Guide to Buying the Best Travel Backpack
Travel Gear

Guide to Buying the Best Travel Backpack

A travel backpack is that key piece of equipment that can make your journey easier or just plain painful.  Choosing the right backpack for travelling can make or break your trip or budget! We have been on many trips over the years and used a wide variety of backpacks and know what it means to have chosen the wrong backpack – and so does my husband as I complained non-stop while wearing an ill-fitting, too large or uncomfortable pack!  So, choosing the right backpack is a big decision and one that can impact on your journey from day 1!


Choosing the best travel backpack is important.  A great travel backpack will make your trip easier whether you are heading on your dream trip – or like me prefer to travel with both hands free. 

There are so many awesome backpack brands out there, sometimes it can be hard figuring out which is the best backpack brand or even the best backpack. Here is our complete guide to selecting the best travel backpacks 2018.  This Guide will help you make your best decision and get the best travel backpack for your travels.

Why Should You Travel With A Backpack?

Why should you travel with a backpack?  Choosing between travelling with a backpack or a suitcase can be difficult.  We have travelled with both and each has their own advantages. 

Most recently we have always travelled with a backpack and have found that they give us more flexibility in the type and nature of our travel.  We have noticed that travelling through many parts of Asia where the sidewalks are uneven or nonexistent, or through the cobbled streets of Europe – backpack bags have been the best choice. A good quality backpack should also last you for some time.  Whereas suitcase zips and wheels can break, or the case itself can split – the best backpacks will last a very long time.  You will also notice that your waterproof backpack can take a beating in inhospitable climates and still be going strong.

There is so much versatility in good backpack design these days – so you don’t have to choose between a good looking stylish backpack and a good functional backpack.  There are also so many options from top or front opening, anti-theft, separate compartments – all to meet your specific requirements.  So, if you are looking for the best travel backpack for Europe or the best laptop backpack there is an option out there for you.

Choosing a small backpack, a 40 liter or 45 liter backpack also means that your travel bac pack is small enough to fit on overhead luggage racks on trains and buses, and many also meet the requirements for airline carry on luggage too.  This will add valuable time to your journey by being able to quickly exit the airport and may even save you money in the long run as you may not need to pay luggage fees.  Always a good thing!

Also, by choosing a small travel backpack you won’t be overwhelmed with a too heavy backpack that is impossible to lift.  If the backpack is well designed you will also find that it is not too difficult to carry around, and the weight will be well distributed.

By thinking about how you are going to use your travel backpack, you should be able to make a wise investment in a good quality travel backpack that will last you for some time.

Comparison Chart

Here is our comparison chart for the options for the best backpack 2018 that we have reviewed. 

Best For

Carry On/Women 


Carry On/Europe










Laptop/Carry On






What Should You Look For
When Buying a Backpack?

Choosing the right backpack for you is just that, choosing the best travel backpack that suits your own requirements.  We have outlined several factors we think are critical for choosing the right backpack. You will probably get lots of recommendations from friends and family about their best backpack, but keep in mind your own individual requirements.

1. Size

Size is the most important factor to consider.  I have struggled through India with a pack that was way too big, long and also heavy for me.  I could barely lift it and by the end of the day I was almost bent over double! Because the pack was too big it was difficult for me to navigate steps, getting on and off trains and buses – and to be frank made for a miserable experience.

So, getting the right sized pack is important.  I have transitioned to a smaller travel backpack which is working well and making for much more enjoyable travel.

You should think about the type of traveler you are when selecting how many liters your pack should be.  A slightly larger than required pack should be fine, but you may also find you are an ultra-light packer and can go for a small bac pack.

2. Type

What is the main use for your backpack?  Are you looking for a carry on luggage backpack?  A laptop backpack? A backpack that will carry your life in it across the seasons? Still figuring it out – then read on!

3. Straps

Finding a backpack with the right strap arrangement that suits your travel needs will make carrying, lifting and moving your travel backpack so much easier.  The right arrangement of straps will enable you to distribute the weight of the pack and make it easy to carry.  Also, think about whether you want to be able to tuck away the straps when they are not in use. We have found this to be a useful option when we have checked in our packs – saves the worry about random straps getting caught on things!

Shoulder straps

Well padded shoulder straps are vitally important for your comfort, and for ease of carrying the pack.  Make sure there is decent padding – otherwise there really is no point and you will end up in pain!

Hip straps

Padded Hip Straps are critical for ensuring you are able to carry your pack.  Having padded hip straps will help evenly distribute the weight of your pack.  It will alleviate pressure on your shoulder straps and make carrying your travel pack much easier.  For plus size folk, don’t forget to check the measurements of the straps to make sure they will fit.

Chest straps

A Chest Strap connects the two shoulder straps across your chest.  Ideally, you can have a chest strap that can be moved up and down – especially for the ladies.  A well placed chest strap can assist in distributing the weight of your pack more evenly.  Unlike the shoulder or hip straps – there is no need for the chest strap to be padded.

Other straps and handles

Do you want a carry strap? A handle on the top or the side to assist when lifting your pack in and out of luggage compartments?  These small additions can be helpful especially when you are moving around frequently, and your straps are tucked away.

4. Access

Getting access to your gear should be relatively easy.  Consider whether you prefer a top loading pack or one that unzips from the side.  It can get frustrating if you get a top loading backpack – when really you were after a one that you could open up and see everything.

Do you need special compartments for anything? If you are using this travel backpack as your laptop backpack and travelling on planes, it will be important to consider how easy it is to get access to your laptop – especially when in the security line.

5. Fabric

Ideally you want a backpack made with fabric that is going to withstand as much weather – and wear and tear –  as possible. Let’s be honest – you want to make sure your belongings stay dry when it rains but also dry out quickly when it gets wet.  You also want durable and tough fabric, so your pack doesn’t get ripped easily.

Product Reviews

Best Carry On Backpack

The best Carry On Backpacks are the best of both worlds – versatile enough for you to be able to take what you need and not have to have checked baggage. By investing in a great carry on travel backpack you will be saving money in the long run through not having to pay extra baggage fees.  And of course, you will be able to beat the queues at the baggage collection or customs, breezing through with your backpack!

Carry on travel backpacks should meet the dimension requirements of most airlines – of course you should always check with your airline as to their requirements. Because you are going to be putting your travel backpack in the overhead compartment you need a backpack where you can store away the straps and use handles to get your pack in and out of luggage compartments.  Additional security features to look out for are slash proof features and lockable compartments.  We also love carry on travel backpacks that have an external pocket or two for a drink bottle or umbrella.

Osprey Farpoint 40

The Osprey Farpoint 40 is the perfect carry on backpack and is one of the most popular backpack brands on the market.  At 27 x 17 x 5 inches it fits within most airline carry on measurements making it the perfect carry on backpack.  It will fit easily into overhead compartments and has plenty of space to pack what you need. By using this great travel backpack as your carry on there is no need to check bags, saving you time and money!

Coming in three colors (blue, red, black), the Osprey Farpoint 40 is a stylish travel backpack that will meet all your travel needs.  It has a large panel zip giving you access to the main compartment – so no digging around trying to find things in your backpack.  It has one large internal storage cell and a stowaway back panel to store straps when traveling- you can adjust these straps to give the pack a more slimline profile.  The padded handles on the side and top make this travel backpack carry on easy to get in and out of overhead compartments.

With a zippered front panel slash pocket to keep you organized and sewn attachment points to hook extra gear if needed, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is a great travel backpack.

When the Osprey Farpoint 40 travel backpack is fully packed it feels light, with the chest and waist straps providing additional support.  With a mesh back panel improving ventilation, and mesh on the harness and hip belt to reduce chafing this is a highly functional backpack. The addition of a laptop sleeve is great if you are travelling with your laptop.

40 liters is a great size for short or long trips.  I have found 40 liters is more than enough space to pack the essentials – including all my technology.  If 40 liters is too small they also do large backpacks – 55l and 70l versions which may be more suitable.

Hynes Eagle 44l Flight Approved Carry On Backpack

Hynes Eagle 44L Carry On Backpack is a practical travel pack, with lots of pockets for organising and really comfortable to wear. Coming in five colours you have the opportunity to choose a colour that fits your own style and preference.

The backpack is roomy and styled like a suitcase with a main compartment and several separate smaller compartments facing.  The front compartments have room for a laptop, phone, battery and chargers – and best of all is easily accessible when you are in the security line at the airport.

At 20.1 x 13.8 x 7.5 inchesit is designed to fit in the overhead compartment and under the seat in front. This great carry on backpack is also really versatile.  It can be carried in four different ways – a carry on backpack, securely stacked on wheeled luggage (with back trolley strap), carried with side handle, or as a travel duffle.

Made from heavy duty fabric this bag will last the distance.  The straps on the side let you compress the bag if you haven’t overfilled it.  This would be a great travel backpack for Europe too. 

Best BackPack For Europe

Traveling through Europe with a backpack is a great idea.  Many of the destinations in Europe are old – and as such some of the facilities aren’t really suited to dragging around suitcases.  Once you have dragged suitcases across cobbled street after cobbled street you will be searching for the best travel backpack Europe. You will discover that many parts of Europe are paved with cobblestones, up hills or steps, made up of narrow laneways or inaccessible by car.  Having a backpack will remove much of the luggage struggle and enable you to move relatively freely around your European destinations.

Depending on where you are in Europe, and your budget, you may find your accommodation does not have lift access – meaning you will have to carry your luggage upstairs. Having a backpack makes it a bit easier to get up to your room.

While the public transport system is good in many parts of Europe, there may be times your accommodation is not near transport or transport is not available.  Even in cities where there is great public transport, like London, you will need to be moving up and down stairs a lot.  At the end of the day, having a great travel backpack for Europe is a great way to go.  Here are our favorites.  The carry on travel backpacks we have reviewed, Osprey Farpoint and Hynes Eaglewould also both be great travel backpacks for Europe.

Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45

The Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 is a great choice for the best travel backpack for Europe.  We like that it is smartly designed and is a good looking bag. It comes in black and blue – we have both – and they are both great stylish travel backpacks. Loaded with antitheft features, sleek and easy to use this travel backpack is perfect for travel in Europe, meets carry on measurement requirements and is an overall great option for a travel backpack for Europe.  

An anti-theft backpack is a good option for a travel backpack for Europe – primarily due to the scale of tourism in many parts of Europe. With padded shoulder straps and waist strap, along with a chest strap, you will feel comfortable carrying this great travel backpack.  Straps can be slipped into the back of the pack and you can use just the handles.

The main compartment opens like a suitcase – making it very easy to access all your gear.  There is one large compartment, cinch straps and a mesh pocket. The front pocket has space for a laptop (fitting up to a 15” MacBook) as well as separate pockets for passports, and cords. Handles at the top and side make this an easy bag for lifting into cars or onto luggage racks. There is also a handy outside pocket perfect for a water bottle or umbrella.

The bag’s fabric is embedded with eXomesh slashguard to prevent from slashing. With interlocking zippers and a stainless steel cable letting you secure the entire back to a secure fixture.  Coming with a five year warranty you will be covered in the unlikely event that anything breaks.

Pacsafe have a wide range of travel backpacks you can check out their 65l and 25l bags here.

Osprey Packs Fairview 40L

The incredibly comfortable and functional Osprey Packs Fairview 40 is a fabulous option for the best travel backpack for Europe.  This is Osprey’s lightest backpack. Built to meet most airlines carry on requirements this travel backpack is versatile and will save you checking in luggage. Coming in Grey and Green, this is a lovely stylish option for walking the streets of Europe.

With a Women’s specific stowaway backpanel, the hip belt and harness system can be tucked away. Two large internal compartments inside, and two internal compression straps to secure your gear inside. With cushioned handles on the side and top, you will have added flexibility for how you carry this great travel backpack.

Coming with an internal padded laptop sleeve, a top stash pocket for electronics and sunglasses, and mesh pockets for water bottles the Osprey Fairview is a great choice for a travel backpack for Europe.  If you want to take more with you do check out their 55l or 70l bags.

Best Travel Backpacks For Women

For female travelers finding a great travel backpack designed specifically for a woman’s body can make your travelling so much easier.  These backpacks are some of the best travel bags for women as they take into mind a women’s size, strength and body shape.  Of course, we women travelers are not all one shape – so keep in mind your own body shape when thinking about your best ladies backpack – and if need be, check your measurements against those of the pack.

Also check out the Osprey Packs Fairview 40 which is designed specifically for women’s bodies and is also one of the best backpacks for women.

Kelty Women's Redwing 40

The Kelty Women’s Redwing 40 Liter Backpack is consistently one of the top rated travel backpacks for women.  User feedback indicates this women’s travel backpack is easily adjustable to a variety of body shapes, comfortable, breathable. It is a durable and lightweight backpack, making it the best travel backpack for women.

With a main compartment and a front stash pocket (with plenty of organizing compartments) you will be able to store all your travel gear with ease.  While it doesn’t have a specifically designed laptop sleeve, the hydration sleeve can also be used for this purpose.

The wide shoulder straps and hip belt are designed for a woman’s body – so it shouldn’t be uncomfortable to use.  The U Zip is designed for easy access to the main compartment.  However, if you don’t like top loading packs this feature may not appeal.

Small enough to be used as a carry on backpack, this travel backpack for women is a great choice for a backpack whether you are looking for a travel backpack to Europe or further afield.

Osprey Packs Women's Kyte 46

The Osprey Kyte 46 Backpack is a specifically designed travel backpack for women.  Its innovated suspension system means you will feel comfortable all day. This highly rated backpack takes the weight off your shoulders meaning you can carry it for longer. With plenty of storage options including top loading or side access that let you get at your gear quickly.

This great looking travel backpack will fit all you need plus with all the compartments you will be able to separate out your bits and pieces. Can be used as a carry on backpack (check with your airline first!) and great for overhead luggage compartments on trains in Europe.

Best Laptop Backpacks

Finding the best laptop travel backpacks can change how you travel, of course they can also double as the best backpacks for work.  Carrying your laptop with you can be stressful if you don’t have the right travel backpack that has enough padding in the right places and lets you (and not others) get easy access in the security line.  These laptop carry on backpacks are equally well suited as a travel backpack for Europe and are the best computer backpacks out there.

Each of these business travel backpacks has a laptop compartment, are front loading, weather resistant and are carry on size.

Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Laptop Backpack

The Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Travel Friendly Backpack is a great business friendly travel backpack, and carry on travel backpack for those travellers who carry their laptops with them.

This black backpack laptop compartment fits a 15” MacBook, and you can also fit an iPad in a separate pocket. We really love that the laptop pocket is easily accessible  for when you are going through security.  With a large main compartment for your clothes and other essentials this is a great travel backpack.  Reinforced grab handles on all sides makes this an easy bag to get into overhead compartments, out of cars and generally moving around.

With several internal pockets and compartments there are plenty of places to store your essentials. Excellent reviews also indicate the Timbuk2 is a great choice for a travel backpack for women.  At 30l it is not the biggest bag, but if you are a light packer then the Timbuk2 Uptown would be ideal.

Standard Luggage Co 35L Travel Backpack

Designed for an urban traveler this good looking Standard Luggage Co 35l Travel Backpack is great looking, versatile and functional.  Opening like a suitcase, this backpack will let you access your gear quickly and smartly.

This highly rated travel backpack has a laptop compartment at the back of the backpack, resting against your back – a great place for additional security.  There are two external pockets the front. The straps, including a shoulder strap, can be stowed away should you need to check the bag in – although it is perfectly proportioned for carry on.  This durable luggage backpack is 35l – and is expandable to 45l – perfect if you tend to do some shopping while you travel.

This backpack does not have a waist belt which may make it uncomfortable to carry around for long periods of time.  It doesn’t have compression straps outside either.

Best Anti-Theft Backpack

Anti-Theft travel backpacks give you additional peace of mind when travelling.  Making it harder for thieves to get access to your possessions, anti-theft backpacks are a great option for travel backpacks. Most anti theft backpacks have secret pockets, slash proof construction, RFID protection, extra locking mechanisms and puncture resistant zippers.

Being pickpocketed or your luggage being rifled through or slashed is an awful experience. These anti theft travel backpacks will make it harder for that to happen.  We also recommend the Pacsafe Venturesafe 45l which we review above.