Last Updated: 5/23/23 | May 23rd, 2023
Buying a travel backpack is one of the most important purchases a traveler will make. A backpack isn’t just where you carry your stuff — it’s your home.
Your bag is an important investment. You want one that can handle the abuse that comes with traveling the world on a budget. You’ll be living out of this bag for weeks or months or years. You’ll be hauling it across hectic cities, stuffing it onto crowded buses, and flying it around the world.
If you’re like me, you want a bag that lasts. I’ve had my bag for five years (my previous one, before it got lost on a flight, lasted ten), and several members of the team have had their backpacks almost ten years as well.
You’ll need a bag that works for you — but what works for you might not necessarily work for someone else. So, before diving into how to pick a backpack for travel, I want to mention the most important features you need to consider as you evaluate my favorites listed below. You want backpack that has:
- Water-resistant material
- Lockable zippers
- An internal frame
- A padded hip belt & shoulder straps
- Multiple openings (not just a single top opening)
- Lots of compartments
- A contoured/padded back
And be sure your backpack fits your body too. Don’t get one that’s too small or too large as it will hurt your back. Proportionality matters!
To help you save money and stay comfortable as you travel the world, below are my top travel backpack suggestions.
Best Overall Travel Backpack: REI Flash 55
Best Backpack with Wheels: Osprey Farpoint 36 Wheeled Travel Pack
Best Large Backpack: REI Traverse 60L
Best Backpack for Digital Nomads: NOMATIC 40
Best Backpack if You Travel with Expensive Gear: Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 Anti-Theft Travel Backpack
The Best Travel Backpacks: Detailed Review
REI Flash 55 Pack
The back paneling on this pack is breathable, and the handy water bottle pocket is located near the front of the hip belt so you never have to take off your backpack to get a drink. The design is great!
- Size: 53-57L
- Compression technology
- Movable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible
While that backpack is my favorite, here are some other packs that you can’t go wrong with either:
Osprey Farpoint (or the Fairview for women)
- Size: 38-40L
- 2 front compression straps, 2 internal compression straps, padded hip belt, sternum strap
- 16-inch laptop sleeve, large zippered panel, padded handles, mesh back panel
- Size: 46L
- Padded hip belt, shoulder harness
- 15-inch laptop sleeve, lots of pockets, lockable zippers, padded handles for toting
- Size: 40L
- Padded straps, sternum strap, detachable waist straps
- RFID protected pocket, laundry bag, cord organizer, shoe compartment, converts to duffel, waterproof water bottle pocket, opens from top
- Size: 45L
- Breathable shoulder and waist straps, sternum strap, external and internal compression straps
- Main compartment accessible through back panel, smart zipper security, 15-inch laptop sleeve, water bottle side pockets
- Size: 60L
- Adjustable padded shoulder straps and hip belt
- Large zippered front pockets, accessible water bottle pockets, hip belt pocket, hydration compatible, rain cover
- Size: 30L (expandable to 45L)
- Adjustable padded shoulder and waist straps
- Front, side, and back opening access, side-accessible water bottle pockets, external straps for strapping on more gear to the outside of the pack, 16-inch laptop compartment
- Size: 36L
- Quick-deploy shoulder harness and padded back panel/waist belt, sternum strap, exterior compression straps
- Converts to wheeled luggage, zippered top pocket for toiletries, large panel opening, aluminum internal frame
A good travel backpack will last years and make all your journeys better. But not every one of these bags will work for you. Some will be too narrow or too wide. Some will be too tall or too short. For that reason, you’ll want to spend some time trying your bag on and making sure it’s comfortable.
Choosing the best travel backpack — the one that works for you, even if it’s not on this list — is what’s most important here!
This isn’t just a purchase; this is an investment. Remember, it’s not just a bag: it’s your home.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.