Finding the best carry-on backpack for your next trip is critical. I spent weeks going over my choices before purchasing. The result? My favorite bag I’ve ever owned. And it’s still going strong after two years of travel. It’s made it on countless flights, buses, and taxis. I’ve gone from the plane to deserts, oceans, mountains, and major cities. It’s an essential item for any international traveler.
When you’re constantly on the go you don’t want to run the risk of losing a checked bag or getting stuck with airline surcharges. The right bag means you can breeze through TSA, board your flight, and hit the next destination with ease. Nothing can make a trip more laborious than arriving to the airport unprepared or having the wrong baggage. After all, the first step to traveling to a new destination is getting there with all your belongings.
There are loads of different airline approved backpacks out there, but which do you go with?
These carry on specific backpacks are designed for the modern day traveler. We love that many of packs on this list feature front loading designs. With a front loader you can easily sort your luggage and it makes packing and unpacking a breeze.
Best Carry on Backpack
The decision is not easy, but I’ve compiled the list below for you to quickly jump to a pack that catches your eye. Or read on to help make your decision about what piece of luggage you use on your next trip abroad or cross country.
- Osprey Farpoint 40L (Check Price)
- Cabin Max Metz BackPack (Check Price)
- eBags TLS Mother Lode (Check Price)
- Kelty Redwing Backpack 40L & 32L (Check Price)
- Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack (Check Price)
- Osprey Daylite (Check Price)
- DJI Phantom 3 HardShell Backpack (Check Price)
- DJI Phantom 3 Backpack by Koozam (Check Price)
What Makes A Great Carry On Backpack
There are five things to consider when purchasing a new backpack. That is size, comfort, value, organization, and capacity. Size in regards to the exterior size of the bag, which is number one when it comes to adhering to airline carry-on luggage rules. Comfort because you’re going to be wearing this bag, so if you have any plans to be walking around comfort is crucial. It’s no secret that everyone loves a good value, but with certain items, it pays off to go for the top of the line items. It all really comes down to the intended use and your budget. The organization, by this I mean pockets and compartments. Does it have 30? Or does it have one? Both numbers are a bit exaggerated but can be crucial depending on your travel style and what you plan to carry on the plane, like a drone and electronics.
When it comes to selecting your bag this is rule numero uno. Selecting a bag that adheres to size regulations for carry-on backpacks is all that matters, otherwise, you’re checking your bag. Game Over. The size of your bag goes beyond adhering to airline regulations. You should consider whether the backpack will slide under the seat in front of you, or whether the bag will fit comfortably on your back.
Do you plan to carry your bag around the city or even hike with it? Then you’re going to want a bag that is well designed and fits on your back. I knew a comfortable backpack was crucial for me. However, these bags tend to come with a higher price tag. If your travel plans are more in the realm of off the plane and straight to the hotel then a cheaper bag with less comfort may be ideal for you. Leaves more money for a splashier hotel room too. For example, a camel ride requires a lot of added comfort.
Comfort value is all up to the intended use. How long does this pack need to last? Does comfort matter? Are you going to beat it to death? What are you going to pack in it? Is your boss or a client going to see you carrying this bag? Or does it just need to make it from point A to point B? A cheaper bag typically means fewer features and less durability. While the higher end bags can break a budget; however, going with a well-constructed product is never a bad idea if you can afford.
As the list of must-have-items continues to grow so do the number of compartments in our backpacks. You should have in mind how you will stay organized with what you intend to carry in your backpack. We knew that a good backpack with sufficient organization to carry a drone, laptop, and camera was needed. It was difficult and ended up costing us more, but at the end of the day, we have everything we need from my carry-on backpack. Had I gone with just the other four points I would have been disappointed.
The capacity of the bag refers to how much you can fit inside the bag. Size should be considered with how long the trip will or whether backpack is intended to compliment checked luggage.
Times are a Changin’
The roll away carry-on bag is dying a painful death. With the new generation leaning towards tech toys, style, and being a minimalist on the go, bags are being designed to keep up. Backpacks don’t have to look goofy anymore, and even a business traveler in a suit can carry new backpacks. There are now bags that are rugged, stylish, and designed for maximal efficiency in the digital age.
The greatest benefit of backpacks? You can stuff them full. Unlike the clunky framed box that used to be popular, backpacks offer the ability to squeeze and stretch. This all means you can carry on more of your stuff and leave less at home or worse under the plane.
Our Picks For Carry On Backpacks
Osprey Farpoint 40L
I’ve talked about the Farpoint 55L before on this best travel backpacks post; however, the 55L is too big to be carry-on approved. In comes, the 40 liters sized version of the bag. It’s probably one of the best travel bags out there. Extremely versatile and fully capable of being carried around on a back at length. The side handle on the bag is an added bonus, making it easy to grab out of an overhead bin and carry it off of a plane. Osprey is one of my favorite backpack companies because of their All Mighty Guarantee.
Cabin Max Metz Backpack
This pack comes in at 44 liters and is designed for European travel. The pack was specifically designed to adhere to European carry-on baggage requirements. However, this means it is slightly too big for the American market, but you’ll likely have no problems carrying the bag on U.S. flights since it is not a hard bag. The bag is designed similar to a traditional suitcase, which is its greatest strength and weakness.
eBag TLS Mother Lode
This bag is described as spacious with plenty of organization to boot. It’s an easy contention for one of the best carry-on bags around if not for its comfortability. However, as I talked about previously there is no one solution fits all to finding a bag. This bag is tremendous for those looking to have a great bag to carry on the plane and then onto their hotel. I wouldn’t plan on spending a few hours with the pack on because it may become uncomfortable.
Kelty Redwing Backpack
This is the pack for those on the go or the more adventurous we would say. If you plan to hop off the plane and then go for a hike this is likely the bag for you. Kelty along with my favorite bag brand Osprey build packs that are meant to last and hold up the elements. So, the price tag on this bag is about double that of the previous two bags. However, it comes with quality, comfort, and a good warranty.
Timbuk2 Uptown Travel Backpack
We don’t always want a utilitarian looking bag. Granted these days it’s not too hard to find a great looking bag. I liked the style, organization, comfort, and size of this bag. However, if you decide to go this route there are a plethora of stylish bags to choose from. I can easily fit my travel laptop in the bag and head to a cafe before tackling the city. Granted these bags tend to be less practical, but fashion and style rarely are.
This backpack rocks. It’s slim, lightweight, durable, and it’s designed to clip on to a full-size pack. With two mesh pockets for water bottles and an inner pouch for a water bladder, it’s also easy to stay hydrated with this pack. That photo earlier with me and this bag hiking through Turkey is why I love that bag. It carries weight, like most ospreys, really well. Even though the straps are slim I regularly carry six-eight kgs in it all day never notice the weight on my back. It’s smaller than most of the bags on this list, but if you’re looking for a great carry-on bag that can double as a daypack this is the one for you. If you’re wondering I can fit my 13″ Mac Air inside too.
DJI Phantom 3 Hardshell Backpack
When it comes to carrying a drone on a plane you want it to be as compact as possible while offering full protection. Specifically, I was seeking a case that properly carried the LiPo batteries. You also, don’t want to be lugging around a pelican case as a traveler. I found numerous backpacks in which the accessories were simply stored together as one, meaning your LiPo batteries were left floating around the bag loose. Bad idea on a plane.
DJI Phantom 3 Backpack by Koozam
This is the bag I am currently carrying. It’s largest draw are the exterior pockets, sleeve, mesh side nets, weatherproof, and has a foam insert to ensure the safety of the drone. It went down every bullet item I had on my list for purchasing a pack. The only other packs that offer all of these features are two to three times the price. So, I went with the Koozam. I won’t lie the quality could be better for the price; however, it will certainly get the job done. I’m very satisfied with my purchase given the limited number of bags on the market, which is far from the plethora of bags to choose from for carry-on backpacks.
What Type of Traveler Are You?
At the end of the day, the pack you choose is all about what type of traveler you are. Are you a minimalist? A Techie? Stylish? Are you planning to just use your carry-on to travel with for three days or three weeks? The biggest piece of advice is to remember what it is you want and search until you find it. I hope one of these carry-on backpacks points you in the right direction for your luggage needs.