low-profile suspension system built in that distributes the weight across the shoulder straps and hip belt for comfort in longe-term use, such as hiking and backpacking. A handy pocket for small essentials is perfect for stashing a wallet or passport, and a "shortcut zipper" lets you access the main compartment without entirely opening the bag. The Allpa even comes with a rain cover to help ward off the weather when you're far from shelter, and an assortment of attached loops let you hang extra gear off of the pack.
Though it's not the only roller bag on the market, the J World New York Sundance rolling laptop backpack is an Amazon best seller because it offers a wheeled design at an affordable price. The backpack has a plastic base, and a frame that includes both a pair of wheels and an extending T-shaped handle, making it easy to roll along or sling onto your back.
Despite a relatively simple design, the bag includes a padded laptop sleeve for notebooks and tablets up to 15-inches in size, along with a front-pocket organizer. And if you want a little more personality in your luggage, the bag is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns (35 options in all), offering more opportunity for personal style than most bags we looked at.
If you want another budget-friendly favorite, take a look at the Volher Laptop Backpack, which sells for less than $40. Billed as a travel-ready bag for students and business travelers alike, the pack features a water-resistant design, a comfortable 30-liter capacity, several pockets for internal organization, and built-in features like a USB port for connecting your phone to an external battery (not included). While not as capacious or feature-filled as some of the other bags we looked at, the Volher is still big enough for a 15-inch laptop and a change of clothes or two. This Amazon best-seller is popular nonetheless, thanks to it's combination of thoughtful design and affordable price.
- Best travel tech: 9 essential apps, gadgets and tips
- On the go: The best travel apps