The Best Travel Backpacks for Every Trip

Shop backpacks that are highly rated by HGTV editors and travelers around the world.

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June 24, 2021

Every traveler needs a good backpack. It’s the perfect size for a plane carry-on. It’s essential for hiking or camping. And a backpack is the best hands-free option for parents on the go. If you're looking for a new travel backpack, we found the perfect one for every trip, from waterproof to anti-theft to an insulated cooler. Check out these top picks below and see which backpack is right for your next adventure.

Backpacks 101

There’s a lot to consider when shopping for a backpack, but the material should be the most important factor. If you’re using a backpack to commute or bike, you’ll want a waterproof (or at the very least water-resistant) backpack. Sometimes backpacks come with detachable waterproof coverings. Sometimes the fabric itself is waterproof, but bottom line: Suede and other leather backpacks are not great for the elements. Fit is also extremely important — especially if you’re shopping for a hiking or camping backpack. An ill-fitting pack can cause damage to your lower back, shoulders and neck. So, look for a backpack with adjustable shoulder and hip straps for a customized, perfect fit. The third most important feature to consider when shopping for a travel backpack is organization. Look for backpacks with smart features such as quick access pockets for phones and passports or a dedicated sleeve to slide a backpack on top of a rolling suitcase. These tiny features might not sound that important but are game-changers when navigating busy airports and cruise terminals.

Best Carry-On Backpack

If you only buy one backpack for travel, make it The Backpack. Away's signature bag is an all-around great bag — especially as a carry-on for air travel. The bag features three main zip compartments with dedicated pockets for smaller items and a sleeve for laptops up to 15 inches. There's a hidden pocket for quickly grabbing passports and documents, and the backpack even features a handy sleeve for slipping over the handle of a rolling suitcase. It's large enough that you can fit all your essentials, yet small enough to slide under the seat in front of you.

Best Backpack for Photo Gear

Professional photographers worldwide swear by Peak Design and the company's Everyday Backpack is a great example of why. The standard 20-liter bag is weatherproof on the outside and has durable, padded dividers on the inside to keep cameras, lenses, accessories and laptops secure and separated. There are also dedicated side pockets for tripods. The 20-liter bag will hold one camera and a couple of lenses, but the 30-liter bag can accommodate multiple camera bodies and around four lenses.

Best for Farmers Market Haul

Whether you're browsing a Saturday morning farmers market or heading out for an afternoon picnic, an insulated backpack will keep your drinks and eats perfectly chilled. This backpack from Corkcicle is basically one big cooler with straps, which is the perfect alternative to bulky straw baskets or heavy tote bags.

Best Backpack for Day Hiking

The best hiking backpack is one you forget you’re wearing. Designed specifically for women, the Osprey Sirrus 24 comes with adjustable torso straps, a seamless hip belt and incredible ventilation in the back. Though the 24 is the smallest pack in the Sirrus series, it can handle up to 25 pounds.

Best Backpack for Camping

You can't go wrong with an Osprey and more specifically you can't go wrong with the Ariel and Aether line of backpacks. The Ariel has options for smaller bodies and frames, while the Aether is designed for larger bodies but both share the same design and type of compartments. Even the Ariel 55, the smallest in the collection, has a dedicated spot for a sleeping bag, mat, hiking poles, water bottles and more. The most impressive feature for Ariel and Aether is the Custom Fit-on-the-Fly Hipbelt and Shoulder Straps. These packs can be adjusted for multiple fits for all different shapes and sizes.

Best Anti-Theft Backpack

Thieves don’t need to steal your bag. They just need to stand close enough to you to scan what’s inside. Using RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology, hackers can lift data from your passport, credit card and more. Invest in an RFID-blocking bag, such as Pacsafe’s Citysafe bag, to keep your personal info safe while traveling abroad.

Best Diaper Bag Backpack

Technically, Fawn Design was created for cool moms, but these fashion-forward diaper bags have developed a cult following from non-parents (myself included) because these bags have so many pockets. Seriously, there's a pocket for everything. The mini is the same size as a large backpack purse and can fit an iPad and tons of snacks. If you're looking for a bag for your next theme park or cruise vacation, this is it.

Best Packable Backpack

We're big fans of Baggu's reusable shopping bags here at HGTV, and now the brand has backpacks and purses, too. This sporty backpack features the same recycled ripstop nylon as the shopping bags, but now it's in a backpack form perfect for road trips, beach days or tossing into a suitcase.

Best Weekender Backpack

If you'd rather travel with a backpack than a duffel for short trips, check out the Outbreaker Backpack from Tortuga. It's basically one big packing cube with backpack straps. And the zipper opens all the way around like a suitcase instead of a traditional backpack for easy access and packing.

Best XL Laptop Backpack

Most backpacks with laptop sleeves are designed for 13 and 15-inch laptops, however, if you have a larger laptop, check out this bag from Calpak. The Luka can carry a laptop up to 17 inches. This bag also makes a great commuter travel backpack as the bottom features a hidden pocket for sneakers or an umbrella.

Best Waterproof Backpack

Dry bags are a godsend for a day out on the water, but the packs aren’t really practical unless you’re throwing them in a boat. Adventure company SealLine is changing that with a series of dry bags that feature a backpack design. The small Urban Backpack is a great all-around size, whether you're kayaking, snowshoeing or walking around Seattle in the rain.

Best Budget Backpack

If you’re looking for a bag that does a little bit of everything, the Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable Daypack is the best bang for your buck at $30. The incredibly lightweight design is great for a trip with both outdoor adventure and city time. While not waterproof, it is moisture-resistant and the entire bag folds into the front pocket for easy storage.

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