Choosing the Best Travel Backpack 2018

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A frequent traveler, I want to help you choose the best travel backpack 2018. I share the specifics you need to pick the best backpacks for you and your family and several sources on where to buy backpacks, including the best laptop backpack, the best rolling backpacks, and the best travel backpacks for women and men.A frequent traveler, I want to help you choose the best travel backpack 2018. I share the specifics you need to pick the best backpacks for you and your family and several sources on where to buy backpacks. I’ll cover the best laptop backpack, the best rolling backpacks, the best carry on backpack, the best travel backpacks for women, men, and children, and more.

Readers of this blog know that we recently spent a year traveling around Europe and are just coming off of two months in Central America and Mexico. We did not have the best travel bags while in Europe. They were good backpacks and they worked, but they were designed for backpacking in the wilds, not traipsing around Europe.

Travel packing is different than wilderness backpack packing and we decided we needed the right gear to continue our travels. We have a lot of adventures planned and think the right luggage will make a big difference. We started researching which international travel backpack would best meet our needs. We tried different bags and thus, this article was born.

Contents

Why Trust Me on the Best Backpacking Packs?

As I mentioned, we travel a lot and we have for years. From desert camping in the western United States to road tripping in Slovenia, to train travel across France, to trekking in Peru, we spend a lot of time schlepping our gear around. The best travel packs make the whole process easier. A laptop backpack helps us maintain our digital nomad lifestyle while the best travel backpack for Europe makes getting around more pleasurable.

Of course, you don’t need the top backpacks or best backpacking pack to travel, but having the right equipment makes a difference. Until recently, we were using our heavy, backpacking backpacks (with one opening at the top), and it’s a pain in the neck. Learn from us and choose the best travel backpack for you, it honestly makes such a difference whether you travel frequently or once in awhile.

See the top rated travel backpack now.

Comparison Chart of the Best Travel Backpacks

Think of this as your personal backpack store. Start here to see what some of the main differences are between packs, then scroll down for travel pack reviews.

BackpackImageCapacity (Liters)Best For...Amazon PriceREI Price
Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Rolling Duffel90LCheck
Eagle Creek Flip Switch Wheeled Backpack35LCarry on
Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage45/60/80LCarry on/Check
Osprey Nova 33 Laptop Backpack33LCarry on/Laptop
Patagonia Refugio Backpack28LLaptop
Timbuk2 The Closer Case8/10LLaptop
Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack40/55/70/80LCarry on/Check
Timbuk2 Blitz Pack28LCarry on
Osprey Porter 4646LCarry on
Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack35LCarry on
Women’s Osprey Fairview40/55/70LCarry on/Check
Eagle Creek Global Companion65LCheck
Osprey Youth Jet Kids Backpack18LKids/Carry on
Deuter Fox 30 Kid’s Pack30LKids/Carry on
Osprey ACE Kids' Backpack38/50LKids/Carry on
Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack55/70/80LCheck
Osprey Fairview Travel Backpack55/70/80LCheck
Deuter Transit Travel Backpack40/50/65LCarry on/Check
Eagle Creek Packable Daypack13LDaypack

Why a Travel Pack?

There are a lot of ways to carry your luggage when you travel – suitcases, roller bags, duffels, garment bags etc. Why a backpack travel bag?

Great travel backpacks are easy to carry around. When you are moving from airplane to taxi to train or walking, it can be a lot easier to throw something on your back and go. The best bag for backpacking Europe lets you avoid dragging your stuff along uneven, cobblestone roads and makes it easier to jump on and off a bus. Some of the travel backpacks reviewed here have the same features as traditional luggage, including roller wheels or a carry strap, so you get the best of both worlds.

Features of the Best Travel Backpack 2018

You can look for the top rated backpacks (see my backpack reviews below), but first you need to know what qualities are most important to you in the best backpacking bags. The best backpacks are the ones that meet the individual traveler’s needs for size, weight, durability, weather-proofness (I’m making that a word), and other criteria.

How Will You Use Your Travel Backpack?

Before you hit the backpackers shop, you need to consider what kind of travel you are planning. And think into the future because while you might have a weekend trip to New York planned for this week an upcoming trip to Europe could require something different.

When we travel, it’s usually for a long time–often multiple months and more than one season. Plus, we work while we travel. We need packs that can carry clothes for several seasons plus all our computer and camera gear. But, we often are jumping on and off public transportation and walking a few kilometers at a time, so we want a lightweight travel backpack that doesn’t take too much space.

If you are renting a car and staying in one place for a while, you may want to look at big backpacks for travel. A trekking backpack is ideal for someone who is hiking hut-to-hut in the Alps or pilgrimaging on the Camino de Santiago. For a trek, I would choose the best backpacking backpack for travel. A backpack with wheels allows you to drag your bag, rather than carry, when the conditions are right. It just depends on what you like.

Size

Backpacks are rated in cubic liters. It does not appear to be an exact measurement, but it will give you a good idea on whether you are looking at a large travel backpack or a small travel backpack. I recommend packing as light as possible and carrying as little as possible. It’s worth paying for laundry once a week, or renting a place with a washing machine, to carry less. In my dream world, I would uses a 40L travel backpack all the time. A carry on luggage backpack can save money – no need to check your bag—and make you more mobile.

That said, we usually travel with big backpacks that fit winter jackets, cloth napkins, a water filter, and hiking or snow boots, as well as swim suits and shorts. Large backpacks also allow you to bring more souvenirs home if you don’t fill them up on the way there.

  • 15-35L – That’s pretty tiny. It works as a daypack or for an overnight trip. For most people, this is just too small.
  • 40-50L – Carry on size, depending on the dimensions of the bag. The best travel backpack carry on fits in the overhead compartment and can hold enough clothing and shoes for at least a week. You’ll need to do laundry if you are traveling for a longer period of time, but it’s worth it. I like a 45L for any trip that doesn’t cross seasons or require extra shoes or gear.
  • 55-80L – You are going to have to check this size backpack, but you can fit more clothes or gear. On our Central America/Mexico trip we each had a mask and snorkel, towel, two pairs of shoes, and a few extras that required more space.
  • 80+ — Most people don’t need anything this big. If you are trekking or camping or carrying a large tripod, a big backpack is the way to go. Just make sure it fits right, has padded shoulder straps and hip belt, and is made to carry the weight comfortably.

Weight

Of course, you are going to want a light travel backpack. Who wants to carry more than they need to? At the same time, heavy duty backpacks will last longer and take more of a beating than a less durable pack. Extra compartments add weight, but make organizing so much easier. Find a balance between a built up pack and a super lightweight version.

Click for current prices, reviews, and more information on the best lightweight backpack.

Straps and Zip Away Suspension

A more comfortable pack will have padded shoulder straps and a padded hip belt. If you don’t plan to carry your bag a long way, this is less important. I like some padding in both of these areas, but I carry my pack several kilometers at a time, sometimes farther, like when we hiked between the towns of Cinque Terre in Italy. Padding will add some weight and make the pack bulkier.

Nice backpacks can have zip away suspension. This means the backpack straps zip into a compartment in the back of the pack so they aren’t ripped around during transport. They can’t be too padded in this case, but it’s nice to zip up your straps before checking a bag so you don’t risk them getting caught on something.

Waterproof Backpack

Having a water resistant or waterproof backpack is important in my book. Even if you aren’t traveling in the rainforest, it is going to rain from time to time. Or perhaps your bag is thrown on the top of a collectivo.

Unless you know you will be in a deluge or on a boat with a lot of spray, you probably don’t need a totally waterproof backpack. For most people, a water resistant pack and a backpack travel cover will do. We carry rain covers for both our main backpacks and our daypacks.

See our choice for the best waterproof travel backpack.

Locking zippers

Backpack bags with locking zippers are pretty crucial in this day and age. Since you won’t be able to have your pack in your sight at all times (think checked bags or train luggage compartments) you want to make sure it locks.

Access and Pockets

One of the main differences between backpacking backpacks and travel backpacks is the access. A traditional open top backpack can be a hassle to find anything inside. A luggage backpack usually has a front opening that mimics a backpack suitcase. This access makes it so much easier—I heartily recommend looking for a backpack with a U-shaped opening or other front opening.

Interior and exterior pockets make it a lot easier to organize and find your stuff. I especially appreciate that when we are staying in places where I can’t unpack.

If you love a backpack, but it doesn’t have adequate pockets, packing cubes work just as well.

Removable Daypack

Many of the packs I review here have a removable daypack that clips onto the front of the bag. I love this feature because it saves me from carrying two bags. Simply clip the little pack onto the bigger one when walking and grab the travel rucksack when you stow your bags. Plus, you have a daypack for use throughout your trip.

Quality

The best backpack brands are high quality and should last you a long time, even with heavy travel. We will happily pay more for durable backpacks than have to deal with something breaking on a trip or needing to replace our bags regularly. I’ve chosen only good backpack brands here because I appreciate companies that stand by their work.

Price

Good travel backpacks are going to cost more than cheap backpacks, of course. Plan to spend a little money now and have a pack for a long time. Companies like Osprey guarantee their packs for life. They will repair or replace a pack if anything happens to it. If you don’t need your pack right away, you can look for a backpack sale and get a great travel backpack at a discount.

Where Should You Buy a Travel Backpack Online?

Wherever possible, I have included links to both Amazon and REI. I get a small commission when you buy something by following my link – at no extra cost to you. I only recommend items I really love and believe in. If you don’t see negative reviews, it’s because I leave them out and focus on the good stuff.

Both Amazon and REI sometimes sell discount backpacks or have travel backpack sales, so it might be worth clicking through both links to see which currently has a better deal.

Why REI?

  • Free shipping to an REI Store for pickup
  • Free shipping on orders $50 or more
  • Every item you purchase at REI is 100% satisfaction guaranteed.
  • Online purchases can be returned at any of 144 REI stores
  • As an REI member, you’ll get a dividend from your purchase.

Why Amazon?

  • Free two-day shipping on most items with Prime membership
  • Free shipping on orders $50 or more
  • Amazon has a pretty lenient return policy

Top Rated Backpacks Reviewed

travel backpack europe

Leaving Europe after a year abroad. The kids both have Osprey Ace travel backpacks, I have my Osprey backpacking pack and an REI roller bag with my Osprey daypack shoved in the front.

Now that you’ve read through the features to look for in top travel backpacks, I am going to go through and talk about the best backpack for specific situations and individual travelers.


Overall Best Travel Backpack

Osprey Porter Travel Backpack Bag, 46L

Osprey makes some of the most popular backpacks, and it’s no wonder. They are well built, have lots of great features, and you can’t beat the warranty.

“Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it.” (Their warranty policy differs around the globe; this is for the U.S.)

What I like about this Osprey travel backpack is that it is so easy to use. For a travel backpack carry on, this size works great. It also comes in 65 liters if you want something bigger. The straightjacket compression allows you to cinch it tight to make it smaller (and easily fit in the overhead) or loosen it and make it bigger. There aren’t a lot of straps hanging out, which is nice, the compression straps keep everything tidy. The whole thing seems very secure and stable.

The best part is the huge U-shaped opening. It’s really easy to get into this bag and organize your clothes. The semi-rigid, padded sidewall means the pack stands up on its own when it’s open, even if it isn’t full. Plus, the padding protects your gear to some degree. (Osprey’s Farpoint, doesn’t have this padding and is a little lighter, if you are comparing the two.)

I like the separate compartment for the laptop, which could be used to stash a rain jacket or something else you wanted immediate access to if you aren’t carrying a laptop. It’s accessible from the outside without opening the whole thing. There are several other pockets, as well, so security is a breeze—just keep toiletries in one pocket, passport/ID/money in another, and computer/iPad/e-reader in another.

I think this is the best backpack for Europe if you can fit everything into a carry on bag, or the bigger version, if you can’t. The shoulder straps and hip belt are padded and stowaway when you aren’t using them. The shoulder harness and hip belt are not as padded as the Farpoint, which might be a better choice if you are doing a lot of hiking or trekking, but for walking around for an hour or two a day, the Porter works well. The zippers lock…and that means all my criteria are met.

They don’t come with an attachable daypack, but Osprey sells the Daylite daypack separately, which can attach to the back if desired. The pack comes in black or teal.

The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a shoulder strap. There are D rings to attach a strap, but the strap is sold separately.

The Porter also comes in 65L size, which is a better size for the type of travel we do. My dream is to fit all our stuff into carry ons, but we need to travel for shorter periods of time or only in warm places to make that happen. It comes in 30L, too, but I think this is too small for most people unless you just want it for a short trip.

  • Porter 46L Dimensions: 22 X 14 X 11 inches; Weight: 3.4 LBS
  • Porter 65L Dimensions: 25 X 14 X 12 inches; Weight: 3.9 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Porter 46L.


Best Rolling Backpacks

A travel backpack with wheels gives you a lot of flexibility. You can wear it as a pack when you need to and pull it around when you can. I love having wheels, but it does make the pack a little bulkier, so there is a tradeoff. The handle will contract into the bag, but it still takes up space, while the wheels are always there. Fortunately, they don’t take up a lot of extra space or add too much weight, so if you aren’t carrying it for miles and miles, it probably won’t bother you. The travel backpack reviews below should help you decide which is right for your travels.

Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Rolling Duffel 90L/120L

There are pros and cons to this travel backpack with wheels. First, it is lightweight and packs up pretty small when not in use. And it has a large capacity. Whether you get the 90L Rolling Duffel or the 120L Rolling Duffel, there should be plenty of room for whatever you are packing.

The duffel opens wide for easy access to clothes, has locking zippers, and is very water resistant. The backpack straps are removable, but they don’t just pack away like on some other bags. I like that there are a lot of handles, so you can grab it easily from different angles. The wheels are pretty sturdy. The Cargo Hauler Rolling Duffel is less expensive than other equivalent bags.

Some reviewers found the material to be less sturdy than other brands and got rips or abrasions in their bags. The other issue is that the bag has to be fully packed to maintain its rigidity and ability to be pulled around.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Rolling Duffel 90 and the Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Rolling Duffel 120.


Eagle Creek Flip Switch Wheeled Backpack 22

This 22-inch tall, front loading backpack with wheels has a capacity of 35L. The backpack straps are removable, so it functions as both a backpack and a regular rolling carry on bag.

Like the Cargo Hauler (above), I like that there are multiple handles so you can grab and carry from various angles. The U-shaped opening makes packing a breeze. It’s built to fit Eagle Creek’s Pack It System of packing cubes, so you can compress and organize everything to fit more into the bag.

Another feature I like is the padded laptop pocket (or whatever kind of pocket you want it to be) makes your laptop easily accessible. There are a couple other pockets on the outside for wallet, passport, etc. And, locking zippers.

Some reviewers felt like the backpack straps took too much space when they weren’t being used, but they honestly aren’t very bulky, so I am not sure what the problem was there. At 35L, it’s not a huge bag, so it’s appropriate for a few days or minimalist packers.

  • Flip Switch Dimensions: 14 X 22 X 9 inches; Weight: 3.75 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Eagle Creek Flip Switch 22


Osprey Sojourn 45L/60L/80L

With three sizes to choose from the Osprey Sojourn gets my pick for best wheeled backpack for travel. It’s the great construction and style Osprey is known for with wheels and a handle.

The shoulder straps and hip belt stow inside the backpack and, in my opinion, are more comfortable than some of the other companies’ straps. It’s not a huge deal unless you plan to do some walking, and I always plan on doing some walking. I also like the multiple handles for easy carrying and the external compression straps to cinch it down. The wheels are pretty bomber and can handle cobblestone and uneven surfaces, making this the best backpack for international travel.

I also dig the four internal pockets for organizing. There isn’t a laptop pocket here, so it may not work as one bag for work and travel. I’d carry a smaller daypack anyway (the Daylite daypacks works with this pack, too), so that wouldn’t matter for me. At 8 lbs for the 45L version, it’s kind of heavy, but I think that’s how Osprey bags are and why they are so durable.

As a convertible travel backpack, this fits the bill—it works really well as a backpack and as a roller bag.

  • Sojourn 45L Dimensions: 22 X 14 X 9 inches; Weight: 8 LBS
  • Sojourn 60L Dimensions: 25 X 14 X 14 inches; Weight: 9 LBS
  • Sojourn 80L Dimensions: 28 X 14 X 14 inches; Weight: 9 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for Osprey’s Sojourn 45L, Sojourn 60L, Sojourn 80L.


Best Laptop Backpack for Travel

Many of the carry on backpack size bags also have a laptop sleeve. We carry separate packs for laptops, iPads, and camera equipment rather than putting these items in a carry on bag with all of our other stuff. It would be great to have everything in one air travel backpack, but that’s usually not how we roll.

In case you can, and want to, fit all your stuff in one bag, I am including both laptop bags and the best travel backpack with a laptop compartment.


Osprey Nova Women’s and Osprey Nebula Men’s

The Nova and the Nebula are essentially the same pack—the best laptop backpack for travel. The difference is that the Nova has a women-specific fit. As I mentioned before, I think Osprey has some of the best quality backpacks out there and you can’t go wrong with one of these.

Read more about women-specific fit in the best backpacks for women section below.

With 33L (Nova) and 34L (Nebula) of space, this is truly a daypack for carrying computers, camera equipment, books or e-readers, or whatever you want to have at hand on the plane or train. Maybe you could fit one or two night’s worth of clothing if you are pretty minimalist.

I use an earlier version of this pack as my daypack and think it’s the best backpack for work and travel. One attribute that I really love on this newer version is the hanging laptop sleeve. It sits close to your back for security and since it is hanging, your laptop doesn’t get banged around when you set the pack down. It’s padded, too, for extra protection.

The front pocket is nicely organized with smaller pockets for keys, mouse, sunglasses, phone, etc. And spots for your pens and business cards. A stretchy pocket on the side fits a water bottle. I had to send mine back for repairs on the side pockets when they got hole in them –I use them a lot!—and Osprey repaired them and sent it back right away. That was six or seven years ago and it has held up, despite heavy use.

The main compartment has plenty of room for cords, books, journals, snacks, a toilet paper stash (you never know!), and all the other travel essentials.

Even full, the Nova and the Nebula will fit under most airplane seats, so you can still have a bigger carry on with you.

When we arrive at our destination, I use this pack for day trips, hiking, going to the beach, or anything else we are doing.

  • Nova 33L Dimensions: 19 X 12 X 11 inches; Weight: 2.06 LBS
  • Nebula 34L Dimensions: 19 X 12 X 11 inches; Weight: 2.13 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Nova (women’s) and Osprey Nebula (men’s) on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Nova (women’s) and Osprey Nebula (men’s) at REI.


REI Ruckpack 40L Men’s and REI Ruckpack 40L Women’s

REI Rucksack 40The REI Ruckpack is the best 40L backpack that works as a carry on and a laptop bag. It comes in both a men’s version and a women’s version so you can get the right fit for your body. And REI has a 100% guarantee so you can count on them to repair or replace your bag if something happens.

These bags are pretty roomy for their size and can carry a lot of stuff. I like that the suspension harness (shoulder straps) and hip belt tuck into a zippered compartment when you don’t want them hanging around. A full zip opening makes packing and unpacking easy.

The best part about this backpack is that it truly is a travel bag, laptop bag, and backpack. You could use it to hike or city travel. It doesn’t give up much in any of its roles. It isn’t waterproof, but comes with a built in rain cover.

Some reviewers thought there should be some elastic cord on the outside to stuff a jacket or sweater while hiking.

  • REI Ruckpack 40L Men’s Dimensions: 24 X 13 X 10 inches; Weight: 3.19 LBS
  • REI Ruckpack 40L Women’s Dimensions: 24 X 13 X 10 inches; Weight: 3.19 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the REI Ruckpack 40L Men’s and REI Ruckpack 40L Women’s.


Patagonia Refugio Pack 28L Men’s and Patagonia Refugio Pack 26L Women’s

Maybe I like this pack because it is named after a beach we camped on as a kid in California. Or maybe it’s because it looks sleek and carries everything I want in a laptop backpack. It seems that a lot of people think it is the best backpack in the world based on how many Patagonia sells.

The Refugio travel laptop backpack has both a lined sleeve for a tablet (or e-reader) and a padded sleeve for a laptop. I love that there are dedicated spaces for both of those things. And, you can stick a water reservoir in there when you aren’t using it for electronics. Then there is another zippered pocket for cords and accessories.

Some reviewers found the straps slippery and quick to slide off a shoulder when only using one. And some people found it hot to wear.

  • Refugio Pack 28L Men’s Dimensions: 20 X 7.9 X ?? inches; Weight: 1.4 LBS
  • Refugio Pack 26L Women’s Dimensions: unavailable; Weight: 1.3 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Patagonia Refugio Pack 28L Men’s and Patagonia Refugio Pack 26L Women’s on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Patagonia Refugio Pack 28L Men’s and Patagonia Refugio Pack 26L Women’s at REI.


Timbuk2 The Closer Case

Timbuk2 is known for their messenger bags and has a lifetime guarantee. This isn’t a backpack, it swings over your back, so it doesn’t work with a big backpack, but it is handy for jumping on and off a plane, train, or bus.

There is a two layered pocket and zip pocket under the flap. In the main compartment there are two lined organizer pockets and a zip back pocket. It’s easy to keep everything organized and easily accessible.

Some reviewers thought it was smaller than it looks and wanted something bigger.

  • Timbuk2 The Closer Case Dimensions: 14.25 X 17.25 X 2.75 inches; Weight: 3.5 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Timbuk2 The Closer Case.


Best Carry On Backpack

When you can carry your luggage on to the plane you save money by avoiding check-in fees, your luggage won’t get lost, and you can buzz right out of the airport instead of hanging around the baggage carousel. But you can’t pack as much.

Airlines sometimes change their carry on size limits and size limits vary between airlines, so make sure you check with your airline before flying.

In addition to the carry on backpack reviews below, the Osprey Sojourn and REI Ruckpack 40L make good carry on bags.


Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack and Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack

Once again, Osprey wins our vote for best carry on backpack for international travel (or domestic travel for that matter). I really like their good quality backpacks and think they are perfect for the challenging life of a travel backpack.

The Farpoint and the Fairview are essentially the same bag, but the Farpoint is designed for men whereas the Fairview is designed for women.

The Farpoint and Fairview can be carried as a duffel, messenger bag, or backpack, so they are really versatile. They are sleek and won’t get caught on a random suitcase when you shove them in the overhead bin. The shoulder straps and hip belt stash away into a zippered compartment for even more sleekness.

All the zippers are lockable and the laptop or tablet sleeve has a dedicated lockable zipper. The bag unzips with a U-shaped, wide opening for ease of packing and unpacking. Multiple handles make it easy to grab from various angles.

Internal pockets are great for organizing or dirty laundry. There is an exterior pocket on this Osprey carry on backpack that can be used to stash a rain jacket, snacks, or water bottle when you’re walking around with it.

I like that both bags come in two sizes, so depending on your torso length, you can get a better fit. These packs are lightweight but full featured. This is the largest carry on backpack on my list.

Compared to the Osprey Porter: The Farpoint 40 has a more substantial support system which includes a peripheral wire along with a frame sheet and load lifters which distribute the load to the hip belt more effectively. The hip belt and shoulder harness are also padded similar to a true backpack. In contrast, the Porter 46 has a more substantial wall structure for the actual bag. This structure will provide easier access to the contents when the pack is lying on the ground.

  • Osprey Farpoint 38L (S/M) Dimensions: 20 X 14 X 8 inches; Weight: 3.11 LBS
  • Osprey Farpoint 40L (M/L) Dimensions: 21 X 14 X 9 inches; Weight: 3.16 LBS
  • Osprey Fairview 38L (XS/S) Dimensions: 21 X 14 X 9 inches; Weight: 3.06 LBS
  • Osprey Fairview 40L (S/M) Dimensions: 21 X 14 X 9 inches; Weight: 3.12 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Farpointand Osprey Fairview on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Farpoint 40 and Osprey Fairview 40 at REI.


Timbuk2 Blitz Pack 28L

This one is for you light packers. This could be the best backpack for air travel as long as you don’t need to take a lot with you. The Blitz pack is shiny, aerodynamic, and sleek.

External compression straps make the pack even smaller or tighten it down when it isn’t full. A padded laptop compartment means you can take your trusty machine with you and pockets keep things organized. The front panel unzips on three sides for ease of packing and unpacking.

I like the separate compartment for dirty or wet items that keeps those things away from the rest of your stuff. And it’s nice and lightweight.

Some users found the pack a little warm to wear.

  • Timbuk2 Blitz Pack 28L Dimensions: 13.5 X 22 X 5.9 inches; Weight: 3.0 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Timbuk2 Blitz Pack.


Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack RFID 35L

This super lightweight backpack makes a great carry on backpack. One of my favorite features is that the laptop access panel unzips totally flat so you can open it and lay it down when going through security without removing your laptop. In fact, if you are also carrying a tablet or e-reader, they are both adequately exposed for TSA.

There are enough pockets to keep things organized, including a RFID pocket to protect your passport and credit cards from electronic thieves.

It also has this neat “secure zip toggle” that allows you to secure your bag closing without a lock. You wouldn’t want to leave it unattended, but it should prevent pickpockets from getting into your pack when you are wearing it.

  • Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack 35L Dimensions: 13.5 X 20.5 X 9 inches; Weight: 1.8 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Eagle Creek Universal Traveler Backpack RFID.


Best Travel Backpacks for Women

Let’s talk about women’s-specific backpack sizing. It’s not just about stylish backpacks for women, although cute colors do seem to be part of the marketing scheme. The best travel backpacks for women have a different size and shape then men’s or unisex backpacks.

First a caveat: just because you are a woman doesn’t mean a women’s backpack is the right fit for you. We are all shaped differently and women with long torsos or broad shoulders might be better off with a small men’s pack.

Women’s travel backpacks usually share these characteristics:

  • Shorter torso and suspension – the distance between the shoulder straps and hip belt is less than in a men’s pack.
  • Less load capacity. This one kind of bugs me because no traveler needs to be carrying a lot of weight. The point of a travel backpack is to move around more easily. That said, women are often smaller then men and physically can carry less weight. Just make sure the pack can comfortably handle the amount of weight you plan to put in it.
  • Narrower and more contoured shoulder straps. The shoulder straps should curve to fit around your breasts and not rub. They are often shorter, too. This helps the backpack ride more comfortably and avoids the shoulder straps digging into your shoulders, neck, or boobs.
  • Hipbelts may be curved differently or narrower. They are frequently more padded, too. When you are wearing a pack, most of the weight should be on your hips, so you want this to be as comfortable as possible.

REI Women’s Ruckpack 40L and REI Women’s Ruckpack 65L

REI Ruckpack 65 Travel Backpacks for womenI wrote about the Ruckpack 40L in the carry on section and the Ruckpack 65 is very similar, but obviously has a larger load capacity and can’t be used as a carry on.

The Women’s Ruckpack has shaped harness straps that curve differently around the chest then the men’s version, shorter torso length, and a longer hipbelt strap to accommodate a range of hip sizes.

The 65L REI travel backpack has many of the same characteristics as the 40L pack: wide opening for ease of packing and unpacking, stowable straps in a zippered compartment, compression straps and load-lifters keep the weight of the pack close to your back for stability, laptop sleeve, lockable zippers, an attached rain cover, easy access pockets on the outside….and more.

Additionally, the bigger pack has a removable daypack. The daypack has a tablet or hydration sleeve and several internal, and one external, pockets.

The only drawback to this pack is that the daypack won’t fit a laptop, although a tablet will fit. That means you either have to check your laptop in the bigger bag or you need a third bag to use as a carry on.

The REI Women’s Ruckpack comes in two sizes—XS/S and S/M.

  • REI Ruckpack 40L Women’s Dimensions: 24 X 13 X 10 inches; Weight: 3.19 LBS
  • REI Ruckpack 65L Women’s Dimensions: 25.5 X 24.5 X 9.75 inches; Weight: 4.88 LBS; Daypack: 18 X 10 X 5 inches; Weight 0.81 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the REI Ruckpack 40L Women’s and REI Ruckpack 65L Women’s.


Women’s Osprey Fairview 40L, Women’s Osprey Fairview 55L, and Women’s Osprey Fairview 70L

Like the REI pack, I wrote about this ladies travel backpack in the carry on section, but there are two bigger versions.

The Fairview has a women’s specific fit – contoured shoulder straps and hipbelt, and shorter torso length, but the same load capacity of the equivalent men’s pack, the Farpoint.

The two bigger packs have the same features as the carry on size: They are sleek and the shoulder straps and hip belt stash away into a zippered compartment when checking your bag.

All the zippers are lockable and the laptop or tablet sleeve has a dedicated lockable zipper. The bag unzips with a U-shaped, wide opening for ease of packing and unpacking. It’s a backpack that opens like a suitcase. Multiple handles make it easy to grab from various angles.

Internal pockets are great for organizing or dirty laundry. There is an exterior pocket on this Osprey carry on backpack that can be used to stash a rain jacket or water bottle when you’re walking around with it.

I appreciate that the little stash pocket on the front is lined with a soft material that won’t scratch sunglasses.

The Fairview 55 and 70 have a removable daypack. Some reviewers wished the daypack was bigger.

All three Osprey Fairview travel backpacks come in two sizes—XS/S and S/M.

  • Osprey Fairview 40L Dimensions: 21 X 14 X 9 inches; Weight: 3.12 LBS
  • Osprey Fairview 55L Dimensions: 25 X 13 X 12 inches; Weight: 3.12 LBS
  • Osprey Fairview 70L Dimensions: 25.2 X 13.8 X 12.2 inches; Weight: 3.9 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Fairview 40, Osprey Fairview 55, or Osprey Fairview 70 on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Fairview 40 or Osprey Fairview 55 at REI.


Eagle Creek Global Companion –Women’s

I think this is a great pack. It has women-specific, padded, moisture-wicking shoulder straps, back panel, and hipbelt to enhance comfort. The torso length is adjustable, so you can get a custom fit.

With 68 liters of space, it’s one of the best backpacks for a Europe trip or anywhere around the globe where you are going to need a fair bit of gear and want to walk around comfortably with it.

This pack really opens wide—just like a suitcase—and is easy to pack, unpack, and see what you have in there. There’s also a U-shaped duffel opening on the front that allows access to a mesh pocket. You’ll find a laptop sleeve inside, and a couple other pockets.

The Global Companion doesn’t have a panel for stowing the straps like a lot of other packs, but it does have a rain cover that doubles as a protective duffel for checking bags.

It also does not include a removable daypack, but since the daypacks on the other travel backpacks are too small for me, this wouldn’t matter. I’d carry a separate pack for my laptop and other carry on items.

  • Eagle Creek Global Companion 68L Dimensions: 26 X 13.25 X 12.25 inches; Weight: 5.12 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Women’s Eagle Creek Global Companion on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Women’s Eagle Creek Global Companion at REI.


Best Travel Backpack for Men

If I am going to review the best travel backpack for women, it’s only fair that I share the best travel backpacks for men. The main thing here is that you probably want a longer torso section, shoulder straps farther apart, and possibly more space. Most packs that are called “unisex” are designed for men.

Like I said in the section on best travel backpacks for women, you don’t have to buy backpack based on your sex. If you have a slight build,a women’s size might be better.


Osprey Farpoint 40, Osprey Farpoint 55, Osprey Farpoint 70, and Osprey Farpoint 80

I covered the Opsrey Farpoint 40 in the carry on section. If you want something more, I think one of the bigger sizes makes for a cool backpack for men.

The bigger Farpoint travel backpacks have many of the features found in the 40 liter size: hipbelt and harness system can easily be stowed and zipped away when traveling, lockable zippers, bag opens wide for ease of packing and unpacking, easily accessible laptop sleeve, multiple handles make it easy to grab from various angles, internal pockets are great for organizing or dirty laundry and Osprey makes good quality travel backpacks.

Additionally, the Farpoint 55, 70, and 80 have a detachable backpack. It may be the best backpack for backpacking Europe since you have a daypack for a carry on and to use when exploring cities or day hiking.

I like how light these packs are considering they are so bomber and full of features, making it the best lightweight travel backpack.

Some people wished the water bottle pockets on the outside were sturdier – it felt like the bottles might drop out if the pack was laid on its size.

Each Farpoint bag comes in two sizes to fit different torso lengths.

  • Osprey Farpoint 40L Dimensions: 21 X 14 X 9 inches; Weight: 3.16 LBS
  • Osprey Farpoint 55L Dimensions: 25 X 13 X 12 inches; Weight: 3.74 LBS
  • Osprey Farpoint 70L Dimensions: 26 X 14 X 13 inches; Weight: 3.92 LBS
  • Osprey Farpoint 80L Dimensions: 29 X 15 X 16 inches; Weight: 3.92 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Farpoint 40, Osprey Farpoint 55, Osprey Farpoint 70, and Osprey Farpoint 80 on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Farpoint 40, Osprey Farpoint 55, Osprey Farpoint 70, and Osprey Farpoint 80 at REI.


REI Ruckpack 40 and REI Ruckpack 65

REI Ruckpack 65 best travel backpack for menLike the Ruckpack 40, described above, the big brother has many of the features I look for in an air travel pack.

The 63L REI travel backpack has many of the same characteristics as the 40L pack: wide opening for ease of packing and unpacking, stowable straps in a zippered compartment, compression straps and load-lifters keep the weight of the pack close to your back for stability, laptop sleeve, lockable zippers, an attached rain cover, easy access pockets on the outside….and more.

Additionally, the bigger pack has a removable daypack. The daypack has a tablet or hydration sleeve and several internal, and one external, pockets.

The only drawback to this pack is that the daypack won’t fit a laptop, although a tablet will fit. That means you either have to check your laptop in the bigger bag or you need a third bag to use as a carry on.

The Ruckpack comes in two sizes to fit different torso lengths.

  • REI Ruckpack 40L Men’s Dimensions: 24 X 13 X 10 inches; Weight: 3.19 LBS
  • REI Ruckpack 65 (63L) Men’s Dimensions: 25.25 X 14.5 X 9.75 inches; Weight: 4.87 LBS + 0.81 LBS (daypack)

Read more reviews and see current prices for the REI Ruckpack 40L Men’s and REI Ruckpack 65 Men’s.


Best Travel Backpack for Kids

This is a tough category. I couldn’t find a kid-specific travel backpack. There are plenty of daypacks touted as travel gear, but I want something with a hipbelt that can transfer the weight of their shoulders.

We know lots of traveling families and they all do it differently, but most people have their kids carry at least some of their own gear. You have to—it’s just not possible (or desirable) for parents to carry everything.

For a kid’s backpack you can choose the best small travel backpack (if the child is big enough) or a mini travel backpack. We use our kids’ backpacking backpacks. They don’t have all the features a travel backpack has, but they work fine. Since kids grow out of stuff so quickly, it makes sense to have their gear do double duty as long as it functions well in both its duties. But, I do wish there were cool travel backpacks for kids.


Osprey Ace 38, Osprey Ace 50, and Osprey Ace 75

We bought these bags for the kids to use while backpack backpacking—you know, walking through the woods and camping. When we decided to travel extensively, they each had a travel backpack for Europe trip.

The Ace packs only have one opening in the top for the main bag, plus a sleeping bag compartment. We use the sleeping bag compartment for shoes or laundry. The top of the bag has an internal pocket for small items and a bigger outer pocket for easily accessible items (we keep rain jackets in there).

One thing I really like about these bags is the adjustable torso length. This is super important on kid gear because it means they can use it for a much longer period of time. Our boys have had theirs for three years and they still fit and are in great shape.

We often check them, but the two smaller bags could be considered carry ons.

The pack comes with a rain cover and the front mesh pocket is great for stashing wet items or things you want to quick access to (or that you forgot to pack and need to put somewhere as you are walking out the door).

Even when the packs aren’t full, they are comfortable to wear according to our kids. We have the 38-liter and 50-liter versions and they are plenty roomy, so they are rarely full.

For something smaller, try the Osprey Jet 18 Pack– It holds 18 liters and is ideal for a smaller child or one who won’t need to carry too much.

  • Osprey Ace 38L Kid’s Dimensions: Fits torso 11-15 inches; Weight: 2.4 LBS
  • Osprey Ace 50L Kid’s Dimensions: Fits torso 13-18 inches; Weight: 2.93 LBS
  • Osprey Ace 75L Kid’s Dimensions: Fits torso 14-19 inches; Weight: 3.56 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Ace 38, Osprey Ace 50, and Osprey Ace 75 on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Osprey Ace 38, Osprey Ace 50, and Osprey Ace 75 at REI.


Deuter Fox 30 Kid’s Pack and Deuter Fox 40 Kid’s Pack

The Deuter Fox series is also meant for backpacking in the wilds, but they are good backpacks for Europe or other travels. Deuter is a good brand and makes quality gear, and their kid stuff is built as well as their adult packs.

Like the Osprey packs, this has one big opening at the top; it doesn’t have a side zipper or suitcase-like opening. I think you just have to wait until your kids are big enough for a small adult pack for that.

The Fox 30 and 40 have a slimmer profile than the Osprey packs, but essentially the same features—main bag has one opening at top, sleeping bag compartment, small pocket on interior of lid, large pocket on exterior of lid, and adjustable torso length.

It does not come with a rain cover.

  • Deuter Fox 30L Kid’s Pack Dimensions: Fits torso 10-17 inches; Weight: 2.69 LBS
  • Deuter Fox 40L Kid’s Pack Dimensions: Fits torso 11-18 inches; Weight: 2.94 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Deuter Fox 30L Kid’s Pack and Deuter Fox 40 Kid’s Pack on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Deuter Fox 30L Kid’s Pack and Deuter Fox 40 Kid’s Pack at REI.


Best Travel Backpack for Europe

When looking for a travel backpack Europe is a good metric—you will probably be using public transportation or taxis at some point, you often have to walk a bit. There are a lot of stairs and uneven streets in Europe. In other words, you want a backpack that is easy to carry around, fits in smallish spaces, and still carries everything you need.

The best backpack for touring Europe will serve you well in many countries.

Osprey Porter, Osprey Fairview, and Osprey Farpoint

I’ve already reviewed these packs above, so I won’t go into detail here. The Porter is my pick for best travel backpack overall, including best backpack for Europe. All three come in smaller, carry on versions and as larger packs. The Fairview and Farpoint come with the best daypacks for Europe as long as you don’t need to carry a laptop or a lot of hiking gear.

You can read more reviews by clicking here:

Eagle Creek Global Companion Pack

I reviewed this pack in the women’s travel backpack section, but there is also a unisex or men’s version. It’s basically the same as the women’s, but without a women-specific fit. As I mentioned above, some women may prefer the “men’s” version, especially if you are tall, have broader shoulders or narrow hips. The only difference between the two bags is the shoulder harness and hipbelt, the pack itself is the same (and has an adjustable torso length).

With 68 liters of space, it’s one of the best backpacks for a Europe trip or anywhere around the globe.

This pack really opens wide—just like a suitcase—and is easy to pack, unpack, and see what you have in there. There’s also a U-shaped duffel opening on the front that allows access to a mesh pocket. You’ll find a laptop sleeve inside, and a couple other pockets.

The Global Companion doesn’t have a panel for stowing the straps like a lot of other packs, but it does have a rain cover that doubles as a protective duffel for checking bags.

It also does not include a removable daypack, but since the daypacks on the other travel backpacks are too small for me, this wouldn’t matter. I’d carry a separate pack for my laptop and other carry on items.

  • Women’s Eagle Creek Global Companion 68L Dimensions: 26 X 13.25 X 12.25 inches; Weight: 5.12 LBS
  • Men’s Eagle Creek Global Companion 68L Dimensions: 26 X 13.25 X 12.25 inches; Weight: 5.12 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Women’s Eagle Creek Global Companion and the Men’s Eagle Creek Global Companion on Amazon.

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Women’s Eagle Creek Global Companion and the Men’s Eagle Creek Global Companion at REI.


Deuter Transit 40, Deuter Transit 50, and Deuter Transit 65

The Deuter Transit series is a respectable backpack that will hold up well and do just about everything you want a travel backpack to do. Aesthetically, this is a more stylish looking travel backpack. Whereas all the other packs in this post are more athletic or lie

It opens wide in a U-shape for easy access to your gear. Unlike most of the other packs I’ve talked about in this incredibly long post, the Transit has two compartments—the main bag and a lower compartment (traditionally where you would put a sleeping bag- perfect for hostel or hut trips—but it could also be used for shoes, dirty clothes etc.). The divider between the two compartments can be removed to create on large compartment.

A zippered panel covers the shoulder harness and waistbelt for baggage checking purposes.

These bags have grab handles and a carry strap, which is nice for when you want to carry it like a duffel bag. It’s a small thing, but I really like this feature.

The two larger bags have an attachable daypack.

The Transit 40 has an Aircontact back—you can’t adjust the torso length, but you can alter the fit with various straps. The Transit 50 and 65 do have an adjustable back system to fit different torso lengths.

The Transit 40 and 50 can both be used as carry on bags on most airlines (when you remove the daypack from the 50). For smaller planes, it’s likely on the 40 will be accepted as carry on.

  • Deuter Transit 40L Dimensions: 22 X 13 X 9.8 inches; Weight: 4.12 LBS
  • Deuter Transit 50L Dimensions: 25 X 13 X 10 inches; Weight: 5 LBS
  • Deuter Transit 65L Dimensions: 27 X 13 X 11 inches; Weight: 5.31 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Deuter Transit 40, Deuter Transit 50, and Deuter Transit 65 on Amazon.


Best Daypack for Travel

When it comes to a travel daypack, I really like the ones that are attached to the main travel backpack (like the Fairview and Farpoint from Osprey), however, it can be nice to have something that packs up really small and can be stowed when not in use. We found this particularly useful when we didn’t want to empty the pack with the computers and camera equipment, but still needed something for a day hike or jaunt into a city.

Travel daypacks are also useful when you are coming home with more than you left with, whether that’s snacks for the plane or souvenirs. And the best daypack for travel doubles as a reusable shopping bag, so you can do good for the planet as well.


Eagle Creek Packable Daypack

This little pack makes for a great international travel backpack. Just stick it in your bigger pack or use it as a personal bag and take it on the plane.

It’s made out of a tough, but lightweight ripstop material that will hold up over the years. To stow it, pack it into its own pocket.

I really like the “central lock point and secure zipper toggles.” What that means is that the zippers connect into a little toggle at the top, so they are a lot harder for someone nefarious to unzip. Plus, you can lock them if you really want extra safety. This extra lockability makes the Eagle Creek pack one of the best daypacks for travel in Europe.

If you want it to explore a city or go for a day hike, this small travel daypack pack fits the bill.

  • Eagle Creek Packable Daypack 13L : 11 X 17.5 X 4.75 inches; Weight: 0.31 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the Eagle Creek Packable Daypack on Amazon.


REI Stuff Travel Daypack

Best daypack for travel REI Stuff DaypackThis pack is a little heavier and holds a little more than the Eagle Creek pack above. It has a slim profile and is made out of ripstop nylon, so it is somewhat water resistant.

REI makes great backpacks and this is no exception. Though some people felt like it was hard to access their stuff given the tube-like shape of the bag.

There is a small pocket on the top of the pack for essentials – money, keys, etc. and the larger main compartment.

The whole thing stuffs into it own pocket.

  • REI Stuff Travel Daypack 22L: 18.5 X 10 X 6.5 inches; Weight: .63 LBS

Read more reviews and see current prices for the REI Stuff Travel Daypack at REI.


I’d love to hear your opinion on the best travel backpack in the comments!

A frequent traveler, I want to help you choose the best travel backpack 2018. I share the specifics you need to pick the best backpacks for you and your family and several sources on where to buy backpacks, including the best laptop backpack, the best rolling backpacks, and the best travel backpacks for women and men.

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4 thoughts on “Choosing the Best Travel Backpack 2018

  1. Your best friend Chris!

    Wow, thanks for the detailed reviews! We borrowed an Osprey Porter 65L from a friend for a two-week family trip to Italy on which we needed to bring sleeping bags; we also wanted to be able to carry all of our belongings at the same time (at least for a half-mile or so from bus to hotel or apartment), and we are not a “wheels on luggage” family. The Porter made that possible.

    We loved the Osprey so much that we bought one (from REI, of course) as soon as we got home, even though we didn’t have another trip planned.

    Being able to tuck away all of the straps makes this our go-to choice for a family checked bag on cross-country flights — you can carry it like a backpack through the airport, but you can completely tuck away the straps and hand over your precious bag to the baggage handlers without worrying about broken buckles or those big plastic bags that nobody likes.

    1. Mel Post author

      BFF Chris,
      Love this review of the Porter! It’s such a good travel pack.
      We should travel together and have an Osprey party.
      Love,
      Mel

  2. Kathi

    I’ve got a 40L Pacsafe backpack and absolutely love it for trips up to a week or 10 days! It’s the best and there are so many handy features and pockets inside! For hiking and trekking I use more outdoorsy backpacks, with padded hip belts and loads of practical features for camping. Thanks for sharing this list though – I’ll come back when I need a new backpack!

    1. Mel Post author

      It’s great that there are so many different brands and styles of luggage these days, especially travel backpacks. I think there is something for everyone!

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