Best carry on backpack – which one should you buy ?

With so many bargains to be had by not checking in luggage, getting the best carry on backpack is well worth while.  The advantages in just using a carry on travel backpack is not just about saving money, it is also a very convenient way of traveling.

If you are in the market for the best backpack for carry on travel, then you have come to the right place.  I have put together this guide to help you choose one of the best carry on backpacks.  The guide includes everything you need to know when purchasing the best backpack for travelling carry on as well as looks at some of the best travel backpack brands.

I have also checked out a few carry on backpack reviews to see what everyone is currently recommending for the best travel backpack carry on.

Whether you are after the best carry on backpack for international travel, the best carry on bag for women or the even the best lightweight travel backpack, below I will provide you everything you need to know in order to make the right choice for you.



The reasons to travel just with carry on luggage bags is endless!  Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons I just love to travel only with carry on luggage:

  • Get through airports quicker, no need to line up to drop off your bags, nor do you have to wait for your bags to come off the plane.  Simply jump off the plane and you are on your way!
  • No risk of the airline losing your luggage.  You will have your carry on backpack luggage with you the entire time.  The other thing I love about this is you don’t have to spend time wondering what to pack in your check in and what to pack in your cabin size backpack – just pack it all in the one bag.
  • Save money by not having to pay for checked in baggage.  Some airlines are charging a fortune these days just to have passengers check in a bag.
  • You have less luggage to carry around with you.  It’s such a hassle carrying multiple bags when you are in transit, with just a cabin backpack you have so much more freedom.  You are less likely to leave a bag behind or have it stolen too.
  • No need to hire massive rental cars so you have room for all your luggage.  Often large rentals cars aren’t even available, particularly if you are travelling around Europe.  This is true for catching taxi’s too.
  • Travelling only with a carry on backpack size means you are travelling with less stuff.  This means it is easier to pack up when you check out of your hotel as well as unpacking when you get home.


The best travel carry on backpack is not just for young travellers staying in dorms.  A backpack is for various types of travellers who want the freedom of having their hands free and not have to wheel a bulky suitcase around.

Travelling with the best cabin backpacks gives you flexibility, when you turn a corner and see a set of stairs at a train or bus station or arrive at a hotel with no elevator.

If you need to check out of your hotel in the morning but not fly until later that night, having the best carry on rucksack means you can easily carry your things with you during the day, rather than have to find somewhere to store them.  They also take up far less room in taxis, trains and buses then suitcases.

A carry on backpack is also the perfect type of bag if you travel with children as it allows you to have your hands free to hold little one’s hands without trying to wheel a suitcase and keep the kids safe.


Don’t have time to read the entire review on the best travel backpacks carry on size?  See the table below for a quick comparison of the main features of the various options for the best hand luggage backpack options.

NameWeight (lbs)Capacity (Litres)Dimensions (inches)Our Rating
Osprey Fairpoint 404.74022H  x 14W x 9D4.5
Hynes Eagle 44L2.854420.1H x 13.8W x 9.8D4.5
Hynes Eagle 40L2.3140L20.1H x 13.4W x 9.8D4.4
Pacsafe Vibe 40L2.8740L19.7H x 13.8W x 7.1D4.4
Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP453.9745L21.7H x 13.8W x 8.7D4.3
Osprey Packs Sojourn7.9345L22H x 14W x 9D4.5
Nomatic Water Resistant 40L440L21H x 14W x 9D4.4
Standard Luggage Co. 35L535L21.5H x 13.5W x 7.5D5
Mountainsmith Approach 45L2.945L25.5H x 12W x 12.5D5
Kelty Redwing 44L3.344L22L x 15W x 12H4.6


What to look for when choosing a carry on backpack

Before buying the first carry on bag backpack you see, take some time to consider what it is you need for your bag to be the best backpack carry on luggage for you.

Consider the following:

  1. Bag Size and Weight

When purchasing the best backpack for carry on luggage, size really does matter.  In fact it is the most important thing to keep in mind when you’re on the hunt for the best carry on luggage backpack.

Unfortunately, there is no standard maximum size for carry on luggage so I highly recommend you double check with your airline before you travel.  However all the backpacks I recommend in this guide are generally accepted on most airlines as suitable cabin baggage.

What is the best cabin backpack size really is a personal choice.  Most would say that the best carry on backpack size is the biggest bag that meets the airlines requirements.  Whilst others prefer to pack super light and so prefer the smallest bag necessary.  Before making your purchase, consider how much stuff you like to pack and what size baggage you will need.

You also need to pay careful attention to the weight of your bag.  With airlines being strict on the weight of carry on baggage it is super important to choose the lightest carry on which meets your requirements.  Even some of the best cabin luggage backpack can be heavy eating into your precious baggage allowance.  If your bag is over the limit you may be asked to check it in which can add an unexpected expense.

In the below carry on luggage backpack reviews I have included some options for a light carry on backpack and the table above includes the weight of all packs reviewed below.

  1. Top Loading vs Panel Loading

Backpacks come in three types: top loading, panel loading and non-traditional.  Let’s consider the pros and cons of each.

Top Loading Backpack

Pros of top loading backpacks

One of main pros of the top loading backpack is the ergonomics, they are designed to be worn on your back and carried for long distances.  The suspension system, including the straps are one of the main features. Many brands develop and trademark their very own suspension designs, knowing that this will probably sell the backpack.  The straps are also thicker and more comfortable.

The best top loading backpack is made from durable fabric and can take the wear and tear of adventuring.  A drawstring is used to open and close the backpack at the top, protected by a hood which usually has a pocket.  The choice to forgo zippers enhances the durability factor, so increases its ability to be weatherproof.

Cons of top loading backpacks

Packing your gear and retrieving it when you want it is probably the biggest con, so it is best to spend some time thinking about what you will need first.  When you are wearing a top loading pack in a crowed place it can be easy to accidently bump into things, or people, so remember to be careful.

Top loading packs are built for carrying the most gear, so they are too big for carry on, you will need to check this one in.

Panel loading backpacks

Pros of panel loading backpacks

The best panel loading backpack is easy to use, and easy to access your gear, so you won’t need to spend as much time thinking about packing.  The major opening is accessed by laying the backpack on its back and unzipping a large panel at the front of the backpack, like a traditional suitcase.

Usually there are many pockets and compartments inside the main compartment so you can keep items more organised.  The panel backpacks also have external pockets, some are zippered, lockable or mesh. These packs are flexible, you can use them for occasional outdoor use or conventional travelling.

Cons of panel loading backpacks

The panel or, front loading backpack is not as ergonomic as the top loading pack.  This is due to the need for flexibility, more of an allrounder, the front loading backpack does not have a big focus on straps, not as wide as the top loading backpack straps, you may find these a bit uncomfortable if wearing for long periods.

As these backpacks are not made for adventuring specifically, they are not as robust as top loading backpacks. Even the best front loading backpack for travel, would not be suitable to use in the outdoors fulltime.

Non-traditional backpacks

Pros non- traditional backpacks

If you want a backpack for something very specific, the non traditional backpack range might be for you.  Many bags fall into this category sports bags, duffle bags, overnight bags or messenger style bags. These styles are great for a weekend away, or an overnight stay at a friend’s place.

Basically these bags are not carried on your back, so if you don’t have to walk very far they are great.  They also give you more options about the style of your bag, if you want to stand out from the crowd. These bags also give you quick access to your gear, especially the messenger style, which you can open and access while you are wearing it.

Cons non- traditional backpacks

It is important to keep in mind that these styles are not as ergonomic as a backpack.  If you are carrying a reasonable amount of gear for long periods you could end up straining yourself.  Don’t get caught up in buying a bag just because it looks good, remember to consider your body as well.

  1. Durability and Quality

Like any luggage you purchase for travel, look for a pack from a brand with a reputation for making good quality bags.  The best carry on bag for travel will be constructed from high quality fabric as well as top quality zippers that won’t break mid trip.

Another consideration is for a water-resistant bag.  A water-resistant bag gives you extra protection when travelling in wet weather.  Whilst water resistant bags aren’t designed to be water proof, they do give you that extra bit of time to seek shelter or pull out a rain cover without have your personal belongings getting wet.

  1. Security

Perhaps you would like a bag with built in anti theft features?  There are a variety of backpacks with security features such as:

  • Secret Pockets: Most RFID safe backpacks will have hidden pockets or small internal compartments for additional protection for your most valuable items.
  • RDID Protection: Usually in the form of a special pocket within your backpack where you can store your cards to prevent electronic theft.  Anti theft RFID travel bags are highly recommended to protect yourself against identify theft.
  • Lock: Some anti theft backpacks come with locking zippers.
  • Slash proof Construction:  Some of the best backpack cabin luggage options are made with super durable fabric to avoid thieves who use knives to slash open backpacks to physically steal your items.
  • YKK Zippers: Ensure your backpack has high quality zippers that aren’t easily pried apart, you also don’t want poor quality zippers that break mid trip and you can no longer close your bag.
  • Water Resistance:  An anti theft waterproof backpack or even a water-resistant pack will help protect your items from rainy weather or accidental spillages.
  1. Function / Other Features

Other features which may be important when looking at a good carry on backpack include a detachable day pack, the location, and number of pockets and if the backpack is water resistant.  Some of the best cabin bags for travel have included a laptop sleeve, a compartment for your camera, even straps to tie things to on the outside such as a fleece.

A detachable daypack is great if you can leave your main pack in your accommodation safely.  It gives you even more freedom and a break from carrying your main pack around fulltime.

The amount and location of pockets is important to a point, the best cabin bag is not necessarily the one with the most pockets.  Sometimes too many pockets, means you forget where you packed things!  A pocket for a water bottle, raincover, hat or sunscreen and jacket are handy on the outside, and a divider in the main compartment is great to keep clean and dirty clothing separated.

  1. Comfort

The best carry on travel bag must be comfortable. With much attention given to suspension systems (how the load is transferred across the back and to the hip belt), different brands regularly redevelop these to make sure they offer the most comfort they can.

Shoulder straps, hip belt, sternum strap and a carry strap all form part of the carrying system.  The best backpacks to travel with have wide padded straps to give you more comfort, and if you are going to be spending a long time carrying your backpack on your back, you may want to consider the gender specific backpacks.  Contoured specifically to meet your unique requirements, these are becoming more common. Some bags have the option of stowing these straps away when in transit.

The best travel carry on bag should have breathable fabric for increased comfort.  Some packs even have hip belts with pockets, great for storing snacks.

All the straps will be adjustable, even the best cheap travel backpack will have adjustable straps these days.  Time spent adjusting the straps until you are comfortable before you set off, will ensure a thankful back, neck and shoulders on your return.

The best cabin bags will also have compresses ion straps to ensure your back is nice and compact making it easier to carry.

You may even consider a backpack on wheels so you can have the option to wheel it, of course you will need to make allowance for the extra weight wheels will add to your pack though.

Best Carry On Backpack Reviews


Osprey Fairpoint 40 Travel Backpack

The Osprey Farpoint is considered one of the best 40L travel backpack options on the market, perfect for those after one of the best backpacks for carry on luggage.

This Osprey carry on backpack is backed by the Osprey “All Mighty Guarantee”, Osprey state that they will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If they are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, they will happily replace it.

This pack is a good size for travelling, one of the best carry on backpack luggage options available. The features of this panel backpack include a laptop and tablet sleeve, external compression straps, stowaway straps for travelling and carry handles.  The suspension system is a light wire frame with a mesh back panel to keep you cool while wearing the backpack.

This is a good travel backpack carry on size, not too big, with solid features. The Osprey backpack 40L is a good choice for those looking for the best carry on bag for international travel.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<


Hynes Eagle 44L Carry on Backpack

The Hynes Eagle is a fantastic 44L bag perfect for those travellers after a big carry on backpack.  This is one of two Hynes Eagle bags features in this best carry on bag reviews, as they are one of the best carry on luggage brands that make good quality lightweight bags.

This ultimate carry on bag has four carrying options giving you the ability to transport it around busy airports the best way to suit your needs. Carry it on your back with the adjustable sternum strap and have the option of the removable waist strap for stabilisation. You can also attach it to your suitcase with the back trolley strap to make moving around car parks and airports a lot easier. It also has dual hide-away contoured backpack straps and padded top and side carry handles.

Made from waterproof crinkle nylon and a soft exterior structure it is built to protect your travel essentials from damage and moisture. It is designed to easily fit into the overhead locker or under the seat in front of you, making it one of the best cabin baggage options.

Other great features of this perfect carry on bag include the large main zip mesh compartment, 2 small zip mesh pockets, a smaller zip compartment for your toiletry case, quick access front zip pockets and a side pocket perfect for a water bottle.

This is a great carry on bag perfect for the traveller looking for one of the largest carry on backpack options made by one of the best brands for carry on luggage.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<

Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack 40L

The second Hynes Eagle bag in these best cabin luggage reviews, this best bag for carry on luggage is available in a range of colour options and includes 3 packing cubes.  This is the perfect choice for the organised traveller also wanting one of the best cabin size backpack options.

This carry on bag can transform from a duffel bag into a backpack in seconds and also has multiple side buckle straps giving you the ability to adjust the height based on your needs.

Travellers wanting a carry on laptop backpack will love this bag as the front compact compartment can easily fit a laptop up to the size of 15.6 inches as well as other small items.  The main zipper compartment is a great size to fit your luggage.

Made at a great size from premium quality polyester, this bag will easily fit in the overhead compartment or in the seat in front of you, making it one of the best hand luggage bag options.

A great bag for people who are looking for one of the best light travel backpack options.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<


Pacsafe Vibe 40 Anti-Theft 40L Weekender

The Pacsafe Vibe 40 is a fantastic option for those travellers looking for the best carry on luggage bag with built in security features.

The lightweight hidden eXomesh Slashguard that is embedded into the fabric prevents against slash and run theft while the smart interlocking zippers can be secured to the Roobar Sport locking system to help protect against pickpockets.

This best backpack for air travel has many great organisational features such as an up to 15-inch laptop compatible sleeve that is padded to protect your laptop from bumps and scratches. It also has a quick access top pocket and side stretch pocket for a water bottle to keep your essentials handy to access quickly.

Other great features of this best travel backpack with laptop compartment are the padded waist and sternum straps and the padded adjustable shoulder straps that can easily be tucked away.

A great bag for the security conscious traveller wanting one of the best cabin luggage bag options.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<


Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 Anti-Theft Carry On Travel Backpack

The second Pacsafe bag in this carry on luggage review, the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 Anti-Theft Carry on Travel Backpack is an extremely comfortable and lightweight, yet secure option when looking for a best rated carry on bag.

With fantastic security features such as the hidden eXomesh slashguard stainless steel wire mesh that is embedded into the fabric to protect against slash and run thefts, a stainless steel cable that can be secured to the Roobar locking system which helps to secure all the interlocking zippers to one central point so you can easily lock the bag to a secure fixture.

Along with all the security features the Pacsafe Venturesafe 45 also has many great comfort features such as the padded shoulder straps and waist strap that can also be tucked away during transit.

Other great features for this pack are the book-style opening of the main compartment and as a laptop sleeve which can carry a laptop up to 15 inches.

This is another great option for the security conscious traveller seeking one an option for best hand luggage rucksack.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<

Osprey Packs Sojourn Wheeled Luggage

Yet another one of the Osprey backpacks in these carry on travel backpack reviews, the Osprey Packs Sojourn wheeled luggage is a great option if you are looking for an option for the best carry on backpack with wheels.

If you prefer to have the option to wheel your luggage along side you instead of carrying it on your back, then this is the bag for you. The build of this bag includes a high-rolling clearance High Road Chassis to provide a smooth ride over any type of surface. Of course you can still carry it as a backpack with the comfortable quick deploy AG inspired ventilated backpack suspension.   Be mindful that the wheels do add significant weight to this pack, this will need to be kept in mind when packing it to ensure it remains in your airlines weight restrictions.

With so many great organisational features such as the dual mesh pockets on the inner front panel, inner compression straps and internal mesh side pockets, you will be able to keep all your belongings secure and easily accessible.

Other great features include the retractable address/name card holder, padded top and side carry handles, panel access with oversized zipper pulls and a stowable harness and hip-belt with a ventilated back panel.

This is a fantastic convertible backpack, perfect for travellers wanting the best rucksack for travelling that gives them the option of carrying it on their back or wheeling along behind them.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<


Nomatic Water Resistant 40 L Travel Bag

This bag is a great water resistant carry on bag with maximum organisation and security features.

With designated pockets for a water bottle, valuables, shoes, a cord organiser, RFID protected pocket, tablet pocket and notebook pocket, there is virtually a pocket for everything! Keep all your belongings organised and easily accessible while in flight so you don’t have to spend time pulling everything out and looking for something.

Made from water repellent tarpaulin to protect against spillages and getting caught in unexpected rain showers, this best carry on travel pack is designed to fit the maximum size allowed in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. You won’t have to leave anything behind!

Other great features include the TSA laptop compartment to make going through customs as easy as possible, laundry bag, detachable waist straps and waterproof zippers on the exterior.

This bag is the ultimate travel kit with everything you will need to keep your carry on luggage organised throughout your travels and a perfect option for the traveller after the best travel backpack.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<


Standard Luggage Co 35 L

This is one of the best convertible water resistant carry on bags on the market.

There is 3 different ways you can wear this professional looking carry on bag. You can wear it as a suitcase, backpack or even as a shoulder bag. Whatever way you chose, you’ll experience maximum comfort with the padded shoulder straps.

This bag also has maximum storage and organisation with a dedicated laptop pocket that will fit up to a 17-inch laptop and two front pockets to make it so easy to access travel documents and electronics.

Other great features of this best carry on pack include the expandable and lockable YKK zips, internal compression straps and a rain cover to keep everything protected in case you happen to get caught in the rain.

This bag is the perfect convertible carry on bag for anyone who wants to make the most of their carry on baggage allowance and one of the best backpacks for travelling abroad.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<


Mountainsmith Approach 45 Backpack

The Mountainsmith Approach is a great versatile backpack.

With so many great comfort features like the tuck-away waist belt with padding, single tool/trekking pole carry and the single hydration tube door pass thru to make staying hydrated as easy as possible. It also includes a smartphone compatible waist belt pocket that fits up to an iPhone 5 or Galaxy S5.

You can maximise organisation with the front panel stretch mesh pocket with daisy chain attachment loops, dual side panel zippered pockets, side panel mesh pockets

This bag would suit any occasion whether it be a weekend road trip, overnight backpacking trip or as a the best carry on size backpack.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<


Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack

The Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack is considered one of the best women’s carry on bags.  With a laptop sleeve doubling as a hydration sleeve, this size is one of the best lightweight carry on backpack options.

The front organisation panel of this Kelty backpack is great for small items that you will need to access regularly.  Lower stretchy side pockets are handy for water bottles, while upper side pockets enable you to carry long items, like tent poles or walking sticks.

The stash pocket at the front of the Kelty travel backpack is secured with a hook only, for storing and grabbing a jacket or jumper quickly.

This Kelty women’s backpack has a simple design, the best backpack for international travel will need to be lightweight and comfortable, Kelty has achieved this and more with the Kelty Redwing backpack, one of the best women’s carry on bag.

>> Click here to check the price and to read more reviews <<

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David Angel
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.