Skip to Content

Subscribe & get your free guide to going abroad!!

    59+ Best Carry on Backpacks for Travel in 2024: An Expert Guide to the Best Bags Ever for Any Traveler, Any Trip

    The luggage you carry when traveling can either go pleasantly unnoticed or create all sorts of unnecessary headaches.  For this reason, on your adventures around the world, taking a carry on backpack for travel, as your only bag, is one of the best ways to improve the quality of your adventure. By traveling the world with only what fits overhead in your international flight saves time, money, and stress, leaving energy for the more enjoyable experiences to come.

    59+ Best Carry On Backpacks for Travel

    In this list of the best carry on backpacks for travel, I’ll share my favorite carry on sized backpacks for weekend trips and years around the world, tech heavy travels, and outdoor adventures, with the perfect carry on sized backpack for every type of traveler.

    For over three years I’ve wandered the worlds searching for adventure, exploring urban paradises, and aiming to experience everything in between. Throughout that journey I’ve learned that the baggage you take can enhance your travels or weigh you down, heavily depending on what you aim to find during your travels, where you go, and what you’ll carry. But, no matter how you travel…lighter is better, and “carry on only” travel or “onebag travel” makes for lighter minds and freer adventures.

    Read on to discover the best carry on backpacks for travel trekking & trail, urban adventures, women, durability, and weekend travel in this list of the best travel packs for onebag and carry on travel.

    (This article contains affiliate links )

    Contents of this Ultimate Carry on Backpacks List

    59+ Best Carry On Backpacks for Travel

    Quick List of the Best Carryon Backpacks

    Best 45L Carry On Backpack (Big Enough for World Travel)

    Best 40L Carry On Backpack (Big Enough for World Travel)

    Best 35L Carry On Backpacks

    Best 30L and Smaller Carry On Backpacks: Small Travel Backpacks Big Enough for Weekend Trips

    Best Carry On Travel Backpack for Women

    Most Durable Carry on Backpack for Travel

    Best Weatherproof Carry on Backpacks

    Best Minimalist Carry On Backpacks

    Best Anti-theft Backpacks

    Best Outdoor and Adventure Carry On Backpacks

    Best Cheap and Starter Carry On Backpacks (Under $150)

    Best Duffelbags that Double As Carry On Backpacks

    Best Carry On Backpacks on Wheels

    Extra Space Options

    Best Compressible Duffles and Hand Carry Luggage

    Other Well Reviewed Backpacks and Brands

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)


    Click here to jump to our Full List of the Best Carry On Backpacks

    Characteristics of the Best Carry on Backpacks for Travel

    Meets carryon restrictions for most airlines and can be compressed slightly to meet the rest

    Most airlines limit carry on sizes to 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 centimeters x 35 centimeters x 56 centimeters) and 40lbs, however the carry on limitations tend to vary by continent and airline with budget airlines in Europe and Southeast Asia having more strict limits. (Click here to see carry on limits by country)

    Front-loading or clamshell Design: allows easily accessing anywhere in the bag easily, without unpacking much
    Lightweight via simple design, innovative materials, and efficient construction saving more weight and space for packing

    Comfortable shoulder straps that stabilize the load letting you use it on any terrain

    Comfortable yet functional hip belt so they can be used for long walks on any terrain

    Durable enough to survive at least 2-3 years of constant travel and hard abuse (budget bags) and the rest should last for life

    Fit: The bags shoulder straps, height, width, and waist belt fit your body

    Size: The bag’s capacity fits your packing needs, with room for everything you need to travel comfortably, and the dimensions fit the maximum size for your preferred mode of travel – airplane carry on, train, bus, et.c

    Sufficient Pockets and Organization: The bag has room and logically placed pockets for everything you’ll carry and in a thoughtful way. Small, zippered and secure pockets for passports, cell phones, credit cards etc., space for shoes (if you prefer), laptop storage, etc.

    Designed functionally for your travel plans: Trekking through Patagonia, backpacking Europe, weekend trips, etc.

    Other Details to Consider

    • Shoulder Strap padding thickness, softness, and construction
    • Hip Belt Construction: Padded? Integrated Pockets? Detachable and stowable?
    • Sternum Strap: Included?
    • Back Panel: Padded and breathable?
    • External Pockets and Organization: Water bottle pocket, quick access pockets for valuables (phone, passport, cash)
    • Internal Pockets and Organization: Sufficient for your needs?
    • Dedicated Laptop Compartment or Laptop Protectioion Sleeve

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)


    Click here to jump to our Full List of the Best Carry On Backpacks

    A Guide to choosing the best carry on backpack for you

    No single carry on backpack will be perfect for every occasion, but the best carry on backpacks for travel will be perfect for their intended uses and type of travel – urban adventures, trekking, nomading, etc.. The best approach to picking the right carry on backpack for you is to understand what you will use a backpack for and you can pick the right bag accordingly. From there, look at each backpack option feature by feature and category by category based on the essential criteria you should consider for your backpack

    Size and Capacity

    Less than 45 liter capacity and airline maximum dimensions (generally 22″ x 14″ x 9″ ) but sufficient to pack clothing and goods for your entire trip if the bag is your only bag.

    For world travel and a single bag, 45 liters is sufficient if you are a minimalist packer.

    For one week to month of travel, 35L to 45L is sufficient.

    For a weekend trip, 25 liters to 35 liters of space is sufficient for most people.

    Design: Open Flat Design, Either Clamshell Opening, Top Loading, or Back Loading

    Picking a backpack that opens flat instead of a toploading backpack, common in school bags and back country/hiking backpacks, makes it easy to access anything anywhere in your backpack very easily.

    Paired with packing cubes an open flat design in a backpack makes packing and unpacking insanely easy

    Organization, Pockets, and Features

    The possible features on good, well designed carry on backpacks, like the ones on this list, is nearly limitless. As such, not all features are suited to all travelers or travel, and including them all would actually make a bad backpack – heavy, with wasted space.

    Instead, aim for a backpack with the organization, pockets, and features that fit your style of travel and you as a traveler. Whether you’re a tech-heavy digital nomad, a 20 something-year-old backpacking through Europe, or a minimalist slow traveler, aim for features that are useful, and ideally essential, to you.

    Popular features on carry on backpacks to consider:

    • Quick access pockets outside for passports, phones and cash
    • Water bottle holder
    • Padded waist belt with pockets
    • Tech Pockets and Organization inside and outside
    • Heavily padded shoulder pads

    Comfort (Shoulders and Back)

    The main reason for using a backpack for travel is the convenience of wearing it, instead of dragging it behind you on cobblestone roads, or over the shoulder like a duffle bag. For this plan, of ease and more comfort, to work out well the bag needs to be comfortable.

    No matter what bag you choose initially, test it out under light conditions with 25 to 40 lbs of weight, at home aiming to keep it clean so you can return it if need be.

    Comfortable shoulder straps are the most important point of the bag. Wide, thickly padded shoulder straps will make a lot of difference when walking several blocks through the city to get from your accommodation to your bus stop or train, or even taking your bag around the city.

    A breathable, supportive, and ideally contoured back panel is the second most important aspect for a comfortable backpack.

    Individual preference for fit and feel comes last, but is very important. Feel how the bag’s shoulder straps, hip belt, and back panel contour to your body, as well as where the weight sits, and judge accordingly.


    Examine the bag fabric, stitching, buckles, webbing, zipper quality, durability, and construction based on what you’ll need for your travels and adventures.

    The primary cloth used in a backpack is one of the most important aspects of its construction for durability, as it’s abrasion resistance, tear resistance, and strength dictate how long it will last. For instance, 1000 denier Cordura nylon, used as the external cloth on many tactical backpacks, offers some of the highest abrasion and tear resistance, while sail cloth offers great waterproofing.

    Polyester cloths on the other hand are very prone to quick wear and damage.

    For the highest durability aim for packs with high denier nylon, sailcloth, or a proven experimental fabric used from another industry

    Weather Resistance

    If you plan to travel through potentially rainy places, especially if you’ll be backpacking around the world, if you have electronics (such as a laptop) it is worth looking at backpacks with weather resistance. Though none of the best travel-sized carry-on backpacks are 100% waterproof, many, such as the Tortuga Outbreaker are constructed with waterproof fabrics and shielded zippers lending protection from the rain.

    If you need truly waterproof, simply place a large trash bag inside your backpack and place your belongings inside the trash bag.

    Price & Value

    For the price, are you getting the function you need? Will the bag last long enough for you and how do you intend to use the bag to justify the price? If your budget is on the light side, be honest. Go for a budget/value pack now and a pricier, “buy it for life” pack later.

    Size, Dimensions and Suitability for Carry On Airline Travel

    Does it meet airline carry on size and weight restrictions for the airlines you plan to travel on? Will it be easy to access things in the bag while in an airport or hotel lounge without creating a yard sale?


    When examining a backpack’s design ask questions that will help you determine if the features designed into the bag deliver what you need to make travel and daily life easier by storing everything safely and in an organized way and while also making everything accessible.

    Does the backpack have the pockets, material, and organization that make your life easier?

    Laptop compartment or included padded laptop sleeve?

    Quick access cell phone and passport compartment?

    Clamshell or alternative style opening that makes full access quick and easy?

    Function and Purpose

    Whether you’re a hiker, minimalist, digital nomad, business traveler, or other, will the design of the bag, how its carried, and how it stores items make your life easier and less stressful?

    Is the bag designed for trail performance: in terms of shoulder straps, weight, durability, and storage?How comfortable will the bag be while hiking for one day? For multiple days?

    Is the bag designed for City & Urban Travel in terms of streamlined design, security, and maximization of space use? Will the bag be easy to carry on subways and buses, walking through aisle ways? Is the bag design vulnerable to pickpocketers or slashing?


    Does the backpack have the comfort elements you need? Such as padded Shoulder Straps, Padded Hip Belt, suitable Back Panel (softness, breathability)

    Fit & comfortable feel specifically for you

    Regardless of the reviews, the ultimate deciding factor should be comfort and how the pack fits you. Are the shoulder straps comfortable? Does the hip belt stay comfortable when weighted? Does the back panel feel comfortable on your back and breathe? Fit and comfort are the main reasons for different pack designs for men and women, so make sure you don’t sell yourself short by getting the pack perfect for everyone else and horrible for you.

    Quality and Company Reputation

    Does the manufacturer provide good customer service support and warranty support after the sale based on customer reviews? Is production quality consistent?

    As you discover the common features available in good travel backpacks, note the function you do and don’t need, and select accordingly.

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)


    Click here to jump to our Full List of the Best Carry On Backpacks

    Carry On Backpack Size Guidelines and Recommendations

    When it comes to travel backpack carry on options, 35 Liters (35L)  to 45 Liters (45L) is the best bag size for most adventures – big enough to carry everything for trips longer than 1 week, small enough to satisfy the airlines.  FYI, the “L” after the size numbers indicates the liters of capacity  in the backpack

    Here are some general guidelines for other backpack sizes:

    <30L: Best for daypacks or ultralight travel

    30L -> 39L: Weekender or 1-week travel bags (1 month+ for minimalist travel pros)
    35L -> ~50L: 1 Week or longer of carry on only travel (perfect for “RTW Travel”)
    50L<: “Summit bags”, multi-climate travel, bringing your own camping gear, and completely moving your life

    If you’re traveling through several different climates and carrying your own gear you may need an expandable storage option, to use at times and pack flat during airline travel, to avoid taking a 50L. Keep in mind that for most regions of the world, hiking and camping gear can be rented cheaply and easily for the duration of your trip. Consider the expandable storage options (below) for temporary extra storage.

    Major Airline Carry On Regulations

    • (North America) Spirit Airlines Carryon Guidelines: 22 x 18 x 10 inches (56 x 46 x 25 centimeters)
    • (Asia) Air Asia Carryon Guidelines: 22 x 14 x 9 inches (56 x 36 x 23 centimeters)
    • (Europe) Ryan Air Carryon Guidelines: 21.5 x 16 x 8 inches (55 x 40 x 20 centimeters)
    • (South America) Avianca Carryon Guidelines: Can’t exceed 45 inches (115 centimeters) or 22lbs (10 kgs)

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    How We Picked and Tested These Backpacks

    Purchased, used, and tested plenty of bags only recommending the best.

    Asking travelers over the past 5 years, in airports, train stations, and coffee shops, what the liked and disliked about the bags they’re wearing.

    Analyzed the materials, construction, and technical details of each backpack – dimensions, capacity, pocket placement, materials (Cordura nylon vs. ripstop nylon vs. polyester vs. sailcloth), individual components (zippers, strap padding), features (memory foam, padded waistbelts) and more.

    At the start of the 2nd year of my round the world travels with my GORUCK GR3 in Skopje , macedonia

    Finally, we used a decade of experience traveling the world, backpacking Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, North America, and the Middle East, trekking Patagonia and the Himalayas, and generally existing as a digital nomad to assess which backpacks would make life easier and more enjoyable – and dismiss the backpacks that “needed work.”

    Because each traveler, and their respective travels are different, we narrowed the list to 45+ backpacks total with the 3 to 5 best backpacks for every traveler and respective traveler need.

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Full List of the Best Carry On Backpacks – by Category

    Best 45L Carry On Backpacks

    Big Enough for World Travel and Backpacking Around the World

    For the past 5 years of traveling the world, I have only traveled with a single, carry-on sized backpack – to lower my cost of travel (avoiding baggage fees) avoid the hassle (no checked bags) for security (keeping my bag close on long bus rides). Having an airplane carry-on-sized backpack allows these benefits, however, the fit can be tight.

    A 45L bag (referring to 45 liters of capacity by volume) is the perfect bag for world travel because it is the maximum allowable size giving you every square inch possible to pack, while eliminating the issues of large checked baggage.

    This section lists the best 45L carry-on backpacks on the market today.

    The Tortuga Outbreaker (45L) 

    Best Carry On Backpack for International Travel and Exploring Cities

    The Tortuga Outbreaker - possibly the Best Carryon Backpack for urban travelers that need to stay organized make it the best travel backpack carry on options

    The Tortuga Outbreaker is absolutely one of the best carryon backpack options for urban ventures and my vote for the best carry on backpack for international travel thanks to the meticulous design by travelers, for travelers. The result is a roomy backpack that is as comfortable as can be with tons of space for tech, sheds rain, and still passes for a carry on sized bag. The Tortuga Outbreaker is a ridiculously well thought out pack and has a place for everything.

    The Tortuga Outbreaker’s organization, two main compartments with several zippered mesh pockets and padded pockets for electronics.  The separate zippered compartment for a laptop, a tablet, and electronics cables is well thought out. The bag also opens flat for easy packing and unpacking. Comfortable straps, and a water bottle pocket finish off this highly functional bag.

    The only concern I have with this is the durability of the touted “X-Pac Waterproof Sailcloth” over 1000D Cordura nylon and 1600D ballistic nylon. The fabric is a combination of 210D nylon and laminates which may suffice for everyday use on airlines but causes me to question durability of the cloth with heavier loads and the abrasion of adventurous travel.

    I glean that the Tortuga team implies that you should reasonably expect a 3-year lifespan based on Tortuga’s official warranty.

    From Tortuga’s website:

    “Most travelers replace their luggage every few years. Barring a defect as mentioned above, your Tortuga will easily handle all of your adventures during that time…”.

    In either case, the bags is impressively designed and well suited for urban adventures, but future reviews will tell if the materials will stand the test of time and adventurous travel.

    Best for: Tech saavy travelers, flashpackers, and digital nomads confined to city limits
    Advantages: Impressively designed for keeping organized without packing cubes due to the plethora of pockets, separated into three compartments and room for a laptop, tablet, and electronics
    Cons: Questions on the durability of X-Pac Sailcloth as the primary fabric under hard travel, and the value over 610D Nylon or 1000D Cordura Nylon.  

    Bottom Line: Despite the Tortuga Outbreaker’s durability questions (given the price), this is an impressively designed bag that will help keep digital nomads and road warriors organized through the hustle.  If the bag does break down in 3 years, the money spent will be worth the convenience gained

    I like what the Tortuga team is doing with their gear but buy this bag understanding that you can only expect a few years out of it or aim for something more durable if that’s your primary concern in a bag.

    • Price: $299 (45L); $269 (35L) at
    • Size (45L): 22″ x 14″ x 9” | 56 x 35.5 x 23 cm — 5.1lbs | 2.3kg
    • Size (35L): 20.3″ x 12.9″ x 8.2” | 51.5 x 33 x 21 cm — 4.6lbs | 2.1kg
    • Materials: Waterproof X-Pac Sailcloth (210D nylon with DWR and UV resistant coatings, PET film, 50D polyester taffeta backing)
    • Features: Front Loading/Clamshell design; Padded Laptop Compartment for 17″ laptop; Padded, removable hip belt; Lockable zippers; Fleece Lined Electronics Pockets

    Click here to read more about the Tortuga Outbreaker in this Tortuga Outbreaker Review

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    GORUCK GR3 45L

    Best Tough Backpack for Long Term Travel

    You will be hard-pressed to find a more well constructed, more heavy-duty backpacks than the GORUCK line – trust me, I’ve tried.  Among the GORUCK packs, the GORUCK GR3 is the most suited as for long term travel and is one of the best one bag travel backpack options on the market thanks to ample space (45L) and the optional 18L tough bag stuff sack which straps easily to the bottom.

    The GORUCK GR3: One of the best heavy duty backpacks

    The GORUCK GR3 is inspired military medic packs, upgraded with intuitive yet simplistic design, put together with materials and construction that allow it to carry 450lbs, and tested during 100’s of rucking (aka hiking) competitions GORUCK hosts. Based on specs for design construction and 6 months of travel, I rate this hands down as one of the most durable and best travel backpacks available.

    Best for: Heavy use, heavy loads, high abrasion, long term travel
    Advantages:  Pure durability. Tested to loads of 450lbs+, lifetime guarantee, easily expandable storage to 63L (with GORUCK Tough Compression Sack).
    •  Sternum strap sold separately
    •  Pricey (but you get what you pay for)
    •  Requires packing cubes to stay organized
    •  Weight is ~1lb more than your average pack due to heavier materials
    Price: $545 at GORUCK
    Size: 22 x 14 x 9 in. | 56 x 35.5 x 23 cm
    Capacity: 45L | 2746 cu. in.
    Weight: 5.15lbs (4.59 lbs without hip belt) | 2.3 kg 
    Materials: 1000D Cordura makes this backpack heavily slash resistant, and great for city travel, “rainproof”; YKK zippers; Mil-spec webbing and buckles

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Osprey Porter 46L Travel Pack

    • Best for: Backpacking and long term travel
    • Advantages:
      • Streamlined exterior and no loose straps, for easy plane, train, and bus travel
      • Compression straps make it easy to pack light, or (slightly) overpack
      • Stowaway straps
    • Cons:
    • Best Price Available: $160 at
    • Capacity:
    • Weight: 
    • Dimensions:
    • Materials:
    • Warranty:
    • Also Consider:

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Other 45L Carry On Backpacks to consider

    Best 40L Carry On Backpacks

    Still Big Enough for World Travel, but easier to manage

    45L backpacks are perfect for traveling around the world indefinitely, but for travel of a few weeks or a month, the 40L backpacks on the market may be more suitable.

    Whereas 45L carry-on backpacks are as monstrous as travel backpacks can get, they may be perfect for a year of travel around the world but may also be too large for some people.

    If your travels tend to be in more pleasurable and warm climates, meaning you’ll pack fewer clothes, or primarily in the city, which requires no boots and outdoor trekking gear, a 40L backpack may be the sweet spot of just large enough but not too large.

    Additionally, if you plan to take a carry-on backpack and a small duffle or handbag, checked or taken onto the plane as a personal item, the 40L backpack category may have some of the best options for you.

    Nomatic Navigator 32L Travel Bag (Expandable to 41L)

    • Best for:
    • Advantages:
    • Cons:
    • Best Price Available: $399 at Nomatic online
    • Capacity:
    • Weight: 
    • Dimensions:
    • Materials:
    • Warranty:
    • Also Consider:
    9 liters of expansion are built into this pack, transforming a 32L pack into a 41L pack!

    Also check out the entire Nomatic Navigator series, consisting of day packs, sling bags, “standard luggage” and more

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Nomatic Travel Backpack (40L)

    • Best for:
    • Advantages:
      • Water resistant outer material
      • Laptop protection pocket and sleeve, TSA ready
      • Dedicated shoe pocket
      • Quickly shifts to a duffle bag style, handbag carry without stowing straps

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    GORUCK GR2 40L

    A Heavy Duty Backpack Perfect for Shorter Term Travel – 1 week to 1 month or single climate travel and ready for adventure

    The GORUCK GR2 retains the same rugged and tested DNA of the GR3, but helps you stay better organized, thanks to more standard pockets and the two compartment setup.  The smaller size (34L & 40L) make it better than the GR3 for shorter travel.

    GORUCK GR2 Carry On Travel Backpack

    The GR2 does have 5L or 11 less space than the GR3, depending on the variant you get, thus I only recommend it for travels shorter than 1 month and in a single season/climate. A benefit of the GR2 over the GR3 is with the smaller size, it is easier to get away with the GR2 as an everyday use pack. From my experience with this pack, it is excellent for its intended purposes of heavy use and short trips. If that’s what you’re after, the GORUCK GR2 is an excellent option.

    • Best for: Heavy use, heavy loads, daily use, shorter trips, and anyone looking for “buy it for life” gear
    Advantages: Bombproof, durable construction and a significant lifetime guarantee
    •  Price…but once again, you get what you pay for
    •  Weight, approximately 1lb heavier than the average carryon bag and .5lbs heavier than the average carry on travel backpack
    Price: $495 at GORUCK
    Size (40L Model): 22 x 12.5 x 9 in. | 56 x 32 x 23 cm
    Size (34L Model):  20.5 x 12.5 x 9 in. | 56 x 32 x 23 cm  
    Capacity: 40L Model |2440 cu. in & 34L model | 2074 cu. in.
    Weight: 4.75lbs  | 2.2 kg
    Materials: 1000D Cordura makes this backpack heavily slash resistant, and great for city travel, “rainproof”, and abrasion resistant; YKK zippers; Mil-spec webbing and buckles

    Carry On Backpack Travel through Jordan and the Arabian Desert

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Thule Landmark 40L Travel Backpack

    Very similar to the REI Ruckpack 40

    • Best for: Medium to long term travelers (1 month+)
    • Advantages:
      • Perfect balance between a “travel backpack” and a trekking/hiking backpack
      • Clamshell opening design makes everything available duffle bag style, perfect to pair with packing cubes
      • Dedicated and protected laptop pocket
      • Lid pocket with lockable zippers
      • Padded, breathable back panel
      • Stowable shoulder straps
      • Stowable water bottle pocket
    • Cons:
    • Best Price Available: $199.95 at or
    • Capacity: 40L (2441cu in)
    • Weight: 3lb 3oz
    • Dimensions: 9.8 x 13 x 21.5in
    • Materials: 420D polyester dobby, 600D polyester
    • Pockets and design: 1 zippered top, 1 zippered laptop/tablet sleeve (15-inch), 1 CashStash compartment, internal mesh storage, 1 zippered side, 1 side bottle
    • Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty through Thule
    • Also Consider: REI Ruckpack 40

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Topo Design Global Travel Bag (40L), Expandable to 45L

    • Best for:
    • Advantages:
      • Retro look and colorful designs
      • Made of tough, high quality material assures you this pack will last
      • 40 liter capacity expands to 45L
      • Divided internal panel design
      • Brightly colored internal cloth make finding items easy in darker places
      • 3 Way Carry (traditional backpack, shoulder bag, handbag)
      • Boxy design pairs well with packing cubes and makes every inch of space available
      • Back panel laptop pocket fits up to a 15″ laptop
      • Top and side carry handles
      • Removable shoulder straps
    • Cons:
    • Best Price Available: $229 at or $229 at** with an optional 15% discount
    • Capacity: 40 L / 2441 cu. in., expandable to 45L
    • Weight: 
    • Dimensions: 14″ x 22.5″ x 7.5″
    • Materials: 1000D recycled nylon, 400D recycled nylon, 210D recycled nylon, 1680D recycled ballistic nylon, large heavy duty YKK zippers
    • Design and Pockets: Expandable and stowaway water bottle pockets
    • Warranty:
    • Also Consider:

    GORUCK Rucker – Long Range (39L)

    A seriously tough backpack with additional features to double as a weight backpack for workouts and rucking
    • Best for: Hard users who want a backpack that carries serious weight and can double for workouts
    • Advantages:
      • Most durable ~40L bag on this list
      • Stress points tested to 400lbs+
      • Handles on top, bottom, and side intended for workouts but very useful for travel
      • Open flat design
      • Divider and double wrap around zipper create 2 separate “shelves”
    • Cons:
      • No Laptop pocket
    • Best Price Available: $255 at with lifetime warranty
    • Capacity:
    • Weight: 
    • Dimensions:
    • Materials:
    • Warranty:
    • Also Consider:

    REI Ruckpack 40 (Temporarily Discontinued)

    Budget Travel Backpack: One of the best travel packs for Europe and urban wandering

    On the REI Ruckpack 40, REI took clear design cues and hiking performance from the REI Trail 40, then cleaned up the exterior to make it more urban travel focused. This urban-focused bag is one of the best travel packs for Europe for those on a budget. Functional, durable, simple, and comfortable.

    Zip away pockets make moving through the cities without being pickpocketed easier. Stowaway shoulder straps and hip belt, hidden at will by the zip up back panel, make for easy bag checking and side/top handles make it easy to move while straps are stowed. Finally, the REI DNA makes for frame/back support and straps design that will stay comfortable throughout the hiking and trekking adventures that happen between city experiences.

    Best for: New travelers or travelers on a budget that will hike as much as they’ll adventure by plane, bus, rail, or however the trail happens
    Price: $140 at REI Online
    Size: 24 x 13 x 10 in. | 61 x 33 x 25.5 cm. 
    Capacity: 40 Liters |2,440 Cubic Inches
    Weight: 4lbs 3 oz | 1.9 kg
    Materials: 210 Denier Ripstop Nylon and YKK zippers
    Warranty: 1 year unlimited warranty through REI
    Features: Side zip access to water bladder pocket/ laptop pocket that fits a 15″ laptop

    Checkout our Full Review of the REI Ruckpack 40

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Other 40L Carry-on Travel Packs to Consider

    Best 35L Carry On Backpacks

    For weekenders or one-month adventures in a single climate, as long as you pack efficiently you can’t go wrong with a 35L backpack.

    Pack travel friendly clothes that require minimal washing, use packing cubes, and get a functional toiletry bag, and this relatively tiny setup will have everything you need while making your life very easy.

    Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Bag (35L)

    The Minaal Carry on 2.0 Bag is great option, and more suited to the crowd that values attention to detail.

    Minaal clearly pays attention to small details, which shows in the features like a magnetic clipping system for the top shoulder harness support straps, a clip in “holster” for the chest strap, and even etching the bag’s dimensions on the shoulder strap to show to over zealous airport security (not sure that will suffice though…the New Zealand TSA must be quite a bit different than US TSA).

    Beyond the tiny details, the bag structure is similar to the other urban carry options: a flat opening pack made of durable material with mesh and covered pockets on the inside front panel. The question is if the additional price is worth those tiny details for you.

    Best for: Minimalist travelers and digital nomads moving through urban areas
    Advantages: The attention to the very small details
    • A bit on the small side making it better for trips of a week or less, but minimalists may do just fine traveling for longer than a week
    • Heavy design focus on small details that add very small vale to the travel experience
    Price: $299
    Dimensions: 55cm x 35cm x 20cm | 21.6in x 13.7in x 7.8in
    Capacity: ~35L | ~2135 cu in.
    Weight: 3.1lbs | 1.4kg
    Materials: A combination of 600D and 1000D Nylon, YKK zippers
    Warranty: Lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects (+90 day trial period)
    Notable Features: Chest strap “holster”, embossed bag dimensions on shoulder strap, roll away & zippered cover to stow shoulder straps and waist belt (although reported to annoyingly press into the users shoulders), laptop and tablet strapping system that holds your devices in place and saves space, also suspending your devices to prevent damage when the bag is dropped, document pocket and passport pocket, 2 Small “quick access” pockets on top of the pack and two expanding pockets along the back panel of the main pack

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Aer Travel Pack 2 (33L) and Aer Travel Pack 3 (35L)- Small One Bag for Urban Terrain

    A Near Perfect Urban Travel Backpack

    The Aer Travel Pack 2 and 3 are fairly simple carry on sized urban travel backpack made of extremely ballistic nylon, that make it something you can for short travels (~1 week) and use for a long time to come.

    The Aer Travel Pack 2 - an excellent Travel Backpack Carry On on the smaller side - urban travel backpack

    The Aer Travel Pack 2’s smaller than average capacity (~33L) may limit it to the corporate traveler, weekend traveler, and short trippers. If you travel for longer than a week, consider something larger, but for 1 week or less (or are a minimalist traveler) this is a great carry on backpack option.

    Best for: Weekend travel, short trips, minimalist urban travelers
    Advantage: Constructed of very durable materials with a clean aesthetic
    Cons: A bit on the small side at 33L, limiting it to shorter (~1 week) trips. Fairly simple design that could deliver more function for the price tag. Simple, main compartment + front panel/pocket organization differs little from normal laptop backpacks for much cheaper
    Price: $220
    Size: 21.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 | 55 x 34  x 22 cm
    Weight: 3.7lbs | 1.7kg
    Capacity: 33 liters | 2014 cu. in.
    Materials: 1680 Denier Cordura® ballistic nylon exterior, YKK zippers, Duraflex® plastic hardware

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

    • Best for: Weekenders to month long backpacking adventures in urban areas and a single climate
    • Advantages:
      • Tough outer materials, TPU coated for water resistance
      • Colorful, eye catching fabric
      • Side access laptop pocket
      • Lashing straps
      • 3 Way Carry: Backpack, handbag, shoulder bag
      • Stowable shoulder straps and hip belt
      • Rain cover included
    • Best Price Available: $200 direct from Cotopaxi or $200 at
    • Capacity: 35L (2136cu in)
    • Weight: 4lb 10oz (2.1kg)
    • Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 8in (51 x 30 x 20cm)
    • Design and Pockets:
      • Open flat, clamshell design
      • Right side opens into a large, mesh, zippered compartment
      • Left side is divided into mesh zippered compartments
    • Materials: TPU Coated 1000D polyester and 860 denier ballistic nylon

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Peak Design Travel Bag (35L expandable to 45 liters)

    • Best for: Weekend travel to month long travel adventures
    • Advantages:
      • Stylish
      • Compact enough for
      • Sturdy handles on top, bottom, and sides
      • Plenty of sturdy lashing points
      • Great quality materials and construction will last a lifetime
    • Best Price Available: $299.95 at
    • Capacity: Compressed: 30L, Expanded: 45L
    • Weight: 4.5 lb / 2.05 kg
    • Dimensions: 22″ x 13″ x 11″
    • Materials: Weatherproof 400 denier recycled nylon canvas exterior with durable water resistant coating, 900 denier waterproof bottom
    • Warranty: No hassle lifetime warranty

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Best 30L and Smaller Carry On Backpacks

    Small Carry On Travel Backpacks – Big Enough for Weekend Trips and Small enough to To Double As a Daypack

    30L Carry On Backpacks (and smaller) are in a very functional space of being the perfect sized weekend bag that can be emptied and double as a useful daypack.

    30L travel bags are also great for long term travel and nomading when paired with a duffle bag that doubles as a backpack.

    For digital nomads and long term travelers that make a base in one city for months at a time and travel for shorter periods (a weekend to a week) the duffle bag makes the perfect “leave behind bag” while the 30L travel pack serves as a daypack, the all important carry-on bag, and the travel bag for weekend adventures.

    These are the best travel friendly 30L carry-on backpacks.

    Also Consider

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Best Carry On Travel Backpacks for Women

    Backpacks specifically designed to be more comfortable for women

    In the months I’ve been on the road, I have to admit…I’ve noticed women make up most of the backpackers over the age of 25 that I’ve met. Whether they’re leaving for a week, a month, or on sabbatical, they’re doing their thing and I think that’s awesome! In an attempt to help out my fellow travelers (of the female persuasion), I’ve kept notes on the travel backpacks for women I’ve seen satisfied female travelers wearing abroad. The backpacks below are the ladies’ packs I keep seeing over and over with great reviews.

    What makes women’s packs different from men’s packs? Why does it matter?

    Curved shoulder straps follow the contours of the chest, and a shorter length and longer hip belt transfer the load from the shoulders to the hips more effectively than unisex backpacks

    The structural build of the average male vs. the average female is very different, especially when we look at shoulder width, torso length, hip width/circumference, and the ratios of all these bits and pieces. As a result unisex (i.e., standard) packs can be uncomfortable for many women, especially if they’ve been designed and tested on only men. The same way a one size fits all pack is usually not the best for every hiker, the best unisex backpacks usually aren’t great for women.  The best travel backpacks for women (as reported by women) take into account these subtle differences in body makeup.

    Now, in case the title of this site doesn’t make it clear, I am not a woman (and I don’t know the struggle) so these packs are recommended based on observations, research, reviews, and conversations. Ladies, if you have a great pack you can recommend specifically for women (or disagree with the packs on this list) please let me know at [email protected]. Thanks!

    REI Trail 40 Pack – Women’s

    Note on the Women’s REI Trail 40 Pack Reviews: The Women’s Trail 40 pack on the REI was updated and isn’t enjoying great reviews in its initial days, although the previous version that had great reviews was and is essentially the same pack. I’ll keep an eye on this and update accordingly but I have faith that users will appreciate the bag they get for the price with the Women’s Trail 40.

    Best for: Just like the original nisex pack, this pack is a perfectly sized carry on that wears comfortably and is well suited for hiking and trekking. I took this pack (in the unisex version) from Galapagos to Everest and loved it. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better backpack for the price
    Advantages: The amazing price, and how well the backpack performs hiking and trekking
    Cons: Could use more horizontal compression straps
    Price: $119 at REI Online
    Capacity: 40 liters | 2,441 cubic inches
    Size (Small): 20.25 x 13.125 x 10.5 inches
    Size (Medium): 21.6 x 13 x 10.5 inches
    Weight: 2 lbs. 15 oz. | 1.3 kg.

    View the REI Trail 40 Review for more info

    REI Flash 45 Women’s Pack (Hiking + Trekking)

    Just like the Men’s REI Flash 45, the REI Flash 45 Women’s pack is a true trekking and hiking backpack but aimed at the ultralight hiking and camping crowd, so it performs well while keeping weight light.

    The REI Women's Trail 45 travel backpacks for women

    The benefit of the women’s Flash pack over the men’s is the shorter length of 25”, meaning it will be easier to squeeze by the all too common 22” length restriction on Southeast Asia and European budget airlines. You can get around this restriction by under packing or offloading some gear into your daypack “personal item” to make that last 3 inches, but know about this potential hassle going in. If you can handle that, you’ll get a carryon sized backpack that is completely designed for trekking and multi-day backcountry adventures. Pair this with the Flash 22 compressible daypack and you’re set for all of your adventures

    Best for: Female Trekkers and hikers
    Advantages: A lightweight pack designed for trekking and hiking that is much more affordable than the competition, with padded and curved straps and a shorter torso to accommodate most female frames
    • No dedicated, padded laptop space
    • Exceeds the strictest Southeast Asian and European budget airlines by 3 inches (which can be made up for by under-packing)
    Price: $149 at REI Online
    Weight: 2lbs 12oz | 1.25 kg.
    Capacity (Sm): 45 | 2,746 cu. In.
    Capacity (Med): 47 | 2,868 cu. in
    Size: 25 x 13 x 8 inches | 63.5 x 33 x 20.5 cm
    Materials: 420 denier ripstop nylon and YKK zippers
    Comparison: Over the Women’s REI Trail 40, you get a beefier shoulder strap and waist belt system with the REI Flash 45 Women’s , 5 additional liters, and tougher material (420D nylon instead of the 210D nylon used on the Trail 40)

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    The Osprey Fairview 40 – Great All Around Women’s Backpack

    The well-reviewed and lady friendly version of the Osprey Farpoint 40

    Best for: Mostly urban travel with the occasional jaunt beyond city limits. Great for new backpackers and small budgets
    Advantages: Cost and versatility
    Price: $160 at REI Online
    Materials: 210-denier ripstop nylon/600-denier packcloth
    Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 9 in. | 53.5 x 35.5 x 23 cm.
    Weight: 3 lbs. 2 oz. | 1.4 kg
    Capacity: S/M: 40 liters | 2,441 cubic inches
    Capacity: XS/S: 38 liters | 2,319 cubic inches

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    The REI Women’s Ruckpack 40

    Great City Travel Option for Newbie Ladies and Small Budgets

    The lady friendly version of the Men’s REI Ruckpack 40. This pack’s length does exceed most airline carry on size restrictions by 2”, but you can compensate for this by not over packing the top portion of the pack…so if you get this one, ensure to pack your self-control before packing anything else (and overloading your pack).

    What makes this version different than the fella’s version? Shaped harness straps that curve differently around the chest. Shortened torso length. Longer hip straps to accommodate the extra curves (that we love so much)

    Best for: Urban travel with light adventuring beyond city limits. Great for new travelers and small budgets
    Advantages: Price and value. REI delivers amazing packs for the price and the ladies are loving this one
    Cons: 2 inches too large for some carry on travel, but reportedly a great travel rucksack for the price nonetheless
    Price: $140 at REI Online
    Weight: 4 lbs 3 oz | 1.9 kg
    Size: 24x13x10 inches | 61 x 33 x 25.5

    Checkout our Full Review of the REI Ruckpack 40

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Osprey Fairview 55

    The perfect backpack for traveling abroad

    The ladies’ version of the Osprey Farpoint 55, so this is essentially the Fairview 40 with a zip off daypack included. Impressively reviewed as reliable, convenient for airline travel, and versatile.

    Best for: Mostly urban travel with the occasional jaunt beyond city limits. Great for new backpackers and small budgets and travelers that want a daypack included
    Cons: The Packs length exceeds carry on restrictions for most airlines by 3 inches when fully loaded, so be ready to shift items in your pack if called out by the gate agent
    Advantages: Cost and versatility make it suitable for most travelers
    Price: $180 at REI Online
    Materials: 210-denier ripstop nylon/600-denier packcloth
    Dimensions: 25 x 13 x 12 inches
    Weight: 3 lbs. 13 oz.
    Capacity S/M: 55 liters | 3,356 cubic inches
    Capacity XS/S: 52 liters | 3,173 cubic inches

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Women’s Kelty Redwing 36 (36L) and 50 (50L)

    A tired, true, and legendary backpack in the outdoorsy community that isn’t perfect, but is reputed for being roomy, tough, and comfy. Available at a great price ($119 and $149)

    The Kelty Redwing 36L
    The Kelty Redwing 50L
    • Best for: Backpacking and outdoorsy adventures and tough enough to last a lifetime
    • Advantages:
    • Cons:
    • Best Price Available for the Kelty Redwing 36L: $119 at
    • Best Price Available for the Kelty Redwing 50L: $149 at
    • Capacity: 36 liters and 50 liters respectively
    • Dimensions and Weight- 36L: 22 x 17 x 10 in / 55.87 x 43.18 x 24.40 cm | 2 lbs 9 oz / 1.16 kg
    • Dimensions and Weight – 50L: 27 x 18 x 10 in, 3 lbs 15 oz / 1.79 kg
    • Materials: Poly 420D Small Back Stafford
    • Warranty: Kelty lifetime warranty
    • Also Consider:

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Durable & Heavy Duty Backpacks Fit for Carry on Travel

    Built to handle heavy abuse, heavy abrasion, and heavy loads. Designed to last through the worst but still serve well for adventurous travelers that want a bag that will last for life

    When you want a travel backpack that will last you for life, durability is your main concern and you need a heavy duty backpack for your travels. I admit, this is the category I love most as I usually abuse my backpacks. I also believe each time a backpack survives a “risky encounter”, it retains a bit of luck. Needless to say, my Spec Ops T.H.E. and my GORUCK GR3 are the “luckiest” packs I own.

    When shopping for a durable backpack, look for:

    • High denier Nylon materials, ideally coated for weatherproofing. I settle for nothing less than 1000D Cordura.
    • Military-grade straps and buckles
    • Reinforced and heavily stitched straps, handles, and stress points to support heavy loads and abuse
    • A track record of good reviews and lots of abuse in varied environments

    Spec Ops T.H.E Backpackpack

    Budget Durable Travel Backpack

    The Spec Ops brand T.H.E. (“Tactical Hold Everything”) backpacks are very durable, heavy duty backpacks at much better prices than you’ll find on GORUCK’s site, making them a great GORUCK GR3 Alternative.

    I bought my Spec Ops T.H.E. 13 years ago and took it to war 3 times…and it did just fine. If the GORUCK line is too pricey and you don’t mind the “tacti-cool” look of MOLLE webbing consider this option with the optional removable back panel…or a homemade kydex frame sheet. I’ve run with 25lbs – 45lbs in this bag, hiked and rock climbed plenty with it, taken several trips with it in the last decade and there is not so much as a single thread loose.

    Best for: Durability, heavy loads, lots of potential abrasion abuse
    Advantages: Though it lacks the marketing, arguably as bombproof as the GORUCK series
    •  Not fully front loading design
    •  Will require packing cubes for organization
    •  Back Panel sold separately (~$30)
    •  No padded laptop space
    Price: ~$180 on Amazon
    Size: 19 x 13 x 12 in | 48 x 33 x 30.5 cm
    Weight: 3.5lbs| 1.6kg
    Capacity: 42L | 2550 Cu Inches
    Materials: 1000D Cordura Nylon, Military grade webbing and buckles, #10 YKK zippers
    Warranty: Full warranty on workmanship and materials, Spec-ops will prepay shipping to return the item and repair/replace for free. If the gear damage is your fault and you have a great story, Spec-ops will likely repair/replace for free
    Also Consider: The 5.11 Rush 24 or Rush 72

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    The ALICE Pack

    An Old School Military Rucksack

    A reliable, time tested budget option for those that want durable, hiking ready, heavy duty backpacks with old school swag. ALICE isn’t perfect, but she’ll get everything you need done just fine. You can buy one new online or get a “seasoned” one from any military surplus store.

    For near perfection, upgrade the shoulder straps to something more substantial and padded and purchase a frame for the pack – or build one out of 1/2″ PVC based on online tutorials. For less than $50 you can have an extremely durable pack with the function to travel well anywhere and is light enough to impress any ultralight traveler.

    Another option is to aim for many of the updated versions of this pack, made with 1000D Cordura nylon in the US to durability standards that rival GORUCK. Spec Ops Brand was the front runner, but many have popped up in their place.

    The Spec Ops Brand Recon Ruck Ultra

    Note: If you do go the route of beloved “ALICE”, eBay or your local surplus store are your best bet for getting a genuine, military issue ALICE pack for cheap. Avoid Rothco and Fox gear, as these are replicas and not built to military specifications. Retired, GI backpacks can be found for ~$20-$50 at your local surplus store or on ebay. You’ll have to add your own straps from there, and I recommend Blackhawk, Tactical Tailor, or any other reputable brand for great shoulder straps. At this point, you’ll have a simple, durable backpack for ~$75. If you want to step it up for serious hiking, pickup a used ruckpack frame for the ALICE pack and you will have the most reliable backpack setup possible for under $100. Also, check eBay for used versions of the Spec Ops Brand Recon Ultra backpack for a reliable, updated option (these packs have been discontinued but provide the same function in an updated package for cheap).

    My experience: This was my first true “one bag” for a vacation to Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan over a month. For this kind of single climate travel, the ALICE pack is perfect
    Best for: Travelers looking for a tough budget friendly pack, hard users, minimalists, and anyone who appreciates an old school feel
    Advantages: Well tested, extremely durable yet functional, cheap
    Design: Functional via simplicity, with three easily accessed external pockets, one main storage area, a document pouch in the lid, and one pouch in the main compartment
    Cons: To get the best use out of this bag, making a homemade back support from PVC is optimal, but not necessary
    Price: ~$50-$75 for the whole package
    Weight/size: ~2lbs
    Capacity: 2,285 | 37.5 liters
    Materials: Unicorn leather
    Warranty: None. But this kind of gear doesn’t need one
    Also Consider
    •  Greenroom123 Rainmaker: Something more modern on the cheap side
    •  RedOxx C-Ruck

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Best Weatherproof Carry on Backpack

    If you plan to travel somewhere with plenty of rain and wet (like a Southeast Asian country during its monsoon season) plan for wet in order to keep your gear dry. Now, remember that aside from a roll top dry bag, such as those design for SCUBA gear, no bag will keep your gear dry under a heavy downpour. If you’re expecting lots of rain or wet boat rides, get a heavy duty trash bag, put that bag inside your backpack, and put your gear inside that.

    Whether freediving through the Philippines and traveling rough seas, or getting caught in rainstorms in Bali or Patagonia, that trick (the trash bag) has been the #1 way to keep things dry.

    For every other “slightly wet” situation, wherein you want weather resistance, these three bags are your best options.

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Best Minimalist Construction Carry On Backpacks

    Most times, less is more – and this is where minimalist bags come in. Getting a bag that is just a well-stitched bit of high quality, durable, weather-resistant material, and throw in some packing cubes for organization can be an excellent, versatile option.

    These are the best minimalist carry on backpacks…

    The Patagonia Black Hole MLC Brief Case 45L 

    This flat folding pack is minimalist, full of pockets for organizing, is made of a fully waterproof  material, and is a fraction of the Outbreaker’s pricetag ($180 at REI Online with membership + free shipping)

    This carryon lacks structure and internal support of the other urban travel carry on backpacks, but is still great for carry on travel. A friend did Southeast Asia with it for 6 months and loved it

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Best Anti-theft Backpack

    Security is one of the biggest concerns of new solo travelers. Though, to be honest, there is no 100% deterrent for theft aside from staying aware and keeping an eye on your belongings, having a good backpack with slash-resistant fabrics, lockable zippers, lashing points, and other pickpocket deterrents can deliver the peace of mind that will allow you to freely enjoy your travels.

    This section delivers the best theft-resistant carry on backpacks for travelers.

    Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 ECONYL Anti-Theft Carry-On Travel Pack (45L) and EXP35 (35L)

    This high quality bag takes a normal, roomy, functional carry on and builds in security and anti-theft functions to allow you to travel without worry of pickpockets and even leave your bag strapped to a pole or static point.

    The combination of locking zippers that are puncture proof and an integrated cut resistant wire mesh throughout the backpack make this a full sized carry on that will keep your belongings and valuables safe. Last, an integrated metal cable allows you to lash this bag securely to a static point.

    Available in 35L and 45L

    • Best for: Travelers heavily concerned with theft, or your average nomad carrying thousands of dollars of valuables on their back.
    • Advantages:
      • Regenerated nylon made from recycled fishnets
      • Slash resistant metal mesh throughout the fabric of the bag
      • Locking zipper system with puncture resistant zippers
      • Integrated security cable allows locking to a chair, pole, or table
      • 2 way carry – as a backpack or briefcase style handbag
      • Padded laptop sleeve fits up to a 16″ laptop
    • Best Price Available: $239 with free shipping
    • Capacity: 45 L / 2746 in3
    • Weight: 3 lb 13 oz / 1.73 kg
    • Dimensions: 21.7 x 13.8 x 8.7 in / 55 x 35 x 22 cm
    • Materials: Water resistant 400 denier recycled nylon, made from recycled fish nets, with integrated wire security mesh

    Pacsafe Venture Safe X40 Plus (40L)

    • Best for:
    • Advantages:
    • Cons:
    • Best Price Available:
    • Capacity:
    • Weight: 
    • Dimensions:
    • Materials:
    • Warranty:
    • Also Consider:

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Best Outdoor and Adventure Carry On Backpacks

    Well-padded and designed shoulder straps, waist belt, and back panel make it easier to hike for long periods with these packs while pockets are designed to make it easier to access items frequently used on the trail 

    For the traveler that will arrive by plane but inevitably make their way into the outdoors, a travel and trekking ready backpack is a must.

    When aiming for a backpack with travel + trekking prowess, look for the following:

    • Well-padded and designed shoulder straps a waist belt
    • Weather and abrasion resistant fabrics and thoughtful, hiking conscious construction
    • External pockets that make storing and accessing essentials while hiking (e.g., water, snacks, camera, phone) quick and easy
    • Proven reputation (of the bag and the manufacturer) with travelers and backpackers – good assurance that the bag will perform well over time

    The REI Trail 40

    One of the most functional and comfortable packs I’ve owned, and a great value for the price.

    I tested this bag over 2 years which included hiking to Everest base camp solo, riding the Ho Chi Minh trail by motorbike, countless treks and wandering through 9 countries by plane, train, bus, and boat. For adventurous first time travelers, I absolutely recommend this bag.

    Best for: Travelers that plan to hike and trek
    Advantages: A trekking and hiking ready pack that works equally well as a carryon and is perfect for beginners in performance and price.
     • No dedicated, padded laptop space
    • Shoulder straps are comfortable but feel like the weakest point on the pack. If carrying heavier loads (45lbs+) expect a ~2 year lifespan, conservatively estimating.
    Price: $129 at REI Online
    Weight: 3 lbs
    Size (Medium): 21.5 x 13 x 10 in. | 54.5 x 33 x 25.5 
    Size (Large) 22.5 x 13 x 10 inches| 57 x 33 x 25.5  
    Materials: 210 denier nylon and YKK zippers

    Also Consider: the REI Ruckpack 40 if your adventures are more urban and involve more airline travel than overland.  Checkout our Review of the REI Ruckpack 40 for more info

    View the REI Trail 40 Review for more info

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    REI Flash 55

    Technically too large to be a carry-on backpack but will fit as a carry on, and is a great minimalist trekking and hiking bag

    A true trekking and hiking backpack with a lightweight yet functional design aimed at the ultralight hiking and camping crowd. This pack honestly does not meet carry on regulations, as its 30″ height exceeds the 22″ limit however, you may be able to slip by security by cranking down the lid and sneaking by the airline check stand. With the lid removed or empty, the bag only exceeds carry on restrictions by an inch, and definitely fits easily in overhead compartments. If you want a compact, minimalist, cheap trekking bag, the REI Flash 55 is a great option

    This pack’s frame, shoulder and hip padding, and ultra-light hiking design make it a comfortable and useful bag on and off the trail, especially for the price. Plus, with 55 liters of capacity, you’ll be able to pack an entire year’s worth of travel gear in this single bag.

    This pack’s length (30” for the unisex medium and 29” for the small) is a bit longer than the 22” average length restriction for budget airlines in Southeast Asia and Europe. You can get around this by under packing or offloading some gear into your daypack “personal item”, but know about this potential hassle going in. If you can handle that, you’ll get a carryon sized backpack that is completely designed for trekking and multi-day backcountry adventures. Pair this with the Flash 22 compressible daypack and you’re set for all of your adventures

    From REI’s website: “Most airlines require a piece of carry-on luggage to be no bigger than 45 linear inches (L + W + H) to meet carry-on size restrictions. The medium [REI Flash 45] is 38 linear inches and the large is 49 linear inches, so please check with your airline ahead of time.”

    Best for: Trekkers and hikers
    Advantages:  A lightweight pack designed for trekking and hiking that is much more affordable than the competition
    – No dedicated, padded laptop space
    – Length of the REI Flash 45 Pack when fully packed is technically longer than most budget airline restrictions by 4” on the medium and 5” on the large, but you get great on trail performance in return
    Price: $199 at REI Online
    Weight: 2lbs 14oz
    Size (Medium): 26 x 13 x 9 inches
    Size Large: 27 x 13 x inches
    Materials: 420 denier nylon and YKK zippers
    Comparison: Over the REI Trail 40, you get a beefier shoulder strap and waist belt system, 5 additional liters, and tougher material (420D nylon instead of the 210D nylon used on the Trail 40)

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Also Consider: “Almost” Carry On Backpacks

    These 40L trekking backpacks are some of the best, however, 1 to 2 inches longer than the 22″ height maximum for most airlines. Aiming to take these packs as carry-on may not work. However, if you’re looking for a compact, minimalist trekking backpack – to make bus rides, train rides, and even some train rides easier, these may be great options.

    Budget & Starter Carry on Backpacks for Travel

    If you will be “backpacking Europe” for the first time or know that your adventures from day to day will be confined to the city limits, consider these budget bags for urban adventures.

    Urban travel carry on backpacks generally have a durable, abrasion resistant outer material sturdy enough to handle the occasional abuse of checked baggage and being thrown under buses (the storage, not under the wheels). Travel within city limits will be more enjoyable, than with trekking backpacks,  thanks to  the streamlined profile (so that you don’t bump everyone and everything while walking) and the ease of wearing your luggage instead of dragging it (over rolling carry ons).

    The shoulder straps and waist belt usually tuck away making for a smooth exterior without straps to snag on conveyor belts, in the occasional adventures of checked baggage. 

    Remember that urban travel carry on backpacks are designed to make travel (planes, trains, and buses) easier but the shoulder straps and overall design aren’t meant to be worn all day. Bring a packable day pack that fits inside your carry on luggage, like the REI flash 22 compressible daypack so that your city exploration isn’t limited by what you can carry in your hands.

    So, if you’re planning on your first jaunt to a foreign city, consider these option.

    Osprey Farpoint 40 (Men’s) ($160)

    The Osprey Farpoint 40 has to be the backpack that I come across dmost uring my travels. Whether in the US, Asia, or Europe, you will find plenty of people with this bag, and for good reason.

    The size is just right for trips less than 3 months and through a single climate. The build is durable and the bag stays comfortable even on long walks. Lastly, the cost is great considering what you get.

    Even today, while writing this article (in Albania), a Canadian guy stopped in front of me with the Osprey Farpoint 40 strapped to the back of his bicycle. It was his first backpacking trip but he got jealous of everyone with the freedom to ride the Balkan coast when and where they chose, so he bought a bike and rode. When I asked him about his bag, he replied, “I love it, it’s been great, and it’s just the perfect size. I wouldn’t have been able to bicycle with it if it was any bigger, so I’m glad I chose this pack.”

    Morals of the story: The Osprey Farpoint 40 is a reliable starter bag, and over packing will limit your adventures, so stick to a carryon and consider the Osprey Farpoint 40 as your first bag.

    Best for: Urban backpacking with a touch of adventuring beyond the city limits
    Differentiator: Great price and value, durable, versatile fit and comfortable support system makes it appropriate for most beginners and a great starter pack
    Cons: You’ll look like 25% of the other backpackers you come across…but in the world of travel, that’s not necessarily a bad thing…
    Price: $160 at REI Online
    Weight: 3 lbs. 2.7 oz.
    Size (M/L): 21 x 14 x 9 inches | 53.5 x 35.5 x 23 cm
    Size (S/M): 20 x 14 x 8 inches | 51 x 35.5 x 20.5 cm
    Capacity (M/L): 40 liters | 2,441 cubic inches
    Capacity (S/M): 38 liters | 2,319 cubic inches
    Materials: 210 denier nylon, 610 denier pack cloth
    Warranty: 1 year warranty when purchased through REI (REI Warranty)

    For more info checkout our Osprey Farpoint 40 Review

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Osprey Farpoint 55

    A great all around travel backpack. This bag is essentially the Osprey Farpoint 40 with a convenient zip-off daypack. I have seen the Osprey Farpoint 55 more times on the road than I can count. Partly due to great price (often on sale) and partly due to reliability, as most people have taken it on several trips over the years.

    Every time I ask for a traveler’s opinion on their experience with this bag, usually the bag is the traveler’s first travel pack and they still love it. 

    Best for: New travelers in need of an all-around performing backpack; those who want a pack/daypack combo
    Differentiator: Zip off daypack included simplifies travel
    Cons: Not front loading or fold flat design and a few inches longer than most airline carry on limits
    Price: $180 at REI, but frequently on discount
    Size: 25 x 13 x 12 in. | 63.5 x 33 x 30.5 cm.
    Weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz. | 1.8 kg.
    Capacity: 55L / 3,356 cubic inches (including daypack capacity)
       S/M: 53L (15-19 inch torso)
       M/L: 55L (18-22 inch torso)
    Materials: 210-denier ripstop nylon
    Warranty: “All Mighty Warranty” – Fix or replace for life, from Osprey

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Best Cheap Carry On Backpacks Under $150

    When you’re just getting started traveling, most travelers honestly don’t know what they need in a bag. For that reason, dropping $300-$500 on a travel backpack doesn’t make sense…yet.

    For another crowd, money may be scarce – whether you’re a gap year student or saving for other things, money may be limited. In both cases, I absolutely advocate experiences (and travel) over material possessions, so spend more money on your trip and less money on your gear. If buying a pricier backpack will compromise a portion of your trip, or prevent you from getting the ticket to the destination that you really want to go to, then get the cheaper backpack now and make those memories. 

    In the meantime, consider any one of these great quality backpacks for budget friendly prices.

    Standard Luggage Co. – Standard’s Carry on Backpack, 35L-45L

    Standard Luggage Co.’s Standard Carry on Backpack is a great carry on backpack option for those that want to avoid checking baggage, will be based mostly in cities, will use a different bag for their day hikes, and don’t want to spend ~$300+ on a backpack.

    Standard's Carry on Backpack - one of the Best Travel Backpack Carryon budget options

    The Standard Carry on Backpack is made of high quality, durable materials (1600D ballistic nylon), incorporates a few good internal pockets, a laptop pocket for up to a 15” device, and has a shoulder harness system that will get you through your travels comfortably. Just don’t plan to use this as your day bag because the shoulder strap system isn’t built well enough for serious hiking.

    Standard’s Carry on Backpack is a well-built yet simple carry on backpack at a reasonable price. The carry on is 35L but unzips and expands to 45L. Get Standard Luggage Co.’s Hanging Packing Cubes, which fit the backpack perfectly, along with Standard’s packing cube that doubles as an 8L backpack, or pick up some reliable nylon packing cubes on Amazon to keep the bag in order.

    Best for: Ideal for urban travelers on a budget
    Advantage: A durable carry on backpack intended for urban travels at a reasonable price
    Cons: Lacks the organization of the Aer, Minaal, and Tortuga packs, but you can use the money saved to get packing cubes
    Price: $179 on Standard Luggage; $189 on Amazon
    Dimensions: 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 in when zipped and 21.5 x 13.5 x 9.5 when expanded
    Capacity (zipped): 35 Liters | 2135 cu in. zipped
    Capacity (unzipped): 45 Liters | 2746 cu in. unzipped
    Weight: 3.7lbs | 1.7kg
    Materials: 1600D Ballistic Nylon
    Warranty: Lifetime warranty for the original owner and excludes damage caused by “negligence, extreme use, improper care, accidents, or the natural breakdown of materials over time”
    Perks: Free shipping, made in Canada

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender

    A simple, straight forward, budget friendly backpack. Don’t expect all of the bells and whistles of other bags, or for this bag to last forever. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more suitable “urban travel backpack” for the price.

    • Best for: Urban travel
    • Advantages: Great price
    • Cons: Straps could be sturdier, polyester outer will wear much faster than the nylon used in the best bags
    • Best Price Available: $119
    • Capacity: 54L / 3300 cu. in.
    • Weight: 3.75lbs
    • Dimensions: 9 x 22 x 14 inches
    • Materials: Polyester
    • Warranty: Limited lifetime warranty

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Also Consider

    Best Duffel Bags for Carry On that Double As Backpacks

    Functional duffle style bags with a few additions, that make them more conducive to staying organized and traveling. I only recommend these for travel of less than one week or with little movement, but they’re great day to day bags.

    A Note on Duffle Bags as Carry on Bags:

    For the weekend traveler or the frequent traveler only going from airport to taxi to hotel, a convertible duffle bag may be a simple, functional and cheap solution. “Convertible Duffle Bags” offer a one up on reglar duffel bags because they can be worn as a backpack as well. Granted, these bags won’t be perfect for long hikes, they will make travel easier when walking a couple miles through urban terrain or changing a few buses. But, whatever you do, make sure to get a good shoulder strap.

    I personally don’t recommend the pure duffel bag option if traveling more than a week, especially if you’re frequently changing where you sleep, but the following two options are great for any length of trip thanks to the shoulder straps and functional setup.

    Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45L (The Functional Convertible Duffle)

    A meticulously designed urban travel bag that emphasizes organization, via 3 main compartments and countless pockets, and versatility, as it can be loaded and worn as a backpack or shoulder bag/duffle.

    Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut incorporates extremely heavy-duty materials, such as 1600D ballistic nylon and YKK zippers, ensure this is a “buy it for life” investment. For those that don’t plan to abuse this bag enough to warrant ballistic nylon, the bag is also available in a lighter 450D nylon.

    For the consummate urban traveler that is more concerned with keeping the contents of their bag organized than using it to scale mountains in their free time, the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45L is a strong candidate.

    Best for: Purely urban travelers that have difficulty staying organized, travelers looking for a bag that will do double duty as the gym back you take to work in the mornings that is built durably to last a lifetime
    • Versatility – can be carried as a backpack, shoulder bag, and duffle with a removable frame
    • Choice of fabrics to choose for light weight (450D nylon) or durability (ballistic nylon)
    • Novel, intuitive design
    • With the ballistic Nylon outer (design for bulletproof vests) and lifetime guarantee of workmanship this bag should last for years.
    • Design: Divided into three compartments with side opening clamshell design for main compartment and top opening/accessing for side compartments
    Price: $295
    Dimensions: 21.9″ x 14″ x9.1″ |55.5cm x 35.5cm x23cm
    Capacity: 45L | 2700 cu. In.
    Weight: 1050 Denier Ballistic Nylon – 3lbs 1 oz | 1.4 kg.
    Weight: 450 Denier Nylon – 2lbs 7oz. | 1.1 kg.
    Materials: 1050D Balistic Nylon or 650D Ripstop Nylon (your choice); YKK #10 Zippers; Duraflex buckles
    Warranty: Lifetime free repair and replacement for manufacturer defects. Repair for a reasonable fee of wear and tear
    Pick this bag if:
    • Staying organized is difficult for you
    • You prefer compartmentalized bags to separate things (shoes, gear, etc.)

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    North Face Base Camp Duffel

    An awesome, outdoor tested duffle for cheap

    The North Face Base Camp Duffle is a great convertible duffle bag option as it delivers very well on a simple concept: Duffle with handles and shoulder straps. The best part is the Base Camp Duffle is absolutely a carry on, and it can fit on any plane…but it’s on you to not overstuff the thing.

    I’ve had my Base Camp Duffel for a couple years and love it…I was considering using it for this year long trip with a the Ruckpack 28 as a daypack (checkout our REI Ruckpack 28 Review) when I wasn’t sure if my GORUCK GR3 would arrive in time. The North Face Base Camp Duffle has normal, short carrying handles as well as comfortable shoulder straps to use when moving around town. The fabric is waterproof, though the seams are not waterproof sealed, so count on this bag to be very water resistant, but not quite waterproof.

    The outer bottom of the bag is covered with a nylon canvas to protect the waterproof fabric from abrasion and extend the life of the bag. Functional daisy chain loops line the outside of the bag so, with help of some small Metolius carabiners, you can clip shoes, wet gear, or anything else to the outside of the bag. For the price, this is a great duffle that I’ve used it a ton. I wouldn’t plan on hiking with it, but it’s a great carry on option for holding most of your gear and using an REI Ruckpack 28 or a GORUCK GR1 for your other adventures up to a few days

    Pro Tip: If you like this bag but don’t need it right now and have Vietnam on your itinerary, visit Hanoi and buy one of these bags for ~$15 -$30 that  have been cut by “quality control” (“or fallen off the backs of trucks”) but are still perfectly solid for use. Look for the “Made in Vietnam” stores as a starting point. I have a The North Face Japan edition backpack that I picked up in Hanoi for my motorcycle ride through Vietnam and Laos. I still have that bag to this day and love it. Bottom line: Pickup this pack cheap in Vietnam, or get it from REI. Either way, you’re getting a great deal.

    Best for: General travel, when you have a separate bag for the hikes and treks
    Advantages: Great quality gear dumpster for the price
    • Shoulder strap system isn’t comfortable enough for legitimate hiking and there is no back support system which also limits hiking. Think of the Base Camp Duffle as a gear dumpster to pair with a small hiking pack.
    • This thing is huge (good) and its on you to not over pack (bad)
    Price: $149 at REI Online
    Weight: 3lbs 8 oz. | 1.6 kg
    Dimensions: 13.9 x 25.4 inches
    Capacity: 71 liters | 4,333 Cu. In.
    Materials: 1000-denier fabric laminate (waterproof)/840-denier ballistic nylon (abrasion reistant)
    Warranty: 1 Year satisfaction guarantee through REI
    Also Consider: The Patagonia Black Hole Line

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Peak Designs Duffle (60L)

    This well crafted duffle converts between a three-way carry, as a backpack, hand-carry duffle, and a shoulder-slung duffle. This 65 liter pack is soft sided enough that you could underpack it and easily get it onto a plane as a regulation compliant carry on.

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Patagonia Black Hole Duffle (40L)

    Patagonia’s Black Hole duffle lives up to the outdoor gear company’s reputation of high quality in gear (in design, materials, and construction) combine with simplicity. This perfectly sized 40L duffle will deliver great performance for a lifetime.

    Tough drag handles, waterproof TPU coated cloth, multiple handles and convertible straps for flexible carry, and more make this bag a great carry on friendly bag for travel.

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Monarc Settra Duffel Backpack

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    WANDRD HEXAD Access Duffle Backpack

    A techy, well designed, and comfortable backpack style carry duffel bag at a great price.

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Osprey Transporter Duffle Bag (40L)

    A simple, functional duffle from one of the most reliable backpack manufacturers for travelers at a great price given the quality.

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Tom Bihn Techonaut 30 (30L) and 45 (45L)

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Best Carry On Backpacks on Wheels

    Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Travel Backpack (45L)

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Expandable and Extra Space Options

    For long term travelers, during your trip the pile of what you’re carrying can grow and shrink like most waistlines during the holidays. Whether you’re picking up some extra gear for a long hike or accumulating cooking ingredients while traveling overland by bus, having an expandable storage option that straps easily to the outside of your bag and folds flat when empty (as not to violate carryon restrictions) is a convenient way to hold those temporary additions.

    The GORUCK Brick Bag 18L

    Tough, expandable storage option

    Of the 15 or so “compression sacks”, packing cubes, and stuff sacks I’ve been through, the GORUCK Tough Compression Bag is by far the best. This bag is roomy, tough , and easily attaches to my GORUCK GR3.

    My GORUCK Brick Bag is currently strapped to the bottom of my GORUCK GR3 and holds shoes, dirty laundry, and anything I don’t feel like packing when traveling by boat, bus, or foot. When I fly, I empty it (making sure I did my laundry), repack my main ruck, and make carryon restrictions just fine. Over 6 months of travel, and sitting on the bottom of my travel ruck, the bag has been rained on, dragged, and beaten pretty well, but is still in fairly great condition (no holes or abrasion).

    For comparison, my REI bags have all been filled with holes and worn through after 4 months of travel. The rain resistance and buckle system or two more keys that make this the expandable storage bag you should get.

    Best for: Expandable storage capable of taking abuse and can be strapped to the bottom of a bag
    Advantages: Durability
    • Needs vertical compression straps to be a true compression bag
    • I wish it made coffee for me in the morning
    • 4x the price of other compression bags – but will last 10x longer, at least.
    Price: $90
    Weight: .73lbs
    Dimensions: 19.5 x 13 x 13 in. 49.5 x 33 x 33
    Capacity: 18L | 1098 cu. in.
    Material: 1000D Cordura nylon (abrasion resistant, water resistant)

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Compressible Duffles as Carry On Bags and “Leave Behind” Bags

    If you’re making a long hike, trek, or trip in country and returning to the same spot, keeping a “leave behind bag” handy is a great idea. I’ve had great experiences keeping a flat folding duffle (like the GORUCK Kit Bag) or easy stowing duffle (like the REI Roadtripper) to store things in and leave at a location I’ll come back to later.

    During my Everest and Patagonia treks, which were in the middle of 6-month long trips, having a “leave behind bag” allowed me to easily drop my gear at a hostel in town, lightening my load for my trek, and returning to quickly grab the goods on my bus out of town. If you plan to be on the road for more than a few months and have some multi-day adventures planned, definitely bring a leave behind bag to make life easier.

    GORUCK Aviator Kit Bag 32L

    Best Hand Carry Luggage & A Durable Little Duffle

    When looking for a pure duffle bag that is simplistic yet easy to organize and will last through abuse , the GORUCK 32L Aviator bag is a great option.

    The GORUCK Kit Bag will perform well as a carryon weekend bag, gym duffle, or even suffice for travels up to a week if you use packing cubes and aren’t moving too much. The bag has a very clean aesthetic, muting how well built the bag is.

    The 1000D Cordura Nylon and military grade webbing show little signs of use and no abrasion after 6 months of being my leave behind bag and “improvised briefcase” while doing the digital nomad things. Also, the fold flat design let this bag fit easily into the front pocket of my GORUCK GR3 until its ready for use.

    Though I advise against using this bag for long term, or as a one bag travel backpack (get something that has shoulder straps), I’m addicted to it as a durable handbag and small duffle. If you do use this bag for travel, absolutely pickup some packing cubes. These Travel Wise nylon packing cubes are what I’ve used for the past 6 months and they’re great. The packing cubes also fit the GORUCK Kit Bag perfectly.

    Best for: Leaving gear behind during treks, carryon bag when traveling for weekend trips, gym bag, daily use as an improvised briefcase.
    Why this bag? A weekender bag that will survive the apocalypse, and keep you organized along the way

    My Experience: I accidentally brought this bag on my trip intending send it back to the US…but it went from pinch hitter to being used pretty much on a daily basis. My favored day bag, the REI Flash 22, started to rip at the shoulder straps after 2 years of carrying too much weight (~10lbs) so I started using this bag as a briefcase and urban day bag, instead of just a “leave behind” bag.

    The bag quickly became my go to for anything that wasn’t hiking. It can withstand heavier loads (grocery shopping), slings easily over the shoulder easily, and the pockets keep everything organized on the inside (charging cables, laptop, notebooks, snacks, pet ferret) and easily accessible on the outside (immediate snacks, water, cell phone, book/kindle, notebook). I repaired my Flash 22 but I still use this bag as my “briefcase” on workdays (digital nomad problems) and as a personal item on flights to keep the essentials close.

    Bottom line: I love this bag. Way better performance and usefulness than I thought I would get
    Design Notes: The bag has 5 well placed and designed pockets that allow storage and easy access to anything, while doing an impressive job of keeping the bag organized: two on the outer ends, two zippered mesh pockets on the internal ends, and one easy to access internal zippered pockets.

    • Shoulder strap not included – but reviews say the GORUCK shoulder strap isn’t worth buying, so opt for a different one.
    • Wouldn’t recommend for trips over a week
    • Fabric (1000D Cordura Nylon) is bulkier than lightweight options – but I appreciate the durability I get in return.
    Price: $160
    Weight/size: 2.5lbs | 1.2 kg
    Dimensions: 17.5 x 11.5 x 9 in | 44.5 x 29 x 23
    Capacity: 32L | 1952 Cu in
    Materials: 1000D Cordura Nylon, YKK zippers
    Warranty: GORUCK SCARS guarantee, they’l replace it for life
    Also consider
    Redoxx – C-ruck Carry-on Rucksack $285.00
    Redoxx – Small Aviator Bags

    Read the full GORUCK Kit Bag Review

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    REI Roadtripper Duffle 40L

    A Cheap and Practical Little Duffle

    The REI Roadtripper duffle is another great, simple duffle that packs away into a small package.

    The no frills design of the REI Roadtripper Duffle is just right for tossing in gear to leave behind during adventures (instead of using a flimsy trash bag) and still packs into a small disk that can sit at the bottom of your bag. During my Asia trip last year, this bag sat at the bottom of my REI Trail 40 for most the trip, but when I hiked to Everest Base Camp and when I rode the loop around north Vietnam starting and ending in Hanoi I left half of my gear at my hostel in the Roadtripper duffle to lighten the load. As a simple, no frills leave behind bag that sits at the bottom of your pack otherwise, I recommend considering the REI Roadtripper.

    Best for: Leaving gear behind during adventures, expandable storage that packs into the bottom of your backpack
    Advantages: Cheap, packs away efficiently

    • You really can’t be this price
    • Packs down small
    • Not functional enough to be an everyday bag
    • Didn’t feel durable enough to survive a trip as a primary bag
    • Polyester material – which isn’t the most durable
    Price: $40
    Weight: 1lb 2 oz.
    Dimensions (Upacked): 21 x 10 x 10 inches
    Capacity: 40L | 2,440 cubic inches
    Materials: Polyester
    Warranty: 1 year satisfaction guarantee through REI

    (Click here to return to the table of contents)

    Other Well Reviewed Backpacks and Manufacturers to Consider

    Though this list has most of the best travel backpack options available in carry on size, the list is not exhaustive. This list is just meant to be a starting point for anyone shopping for a new bag. There are several other reputable backpacks and backpack manufacturers to consider if the bags above don’t suit your needs and tastes.

    Backpacks are like boots — what may be perfect for someone, may not be perfect for you…and there’s nothing wrong with that. In those cases, use what you’ve learned from the list above and consider these other bags and manufacturers that have great reputations or are newer but full of potential.

    Smaller Carry On Backpack Options

    Now What? Grabbing the Other Travel Essentials

    1. Get packing cubes
    2. Get a packable daypack
    3. Get a toiletry bag to stay organized and safe from exploding toothpaste**
    4. Use a good packing list to avoid missing the important things**
    5. Slim down your wardrobe and get travel friendly gear to make your travels lighter**

    Other Travel Essentials: Packing Cubes

    If you’re traveling with only a carry on bag, every square inch matters for packing – and this is why you need packing cubes. Packing cubes are essentially zippered squares of breathable fabric for organizing your clothes and essentially act as drawers. This allows you to easily keep your backpack organized and use space more efficiently

    The Packing Cubes I Recommend

    Other Travel Essentials: A Packable Daypack

    If your carry on backpack is 35 liters or larger, carrying it around throughout the day will be annoying, cancelling out the convenience and benefit of a carry on backpack. Instead of using your carry on backpack daily, I highly recommend taking a packable daypack that will tuck away neatly and unnoticeably at the bottom of your main carry on bag.

    I’ve saved you the trouble of searching and created this list of the 27 best packable daypacks for travel.

    Carry On Backpack Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the cheapest carry on backpack for international travel?

    The REI Trail 40 is one the cheapest and effective carry on backpacks for international travel .

    What is the best carry on backpack for international travel?

    The best carry on backpacks for travel are the Osprey Farpoint 40L for backpackers, the Tortuga Outbreaker for digital nomads, and the GORUCK GR3 for hard users and long term travelers.

    What size backpack is allowed as carry-on a plane?

    Most airlines limit carry on sizes to 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 centimeters x 35 centimeters x 56 centimeters) and 40lbs, however the carry on limitations tend to vary by continent and airline with budget airlines in Europe and Southeast Asia having more strict limits.

    Can you take a 40L backpack as a carry-on? Is a 40L backpack carry-on size?

    Most 40 liter backpacks are allowable as carry on backpacks, however, their measurements must generally be under 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches.

    Can a 45L backpack be a carry-on?

    Most 45 liter backpacks are allowable as carry on backpacks, however, their measurements must generally be under 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches. Ultimately airline carry on size restrictions and the individual backpacks dimensions determine whether or not a specific 45L backpack can be a carry on.

    Can a 55l backpack be a carry-on?

    Most 55l backpacks are too large to be carry on items, however, if the overall size can be compressed to 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches then the bag will be allowed as a carry-on

    Can I fly with a backpack and a carry-on?

    You can fly with a backpack as a personal item and a carry-on item if the airline allows bringing a personal item and the backpack meets the measurements and weight for that specific airline’s personal item policy.

    What is the best bag to take on a plane?

    The best bag to take on an airplane is a backpack with plenty of handles on top, bottom, and sides, has few external straps and buckles, and is slightly smaller than the carry on size dimensions limit.

    What are the best stylish Carry on backpacks?

    The best stylish carry on backpacks are the Tortuga Outbreaker, the Nomatic Navigator, and the Peak Design travel bag.

    59+ Best Carry On Backpacks for Travel

    Other Great Travel Content

    Subscribe & get your free guide to going abroad!!

      About A Brother Abroad


      Carlos is a nomad, slow traveler, and writer dedicated to helping others live abroad and travel better by using his 7+ years of experience living abroad and background as a management consultant and financial advisor to help other nomad and expats plot better paths for an international lifestyle. Click here to learn more about Carlos's story.


      Tuesday 2nd of October 2018

      I think I have an obsession with packs, and have about a million on my list. Love the look and detailing of the Minaal, and that one has been on my radar for some time now. There's a couple by Timbuk2 that I really love - the especial series is awesome. In any case, still looking to land on a million bucks so I can try them all!

      Comments are closed.