5 Best Carry-On Backpacks for Travel

best carry on travel backpack

Getty People carry backpacks before boarding a train at the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris on July 8, 2016 during holiday departures. / Getty

When traveling, a good carry-on backpack is essential. You want something that can fit everything you need for a weekend trip, or just be a supplement to your luggage. Either way, you need it to fit airline carry-on specifications.

These carry-on backpacks vary in size, so whether you need something small and light or something to double as a suitcase there’s an option for you. They also each have special features. One is ideal for outdoor travel, one has anti-theft features, one a good day-to-night option, and more.

Whether you want style or functionality, or travel for work or pleasure, these are the best carry-on backpacks for any kind of traveler:

Best Carry-On Backpacks for Travel

venture pal travel backpack Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Inexpensive
  • Lots of storage
  • Lightweight
Price: $19.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Durable and high-quality
  • Spacious with multiple compartments
  • Water-resistant
Price: $132.32 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
osprey backpack Amazon Customer Reviews
  • High-quality, reputable brand
  • Straightjacket, padded protection
  • Fits a lot for its size
Price: $71.93 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Classic, stylish design
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Padded laptop sleeve
Price: $79.08 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
anti theft backpack Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Anti-theft pocket
  • Comfortable and breathable
  • External USB charging port and cable
Price: $26.39 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Venture Pal Carry-On Travel Backpack

    Pros:
    • Inexpensive
    • Lightweight
    • Water-Resistant
    • Lots of storage
    • Comfortable mesh pockets and chest strap
    • Double-layered bottom
    Cons:
    • Not as large as other bags
    • Not as durable as high-end options
    • Not as high-quality as others

    This carry-on travel backpack weighs only 0.7 pounds and costs only about $20, yet is a favorite among travelers. The bag is water resistant, making it great for outdoor activities. It can store up to 35 liters in multiple compartments, yet easily fits in the overhead compartment.

    The shoulder straps are made with a breathable mesh fabric that allows you to carry it for long stretches without discomfort. The double-layered bottom helps hold heavier objects without strain, and a chest strap helps you lock it securely in place.

    The carry-on backpack has one main pocket, two zippered front pockets, and two side pockets. There are two separators in the main pocket. When not in use, the backpack folds into a zippered inner pocket to save space, so you can pack it in your luggage then take it out to use for day trips on vacation.

    It comes in nine colors. On Amazon, it has nearly 4,000 reviews and the overwhelming majority are positive. “I carried it on my back for about 12 hours one day, and I have to say it was pretty darn comfortable,” said one user.

    VideoVideo related to venture pal carry-on travel backpack2018-10-15T15:43:38-04:00

  2. 2. Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack

    Pros:
    • Durable and high-quality
    • Spacious with multiple compartments
    • External gear clips
    • Water-resistant
    • Separate shoe compartment
    Cons:
    • Heavy, even when empty
    • More expensive than other bags
    • Not as stylish as some

    This backpack is pricier than others on the list, but is an Amazon best seller for its high-quality and ample storage. It can fit a ton, yet can also fit most airline carry-on specifications. It’s made of a durable nylon-polyester blend and has a laptop sleeve, multiple inside storage pockets, two outside side pockets, a front organizer pocket, and a bottom shoe compartment, which is great for keeping trekking shoes away from more delicate items.

    It has a compression molded back panel and adjustable, comfortable shoulder straps. It has three metal loops to clip on extra gear, which reviewers found helpful on camping trips and during deployment. The backpack is water resistant, keeping your electronics and gear safe.

    People like the look of the bag and the amount of storage space, though some noted it is heavier than other bags even when empty.

    VideoVideo related to oakley kitchen sink backpack2018-10-15T15:44:38-04:00

  3. 3. Osprey Porter Carry-On Travel Backpack

    Pros:
    • High-quality, reputable brand
    • Straightjacket, padded protection
    • Multiple pockets
    • Comfortable
    • Fits a lot for its size
    Cons:
    • More expensive than others
    • No side pockets
    • Only comes in one color

    When it comes to the best backpacks for travel, Osprey is on most lists. The brand has been making high-quality travel gear for years and has amassed a loyal base of frequent travelers.

    This carry-on backpack features a stowaway harness, straightjacket protection, a medicine pocket, and a laptop sleeve, as well as a main pocket and two smaller front zip pockets. It weighs only 2.8 pounds empty, and is 20 x 13 x 12 inches.

    The straightjacket compression and padded panels help keep gear and clothing safe and dry, which reviewers loved. They also found it very comfortable and liked the solid black design.

  4. 4. Herschel Carry-On Travel Backpack

    Pros:
    • Classic, stylish design
    • Padded laptop sleeve
    • Adjustable closures
    • Limited Lifetime Warranty from a reputable brand
    Cons:
    • Not as many pockets as other backpacks
    • No side water bottle pockets
    • Not as durable as some

    This carry-on travel backpack is great for its versatility. It can go from outdoor adventure to strolling through cities, and fits quite a bit while still looking slim. Plus, it comes in 40 attractive colors.

    The style is classic, with modern touches like leather straps air mesh back padding, and contoured shoulder straps. Herschel is a well-known travel brand and provides a limited lifetime warranty.

    Each backpack has a padded, fleece-lined 15-inch laptop sleeve; adjustable drawstring closure; adjustable strap closures; a front pocket with a hidden zipper; a key clip; and striped fabric liner.

    These bags are beloved for their classic design that can fit numerous situations. Some users wished they had more interior pockets, or external water bottle pockets.

    VideoVideo related to herschel carry-on travel backpack2018-10-15T15:47:10-04:00

  5. 5. Anti-Theft Carry-On Travel Backpack

    Pros:
    • Anti-theft pocket
    • Spacious
    • Comfortable and breathable
    • External USB charging port and cable
    Cons:
    • Some users wanted more pockets
    • Not as high-quality as some brands
    • Not as stylish as some

    If you travel with a lot of technical gear, this might be the carry-on backpack for you. It has a 15.6-inch laptop pocket, a spacious main compartment, a side mesh water bottle pocket, and a front compartment with pockets for pens and a key hook. There’s even an anti-theft pocket that sits against your back–it’s the perfect place to stash cash or your passport.

    The back is thick and comfortable with airflow ventilation and breathable, adjustable shoulder straps. It also has a luggage strap, so you can slide it over your checked luggage if you prefer. The material is water-resistant and durable, keeping your belongings safe from the rain, and it comes in six colors.

    One of the best features though is the external USB charging port and built-in charging cable, so you’ll never have to worry about your devices losing battery on the go.

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