Best Travel Backpacks of 2023: Indulge Your Wanderlust

People wearing travel backpacks


Having the right gear can make a world of difference when you're traveling. A good backpack can store your camping gear, clothes and accessories, or even hydration packs for long runs. But when it comes to travel, we have different expectations of our backpacks. The perfect backpack for each individual will depend on the type of travel they prefer and what types of gear they're looking to pack. To make it easy, we've cataloged the best of the best travel backpacks and sorted them by ideal usage. Take a look at our list below.

Why Trust Us?

ACTIVE.com's editorial team relies on the knowledge and experience of fitness and wellness experts including competitive athletes, coaches, physical therapists, nutritionists, and certified trainers. This helps us ensure the products we feature are of the highest standard. Collectively, the team has spent countless hours researching equipment, gear, and recovery tools in order to create the most accurate, authentic content for our readers. Customer satisfaction is also a key part of our review process, which is why we only feature products that are highly rated. More importantly, each member of our team is a fitness enthusiast. Fitness may be our job, but it is also our passion. Therefore, we strive to bring you products that we trust and would personally use.

Best Travel Backpacks - Our Top Picks

By clicking on the product links in this article, we may receive a commission fee at no cost to you, the reader. Sponsorships and affiliate commissions help support our research so we can help you find the best products. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.

Best Overall Travel Backpack - adidas Iconic 3-Stripe Backpack

adidas Iconic 3-Stripe Backpack

SPECS

  • Material: Recycled polyester
  • Capacity: N/A
  • Weight: N/A
  • Size: 12" x 7.5" x 18.5"

Check Price

The best overall travel backpack needs to be sturdy, stylish, and reliable. Our pick for the best overall travel backpack is the adidas Iconic 3-Stripe Backpack. This compact bag features the classic adidas three-stripe design, which arches over the top of the bag. It comes in five modern colors. Some backpacks can look childish, but this backpack is sporty and minimalist. With two large pockets on the front for storing your phone or other miscellaneous items, a built-in laptop sleeve, and a detachable storage pocket for the straps, this has plenty of functionality for your next trip. The padded shoulder straps keep the bag from digging in even when it's packed full. We love the water bottle pocket and the athleisure look of this bag. It is on the small side, but that compactness makes it perfect for stowing under an airplane seat as a personal item on your next flight. Wherever you're going, the adidas Iconic 3-Stripe Backpack will help you get there in style.

What We Like

  • Made with post-consumer waste
  • Built-in laptop sleeve
  • Comfortable shoulder straps
  • Water bottle pocket
  • Removable pouch

What We Don't Like

  • Relatively small storage capacity
  • Unreliable zippers

BUY: adidas Iconic 3-Stripe Backpack

Best Travel Backpack for Women - Lululemon Wunderlust 25L

Lululemon Wunderlust 25L

SPECS

  • Material: Polyester and nylon
  • Capacity: 25L
  • Weight: N/A
  • Size: 14.2" x 6.1" x 20.1"

Check Price

Lululemon is known for its luxury athleisure wear, but did you know they also make high-quality backpacks and other accessories? The Lululemon Wunderlust 25L backpack is our choice for the best travel backpack for women. This stylish bag is versatile enough to work as a gym bag, a work bag, or an understated, sleek travel bag for your next flight. It has two side pockets for water bottles and a bucket-style drawstring and flap closure. Its built-in laptop sleeve can accommodate laptops up to 16 inches. It also includes an outer elastic strap, which can stretch to carry a pair of shoes, a jacket, or other small items. Right now the bag is only available in black, which is unfortunate for those of us who prefer to add a pop of color to our outfits with accessories! But black is chic and goes with absolutely everything, so we can't complain.

We love how this bag has a 25-liter capacity and yet a small profile that easily collapses down to a compact size when empty. The polyester and nylon fabric is sturdy and stain-resistant. Overall, we love this bag with any outfit, from travel to athleisure to going out—this may be an unbeatable combination of style and function.

What We Like

  • Exterior straps adjust to fit shoes or jacket
  • Built-in sleeve fits up to 16" laptop
  • Buckles and drawstring-top closure combo for extra security
  • Unisex design
  • Collapsible

What We Don't Like

  • No outer zipper pocket
  • Limited strap cushioning

BUY: Lululemon Wunderlust 25L

Best Travel Backpack for Men - Reebok Training Weave Backpack

Reebok Training Weave Backpack

SPECS

  • Material: Polyester
  • Capacity: 39.75L
  • Weight: N/A
  • Size: N/A

Check Price

If you like the look of the Lululemon Wunderlust backpack but prefer something slightly more masculine, check out the Reebok Training Weave Backpack. Its most eye-catching feature is the black-on-black polyester webbing that covers the front of the backpack. Some users say they use this webbing to pin badges and buttons on their bag, but it's also a dramatic feature left on its own. The rectangular shape of the bag shows off its customizable sizing, with adjustable straps and buckles to slim down the bag when you need less space. This backpack is built to last, made with durable polyester and large enough to carry nearly 40 liters of gear. We love its mesh pocket for storing shoes or dirty clothes. With its generous size and neutral, sleek design, you'll feel comfortable bringing this bag to the gym or on your next long-haul flight.

What We Like

  • Sleek all-black design
  • Sturdy
  • Mesh inner pocket for gym clothes
  • Lots of space

What We Don't Like

  • No water bottle pocket
  • May not fit under an airplane seat

BUY: Reebok Training Weave Backpack

Best Backpack for Air Travel - Osprey Arcane Tote Pack

Osprey Arcane Tote Pack

SPECS

  • Material: Recycled polyester
  • Capacity: 20L
  • Weight: 1.76 lbs.
  • Size: 18.11" x 14.96" x 9.06"

Check Price

If you've ever spent far too long waiting in airport security lines, or waiting to board your train or plane, you know that backaches are one of the most irritating drawbacks of travel. You can't beat the convenience of a backpack, especially on hiking trips, but carrying the weight of your luggage on your back all day is exhausting. That's just one reason why we love the Osprey Arcane Tote Pack. This backpack is a beautiful marriage of a tote bag and backpack. You can wear it on your back, on one shoulder, or rest it on top of your rolling suitcase. The top of the bag is extra secure, with a zip top that folds down and clips to the body of the pack. This is a superior feature for any bag you're planning on stowing as your personal item on the plane—and yes, this bag is compact enough to fit there, too.

The bag comes in a variety of gender neutral colors, from heather gray to dark burgundy. Its padded back and comfortable straps make carrying it a breeze, whether you wear it on your back or as a tote. At 20 liters of capacity, it has enough space for most of your airplane carry-on needs. You can't beat the versatility of a bag with two easy, comfortable methods of styling. While we wish this bag came with water bottle pockets, you can't have everything.

What We Like

  • Tote and backpack straps
  • Top securely zips and folds down
  • Mesh shoulder pockets
  • Built-in laptop sleeve
  • Gender neutral style

What We Don't Like

  • Pricey
  • No water bottle pockets

BUY: Osprey Arcane Tote Pack

Best Business Travel Backpack - Osprey Transporter Duffel 40

Osprey Transporter Duffel 40

SPECS

  • Material: Recycled polyester
  • Capacity: 40L
  • Weight: 2.5 lbs.
  • Size: 21.65" x 14.57" x 10.24"

Check Price

For business travel, you'll want something large and sturdy, with a nondescript design you can take from the airport to a business meeting without standing out in a bad way. We recommend the Osprey Transporter Duffel 40. Similar to our previously mentioned tote backpack, the Transporter Duffel is a multi-purpose bag. It can be carried on your back with straps as a backpack or you can carry it by your side like a duffel bag. Unlike some of the other bags we've featured, it has hardened sides, so it can handle getting banged up at the airport or in the overhead compartment. It is a better option for transporting fragile work gear such as cameras for this reason; the hard sides offer an extra layer of protection against impact. With a 40 liter capacity, it's large enough to carry clothes for a work trip and the duffle-style opening gives easy access for packing. It's also conveniently weather resistant and comes in a wide variety of colors.

While its hard shape is generally an asset when it comes to protecting your belongings, this bag will not flex to fit under an airplane seat the way a soft fabric or canvas bag would. For this reason, we recommend planning to check it or store it in the overhead compartment. Still, features like durability and functionality make this a desirable travel bag for business people of all professions.

What We Like

  • Hardened sides to protect contents
  • Backpack-duffel bag combo
  • Large capacity
  • Weather resistant

What We Don't Like

  • Relatively heavy
  • Rigid; won't flex to fit in smaller spaces

BUY: Osprey Transporter Duffel 40

Best Duffel Bag for Travel - Osprey Arcane Duffel Pack

Osprey Arcane Duffel Pack

SPECS

  • Material: Recycled polyester
  • Capacity: 30L
  • Weight: 1.89 lbs.
  • Size: 18.5" x 12.2" x 10.63"

Check Price

If you like the look of the Transporter Duffel but prefer something lighter and more professional-looking, we suggest the Osprey Arcane Duffel Pack. Another dual-function bag, the Arcane Duffel switches easily between backpack and duffel modes. We love how nondescript the style is—it comes in plain black, blue, or green, paired with sleek zipper designs and functional pockets. You could carry this bag into a business meeting and no one would bat an eye. The recycled materials are a plus for the environmentally conscious and its built-in laptop sleeve adds to its functionality for traveling professionals. The Arcane includes a security hook to keep your belongings safe while traveling in unfamiliar areas. It may not have the same capacity as the Transporter duffel, but its softer profile and lowkey design make it a great option for many travelers.

What We Like

  • Shoulder and backpack carry styles
  • Laptop sleeve
  • Security hook
  • Made with recycled materials
  • Professional style

What We Don't Like

  • Limited capacity
  • Duffel pocket placement could use adjustments

BUY: Osprey Arcane Duffel Pack

Best Carry-On Travel Backpack - Lululemon LiftOS Hiking Backpack

Lululemon LiftOS Hiking Backpack

SPECS

  • Material: Recycled nylon and polyester, polyurethane
  • Capacity: 25L
  • Weight: N/A
  • Size: 13.8" x 8" x 21"

Check Price

If you're looking for a backpack to use as your carry-on for air travel, look no further than the Lululemon LiftOS Hiking Backpack. This sleek, unisex beauty is functional, organized, and versatile. Lululemon created it as a hiking backpack, so you can be sure it will be durable enough to stand up to being tossed around in the airport. The polyurethane bag body keeps moisture out and the multiple compartments keep your belongings secure and organized. There are many ways to store your clothes and other necessities within this backpack. We especially like the shoe compartment at the base of the bag.

Another bonus is the support features. In addition to a removable chest strap, the LiftOS Hiking Backpack has added back support to evenly distribute the weight of its contents and to protect the most vulnerable areas of your spine. Due to its height, it may not work as well for petite people. Its all-black exterior will quickly absorb heat in the summertime, as well. But as a carry-on item for air travel, it's tough to beat this rugged, versatile backpack.

What We Like

  • Designed to evenly distribute weight across your back
  • Backpack provides lumbar spine support
  • Chest strap option
  • Pocket for hydration bladder
  • Water repellant
  • Adjustable internal dividers

What We Don't Like

  • May not fit petite frames well
  • Hot in warm climates

BUY: Lululemon LiftOS Hiking Backpack

Best Large Travel Backpack - Osprey Travel Pack 70L

Osprey Travel Pack 70L

SPECS

  • Material: Recycled polyester
  • Capacity: 70L
  • Weight: 5.413 lbs. (men's), 4.5 lbs. (women's)
  • Size: 25.59" x 14.96" x 12.6"

Check Price

If you want to travel for months out of a single backpack, you're going to need something large. We highly recommend the Osprey Travel Pack. It has a massive capacity of 70 liters. Osprey sells two variations of this bag—the Farpoint bag for men and the Fairview bag for women. The two are nearly identical, the key difference being the support system for weight distribution. In their design, Osprey was mindful of the different physical statures and ratios between men and women and customized these backpacks to suit the needs of each. This bag manages to offer a ton of storage space without being overwhelming. It's relatively lightweight and the removable daypack allows users to take day trips or customize the weight distribution to make their luggage easier to carry.

The daypack is a great backpack in its own right, with plenty of space and mesh water bottle pockets on either side. Users say this combo is unbeatable for traveling. You can even separate the two packs and use one as your carry on and one as your personal item. However you choose to pack it, this bag is both large and comfortable, and it's versatile enough to carry with you all over the world.

What We Like

  • Detachable daypack for shorter trips
  • Huge capacity without excessive weight
  • Men- and women-specific designs for more comfortable fit
  • Lockable zippers
  • Daypack has water bottle pockets

What We Don't Like

  • Expensive
  • Not great for hiking or backpacking

BUY: Osprey Travel Pack 70L - Men's | Women's

Best Budget Travel Backpack - Osprey Remnants Packable Daypack

Osprey Remnants Packable Daypack

SPECS

  • Material: Ripstop nylon
  • Capacity: 15L
  • Weight: 0.5 lbs.
  • Size: 15.75" x 10.24" x 7.48"

Check Price

Travel gear can be quite expensive, especially for objects that may get dirty, torn, stolen, or lost as a result of your travels. It's understandable if you want to start with something more affordable, especially if you're a new traveler. Our pick for the best budget travel backpack is the Osprey Remnants Packable Daypack. As the name suggests, this travel backpack collapses down to fit inside one of its internal pockets. It's made almost entirely with ripstop nylon, making it incredibly lightweight—under one pound—and easily foldable to fit in a suitcase, duffel, or purse. Its capacity is limited to just 15 liters, but if you're just venturing out on a day trip or looking for a small, light bag to serve as your personal item on the plane, this will do just fine. Being collapsable, it doesn't have the best back support or most padded shoulder straps. But considering the other advantages in cost, size, weight, and practical application, we think it's well worth the small investment to get your hands on one of these backpacks for your next trip.

What We Like

  • Super affordable
  • Compact, collapsible, and lightweight
  • Minimalist design
  • Water bottle pockets

What We Don't Like

  • No chest strap, limited padding
  • Not the best for carrying heavy or large loads

BUY: Osprey Remnants Packable Daypack

Best Travel Backpack for Organization - Osprey Transporter Small Zip Top

Osprey Transporter Small Zip Top

SPECS

  • Material: Recycled polyester
  • Capacity: 25L
  • Weight: 1.87 lbs.
  • Size: 20.08" x 12.2" x 9.06"

Check Price

The last thing you want is to carefully pack everything into your bag, only to find upon arrival that it has become mixed-up and cluttered during your trip. Especially important if you're traveling for long periods, you need a backpack that can keep your gear organized without too much fuss. For the highly organized traveler, we recommend the Osprey Transporter Small Zip Top backpack. This large, sturdy pack includes tons of built-in storage to keep your things organized on your next trip. It has both a laptop sleeve and an internal documents folder.

The bucket-top style opening keeps everything from tumbling out when you need to reach in and get something. There are multiple mesh pockets inside to separate and organize your belongings. The chest strap makes carrying heavy loads more comfortable and it also includes a safety whistle—a must for any solo traveler. All in all, if you're looking for a backpack that will keep you organized without having to purchase separate packing cubes or other organizers, this is a great choice.

What We Like

  • Water-resistant
  • Internal organization
  • Built-in laptop sleeve
  • Bucket-top closure
  • Safety whistle and chest strap included

What We Don't Like

  • Very plain exterior
  • No top handle

BUY: Osprey Transporter Small Zip Top

What to Look For in a Travel Backpack

Material

The material of a backpack greatly affects its durability and performance, so it's worth taking note of this factor when shopping. Most backpacks rely on sturdy, water-resistant synthetic fibers such as nylon or rip-stop polyester. Others may use plant fibers such as cotton, hemp, or linen for a more rustic look and less environmental impact.

It's also a good idea to consider the materials that the hardware is made from: Plastic is common, but metal is far sturdier in the long term.

Capacity

Capacity is the volume a backpack can store. Travel backpacks vary from compact to large enough to live out of for several weeks. Keep in mind that when filled to capacity, these backpacks will weigh more and take up significantly more space.

Weight

Lighter backpacks are more practical for trips where you plan to spend a great deal of time on your feet, hauling your luggage on your backpack. The ideal backpack is lightweight without sacrificing on the quality of materials. A lightweight backpack won't do you much good if it breaks or tears while you're in the middle of a trip.

Size

Many of the best travel backpacks can adjust their size depending on how full you pack them. If you plan to take your travel backpack as your personal item, carry-on, or checked bag for a flight, make sure its packed dimensions don't exceed the size limits for your airline.

FAQs About Travel Backpacks


Can a 40L backpack be a personal item?

A personal item is a small bag or purse that an airline allows you to carry on a plane and stow under the seat in front of you. It is not the same as a carry-on, which is a piece of luggage that is generally stowed in a compartment above the seating area on a plane. Carry-on luggage usually allows for larger pieces than personal items. Since you'll have to fit your personal item under the seat in front of you, a 40-liter backpack is probably too large to qualify, unless you don't fill it all the way. The exact maximum dimensions for your personal item will depend on your airline.

Can I carry a backpack and a carry-on?

Exact rules vary based on the airline you're flying with, but generally speaking, you will be able to fly with both a backpack and a carry-on item. In this case your backpack would be your personal item, which means it must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. If you're carrying a larger backpack, consider using that as your carry-on and checking your other bag. You don't want to have your bag unexpectedly checked and potentially need to pay extra fees.

What size backpack can fit under a plane seat?

Again, this depends on the airline. If you want your backpack to be your personal item, try to keep your choices limited to bags that don't exceed 16 by 12 by 6 inches. If you fill your bag less full and therefore can compact your bag to better fit that size, that works too.

Is it better to travel with a backpack or a suitcase?

The best luggage type simply depends on personal preference. A backpack may be preferable if you plan to go hiking, camping, or otherwise plan to spend a significant time outdoors. It may also be a good idea if you're visiting a city with rough, uneven, or unpaved roads. Wheeled suitcases don't do much good in these circumstances.

However, backpacks can be troublesome for those with back pain. A rolled suitcase certainly requires less physical effort to haul around, provided you're in the right environment. The better bag to travel with is the one that best fits your travel plans and needs.

Discuss This Article