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The Best Travel Backpacks for Every Need and Budget in 2020

How do you choose your best travel backpacks when you are planning a trip?

You’ll be surprised to learn that most seasoned backpackers consider a quality travel backpack as their most prized travel companion. The rapid rise in the popularity of backpacks is due to their stylish versatility for business and pleasure travel.

Whether you are planning a trip for a few days or a few months, your backpack should offer you all the features you require and even a few extra ones. A good backpack needs to sit comfortably on your back, be strong, and balanced between being spacious enough to carry everything safely and securely, and not too heavy.

We have asked seasoned backpack users to share their backpack choices with us to help you make the difficult decision on which backpack to choose.

As you may need something specific from your backpack, this list is designed to cover many different categories to help you find the one designed for the kind of travel you have in mind.

In this article, we aim to answer all your questions about which backpack to choose and why. It is important for you to read on to help you decide which is the best backpack for you.

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How to choose the best travel backpack?

Travel backpacks ideally need to hold between 15 liters and 65 liters, have an internal frame with comfortable padded shoulder straps and a hip belt to distribute the weight you are carrying evenly while you are backpacking.

They should be constructed of waterproof material (which adds considerably to the cost) or have a cover you can easily pull over to keep your possessions dry. The zippers must be of good quality and preferably able to lock. There should be a sleeve to pack your laptop or tablet safely and space for chargers and your mobile.

One feature that is becoming an essential part of a travel backpack by experienced backpackers is a removable day pack that detaches from your main backpack. This enables you to take your removable bag packed with your camera, laptop and other items that are essential for your day trip, leave your big bag at your hotel or hostel, all without having to repack.

10 Best Travel Backpacks

Here are our picks for the best travel backpacks available right now for a range of needs. Read on for more details to see which is best for you. 

  1. Osprey Farpoint 55 Men’s – Best Travel Backpack for Men
  2. Nomatic Travel Bag – Best Digital Nomad Backpack
  3. Gregory Mountain Zulu 75 – Hiking, Trekking, and Camping Backpack
  4. Tortuga Men’s Setout 45l – Max-Size Carry-on
  5. Osprey Fairview 40l – Best Travel Backpack for Women
  6. Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW – Best Backpack For all your Camera Equipment
  7. Oakley Men’s Kitchen Sink Backpack – Best Backpack for Students and Travelers
  8. Highlander Outdoor Explorer 60 – Best Budget Backpack
  9. Ruvalino Diaper Bag Backpack – Best Backpack for Parents on the Move
  10. Peak Design Everyday Backpack – Best Backpack For the Business Traveler

1. Osprey Farpoint 55 Men’s – Best Travel Backpack for Men

These popular backpacks are perfect for any sort of travel, international or local, and are designed for men.

They are constructed from strong ripstop nylon with lockable zippers. The main compartment is packed from the front.

 A large detachable daypack has a designated laptop and tablet sleeve as well as a scratch-free pocket for sunglasses.

The outstanding feature of all Osprey Backpacks is that they carry a lifetime warranty and Osprey is happy to repair or replace their products for free with no hassle.

These iconic backpacks have great ratings. They are ‘well worth the investment’ for all your backpacking.
 
The large daypack is great for items like a camera, jacket, passports, wallets, and phones, allowing you to leave your big bag at your hotel or hostel.

2. Nomatic Travel Bag – Best Digital Nomad Backpack

This is the best travel backpack for all those digital nomads out there who aim to work while they go backpacking.

It has an upgraded design with durable water-resistant materials and waterproof YKK zippers to ensure that this bag lasts.

It has a lifetime warranty against defects.

This carry-on backpack has plenty of design features to excite the millennial backpacker whether traveling for business or leisure.

A mesh divider keeps your clothes separate from your electronics.

A charging cable passes through to all the major pockets in the bag.

Pass through TSA checkpoints easily with the TSA approved laptop pocket that allows your laptop pocket to lay flat.


3. Gregory Mountain Zulu 75 – Hiking, Trekking, and Camping Backpack

A hiking travel backpack constructed for outdoor use; this backpack boasts many technical details for adventurous backpacking.

Ultra-comfortable and with an easy access rain cover to keep your gear dry.
 
The hydration sleeve converts into a daypack.

These are large backpacks and are perfect for trekking or camping expeditions when you need to carry a tent and all your other gear to survive.

The amount of storage this backpack offers is phenomenal.

The comfortable harness makes this travel backpack a great choice for hiking, trekking and camping.


4. Tortuga Men’s Setout 45l – Max-Size Carry-on

This feature rich backpack is the max-size carry-on allowed so save $$$ by never having to check in your bag and is perfect for all types of backpacking.

Made out of durable, weather-resistant materials with concealable straps to keep your backpack protected when stashed away.

One of our favorite features is the packing cubes that allow you to organize your packing and keep the bag in shape as there is no hard frame.

It packs like a suitcase but carries like a backpack and is laptop and computer friendly with space for all your electronics and chargers.

The smaller Setout 35l is lighter and is suitable for women backpackers or shorter backpacking trips.


5. Osprey Fairview 40l – Best Travel Backpack for Women

Top travel backpack for women that meets carry on size restrictions and is ideal for all types of backpacking.

The lockable zipper on the padded laptop and tablet sleeve can be hidden behind the strap to prevent theft.

Comfortable shoulder straps and hip straps are adjustable.

We love that this travel backpack is spacious enough to fit all your clothes and souvenirs, but the weight is distributed so evenly, and it carries so comfortably. Scratch-free pocket for sunglasses or devices.

Covered by the awesome Osprey lifetime warranty, this backpack is a winner.

6. Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW – Best Backpack For all your Camera Equipment

Top grade adventure backpack for professional or amateur photographers.

Whether you are a wilderness photographer needing to carry camera, video, drone, and heavy gear such as tripods, skis, and other difficult-to-carry essentials, or a wedding photographer needing a strong backpack to keep your expensive camera gear safe, this backpack ticks the boxes.

Constructed of high-performance materials, this backpack allows easy access to the divided camera compartment.

This backpack will hold a Pro DSLR, 4 lenses, GoPro or similar video camera, a drone, any outdoor gear you need plus your personal items.
It offers all weather protection with a detachable cover for a second level of protection from rain, snow, and anything else you may encounter.
The clever design will take you backpacking in the mountains but will also work as a weekend away bag – with your camera equipment, of course.


7. Oakley Men’s Kitchen Sink Backpack – Best Backpack for Students and Travelers

A versatile backpack which can carry everything but the kitchen sink! It is perfect for students who have to pack a day’s worth of stuff, or for traveler as a carry on that can even fit under the airplane seat.

Carries your laptop in a padded side-access sleeve, and your shoes in the bottom compartment – a space for everything.

We love that it is sturdy, well made using quality materials, has plenty of storage space, and well thought out compartments.

Adjustable shoulder straps make it amazingly comfortable on your back even when fully loaded.

8. Highlander Outdoor Explorer 60 Best Budget Backpack

Best budget starter backpack for those who may be trying out traveling with a backpack instead of rolling luggage.
 
It has some of the features that the pricier backpacks have.

Ripstop polyester with a PVC coating not as durable as the more expensive backpacks.

Stowable straps are highly adjustable.

Lacks any sort of official warranty support.

Detachable day pack with space for everything you need for a day out. Space for your laptop.

You can carry it on to your flight.

It has many of the bells and whistles you want or need from a travel backpack but at a much lower price. Offers great value for money.

9. Ruvalino Diaper Bag BackpackBest Backpack for Parents on the Move

Our list of best backpacks wouldn’t be complete without the best backpack to make traveling with your baby a dream.

This durable diaper backpack is made of lightweight, waterproof fabric with strong zippers.

Includes a padded laptop pocket.

Two big zipper closure compartments and 16 pockets ensure space for all your baby essentials while still looking stylish and compact.

What we like:
This diaper bag is versatile enough to be used as a backpack, handbag, or can hang on a stroller.

Perfect for backpacking or shopping trips, it has a changing pad and insulated pockets to keep baby’s bottles at a perfect temperature.

10. Peak Design Everyday BackpackBest Backpack For the Business Traveler

For the business traveler, this extremely famous Laptop Backpack has everything you need to travel. It’s been designed with photographers in mind and for this reason, offers enough storage to hold DSLR/SLR camera bodies and lenses.

3 Flexfold Dividers protect cameras, drones, and lenses, and the space on the back is perfect for your notebook. Enough space for all your other business essentials, too.

Plenty of space to pack enough clothes, shoes, and toiletries for your business trip.
A great looking backpack that can be used for personal or work trips, but can also look professional when it needs to.

It’s equipped with hidden pockets where you can keep cash and passport easily accessible but safely out of sight.

All the straps have strong magnetic closures, so no plastic clips.

A high-quality backpack, stylish, and even if it’s expensive it’s still worth the price. It’s available in 30L version and in 20L, both in multiple colors.

Bonus: the Fjallraven Kanken

The list of the best travel backpacks cannot be considered comprehensive if it doesn’t include the Fjallraven Kanken (featured in the cover of the article). Available in different sizes and colors, the Fjallraven is perfect to travel, hike, and also for everyday use. It features a main zippered compartment, a front zippered pocket, and two open side pockets (and a laptop compartment depending on the model). It can also be folded back for easy storage in the suitcase if necessary

Best Travel Backpack: Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve collected some of the most questions you may have when choosing a travel backpack.

1. What kind of backpack is best for your back?

Look for a backpack that offers stability, is lightweight, and is comfortable. A backpack with weight-bearing chest and hip straps and a padded foam backplate will ensure that the load is spread between your shoulders and your hips and the backpack sits comfortably on your back. An Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack ticks all the boxes, is ergonomically designed to provide adequate back support, and also carries the amazing Osprey lifetime guarantee.

2. What is the best backpack for photographers?

Away with your camera bag! Peak Design Everyday Backpack is perfect for photographers with its quick access features and adjustable dividers for your gear.  A compartment accommodates your laptop for onsite editing and overall the laptop has a lot of versatile features. Perfect both for your urban photographic trips and your adventurous photographic trips.

3. Are all backpacks waterproof?

No, they are not. Most backpacks are made of nylon or polyester and are water resistant, but not waterproof. Also, zippers and seams can leak, so choose one with a rolltop cover if you want your backpack to remain dry in wet weather. Some custom designed packs like the FE Active Dry Bag Waterproof Backpack would be a good choice and are made of marine grade Vinyl Tarpaulin, which is also environmentally friendly.

4. What’s the best fishing backpack?

Yes, there sure is! We love the Wild Rivers Tackle Tek Nomad. It’s tough and well designed with fishermen in mind. Like the LED light to fish whenever you want to, storage for sunglasses, removable plier holder, protective rain cover, fold down front pocket cover for a work surface, and 4 great tray compartments for all your accessories like hooks, weights, flies and trace. Wow! A fisherman’s dream.

5. Suitcases vs. Backpacks: Which One is Better?

Well, it depends. For getting around easily, you can’t beat a backpack! Backpacks are easier to store, will be better to take as carry-on luggage and are more comfortable to carry. A backpack also leaves your hands free. If you have ever tried to pull your suitcase with its small wheels over a roughly cobbled street, you will appreciate the ease of a travel backpack even more. 

6. What’s the best backpack for college?

We thought the SWISSGEAR 1186 Bungee Laptop Backpack offered excellent value for money.  Great for daily regular use, not bulky, and has many compartments and for storage of all textbooks, accessories, and stationery. We liked the individual organizer pockets, to combine and manage the everyday items inside the backpack. In the middle is one roomy compartment, and a big pocket for the laptop. For added comfort the padded shoulder straps and thumb-ring adjusters to hoist your backpack easily are great added benefits.

7. What’s the best backpack for slim and petite women?

Look for backpacks that come with different size harnesses Like Gregory Deva or the Osprey Tempest range. These backpacks are normally in the hiking category. Be aware: adjustable harnesses may add extra weight.

We liked the Gregory Deva 60 Pack for Women which came in an X-small which is an off-the-shelf solution for women with short torsos and has a compact design. The Deva PreCurve technology and multi-density foam construction give great extra comfort too.

8. Is it ok to wear a backpack in the office?

Most definitely. With the lessening formality in our workplaces where most people don’t wear suits anymore and with the flexibility of work made possible by the rise in laptop use for work, a good backpack that can carry your laptop safely is an essential. The many cool laptop designs make the transition from work to leisure easy to achieve.

9. What is the best dog backpack carrier?

Wow! Carry your dog in a backpack? Yes, there are. These are best used for hiking or biking, and helping your dog get there! Designed with openings for the paws and tail, owners will tell you the dogs are really comfortable in one. Mostly suited for small dogs up to 6 kilos, the design makes loading and unloading of your dog easy. We liked the Pawaboo Pet Carrier Backpack and the Kurgo Dog Travel Backpack.

10. Can you lock a backpack?

Yes you can especially if it has strong zippers which can be locked together using a small lock. Top loading backpacks are more difficult to keep secure.  Best advice from backpackers is to leave your valuables secure elsewhere in a locker, and keep cash, passports, or anything of value in a separate bag or a body bag. You may also want to check the Pacsafe Venturesafe, a backpack with securable zippers and made of cut-proof material to prevent theft/ pickpocketing, plus an RFID blocking pocket to keep your credit cards/ IDs safe.

11. What fabric are backpacks made of?

Backpacks are either made of strong ripstop nylon or polyester. Each has their merits. Nylon is a strong and long lasting fabric, while polyester, is stain-resistant and easier to clean. If its toughness you are looking for choose ripstop nylon.

12. Are top-loading packs better than panel-loading packs?

Both have benefits, top loaders are lighter, tougher, offer better support and fit, while difficult to lock. They are favored by hikers. The problem with top loaders is if you are looking for something, you need to unpack your backpack. Travelers prefer panel loaders, as they are more organized, lockable, are easy to pack and access.  

Best Travel Backpacks: Final Thoughts

Planning your next trip is almost as exciting as the trip itself. Looking for your most important travel companion need not be a dilemma. List what you would like to take with you, and start looking for the options that will accommodate them all.

We have tried to cover most of the bases for you, and all we have shown you are easily available on Amazon so finding your dream backpack should be far easier now.

Happy travels!

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About the author
Giuseppe Milo
Giuseppe is an award winning photographer. He's been featured in many websites and magazine such as Lonely Planet, National Geographic, The Huffington post and many more.
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