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If you thought backpacks belong in the classroom, or the ‘90s, our handpicked list of the best backpacks for travel will prove you wrong.
Gone are the days when a backpack was only meant for carrying your stuff. Today’s designs are stylish, practical, and smarter than ever, with features that cater to every lifestyle and activity you can think of.
There are ultra-durable adventure packs constructed for rugged outdoor use, models geared specifically toward hiking or biking, innovative rucksacks for photographers, and even hip designer pieces that will transform you into a style icon. And, by the way, if you’re looking for the best carry-on backpacks to take on the plane with you, we’ve got that, too.
Below, we’ve ranked the best backpacks for travel within each category. They protect your travel essentials, abound in cool, unique features, and are designed to fit everything, from laptops and camera gear to your frisky little dog. Please note that these are not hands-on product reviews, but thoughtful recommendations based on hours of research, opinions from fellow travelers, and personal preferences. Design, as always, was an important ranking factor for us, but we took into consideration a lot of aspects, including sturdiness, versatility, and performance.
Whether you are a digital nomad, a world wanderer with a passion for the outdoors, or a style-savvy urban explorer, these travel backpacks will enhance your next adventure in more ways than one.
Here’s a quick overview of the best backpacks for travel in 2020:
There’s a reason the NOMATIC Travel Pack became the most funded travel bag in Kickstarter history. Designed for 3-day trips, this baby is sturdy, handsome, and exceptionally well organized, with pockets and compartments for virtually anything. It also expands from 20L to 30L to suit any travel plan, and comes packed with cool, thoughtful features such as the magnetic water bottle holders or the innovative strap system, which allows you to convert it into a briefcase.
The combination of style, quality, and functionality makes this product the best overall travel backpack. Oh, and it also comes with a lifetime warranty!
Best Commuter Backpack: Troubadour Explorer Apex Backpack
From British bag manufacturer Troubadour, the Explorer Apex Backpack impresses with its technical construction and stylish, minimalist aesthetics.
Wrapped in lightweight waterproof fabric and complete with padded shoulder straps, this professionally looking rucksack was designed for seamless transitions from work to the mountain top and then back for drinks with friends in the city. Versatile and contemporary, it sports a spacious inner compartment perfect for a change of clothes, as well as a padded section for a 16-inch laptop and pockets for all your organizational needs.
Best Expandable Backpack: Medium Expandable Knack Pack
With a neat, ergonomic design and tons of smart features, it’s hard to find a better expandable backpack for trips both short and long than this versatile piece of luggage from Knack.
Thanks to its intelligent design with a secret packing compartment, the Medium Expandable Knack Pack is able to almost double its capacity (17L to 31L) and go from day pack to full-size travel bag in no time. Convenient organizational features like a padded, side laptop sleeve, an easy-access front triangle pocket, and dedicated compartments for gadgets, water, sunglasses, and so on keep all contents in place, while the stain-resistant, antimicrobial fabric lining provides long-lasting freshness.
Constructed with ultra-durable, water-resistant, and good-looking materials, this backpack is as suitable for daily commuting as it is for weekend adventures.
Best Cycling Backpack: Especial Medio Cycling
Ride like a pro with the Especial Medio Cycling Laptop Backpack from Timbuck2! Designed specifically for bicyclists, this expandable pack keeps contents cozy and dry in the rain thanks to its durable Cordura nylon fabric and waterproof inner lining.
The tapered top shape enhances over-the-shoulder visibility, and standout features like a back bender flexible cooling panel, reflective paneling, and plush foam straps with hydration and headphone routing make your biking experience safer and more comfortable. No doubt, one of the best cycling backpacks money can buy!
Best Carry-On Backpack: Setout Backpack
Good looks, perfect size, and a series of thoughtful details place Tortuga’s latest travel backpack among the best carry-on luggage out there.
The Setout is a maximum-sized carry-on backpack with tons of internal space, but when it comes to packing and organization, it behaves like a suitcase. Unlike traditional rucksacks, it opens from the side, like a book, and boasts designated spaces for your laptop and other road essentials.
The design is simple and understated, which means you’ll probably want to take it on all your adventures, not just that backpacking trip to Europe.
Best Backpack for Digital Nomads: Lifepack
Stay organized and productive on the go with Lifepack, the world’s first travel backpack with an integrated lock and solar-powered USB bank.
Conceived with mobile workers in mind, this neat, weather-resistant bag acts as a mobile office, complete with a solar-powered USB charger, Bluetooth speakers, a microphone for conference calls, and a drop-resistant laptop pocket. It also has an ingenious layout with a “workzone” and a “lifezone”, so you can keep your work items and personal belongings separated, and comes with anti-theft features like secret pockets and an integrated/retractable cable lock.
Best Backpack for Outdoor Adventure: Rover Pack
Handmade in Colorado using nearly indestructible 1000d Cordura fabric, the Rover Pack is built to withstand whatever you throw at it. It has a cool old-school look and a lightweight design, and stores your essentials securely with a spacious main compartment with inner laptop sleeve and two handy external pockets for quick access to must-haves.
Whether your adventure takes you across snow-capped mountains or to the coffee shop around the corner, this brightly colored Topo Designs backpack is a companion you can rely on.
Best EDC Backpack: Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack
Not only is this product weatherproof and comfortable to wear, but its aesthetic versatility is hard to match. It also scores high on organization, with a series of endlessly configurable FlexFold dividers designed to keep contents well-ordered inside. Even better, this updated version comes with even more (and larger) pockets than its predecessor, plus improved zippers and shoulder straps, as well as a brand new 100% recycled outer fabric.
Add expandable external pockets, an adjustable 15” laptop sleeve, and a choice of carrying methods, and you’ve just found the best backpack for everyday use. I’ve been using this for quite a while now and am constantly finding more reasons to love it!
Best Minimalist Backpack: Bellroy Slim Backpack – Google Edition
If there’s one brand that understands the meaning of functional simplicity, it’s Bellroy.
Wrapped in a lightweight water-resistant woven fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, and adorned with classy leather details, their Slim Backpack – Google Edition is the very definition of flawless minimalism. It features a water-resistant fold-over closure with magnetic strap, a padded internal pocket designed for Pixelbook (or any 13” laptop for that matter), and its choice of pockets provide efficient organization for daily necessities like charger, cables, and pen while roaming around the city.
The clean, stylish look and convenient 16-liter capacity make this stunner a perfect choice for hip creatives and urban adventurers.
Best Designed Backpack: Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus
Featuring a stylish, minimal design, a quick-access 15” laptop compartment, and comfortable straps, Bellroy’s Transit Backpack Plus is everything you want and nothing you don’t.
Crafted in a combination of recycled water-resistant fabric and environmentally sustainable leather, this contemporary backpack is as beautiful as it is sturdy and practical. Pockets for sunglasses, documents, and everything in between make it easy to stay organized on the go, and its padded shoulder straps, hideaway waist belt, and breathable, contoured back panel ensure wear comfort.
Equipped with internal compression straps, the pack has enough room for a long weekend away while meeting carry-on size restrictions.
Best Laptop Backpack for Travel: Timbuk2 Authority
There are plenty of ways to carry your laptop nowadays, but if sturdiness, practicality, and organization are high on your list of priorities, the Authority is hard to beat.
This premium laptop backpack from Timbuk2 boasts a rear-access padded laptop sleeve, plus tons of other internal/external pockets for keeping things orderly on the go. There’s even a side pocket for your water bottle, as well as an organizer panel for neatly storing work supplies or other daily essentials.
The adjustable compression straps are a nice touch, and so is the ventilated back panel or the reflective zipper pools & tape.
The Authority Laptop Backpack is conveniently lightweight and comes in a range of pleasing, subdued grays, which makes it an excellent choice for both the office as well as for day-to-day use.
Best Anti-Theft Backpack: Bobby Urban Anti-Theft Backpack
Hidden RFID-protected zippers, cut-proof outer fabric, and a steel enforced combination lock for the main compartment make XD Design’s Bobby Urban the safest anti-theft backpack on the market. Not only that, but the bag is also water-repellent, looks good, and holds a decent amount of stuff, including a laptop up to 15,6″ and a tablet up to 12,9″. It even comes with a detachable elastic net for your sports equipment.
If you’re looking for an anti-theft backpack that’s cool, lightweight, and comfortable – all without making a hole in your pocket, this is it!
Best Tactical Backpack: GORUCK GR2
Highly efficient, surprisingly good looking, and engineered to endure the harshest environments, the GORUCK GR2 takes you from city streets to warzones with ease.
Made from Special Forces-grade material, this badass tactical backpack is nearly indestructible without compromising the appearance. With 3 large compartments and 8 pockets, it packs everything you need into a carry-on size piece that will fit under your seat, which makes it great for extended travel. In fact, if you’ve ever dreamed to explore the world with one bag, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one for the job.
As you would have thought, GR2 is jam-packed with features (think silent zipper pools, Molle attachments, rainproof outer material, and extra padded straps), but the highlight is by far the bombproof laptop compartment – something you won’t find in any other backpack out there, tactical or not.
Best Travel Backpack for Women: Horizn Studios Gion Backpack Size S
Clean Scandinavian design and smart functionality combine to create the ultimate everyday backpack for women – the Gion, a lightweight, minimalist wonder inspired by Kyoto’s geisha district from smart travel brand Horizn Studios.
In line with the company’s well-designed products, this super chic rucksack made from waterproof, vegan-tech materials (tarpaulin) in contemporary mint is proof that less is more. In addition to its sleek appearance, it comes with thoughtful protective compartments for storing your valuables and tech devices, including a designated 13-inch laptop sleeve and a hidden back pocket.
Add breathable padding on the back and shoulder straps, along with a nylon strap that conveniently slips on your luggage handle, and you’ll want to carry the Gion Backpack with you everywhere.
Best Travel Backpack for Men: Qwstion Backpack Brown Leather Canvas
What makes a great backpack for men? Well, for us it’s all about the right balance between quality, design, and sustainability. And this trendy Swiss travel piece delivers just that.
Qwstion’s Brown Leather Canvas Backpack is both practical and sophisticated, with its water-resistant cotton canvas exterior, stylish vegetable tanned leather details, and convenient front pocket for easy access to on-the-go items. Inside, there’s a simple, albeit slightly flexible, main compartment for gear and wears, along with padded sleeves for your 15” laptop, iPad, and documents.
Whether you are a light-packing weekend adventurer, a freelancer hopping from co-working space to coffee shop, or just a die-hard urban rambler, this modernist travel pack has your back, as it works really well for a variety of styles and occasions.
Best Gym Backpack: Locker Pack LUX 24L
Thanks to its innovative construction and minimal urban aesthetics, the RYU Locker Pack LUX is equally at home at the gym, in the office, or out and about.
Constructed from durable, DWR treated workwear loomed canvas with tasteful leather trim, the backpack is water-repellent and comfortably fits a 15’’ MacBook Pro in addition to water bottles, wraps, tape, and even a change of clothes.
As well as allowing you to access the interior pockets from the outside, its unique design is complemented by a top locker loop, which makes it easy to hang the bag anywhere. Also, the drop-front opening enables easy packing/unpacking and gives you full access to all of your items inside.
Best Rolling Backpack: Samsonite Encompass Convertible Wheeled Backpack
Zip-away backpack straps, retractable handles, and adjustable suspension allow this Samsonite luggage piece to transition from a wheeled carry-on to a backpack in no time.
But the Encompass Convertible Wheeled Backpack excels in more than just versatility. Made of water-resistant materials, it keeps your belongings safe in a downpour without sacrificing aesthetics. Another strong point is the intuitive business organization, with a padded laptop compartment, tablet sleeve, Key FOB, and interior pockets aplenty. Last, but not least, the padded shoulder straps are ergonomically designed, and RFID Data Vault protects your passport & debit cards against electronic pickpockets.
The perfect fusion of style and functionality means this rolling backpack is a truly reliable travel partner, whether you’re going to the meeting room or the airport.
Best Stylish Travel Backpack: Bagllet Handmade Leather Backpack
Forget sacrificing style for utility! Handmade in Kiev using genuine leather in a gorgeous sandy beige hue, this Bagllet backpack is the epitome of urban cool, inviting exploration of the world’s grand boulevards, its narrow cobblestone alleyways, and storied backstreets.
Enriched with roomy zipped pockets and adjustable straps, this bag is just as useful to stylish jetsetters on a weekend break as it is to preppy professionals toting their laptops to work. And the best part, it can be customized as you wish. Need a pocket for the size of your laptop? No problem!
Best Hiking Backpack: Osprey Talon 22
Osprey is known for making some of the best backpacks for travel out there, and the Talon 22 is no exception.
Lightweight, durable, and loaded with functionality, this is the most versatile pack for casual hikes. There are pockets and storage compartments for all your needs, as well as an updated AirScape back panel for added breathability and carrying comfort. Plus, outdoor enthusiasts will love the plethora of practical hiking features, including hydration sleeve, trekking poles attachment, and compression straps.
At 22 liters, this hiking backpack is the perfect companion for a full day out, whether that means climbing a mountain, cycling through the countryside, or trekking in the woods. It also sports a stylish, snug design, which makes it a pleasure to carry around.
Best Pet Carrier Backpack: TOPSOSO Deluxe
Like to take your furry friend with you wherever you go? Here’s a great item to add to your pet travel accessory arsenal!
Fashionable, ingenious, and easy to carry around, the TOPSOSO Deluxe Pet Carrier keeps your hands free and your companion happy while hiking, biking, or walking around town. Combining high-quality PVC with waterproof mesh fabric, it sports a large transparent front window with multiple air vents, allowing your cat or puppy to breathe fresh air while enjoying the scenery.
Tough conveniently lightweight, this pet backpack is roomy enough to accommodate small dogs, puppies, and most cat breeds in maximum comfort.
Best Backpack for Short Trips: Allpa Travel Pack
The mix of TPU-coated 1000D polyester and durable 1680D ballistic nylon paneling gives the Allpa Travel Pack a sturdiness that’s hard to match.
Designed by Salt Lake City-based outdoor gear brand Cotopaxi, this suitcase-backpack hybrid is theft-proof, waterproof, and carry-on compatible, holding up to 35 liters’ worth of stuff. Its clamshell opening makes it easy to pack and unpack, while the adaptable strap design lets you wear it your way, depending on the occasion. The bag’s organizational capabilities are equally welcome, with two zippered mesh compartments, sleeves for your laptop and tablet, as well as a couple of smaller pockets for easy, accessible storage.
Whether you’re heading on a short trip or the adventure of your life, the Allpa is one brilliant, multi-purpose travel backpack ready for the road.
Best Camera Backpack for Outdoor Photography: Explore 60
Detached internal units for camera organization, multiple access points to your gear, and ground-breaking features that minimize physical fatigue ensure you won’t find a better camera backpack for outdoor photography than the Shimoda Explore 60.
This camera carry pack is chock-full of innovative features designed to meet the needs of today’s adventure photographers, including a floating lid, 15 liters of adjustable volume, and ergonomically designed shoulder straps that help balance the weight comfortably across your chest. Needless to say, its lightweight nylon resin shell is built to withstand the most extreme outdoor environments.
Best Camera Backpack for Urban Photography: NOMATIC Camera Pack
Urban photographers looking for a sleek, wildly functional camera carry solution should definitely check out The Camera Pack from NOMATIC. Designed in collaboration with celebrity photographer & filmmaker Peter McKinnon, this unique piece stands out from the crowd with its expandable design (35 L to 42 L) and customizable storage options.
Made of durable, water-resistant materials, the bag has dedicated clothing and camera gear compartments and comes with thick shoulder pads, aluminum stays, and adjustable tension straps for comfortable carry. The inside is gloriously versatile with customizable dividers, compression strap, as well as various pockets for gear and small items. Equally well-designed, the pack’s external features include a 15” laptop sleeve, a roomy easy-access pocket, tripod storage, and a magnetic water bottle pocket.
Best Fishing Backpack: Tackle Tek Nomad
With an integrated LED light system, a front pouch that converts into a work surface, and ample storage space with plenty of compartments, the Tackle Tek Nomad sets a new standard for fishing backpacks.
This soft tackle bag by Wild River is big, durable, and extremely versatile, with unrivaled organizational capabilities. Aside from the main compartment, it features four side pockets, sunglass holder, and tray storage. Added bonuses include a protective rain cover, wide padded shoulder straps, a removable pile holder, and web loops for securing smaller tools.
Best Picnic Backpack: VonShef 4 Person Picnic Backpack with Blanket
Equipped with a dining set for four and an extra-large, hardwearing blanket, this picnic backpack from VonShef has everything you need for a memorable alfresco meal with friends and family. The best part, however, is its insulated aluminum foil-lined compartment, which keeps food chilled for longer.
Made from 600d polyester, with a waterproof outer layer and elegant tan leather detailing, the pack is both durable and good looking. It also features an integrated water bottle holder, sturdy straps & carrying handle, as well as handy picnic accessories like salt and pepper shakers, bottle opener, and a chopping board.
Best Backpack for Urban Exploration: Sandqvist Harald Backpack
Part of Sandqvist’s Urban Outdoor series, Harald is a handsome, practical backpack with a sporty vibe.
Finished in water-resistant Cordura EcoMade polyester, it features an attractive, contemporary design, with adjustable shoulder straps and two outer slip pockets on each side of the bag. An additional laptop slip compartment on the back of the backpack fits most 13″ portable computers and several zipper pockets keep small items secure inside.
Although perfectly suited for urban walkabouts, this long-lasting Swedish piece of gear can also serve as a second bag on longer trips, or a daypack for recreational endeavors.
Best Waterproof Backpack: Freerain24 2.0
Any high-quality, water-resistant backpack will do a decent job in keeping your belongings safe and dry through rain or snow. Matador’s Freerain24 2.0, however, does this and more. At only 6 ounces, it is the most packable waterproof backpack on the market, folding down from a 24-liter daypack to a ridiculously small package that fits in the palm of your hand.
The ultra-light design, along with its weight-distributing shoulder straps, detachable storage bag, and completely waterproof rolltop main compartment, makes it an excellent companion for most travelers, from city sightseers to festival-goers to outdoor enthusiasts.