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The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023

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.

Mallory Paige Testing the Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Backpack
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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 a lot of backpacks through the wringer. 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. Deciding on what matters to you will greatly steer your purchase. Are you jet-setting from here to Madrid this week, and then Honduras next week? Need a bag to kick around on a work trip? Visiting a National Park?

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.

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023

Best Overall Travel 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
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023


  • 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


  • Price
  • No internal fastening straps
Best Budget Travel Backpack

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 2023


  • Cheap price
  • Available in many different fabric prints
  • Unique insulated cooler pocket


  • Not many travel-specific features
  • Straps don’t pack away
Best Carrying Travel Backpack

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 2023


  • 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
Best Organization in a Travel Backpack

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 2023


  • Excellent storage organization options
  • High-quality, strong, and lightweight construction


  • No frame to speak of
  • Shoulder straps don’t pack away
Best Shoulder Bag

Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L


  • Capacity 45 L
  • 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 2023


  • Multiple ways to carry the pack
  • Many different storage and internal organization options
  • Burly external fabric


  • Doesn’t carry the best as a backpack
  • No hipbelt
Best Commuter-Style Travel Backpack

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 2023


  • Tough and waterproof exterior fabric
  • White interior for easy viewing
  • Floating laptop sleeve


  • Not very much interior organization
  • Simple webbing waistbelt
Best Climbing Travel Pack

Mountain Hardwear Redeye 45 Travel Pack


  • Capacity 45 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 2.1 oz.
  • Dimensions 24" x 15" x 12"
  • Compartment access Back panel zippered clamshell design, additional top entry
  • Material 500-denier CORDURA nylon
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023


  • Burly 500-denier CORDURA nylon construction
  • Front and rear grab handles make loading easy


  • Cylinder shape won’t be the most space-efficient
  • Strap storage isn’t the most compact
Best of the Rest

Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack


  • Capacity 45 L
  • Weight 4 lbs., 8 oz.
  • 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 2023


  • 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

Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack


  • Capacity 27.5 L
  • Weight 2 lbs., 9 oz.
  • Dimensions 18.9" x 11.4" x 5.9"
  • Compartment access Zippered top access
  • Material 420x2000D Cordura nylon, 135D polyester
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023


  • 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.

Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L


  • Capacity 40 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 10.4 oz.
  • Dimensions 22.5" x 14" x 7.5"
  • Compartment access Zippered clamshell design
  • Material 1000D recycled nylon, 400D recycled nylon, 210D recycled nylon, 1680D recycled ballistic nylon
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023


  • Overbuilt design with tough materials and chunky zippers
  • Plenty of organizational pockets
  • Bright interior


  • Not the cleanest strap stowage

Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack


  • Capacity 28 L
  • Weight 3 lbs., 4 oz.
  • Dimensions 19" x 12" x 9"
  • Compartment access Zippered clamshell design
  • Material TPU-coated 1,000-denier polyester, 840-denier nylon paneling
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023


  • 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

Tom Bihn Synapse 25


  • Capacity 25 L
  • Weight 1 lb., 13 oz.
  • Dimensions 13.4" x 20" x 9.1"
  • Compartment access Zippered top access
  • Material 400-denier Halcyon, 420-denier nylon ripstop
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023


  • 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

Patagonia Black Hole 25L Backpack


  • Capacity 25 L
  • Weight 1 lb., 6.9 oz.
  • Dimensions 22" x 10.5" x 5.5"
  • Compartment access Zippered top access
  • Material 300-denier recycled polyester ripstop with a TPU laminate
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023


  • Heavy-duty outer fabric
  • Cheaper price


  • No hip belt

Osprey Nebula 32 Daypack


  • Capacity 32 L
  • Weight 2 lbs., 1.7 oz.
  • Dimensions 19.2" x 12.2" x 11.4"
  • Compartment access Zippered top access
  • Material 420-denier recycled nylon
The Best Travel Backpacks of 2023


  • 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

Travel Backpack Comparison Chart

Travel BackpackCapacityWeightDimensionsCompartmentsPrice
Peak Design Travel
Backpack 45L
45 L 4 lbs., 8 oz.22″ x 13″ x 9.5″Back panel clamshell design$300
Dakine Campus
33L Backpack
33 L1 lb., 10.6 oz.20.5″ x 13″ x 8″Zippered top access$75
Osprey Farpoint &
Fairview 40 Travel Packs
40 L3 lbs., 7.6 oz.22″ x 14″ x 9″Zippered back panel clamshell design$185
Matador SEG45 Travel Pack45 L2 lbs., 8 oz.22″ x 13.4″ x 10.2″Full clamshell interior, added front zipper$200
Patagonia Black Hole MLC 45L45 L3 lbs., 10.3 oz.22.8″ x 8.6″ x 14.5″Back panel zippered clamshell design$239
Arc’teryx Granville 25 Backpack
25 L1 lb., 14.5 0z.22″ x 12″ x 9″Drawstring top-entry$220
Mountain Hardwear 
Redeye 45 Travel Pack
45 L3 lbs., 2.1 oz.24″ x 15″ x 12″Back panel clamshell, added top entry$180
Matador GlobeRider45 Travel Pack
45 L4 lbs., 8 oz.22″ x 12.8″ x 11″Zippered clamshell design$350
Timbuk2 Never Check Expandable Backpack27.5 L2 lbs., 9 oz.18.9″ x 11.4″ x 5.9″Zippered top access$209
Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 40L40 L3 lbs., 10.4 oz.22.5″ x 14″ x 7.5″Zippered clamshell design$229
Cotopaxi Allpa 28L
Travel Pack
28 L3 lbs., 4 oz.19″ x 12″ x 9″Zippered clamshell design$170
Tom Bihn Synapse 2525 L1 lb., 13 oz.13.4″ x 20″ x 9.1″Zippered top access$243
Patagonia Black
Hole 25L Backpack
25 L1 lb., 6.9 oz.22″ x 10.5″ x 5.5″Zippered top access$149
Osprey Nebula
32 Daypack
32 L2 lbs., 1.7 oz.19.2″ x 12.2″ x 11.4″Zippered top access$140
Peak Design Travel Pack 45L at SEATAC
Freshly plucked from the baggage carousel and hot off an Atlantic crossing, the 400-denier nylon canvas on the Peak Design pack kept it kicking; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Why You Should Trust Us

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 make 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.

In testing, we looked for a number of features in our travel backpacks, including overall capacity, carry style, durability, and style. 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 2023.

Curious about what we pack in our travel backpacks? We’ve penned up a list for both domestic and international trips.

Osprey Farpoint Travel Pack in Iceland
International travel is the best stress test of a good travel backpack, and Keflavik International Airport in Iceland made a perfect testing area; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

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 L 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 45L 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.

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 25-35L range work well for the minimalists among us, and the 30-40L 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.

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 20-30L range.

For bumping around town, we’ve come to love the Arc’teryx Granville 25, 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.


Finding 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. And longer trips could mean the need for a larger bag.

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 isn’t better than the other, but knowing your style is helpful when choosing.

In general, we’ve found that something in the 28-45L 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.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack
While we favor the 40L versions of Osprey’s Farpoint and Fairview packs for their carry-on-ability, the packs are also available in a number of different volumes; (photo/Erika Courtney)


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.

Peak Design Travel Backpack Clamshell Access
The broad clamshell design of the opening on the Peak Design Travel Backpack makes packing and quick access a breeze; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

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, rough and tumble Patagonia Black Hole 25L, 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 our dedicated laptop toter for everything from remote work stints at the coffee shop to jumping on a ferry for work.

Mountain Hardware Redeye Travel Backpack Clamshell Packing
While the access of the Mountain Hardwear Redeye was intended for rifling around with climbing gear, we found it amenable to many different loads, like this packraft; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Carrying 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.

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.

Patagonia MCL 45L Travel Backpack Carry Options
Slung over your shoulder or carried briefcase-style, the Patagonia MCL 45 is easy to toss around while on the run; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Pockets & Organization

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.

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 in order 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.

Matador SEG30 Travel Backpack Storage Options
The multi-tiered organization of the Matador SEG45 was easily the most organized in our testing. There’s a spot for everything; (photo/Nick Belcaster)


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.

Tom Bihn Synapse 25 Travel Backpack
Available in a large number of color schemes and fabrics on a rolling production basis, the Tom Bihn Synapse is built burly with 400-denier+ fabrics and #8 and #10 YKK zippers; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Space Efficiency & Carry-On Compliance

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 L 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.

Peak Design Travel Pack at SEATAC
The expandable gills on the sides of the Peak Design bags help keep it under carry-on maximums; (photo/Erika Courtney)

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 aimed for a 35-40L 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.


What is the best travel backpack?

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 competition was tough, but the Peak Design Travel Backpack series won us over in the end; (photo/Nick Belcaster)
What size bag do I need for traveling?

The best size bag for traveling depends largely on your travel itinerary and mode of transport. The Cotopaxi Allpa packs range from 28 L to 42 L.

The 28L option makes for a compact and comfortable backpack that easily fits in overhead airplane compartments. The 42L 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.

Is it better to travel with a backpack or suitcase?

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.

Is a backpack considered a carry-on?

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.

What is the most comfortable travel backpack?

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.

What size backpack can fit under an airplane seat?

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 L compressed easily slides under a seat.

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