Whether you’re globetrotting or planning a weekend getaway, the right bag can make all the difference. And while there are a lot of everyday backpacks that claim universality, sometimes a bag with a singular focus proves more functional — a la a travel backpack.
What Is a Travel Backpack?
Unlike the small packable backpacks, travel backpacks work well as the primary pack for short weekend trips or as an auxiliary load for longer flights. (They usually abide by airlines' strict "personal item" size restrictions.) The options on our list vary from small, gadget- and laptop-friendly bags (with trolley slots) to bigger, cargo-centric styles with several compartments for all of your essentials and strapping designed to balance the bag's weight.
Within all of these, compartments aplenty ease the travel experience. Some have slots for passports and phones; others have loops for keys or zippered pouches for foreign currency; all of them have isolated laptop compartments, and a few have trolley sleeves for sliding the bag over your suitcase's handle.
However, I'm not trying to one-size-fits-all the travel experience. Just as no trips are the same — and no two people prefer the identical itineraries in the same cities — bags are not either, and what works for one may not work for another. ("Who brings their laptop on vacation?" someone might wonder.) Although you may feel tempted to buy a backpack so bold, so brazen that it'll be unmistakably yours, don't — get something subtle, loaded with features and sans overt, ugly logos.
The Best Travel Backpacks for Your Next Trip
There are two types of travel backpacks: ones big enough to substitute for your carry-on, and ones that pass as personal items. Peak Design's 45L Travel Back is the former. It unzips open like a suitcase, giving you unfettered access to its spacious center compartment. There are also access points via the side and top, too, plus waterproof pockets for smaller items like keys or a passport. Once you take it off, there's a handle for towing it like a duffle bag as well.
Troubadour turned the mundane middle school essential into a bonafide luxury bag. This option's cut from lightweight and water-resistant Italian vegetable-tanned leather, and finished with gun metal zipper and even more leather accents. A trolley sleeve lets you secure the bag over a bigger suitcase's telescopic handle and a separate laptop compartment and general storage area keeps everything organized and protected.
Although outdoor leaning, Roark's 27L pack features travel-friendly features like an invisible passport sleeve, a mesh accessories pocket, a sunglasses pouch, padded laptop storage and an accessible rolltop closure.
You'll appreciate Everlane's The ReNew Transit Backpack, no matter whether you're a commuter or a frequent flyer. It has valuable features for both types of travelers: a trolley sleeve on the back, several spacious pockets, exterior spots for quick-access travel essentials and a water-resistant finish.
Monos, like Away, is a luggage company. So it makes sense they'd make a backpack, too, considering the style is arguably the most common personal item. The Metro Backpack is more than just a sidekick, though. It has an easy to carry top handle system, a trolley sleeve and a spacious front pocket for fast-access items like a passport and wallet. Plus, there's an exterior laptop pocket and an interior divider for separating dirty or delicate items.
This business class-friendly backpack from Maverick and Co. is built from water- and abrasion-resistant nylon and accented with vegan leather components, which make it more luxe than it actually is. That's not to say it isn't nice, which it is, it just isn't nearly as expensive as an all-leather backpack. There's a three-stack trolley sleeve on the back, big pockets on the exterior and a simple divider system within.
Although it's significantly smaller, Bellroy's Transit Backpack is like Peak Design's in that it could pass as a carry-on. I'm not sure you could use it for more than a short weekend trip, or a two-day business affair, but it opens like clamshell so you can pack it like a suitcase. A pair of shoes, some folded or rolled clothes and a laptop will fit in here, plus essentials like a passport, wallet and keys.
Once the supplier of bags for the US Army, Eastpak has since — evident by this bag — expanded into civilian gear. Their Tranzpack is made from 100 percent polyester, features padded shoulder straps and a book-like zipper design that lets the wearer pack it like a suitcase. Plus, there's a sleeve on the inner side so you can run a suitcase handle through it.
Away doesn't just make suitcases. They know the easiest way around an airport is a wheeled suitcase in one hand with a backpack draped down its handle. As such, they've constructed the latter from water-resistant nylon outfitted with pockets for a laptop, tickets and a passport, a large center compartment for clothes and other bulky items and an expandable side pocket for a water bottle or umbrella. Best of all, it has a wraparound zipper that makes accessing everything, without it all spilling out, easy.
Herschel's Tech Backpack emphasizes storage solutions for the gear-savvy. Hidden and overt pockets aplenty make room for a laptop, tablet, earbuds, headphones, chargers, cameras, phones, and, for the international traveler, a passport.
The grail. The I-just-spent-a-flight-ticket-on-this-bag pick. Anson Calder's sleek, rectangular backpack cut from French calfskin allows for customization, courtesy of the brand's in-house cases, sleeves and pouches, which can be attached to internal or external loops. Plus, there's a padded rear laptop sleeve inside to separate your most valuable cargo.
This bag's cordura ripstop construction renders it durable and weather resistant. Plus, it's comfortable, too. Padded shoulder straps lessen the load; pockets divvy up the weight; pouches organize your essentials; a buckled front strap secures it across your chest.
A dedicated laptop bag looks a little out of place in the era of excess, but sometimes less is more.