14 Great Travel Backpacks for Your Next Trip

A hiker walking on a trail toward snow-capped mountains
Posted: 12/7/2020 | December 7th, 2020

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 on hikes and 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), my community manager has had his backpack for seven years, and the director of our charity FLYTE has had hers for eight.

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 14 travel backpack suggestions.

In a rush? Here’s a list of only the best travel backpacks:Best Overall Travel Backpack: REI Flash 45
Best Backpack for Digital Nomads: NOMATIC 40
Best Backpack with Wheels: Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley 50L
Best Backpack for Women (Under 50L): REI Flash 45
Best Backpack for Women (Over 50L): REI Traverse 65
Best Backpack for Men (Under 50L): Osprey Farpoint 40
Best Backpack for Men (Over 50L): REI Traverse 70L


The Best Travel Backpacks: Detailed Review

Best Overall
REI Flash 45 Pack

REI Flash 45 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: 45-47L
  • Compression technology
  • Movable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible

Check Best Price

While that backpack is my favorite, here are some other packs that you can’t go wrong with either:


Travel Backpack


Men’s Osprey Aether AG 60

  • Size: 57-63L
  • Dual upper side compression straps, lower inside-out compression straps, and dual front compression straps
  • Large front J-zip, detachable daypack, hydration sleeve, plenty of pockets

Men’s Osprey Farpoint 40

  • Size: 38-40L
  • Two front compression straps and two internal compression straps
  • 15-inch laptop sleeve, large zippered panel, padded handles

Women’s Osprey Fairview 40

  • Size: 38-40L
  • Dual front compressions straps
  • Large zippered front panel, pockets, padded handle, laptop sleeve

Women’s Osprey Ariel AG 65

  • Size: 59-65L
  • Dual upper side compression straps, lower inside-out compression straps, dual front compression strapsails
  • Large J-zip at the front, sleeping bag compartment, removable sleeping pad straps, removable daypack

Osprey Atmos AG 65 Pack

  • Size: 62-68L
  • Upper and lower side compression straps
  • Adjustable harness and hip belt, lots of pockets, hydration sleeve, FlapJacket to protect against bad weather

Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley 50L

  • Size: 50L
  • Quick-deploy shoulder harness and padded back panel
  • Converts to wheeled luggage; has inner and outer mesh pockets, and attachment slots for a day pack.

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack

  • Size: 46L
  • Padded hip belt, shoulder harness
  • Laptop sleeve, lots of pockets, lockable zippers, padded handles for toting

NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag

  • Size: 40L
  • Padded straps, detachable waist straps
  • RFID protected pocket, cord organizer, laundry bag, laptop and shoe compartments

Pacsafe Venturesafe X40 Anti-Theft Adventure Travel Pack

  • Size: 46L
  • Breathable shoulder and waist straps
  • Built-in rain cover, main compartment accessible through back panel, smart zipper security

Women’s REI Flash 45 Pack

  • Size: 45-47L
  • Compression technology pulls the pack’s load up and inward so that the pack is closer to your center of gravity
  • Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, 3-D contoured hip belt

Women’s REI Traverse 65

  • Size: 61-69L
  • Adjustable padded shoulder straps and hip belt
  • Large zippered front pockets, accessible water bottle pockets, hip belt pocket, hydration compatible, rain cover

REI Traverse 70

  • Size: 66-74L
  • Adjustable padded shoulder straps and hip belt
  • Large zippered front pockets, accessible water bottle pockets, hip belt pocket, hydration compatible, rain cover

Osprey Talon 44

  • Size: 44L
  • Seamless lumbar-to-hipbelt support
  • Breathable back padding, lots of pockets, narrow design, and water resistant material

***A good travel backpack will last years and make all your journeys better, and those on this list are some of the best on the market.

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.

How to Travel the World on $50 a Day

Nomadic Matt's How to Travel the World on $50 a DayMy New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A-to-Z planning guide that the BBC calls “the bible for budget travelers.”

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Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is 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 they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap 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. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

Need 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. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.

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