Finding the perfect travel backpack is an important step when traveling abroad. Here are 10 of the best backpacks on the market today.
In 2013, just before moving to Vietnam, I went in search of the best backpacking backpack for travel. I bagged by ordering a bunch of backpacks from Zappos (best way to comparison shop, free returns on everything!). From that I learned about the two sizes that exist when you talk about a backpack of this style. One of those is the torso size: S/M/L. This refers to the size of the panel that sits against your back. The second size is the capacity of that bag. So that could be anywhere from 15L to 80L (maybe even bigger?!).
My Backpacking Backpack
When I fully committed to this backpacking lifestyle, decided to shift my multiple roller bags, and began extensive research into a minimalist travel backpack, I had just one requirement – I needed a front loading backpack.
Despite having been rocking up in hostels with my wheelie luggage for some time, I still felt I’d been better off than people traveling with top-loading backpacks who had to pull out every single thing they had in order to reach their last pair of clean undies at the very, very bottom of their pack. I would not fall into the trap.
Ultimately, I returned all of the backpacks from Zappos and ended up instead at The Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont where I walked around the store with padded out and weighted down backpacks of varying sizes to see how they felt – this is a step I really recommend not to skip. Likely any outdoor store near you will allow you to do this with a few models.
I ended up with a 45L small Gregory Sage in not the most beautiful green color. I would’ve chosen a different hue but this one was on closeout so I got it for $120 rather than the normal $180. But, more importantly it opened from the front. That means that when the backpack is lying flat on the ground the side facing up (out when you’re walking upright) zips open making for quick and easy access to your stuff.
It has a standard chest and hip strap, the hip strap has two small pockets which is excellent for little bits of gear like headphones or keys. It also has a top opening with a flap that covers second draw strong access to the main compartment. There’s an exterior pocket, and a rain cover.
I have now had this bag for more than seven years and I have not treat it gently. I’ve moved to Vietnam and Australia with only this bag. I’ve traveled around South East Asia, Europe, and Australia with only this bag. It’s been on planes, in cargo, and overhead as a carry on. It’s been thrown from boat to boat around theThai islands. It’s been on motorbikes and tuk tuks and trains. It is dirty as hell but I have not had a single issue with it.
I have no need to replace it and still use it regularly. So I am here to very strong assure you that a Gregory bag is a good investment.
Sadly, this particular model has been discontinued and I don’t see anything quite the same replacing it at Gregory. The Proxy 45 is a women’s bag which does have the all-important (to me) front opening, but the bells and whistles are very different, as is the design.
Keep reading though, there are lots of other terrific bags on the market and I’ve rounded up the best – as reported by people who actually use them!
The Gregory Sage that I have used for seven years
9 Of The Best Backpacks for Travel
If you know me, you know that I do NOT just Google search things and then report on them as if is I’m an expert. And if you know the travel blogging world, you know a lot of bloggers do…
That being said, I wanted to give you more advice on which backpack to buy for your next overseas adventure than just the one I have which you can’t even buy anymore. So I asked other travelers.
These nine expert globe trotters are all reporting on a bag that they own, use, and love, so you can be sure everything said here is 100% honest.
By: Michael, The World Was Here First
One of the best travel backpacks available is the Osprey Farpoint series. Coming in a 40, 55, 70 & 80-litre version, the most popular versions for travel are the Farpoint 40, 55 & 70. I have used the 70L version for 3 years now, while my partner uses the 55L version.
It’s a great backpack as it’s incredibly comfortable to wear for a number of hours due to its lightweight frame suspension, harness and padding on all the straps. The harness and all of the straps can also be easily zipped away if you want to check in this backpack onto a flight. It has a large main compartment that makes it easy to organise all your possessions.
****EVERYTHING BUT THE SINK PICK****
Another great feature of this backpack is the detachable daypack which is perfect for walking around cities during the day or going on a hike. The 70L version actually translates into a 55L main bag and a 15L daypack while the 55L version is a 40L main bag with a 15L daypack. It also has lockable zippers that are ideal for alleviating any security concerns.
I have lived completely out of this backpack for approximately 15 months including several travel stints during that time of around 3 to 4 months.
Overall, the Osprey Farpoint is a great travel backpack for travellers planning a long stint on the road!
By: Dean & Laynni, Routinely Nomadic
I picked up a grey Gregory Optic 48-litre in the spring of 2019 in anticipation of a hiking-heavy trip that fall. It made my shortlist as an ultralight pack designed specifically for trekking with good user reviews. I used it for a 3-month trip last fall through 15 countries ranging from beaches to snow-covered mountains and another 4-month trip starting in January to Guatemala and Portugal and it worked perfectly both for general travel and several long-distance treks (the Tour du Mont Blanc, Gokyo Lakes in Nepal and the Rota Vicentina in Portugal).
Besides being extremely light (1.1 kg) and surprisingly strong, I eventually chose it based on its many important features that weren’t available on most ultralight packs. Dual water bottle pockets, an elastic back pouch, hip belt pockets (handy for phones, lip balm, bandages, etc.) and a removable top pocket are all very useful. While at 66 cm it is technically too tall to meet most airline carryon requirements, by removing the top pocket and replacing it with a thin rain cover you not only reduce the weight but also take the height down to about 60cm, just over the 55cm most airlines allow. And as long as it isn’t packed completely full it looks much smaller than it really is. I used it as a carryon for 6 different flights last fall and never received a second look. Light and sturdy for hiking, big enough to pack for a long, varied trip and it looks pretty good, too.
By: Erika, Erika's Travelventures
The best travel backpack that I swear by is the Gregory Jade 63 (the men’s version is the slightly bigger Gregory Zulu 65). I traveled with this backpack around the world for two years consecutively, and trekked around Myanmar, Georgia, Switzerland, and Nepal with it. I have used it as a carry-on bag as well as to check-in 15 kgs worth of belongings, and brought it with me on both the Annapurna Circuit and Everest Base Camp treks in Nepal.
This sturdy bag is perfect for backpacking and hiking, and differs from other bags for many reasons. It comes with a small, lightweight day bag and a rain cover, so you don’t need to purchase these separately. The Gregory Jade also has little pockets in the front belt clip to store your phone or any other small items that you might need at your fingertips. It has two pockets on the top flap, so you can organize your toiletries or small items separate from your clothes in the main compartment. I also love that this backpack isn’t like a stuff sack like other bags. In addition to the draw-string at the top, it has a duffel-like zipper along the side and another at the bottom to access things like shoes or a sleeping bag. Many big bags don’t have water bottle holders on the sides, and Gregory Jade has two of them that can fit up to one-liter sized bottles – perfect for hiking!
By: Alya, Stingy Nomads
Traveling around the world for a long time I’ve realized how important it is to have a good backpack. I do a lot of hiking and long-distance walking during my travels; having a reliable backpack is essential for me. My current backpack is a Quechua MH500 40l pack. I’ve been using it for the last two years and have walked with it over 2000 km including several multi-day treks in the Himalayas and a couple of Camino de Santiago routes in Spain. I saw many people carrying the same backpack on the Camino.
The backpack is light, 1,3 kg. It’s very adjustable; every strap and a waist belt can be made shorter or longer. It has a lightweight metal support frame that helps to distribute the weight which is important if you’re going to walk with a fully loaded pack for days. The backpack has a ventilated back stretch net that keeps air circulating and prevents your back from sweating. Despite its relatively small size, the backpack has a lot of space. It’s big enough to pack for a 2-week trek in the mountains. Many side and front pockets make it very easy to arrange items and to find them in the backpack. The main compartment has a zip that can open all the way from top to bottom which makes packing and looking for stuff much easier. The backpack comes with a rain cover that fits perfectly even if the backpack is fully packed. I’ve walked with it in heavy rain and snow and my stuff has always stayed dry. I can recommend the Quechua MH500 40l for any backpacker.
By: Christa, Expedition Wildlife
Deuter is my go-to backpack brand because of their pack features and the seamless way their gear fits my body. I first got my Deuter Futura before embarking on a trek in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco in 2018. The 30-liter pack got me through a whole week in Morocco, with the extra clothes space I needed to transition between the hot city and the snowy mountains. Plus, the 28- to 30-liter size is perfect for travel because they have enough storage compartments and space to fit all your clothes and gear while compressing down enough to be used as a carry-on.
****LIGHT PACKER PICK****
Plenty of separate compartments, including those for a water bladder and water bottles, make the pack perfect for organizing everything during your trip. One of my favorite features of this pack is the built-in, removable rain cover easily used to protect the gear inside and outside the pack. Deuter also offers the SL fit, which has a shorter spine length compared to regular backpacks – this ensures a more comfortable and appropriate fit for those with a shorter torso. The Deuter Futura is a great trekking pack, and the hip straps are designed to take the weight off the carrier’s shoulders, a lifesaver when traveling around quite a bit. I absolutely recommend the Deuter Futura as a travel backpack to anyone looking for function and comfort!
Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack
By: Lyndsay, The Purposely Lost
When traveling, I prefer to use a backpack. For me, it’s easier than a suitcase when changing cities every few days. After experimenting with several options, I’ve discovered my favorite backpack for leisure travel is the Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack 40L.
Since buying this backpack last year, I’ve covered two countries and several states. It’s a great size for traveling with only a carry-on and fits really well in an overhead bin on a plane. It even comes with its own packing cubes, that when filled, will fit into the pack as long as they’re not stretched to bursting.
Of its three compartments, each serves its own function. The largest inside compartment has a mesh zipper section, as well as clips to secure the packing cubes or clothing. The larger of the two outside areas has easy-to-access slots for both a computer and a tablet. It makes going through airport security a breeze. The smallest outside zipper has three sections that are great for organizing cords and essential documents.
If you’re looking for a backpack that’s great for leisure travel, the Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack 40L is a comfortable, durable, and stylish choice.
By: Mikaela, Voyageur Tripper
I bought the PacSafe Venture 45 L before my first solo international trip in 2017. I was going to Costa Rica; safety and security were my priorities. The backpack has several features that make it excellent for backpackers. The entire backpack is coated in a patented anti-slash mesh, so it can’t be opened with a knife or scissors. There are only two pockets, and all zippers lock together and are covered by a flap. Finally, the bag comes with a locking cable that fits through the zippers, so you can attach the backpack to a fixed object. I found this helpful in hostels that didn’t have lockers; I would use the locking cable to secure the whole backpack to the bed frame.
Aside from safety, another great feature is that the backpack opens like a suitcase (see photo). With other backpacks it’s hard to find stuff and inevitably the one thing I’m looking for is at the bottom. But since this backpack opens like a suitcase, it’s so easy to organize and find things.
Since that initial trip, I have used the backpack in Europe, New Zealand, Australia and India for up to a month at a time. My only grievance is that there isn’t much backp support (though there is a hip belt) and the organization pocket is quite narrow, so it’s difficult to get things in and out of it. That said, I would 100% recommend this backpack to anyone concerned with safety.
By: Dan, Layer Culture
When looking for the best travel backpack for your next adventure you may want to consider the Lowe Alpine Carry-on 45. This is a backpack that I have found suitable for work, life, and travel combined, I recently took it on a trip to the Rivera Maya in Mexico. The thing I love about this backpack is the fact that it can be carried on any commercial flight as hand-luggage and it fits in the overhead compartments without any trouble. It has the dimensions (55 x 35 x 20-25cm) which are specifically designed to fit the requirements of the hand-luggage policy of any airline. I have been using this backpack for just over a year now and have had no troubles on the road, the lightweight material makes it practical to carry, even on those days where you don’t wish to fill it. Up to now, the longest I have traveled with the backpack is for three months; and even though it is not equipped with a dedicated laptop section, you can easily slip your laptop in and strap it securely using the inside compression straps. Another great feature as mentioned earlier is how surprisingly light the backpack is, and finally, the tamperproof zips allow you to open the backpack all the way around the front. All in all the Lowe Alpine Carry-on 45 is a contender for any traveler looking to travel light.
By: Kesi, Kesi To and Fro
I’ve been backpacking around the world since 2015, so my backpack is essentially my home. I’ve been using the Osprey Fairview 55L pack for 5 years, and it is the best. I love this bag because it’s comfortable to wear for long distances, and I use it as a carry-on bag, even for budget airlines. This backpack comes with a detachable daypack, which I take as my personal item on flights. The daypack also has really comfortable and breathable straps, making it great for a day hike. The only negative is that the daypack is quite small.
The Osprey Fairview 55L is designed for female travelers and comes with adjustable waist straps. My bag has some wear and tear, but it still has been durable enough for me to use every day for the past 5 years, traveling over 60 countries. Recently, one of the zippers broke on the daypack, but there’s no stress because Osprey has a lifetime guarantee. I sent my backpack to Osprey to get fixed and then sent me a new bag at no extra cost. Osprey is a reputable brand, and I will remain loyal to this company. To read more about the best Osprey backpacks click here.