TRAVELING

Best Carry On Backpack: Choosing the perfect companion for your adventures

Guy with carry on backpack
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Many travelers and adventurers prefer having a carry on backpack than a suitcase. That’s because carry on backpacks are much easier to bring and they just make life more convenient. That’s the case especially if you have the best carry on backpack with you.

It’s a worthwhile investment, as travel backpacks can last for years. That’s why it’s worth it when you spend some extra time selecting the best travel backpack carry on. It will be with you through any kind of weather and adventure you can come up with.

Carry ons side by side

So how do you choose the best one? In this comprehensive guide, you will know what specific features to look for. You’ll also learn a few tips (from what experienced travelers say) that would help you get the most value. Let’s begin.

How to choose a travel backpack

The best gear can often help travelers get the most from every experience. That’s because you won’t have to worry much about any problem. You can instead focus on the adventure itself. To help you with that, here are the specific features you should look for before buying a backpack for your travels:

Padded back

This is important. From the name itself, a backpack is the one that you’ll be wearing on your back. Whether on short or extended travels, comfort is always important especially when you will be wearing the backpack for hours. There should be some sort of “wall” between your items inside your bag and your back.

You want to feel comfortable all the time so you can endure longer trips with your gear. When you start browsing online, scan through the product pages and see if the back is comfortable. This is a priority because it can make all the difference when it comes to your travels.

Padded shoulder straps and hip belt

Whether on short travels or extended trips, it’s likely that what you’ll be carrying is heavy. You have lots of items to bring and maybe you will bring more to your home. The bag gets heavy and the shoulder straps might bring down the weight on you.

Carry on paddings

But with padded shoulder straps, there is some comfort. The bag is still heavy but you won’t feel much the pain. The weight is somehow distributed so that the pressure doesn’t concentrate on one particular point.

The hip belts should also be padded so there’s some comfort on the hips. Some travelers see this as optional. But for many, a hip belt provides comfort and stability. It also effectively distributes the weight throughout the rest of the body instead of the back doing all the work.

Aside from padding, the hip belts should also be easily adjustable and secure. This way you can set it for extra support and stability. You will also feel a snug fit whenever you’re wearing the backpack. It feels more stable and secure that way.

Weight of the backpack

Every pound counts. The weight of the backpack can also make a difference on your travels. That’s why it’s good to have a backpack that’s lightweight.

Couple with light carry ons

Remember that it’s likely you’ll be carrying the backpack for hours. If you’re a beginner, the weight can drag you down and make you feel exhausted. That’s why it’s also important to have a lightweight backpack both for beginners and experienced travelers.

Multiple compartments

This is about function and organization. Multiple compartments can store and segregate your various items so they won’t get mixed up. You will avoid clutter and you can easily reach whatever you need.

Multiple compartments can also save you some time digging inside your bag. During travels, what you need on the spot is unpredictable. Suddenly, you might need your umbrella, your pen, your sandals, your shoes, or your clothes. With multiple compartments, you can access them quickly and easily. This is an important feature especially if you’re always in a cramped or inconvenient position.

Water repellent or water resistant

This is also one of the most important features experienced backpackers look for. Weather is unpredictable and often, travelers are exposed to harsh conditions. Often, the problem is about the water getting into the bag.

Water repellent bag material

Water can damage your items, especially the electrical and electronic ones. No matter what the claims about the water resistant electronic gadgets, it’s better to be safe than sorry. That’s why the carry on backpack you choose should be water-repellent. Water resistant backpacks are often made from durable polymers that don’t let the water to pass through. Even if it’s raining or you’re near bodies of water, the material can prevent your items from getting wet.

Capacity

More can be sometimes better. During camping and extended travels, it’s likely you’ll be bringing more items. You’ll need more space on those cases in your bag.

Many carry on backpacks have spaces of 30 to 40 liters, which is already enough for most purposes. But if you’re worried about space and your items are bulky, you have to go for the maximum capacity. If you’re confident you only need a few for your travels (the minimalist style), backpacks with less capacity are ideal.

Durability

As mentioned earlier, travelers and their gears are often exposed to harsh conditions. The most popular travel backpacks are strong and durable. They can carry all your items and you can bring them with you outside no matter what the weather is. In addition, you can use them for many years without noticeable wear and tear.

Photographer with carry on

It’s good to read what customers say about the backpacks they purchased. If they said they’ve been using the backpack for many years, it’s a good sign. The material is durable and the backpack is reliable. It’s truly a worthwhile investment and fewer worries if the backpack is with you for years to come.

Carry on Backpack Reviews

Now you’ve learned what specific features to look for in backpacks. You’ve also learned what experienced travelers consider before buying a carry on backpack for their future adventures.

Next is you’ll read about the specific strengths of popular backpacks out there. This way, you’ll be able to determine which one is best for you according to your needs and preferences.

Osprey Farpoint 40

Osprey Farpoint 40Capacity: 40 liters

Specific Features: Padded shoulder strap, hip belt and harness system can easily be stowed and zipped away, mesh back panel

The Osprey Farpoint 40 has a lot of capacity, so you can fit all your items for most of your travels. If you want to stay safe with how much you bring and how much your backpack can carry, this maximum capacity backpack is for you.

The main compartment is large enough for your big items. Inside, you can see a mesh pocket which is ideal for small items. You won’t have to worry about organization. You will prevent clutter and you can access your items while on the go.

Even if you’re carrying the backpack for hours, there’s some help with the ventilation through the mesh back panel. It feels fresher and you won’t have to worry much about the sweat. You also have a few options about how you’ll carry the bag because of the hip belt and harness system which can easily be put away or put on whenever you need them.

There’s also some added protection to your personal belongings because of the padded top. Your backpack might get stored in the back of the bus or some cramped space. With the padded top, there’s some protection. In addition, the side handles can make it easy for you to grab your bag from almost any cramped space.

Check the price on Amazon

Hynes Eagle 40L Flight Approved Carry on Backpack

Hynes Eagle 40L Flight ApprovedCapacity: 40 liters

Specific Features: Water repellent polyester, fits in the overhead compartment in flights, easy to convert from duffel into a backpack

This one also has a large capacity but it’s specifically designed to have a maximum size which is still allowable on an IATA flight. You can carry it with you during the flight and not leave it in the luggage.

So whenever you need something from your bag, you can just get it anytime. Or, you can save some time waiting for the luggage because you’re always on the go exploring and not worrying about the bag getting left behind.

The Hynes Eagle 40L Flight Approved Carry on Backpack is also water resistant. It’s made from a combination of PVC and polyester (which are very durable polymers). It’s likely you can use this for years without noticeable wear and tear.

In addition, in just a few seconds you can easily convert this from duffel into a backpack. It’s versatile and you can vary your total outfit just by converting this backpack and vice versa. If you choose to carry it as a backpack, you can adjust the buckle straps according to your needs and preferences at the time.

You can organize your small items in the 1 front zip pocket (with multiple interior slip pockets). The second compartment is large enough to fit even a 15.6-inch laptop. That compartment is padded to keep your electronic devices secure. There’s also a side pocket for extra storage. You can put there a water bottle or your favorite beverage. This way, you can stay hydrated by easily accessing your drinking water.

Check the price on Amazon

Crazy Ants Military Tactical Backpack

Crazy Ants Military Tactical BackpackCapacity: 35 liters

Specific Features: Padded and adjustable shoulder straps, breathable mesh backing, with thickened computer protective interlayer inside, can be carried by one or two shoulders

This has less capacity but still covers most of the basics. It also has padded (and adjustable) shoulder straps. These add comfort whenever you’re carrying the bag.

The Crazy Ants Military Tactical Backpack also improves ventilation on your back because of the breathable mesh backing. There won’t be much sweat on your back because of air freely circulating.

This one also has some versatility because you can also use this as a handbag (you can carry the backpack by one or two shoulders). As mentioned earlier, this has less capacity. This is ideal for short term trips, short range hiking, or if you’re confident the capacity is already enough for most of your needs. There’s another version with a larger capacity (ideal for camping and other extended trips).

Many travelers worry about their laptop and tablet inside the backpack. This one has a thickened computer protective layer inside. You will always feel that your electronic devices are sufficiently protected wherever you go.

It’s concise but still functional. If you prioritize convenience, practicality, and versatility, this backpack, which you can carry in at least 3 different ways, is ideal for you.

Check the price on Amazon

Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking Backpack

Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking BackpackCapacity: Up to 33 liters

Specific Features: Compact, lightweight (0.5 pounds), made from water resistant nylon fabric, with durable 2-way abrasion resistant SBS metal zipper, multiple compartments

It’s one of the most popular travel backpacks both for beginners and experienced travelers. Why? One reason is it’s lightweight and compact. It’s also an ideal companion for most travels.

Many travelers now favor less weight and fewer items. It’s more convenient and you’re always ready on the go whenever you want to explore the next place in your list. In addition, it’s only 0.5 pounds which means the bag itself won’t contribute much to the weight you’re carrying.

As with the backpacks mentioned above, the Outlander Hiking Backpack also has multiple compartments. There’s one main compartment where you can put your laptop or tablet, two front zipper pockets for your accessories, and one internal security zippered pocket for your valuable items. The backpack also has two side pockets for water bottle or umbrella.

As you can notice from the features, this backpack can be versatile and multipurpose. In addition, you can fold the empty bag so that it can fit in your pocket. You can then easily unfold from pocket to backpack whenever you need it. It’s highly useful especially if you’re planning to carry a lot when you get back home. Or, it’s also ideal when you want to use it as a carry on for your excess baggage to avoid overweight charges during flights.

This is durable and lightweight. Aside from occasional travels, this is also ideal for daily use.

Check the price on Amazon

eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible

eBags TLS Mother Lode WeekenderCapacity: Up to 3,299 cu.in. (54 liters)

Specific Features: Fabric/Polyester/840D & 900D Twisted Poly, Full expansion zipper, eBags patent-pending Laptop Sling, contoured Airmesh backpack straps, 3.7 lbs

This is also one of the popular travel backpacks out there. One main reason is its smart features. For example, it has a laptop sling where you can adjust the fit so that your laptop is held securely. The compartment of the TLS Mother Lode Weekender is also expandable.

The lines along the straps can get sweaty due to poor air circulation. But thanks to this backpack’s contoured Airmesh backpack straps, the air can circulate freely which means you can still feel a bit fresh while carrying the bag.

There’s also the full expansion zipper which adds over 10 percent of packing space. You can easily put in various treasures you found along the way. Inside, there are tons of organizational details so you can remain clutter-free. You can easily get your things even while you’re on the go.

The capacity is more than 50 liters. You can pack lots of clothing in one batch. Instead of carrying two bags, you might just need this one backpack to pack all that’s necessary. This is convenient especially during lots of train, plane, and bus rides.

Check the price on Amazon

Cabin Max Metz Backpack

Cabin Max Metz BackpackCapacity: 44 liters

Specific Features: 3 main zipped compartment, adjustable shoulder straps, water resistant, with high strength composite shower proof nylon bag with padded back, 1.5 lbs

It has a massive 44-liter capacity. It’s the best of both worlds for beginners and experienced adventurers. Because it’s lightweight, you can make the most of your hand luggage allowance. This was also designed to fit the maximum size allowed in hand luggage. No worries about overcharges when you’re about to get onboard.

The Cabin Max Metz Backpack is highly durable and waterproof because of the high strength composite shower proof nylon. It’s likely you’re going to use this for years and for many of your future adventures. While you’re wearing it, you can adjust the shoulder straps according to your needs.

However, if you’re going fully packed, the backpack can be a lot heavier than expected. That happens especially if you’re doing to a lot of walking while carrying it. It has a larger capacity than many of the backpacks out there. It’s tempting to bring and pack everything, but it’s good to focus only on the essentials.

This spacious backpack is good for flights and train rides. It’s small enough with large enough capacity suitable for most travel purposes.

Check the price on Amazon

Cabin Max Oxford Carry On Luggage

Cabin Max Oxford Carry OnCapacity: 40 liters

Specific Features: 0.9kg, opens like a suitcase, two zip compartments inside, UV coated canvas, specifically designed to fit within hand luggage allowance for many budget airlines

Weighing less than 1 kilo, the Cabin Max Oxford 50x40x20cm Carry On Luggage is one of the preferred carry on backpacks by travelers. Aside from being lightweight, its dimensions are also perfect for hand luggage allowance.

The UV-coated canvas twill material is durable. In addition, it adds style to the whole backpack. There’s a compartment specifically made for tablet and laptop. You can fit an electronic device with widths up to 15.5 inches. There are also two zip compartments inside the Cabin Max Oxford Carry On Luggage where your items are nicely divided and separated.

It’s also showerproof, which means this backpack can resist light rain showers for a short period of time. This is good enough if you’re traveling during nice weather and everyday use. But for harsh conditions, it’s good to go for the one which is water resistant or waterproof. All in all, it’s a durable, lightweight, and functional backpack that’s good for many travel purposes.

Check the price on Amazon

Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack

Timbuk2 Uptown Travel BackpackCapacity: 30 liters

Specific Features: 2.4 lbs, TSA-compliant, send your bag through security without removing devices, laptop compartment can fit a 15” MacBook, channeled air mesh ventilated back panel

The Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack has a bit smaller capacity than the backpacks mentioned above. However, it’s still functional and can even provide more comfort to the user. For example, the channeled airmesh ventilated back panel promotes free air circulation. There’s also the custom-fit strap design that provides a more comfortable fit.

When it comes to organization, there’s the front zip pocket for your small items. In the large main compartment, you can carry your books, jacket, and other essentials. There are also cool extras and one of which is the reinforced grab handles on all sides.

You can grab it no matter how it’s positioned and how cramped the space is. There’s also the side pocket (which is stretchy) so you can store your water bottle. Another notable feature is the Tricot-lined floating pocket which protects sunglasses or your smartphone.

This is ideal for both occasional travel and everyday use. You can use it at school, gym, and other places. The capacity is good enough and it’s highly functional because of its pockets and organization.

Check the price on Amazon

 Final Thoughts

Now that you know what you should be looking for in a carry on backpack, it’s time to go out there and do it. Keep in mind all of the features mentioned above, and consider which ones will meet your needs. It’s more important to get a bag that you feel comfortable traveling with rather than spending money on one with all the bells and whistles.

Airport carry on backpack

And please don’t forget to leave a comment below if there’s anything you’d like to share with us.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Alexander Bianco

    I was going to comment that I have been surprising myself with how much I’ve like the more military-esc bags when I see them. After all, with many of those designs your know that they are coming from a mindset that is almost purely about function, and that really speaks to me. However, I also really like the Cabin Max Oxford piece above. I have to give you props for sharing such varied and ultimately eye-opening selections.

  • Daniel Carraway

    I think most people today go for form and function. It’s great that there are a lot of stellar features on backpacks nowadays. But if they can style this to be so good-looking – why not? Contrary to what others may be thinking, men also love attractive and innovative designs.

  • Tonya Murphy

    This might be a weird question but what is the difference between something being repellant and something being resistance? So a repellant pack would have the water slide off and a resistant back would keep your things for getting wet but they essentially do the same. Is it the material used that makes it different?

  • Phyllis Perez

    The Cabin Max Oxford is very attractive. I love that they have the feature of being able to resist a small rain shower. How perfect when you’re our hiking or walking about and traveling and an unexpected light shower comes up. How ingenious.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Hello Phyllis and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I think the Cabin Max Oxford is a great buy and the light shower proof material does come in handy. If however you’re going to a place where the weather won’t be as cooperative, the waterproof backpacks are the ones to get.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Let’s get this straight – a material can be: water resistant or water repellent. In terms of the lowest level of protection, water resistant materials are coated with some very light substance so that water will have difficulties getting inside. A step up are water repellent materials that has the ability to repel water so that it is termed as hydrophobic. These are coated with the latest thin film “nanotechnology” – usually inside or outside, but most often on both sides.
    And yes, the coating material does make the big difference.

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