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Great Travel Backpacks to Take on Your Next Trip

You don't need to carry a roll-aboard when you're hitting the road. Choose one of these backpacks instead.

a collage of backpacks
Garmentory, GoRuck, Osprey

Let's face facts: There's no good way to travel with luggage. Check a bag, and not only do you run the all-too-real risk of it being lost, damaged or stolen, but you'll wind up having to waste time at the airport on both ends of your trip — and, quite likely, have to pay extra for the privilege. Opt to solely carry on, and not only will you have to worry about whether there will be space in the overhead bin when you get there, but you also have to play an even trickier game of Tetris to fit everything in the bag in the first place.

Believe us, we know. Here at Gear Patrol, many of us spend time traveling about in the pursuit of product journalism. Having spent many days on an airplanes criss-crossing continents and oceans for work and play alike, we've come up with strong opinions and acid tests about travel backpacks. But when it's your hard-earned money on the line, which of these is the ideal choice for you and your needs?

Well, we put some of our favorite backpacks — more specifically, lifestyle-type bags of around 40–55 liters in size — to the test to find out.

How We Tested

Our tester journeyed far and wide on numerous trips by plane, train and automobile with these backpacks, loading them up with apparel, gadgets and gear to see how they handle the stress. They were loaded and unloaded into luggage racks, trunks and back seats alike, carried on long walks to and from terminals and destinations, and left to bash about in the closet between trips.

For many of the tests, he loaded it up with a typical array of clothing and equipment one would need for a business or personal trip of several days time: an extra pair of jeans or slacks, 2–3 T-shirts, 1–2 overshirts or button-downs, a pair of sneakers, gym shorts and shirts, a DSLR camera, iPhone charger and Apple Watch charger and of course, several changes of undergarments.

To learn more about our testing methodology and how we evaluate products, head here.

The Best Travel Backpacks

Best Overall: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L


Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L


  • A Transformer in bag form
  • Premium materials
  • Many ways to load & access contents

  • Scuffs somewhat easily
  • Backpack straps can be tricky to tighten

Peak Design's travel backpack has been our top pick for a while now, and suffice it to say, it's still impressive. You can tell it's a premium product from the first moment you lay hands and eyes on it; it looks and feels nice, from the action of the zippers to the smooth, almost waxy waterproof exterior to the soft, gentle gray fabric of the interior. But look closer, and you'll find more features you might have missed the first time; hidden magnets seamlessly tuck away the backpack straps when not in use. (Just be sure you check the straps' length every time you pull them back out, as they can slide out longer a little more easily than some bags.)

travel bags
The Peak Design bag may be large, but it never feels unwieldy, thanks to many straps and handholds — and it both looks and feels great to use.
Will Sabel Courtney

Of course, none of that would matter if it weren't capable of carrying a bunch of gear. Luckily, this bag excels at that. Two main pockets easily enable the carriage of several days' worth of apparel, while smaller slots for everything from toiletries to cables to headphones to laptops are found inside. There are grab handles for one-handed toting, multiple zippers for easy entry from several angles, and slots for water bottles on the sides, of course. All in all, it's probably as close to the perfect travel backpack as you might find on sale today.

Best Bargain: Aer Travel Pack 3

Aer Travel Pack 3


  • High-contrast interior makes finding items easier
  • Tons of pockets

  • Main pouch less accessible than some other bags on the list
  • Cinch straps only work okay

Aer's Travel Pack 3 is a little more affordable than the Peak Design entry, but don't hold that against it; this bag is a lot like the above model. Where the Peak Design uses gray interior trim for better contrast, the Travel Pack 3 uses orange — which works even better at the task, even if it's a little ostentatious. There are an abundance of pockets; you won't have any trouble finding a place for everything and putting everything in its place. And while it doesn't look or feel quite as premium when standing next to the Peak Design bag, it still has the quality and appearance of a high-end product.

travel bags
The Aer is capacious, but its secondary cargo area isn’t as easy to access as some other bags on this list, due to a zipper that doesn’t go quite as far.
Will Sabel Courtney

On the downside, the orientation of the main pouch can make opening it and filling the bag a bit trickier than some other entries on the list, and the magnetic clips for the chest strap and cinch straps feel like an unnecessary complication. Still, overall, it's a great choice for a few days on the road.

Most Durable: GoRuck GR3

GoRuck GR3


  • Ridiculously sturdy and tough
  • Simple design

  • Harder to access laptop, other pockets on the go
  • Not cheap, Bon

GoRuck is known for building bags that are sturdy as hell, and meant to go through it, too. The canvas skin feels thick enough to resist tiger claws. That's not to say it's harsh on the wearer; 201D Cordura straps and back panels feel plenty soft even over the long haul. We tested the smaller GR1, but even that 26-liter bag punched above its weight, proving large enough to carry our usual kit without much trouble; the 45-liter GR3 will no doubt prove capable of taking whatever you throw at it, inside or out.

travel bags
You can tell the 26-liter GR1 is smaller than the other bags, but it still takes the load well. The GR3, at almost twice the size, should be able to handle the average travel gear with ease.
Will Sabel Courtney

With only one main compartment and a couple rather small pockets, it's a bit harder to stash smaller items in their own areas — you may have to rummage through your underwear to grab your laptop — but if your priority is making sure everything in your bag stays safe and sound no matter what, GoRuck has you covered.

Most Flexible: Osprey Farpoint 55

Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Pack


  • Built-in secondary pack great for day trips
  • Massive capacity

  • Re-assembly of constituent bags can be tricky when full
  • Forces you to split your gear up between two bags when packing

Nerd alert: What does the Osprey Farpoint 55 have in common with the USS Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation? (Which, coincidentally, first aired with a pilot called "Encounter at Farpoint.") Well, both starship and backpack can separate into two separate vessels if the need arises. In the case of the Osprey, that means the smaller, secondary pocket detaches to become its own daypack, perfectly sized for short hikes and office visits. Combined, the complete bag is a mammoth beast, capable of taking on a stunning amount of gear; if you tend to pick up souvenirs on your trips, this bag is for you.

travel bags
The Osprey can take an immense amount of gear, but it looks a little busy doing it.
Will Sabel Courtney

On the less-appealing side, it's a bit difficult to get into the main bag when "assembled," and that assembly process can be tricky when both bags are stuffed. Combined, the overall package is bulky; it's not an issue when wearing it (or at least it wasn't for our six-foot-four-inch tester), but it does generally necessitate splitting the bag into its constituent parts on the airplane, stowing the big part in the overhead and the small one under the seat ahead.

Most Outdoors-y: Patagonia Cragsmith Pack

Patagonia Cragsmith Pack 45L


  • Giant pocket and wide opening make for easy packing

  • Not as optimal for business travel as some other bags

Of course, any list of high-quality backpacks wouldn't be complete without a Patagonia entry. The Cragsmith may be made for rock climbing, but it's also a good fit for travel, with ample capacity in a giant central compartment as well as secondary slots for other gear. That said, the lack of a second main compartment may be a turn-off for some, and the relaxed sleeve on the inside of the main cargo bay is better suited for rope than a laptop. But if you want a sleek travel backpack from one of the best names in outdoor equipment, the Cragsmith should treat you right.

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