How to Pack a Backpack for Air Travel: 12 Must-Know Tricks

Hey there! Ever wonder how some folks just nail the travel game by sticking to a backpack? Let’s paint you a picture: You’re hustlin’ at the airport, bobbing and weaving through this massive crowd when bam – you spot someone smooth-sailing with just their carry-on. Shocking stuff, right?

Turns out, stuffing all your essentials in one bag isn’t an art – it shifts things up big time. Nowadays everyone seems to have cottoned on how handy backpacks are for zipping around airports. Think about flying past security checks like they’re no biggie or saying bye-bye to those pesky luggage fees while keeping all your loot within arm’s reach; Now that’s more than being good packers – it’s downright dominion over those pesky carry-on rules.

In our down-to-earth guide ‘ How to Pack a Backpack for Air Travel’, we’ve got something for everyone – whether you’re pinching pennies and want to dodge check-in costs, strive for that minimalist life, or tend to wander around with home on your back as a digital nomad.

So saddle up! We’re unlocking every trick in the book so packing doesn’t feel like rocket science anymore. Your journey should be as dope as where you end up going after all! It’s high time we learn how to zip it light, make peace with sparing ourselves from overweight charges, and live the dream of gliding along freely thanks to that trusty backpack.

Table of Contents

Choosing the Ideal Backpack for Air Travel

Getting ready to take a thrilling flight? One of the big choices you’ll be making is what backpack to bring along. Picking the right backpack can make your whole trip go smoothly, and help make sure you’ve got everything you need while soaring through the skies.

In this bit, we’re gonna guide you through all the important stuff to think about in the realm of air travel backpack packing, explore all kinds of different backpack styles, slip in a few insider secrets, and even chat about some sustainable options for those eco-smart flyers out there.

Key Features to Consider

Size Matters: When it’s time to jet off, you’ll want a backpack that fits the bill. Remember, size is everything when flying, so pick a carry-on bag that won’t give you attitude at the boarding gate. Smaller-scale means less stress and quicker check-ins – no more wrestling with those bulky suitcases.

Weight Considerations: Airlines are fussy about how heavy your bags can be–so keep things light! Choose a bag tough enough for travel but one that’s not going to weigh you down before you even take off.

Compartments Galore: No one likes playing treasure hunts while rummaging through their bag. An organized pack makes life easier – find pockets-a-plenty to put all your bits and bobs in order which would save your precious vacation time from turning into hide-and-seek episodes.

Comfort is Key: Your backpack will practically be glued to you during trips – make sure it’s comfortable! Hands-down winners have padded straps and supportive backs. Bonus if they’re adjustable too; nobody wants backache while sightseeing or trekking up airplane aisles.

Carry-On Restrictions: Different airlines = different rules on carry-on sizes (unfortunately!). To skip unwanted surprises at security checks, know what the bar is set at – choose a backpack compliant with these limits & breeze through border control!

Different Backpack Types

Travel-Specific Backpacks: If you’re always on the go, these backpacks have got your back! They’ve got cool compartments galore, are small enough to squeeze into overhead lockers, and above all – they’re comfy for those long-haul flights.

Hiking Backpacks: So maybe they’re not made especially for flying, but hiking backpacks tick a lot of boxes. They’re tough dudes that’ll last ages, with tons of space for your stuff plus they feel good even after you’ve had them on all day! Just make sure it’s cabin-friendly if this is your bag choice.

Convertible Backpacks: These bad boys can change from backpack to duffel bag or even shoulder bags in no time! This nifty trick has saved us more time than modern GPS when traveling around.

Pro Tips: Lesser-Known Features to Look For

Hidden Compartments: Some bags come with hush-hush pockets or hidden stashes – so clever right? It’s a sneaky way to hide away important things and outsmart any curious eyes.

Water Bottle Pockets: Don’t forget to drink water folks! Bags with outer water bottle holders let you grab a drink without much fuss. Keep sipping!

Lockable Zippers: Lockable zippers add that extra layer of “stay safe” particularly in packed places where sneaky hands might be about.

Sustainable Backpack Options

If being green is big for you (and hey why wouldn’t it be?), hunt down bags made from recycled bits’n’bobs or crafted by brands who care as much about our planet as we do. More and more guys are making awesome sustainable options; going eco doesn’t mean ditching style or quality anymore. Do something great for Mother Earth while exploring her beauty!

Mastering Packing Essentials for Air Travel

Planning for air travel isn’t just about picking out the top-notch backpack; it’s all about nailing down the hack of packing a backpack for airplane travel in a smart way. In this chunk, you’ll get to discover cool ways of packing that help you squeeze more into your bag’s tiny quarters. Say hello to “Roll, Don’t Fold,” make friends with handy-dandy packing cubes, and conquer a bunch of other space-saving secrets! Welcome aboard onto smooth-sailing travels.

The “Roll, Don’t Fold” Method

This ain’t no new kid on the block! “Roll, Don’t Fold” has been an ace up many expert travelers’ sleeves since forever. It’s not only at war with wasted space but also fights away pesky clothes creases! Just start with biggies like jeans and jackets – fold ‘em lengthwise and then roll them tight from bottom to top. You’ll be left not just saving space but also being able to fish out exactly what you need without making a mess inside your backpack.

Packing Cubes: Organizational Wizards

Think packing cubes are mere dividers? Oh boy—you’d be wrong there! These zippered saviors come in different shapes and sizes and can bring order to the otherwise chaotic world of your backpack. Got tops? There’s one cube. Bottoms next, into another cube they go – even undies or accessories have their cozy corner sorted within smaller canvas condos! Trust us guys – invest in these babies; they won’t just keep your stuff trim and taut but will also speed up unpacking when you hit destination-awesome!

Compression Techniques: Maximizing Every Inch

Bet you didn’t know there’s an art to packing for a flight, and it’s all about getting crafty with squeezing stuff in. A cool trick? Use your clothes to jam-pack every inch of your backpack. Think about lobbing socks inside your shoes or coiling up belts and accessories into those sneaky empty spots. This isn’t just smart packing – it helps keep your backpack from looking like a hot mess too.

Unexpected Space Savers: Utilizing Every Pocket

Don’t kid yourself – You’ve ignored some potential payload places in that pack of yours; mesh pockets, hip compartments…heck even that awkward spot behind the zipper! They come in super handy when dealing with bits and bobs. Yeah, we’re talking accessories, toiletries or even chucking in a skinny scarf if it fits! It doesn’t only help stuff more things but also stops you from digging through everything when you need something real quick.

Because let’s face it- The whole aim here is not trying to cram as much garbage as possible (let’s leave that for Tetris), but being clever about what goes where. Think rolling instead of folding clothes, waving ‘hi’ at packing cubes (invest!), mastering compression hacks, and giving forgotten spaces some love is what makes this trip less stressful than last year’s Thanksgiving dinner!

By sticking these tips into practice next time around, trust us honey bun – Not only will an Airline-friendly backpack organization be on our side, but we’re bound to turn this travel shindig into an organized rather fun event!

Unlocking Advanced Air Travel Hacks & Hidden Gems

Traveling by plane can be pretty neat. But packing? Well, that’s a whole different story. We’ve got some secret tips and tricks up our sleeves to make your [flight-friendly backpack preparation] even smoother. Let’s decode the mysteries of flying together, from neatly packing all those gadgets we’re glued to nowadays, to mastering TSA’s tricky toiletry rules along with some hints on what you’d never think to squeeze in your carry-on for comfort during your sky-high journey.

Tech Essentials: Stay Organized on the Go

We live in a techie world where traveling without our devices is unthinkable. So how do you avoid a spaghetti-wire nightmare? Snap-up cable organizers – these babies will help you find just the right charger when you need it without having to dive into wire mayhem. Plus, stashing a portable phone charger will save your day especially if flight delays pop up – after all; nobody wants their lifeline conking out mid-adventure!

Toiletries & Liquids: Navigating TSA Regulations

TSA checkpoints might seem like they need a decoder ring but chill – knowing the inside scoop makes it smooth sailing. Start by swapping out bulky bottles for travel-sized ones for those must-have products–- fits snugly in compliance with TSA regulations AND gives extra room for goodies in your bag! Even slickers are solid toiletries like shampoo bars or toothpaste tabs that cut down liquids (no spillage horrors!) and leave less footprint on Mother Earth while still keeping you fresh as daisies onboard.

Unexpected Carry-On Items: Beyond the Ordinary

Did you know that packing a few out-of-the-box items in your carry-on is cool? If you’re high on sports energy, stick in your super deflated soccer ball or even that snug little yoga mat. Also, how about taking along a musical buddy like the ukulele or maybe the harmonica – they’re welcome too! But hey, do give a peek at what your airline has to say about these. Trust us, adding such funky stuff would surely jazz up your voyage.

Comfort & Wellbeing: Prepare for the Unexpected

Air travel can be crazy – lasting hours and jumping time zones. So why not pack smart for some comfort and health care? Maybe invest in this comfy neck pillow for napping tight; an eye mask to shut off those annoying cabin lights; also earplugs work wonders against noise pollution. These tiny things can bring loads of difference making sure you are all refreshed and ready for an adventurous experience.

While gearing up for a fun air journey, don’t forget the magic in small details – they matter big-time! Explore these essential air travel packing hacks for backpacks to elevate your travel game. Get systematic with all tech-necessary items; crack TSA rules by kitting out with sleek toiletries; lighten up by carrying along some quirky unexpected stuff; but most importantly safeguard your comfort level and take good care of yourself so hopping off that plane becomes more fun than ever!

Explore Bonus: Innovative Packing Strategies for Air Travel

Hey, if you’re gearing up to jet off somewhere nice, you know smart packing for air travel with a backpack isn’t just stuff in a bag – it’s an art! And getting good at it can make your trips way better.

Right here we’re going to spill the beans on some extra nifty packing hacks that go further than plain ol’ basic, making sure you’re ready no matter what comes your way and promises a smoother ride. From climate-switching smarts to wearable Swiss army knives and having a few surprises up your sleeve (or pant leg), let’s dive into super cool ways of jamming stuff into luggage.

Packing for Different Climates: Smart Adaptations

Whether you’re beach-bound or mountain-bound, knowing how to pack right based on where you’re headed is crucial for effectively organizing a backpack for airplane journeys…Cold resort? Hot retreat? Either way–you got this!

For those sunny getaways, light and breathable clothes are boss. We’re talking breezy cotton or linens – oh, and don’t forget the sunhat-plus-sunscreen package deal. Going someplace cold? Layers are gonna be your best buds. Choose pieces that can double-duty through temperature switches nicely without hogging all the space in your bag—an insulated jacket without bulk beats the chill any day!

Multipurpose Clothing: The Traveler’s Wardrobe MVPs

Yeah, so let’s talk about packing smart for your airplane trips. This is where multipurpose clothes come in real handy! Imagine wearing stuff that ticks more than one box – you’ll save precious cargo space and shed a few grams too!

How about taking along a scarf that doesn’t just look fab but can keep you cozy on ice-cold flights? Or those change-up pants that miraculously morph into shorts? Perfect when the weather flips its script! Top it off with shoes as chillaxed as your beachside stroll but hold their own at fancy places too. By stashing gear best suited for any kinda scene, you get to pack light without skimping on style.

Also Read: How to Pack Clothes in a Backpack

“Just in Case” Essentials: Ready for Anything

Let’s be honest here – travel surprises can pop up anywhere, anytime! That’s why having a stash of “just in case” essentials is diamonds (A heads up; we ain’t talking wonders like magic carpets!). Like this nifty rain poncho that packs away almost invisibly until—BAM—an out-of-nowhere deluge ambushes ya.

You’ll stay dry sans adding extra fluff to your luggage. Now here’s another goodie—a mini sewing kit—it may sound downright old school… until threadbare kicks in… trust me – better safe than sorry! Look ahead, foresee scenarios; rather have what ya don’t need than need what ya don’t have– I’m saying… play it safe, buddy!

Sustainable Packing: Minimize Waste, Maximize Impact

Hey Earth lovers, you know packing for a trip in an eco-friendly manner is not just rad but also feels darn great. So how about ditching those one-time-use plastics and swapping them out for stuff that can be reused ?

Like snapping up the coolest refillable water bottle that’ll keep you hydrated wherever your feet roam. And guess what’s next? It’s time to switch to planet-friendly tidbits like shampoo bars and toothpaste tabs – bye-bye pesky plastic tubes! As for clothes? Go for clever pieces that can survive many washes and wears. With these easy tweaks, we’re all geared to limit our carbon footprint while turning travel green.

Packing smart ain’t just about prepping well; it’s carving out greener journeys. So here’s wishing you happy (and safe) wanderings!

Also Read: How to Pack a Suit in a Backpack

Alright, pal. Here’s the lowdown on how to pack a backpack for air travel – and do it like a pro! First up, remember that being clever with how you pack can take the hassle out of traveling. You know the score; use techniques like rolling instead of folding, using those nifty little packing cubes, and squishing everything down to make maximum use of every inch. This will not only keep all your gear in order but also speed things up at security.

The next thing is adaptability. It’s always about expecting the unexpected, whether it be changing weather or other surprises along the way. Be smart with your clothing choices––pack pieces that work double time in multiple climates and scenarios (also known as “just in case” items). Keep looking ahead so that whatever comes your way won’t catch you unprepared.

And lastly? Think multi-purpose! Look for stuff that does more than one job – from clothes to travel essentials – and each piece adds value without adding weight to your bag. A well-chosen item can do several things at once making life easier on the road. You’ll find all this advice makes traveling by air just a tad bit less stressful and quite a lot more fun!

Going green even when packing is a thing now, you know? Choosing stuff that’s good for the planet, saying no to those nasty single-use plastics and not going overboard with what we buy can help make traveling more eco-friendly. When you pack keeping Mother Earth in mind, your trips are about more than just sightseeing – they’re about being kind to our planet too.

Knowing how to pack smart isn’t just about squishing as much as possible into your bag. It’s also about choosing wisely, being flexible, and thinking ahead for packing a backpack for airplane travel. So next time you’re jetting off somewhere cool, remember this: a well-packed bag isn’t just something you lug around – it’s the key to a hassle-free epic journey! Enjoy your trip!

Also Read: How to Pack an External Frame Backpack

How to Pack a Backpack for Air Travel: FAQs

How do you pack a backpack for a flight.

To pack a backpack for a flight, start by prioritizing essentials like travel documents, medications, and electronics. Utilize the “Roll, Don’t Fold” method to save space and minimize wrinkles in clothing. Invest in packing cubes to keep items organized, and pack heavier items closer to your back for better weight distribution. Consider the climate at your destination and pack accordingly. Opt for versatile, multipurpose clothing. Don’t forget “just in case” essentials like a rain poncho or a travel sewing kit. Finally, adhere to airline carry-on restrictions and pack thoughtfully for a seamless and stress-free journey.

What is the best way to pack a travel backpack?

The best way to pack a travel backpack is to prioritize essentials, use the “Roll, Don’t Fold” technique for efficient space utilization, and invest in packing cubes for organization. Pack heavier items closer to your back for better balance and comfort. Opt for versatile clothing and consider the weather at your destination. Utilize every available pocket, including hidden compartments, and pack “just in case” essentials. Follow airline carry-on restrictions for a hassle-free journey. Prioritizing simplicity and organization ensures a well-packed and functional travel backpack.

How do you wrap a backpack for air travel?

To prepare a backpack for air travel, start by removing any loose straps. Use a travel cover or a durable plastic bag to protect it from dirt and damage. Place a luggage tag with your contact information inside the bag. Secure zippers with travel locks for added security. Avoid overpacking to comply with airline regulations. Wrapping a backpack ensures it arrives at your destination in good condition, safeguarding it from potential wear and tear during the journey.

Can I put clothes in my backpack on a plane?

Certainly! You can pack clothes in your backpack for a plane journey. It’s a common and practical practice. Use the “Roll, Don’t Fold” method to save space and reduce wrinkles. Consider the destination’s climate and pack accordingly. Ensure any liquids adhere to airline regulations and place them in a sealed bag. Remember to include essential items like travel documents and personal necessities . Airlines generally allow passengers to carry a backpack as a carry-on item, making it a convenient and accessible choice for keeping your belongings close during the flight.

Get Daily Travel Tips & Deals!

By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use .

packing a travel backpack

How to Pack a Backpack: 5 Essential Tips

'  data-srcset=

Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of IndependentTraveler.com. Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor .

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at [email protected] .

Travel Smarter! Sign up for our free newsletter.

Packing a backpack is a distinctly different skill than packing a suitcase. For starters, the weight of your bag matters a lot more when you’re carrying it on your shoulders rather than dragging it along behind you. And because most backpacks have one large compartment that can only be accessed from the top, putting things in the wrong place in a backpack can lead to major inconveniences later. (Who wants to dig for their passport under a pile of dirty laundry?) That’s why it’s important to know how to pack a backpack the smart way.

Whether you’re packing for a camping trip or a month of bouncing from one European hostel to another, these tips will teach you how to pack a backpack without wasting space or risking personal injury.

Start with the Right Backpack

Some backpacks come with wheels so you don’t have to carry them on your shoulders at all times; others transition into duffel bags that make it easier to access the main compartment of the backpack, such as these hybrid duffel backpacks . Depending on your itinerary and packing style, one of these options might be more useful to you than a regular top-access backpack. If you’ll be outside for prolonged periods of time, you might want a waterproof backpack to protect your stuff.

No matter which type of pack you choose, put some weight in it when you try it on to make sure it’s comfortable on your body. Do the straps adjust enough to let you position the pack in the right place for your height and center of gravity? Are the shoulder straps well padded, and do they stay in place as you move? Is there a waist strap to help you handle heavier loads?

Never bring a brand-new backpack on a trip without road-testing it at home first.

Minimize Your Load

I once unexpectedly had to hike all the way up to one of Tuscany’s hill towns with a huge pack on my back because the local bus drivers were on strike. As I sweated my way up the hill, I regretted every single “just in case” item I’d thrown into that increasingly heavy backpack. Did I really need that spare pair of shoes?

Before you start loading up your backpack, lay out everything you want to bring and consider whether you truly need it. For example, will you have the opportunity to do laundry at any point during your trip? Doing so can help you cut down your wardrobe significantly. If you’ll be out in the wilderness, can you eliminate bulky jeans in favor of lightweight, water-resistant hiking pants ? Can you pack a compact, quick-drying towel instead of a full-size version?

Keep in mind that you might be able to shed a little weight by removing extras from the pack itself. For example, some packs have a metal frame you can remove if you feel more comfortable without it or don’t need it for a particular trip. Frames are most useful for heavier loads, as they help distribute the weight more comfortably.

Once you think you’ve got everything you need, load up your backpack and walk a few blocks with it on your back. Too heavy? Return home and cut a few more items.

Put Everything in the Right Place

To avoid injuring your back or having your load pull you off balance, put heavy items in the vertical center of your pack and as close to your back as possible. That means putting some lighter items at the bottom, such as a sleeping bag or clothing, and then using the middle of the pack for heavier things like a laptop or cookware. Wrap awkwardly shaped items with clothes so you don’t end up with anything poking painfully into your spine.

When deciding what to put where, keep in mind how soon you’ll need each item. Anything to which you want quick access—think sunscreen, a rain jacket, or snacks—should go either in the small pockets on the outside of the bag or at the very top of the main compartment.

Packing cubes can be useful in keeping your clothes organized, especially in larger backpacks where it’s easy to lose track of things. They can also add a little shape and structure to your bag. Consider grouping similar items, such as toiletries, cooking utensils, or underwear, together in either a single packing cube or plastic bag .

Compress Your Load

A well-compressed pack is easier to carry, so don’t let your stuff take up more space than it needs to. For example, you can fill shoes with socks and store food inside your cooking pot. You may also want to experiment with rolling vs. folding to determine which way lets you fit more clothing into your pack. (You might be surprised.) Once you’ve got everything in, use the backpack’s external straps to compress the bag as tightly as possible.

Items that don’t fit inside the pack can be clipped to carabiners on the outside, but try to avoid this when you can; hiking poles, reusable water bottles , or other items dangling from your pack can pull you off balance or get caught on branches along the trail. Consider hiking poles that you can collapse and store easily between uses. Again, the more compact you can make your pack, the more comfortably you can carry it.

Protect Your Pack from the Rain

Hiking in the rain is a bummer; not having any warm, dry clothes to change into after hiking in the rain is even worse. That’s why you’ll want to make sure your backpack is as waterproof as you can make it. Some backpacks come with built-in rain covers, but if yours doesn’t, you can buy a separate one .

Another option, endorsed by experienced hikers : Line your bag with a trash compactor bag .

What are your top backpack packing tips? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

More from SmarterTravel:

  • 10 Best Travel Day Packs
  • 8 Great Crossbody Bags for Travel
  • The Ultimate Camping Packing List: 29 Essentials

Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Top Fares From

packing a travel backpack

Don't see a fare you like? View all flight deals from your city.

Today's top travel deals.

Brought to you by ShermansTravel

9-Nt Dublin, Cork, Killarney & Galway...

Railbookers

packing a travel backpack

Luxe, 7-Night Caribbean & Mexico Cruise...

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

packing a travel backpack

Ohio: Daily Car Rentals from Cincinnati

packing a travel backpack

Trending on SmarterTravel

  • Expandable Backpacks
  • Convertible Duffel
  • Expandable Slings
  • Compressible Shoe Bags
  • Packing Cubes
  • Travel Accessories
  • Travel Sets
  • Everyday Sets
  • Laptop Size
  • Knack Collections

Featured Product:

packing a travel backpack

  • Corporate Gifts

packing a travel backpack

How To Pack A Carry-On Travel Backpack

Traveling with a backpack as your only carry-on presents a bit of a learning curve for those who’re used to walking onboard with suitcases and duffel bags. But here at Knack we’ve been traveling with just One Bag for years (surprise, it’s a Knack Pack), so this week we’re sharing our carefully-honed strategy for how to efficiently pack a backpack for travel.

Not only will we cover how to pack a carry-on backpack for travel, we'll also review what to pack in a carry-on. We’ve found that the way that you pack your carry-on backpack can make or break your flight experience, and can impact the rest of your trip.

Can you use a backpack as your carry-on?

The answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, traveling with a carry-on backpack is a superior way to travel. Unlike duffel bags or clunky wheeled suitcases, backpacks move with your body, which makes it far easier to get in and out of airport shuttles, weave around people on escalators and moving walkways, and run to catch your departing flight. And because backpacks let you keep two hands free, you can sip a coffee and check your phone all the while. 

Travel Backpack packing tips

When you travel with only a backpack, we think you’re bound to have a better travel experience. However, there are still a few common concerns that first-time one-bag backpack travelers face:

  • You can’t fit everything into your backpack.
  • Packing everything in your backpack makes it too heavy.
  • You can’t find anything in your backpack.

How to Pack a Backpack for Travel

Don’t worry, we’re going to address all of these issues. So, here are our favorite carry-on backpack packing tips and tricks.

  • Choose the best carry-on backpack
  • Make a packing list for your backpack
  • Lay everything out
  • Use travel packing cubes
  • Consider you carry-on backpack's weight distribution

1. Choose the best carry-on backpack

A carry-on backpack is one that fits onto the plane, but the  best  carry-on backpack has a few extra features that make it idea for air travel:

The best carry-on backpack...

  • Has a clamshell opening that gives you easy access to everything inside.
  • Has LOTS of pockets to keep everything in place (even when your backpack inevitably gets jostled around).
  • Is built with quality materials that are strong but lightweight.
  • Has water-resistant fabric so that your things stay dry.
  • Has tuck-away shoulder straps that won't dangle into the aisle. 

Knack Pack has all of these features (and more). >>MORE:   Read about what makes Knack the best carry-on backpack here . 

Packing backpack for travel

What is the best size carry-on backpack?

The best size of the carry-on backpack depends on the length of your trip. Obviously, longer trips require more space, but keep in mind that following our tips below, you will probably need less space than you’d think. With a well-planned packing list, a commitment to re-wearing a few strategically-planned outfits, and the comfort of knowing that you can always buy certain essentials at your destination, you can likely get by with a medium, or even a small backpack. 

This chart will help you figure out what size backpack is best for you, based on how many outfits you plan to pack. 

You also need to consider your airline’s carry-on bag allowance. 50 liters is the maximum carry-on allowance for most airlines. Of course, consider that such larger backpacks will have to go in the overhead bins, which means you won’t have the easy access that you get when you can fit a bag under your seat (aka, a personal item). Always check your carrier’s website for their luggage specifications, and compare it to your backpack size. To make it super easy for you to compare Knack Pack sizes with your airline’s baggage sizes, take a look here .

2. Make a packing list for your backpack

A packing list outlines everything that you’re going to need to bring with you on your trip so that you can make sure that you don’t miss anything important. You can  skip to the bottom of this article to see an example of a packing list for your carry-on backpack.  

>>MORE:  Check out how to make the perfect packing list

What goes in a carry-on backpack packing list?

The best way to figure out what goes into your carry-on backpack when making a packing list is to break the items down by categories. Here are some that we like to use:

  • Clothes - These take up the bulk of the space. 
  • Toiletries - Soap, toothbrush, makeup, etc. (but remember that most of these items can be bought at your destination)
  • Tech - Laptop, phone, chargers, extra batteries, earbuds.
  • Documents - Your wallet, passport, travel insurance, receipts, vaccination card, etc. 
  • Miscellaneous - Anything else you’ll need on your flight or on your trip, like hand sanitizer and snacks.

It’s also important to consider what shouldn’t go in your carry-on backpack.

What you shouldn't pack in a carry-on?

  • Liquids over 3.4 oz (except hand sanitizer)
  • Pocket knives, mace, or anything that could be used as a weapon.
  • Inert weapons (like toy guns or anything that resembles a real weapon).
  • Alcohol (you’re federally prohibited to bring your own alcohol on airplanes)

3. Lay everything out

After making your packing list, lay everything out that you intend to pack in your carry-on backpack. This will help you actually visualize whether everything is going to fit. Make sure to remove anything that isn’t going into your backpack from the area.  Then, group all your stuff together by the categories on your packing list… that way you’ll know if you’ve forgotten anything before it all goes into your bag. You may want to re-categorize some of the items. For example, you may want to make a category of stuff that you want to easily access on the plane, like your e-reader, earbuds, and snacks. Better yet, make a carry-on essentials category:

Airplane carry-on essentials 

  • Phone and charger 
  • For Covid safety: Hand sanitizer and extra face mask
  • For entertainment: e-reader or tablet and earbuds
  • For work: laptop and charger

Also, set aside your bulkiest clothes to wear on your travel days. You can save tons of space packing your travel backpack by wearing your coat instead of trying to stuff it into your backpack.

Strategically Packing Your Backpack For Air Travel

This is the fun part. Take inventory of all of the pockets in your backpack and assign pockets to different categories. You can take a look at Knack Pack’s pockets here . 

Most backpacks are basically big holes; they lack multiple compartments, so you have to pack them from the bottom-up, with least-used items on the bottom and the most-used items on the top. But because Knack Packs have multiple compartments and tons of interior pockets, you can be much more intentional about how you organize your stuff.

In a Knack Pack, we recommend that you put your clothes in the expandable suitcase compartment, and keep the most-used items that you need regular access to in the front compartment (which has a ¾ opening, so you can actually see everything that’s inside). 

Packing a carry on backpack

It’s up to you how you organize the rest of your carry-on backpack. But if you have a Knack Pack, here are a few more packing tips:

  • Keep your laptop in the padded, side-access laptop pocket. 
  • Keep chargers and extra USB’s in the cable garage (Series 1 only)
  • Put your tablet in the microfleece-lined interior pocket
  • Dedicate mesh pockets to smaller items, like AirPods and keys.

>>MORE:   Additional tips and tricks for packing a carry-on backpack

4. Use travel packing cubes

Travel packing cubes will add another layer of organization to your carry-on backpack packing. Packing cubes are like drawers for your backpack - you’ll know exactly where everything is, and you can keep your categories separate. These are especially useful for organizing your clothes and small items that don’t go into a dedicated pocket.   

For example, you can pack your liquids in a medium packing cube, and easily remove the cube from your backpack when you go through TSA. 

How To Pack Clothes in Packing Cubes

When using packing cubes, you should roll any clothes that won’t wrinkle, and line the bottom of your cubes with them. Then, fold the clothes that will wrinkle and put them on top of the rolled clothes. 

Hint: You can minimize wrinkles in folded clothes by putting them between dry cleaner bags, or by putting pieces of paper between the folds. 

Knack’s packing cubes have a compression zipper, which gives you even more space in your carry-on backpack. When you use the compression zipper, the cube will effectively flatten the folded clothes against the rolled clothes. 

How to pack a carry on backpack

Check out our packing cube bundles that fit perfectly in the expandable suitcase compartment of your Knack Pack. When you get to your destination, you can quickly remove the cubes, zip away up the suitcase compartment, and have a slim everyday carry backpack for your day-to-day adventures.

5. Consider your carry-on backpack's weight distribution

Since you’ll be walking around the airport with your carry-on backpack, you want to pack your backpack to be as comfortable as possible. Thanks (again) to Knack’s many pockets and compartments, you can really optimize your bag’s weight distribution so that it’s super comfortable, even when fully-loaded. 

Rules For Good Weight Distribution In Your Backpack

  • Heavier things should go close to your body. So put your laptop in the laptop compartment that lies up against your back, and use a shoe bag to pack any extra shoes in the center of the expandable suitcase compartment.
  • Lighter items should go around the perimeter of your bag. Your snacks, chargers, and little miscellaneous things can go in the mesh pockets that line your Knack Pack’s everyday compartment. 

Knack Packs are extremely lightweight for how strong they are (even the Large ones weigh only 3 lbs 4oz). So now that you have an understanding of how to efficiently pack a backpack for travel, we'll leave you with a sample packing list that you can customize based on where, when, and how you're travelling.

Example carry-on backpack packing list for one week of travel (Large Knack Pack)

  • 5 shirts (2LS 3 SH)
  • 4 bottoms (3x pants or shorts plus something comfortable - wear one on plane)
  • 7 underwear + socks (can bring fewer if you plan to do laundry)
  • 2 pairs of shoes (wear one on the plane)
  • 1 coat (wear on plane)
  • Toothpaste tablets
  • Shampoo bar
  • Conditioner bar
  • Comb (smaller than a brush)
  • Makeup (only non-liquid)
  • Lotion (small tube)
  • Sunscreen stick (or small tube)
  • Vitamins / prescriptions
  • External hard drive
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra USB cables
  • Portable battery
  • book/e-reader
  • ID/passport
  • Emergency cash

How will you use your expandable backpack? We love to hear how you plan to use - or have used - your Knack Pack for work, travel, and everyday life. So share your stories and adventures with us on social media: tag @KnackBags and use the #KnackBags when you take your Knack on journeys.

Subscribe to get special offers, free giveaways, and once-in-a-lifetime deals.

Share Article

Learn more about knack.

packing a travel backpack

Useful links

Add your text here.

  • The Best Size of Backpack For Travel
  • How to Make a Perfect Travel Packing List
  • How To Best Organize A Backpack For Travel

Related Articles

  • The Best Professional Laptop Backpack for Women
  • Celebrating Incredible Women: Insights and Experiences from Knackpackers

Join Our Exclusive Community

Subscribe to get free tips & tricks, special offers, free giveaways, and once-in-a-lifetime deals.

Shop Expandable Knack Packs

packing a travel backpack

Designed in Rhode Island

The idea for Knack was born and designed in Rhode Island. Our core team lives here and we review every email and comment.

Free US Shipping Over $50

We ship fast in the US so you don’t have to wait very long for your Knack. It’s important to get your Knack quickly.

Hassle Free Returns

We gladly offer a 30-day trial period. If you're not satisfied by day 30, you can return your Knack for free. No questions asked.

Knack Gift Cars

Knack Gift Cards

Can’t decide? Knack gift cards make the perfect gift if you’re not sure which size or color to give as a gift.

packing a travel backpack

Summer Travel, Here We Come!

Kick off your new adventures with a special offer from Knack. Purchase any Series 1 Expandable Knack Pack and choose a FREE Knack accessory on us (up to $25 retail value).

Here’s how it works:

Step 1:  Add any size Series 1 Knack Pack to your cart. Choose from:  Small ,  Medium ,  Large  or  Medium Leather

Step 2:  Add any  accessory valued at $25 or less  to your cart. Your accessory is on us.

Step 3:  Checkout!

After that, it’s as simple as receiving your Knack Pack, packing it up and scheduling your summer vacation.

Happy travels!

Accessory must be $25 or less. Offer good for one accessory per Series 1 Knack Pack purchased. For orders with two or more accessories priced at $25 or less, the free accessory offer will be applied to the lowest priced item.

packing a travel backpack

Buy now, pay over time

Example payments for

Please enter an amount larger than or equal to $ .

$ 37.50 /2 weeks

No impact on your credit

Use your debit or credit card

packing a travel backpack

  • How to Tie a Tie
  • Best Coffee Beans
  • How to Shape a Beard
  • Best Sweaters for Men
  • Most Expensive Cognac
  • Monos vs Away Luggage
  • Best Luxury Hotel Chains
  • Fastest Cars in the World
  • Ernest Hemingway Books
  • What Does CBD Feel Like?
  • Canada Goose Alternatives
  • Fastest Motorcycles in the World

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

How to pack your travel backpack, carry-on, and luggage like a boss

No matter which bag you choose, this guide will help you get to your final destination without forgetting a thing.

A person smiling, carrying their luggage, about to go on a trip.

It’s 2023, but you’re still packing like it’s 2003 (remember those “dark days of travel” before smart luggage and iPhones and instant language translators were a thing?). Despite the horrors of modern air travel , it’s way easier these days to get organized for your next trip. With the right gear — including smartphone apps, a good set of packing cubes , and proper packing techniques — you can get ready for the airport in no time.

Choosing the right travel bag

Prepare for proper packing, how to pack a travel backpack, how to pack a carry-on travel bag, how to pack a suitcase or checked bag, a few final travel tips.

Of course, you first need to know where you’re headed and for how long. That will dictate the type of bag or bags you’ll need. There are a few common tips for packing no matter what type of luggage you’ll be toting. But we’ve found that each type of bag — whether it’s a carry-on, a traditional rollaboard suitcase, your best travel backpack , or some combination of all three — also requires a unique packing technique. Here’s the low-down on our favorite tips and tricks for packing like a pro. (Note: This list is geared toward air travelers, but the tips we’ve laid out apply to pretty much any traveler, no matter how they plan to get to their final destination.)

There is no best travel luggage . It’s all about what’s right for you . It depends on how you like to travel, what you most often do when you get there, and whether you value convenience over portability. Whichever you choose, here are a few things to consider when deciding on the right bag for your next trip:

  • Travel backpacks : Backpacks offer maximum portability, no matter whether you’re traveling in airports, over city streets, on overnight train rides, or on a day hike. They typically feature more pockets, pouches, and sections than a traditional suitcase, too, which makes them ideal for travelers who like to keep everything neatly organized. Best for: Modern nomads who like to move freely on multi-destination trips.
  • Traditional rollaboards (checked and carry-on) : As the name implies, rollaboard luggage means any luggage with wheels. These are most often the typical clamshell design with a zippered opening that almost everyone travels with these days. On the downside, they’re typically heavier and offer fewer organizational options than a travel backpack. Their best selling point is the ability to wheel them from A to B, which can seriously save your back on long travel days. Best for: Single-destination vacationers who typically only take their luggage from home to the airport to the hotel and back again.
  • Duffle bags : Duffel bags split the difference between travel backpacks and roller luggage. They’re often larger than a backpack, which is great for heavy packers. They can also be thrown over a shoulder or carried by hand in a pinch. On the downside, they don’t (usually) feature wheels, which can make them cumbersome on long-haul trips that require carrying your personal belongings long distances in airports, between hotels, etc. Best for: Travelers who sometimes plan multi-destination trips but also take the occasional flip-and-flop-style vacation each year.

Many travelers keep one or more of each type of bag at the ready, and most travel with some combination of these bags rather than just one style.

There are some universal tips we recommend for every traveler, no matter where they’re headed, for how long, or what type of bag they’re rocking. Before you even start packing, consider these:

  • The government just banned this airline practice every traveler hates
  • How to get over jet lag quickly — Try these effective tips
  • Don’t pack these 9 TSA-prohibited items in your checked baggage

Make a list, check it twice

If you’re the sort of YOLO (you only live once) traveler who “wings it” when it comes to packing, there may be no hope for you. Sorry . Blindly loading your suitcase with everything you might need guarantees you’ll be lugging around a much-too-heavy bag full of mostly useless wares that you’ll probably never take out of your luggage.

The trick is to create one master list of every item you might ever travel with, including winter wear, beach gear, photography equipment, gadgets, toiletries, prescription medications — everything . Work from that same list at the start of every trip, crossing off and deleting things as you go based on the type, destination, and duration of your journey. This ensures you’ll never forget any of your best travel essentials .

It’ll be boring. It’ll seem tedious at first. But it’s way more efficient than packing on the fly and getting frustrated when you arrive only to suddenly remember all the things you forgot to pack. Need some extra help organizing? Try a mobile packing app to help walk you through your trip needs step by step.

Packing tips for air travel

Fewer baggage fees and a lighter luggage load make for a better travel experience. Smart air travelers know that one way to save big on baggage fees is to wear or carry as much of their luggage on their person as possible. Once you have a list of everything you need to take with you, consider which pieces can be worn on the plane. In particular:

  • Wear bulky, valuable, or “awkward to pack” apparel on the plane. Think Jeans, sunglasses, and jewelry.
  • Don heavier footwear (like hiking boots), but pack lighter sneakers or sandals in your luggage.
  • Wear your sweater and/or jacket (then ball it up and use it as a pillow on the plane) instead of cramming it into your luggage.

This isn’t always practical, of course, but it can be a clever way to save space and weight. If your trip involves any formal events, check out our tips for how to pack a suit when you’re traveling light.

Divide and conquer

Now, it’s time to get packin’. If you’ve yet to experience the wonders of packing cubes, now’s the time to get on board (get it?). Packing cubes make it a snap to organize the loose bits in your luggage: Underwear and socks in one cube, T-shirts in another, and loose cables, memory cards, and miscellaneous tech bits and electronics in the third. For around $20, you can score a set of nylon packing cubes (typically sold in threes) from Eagle Creek , REI , or

Packing cubes make loading and unloading your bag infinitely easier on the road. In most cases, using a trio of cubes makes it possible to completely unpack and repack your entire bag in less than 30 seconds. As a bonus, they help streamline the process of TSA tossing your luggage during random “secondary screenings.” That way, you’re not scrambling to repack your entire carry-on at the security checkpoint.

For your best travel clothes and garments where wrinkling is an issue, like dress and collared shirts, Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Specter Garment Folders are lifesavers. On the other hand, if you’re unconcerned with wrinkles, traditional stuff sacks work almost as well as packing cubes but pack down smaller when empty. Plus, they’re great for stowing dirty laundry on your flight home. Just toss a dryer sheet in with your sullied drawers to keep things mostly fresh.

Pack right, pack tight

There are two main schools of thought for packing your travel clothes: Rolling and folding . It’s a hot-button issue that’s highly debated among hardcore travelers. The truth is that neither is “best” because it depends on the article of clothing.

In general, it’s best to roll soft garments and fold stiffer ones. This requires a bit of trial and error based on your wardrobe. Either way, be sure to pack your clothes as neatly and tightly as possible. This ensures the fabric doesn’t shift in transit and helps stave off wrinkles.

The rise of the bare-bones “Basic Economy” class of air travel — in which most airlines allow passengers to take only the luggage that fits beneath the seat in front of them — has polarized travelers. But, if you know how to pack a backpack like a boss, you can save big on airfare. For short-haul and weekender flights, it’s a cakewalk. For anything longer (say, one week or more), you’ll need to get creative.

Choose the right kind of backpack

First, start with the best backpack for all your travel needs .

  • Size: Get a bag that provides the maximum packable storage space. This varies slightly by airline, but the dimensions are similar.
  • Check airline dimensions: On Delta, for example, the space is roughly 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches; on Southwest, it’s 20 inches by 17 inches by 11 inches. Expect less room next if you’ve booked a window seat.
  • Exterior pockets: While it seems minor, invest in a backpack with a couple of small, exterior pockets for stashing frequently needed items like your passport, wallet, and phone.
  • Two-in-one: A backpack that converts to a duffel-style carry with a single longer shoulder strap is convenient, too.

Tips for packing roll-top backpacks

Most backpacks feature one of two layouts. For a roll-top or cinch closure, where everything fits through a single opening near the top, pack it like you would a duffel bag:

  • Pack light: Pack only what you absolutely need. Be ruthless: If you’re not certain you’ll use it, leave it out. You’ll appreciate the value of going as light as possible. If you realize you need something you didn’t pack, you can probably buy it at your destination.
  • Shoe hack: To maximize space, fill your shoes with small, nonessential items.
  • Pack heavy to light: Place your heaviest and least essential goods in first, at the bottom.
  • Rolling method: Roll your clothes and pack them tightly side by side to create the next vertical layer.
  • Packing cubes: Place smaller, more essential items on top of everything, nearest the top opening. Again, packing cubes come in handy to ensure these bits don’t get lost in transit or work their way to the bottom of the bag, never to be seen again.
  • Use exterior pockets: Finally, stuff the smallest, most essential items into the exterior pockets. This includes your passport, phone, snacks, and headphones — anything you may need in during your flight.

Tips for packing zipper backpacks

Backpacks that feature a butterfly-style layout with a zipper that opens wide on three sides provide easier access to the contents. In this case, follow these simple tips:

  • Minimalist packing: Without the aid of wheels, you’ll be forced to carry the full weight of your luggage through airports, train stations, and in (possibly long) lines at customs.
  • Distribute weight: Keep weight to a minimum and stow heavy goods near the bottom to help distribute the load. This includes things like shoes, bulkier pieces of clothing, and miscellaneous heavies like that bottle of Scotch  you can’t leave home without.
  • Rolling method: Backpacks rarely allow for the folding method of packing clothing. Instead, roll clothing and place it tightly atop the heaviest/bottom layer near the middle of your backpack. This ensures medium-weight goods are near the center of your back for a more balanced load.
  • Use outside pockets: Organize smaller goods into the remaining outside pockets. It’s easy to assume related items should be grouped together (e.g., electronics in one pocket, snacks in another). However, it’s often smarter to pack in terms of convenience and location. When passing through airport checkpoints, for example, you’ll want ready access to your laptop, liquids bag, and pocketed goods. These items can be grouped together to streamline your move through security. Once through the checkpoint, you may want to grab your headphones, wallet, water, and an energy bar, which could all be grouped together in a separate pocket.

Next time you’re packing a piece of carry-on luggage , remember these tips:

Rolled clothing

When packing carry-on luggage, start with rolled (not folded ) clothing — jeans, cotton pants, and knit sweaters all pack well when rolled. These should line the bottom two-thirds or so of your carry-on.

Folded garments

Next, neatly folded garments, like dress shirts and pants, atop the rolled bottom layer. Drape this entire “base” clothing pile with a dry cleaning bag to keep the top folded layer of clothing from getting caught on anything and turning into a wrinkled mess.

Depending on the material, roll belts into a coil and tuck away wherever they fit, or snake them around the outside of your clothing to keep them straight.

Wear your heaviest pair of shoes on the plane. Stuff the inside of your extra pair(s) of shoes with leftover bits (especially anything fragile like watches or sunglasses). Wrap any additional pairs of shoes in a gallon Ziploc bag or reusable stuff sack and place them to the side of your clothing pile, ideally near the wheels, to better balance the weight of your bag.

Packing cubes

Last, fill any remaining gaps with the aforementioned packing cubes so the contents of your suitcase are tight and unlikely to shift.

For larger suitcases and checked luggage , the same tips for packing carry-on bags apply. The only difference is that you’ll have more room. It’s tempting to want to pack more because you can fit more. But remember: Traveling light is traveling happy. It’s amazing how quickly a full-sized bag can go from 10 pounds empty to more than 50 pounds when it’s packed to the gills. This makes your luggage harder to roll and could result in pricey — sometimes exorbitant — overweight baggage fees.

Take only what you need. Unless you’re traveling to the North Pole, there will be stores at your destination. If you forget anything that you absolutely can’t live without, you can probably buy it when you get where you’re going.

To better balance your bag, start packing from the side with the wheels. Pack your heaviest bits closest to the wheels, then your mid-weight belongings next, then your lightest gear closest to the top handle. With most of the weight near the bottom over the wheels, your bag will roll easier and be less likely to tip over. For checked bags, also make sure to use a TSA-approved lock. That way, if airport security needs to open your luggage, it won’t be with a pry bar and a hammer.

Be prepared for airport security

For outbound and return flights, be aware of everything you’ll need to remove from your luggage to pass through airport security. At the moment, this includes your one-quart bag of liquids, laptop, any electronics or travel gadgets larger than a smartphone, and any loose objects in your pockets (like keys and spare change). Keep all of these in a single messenger bag or backpack to easily dispense with them in the TSA bins, then quickly retrieve them on the other side of security.

Last-minute travel tips

Of course, if you really want to breeze through airport security like a pro, sign up for any of the U.S. government’s official trusted traveler programs like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry . The average wait time for enrolled travelers is just 5 minutes !

Editors' Recommendations

  • How to renew Global Entry (and when you should do it)
  • The 9 best Tumi backpacks you can travel with in 2024
  • You need this new limited edition Rimowa luggage collection in your closet
  • Why travel experts think you should expect airline tickets to get more expensive
  • How to get TSA PreCheck for free: 3 easy ways
  • Advice and how-tos
  • Advice and insights

Mike Richard

Setting sail on a luxury cruise is a dreamy escape that promises comfort, indulgence, and adventure. If you are thinking about heading out to sea, choosing the right cruise line can make all of the difference. From extravagant amenities and world-class cuisine to personalized service and gorgeous destinations, the best luxury cruise lines redefine the notion of a vacation at sea. Whether you seek relaxation, adventure, or a blend of both, these are the finest offerings of the high seas.  The benefits of taking a luxury cruise

The difference between a luxury cruise and a regular cruise extends beyond varying price points. A regular cruise often comes with all of the standard amenities and service levels, while a luxury cruise takes the experience a step further by offering an unparalleled level of opulence and refinement. Luxury cruises often include gourmet dining experiences, unique amenities, and VIP privileges, including priority embarkation and access to exclusive events.

The open road gives you opportunities to explore. Whether you embark on a set route or want to take it as you go, traveling by car puts you in the driver’s seat. But to ensure you stay on course, you’ll need a full-featured mapping app with accurate directions and useful features.

Apple Maps and Google Maps are popular navigation apps with particular nuances and visuals that may appeal to different users. While both offer trustworthy directions, their varying user experiences give consumers a unique choice either way.

These days, the phrase "there’s an app for that" can easily be replaced with "there’s, like, 50 apps for that." Now that warm weather is almost upon us, we’re helping you cut through some of the noise with the best, must-have road trip apps to help you eat, sleep, and sightsee your way across America. All we ask is that you let your co-pilot work them while en route. Otherwise, you’re gonna need a "Send an Ambulance" app. Google Maps: Navigation

This one shouldn't be a surprise, but we can't round up the best road trip apps without including the world's best navigation app. Even if this is your very first road trip, Google Maps is probably already on your phone. You can plan your route ahead of time and easily share it with friends and family.

Home

How to Pack a Backpack

With our tips on maximizing space in your pack, hauling a heavy load doesn’t have to be unbearable.

Backpacking Gear

Switchback Travel ( Zach Snavely )

We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Read more about us . 

One of the first steps to enjoying a backpacking trip is learning how to load your pack properly. There are a lot of considerations that go into a well-packed backpack, from nailing the capacity and balancing your pack's contents to keeping critical items handy on the go. Below we cover everything you need to know, including packing order, weight distribution, organization and access, where to stow a bear canister, and more. For all of our top picks in one place, see our article on the best backpacking packs  and the best ultralight backpacks . And to make sure you’ve got everything you need, check out our backpacking checklist .  

Table of Contents

  • P acking Order
  • Weight Distribution
  • Organization and Access
  • Fill the Gaps
  • Compression Straps
  • Bear Canisters
  • Waterproofing Your Gear
  • Lifting Your Loaded Pack
  • Tips to Avoid Overpacking
  • What Capacity is Right for You?

1. Packing Order

Backpacking packs (fully loaded)

d. External Pockets

Small items you might need to access throughout the day: 

  • Map and compass/GPS
  • Cell phone/camera
  • Water bottles

Backpacking packs (lid)

2. Weight Distribution

The packing order listed above is largely governed by one key principle: A balanced load is—or at least feels like—a lighter load. For this reason, it’s best to place your heaviest gear in the middle of your pack (as instructed above)—close to your body and between your shoulders and waist. Likewise, avoid placing heavy gear towards the outside of the main compartment (away from the back) or externally, as the weight can make you top- or rear-heavy and pull you backwards. You’ll also want to be sure to balance the side-to-side weight of the pack, as this can heavily impact comfort on the trail.

Backpacking across a river on a narrow log

3. Organization and Access

Backpacking packs (front storage)

5. Compression Straps

Backpacking packs (compression straps)

9. Tips to Avoid Overpacking

Packing for a backpacking trip

10. What Capacity is Right for You?

We could talk forever about how to pack your backpack, but if you don’t have enough capacity, you won’t get very far down the trail. Putting 50 liters’ worth of gear in a 40-liter pack is a recipe for disaster—not only are you bound to have poor weight distribution, but you’re also likely to max out the pack’s load range (a guarantee for discomfort). That said, you also don’t want too big of a pack, as it will focus all the weight towards the bottom and carry your load inefficiently.

Keep in mind that gear will vary from one person to the next. For example, minimalists and ULers often settle for a bare-bones gear list and dedicated ultralight items, while more comfort-focused hikers typically opt for slightly bulkier gear and a few luxuries. Further, some backpackers will need to carry more than their share of the group load. All that said, below are our recommended pack capacities based on the length of your trip. And for our top picks across all of these capacities, check out our article on the best backpacking packs .

  • Overnight: 35-55 liters
  • Weekend (2-3 nights): 45-70 liters
  • Extended trips (more than 3 nights): 60+ liters

Back to How to Pack a Backpack   See Our Top Backpacking Packs

Learn More About Backpacking Gear

Hiking over bridge in Hoh Rainforest (Osprey Aether backpacking pack)

Best Backpacking Backpacks of 2024

Organizing stuff sacks near backpacking tent

Best Stuff Sacks of 2024

Backpacking gear (campsite at alpine lake)

Backpacking Gear Reviews

Backpacking with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 50 ultralight backpacking pack

Best Ultralight Backpacks of 2024

Hiking Boots (Lowa Renegade GTX on rock)

Best Hiking Boots of 2024

Osprey Atmos AG 65 backpacking pack (walking through forest)

Osprey Atmos AG 65 Backpack Review

Backpacking checklist (tent set up by lake)

Backpacking Checklist for 2023

Nemo Tensor sleeping pad (campsite on Olympic Coast)

Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2024

Zipping up REI Co-op Passage 2 budget backpacking tent (camping on beach)

Best Budget Backpacking Tents of 2024

packing a travel backpack

Mobile Menu

Megamenu - desktop hamburger menu.

  • Hiking Gear
  • Backpacking Gear
  • Biking Gear
  • Camping Gear
  • Footwear Reviews
  • Climbing Gear
  • Skiing Gear
  • Winter Gear Reviews
  • In-Depth Gear Reviews
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Hiking Boots
  • Trail Running Shoes
  • Mountain Bike Shoes
  • Approach Shoes
  • Climbing Shoes
  • Beginner Climbing Shoes
  • Mountaineering Boots
  • Winter Boots
  • Rain Jackets
  • Down Jackets
  • Synthetic Jackets
  • Fleece Jackets
  • Hardshell Jackets
  • Softshell Jackets
  • Windbreaker Jackets
  • Ski Jackets
  • Winter Jackets
  • Hiking Pants
  • Hiking Socks
  • Trekking Poles
  • Baby Carriers
  • Running Vests
  • Backpacking Tents
  • Backpacking Packs
  • Backpacking Sleeping Bags
  • Backpacking Sleeping Pads
  • Backpacking Stoves
  • Backpacking Food
  • Water Filters
  • Altimeter Watches
  • Handheld GPS
  • Mountain Bike Helmets
  • Mountain Bikes
  • Mountain Bikes Under $1,000
  • Mountain Bikes Under $2,000
  • Gravel Bikes
  • Bike Brands
  • Kids' Bikes
  • Hitch Bike Racks
  • Camping Tents
  • Rooftop Tents
  • Camping Sleeping Bags
  • Camping Mattresses
  • Camping Chairs
  • Camping Stoves
  • Duffel Bags
  • Rock Climbing Shoes
  • Climbing Helmets
  • Climbing Harnesses
  • Climbing Quickdraws
  • Belay Devices
  • Climbing Ropes
  • Climbing Backpacks
  • Winter Gloves
  • 4-Season Tents
  • Ski Helmets
  • Ski Goggles
  • Ski Backpacks
  • All-Mountain Skis
  • Ski Bindings
  • Backcountry Skis
  • Backcountry Ski Boots
  • Skis for Beginners
  • Hardpack Skis
  • Mirrorless Cameras
  • Full-Frame Cameras
  • DSLR Cameras
  • Point-and-Shoot Cameras
  • Travel Cameras
  • DSLR Lenses
  • Mirrorless Lenses
  • Lofoten Islands
  • Lofoten Hiking
  • Hardangervidda
  • Jotunheimen
  • 10 Great Norway Hikes
  • Public Huts
  • Torres del Paine
  • Chalten and Glaciares
  • Lake District
  • Patagonia National Park
  • Milford Sound
  • Abel Tasman
  • Marlborough
  • Great Walks
  • Adventure Towns

Add adventure to your inbox

  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use

© 2024 Switchback Travel. All Rights Reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without our written permission.

How To Pack A Backpack For Traveling: Tips & Tricks

Traveling somewhere with just a backpack for the first time and you’re not sure how to approach packing? Then you’re definitely in the right place because this guide will help you become a pro at packing inside a backpack!

Whether you’re packing a hiking backpack for a long trip, or you’re flying with Ryanair and you need to pack for a vacation inside a tiny backpack, we’ve got packing tips to help you. Keep reading to find out all the tricks to packing like a pro in a backpack!

Choose the Right Travel Backpack

It’s all about picking the right travel backpack for your trip. If you’re going on a long hiking trip, look for a good pack for backpacking, which offers plenty of support at heavier loads especially if you need to pack all the essentials for camping as well, like a sleeping bag or trekking poles. The best backpacks for long adventures will have dedicated compartments for all these items, so you can easily pack everything and stay organized.

Also, when choosing a hiking bag it’s important to look for durable and comfortable shoulder straps and a padded hip belt. Walking around while wearing a heavy bag puts a lot of strain on your back, and it’s much easier and more comfortable when the weight is transferred to your hips.

On the other hand, if you’re flying somewhere and you want to bring a backpack instead of a suitcase, you need to pay attention to the dimensions of the bag. Make sure that it doesn’t exceed the size restrictions for carry-on bags, and try not to overpack it to stay within the weight limits.

Next, look for a bag that has multiple pockets and compartments that are suitable for the items you want to pack. If you need to bring your laptop, look for a bag with dedicated laptop compartments and pockets for the necessary accessories. The best backpacks also have easily accessible compartments that you can use to store the items you might need at the airport and even on airplanes.

Create A Packing List

I’m one of those people who need to create a detailed packing list, otherwise, I will forget to pack half the things that I need. If you also struggle to remember to pack all your necessary items, it’s best to create a detailed packing list of all the things you intend to put inside that backpack.

Start with the outfits – plan what you will be wearing during the trip, and write it down. Pants, t-shirts, shoes, even socks, and undies because it’s perfectly possible to forget those as well. At least, in my experience it is.

Then move on to the smaller items – toiletries, makeup, jewelry, chargers, USB drives, etc. If I’m flying somewhere, I like to pack my liquids a couple of days in advance to see if they will all fit in the designated bag, so I have time to adjust or look for smaller containers for my necessities.

Make sure to add your laptop to the list, as well as all the other electronics that you need for work. Write down that you need to pack your mouse, laptop charger, keyboard, adapter, and whatever else you might need because there is a chance you’ll forget the morning of your trip.

Organize the Items in Your Backpack

Keep your backpack organized and pack it in the proper order, so you can breeze through airport security and have everything you need easily accessible. Even if you’re not flying, there is a proper order to pack a backpack, which will help you keep your backpack organized throughout the duration of your trip.

Shoes should always be packed at the bottom of the main compartment because they’re the bulkiest item. You can save space in your backpack if you fill the shoes with smaller items, such as socks and underwear. Pack them in a plastic bag first, and then stuff your shoes with all your underwear and socks.

That way you’re saving space in the backpack, keeping all your underlayers in one place, and helping the shoes retain their shape. Also, it never hurts to have extra plastic bags to use for dirty clothes or in case your bag for liquids rips.

There are a few different ways you can approach packing clothes in a backpack, depending on the size of the bag and the type of your trip. If you’re packing inside a huge backpack for a backpacking trip or a long hiking adventure, it’s best to separate the clothes by outfits and pack the outfits together.

You can use packing cubes or plastic bags to do this, and whenever you need a change of clothes just pull out the bag or the packing cube. You’re keeping everything else in the backpack organized, and accessing only the items you need on a given day.

On the other hand, if you’re flying somewhere and you have the luxury of unpacking your bag when you arrive at the destination, you can take a different approach to packing. Start with the heavy stuff first and pack any sweaters or hoodies to take up as little space as possible, and then pack the rest of your clothes.

Toiletries should be packed after the clothes, especially the liquids if you’re heading to an airport. Make sure they’re easily accessible and that you don’t have to unpack half your backpack to access the items you need to take out at security.

Electronics

If your backpack allows it, it’s best to pack all your electronics in a separate compartment. That way you can just open up one compartment and take your electronics out at airport security. Also, keeping your electronics in a separate compartment helps keep them safe in case one of the liquids in your bag explodes.

Other Essentials

Any smaller items that you might need to access at the airport or while you’re hiking should be packed so that they’re easily accessible. Use all the smaller pockets on your backpack to store them.

Backpacks usually have a front compartment with an organizer that you can use for all these essentials. Use the side pockets to store a water bottle and other bulky items, put your passport and boarding pass in the most easily accessible pocket, etc.

Roll Your Clothes

Rolling your clothes is more efficient than folding because you squeeze out the extra air. So, roll all your clothes and pack them standing up, so that you have an easy overview of everything you packed as soon as you open the backpack. This lets you access only the items you need, without making a mess with all the other clothes in your backpack.

Use Packing Cubes

If you’re packing in a large backpack, it’s a good idea to use packing cubes. It helps you stay organized, plus it can protect your clothes in case one of the liquids explodes. Also, you can pack dirty clothes in the packing cubes when you’re done with them, and easily keep the clean clothes separate from the dirty ones. Look into compression packing cubes as the best space-saving option.

Use A Laundry Bag

When packing, use a laundry bag to pack some of your clothes or shoes. You can later use it to keep the dirty clothes separate from the clean ones, which will help keep your backpack organized during your trip.

Use A Toiletry Bag

Use toiletry bags to keep your toiletries organized. You will need at least two if you’re traveling by plane – one for all your dry and hard toiletries, and a 1-liter see-through bag for all the liquids. You can separate the toiletries even more if you like; put all the most important items in a small case that you can access easily everywhere, or get another bag for makeup and brushes.

Additionally, pack an extra bag or two for the liquids. It’s possible that the bag will get ripped or that something will explode, and it’s better to have a backup handy than to have to look for a new one.

Another thing to note is that you can take out some of the bulkier toiletries and use them to fill any gaps in the backpack. If there’s room inside your shoes or in between the clothes, stuff them with toiletries that are not at risk of exploding and staining everything, to really maximize the packing space.

Wear Your Bulkiest Clothes

Always wear the bulkiest clothes you intend to bring on a trip. If you’re traveling in the winter, this is going to be the heavy winter coat and the bulky boots, plus a thick sweater, pants, and anything else.

This is particularly important for air travel, especially if you’re flying with a low-budget airline and packing all your belongings in a personal item. They will let you board the airplane with whatever you’re wearing, and that should always be the bulky and heavy items that would take up too much space inside your backpack.

Additional Tips for Packing A Backpack for Travel

Pack light and make sure to leave some space inside your backpack, in case you decide you want to purchase anything on your trip. Packing light is especially important if you’re going on a hiking trip and you need to wear the bag for hours at a time.

Pick a comfortable backpack. Sure, it’s important to get a bag that offers enough space for everything you need to pack, but it’s just as important that the backpack feels comfortable on your back. Get something with a hip belt and a sternum strap, especially if you’re looking for a large-capacity bag.

Pack the heaviest items in the middle of the pack. That’s the best for even weight distribution when wearing the backpack, and it’s especially important if you’re packing a larger bag.

Do a test packing. Even if you’re someone who normally packs last minute, try to do a test packing at least a day earlier. See if everything you want to pack will fit in the bag, so you can easily adjust what you’re packing and how.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

Leave a Comment:

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

  • Overview Guide
  • 1 Week Itinerary
  • Train Journeys
  • Epic Drives
  • Stunning Lakes
  • Historic Castles
  • Lauterbrunnen
  • Grindelwald
  • Chocolate Tours
  • Swiss National Park
  • Majestic Mountains
  • Spectacular Waterfalls
  • Famous Things
  • Tasty Fondue
  • 10 Day Itinerary
  • Cherry Blossoms
  • Tokyo Shrines
  • Dos and Don’ts
  • Osaka Guide
  • Osaka Itinerary
  • Osaka or Kyoto
  • Kyoto Day Trips
  • Matsumoto Castle
  • Tokyo Luxury Hotels
  • Island Hopping
  • Best Campsites
  • Driving Tips
  • Beaune, France
  • Barcelona Itinerary
  • Spain Itinerary
  • Greece Itinerary
  • Italy Road Trips
  • Berlin Day Trips
  • Norway Northern Lights
  • Netherlands National Parks
  • Mostar, Bosnia
  • Best Airlines
  • Midwest Ski Resorts
  • Florida RV Parks
  • Washington RV Parks
  • Oregon RV Parks
  • Utah Camping
  • Texas Camping
  • Chicago National Parks
  • East Coast National Parks
  • Colorado National Parks
  • Joshua Tree
  • Yellowstone
  • Alberta Hikes
  • Flashlights
  • Water Filters
  • Sleeping Pads
  • Solar Lanterns
  • Tent Brands
  • 4-Person Tents
  • 4 Seasons Tents
  • Backpacking Tents
  • Beach Tents
  • Cabin Tents
  • Multi-room Tents
  • Pop-up Tents
  • Truck Bed Tents
  • Underwear (Men)
  • Backpacks Under $100
  • Microspikes
  • Boonie Hats
  • In The World
  • New Zealand
  • Hardisde Luggage
  • Lightweight Luggage
  • Luggage Sets
  • Spinner Luggage
  • Durable Suitcases
  • Duffel Bags
  • Kids Luggage
  • Teen Luggage
  • Space Saving Luggage
  • Business Carry-Ons
  • Garment Carry-Ons
  • Suitcases Under $50
  • Travel Briefcase
  • Zipperless Suitcases
  • Rolling Briefcase
  • Luggage Straps
  • Luxury Brands
  • American Tourister
  • AmazonBasics
  • Delsey Chatelet
  • Anti-Theft Backpacks
  • Backpacks Under $50
  • Baby Carrier Backpacks
  • Cooler Backpacks
  • Backpacking Backpacks
  • Climbing Backpacks
  • Backpacks for Back Pain
  • Beach Backpacks
  • Hiking Backpacks
  • Business Travel Backpacks
  • Laptop Backpacks
  • Backpacks for Tablets
  • Commuter Backpacks
  • Travel Backpacks (Men)
  • Travel Backpacks (Women)
  • Waterproof Backpacks
  • Wheeled Backpacks
  • Down Jackets
  • Down Parkas
  • Fleece Jackets
  • Hardshell Jackets
  • Rain Jackets
  • Softshell Jackets
  • Eco Friendly Jackets
  • Gore Tex Alternatives
  • Heated Jackets
  • Lightweight Jackets
  • 3-in-1 Waterproof Jackets
  • Parajumper Jackets
  • Rain Poncho
  • Ski Jackets
  • Travel Hoodies
  • Travel Jackets
  • Winter Coats
  • Helly Hansen
  • Mammut Jackets
  • Patagonia Nanopuff
  • Survival Jackets
  • Flower Captions
  • Waterfall Captions
  • Tree Captions
  • Sunset Captions
  • Sunflower Captions
  • Rainbow Captions
  • Paddle Boarding Captions
  • Hot Air Balloon Captions
  • Kayaking Captions
  • Airplane Captions For Instagram
  • Forest Captions

Pack Hacker is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How To Choose The

Best Travel Backpack

The minimalist's guide to selecting a carry-on backpack for one bag travel.

  • 01. Introduction
  • 02. Our Picks
  • 04. Function
  • 05. Aesthetic
  • 06. Conclusion

Fitting your life into one bag is no small task. We’re here to help.

Find your new favorite fragrance and save with code PACKHACKER55. Check it out →

Best Travel Backpacks

Click to learn more about why we love these top picks.

  • 9.2/10: Aer Travel Pack 3 (Best for one bag travel)
  • 9.1/10: GORUCK GR2 (40L) (Best for rugged adventures)
  • 8.9/10: Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L (Best for travel photographers)
  • 8.8/10: TOM BIHN Synik 30 (Best for built-in organization)
  • 8.6/10: Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L (Best for suitcase-like organization)
  • 8.5/10: TOM BIHN Techonaut 30 (Best for multiple carry modes)
  • 8.3/10: ULA Equipment Dragonfly (Best for lightweight carry)
  • 8.3/10: Able Carry Max Backpack (Best for daypack-like feel)
  • 8.2/10: Osprey Farpoint 40 (Best for budget travelers)
  • 8.2/10: Minaal Carry-On 3.0 Bag (Best for business travelers)
  • 8.0/10: EVERGOODS Civic Travel Bag 35L (CTB35) (Best for carry comfort)
  • 7.6/10: Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L (Best built-in packing cubes)
  • 7.5/10: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack (Best for showing a little personality)

See all reviews: Travel Backpacks

How to Select The Best Backpack for One Bag Travel

There’s something so freeing about traveling with only one bag. All of your important stuff is within arm’s reach, and it forces you to cut down on many of life’s seemingly necessary consumer goods that you can probably live without. With one bag, you easily glide from location to location, always having just enough but never too much.

Digital Nomad Packing List ATP Tom

Choosing the perfect travel backpack for one bag travel can be a challenging endeavor. There are so many brands and models to choose from with varying degrees of durability, price, and try-on-ability (we made this word up for trying something out before buying it online). Add varying views and opinions into the mix from folks with different values, needs, and body types—and you’ve got a veritable clusterf*ck of options to wade through. Whether you’re a new traveler gearing up for your first trip, a digital nomad going through a “sell-all-my-stuff-and-put-it-in-a-backpack” phase, or somewhere in between, it’s essential to have the best travel backpack that works for you.

Here’s the bottom line: There is no “best” backpack that is perfect for every traveler in every scenario. However, we believe everyone can find a pack that’s perfect for their unique needs. In this guide, we’ll break down the factors we think are most important when choosing the ideal one-bag travel backpack for you.

This guide is written and informed by Pack Hacker staff, many of whom are frequent travelers and digital nomads. That means we’re using and testing these products every day to better understand what’s available out there and how each bag may appeal to different types of travelers.

If you’d rather skip all this info and get straight to the backpacks we’ve reviewed, you can take a look at our highest-rated travel backpack list in the next section, or all of our Travel Backpack Reviews . We’re constantly updating this list as we review and rate new bags frequently.

Is It Better To Travel With a Backpack or Suitcase?

We’ve found that backpacks give you much greater mobility. You can breeze through airports. You’ll never stand around a baggage carousel after a long haul again. And as long as your pack is carry-on size compliant, you’ll never lose your luggage, ever. Depending on your travel style and what you’re hauling, it comes down to your personal preference—both roller luggage and backpacks can be good options. In this guide, we’ll focus on travel backpacks for a couple of reasons:

They Feel Freeing

You’ve got both of your hands-free, and you’re not constantly dragging something behind you. No matter what terrain you’re walking on, you’ll never have the annoyance of loud or unsteady wheels behind you from standard travel luggage. Sure, roller bags work like a charm on smooth airport and hotel floors, but how about the winding cobblestone roads of Paris or a sandy beach in Ko Pha Ngan? You can traverse almost any terrain when you’re wearing a backpack.

Best Travel Backpack | Traveling with the Osprey Farpoint 40 in India.

Travel Backpacks are Versatile & Usually Lightweight

If you pack light enough, you can comfortably have all of your belongings with you at once . Did you arrive earlier than your hotel or Airbnb check in? No problem, just take your pack around with you for the day—no need to stop by and drop your luggage off. Versatility at its finest.

We can’t necessarily guarantee the pack will be lightweight if you fill it up with a bunch of heavy stuff (like camera gear), so we made a Travel Camera Guide too 🙂.

They Provide Flexibility

You’ll take up less room on the airplane or in public transit. You’ll generally feel more agile vs needing to drag around rolly luggage, with the added benefit of not looking like an out-of-place tourist. It caters to a more adventurous lifestyle by always being ready to go. And, you can easily catch that train that’s about to depart without awkwardly side-running with a roller bag or two.

Heimplanet Travel Pack 28L (V2) in Cambridgeshire, England

Utilizing a Backpack in Travel Contexts

In this guide, we’re going for travel versatility. We want you to look good carrying these bags around in an urban environment and have the flexibility to head out on a hike for a couple of days of camping without having your backpack ruined by the elements. If you’ve got a piece of roller luggage, it’s going to be hard to do that spontaneous half-day trek on the trail to the neighboring city you’ve been wanting to check out. Likewise, if you’re going to post up at a coffee shop for a day of office work, you’re going to look out of place with a bulky, multi-colored hiking bag. The packs mentioned in this article will blend into most city environments and are durable enough to withstand the abuse of longer excursions.

Sign up to get our 5 Minimalist Travel Hacks Guide. Plus, a weekly digest of our newest content in the newsletter.

Some of our top-rated bags for your travel backpack consideration.

Aer Travel Pack 3 Review

The Aer Travel Pack 3 takes some of our favorite travel backpack features and puts them into one bag: helpful load lifters, easy-to-engage compression straps, and easy access to different compartments. It has Aer’s sleek signature style and is made with quality materials like CORDURA® ballistic nylon and YKK zippers, which add a ton of durability and make this a reliable bag that can withstand extended travel. In fact, this is one of our highest-rated bags and a Pack Hacker Pick because of how it’s held up on trips across the U.S., Thailand, South Korea, and more.

The organization is streamlined for easy packing, and it even includes a hidden pocket where you can tuck a smart tracker—a great feature for keeping track of your bag if it’s stolen or gets lost in transit. The harness system is super comfortable even when the bag is fully loaded and includes wide, cushioned shoulder straps with keepers to cut down on dangling. We also like that there’s an option to add a hip belt because it helps take a ton of weight off your shoulders when the bag is loaded. If you don’t need as much liter space, we recommend the Aer Travel Pack 3 Small because it takes key features from its bigger sibling and puts them in a smaller package built for shorter trips and smaller frames.

Why We Like It

  • It has just-right organization and open space
  • Compression straps don’t impede access to the compartments, so it’s easy to grab gear quickly

What You Should Know

  • Magnetic compression buckles sometimes come undone on their own
  • There isn’t a huge false bottom to the laptop compartment, which impacts tech protection—more of a nitpick, as we’ve found it’s still reliable

GORUCK GR2 In Detroit, Michigan

If you’re looking for a durable pack that can handle any adventure you throw at it, look no further than the GORUCK GR2. It’s a little on the heavier side (courtesy of the CORDURA® Nylon and beefy YKK zippers), though we think the durability is worth the weight sacrifice. We’ve fit its boxy shape under the seat in front of us on some budget airlines, which is great if you’re trying to avoid fees while you travel the world (who isn’t?). In fact, this is the bag that Pack Hacker’s founder Tom used to travel the world for over 2 years.

Though the organization inside is simple, there’s still plenty of room for packing cubes and pouches. It’s covered in PALS webbing, which we use to attach MOLLE accessories like pouches that we fill with items we want quick access to on the plane or while exploring. The customization options mean you can make the pack fit your specific needs, whether it’s Digital Nomad travel or a weekend fishing trip with your family. Plus, GORUCK has one of the best lifetime warranties in the business and a killer repair program, so if you have any issues, contact their customer service.

  • The external fabrics are some of the most durable we’ve seen—it even held up when we dragged it behind a car
  • Plenty of PALS webbing, so it’s easy to add modular MOLLE attachments to customize your organization
  • The rugged materials and hardware add a lot of weight to the pack
  • It has a tactical look and feel that’s hard to disguise if that’s not your style

Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L Back

Since this is a bag from Peak Design, it has some great camera features. There are plenty of attachment points inside and out for your photography gear. However, it’s an excellent travel backpack even if you don’t take a DSLR on every trip, thanks to its clean lines and clever design.

The main compartment has well-structured sides and opens clamshell to make it easy to pack, although we’ve noticed that anything we store on the bottom blocks built-in mesh pockets, so you’ll have to choose between gear storage or smooth access. They’re useful for gear you won’t need until you reach your destination, and side pockets help you get to things that you need as you travel, like your passport. There’s a well-padded sleeve for your laptop, and the front pocket has organizational features for tiny gear, which is great for getting to your essentials while sitting in your airplane seat or waiting at the gate. For times when you’re not packing as much, the compression system does an excellent job at holding gear in place.

If you find that 30L isn’t enough space or you want bring more of your photo kit, we recommend the Peak Design Travel Backpack , which has the same great features and added room for your gear. It expands to 45 liters if needed and has compression snaps to lock it down if you want to use it as a daypack.

  • It has a comfortable harness system, with a sternum strap that won’t slip out of place
  • Structured sides and clamshell opening create a bucket shape that’s easy to load with gear
  • ID pocket on the back panel is easy to overlook, so a stranger may not see it if they find your misplaced bag
  • Some main compartment pockets aren’t as accessible as we’d like, which slows you down when searching for gear

Tom Bihn Synik 30 In Detroit, Michigan

Going with a lower-capacity pack reduces size and weight, meaning you can even use it as a daypack once you arrive at your destination. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be short on features. Enter the TOM BIHN Synik 30. It’s a smaller version of the Synapse and features the same top-notch and customizable organization we’re used to seeing from TOM BIHN. That means it has multiple exterior pockets for storing gear and numerous attachment points on the interior for attaching modular pouches. While we like the ballistic nylon options because they’re sleek and durable, you can opt for a different material if you want (TOM BIHN has a ton to choose from).

The style won’t be for everyone, and its round shape can make it more challenging to pack some packing cubes and pouches, causing you to lose out on some storage space in the corners (or lack thereof). However, once you’re used to the internal organization, this is one of the smartest-designed internal layouts we’ve seen in a travel backpack.

  • The internal organization is great for both travel and daily carry
  • Plenty of options to add modular pouches to customize gear organization
  • Has a heritage look that may not be everyone’s taste
  • Rounded edges can make it harder to pack with some organizers and pouches

Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 30L Review

The Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L has a thickly padded harness system, from the shoulder straps to the hip belt and the back panel, along with vertical height adjustment and load lifters for extra support. All of these features together make for a comfortable carry even when the backpack is completely full. There are plenty of places to pack your gear, including water bottle pockets on each side, a top pocket for small items like keys, a front pocket for wide but flat items, and smaller pockets on the hip belt. You can stash your tech accessories in a well-organized admin panel, and there’s a dedicated laptop compartment as well. It includes a zippered pocket for accessories, which we love for the trips where we don’t need to bring a separate tech pouch.

The large bucket space of the main compartment is simple, with no dividers to get in the way. This means you can pack however you please, whether you load up on packing cubes or fold your clothing into neat piles—though we recommend packing cubes so that things don’t get too jostled. A mesh compartment hinges along the main compartment opening for some built-in segmentation, and you’ll find a similar feature on the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L . While the 30L is great for smaller frames, we think the larger version is excellent if you want more space to pack. It’s even a Pack Hacker Pick !

  • The smaller size means this travel backpack doubles as a daypack if desired
  • Simple organization in other pockets while the main compartment is open to organize as you see fit
  • Can be slow to access the large mesh pocket in the main compartment because it opens toward the inside of the pack, not the outside
  • The harness system can feel a bit overkill for a bag of this size if it’s not full

Tom Bihn Techonaut 30 Review

The Techonaut 30 is a classic example of what makes a TOM BIHN bag great. There are a ton of durable fabric and colorway options—we like the 525D ballistic nylon because of its strength-to-weight ratio, though there are stronger and lighter-weight options available depending on your preferences. Plus, it has clever, functional organization that’s easy to load with all your gear. When we need to keep even more small items in check, we add TOM BIHN pouches to the included O-rings around the bag (we’re partial to the Ghost Whale pouches because of their size, but almost any will work).

You can carry the Techonaut 30 like a backpack, briefcase, or messenger bag, although you’ll have to get a separate strap to carry it as a messenger. We prefer backpack mode because the back panel is supportive even when all 30 liters are fully packed.

Inside, it has a variety of pockets, including an integrated water bottle pocket and two quick-grab pockets, which work in either horizontal or vertical orientation, meaning you can store gear based on the way you’re carrying the bag. Briefcase mode? Use the top pockets. Backpack? Go for the sides. However, if you need to carry some hydration, we find that the integrated water bottle pocket can cut into the main compartment, so you’ll have to trade some storage space. Though the main and bottom compartments are separated, you can expand the former via a collapsible floor, which is handy if you need a bit of flexibility with the available space. This is great if you like traveling with shoes but don’t want to buy a separate shoe pouch.

  • Bottom pocket unzips to merge with the main compartment for even more storage space
  • It can be carried three ways, and all of them are comfortable
  • It’s tricky to see inside the top pocket because of its sideways opening
  • The dedicated shoe pocket struggles to fit large shoes, which isn’t ideal for those with large feet

ULA Equipment Dragonfly Side

At less than 2 pounds, the Dragonfly is one of the lightest travel backpacks we’ve tested (and we’ve tested hundreds), yet it’s not lacking in features. The reason it’s so light is the Ultra 800™ Fabric. It’s 15 times stronger than steel by weight, twice as abrasion-resistant as nylons of the same denier, and waterproof to 200 psi, so you don’t have to worry about a rainstorm ruining your gear. The bag also has quality YKK AquaGuard zippers and Duraflex hardware. While it’s missing a ULA logo on the front, we appreciate the minimalist aesthetic.

As for gear storage, there’s a built-in carabiner and leash for your keys in the top quick-access pocket, and there are both internal and external UltraStretch™ mesh pockets to organize your gear, including large water bottle pockets. In fact, they’re so large that we’re even able to hold things like a travel tripod. Inside is a sleeve that can hold up to a 15-inch laptop or a hydration bladder, depending on what you plan to do that day. Once you’re all loaded up, internal compression straps help to hold your clothing or packing cubes in place.

However, you sacrifice a little in the harness system in the name of weight. A sturdy back panel has thin padding with aeration, and the shoulder straps have similar aeration but not as much padding. The sternum strap is also thin but helps take a little weight off when the pack is full. Plus, there are a lot of attachment loops all over the pack, which is great for modularity.

  • The oversized bottle pockets fit a variety of bulky gear and up to 64-ounce bottles
  • It has a quite spacious main compartment
  • It can be hard to zip when fully packed
  • The shoulder straps aren’t overly padded, which may not be suited for all body types

Able Carry Max Backpack | Using the backpack in Detroit

The VX21 X-Pac material on the Able Carry Max Backpack gives it a sporty look that we like, and there’s also 1000D CORDURA® nylon on the underside for durability. You won’t have to worry about the sturdiness of this bag, as it’s well-constructed, with reinforced stitching in key areas. There is plenty of room in the laptop compartment for up to a 17-inch computer and organization for your tech gear. Loops and strips of webbing around the bag give you the flexibility to pack it however you wish, and there are two quick-grab pockets for gear you want to get at as you travel. You can even get a third quick-access spot if you use the internal bottle pocket instead of the one outside the bag for hydration.

The Max Backpack is really comfortable to carry and easy to adjust. The shoulder straps have dense padding and breathable mesh undersides, with X-Pac on top for durability and style. While the tablet pocket is a bit shallow, we don’t have too many problems during regular use.

  • It’s easy to customize organization thanks to webbing and loop attachment points
  • The durable fabrics are held together with equally-sturdy stitching
  • The X-Pac material may not suit everyone, though you can always opt for CORDURA® nylon
  • A rear pocket is a bit narrow and tricky to access

Osprey Farpoint 40 V2 Review

This durable bag is made with recycled and bluesign® approved polyester and a PFAS-free DWR coating, which is great if you’re an eco-friendly traveler. It has a bit of an outdoorsy look, which is to be expected from Osprey. However, the external storage is hard to beat if you’re the adventurous type. A large front stash pocket holds a water bottle or damp gear like a rain jacket or towel, and there’s also a decent-sized top pocket for smaller accessories. We like that it’s big enough to tuck your 3-1-1 bag inside to keep it within reach through the security line at the airport. The main compartment opens fully clamshell, and is easy to pack since you can see all the space at once. A couple of mesh pockets inside help organize your gear, and compression straps hold clothing or packing cubes in place as you travel. The large laptop compartment is accessible from the outside of the bag, so you can get some work done as you wait for the plane to board.

What’s really great, though, is how comfortable you’ll be while carrying this bag. The breathable mesh back panel keeps things airy, and the harness shifts higher or lower so you can adjust it to your height and torso length. If you have a more petite frame but want to carry the same amount of gear, try the Osprey Fairview 40. As opposed to coming straight over your shoulders, these curve in and around, making it easier to carry for more petite users of any gender.

  • The harness system is comfy even when the pack is fully loaded
  • An ample-sized main compartment makes this a great pick for one bag travel
  • You can’t remove the bulky hip belt even if you don’t need it
  • There aren’t any dedicated bottle pockets, and the front pocket can be tight for larger bottles

Minaal Carry-On 3.0 in Detroit Michigan

The 35L Minaal Carry-On 3.0 for one bag travel is aesthetically sleek and has smart features to improve quality of life on your trip. If you carry a lot of tech, you may appreciate that the laptop compartment lays completely flat, making it easy to load and access on the go. It has a suspended laptop sleeve that you can adjust to different sizes, so your 13-inch MacBook Air isn’t drowning in a pocket designed for a big gaming computer. Plus, the shoulder straps hide away behind a zipping panel, which we find makes it easy to slide this backpack into an overhead bin.

The main compartment opens clamshell for easy packing and includes some built-in organization. However, unlike most other backpacks, you load the bag into the “scoop” section (the front of the bag) instead of the back. This takes a little getting used to, though it’s easy to use once you do. While we recommend taking advantage of packing cubes for most of your gear, there is a large mesh pocket at the top, along with a nylon pouch below it where you can pack shoes. Two external pockets give you quick access to your wallet, phone, and small accessories, and there’s also a security pocket behind the back panel for your passport. Just be careful when using the water bottle pocket, as they can slip out even when the bungee is tight.

  • It’s great to be able to securely carry devices of different sizes in the adjustable sleeve
  • Excellent accessibility since both compartments open fully clamshell
  • You have to pack it “scoop side down,” which can get unwieldy without packing cubes
  • The bungee designed to hold a bottle in place doesn’t always work as intended, and some bottles slip out

EVERGOODS Civic Travel Bag 35L (CTB35) Review

Some packs are designed with a specific use in mind, and others are designed to be as versatile as possible. Every once in a while, you’ll come across a bag that does both (and does it well). The features on EVERGOODS’ Civic Travel Bag 35L, or CTB35, make it one of the most versatile travel backpacks we’ve seen on the market.

There’s plenty of organization to choose from without going over the top, meaning there’s a spot for large and small gear alike. The main compartment has ample space, so we’re able to fit everything from a camera cube to bulky shoes inside, and it even has a few zippered pockets for small items like tech. As for external storage, there’s a built-in yoke pocket on the top and a vertical zippered pocket on the front that we like to use as a dump pocket for our phone, wallet, keys, and more while going through airport security. Plus, there’s an easily accessible laptop compartment if you work on the go. The harness system is contoured nicely, which makes this backpack incredibly comfortable to wear even when fully packed, so we have no problem carrying it all day long.

We like the 35-liter option because it’s big enough to work for long trips. However, if you’re into the organization but want something smaller, it also comes in a 26-liter size (which we like equally as much).

  • The harness is well-padded and comfortable even when the pack is completely full of gear
  • It strikes a balance between built-in organization and empty space, so you’re not pigeonholed into packing your gear a specific way
  • Since the organization is so minimal, you’ll need to find a way to manage things like clothing—we recommend utilizing packing cubes
  • We find it difficult to stow the hip belt without it twisting a bit, so it takes a bit of finesse to get right

Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L In Use

We like the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag so much that we chose it for the first iteration of our Vacation Packing List . The large size makes sense because you can fit more gear; however, there’s a smaller 30-liter size that we find is better for smaller-framed folks and people who want to save space. Why do we like it so much? We’re happy you asked!

These packs have built-in organization options inside the main compartment, including a divider with zippered pockets that we use to stow smaller items like socks and underwear, but it’s also great for tech or miscellaneous gear. There’s also a large second compartment, a dedicated laptop compartment, and a quick-grab pocket on the front that’s handy for gear you’ll need throughout the day. While all of this organization is great, it’s worth mentioning that all of these zippered pockets are pretty shallow, so you’ll have to pack strategically to ensure your bag will zip up when everything is loaded in. On the plus side, the liner is brightly colored, which makes finding your stuff that much easier!

If all of that space isn’t enough for you, there are attachment points on the front of the bag where you can attach an additional daypack. The harness system isn’t our favorite because there’s no frame sheet to add structure and it can feel pretty heavy when it’s all packed out, but the hip belt does a good job taking some weight off your shoulders.

  • There’s ample organization to segment your gear, making it easier to find
  • The bright liner material adds a ton of visibility when we’re looking for our stuff in the multiple zippered pockets
  • Can be difficult to slide a laptop into the dedicated compartment when the bag is fully packed because of how it starts to bulge
  • It’s not the most comfortable bag we’ve worn for extended periods because the back panel lacks significant structure

Wearing the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack in Jordan

While some travel backpacks fit best in an urban setting, the Allpa 35L Travel Pack works as a hiking or work bag as well as a travel pack. However, just because it can serve other purposes doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the travel department. It has a refined design and ample space that make it easy to pack for vacation, with mesh dividers and organizers inside to help you keep your gear sorted. While the exterior materials aren’t very structured, you’re unlikely to reach for this large of a bag unless you plan to pack it out, so it’s not always noticeable. The polyester is coated with TPU for water resistance, so your gear is safe as you walk in nearly any weather.

If you’re getting started on your journey into one bag travel, you can get the Allpa with an accessory bundle that includes mesh laundry bags, a nylon shoe bag, and a snap-on mesh water bottle sleeve. You also have the option to add-on Cotopaxi’s Batac Daypack, so you can have a complete travel system ready with just one click. And in case you needed another reason to consider Cotopaxi, you should know that their bags are made in the Philippines in a factory committed to fair labor and environmentally-sound practices, so you can feel good about your purchase, too.

  • It’s a ruggedly durable backpack if you’re a more adventurous traveler
  • The bag feels roomy and conveniently-placed pockets for small gear storage
  • Hip belt isn’t removable if it doesn’t fit, and the pockets often feel too snug when wearing the bag
  • It’s on the heavy side for its size

Decisions, decisions… Navigating the not-so-clear world of travel packs.

Video Guide Part 2: Form

Feel free to watch this guide section in video format. We’ll keep the written content on this page up to date.

Be sure to subscribe to Pack Hacker on YouTube and never miss a video. We also have these videos in a series playlist format on YouTube so you can watch them easier.

Best Backpack Size & Weight for Carry-On Air Travel

We favor smaller bags that fit in the overhead bin. Yes, it can be a challenge to fit your entire life into a 40L bag, but wow, is it worth it!. Trust us—you can fit your entire life into an 18L backpack if you’re disciplined, and we highly recommend staying under 50L for one bag travel. Life is just easier with a smaller & lighter backpack. If you want to cheat a bit and get some extra space, you can also go the sling bag on the front, backpack on the back route.

Airlines can get pretty stingy around the amount of weight you can bring on board. It’s essential to make sure your backpack itself isn’t too heavy, or you won’t be able to fit in as much clothing and other travel gear. We’re all for less clothing and gear, but we are not for getting hit with extra fees if your carry-on is overweight. Starting out with a bag that’s already too heavy before you’ve packed it is just setting yourself up for failure! We calculate a carry-on compliance score for every travel backpack reviewed on our site using its dimensions and data we collect from most airlines worldwide.

True Volume

It’s easy to get caught up in all this talk around liters of a backpack. There’s really no “industry standard” around this, and the liter size of a pack can vary from brand to brand. What’s more important is the “True Volume” of a backpack and how usable the space is. Some weird, trapezoid-shaped backpack will certainly be more of a challenge than something with a larger, rectangular compartment. The thickness and flexibility of the material matter as well. A thin, strong material will leave you with more space inside of a backpack than something with thick padding in the liner. However, a rigid material—Dyneema, for instance—doesn’t have much additional flex and isn’t very forgiving when you’re trying to pack your bag to the brim. The efficiency of space can make or break the usefulness of a pack.

Pack’s Exterior Profile

The slimness of a pack can help out quite a bit. Not only does it seem less heavy because the weight is close to your back, but it has the added benefit of giving you a smaller, slimmer form factor. With this, you won’t be taking up too much room on public transit or smacking people in the face when you’re boarding the airplane—it’ll be a better experience for you and everyone around you.

Max Legal Carry-On

Otherwise known as “MLC,” Max Legal Carry-On size covers the largest acceptable backpack size for carrying on most airlines. Make sure to check with your airline before arriving at the airport, though—size limits can vary based on the airline you’re flying with.

Peak Design Travel Backpack in Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Peak Design Travel Backpack is a well-executed travel bag from a company with an excellent track-record of bringing innovative and unique designs to the backpack world. This maximum legal carry-on can easily handle one bag travel, photography, or digital nomading with ease—and it will be a joy to use for any of those activities.

Top-loading vs Panel-loading (Clamshell) Backpacks

There’s a big debate around clamshell and top-loading packs. We’re personally a fan of clamshell for one-bag travel, as it gives you more open space to work with. Clamshell functions more like a suitcase and opens literally like a clam. You can easily open it up flat and see everything inside, so it tends to be easier to organize all your travel gear.

The Able Carry Max Backpack is a clamshell-style backpack that opens to give you easy access to a spacious main compartment—this works great for packing cubes or rolled up clothing—whichever you prefer! Also, it’s got a large but low-profile water bottle pocket.

Top-loading packs are great if you’re on a long, multi-day trek or participating in other outdoor-focused activities as there’s no main zipper that can fail you (which could be catastrophic if you’re halfway up Mt. Everest).

Thule Subterra in Spain

The Thule Subterra 34L is a top-loading backpack with a roll top opening. A top loader’s usual pitfalls are fixed by an easy to access side zip that allows entry to the main compartment. This zip comes in handy when you don’t have time to mess around with the roll top, or you want to grab something located at the bottom of the bag.

Weather Resistance

Best Travel Backpack | The GORUCK GR2 features “weather resistance” but it’s not “waterproof.”

Weather resistance is another key component to consider for one bag travel. With all your tech gear and expensive possessions in your pack, you don’t want it to get wet. We look for packs with some great weather resistance that’ll easily get you through light rain and ideally through 20 minutes of a monsoon in Southeast Asia. There’s a big difference between waterproof and water-resistant bags. We’re mainly focused on the latter, as this will be plenty in most situations. Sure, waterproof is more secure, but unless you’re leaving your pack outside in a torrential downpour for hours on end or plan to go snorkeling with your laptop on your back, there’s no need for that extra tech.

Mission Workshop Fitzroy VX

The Mission Workshop Fitzroy VX utilizes weatherproof materials and weather-resistant zippers. We’ve found it to hold up decently in a downpour. Even if you’re caught in a pretty torrential rainstorm, you should be okay with the PET waterproof membrane.

Got something that needs some additional weatherproofing? Consider picking up a DAKA Pouch . It’ll give your valuables that extra layer of protection without requiring you to purchase an entirely waterproof bag—plus, these pouches double as organizers, separating your precious gear from the rest of your loadout with some additional protection to boot. It’s a win-win.

Durability and Quality

Whether you’re traveling for a week, a month, or a year plus, your backpack is pretty much your home, so you don’t want it to break. Take it from us—the last thing you want is to find out that you lost your phone charger because your zipper broke during the journey to your next accommodation. Investing in a good backpack will prevent loss and damage to your gear, and higher quality products will last for several years. It can be a challenge to tell if a backpack is durable right out of the box, which is why we test bags as much as possible to notice any faults. Higher durability usually means higher weight, but not always. Here are a couple of key considerations we’ve found when it comes to durability.

When it comes to durability, the Topo Designs Travel Bag 40L doesn’t mess around. The 1000D nylon, beefy YKK #10 zippers, and simplistic design all come together to create a bag that won’t let you down.

Best Travel Backpack YKK Zipper

YKK zippers are some of the best around, so naturally, the best travel backpack brands tend to use them. They’re super strong and have different weights depending on the area of the pack they’re used. A YKK #10 will keep a main compartment secure, whereas a YKK #5 may be suited for smaller side pockets that don’t receive as much use or tension.

YKK is obsessed with quality, and they do everything in-house. They smelt their own brass, forge their own zipper teeth, and even make the machines that make their zippers and the cardboard boxes they ship in! Needless to say, you probably won’t end up with any broken zippers with YKK on your side. YKK zippers also account for about half of all zippers in the world, so that says something. Although less popular, RiRi zippers are pretty great too. Both RiRi and YKK are superior to any other zipper made in-house by a bag manufacturer, and Zoom Zippers are climbing up on that list as well, though we still find intermittent issues with them.

Backpack Fabric and Material

There are a ton of fabrics and materials out there, too. When looking at fabrics, you’ll often see a number followed by a D—250D, 950D, 1500D, etc. The D stands for denier, a term used to measure the fabric’s thickness and weight—specifically the yarn. The formal definition is the mass (in grams) per 9,000 meters of thread, so lightweight fabrics (like silk) have a very low denier, while heavier fabrics have a higher denier. When it comes to backpacks, a higher denier is not necessarily better. In general, a higher denier will be more durable (depending on the fabric & weave) but also heavier. While the denier can tell you the weight and thickness of a material, the type of material, weave, and manufacturing involved will ultimately tell you more about its strength and durability. Here are some materials you’ll come across when selecting your pack, along with the pros and cons of each one.

Ripstop Nylon

Rip-Stop Nylon

Pretty close in property to standard nylon, “ripstop” nylon has a unique square weave that prevents further tearing from happening after a puncture. It has an incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio, and, as the name implies, it is highly resistant to rips and tears. The reason why it’s so strong is that additional fibers are sewn into the weave. Ripstop Nylon was developed in World War II as a more robust alternative to silk parachutes and is currently used in ejector seat parachutes for fighter pilots!

Ballistic Nylon

Ballistic Nylon

Ballistic Nylon refers to any nylon fabric with a “ballistic weave,” a variation on the simple basketweave. This gives it excellent tensile and tear strength—especially when layered—and makes it heavier than a lot of other materials. Keep in mind that ballistic nylon almost exclusively comes in black. Why is it called ballistic? It was initially used on flak jackets for World War II airmen to protect them from artillery-shell and bullet fragmentations. PSA: We do not recommend the use of backpacks for protection in war zones.

CORDURA® Nylon

CORDURA® Nylon

CORDURA® is not a fabric in and of itself—it is a brand covering a whole host of different materials, from cotton to nylon to polyester. What they do is take fabric from various mills, inspect it to make sure it’s up to their standards, and then slap that CORDURA® tag on it. Yes, it’s a bit deceiving, but they do put out some high-quality stuff. You’ll mostly always see a “®” next to “CORDURA” (in all caps) because #branding and #lawyers.

Kodra Nylon

Kodra Nylon

Kodra is virtually synonymous with CORDURA® but made in Korea. Peak Design opted for this in V1 of their Everyday Backpack.

Polyester

Polyester is one of the most common fabrics on the planet. It’s made from plastic fibers, and you can find it pretty much everywhere—in clothing, pillows, seat belts, upholstery, rope, the list goes on… Oh, and backpacks. Polyester is not the most durable fabric, so you’ll usually find it on lower-end packs (think of those classic Jansport backpacks everyone had in high school). It’s really not the most suitable choice for a travel pack—as it just won’t hold up through the years. Besides lacking in durability, polyester is also fairly heavy compared to other fabrics like nylon. If you’re looking for a low-budget day pack, polyester is fine. If you’re looking for something more serious, stay away from it.

Polypropylene

Polypropylene & Nylon Blend

Polypropylene is a polymer that is used to make fabrics. This stuff is seriously everywhere—it is the world’s second most widely produced synthetic plastic! It’s used to make ropes, carpets, labels, plastic lids on tic-tac containers, plastic chairs, long underwear…basically, if you see something made of plastic, there’s a solid chance there’s some polypropylene in it. You’ll find it mostly in minor backpack components, but it’s also used to make drawstring bags and totes like the ones that are handed out for free at a college fair or festival. Polypropylene fabric has a few things going for it. It’s cheap, it’s a good insulator because it doesn’t transfer heat very well, and it won’t absorb water since it’s hydrophobic. The major problem with polypropylene is that it is not very UV resistant. If it’s repeatedly exposed to sunlight, the fabric will fade and break down over time. This is not great for backpacks. You may, however, see polypropylene used as a liner on the inside of some packs as it won’t be affected by UV light and adds some additional protection.

Canvas

You could say that canvas is the OG backpack material. Back in the day, canvas was just about the only thing you would use for a “backpack,” outside of maybe a burlap sack thrown over your shoulder. In World War II, GI’s carried all their equipment around in canvas packs and slept in canvas tents. Canvas very thick and sturdy and was historically made from cotton, linen, or hemp coated in wax for waterproofing. Today, canvas tends to be made from things like nylon and polyester. Most modern backpack companies shy away from canvas because it’s usually heavy, not overly water-resistant, and easily damaged by abrasion. If you’re looking for a canvas one-bag travel pack, you’re not going to find much out there. However, if you want the nostalgia factor, you can still find a bespoke canvas bag to satisfy that.

Leather

We may need to scrap our statement on canvas because leather is arguably as OG as it gets. Its use has been traced back as far as Ancient Greece and Rome! Like canvas, you’re not going to see many travel packs made of leather. While a leather bag can make for an excellent, stylish daypack, it’s not ideal for a long-term travel pack, mainly because of its weight. There is also a lot of potential care involved. Between protective oils and various cleaning techniques, it can be a hassle to deal with if you’re on the move. There are three grades of leather—genuine, top-grain, and full-grain.

Contrary to popular belief, genuine is the lowest grade of leather while full-grain is the highest. Full-grain is used for heavy-duty use-cases like weapon holsters and work belts, so if you’re dead set on a leather pack, we’d recommend looking for full-grain leather. Ideally, you’ll want to find something thin enough to not be overly heavy while still thick enough to ensure durability.

Sailcloth

The actual material is called ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene… but most know it as sailcloth (yep, the same material used on a sailboat). A relatively rare material for backpacks, brands like Tortuga have taken advantage of sailcloth due to its lightweight and water-resistant properties. It is by far the most lightweight and waterproof material on our list (no need for DWR or liners), but it does have some drawbacks. It’s stiff and crinkly with zero stretch, which can cause problems if you’re trying to utilize every nook and cranny of your pack. It isn’t quite as indestructible as some other materials listed, but it’s reasonably durable and can be patched. It also tends to be one of the most expensive backpack materials out there.

Dyneema® Composite Fabric

Dyneema® Composite Fabric

In May 2015, Dyneema purchased Cubic Tech, the creator and manufacturer of Cuben Fiber, and rebranded it as Dyneema® Composite Fabrics. So, Dyneema® Composite Fabrics = Cuben Fiber. This stuff was initially designed for high-tech sails on racing yachts because it is ridiculously light and robust. As such, it has been adopted wholeheartedly by the ultralight backpacking community. It’s sort of like the carbon fiber of the backpack world—high-tech, super strong, super light, and…super expensive. While Dyneema® Composite Fabric is popular within the ultralight backpacking community, it has yet to become commonplace in the one-bag travel scene. That being said, if you do see Dyneema® Composite Fabric, you should know that you’re getting some of the best stuff around.

tpu material best travel backpack guide

Thermoplastic polyurethane —TPU for short—is a polymer used to add strength to a material, either through a manufacturing process or coating. You’ll recognize it on products like inflatable rafts, phone cases, wire cables, and footwear. Think stuff that needs to be as durable as possible to avoid things going south for the user. It easily sheds water and oil, resists abrasions, and won’t crack in high or low temps, making it ideal for frequent outdoor use. Unlike polypropylene, TPU is UV-resistant and won’t be subjected to the same amount of fading over time. If you’re the type of traveler who wants extra peace of mind on the go, you’ll want to keep an eye out for TPU because of the extra strength it adds to a pack, but we wouldn’t consider a lack of TPU a deal-breaker.

x-pac material best travel backpack guide

X-Pac is not so much a fabric as it is a bunch of fabrics smooshed together. With the help of lamination technology, it combines complementary materials to make an overall higher-performing product. Though there are variations in denier and waterproofing, it’s most commonly made up of a nylon face for durability, polyester mesh for strength, and waterproof film that won’t disappear over time. Like Dyneema® Composite Fabrics, it was inspired by the efficiency of sailcloth but is a less costly option that provides a similar level of ultralight performance. It holds its shape over time, won’t fade with UV exposure, and easily sheds moisture, making it great for outdoor enthusiasts who hike and bike with their pack on the regular. However, it may be a bit overkill for casual travelers unless you’re looking for a backpack for epic mountain climbing adventures.

Ultimately, the production process and design will dictate whether your gear will stay together. If a bag is made with 1000D CORDURA®, but it doesn’t have good zippers to match, it doesn’t matter how good the fabric is. Look for brands that proudly back their product with generous warranties, like GORUCK and their “SCARS warranty” or Patagonia and their “Ironclad Guarantee.” These brands know they make quality products, so they’re happy to back it up. If a brand offers no warranty or a short warranty, there’s probably a financial reason for that, and the quality may not be as high. We’re all about buying quality pieces that last versus something that’s going to need repair or replacement year after year.

Whether you’re hopping on a plane or navigating city streets, you need a backpack that can hold up.

Video Guide Part 3: Function

Best Backpack for Comfortable Wear and Extended Travel

Comfort is a big deal when it comes to one-bag travel—especially if you plan to carry the bag around with you for hours on end. You’ll want a high-quality harness that works with the shape of your body. When selecting a bag, it’s crucial to take your height and body type into consideration. Although this matters more for hiking backpacks where you’re carrying a ton of gear, it’s less important for smaller, one-bag travel packs. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think about it before you make a purchase. A backpack suited for someone that’s 6’5″ and 250 pounds probably isn’t the best travel backpack for someone that’s 5’3″ and 140 pounds. Buying something that doesn’t fit your frame correctly will make for some seriously uncomfortable travel.

Men’s Focused Fit Vs Women’s Focused Fit

Osprey Farpoint vs Osprey Fairview

Some backpacks are only available with a “one size fits all” harness system, but there is an ever-increasing number of women’s focused fit and men’s focused fit travel backpacks on the market. For example, the Thule Landmark 40L , REI Ruckpack 40 , and Deuter AViANT Carry On Pro 36 are all available in two different fits. The differences are subtle but have a big impact on how comfortable the harness system is on your frame. Compared to a men’s focused fit, a women’s focused fit backpack will typically feature:

  • Smaller hip belt with a more pronounced curve

Backpack Straps

You’ll want to look for bags with high-quality straps that work for your body type. A mismatch here could lead to an uncomfortable carry, even with only a little weight inside.

Matador Globerider45 Review

Even though the GlobeRider45 has the functionality and looks of a travel backpack, it carries more like a daypack. Its shoulder straps feature dense padding that curves and falls naturally to the body. A relatively high top area does give it a very slight hiking backpack feel, but it’s an overall tameable bag to travel with, considering its 45-liter storage capacity.

The thickness of straps doesn’t necessarily matter. Thinner straps that use high-quality foam may be more comfortable than thicker, bulkier straps.

If you’re concerned with weight, look for bags that include load lifters – these are the adjusters that appear at the top of the straps. This concept is borrowed from larger hiking backpacks and does wonders for fitting the bag well to your back with different loads.

Some straps swivel and pivot to cater to different shoulder widths and make it easier to quickly flip the pack around to access the goods you’ve got inside.

Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L (V4) Strap

We’re middle-of-the-road on hip belts for one-bag travel backpacks. They can help a ton if you’ve got a heavier load or plan to carry your pack for long stretches but aren’t necessary if you pack minimally in a smaller pack.

A good hip belt should be comfortable and secure without becoming too cumbersome. There are few things worse than hitting people with your bulky hip belt while walking down the aisle of an airplane. We’d recommend taking a look at travel backpacks that feature a detachable or hideable hip belt, so you don’t have to use it when you don’t need to.

Sternum Straps

Nearly all travel backpacks include a sternum strap. They’re designed to distribute some weight away from your shoulders and secure the shoulder straps across your chest.

While sternum straps are all pretty similar across the board, there are a couple of things we’d recommend looking out for. First, some will feature an elasticated portion that allows the strap to flex with your body as you walk. We’re big fans of these. Second, some sternum straps can be detached, leaving them vulnerable to falling off when not in use. We’re not kidding; this has happened to us on multiple occasions. Not good, especially when you’re traveling halfway around the world in remote locations! A detachable sternum strap is great when you don’t always need to use one, and it makes adjusting the height easy. Just make sure it’s secure and adequately anchored to the shoulder straps.

Osprey Fairview 40 Back Water Bottle

A well-designed back panel can make things much more comfortable. Although it’s hard to avoid the old sweaty back with more extended periods of wear in hotter climates, well-ventilated mesh and foam can help with this. A curved frame can help with ergonomics and ventilation, but we don’t see this on many travel-focused backpacks. Sometimes, it seems like overkill.

How Do you Pack the Thing?

With all these fancy features, it’s essential to consider how you should use them and how you pack your bag. Generally speaking, you want to load the heaviest items closest to your back. This’ll ensure the heaviest bits of your bag are the closest to your center of gravity, pulling you down less from the back of the bag.

Best Travel Backpack | Configuring a backpack.

If you’ve got all the features mentioned above, you want to strap and tighten your hip belt first, then adjust the shoulder straps, then tighten the load lifter straps (the straps on top) to a 45° angle, and finally, adjust and tighten the sternum strap.

Heimplanet Travel Pack 34L V2 Review

The Heimplanet Travel Pack 34L (V2) has a horseshoe zipper at the top front of the pack, which opens up to allow you to reach into the main compartment and grab essential items rather than opening up the full clamshell. It also features liter independent compartments and pockets, which are great for packing to the absolute limits. Check out the smaller 28L version, too.

Modular Backpack System

If you want more options for customization, check out modular gear. To put it simply, this is gear that brands design to work with their bags. They allow you to make a bag suit your preferences, adding and swapping parts as needed instead of trying to fit your gear into the organization already installed in your pack. Anyone who uses a bag with PALS webbing, for example, will tell you how convenient it is to have loops ready where they can stick MOLLE accessories. Whereas PALS webbing and MOLLE attachments are one of the better-known standards out there, brand-specific modularity and attachment systems also exist.

In fact, some brands, like ALPAKA , TOM BIHN , Boundary Supply , and Roark , are known for it. We like to count how many O-rings we can find on each TOM BIHN bag we buy because that’s where we can clip the brand’s key leashes, admin pouches, packing cubes, and more.

Tom Bihn Ghost Whale Pouches On A Desk

These great for carrying tiny travel accessories wherever we go. Sizes range from Super Mini, which can hold AirPods, chapstick, and similarly sized items, to A5, which is big enough for an A5-size notebook and pens. They’re made from scrap fabric, so you can feel good about saving them from the cutting room floor. They clip to the O-rings in a TOM BIHN bag or a loop on another backpack to save you from digging for small gear.

ALPAKA Elements Backpack Pro Accessories

ALPAKA’s HUB Ecosystem lets you swap your keys, sanitizer, card holder, and more between your bags. Pull the Hypalon tab to release the magnetic fastener to swap your gear, then attach it to different points throughout their bags or the HUB ModPanel hanging in your house. Then you’ll always be able to find your keys.

Boundary Supply Prima System In Detroit

The Prima System includes a 30L travel backpack, the Fieldspace admin panel, and Verge Camera Case. The Fieldspace holds a tablet or small laptop, plus small accessories, docking to the laptop compartment with a magnet, so it’s removable if you don’t need it. The camera case is also fully customizable and can sit inside the pack, connect to its exterior, or be carried separately.

Organization: Multiple Travel-Focused Features or One Big Compartment?

Some backpacks take the approach of having a massive inner compartment with no organization. This is great if you’re planning on using some packing cubes or compression sacks, but not so great if you want a little more internal organization out of the box. More things to consider: is there a dedicated place to put a pen or two for those pesky customs forms? Is it easy to grab? How about a dedicated laptop compartment (or, for that matter, a dedicated laptop bag )?

Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 40L (V4) Review

This iteration of Tortuga’s travel backpack design gives more control to the user. It has fewer organization options than its predecessors, but the extra space and weight savings can be better used for packing cubes and organizers. Those already invested in such accessories will find the wide and spacious main compartment easy to fill and navigate.

Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes Flat Lay

Packing cubes can be a great addition to your luggage regardless of whether the bag is one massive compartment or has a couple of smaller pockets inside. Packing cubes allow you to organize clothing between type, outfits, clean or dirty, and much more.

Osprey Transporter Global Carry-On Back

The Osprey Transporter Global Carry-On’s size and shape make it easy to pack with cubes. Plus, the light gray interior makes it easy to find your gear.

Compression and Expandability

If you’re going with one bag, versatility is essential. Ideally, your pack will cater to different amounts of items that are packed in the bag.

Some packs even offer detachable daypacks, but they tend to be slightly larger in liters to justify the additional use of materials (extra zippers and extra straps.) If you’re looking for a small travel daypack , consider some highly compressible bags from Matador . There won’t be any padding on these, but you could also pair these with a padded field pocket from GORUCK or a padded laptop compartment if you want to cafe-hop and work for the day.

If you are looking for a more padded daypack, a Mystery Ranch In and Out Packable Daypack , or something like a Fjallraven Kanken 13″ Laptop Backpack could work. At the end of the day, you’re packing another set of straps, padding, and zippers—all space and weight that’s being subtracted from your main pack.

We like sticking to one bag whenever possible, and there are some bags out there with the right size and look that can be used as a daypack and for one bag travel.

Thule Aion 28L Backpack Review

The Thule Aion 28L Backpack expands to 32L when you need more space for a trip. Use the extra room when you’re traveling, then empty it and compress it back down when you arrive at your destination to have a slimmer bag that can be used as a daypack while walking around.

Another great option is the Osprey Farpoint 40 , mentioned above. One of our team members has utilized the compression straps to carry his tripod while traveling to numerous countries.

Security Backpacks

Be on the lookout for packs with great security features. Are the zippers lockable with TSA approved locks? Are there separate secret security compartments to place your passport and other valuables in hard-to-reach places? Is it made of a solid material to prevent the quick slash-and-grab? Are the outer pockets minimized to make it hard for a thief to unzip and grab what they want quickly?

A lot of safety when traveling comes down to common sense and your own self-awareness, but there are a couple of pack features that can make your trips a little bit safer.

Lockable Zippers & Anti-Theft Backpacks

Peak Design Travel Backpack Lockable Zips

Some packs offer lockable zippers, or special looped zipper pulls that can be configured to deter thieves. Locking the zippers on your pack won’t turn it into an anti-theft backpack—someone can still take it or cut through the fabric—but it can help stop wrongdoers from quickly unzipping your bag for a quick-grab, or make them move to the next easily accessible bag on a train or bus. No backpack is impenetrable, though, and some of these features on backpacks can be gimmicky—included just so the purchaser has some peace of mind—even if the benefit isn’t that great. Peak Design’s security features (example below) and PacSafe’s Tough Zip put a lot of emphasis on that extra layer of security.

The zippers on the Peak Design Travel Backpack come with multiple locking features. This won’t necessarily deter all theft, but it’ll stop anyone from the old unzip & grab trick, and it won’t be against TSA Guidelines.

Anti-Theft Backpack Materials

Some bags offer more robust fabric that naturally enforces the bag. As we mentioned before, materials like Ballistic Nylon, CORDURA®, and others are super helpful with this. Some companies even include special mesh wiring, like Pacsafe’s eXomesh®, that almost theft-proof your backpack, allowing you to lock it to a fixed object for added security. EXomesh® is either lined inside the fabric and can also be purchased externally with other backpacks. For the type of traveling we do, we think this is a little paranoid and adds some weight plus another thing to carry. But depending on your situation, it could be helpful. Strolling through Tokyo? Probably not necessary. Heading to Barcelona for the first time? Yeah, we’ll take that extra layer of security.

RFID Blockers (Identity Theft-Proof Backpacks)

We feel that having a bunch of RFID-blocking tech covering an entire backpack is overkill. Sure, it’ll stop folks from electronically scanning your passport, but If you’re concerned with this, you could get a special wallet or wrap your passport & cards in aluminum foil. Let’s face it—it’s much less effort for a thief to physically grab what they want from you than dicking around with RFID technology. But again, whatever helps you sleep at night. If it’s a 100% secure backpack you seek, we’re not going to stop you.

Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP35 Travel Backpack Review

If you’re looking for a secure travel pack, the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP35 offers some great features for exactly that. From the eXomesh® slash-proof material to the secure zippers and RFID secure pockets, there is some great thinking that went into this pack along with some solid materials.

You know what they say—“It’s not how you feel, it’s how you look.” Or something like that...

Video Guide Part 4: Aesthetic

Finding the Best Travel Backpack Style For You

At the end of the day, the look and feel of a travel backpack should be right for you and your tastes. There are many things to consider as far as aesthetics go we’ll pull in here for consideration. Stylish “urban travel” backpacks became a lot more popular within the last couple of years, and that’s the look we prefer. Gone are the days of international travel with a big blaze-orange hiking backpack. Those certainly have a utility, but that utility is in the wilderness. Here are a couple of overall style points for your consideration:

Minimalist Travel Backpacks

minimalist travel backpacks

When you’re in a new country, think a bit about how you want to be perceived. If you’re heading to a more crowded or dicey area, nothing screams tourist like having a large, colorful backpack while looking up at tall buildings or a landmark in awe. It’s easier to keep a low profile and blend in a little if you’re not carrying around a monstrosity of a bag that acts as an advertisement for thieves and wrongdoers looking to target travelers for their own gain. It’s an added bonus if you can roll into a meeting wearing one of these things. As one-bag travel has become increasingly popular in recent years, we’re seeing many solid urban packs coming out that are built specifically with one-bag travel in mind.

  • Minaal Carry-On 3.0

Tacticool Backpacks

tacticool travel backpacks

There are a ton of great, high-quality bags out there that are made to military spec. There’s some really great utility to things like MOLLE for customizing your pack and including other accessories on your bag, and the stronger materials make for highly durable bags. Keep in mind that some folks may perceive you as being in the military if your bag has too much digi camo going on. It’s one thing if the pack is all black & subdued, but another if it’s camo and filled with patches. If this is your look, go for it, but this type of pack might also bring about some “unwanted attention” in certain parts of the world.

  • Mission Workshop Radian

Outdoor & Hiking Backpacks

Outdoor & Hiking Travel Backpack Aesthetic

Think sportier packs with lots of pockets, brighter colors, and louder material. For a long time, outdoor backpacks were the only option for long-term one-bag travelers. They tend to be bulky and are built to carry big, heavy loads over long distances. This typically means lots of straps and a tall pack that will peek up over your head. Great for an extended camping excursion, not so great for a trip through the airport or a newly-discovered city square. They also tend to scream “TOURIST.” No one casually walks around with a giant hiking backpack.

  • Gregory Zulu 40

Backpacker Backpacks

Backpacker Travel Backpack Aesthetic

If it’s not already obvious, the “Backpacker Backpack” is designed specifically for backpacking around the world. Typically from manufacturers that also make outdoor and hiking backpacks, this is the go-to style for anyone on a gap year looking to tick off as many countries in Southeast Asia as possible. And because of that, they’re some of the most popular bags on the market today. Sure, you’ll still look like a tourist—albeit not as much as you would wearing a hiking backpack—but that’s fine because that’s exactly what you’re doing.

  • Gregory Detour 40

Heritage Backpacks

heritage travel backpacks

These bags are engineered with a classic look in mind. Most will be some variation of the one-compartment style with leather straps, subdued colors, and some type of canvas-y material. These packs look great but can sometimes lack functionality and comfort. Although there are a few bespoke style travel bags (we like Vinta and Rivendell Mountain Works), most will fall into the daypack category.

  • Red Oxx C-ruck Carry-on Rucksack

Having said all of this, aesthetic is subjective, and beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. This is why we conduct weekly polls over on our Instagram to get our communities’ take on the look of bags. Follow us on Instagram to cast your votes! You can find all the results of the polls on our individual review pages too, so you can see how well a bag you’re looking for has performed.

The humble backpack: It’ll get you through anything and everything...

There Really is No “Best Travel Backpack”

Although, there is a best travel backpack for you. All this boils down to your preferences.

When we first started creating this guide, we admittedly thought there would be one best bag for travel, but the deeper we dug, the more we realized it depends on your needs as an individual traveler. Sure, there are generally guiding principles to follow, and a bag made out of cardboard objectively won’t last, but there are too many quality backpacks out there to pick just one. If you’re on a short trip, a lighter, less durable pack will suit you well. If you’re headed to Southeast Asia during the monsoon season, you may want some heavy-duty weatherproofing.

We wish you the best of luck moving forward with your selection. Still want more? Be sure to check out our other guides and travel gear reviews too!

Our team at Pack Hacker developed the “best travel backpack” guide in partnership with our friends (and bag experts) at Carryology . We’re constantly updating this guide as new backpacks are released, and the travel landscape changes.

mm

Author: Tom Wahlin

Tom has lived out of a 40L backpack for 2 years of travel, helping him learn what to pack and what to leave behind. His top achievements include designing for Apple and eating large quantities of ramen (ongoing).

Pack Hacker Logo Small

  • Packing Tips

How to Pack a Backpack for Travel

Published May 12, 2023

Written by:

packing a travel backpack

Laura Lopuch

Laura’s first trip was when she was 3 months old, instilling an insatiable wanderlust. She hasn’t stopped traveling, or writing...

Fred Perrotta

Fred Perrotta

Co-founder, tortuga.

Fred Perrotta is the co-founder and CEO of Tortuga. His first backpacking trip to Europe inspired him to start the...

packing a travel backpack

The Tortuga Promise

At Tortuga, our mission is to make travel easier. Our advice and recommendations are based on years of travel experience. We only recommend products that we use on our own travels.

Table of Contents

How you pack can be as important as what you pack.

If you’re traveling carry-on-only with just a backpack (as we recommend), you’ll want to pack so that you’re making the best use of your limited space, keeping everything organized, and making your bag comfortable to carry. You can do all three with just a bit of planning.

Whether you’ve just ditched your suitcase or are a seasoned backpacker, this article will help you understand what to pack where to make the best use of your travel backpack .

Choose the Right Travel Backpack

Before we discuss how to pack it, you’ll need to have the right kind of backpack. Not a hiking backpack as you see most travelers carrying but a travel backpack .

What’s the difference?

A travel backpack is carry-on-sized and opens from the front, like a suitcase for easier organization. For international trips, you’ll want a true travel backpack . Carrying a hiking bag is using the wrong tool for the job. They’re too big to carry onto a plane and top-loading, which makes them a disorganized mess.

A travel backpack is designed to be used as luggage and carried comfortably around the world.

In addition to being carry-on-sized, you’ll want a bag that’s built for organization. Your backpack should open from the front , for easy access to all of your stuff at once. This is where a hiking bag falls short.

You’ll also want separate compartments and pockets for organization. We’ll cover what to pack in each compartment and pocket later in this article. For now, just make sure you have one or two main compartments for your clothes, a separate laptop compartment, and additional pockets for quick access.

Carry-On-Sized Travel Backpacks

Pack for trips of one week or more without checking a bag.

  • Thick comfortable straps
  • Easy to organize
  • Durable, waterproof fabric
  • Backed by our Worldwide Warranty

The Travel Backpack has all of the above. It’s carry-on-sized, opens from the front, and contains enough compartments and pockets to maximize your organization. Plus, the front pockets give you extra space for all the little stuff that you want within reach as you travel.

Next, let’s move on to what to pack everything in your travel backpack .

packing a travel backpack

How to Pack a Backpack for Air Travel

What goes where.

Now that you have the right bag, we can cover what to pack where. We’ll cover the basics here then move on to the specifics.

If you aren’t sure what to pack, start with the basic Carry on Packing List then check the specific packing list for your destination .

  • Clothes: Your clothes will go in the main compartment of your bag. If you’re carrying a separate personal item , you can stash an extra layer in there for the flight.
  • Toiletries: Your one quart toiletry bag can go either in the main compartment or in the front pocket of your bag. The latter is better for taking it out at airport security. If you have TSA PreCheck, you can leave your toiletries packed in the main compartment.
  • Computer: Your laptop (and tablet if you’re carrying one) go in the laptop compartment which should be next to your back.
  • Water Bottle: Your water bottle goes in one of the stretchy side, water bottle pockets of your backpack.
  • Everything Else: Everything else you need in-flight, like a Kindle or snacks , should go in the front pocket of your bag or in your personal item. Small items like tickets or paperwork can go in the hip belt pockets of your bag so that they’re always handy as you move through the airport.

Weight Distribution

Managing the weight of your backpack is the most commonly overlooked part of packing. Where you pack specific items matters for distributing the weight of your pack well and making it comfortable to carry.

Which makes more sense: packing your computer next to your body or as far away as possible? Next to your body, of course. The same principle applies to the rest of your stuff.

Put as much of your bag’s weight as close to your body as possible. This keeps the center of gravity next to your body, not 9″ away from you. Packing this way serves two purposes. First, your load is easier to manage since it’s closer to your body. You’ll be more aware of your bag’s size and weight and will bump into fewer people and things. Second, your bag will be more comfortable to carry. If the weight was farther from your body, your backpack would feel heavier and pull more on your shoulders.

  • Heaviest Stuff: Put your heaviest stuff as close to your body as possible and in the vertical middle of your pack. Heavy things should not be at the top or bottom when you’re wearing your backpack. Your heaviest stuff might be a pair of shoes or your laptop. The latter should have a dedicated compartment or sleeve next to your body.
  • Medium-Weight Stuff: Medium-weight items go at the vertical top of your pack.
  • Lightest Stuff: Lightweight stuff, usually clothes, go at the vertical bottom of your backpack.

packing a travel backpack

How to Pack Clothes

With the guidance from the last section in mind, let’s focus on packing clothes.

You should wear your bulkiest shoes and clothes on the plane. If, after that, you’re still packing something heavy, like thick jeans or a second pair of shoes, place those in the vertical middle of your bag as close to your body as possible.

Mid-weight clothes can go above (vertically) the heavy stuff. Lightweight clothes, like t-shirts or underwear, can go at the bottom of your backpack. Just make sure to pack them tightly so that they don’t collapse under the heavier stuff above them.

Your toiletry bag should be packed for easy access at airport security , even if it means a sub-optimal place in your bag for weight distribution.

Rolling vs. Folding

We’ve covered where to pack but what about how to pack?

Rolling clothes is better than folding because it allows for more efficient packing and fewer wrinkles. But we actually recommend a hybrid rolling plus folding approach to packing .

If you want to level up your organization with more modular packing, consider adding a set of packing cubes.

Outbreaker Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes

The Packing Cubes are a set of three (one large and two small) cubes that fit perfectly in the Travel Backpack .

If you’re traveling for longer than two weeks and traveling across  multiple climates , use packing cubes to split up your wardrobe based on weather.

One packing cube holds your summer clothes (swimsuit, tank tops, breezy tops, shorts). The second packing cube holds your winter clothes (sweater, long sleeve shirts).

Designate a third packing cube as an “Essentials Packing Cube” for your underwear and socks.

How to Pack for International Travel

Choose a real travel backpack to make your packing as easy as possible. The best bags are made so that you pack well by default. Pack your computer and anything else heavy as close to your body as possible. Roll most of your clothes and use a set of packing cubes to keep everything organized and easy to reach.

Related Articles

packing a travel backpack

How to Travel with a Laptop in Your Carry On

packing a travel backpack

How to Pack a Suit in a Carry On

Tortuga travel backpack pro $350.

Max Carry On Size

Laura’s first trip was when she was 3 months old, instilling an insatiable wanderlust. She hasn’t stopped traveling, or writing about it. As an expert in carry on travel, she’s flown on over 100 flights with only a carry on bag. Even on trips with her husband and kids.

She believes travel is the great educator — and vital to our humanity.

Read more from Laura

Find the perfect pack for your next trip

Take Our Bag Finder Quiz To Find
The Perfect Bag For Your Next Trip

Bring everything you need without checking a bag.

The 18 Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks for Easy, Breezy Packing

From basic rucksacks to nifty new features, these backpacks are a traveler's dream come true.

travel backpacks

Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.

Team T&C are experts in the field of traveling light and packing efficiently . And because we know every traveler has different preferences and needs, our editors took it upon ourselves to research, test, and share our favorite and most reliable styles on the market. Ahead, find the best carry-on travel backpacks designed to go the distance.

Samsonite Silhouette 17 Backpack

Silhouette 17 Backpack

A backpack that packs like a suitcase? Why didn't someone think of this sooner? This Samsonite bag is perfect for the traveler who wants to travel light without sacrificing that packing method they've perfected.

One reviewer writes: "Durable yet lightweight. Streamline design and not bulky at all. Perfect carryon size with backpack straps for convenience."

Dimensions: 20" x 12.5" x 7"

Weight: 3.6 lbs

Material: Recyclex

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack

The ReNew Transit Backpack

This bag has compartments, on compartments, on compartments—including an exterior laptop pocket, making it extra easy to slip your computer in and out for TSA.

One reviewer says: "I initially purchased because I needed more storage to function as my work bag. It just so happen I was traveling abroad in that same month as well. I did not realize that it had a strap on the back to make it super convenient to connect to my carry on luggage. The storage in this bag is phenomenal. 10/10 recommend!"

Dimensions: 17.5” H x 12” L x 7.25” D

Packing Capacity: 27L

Material: 100% recycled polyester with a water-resistant finish

Fjallraven Kanken Water Resistant Backpack

Water Resistant Backpack

These Scandinavian bags have been tested, tried and true since the 1970s. According to T&C 's Associate Shopping Editor Sophie Dweck, who owns several Fjallraven Kankens, they don't offer a lot of frills or features, but they are as practical and reliable as they come. Cute enough to be your day bag but spacious enough to fit all your carry-on essentials, this bag is two-for-one. Plus, there's no shortage of color options!

One shopper says: "This is my second backpack and I just love to use this during my travels. It’s stylish, lightweight and can surprisingly fit my essentials."

Dimensions: 14" H x 10" W x 4 ½" D

Weight: .7 lbs

Material: Vinylon

Calpak Luka Laptop Backpack

Luka Laptop Backpack

Calpak is known for creating travel bags and accessories with smart engineering in mind, and this backpack is an incredibly popular pick for obvious reasons. Thanks to its many compartments, it can hold a ton—shoes, notebooks, bottles, you name it—and is designed to protect a 15-inch laptop in one of the inner sleeves. Even better, it comes in a variety of pretty colors, such as this rose gold hue.

One shopper says: "I love this backpack. My laptop fits perfectly and it’s very roomy to carry a travel umbrella, glasses, electrical cord, notebooks, and more. I love the puffy exterior and have the matching Luca mini. Together, creates a great weekend getaway."

Dimensions: 16" x 12" x 7"

Weight: 1.8 lbs

Material: Polyester

Monos Metro Backpack

Metro Backpack

The unique feature on this pack from Monos is the detachable, interchangeable pouch that fixes to the front of the bag. This smaller bag is the perfect spot to keep the items you need quick and easy access to, like your passport, headphones, keys, and charging cables.

One shopper says: "I love this backpack! The trolley sleeve is a huge plus, but my favorite feature is being able to remove the Metro Kit. I like that I can conveniently place the backpack under the seat and the Metro kit can hang off the pouch in the seat in front of me, making it easy to grab the essentials mid-flight."

Exterior Dimensions: 11.5" × 16.5" × 6"

Exterior Weight: 2.4 lb (nylon) / 3 lb (vegan leather)

Metro Dimensions: 8.75" × 6.75" × 2"

Metro Weight: .6 lbs

Material: Nylon or vegan leather

Cuyana Leather Backpack 16-inch

Leather Backpack 16-inch

For a travel bag that sacrifices neither function and fashion, you turn to Cuyana. The brand's minimalist backpack is crafted with premium Italian leather and tricked out with convenient features, like a spacious main compartment with pockets and a laptop sleeve, two additional exterior pockets, a magnetic snap closure for easy access, comfortable straps that don't dig into your shoulders, and a top handle that allows you to tote the bag around by hand.

One shopper says: "This is the perfect work and travel backpack. I got it in navy and looks amazing. My laptop, notebook, and computer accessories all fit in very neatly with plenty of room for other items. I was a little worried about my water bottle fitting in the front pocket, but it is just fine there and the magnets even help it stay in place. It is simply PERFECT!!!"

Dimensions: 15.1" x 11" x 7"

Weight: 2.6 lbs

Material: Leather

MZ Wallace Metro Backpack Deluxe

Metro Backpack Deluxe

MZ Wallace's bags are absurdly lightweight, insanely roomy, and the signature quilting adds interest to an otherwise understated bag. This backpack is no exception. T&C 's Senior News Editor Emily Burack is a massive fan of the brand .

One shopper says: "Bought the Dawn metro backpack deluxe for a recent trip. I squeezed in so many items such as electronics, iPad, cosmetics, a jacket and small crossbody purse. Love the back sleeve that you can attach to your suitcase, and then can convert it to a pocket by zippering the bottom. And finally side pockets that can fit a water bottle."

Dimensions: 2.20" × 6.90" × 16.50"

Weight: 1.3 lbs

Material: REC Oxford

Carl Friedrik 72-Hour Backpack

72-Hour Backpack

For the packer who's serious about one-bag travel, Carl Friedrik's aptly-titled pack is a great option. The 25-liter carrier is designed fit up to three-days worth of outfits and is perfectly sized to fit under the seat in front of you. Also worth noting: The front panel fully unzips, there's a laptop sleeve, and various pockets so you can make the most of every nook and cranny.

And if that's not enough to convince you? Succession 's The Roy family is fan of Carl Friedrik , as is T&C 's very own Leena Kim .

Dimensions: 11.8" x 18.1" x 7.1"

Packing Capacity: 25L

Material: Nylon

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Those who are often guilty of overpacking will get a kick out of this pick. No matter how much you stuff inside of it, the bag is lightweight to carry day in and day out. It's made of a blend of tough, TPU-coated polyester and durable nylon paneling, and has padded shoulder straps which add to the comfort. Also notable is its harness feature that distributes weight and prevents you from suffering from any back or shoulder pain later on.

One shopper says: "The Cotopaxi was my real working bag for carrying 3-4 days' clothing & toiletries. I am impressed with the quality build, the cool appearance of the bag, the organized storage, the way the compartments hold their shape without using heavyweight material. The interior feels well enough secure for my purposes but also has easy access smaller compartment for a light jacket."

Dimensions : 20" x 12" x 10"

Weight: 3 lbs 8 oz

Material: Polyester and nylon

Lo & Sons The Rowledge

The Rowledge

At last, your very own Mary Poppins bag. Well, not quite, but it might as well be. Don't be fooled by this bag's streamlined look—it can fit a lot. Yet, its dimensions qualify as a personal item, meaning it fits perfectly under the seat in front of you.

One shopper says: "I love traveling with this backpack. It is compact enough to wear I am not hitting people with it every time I turn around on the plane. It has a compartment for everything and is great quality. Excellent customer service from Lo & Sons, too!!!"

Dimensions: 11.5" x 6.75" x 16.5" (large); 10.75" x 6" x 16" (small)

Weight: 3.2 lbs (large); 2.9 lbs (small)

Material: Nylon and leather

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack

Dakota Neoprene Backpack

First of all, this bag is made with 23 recycled water bottles! So it's already a winner. Water-resistant and roomy, it comes with a zippered pouch that can be used as a shoe bag, or for any other essentials you want easy access to. We also love its sleek look—how could you not?

One shopper raves: "I wanted a small backpack that could still carry all my stuff, but also look stylish and sleek. This was it. The Dakota and small is the perfect backpack. Big enough to carry all my stuff as a mom of three while traveling but small enough to not feel too heavy. The material is soft but durable. I’m definitely a forever fan now!"

Dimensions: 11.5” L x 5” W x 17” H

Weight: 2 lbs 3 oz

Material: Premium neoprene and performance air mesh

Aer Travel Pack 3 Black

Travel Pack 3 Black

A true traveler's bag, the main compartment of this backpack lays open flat, so you can pack it like a regular suitcase. It has designated laptop and organizational compartments, plus multiple additional pockets for all your other must-haves. The zippers are also lockable, and there's a pocket just for your AirTag !

One shopper says: "This backpack does everything I need. Keeps things really organized, looks great, comfortable to carry heavy stuff... I really like how it collapses to a smaller profile once it’s empty for both easy storage, and a slimmer profile for a day to day pack."

Dimensions : 13" x 21.5" x 9"

Weight: 4.12 lbs

Tumi Celina Backpack

Celina Backpack

Tumi is one of the most trusted names in luggage, so you can be sure this bag is of high quality. It has lots of pockets and compartments, but the best feature has to be the Tumi Tracer, which will allow you to track and locate your bag should you misplace it.

One shopper raves : "So light empty and so roomy. Lots of pockets and fantastic construction. A quality backpack that will last for years and years, worth every penny!"

Dimensions : 16.0" x 10.6" x 6.5"

Shinola Detroit The Runwell Backpack

The Runwell Backpack

If you're looking to invest in a bag that can really go the distance, it's gotta be high-quality leather. You can trust that this will hold up, and best of all, it'll only look better as it wears in during all your trips to come.

One shopper says: "I purchased this Runwell backpack in the summer of ‘19 to use as my work bag and waited a few years of daily use to review. I can truly say it’s almost perfect; it looks small on me but that’s my fault for not reading measurements. It easily fits my laptop, plenty of cables, paperwork, gym clothes, a shower bag, and many more random things. The pockets in the interior are great; it’s very functional. Although I do clean/condition it every few months, it’s developed a wonderful patina."

Dimensions: 17" H x 10.38" W x 6" D

Weight: 3.9 lbs

Beis Travel The Expandable Backpack

The Expandable Backpack

With pockets and compartments galore, the Beis backpack has endless room for all your essentials. And once it's all filled up? You can unzip the expandable zipper for even more space! Never thought you'd be so excited about a backpack? We get it.

One reviewer writes: "The expandable feature makes it great for travel but un-expanded, it’s great for work. The pockets are so functional and the extra padded laptop sleeve is great. Also got caught in a rainstorm this week and the inside of the bag stayed perfectly dry!"

Dimensions: 13" x 15" x 5-7"

Weight: 1.67 lbs

Material: 100% recycled poly

Troubadour Aero Backpack

Aero Backpack

This top-loading backpack not only features a main inner section with a ton of clever pockets, but there's also a 3D top pocket for easy access to your toiletries, a dedicated space for shoes, and a separate padded compartment for a laptop. Even better: It doubles as a duffle carrier for days when you'd prefer carrying your things as a crossbody.

One shopper says: "Just perfect. Enough pockets in the right place without being annoying or irritating and it looks sooooo good."

Dimensions: 13.4" x 20" x 7.9"

Weight: 2.75 lbs

Material: Recycled polyester fabric, recycled polyester lining, vegan leather trim

Away The Everywhere Zip Backpack

The Everywhere Zip Backpack

Known for the suitcases everybody can't get enough of, Away also offers a range of backpacks that feature the same intelligent designs and user-friendly features. The aptly-named Everywhere knapsack is made with water-resistant nylon and features a wrap-around zipper for extra access in the main compartment.

One shopper writes : "It may be a little much to say this backpack changed my life, but it changed my life.. It's comfortable. It's SO well designed, with a logical place for everything. It holds a LOT. It's stylish and stays upright when you put it down. Most importantly (and the reason I bought it in the first place), I'm no longer sore after walking around and carrying my stuff all day. I may never go back to wearing a shoulder bag again. Worth every penny."

Dimensions : 12" x 5.9" x 17.7"

Weight : 2.45 lbs

Material : Nylon and leather

Paravel Fold-Up Backpack

Fold-Up Backpack

The genius of this backpack? Its compact size can fit a ton without weighing a ton, and when it's not in use, it folds up flat and zips into a space-saving pouch. Bonus: Get yours customized with your initials for a personalized touch.

One shopper says: "I couldn’t believe that a roomy backpack could zip up very easily into a pouch! It is very roomy with several zip up compartments for extra storage. It looks very nice. I am going to Europe and was searching for a lightweight backpack. This is perfect!"

Dimensions: 13" x 16" x 9"

Weight: .63 lbs

Material: Nylon from recycled water bottles

.css-1q42gf4{color:#030929;font-family:NewParis,NewParis-fallback,NewParis-roboto,NewParis-local,Georgia,Times,serif;font-weight:normal;margin-bottom:0.625rem;margin-top:1.875rem;}@media(max-width: 48rem){.css-1q42gf4{font-size:1.875rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(max-width: 64rem){.css-1q42gf4{font-size:2.625rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 48rem){.css-1q42gf4{font-size:2.625rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1q42gf4{font-size:3.125rem;line-height:1.1;}}.css-1q42gf4 b,.css-1q42gf4 strong{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;}.css-1q42gf4 em,.css-1q42gf4 i{font-style:italic;font-family:inherit;} What to look for when buying a carry-on travel backpack

carry on travel backpack tips

A carry-on travel backpack is a great in-flight companion because it's conveniently designed to be super spacious and a hands-free way to carry your belongings.

When shopping for the best option, it's important to choose a bag that can fit underneath the seat in front of you. While sizes vary depending on the airplane, most domestic airlines in the United States require a personal item to be somewhere around 17 inches tall, 13 inches wide, and 8 inches long.

Equally as important: Look for a backpack with functional features, such as organization pockets, full zip openings, a laptop sleeve, and adjustable straps for a comfortable fit.

Why trust Town & Country?

why trust town and country

For more than 170 years, Town & Country has been the trusted source for influence, taste, elegant living, and the finest things in life. We cover everything from the latest and greatest in beauty to luxury travel to the buzziest fashion trends of the season. All of our stories are thoroughly researched, tested, and vetted by T&C editors and industry experts.

Headshot of Meg Donohue

Meg is the Associate Fashion Commerce Editor at ELLE.com where she researches trends, tests products, and looks for answers to all your burning questions. She also co-writes a monthly column, Same Same But Different . Meg has previously written for Cosmopolitan and Town & Country . Her passions include travel, buffalo sauce, and sustainability. She will never stop hoping for a One Direction reunion tour.

Headshot of Sophie Dweck

Sophie Dweck is the associate shopping editor for Town & Country, where she covers beauty, fashion, home and décor, and more. 

preview for Leisure Section Curated

@media(min-width: 40.625rem){.css-1jdielu:before{margin:0.625rem 0.625rem 0;width:3.5rem;-webkit-filter:invert(17%) sepia(72%) saturate(710%) hue-rotate(181deg) brightness(97%) contrast(97%);filter:invert(17%) sepia(72%) saturate(710%) hue-rotate(181deg) brightness(97%) contrast(97%);height:1.5rem;content:'';display:inline-block;-webkit-transform:scale(-1, 1);-moz-transform:scale(-1, 1);-ms-transform:scale(-1, 1);transform:scale(-1, 1);background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-1jdielu:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/townandcountrymag/static/images/diamond-header-design-element.80fb60e.svg);}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1jdielu:before{margin:0 0.625rem 0.25rem;}} Travel @media(min-width: 40.625rem){.css-128xfoy:before{margin:0.625rem 0.625rem 0;width:3.5rem;-webkit-filter:invert(17%) sepia(72%) saturate(710%) hue-rotate(181deg) brightness(97%) contrast(97%);filter:invert(17%) sepia(72%) saturate(710%) hue-rotate(181deg) brightness(97%) contrast(97%);height:1.5rem;content:'';display:inline-block;background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-128xfoy:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/townandcountrymag/static/images/diamond-header-design-element.80fb60e.svg);}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-128xfoy:before{margin:0 0.625rem 0.25rem;}}

colorful houses on procida island, naples, italy

A Snob's Guide to the French Riviera

summer travel with kids

A Snob's Guide to Summer Travel With Kids

private jet

A Snob's Guide to the World's Best Kids Clubs

travel tote bags

24 Best Travel Tote Bags

best luxury luggage

The Best Luxury Luggage for Traveling in Style

a plate of food

Where to Dine in Myrtle Beach, According to Locals

rosewood hong kong hotel review

Best Room At… Rosewood Hong Kong

a building with a sign and plants in front of it

The Best Room at... Westin Palace Milan

a building with a dome on top surrounded by trees and hills

An Omni Homestead Resort Itinerary for Everyone

energy observer

Step Inside an Experimental Hydrogen Boat

hotel chelsea nyc review

Best Room At... Hotel Chelsea

  • Meet the Team
  • Work with Us
  • Czech Republic
  • Netherlands
  • Switzerland
  • Scandinavia
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • New Zealand
  • South Africa
  • Budget Travel
  • Work & Travel
  • The Broke Backpacker Manifesto
  • Travel Resources
  • How to Travel on $10/day

Home » Gear » backpacking packing list

The ULTIMATE Backpacking Packing List: Everything You Need To Travel (2024)

Deciding what to take on a backpacking trip and what to leave behind can be quite the challenge.  You have one bag and so much stuff you could bring. How do you decide exactly what are the backpacking essentials, and what is excessive?

One of the most common questions that we consistently get from folks about to hit the road is – what gear should I take backpacking? What are the essential items I need? Well, read on cos we will show you exactly what to pack while backpacking by giving you my top-secret lightweight backpacking checklist.

This is the definitive backpacking checklist. We’ve put together this epic guide filled the backpacking essentials – just the things you do need, and some bold claims about the things you don’t need to take backpacking.

Aether Backpack

The Broke Backpacker is supported by you . Clicking through our links may earn us a small affiliate commission, and that's what allows us to keep producing free content 🙂 Learn more .

 Backpacking Checklist

Choosing what to pack, what to bring backpacking – 10 essential backpacking items, best backpacking clothes checklist, backpacking necessities – technology checklist, backpacking packing list – adventure checklist, backpacking supply list – hiking gear checklist, backpacking packing list – toiletries packing list, backpacking packing list – medical checklist, backpacking packing list – documents checklist, faq about the best backpacking packing list, final thoughts on our definitive backpacking checklist.

Nomatic 30L Travel Bag

Nomatic Travel Bag

  • Capacity > 30L
  • Price > $299

Nomatic Carry on Pro

Nomatic Navigator Carry On

  • Capacity > 37L
  • Price > $400

GoPro Hero 11

GoPro Hero 11

  • Resolution > 5k

Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket review

Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket

  • Price > $600

World Nomads Travel Insurance

Insurance From World Nomads

  • Price > Click For a Quote

Our Top Tips and Packing Hacks…

Before we get into the details of this, let us start by sharing our absolute tip-top tip for travel packing – pack light.

Whether you are camping or hiking, travelling to Europe or Asia as a baller or on a budget, it doesn’t matter what sort of backpacking trip you’re planning. You need to travel as light as possible. This is why we’ll only be talking about the  backpacking necessities .

Note that This is a purposely lightweight backpacking checklist to help you achieve this. We’ve only included things to take backpacking that you really need!

girl sitting on a rock mountain view in pakistan

This is the most important backpacking packing tip I can give you. Travel light! And here are some of the reasons why packing light is so damn important;

  • By travelling lighter you are saving yourself the strain and the stress of a weighted pack. Heavy bags suck, and more shit = more weight.
  • Travelling lighter will enable you to have spare space, meaning you can fit more stuff in your bag if need be. See a nice souvenir for mum? Want to pick up some camping gear? If you pack light, you’ll have the space to add more gear to your pack…

You might be thinking, ‘But there are over 100 items recommended on your backpacking essentials checklist! I’ll need 4 backpacks to fit them all!’

This is true! We make a ton of backpacking travel gear recommendations in this guide, and it would be silly to try and bring all of them along with you on your backpacking trip.

We’ve done our best to break this backpacking checklist down into several sections so you can pick what to take backpacking based on the kind of trip you’re doing. Not everyone is going to need a sleeping bag and hiking boots, some will reserve more room for specialist camera gear and extra batteries. Others will rightly prioritise room for emergency toilet paper!

One thing that everyone should prioritize though is respecting mother nature and not leaving anything behind. The less you pack, the less you can leave behind. Packing eco-friendly products is an extra bonus of course 😉

So keep this in mind as you peruse this list – only pack the gear that best fits  your travel style and itinerary. Doing so will turn this epic checklist into your perfectly tailored minimalist backpacking list. 

packing a travel backpack

Another great tip is to always pack appropriately for your destination and for the kind of trip you intend to have. For example, keep a firm eye on climate – if you are backpacking Europe in July then you won’t need too much in the way of warm clothes (except a jacket for the UK!). Likewise, if you’re just going to be hitting the beach or exploring cities then hiking shoes are probably not all that essential! And if you aren’t a Digital Nomad or aspiring entrepreneur, then you can probably take that laptop off your backpacking list.

By keeping note of the travel style and itinerary of your backpacking trip, you’ll be able to quickly and easily identify which gear on this backpacking checklist is right for you to bring along on your travels…

Looking for a backpacking clothes list, hold your horse a little because that comes later, first you need to check off these backpacker essentials.

Looking to find your tribe?

packing a travel backpack

Introducing the best Coworking Hostel in the World – Tribal Bali !

A unique coworking and co-living hostel for those that want to travel the world while working from their laptops. Make use of the massive open-air coworking spaces and sip on delicious coffee. If you need a quick screen break, just take a refreshing dip in the infinity pool or grab a drink at the bar.

Need more work inspiration? Staying at a digital nomad-friendly hostel is a really smart way to get more done whilst still enjoying the social life of travelling… Mingle, share ideas, brainstorm, make connections and find your tribe at Tribal Bali!

Out of all the things you could bring on your backpacking adventure, these are my 10 highest recommendations. This is the backpacking gear that we have been using for over a decade as we travel around the world.

There’s a lot of gear out there that you don’t need but in my opinion, every traveller should have these ten backpacking essentials on their checklist…

#1 Travel Backpack! (Like the Osprey Aether Plus 70 Pack)

Osprey Aether Plus 70 Pack - Men's

The most important item on this backpacking gear list is a good backpacking backpack! After all, you can’t be a backpacker without a backpack and picking the right backpack is key! I mean, it wouldn’t be a backpacking trip packing list without something to pack it all in!

I myself am a big fan of Osprey packs They are really bloody comfortable, well designed, ergonomic, hard wearing and they come with a lifetime warranty. Backpacks come in all kind of shapes and sizes but we suggest picking a backpack in the forty- to the sixty-litre (40l – 60l) range.

Lots of us here at TBB use the Osprey Aether backpack  (read the full review here ) but there are lots of great options out there.

Picking the right travel backpack is very important; you are, after all, going to be pretty much living out of your pack.

You can’t compile your ultimate backpacking gear list without the right backpack! Remember to throw in some good packing cubes too so you can keep everything organised, they’re another must have for backpacking.

packing a travel backpack

REI is one of America’s biggest and most-loved outdoor gear retailers.

Now, for just $30, get a lifetime membership that entitles you to 10% OFF on most items, access to their trade-in scheme and discount rentals .

#2 Daypack – (Like the Osprey Daylite Pack)

Osprey Daylite Backpack

Most of us here at TBB travel with a big backpack which we use for keeping most of our stuff and traveling and then a smaller pack which we use for day trips and stuff.

We recommend looking at the Osprey Daylite ; it’s super comfy and of great quality. It’s versatile as hell so can be used for beach days, going shopping, day hikes, overnight camping trips or simply for carrying your backpack to the coffee shop.

Want a few more options? Have a look at our guide to the best travel backpacks to see which suits you best.

If you don’t like the look of the Exos then go and check out our detailed post on how to choose the best daypack for travel.

packing a travel backpack

#3 A Proper Travel Towel (Gotta stay dry!)

Towels are essential backpacking gear as a lot of hostels don’t provide them or if they do, they may not really be all that clean. However don’t bring a ‘normal’ towel on your backpacking journeys, they are big and take up loads of room in your pack and they take ages to dry.

Travel pros like use micro-fibre dry towels series that roll up into tiny, space saving proportions AND they dry unbelievably quick. Granted, they are not quite as comforting as a cotton towel but its a trade of that travellers need to make. A good micro-fibre travel towers is essential travel gear on any ultimate backpacking gear list.

The Matador micro-fibre towel range are made by travellers for travellers. They are super light, and most importantly dry very quickly and are perfect for all types of backpacking trips.

packing a travel backpack

#4  Travel Security Belt  (hide your cash!)

I take travel security very seriously, so I never travel without this incredible product.

To keep your money hidden on the road, I strongly recommend picking up one of these beauties – it has a hidden inner pocket in which you can hide up to twenty notes or some marijuana…

I never travel without a security belt and it’s helped me keep my money hidden and on my body whilst travelling through more dodgy countries but it’s useful for all types of backpacking trips. Travelling with a money belt is a small investment that helps keep your money safe.

packing a travel backpack

#5 Combination Padlock (For your backpack and hostel lockers!)

Travel Padlocks are very important for a few reasons.

First, you can lock your bag up when you need to. Connect the lock between the two zippers and BOOM! Your bag is safe from any intruders. This will help keep you at ease when you have to be apart from your bag.

Padlocks are also VERY handy when staying in hostels. Most hostels provide some sort of lockers, but not all of them provide locks for those lockers (or even worse – they charge for them!). However, I don’t always trust hostel padlocks for security reasons and of course, little padlock keys are all too easy to lose.

Always pack a few good quality, combination padlocks. They slot easily into the little pockets and compartments of your backpack and are so very useful. Just remember to remember the combination…

Power Adapter

#6 World Travel Adapter (a MUST have)

Travellers all hope for the same thing, that one day the world will unite, and all decide upon a universal size for power adapters…

Well until that happens, you’re going to need a travel adapter and they’re useful for all types of backpacking trips.

There are currently 15 different types of power adapter sizes in use around the world! The best way to ensure your beloved electronics get charged regardless of the country you are in is by using a universal adapter.

It’s worth splashing out a bit here and getting one that can charge a laptop and two USB devices at once.

Wandrd Packing Cubes

#7 Wandrd Packing Cubes

In case you have never used them, packing cubes are little compression cubes that allow you to neatly pack clothes in in order to help facilitate better packing. They allow you to pack more stuff, and to keep it all better organised.

For the longest time, I thought that packing cubes were a superfluous indulgence, but boy was I wrong. Now I never travel without a few and they are the perfect way to organise yourself when you’re packing for a backpacking trip.

These ones from WANDRD are great quality and excellent value for money.

#8 A travel-friendly laptop!

We only really recommend bringing a laptop traveling for a few reasons. 1) You make money or need to work online, or 2) you really really love your laptop. Otherwise, backpacking is a great opportunity to unplug and get offline for a while.

Digital Nomad in Malta

For the Digital Nomads and laptop enthusiasts out there, you’ll want a high-quality piece of technology – and we’ve got just the thing for you.

One of the best investments we ever made was our MacBook Pros. It’s got a great UI, it’s very durable, and it helped us take The Broke Backpacker to the next level.

If you looking to start a blog, or make money online, it’s our highest recommendation. Check out this post for a full breakdown of travel-friendly laptops. 

packing a travel backpack

#9 Nomatic Toiletry Bag (Convenience in ways you never thought possible)

Hygiene, haircare and skin care all need to be maintained during a backpacking trip and so you will need to bring along some toiletries.

The best way to do this is to invest a dedicated toiletry bag.

This one by Nomatic is possibly the best toiletry bag on the market. It is made from water resistant, wipe cleanable material that guarantees longevity and it offers excellent organisational capabilities. It is also comes with a hang-up-hook so you can hang it over the shower head or your hostel bed.

We like to say that we’ve never really feel like I’ve moved into a place until we hang up our toiletry bags. Backpacking travel toiletry bags rock!

go pro hero 9 black

#10 GoPro Hero9 Black

Every traveller needs a camera, right?

The performance of action cameras has increased significantly, whilst the overall price has come down – making them more affordable. GoPro is the leading action cam brand for a reason: the image quality and stabilization technology of their cameras are unmatched. What’s great is that you get a decent piece of camera gear in such a small package.

Of course, not everybody needs a camera as many of us are quite content to use our smart phones. Still, investing in one of these means you can take some awesome videos and capture those special treasured travel memories.

packing a travel backpack

#11 – eSim by Onesim

The good news about Planet Earth is that there is excellent 4g and 5g Internet coverage, taxi apps and food delivery apps in pretty much all cities and towns (but it does get patchy once you venture out into the wilds and wilderness). The bad news is that your native SIM card will probably not work once your leave your native country and so you will not be able to access any of this online goodness until you rectify that particular situation.

You can waste time hanging around phone shops queuing to get a plastic sim or you can is,ply install a eSim onto your phone before you leave home. You just access the OneSim site, choose the package for whatever country you wish to visit, download it and off you go – you are online the moment you land at the airport.

eSims are easier to set up and better than the environment than plastic sims. The downside is that not all phones are eSim ready.

Samsung Galaxy Smart Tag Bluetooth Tracker

#12 – GPS Luggage Tracker

You may know this, but right now airlines are losing record amounts of bags and suitcases some of which are never to be seen again. To help to find your bag in the event it does go missing, just pop a GPS luggage tracker inside it and you will be able to identify exactly where on earth it is.

A good, reliable GPS luggage tracker has emerged as an essential piece of travel packing.

Psst! Wanna know what I also always travel with? A travel chess set , because I’m mad for it!

packing a travel backpack

Do You Want to Travel FOREVER??

Pop your email in below to get a FREE copy of ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day!’.

Whilst we were all born naked, and have some of our best times naked, clothes are nevertheless a part and parcel of life pretty much anywhere on earth. Whilst dressing for day-to-day life at home is presumably second nature to you by now, dressing for travel can be a bit more complicated.

Packing list backpack clothes

As such picking the right clothes when backpacking is super important. Here are a few tips to get you all started when compiling your backpacking clothes checklist…

  • Pack light clothes – Hot or cold weather, pack clothes that fold up small and don’t weigh too much – avoid denim jeans and pack hiking pants instead! Even if you are heading to freezing weather, it’s better to bring clothes that you can layer up with rather than bringing a big heavy jacket. Cotton is light and breathes. Splurge on the more sweat-resistant stuff if you can and always pack some rain gear!
  • Dress dark – Unleash your inner goth and dress dark! Darker clothes hide annoying stains and can be worn for longer. This is extra important because you can expect your backpacking clothes to be on a quicker rotation than your normal wardrobe.
  • Bring fewer clothes  – Clothes can be found for pretty cheap in most parts of the world, so rather than overpack, bring slightly less than what you need and pick up anything else you might need on the road. This is especially true for places like India and Thailand where you can find amazing, local made clothes for amazing prices.

These are my top recommendations for the best clothes to wear while travelling/backpacking. This travel packing list will see you through heaps of different scenarios.

  • Underwear (x5) : It can be surprisingly hard to find underwear that fits in Asia… Pack enough before you go backpacking!
  • Thin hiking trousers (x1) : Craghoppers  for both men and women make the best stuff and their NosiLife range is impregnated with mosquito repellent. I’ve been wearing Columbia hiking pants for years and swear by them – it’s tough, light, good value and keeps mosquitoes at bay.
  • Long-sleeved mosquito repellent shirt : A long sleeve sun shirt is a backpacking necessity when travelling to certain areas, mosquito repellent shirts are a lifesaver when trekking or hanging out in tropical climates.

backpacking packing list

  • T-shirts / Tank tops (x4) : Easy to find on the road, don’t stress too much about these.
  • Base Layer (x1) : Crucial for keeping warm, I swear by my Helley Hansen . Many can also double as a long sleeve sun shirt.
  • Lightweight technical fleece : Essential when you’re on buses or trains that have the AC turned to ‘freezing’.
  • Evening wear (x1)  While not quite backpacking necessities, it’s nice to have for a night on the town! Again, I tend to stick to Craghoppers; they have some smart shirts which are also tough and practical.

backpacking packing list

  • Sunhat (x1) : If you’re heading to the scorched plains of Backpackistan, you need to keep your head covered. My Barmah bush-hat has accompanied me on many adventures.
  • Buff (x1) : One of my favourite travel accessories on this backpacking checklist, I wear one on my wrist at all times; it’s great for keeping the sun off or covering your mouth and nose to keep dust out. I also use it as an eye mask on long haul transport and in dorm rooms.

backpacking packing list

  • Indestructible sunglasses : I have probably destroyed over one hundred pairs of sunglasses… For a backpacking adventure, it’s worth investing in a decent pair of sunnies and I recommend Abaco; these are specifically built for travellers and are pretty much impossible to break.
  • Warm Gear : If you’re heading into the mountains this is the most important section of the backpacking gear list. Do yourself a favour and pick up a pair of water-resistant gloves , a  hat with ear-flaps , a down jacket, good quality rain gear and some lightweight hiking shoes.

I’ve been using my RAB Neutrino for years and it was a great investment. I never travel without my RAB, I know that if I have to sleep rough I can survive a night as long as I have my trusty down jacket. It weighs just 650grams, folds down super small and will keep you very warm indeed.

backpacking packing list

  • Trekking trainers : Don’t go travelling around the world without decent shoes! I personally swear by North Face Hedgehogs and have been wearing them for nearly a decade. They are a good lighter option to hiking boots.
  • Technical sandals : If you’re going to be spending a lot of time trekking in the jungle, hanging out on the beach or sailing then it’s worth bringing a pair of good quality technical sandals; Teva  make the best hiking sandals in my opinion. Alternatively, you could pick up some lightweight hiking shoes.
  • Flip Flops : Not all backpacking clothes has to be techy. You can make yourself comfy by packing a pair of these along. They’re essential on any backpacking clothing list!

backpacking packing list

Camera: If you want to take a camera and you’re new to photography I suggest getting something by Lumix , they offer great bang for your buck and is ideal for taking quality travel photos.  Check out this incredibly detailed post for a breakdown of the best travel cameras,  or best travel tripods if you’re really interested in travel photography.

backpacking packing list

Laptop : Since I make a living online, I travel with some top-notch tech. Buying a MacBook Pro was the single best investment I ever made. Whilst a laptop might not be on every backpacking trip list, if you’re blogger or photographer then you’ll be needing one.

Check out this incredibly detailed post for a breakdown of the best travel laptops for digital nomads and backpackers.

backpacking packing list

USB flash drive : Endlessly helpful.

USB card reader : Essential if you’re into your photography.

World Travel Adapter : This could easily top the list of backpacking essentials. It’s worth splashing out a bit here and getting one that can charge a laptop and two USB devices at once.

screenshot-www.picmonkey.com-2018.07.30-13-04-20

Smartphone : If you have a good smartphone, you might not need a camera – it totally depends on how much you care about your photos.

Portable battery : Extremely useful for keeping your phone and camera charged whilst adventuring. I travel with two as I’m often trekking and away from power.

If you’re a keen hiker or adventurer, you know that you’ll need to carry more gear… It’s great to pack light but if you’re spending a lot of time camping out or hiking through the mountains, it’s important to be prepared.  This camping gear checklist has got you covered on everything you’ll need for your epic hikes and camping delights.

a backpack, tent and fishing rod by a lake

Head-torch : One of the most useful items on this backpacking checklist! Head torches are useful for caving, hiking and bathroom trips when the power’s gone out.

Check out my post on the best headlamps for travel.

Pocket Blanket:  Lightweight, waterproof, super compact pocket blanket is a great addition to your backpacking checklist. Doubling up as an emergency poncho, a picnic blanket is worth its weight in gold when chilling, or camping, on the beach. This is a great item to have, even for someone looking for a minimalist backpacking list and if you want to roll around with your significant other, a picnic blanket is well worth packing.

Camping Hammock : Lighter and more portable than a tent. Plus, chicks dig hammocks… I always travel with a parachute hammock. Not an absolutely essential item, but one of my favourite items on this backpacking packing list.

Mosquito Net : Put a box-shaped net on your backpacking list if you’re headed to the Tropics.

Cable ties : Always worth packing a couple, especially if you’re off on a motorbiking adventure.

backpacking packing list

Carabiners : I always pack a couple of these. Simply clip them to your pack and use them when you need to attach stuff to the outside of your pack, fix things, hang up mosquito nets… They’re super useful on any backpacking trip checklist.

Sleeping bag liner : Useful when the sheets are not so clean or you want to sleep under a blanket but it’s damn hot. Check out all our favourite sleeping bag liners . If you’re serious about camping you might also want to look at some lightweight sleeping pads too.

Small sewing kit : Fix your own shit, you’ll save some money. In fact, whether you’re camping or not we reckon this should be on any backpacking packing list.

Pens and notebook : Don’t go travelling without them!

Travel workout equipment: You may want to throw a jump rope, a light yoga mat, and stretching strap to stay on top of your travel fitness game.

backpacking packing list

You may not need a lot of the gear below, but if you’re planning an epic expedition and will be away from civilization a lot it does make sense to invest in some of this must-have hiking gear. Some of us at TBB always travel with a tent as it has saved a ton of money on accommodation over the years. This is our hiking/camping gear checklist…

Multi-tool : We’ve been using our ultra-lightweight Leatherman Skeletool for years, it’s the perfect companion for any backpacking adventure. Check out our guide to the best multitools here for some more options.

Portable Stove : If you are hiking/camping, then this obviously needs to be on your backpacking equipment list. I have a pocket rocket which serves me well – check out my post on the top backpacking stoves  to find out if you really need a stove for your travels.

backpacking packing list

Tent : If you’re camping, you’ll need a tent… Check out my detailed post on  the best tents to take backpacking. 

Hammock: Even if you’re not sleeping on the beach, a camping hammock always comes in handy when backpacking and most hammocks take up next to no room in your pack. Check out my article on the best camping hammocks for travelling!

Sleeping pad and sleeping bag : Klymit makes the best value sleeping pads. Check out my post on the best sleeping pads to take backpacking. If you are hiking and camping a lot, this is obviously a must when it comes to your backpacking equipment list – without a sleeping pad, you will get seriously cold. You can also pick up a top-quality travel pillow too if you want to get extra comfy – we suggest one from the good people at TRTL .

backpacking packing list

Water bottle : Every backpacker should hit the road with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and help reduce your plastic footprint on our amazing planet.

Grayl Geopress: The best option for purifying water. – Once upon a time I lost my original Grayl… and soon after contracted a parasite from some questionable water. Since replacing it with the Geopress, I’ve been able to stay parasite-free at multiple high-altitude campsites and other escapades. It’s revolutionized my travels, and by buying one, you’ll also be helping out the planet by not adding to the plastic problem.

Water purification tabs : A much cheaper option for purifying water.

backpacking packing list

In our wash bags, my backpacking essentials are…

  • Microfiber trav e l towel   -super lightweight and fast-drying
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Cotton buds
  • Pack of tissues
  • Decent sunscreen (often expensive to buy abroad)
  • Razor with replacement blades
  • Shaving gel
  • Lau ndry bag

This travel toiletries list has all the essentials. Ladies – pack more as you may need.

It’s always worth packing a small first-aid kit. On our travels, we’ve been hospitalized multiple times between us, been in a couple of motorbike accidents and had more hangovers than you can count. They’re essential on any backpacking packing guide and our first aid kits saved my ass on more than one occasion…

I recommend picking up a pre-assembled first-aid kit  and then pimping it out with all of the below.

  • Personal medicines such as inhalers
  • Paracetamol, ibuprofen, and aspirin
  • Disinfectant spray
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • Mosquito repellent (at least 40% DEET)
  • Antihistamines
  • Bandages and gauze
  • Plasters in various sizes
  • Steri-strips
  • Throat lozenges
  • Ciprofloxacin (the best thing to take for traveller’s diarrhoea. Prescription only in the UK so please take medical advice before taking)
  • Malaria pills if applicable

It helps to be organized before you hit the road; we travel with all of the below in a plastic wallet, it may sound nerdy but when you’re at a politically charged border crossing you will get across a lot faster if you are organized.

packing a travel backpack

  • Flight, train, and bus tickets
  • Travel Security Belt: The best way to keep your money hidden.
  • Address of your first hostel (even if it’s fake).
  • Valid Passport
  • A laminated copy of your passport
  • Debit Cards x 2
  • Credit Card
  • Dollars or Euros
  • Some, one-dollar bills for tips
  • Driver’s license
  • half a dozen passport photos for visas on arrival (you normally need two per visa).
  • Insurance information, home contact details, and health information as part of a laminated card.

Backpacking Essentials – Travel Insurance!

Do you need Travel Insurance for your trip? Even if you’re only going for a few days, that’s more than enough time to get smote by wrathful angels. Have fun, but take it from us, overseas medical care and cancelled flights can be seriously expensive – insurance can, therefore, be a life-saver.

Travel mishaps can and do happen and it is well worth thinking about insurance before you leave home. This is a backpacker’s essential item that many either forget about or ignore and we don’t want you to regret that!

We use World Nomads which specialises in covering digital nomads and backpackers. Why not get a quote from them yourself?

Do be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure that the policy covers your needs.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

packing a travel backpack

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Still, have some questions about our backpacking travel essentials guide? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:

What are the essential items for backpackers?

Every backpacker needs a good backpack ! After that pick up a good water bottle, some hiking boots and a compass.

What to pack for 3 months of backpacking?

Make sure you have a good travel backpack . Then bring a rain jacket, good shoes, 10 sets of underwear, and always remember a headtorch!

How much weight should you carry in a backpack?

Don’t pack more weight than you can carry and don’t put too much pressure on your backpack. As a general rule, don’t try to carry more than 20% of your own body weight.

What size backpack do I need for 3 months?

It depends on your travel style and what activities you hage planed. However typically we would suggest you bring a size between 50-65L.

We’ve been around the world a handful of times. My backpacking list comes with ten years of travel blood, sweat, and tears so have a proper read over this backpacking checklist and heed my advice, pack light but be sure to pack the things you need for your own travel style…

With the help of these packing lists, you’ll be able to figure out exactly what to pack for your trip so you can gallivant around the world knowing you’ve got everything you need for your adventure…

For more travel gear inspiration, check out my buddy Gianni’s ultralight packing list  and for the ladies, this excellent  travel packing list for women by Two Scots Abroad.

My friend Gemma has put together this detailed post on how to choose high-quality hiking pants for men.

Have we missed anything off our backpacker checklist? Are there any backpacking must-haves that you swear by that we’ve forgotten? Let us know below.

Osprey Aether

Joe Middlehurst

Best Backpacking Packing List Pinterest Image

Share or save this post

packing a travel backpack

73 Comments

Great post.

I’ve searching for exact items that need on my backpack journey. I’m still gathering the list and getting the items. Somethings I’ve found are a real necessity as emergency blanket, disposable rain coat and powerful power bank.

Be aware that some airports have restriction on the mAp of the powerback you can travel with. After years of travelling with a power bank that had a high mAp count, it was finally confiscated on an internal flight in Thailand, May 24.

Hi all !!! I’ve been going through your website for days now as I am planning my FIRST 6-months solo backpacking trip in southeast Asia (a way to end my student years on a high note ?).

Being a big nature addict, I will be traveling off the beaten paths as much as I can… (ex : planning several five-day-ish hikes in the mountains) BUT I also plan on enjoying some touristy, beach, chill activities + working from my laptop!!!

Therefore, I’ve been wondering how much of all this camping gear I should take with me… For instance, it’s great to have a portable stove when you need one, but is it necessary to carry it around for six months ? Is it realistic to carry a tent+a laptop+all the backpacking necessities+all the camping gear ? In short, how would you recommend combining adventure, working nomad and tourist modes in my backpack ? + Where do you leave your unnecessary stuff (ex: laptop…) when you go camping in the mountains for a week ?

Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer me, and for your amazing website !!!

Generally you can pay to have your stuff stored either at hostels or guesthouses in most SEA countries. If you are really going off grid you will need to be self sufficient and have the items you need with you, including a way to cook.

Some things you will be able to get in SEA but quality camping gear can be harder to come by and expensive. It’s certainly feasible to carrying all the gear you need plus laptop etc and store other things while camping.

Really good post you have there. One thing I would like to add is this Cocoon Grid It Organiser my boyfriend got for his Christmas present. It keeps all your techy electrical things together in one place and they never fall out. We have the one which stores his MacBook air, his kindle, charging cables, adaptor plugs, spare batteries and pens. You can mix and match. You should have a look as you have quite a bit of gadgets there.

great tips for backpackers and checklist. Must give suggestions about hygiene during such adventurous trips.

Long time fan, first time caller. Thanks for this excellent packing guide, and for all the other useful content on the site. I’m off to India & South America so this resource has proved super useful!

My question was, do you have any “best practice” tips on how best to store your passport + other small valuables? I’m guessing keeping them on you is your best bet, but was specifically wondering if there was anything similar to the cash storage wallet that you’d recommend?

Many thanks in advance!

Hey Will! So personally, I always keep emergency cash and a photocopy of my passport rolled up and hidden in a zipper in my security belt – it’s basically a normal looking belt but on the inside there’s a zip and you can hide stuff in there – really helpful! For my passport, personally I hide it as deep in my backpack as possible, it isn’t practical to take it out on nights out or when exploring so it stays, hidden, with my main backpack.

The broke backpacker promoting links to a towel that costs 45-50 quid. You think you might have lost touch with your target audience from getting so much sponsorship you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be an actual broke backpacker?!

Hi Kayleigh,

I think you may have happened upon a listing on amazon.co.uk for one of our Active Roots towels. This is not being sold by us, nor does that company act as a reseller for us.We would not recommend buying from them. We only sell on amazon.com, the towel is around 19.99usd. Hope that helps clarify.

Hi, the link for the Backpacker Bible isn’t working! Is there another link I can try? I’d like to check it out and possibly purchase! Preparing for a huge RTW trip, and this site has been a literal lifesaver!

Hey, the link is now working! It looks like there was a temporary error, but NO FEARS!!! Now you get your free reading material for your adventure! 🙂

I just want to say thanks for this entire site. Everything about it is super useful and you’ve made it easy to read and navigate. I’m very grateful for you! Best wishes in your future travels xx

Thanks as always for visiting! Good luck on your next backpacking adventure!

Such a complete list. I will keep it in my mind and remember this before my next trip. Thanks for the sharing such an informative article.

Glad you found it useful.

thanks for the post

Thanks for the information

Nice list…except for the 70Lts backpack. as much space you have, you always tend to fill it up. I wont go for more than 40Lts

At the last minute, I chucked a small roll of duct tape into my pack. This tape patched a ripped daypack, stopped a cracked glass bottle from leaking, made a makeshift handle for heavy bags after the handles broke, and covered the open ports on my phone/camera when I went to the beach. Genius product which made other travellers extremely jealous 🙂

Antibiotics (ciprofloxacin) should only be used in special cases of traveller’s diarrhoea, and at least not self-diagnosed! You shouldn’t be advising people bringing it on their trip.

Trust me buddy, when you are in the middle of the mountains with no clinic or hospital for several days walk, it’s worth having a well packed medi-kit.

Being a 46 year old backpacker myself this was still extremely informative! I’m heading out next month for what may be my last year solo. Doing All of South America! Would you happen to have this list in a printable format?

Hi! Great tips – great list, thank you.

I have backpacked a lot – and am now dragging my husband and kids around the globe as much as I can. Sadly, I have discovered that I am getting more sqeamish about sleep. Really prefer to avoid other people’s grime and itchy blankets (argh the thoughts of wet, dirty, woolly blankets in a hostel i Nainitaal)… So, am thinking of investing in some ultra-thin sleeping bags for us – or travel sheets. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations? I realise something ultra-thin and backpack friendly won’t be warm, but it is just so we can sleep in our own dirt – dirty, wet woolly blankets can go on top…

Wow, I do sound like an old, prissy lady!

Thanks in advance

– where are you now? we are going to Iran next month 🙂

I traveled with a silk sleeping bag liner for this exact reason – they are really great! 🙂

that’s what i thought, thanks 🙂

there are items on this list that cannot be in a carry on backpack (like the leatherman multitool), how do you solve that issue?

thanks in advance.

Valid point about the leatherman skeletool… normally however I travel overland or with hold luggage as I DO have a fair bit of stuff – camping equipment mostly 😉

Hi Will!!! Big fan of your blog as your writing is captivating and has inspired me to do more with the years left on my clock! and for that my friend I thank you! Now I was really curious how you keep your stuff save from petty theft when camping out with your hammock? Vietnam in particular.

Hey Josh! Personally, most or all of my valuables usually stay in my daypack which never leaves my side unless I’ve been able to lock it up somewhere… petty theft can be a problem for sure, for a longtime though I had nothing worth stealing 😛

Great list. After reading this I realized my packing suit needs to be upgraded. And first of all, I need to replace the heaviest items with lighter ones. And it’s high time that I obtained a dry bag. Have no idea how I could do without it. Thank you for sharing this.

Hi question about the day pack you recommend, the zomake small pack… some of the reviews I ve read say it s not waterproof as advertised. what is your experience with it in the rain? We are traveling to Colombia at the end of their rainy season and I would like a day pack that is waterproof. By the way I love your website, Thank you.

Hey Michelle, it certainly isn’t super waterproof but it can take some rain… just not being dumped in a river! 🙂

Wow what a tremendous checklist. I just love your list. I love travelling. And i have been thinking about my next travelling. Many time i love to pack my backpacking. This time i will must follow your checklist and hope so it will be more comfortable for me. From here i know some new items which is essential for bring with me when i am packing my backpack. If you had more insight i will greatly appreciate it. Thanks for the sharing such a informative also helpful article.

Thank you so much for sharing your tips and experience. I always bring my travel towel and my hammock – it can be a lifesaver.

Awesome checklist, man! I have to say that the most important thing I’ve ever brought with me on my backpacking trips—especially to South Sudan—has been a hammock. Having a hammock is like having a heaven bed and a partner at the same time. I’ve laughed with, cried with, and disclosed my innermost secrets to my hammock, whom I consider to be my best friend and potential marriage partner.

Well, I don’t want to be rushing about from place to place, going everywhere and not really getting to see much if you know what I mean, so SE Asia?

Hi, I really like your list, my boyfriend and I have just started to plan our travels. We are going for a year, I’d love to go for longer but I’m a nurse and the longer I go without working the harder it is to get back into nursing. Is there anywhere in particular you would recommend? So far we are thinking a month of interrailing in Europe then getting the Trans-siberian railway to Beijing and winging it from there so any adivce would be appreciated!

A year of backpacking sounds like an epic trip! As for advise – can you be a bit more specific about what you’re looking for? There’s so many epic places in the world to visit…

So very hard to know what to pack in that small bag, but your guidance and tips certainly help with the selection.

Great work.

Cheers Sharon…

Great article! I love reading about what other travelers bring with them. A few of those I wished I realized before I started my travels (eg first-aid kit and ear plugs). I also love that you included condoms twice…you can never be too careful.

I read one of the comments above that discussed how bringing as many electronics as you suggest makes it “too comfortable.” I disagree, I believe that travel is different for everybody and you should be as comfortable as you want to. I have no plans on going on any vision quests or anything, so making sure I have my laptop and chargers on me is a necessity.

My trip might be a bit less intense than yours (less camping), so if you’re ever curious on what a city-dwelling traveler brings in his bag you can check out my new “what’s in my bag” post:

http://www.citizensofeverywhere.cc/2018/02/09/round-the-world-packing-list/

Look forward to reading the rest of your posts, looks like I have a lot to catch up on!

Adam http://www.citizensofeverywhere.com

Hi Will, Love the packing list and your blog in general! Despite having travelled for years I have just started in the travel blogging world. I’m developing my website at the moment and would love it if you have the time to take a look and give me your feedback. Apologies if you get requests all the time but if you are game then I would appreciate it! Kind Regards Charlie

Great packing list!! Most of the time i over pack my backpack. This will help me a lot. Which size backpack do you prefer for travel?

You have shared a great list. And I must say that a simple and light weight camera is a must. Who would not want to capture the great moments while on a trek

I think this is a great list.Your Article is Wonderful! A lot of Great Tips and Very nicely written. I have learned a lot from your article Thank you for sharing with us.

Great list and images alongside 🙂 Think we need to upgrade some of our gear before our next trip after reading this! Cheers.

After reading your list I tend to leave the laptop at home and just stick with my phone, I try to reduce the whole electronics and leave what I can behind.

But I agree you have to pack for the kind of trip your taking. I tend to find that backpacking is a great way with getting to know yourself more and you do meet a lot of people from all walks of life. The amount of friends I have made over my time backpacking its nice.

But I do try and stick to the essentials when I backpack. 🙂

Great Read and great list 😉

Cheers dude and yeah I totally hear you – there are advantages to leaving the electronics behind; harder when you’re going for years at a time though!

Hi there,Im heading to south east asia for about 5 months end of november, i was just wondering the vaccinations you recommend which I should get done as hospitals try hook you up with things that are not really needed.

Tetnus and the Heps are usually worth getting… 🙂

Will, great list of gear…but how much does your kit generally weigh? Seems like it could be damn heavy!!!

I agree that toiletries is the most important things we should carry with us whenever we plan to travel somewhere. If you’re going on a short trip and you don’t have any check-in baggage, you need to make sure that any toiletries you bring don’t fall foul of the 100 ml/3 oz limit.

This is especially relevant for women (who tend generally to carry more cosmetics type stuff) and first time travellers. The number of newly bought toiletries I have seen confiscated at airport security, by now, would number in the high hundreds of litres. Check it in or keep it under 100ml for hand luggage. I can only imagine where all that product ends up.

Hello Will,It’s a good list for easy living.I have just done a 4 month motorcycle trip around most of S/East Asia and as far as electronics go,all I took was a $15 cell phone.My total pack weight was 18kg and did trip in the wet season.Lots of fun.I feel that too much gear and all the electronics you suggest,makes the trip to easy,(comforts of home)might as well stay home.It is fun getting lost,you do finish up in some cool places,you might never have,discovered.

I love your bio. I from Venezuela

very nice post. thanks for sharing! will definitively check it before I travel next time.

All this goes in one bag that you have on you all the time? it all fits?

Nah, I tailor what I take based on what kind of trip it is…

But i dont get it, what do you do to all the stuff, i mean, you are backpacking, if you have sleeping bags to go hiking and then you go to a city and you dont need it, you throw it away?

sorry my english sucks haha love your blog, i click on every sponsor you have 😉

Epic list Will! I wish we bought a GSP device when we started travelling. I thought it was a bit overkill but it would have saved the day a few times in India!

A valid point!! It’s not often I miss something like that… my hat off to you Sir!

for the more adventurous ones, hammocks and a good tent. travelled 4 months in SEA, and quite possibly spent a month in the tent to reduce accommodation expenses.

A hammock or a tent are a great way to save money but they do weigh you down, you need to work out what kind of trip you want and plan accordingly – whenever I hitchhike, I take camping gear 🙂

Excuse me, when you sleep outside in a tent how do you go to the bathroom?

Dig a hole my friend, dig a hole.

Bandanas (2), shemagh scarf, Paracord, pharaoh rod (metal match). What does your pack weigh? Mine is currently 35lbs. Id prefer 30 but doesn’t seem possible to lose anything.

You can never have enough Bandanas….. Mine is around the 30 mark 🙂

You can do almost anything with a shemaugh and paracord!

Thanks, Serena

I haven’t heard of this but it sounds pretty awesome; going to check it out now! 🙂

Digital copies of your preferred travel guides can be loaded onto your tablet. Save the weight, don’t take the book!

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

The 11 Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Our simulations reveal which bags you can count on

packing a travel backpack

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .

TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong

A solid backpack is 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 weigh 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 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 choice, we tested 32 carry-on backpacks in our New York testing lab and in the real world. We tested for capacity, design, comfort, durability, and value.

Final Verdict

Product selection, how we tested, other carry-on backpacks we tested.

  • What to Look For

Why Trust TripSavvy

Best overall, cotopaxi allpa 35l travel pack.

  • Capacity 5 /5
  • Design 5 /5
  • Durability 5 /5
  • Comfort 5 /5

Super durable material

Very comfortable with multiple carry methods

Lighter and more rugged than previous models

Nothing yet

Does the perfect travel backpack exist? We’re not sure, but we can’t think of one that comes closer than the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L. This second version of Cotopaxi’s best-selling backpack is rugged and comfy, has excellent organization capabilities, and is the perfect size to throw in an overhead bin, toss in a vehicle, and huff around from train to hostel.

The pack uses burly TPU-coated 1000-denier polyester and lightweight 840-denier ballistic nylon paneling. It has excellent weight distribution with comfy shoulder and sternum straps and hip belts, or stow the straps and carry the pack with side handles. The inside features multiple pockets of different sizes that we found perfect for separating clean and dirty clothes, electronics, and shoes. Bonus: It comes with a rainfly to protect it from the weather.

Capacity: 35 liters | Weight: 3 pounds, 8 ounces | Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 8 inches | Materials: TPU-coated 1000-denier polyester and 840-denier ballistic nylon

TripSavvy / Jhett Thompson

Best Overall, Runner-Up

Osprey fairview 40.

Quite spacious while remaining carry-on sized

Keeps belongings secure

Good padding and weight distribution

Osprey’s women-specific Fairview 40 pack impressed our tester with its size, space, and compartments. “This bag has a lot of compartments and a lot of straps to hold everything in place,” our tester reported. Despite the bag fitting a bit large, our tester said it was still very comfortable to wear. Osprey employs its proprietary Lightwire Frame Suspension, which helps spread the weight across the back panel and from the harness to the hip belt.

Despite being a 40-liter pack, it weighs just about 3 pounds, thanks to the lightweight nylon ripstop material and frame. “It did not hurt my back, and I like how most of the weight was shifted to my lower back,” our tester mentioned. Besides the fit, we also appreciated that all straps are stowable, making it easy in case you need to check the bag on a plane (which is possible on smaller planes with this larger-capacity pack). For the men’s version of the same pack, check out the Farpoint 40 .

Capacity: 38 liters (extra-small/small size) | Weight: 3 pounds, 1 ounce | Dimensions: 19.3 x 13.8 x 8 inches | Materials: 210-denier nylon mini hex diamond ripstop and 600-denier packcloth

Best Budget

Vancropak 40l travel backpack.

  • Capacity 4 /5
  • Design 3 /5
  • Comfort 4 /5

Great for a short-to-medium-length trip

Could double as a business travel pack

Feature packed and user friendly

Lacks tech compartment

Cloth material could get dirty easily

This 40-liter pack checks all the boxes, including excellent value. Vancropak says it fits enough for trips between three and seven days, and we’d have to agree. “It fit everything even though I packed quickly and not thoughtfully or strategically,” our tester said. “It’s perfect for a weekend trip when you want to pack extra ‘just in case’ outfits or items. It even expands to provide more room. It has extra pockets, opens like a suitcase, has many different handles, and backpack straps that can be tucked and zipped away.” Compression straps also help shrink the bag back down after being packed.

And if you weren’t convinced yet of its value, it also includes packing cubes. “Its business-casual aesthetic makes it ideal for short business trips, too,” a tester added. One nitpick? There’s no laptop sleeve. But our testers thought the other features—and comfort—more than made up for that slight issue.

Capacity: 40 liters | Weight: 3.98 pounds | Dimensions: 20 x 13.7 x 6.2 inches | Materials: Water-resistant polyester

Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack

Functional straps

Multiple ways to carry

Not too weighty

Our tester didn’t love the style

If you didn’t dig the budget pack above, behold another excellent value travel pack. Like the Vancropak, the Asenlin Travel Backpack also includes three packing cubes. Our testers found they could easily fit everything needed for a weekend trip. They also liked the internal straps for organization and the external straps for compression. “It offers three different carrying methods, which is nice,” the testers reported. “It has a lot of different pockets and storage areas. The bottle holder on the side also unzips to expand, which is a thoughtful addition.”

Our testers liked how comfortable the bag was to wear and that it wasn’t overly heavy (the brand claims it weighs less than 3 pounds). We also believe this could double as a business travel bag.

Capacity: 40 liters | Weight: 2.7 pounds | Dimensions: 18.5 x 12.5 x 9.5 inches | Materials: Water-resistant polyester Oxford cloth

Best for Business Travel

Nomatic travel bag.

  • Comfort 3 /5

Fits about a week’s worth of items

Loads of internal organization

Comes with an additional laundry bag

Uncomfortable to carry at times

Some scuff marks after tossing around

While we certainly love this bag's sleek and simplistic aesthetic, there’s a lot more to it than just looks. It’s durable and water-resistant and has multiple carry options (e.g., duffel and over the shoulders), a separate shoe compartment, lots of tech organization, and a TSA-ready laptop sleeve.

Our testers loved the capacity of this pack. “It easily fit everything on the list with plenty of room to spare,” one tester said. “I think everything you would need for up to a week away would fit easily.” The pronounced rectangular shape of the bag made it extra easy to pack and helped organize folded clothes. “The bag had two different shoe pockets, a laptop sleeve, and many other compartments for both smaller clothing items and even some work supplies,” a tester reported.

The one drawback of this pack was our testers didn’t find it the most comfortable. Specifically, the straps were stiff and dug into one tester’s neck. Overall, though, our testers were very pleased with the pack and thought it was worth the fit, especially for the design and ease of packing.

Capacity: 40 liters | Weight: 3.4 pounds | Dimensions: 19 x 21 x 14 inches | Materials: Not listed

Best Multi-use

Peak design travel backpack 45l.

  • Value 4.5 /5

Excellent capacity

Easy to handle

Thoughtful storage solutions

This 45-liter travel pack from Peak Design debuted at the Outdoor Retailer Expo in 2018 and promptly won many awards. A few years later, it still holds up. Peak Design basically thought of everything when designing this pack. The outside features weatherproof recycled 400-denier nylon canvas and ultralight padded foam. It includes grab handles on each side, stowable hip belts, and a sternum strap. The inside has multiple pockets for organization and loads of room for trips of four days or longer.

Our testers loved the size and the zippers allowing access from four different sides of the bag. “It was super easy to pack, and there were just enough organization solutions to provide options for different packing strategies,” a tester said. “I also loved how many handles there were. A grab handle on all four main sides of the bag makes it super easy to maneuver, especially when putting it in the overhead compartment.”

Testers also liked the sheath built into the pack to stow the hip belt and the small pocket on the belt for stashing quick-grab items like lip balm, keys, or cards. They also enjoyed the water bottle pockets on both sides and the pack's comfort. Oh, and this pack is 100 percent carbon neutral. The only issue they saw was the price—it’s one of the most expensive on this list. But if you can look at this as an investment, the durability suggests it should last for many years. It's certainly carry-on luggage that any travel-savvy guy can appreciate.

Capacity: 45 liters | Weight: 4.5 pounds | Dimensions: 22 x 13 x 9.5 inches | Materials: Weatherproof 100 percent recycled 400-denier nylon canvas external shell and 900-denier waterproof bottom liner

TripSavvy / Conor Ralph

Most Comfortable

Topo designs global travel bag 40l.

Topo Designs

Excellent internal organization

Many different carrying options

Great for long travel days

Could be roomier

If your travel involves carrying your backpack for long periods, we recommend Topo Designs' Global Travel Bag. This super durable pack is also super comfortable with plush and padded shoulder straps and a hip belt. We also love that there are multiple ways to carry this pack with a comfy and padded sling. Its construction includes durable and recycled nylons with a canvas feel. And it meets Fair Wear certification standards, ensuring fair labor practices.

“There are a ton of compartments and pockets, so a lot of options for staying organized with small or loose items in the absence of packing cubes,” one tester said. “I could easily see places to stash cords, travel docs, electronics, water bottles, and more.”

While our testers liked a lot about this bag—including its durability—the comfort won them over. “All the features built into the bag suggest it's intended to create maximum comfort for someone who anticipates carrying the bag for a more extended period of time,” our tester concluded.

Capacity: 40 liters | Weight: 3 pounds, 10.4 ounces | Dimensions: 22.5 x 14 x 7.5 inches | Materials: 1000-denier recycled nylon, 400-denier recycled nylon, 210-denier recycled nylon, 1680-denier recycled ballistic nylon

Best Splurge

Bellroy transit backpack plus.

Flat opening made for easy packing

Comfortable to carry

Long lasting

Minimal internal organization

If you weren't convinced by our business travel pick above, consider this your alternative. This pack's sleek, durable, and comfortable design makes it ideal for business and formal travel. Our testers found it easy to fit enough items for up to three or four days away. Lighter packers could stretch this to five days. The inside is designed more like a typical carry-on pack with one large compartment.

“This bag felt super light on my back and was padded in all the right places,” a tester reported. “It has adjustable sternum and waist straps that you can tuck into the back of the pack when you don't want to use them, which is a genius feature.” Our testers were also impressed with the bag's durability, as it survived being tossed around our lab with zero marks or scuffs.

Capacity: 38 liters | Weight: 3.3 pounds | Dimensions: 21.7 x 15 x 9.4 inches | Materials: Recycled Dura nylon

Samsonite Silhouette 17 Backpack

  • Design 4 /5
  • Durability 4 /5

Suitcase-like opening allows easy access

Eco-friendly materials

Suitable for long travel days

Internal organization may be overcomplicated for some

Launched in 1958, Samsonite’s Silhouette collection is likely the oldest on our list. But those six decades of innovation have helped make this one of the best and most versatile bags out there—not to mention one with excellent style. You can also feel good about your purchase knowing that it features 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET bottles.

Our testers liked the size of the bag and the opening, similar to a suitcase, which made it easy to pack and access items. There were many—almost too many—pockets and compartments. And our testers loved how comfortable and supportive this bag was to carry, noting its excellent weight distribution. “I would recommend this bag to someone looking for a backpack they can use as a primary form of luggage,” a tester concluded. “It has enough room and compartments to fit all of the essentials and keep them organized. It's also comfortable, supportive, and easy to carry.”

Capacity: Not listed | Weight: 3.31 pounds | Dimensions: 20 x 12.5 x 7 inches | Materials: Polyester and Recyclex

Best for Techies

Thule subterra backpack 34l.

Functional and looks good

Bag included for dirty laundry

Portable charger

Not the most comfortable

We’ve been pleasantly surprised with Thule’s line of luggage. And that certainly includes the Subterra backpack. This rugged pack could also be a good commuter option as it has a magnetic rolling top closure, a padded laptop sleeve, and a PowerPocket for charging items on the go. We love that it has many access points and comes with a packing cube and garment bag for dirty clothes.

"I loved being able to put my normal packing cubes inside the big cube that comes with the bag, and I was able to use the bag as a day bag anytime I needed to carry extra, and it never felt super bulky,” a tester reported—however, they noted that the bag didn’t particularly help their already-sore back. Not surprisingly, considering its construction, the pack aced our durability tests.

Capacity: 34 liters | Weight: 2.75 pounds | Dimensions: 20.5 x 12.2 x 9.1 inches | Materials: 800-denier nylon

Best for Storage

Mystery ranch mission rover.

Mystery Ranch

Sturdy with grab handles around the pack

Well-designed internal storage

Different ways to carry

A bit heavy

If you’ve never heard of Mystery Ranch, let us introduce you to the Bozeman, Montana-based brand, which makes super rugged packs for backpacking, hunting, the military, and firefighters. This travel-focused pack is incredibly solid on the outside and has many excellent organization and design features inside.

Highlights include a stowable hip belt and shoulder straps, multiple carrying options, a dirty clothes compartment, three inner divided pockets, and lockable zippers.

Capacity: 30, 45, and 60 liters | Weight: 4.3 pounds | Dimensions: 21 x 13 x 12 inches | Materials: Plain spun nylon, 210-denier nylon

We recommend the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack thanks to its incredibly durable polyester and nylon materials, well-designed internal storage, and included rainfly. Another great pick is the Vancropak Travel Backpack , which rings up at a fraction of the cost of some other options on the market.

We selected products to test based on the expertise of TripSavvy editors and writers and on internet research. Not surprisingly, TripSavvy editors and writers travel a lot. And they have many carry-on backpacks they like and don’t like.

To ensure we weren’t missing anything, we also researched what other prominent sites have featured and looked at top-rated and reviewed backpacks on sites like Amazon and REI. Once an initial list of products was selected, we narrowed it down to the final 28 for testing based on style, function, and price.

We tested the backpacks for capacity, design, comfort, durability, and value. In our New York City-based testing lab, we asked testers to pack each backpack with three shirts, two pants, one jacket, one pair of shoes, and a toiletry bag to test for capacity. We asked the testers to consider all aspects of the backpack’s construction, organizational capabilities, and any design innovations.

Testers then carried each backpack around using the different carrying styles. We asked the testers to rate how comfortable the bag felt fully packed. After the comfort test, we asked testers to toss and throw the bag several feet multiple times. We looked for damage on the outside of the bag and any damage to products inside the bag. Lastly, we asked testers to rate the bag for overall value after a price reveal.

We have since sent the backpacks to testers to continue testing as they travel. We will update this document accordingly as their insights are submitted.

Aer Travel Pack 3 : This pack was comfortable to wear thanks to its supportively firm and cushioned back, while its rugged fabric stood up well to rough handling. Our tester subtracted some points for capacity, as it was a squeeze to get everything on the list to fit, and for the more function-forward style.

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack : This bag is very nice to look at and proved quite durable. However, it's on the small side and the features aren't particularly travel-oriented—namely, the inflexible bottle holder and the magnetic flip top that is easily displaced when the pack is full.

Minaal Carry-on 3.0 Bag : Our tester appreciated the comfort of the straps and the practical capacity of this bag, though the price was on the higher end and the packing experience was a bit of a learning curve.

Monos Metro Backpack : Another looker, the design of this bag got high praise. We liked the 270-degree opening, the easy-release front pouch, and the comfortable straps. At 18 liters, this back is more of a complement piece to other luggage and could use a better weight distribution system.

Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable : The expansion feature was a hit once we figured out how to use it and the durability of this pack was undeniable. It was difficult to look past a faulty zipper design that got caught frequently when trying to close.

What to Look For in a Carry-on Backpack

Prices for carry-on backpacks vary widely, so consider what your greatest needs are. You can find a spacious travel backpack for under $100—often under $50—but if you plan on facing harsh 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 be a bit more expensive but are often essential in highly trafficked destinations.

There are so many 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 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 most of your trip, pockets are more of a priority. 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 are using your travel backpack for hiking, find something with a removable hip harness to distribute the weight of your pack better 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 carry a lot of weight. When you’re trying on backpacks, test out the shoulder straps and imagine how they would feel if the pack was filled to capacity. Is there ample padding? Will the material cut into your shoulders? Does the back of the backpack feel like it would be breathable?

The size of backpacks is generally measured in volume (liters) or dimensions (inches or centimeters). While it is essential to refer to the specific requirements of the airline you'll be flying, a good starting point for a carry-on when flying domestically is 22 x 14 x 9 inches or 45 total linear inches (115 centimeters) including all handles and wheels. This size comes out to a 43-liter pack, so anything smaller should easily meet any U.S. airline size restrictions. However, this is only the beginning, and several factors may increase or decrease your allowance, such as the size of the plane and flight class you book.

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

This is an excellent feature if you plan on hiking or spending long periods carrying your backpack. 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.

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 wearing it—so you don’t have to take it off and risk having someone else pick it up. Others are designed with webbing over the zipper openings, making it very hard for someone to locate and unzip the bag while you have it on.

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

Nathan Allen is TripSavvy’s Outdoor Gear Editor. He has traveled to five continents, including plane, train, and bus travel. For most travel scenarios, he prefers backpacks over spinners or roller suitcases because of their ruggedness and different carrying methods. He currently uses Cotopaxi’s Allpa 35L, Thule’s Subterra, and Topo Design’s Global Travel Pack the most. Each product recommended in this review was thoroughly researched and tested.

The 9 Best Travel Toiletry Bags of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 9 Best Camping Cots of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 14 Best Backpack Brands of 2024

The 12 Best Carry-On Luggage of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 11 Best Hardside Luggage Bags of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The Best Daypacks for Hiking of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 9 Best Beach Chairs of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 10 Best Anti-Theft Backpacks of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 9 Best Travel Strollers of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 8 Best Duffel Bags of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 6 Best Small Coolers of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 9 Best Camp Trunks of 2024

The 8 Best Luggage Sets of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

The 11 Best Beach Blankets of 2024

The 11 Best Travel Money Belts of 2024

The Best Travel Camera Cases and Backpacks of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

Advertisement

The Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks

A person standing outside in a light blue short sleeve shirt wears the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L backpack, in black with a gray llama-head logo and aqua accents.

By Kit Dillon

Kit Dillon is a writer focused on bags and travel gear. He has worked for Wirecutter for a decade and lost count of the number of bags he has tested.

When you open up your favorite carry-on travel backpack, it should feel like you’re opening the door to a well-organized closet or sitting down at a clean desk, with everything in the right place and easy to reach.

This is your moment to center yourself, no matter how chaotic the journey.

What we considered

A 45-liter bag maximizes overhead space but can get heavy when fully packed; 35-liter bags tend to be more manageable.

A bag with a clamshell design opens like a book and is the easiest to pack, but a bag that opens traditionally tends to have more structure.

Ideally, a travel backpack has handles on all sides—especially the bottom—so you can pull it out of overhead bins or from under seats.

Some internal pockets are useful, but major organizing is better managed with packing cubes.

The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack and the larger Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L offer the best combination of features, quality, and durability. Both bags are exemplary carry-on travel backpacks that are designed for comfort, durability, and organization. Though these backpacks are great as companion bags for any trip, they’re designed to ultimately replace all of your other luggage and become your exclusive bag as you travel.

This style of packing is not for everyone, but once some people try it, they’re forever hooked. Finding the right bag is a personal choice, though, and no single bag will appeal to everyone. That’s why we also have picks that are great for people who travel for work , others that are designed to be carried over long distances , and a bag that’s basically luggage on your back .

The research

Why you should trust us, who this is for, best small carry-on bag for most situations: cotopaxi allpa 35l travel pack, best large bag for most situations: peak design travel backpack 45l, best mobile office: patagonia black hole mlc 45l, best bag for long journeys on foot: osprey farpoint 40 and fairview 40, best bag if you need a large suitcase on your back: tortuga travel backpack pro 40l, other good carry-on travel backpacks, how we picked and tested, the competition.

I’ve been covering aspects of luggage and travel bag design for Wirecutter for nearly a decade, and I have personally researched, tested, and compared hundreds of bags in that time. I personally try to do most of my travel with a single backpack, whenever possible. I spent nine months roaming around Hawaii with not much more than that, and I spent another six months nomadically couch-surfing in New York City.

I reached out to writers who specialize in traveling the world carrying everything they need in a single bag: Eytan Levy, the owner and operator of the Snarky Nomad travel website; James Feess, founder of The Savvy Backpacker ; and Sharon Gourlay, of the Where’s Sharon? travel website. I also spoke with moderators of Reddit’s r/onebag and r/heronebag forums, as well as with Chase Reeves, bag fanatic, reviewer, and owner of Matterful .

We researched and tested bags designed for those who want to travel light and stay flexible while flying, without the burden of checking luggage. For some people, the challenge of cutting down a packing list is intimidating. But if you can get past that initial hurdle, traveling with a single bag is a revelation. With fewer items, you have more time to concentrate on and appreciate the journey.

  • When you’re not loaded down by heavy luggage, it’s easy to remain more mobile. And it’s easier to adjust your plans mid-trip. If you’re willing to do laundry on the road, then one bag is all you need to travel indefinitely. At its heart, one-bag travel allows you to discover more—not just about the places you’re going but also about yourself and what you really need day to day.
  • Size and weight still matter. If you desire more creature comforts or more gear, or if you plan to be away for a long time across multiple climates, you’ll want a bigger travel backpack . These larger bags tend not to be carry-on-friendly, however, especially in Europe, so be prepared to check them.
  • No single backpack is perfect for everyone. Before you make any purchase, consider some basic points. How much can you carry? And where do you usually visit: the city or outback? Travel gear should feel like a welcome companion—there to support you when you need it but unobtrusive when you don’t.

45-liter bag vs. 35-liter bag

A graphic comparing the difference in capacity between a 45-liter and a 35-liter backpack.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L

A versatile small pack for a week or a weekend.

This durable bag’s clamshell design makes it easy to organize your stuff. And due to its strap design, this bag can be worn on your back or carried in your hand while you’re on the move.

Buying Options

The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack is an easy-to-organize, comfortable-to-carry bag for getaways lasting just a few days or a whole week.

It’s one bag that can do it all. This is a great all-around bag for any traveler who’s dedicated to packing light, or for a smaller person who wants less to carry. There are handles on all four sides of this bag, so it’s easy to grab no matter where you’ve stowed it. It’s also protected by a full lifetime warranty, and it has the build quality to back that up. After more than four years of testing, this single backpack (plus a personal item ) has replaced nearly every travel bag or piece of luggage I use.

It comes in various sizes, but we think the middle-of-the-road version is the best. Cotopaxi also makes the Allpa in 28-liter and 42-liter sizes. But for us, the 35-liter bag is the best option. At 42 liters, this bag becomes heavy for most people to carry when it is fully packed, and we’d prefer that it had a more-robust hip belt. At 28 liters, the bag becomes a touch small for most people, and its internal organization feels fussy for shorter trips, such as an overnight. Cotopaxi also makes a hip pack , which is designed to fit snugly into the Allpa bag’s front top compartment. It’s a neat little addition to the bag, and it is worth getting if you like wearing fanny packs while you travel.

It’s organized, easy to pack, and easy to carry. The Allpa bag has a clamshell design, so it opens like a hard-sided suitcase—a large YKK zipper runs around three sides of the bag, allowing it to fall open into two halves when unzipped. On the right side is a deep compartment, spacious enough for two large packing cubes or half a suitcase’s worth of clothing (which you access through a mesh zippered flap). On the left, there’s space for one more medium-size packing cube behind a zippered flap. Above that there are two smaller pockets with high-visibility backing—useful when you’re looking for hard-to-differentiate personal items.

The packed Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Pack, shown fully open so that the contents are accessible.

It’s secure but still accessible. The Allpa pack has two side-access zippers—great for on-the-go access, especially when the bag is hanging from your shoulder. One of these reveals a flat computer pocket with a padded false bottom; so if you drop the bag, it won’t land on the corner of your computer. The other reveals a “secret” pocket with a hidden zipper and access to the main compartment. All of the main compartment zippers are protected by security loops, which you thread the zipper through at the end of its run. This prevents anyone from subtly or quickly grabbing a zipper and opening your bag when you aren’t paying attention.

It’s comfortable to carry. The Allpa bag’s hip belt—which can be removed while the bag is on your back—is substantial enough that it’s comfortable to wear when you need it. With or without the hip belt, the Allpa bag is comfortable to carry over long distances. However, folks who have longer torsos (over 19 inches) may find that the waist belt sits a little high off the hips, unless you fully extend the shoulder straps. Speaking of shoulder straps, unlike the ones on our other picks, the Allpa bag’s straps are contoured to fit people who have large or small chests. It’s not a specifically gendered design, but our female tester noticed the improvement right away.

The Allpa pack is made with 1680-denier ballistic nylon, similar to the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 . (Denier is a measure of a fabric’s fiber thickness.) It feels similar to a strong canvas, but it has a more prominent weave. This is the type of bag that’s as easy to toss into an overhead compartment as it is into the back of a rusty pickup truck. And it also includes a rainfly, which is unique in this category.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • Though this pack is well organized for packing, it’s less ideal as a mobile office. The Allpa pack has a minimal amount of administrative organization—places to keep pens and papers, spaces to hold tickets, and so forth. This is where a good personal item comes in handy. However, if you want to travel with just this one bag, there are a few nooks you can hide things in. The front organizer is deep enough that you can also fit several small organizing pouches, if you want, or the aforementioned fanny pack.
  • We prefer the model without the TPU front. Cotopaxi does enjoy playing around with fabrics and colors. Sometimes the company has released the Allpa pack without the TPU-lined front panel. The TPU panel improves water resistance, but after many years of traveling with our bag, we’ve found that the TPU layering can begin to flake in spots.

Capacity: 35 liters Weight: 3 pounds 5 ounces Main compartment access: clamshell opening Style: adventurous Colors: assorted

A person stands by a wooden fence outdoors while wearing the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L, our larger pick for the best carry-on travel backpack.

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

An easily customizable large bag for long trips and expensive gear.

This bag was built with photographers in mind. Yet most travelers will appreciate its easy accessibility, clever tuck-away straps, and the elegant way the bag expands and contracts. The accessory cubes cost extra, though.

The Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is a good choice for those carrying more expensive gear—especially camera gear. It’s also great for those who prefer a large, backpack-based packing system.

One bag provides many configurations. Some bags in this category are built to do one thing extremely well—be carried on your back. But the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L is built to adapt. It’s the Swiss Army knife of backpacks: adjustable, customizable, and (if you spring for the extra cubes and organizers) an almost perfect system for a photographer or gearhead on the move. Most bags’ expanding mechanisms aren’t worth the extra zipper they’re built on, and they look about as attractive as a boiled ham splitting out of its plastic packaging. That’s not the case with the Peak Design: This bag looks just as good fully packed at 45 liters as it does compressed to a 30-liter daypack.

It’s expandable, with clever folds and zippers. You can access the bag through a back panel (which doubles as a computer and tablet pouch) as well as a front one (if you unzip the pass-through divider). You can also get into the main compartment via two wing-like trapezoidal flaps, which run along each side of the pack. In its natural shape, the Travel Backpack holds 35 liters, but an expansion zipper lets the bag swell to 45 liters. If you want to use the bag as a daypack, you fold in the top corners and snap them down, reducing the bag’s volume to a slim 30 liters. In this configuration, it will still feel larger than a normal daypack, but we think that’s a small compromise for being able to use one backpack as both your travel bag and your daily explorer. The bag itself consists of 400-denier nylon and polyester fabrics. It feels tough but not as tough as some other bags we’ve tested, such as the Cotopaxi Allpa.

It has fold-away straps, for easier storage. The Peak Design lets you tuck its shoulder and hip straps away when you’re not using them. But unlike any other bag we’ve ever tested, this pack has magnetic flaps on the back panel that open and close with an almost magical snap. Once you’ve played with them, you’ll wonder why every backpack doesn’t have something similar. A small, childish part of me still gets excited about tucking away the straps when I put the Peak Design into an overhead bin. Although the straps are thin, they’re still comfortable. The hip belt isn’t quite as plush as the one on the Tortuga pack; still, even when the Peak Design is fully loaded, the belt doesn’t pinch or dig into the body.

It’s great for carrying expensive gear. If you travel with a camera, you don’t have to use Peak Design’s camera cubes , but they do make carrying that gear a whole lot easier. The cubes come in five sizes. And if they’re situated properly in the bag with the provided clips, they line up with the Travel Backpack’s side-access flaps for quick access. Caleigh Waldman (a photographer for this piece and, full disclosure, my spouse) took this bag across the country for a wedding shoot. “I want this backpack,” she said after three weeks of travel. “I want to travel with it everywhere. With my cameras. Without my cameras. It doesn’t matter. I want to travel with it.”

  • It’s expensive—especially if you commit to the entire system of packing and camera cubes.
  • More complexity means more things that can break. The adjustable design and multiple zippers do add complexity, and complexity adds potential weaknesses. Peak Design covers all of its bags with a lifetime warranty , which should alleviate most people’s concerns. But if you’re particularly hard on your gear and still need to carry as much as possible, you might consider the Tortuga bag instead.

Capacity: 45 liters Weight: 4½ pounds Main compartment access: back-panel loader Style: minimalist and unobtrusive Color: black, sage

The Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L, our also-great pick for the best carry-on travel backpack, is held in midair by a person wearing a plaid shirt.

Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L

Combines more organization with a simple interior.

This bag’s split interior makes organizing easy. Those who travel for work will appreciate this bag’s dedicated panels for organizing tech, books, papers, and assorted miscellaneous items.

If you travel often for business and prefer a bag that’s much easier to work out of than most of our other picks, you may like the Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L . This bag has a front panel and assorted pockets that make it feel like a small traveling office.

It’s built like luggage but organized like your office. Of all the bags we recommend, the MLC (short for Maximum Legal Carry) comes closest to being a suitcase on your back, due to its large size, simple interior, and minimal external features. The MLC is also one of the simplest bags we tested, divided into two leaves (imagine a book with only one page), with a main compartment for packing and a second compartment for document organization and tech storage. The MLC has a built-in laptop compartment that fits 17-inch laptops and is situated close to your back; this protects the computer and keeps its weight closer to your body.

Despite its size, it’s comfortable enough to carry. Most carry-on backpacks of this size, without frames, become somewhat unwieldy when fully packed. Thankfully, the Black Hole MLC bag, like the Cotopaxi Allpa, is a welcome exception to this rule. The MLC has two shoulder straps, a hip belt, and an optional shoulder strap, for easy carrying. When they're not in use, or when you’re checking your bag, all of the straps can be stowed away easily. When fully loaded, the bag was pleasant to carry—not as comfortable as the Peak Design or the Osprey, but decent enough. I wouldn’t want to carry it all day across a city, but I wouldn’t mind carrying it through an airport to a car and to a hotel.

It’s built from high-quality materials, with durability in mind. This pack is made from recycled polyester, and the fabric is woven in a cross-weave that’s very similar to what Patagonia uses in its long-lasting Black Hole series of duffle bags . This is a material I’ve come across a bunch with Patagonia gear, and I’ve tested it thoroughly; it’s very tough. The front of the bag is coated in a weather-resistant TPU, for extra protection from the elements. The bag has large YKK zippers (the industry leader) and smaller YKK zippers throughout. Unlike the Cotopaxi Allpa pack, the Black Hole MLC bag has no security loops.

It comes with one of the best repair programs and a lifetime warranty. Similar to our other picks, the MLC is backed by an excellent lifetime warranty , and we’ve always found that Patagonia’s repair program goes above and beyond other comparable companies.

  • We wish the Maximum Legal Carry (despite the name) came in a few more sizes. The 45-liter capacity may be intimidating for some people, and there is no alternative.

Capacity: 45 liters Weight: 3 pounds 10 ounces Main compartment access: clamshell Style: retro Colors: tan, black, olive, green

The Osprey Farpoint/ Fairview 40 Travel Pack, one of our also-great picks for the best carry-on travel backpack, shown in black.

Osprey Farpoint 40

For long distances on foot.

A great starter option for one-bag travel, this bag is easy to pack, adaptable to most situations, and sturdy enough to take with you as you travel the world.

packing a travel backpack

Osprey Fairview 40

For long distances and smaller torsos.

A scaled-down version of the Farpoint, this bag has shoulder straps that are slightly lower, to keep the bag’s bulk more aligned with smaller torsos.

Updated in 2023, the Osprey Farpoint 40 and Fairview 40 packs are both built around a hiking backpack frame that’s easy to carry over long distances.

It’s built for travel but designed for hiking. The Farpoint 40 bag is well made, easy to pack, and comfortable to carry over most mid-length distances—such as walking across a city for an afternoon. (For simplicity’s sake, everything we say here about the Farpoint bag also applies to the Fairview bag.) Osprey makes excellent backpacks for hauling around, and its lifetime warranty is renowned within the industry . The Farpoint pack also has an optional messenger bag–style strap, which offers some flexibility when you’re maneuvering tight spaces like subways or crowded city centers.

View of the straps on the reverse of the Osprey travel backpack.

It’s simple to pack, but not as spacious as it seems. Opening the bag reveals a clamshell design; it’s deep enough to accommodate most large items, yet you won’t have to fumble awkwardly with zippers once it’s time to close up the bag. The feeling you get is not unlike when you’re packing a bit of sturdy luggage, and that’s something we love about bags like this one—especially when you use packing cubes . Osprey says this bag, when fully packed, can carry 40 liters. But after using the Farpoint bag for a few years, we’ve decided that its rounded shape seems to cut into that theoretical packable space more than other bags do. In practice, the Farpoint pack’s available space is closer to—but still less than—that of the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L .

It’s the easiest bag to carry among our picks. Like all Osprey bags, the Farpoint 40 has very comfortable shoulder straps. The years of design and consideration Osprey has put into its hiking backpacks are quite evident in the Farpoint 40. After more than seven years of long-term testing this bag, we’re still surprised by how great it feels to wear when fully packed. Crucially, the straps of the Farpoint 40 stow away neatly behind a zippered panel. However, when you’re using the shoulder straps, the design forces you to also use the hip straps. Though this isn’t a huge issue, if you prefer a sleeker look or would rather have the option of using shoulder straps without hip straps, the Cotopaxi Allpa pack is more flexible, and it lets you hide the waist straps while the bag is on your back.

The Fairview 40 has the same features, in a scaled-down size. The Farpoint 40 and the Fairview 40 packs basically have the same design, but the Fairview pack is made for someone with a more-diminutive torso. It’s also slightly lighter. However, it has the features and durability of the Farpoint bag. It also has the same hip belt and adjustability. On both, the chest-strap clip is also equipped with a small security whistle that’s surprisingly loud. It’s a handy feature for anyone traveling in unfamiliar environments.

  • For a smaller carry-on travel backpack, this one has little to not like. However, we do wish Osprey would trade some of the sleeker contours for a little more interior space.

Capacity: 35 liters Weight (Farpoint): 3 pounds 3 ounces Weight (Fairview): 3 pounds 2 ounces Main compartment access: front-panel loader Style: active Colors (Farpoint): green (Gopher), gray (Tunnel Vision), blue (Muted Space), black Colors (Fairview): blue (Winter Night), red (Zircon), blue (Night Jungle), black

The Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L, our also-great pick for the best carry-on travel backpack.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 40L

A suitcase to carry on your back.

For dedicated single-bag travelers, this water-resistant, durable bag is easy to pack and to travel with. And it’s comfortable to wear over endless miles—as long as you don’t mind the heavier weight.

The Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 40L maximizes packing space in a bag that’s durable, water-resistant, and customizable to fit most torso lengths (there’s also a 30L version ), with plenty of organizational features to suit any digital nomad.

It’s like a suitcase, with backpack straps. The Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 40L is built to occupy the maximum carry-on space available. It’s a nearly perfect blend of backpack and luggage. On the outside, its tear-resistant sailcloth and sealed zippers provide ample protection from sharp objects and the elements. Opening the main clamshell zipper reveals a cavernous interior and a few organizational features that make the bag a cinch to pack. The front panel is a particular standout, great for keeping track of electronics and chargers. Of all the bags we tested, the Tortuga strikes the closest balance between the carrying comfort of a hiking backpack and the space and organization of a piece of luggage.

The Tortuga Backpack Pro shown with the front clamshell lid in the open position.

It’s as easy to pack as luggage. When it comes to packing, the Tortuga pack has a soothingly minimal interior, as any good suitcase should. In addition to the bag’s cavernous main pocket, its interior lid has a large vented panel. The panel is too narrow to hold additional packing cubes, but it’s great for holding light jackets or doubling as a dirty-laundry bag (if you’re really committed to one-bag travel). The Tortuga is available as a 40-liter pack (the maximum space for a carry-on bag), which we tested; there is also a 30-liter version, which is compliant with some intra-European flights. The more-diminutive version is a decent choice for weekend travel or for minimalist travelers—but for those uses, we prefer the space-saving profile and extra internal organization of the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L bag.

It’s very customizable. The Tortuga pack is the most adjustable model we tested, thanks to its adjustable torso length, shoulder straps, and waist-belt system. The adjustable strap system lets you manipulate the location of the shoulder straps (video) to fit a wider variety of body sizes, in both the 30- and 40-liter versions. Of the packs we’ve tested, this one (with its included load-adjuster straps at the top, to prevent the bag’s weight from sagging toward your lumbar region) is the best at distributing its weight (4½ pounds when empty—roughly 1½ pounds more than most of our other picks, except the Peak Design ). The hip straps are removable if you need, but the shoulder straps are not stowable.

  • Its straps don’t stow away. Some people, especially those who are hard on their gear, may consider not being able to remove or stow the shoulder straps (as they can with our other picks, like the Cotopaxi Allpa ) a disqualifying factor. But after years of testing, traveling with, and occasionally checking our bag, we haven’t had an issue. However, if these mysteries beneath the airport also make you nervous, you might prefer our picks with easy-to-stow straps, such as the Peak Design.
  • It's heavy. We’ve fielded complaints from some testers who said that older models of this bag were too heavy for them to carry, even with the padded hip belt and adjustable straps. The additional padding does add weight. At 4½ pounds, this latest Tortuga bag is more than half a pound lighter than it used to be (the difference is noticeable), and it weighs the same as the equally large Peak Design pack. We are currently testing a new, lighter, and less-expensive version of this pack—aptly named the Travel Backpack Lite 40L —and will report back soon.  In the meantime, if you think you would struggle carrying the Tortuga, we strenuously encourage you to consider one of our more-manageable picks, like the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L.

Capacity: 40 liters Weight: 4½ pounds Main compartment access: clamshell opening Style: minimal, with a rigid construction Color: black

If you want to travel like a backpacker but also fit in at a board meeting (and you have the budget for it): Consider the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 . This bag’s reputation for durability, adaptability, and a low-key aesthetic make it a favorite among many dedicated one-bag travelers. And after testing it, we think it’s a great bag too. That said, for the bag to really stand out against other backpacks—and to take full advantage of its carrying adaptability—you need to buy the internal frame , the hip belt , and (if you’re traveling with a suit or jacket) the shoulder strap . On a bag that already costs $330, all of this adds up. Everything about the Tom Bihn bag (the fabric, the zippers, the quality of construction) feels like an upgrade from other bags, but it’s simply too pricey, and its design is too rarified and specific for most people. The biggest flaw, from our perspective—apart from the price—is that the Tom Bihn bag lacks a dedicated laptop pocket. In its place, the company sells laptop sleeves (a fine version if you don’t have one) that clip into the bag’s central compartment. Not everyone needs a dedicated laptop pocket, but we prefer the more secure feeling of bags that do.

If you want a budget pick (but only when it’s on sale): The eBags Mother Lode Travel Backpack (our former budget pick) is still your best budget option, if you can catch it on sale for at least half off the list price. It’s not comfortable enough for trekking long distances on foot, but there are plenty of external pockets for organization, a laptop sleeve (which holds the weight of your computer high up on your shoulders), and an easy-to-access main compartment. This pack also has the largest capacity of any bags we tested, expanding to 65 liters—well beyond any airline’s regulated 45-liter limit. However, the bag’s casual-to-basic looks might not be to everyone’s taste. In 2024, eBags raised the price of the Mother Lode to $200. We have seen it on sale for $100, and in our opinion it’s worth getting only at the sale price.

We’ve narrowed our specifications for a great bag to the following list of features, ordered from most relevant to least:

  • Front- or back-panel loader or clamshell opening, for the main compartment: As with any good piece of luggage, with this type of bag, you should be able to open it and see everything you’ve packed. When you have a bag with a panel-loading or clamshell design—rather than a traditional, top-opening design—you can pack and unpack it just as you would a suitcase.

A graphic illustrating a clamshell bag opening

  • Backpack strap comfort and design: You never know when you’ll be walking farther with your bag than you’d intended. The more comfortable and well designed the straps are, the easier traveling will be. “Ideally, you want a bag’s shoulder straps to adjust to the angle of your shoulders,” said Eytan Levy of Snarky Nomad. “Good shoulder straps are the difference between an easy trip and a hard trip.”
  • Hip-belt comfort and design: A hip belt transfers heavy loads from your back and shoulders onto your hips, letting your legs—not your back—bear the brunt of the weight. Just having a waist belt is a plus, but having a padded and sculpted one—especially on bags with over 40 liters of volume—makes a world of difference.
  • Material quality: Durability is critical for any type of luggage, but especially for a backpack that will be your only bag. Most bags worth considering are made of nylon, which resists abrasion more than polyester fabrics of similar density. Spending more, however, can get you exotic, light, and strong materials, such as Dyneema or sailcloth.
  • Weight: Once the bags arrived, we weighed each one ourselves. Most of the bags weighed within a few pounds of one another. But unless you’re very strict with yourself, by the time you’re packed for a two-week journey, all bags are going to feel equally massive, even if one is just 2 pounds heavier than another when empty.
  • Stowable straps: These are nice to have, but they aren’t absolutely necessary. “The more often you need to check a bag, the more often you need to hide away the straps,” Levy said. “But if the straps are tough enough, it doesn’t matter.”
  • Accessory pocket layout and design: Some people will love an accessory pocket that has a specific space for everything; others may find that feature constricting and unadaptable. We prioritized bags with simple designs that guided our packing without constraining us.
  • Style: This is purely subjective. We preferred bags that had a minimalist exterior style, but not all of our picks will please everyone. Most of the people we spoke with, however, preferred not to stick out like a tourist wearing a large, colorful backpack, if they could avoid it.

During testing, we flew across the country with these bags, took weekend trips to nearby cities, lived out of them on extended trips, and tried them locally in our daily routines. We also packed and unpacked each bag, using a standardized set of weeklong travel necessities and accessories, to see how well the internal organizational features (or lack thereof) aided or got in the way of efficient packing.

This is not a comprehensive list of all of the carry-on travel backpacks we have tested. We have removed any models that have been discontinued or that no longer meet our criteria.

The Away Outdoor Convertible Backpack 45L is a rare miss from the Away team. This bag is resoundingly average for the price. Although it’s made from excellent materials, the bag is let down by its overall design, which lacks any kind of structure or attention to comfort. There are better options.

The cheap, no-frills Cabin Max Metz bag is intriguing for the price. Any bag at this price should almost be considered disposable. That said, if you need a simple bag that costs less than a seat upgrade, this might be the way to go—unless you can pick up the eBags Motherlode bag for under $100, which we think is a better deal at that price.

The GeniusPack Travel Backpack is the only model we came across that tried to fit a suit into a travel backpack. Though some people might need that, we think those who have to travel with a suit (or clothes that require pressing) would be better off with a piece of carry-on luggage . GeniusPack now offers a second version of this bag, but our conclusion hasn’t changed.

For certain people, the GoRuck GR3 is almost worth the cost. It’s strong and simple and covered by an iron-clad repair guarantee. The removable hip belt is comfortable to wear, and it’s good at displacing the weight of a 45-liter backpack. This is a decent bag. After testing it, however, we weren’t thrilled with the internal Velcro lining for compatible Velcro packing cubes. Velcro isn’t great: It wears out, it’s difficult to keep clean, and it clings to dirt. That might seem like a small thing, but for the price, this bag should feel perfect.

The Minaal Carry-On 2.0 was designed to be a backpack for business people. But if you’re carrying it for business, you’re probably wearing at least a blazer, so you wouldn’t use a backpack in any case. If you’re a business traveler who falls more on the casual end of the business-casual spectrum, and you’re not on a budget, this is a well-thought-out pack. But we think our picks are more versatile for world travel, and they come at a better price. Minaal has since introduced a 3.0 version of this bag ; our thoughts about it remain the same.

The Osprey Sojourn Porter 46L is a slightly larger sibling of the Farpoint pack. The Sojourn Porter bag is about 2 inches longer, and it pushes right up to most airline limits. If you don’t mind possibly having to check your bag at the last minute, this would be an excellent alternative to the Farpoint pack.

This article was edited by Ria Misra and Christine Ryan.

Chase Reeves, Matterful.co , phone interview , October 10, 2018

Addison Ryan, moderator, r/onebag , email interview , September 8, 2018

Lindsay Lorraine Calderón, moderator, r/heronebag , phone interview , September 28, 2018

Meet your guide

packing a travel backpack

Kit Dillon is a senior staff writer at Wirecutter. He was previously an app developer, oil derrick inspector, public-radio archivist, and sandwich shop owner. He has written for Popular Science, The Awl, and the New York Observer, among others. When called on, he can still make a mean sandwich.

Further reading

Four Osprey travel backpacks, two blue, two green, sitting next to each other.

The Best Travel Backpack

by Geoffrey Morrison

For trips ranging from a week to multiple months, the Osprey Farpoint 55 and Fairview 55 carried everything we needed comfortably.

Three of our favorite backpacks, totes and duffle bags on display

Wirecutter’s Favorite Bags, Totes, Backpacks and Carryalls

by Truth Headlam

Whether you’re going to school, work, the gym, the store, or on vacay, you need a bag. Here’s the Wirecutter-recommended carrying gear we love most.

A person in an outdoor environment wearing one of our picks for best buy it for life backpack with a minimalist look, the GoRuck GR1.

The Best Buy It for Life Backpack (Please Don’t Call It Tactical)

by Kit Dillon

A buy-it-for-a-lifetime backpack should last you for years of heavy use. But as with all investments, you need to decide if it makes sense for you.

Our picks for best laptop backpack pictured with school supplies.

The Best Laptop Backpacks

by Zoe Vanderweide

A great laptop backpack protects your tech, is comfortable to carry, and looks good, too. These five bags are our favorites for wrangling your workday gear.

packing a travel backpack

How To Pack And Organize A Backpack For Travel

Want to know how to pack and organize a backpack for travel? We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know!

As the world’s normalcy resumes post-pandemic, most of us can’t wait to mark our calendars with long-postponed trips and adventures near and far.

Deciding the items to carry with us is important as we plan these trips .

The items on your trip can be deal breakers or makers, depending on your packing approach.

This is why you should know the right backpack to carry, how to pack, and the weight distribution, whether going for an extended trip or a weekend getaway.

With organized packing, you will spend most of your time enjoying the trip rather than worrying about your items.

Read on for how to pack and organize a backpack for travel.

Importance Of Efficient Packing And Organization

While packing seems easy, most backpacks are a big unsegmented space for you to fit your toiletries, clothes, and electronics, and piling them can result in total disorganization once you pull out what you need.

Properly packing your items will ensure easy location in the bag, saving you the time and need to pack or repack.

This will prevent item loss or damage throughout your trip.

A well-packed backpack will also make traveling easier through even distribution and balancing your travel gear.

Choosing The Right Backpack

Choosing the right backpack amounts to an easier and more organized trip.

The best bag should have enough pockets to organize your small and big possessions.

Your backpack should also be the right size.

Carrying a smaller bag will cram your things tightly into the compartments, making organization challenging despite the number of pockets.

An oversized bag, on the other hand, will leave you with loose space, jostling around your stuff.

Therefore, select the perfect backpack depending on the items you intend to carry for an ideal fit.

If going for a business adventure, consider a top-notch business travel backpack like the Swiss business backpack to transport your documents, laptop, and other essentials comfortably.

The bag features a strong base, durable rucksacks, self-mending zippers, and handy pockets for an easy trip.

Creating A Packing List

Creating a packing list long before your trip is advised to ensure you carry all your trip essentials.

Before putting items in your bag, lay all the items in your packing list on a flat surface to confirm everything is in the required pieces.

Importance of a Comprehensive Packing List

Having a comprehensive list is important for the following reasons:

It relieves you from the packing stress as you can create one long before your trip planning logistics overwhelm you.

Ensures you do not forget essential items for your trip

Controls how much you bring into the trip, preventing over-packing or under-packing.

Categorizing Items for Efficient Packing

Breaking your packing list into documents, technology, and clothes categories ensures efficient packing.

If going for a camping adventure , including a food and outdoor equipment category, and if traveling with a partner, add a shared category.

After listing the items in each category, list what you need, then reorganize in order of priority.

Lastly, refine your list by removing what you do not need, then start packing.

Packing Techniques

Different packing techniques will apply depending on the item and the space available.

Rolling Clothes To Save Space And Reduce Wrinkles

Clothes take up a large volume of your backpack, hence the need for strategic packing to save space.

Roll soft garments like undergarments and t-shirts and place them in your packing cubes.

Utilize the remaining space for your folded blazers and khaki pants.

To reduce wrinkles, place tissue paper between the folds to minimize your clothes movement in the bag.

Using Packing Cubes Or Compression Bags For Organization

Using packing cubes and compression bags will create more space in your backpack by expelling unnecessary air.

These tools are ideal if your backpack already has organizational pockets.

A packing cube or compression bag also helps keep similar items together for easy retrieval.

Storing Electronics and Valuables

Electronics, travel documents, cash, and jewelry require proper packing and security from thieves.

If you have more valuable pieces like vintage rings or expensive diamond necklaces, be sure to store them in specialty boxes that would help keep them safe and secure during travel. 

✓ Protecting Electronics With Padded Sleeves Or Cases

Pack your laptop in the padded pocket of your bag, and if your bag does not have this provision, store your gadget in a padded sleeve or case.

For tech with easy-to-scratch screens, consider a microfleece-lined pocket and place your earbuds and batteries in a packing cube or smaller pocket.

✓ Securing Valuables In Hidden Pockets Or Using Travel Locks

High-quality backpacks include a hidden pocket where you can secure your valuables.

These deep-seated pockets are perfect for IDs, cash, passports, credit cards, and cell phones.

Investing in a travel lock is also advisable to secure your backpack to benches, and permanent fixtures, making it hard for a thief to snatch it.

Also, utilize zipper locks for your largest zippers to keep away pickpockets.

Packing And Organizing Accessories

Pack your accessories, including SD cards, chargers, and camera, in a Ziploc bag and place it in your backpack’s electronic device compartment.

This way, you will secure them from water damage and ensure easy access.

Packing Snacks And Water Bottles

Packing snacks and dry food in your backpack is advisable if you want to grab something along the way.

Pack on-the-go snacks such as roasted nuts , protein bars, seeds, and dry fruits in a Ziploc bag.

Checking your airline regulations about food is advisable before packing as some disallow certain foods.

You should also pack a filled water bottle in the designated side pouch or pocket to stay hydrated.

Tips For A Well-Balanced Backpack

You will carry your backpack on your back, hence the need for weight distribution to prevent back complications.

1. Distributing Weight Evenly for Comfortable Carrying

Even weight distribution requires placing most weight close to your body to maintain the center of gravity.

This way, your load will be easier to manage, preventing frequent bumping into people and things, as you are more aware of its weight and size.

Your bag will also be more comfortable than if the weight is away from your body.

A simple way to distribute weight for comfortable carrying should include the following:

Placing the heaviest stuff close to your body, in the vertical middle of your bag.

These include your shoes and laptop.

Placing medium-weight items at the vertical top of the backpack.

Placing lightweight stuff, such as clothes, at the vertical bottom.

2. Adjusting Straps And Using Waist Belts For Support

Straps and waist belts are crucial for added support.

While everyone has their preference when adjusting the straps and waist belts, the main focus should be weight distribution.

Therefore, tighten the waist belt as you adjust your backpack to ensure weight distribution around your hips and not just the shoulders, and adjust the shoulder straps to a comfortable fit.

Conclusion: How To Pack And Organize A Backpack For Travel

Packing for a trip requires proper organization of your backpack to ensure easy access to your essentials.

Keeping the backpack weight minimal is advisable to minimize the risks of back pain from carrying too much weight around.

Also, consider your bag’s safety while on the go and use travel locks to keep thieves at bay.

With proper packing and weight distribution, you will have an easier trip.

The post How To Pack And Organize A Backpack For Travel appeared first on Discovering Hidden Gems .

Have you ever wondered how to pack and organize a backpack for travel? We've got you covered with everything you need to know.

13 Best Travel Backpacks of 2024, Tested by Experts

Keep all your belongings safe and organized in a lightweight backpack.

four travel backpacks side by side on a blue background

We've been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

Our top picks:

Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Best Overall Travel Backpack

Cotopaxi allpa 35l travel pack.

Travel Backpack

Best Value Travel Backpack

Coofay travel backpack.

Travel Backpack 45L

Most Versatile Travel Backpack

Peak design travel backpack 45l.

F.A.R Convertible Backpack 45L

Best Weekender Travel Backpack

Away f.a.r convertible backpack 45l.

40L Travel Backpack

Best Carry-On Travel Backpack

Asenlin 40l travel backpack.

Porter 46L Travel Pack

Best Travel Backpack for Backpacking

Osprey porter 46l travel pack.

Alpha Bravo Search Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Business Travel

Tumi alpha bravo search backpack.

Aion Travel Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Flying

Thule aion travel backpack.

Silhouette 17 Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Work

Samsonite silhouette 17 backpack.

Daylite Plus Daypack

Best Lightweight Travel Backpack

Osprey daylite plus daypack.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab evaluates backpacks both in Lab and with consumer testers for durability and comfort. From the best laptop backpacks and backpacks for college students to the best duffels and daypacks , we've seen it all. To find the best travel backpacks, we test everything from tear strength to strap strength and abrasion resistance to make sure the bag can stand up to rough handling for years to come. We also work with consumer testers who try them out on various trips under real-world conditions. We also consider the amount of padding in the straps, useful extras and overall weight to find the most comfortable backpacks.

Our picks are top performers from testing along with new styles that have exciting features and rave reviews. Check out our top travel backpack picks below and keep reading to learn all of our ultimate backpack shopping tips to find the best pack for you. Pair your new travel backpack with packing cubes and a hard-side suitcase for your next vacation.

We were shocked by just how much we could fit inside this travel backpack during our packing tests. In fact, it outperformed multiple carry-on suitcases for its generous capacity and well-designed interior. Similar to hard-side luggage, the bag completely unzips for easy packing and, in this case, features helpful mesh to help separate compartments.

On top of that, we liked the helpful ergonomic features, from the padding along the back to the hip strap and sternum strap, which offer comfort and support. Plus, when testing the laptop sleeve, we found there was room to spare after placing a 16-inch laptop in it. The only note of caution is that the bag doesn't have a luggage sleeve, so if you're hoping to stack it on top of rolling luggage, it may not be the right fit.

a close up of the interior of the cotopaxi backpack, including many organization components

When we surveyed our own editors and staff for their favorite bags, this one from Coofay was a hit for its organizational pockets and personal-item-friendly size. One staffer told us, "This backpack can definitely fit a week of clothing if rolled properly."

Like many popular travel backpacks, this one unzips like a suitcase for easy packing and has tons of small compartments to help keep your belongings in order. We particularly appreciate the compression straps on the side, allowing you to pack more while keeping the bag within the personal item size limit of most domestic airlines. Plus, there's a wide range of colors to choose from.

Designed with intention, Peak Design's travel backpack is truly a standout within the industry. While it's hard to find a travel bag that can tackle all sorts of trips, this one manages to do just that . It's truly one-of-a-kind and allows you to access your belongings from the front (like a suitcase), the back (like a top-loading traditional backpack) and the sides.

Compression features allow you to easily convert it from a 30L capacity to a 35L or 45L bag for all your travel needs. The backpack straps can be hidden away to keep it streamlined while using the simple luggage sleeve. The only challenge comes with packing: While the interior is spacious, there aren't too many separate compartments, so if that's important to you, the brand offers a selection of compatible packing cubes , including protective ones for camera equipment.

a shot of a completely open peak design travel bag

With a massive 45L interior, this bag from Away can hold everything you need for a weekend away, including multiple outfits, toiletries and even an extra pair of shoes. It's the go-to travel backpack for GH's Home & Apparel Reviews Analyst Amanda Constantine , who's brought it on everything from short weekend getaways to longer trips abroad.

Constantine notes, "The straps are comfortable and feel sturdy, and I love that the backpack straps can be tucked away if I'm carrying the bag like a suitcase instead of on my back." In addition, this pack also has all the top-notch organizational features you'd expect from Away, from compression straps to convenient mesh pockets. The caveat? The zippers are a little too easy to open and sometimes have a tendency to come undone.

This backpack includes the ultimate organizational system: Three packing cubes , a laptop case, a water bottle/umbrella pocket and a small front pocket. The packing cubes are ideal to keep your clothes compact and wrinkle-free while traveling. We also love the padded straps and side buckles to make sure everything stays in place.

It has a clamshell opening and both sides lie down flat, which makes this backpack easier to pack and organize as you don't have to stuff items in from the top. This pick is ideal as a carry-on for international travel as you can easily pack your clothes and what you'll need on the flight.

Finding a good backpacking bag can be a challenge. You'll want a bag that's spacious and supportive enough that it won't cause injury. Luckily, Osprey is known for its ergonomically designed packs, making it a favorite brand amongst some hiking enthusiasts at GH. One GH analyst has even taken the brand's bags on a two-week backpacking trip to Thailand, calling them comfortable and well-designed.

This model comes with a generous 46L capacity and helpful compression straps, both on the exterior and interior, allowing you to bring everything you'll need and then some. Additionally, this bag features the brand's helpful chest and hip straps for support, along with helpful pockets throughout. Take note, however, that it comes in a unisex style, so users accustomed to women-specific packs may find the shoulder straps stiff.

Carrying a TUMI backpack is a status symbol no matter where you are — the brand is known for its luxury travel products worldwide, particularly for its long-lasting quality and service . Buying a travel product (e.g. a bag or luggage) from the brand typically comes with a five-year warranty and free repairs plus a lifetime registration and tracking service for finding lost bags. Even after five years, you can ask the brand to repair your bag for a small cost.

TUMI's Search Backpack is sleek enough for conferences and work trips, making it great for business travel or everyday use. One GH analyst has used this bag for over 10 years, throughout school and work and on multiple domestic and international flights. While the top-loading configuration isn't as seamless for packing, testers were still impressed by how "surprisingly spacious" and "high quality" it felt.

a person wearing the tumi search backpack

Having the right backpack can make all the difference when going through airport security. This one from Thule, one of our favorite luggage brands, comes equipped with helpful features like a small easy-to-reach pocket for your passport and boarding pass plus a convenient laptop compartment . Within the bag, there's a helpful divider for organization along with other mesh pockets and panels.

The bag also comes in two sizes — 28L and 40L — each of which makes the perfect personal item or carry-on respectively. And if 28L sounds a bit too small, this size expands to 32L to accommodate more essentials. The only caveat is that the 40L version doesn't come with any hip straps, which is rare for a backpack of its size. The brand suggests pairing the bag with the Aion Sling , which slots in easily for support.

Ideal when traveling for business or even everyday commuting to work, the Silhouette 17 backpack has all the essentials and then some. In fact, it's designed to replace your carry-on, which can slow you down when on a last-minute business trip. Moreover, Samsonite's soft-side luggage has proven be abrasion-resistant and strong in our tests , staying in great shape, so we are confident in the durability of the brand's similar products.

Beyond the durable nature, it opens up like a hardshell suitcase, complete with functional sections, and has a padded laptop sleeve for easy access. Plus, it easily convert from a backpack to a briefcase or shoulder bag. For longer trips, you can even slide it onto checked luggage instead of maneuvering two suitcases through the airport.

Often used on day hikes for its lightweight design, a daypack can be a great option for those in search of a not-so-heavy travel backpack. And when it comes to the best daypacks , Osprey reigns supreme as the top-performing brand, earning especially high scores for their amazing ease-of-use features and fitting everything in our packing test .

Recent testers have loved that Osprey bags have "lots of compartments" and "comfortable cushioned shoulder straps." Some even highlighted the helpful sternum strap, which keeps the weight evenly distributed, preventing shoulder pain. You can also expect an interior sleeve to fit a laptop or tablet or a hydration reservoir for hikes, plus a slew of pockets in the front including two mesh water bottle pockets.

Herschel Kaslo Backpack Tech

Kaslo Backpack Tech

When we tested this laptop backpack , we were surprised by how lightweight yet protective it felt. The detail and care are evident throughout: The bag has reinforced stitching in areas where you'd expect extra tugging like the top handle, straps and luggage sleeve. There's also a separate laptop compartment with a fleece lining to help minimize potential scratches.

One Textiles Lab analyst swears by this bag, using it as both her everyday bag for commuting as well as her go-to travel backpack, especially on business trips when she'll need her laptop handy. In our packing test, we found the 30L capacity large enough to fit a 16-inch laptop plus three to four days of clothes and toiletries. If that’s not the right size for you, it also comes in a 20L capacity for those with more petite frames.

an unzipped black backpack from herschel with a separate laptop component

patagonia Patagonia Black Hole Pack - 25 L

Patagonia Black Hole Pack - 25 L

Whether you're backpacking through a new country or flying to a nearby city, this Patagonia pack is up for the adventure. It's made with polyester that has a durable water-repellent finish to keep all your belongings protected. One tester shared that this bag is the "backpack to end all backpacks" because it's great for all types of vacations and features a sternum strap you can easily adjust to suit your height.

While the 25L capacity may look small, the bag lives up to its "Black Hole" name, fitting much more than you'd expect, especially when you roll your clothes up , or you can opt for the 32L style . Plus, in Lab tests, water rolled right off the main fabric of the bag with ease, so you can rest assured it'll protect your belongings even in unpredictable weather.

a patagonia backpack with an adjustable sternum strap

Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack

Dakota Neoprene Backpack

No one wants an uncomfortable backpack, which is why we loved this bag from Dagne Dover. It's made of neoprene fabric, which feels soft and squishy instead of stiff like some other bags. The brand also does not skimp when it comes to details like an interior pocket to hold a water bottle or cell phone and a pouch that can be attached on a leash inside the main compartment to find small stuff quickly.

The main compartment has a laptop sleeve and is large enough for a weekend trip. Plus, it even has a sleek luggage sleeve, slipping easily onto a carry-on suitcase at the airport. Take note: We found that if you’re rough with the bag, the neoprene fabric may pill (though pills can easily be removed with a fabric shaver ). This pick comes in small and medium sizes too.

a tan backpack with a luggage sleeve on a pink carry on suitcase

How we test travel backpacks

line break

The Good Housekeeping Institute has been testing travel products and backpacks for decades.

Headshot of Grace Wu

Grace Wu (she/her) is a product reviews analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute 's Textiles, Paper and Apparel Lab, where she evaluates fabric-based products using specialized equipment and consumer tester data. Prior to starting at Good Housekeeping in 2022, she earned a master of engineering in materials science and engineering and a bachelor of science in fiber science from Cornell University. While earning her degrees, Grace worked in research laboratories for smart textiles and nanotechnology and held internships at Open Style Lab and Rent the Runway.

Headshot of Emma Seymour

Emma Seymour (she/her) is a senior product analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute 's Textiles, Paper and Apparel Lab, where she has led testing for luggage, pillows, towels, tampons and more since 2018. She graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor of science in fiber science and apparel design and a minor in gerontology, completing research in the Body Scanner Lab on optimizing activewear for athletic performance. 

preview for Featured Videos From Good Housekeeping US

@media(max-width: 64rem){.css-o9j0dn:before{margin-bottom:0.5rem;margin-right:0.625rem;color:#ffffff;width:1.25rem;bottom:-0.2rem;height:1.25rem;content:'_';display:inline-block;position:relative;line-height:1;background-repeat:no-repeat;}.loaded .css-o9j0dn:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/goodhousekeeping/static/images/Clover.5c7a1a0.svg);}}@media(min-width: 48rem){.loaded .css-o9j0dn:before{background-image:url(/_assets/design-tokens/goodhousekeeping/static/images/Clover.5c7a1a0.svg);}} Product Reviews

learning towers

The Best Mattresses

the best toilets of 2021

The Best Toilets

best portable carpet cleaners

The Best Portable Carpet Cleaners

best air purifiers to remove dust and allergens from your home

The Best Air Purifiers

best humidifers

The Best Humidifiers

most popular may products 2024

14 Most Popular Products of May 2024

12 best athome hair color products for professional results

The Best At-Home Hair Color Brands

stick vacuums

The Best Stick Vacuums, Tested by Experts

best split king adjustable beds

The Best Split King Adjustable Beds

socks for men

The Best Socks for Men

best korean sunscreens

10 Best Korean Sunscreens of 2024

Pakt logo

  • The Pakt Travel Backpack
  • Pakt One Travel Duffel
  • 25L Travel Duffel
  • All Travel Bags
  • Everyday 3L Sling
  • Everyday 5L Sling
  • Everyday 15L Bag
  • Everyday 22L Backpack
  • Everyday Tote
  • All Everyday Gear
  • 6-piece Packing Cube Set
  • Clip-in Pouches
  • Mojito Wallet
  • 16oz Leakproof Travel Mug
  • Sling Sport Strap
  • All Accessories
  • The Anywhere 5L Sling
  • The Pakt One v1
  • rePakt Pre-traveled Gear
  • Sustainability

packing a travel backpack

Your cart is empty

How to Pack a Travel Backpack

As a savvy traveler, there are many skills you’ll need to perfect for life on the road. Things like the art of catching a lift from a total stranger and negotiating the best room rates with unsympathetic guest house managers.

But of all the skills you’ll need to master, the elusive art of traveling with just a backpack is perhaps the most important. 

Carrying a ton of stuff is cumbersome and uncomfortable, not to mention more expensive. Traveling with just a backpack means you won’t have to check your luggage and risk having it lost or damaged.

Whether you’re looking to be more comfortable and mobile or to skip the wait at the baggage claim, taking a minimalist approach will make life on the road so much easier. Here’s how to pack a travel backpack, plus our top tips to help you maximize your space.

the pakt travel backpack

How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack

Knowing what to pack and how to pack it aren’t the only things you’ll need to get right. Finding the best travel backpack is the first step to success. Choosing a carry-on-sized backpack will help you to avoid overpacking by forcing you to prioritize.

You want a backpack that is designed with travel, comfort, and efficiency in mind. It should open from the front to allow for easy access to your gear. Multiple compartments, pockets, and straps are essential for organization and quick access to your most important items.

Here are some key features to look for in the perfect travel backpack:

Perfect carry on size for most major airlines

Dual compartments with clamshell and top-loading access

Multiple interior pockets for optimal organization of all your travel accessories

Easily accessible padded laptop compartment

Hidden anti-theft pocket for extra cash, travel documents and more

A removable hip belt that doubles as a standalone hip bag or sling 

Top loading waterproof pocket for toiletries

External water bottle pocket

Luggage pass so you can slide the travel backpack over the handles of a rolling suitcase

TSA pocket for easy access to your passport and other personal items at the airport

The Pakt Travel Backpack was designed to be the perfect travel backpack and meet all the above criteria to make packing easier, help you stay organized, and keep you light on your feet. It also features a harness system that is designed to provide all the comfort of a trekking backpack, including premium padded shoulder straps, removable sternum straps, and load lifters for optimum weight distribution.

The exterior of the Pakt Travel Backpack is durable and water-resistant to keep your valuables safe and dry. It’s also made from earth-friendly materials and shipped 100% plastic-free . It’s the ideal travel backpack for almost every travel scenario, from business trips to weeks-long treks through Europe.

Pakt backpack with items for travel, including a laptop, camera, and headphones

How to Travel with Just a Backpack

The next step is to decide what to bring and what to leave at home. This exercise will require some serious thinking, so turn on some tunes and feel free to grab a cocktail to get yourself in a packing frame of mind.

Start by finding a decent amount of empty floor space, a large table, or an empty bed. Lay out every single item that you plan to bring. This includes everything from clothes and shoes to documents, electronics, and toiletries. If you’re thinking about bringing it, lay it out!

By this point, it’s probably become quite clear that the sprawling mess in front of you is never going to fit in just a backpack. Don’t worry! We’re going to help you whittle it down to something a bit more manageable. 

What to Bring

Start by putting the items that you absolutely must have to one side, such as your travel documents and laptop. Then it’s time to weed out the excess. This packing list is a great example of what you really need for weeks or even months on the road.

Shoes are bulky and heavy, and you only need two pairs - one pair for running and walking and one for dressier occasions. You’ll be wearing one pair and packing the other. If you want more options, a pair of flip flops or sandals won’t take up much space if it’s a warm-weather journey.

One week’s worth of clothing should be plenty for most trips. It’s so much easier to do laundry than it is to carry around a ton of clothes. Be sure to stick with a neutral color palette that will allow you to mix and match every item.

When you’re packing a backpack for travel, every item should serve multiple functions. For example, a lightweight button-down shirt can also work as a layering piece and can be worn to dinner. A dress can be fancied up for drinks but also double as a beach coverup.

What to Leave at Home

When you’re trying to decide what to leave at home, start by placing any “nice to have” items in a separate pile. Items you’ll only use on unique occasions probably aren’t worth carrying around for your entire trip. If you’ll be staying mainly in hotels, you may not need to bring a towel, soap, shampoo, or a hairdryer. That said, hostels and guesthouses may not provide these basics, so consider checking ahead.

If you’re having trouble deciding what to leave behind, think about the activities you like to do when you travel and prioritize accordingly. Remember, if you find that you really need something you didn’t bring, there are stores all over the world, even in the most remote places.

Bulky gear, like tents and tripods, can often be rented locally, too. If there’s room left at the end, you can always bring an item or two back in.

features on the pakt travel backpack

Now that you’ve whittled your pile down to only the essentials, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of what goes where and how to fit it all in.

What Goes Where

Clothes : Your clothes and shoes should go in the main compartments of your travel backpack.

Toiletries : For air travel, your liquid toiletries will need to fit inside a one-quart plastic bag. The waterproof front pocket on the Pakt Travel Backpack is the perfect place to pack your toiletries and any other items that might leak. While going for travel-sized bottles is certainly an option, keep in mind that shampoo bars and bar soap are much lighter than liquids, use less packaging, and are much easier to pack. If you need to bring a towel, consider a microfiber towel. They weigh much less than a regular towel, dry faster, and take up a lot less space.

Laptop : If you’re bringing a laptop, it goes in the padded laptop sleeve. A universal travel adaptor is also a must for international travel and can be packed in one of the smaller mesh pockets located in the main compartments of your pack.

Everything Else : Anything you’ll need before or during your flight should go in the front pockets of your travel backpack. Make sure things like spare cash and your passport are in the security pocket so they’re safe, yet easy to access as you make your way through TSA and airport check-in.

Weight Distribution

Weight distribution is a key consideration when it comes to making your backpack comfortable to carry. Sternum straps, load lifters, and a hip belt are essential for good weight distribution. Try to keep the heaviest items in your bag as close to your body as possible.

This will help you maintain your center of gravity when you’re carrying the backpack. Placing the weight further away from your body will cause your backpack to pull on your shoulder straps and make it feel heavier.

Take Advantage of Every Nook and Cranny

You’ll want to use every bit of space in your backpack. Pack your items tight, right into the corners of the bag. If there’s an extra bit of space, such as the inside of your extra shoes, stuff some socks or t-shirts in there.

the pakt travel backpack's waterproof pocket

Make Use of Those Pockets and Straps

Be sure to take advantage of the extra pockets and straps on your travel backpack. Start by putting things you need quick access to in the hip and front pockets. Things like a small first aid kit, your travel rain jacket, an inflatable pillow, or a sarong that can double as a blanket on the plane are all great choices.

If you’re bringing a tripod or yoga mat, they can be attached to your pack using the accessory straps. A water bottle goes in the side pocket and your coffee kit fits neatly into the remaining space in the main compartment. , A rain cover and packable tote fits perfectly in one of the interior mesh pockets of the bag without taking any additional space.

Securing Your Travel Backpack

You’ve got to sleep sometime! Be sure to think about how you’re going to secure your backpack during those times when it’s out of sight. All exterior zippers on the Pakt Travel Backpack can be locked together using a cable lock for extra security.

the pakt travel backpack accessory straps

Packing a Backpack for Travel: Space Saving Tips

Wear your bulkiest items.

One of the best ways to save space in your travel backpack is to wear your bulkiest items on the plane. This includes items like your sneakers, jeans, and jacket. 

Pack Versatile Lightweight Layers

If you’ll be traveling through multiple climates or to a location where temperatures are likely to fluctuate, your best bet is to pack lightweight layers. That way, you can put on or take off a layer as the temperatures change without packing a ton of heavy items like bulky sweaters.

Of course, if you’re traveling in cold weather, bringing some warm, bulky clothes can’t be avoided. In this case, consider using a compression bag for these items so they don’t take up so much space. A heavy jacket can also be attached to the outside of your pack using detachable straps.

packing cubes

How to Pack Your Clothes: Rolling vs Folding

Your heaviest clothing should be as close to your body as possible, midweight items in the middle, and lightweight items in the bottom. Consider rolling your clothing instead of folding it. Rolling is more space-efficient and also reduces the number of wrinkles in your clothing.

Use Packing Cubes

The best way to pack a backpack for travel is to use packing cubes. Our packing cube set comes with five cubes that allow you to separate your clothing into categories and maximize the space in your travel backpack. 

The large zippered cubes are ideal for pants and tops, while the two smaller cubes work great for t-shirts, pajamas, and shorts. The stuff sack style bag is perfect for small items like socks and underwear.

Bring a Laundry Bag

Having a multipurpose smaller bag with you to use as a laundry bag allows you to keep dirty items separate from clean items in your backpack. Our multipurpose Packable Tote makes a great laundry bag. You can also use it as a beach bag or shopping bag, or bring it as your personal item on the plane.

the pakt travel backpack

Parting Advice

Once your backpack is fully packed, put it on your back and give it a test run. How does it feel? Can you lift it comfortably and walk around with it on your back for at least a short distance. Does it look overstuffed? 

If it’s practically bursting at the seams or you can’t carry it comfortably, you need to go back to the drawing board. Putting too much strain on yourself or your backpack could lead to disaster on your trip.

Keep in mind that you’re likely to accrue a few items on your travels. Even the most minimalist of travelers will likely end a trip with an item or two. It would be a shame to look back and wish you could have brought home an amazing memento of your trip, but your backpack was just too full.

Looking for more ways to travel like a pro? Shop our selection of minimalist travel gear for conscious travelers!

Continue reading

Is a Duffel Bag a Carry On?

Is a Duffel Bag a Carry On?

Pakt’s 2021 Emission Report

Pakt’s 2021 Emission Report

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

Whether weekend road-tripping or jet-setting around the world, you’re going to need a pack to toss over your shoulder. Here are the best travel backpacks for every adventure.

packing a travel backpack

There are a lot of great travel backpacks out there, but not all of them are created equal. A travel pack needs to be comfortable to carry, easy to organize, and durable enough to withstand being toted from place to place.

From hitting the road for the weekend to spending months traveling abroad, we’ve put nearly 30 different travel backpacks through the wringer. We tallied our airline miles, punched our tickets, and put our tray tables in the upright and locked position for close to half a decade now, taking domestic and international flights to as far as Iceland and as close as 30-minute island hops. And while there isn’t a single pack that suits every traveler, we’ve highlighted a variety of designs and price points to help you find the perfect travel backpack.

Choosing a travel backpack can be a dizzying experience, and we’ve shaken down the best to sort through the static. Each pack has seen its time on the baggage carousel, hostel luggage cart, and we’ve even had a few go missing for the full experience. We fully pack and live out of these bags to test them, and in the end, we’re confident that the 15 packs collected here are the best travel backpacks available today. Check in and check them out.

For all your travel pack questions, consult our buyer’s guide , where we’ve laid bare all the essentials. Compare each of the packs using our handy comparison chart , and if you’ve still got questions, check out our FAQ section.

Editor’s Note: We updated our travel backpack guide on March 20, 2024 to add the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L — a supremely nice commuter-style travel pack, as well as the Thule Aion 40L and Osprey Archeon 30L .

  • Best Overall Travel Backpack: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
  • Best Budget Travel Backpack: Dakine Campus 33L Backpack
  • Best Carrying Travel Backpack: Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs
  • Best Organization in a Travel Backpack: Matador SEG45 Travel Pack
  • Best Shoulder Bag: Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L
  • Best Commuter-Style Travel Backpack: Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L
  • Best Personal Item Travel Pack: TimBuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

  • Capacity 45 L (collapses to 35 L)
  • Weight 4 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Dimensions 22" x 13" x 9.5" standard, 22" x 13" x 11" expanded
  • Compartment access Back panel clamshell design with #10 zipper
  • Material Weatherproof, 100% recycled 400-denier nylon canvas shell; 900-denier waterproof bottom

Product Badge

  • Compresses down to maximum airline carry-on size, and then expands once you’ve hit your destination
  • Burly construction
  • No details are overlooked in the design
  • Side-carry handles are offset in an awkward position

Perfect is a dirty word in product design, but we’re about stumped when it comes to drumming up a quibble about the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45 L ($300). This redeye-ready clamshell design is made to the highest of standards.

It’s made of quality materials, utilizing aluminum hardware and a burly 400-denier nylon canvas — and it easily ticks all our boxes for the best overall travel backpack. The interior of the bag is split into two compartments: a larger main area for storing the majority of your kit and a secondary sleeve at the front of the bag with five zippered pockets. The main pocket also sports a foam-padded laptop sleeve and three more pockets.

One of the more impressive aspects we discovered along the bag’s inaugural leg from Seattle to Anchorage was how easily the straps of the Travel Backpack stow away into the bag. Two foam panels on the back of the bag flip away to secure them and then close with a magnetic closure — very slick. This was our favorite strap-stowage system, with the zippered panels of the Matador GlobeRider45 coming in a close second. We find the Peak Design bag compresses smaller.

Then there are the little details. An ID-size sleeve on the back panel provides all the information should your bag get separated from you. Zipper pulls thread through one another to keep what’s yours safe. And a collapsible system adjusts the bag from a full 45 to 35 liters.

In our review, there’s little about the Peak Design pack that misses the mark. The company leans heavily toward the camera-toting travelers among us, but the 45 L Travel Backpack makes no compromises and works just as well for any user group. The high price is undeniable, but for the scope of the travel pack, it’s a buy-once-cry-once purchase we would make again.

Also available in a 30L size , the range of Travel Backpacks from Peak Design is so well-thought-out that you can practically see the cogs turning in their creators’ heads. We think they make the best travel backpacks on the market.

Dakine Campus 33L Backpack

  • Capacity 33 L
  • Weight 1 lb., 10.6 oz.
  • Dimensions 20.5" x 13" x 8"
  • Compartment access Zippered top access
  • Material Depending on print type, can be 600-denier recycled polyester, 420-denier recycled nylon, 630-denier recycled nylon, or 1,200-denier recycled polyester

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Cheap price
  • Available in many different fabric prints
  • Unique insulated cooler pocket
  • Not many travel-specific features
  • Straps don’t pack away

Even at the regular price, the Dakine Campus 33L Backpack ($75) is a great deal. And considering you can grab one on sale for $45, it’s a must-have budget travel backpack.

It has everything you need to keep your travels organized, without getting too big or complicated. This design has a padded laptop sleeve and a fleece-lined top pocket to keep your sunglasses safe. There’s an organizer pocket that’s perfect for pens, a phone, and easy-access essentials. We love pockets, and this backpack has plenty.

And if that weren’t enough, it also has an insulated cooler pocket to keep your snacks fresh on the go, plus double side pockets keep drinks handy. We found the straps comfortable during long travel days. Be sure to use the sternum strap when carrying a heavy load for the best fit.

While this bag does excellent at travel, it isn’t quite what the bag was designed for, thus it’s missing a few travel niceties like a compression system or the ability to pack away the straps. We didn’t find that we missed them desperately, but they would have been nice for a few instances. For similar-sized backpacks with more of a travel bend to them, look to the sleek Timbuk2 Never Check, or the uber-customizable Tom Bihn Synapse 25. But prepare to shell out some more for them.

If you’re looking for a sub-$100 backpack (under $60 during sales!) that does the basics, then the Dakine Campus Backpack is for you. It comes in a variety of colors and is also available in a 25L capacity .

Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs

  • Capacity 40 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 7.6 oz.
  • Dimensions 22" x 14" x 9"
  • Compartment access Zippered back panel clamshell design
  • Material Bluesign-approved 450-denier recycled polyester

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Supreme suspension system offers the best carry of any pack we tried
  • External compression straps limit the volume well
  • Comfortably padded grab handles
  • Not much internal organization

No stranger to producing supremely comfortable suspension systems, Osprey injected a good bit of its tech into the Farpoint and Fairview packs ($185), which both sport LightWire frames, load lifters, and breathable framesheet and suspension straps. Our Farpoint pack was easily the best load carrier of any we tested and a close contender for the best travel backpack overall.

Far beyond what any of the other travel packs offer, the pack even allows you to adjust the torso length — unheard of in the typical travel pack. Newly updated, these packs have been tweaked to ride the line between traditional backpacks and functional luggage, a claim we can substantiate.

The 40-liter capacity is just about the sweet spot for domestic carry-on luggage limits, and these packs make good use of the space. We could easily pack away a long weekend’s worth of travel essentials into the bag with a little space to spare.

Whereas many other travel packs stash straps away into the body of the pack, the Farpoint and Fairview move in the opposite direction with a deployable strap cover that neatly seals in the suspension for safekeeping when checked. This produces a clean profile that’s ready to be slung around, but it’s not quite as easy and quick as the magnetic panels of the Peak Design Travel Backpacks, as you need to unclip straps to tuck them away.

The interior of the pack is rather spartan, incorporating only one zippered pocket, a laptop sleeve, and two internal compression straps. We would have rather seen a bit more organizational features involved like those that the Matador GlobeRider and Topo Designs Global Travel bags incorporate, but for those who stuff more than pack, the Farpoint and  Fairview may very well punch the ticket.

With one foot on the platform and one on the trail, these packs from Osprey will get you where you’re going and carry a trip’s worth of kit with ease.

Matador SEG45 Travel Pack

  • Capacity 45 L
  • Weight 2 lbs., 8 oz.
  • Dimensions 22" x 13.4" x 10.2"
  • Compartment access Full clamshell interior, additional front zippered access
  • Material 420-denier nylon exterior, 100-denier Robic Dynatec interior

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Excellent storage organization options
  • High-quality, strong, and lightweight construction
  • No frame to speak of
  • Shoulder straps don’t pack away

Aiming to do more with less, the Matador SEG45 Segmented Backpack ($200) proposes a future free of packing cubes and splits up the bag for you, making the organization of your travel pack a breeze.

The full 45 liters of volume is shared among the five segments (6, 9, 15, 9, and 6 L) and trades volume between the full clamshell compartment and the segments. Each of these segments is accessible via its own water-resistant zippers and can be collapsed as your needs change.

We found organizing by clothing type made the most sense in our own packing, but you could even pack based on the day of the week or the use. The clamshell-accessed main compartment was ideal for holding larger items like spare shoes or quarantining spent outfits.

Known for its overbuilt but lightweight bags, Matador didn’t spare the SEG45, utilizing 420D UHMWPE-reinforced nylon in the pack body, as well as 100D Robic Dynatec weave on the interior. It should be noted that this travel backpack doesn’t have any kind of frame and will rely on being packed well to carry correctly. Because of this, this pack won’t carry as well as bags like the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview, so consider packing mostly clothing in the SEG45.

Our testers felt this bag excelled as a travel bag you might deploy once you’ve hit your destination, as it packs away into larger bags so well. Unfortunately, however, the shoulder straps don’t pack away into the bag itself, so you’ll have to wrangle them into place to keep things tidy.

No matter what you’re up to, everything has got a spot to live in the SEG45 . Need a bit less space? Matador offers the SEG28 ($250) for that.

Read Review: Dresser in a Backpack: Matador SEG42 Review

Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L

  • Weight 3 lbs., 10.3 oz.
  • Dimensions 22.8" x 8.6" x 14.5"
  • Compartment access Back panel zippered clamshell design
  • Material 900-denier recycled polyester ripstop with a TPU laminate

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Multiple ways to carry the pack
  • Many different storage and internal organization options
  • Burly external fabric
  • Doesn’t carry the best as a backpack

Looking to squeeze out every last liter of allowed space? Patagonia named this pack in honor of the cause: the Patagonia Black Hole Maximum Legal Carry-On 45 L ($239). This bag can be carried in a number of different ways, but we found it shined during travel as a shoulder bag.

Borrowing fabric from Patagonia’s line of burly Black Hole Duffels , the MLC 45 is made for the long haul. The 900-denier polyester ripstop is coated in a TPU laminate and feels ready to take on the surliest baggage carrier. We certainly felt no remorse in tossing the bag around.

At 45 L, the MLC is certainly right at the cusp of the maximum allowed size, but thankfully that space is well divided up inside the pack. Inside the main clamshell-accessed compartment is a blizzard of zippers and mesh pockets and dividers. Anything we tossed inside was well-stabilized.

Because there isn’t much of a frame to speak of, the Black Hole MLC doesn’t carry the best when slung over both shoulders and can sag when not entirely full. But over a shoulder with the included shoulder strap, this pack feels great and can be easily accessed on the go. This is one of the only packs in our testing to feature a shoulder strap (the other being the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag).

On top of all this, we greatly appreciate that the Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45 L is made with 100% recycled body fabric, lining, and webbing. Perfect for grabbing and going, this pack is ready to move.

Read Review: Patagonia Black Hole MLC Bag Review: An Organized, Carry-On-Size Wonder

Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L

  • Capacity 24 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 1.6 oz.
  • Dimensions 18" x 7: x 11.5"
  • Compartment access Zippered clamshell
  • Material 840D ballistic nylon 6, 420D HT nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Functions as both a laptop backpack and suitcase
  • Well-structured and protected
  • Full panel loading access
  • Limited colorways

With an understated look that betrays the truly impressive fit and functionality inside, the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L ($279) doesn’t need to brag — it knows it’ll tote your kit through the worst of your travel or everyday commutes without missing a beat. This bag is our newly anointed best commuter-style travel backpack.

From a fabrics and materials standpoint, it’s clear that someone at Evergoods truly nerded out when they brewed up this bindle. The 840D ballistic nylon 6 that makes up the exterior of the pack is burly (errantly spilled coffee wipes right off), and compliments the thick #10 zippers and spacer-mesh back panel. Even the Evergoods logo is low-key: a simple 2×2” patch on the front of the bag with a slash. That’s it — and we dig it.

Bar none, the Civic Panel Loader has the best laptop sleeve we’ve ever encountered in a backpack, and that’s saying something. The side-accessed zippered aperture can hold a 17” Macbook Pro, and nestles into a fully padded space at the rear of the pack. This sleeve is suspended from the bottom of the bag, as we’ve seen in many forward-thinking bags, but goes a step further and protects the laptop from the side with an aluminum stay — the primary functionality of which is to support the side handle on the bag. Genius.

The high-polish finish on the CPL24 feels reminiscent of the attention to detail we loved about the Tom Bihn Synapse 25, but we ended up enjoying this pack even more for a simple reason: side carry. The broad handle on the side of the pack is reinforced by that aluminum stay, and it creates a perfectly supported carry for jostling through crowded terminals.

On the interior of the pack, two large pockets are subdivided with a few smaller sleeves and pockets, which are oriented to be accessed with the bag on its side. We carried this pack for a month straight of remote work, lugging it to coffee shops and co-working spaces, and it supplanted all other packs we’ve used previously. “It’s hard not to love a pack that makes your life easier,” says Senior Editor Nick Belcaster. “This pack does that. Laptop, headphones, notebooks — a whole lot goes into the pack without a care.”

Up there with Nomatic, GORUCK, and Tom Bihn, Evergoods is certainly among the pack-makers that put intelligent design and smart material choice above all else. The Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24L is the final word when it comes to a travel pack you can carry every day. We certainly do.

Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack

  • Capacity 27.5 L
  • Weight 2 lbs., 9 oz.
  • Dimensions 18.9" x 11.4" x 5.9"
  • Material 420x2000D Cordura nylon, 135D polyester

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Dang good looking
  • High-quality trim and details, including anodized G hooks and supple webbing
  • Supper cushioned back panel
  • Exterior expandable water bottle pocket is a bit slim
  • Pack straps don't stow away.

Pulling off a good expandable backpack can be a tough task, with fabric accordion folds often taking up valuable real estate on the interior when collapsed in lesser bags. Not so with the TimBuk2 Never Check ($209), which takes a simple backpack shape and elevates it with premium materials and design to create one of our favorite travel backpacks for tucking under an airliner seat.

Unlike a lot of the pure-function rectangular bags in our lineup, the Never Check is a real looker — easily one of the best styled in our testing so far, and we’d have no qualms about bringing it along as a business bag. Small details like rubber-covered zipper pulls, anodized G hooks, and supple webbing keep it looking sharp. The 27.5-liter size is just about dead-on for most airline ‘personal item’ size requirements, and this bag easily slides under a seat.

The main compartment is accessed through a clamshell zipper on the front of the bag, which is gusseted to hang open while you’re loading it up. During the few national and international flights our Senior Editor Nick Belcaster deployed the bag on, this was easily enough space for everything you might want during a plane ride. And for everything else, a front pocket is lined with multiple drop and zip pockets for organizing small gadgets like chargers or keys.

The back panel of the Never Check is a plush ½ inch of comfortable foam, and combined with the equally padded shoulder straps made for a very nice carrying bag. The straps unfortunately do not stow away, but on a lower volume pack such as this, it’s a much less useable feature in our opinions.  And finally, one of our favorite features: the wide laptop sleeve. This 15” opening is generous enough to accommodate the larger laptops of today, and is suspended from the bottom of the backpack to ensure bumps don’t turn into bruises.

Just like the name suggests, the Never Check Expandable Backpack provides a svelte solution to bringing a bag with you during airline travel — or even just to the office. Its clean profile and attention to detail impressed us, and it would make an excellent work-to-weekend bag.

Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack

  • Dimensions 22" x 12.8" x 11"
  • Compartment access Zippered clamshell design
  • Material 420D UHMWPE-reinforced ripstop nylon, 100D Robic nylon mini-ripstop

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Incredible density of pockets and sleeves
  • Tough UHMWPE outer fabric can be tossed around
  • Shoulder straps tuck away in a novel and smart manner
  • Laptop sleeve opening is a bit tight
  • Price is up there

With a pocket or sleeve for pretty much everything, the new Matador GlobeRider 45 ($350) gives the Peak Design Travel Pack a run for its money when it comes to the best overall travel pack. 

Our Managing Editor raved about the GlobeRider after serious testing where she pretty much lived out of it for 3 months: “If you travel often and look for crucial components like internal and external pockets, laptop storage, and backpack and hip straps, consider the Matador GlobeRider 45. It’s a unique design in that the [pack] seems to have it all — every feature I’ve needed so far, both living out of it and in my travels — in a pretty packable size.”

What impressed us most was the way the GlobeRider was able to balance both an eye-watering amount of organization and versatility, and burly durability that ensures that this pack won’t shy away from tough travel conditions. In total (and we double-counted) there are 19 individual pockets on the pack, in all types of stretch mesh, zippered, and collapsible configurations. When good organization is key, the GlobeRider reigns. 

On the back panel of the GlobeRider, one of the more novel stowage systems we’ve seen packs away the shoulder straps and hip belt for when you want to slim down the pack. Two zippered panels — similar to the structure of the Peak Design packs, save for the closure — envelop the straps when not in use, and provide a lump-free panel for toting around. 

When it comes to downsides, the GlobeRider doesn’t miss much. The laptop sleeve aperture is a bit small at 9.5”, which in today’s age of mondo-screened computers may be limiting to some with larger devices. There also is no ability to convert the pack to a shoulder bag like the Patagonia MLC does, which can be handy when moving quickly through the airport.

Dang-near the top of the list, the Matador GlobeRider 45 would be an excellent choice for anyone who practices one-bag travel, or desires to have a place for everything in their journeys. The price does sting a bit, but based on the long-term testing we’ve completed so far, we’ve seen no indications that this pack will fade away anytime soon.

Read Review: I Lived Out of This Backpack for 3-Plus Months: Matador Globerider45 Review

Thule Aion 40L

  • Weight 3 lbs., 3 oz.
  • Dimensions 13" x 9.1" x 20.5"
  • Material Waxed P600 polyester canvas

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Maxes out on carry-on-compliant space
  • Internal roll-top TPU bag separates the clean from the to-do laundry
  • Waxed canvas exterior has a classy look
  • Centered side handle carries well
  • Well-cushioned back panel
  • No shoulder strap stowage option
  • No hipbelt on a 40L is pushing it

Better known for their roof boxes and racks, it’s fair to say that Thule knows travel, and the addition of smart, organized, and comfortable travel packs like the Thule Aion 40L ($200) makes all the sense in the world to us. This pack is a finely-honed bag for international and local travel alike, and is decked out in some high-class materials.

Like the Patagonia Black Hole MLC pack, the Aion 40L aims to go for the maximum allowed capacity, and at our measurements (21.5” x 15” x 8”) the pack slides in just half an inch less than the normal 45 linear inches typically allowed. That’s efficient. The space is split up into two main compartments and a laptop sleeve, with the larger opening with a full clamshell zip.

This inner compartment hosts a few zippered pockets and internal compression straps, but the star of the show here is the integrated TPU rolltop bag. This sack can be used to cordon off your liquids (and easily presented for inspection), as well as separate your pile of ‘to-do’ laundry. This reminds us of the ActiveShield compartment in the Gregory Border Traveler pack, but we enjoy the removable aspect here even more. 

Round the back of the pack, the spacer-mesh swaddled laptop sleeve rivals the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader , and has an additional sleeve for items like tablets, notebooks, or chargers. The back panel itself is impressively cushioned (one of the more luxe in our testing) and that extends to the shoulder straps. 

Unfortunately, there’s no shoulder strap-stowage system here, so you’ll have to wrangle those yourself, and while we typically enjoy the lack of a hip belt in smaller travel packs, the absence in a 40-liter pack is a little puzzling. Fully loaded, the Aion could certainly benefit from one, and while a separate sling bag can be added to function as one, you’ll need to fork over $50 for it.

Ranking high up there with your Peak Designs and your Ospreys, the Thule Aion 40L nails the style and material departments, and with a full 40 liters of space on board, has all the room to pack for your week-long trips — no roof box required.

Osprey Archeon 30L

  • Capacity 30 L
  • Weight 3 lbs.
  • Dimensions 20.5" x 13" x 11.4"
  • Compartment access Zippered top-access
  • Material 840D ballistic polyester with carbonate coating

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Extra-tough exterior fabric with carbonate coating
  • High-polish details such as seatbelt webbing straps
  • Mini-wing hipbelt tucks away easily when not needed
  • Smart internal storage pockets that lay flat when not needed
  • Laptop sleeve opening is a bit too snug
  • Compression straps lay over the main zipper

First off, one word: Rugged. The Osprey Archeon 30L ($250) is a high-end build that spares little in the material department, and looks dang good while it’s at it. The 30-liter size makes this bag weekend travel-ready, and we greatly appreciated the fit and finish.

The overall design of the Archeon reminds us a good bit of the Peak Design Travel Bag (certainly the all-waterproof exterior zippers and curved side-entry pockets), but it’s the exterior fabric that really impressed. The 840D ballistic polyester is coated with a carbonate polyurethane coating, a bolstered recipe that increases durability by a magnitude over traditional PU coatings. In testing, we wore out before putting a dent in it.

The pack itself breaks down into two main compartments, with the main pocket opening behind a curved clamshell zip (we did have a little trouble with the zipper passing behind the exterior straps. Removing them fixed that). Inside, three expandable tech pockets tuck away all of your small kit, and do a good job of keeping things tidy on the interior.

On the exterior, Osprey doesn’t disappoint when it comes to suspension straps, which are comfortable, adjustable, and stashable. The mini wing-style hip belt earns special praise on packed flights, where we find traditional hip belts to be a hassle to store, and combined with the slick shoulder-strap stash pocket, the Archeon converts to minimal mode in under a minute.

Something the Archeon certainly could use, however, is a slightly larger aperture into the laptop/tech compartment. As-is, the zipper doesn’t quite extend down far enough to truly open up the pocket, and as such it can feel a bit like rummaging around in the dark looking for cords and chargers in the bottom of the pack. Extending these zippers down to the middle of the pack would seem to fix the issue, and we hope a later iteration might address this.

Nonetheless, we were still impressed by the Osprey Archeon 30L . There’s also a 40-liter version if you’re looking for a max-capacity carry-on, and even a smaller 24-liter for kicking around coffee shops day-to-day.

Read Review: Hack Carry-On Rules: Osprey Archeon Kit Gives Power Back to Passengers

Arc’teryx Granville 25 Backpack

  • Capacity 25 L
  • Weight 1 lb., 14.5 oz.
  • Dimensions 22" x 12" x 9"
  • Compartment access Drawstring top-entry
  • Material N400r-AC² nylon ripstop

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Tough and waterproof exterior fabric
  • White interior for easy viewing
  • Floating laptop sleeve
  • Not very much interior organization
  • Simple webbing waistbelt

Made for moving through the city over the concourse, the commute-ready Arc’teryx Granville 25 ($220) takes travel backpacks to the streets in a sleek and tough design that we couldn’t keep from grabbing every day.

Crafted from the same N400r-AC² nylon ripstop as Arc’teryx’s high-end climbing packs, the mountain DNA is strong in the Granville, with fully taped seams that make the pack highly weather-resistant. In our impromptu “rain” test, a garden hose fired directly at the pack wasn’t able to get a drop past the tough exterior.

On the front of the pack, a single water-resistant zippered pocket was practically made for your keys, and could accommodate a few other essentials for when you’re on the go. Tossing back the shaped lid, a single drawstring entry leads to the interior space, which is mainly one large pocket, with a few zippered and drop pockets to separate smaller items. If you’re looking for the same style pack, but with a bit more organization built-in, the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 divides up its space well.

The padded interior laptop sleeve will accommodate up to a 16” laptop, and is suspended within the main compartment in a way that leaves us feeling confident in slinging our computer across a shoulder. Compared to other more airline-focused travel packs, the Granville 25 has its feet more firmly planted on the ground, and excels at bus, bike, or foot travel.

Whether your commute is just across town or across the country, the Arc’teryx Granville 25 makes for a good-looking carry-all that’s bound to be around for a while.

Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L

  • Weight 3 lbs., 10.4 oz.
  • Dimensions 22.5" x 14" x 7.5"
  • Material 1000D recycled nylon, 400D recycled nylon, 210D recycled nylon, 1680D recycled ballistic nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Overbuilt design with tough materials and chunky zippers
  • Plenty of organizational pockets
  • Bright interior
  • Not the cleanest strap stowage

Chunky zippers, an overhead-savvy profile, and multiple ways to sling it over your shoulder: The Topo Designs Global Travel Pack ($229) has honed in on much of what we love in a travel backpack.

During a recent trip from Seattle to Southern California we were heavily saddled with the maximum the airline would allow. But this pack made use of every inch of space and reached the allowance of what we could check as our carry-on. The 40 liters of internal capacity is broken down into a series of dividers and pockets, which made condoning off things like electronics from the rest of our kit easy. And the interior of this pack is a cheery canary yellow, which helps with ease and visibility.

On the exterior of this pack, three separate carry styles are available to get you through the concourse in whatever way you choose. We found the full-featured backpack straps to be our go-to, which even sport load-lifters for a comfy carry. This suspension system does tuck away for when you might want to check the bag, though we found the hipbelt to be a bit tricky to fully retract.

Rounding out this travel-ready backpack is a tough build that makes use of 1000D recycled nylon and heavy-duty zippers, and we had no qualms with tossing this bag around during our trip. Perfect for anyone who subscribes to the one-bag travel ethos, the Global Travel Pack from Topo Designs makes the grade for those who want the most out of their carry-on.

And if you’re only going to be away for a short trip, the Global Travel pack is also available in a 30L capacity .

Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack

  • Capacity 28 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 4 oz.
  • Dimensions 19" x 12" x 9"
  • Material TPU-coated 1,000-denier polyester, 840-denier nylon paneling

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Burly exterior material holds up for the long run
  • Plenty of zippered mesh storage pockets
  • On the heavier side
  • TPU-coated nylon can feel grabby

The Allpa 28L Travel Pack ($170) will change the way you travel. It’s sleek, durable, and able to fit an incredible amount of stuff in a small space. The zippered mesh pockets keep clothes organized. And the compression straps maximize what you can pack.

The tough polyester and nylon construction can take a beating without any signs of wear. And we appreciate that the externally accessed, padded laptop sleeve makes pulling out your electronics at security checkpoints a breeze. There’s also a small outer compartment to keep essentials at hand.

You can completely tuck away the backpack straps and carry the pack like a briefcase, or wear it comfortably as a backpack. We’ve stuffed this pack to the gills countless times and have never had a problem with the zippers. Light rain showers or spills roll right off the TPU-coated exterior, but for legit rainstorms, just pull out the included rain cover.

The Allpa also comes in 35L, 42L, 50L, and 70L capacities. As our editor noted in the 42L review , “Building on its fun and functional ethos, Cotopaxi beefs up its bestselling product. The Allpa Travel Pack earns big points for clever design, clean aesthetic, and a surprising number of handy — and hidden — features.”

Yes, the Cotopaxi Allpa packs are an investment, but anyone who travels regularly will find it a worthy one. These powerhouse travel backpacks are sturdy, versatile, and built to last.

Tom Bihn Synapse 25

  • Weight 1 lb., 13 oz.
  • Dimensions 13.4" x 20" x 9.1"
  • Material 400-denier Halcyon, 420-denier nylon ripstop

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • Many different fabrics and color schemes are available
  • Built to last design and materials
  • Removable webbing hip belt
  • Suspension doesn’t pack away
  • Side wing pockets are a little awkward to access

Refined and clean-looking, the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 ($243) is a high-end travel backpack we just can’t stop staring at. It just looks that good. Made of burly textiles and zippers, this pack was built to stand the test of tough travel and come out shining on the other side.

The Synapse 25 is the larger version of Tom Bihn’s Synapse 19 , a popular backpack made for daily carry. The bump in volume is appreciated in this travel-oriented version and is doled out in one large compartment as well as a set of pockets on the front of the pack.

We found all the pockets easily accessible, save for the side wing pockets. While these were excellent for the organization of smaller bits and bobs, the openings were a bit awkward to jump into.

Topped off by a cushioned suspension (the foam is a half-inch of supple EV50), this travel backpack didn’t weigh us down on long days of travel when fully packed. And when we wanted to go light, even the webbing hip belt was removable. In terms of the ability to bop around town as a daily driver, this pack is up there with the TimBuk2 Never Check and Arc’teryx Granville packs (we liked the back panel on this pack the most).

Along with being carry-on compliant, the Synapse is also one of the few bags on our list that are compact enough to fit under most airline seats without hogging too much precious legroom.

Osprey Nebula 32 Daypack

  • Capacity 32 L
  • Weight 2 lbs., 1.7 oz.
  • Dimensions 19.2" x 12.2" x 11.4"
  • Material 420-denier recycled nylon

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

  • TSA-compliant laptop sleeve
  • Many options for organization
  • Water bottle pockets fit 32 oz. bottles
  • Need to release two buckles in order to unzip the main pocket all the way

When it comes to backpacks, Osprey has put in the time — and it shows. The Nebula 32 ($140) feels like it’s all the brand’s most popular packs morphed into one. Most of all, we love how it seamlessly goes from city streets to trails.

This backpack can do it all, whether you’re hauling your laptop and books around town; water, food, and layers on an easy hike; or all of the above and then some for a weekend away.

The internal storage pockets are great for organizing all of your things for easy access. And while the Nebula 32 is top-loading, the main pocket opens up wide enough so you won’t have to unload everything to get to the one thing you want at the bottom. The sternum strap and hip belt are comfortable as well, especially when carrying a heavy load.

On smaller volume packs like this, sometimes design concessions need to be made to accommodate all the functionality, and on the Nebula it’s in the side compression straps. Like on the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview, the compression system of the pack overlays across the main compartment zipper, meaning you’ll need to undo some straps before rifling around in the storage area. Not a deal breaker, but a little annoying when the TSA line starts to back up behind you.

Overall, the Nebula 32 won’t disappoint if you make it your go-to smaller-volume travel backpack.

Travel Backpack Comparison Chart

packing a travel backpack

How We Tested Travel Backpacks

The staff of GearJunkie is a hot-footed bunch, restlessly plodding across the country or around the globe in search of adventure and whatever else comes our way. And we have a lot of stuff, which necessitates having a travel bag or four in the stable.

Surely any old bindle will do in carrying your kit around, but having a travel backpack that is dialed into the needs of travel can turn a stressful situation into a manageable one. We’ve been testing travel backpacks since 2019 and have put the market slice through the wringer on thousands of miles of travel to weed out the best of the best.

Senior Editor Nick Belcaster has a zeal for international travel, and he leads up our current travel pack testing, logging almost 10,000 flying miles in the last year alone. From Iceland to Utah, Belcaster has carried these packs and lived out of them for weeks, relying on them to support back-to-back travel excursions. In testing, we looked for a number of features in our travel backpacks, including overall capacity, carry style, durability, and aesthetics. It’s important to think about how you’ll use your travel pack, and as such, every pack on our list is carry-on compliant for the worst-case scenario.

We know no trip will be like the next, so we took a broad swath of the travel backpacks on the market in order to create a list that will suit many different travelers. Packs in hand, over our shoulders, or on our backs, we hit the four corners and tested the best travel backpacks of 2024.

Curious about what we pack in our travel backpacks? We’ve penned up a list for both domestic and international trips .

Peak Design Travel Pack 45L at SEATAC

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Travel Backpack

Travel backpack user profiles.

The International Jet-Setter: The term ‘One Bag Travel’ is no stranger to you, and you’ve just about got your life distilled down into 45 liters of space. If international travel is your bag, then a backpack that’s up to the task will be essential to see you through to further time zones. Efficiency will be the name of the game here, and going with a pack that is dang-near the carry-on maximums for international flights will mean you can make it through without checking a bag. Look for near to 45-liter packs with plenty of organization baked in, as well as a comfortable (and stashable) carry system.

For international travel, the bag we reach for most often had to be the Peak Design Travel Backpack , with a razor-thin second place going to the Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack . For an emphasis on organization, the Matador SEG45 splits up the volume well, and if you’ll be schlepping bags around a long way, the Osprey Farpoint & Fairview Packs have all the Osprey suspension we love.

Osprey Farpoint Travel Pack in Iceland

The Weekend-Warrior: Maybe it’s a work trip, and maybe it’s just for fun, but it’s only going to take 2-3 days total, and you’ll need a bag that can pack it in. For weekend excursions, we find packs in the 25-35 liter range work well for the minimalists among us, and the 30-40 liter range for those who like a bit more options.

The Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is easily one of the most stylish packs in our review, only slightly edged out by the Timbuk2 Never Check , and both make the grade for a single overnighter in a foreign locale. For a bit more space, you can’t go wrong with the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L , a fun pack that is a lot tougher than the multi-colored exterior would let on.

Peak Design Travel Backpack on the Back of a Traveller in Seattle International Airport Looking out on the Tarmac.

The Commuter: No flight involved! Duty calls, and sometimes you’ll need to lug around a bit more kit than the old briefcase can allow for. Commuting with a travel backpack is a great way to stay comfortable on longer rides, as shoulder and handbags are cumbersome over the long run. Focus on a bag with a more traditional backpack shape that puts an emphasis on ease-of-access, and is in the 20-30 liter range.

For bumping around town, we’ve come to love the Evergoods Civic Panel Loader 24 , which not only lugs our remote office around with ease, but also looks pretty slick doing it. The drawstring opening here is a huge boon for quickly stashing a jacket, and the tough exterior fears no weather forecast. For a budget just-get-it-done choice, the Dakine Campus 33L will make it happen for less.

packing a travel backpack

The right size pack for you depends on a few things. First, where are you going? And, how long do you plan to stay? Winter travel often comes with more gear, so you’ll need to pack extra layers. Longer trips often require larger bags.

That said, your personal packing style will be the most important factor. We know minimalists who happily travel for months with only a single backpack in tow and others who want the largest travel backpack possible in addition to a totally stuffed duffel bag . One method isn’t better than the other, but knowing your style is helpful when choosing a bag.

In general, we’ve found that something in the 28-45 liter range is ideal for comfort and packability. Many packs will also offer a compression system to allow you to limit the overall volume of the backpack. We’ve seen many different ways to accomplish this, but the most effective by far were the button snaps and expanding zipper of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L . Packs toward the 40-45 liter range will be your carry-on bags of choice, and the 45-liter Peak Design, Patagonia MLC , and Matador GlobeRider are perfect for maxing out your allowed space. The 40-liter Osprey Farpoint/Fairview packs give up a little internal room for the luxe suspension system they’re carried with.

Packs in the smaller end of the range, from around 25-30 liters, make better personal items, and the TimBuk2 Never Check , Tom Bihn Synapse , and Patagonia Black Hole backpacks all fit snugly underneath an airliner seat. These small bags move through a city gracefully and look more like everyday carry backpacks than traditional luggage.

Peak Design Travel Backpack Clamshell Access

What good would a bag be if you couldn’t get into it? From a simple drawstring to a thicket of Velcro and zippers, there are plenty of ways to keep your bag closed while you’re on the go, but not every one will be amenable to travel.

Zippered Clamshells: Most travel backpacks will use a clamshell-style design that opens up the backpack like a suitcase, allowing you to pack intentionally as opposed to stuffing things in. Oftentimes, an internal strap system will help keep your items contained while you’re on the move.

Packs with this clamshell design may also opt to add internal dividers to the main storage area, and make these dividers removable — should you need the entire storage area uninhibited. For packs without internal dividers or straps, consider adding a few packing cubes to keep your items organized.

In addition to the rear entry, some backpacks will offer additional entry points through the top or front of the pack. This can be helpful when you need to quickly retrieve something like a passport from your bag, without the need to totally spill the contents. The majority of packs in our review close in this clamshell manner, and a few of our favorites are the Peak Design Travel Backpack , Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs , and Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack .

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack

Zippered Top-Access: Much like many traditional backpacks, zippered top-access packs load and unload from the topside, and generally only offer one point of entry/egress into the pack. For this reason, packs of this flavor are generally left packed during travel, as digging around for something at the bottom can be a hassle.

Bags of this stripe, including the uber-nice Tom Bihn Synapse 25 and expandable Timbuk2 Never Check , most often make better personal items over carry-ons, as their smaller volumes make for easier searching within.

Drawstring Top-Entry: While not quite as common as a zippered clamshell or top-access pack, drawstring top-entry packs can make for very quick and easy access to your kit if you’re on the move. These packs will integrate an extended fabric collar to the top of the storage area, which can be compressed when needed, or overstuffed with bulky items like jackets.

Commuters will find drawstring entry bags the most appealing, and the Arc’teryx Granville 25 has become one of our dedicated laptop toters for everything from remote work stints at the coffee shop to jumping on a ferry for work.

Carrying Options

Patagonia MCL 45L Travel Backpack Carry Options

There are plenty of ways to lug your kit to your boarding gate, but not all of them will be comfortable for everything. Over-shoulder backpack straps can support a good bit of weight but typically will need some type of frame to truly be supportive. The Osprey Farpoint/Fairview packs were the best-carrying packs in our testing, owed largely to the wire frame and Airscape mesh back panels, but we also enjoyed the carry of the aluminum frame stays on the Matador GlobeRider.

A shoulder strap travel backpack, like the Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L , can be slung across your body and provide a great amount of accessibility on the go. Don’t expect to carry too much weight this way, however.

And then there’s the classic suitcase style, easily towed anywhere. It’s good to note many travel backpacks will have stowable straps to better streamline the pack for a trip through an X-ray machine or stowed under a seat. The strap storage design of the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L impressed us most of all, utilizing magnetic closure flaps to pack away the shoulder and hip straps neatly.

Pockets & Organization

Matador SEG30 Travel Backpack Storage Options

There’s an organizational saying: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” And we couldn’t agree more. Keeping track of everything while you travel is key for organization. And while more pockets always seem better, there is a threshold where having too many simply becomes more places to misplace things. Instead, we recommend packs with three to six pockets.

The Cotopaxi Allpa and Topo Designs Global Travel Bags both have ingenious inner organization systems complete with large zipping “pockets.” It has just enough space to find room for everything but not so many compartments that you’ll be hunting all day for your misplaced passport. For even more organization, the Matador SEG45 splits into five different segments that are accessible from the exterior of the pack.

Bringing along a laptop is a necessary evil for some travelers, and having an incorporated laptop sleeve in your travel backpack can keep it safe during travel. Most laptop sleeves will be padded with some type of foam and nestle in close to the back for maximum protection. In order to be TSA-compliant, a laptop sleeve will need to fold entirely flat away from the pack to be scanned.

Because flying with liquids over 3.4 ounces is prohibited in the U.S., carrying all of these items in a separate toiletry bag can make your foray into the screening line a breeze. Many of the packs on our list incorporate many external pockets where such a bag could be stashed and produced when needed.

Tom Bihn Synapse 25 Travel Backpack

Travel luggage takes a beating, so durability is a top concern. Luckily, gear manufacturers realize this and are making increasingly burly yet portable packs. The fan-favorite Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L pack is made with a 900-denier ripstop nylon outer with a TPU laminate for extra durability. It’s nearly indestructible, water-resistant, and versatile.

If you’re traveling somewhere with inclement weather or if your pack needs to double as a climbing bag or hiking pack, durability is extra important. And it’s worth paying more for a backpack that is water-resistant.

Space Efficiency & Carry-On Compliance

Peak Design Travel Pack at SEATAC

Astute observers will note many of the packs in our review sport a rectangular shape, which is certainly due to designers aspiring to create a more space-efficient pack. This isn’t to say that more shapely packs won’t make it happen, but when you’re struggling to make every liter of space count, maximizing dimensions matters.

Carry-on luggage is any bag that you plan on bringing into an airplane and storing in the overhead bins. Because space is limited, airlines dictate the maximum size that any carry-on can be. In the U.S., the most common size is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, or 45 linear inches (length + width + height). However, this is just a rough guideline; some airlines differ from these dimensions, and you should refer to their information directly.

In general, these dimensions provide a travel backpack with around 40-45 liters of internal volume, so buying a pack that’s as close to that as possible will provide the most space allowed. Many of the packs on our list have the ability to compress to a smaller size, such as the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L .

Be mindful as well, that any protrusions from your travel pack such as shoulder straps or handles will also need to fall within the maximum allowed size. Many travel backpacks today incorporate some type of strap-stowing ability, such as the magnetic panels of the Peak Design packs, the zippered cover of the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview, and the hybrid zipper/panel of the Matador GlobeRider 45. All of these provide a more streamlined profile that should both hit the mark, and fit better into overhead bins.

packing a travel backpack

Travel backpacks run the gamut of prices — from affordable to downright pricey. There are a number of factors that play into what you get for the money.

Budget-Minded Travel Packs

Travel backpacks, as a category, are generally a bit pricer than your average luggage, as they incorporate tough materials that can put up with extensive wear over the lifespan. Travel is tough on bags, so it’s unsurprising that even budget travel backpacks will cost you around $100-150. These packs often will incorporate more traditional architectures such as a zippered top access, as opposed to the more complicated (and spendy) full-zip clamshell designs. For example, the Dakine Campus ($75) is pretty much your average school bag.

Volumes, too, will be a bit limited in this price range — added material adds cost. The 32-liter Osprey Nebula ($140) is about the best price-to-volume ratio you can get.

Mid-Range Travel Packs

Mid-range packs make up the bread and butter of travel packs, and can be had for around $150 to $200. These designs are often more of the full carry-on variety, and aim to capitalize on permitted volume as much as possible. The 45-liter Matador SEG45 ($200), Patagonia Black Hole MLC ($239), 40-liter Osprey Farpoint/Fairview ($185), and Topo Designs Global Travel Bag ($229) all shoehorn in just about as much space as a friendly gate agent will let you get away with.

For the price, you also get a good variety of functionality that makes travel easier, such as stowable pack straps, interior segmented pockets and sleeves (done excellently on the $170 Cotopaxi Allpa ), and an external compression system that limits the space your bag takes up. Some packs, like the TimBuk2 Never Check ($209), don’t exactly hit these parameters, but instead make up for it in high-quality design and materials.

packing a travel backpack

Premium Travel Packs

Above $250, you’re likely paying for premium materials or a to-the-hilt design that leaves absolutely nothing on the cutting room floor. The Peak Design Travel Backpack ($300) is a great example, and utilizes super high-quality nylon canvas, custom aluminum hardware, and supple seatbelt material webbing in its build, as well as fitting in just about every conceivable feature you could want in a travel pack. The same can be said of the Matador GlobeRider 45 ($350), which uses high-tech UHMPWE-reinforced materials and sports a total of 19 pockets.

The Tom Bihn Synapse 25 ($243) is a bit of an outlier, as it commands a high dollar amount not for the extreme amount of space it offers or amount of features, but for being a hyper-customizable, hand-made bag that uses the nicest textiles available, as well as the best zippers, webbing, and foam in its design. If you’re a fan of the finest materials, this is your daily driver pack.

What Is One Bag Travel?

The ‘One Bag Travel’ ethos and travel backpacks go hand-in-hand. Simply put, to travel in one-bag style is to be minimalist in your luggage choices, and only take what you can carry onto the plane/train/pack animal. Not only does this do away with the fuss of deciding what exactly to bring along with you, but it also allows for breezing through airports — skipping the need to check baggage, wait at baggage claim, or fear for lost luggage.

In order to most effectively travel with one bag, be sure to read up on exactly the baggage size allowances provided by your transportation. This can affect both overall size and weight, and having an expandable pack is a large benefit here. In this way, you can carry just enough to skirt through under the limit, and then expand the bag when you’ve hit your destination for more breathing room. If you aim for a 35-40 liter backpack, you’ll be right on the money for one-bag travel.

Finally, remember that this bag is going to be the only item of luggage you’ve got, so ensure it’ll be comfortable enough for the long haul. Look for padded back panels and hip belts that’ll transfer the load correctly, and if they stash away — all the better.

Our team unanimously agrees that the best travel backpack is the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L . It’s extremely durable, and it offers plenty of organizational pockets to stash your kit away in. The clamshell opening makes packing a breeze, and we really appreciated the unique shoulder strap storage options available to turn the pack into a stripped-down bag that would slide into any overhead compartment.

Peak Design Travel Pack in Denver

The best size bag for traveling depends largely on your travel itinerary and mode of transport. The Cotopaxi Allpa packs range from 28 to 42 liters.

The 28-liter option makes for a compact and comfortable backpack that easily fits in overhead airplane compartments. The 42-liter option is a bit more like carrying a duffel bag on your back, but it still manages to fit in overhead compartments. It’s a great option for maximizing carry-on capacity in backpack form.

While both have their place in travel, a backpack can offer some advantages over a suitcase. Since they’re much more portable, backpacks can be brought to many more places where a suitcase won’t work. Suitcases can be your large load carriers, but a good travel backpack gives you the freedom to strike out on daily adventures.

Travel backpacks absolutely can be carry-on luggage, given they meet the size requirements. In the U.S., the most common maximum size is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches, or 45 linear inches (length + width + height). But this is only a common size, and different airlines will have different specifics. Consult with your airline specifically to determine what they allow.

While different body types will find different travel packs comfortable, we can all agree that a good support system and ample foam make for a comfortable carry. In our own testing, we found the Osprey Farpoint 40 and Fairview 40 Travel Packs were by far the most comfortable due to their plush suspension systems.

Because many different airlines operate a slate of different planes, there isn’t a standard under-seat luggage size, although there is an average: 16 inches x 12 inches x 6 inches. Some airlines allow personal items larger than this, but you should consult with their customer service for specifics. Our favorite personal item-sized travel pack was the Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack , which at 24 liters compressed easily slides under a seat.

The Best Laptop Backpacks of 2024

The Best Laptop Backpacks of 2024

Whether you’re headed to the office, class, or even the trailhead, here’s our top picks for the best laptop backpacks of 2024.

The Best Daypacks of 2024

The Best Daypacks of 2024

We tested the best daypacks of 2024 with options for every budget. Top picks include Osprey, Cotopaxi, and more.

packing a travel backpack

Hailing from the hemlocks and hanging mosses of Washington State, Senior Editor Nick Belcaster is an adventure journalist following threads of stories across the West. Cruelly stolen from the alpine swales of rural Wisconsin at a young age, Nick made do ascending the snows and granite of the North Cascades while completing a journalism degree. A long stint on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 codified a life bent on sleeping on minor slopes and picking devil’s club out of his shoes.

Follow Us On

Subscribe Now

Get adventure news and gear reviews in your inbox!

Join Our GearJunkie Newsletter

Gear Top Stories Deals

packing a travel backpack

Here’s what to pack in a carry-on bag every time you travel

Caroline Tanner

If you're new here, you should know I am firmly team carry-on and rarely check a bag, while some of my colleagues prefer to always check a bag .

Even if you insist on checking a bag, certain items should always go in your carry-on.

Here are 18 items to never check.

Identification documents

packing a travel backpack

This one should go without — your identifying documents, such as a passport or valid driver's license, are among the most important items to keep close when traveling, especially abroad.

If you're traveling domestically and don't need a passport, those 18 and older still need a driver's license or other state photo identification card from their state's Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) to pass through security at U.S. airports.

A full list of Transportation Security Administration-accepted forms of identification is available here .

Once you've reached your destination, you'll likely need to show some form of ID to check into a hotel or rent a car. When traveling internationally, the U.S. government recommends carrying a picture of your passport while keeping your passport (and other valuables) securely locked in your room (in a hotel safe, if available).

Additionally, the State Department advises travelers to print travel itineraries and other important documents in case something happens to their phone or accessing Wi-Fi is difficult.

packing a travel backpack

A phone is helpful when traveling, especially if you have a plan with international data.

From finding your way around cities you've never visited before to being able to book rideshare services or make reservations, your phone is essential when traveling.

Related: The best credit cards to use for rideshare apps

Phone charger with a travel adapter

Traveling with your phone also means having to charge it more frequently, which is only possible if you've brought the right charger and any necessary adapters (if applicable).

Keep your electronics and chargers in a carry-on for easy access on the plane, where you can also use the in-seat charging power outlets on many airlines.

Charging inflight ensures your phone is fully charged before exiting the plane, minimizing the chance of a dead battery en route to your hotel or other accommodations since your room may not be available for check-in when you arrive.

This is also helpful if you have a lengthy layover between flights since airport charging stations can be hard to find.

As a female traveler who sometimes travels solo, a working phone is crucial. All travelers, solo or not, should pack a portable charger in their carry-on and always bring that with them when they go out and about.

Headphones (wireless and wired)

packing a travel backpack

If you're like me, you'll never travel without two sets of headphones (one wireless and one not) since wireless ones may run out of battery — and in many cases, won't be able to connect to the In-Flight Entertainment screen on your plane.

Keep your headphones and AirPods within easy reach at all times.

If you travel with a suitcase that houses a battery pack for charging, such as those from Away , remember that it must fall within TSA guidelines .

Multi-Charging device

In addition to your phone, other Apple products, such as an iPad and Apple Watch , require separate chargers. To lessen the load, consider purchasing a charging device that allows you to charge multiple Apple devices at once .

I'd also recommend keeping all of your chargers contained in their own specific bag or pocket within your smaller carry-on item, preferably the one that sits under the seat for easy access.

A change of clothes

packing a travel backpack

Per my earlier comment, the last time I checked a bag, it was a huge mistake.

I missed my connecting flight due to inclement weather, and my luggage was sent without me to my final destination. I had to spend the night in an airport hotel in Miami with just my backpack and the clothing I had been wearing for almost an entire day. I'm not the only traveler to go through something like this.

"I always keep at least one change of clothes for myself and each of my kids in my carry-on, even if I am checking a bag," said TPG senior reporter Tarah Chieffi. "If our checked luggage is delayed or lost, or inflight accidents occur, we always have a fresh change of clothes."

This is the kind of scenario that always seems like it won't happen to you, until it does.

Tarah also recommends throwing in a grocery bag or large zip-close bag for dirty clothes in your suitcase or using a suitcase that provides a reusable laundry bag .

You'll appreciate having easy access to a fresh change of clothes , especially on long-haul flights or ones with long layovers, especially when you can freshen up in an airport lounge or an aircraft with showers .

Even if your flight is short and direct, it's still helpful to pack a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your baggage gets delayed.

Reusable water bottle

packing a travel backpack

Another item we recommend traveling with is a reusable water bottle . Just make sure the bottle is empty before you pass through airport security since most airports limit the number of liquids you can take through security.

Once you head to your gate in the post-security area, you'll usually find free water refill stations, including some with filtered water.

During your flight, request water and pour that water into your bottle so it's full at all times. Just remember to take your water bottle (along with your other items) off the plane when you disembark. I've lost two Hydro Flasks this way.

Keep in mind that flying can dehydrate you, especially if you're drinking alcohol. It's important to pay attention to your water consumption on travel days and make sure you are getting enough.

Considering how much airport stores charge for water and other items, bringing your own water bottle saves money — and eliminates single-use plastic.

Like the water, don't rely on the airport or inflight snacks. Sometimes, when traveling, food outlets may not be available or open when you need them. As someone with dietary restrictions, I always bring snacks. Some of my favorite travel snacks are Go Macro bars ( mini version for traveling ) and Chomps mini sticks , both high in protein.

Prescriptions and other medications

packing a travel backpack

If you take medication daily, it's important to first check that your particular medication won't get you into trouble in the country you're visiting. If at this point you're in the clear, pack any prescriptions in your carry-on along with any over-the-counter medications you take frequently or might need, such as pain relievers or allergy medicine, in a travel pill organizer .

I always bring several days' worth of Tylenol, Benadryl, vitamins, probiotics and a few extra daily medicine supplements in case I stay longer than anticipated.

I also pack a few extra pairs of contact lenses. I wear dailies and prefer them over wearing my glasses, though I bring my glasses as a backup. I also bring bandages and a first-aid antibiotic ointment, just in case.

Assistance items

For senior travelers or those who require assistance, do not keep any assistive/medical device item, such as a walking stick or handicapped placard, out of reach.

A good rule of thumb — if it's anything you can't live without for half a day or more, put it in your carry-on, says Erica.

Hand sanitizer, wipes, paper towels and tissues

packing a travel backpack

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many travelers carry hand sanitizer (linking my favorite here ) and sanitary wipes to wipe off seats, tray tables, seat belts, etc., upon boarding.

These items are small and can easily fit in your carry-on item. Ensure your hand sanitizer does not exceed the 3.4 ounces or 100-milliliter size requirement .

Other items to consider bringing in your carry-on are paper towels and a washcloth in case of spills or other situations where you need to dry your hands ( or wipe your sweat) .

You might be able to find tissues and band-aids at airports and on planes, though they're likely not going to be great quality. Tissues are small enough to pack a few in your carry-on in case of unforeseen circumstances, from the sniffles to a paper cut.

Beyond your phone and important travel documents such as your passport, keep your most important items close to you while traveling, including jewelry.

Depending on how sentimental they are to you, these items would fall under the "hard to replace if not irreplaceable" category.

Even if you don't routinely carry cash on you day-to-day, we recommend bringing some when you travel for items like cabs, hotel/restaurant tips, smaller souvenir items, tickets and other unforeseen costs.

Cash and credit cards should remain in your carry-on at all times, specifically in a wallet or purse within your luggage, for extra security while also being easier to find. And remember, it's always the cheapest to pay in the local currency versus U.S. dollars when using a credit card. For cash purchases, it depends on the purchase price and conversion rate .

Kindle or a good book

packing a travel backpack

Even if your aircraft is equipped with hundreds of hours of entertainment like Emirates boasts , there may be times when it is unavailable, such as when you land at your destination or arrive at the gate. There's also plenty of downtime while flying, such as queueing to board or check-in and waiting at the gate.

If you're someone who doesn't jump up the second the seat belt sign is turned off to stand awkwardly in the aisle for several minutes, that's some spare time, too.

Depending on where you are, you may not have a cellular signal or stable Wi-Fi to pass the time.

A trusty Kindle , or if you prefer, a hardcover book, is a great way to pass the time in these situations.

Something warm to wear

Even if you are flying somewhere warm, aircraft fly at such a high altitude that you may find yourself a little chilly on the flight. This can be especially true when sitting near an exit row door or window. On short-haul flights, most airlines don't provide a blanket.

While filling your carry-on with a huge winter coat just in case you need it isn't always a practical solution, something small that you can fold into a small pile is great to include when packing.

This includes a throw, shawl, pashmina, or light windbreaker-style jacket .

Bottom line

Once you've decided on the items most essential for your carry-on, be sure to decide what carry-on luggage makes the most sense for them to go in.

For example, if you have two carry-on bags, one smaller one that fits underneath the seat in front of you or one suitable for the overhead bin, think about what items you might need most often throughout the flight and position those in your smaller bag.

For everything else, you can always retrieve items from your larger bag from the overhead bin.

Related reading:

  • Keep calm and carry on: The best carry-on luggage for every kind of trip
  • Airline carry-on luggage size: Everything you need to know
  • 4 things the TSA really doesn't want you to bring on an airplane
  • 7 cruise ship packing mistakes you want to avoid at all costs
  • 5 things you should never pack in a checked bag — even though the airlines allow them
  • 9 travel packing tips to save space in your luggage
  • I always check a bag – and I'm proud to admit it

Foreign transaction fees: Everything you need to know

Find anything you save across the site in your account

18 Best Travel Backpacks, According to Frequent Flyers

By Gabrielle Porcaro

Best travel backpacks for women collage featuring six different backpacks on black and white background.

As someone who frequently travels, I've slung duffels, totes , and travel purses on my arm, but nothing compares to using the best travel backpacks. Depending on the length of your trip, a suitcase can either be too bulky or not big enough, so you'll need the vital second bag to make sure all your clothes, tech, and gear securely arrive at your destination. Plus, traveling with a backpack can be more supportive for your back, freeing up your arms and hands to pull out directions on your phone or to hold an iced coffee. Backpacks can also be surprisingly roomy, so everything you need (or want) on your trip fits as comfortably as possible. The good news is there are a wide range of excellent options to suit any and all of your needs. Below, we found the most travel-friendly options and tapped Glamour editors and some of our frequent-flier friends to share the best travel backpacks.

What to look for in a travel backpack

When shopping for luggage items like a travel backpack, the comfort and capacity of the bag is key. You want it to feel easy on the body, which means wide straps or a hip belt to distribute weight, which comes in handy if you're running to catch a plane or carrying it through a crowded subway. Bonus points if the straps are they adjustable and padded. Consider the material: Is it lightweight, soft, and made of durable material like water-resistant fabric? As for size, think about the use of the backpack. There are weekender bags and carry-on size options you can use for long weekends or smartly packed weeklong vacations and styles for short day trips, hikes, or shopping excursions.

The best travel backpacks, at a glance

  • Best Overall : Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack , $210
  • Best on Amazon : Shrradoo Extra Large 52L Travel Laptop Backpack , $33
  • Best Daypack : Lululemon Everywhere Backpack , $78
  • Best Budget : Coofay Carry On Backpack , $30
  • Best for Commuters : Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack , $95
  • Most Stylish : Tumi Voyageur Just in Case Packable Nylon Travel Backpack , $150

All products featured on Glamour are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Best Overall : Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack  Del Día

Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack - Del Día

Here's a simple, sleek backpack with plenty of built-in organization. “My twin sister and I have traveled the world together, and this bag came in particularly handy on our trip to South America when we both needed more room besides our carry-on luggage. What I loved about this piece is it's essentially a suitcase with straps. The wrap zipper fully opens up, allowing you to see and organize your goods into the compartments. Crafted in repurposed nylon, the exterior is one of a kind, and the colors made it easier to spot one another through the crowds,” says Glamour contributor Gabrielle Porcaro .

Capacity: 42 L / Waterproof : Water-resistant

  • Pros: Repurposed nylon body; suitcase layout; weight-distributing harness system
  • Cons: Can easily show dirt

Best on Amazon : Shrradoo Extra Large 52L Travel Laptop Backpack

SHRRADOO Extra Large 52L Travel Laptop Backpack

SHRRADOO Extra Large 52L Travel Laptop Backpack

As a runner-up, consider this the Swiss Army knife of backpacks. Hidden in this compact, durable bag are 20 pockets and compartments to accommodate and organize everything from clothes to an umbrella to power cords. A practical standout feature of this travel backpack is an external USB port with set-in charging cables to charge your phone (just remember to charge your power pack before heading out on your trip). Another noteworthy aspect is the U-shaped 3D breathable mesh straps designed to relieve stress from shoulders and reduce a sweaty back.

Capacity: 52 L / Waterproof : Water-resistant

  • Pros: So many pockets for organizing; USB charging port; comfortable
  • Cons: Chunky, technical look

Best Daypack : Lululemon Everywhere Backpack

Lululemon Everywhere Backpack 22L

Lululemon Everywhere Backpack 22L

Lululemon gets a lot of love for its Lulu leggings and activewear, but don't sleep on accessories like its laptop bags . A classic backpack with a modern design, the Everywhere Backpack has a clean appearance that will effortlessly match your look. Inside it's spacious and has a padded pocket that fits a 16-inch laptop. On the exterior is a front zipper pocket for keys, antibacterial wipes, headphones…whatever you need handy while on the go.

Capacity: 22 L / Waterproof : Water-repellent

  • Pros: Internal laptop sleeve; side water bottle pockets; lightweight
  • Cons: No luggage strap; not a ton of pockets

Best Budget : Coofay Carry On Backpack

Coofay Carry On Backpack

Coofay Carry On Backpack

This affordable, multifunctional pack is lightweight but can hold a lot and easily fit under an airline seat as a carry-on. “I loved the space and compartments of this bag. It's durable and packed a lot of room for so many things. The luggage handle strap is also a bonus if you're hauling a roller bag,” wrote one Amazon reviewer . Bonus: It has a shoes and a wet pocket compartment.

Capacity: 17 L / Waterproof : Yes

  • Pros: Separate shoe compartment, 29 color options; USB port design
  • Cons: Short luggage strap

Emily Ratajkowski Wins for Most See-Through Dress at the Met Gala 2024

By Héloïse Salessy

Matt Damon’s Wife, Luciana Damon, Dressed Like a Human Lily at the Met Gala

By Kathleen Walsh

If Kendall Jenner Was the First to Wear Her Met Gala Dress, What Is Winona Ryder Wearing in These Pics?

Best for Commuters : Everlane the ReNew Transit Backpack

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack

Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack

Whether you're a college commuter or in the office most days, this is an excellent option for everyday travel or work trips. It's a go-to for Condé Nast associate director of box business operations Haley Welch . “The separate laptop compartment makes organizing seamless, as does the front and upper zipper compartments, which is great for a Kindle,” she says. She likes that the chic and minimal look effortlessly mixes with every outfit, from comfy travel joggers and hoodies to a work-appropriate suit or dress.

Capacity : 27 L / Waterproof : Water-resistant

  • Pros : Internal and external water bottle holders; zipper pocket on top; made from renewed materials
  • Cons : Only holds a 15-inch laptop

The Prettiest Summer Wedding Guest Dresses for Every Kind of Ceremony

Most Stylish : Best Tumi Voyageur Just In Case Packable Nylon Travel Backpack

Tumi Voyageur Just in Case Packable Nylon Travel Backpack

Tumi Voyageur Just in Case Packable Nylon Travel Backpack

For anyone looking for a dressier option for their everyday commute or regular work trips, Tumi has a gorgeous style. Don't let the sleek appearance fool you; the zipper reveals a very roomy interior but still folds flat. A two-way zipper makes it easier to grab whatever you need from the inside with a smaller front pocket as well. There’s also a very convenient add-to-a-bag sleeve to secure this nicely over your suitcase handle, making it one to use on daily and international excursions. It's so stylish it can double as a cute work bag for office days.

Capacity: 15"H x 12"W x 4 1/2"D. (Interior capacity: large) / Waterproof : Water-resistant

  • Pros :Packable; folds down flat; lightweight
  • Cons: Doesn’t fit a ton

Best for Organization : Snoffic Travel Backpack

Snoffic Travel Backpack

Snoffic Travel Backpack

If remaining organized is of the utmost importance while traveling or in everyday life, look no further than this Snoffic backpack. This wallet-friendly pick has a 4.6-star rating on Amazon and under $35 price tag. “I was able to pack a week's worth of summer clothes in it, which included two summer dresses," says one Amazon reviewer . Not only does this bag offer ample space and waterproof material, but it also includes two clear toiletry bags (also waterproof) to help you reduce your zip-lock baggie usage. Plus, it comes in a wide range of pretty shades.

Capacity : 40 L / Waterproof : Water-resistant

  • Pros : Nicely priced; roomy; includes two toiletry bags
  • Cons : Boxy shape

Best for Pockets : Athleta Excursion Backpack

Athleta Excursion Backpack

Athleta Excursion Backpack

This pick, courtesy of Glamour commerce editor Malia Griggs , is one that can hold every little trinket or gadget you own. “I thought this backpack was going to my go-to for hiking, but it’s actually my go-to for pretty much everything. I love how sleek it is, and yet, despite its slim appearance, it manages to fit my 15-inch laptop, my secondary screen, charger, headphones, e-reader, and mouse. It has handy organizational features, like an inner key ring, zippered outer pockets for me to stash my lip gloss and phone, and not one but two mesh pockets that fit my water bottle and an umbrella. Its handles are also made of a breathable fabric—so useful when I’ve worked up a sweat while out and about.”

  • Pros :Lightweight; ripstop material resists snags and tears; mesh back panel for added support
  • Cons: Larger on top shape

Best Minimalist Design : Dagne Dover Dakota Medium Neoprene Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota Medium Neoprene Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota Medium Neoprene Backpack

“On my last flight I saw not one, not two, but multiple travelers with this style hanging from their backs. As someone who regularly takes Dagne Dover bags on trips, I understand the popularity. The neoprene material is strong, soft, and stretchy, which causes the bag to flex to your body and whatever you put inside. It's forgiving, allowing you to fit in and possibly overstuff everything you need for a trip. It also washes well, ensuring it will always have that chic appearance even after some wear and tear,” says Porcaro. Dagne Dover also makes excellent diaper backpacks like this parent-approved Indi Diaper Bag .

Capacity: 16 L / Waterproof : No

  • Pros: Packs a lot; machine washable
  • Cons: Neoprene is a bit heavier than other material; material creases easily

Best for Airplane Travel : Augustnoa Classic Noa

Augustnoa Classic Noa

Augustnoa Classic Noa

“So many features drew me to this bag: the eco-friendly (plus water-friendly) material, smart design, and luggage sleeve—a must for any travel carry-on piece. There are ten pockets and compartments to organize essentials, something I took full advantage of when using. As an active person trying to hydrate more, I also appreciated the side pockets that securely held my water bottle (I bent over, and it didn't budge). It also includes a removable drawstring bag, something I always forget to pack for morning workouts and overnight travels,” says Porcaro.

Capacity: 21 L / Waterproof : Water-resistant

  • Pros: Pockets on straps; laptop and tablet sleeve; two water bottle holders
  • Cons: Pockets in the back and on straps are small

Best Roll Top : Roark Passenger 27L 2.0 Bag

Roark Passenger 27L 2.0 Bag

Roark Passenger 27L 2.0 Bag

Expandable storage is always a plus with any travel bag. This backpack, from super cool brand Roark, has an adjustable top to allow more room. The roll-top also has a magnetic entry, allowing for easy and secure access on the move. Interior and exterior pockets, including one for your tablet or laptop, sunglasses, and a hidden pocket for your passport, are specific details that make this a unique backpack. Ergonomic air mesh padded straps, a quilted back, and chest straps prevent this from adding any discomfort to your travels. The appearance calls for adventure, but it equally works in cities.

Capacity: 27 L / Waterproof : 100% Nylon

  • Pros: Streamlined look; quilted back; magnetic closure top
  • Cons: Could use more internal pockets

Best Large Travel Bag : Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 55L

Patagonia Black Hole® Duffel 55L

Patagonia Black Hole® Duffel 55L

The beauty of this bag is it says it right in the title—it's a black hole. With a 55-liter capacity, there's no doubt it will hold everything you need for a long weekend or even a long weekend trip. Ultra-comfortable to carry, it's perfect for hiking excursions, camping trips, or multi-city European backpacking adventures. Durably made with 100% recycled fabric, this fits in the overhead bin; if you want to check it, you can trust it will return to you just as you left it.

Capacity: 55 L / Waterproof : Water Repellent

  • Pros: Large, carry-on size, top and side handles; removable shoulder straps
  • Cons: Rugged design

Best for Laptop : Herschel Kaslo Dayback Tech Backpack

Herschel Kaslo Dayback Tech Backpack

Herschel Kaslo Dayback Tech Backpack

If you're looking for a laptop backpack , this is a top choice. Hershel backpacks are a go-to for marriage and family therapist and mom of two boys, Whitney Steller. “I have had this for almost six years, and the quality is amazing. No rips or anything and the straps are still comfortable. “The classic grade school look was also a draw and the fact that it fits perfectly under a plane seat. This style, in particular, is eco-friendly, made from post-consumer water bottles, and has a padded compartment to fit up a 15-inch laptop.

Capacity: 20 L / Waterproof : No

  • Pros: Optional strum strap to help disturbed weight; padded compartment for laptop
  • Cons: No luggage sleeve

Best Y-Pack : Topo Designs Y-Pack Backpack

Topo Designs YPack Backpack

Topo Designs Y-Pack Backpack

This is an awesome option for anyone who ends up leaving a trip with more than they brought. “The adjustable Y-shaped strap can be tight and secure or loosened to allow for more room, which is the reason why this is a piece of heavy rotation for me. It always shocks me how much I can fit/shove into the main compartment yet still slide my laptop out of the back sleeve. No matter if it’s filled with a hoodie and various pouches holding makeup, power cords, and snacks; it's easy to access. I like to use the zip pocket on the top to store antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, headphones, and anything else I want easy access to once I arrive on the flight,” says Porcaro.

Capacity: 23.8 L / Waterproof : No

  • Pros: Drawstring closure offers more space; zip pocket on top for easy access; durable material great for travel and the outdoors
  • Cons: G-hook buckle closure can sometimes be tough

Best Waterproof : SealLine Skylake Dry Pack

SealLine Skylake Dry Pack

SealLine Skylake Dry Pack

The beauty of this piece is that it rolls up for easy packing within a suitcase or larger travel backpack. The fact that it's created from an extremely lightweight material also ups the packability and wear factor. Jen Ator, a personal trainer, used this on her honeymoon in Thailand. “Not only was it super sturdy and waterproof, but it fits everything we needed during day trips.” She also pointed out how handy the exterior pocket was for easy access to essentials like a phone to snap a picture of her and her husband.

Capacity : 18 L / Waterproof : Yes

  • Pros: Lightweight; stowable
  • Cons: No interior pocket

Best Convertible : Thule Crossover 2 Convertible Backpack

Thule Crossover 2 Convertible Backpack

Thule Crossover 2 Convertible Backpack

Adaptability is vital when traveling, and this Thule convertible backpack offers various ways to hold it. If you're in a tight space, de-boarding, or want to give your shoulders a break, there is a longer shoulder strap and top handle to hold. Inside the backpack, you'll find compartments that look like your favorite easy-rolling carry-on suitcase, making it easy to keep everything with you secure and organized. Another standout feature is the exterior crush-resistant SafeZone compartment that's perfect for storing sunglasses or a phone.

Capacity: 21 ¾"H x 14"W x 8"D. / Waterproof : Water Resistant

  • Pros: Crust resistant, two-way zip closure, RFID-shielded pocket;
  • Cons: Expensive

Best for City Travel : PAK Large Nylon Backpack

PAK Large Nylon Backpack

PAK Large Nylon Backpack

“As a backpack I recently added to my collection, I was impressed by how many features were hidden in what seemed like a pretty basic bag. First, it’s worth noting how seamlessly this slid on and off my back, making it a breeze to sit on the subway or grab my wallet to buy coffee. At first glance, I was confused about the zipper on the bottom of the front pocket, but when I realized it was a coat sling, which, as someone who runs cold and always has an extra layer, is something I will use again and again. Another made-for-me feature is an extra large pocket for water bottles since it’s a personal pet peeve when they aren’t wide enough for standard sizes. Having only worn this around the city for daily life, I appreciate that the shape and look of the pack are city-ready and more polished. When I take this on international trips, I look forward to using the hidden theft-proof compartments,” says Porcaro.

Capacity: 13.5”L x 7” W x 14” H / Waterproof : No

  • Pros: Easy access pocket in the back, Coat sling, Large side pockets
  • Cons: Not super large

Best Customizable : Roam Continental Backpack

Roam Continental Backpack

Roam Continental Backpack

Anyone who is a fan of customization will appreciate this pick. Buyers can choose the color they want on the front, back, side, and straps to create a bag that is uniquely theirs. This is favorite of Glamour commerce editor Jenifer Calle , who has been using it for years. “It fits enough for weekend trips and vacation travel. I particularly like that the side zippers fit my Owala water bottle and there are plenty of zipper and pockets to hold my wallet, keys, chargers, lip balms, and more” says Glamour’s Calle.

Capacity : 26 L / Waterproof : Water Repellent

  • Pros : Customizable; 100-day trial period; soft material; luggage sleeve
  • Cons : Expensive

The Best Running Shorts, According to Marathoners & Trainers

By Kelsey Clark

The Best Dry Brushes, According to Beauty Experts

By Danielle Cohen

Your Spring Wardrobe Isn’t Complete Without a Pair of Linen Pants

By Jake Henry Smith

The Luxe Silk Pajamas Glamour Editors Love

By Paula Lee

How to pack like a pro for a backpacking trip in 2022

Emma Sparks

May 12, 2022 • 7 min read

Rearview of an adult woman paddling canoe, Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta Canada

Your shoes and day bag can make or break your trip © Peter Amend / Getty Images / Image Source

So you’re taking the leap. The big trip is booked. There’s nothing standing between you and the unforgettable adventure that’s about to unfold…except, you still have to pack.

Wondering where to start? Avoid backache, ripped zips and other packing nightmares with our essential backpacking packing list.

A hiking backpack with a yoga mat in the mountains

How to pick the right backpack

Before you decide what to take, you need to determine what to take it in. Choosing a backpack can be confusing, and the web is rife with advice from people who insist you can travel for six months with nothing but a postage-stamp-sized carry-on, while others woefully recall their experience of lugging a 90-liter bag around the world. Newbie travelers are often tempted to take everything but the kitchen sink, but limiting your backpack space is the best way to avoid this common pitfall.

The sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle: a backpack between 40-70L is fine for a long-term trip – the trick is not to stuff it full.

Try the Kelty Redwing 50 for men or women. It has an internal frame, fits carry-on requirements for most major and regional airlines, is extremely durable and performs well whether you're out on the trails or jumping from hostel to hostel. 

Remember to also take a good-quality day bag that can be kept inside your backpack or used as hand luggage. We like the Osprey ultralight stuff pack . It only weighs three ounces and feels full-featured despite its packable design.

How to pack for a big trip - tips from experienced travelers

A carry-on suitcase with blue lining packed with clothes in plastic vaccum-packed sacks

Packing cubes and compression sacks

Stuffing socks in shoes will only get you so far. Believe me – compression sacks are your new best friends. Besides saving considerable space, they can protect clothing from grime and spillages, as well as separate dirty laundry from the holy grail of backpacker apparel: clean underwear. Use packing cubes to store individual outfits if you’re going somewhere where it will be difficult to sift through the contents of your backpack – this can be particularly useful when camping or staying in cramped conditions such as a sailboat or camper van.

For the ultimate in packing cubes try Shake Pak . These cubes are built to last through weeks on the road.  

Keep toiletries in a good quality transparent waterproof bag to contain shampoo explosions and allow for easy access. Like these TSA-approved toiletry bags .

A woman smiling over her shoulder with her eyes clothes wearing a bright pink sarong around her shoulders

Always pack versatile clothing

We know this sounds like jargon, but truly the best way to look half decent on the road is to pack a “capsule wardrobe”. Sticking to a neutral color scheme and packing plenty of layers means you can mix and match outfits easily, conjuring seemingly countless looks for a variety of climates out of a few tops and some cleverly chosen accessories.

A large statement scarf or sarong is a great multipurpose item: it keeps you cozy, doubles as a cushion for long bus journeys and can cover your shoulders when visiting sacred temples. The Mer Sea travel wrap comes with its own bag and is so versatile it can be cozy or fancy whenever you need it to be. 

Travel gear reviews: clothing to take on the elements

Flat lay of a pink sleep mask, antiseptic cream, painkillers, plasters and ear plugs

Health essentials, COVID-19 and creature comforts

You know you need a first-aid kit. But be strategic: unless you’re going somewhere so remote that you’ll have no access to key medicines or supplies, you probably don’t need 12 packs of painkillers and a liter of liquid skin glue. A pack of high-quality face masks, bandaids and blister patches, (a reasonable amount of) painkillers, antiseptic cream, antihistamine, travel sickness tablets and prescription medications/contraceptives should suffice, along with your soon-to-be-treasured anti-diarrhea pills and laxatives. For the sake of your mental health, pack earplugs, an eye mask and if you know you struggle to nod off, a calming lavender essential oil roll-on.

Even though you're likely going to be outside a lot, you still will need to know the local advisories and regulations regarding COVID-19 safety. What vaccines will you need? Do you need test results and if so, what kind of tests qualify and in what time window? Will you have to quarantine upon arrival? With regulations changing daily, start at Lonely Planet's Health Hub for up-to-the-minute pandemic travel advisories.  

These earplugs are reusable and moldable so they work great in lots of different ears. 

This silk eye mask from Slip helps fight fine lines and wrinkles all while ensuring proper sleep on long-haul flights.

And for non-GMO-verified essential oil, try NOW organic Lavender calming blend and rest easy. 

8 tips to stay healthy on vacation from celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak

A flat lay of a laptop, plug adaptors, camera and battery pack

Tech and entertainment

Digital nomad or not, chances are you’ll be taking some tech. Even if you’re flying by the seat of your smartphone, you’ll need a charger, a  global adaptor and a portable battery (a life-saver if you’re dependent on mapping apps). Throw in a laptop, camera, GoPro, drone and Kindle and your inventory suddenly got a whole lot more valuable and heavier. Keep tech in hand luggage wherever possible and, to echo the station announcements you’ll soon be hearing everywhere, never leave your bag unattended.

Do some digital packing too: download crucial apps before you leave home to avoid flaky wifi or expensive roaming charges. If you’re a paperback fan (or love a good guidebook) don’t take more than one or two – you can switch them at book swaps as you go.

Lonely Planet's ultimate digital nomad packing list

A wooden sign in front of a jungle reading 'take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time'

Eco-friendly kit

It’s 2022. The “take only pictures, leave only footprints” backpacker mantra is no longer enough. Pack a reusable water bottle (with an in-built filter if necessary) like the  LifeStraw Go . Look for packaging-free or refillable toiletries. Bring lightweight bamboo straws and cutlery like this  travel cutlery set  that comes in a neat roll with a brush for cleaning. Finally, don't forget environmentally-friendly sunscreen like Thinksport SPF 50+  which is safe for coral reefs and top-rated by the EWG.  

As refreshing as they are, even biodegradable wet wipes can clog sewage systems, particularly in less developed countries; take a flannel or muslin cloth for thorough face washing. Zero-waste sanitary products (reusable towels, menstrual cups or period-friendly underwear) will minimize costs and use less backpack space too.

Into the green: eight destinations for an eco-friendly escape

Padlocks and backup documents

A mini padlock on your backpack zippers will help deter anyone from pinching whatever you last stuffed into the top of your bag, while larger ones are handy for hostel lockers (they usually sell them at an inflated price if you’re stuck). It’s worth taking hard photocopies of your passport, driving license and insurance documents, or at least a USB stick with the digital versions, in case any get lost or stolen.

Still not sure what to pack? Read our  ultimate guide to packing like a pro before you go as well!

What not to pack

  • Sleeping bag : most hostels ban them anyway due to their bedbug spreading properties, providing clean sheets instead. If you’re fussy about bedding, bring a silk sleeping bag liner – but this is totally optional
  • Hairdryer and high heels: embrace the laid back look – you can always pop to a salon or buy a cheap pair of snazzy shoes if you have an impromptu glamorous night out
  • Neck pillow: unless it’s inflatable (others add too much bulk). And even then, is it really worth it?
  • Anything of true sentimental value: because insurance can’t replace the irreplaceable
  • A standard towel: or so say... most travelers. Four months of carting around a smelly, useless microfiber towel taught me to always take one just in case – which takes us to this article’s caveat: everyone’s different. If you really want to take something, just take it. You’ll soon find out if it was the right decision!

You might also like:  The expert's ultimate backpacking bucket list These destinations are the world's top backpacking hotspots What is backpacking? The eternal travel debate

This article was first published Oct 10, 2019 and updated May 12, 2022.

Explore related stories

packing a travel backpack

Destination Practicalities

May 9, 2024 • 6 min read

From paying with cash to not crossing against a red light, here are the things you need to know before going to Germany.

packing a travel backpack

May 9, 2024 • 14 min read

packing a travel backpack

May 8, 2024 • 3 min read

packing a travel backpack

May 8, 2024 • 6 min read

A person walking along a switchback trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

May 8, 2024 • 7 min read

Man and women paddle stand up paddleboards through the Inner Harbour towards the Parliament Buildings. © Aaron Black / Getty Images RFC

May 8, 2024 • 11 min read

packing a travel backpack

May 8, 2024 • 8 min read

  • Search Please fill out this field.
  • Manage Your Subscription
  • Give a Gift Subscription
  • Newsletters
  • Sweepstakes

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .

  • Travel Products
  • Packing Lists

The Ultimate Personal Item Packing List

Keep everything you need within arm’s reach with these tips for packing your next personal item.

Katherine Alex Beaven is a Los Angeles-based travel, food and drink, and culture writer.

packing a travel backpack

Organization

Entertainment and tech, health and beauty, frequently asked questions.

  • Why Trust T+L

Travel + Leisure / Brian Kopinski

No matter what type of trip — or transportation — you’re taking, your personal item just might be the most important bag you’ll ever pack. Since it remains close by for the whole ride, you’ll want to make sure it’s got everything you need, including your absolute essentials like money, cards, I.D., phone, and medication. This is also where you’ll want to pack those comfort extras and anything you’ll want to keep within arm’s reach, like snacks, headphones, lip balm, and a power bank.

Being smart about what you pack in your personal item will not only make your trip smoother, but it can also help to assuage any anxiety when it comes to losing your bags; you’ll know you’ve got all the necessities, plus a few comforts, right at your fingertips, whether you’re stuck on a long layover, on the tarmac, or in traffic. There are a few basics that you should always pack (and you should always consider the size and weight of each item), but the extras are all up to you — though we wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t recommend a few things.

Arrive to thrive as comfort during your travels is nothing to put in the backseat. Packing the right items in your personal item can make the journey as fabulous as the destination so you arrive rested, relaxed, and ready — whether you’re coming or going. I always like to make sure I’ve got the basics (and a little beyond) within arm’s reach because, well, why not? If you can be more comfortable, why would you settle for anything less?

Given the unpredictable state of travel timetables, we always suggest packing a water bottle , lest you get stuck on the tracks or runway with no beverage service. Plus, we’re always a lot more comfortable if we aren’t parched. Additionally, prioritize the items you know will upgrade your experience, and toss in a few extras as space and weight allow. For me, being able to exist and sleep in my seat is top on the list. For others, it might be keeping yourself entertained or maintaining your preferred beauty routine. Decide what matters most, and add those things in your personal item first.

Best Compression Socks

Levsox compression socks.

Keep tired, swollen feet at bay with these knee-high compression socks from Levsox. We love that these offer snug support to promote blood circulation without feeling too tight or constricting. Providing gentle compression all the way up to the knee, these are made with a silky-smooth material that won't rub or irritate throughout the day. They also slip on and off easily, so you can change into a different pair at the airport without struggling in a bathroom stall. We're also big fans of the design selection — choose from quirky animal prints, bright tie dye colors, and more.

Best Cozy Socks

Dr. scholl's low cut soothing spa socks.

Traveling can be tough, so we’re big advocates of taking the transit time to do a little pampering. We love keeping a pair of these Dr. Scholl’s Soothing Spa Socks in our personal item so we can treat our feet at a moment’s notice. These ultra-soft socks are infused with vitamin E and lavender to help moisturize your soles and relax your soul . They make a great pick to wear on flights when you want to slip off your shoes (as they look like regular fluffy socks) and can even be worn inside shoes or when padding around a hotel room later. Depending on where you shop, you’ll either get two or three grippy-bottom socks per pack, and a choice of several colors. When you’re back home, toss them in the washing machine to clean and re-fluff.

Best Neck Pillow

Cabeau the neck's evolution s3 (tne) neck pillow.

The Cabeau TNE S3 travel neck pillow fastens around your seat’s headrest and is designed with an extra-high pillow rim and chin strap. This extra attention to stability helps to prevent sore or kinked necks, and the chin strap also works to keep your mouth closed while you snooze. The soft, machine-washable cover is comfortable against sensitive neck and face skin while remaining breathable. We love being able to throw it in the wash and start fresh after a long, grubby trip. This thick memory foam pillow rolls up and fits into a compact carrying case, so it won’t take up all the space inside your personal item either, though it can also be hooked on the outside as well.

Best Blanket

Rumpl nanoloft travel blanket.

Prone to feeling cold on planes, trains, or buses? We’ve all seen a pic or two where an airline has passed out soiled blankets to passengers — even when they are folded and packaged inside plastic. Skip the scandal by packing your own blanket in your personal item. Rumpl’s Nanoloft Travel Blanket is made from 30-denier ripstop, post-consumer recycled polyester and has a down-like fill to keep you cozy. What’s great about this travel blanket is that it rolls up and fits into a carrying case roughly the size of a portable water bottle, making it a cinch to keep on hand. When unfolded, it measures 38 x 52 inches and weighs just 0.7 pounds. We also love the included “cape clip” that holds together two edges of the blanket so you can use your hands without worrying about the blanket slipping down while you’re wearing it, and the clip that lets you hook it on a bag’s strap instead of packing it inside.

Best Sleep Eye Mask

Manta sleep mask.

If you’re truly looking to get some quality sleep while traveling, the Manta Sleep Mask is a must for your personal items. This sleep mask straps around your head with padded eye cups that rest around the edges of your eye area to cover them. We like that this design doesn’t put pressure on the eyes and that we can open and blink our eyes normally with no interference. Plus, it won't wreck your falsies or smudge your eye makeup either. You’ll get a 100 percent light-proof blackout seal, regardless of the time of day and the comfy foam eye cups adjust so you can find the right fit for your face, eyes, and nose.

Best Earplugs

Loop quiet ear plugs for noise reduction.

Stash a pair of these Loop Quiet Earplugs in your personal item so you can grab them whenever you want to turn down the background of your travel environment without completely blocking sounds out. Unlike headphones or noise-masking earphones, these won’t add noise to take it away either. The silicone earplugs reduce sound up to 27 decibels and fit snugly inside your ear — and they look good, too. They are great for when you want to create your own space while still being somewhat cognizant of your surroundings. They’re available in seven colors and come with four ear tip sizes to find the best fit for your ears. Store them in the included keychain carrying case to keep them close by and free of debris when you’re not wearing them.

Best Reusable Water Bottle

Nomader collapsible water bottle.

We love a good packing hack, and this 25-ounce collapsible water bottle from Nomader feels like a sneaky secret we have to spread. The genius water bottle has a soft silicone body that is rigid enough to keep its shape and stand upright even when empty. But, when it’s not in use, it simply rolls up and tucks into the cap, saving tons of space in any bag. It’s dishwasher safe, leak-proof, and has a solid plastic twist cap with a fat flip-top-spout mouthpiece to control water flow and prevent spills. There’s also a plastic grip ring and a strap to fasten the bottom to the cap when tucked away.

Smart and economical organization hacks will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to fitting everything in your personal item, no sweat. I find that the best approach for organizing the contents of your personal item is to use the Russian doll technique — where you pack several smaller bags with category-specific things and then toss them in your main bag. This way, you’re keeping things you’ll use together or associate together in one place, making it a lot easier to locate and store these things in a larger personal item (and prevents you from having to dig deep for something small that may be hiding in the crevice of a zippered side pocket). It’s also a bonus hack that’ll help you keep track of your belongings as it’s easier to notice when one item of three or five is missing versus one item out of 25.

Best Belt Bag

Westbronco belt bag.

We like the Westbronco Belt Bag for its compact size, gender-neutral style, and well-organized pockets that make it easy to store and find items in a jiffy. Two main zippered compartments are large enough to hold most mobile phones, a passport, travel medicine , cables, earbuds, mini toiletries, snack bars, and more. There’s also a smaller front zippered sleeve where you can stash receipts, credit cards, your license, or notes. It’s great for grabbing and clipping on while you go through security and transportation hubs, or for snatching out of your bag and wearing comfortably during overnight journeys on public transportation. Plus, it’s made from water-resistant fabric, and features a sturdy, quick-release plastic buckle that’s accessible whether you’re wearing it on your waist or as a crossbody.

Best Toiletries Organizer

Dagne dover mila toiletry organizer.

Dagne Dover

The 5.5 x 5.5-inch Dagne Dover Mila Small Toiletry Organizer is the perfect size for packing necessary toiletries into your personal item. We appreciate the cylindrical design, which can be identified quickly by touch among everything in your bag. Plus, it’s easy to pull out thanks to the wide top-grab handle. The customizable interior organization makes it a no-brainer — fill the whole compartment or use the removable dividers to divvy up space into six individual compartments. There’s also a mesh zip pocket and triangle carabiner clip on the interior top lid. The whole thing weighs about six ounces and has an overall interior of 2.7 liters, so it holds a lot without taking up a lot of space. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s made from water-resistant recycled materials and is vegan, too.

Best Tech Organizer

Bagsmart universal travel cable organizer bag.

If you couldn’t tell already, we’re big fans of organization that has organization, especially when space is limited. This tech organizer seemingly has a place for all your gear: there are five open storage slots with a thick elastic band (great for all your cords), five small mesh slip pockets (think memory cards, power connector bases, or even rolls of film), one larger mesh pocket (for a phone or power bank), and two tall pockets with elastic loops. All of this zips up nicely into a 1.4-inch thick, 6.7 x 9.8-inch carrying case that lays relatively flat in your personal item. This particular case comes in five solid colors, each with gold zipper accents and a stylishly textured exterior.

Best Pill Organizer

Amoos pill organizer 2 times a day.

Use this colorful, convenient weekly pill organizer to pack essential supplements and pills in your personal item. The Amoos Pill Organizer 2 Times a Day features seven translucent flip-top containers, each labeled with a different day of the week and featuring an AM and PM compartment. Take stock of interior contents with a glance, and easily differentiate days by each different color. We especially appreciate that each compartment can hold multiple larger-sized pills and that you can remove any of the daily containers and slip one in your pocket. Discretion is the key for some, so we like the nondescriptness here. Plus, it comes with a wristlet loop and has a handy interior mesh slip pocket for holding prescription information or other notes.

Having the right tech and entertainment items on hand while traveling is a simple way to make being in public feel a bit more like home. This can also help us stay connected, no matter how far away we may be.

Keeping these picks in your personal item will limit the number of times you’ll have to get up from your seat, making for a more seamless travel experience, too. There are an endless amount of options out there, so we’re just including the basics — and these are the items I personally reach for most frequently in transit from headphones to portable chargers.

Best Over-ear Headphones

Sennheiser momentum 4 wireless.

After extensive testing by the T+L team, these wireless over-ear headphones from Sennheiser snagged our overall best pick for the most comfortable earphones . We were smitten with the whopping 60-hour battery life — and that it only takes two hours to reach a full charge (or five minutes' charging for four hours) — so we know we can rely on these headphones for the long haul. They are notably lightweight, which makes them ideal for lugging around in your personal item, and we found the ear cups and headband are even comfortable if you’re sporting glasses or earrings. The sound is crisp and clear, and there are a number of built-in features, from active noise-canceling and equalizing to different sound profiles and customizable sound personalization. Plus, they fold flat and fit in a compact carrying case and are compatible with both Android and iOS.

Best Earbuds

Bose quietcomfort ultra earbuds.

As the newest iteration of the beloved Bose QuietComfort earbuds, the Ultra improved upon the second generation pair we already loved by adding more immersive audio so the music moves with you, switching between still and motion modes automatically. Of course, we still appreciate the ANC and spatial awareness filters that block out environmental noise, and that this can also be adjusted to allow background noise to filter through without distracting us from whatever we’ve got playing. You’ll get about six or so hours of battery life, depending on your chosen settings, and they work with iOS or Android, connecting quickly via Bluetooth.

Best Headphone Adapter

Twelve south airfly pro bluetooth transmitter.

If you’ve ever been on a plane faced with wireless headphones or earbuds and a corded headphone jack, this product is a personal item essential. Twelve South Airfly Pro connects wireless headphones to any device with a 3.5-mm jack whether you want to play movies on an older tablet or connect your phone to a rental car’s stereo system instead. Its slim, travel-ready profile easily slips into a bag pocket, tech organizer sleeve, or even on your keyring. One charge gets you up to 25 hours of battery life, and it’ll work within 33 feet of your target device with Android or iOS. Extra points for being able to connect up to two sets of headphones at a time.

Best Power Bank

Anker powercore 13000 portable battery.

This popular portable power bank charger has a compact design that easily slides into slip pockets and pant pockets. You’ll get a 13,000 mAh capacity that will work to charge your cell phone, iPad, or iPod several times — and two USB-A output ports means you can charge more than one item once. This is our go-to charger for those quick pick-me-up charges to get you through the travel day, but isn’t ideal if you’re looking for a heavy-duty brick charger to completely power up multiple devices. Keep in mind you’ll need to pack your own charging cords to use with this product.

Best Phone Mount

Urtry travel phone mount.

With the Urtry Travel Phone Mount, there’s no need to hand-hold your phone for long periods of screen time. The adjustable clamp mount and folding stand design allow this to be set up on flat surfaces or pinched onto the edge of what’s around, whether that’s the tray table in front of you, your suitcase handle, a bar countertop, chair backs, or even the metal adjustment bar of a car headrest. The clamp mount is sturdy, can be affixed to anything 1.5 inches thick or less, and is strong enough to hold up against bumpy rides. Best of all, it folds down into a compact 1.7 x 1.5 x 3.8 inches, making it extremely portable. We love pulling this out for a good series marathon or flick in transit and when we’re waiting at the gate or in a passenger lounge.

Best Charging Cord

Deego usb type c charger cable 15ft long.

The necessity of a long charging cord is not talked about enough. When you’re traveling, having a few extra feet of cord to work with can mean the difference of getting a boost of juice when electrical outlets are scarce or located in inconvenient locations. This Deego 15-ft Long USB-C Charging Cable will give you plenty of slack — and it’ll work with most devices, including the new iPhone 15 — so you can plug in and chill out while your device recharges. In a hurry? This cable is also fast-charge capable, as long as you have your phone’s fast-charge wall adapter. We love that the nylon-wrapped cord is tangle-free, too.

Even a short commute is enough time to show yourself a little love. Along with a few treats to nibble on, I always make sure I’ve packed things like moisturizer, lip balm, and odds and ends to help freshen up after travel; a little face spritz and a quick brush of the teeth can do wonders for refreshing the body and mind.

When it comes to keeping healthy, staying hydrated is a must, along with having a few anti-bacterial wipes (you never know when you’ll come across a suspect surface) and always, always, always, a little bit of sun protection. Again, you’ll want to keep these items to small, travel-friendly sizes so you can get past security efficiently. And while you want to keep your personal item light, you won't regret including a few key wellness travel essentials .

Best Moisturizing Sunscreen

Dermalogica dynamic skin recovery spf 50.

This Dermatologica Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF50 Moisturizer is a 3-in-1 moisturizer that tackles broad-spectrum sun protection and fights dryness and dehydration at the same time. If you forgo everything else from this section, this is one we recommend giving a spot in your personal item, no matter what.  It works on all skin types and has a non-greasy finish that can be worn alone or under makeup. It’s a pricey pick, but it’s worth its weight in gold, especially for frequent travelers who like to sit by the window. And we like this specific one because it feels more like a moisturizer than a heavy sunscreen.

Best Dental Kit

Boka fresh on the go.

Boka Fresh On the Go is a top-notch dental kit that covers all of your bases in three travel-sized products. The plastic toothbrush comes in four colors and features Binchotan-activated charcoal bristles, and we love that you can choose between three 1.3-ounce toothpaste flavors — coco ginger, ela mint, and lemon lavender. Each flavor swaps out fluoride for nano-hydroxyapatite to help strengthen and remineralize your teeth. But the real clincher in this set is the jar of 90-count probiotic mouthwash tablets. Just pop one in your mouth and chew — no extra water needed — to freshen your breath and add some helpful probiotics to your mouth’s busy biome.

Best Lotion

Burt’s bees milk and honey body lotion.

This fast-absorbing body and hand lotion from Burt’s Bees is our go-to for soothing dry skin while traveling. Coconut and grapeseed oils pair up with milk and honey to deliver lasting moisture, and it goes on easily without feeling greasy with a mild odor that won’t cause seatmates to gripe. For travelers who are just as cognizant of what they put on their bodies as what goes in, this lotion is 98 percent natural, one of our favorite things about this brand. And the 2.5-ounce size is ideal for popping inside a small toiletry case inside your personal item, or the bag itself, so it’s close by.

Best Lip Balm

Goop beauty clean nourishing lip balm.

Goop Beauty Clean Nourishing Lip Balm is a lip-saver with its soft and silky moisturizing base containing shea butter, plus coconut, jojoba, argan, sunflower, and castor seed oils. It’s dermatologist-approved, and even has a slight scent that makes it feel extra lush. Presented in a sleek yet casual rose gold tube, this balm looks as good as it makes your lips feel, even if they’re already chapped or dry when you first apply. Go with clear for a low-key look, or snag one of the four sheer tints for a barely-there bump of color.

Best Anti-bacterial Wipes

Wet ones sensitive skin hand and face wipes.

These travel packs of Wet Ones Sensitive Skin Hand and Face Wipes are gentle enough to use on delicate baby’s skin for a quick wipe down while still being effective when used on grubby surfaces. We may be out of the thick of the pandemic, but that doesn’t mean keeping a pack of anti-bacterial wipes in your personal item won’t come in handy now and then (as we’ve all seen how in frequently surfaces in public spaces are cleaned ). We like these because they are hypoallergenic and unscented, and the packaging is resealable, so you can take only what you need and feel confident in placing them back in your bag without having them dry out or leak.

Best Face Mist

Josh rosebrook face mist hydrating spray.

Don’t feel like applying moisturizing face lotion throughout your journey? Spray two pumps of this Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator facial mist to give your skin a little drink. Not only does this non-aerosol spray mean you won’t have to fuss with cleaning your hands before or after moisturizing, but you’ll also be fortifying your skin with botanicals to help reduce water loss and skin irritation. It also works as a base layer amplifier for any serums or creams you put on top, making your products work harder and better. This convenient 3.4-ounce travel size fits easily into a makeup organizer or your bag’s pockets, too.

What is the best way to pack a personal item?

Pack your personal item in a way that keeps everything as accessible as possible so you can limit the number of times you’ll have to physically remove your personal item from wherever it’s being stored during your trip. This can mean grouping like-minded things together (like tech cords and adapters), using a bag with easily identifiable interior compartments, or packing several smaller items inside a single, easily grabbable organizer bag so you won’t have to fish for them. You may also want to consider packing anything you know you’ll frequently access (like earbuds or your phone) in a separate bag that will comfortably fit in your lap or somewhere within easy reach.

Keep in mind that many forms of transportation have rules about what you can bring in a personal item. Always look up any possible restrictions and remember it’s key to keep things travel-sized, not just for passing through places like TSA but to save on the overall available space and weight of this bag as well.

What is the best size for a personal item?

Your personal item should be about the size of a backpack — this way, it’ll almost always fit under the seat in front of you, in a storage compartment above the seat, or on your shoulder or back without issue. Regardless of your mode of travel, be sure to check if you’re even allowed a personal item and, if so, if there are any measurements or sizes you’ll need to follow . Remember not to overpack your personal item — it’s not a carry-on — because you’ll have to schlep it around during transit.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this story, Katherine Alex Beaven relied on her decades of travel experience and the ghosts of all the personal items she hasn’t packed along the way. She then did hours of research to find the top products in each category, relying heavily on Travel +Leisure -tested best picks.

Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we’ll send you our favorite travel products each week.

packing a travel backpack

Related Articles

packing a travel backpack

  • Electronics
  • Computers & Accessories
  • Laptop Accessories
  • Bags, Cases & Sleeves

packing a travel backpack

Image Unavailable

Rinlist Travel Backpack for Women Men, TSA Friendly Carry-on Backpack Airline Approved, Personal Item Bag on Airplanes, Travel Essentials Must Haves, Pink

  • To view this video download Flash Player

Rinlist Travel Backpack for Women Men, TSA Friendly Carry-on Backpack Airline Approved, Personal Item Bag on Airplanes, Travel Essentials Must Haves, Pink

Return this item for free.

Free returns are available for the shipping address you chose. You can return the item for any reason in new and unused condition: no shipping charges

  • Go to your orders and start the return
  • Select the return method

Beige-b

Purchase options and add-ons

About this item.

  • 【Travel-Friendly】Designed as a carry-on backpack, the Rinlist Backpack is perfect for travelers. Its compact size fits most airline regulations, allowing you to conveniently carry it on board. The dedicated laptop compartment provides secure storage for your tech gadgets, making it an ideal choice for business trips.
  • 【Spacious Capacity】With its generous capacity, this personal item backpack can accommodate all your essentials and more. The main compartment is roomy enough to hold your laptop, books, clothes, and other belongings, while the multiple pockets and compartments keep everything organized and easily accessible.
  • 【Premium Quality】 Crafted with the finest materials, this travel backpack is built to last. The sturdy fabric and sturdy zippers ensure long-lasting performance, providing you with a reliable bag that can withstand the demands of daily use.
  • 【Innovative Design】The airline-approved backpack stands out with its unique and innovative design. The ergonomic shoulder straps and back panel offer maximum comfort, even during extended wear. The adjustable straps allow you to find the perfect fit for your body, reducing strain on your shoulders and back.
  • 【Great Companion】The Rinlist casual backpack is a versatile companion that suits various occasions, such as outdoor adventures, daily commutes, business or study. Its sleek and modern design makes it the perfect accessory for any style-conscious individual.

Additional Information

packing a travel backpack

Enjoy fast, free delivery, exclusive deals, and award-winning movies & TV shows with Prime Try Prime and start saving today with fast, free delivery

Amazon Prime includes:

Fast, FREE Delivery is available to Prime members. To join, select "Try Amazon Prime and start saving today with Fast, FREE Delivery" below the Add to Cart button.

  • Cardmembers earn 5% Back at Amazon.com with a Prime Credit Card.
  • Unlimited Free Two-Day Delivery
  • Streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows with limited ads on Prime Video.
  • A Kindle book to borrow for free each month - with no due dates
  • Listen to over 2 million songs and hundreds of playlists
  • Unlimited photo storage with anywhere access

Important:  Your credit card will NOT be charged when you start your free trial or if you cancel during the trial period. If you're happy with Amazon Prime, do nothing. At the end of the free trial, your membership will automatically upgrade to a monthly membership.

black leaf

This item has been tested to certify it can ship safely in its original box or bag to avoid unnecessary packaging. Since 2015, we have reduced the weight of outbound packaging per shipment by 41% on average, that’s over 2 million tons of packaging material.

2 Year Backpack Protection Plan

  • No Additional Cost: You pay nothing for repairs – parts, labor, and shipping included.
  • Coverage: Plans starts on the date of purchase. Stains, rips or tears and seam separation covered from day one. Defects in materials or workmanship covered after the manufacturer warranty expires.
  • Easy Claims Process: File a claim anytime online or by phone. Most claims approved within minutes. We will send you an e-gift card for the purchase price of your covered product. In some instances, we will replace or repair it.
  • Product Eligibility: Plan must be purchased with a product or within 30 days of the product purchase. Pre-existing conditions are not covered.
  • Terms & Details: More information about this protection plan is available within the “Product guides and documents” section. Simply click “User Guide” for more info. Terms & Conditions will be available in Your Orders on Amazon. Asurion will also email your plan confirmation with Terms & Conditions to the address associated with your Amazon account within 24 hours of purchase.

Asurion Complete Protect: One plan covers all eligible past and future purchases on Amazon

  • Buy a lot of stuff on Amazon? Tons of items eligible for coverage, from the latest tech like laptops, game consoles, and TVs, to major appliances, sporting goods, tools, toys, mattresses, personal care, furniture, and more.
  • Accidents happen. That’s why for your portable products we cover accidental damage from handling such as drops, spills and cracked screens. We also cover electrical and mechanical malfunctions, power surges, and wear and tear.
  • Past and future purchases covered. 30 days after you are enrolled, all eligible past purchases (up to 1 year prior to enrollment) and future eligible purchases made on Amazon will be covered by your plan as long as you are enrolled.
  • Fast, easy claims. Frustration-free claims, with most filed in minutes. We will fix it, replace it, or reimburse you with an Amazon e-gift card for the purchase price of your product (excluding tax). File at Asurion.com/amazon.
  • No hidden fees. For just $16.99 a month + tax you’re covered for up to $5,000 in claims per 12-month period. *THIS PROGRAM IS MONTH-TO-MONTH AND WILL CONTINUE UNTIL CANCELED* Coverage for all products ends 30 days after the plan is canceled. Cancel any time.

Add to your order

packing a travel backpack

Frequently bought together

Rinlist Travel Backpack for Women Men, TSA Friendly Carry-on Backpack Airline Approved, Personal Item Bag on Airplanes, Trave

Similar items that may deliver to you quickly

Hanples Extra Large Travel Backpack for Women as Person Item Flight Approved, 40L Carry On Backpack, 17 Inch Laptop Waterproo

From the brand

lx

PACK SMART, TRAVEL LIGHT

Rinlist

In a bustling world where everyone rushes through life, for most of us, taking a trip has become highly desirable. With "PACK SMART, TRAVEL LIGHT" in mind, Rinlist dedicates itself to improving everyone's comfort while traveling. Each Rinlist backpack is more than just a bag – it reflects individuality and style.

With Rinlist, carrying your world on your shoulders became a luxurious experience.

Rinlist Carry-on Travel Backpack For Women Men Flight Approved, Personal Item Backpack Casual Day...

Customer's favorites

Product description, versatile companion for any journey.

Rinlist pink carry on bags for airplanes

Sleek and Stylish Travel Essential

.Rinlist pink anti theft backpack

Exquisite Details

Rinlist pink backpack purse for women

Smart Design, Unmatched Durability

Rinlist pink backpacks

Humanized Design

Rinlist backpack is designed with a breathable mesh panel on the back for ultimate comfort during extended use. This design allows for improved airflow, reducing moisture build-up and helping to keep you cool.

Rinlist pink personal item travel bag

Water-resistant Material

Say goodbye to soggy gear and embrace the freedom of a pleasant adventure with our sturdy and functional waterproof backpack.

Comfortable Carry: All-Day Comfort Guaranteed

Rinlist pink duffle bag

Upgrade Your Travel Game: Elevate Experiences

Rinlist pink work bags for women

Travel in Style with Our Trendy Backpack

Videos for this product.

Video Widget Card

Click to play video

Video Widget Video Title Section

Best Travel Backpack to Use as a Personal Item!

Megan Moves

packing a travel backpack

Rinlist vs. Lubardy Travel Backpack Features and Review

Video Widget Card

Unleash your inner wanderlust with Rinlist backpack!

Maddy’s reviews

packing a travel backpack

Customer Review: Pretty pink and ready to go

packing a travel backpack

Customer Review: Nice Travel Backpack!

packing a travel backpack

Looking for specific info?

Product details.

  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7.9 x 11.8 x 16.9 inches; 1.92 Pounds
  • Department ‏ : ‎ unisex-adult
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C58PZNB2
  • Country of Origin ‏ : ‎ China
  • Best Sellers Rank: #80 in Laptop Backpacks

Compare with similar items

Customer reviews.

Customer Reviews, including Product Star Ratings help customers to learn more about the product and decide whether it is the right product for them.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.

Customers say

Customers like the organization, comfort, ease of use, and storage of the backpack. For example, they mention that it's roomy with several compartments, holds a weeks worth of stuff, and is well designed. Customers are also happy with size, value, and weight.

AI-generated from the text of customer reviews

Customers are satisfied with the storage of the backpack. They mention that it has several compartments, pockets, and areas to keep all of their items. Some say that it holds a weeks worth of stuff and is perfect for carrying personal items on an airplane.

"...The color is unique. I like several of the inside compartments and the water-resistant pouch. It is an excellent purchase." Read more

"I used this internationally and it was perfect for the extra space !..." Read more

"Exactly as pictured! Very spacious . Not a flimsy type of back pack. I love it and glad i ordered it!!!" Read more

"This is a great travel backpack. It is roomy , lots of different compartments and it is easy to carry. Great purchase." Read more

Customers like the quality of the backpack. They mention it's well designed, well made, and holds quite a bit. They also appreciate the beautiful color and the fact that it'll hold up well over multiple trips.

"...The color is unique . I like several of the inside compartments and the water-resistant pouch. It is an excellent purchase." Read more

"...I have used it for multiple trips now and it is holding up well . I have checked it once and it held up very well...." Read more

"Exactly as pictured! Very spacious. Not a flimsy type of back pack . I love it and glad i ordered it!!!" Read more

"...Although only nylon type bag was nice looking . Had plenty of pockets.Hard to judge if they were “right size” or not...." Read more

Customers find the backpack very convenient for traveling, and say it's easy to carry on. They also mention it'll be perfect for a weekend getaway and cruise.

"The product has versatility and capacity, and it is easy to carry . The color is unique...." Read more

"This is a great travel backpack . It is roomy, lots of different compartments and it is easy to carry. Great purchase." Read more

"...Compartments were very useful. The backpack made it easy to carry . The straps were very comfortable. No issues flying American as a personal item." Read more

"... packs up and folds out just like a suitcase. there are tons of pockets including a water bottle, front, ipad/laptop, and other zippers...." Read more

Customers like the size of the backpack. They mention it's great sizing for personal items, fits neatly and compactly, and is the perfect size for a weekend getaway. Some say it fits into the personal item bins on discount carriers like Frontier. Overall, customers are satisfied with the size and recommend it for compact travel.

"...It fits under the seat , but it will take away from foot space, but also fits above just fine...." Read more

"...It is a perfect size for the personal item that is allowed free of charge and will fit under an airline seat. Very impressed...." Read more

" Great sizing for personal item . I order black and white. My sister order green...." Read more

"...reviews, but for now, I am super impressed with how spacious, yet small and practical it was." Read more

Customers like the comfort of the backpack. They mention that the padding on the back is comfortable, the straps are very comfortable, and the material is soft enough to be squeezed a little. They also appreciate the spaciousness and the many pockets.

"...The backpack made it easy to carry. The straps were very comfortable . No issues flying American as a personal item." Read more

"...Very happy with this. it was very comfortable to wear as a backpack . If you have prime, try it out if you don’t like it, you can send it back." Read more

"...Great quality and comfortable too" Read more

"...stashed under seat & carried backpack style.mayerial is soft enough to be squeezed a little ." Read more

Customers appreciate the value of the backpack. They say it's well worth the money, waterproof, and a good purchase.

"... Great purchase ." Read more

" Great product for the cost . Lots of room and is durable. Definitely worth the buy!" Read more

"...Used it recently for overnight travel. Well worth the money . My wife really loved the extra bag in side." Read more

"The material is nice, a lot of space, worth the price !" Read more

Customers find the backpack easy to use and convenient. They say it keeps their stuff organized and easy to access.

"...of the pockets and areas to keep all of your stuff organized yet easily accessible !..." Read more

"...Everything is organized and easy to get to . I definitely recommend it." Read more

"It is so comfortable and easy to use and packin." Read more

" Easy to use ..." Read more

Customers like the organization of the backpack. They mention that it has a fully open design that allows them to stack clothes inside.

"...There are so many pockets to store things in and keep things organized . I like that it came with small travel pouch included...." Read more

"...It has so many compartments and it fits everything. It’s very easy to organize your things ." Read more

"I'm very happy with this bag. I felt very organized for my flight ...." Read more

"...I love how it opens fully that way you can really stack those clothes in . I might have to get it in ever color!" Read more

Reviews with images

Customer Image

  • Sort reviews by Top reviews Most recent Top reviews

Top reviews from the United States

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. please try again later..

packing a travel backpack

  • Amazon Newsletter
  • About Amazon
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability
  • Press Center
  • Investor Relations
  • Amazon Devices
  • Amazon Science
  • Sell on Amazon
  • Sell apps on Amazon
  • Supply to Amazon
  • Protect & Build Your Brand
  • Become an Affiliate
  • Become a Delivery Driver
  • Start a Package Delivery Business
  • Advertise Your Products
  • Self-Publish with Us
  • Become an Amazon Hub Partner
  • › See More Ways to Make Money
  • Amazon Visa
  • Amazon Store Card
  • Amazon Secured Card
  • Amazon Business Card
  • Shop with Points
  • Credit Card Marketplace
  • Reload Your Balance
  • Amazon Currency Converter
  • Your Account
  • Your Orders
  • Shipping Rates & Policies
  • Amazon Prime
  • Returns & Replacements
  • Manage Your Content and Devices
  • Recalls and Product Safety Alerts
  • Conditions of Use
  • Privacy Notice
  • Consumer Health Data Privacy Disclosure
  • Your Ads Privacy Choices

Protect Your Trip »

Cruise packing list: the essentials chosen by experts.

This cruise packing list includes all of the essentials – plus items you didn't know you needed.

Essentials to Pack for a Cruise

Downloadable Cruise Packing List

Packing for any trip takes some planning, but cruise vacations present a unique challenge – particularly due to limited stateroom storage space and sparse (or overpriced) options for purchasing accidentally forgotten items.

To help you decide what to pack for a cruise, we've curated a list of essentials recommended by cruise experts who regularly sail the high seas. Download the U.S. News Cruise Packing List pictured above to reference while you pack, and read on to learn more about the recommended items and where you can purchase them if needed.

  • For packing and planning
  • For travel and embarkation day
  • For the cabin
  • For the ship and shore excursions

Find your perfect cruise

Carry-on bag

Regardless of whether you bring checked luggage, you'll need some type of carry-on bag . Since checked bags need to go through security as they do at airports – and because you may need to wait for your stateroom to be ready, just like at a hotel – you'll want to be able to access any necessities pre-cruise. These might include a swimsuit, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat for the pools; medications; a bottle of water; and your smartphone, of course. You'll also want to keep your credit card , passport, and any other important documentation or valuables close by. A carry-on backpack works especially well since it can double as a day bag for shore excursions.

Checked bag

While you'll likely want to bring a checked bag, consider sharing one with your ship mate(s) to maximize stateroom storage space. Or, consider bringing medium-sized luggage, such as the The Medium by Away , for checking in.

Read: The Best Checked Luggage Options

Garment bag

Halfday The Garment Duffel in blue against white background.

Courtesy of Halfday

While many cruises are less formal these days, a garment bag can still be handy for keeping select garments wrinkle-free (since clothing irons are prohibited on cruise ships). Top-rated options include the The Garment Duffel by Halfday and the Briggs and Riley Baseline 22" Carry-On 2-Wheel Garment Bag , both of which double as traditional luggage. If you pack your luggage right, you can make this your only suitcase, in addition to a carry-on bag.

Packing cubes or vacuum-sealed bags

Packing cubes are one of the best ways to organize your belongings for travel – especially in a tight cruise ship cabin. Top-rated options include the Veken packing cubes on Amazon (usually priced around $20) and all of the Pack-It Sets by Eagle Creek. The Pack-It Starter Set is especially ideal for cruising since it includes a garment folder designed to minimize wrinkles in clothing. Some cruisers also swear by vacuum-sealed bags , even though they can be a bit more tedious to pack.

Carry-on caddy

Ashley Kosciolek, senior cruise writer at The Points Guy, recommends a carry-on caddy , particularly if you're flying to your embarkation point. "I have a fabric sleeve that slides down over the telescoping handle on my carry-on to provide pockets for my passport, phone, coffee – all the things I used to have to juggle during check-in."

Digital luggage scale

The compact Etekcity scale – approximately $10 on Amazon – can weigh bags up to 110 pounds and help you avoid overweight baggage fees.

Bungee cord

"Especially for travelling with the family, I use a bright-green bungee cord to strap multiple pieces of luggage together," says Aaron Saunders, senior editor at Cruise Critic. "It's a lifesaver when boarding trains or disembarking ships, particularly when you ' re maneuvering a stroller and a little one around, too."

Luggage tracker

Front and back of Apple AirTag against white background.

Courtesy of Apple

A luggage tracker isn't just useful for air travel. Attach one to your checked cruise luggage to see when it has arrived in your stateroom (or if it's stalled at security). Chris Gray Faust, executive editor at Cruise Critic, doesn't go anywhere without her Apple AirTag after her luggage got stuck in Vancouver for over a week last June. "My AirTag use has expanded beyond my checked luggage, too. I also have AirTags in my handbag, my carry-on, my keychain and my wallet."

Cruise insurance

Due to the unpredictable nature of travel, cruise insurance can be a wise purchase ahead of your voyage. Travel policies can cover unforeseen expenses such as trip interruptions and medical emergencies.

While a passport is often required for cruising, rules can vary depending where you're traveling. Determine whether you need a passport for your upcoming cruise ; if you do, triple-check that you have it packed the day of departure.

Credit cards and local currency

When cruising internationally, consider getting small amounts of each country's currency to have on hand in port. Depending where you go, some local markets may only accept their own country's currency, not U.S. dollars or credit cards. It's also nice to leave cash gratuities for cab drivers, tour guides or servers; in the European Union, 1- and 2-euro coins are convenient and appropriate tips. In ports with vendors that do accept credit cards, be sure to carry a Visa or Mastercard , as some shops and restaurants do not take American Express .

RFID wallet

It's important to protect your travel documents with an RFID wallet like the TIGARI Passport Holder or the ZOPPEN RFID Travel Passport Wallet , the latter of which can hold multiple passports for a family. "Thieves and hackers can steal your credit card information just by using skimming devices," explains Jill Schildhouse, a cruise expert and U.S. News contributor who always travels with her RFID wallet. "And because your wallet wasn't even touched, you won't know it happened until you see your credit card statement."

Medications

Pack more than enough of your prescription medications as well as any over-the-counter medicines you'll need, just in case you encounter an itinerary change or travel delay. While some travelers find it easiest to bring personal medicines in their prescription bottles, others find travel pill boxes to be especially helpful for organization. The Sukuos Weekly Pill Organizer is a well-rated option, with detachable boxes for each day as well as compartments for morning and evening medications.

Sheet masks

Since flying can be so drying for the skin, Faust likes to use sheet masks. "My first step the night before I board (because you should always fly in a day early) is to hydrate with a sheet mask (usually from a Korean brand like Ballon Blanc or FaceTory )," she says. "If I'm meeting up with a friend, I bring an extra sheet mask so our trip starts out feeling a bit like a spa day!"

Magnetic hooks

A surprising fact: Cruise ship cabin walls are made of metal, which means you can optimize your storage space by hanging some of your belongings on magnetic wall hooks. The hooks are perfect for holding bulky coats or boots if you're traveling to a colder climate. You can also use them for wet gear on expedition ships and adventure cruises, or for drying out bathing suits after days at the beach or pool. Purchase a set of magnetic hooks for less than $10 on Amazon .

Like hotels, cruise ships can only provide so many hangers. Bring a few extras from home or pick up a pack from your local dollar store. You might also try packable hangers .

Wrinkle release spray

Whether or not you bring a garment bag, a travel-size bottle of wrinkle release spray, such as Downy Wrinkle Releaser spray , is useful to have on board. If you combine a spritz or two with the steam from your shower, you should be able to smooth out some of the wrinkles in your clothing.

Laundry detergent

"If you don't want to pay for laundry service or spend precious time in the self-service laundry room, bring a small bottle of laundry detergent like Woolite to wash key items in the sink: underwear, bras, quick-dry hiking shorts, bathing suits, etc.," recommends Schildhouse. "Every cruise ship shower has a retractable clothesline you can extend to drape the clothes over while they dry. This can also help cut down on the number of items you need to pack."

Over-the-door organizers

Over-the-door organizers with clear or mesh pockets allow you to find your feminine hygiene products, makeup, jewelry and other small items quickly – without having to hunt through multiple drawers or a tight stateroom closet. It's a good idea to purchase a two-pack like this option by Simple Houseware Store (available on Amazon), since you can also use one to store shoes and maximize floor space.

Poo-Pourri bottle against white background.

Courtesy of Poo-Pourri

It goes without saying, but to say it anyway: A toilet spray like Poo-Pourri is a must for your cruise packing list. Any smell – pleasant or not – will travel quickly in small staterooms with small bathrooms. Buy a travel-size bottle to keep in your cabin.

Shampoo and conditioner

Cruise experts agree it's best to bring your own shampoo and conditioner in travel-size bottles, as most cruise ships don't provide separate shampoo and conditioner anymore; instead, they offer all-in-one dispensers. Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief at Cruise Critic, likes to pack her shampoo and conditioner in the popular Cadence Capsules , noting she also uses them for another essential: sunscreen. "These capsules are easy to fill, never leak and have clear labels, which you can customize," she says.

Wine or Champagne

Most major cruise lines allow each guest to bring one to two bottles of wine or Champagne on board, while some luxury cruise lines allow even more than that. Disney Cruise Line also gives guests the option to bring a six-pack of beer instead of wine or Champagne. Be sure to consult your cruise line's policies when packing for your trip.

If you plan to bring wine or Champagne, you'll likely need a corkscrew . While some cruise lines may prohibit corkscrews, others allow them onboard; check your cruise line's policy before sailing. Bringing wine with a twistable cap may be a good alternative.

Portable humidifier

Cruise ship cabins can feel dry – especially in the colder months. A portable humidifier like the GENIANI Erie (around $25 on Amazon) can provide some relief. At about half a pound, this USB-powered device will fit neatly into your checked bag or carry-on luggage. The travel humidifier features two mist settings and has an automatic shut-off option, plus a night light to help you see around your cabin in the dark.

International travel adapter or converter

You'll likely need a travel adapter, since cruise lines homeported in international locales may have different electrical sockets and voltage strengths than you're used to in the U.S.

McDaniel recommends the OneWorld65 Travel Adapter . "I've used a lot of different travel adapters over the years, but this is my favorite. It charges up to six devices at once, has USB and mini-USB options, and works in over 200 countries," she says. "While many cruise ships have U.S. outlets, most usually also have European outlets. This adapter lets me take advantage of that outlet I'd otherwise ignore." She also notes that while cruise lines are getting better about having more outlets on their ships, it never feels like enough to keep your phone, camera battery, tablet, watch, headphones/earbuds and laptop charged (times two or more if you're traveling with others).

Tips on Trips and Expert Picks Newsletter

Travel tips, vacation ideas and more to make your next vacation stellar.

Sign up to receive the latest updates from U.S News & World Report and our trusted partners and sponsors. By clicking submit, you are agreeing to our Terms and Conditions & Privacy Policy .

Sound machine

Cruise experts agree a sound machine can be helpful for blocking out the sound of late-night partiers returning to their staterooms (or your snoring spouse). Schildhouse likes the LectroFan Micro 2 for cruising. "It plays non-looping white noise and doubles as a speaker to play tunes while you get ready for dinner."

Tech organizer

Open Bagsmart Electronics Organizer fills with cords against white background.

Courtesy of Bagsmart

A tech organizer like the BAGSMART electronics organizer case – available on Amazon for about $20 – can store all your cables, plugs, SD cards and earphones in one zippered, compact bag that will fit easily in your carry-on luggage. Despite its small size, it can also hold bulkier items like a small laptop charging cord.

First-aid kit

A first-aid kit is a good thing to have on hand no matter where you go. You can make your own using supplies you already have at home, or buy a premade first-aid kit on Amazon for about $20. While all cruise ships have medical facilities, it's useful to have these items with you on shore excursions, especially those involving active adventures.

Hand sanitizer

Regularly washing your hands and/or using hand sanitizer is essential to staying healthy while traveling, especially on a cruise ship. Stock up on a few travel-size bottles of hand sanitizer (less than $2 each at Walmart) ahead of your trip. If you're looking for something with less alcohol that's also less drying, check out Babyganics Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer .

If you're a parent, you know that your infant or toddler needs a very specific size – and in some cases brand – of diapers, which may very well be unavailable to you on your cruise ship or in the ports of call. Bring more than enough diapers to play it safe at sea.

Most cruise lines also require that non-toilet-trained infants and toddlers wear swim diapers in the children's water play areas. For the sake of sanitation, kids must be toilet-trained to use the pools on cruise ships.

Many cruisers like to personalize their cabin with stateroom door decor. Not only is it a fun tradition, but decorating the door can make it easier to locate your room, too. You can find lots of fun decor ideas on Pinterest as well as Amazon.

" Duct tape is a life-saver in many situations," says Kosciolek. "I primarily use it to attach my printed luggage tags, but it's also great for mending clothing issues on the fly and fixing broken luggage until you can get it back home."

"As a parent, I like to bring lanyards with sleeves so my kids can wear their keycards and not lose them," says Erica Silverstein, senior cruise editor at The Points Guy. "We hang them on the magnetic hooks I put on the wall, so they don't get lost in the cabin either."

Sea-Bands pack and bands in case against white background.

Courtesy of Sea-Bands

If you're prone to (or think you may be prone to) motion sickness on cruise ships, put a pair of Sea-Bands on your cruise packing list. These soft wristbands use acupressure to prevent and minimize nausea and vomiting on board, and they are a reusable, drug-free alternative to traditional anti-nausea medications. You can purchase Sea-Bands on Amazon or at most drugstores.

If you need something a bit stronger than Sea-Bands (or to use in conjunction with them), Dramamine remains a tried-and-true solution for both preventing and treating sea sickness. Choose the Less Drowsy formula to avoid getting sleepy, and consider the chewable tablets (dye-free) if traveling with kids who are prone to queasiness. Many travelers like Bonine as a remedy for sea sickness as well.

Mix-and-match clothing

Pack a variety of mix-and-match items, also known as a capsule wardrobe, for your cruise. To do this, choose a base color – black or navy blue – for your wardrobe. Next, pack plain, neutral-colored items, then add a few patterned items to the mix. Remember to include a variety of styles (T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, pants, shorts, dresses, rompers and jumpsuits) and also consider reversible clothing and outfits that can easily transition from day to night.

Sports jacket or blazer

Adam Coulter, executive editor of Cruise Critic UK & Australia, recommends packing a sports jacket or blazer. "While cruise lines are getting more casual, what happens if you get that last-minute invite to meet the captain, or there's a meet and mingle where you want to look put together? A jacket will always elevate your elegance (even if you're wearing a T-shirt underneath)," he says. If you're in need of a travel blazer, Bluffworks has some well-rated options; the Gramercy , in particular, gets great reviews.

Themed party attire

Some cruise lines host themed voyages or parties on select nights where passengers can dress up to participate in the fun. You'll want to review your cruise itinerary before you go so you're prepared for the festivities. Bring your buccaneer gear if you're sailing aboard Disney Cruise Line; ships host fun events like Pirate Nights, pirate-themed dinners and a "Pirates in the Caribbean" show. On "The Love Boat"-themed cruises offered by Princess Cruises , pack your platform boots, glittery dresses, bell-bottom pants and halter tops for the line's 1970s-inspired disco party on the deck. No matter the theme, you can't go wrong with a couple of captain hats .

Travel wrap

A travel wrap is a versatile accessory that's useful for any trip – even more so on a cruise ship where it can get chilly when the sea breeze picks up. Available in nearly 10 different colors, J.Crew's Oversized Cashmere Wrap is a timeless staple, albeit a bit of an investment; for something less expensive but well rated, try this off-brand pashmina shawl on Amazon .

Packable jacket

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket in black against white background.

Courtesy of Patagonia

If you're cruising to a cold weather destination such as Alaska, you'll need something heavier than a travel wrap, but not so bulky that it requires additional luggage. Consider a packable jacket that folds easily and compactly; travel experts highly recommend the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket .

Packable hat

If you're headed to the Caribbean or another warm weather destination, you'll want a beach hat to protect your scalp and face from the sun. This packable straw hat by FURTALK (available on Amazon for about $25) is a stylish women's option that features a broader brim and offers UPF 50 sun protection.

Comfortable walking shoes

Allbirds Wool Runners in pink against neutral background.

Courtesy of Allbirds

Even if you never step foot off the ship, there is still plenty of walking to do between bow and stern. Closed-toe shoes or sandals with straps are safer than flimsy flip-flops when boarding a slippery tender into port (if your ship can't dock directly). Check out our recommendations for the most comfortable walking shoes , which include the popular Allbirds Wool Runners and the ECCO Yucatan Sandals .

Water shoes

Depending on your scheduled shore excursions, you might also need a pair of water shoes. For something that's both functional and fashionable, Crocs' Classic Clogs are a good option. While not totally waterproof, the Native Jefferson is a water-friendly, versatile option.

Versatile heels

"Over the years, I've learned that the key to avoiding overpacking is to bring one neutral pair of low heels that match every single eveningwear outfit I've packed – from flowy pants to dresses," says Schildhouse, who loves her Rockport Tabitha 2-Strap Heeled Sandals . "They have a cushioned footbed and shock-absorbing heel so you can dance the night away in the club, and a 3-inch block heel with traction to keep you steady on your feet even if the ship's rocking a bit."

Reusable water bottle

A reusable water bottle is useful for filling up at water and beverage stations on your cruise ship; it's also a necessity for shore excursions.

Bathing suit

Pack a couple of swimsuits for the pools, hot tubs and any shore excursions.

Swim cover-up

Another must-have for your cruise packing list is a swimsuit cover-up or two. These are great for wearing over your bathing suit during days at sea, as well as on excursions – especially if you're going on a Caribbean cruise . Amazon sells a variety of stylish, affordable cover-ups, and you can never go wrong with a classic white button-down shirt .

Dry bags are useful for shore excursions where you're likely to get wet but don't want the same to be true for your phone, camera and other precious items. "I use the Outdoor Research Unisex Dry Isolation Pack   and have never had so much as a drop of moisture enter it, which is important for me – it keeps my cameras, documents and important items from getting wet," says Saunders, adding that it functions as a great everyday backpack when it's not raining.

If you need more than one dry bag, cruise expert Brittany Chrusciel recommends the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Bag Set . "Having these dry bags, in a variety of sizes, means I can bring all my gear along during a Zodiac cruise or snorkeling excursion without having to worry about it getting wet."

Waterproof phone case

A waterproof phone case is also essential, especially if you plan to take photos. The Hiearcool Waterproof Phone Pouches (available in a two-pack) come with a lanyard so you can both protect your phone and wear it around your neck. They are compatible with most smartphones.

"I like to bring collapsible pails, small shovels , inflatable beach toys, a floppy Frisbee or other things to entertain the kids on the beach if we're going to a private island or beach destination," says Silverstein. "If you can inflate your own inner tube, you don't need to rent a floating mat."

Beach towel

"Although cruise lines provide guests with towels to take off the ship on excursions, they are often bulky and sometimes small," explains Chrusciel. "The Surfer Towel folds up to nearly nothing, so it takes up almost no room in your suitcase and is super convenient to pack in a day bag. What's more, its quick-drying technology means that the lightweight fabric won't be soaking wet when you need to pack up for the day and head back to the ship."

Towel clips

"Even though giant plastic towel clips shaped like a flamingo are a bit cringey, they make it easy to find your spot in a sea of sun loungers," says Chrusciel. "They also solve a common cruise problem: keeping your towel securely fixed to your chair while reading or sunbathing."

Reef-safe sunscreen

Reef-safe sunscreen SPF 40 against white background.

Courtesy of Badger

When choosing a sunscreen, look for something that's reef-safe; not only are these sunscreens safer for the environment, but they're also better for you . The active ingredients in reef-safe sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, are zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or a combination of both. Top-rated mineral sunscreen brands include Think , Badger and Raw Elements , all of which also sell lip balm with sunscreen (another essential at sea).

After-sun lotion

You'll want an extra dose of moisturizer if you've been basking in the sun. COOLA makes an after-sun body lotion that cools and hydrates the skin with aloe vera, agave and lavender oil. Previous buyers rave about this lotion, noting they appreciate that the scent isn't overpowering.

A good book

Sea days are the perfect time to kick back and relax with a book you've been meaning to read. Find an oceanfront lounge chair in a shaded area on the pool deck, or grab a cup of tea and settle into a quiet nook indoors. There's no need to pack more than one book, however, as many cruise ships have libraries.

What not to pack for a cruise

Power strip.

Many cruise lines do not permit power strips as they present a fire hazard, while others allow them as long as they are non-surge-protected. Instead of a power strip, purchase a portable charger such as this highly rated one by Anker , which can power up multiple devices at once. This can be especially useful for shore excursions. When packing for your cruise, also think about your luggage: If it has an included charging port, you may not even need to purchase an additional charging block.

Weapons and restraints

Firearms, handcuffs and the like are not permitted on cruise ships. This rule also includes toy guns on most cruise lines.

While most major cruise lines allow guests to pack a limited amount of wine or Champagne per person, they do not permit hard liquor. Of course, those of age can purchase cocktails at any of the bars on board.

Household appliances

Irons and steamers are not permitted on cruise ships, which is why the aforementioned garment bags, wrinkle release spray and packing cubes are recommended for keeping clothing tidy and neat. Coffee makers and mug warmers are also prohibited.

While you can technically bring you own, it's not necessary as hairdryers are available in every bathroom on most ships.

CBD and marijuana

CBD that's derived from hemp and contains 0.3% THC or less is legal at a federal level. However, each state interprets and enforces this law differently; for example, many states require a prescription for it. Due to the ambiguity of the laws, most cruise lines continue to ban CBD in any form.

Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law, which means you cannot bring it on a cruise ship – even if you're legally able to purchase it in your home state for recreational or medical use.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

For the U.S. News Cruise Packing List, travel writers Gwen Pratesi and Amanda Norcross tapped leading industry experts for their cruise essentials. They regularly update this checklist with new and useful items to pack.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best Cruise Lines
  • The Best Adults-Only Cruises
  • The Best All-Inclusive Cruises

Vacation Ideas for Every Traveler

A train enters Morant's Curve in the Canadian Rockies

Tags: Travel , Cruises , Travel Gear

World's Best Places To Visit

  • # 1 South Island, New Zealand
  • # 4 Bora Bora

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

You May Also Like

The best san francisco tours.

Lyn Mettler May 8, 2024

packing a travel backpack

The Best Water Parks in the U.S.

May 8, 2024

packing a travel backpack

Top Adults-Only Cruises

Gwen Pratesi May 6, 2024

packing a travel backpack

Top-Rated Newport Mansion Tours

Andrea McHugh May 6, 2024

packing a travel backpack

The 9 New York City Boat Tours

Lyn Mettler May 6, 2024

packing a travel backpack

The 13 Best Key West Tours of 2024

Gwen Pratesi May 3, 2024

packing a travel backpack

Swimming With Pigs in the Bahamas

Amanda Norcross May 2, 2024

packing a travel backpack

The 15 Best Chicago Tours for 2024

John Rodwan May 1, 2024

packing a travel backpack

The 10 Best Harry Potter Tours in London

Marisa Méndez April 30, 2024

packing a travel backpack

12 Cheap Fourth of July Getaways

April 29, 2024

packing a travel backpack

IMAGES

  1. Guide to packing your backpack for a weekend/overnight trip efficiently

    packing a travel backpack

  2. Beginner's Guide to Packing a Backpack for Hiking

    packing a travel backpack

  3. Backpacking Travel Packing Guide

    packing a travel backpack

  4. How To Pack Your Travel Bag Like A Pro

    packing a travel backpack

  5. 11 Pro Tips for Packing for Your First Backpacking Trip

    packing a travel backpack

  6. Packing Tips

    packing a travel backpack

VIDEO

  1. Best way to pack a travel backpack #forclaz #decathlon #traveltips

  2. what's in my travel backpack #packwithme #asmr #backpacking #packingideas

  3. Pack for a 2 week trip in a #travelbackpack #travel #packingtips #tips #bag #traveltips #carryon

  4. Packing the Travel Pack 14L

  5. Pack with BAGSMART for a trip

  6. Unveiling the Secrets of Efficient Packing #smartpacker #travel #backpack

COMMENTS

  1. How to Pack a Backpack for Air Travel: 12 Must-Know Tricks

    Utilize the "Roll, Don't Fold" method to save space and minimize wrinkles in clothing. Invest in packing cubes to keep items organized, and pack heavier items closer to your back for better weight distribution. Consider the climate at your destination and pack accordingly. Opt for versatile, multipurpose clothing.

  2. How to Pack a Backpack: 5 Essential Tips

    Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya ... Packing a backpack is a distinctly different skill than packing a suitcase ...

  3. How To Pack A Backpack For Travel

    Top Tips For Packing a Backpack For a Trip. Do a Dummy Run. One big piece of advice we will offer you is to practice packing and unpacking your bag and do a dummy run at least a week before your first trip. There are a number of benefits to doing these dummy runs; You get adept at packing and unpacking n a hurry.

  4. How to Pack a Carry-On Travel Backpack Like a Pro

    Put your tablet in the microfleece-lined interior pocket. Dedicate mesh pockets to smaller items, like AirPods and keys. >>MORE: Additional tips and tricks for packing a carry-on backpack. 4. Use travel packing cubes.

  5. How to Pack a Backpack For Travel (and Avoid Airline Fees)

    This set comes with two large compression cubes and two small (but mighty) compression cubes. The crucial tip for weekend packing, is to pack by activity. HOW TO PACK YOUR BACKPACK FOR TRAVEL. OUTFIT FOR THE AIRPLANE. At the start of your trip, throw on (your body) a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and a jacket or sweater.

  6. How to pack your travel backpack, carry-on, and luggage like a boss

    Rolling method: Backpacks rarely allow for the folding method of packing clothing. Instead, roll clothing and place it tightly atop the heaviest/bottom layer near the middle of your backpack. This ...

  7. How to Pack a Backpack

    Finally, be sure to keep weight distribution in mind as you organize your pack. For example, it's better to store your heavy camp shoes or 1-liter Nalgene in the lower side pockets of your pack than affixed to the back. 4. Fill the Gaps. When packing a backpack, we like to think of the contents as either rocks or sand.

  8. How To Pack A Backpack For Traveling: Tips & Tricks

    Additional Tips for Packing A Backpack for Travel. Pack light and make sure to leave some space inside your backpack, in case you decide you want to purchase anything on your trip. Packing light is especially important if you're going on a hiking trip and you need to wear the bag for hours at a time. Pick a comfortable backpack.

  9. Best Travel Backpack: How To Pick In 2024

    Best Travel Backpacks. Click to learn more about why we love these top picks. 9.2/10: Aer Travel Pack 3 (Best for one bag travel) 9.1/10: GORUCK GR2 (40L) (Best for rugged adventures) 8.9/10: Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L (Best for travel photographers) 8.8/10: TOM BIHN Synik 30 (Best for built-in organization) 8.6/10: Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L (Best for suitcase-like organization)

  10. How to Pack a Backpack for Travel

    If you have TSA PreCheck, you can leave your toiletries packed in the main compartment. Computer: Your laptop (and tablet if you're carrying one) go in the laptop compartment which should be next to your back. Water Bottle: Your water bottle goes in one of the stretchy side, water bottle pockets of your backpack.

  11. The 18 Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks to Make Packing Easy 2024

    Carl Friedrik 72-Hour Backpack. $545 at carlfriedrik.com. For the packer who's serious about one-bag travel, Carl Friedrik's aptly-titled pack is a great option. The 25-liter carrier is designed ...

  12. 18 Top Travel Packing Tips, According to Travel + Leisure Editors

    Separate Jewelry With Snack Size Bags. Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images. "Buy 'snack size' plastic bags for packing necklaces. To prevent tangling, give each one its own bag and ...

  13. The ULTIMATE Backpacking Packing List for 2024

    A good micro-fibre travel towers is essential travel gear on any ultimate backpacking gear list. The Matador micro-fibre towel range are made by travellers for travellers. They are super light, and most importantly dry very quickly and are perfect for all types of backpacking trips. Check Best Price.

  14. The 11 Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2024

    Final Verdict. We recommend the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack thanks to its incredibly durable polyester and nylon materials, well-designed internal storage, and included rainfly. Another great pick is the Vancropak Travel Backpack, which rings up at a fraction of the cost of some other options on the market.

  15. The 6 Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks for 2024

    Best small carry-on bag for most situations: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack. Best large bag for most situations: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. Best mobile office: Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L ...

  16. 5 best carry-on backpacks to use when traveling

    Editor's Note. TPG received complimentary backpacks from Arlo Skye, Away, Briggs & Riley and Solo for test purposes. My purple camo Trans by Jansport backpack served me well for 20-plus years. It accompanied me to several countries, on countless road trips and along many hikes.

  17. The 14 Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

    The Nomatic Travel Pack is the ultimate versatile carry-on backpack thanks to its expandable zippers that add an extra 10 liters of space. ... the Tortuga Travel Backpack essentially sat in a ...

  18. How To Pack And Organize A Backpack For Travel

    With organized packing, you will spend most of your time enjoying the trip rather than worrying about your items. Read on for how to pack and organize a backpack for travel. Continue reading ...

  19. 13 Best Travel Backpacks to Carry On in 2024

    Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack. $40 at Amazon. Read more. Show more. The Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab evaluates backpacks both in Lab and with consumer testers for durability and comfort ...

  20. How to Pack a Travel Backpack

    Use Packing Cubes. The best way to pack a backpack for travel is to use packing cubes. Our packing cube set comes with five cubes that allow you to separate your clothing into categories and maximize the space in your travel backpack. The large zippered cubes are ideal for pants and tops, while the two smaller cubes work great for t-shirts ...

  21. The Best Travel Backpacks of 2024

    Best Budget Travel Backpack: Dakine Campus 33L Backpack. Best Carrying Travel Backpack: Osprey Farpoint & Fairview 40 Travel Packs. Best Organization in a Travel Backpack: Matador SEG45 Travel ...

  22. Here's what to pack in a carry-on bag every time you travel

    Hand sanitizer, wipes, paper towels and tissues. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many travelers carry hand sanitizer (linking my favorite here) and sanitary wipes to wipe off seats, tray tables, seat belts, etc., upon boarding. These items are small and can easily fit in your carry-on item.

  23. The Best Packing Cubes of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

    The 14 Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2024, Tested and Reviewed. Best Style Calpak Packing Cubes 5-piece Set. PHOTO: Nordstrom. ... Lean Travel Premium Compression Packing Cubes: ...

  24. 18 Best Travel Backpacks, According to Frequent Flyers

    The best travel backpacks, at a glance. Best Overall: Cotopaxi Allpa 42L Travel Pack, $210. Best on Amazon: Shrradoo Extra Large 52L Travel Laptop Backpack, $33. Best Daypack: Lululemon Everywhere ...

  25. How to pack for a backpacking trip

    Pack a reusable water bottle (with an in-built filter if necessary) like the LifeStraw Go. Look for packaging-free or refillable toiletries. Bring lightweight bamboo straws and cutlery like this travel cutlery set that comes in a neat roll with a brush for cleaning.

  26. What to Pack in a Personal Item: A Complete Checklist

    The 5.5 x 5.5-inch Dagne Dover Mila Small Toiletry Organizer is the perfect size for packing necessary toiletries into your personal item. We appreciate the cylindrical design, which can be ...

  27. What I Pack In My Travel Sleep Kit for Maximum Z's

    After years of sleeping in airports, on airplanes, buses, trains, ferries and in all manner of hostels, hotels and Airbnbs, I've picked up a few sleep essentials that help maximize z's. Ahead, here are my 6 essentials to pack for good (or at least tolerable) sleep while traveling. 1. The Right Neck Pillow. In a previous post, I hailed the ...

  28. Rinlist Travel Backpack for Women Men, TSA Friendly Carry-on Backpack

    Taygeer Travel Backpack for Women, Carry On Backpack with USB Charging Port & Shoe Pouch, TSA 15.6inch Laptop Backpack Flight Approved, Nurse Bag Casual Daypack for Weekender Business Hiking, Pink ... taking a trip has become highly desirable. With "PACK SMART, TRAVEL LIGHT" in mind, Rinlist dedicates itself to improving everyone's comfort ...

  29. Cruise Packing List: The Essentials Chosen by Experts

    Cruise Packing List: 56 Essentials Chosen by Experts. This cruise packing list includes all of the essentials - plus items you didn't know you needed. By Gwen Pratesi and Amanda Norcross. |. Jan ...

  30. 'Bare-adise' adventure: This nude cruise is due to set sail from Miami

    The nudist cruise specialist is teaming up with Norwegian Cruise Line to launch an 11-day voyage from Miami to the Caribbean, scheduled to set sail onboard the 295-meter Norwegian Pearl in ...