Mallory Paige Testing the Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Backpack

The Best Travel Backpacks of 2021

From weekend road tripping to jet setting around the world, these are the best travel backpacks for every adventure.

There are a lot of great 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 around the world. We spend a lot of time on the road and know how important it is to have the right gear.

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.

The Best Travel Backpacks

Best Overall: Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack ($170)

Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Backpack

This pack will change the way you travel. It’s sleek, durable, and able to fit an incredible amount of stuff in a small space. The zippered mesh pockets keep clothes organized. And the compression straps maximize what you can pack.

The ultratough polyester and nylon construction can take a beating without any signs of wear. And we appreciate that the externally accessed, padded laptop sleeve makes pulling out your electronics at security checkpoints a breeze. There’s also a small outer compartment to keep essentials at hand.

You can completely tuck away the backpack straps and carry the pack like a briefcase, or wear it comfortably as a backpack. We’ve stuffed this pack to the gills countless times and have never had a problem with the zippers. Light rain showers or spills roll right off the TPU-coated exterior, but for legit rainstorms, just pull out the included rain cover.

The Allpa also comes in a 35L, 42L, 50L, and 70L capacities. As our editor noted in the 42L review, “Building on its fun and functional ethos, Cotopaxi beefs up its best-selling product. The Allpa Travel Pack earns big points for clever design, clean aesthetic, and a surprising number of handy — and hidden — features.”

Yes, the Cotopaxi Allpa packs are an investment, but anyone who travels regularly will find it a worthy one. These powerhouse packs are sturdy, versatile, and built to last.

See the Cotopaxi Allpa 28L Travel Pack

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L
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Best Budget Backpack: Dakine Campus 33L Backpack ($36 on Sale)

Dakine Campus 33L Backpack

Even at the regular price of $65, this pack is a great deal. And considering you can grab one on sale for $36, it’s a must-have.

It has everything you need to keep your travels organized, without getting too big or complicated. It has a padded laptop sleeve, a fleece-lined top pocket to keep your sunglasses safe, and an organizer pocket perfect for pens, a phone, and easy-access essentials. We love pockets, and this backpack has plenty.

And if that weren’t enough, it also has an insulated cooler pocket to keep your snacks fresh on the go, plus double side pockets keep drinks handy. We found the straps comfortable during long travel days. Be sure to use the sternum strap when carrying a heavy load for the best fit.

If you’re looking for a sub-$100 backpack (under $40 during the sale!) that does it all, then the Dakine Campus Backpack is for you. It comes in a variety of colors and is also available in a 25L capacity.

See the Dakine Campus 33L Backpack

Best Roller Bag Compatibility: Deuter AViANT Carry On 36L — Men’s & Women’s ($160)

Deuter AViANT Carry On Backpack

This bag is built for frequent flyers. Part backpack, part briefcase, it manages to do it all remarkably well. One of the standout features is the “trolley tunnel,” which allows the pack to slide onto your rolling suitcase. Pair this with a sleek roller (like the Spectra 2.0) and you’ll look like a pro gliding effortlessly through the busy terminal.

You can carry the AViANT on your back or stash the straps and carry with side briefcase handles. The full-length zipper makes packing easy, as you can open it completely. The padded laptop case keeps your electronics safe and opens quickly so you can breeze through security. There are even extra pockets to keep your documents, pens, and other small essentials at hand.

We’ve overstuffed this bag on multiday coast-to-coast trips and never had a problem with the zipper snagging. This durable chameleon of a pack is a must-have for anyone who regularly spends time at the airport.

Best Duffel Backpack: Osprey TrailKit Duffel 40L ($90 on Sale)

Osprey TrailKit Duffel Backpack
This one rides the line perfectly between duffel and backpack. It offers a bit more room than a regular backpack but is still small enough to wear comfortably and carry on board. We’ve taken it around the globe for the past 2 years, and it still looks good as new.

The best part is the organization. The main pocket is weather-resistant and lockable. And the zippered side pockets keep smaller gear easily accessible. One tester has used this as her main family carry-on backpack for numerous overseas trips, her one and only bag during a 3-week trip to Europe, and even a daily gym bag while at home.

If you’re looking for do-all carry-all, this is the bag for you. And for a limited time you can score it for 25 percent off.

See the Osprey TrailKit Duffel

Climbing Adventure Pack: Mammut Seon Transporter 26L ($180)

Mammut Seon Transporter Backpack
For all the hardworking, die-hard climbers out there, this pack is for you. With room for rock gear and work gear, this is the perfect workhorse to carry all of your essentials.

It’s the first backpack we’ve seen that has two separate labeled compartments. One is labeled “Work” and holds a laptop, charging devices, a notepad, and other electronics. The other is labeled “Climb” and easily holds your harness, climbing shoes, chalk bag, and climbing clothes. It’s the dream carry-on luggage for anyone planning an epic rock-filled vacation.

And if you don’t happen to be a climber, don’t sweat it — the Seon Transporter also works great for organizing clothes. Or use it hiking, exploring, biking around town, and working.

We packed it up for the weekend and were able to fit a pair of running shoes, clothes for 3 days, and a laptop. Whether traveling for the ultimate work/climb adventure, hitting up the climbing gym after work, or simply keeping the essentials organized, this pack is a winner.

See the Mammut Seon Transporter

Best of the Rest

Patagonia Black Hole 32L: $149

Patagonia Black Hole 32L Backpack
This backpack is a rugged classic. The 300-denier ripstop nylon outer has TPU laminate for extra durability. Add in the DWR coating, and your gear is sure to stay safe and dry. We’ve long been a fan of the entire Black Hole line, and that’s doubly true now that it’s made from recycled materials.

The side mesh pockets are great for water bottles. And the back laptop sleeve is TSA-approved because you can open it flat. The organizational pockets inside and on top fit all of your little essentials, making them easy to find. The signature Black Hole gear loops are also great for tying on extra gear or wet clothes that need drying.

We’ve been using a Black Hole backpack for years now, and it still doesn’t show any signs of wear or tear.

See the Black Hole Backpack

Patagonia Black Hole
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Osprey Packs Nebula Daypack: $120

Osprey Nebula Backpack
When it comes to backpacks, Osprey has put in the time — and it shows. The Nebula feels like it’s all the brand’s most popular packs morphed into one. Most of all, we love how it seamlessly goes from city streets to trails.

This backpack can do it all, whether you’re hauling your laptop and books around town; water, food, and layers on an easy hike; or have all of the above and then some for a weekend away.

The internal storage pockets are great for organizing all of your things for easy access. And while it’s a top-loading backpack, the main pocket opens up wide enough so you won’t have to unload everything to get to the one thing you want at the bottom. The sternum strap and hip belt are comfortable, especially when carrying a heavy load.

See the Nebula 34L Backpack

Cotopaxi Ostra 30L: $100

Cotopaxi Ostra Backpack

This top-loading backpack is great for a weekend in the city, the mountains, or both. The Ostra has enough capacity for those packing light, organization, and durability to do it all. The zippered clamshell-style top opens wide, which makes packing and unpacking a cinch. Plus, it has a padded laptop sleeve with zippered back panel access.

Choose this pack if your travel plans involve hiking, exploring, and getting off the beaten path. It’s durable enough to stand up to the adventure and big enough to carry all your must-have gear. The mesh back aids airflow and keeps you cool even when hoofing it uphill.

Plus, you can feel good knowing 1 percent of your purchase is going to the Cotopaxi Foundation as it fights poverty in the poorest regions of the world.

See the Cotopaxi Ostra

Solo NewYork Parker Tote Backpack: $70

Solo NY Parker Tote

Like to travel light? Check out the Parker if you’re looking for a backpack that can double as a tote, purse, or laptop bag. While this one is on the smaller side for backpacks, it has been one tester’s favorite pack. It works as a carry-on luggage for work trips, a backpack when commuting around town, and an everyday purse.

From carrying a few days’ worth of produce home from the farmers market to keeping a laptop and other work essentials safe, this pack has been a favorite since we got it a few months ago. The simple one-pocket design with internal organization pockets make it easy to load and unload without too much searching. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, and that’s precisely why we like it.

See the Parker Tote Backpack

How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack


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 as 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. I 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 duffle 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 28L to 36L range is ideal for comfort and packability.

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 seems better, there is a threshold where having too many simply becomes more places to misplace things. Instead, we recommend packs with 3-6 pockets.

The Cotopaxi Allpa has an ingenious inner organization system 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.


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 Black Hole pack is made with a 300-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.

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