This year's best travel backpacks are both smart and stylish. See travel editors' top picks from brands like Tumi, Tortuga, and Osprey.

By Travel + Leisure Staff
Updated November 19, 2020
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When it comes to the perpetual dilemma of carry-on suitcase vs. travel backpack, it all depends on your personal preferences and travel needs. Although, we have to admit, we're leaning towards the backpack option, not because we feel nostalgic about the good old schoolyard days, but because we've found it to be the more practical alternative of the two, especially on budget airlines where you're more concerned with the weight of your luggage.

Most backpacks tend to be lighter than standard suitcase (they're often made of sturdy polyester) and smaller, too — usually fitting neatly beneath the seat in front of you. Plus, you can easily take your carry-on backpack from the airport to natural trails, city tours, beach shores, and beyond, while using your hard-shell suitcase as your beach bag is perhaps not the most functional idea.

Another component modern travel backpacks have going for them? Organization. Many of our favorite picks are thoughtfully outfitted with a place for everything. There are padded tech sleeves galore. Your water bottle, passport, pens, keys, and more will all have a designated spot — that means no more scrambling to find what you need in the security line. Some styles even open up with three-sided zippers, just like standard luggage would.

travel backpack luggage carry-on
Credit: AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

And if you're a fan of rolling your way through airports instead of having to speed-walk between terminals with 15 pounds of stuff on your back, we have some good news for you. One pick even comes with built-in wheels and a double-locking handle so you can have a suitcase and a backpack all-in-one.

Here, 18 durable and sleek backpack options that will have your back, literally, on your next trip.

Most Durable Backpack: Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack

tortuga outbreaker backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Tortuga

Meet the travel backpack that just might replace your suitcase: Tortuga's Outbreaker. Made from super-durable waterproof sailcloth and equipped with lockable zippers, it's the perfect pack for an explorer. The lay-flat construction makes for easy packing and thoughtful features like an adjustable suspension system ensure it stays comfortable even when its stuffed to the gills. It's also available in a smaller 35L size and you can buy a set of packing cubes sized to fit perfectly inside.

To buy:, $299

Best Weather-proof Backpack: Nomatic Travel Pack

nomatic travel backpack review
Credit: Courtesy of Nomatic

After a super successful Kickstarter launch campaign, the Nomatic Travel Pack has become a traveler favorite for its 20-plus thoughtful features. Outside, it's designed with weatherproof materials that will stand up to any conditions you've unwittingly found yourself up against. And inside, you'll find dedicated pockets and sleeves for nearly everything you own. Expansion capabilities also leave room for a few extra souvenirs.

To buy:, $260

Best Laptop Backpack: Lo & Sons Prospect Backpack

lo and sons backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Lo & Sons

This backpack combines leather and recycled polyester to create a sleek, minimalist look. It's a convertible bag that can be worn as both a backpack and a briefcase. Inside, there are several organizational pockets that can hold chargers and other tech accessories, as well as padded laptop sleeve.

To buy:, $189 (originally $378)

Best Anti-theft Backpack: Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350 15L

Pacsafe Anti Theft Backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

This modern anti-theft bag comes in three colors and the fabric is woven with a hidden stainless steel wire mesh, making it slashproof and ideal for high-volume pickpocketing areas. The zippers are all lockable, and one of the straps also acts as a locking mechanism, so you can secure your bag to the al fresco table you're dining at and enjoy your meal without worry. The bag's interior ID and card pockets feature RFID-blocking technology, too.

To buy:, $70

Best Lightweight Backpack: Baggu Packable Backpack

Black Packable Backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Shopbop

This backpack from Baggu is lightweight and super easy to pack down into your luggage if you think you'll only need something for the return trip to hold all of your new souvenirs.

To buy:, $25 (originally $36)

Most Stylish Backpack: Dagne Dover Medium Dakota Backpack

Credit: Courtesy of Dagne Dover

This sleek neoprene bag is versatile and spacious enough to use as a carry-on or a gym bag. With a simple, wear-anywhere style, it can be worn around the office, taken on a hike, or toted along to dinner. There are two smaller sizes available, as well, in case you like the look but don't need as much space.

To buy:, $135

Best Leather Backpack: Leatherology Parker Backpack

leatherology leather travel backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Leatherology

Made with super-soft, high-quality leather, Leatherology's popular backpack is made to be used — not to sit in a dust bag in your closet. There's a separate laptop pocket that's 18 inches wide, and three external pockets make it easy to stow (and locate) smaller essentials like your wallet and keys. It's available in 10 earth-toned colors, and you can personalize it with a debossed or hand-painted monogram.

To buy:, $300

Most Comfortable Backpack: Incase Icon Slim Laptop Backpack

incase carry-on backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

The shoulder straps and padded air mesh back panel give this Incase pack a comfy fit, even when you're carrying it for hours on end. It's slim, but with plenty of room for your tech and other day-to-day must-haves, and it's also available in light gray.

To buy:, $133 (originally $150)

Best for Staying Organized: Samsonite Detour Travel Backpack

samsonite travel backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Samsonite

This pack from Samsonite has a surprising amount of organizational components for its light weight (just under two pounds). There's a padded laptop compartment that comfortable fits a 15.6-inch device, an elastic side water bottle pocket, and three tiers of zip pockets on the front panel. Add in a Tricot-lined top stash pocket for protecting your phone or sunglasses, and you've got a place for all of your travel essentials.

To buy:, $64

Best for Functional Fashion: Longchamp Le Pliage Backpack

Longchamp Le Pliage Backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Nordstrom

This Longchamp style is a classic. Choose your favorite from four colors and don't leave home without this convenient bag that folds flat and tucks away until you need more space. In durable water-resistant nylon with leather trim, this backpack has adjustable straps and an interior pocket.

To buy:, $125

Best for Adventure Travel: Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack

osprey porter carry on backpack
Credit: Courtesy of eBags

This roomy pack from Osprey could fit up to a week's worth of clothing if you use a set of the brand's packing cubes. The front-loading main compartment is easy to access; the front panel is packed with pockets; and there's a separate top compartment for your toiletries. Plus, the shoulder straps and hip belt zip securely into the back on the off chance you're forced to gate check.

To buy:, $84

Best Packable Backpack: Zomake Ultra Lightweight Backpack

Best Selling Backpack on Amazon
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Designed with extremely lightweight and durable nylon, this Amazon best-seller backpack folds down into a sandwich-sized pouch. Bonus: it's also water-resistant.

To buy:, $16

Best Commuter Backpack: Knomo Beauchamp Backpack

knomo backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

This nylon backpack has tons of pockets and a padded 14-inch laptop section inside. Our testing has proven that it's durable, comfortable to wear, and splash-resistant for any unexpected showers.

To buy:, $226

Best for Business Travelers: Tumi T-Pass Business Class Brief Pack

Tumi Tahoe Butler Backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Tumi

Professional enough to wear to conferences and client meetings, this best-selling backpack is fitted with a 15-inch laptop sleeve and the essential Add-a-Bag sleeve that allows it to easily slide onto your rolling carry-on's handle.

To buy:, $525

Best Features for Travelers: Eagle Creek Global Companion 40L Backpack

eagle creek
Credit: Courtesy of Eagle Creek

Convenience is the biggest draw of this pack from Eagle Creek. There are pockets for absolutely everything, including a special shoe compartment on the bottom. It zips open like a clamshell-style suitcase so you can easily access all of your items. There's a rain cover included for inclement weather. And for added security, the zippers are lockable. Eagle Creek also offers the pack in a version that's better ergonomically shaped for women to carry.

To buy:, $134 (originally $160)

Best for One-bag Trips: eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible

eBags TLS Convertible Wheeled Carryon
Credit: Courtesy of eBags

This carry-on comes backed by more than 7,000 thrilled customer reviews. The 22-inch bag unzips all the way around like a suitcase would but it's much more comfortable to carry and has tons of thoughtful features to make packing a breeze — from tie-down straps to a hidden passport pocket.

To buy:, $90

Best Wheeled Backpack: Osprey Packs Meridian 60L

osprey packs
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

This convertible, lightweight bag by Osprey is the ultimate multi-tasker. It can be wheeled or carried as a backpack and it actually zips in half to give travelers a day pack to bring along on shorter side trips.

To buy:, $200

Best Simple Travel Backpack: Fjallraven Kånken Water-resistant Backpack

Fjallraven Kanken Waterproof Backpack
Credit: Courtesy of Nordstrom

Originally used by Swedish schoolchildren in the '70s, the Kånken backpack is now a staple in travel gear due to its functionality, sturdy design, and cool Scandinavian look.

To buy:, $80

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