The Best Backpack Brands for Travelers

The Swedish brand Fjällräven is our top pick.

In This Article

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Travel + Leisure / Sabrina Jiang

Rolling carry-on bags might be easy on your back, but you won’t always be able to wheel a suitcase on the ground, especially when hiking through the woods or navigating cobblestone streets — not to mention the times you’ll want to keep your belongings close to your body, or simply have less to carry. 

Investing in a good travel backpack can be pricey, but a sturdy, water-resistant option that both keeps your belongings safe and satisfies your organizational needs is more than worth it. For this reason, we’ve researched backpack brands that stand out when it comes to durability, versatility, and style.

Fjällräven snagged our top spot thanks to its practicality and wide range of aesthetically pleasing options. But, if you’re feeling something a little sleeker, larger, or tech-enabled, you’re in luck because our list has it all.

Here’s our breakdown of the best backpack brands:

Best Overall: Fjällräven

Fjallraven

Fjallraven

Why We Love It: The brand’s practical and durable backpacks work well for both travel and day-to-day use. 

What to Consider: The bags have a more casual, outdoorsy look, if you prefer something polished.

From a small Swedish town called Örnsköldsvik surrounded by the woods, mountains, and the sea, Fjällräven was formed to give backpackers colorful and durable options. These bags have a trendy, timeless look, and anyone who’s owned one can tell you they last a lifetime, keeping their shape and quality over the years. Many are also water-resistant, quick-drying, and made with organic and recycled materials. 

A classic pick is Fjällräven’s Travel Pack, which has more than enough room for a change of clothes and a laptop, and boasts padded shoulder straps for comfort. There are zip pockets inside to keep a passport, phone, and other accessories safely secured while you’re on the move, too. This style is guarded from wear and tear thanks to the special G-1000 material, a densely woven, polyester-cotton blend the company uses often. 

Material: Recycled polyester and organic cotton | Dimensions: 18.1 x 12.6 x 10.6 inches | Weight: 3.6 pounds | Capacity: 35 liters | Return policy: 30 days

Best Value: L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean Backpacks Bags

L.L. Bean

Why We Love It: L.L.Bean has a variety of backpacks that open wide and have a waist belt for added security.

What to Consider: Certain options can be cumbersome when packed to capacity if not properly sized for your body. 

When you hear the name L.L. Bean, duck boots and flannels might come to mind first, but the store has so much more to offer, striving to create long-lasting, sustainable products. The brand is also quite particular about the quality and materials used, and you have up to one year to return your purchase if not totally satisfied. While there are bags of all sizes to choose, backpacks like the Approach Travel Pack are especially useful for travel thanks to a waist belt that offers extra comfort and stability, as well as a mesh interior pocket to separate dirty clothes. 

Material: Nylon | Dimensions: 20 x 11.8 x 9 inches | Weight: 3.3 pounds | Capacity: 45 liters | Return policy: One year

Best Classic: Herschel

Herschel Backpack

Herschel

Why We Love It: We love the vintage look and spaciousness of Herschel’s backpacks.

What to Consider: Be careful to not overstuff these packs, as the buckles and zippers may come loose or break from the strain.

Vancouver-based company, Herschel, aims to create “timeless product[s] with fine regard for detail,” and the brand’s main focus has always been to create functional, high-quality products for travelers. Herschel backpacks, like The Herschel Little America, feature a vintage vibe due to the brand’s trademark leather (or vegan leather) straps. This one in particular is a great go-to bag for everything from short day trips to long-haul flights. 

Material: Polyester | Dimensions: 19.3 x 11.3 x 7 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Capacity: 25 liters | Return policy: 30 days

Best Sustainable: Away

Away Backpacks

Away

Why We Love It: Away has a sizable selection of backpacks and our favorite is large enough to replace a carry-on bag (and is made from recycled materials).

What to Consider: It can get cumbersome when packed full and carried as a backpack, especially on petite shoppers.

Away is one of the best luggage brands, consistently earning rave reviews for chic, durable suitcases, from carry-ons to checked bags. The brand doesn’t stop at hardside items, making travel accessories like the scratch- and water-resistant F.A.R Convertible Backpack, too. Not only is this pack made wholly of recycled polyester, but the zippers, mesh lining, and webbing are also made from 100 percent recycled materials. It can fit a lot inside thanks to its compression system and added pockets for laptops and other items.

Material: Polyester | Dimensions: 21.7 x 13.6 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 3.32 pounds | Capacity: 45 liters | Return policy: 100 days (with limited one-year warranty)

Best for Business Travel: Maverick & Co.

Maverick & Co. Backpacks

Maverick & Co.

Why We Love It: The brand sells incredibly sleek, vegan leather backpacks that are even scratch- and water-resistant.

What to Consider: The bags tend to be very narrow.

The founders of Maverick & Co. previously came from the finance industry where they were inspired to create bags to suit the needs of modern professionals and the organization they craved. Not only are the backpacks extremely practical and fashionable, the brand’s products also have a reputation for maintaining their look and shape over time. Take the laptop-friendly Explorer Light Backpack, for instance. It’s made from sturdy vegan leather and nylon that’s scratch- and water-resistant, and super lightweight as well. 

Material: Nylon, vegan leather | Dimensions: 16.5 x 12.2 x 5.1 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds | Capacity: Not listed | Return policy: 30 days (with a one-year warranty)

Best Convertible: Osprey

Osprey Backpacks

Osprey

Why We Love It: The brand offers a large selection of high-quality bags, many coming in both women’s and men’s sizing for a better fit.

What to Consider: When stuffed to the brim, some Osprey bags can become oddly shaped and awkward to stash away.

From the day the company started back in the 1970s, Osprey has aimed to create quality travel gear that’s dependable from the airport to the great outdoors. There’s an emphasis on sustainability, and the incorporation of recycled and bluesign-approved materials wherever possible. That doesn’t equal substandard performance as backpacks like the Fairview 40 Women’s Travel Pack and the Fairview 40 Men’s Travel Pack are meant to be taken on adventures with a load-transferring wire frame and a stowaway harness and hipbelt, plus handles to carry sideways and make it easier to load into the overhead. Osprey will even repair any damage or defects free of charge, no matter the original purchase date. 

Material: Bluesign-approved polyester | Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches (both) | Weight: 3.4 pounds (women’s); 3.5 pounds (men’s) | Capacity: 40 liters (both) | Return policy: 30 days (with a lifetime warranty for defects and damage)

Best Tech-enabled: Nordace

Nordace Backpacks

Nordace

Why We Love It: Most Nordace backpacks have built-in USB charging ports and plenty of protective pockets for your tech.

What to Consider: Some styles are a bit small, and may not be suitable for heavy rainstorms.

Nordace backpacks look sleek and simple, but they’re ideal for organizing your items thanks to multiple pockets and the ability to charge electronics tucked inside. Most of the brand’s backpacks have padded device compartments and a built-in USB charging port, which is hard not to love when you’re far from an outlet, or on the road. We think the Siena Smart Backpack is perfect for the tech-savvy traveler as it has a roomy main section, a separate 15.6-inch laptop compartment, and a USB port. Nordace puts its bags through an intense testing process to make sure they’ll hold up over time as well.

Material: Water-resistant polyester | Dimensions: 16.5 x 11.4 x 6.3 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds | Capacity: 19 liters | Return policy: 30 days

Best Style: Tumi

Tumi Backpacks

Tumi

Why We Love It: Tumi bags are stylish and functional, and most styles have ample interior and exterior compartments.

What to Consider: While their products do hold up over time, the brand is pricey.

Tumi was founded by Charlie Clifford in the mid-1970s and has maintained a reputation as one of the best designer luggage brands for its quality craftsmanship and durability. Like the suitcases, Tumi backpacks may be a splurge, but we found the roomy, pocket-packed Voyageur Carson Backpack to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing and versatile bags out there when looking for an investment piece (especially in the berry color). 

Material: Nylon | Dimensions: 12 x 17 x 5.5 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds | Capacity: Not listed | Return policy: 30 days (with limited one-year warranty)

Best for Camping: Ula Equipment

Ula Equipment Backpacks

Ula Equipment

Why We Love It: These backpacks adjust to the wearer’s body using a suspension hoop that transfers weight as they move.

What to Consider: Some options are huge, making them better suited for a backpacking or camping trip when you need a ton of gear.

Utah-based company Ula Equipment has created light, utilitarian backpacks made with incredibly durable fabric, and customizable sizing. There are plenty of pockets and space for gear and organization, yet the packs still maintain a weightless feel — meaning the brand is perfect for avid hikers and campers. The company frequently creates or revises products based on feedback from loyal buyers, but stays consistent when it comes to quality. If you’re heading off on an outdoor trek, consider a bag like the Circuit — it’s capable of holding loads of equipment, clothes, and essentials. 

Material: Nylon | Dimensions: Not listed | Weight: 2.3 pounds | Capacity: 68 liters | Return policy: 30 days

Best Waterproof: YETI

YETI Backpacks

YETI

Why We Love It: Yeti’s backpacks are incredibly durable, and some are even completely waterproof.

What to Consider: The waterproof bags don’t have exterior pockets (that could leak anyway).

Yeti has an incredible reputation when it comes to dependable products that are extremely useful and durable from its water bottles and mugs to its coolers and backpacks. Yeti’s essentials are known for holding up in inclement weather and harsh environments — especially its waterproof bags. Our favorite is the Yeti Panga 28L Waterproof Backpack, which is 100 percent waterproof and leakproof whether caught in a downpour or completely submerged.

Material: Waterproof laminated nylon | Dimensions: 12.5 x 20 x 7 inches | Weight: 3.9 pounds | Capacity: 28 liters | Return policy: 30 days

Tips for Buying a Travel Backpack

Know the type of backpack you need

When deciding the type of backpack that’s right for you, consider what you’ll use it for the most. With many of the best options costing hundreds of dollars, you want to make sure you’re investing in one that will make the most sense for the kind of travel you’re doing. For example, if you are primarily traveling for business, you may not necessarily need something waterproof. A backpack that has a lot of pockets for organization and looks sleek and professional would be more beneficial.

Research the brand and its return and warranty policy

All of the brands we chose have reliable reputations and many other options besides the bags we listed above. If our specific picks are not a fit for you, search for your desired size and features (and consider reviews from like-minded travelers) from your preferred brand. It’s also important to check the return and warranty policy to ensure your purchase is protected after receiving the bag and testing it out for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What are the most important backpack features?

    It varies depending on the primary use of your backpack, but in general, you should seek out one that is sturdy and puncture-proof. If you’re using the bag for work purposes, you’ll want organizational features and padding for a laptop and other devices. If you’re using it for outdoor travel, look for durability and water resistance. If much of your travel involves water (and proximity to water), a waterproof backpack is the ideal investment for you.

  • How important are return policies and warranties?

    When investing in a new backpack for travel, double check the return policy before you shop, especially if you’re buying it online. It’s important to assess how easy the pack will be to return or exchange since you’re not seeing it in person first. A warranty (should any issues arise) can add even more peace of mind.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

For this article, contributor Jess Kelly researched dozens of bags and used her personal experience to compile an extensive list of reliable travel brands and backpacks. Kelly is a New York-based travel journalist and photographer who’s written for Huffington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, and more. Follow her travel and adventures on Instagram @Adventures.Are.Waiting!

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