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The top travel backpacks for those who want to pack lighter and smarter

When you're on the road, a backpack should fit and protect important items. We tested and analyzed the best travel backpacks to make your next adventure feel like a breeze.
lena-borrelli-author.jpg
Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Emery Wright

Traveling is hard enough without having to worry about your things. Large, bulky suitcases are not always the best choice, and there's always the carry-on option, too. A travel backpack can easily fit the bill when you need a bag that can fit your most important belongings and withstand the wear-and-tear of adventure.

We had the opportunity to personally test some of today's best travel backpacks, in addition to reviewing top picks on the market, researching thousands of real user reviews. According to ZDNET experts, these are the best travel backpacks for your next trip.

Also: These travel pillows actually let you catch some Zzz's away from home.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Stylish
  • Spacious interior
  • Available in vegan leather
cons
  • Slightly small
  • Expensive
More Details

Features: Dimensions: 16.5" × 11.5" x 6" | Volume: 18L | Weight: 2.4lbs (nylon) / 3lbs (vegan leather)

The Monos Metro Backpack features a nylon twill design that is scratch and water-resistant, while vegan leather detail adds some flair. You can wear the backpack as both a daily commuter bag and a weekender -- it all depends on your lifestyle and calendar. Plus, the backpack utilizes exclusive QuickSnap Modular Kit System, so you can customize the bag for your day's needs. 

The Monos Metro Backpack includes a laptop sleeve for 15-inch computers, so you can access your computer without opening the entire bag. Plus, the privacy compartment and bonus back pocket are perfect for hiding smaller valuables, like your ID and phone. The Monos Metro Backpack also features a zippered pouch, two interior pockets, and a large sleeve. If you happen to have a Monos suitcase like one featured on our best carry-on luggage list, this backpack pairs perfectly, thanks to the built-in trolley sleeve that fits Monos suitcase handles.  

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Luxury design
  • Various color options
  • Briefstyle concept
cons
  • Too small for some computers
  • Expensive
More Details

Features: Dimensions: 15" x 11.5" x 3″ | Weight: 2.8lbs | Color: Black or tan

If you're willing to spend more, the Luis Steven Medium Laptop Backpack combines soft calf leather with natural suede lining for a professional backpack you can bring everywhere. The backpack is vertically oriented, so it mimics the style of a traditional backpack for a sleek, stylish look. It's versatile, so you can either carry it or wear it as a backpack.

Inside, you will find laptop and tablet sleeves, plus a zipper pocket on the back wall for smaller items. This bag can carry your laptop or files with up to three inches of space, even fitting the larger MacBook Pro 16" model. Plus, it's also compact enough to fit underneath an airline seat.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Affordable
  • Built-in water bottle
  • Excellent pockets
cons
  • Limited product details online
  • Best for outdoors
More Details

Features: Volume: 15L | Bladder: 1.5L | Weight: 1lb

When you plan to break a sweat, the Nathan Crossover 15L Hydration Pack is a fantastic travel backpack. I've personally been trying to steal it out from under my husband, because the backpack has been a huge hit in my household. Its perfect for outdoors and fitness enthusiasts, featuring a 1.5L water bladder with a magnetic hose clip that you can use to stay hydrated during long travel days. 

This hydration backpack is also very comfortable. Made of moisture-wicking woven fabric, the design incorporates mesh shoulder straps with a chafe-free design. It also includes sternum straps and a removable waist strap. For storage, two main back zipper pockets include organization pockets. Plus, the straps feature two angled pockets for easy access to items like your phone, keys, and other valuables.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Oversized capacity
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Several accessories available
cons
  • Users report difficulty with straps
  • Pricey
More Details

Features: Dimensions: 20.9" x 13.4" x 7" | Volume: 33L | Weight: 3.17lbs

The Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L is the best travel backpack for everyday needs and short trips. This backpack is the smaller version of Peak Design's 45L model, so it's more manageable and recommended for trips of three days or less. It's ideal for daily use, too. If you're flying, this travel backpack is the perfect carry-on item -- you can stash it under an airline seat without trouble. The Peak Design Travel Backpack can also fit into your suitcase for easy transport.

The zipper pulls are theft-deterrent for extra reassurance, but you still have convenient rear access. If you choose to carry it as a traditional backpack, padded shoulder straps provide extra comfort. It also features expandable side pockets and an oversized top pocket with extra-soft lining for delicate items, like your glasses and phone. Internal mesh pockets with padded laptop and tablet sleeves can also keep you organized throughout your busy schedule.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Oversized
  • Fantastic as dry bag
  • Lifetime guarantee
cons
  • Pricey
  • Too large for some users
More Details

Specs: Dimensions: 22" x 17" x 6.5" | Volume: 35L | Weight: 43oz

The Sea To Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack offers complete waterproofing technology, forgiving quick submersions if you happen to drop it. The external pocket is water-resistant, giving you more peace of mind than other comparable units. Made durable, the Sea to Summit Flow Dry Pack is abrasion-resistant and created to endure tough environments that athletes and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy.

It is constructed of TPU-laminated nylon and a white interior lining that makes contents easily visible, even in the dark of night. It is comfortable, too, with ventilated quick-dry shoulder straps and a removable waist strap that enables a custom fit. There is a roll-top main chamber with an internal fabric zipper pocket, plus an impressive bladder compartment that holds up to three liters of liquid.  

What is the best travel backpack?

With a comfortable, attractive design, we love the Monos Metro Backpack as the best travel backpack for your trip. It provides excellent value with its scratch-resistant and water-resistant design, and it has all the pockets and space you need to bring your belongings along for the ride.

To see how it stacks up, here's is a bird's eye view of the best travel backpacks. 

Best travel backpack

Price

Volume

Dimensions

Monos Metro Backpack

$195.00

18L

16.5" × 11.5" x 6"

Luis Steven Medium Laptop Backpack

$295.00

N/A

15" x 11.5" x 3″

Nathan Crossover 15L Hydration Pack

$125.00

15L

N/A

Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L

$229.95

33L

20.9" x 13.4" x 7"

Sea To Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack

$249.95

35L

22" x 17" x 6.5"

Which is the right travel backpack for you?

With so many choices, it can be difficult to determine which option is the best travel backpack for your needs and budget. We can help. 

Choose this travel backpack...

If you want...

Monos Metro Backpack

A customizable interior system 

Luis Steven Medium Laptop Backpack

Style and character

Nathan Crossover 15L Hydration Pack

Easy access to hydration

Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L

A travel backpack ready for friendly skies

Sea To Summit Flow 35L Dry Pack

A backpack for long hiking or fitness trips

How did we choose these travel backpacks?

While searching for the best travel backpacks, we considered several important factors:

  • Volume: The size of a travel backpack matters, because you want your important belongings to fit. You may also need your travel backpack to meet certain travel restrictions, like airline regulations. 

  • Compartments: Pockets and compartments help guarantee your belongings are safely stored and protected during travel.  

  • Features: Whether it is waterproof or a water bladder compartment, we look for special features that make a travel backpack more unique and attractive than others. 

  • Cost: Price is a major factor for most people, so we consider how much travel backpacks cost to find an affordable option for everyone.

Why should I use a travel backpack?

Travel backpacks are often more lightweight and easy to carry than traditional suitcases, making them far easier to move with and less restrictive than a suitcase. 

How much does the best travel backpack cost?

The cost of travel backpacks varies, depending on the model you choose. The best travel backpacks range from $125 to $300 or more. For example, the Luis Steven Medium Laptop Backup can cost up to $500 when not on sale. 

What can I carry in a travel backpack?

A travel backpack may be smaller than a checked suitcase, but it can usually carry your clothes, water bottle, computer, and even more, depending on exact dimensions. It can also be used for different purposes, whether you need it for home, travel, or work.

Are there alternative travel backpacks worth considering?

In our search, we found many different options for the best travel backpacks. Here are some travel backpacks that receive ZDNET honorable mention:

There are many different types of bags you can use when traveling. Before your next trip, consider our picks for best luggage brands and best luggage sets!

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