The Best Packable Backpacks for Every Trip

Our favorite is the Eagle Creek Packable Backpack for its smooth build and useful features.

In This Article

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Best Packable Backpacks

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Especially on longer trips, it’s nice to have a small bag to simply throw your water bottle, sunglasses, and maybe an extra layer in for your daily outings. That’s where a packable backpack comes in. These super-convenient accessories fold up into petite packages — usually into their own pocket or attached stuff sack — so you can stash them away in a side pocket of your luggage until you reach your destination. They’re perfect for sightseeing and short hikes, and if you need an extra bag for souvenirs on your way home, they’ll be right there for you.

The best packable backpacks are durable and have enough space for a day’s worth of belongings, as well as pockets to help you organize. Features like waterproofing and antimicrobial coating are also crucial for some travelers. Our favorite packable backpack is the Eagle Creek Packable Backpack 20L. Its design looks equally at home whether you’re tramping over cobblestones or cliffs, and it has smart features like a zipper security loop, antimicrobial coating, and lifetime warranty. If you want something even lighter or trendier, we’ve got you covered there, too.

These are the best packable backpacks to take on your next trip.

Best Overall

Eagle Creek Packable Backpack 20L

Eagle Creek Packable Backpack 20L

Eagle Creek

Why We Love It: Eagle Creek’s backpack has plenty of bonus features in addition to its easy build.

What to Consider: The straps aren’t padded, so if you’re going for a long day of carrying, you might need something more comfortable.

We’re big fans of the extra features that Eagle Creek took the time to fit into this bag, especially since it’s one of the lightest on our list. There’s a security loop for the zippers to help prevent pickpocketing, and the bag is treated with an antimicrobial agent to combat odor-causing bacteria so you stay fresh. There’s also a mesh side pocket for your water bottle and a zippered side pocket with key clips so you won’t be digging around for small items at the bottom of the bag. Once your trip is over, you can simply stuff the backpack into its own side pocket and pack it away again. The convenient hook on the outside of its carrying sack can even clip onto a bag’s exterior if you’re really overpacked, and Eagle Creek’s lifetime warranty will take care of any accidents.

Price at time of publish: $35

Capacity: 20 liters | Weight: 6 ounces | Material: Polyester

Best Pockets

Srekky 25L Lightweight Packable Backpack

Srekky 25L Lightweight Packable Backpack


Why We Love It: The Srekky has almost as many pockets as a standard backpack and features like waterproofing and a sternum strap.

What to Consider: It’s one of the heavier bags on this list, but it still weighs less than 1 pound.

The Srekky is the backpack of choice for Alex Gillard, wildlife photographer and founder of Nomad Nature Travel. “I've been living out of a backpack for the past seven years, so a good packable travel backpack and efficient packing are two things I've thought a lot about,” says Gillard. “My favorite packable backpack and the one I currently own is the 25L Lightweight Packable Backpack from Srekky. It's water-resistant and foldable, so it's perfect for traveling.” In addition to the main pocket, it also has a middle compartment and two small front pockets, which is more pockets than most packable backpacks offer.

Price at time of publish: $20

Capacity: 25 liters | Weight: 11.2 ounces | Material: Polyester

Most Versatile

Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable 20L Backpack

Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable 20L Backpack


Why We Love It: This bag combines comfortable straps with moisture-repelling abilities and plentiful pockets.

What to Consider: Stylewise, it’s a little on the sportier side.

“I love this Eddie Bauer pack because the straps are wide and fairly thick for a packable and have mesh so they reduce sweating and are not hard on the shoulders,” says traveler Ruth C. White, who looks for easy folding, aesthetic appeal, a comfortable structure, and good pockets in her backpacks. “The back also has mesh so it's not too hot against my back. It also has several pockets,  including two external ones so I could carry two water bottles if needed — way more than expected for a packable. And the price was right.” It also comes in six different colors and folds up into its own front zip pocket, and the StormRepel finish repels moisture to keep the contents dry.

Price at time of publish: $30

Capacity: 20 liters | Weight: 11 ounces | Material: Polyester

Best Chute-style

The North Face Flyweight 18L Daypack

The North Face Flyweight 18L Daypack


Why We Love It: The North Face combines a solid build with DWR treatment and loops for all your gear.

What to Consider: Some people find tube-style packing frustrating, and the straps aren’t padded.

Nick Mueller, director of operations at vacation guide site, names the Flyweight as his preferred backpack for its solid feature set. “This is a great all-around packable backpack, with a ton of storage capacity and a convenient little carry pouch for when it’s compressed,” he says. It conveniently packs into its own pocket, which can then be used as an actual pocket when the bag is open. It’s also treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) so it can repel moisture (though we wouldn’t take it through a downpour) and there are multiple webbing loops on the outside of the pack so you can clip on any extra items.

Capacity: 18 liters | Weight: 9 ounces | Material: Nylon

Best for Cities

Herschel Packable Daypack

Herschel Packable Daypack


Why We Love It: This stylish backpack blends in and comes in a slew of color options.

What to Consider: It may not be as comfortable to wear as some other models.

You’ve almost certainly spotted Herschel backpacks in the wild, which is why we love their packable daypack for blending in during city trips. It has the ubiquitous, classic Herschel styling, just smaller, especially once you’ve folded it back into its internal self-storage pocket. The standard webbing straps are adjustable, and it has a smaller front pocket for anything you want to be able to grab easily — a standard backpack build that won’t leave you looking like you lost your way to the trailhead. The bag also comes in 16 different colors, so you’re sure to find one to match your outfit of the day.

Price at time of publish: $35

Capacity: 24.5 liters | Weight: 8 ounces | Material: Nylon

Best Carry Options

Travelpro Essentials SparePack Foldable Backpack

Travelpro Essentials SparePack Foldable Backpack


Why We Love It: TravelPro complements their quality luggage lineup with a comfortable bag that has plenty of carrying options.

What to Consider: It’s not water-resistant.

Travelpro makes some of our favorite luggage, so it makes sense that they’d also make one of the best packable backpacks. Similar to the Herschel, this bag looks like a regular everyday backpack, which we appreciate — sometimes you just want simplicity. The main compartment includes an interior zip pocket for smaller items, and in addition to the front zip pocket, there’s also a second near the top with a magnetic closure. There’s even a rear band to slide it over the handle of your rolling luggage if you’re tired of having it on your back, though the shoulder straps are also adjustable for comfort. Just fold it into its own built-in pouch when you’re done.

Price at time of publish: $50

Capacity: 22 liters | Weight: 11.2 ounces | Material: Polyester

Best for Outdoors

Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack

 Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack


Why We Love It: It lives up to its name by being light to carry as well as well-designed.

What to Consider: Unpadded straps may be less comfortable if you’ve got a heavy load.

Full-time traveler and travel blogger Katie Caf is “in love with” the Osprey Ultralight as her best packable backpack. “I’ve been living out of one suitcase and one backpack for the past 16 months and I think I would be considered an expert on packable bags by this point!” she says. “When I need a laundry bag or a beach tote, I use my packable bag, which unfolds in a pinch.” The Osprey Ultralight has two zippers on the main compartment as well as a smaller zippered pocket at the top and a stretchy mesh side pocket, and it folds down into its own tiny carrying sack. If you expect to be battling the elements, upgrade to the waterproof Ultralight Dry, which boasts sealed seams and a roll-top closure to keep its contents safe and dry.

Price at time of publish: $38

Capacity: 18 liters | Weight: 4 ounces | Material: Nylon

Best Weatherproof

Matador Freerain22 Waterproof Packable Backpack

Matador Freerain22 Waterproof Packable Backpack


Why We Love It: This bag is hardcore reinforced against the elements and packed with technical features.

What to Consider: The mesh compression sack is separate from the bag, so you have to make sure not to lose it.

If you’re really going through the storm, the Freerain is the bag for you. The nylon is reinforced, and the coating, sealed seams, and roll-top closure all help ensure that the main compartment is fully waterproof. There are also myriad technical features like water bottle pockets, gear loops, and shockcord captures for your tools, as well as external compression straps to keep the bag in check or attach equipment. Even though it’s packable, there’s plenty of support to be found, with an adjustable sternum strap, removable hip belt, and contoured shoulder straps. Need to go bigger? There’s also a 28-liter version.

Price at time of publish: $135

Capacity: 22 liters | Weight: 10.6 ounces | Material: Nylon

Best Ultralight

Sea to Summit Ultra-sil Ultralight Daypack

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Ultralight Daypack


Why We Love It: This super-packable has reinforced stitching for extra durability.

What to Consider: The bag is just one large pocket, and the straps are on the thinner side.

When you want the absolute lightest and smallest packable backpack, you want this one. It packs down into an attached pouch that’s practically the same size as the included carabiner to clip it onto your larger bag and weighs only 2.5 ounces (roughly the weight of a deck of cards). It’s not fancy, with just one main compartment and fairly thin straps, but what you’re losing in features it makes up for in tininess, and it’s still reinforced at stress points to make sure it doesn’t spring a leak (though keep in might that Sea to Summit doesn’t recommend carrying more than 15 pounds). I also used one of these as my spare bag on an eight-month round-the-world trip, and no matter how much laundry I stuffed in it, it held up astonishingly well.

Price at time of publish: $40

Capacity: 20 liters | Weight: 2.5 ounces | Material: Nylon

Best Internal Organization

Bellroy Lite Daypack

Bellroy Lite Daypack


Why We Love It: We enjoy the rounded shape of this backpack on the outside and the many organizational features on the inside.

What to Consider: The lack of a containing pocket means you’re in charge of getting it as small as you can.

Rather than folding into a pocket, this bag is simply thin enough to be folded or rolled up so you can figure out how you’re getting it into your suitcase. The inside is full of convenient features like a document sleeve, zippered essentials pocket, water bottle holder, and sunglasses pocket. There are also multiple exterior loops to clip on extra gear and a detachable adjustable sternum strap. Combined with the padded back panel and shoulder straps, that should keep you comfortable for a while. We also find the egg-like shape charming, and it should fit in whether you’re in cities or on the trail. It’s made from recycled plastic bottles for extra green cred.

Price at time of publish: $99

Capacity: 20 liters | Weight: 12.3 ounces | Material: Recycled PET plastic bottles (polyester)

Tips for Buying a Packable Backpack

Make sure it comes with its own stuff sack

The keyword when looking for the best packable backpack is “packable.” Ideally your bag will pack into itself, rather than a separate external pouch — a pouch is just one more thing to lose, and when packability is the main reason for your purchase, you don’t want to misplace such a key part of what makes it useful.

“Having a built-in stuff sack with any packable bags is a lifesaver,” says Caf. “Sometimes when I don’t pack well and it’s hard to zip up my bag, I can take anything in a stuff sack out and hang it off of my backpack with a carabiner. This is the ultimate packing trick because it’s not even taking up any room in your bag!”

Look for lightweight, durable fabrics

You also want to consider the material of the bag. “When looking for a lightweight, packable bag, you want a material that is light but durable enough to handle a daily task like shopping or airport travel,” says Vince Mazzuca, director of marketing at Osprey. “Look for fabrics with a ripstop weave to prevent small tears from expanding and a coating to prevent water from getting inside.”

Know which support features are best for your usage

If you’re going to be carrying your packable backpack for a longer time, look for padded straps and possibly a sternum strap to help you stay comfortable. But keep in mind that these features also add bulk, so if finding the tiniest or lightest possible option is your priority, you’ll have to sacrifice them in favor of a smaller form factor.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Can I use my backpack as a carry-on?

    In general, that depends on the size of your backpack and your airline’s carry-on restrictions. Check the dimensions for whatever airline you’re flying and the dimensions of your specific bag. All of the bags we picked for our article should be fine to use as a carry-on.

  • How should I pack my backpack?

    “When it comes to packable bags, the best strategy is to never leave home without them,” says Mazzuca. “They are so handy at times when you don’t even expect it, and they fit into your pack, luggage, car, or bike bags.”

    Broadly speaking, when packing a backpack, you want the heaviest items to be at the bottom. Since packable backpacks don’t tend to have as much back padding, you’ll also want to arrange items such that nothing is poking into your back while you walk.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Rena Behar has been covering travel gear and other products for outlets including Wirecutter, New York magazine, T+L, and more since 2014 and traveling for notably longer. She also surveyed frequent travelers and dug thoroughly into reviews and round-ups to put together this list of the best packable backpacks.

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