The Best Travel Backpacks for 2019
We aggregated opinions from experts, travel bloggers, and everyday users on the most popular travel backpacks.
Whether you’re traveling across the country or backpacking through Europe, travel backpacks are organized, portable luggage that make it easier and more enjoyable to get to your destination.
We aggregated professional reviews from publications like Conde Nast Traveler, Outdoor Gear Lab, Outside Magazine, Travel and Leisure, and Wirecutter, as well as dozens of trusted travel bloggers like Indie Traveler and The Savvy Backpacker. Then we analyzed customer reviews to pair our findings with opinions of everyday users. From there, we tested some top options to confirm our findings.
Our goal is to research what the experts have to say, discover where their findings overlap, share our findings with readers, and show the work of how we came to those conclusions.
Here, we bring you the best options for travel backpacks in 2019.
Jump ahead to . . .
The Osprey Farpoint Travel Backpack and Osprey Fairview Travel Backpack are the best all-around travel backpack because of their durability, versatility, and price. The Farpoint and Fairview both have a water-resistant 210-denier nylon ripstop material for the pack outers. They are designed with rigid construction and ample padding, so your belongings stay safe and your bag remains unscathed, even if it gets tossed around a bit.
The Farpoint is marketed as the “men’s version” and the Fairview is marketed as the women’s version. We think regardless of the gender that you identify with, you should choose the pack that fits you better. See our Best Women’s Travel Backpack section for more on the Fairview.
Customer reviews raved about the durability of both of these packs. This isn’t surprising given that Osprey is known for their durability and their lifetime warranty. Outdoor Gear Lab selected the 55-liter version of this pack as a Top Pick for travel backpacks, and Conde Nast reviewed it as one of the best travel backpacks for 2019. Customer reviews gave positive feedback for the comfort of this backpack, and Outdoor Gear Lab gave it a 9/10 for comfort in their review.
Other packs in our review, like the Tortuga Outbreaker, feature exceptional amounts of pockets for organization. The Osprey is simpler in this regard. While the Tortuga is a great option for people traveling with lots of electronics or smaller items that can be tougher to keep track of, the lack of extra organization in the Osprey can be seen as a bonus. Not having as many pockets means the Osprey is more versatile in what you can fit where in the pack. Bulky outdoor gear like puffy jackets or tents will fit better here than a more pocket-laden pack. The everyday outdoorsy traveler will find the Osprey Farpoint or Farview to be an exceptional pick for a versatile and durable travel backpack.
Other features in the Osprey include two internal compression straps that cinch down for more efficient packing, dual mesh water bottle pockets on the front, outer compression straps, a laptop pocket, an interior mesh pocket, and locking zippers.
If you like the design of the Farpoint and Fairview, but think you want a larger volume, it comes in a 55L and 70L version option. Adventure Travelers on Reddit prefer the size we recommend--the 40L--because it can be used as carry-on. Travelers liked that the 40L size forced them to be lighter packers, which made it easier for them to get around.
If you do choose the 55 L or 70 L Fairpoint or Fairview, a nice bonus is that they come with zippable detachable daypacks. While this isn’t unique to travel backpacks, it’s a huge plus in the case of the Osprey packs. The daypack gives you additional storage if hey, you decide to pick up extra souvenirs on the way home. Or the daypack allows you have a small, inconspicuous pack to use for day trips without having to bring the whole big bag.
For this review we also considered the Osprey Porter (see our review below) as that came up as another popular travel pack. Ultimately, we decided the Osprey Fairview better met the criteria we had set to find ideal travel backpacks.
Compare prices on the osprey farpoint 40
In 2017, Osprey released the Fairview as a women’s version of their popular Farpoint Travel Backpack, our main pick. We think regardless of the gender that you identify with, you may prefer the Farpoint over the Fairview if it fits you better. Almost everything is the same as the Farpoint except sizing and how weight is carried.
What does “Women’s Sizing” on a Backpack mean?
The Fairview is available in sizes XS/S and S/M. The Farpoint is available in S/M and M/L. This sizing refers to the torso length. The XS size on the Fairview accommodates torso lengths as low as 13”, which is also a torso length found in some kids’ packs. REI has useful suggestions on how to size a backpack. Our How to Choose a Backpacking Backpack story also has suggestions on sizing backpacks.
Women’s Travel Backpack Volumes
The Fairview XS/S and Farpoint S/M both have capacities of 38 liters, slightly smaller than the larger sizes.
Both the Fairview S/M and the Farpoint M/L both have a 40 L volume.
We also noticed that the Farpoint is available in more volume options: 40L, 55L, 70L, and 80L.
The Fairview is only available in 38L/40L, 55L, and 70L.
women’s Backpack Strap Design
The Fairview pack straps curve into the body, designed to by more comfortable on a certain kind of woman’s body. The Farpoint backpack straps go straight over the shoulders. The Fairview pack straps are designed to fall lower on the back than the Farpoint’s straps. This lower-point-of-gravity design allows more of the pack weight to fall onto hips instead of the center of the back. Customer reviews also found more padding in the women’s straps than the men’s straps.
women’s Hipbelt Design
The Fairview’s hipbelt is designed for wider hips. It is designed so the bulk of the weight will be carried on the hips instead of the shoulders (as on the Farpoint). The Fairview’s hipbelt is more curved and slightly more padded.
The Farpoint has 3 color options. The Fairview packs have 2 color options.
Compare prices on the osprey fairview 40
The Cotopaxi Allpa 35 L pack is the smallest in our review at 35 liters. That’s one reason why we suggest it for the lightweight outdoor traveler or digital nomads who want the option to bring along some gear. The Allpa has a TPU-coated polyester outer that provides both durability and weatherproofing.
With multiple zippered pockets on the inside, a laptop sleeve, and a front pocket for small electronics, the Allpa falls somewhere between the Osprey and the Tortuga when it comes to organization. It has more internal pockets for better organization than the Osprey, but not quite as many features as the Tortuga. Unlike other packs in the review, the Cotopaxi does not have exterior water bottle pockets. For some, this may be a deal-breaker. But for those looking for a sleek and simple no-frills travel backpack, this one will be perfect.
The Allpa comes recommended as a great travel backpack by Gear Junkie, Wired, and a small handful of travel bloggers. Wirecutter also gave it an award for Best for Lightpackers. Customer reviewers love the simplicity and organization of this pack. A few reviewers noted that the included rainfly is not really necessary, since the TPU-coated outer provides enough waterproofing as is, while others mentioned that the hip belt and shoulder straps could be more comfortable.
With its minimalistic design and fun colorways, this pack makes for a stylish pick for travelers who don’t mind bringing a little less along for the journey. Because of the durable TPU-coated outer and the sleek design, this pack will fair well from international cities to far-off treks.
If you like the Allpa’s design but prefer a smaller volume, it’s also available in a 28 L version. The smaller volume model is marketed as the 1-week of travel version vs. the 2-weeks of travel version in the 35L. Outside and Backpacker give the 28L version positive reviews.
While Cotopaxi’s travel backpacks are on the pricier side, part of the reason is that they are a Certified B-Corporation. The rating has been given to fewer than 3000 companies worldwide that have been independently graded based on their social and environmental impact data as well as ratings on legal accountability and public transparency. In 2017 and 2018, Cotopaxi was granted Best for the World Honoree. You can read more about B-Corp’s mission to “do no harm and benefit all.”
compare prices on the cotopaxi allpa 35 l
This eBags travel backpack is both the largest travel backpack we considered and the least expensive. Of the budget backpacks we reviewed, the eBags had highest positive customer and professional reviews. This pack is almost always on sale in certain colors and is often about two-thirds the price of the other backpacks we recommend. This made it an obvious choice for best budget travel backpack.
The Mother Lode Weekender Convertible comes recommended as the best budget bag from Wirecutter, and is recommended by trusted travel bloggers as well. Customers on Amazon have written rave-reviews on the bag, noting how spacious the bag is and praising all of its features.
The eBags includes ample organization, similar to the Tortuga, with multiple interior and exterior pockets. As mentioned above, it’s the highest volume bag we considered. But just like using square footage as a way to measure a house or apartment’s size, volume isn’t always the best measure of how big a piece of travel luggage is. Reviews found that not only does the eBags have lots of volume, but it has lots of usable space.
The eBags has a laptop sleeve, a pocket for small electronics, compression straps in the inner main compartment, and a sleeve for a water bottle that stows in one of the front pockets when not in use.
The eBags is constructed with a polyester outer that is thick and durable, according to customer reviews. It does not, however, have a durable water repellent coating or other notable waterproofing, like the other packs in this review. The polyester outer will withstand a light drizzle, but it’s no match for severe weather. While this may be a deal breaker for some travel backpackers, the protection on the eBags should be enough for city trips or adventurers in drier locales. If you need a travel backpack that will perform in inclement weather, see our recommendations for the Cotopaxi Allpa or the Tortuga Outbreaker.
Because of the ample space and organization options, this pack makes a great pick for those who like to bring a few extra creature comforts but don’t want to dish out the cash for, say, a larger Osprey pack. Given the customer rave-reviews and the included features, there’s no question that this travel backpack offers the best bang-for-buck.
view the ebags tls mother lode weekender convertible
Travelers looking for a sleek, durable, and comfortable travel backpack with ultimate organization will find this in the Tortuga Outbreaker. After poring over dozens of reviews, we found that the Tortuga Outbreaker seems to be the Cadillac of travel backpacks. Reviewers like the durable, waterproof fabric, padding, organizational pockets, and locking zippers. But like a Cadillac, the Tortuga is almost one-third pricier than other packs in our review.
The Outbreaker is constructed with an unconventional fabric. Instead of simple nylon ripstop, Tortuga uses waterproof sailcloth. It’s made of a durable, four-layer fabric consisting of 210-denier nylon, polyethylene film, polyester, and a durable water repellent coating.
The Outbreaker also boasts ample features, including foam padding, laptop and tablet sleeves, two side mesh water bottle pockets, interior organizational pockets for toiletries and electronics, and locking zippers. Unlike the Osprey packs we recommend, this Tortuga comes only in a gender-neutral version. However, the frame and suspension system are adjustable so fit can be tailored.
Professional reviewers and trusted travel bloggers alike rave about the Tortuga Outbreaker. Wirecutter mentioned this pack as a top pick for comfort in one of their reviews. Customer reviews rave about the durability and smoothness of the zippers on this backpack. (This is one of the reasons we chose this pack over the popular Nomatic Travel Bag. You can read more on how the Tortuga fared vs. the Nomatic Travel Bag below.)
Because of its organization and sleek look, we recommend the Tortuga Outbreaker travel backpack for globetrotters and city-slickers. It’s designed more for front-country international travel and not so much backcountry adventures. If you know you’ll be spending some time on trail or camping while on your international trip, we’d point you to the Osprey.
If you like the sleek design and organization in the Tortuga Outbreaker but have a tighter budget, consider the Tortuga Setout. It is also a 45-liter pack, and comes in a men’s and women’s version. Instead of waterproof sailcloth, the Setout uses a recycled polyester fabric treated with a durable water repellent coating for the outer, so it won’t be as weather-proof as the Outbreaker. And, unlike the Outbreaker, it does not have an adjustable frame. But, we think this is still a great international travel backpack, especially since it more affordable.
View the tortuga outbreaker
Can I use my backpacking backpack for adventure travel?
While you could use your backpacking backpack for travel, you’ll find a dedicated travel bag more convenient. Travel backpacks are better organized with compartments for shirts to avoid wrinkles and laptop sleeves. Travel backpacks also have fewer straps that can get caught in luggage carousels.
Backpacks that are designed for travel are often made of more rugged, waterproof materials than almost all backpacking backpacks. Afterall, travel backpacks are designed to be thrown onto tuk tuks, strapped to the top of buses, and even carried by camels. Travel backpacks are generally more stylish and lower profile so you won’t stick out like a sore thumb when playing tourist.
That being said, if your trip is primarily backpacking in wilderness conditions, spending most of your hours huffing a pack in the out-of-doors, we think you may be happier with a Backpacking Backpack. See our Best Backpacking Backpack story for ideas.
Can I use a Duffel Bag like the Patagonia Black Hole or The North Face Base Camp for Adventure Travel?
Duffel bags, especially ones like the Patagonia Black Hole or The North Face Base Camp, are very popular among outdoorsy travelers. While these bags can be great for hauling gear and basically everything but the kitchen sink, they’re not ideal for use as a versatile travel backpack.
There are two main reasons for this: First, they do not have the organizational features that the travel backpacks in this review do. Second, they do not carry weight nearly as comfortably.
These duffel-style bags are meant to haul gear from place to place, and maybe be thrown on a pack mule and lugged to a remote base camp. They are not ideal for shouldering and toting through busy airports, or for comfortably carrying from one country to the next.
What are the types of trips where a travel duffel would serve you better than a travel backpack?
Are you planning a trip to Aconcagua? Driving to Alaska with a bunch of mountaineering gear to load up? Then, we might recommend a large travel duffel. (Take it from our writer, who dragged her massive Black Hole duffel along on multiple international trips: My Black Hole duffel served me well when guiding in Alaska, and I still often use it for road trips; it’s great for that. But, your shoulders will thank you for buying a comfortable travel backpack for most other trips.)
compare prices on the north face base camp
Compare prices on the patagonia black hole duffel
In our research of almost a dozen travel media and travel bloggers, we identified three more travel backpacks that were worthy of mention. Ultimately, they didn’t win one of our awards because they were too similar to other backpacks that fit our criteria better for the price. However, you may find a special use case scenario where these backpacks may work better for you or you may find them on sale when our picks may not be.
But, we between the two models, we found that the Farpoint and Fairview had more features and overall better reviews. Many customer reviews for the Porter complained that it does not have any exterior water bottle or mesh pockets.We think if you’re going to be using your travel backpack as an adventure pack (or heck, even a city tourist daypack) you’ll want those water bottles. That’s yet another reason why we like the Farpoint and Fairview as the best travel backpack.
view the osprey porter
As we scoured the internet and read up on reviews from reputable sources to find the best travel backpacks, we noticed that the Nomatic Travel Bag was a favorite among a handful of travel bloggers and gear reviewers. This bag is most similar to the Tortuga Outbreaker in look, features, and price. We took a careful look at both bags before deciding which to feature in the review, and in the end, the Tortuga won.
While many travel bloggers praised the Nomatic—understandably so, it does have great features—it all came down to one simple piece: zippers. We found several customer reviews that complained about faulty or finicky zippers on the Nomatic pack. Meanwhile, customer reviews for the Tortuga raved about smooth and durable zippers that never failed. (And, hey, zippers are a really important part of a backpack!) Given that the Nomatic is only $30 less (and 5 liters smaller) than the Tortuga Outbreaker, we’d happily fork over a little extra for bomber zippers.
view the nomatic travel bag
The REI Flash series has become very popular among travelers and backpackers, and with good reason: They’re lightweight, durable backpacks backed by REI’s reputation and stellar customer service.
We did not include the Flash in our review because it stands out more as a backcountry pack than a frontcountry travel pack. While it is a good choice for wilderness backpacking trips, it is not as versatile or sleek as a pack made specifically for traveling (especially in airports). The Flash has enough parts that look like they could get caught in a luggage carousel, that we had to eliminate it from our travel backpack lineup. Additionally, the Flash does not have the basic features included in all of the bags in this review, like a laptop sleeve and stowing shoulder straps. If you’re looking for a backpacking backpack for wilderness trips, see our Best Backpacking Backpack guide.
Related: How to Choose a Backpacking Backpack
View the REI Flash 45
Stasia Stockwell is an avid traveler and outdoorswoman. From guiding backpacking in Alaska to traveling to Japan to ski fresh powder or flying to Catalonia to trek through the Pyrenees, she has logged many long days on road trips and in airports, towing luggage along the way.
Stasia learned about travel luggage the hard way. After carting a large ski bag and stuffed duffel through Tokyo Station, Stasia found that a travel backpack that keeps your clothing, gear, and other travel items well-organized is crucial to traveling comfortably and efficiently. Stasia has extensive experience testing gear and writing for other publications like Backpacker Magazine, The Dyrt Magazine and more. You can read more about her writing and adventures at: https://idontliveinavan.com/
How we researched
We analyzed travel media reviews on backpacks from publications like Conde Nast Traveler, Outdoor Gear Lab, Outside Magazine, Travel and Leisure, and Wirecutter. Then we turned to reviews by trusted travel bloggers like Indie Traveler and The Savvy Backpacker. Our goal is to research what the experts have to say, discover where their findings overlap, share our findings with readers, and show the work of how we came to those conclusions. See our Sources section to see that work.
To meet our goal of pairing expert advice with opinions from everyday users, we sifted through hundreds of customer reviews on each product. We wanted to document everyday users’ experience with these packs to get an idea of what holds up over time. After analyzing all these reviews, we tested some top options to confirm our findings.
What to look for in a travel backpack
While each travel backpack in this review has its specific features that make it ideal for certain situations or people, all of these packs have a few features in common.
First, all of these packs are within the standard size limit for carry-on luggage, and should be allowed on most airlines as carry-on luggage.
There are some instances noted in customer reviews where they had to check bags unexpectedly, but this is likely because they were traveling on small planes, especially on lesser-known international airlines.
Each of these bags is marketed as usable for carry-on luggage.
Sized for Business Travel or Adventure Travel
Second, all of these packs are similar in size; some are a bit larger, some smaller, but all are intended to be enough for weekend and multi-week trips alike, depending on your packing style.
Adventure Travel to Digital Nomad to Check In
Third, each of these backpacks feature shoulder straps that can stow into the backpack for when it is not being carried on your shoulders.
Locking Luggage and Anti-Theft Backpacks
Fourth, all of these packs have the capability to lock the zippers, at least on the main compartment, so that you can travel in peace.
Digital Nomad Backpacks
Lastly, all of these packs have a laptop sleeve of some sort, though some have better organization and more pockets for electronics than others.
Versatile Adventure Backpacks
All the backpacks on our list have the versatility to:
be used for both short and long trips
to be checked or used as a carry-on
safely tote a laptop
We think these three requirements are standard features for a good travel pack. The bells and whistles beyond that are up to personal preference.
How to Choose the Right Travel Backpack for You
When deciding on which travel backpack best suits your personal needs, it’s helpful to ask yourself these questions.
How do you like to travel?
This question will be one of the best to help you narrow down size. Do you typically bring only the bare essentials, or do you prefer to play it safe and overpack a bit? For those who prefer going light and minimal, a backpack like the Cotopaxi may suit you well. But, if you need the extra space, then opt for a larger pack like the eBags.
Experienced travelers know they can save money and reduce the risk of lost bags by sticking to carry-on only luggage. Limiting yourself to carry-on bags means that your walk from the train station to your hotel will be more pleasant and that you won’t overpack.
We strongly encourage you stick with 40L to 45 L travel backpacks to avoid hassles associated with larger bags. But if you really need extra volume because you’re carrying a tux, laptop, and a climbing rope, we’d direct you towards the 55 L or 70 L Osprey Fairpoint or Fairview.
Where are you going?
If you’re making your way to somewhere like Southeast Alaska or the fjords of Norway where it is cold and/or wet weather is to be expected, you’ll want a pack that can stand up to downpour and more. In this case, we’d recommend a pack like the Cotopaxi Allpa or Tortuga Outbreaker or theor their top-notch waterproofing.
Do you want a stylish adventure backpack? Do you need a business travel backpack to look good for an international work trip?
Do you care about how your travel backpack looks? Traveling through some metropolitan areas where a sleek style will function well and blend in? The Cotopaxi and Tortuga both have a stylish look that can be easily taken from a trailside hostel to big city.
If style is less of a concern than function, space, or durability, you’ll save money by opting for the eBags or Osprey. (It is worth noting that we don’t think the other bags in our review have bad style, we just think the Cotopaxi and Tortuga have the most stylish designs.)
Do you want a budget adventure backpack?
As our review mentions, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to get a great travel backpack. If staying within a tight budget is important to you, decide on your other priorities beyond that (space, durability, organization) and pick a pack that meets your needs within your budget. You may have to sacrifice a few small features, but your pack will get the job done.
If your budget has some wiggle room, then we recommend splurging to get the pack you want most. After all, it will likely travel the world with you. A holey bag or busted zipper can be a hassle to fix when you’re hopping planes in South America.
A lot of unexpected problems can happen on an adventure travel trip. We think it’s worth investing in a quality bag so a broken zipper doesn’t become one of those issues.
Are you a digital nomad?
Are you bringing a laptop? A fancy camera? Do you have a ton of cords? When traveling, a dedicated laptop sleeve and electronic pockets can make it easier to move through airport security. A good travel backpack can also protect your electronics from liquids in your pack, like shampoo. We think it’s important to get work done (or at least edit photos and video) when you’re seeing the world. All the adventure backpacks that made our final line-up have laptop sleeves.
What should I bring for an adventure travel trip?
So you’ve got your travel backpack. What else do you need? Our editor Liz Thomas added this list of accessories she’s found useful on international travel.
Water Filter or PurifierDepending where you travel, potable water out of the tap isn’t a given. Heck, the tap isn’t always a given. If you’re traveling internationally, you may want something beefier than your backpacking filter. In some countries, viruses can lurk in groundwater. And you’ll need a virus-specific water purifier to get those bad boys out.
Our writer Amanda Jameson writes in Best Water Filters and Purifiers that the Grayl Ultralight Purifier Water Bottle is the International Purifier of Subtly. It looks like a normal water bottle (which, by the way, you’ll want one for your travels). But it filters water as you pour and drink.
Amanda also recommends the MSR Guardian Water Purifier, long considered the gold standard for International Travel. It’s more expensive, but it’s durable, trusted, and well-tested.
When you’re going on a trip around the world, waiting for camera repair or even finding a camera repair shop aren’t givens. We suggest bringing a waterproof, shockproof, drop-proof camera is a must. We like the Olympus TG-6 Tough Camera for the quality of photos it takes as well as it's sheer ability to stand up to anything.
Best Tough Cameras of 2019 guide to see our review of trusted cameras that have survived all sorts of conditions.
Many of the travel backpacks that we recommend come with accessory packing cubes. These zippered stuff sacks of the travel world make it easier to stay organized. Use packing cubes to keep your clean clothes separate form your dry laundry. Some packing cubes, like our favorite Eagle Creek Pack-It Spectre Compression Cubes, are designed to reduce wrinkles when traveling for business trips, weddings, or other times when you need to look snappy.
See our NYC Urban Hike Packing List for more tips using packing cubes in cities.
Smartphone with Phone Case
International phone plans are affordable and help you stay connected with work and loved ones as you travel the globe. Having your phone also gives you access to maps, language apps, and information about places you are visiting. You’ll also have access to your music and podcast collection, which may make you feel more at home when you’re far from home.
Many world travelers choose to get a new phone before they start a trip to reduce the chances that their old phone will go kaput somewhere that iPhones aren’t sold. If that’s your story, see our Best iPhones for Adventurers story.
Whether you’re headed somewhere tropical where it rains every afternoon, somewhere cold and wet like the fjords of Norway, or even somewhere dry like the Atacama desert in Chile, you need a waterproof, drop-proof, and dustproof phone case. We like the Otterbox Defender. Find one that works with your phone.
While we’re on the subject of phones, we recommend if you are bringing electronics, you bring a back-up battery. While navigating through an unknown city where you don’t know the language, life is a lot easier if your phone battery doesn’t die.
We like the lightweight and inconspicuous Anker Powercore 10000 mAH Redux. It’s served us well on our Thru-hike 800 miles across Arizona as well as our 9-day trip all on foot across New York City. We usually get about 6 full phone charges from it before we need to plug it into a wall.
Yeah, yeah. We hate being paranoid. But after having some cash swiped from us during a bus ride from Phucket to Chiang Mai, we’ve changed our tune about money protectors. The Eagle Creek Deluxe Money Belt has long-been the Gold Standard on these matters.
Travel Pillow and Eye Mask
World travelers find themselves sleeping on 14-hour flights or slow-moving trains. An eye mask keeps out the light and comfortably lets you pretend you’re on whatever timezone you wish you were on. We like the Nidra Sleep Mask, which we took on the NYC urban hike (hey, it’s almost impossible to find a dark New York apartment).
We also recommend you bring a travel pillow. The Eagle Creek 2-in-1 Travel Pillow has long been a bestseller and is one of the highest rated travel pillows we found. That’s not saying much. It’s no surprise that customer reviews towards travel pillows can be harsh. We suspect that is because they use them in them at times when sleep is already hard to come by.
Reliable electrical lighting isn’t always a given some places you may travel. A lightweight headlamp can help if you’re exploring late at night. Or if you need to use the privy in the middle of the night.
See our How to Choose a Headlamp story to find the headlamp for you.
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