Whether you’re packing your bags for a weekend or a year away, a trip to the airport is always accompanied by anxiety-filled moments. Traffic, long lines at check-in and finding out your bags are too heavy or the wrong size to travel probably top the list. While you may remember a time when luggage issues mainly concerned your checked bags, ever-changing rules for carry-on bags mean no one escapes that fear. When looking for the best travel backpacks, it’s wise to consider whether your travel bag of choice will actually fit under an airplane seat or inside the overhead compartment.
If you’re worried your carry-on doesn’t fit the TSA requirements for carrying it on the plane, there are a number of ways to deal with the problem. First, check the baggage restrictions for your specific airline and ensure your bag falls within the measurements provided for TSA-approved backpacks and luggage. Alternatively, buy a bag that is made specifically with the TSA and airline personal item requirements in mind. Such bags and backpacks should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you while still maintaining the comfort and durability you expect. Though the dimensions may vary, in general, the space under an airplane seat can accommodate backpacks 18 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 8 inches high.
To make finding a backpack that fits the requirements easier, we’ve put together a list of the 15 best travel backpacks available. Simply find the travel bag that fits your carry-on needs and enjoy an anxiety-free experience the next time you’re airport-bound.
1. Fjallraven Kanken Laptop 15″ Backpack
The Fjallraven Kanken Classic is ubiquitous in airports today, but that’s not the best possible backpack for travel necessarily (although you will find it later on this list). Instead, if you’re looking for the best travel backpacks that will fit under your seat, we recommend upgrading to the Fjallraven Kanken Laptop 15″ Backpack. Like other bags from this Swedish company, the Kanken Laptop bag comes in a variety of fun colors; however, it features enough room for your large laptop and travel essentials. In addition to the primary laptop compartment, this travel backpack comes with three additional pockets. It’s constructed from a dirt- and water-resistant material and two-way zipper. Durable handles let you carry this down a cramped airplane aisle with ease, while the compact design lets you slip it under your feet or overhead. If the Graphite color (pictured below) isn’t to your tastes, check out the Plum or Acorn design instead.
2. Sumtree Lightweight Foldable Backpack
Durable, waterproof and available in seven vibrant colors, this packable backpack comes with multiple pockets and various internal storage compartments. However, the best thing about this travel pack is that it weighs less than one pound when empty. This is truly a great travel accessory.
3. P.KU.VDSL Canvas Backpack
A canvas and genuine leather build make this backpack a stylish choice. It also comes with multiple easy-access pockets and a 17-inch laptop pocket for added convenience. It’s available in more than 15 different colors and styles.
4. Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack
Not only is this travel bag super attractive, it’s also extremely economical. Able to convert from backpack to duffle bag in seconds, it comes with multiple pockets and adjustable side straps. It’s also available in 15 elegant colors.
5. ZUQIANG Business Backpack
BEST FOR BUSINESS TRIPS
Looking to get some work done on your next flight? This TSA-approved business backpack has everything you need to hit those deadlines at 33,000 feet in the air. Featuring an expandable design, tons of pockets and suppressible shoulder straps, this bag can be used as both a duffel and a backpack. Unexpanded, this backpack’s slim profile should fit comfortably under even the smallest airplane seat.
6. Timbuk2 Tuck Pack
BEST FOR FREQUENT FLIERS
A rugged backpack with a rolled-top build, notched pockets and an elegant webbed buckle strap, this backpack is a great choice for frequent flyers. It comes with adjustable shoulder straps and a beautifully lined interior. In addition, the Tuck Pack is available in 10 attractive colors. Timbuk2 is a respected bag maker, and this top-rated travel backpack is a great choice for your next trip.
7. Fjallraven Kanken Classic Backpack
The Fjallraven Kanken Classic Backpack is everywhere these days, and for good reason. This versatile backpack from the Swedish outdoors gear company Fjallraven is a roomy option with enough space for everything you need during a trip away from home. The classic backpack sports a school bag-like design and boasts a range of carrying options, including straps and top-mounted handles. In addition, the bag is constructed from a dirt-resistant and water-resistant material that is super easy to wipe clean after any unforeseen mishaps. Plus, this handy pack comes in a variety of colors to match anyone’s style. Really, if you’re searching for the best travel backpacks that will meet airline and TSA requirements, you can’t go wrong with any travel bag from Fjallraven.
8. Patagonia Arbor Daypack
The Patagonia Arbor Daypack is a versatile backpack which is available in five muted colors. The body of the bag is made from recycled polyester fabric, which has been covered with a durable, water-repellent finish to create a bag capable of handling adverse weather conditions. The design also includes a front-mounted pocket as well as a generous front loading compartment with a padded laptop sleeve. For carrying, users have the option of padded straps or the top-mounted, reinforced haul handle. Patagonia is best known for their outdoors gear, but this backpack was specifically designed for modern travelers.
9. SwissGear Travel Gear Bungee Backpack
BEST DAD BACKPACK
Built small with an enormous amount of internal capacity, this bungee backpack comes with a handy organizer compartment, side pockets and a front bungee system. It even includes a headphone port and a D-ring. Plus, the bottle pocket and mobile-device pocket means there’s room for all your essentials. This may not be the most stylish backpack on our list, but it’s a backpack that will last for years to come. Pair this backpack with white New Balance sneakers for the ultimate dad-on-the-go look.
10. Pacsafe Anti-Theft Backpack
Adjustable shoulder straps, a padded carrying handle and a quilted back pocket make this travel backpack extremely comfortable and efficient. Zippered front compartments help store your various cards and notebooks while the interior laptop pocket will keep your device secure. But, the biggest benefit of this backpack is its safety features, which include Lockabout™ security clips to prevent pick-pocketing and RFIDsafe™ technology.
11. eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack
BEST FOR CARRYING LAPTOPS
Able to easily accommodate most laptops and notebooks, this super slim backpack features padded, lockable compartments and its own zippered bottle pocket. In addition to a padded laptop sleeve, this bag also sports a fleece-lined tablet sleeve and a bottom structured pocket. It’s also able to switch from backpack to briefcase easily and efficiently.
12. Setout Divide Backpack
BEST ALTERNATIVE TO A SUITCASE
For light packers, cramming everything into a single backpack is a point of pride. Of course, not all backpacks are up to the challenge. But whether you’ve mastered the art of light packing or not, the Setout Divide Backpack will make you feel like a packing professional. That’s because this travel backpack can be unzipped and packed just like a suitcase. That makes it the perfect companion for a weekend getaway or short business trip.
13. Incase ICON Backpack
BEST COMMUTER BACKPACK
If you’re after a bag which can travel the world and also travel with you to work every day of the week, check out this Incase ICON Backpack. You’ll find plenty of space for all of your technology, including dedicated compartments for you smartphone, tablet and laptop computer (up to 15 inches). There’s also a range of handy pockets for your other essentials. In addition, the bag’s molded back panel and padded shoulder straps provide plenty of airflow to keep you comfortable, even if the pack is on your back all day.
14. GORUCK GR1
BEST FOR CITY BREAKS
The GORUCK GR1 is an ideal choice for weekend city breaks but, in reality, it can go just about any place you want to take it, including war zones. The GORUCK is so called because it’s designed to ruck (as in get your gear safely from point A to point B). This is arguably the toughest everyday pack in existence. The company openly states how impressively water resistant it is, and you’ll find a range of pockets inside, including three internal pockets, one elasticated pocket and a large mesh pocket, too. There’s MOLLE webbing on the inside and outside for additional customization, and the bag includes a removable, hard plastic frame, which helps to stabilize the built-in laptop compartment when it’s in place.
15. KILLSPENCER Daypack
If you’re after a backpack to turn heads, you need the KILLSPENCER Daypack on your back. This beautifully constructed pack is available in a range of colors and materials, including leather and wax canvas. The interior features a designated space for your laptop, passport and other daytime essentials. The wrap-around single zipper provides clear and easy access to the interior pocket, while the padded straps and top-mounted loop handle provide a choice of carrying options. This backpack can also be monogrammed with the traveler’s initials, which makes this a great present as well.