What with an increasing number of airlines charging additional fees for placing baggage in their hold, and the ease with simply walking on and off an aircraft without needing to check baggage in or collect it on arrival at your destination, carry on backpacks are an integral part of modern travel for many of us.
But with so many carry on backpacks on the market, how on earth do you decide which carry on backpack is the best for you personally?
We’ve delved deep to find the very best carry on backpacks on sale, meaning all you have to do is read on and discover the best for you!
Quick Summary: The Best Carry on Backpacks
Nomatic 40L Travel Bag
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Tortuga Setout Backpack
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Nomatic 40L Travel Bag
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Inateck 40 liter
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Cabin Max Mini Metz
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Seenlast 50 L Hiking Backpack
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High Sierra AT3
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Incase EO travel backpack
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Swiss Gear 1186 Bungee
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LowePro Pro Tactic 450 AW
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Overall best carry on backpack
We begin with what we’ve come to consider the best overall carry on backpack – the Nomatic 40L travel bag. This perfectly-sized carry on backpack has plenty of clever compartments and organization ideas to make fitting everything in a pain-free process while ensuring the safety of more expensive items such as laptops or tablet computers.
The Travel Bag claims to have 20 unique compartments and divisions, taking care of everything from your shoes to your tech. It can be used as either a backpack or a duffle bag, and it also meets the exacting size standards of most of the major airlines you might be using, so you’ll face no problems at the airline gate.
PS – If you want something slightly smaller, check out our ULTIMATE Nomatic Travel Pack Review.
Is the Nomatic 40L Travel Bag for you?
If you’re a traveler who needs their tech while away for work or pleasure this is definitely the bag for you. It may not be the cheapest of carry on backpacks on the market, but its helpful organizational compartments are definitely worth the extra cost.
#2 – Tortuga Outbreaker
Boasting two different sizes (35 and 45 liters) and an impressive litany of reviews, the Tortuga Outbreaker is a carry on that cannot be ignored. Its classic, all-black look may appear simple, but it hides a wealth of features – from the waterproof sailcloth and top-grade water-resistant zippers to the padded straps and hip belt.
There’s also the reams of in-built organization, including space for a 17” laptop, mesh pockets for other electronics, and plenty of room for clothing and other travel necessities too.
What’s more, the Tortuga Outbreaker has a computer pocket that is TSA airport security friendly thanks to its lay-flat design, meaning there’s no need to spend unnecessary minutes unpacking and repacking at the airport.
Is the Tortuga Outbreaker for me?
TSA compliant and big enough for a week or more, yet small enough to be permitted as a carry on, the Tortuga Outbreaker is a travel bag that will likely impress anyone fed up with a standard wheelie bag. Hard-wearing, waterproof, and well-padded for both user and contents, it’s clear the design team at Tortuga have worked hard to create the Outbreaker.
While we’re celebrating the achievements of the Tortuga design team, let’s also check out the Tortuga Setout. Its more rounded shape comes not only in 35 and 45-liter versions, but also with different fits for men and women, and it’s available in three subtle, office-friendly shades.
Specifically designed to be carried on a plane rather than trusted to the hold, the Setout also packs like a suitcase (opening like a book), rather than a standard top-loading backpack that isn’t all that fun for trying to find something in a hurry outside of a hotel room.
Even so, there’s still a dedicated space for laptop and tablet computers, alongside shoulder straps that can be tucked away, a detachable hip belt, and high-grade lockable zippers too.
Is the Tortuga Setout for me?
Specially designed for both men and women, and with two different size variants, the Tortuga Setout is a carry on that seems to keep on giving. There are a good number of zippered organizational pockets, places for laptop and tablet, stowable padded shoulder straps and hip belt, and lockable external zippers. If it looks as if they’ve thought of everything, that’s because they have.
#4 – Osprey Porter
Best Large Carry on Backpack
At an impressive 46-litres maximum capacity the Osprey Porter is the largest carry on backpack in our rundown (albeit by just 1 liter!). Coming in a range of colors, from bright blues and russet reds that make it easy to spot, to subtler business-friendly hues, the Porter looks as comfortable on a hiking trip as in the board room.
What’s more, the special mesh side-panels are designed to both protect and secure the contents of your Porter. Not only that, but the Porter also contains a dedicated laptop compartment, situated to lie flat against your back, keeping your tech safe while traveling.
Check out our Osprey Porter 46 review!
Is the Osprey Porter for you?
If you’re after a large carry on backpack that will suit your needs in the city and the country you can do a lot worse than the 46-litre Osprey Porter. Its dedicated compartment will keep your laptop safe, while the mesh sides will keep everything held tight and secure whatever the day brings.
Recommended Article – Take a look at our AMAZING guide about the coolest Travel Money Belts.
#5 – Inateck 40 liter
Best mid-sized carry on backpack
Large 40-plus liter carry on backpacks aren’t for everyone, so what about mid-sized options? We’d recommend the 40 liter Inateck. This Inateck backpack is a great choice when it comes to a city break.
It includes not one but two laptop compartments for extra protection of your tech while traveling, in addition to two main compartments, and very handy zippers than come together to be lockable.
You’ll remain super organized even on long flights thanks to the change pocket and toiletries back, and there’s a rain cover so you can explore without worry about the contents getting wet. The Inateck is also supremely adaptable when it comes to carrying options.
Is the Inateck carry on for you?
Who can argue with two laptop compartments? But beyond this added protection the Inateck also has some great packing features that will please many, while looking good when exploring a new city with the added security of lockable zippers.
MUST READ – Take a look at our guide to the coolest Packing Cubes!
#6 – Cabin Max Mini Metz
Best small carry on backpack
We had to have a Cabin Max Mini Metz on our list we love these carry on backpacks so much! The Mini Metz meets a need for those searching for a smaller carry on backpack.
With a basic volume of 30 liters, this backpack fits snuggly under the seat of airlines including Southwest Airlines. There is a large ‘uninterrupted’ main compartment, as well as zipper-closed front compartments for paperwork and quick access.
Compression straps keep everything secure and in place despite the bumps of travel.
Is the Cabin Max Mini Metz for you?
For anyone seeking out a smaller carry on backpack that will still fit a laptop, and still contains compartmentalization of larger carry ons, the Cabin Max Mini Metz is a great choice. We particularly love the fact this back fits in the underseat area of many US airlines.
#7 – Osprey Sojourn
Best carry on backpack for Europe
We’ve opted for the 45-liter Osprey Sojourn as our best carry on backpack for Europe not only because of its size, which is very useful on European journeys where weather changes rapidly but also because of its clever design that enables it to act as a backpack or wheeled suitcase without taking away from its stylish look.
It means you can rest your shoulders by wheeling your backpack on the smooth railway concourses and pavements of Europe’s capitals, while still being able to lift and carry it easily when you need too. As two-in-one backpacks go, the Osprey Sojourn is a great option!
Is the Osprey Sojourn for you?
The ability to wheel your luggage as well as carry it on your shoulder is a super option that will please many travelers to Europe. Its stylish look will also help you blend in, while compression straps will help protect its contents by preventing items from moving around while you travel.
Editor’s Note – You can also check out our article about the best travel towels.
Best carry on backpack for international travel
International travel brings with it all sorts of extra needs and requirements, many of which have been thought of in the design of the Seenlast. First and foremost, this carry on backpack comes with plenty of packing space, with a capacity of 50 liters.
Then there’s its elongated shape, which means you can actually utilize almost all this 50 liter capacity even with larger items and laptops to pack.
Designed for durability when heading out on international travels, the Seenlast is made from tough water-resistant materials throughout. There are also eight adjustable straps, and several side pockets for smaller items.
Is the Seenlast for you?
If you’re looking for a large carry on backpack for international travel that will last and last despite all that will be thrown at it the Seenlast is the carry on for you. It has a good style and plenty of space and organization – all the more important when travelling long distances!
#9 – High Sierra AT3
Best carry on backpack with wheels
Another carry on backpack that boasts versatility as one of its main attractions is the High Sierra AT3. Not only can it be used as a traditional carry on backpack, but also has the added advantage of having wheels for when striding through airport departure areas.
Then, when you’ve reached your destination, you also have the option of using the AT3’s detachable front ‘pouch’ as a day bag while you’re out and about. Most closely matching a modern wheely suitcase in style, with an extending handle, the main compartment is roomy enough for most shorter term trips, with basic straps to hold everything in place.
Is the High Sierra AT3 for you?
If the idea of carrying your backpack on your shoulders the whole time doesn’t appeal, the ability of the High Sierra AT3 to convert into a wheely suitcase will be a definite attraction. On arrival at your destination, you can then leave the main compartment in a hotel and take just what you need with the super useful detachable front pouch/day bag.
#10 – Osprey Farpoint
Best carry on duffel backpack
Permitting internal organization, yet also minimal, the 40 liter capacity Osprey Farpoint is a popular model when it comes to carry on duffel backpacks. Made with the care and attention you would expect from a brand like Osprey, the Farpoint is an excellent size, and claims to be acceptable as a carry on backpack on 99% of flights.
It comes with Osprey’s lifetime warranty, but perhaps even more importantly, can be used not only in the city by business travelers, but also as a camping and adventure backpack.
Read our EPIC Osprey Farpoint 40 review!
Is the Osprey Farpoint for you?
As happy out in the wilderness as the office? Then the 40 liter Osprey Farpoint is a great carry on duffel backpack for you. Not only does it give you the opportunity to switch between carrying it as a duffel or as a backpack, it has a great history when it comes to cabin permission with airlines, and is equally suitable for a camping trip as a quick hop on the metro.
Best carry on backpack for business travel
Looking for the best carry on backpack for business travel? Something that will look the part in business meetings? Look no further than the Incase EO travel backpack.
This slimline carry on is specifically marketed at the professional and business traveler market, meaning it is made to be both stylish and durable. It is made from hard-wearing materials, and has the ability to act as both a day bag for meetings and a carry on that can cope with shorter trips.
One of the reasons we rate this carry on backpack for business travel so highly is actually its slimline design, which is easier to deal with than other competitors in this sector.
Is the Incase EO for you?
The Incase EO definitely meets the need of business and professional travelers alike looking for a carry on that won’t look out of place in the board room but still has the capacity to rise to 2-3 day business trips. Durable and good looking, you’ll be sure to be pleased with the purchase of the Incase EO.
#12 – Swiss Gear 1186 Bungee
Best carry on backpack for hiking
Heading out for a couple of days hiking or camping brings with it its own requirements, which are more than met with the Swiss Gear 1186 Bungee. Although some users may consider it a little small with its 26 liter capacity, experience tells us the lighter and smaller the better when heading out on foot.
We like this bag because it’s made of a polyester fibre that is specifically intended to last, is large enough for a weekend away, and has a bungee system to help keep everything secure and organized. We also love the reputation Swiss Gear has as a brand of the highest quality.
Is the Swiss Gear 1186 Bungee for you?
Anyone with a love of the great outdoors will also develop an avid affection for the Swiss Gear 1186 Bungee as a carry on backpack for hiking. Its small size is ideal for a night or two under the stars, and minimizes the weight you’ll need to carry. That said, its still really durable, and the bungee cords are a good solution for keeping the contents secure while on the move.
Recommended Article – Take a look at our AMAZING guide to the best Baby Carriers for Hiking
#13 – Hynes Eagle
Best carry on backpack under $100
Given the price range, we think the Hynes Eagle is a great option for a carry on backpack. This 38 liter capacity carry on is a very useful general travel bag, but it is also worth considering if you’re looking for a budget carry on for hiking.
As a result, the Hynes Eagle is made from hard-wearing 600 Dernier polyester materials that will stand the test of time, and offers the extra features you would expect from a hiking backpack – such as padded and adjustable shoulder straps.
A simpler carry on backpack certainly, we still think it’s a worthy option whether you’re looking for something cheap while you get into hiking, or are just looking for a travel bag that does the job without issue.
Is the Hynes Eagle for you?
If price is your number one concern the Hynes Eagle is almost certainly the carry on backpack for you. Made from durable materials, with back support and ventilation, and a good size for the average traveler and hiker, this carry on is a superb option for the price.
Best carry on camera backpack
The Pro Tactic 450 is aimed front and center at professional photographers and amateurs with all the kit that professionals use and require.
The 45 liter volume capacity means there’s space for not one but two digital SLR cameras, a maximum of eight lenses, and still space for a laptop in a dedicated sleeve to admire your handiwork and control your equipment while in the field.
The design permits for plenty of personalization inside so that the compartments match your personal requirements and no one else’s. It also comes complete with an all-important rain cover, and a bottle pocket too.
Is the LowPro Pro Tactic 450 AW for you?
Professional and semi-professional photographers will love the specific features designed especially for them in the Pro Tactic 450 AW. With enough space to fit all your kit and a laptop in a dedicated sleeve, and with internal personalization to meet your needs, this is sure to remain your primary carry on camera backpack for years to come.
Best of the Rest
If the other carry on backpacks we’ve reviewed aren’t for you, you might like to consider the AmazonBasics carry on. This good-sized carry on backpack is firmly designed for use by the urban traveler, with a minimalist design, great internal organization possibilities, and of course, a large volume capacity.
This means that even if you’re planning to be on the road for weeks, rather than just a couple of days, you’ll have enough space to pack everything you need for your journey. Removing the backpack shoulder straps and hip belt you can also easily convert this backpack into a true carry on bag should you prefer.
Is the AmazonBasics Carry on for you?
If you’re heading out on the road for longer than just a couple of days, the AmazonBasics is a great option carry on backpack for you. Its great volume capacity means there’s plenty of space for everything you’ll need for longer term travel without having to forego the style you’ve come to expect from carry ons.
Editor’s Note – You can also check out our article about the best Travel Hammocks.
#16 – Osprey Fairview
Unlike most of the bags we’re recommending on this list, which are all firmly in the unisex bracket, the Osprey Fairview has been specifically engineered for female travelers.
Similar in many ways to the Osprey Farpoint reviewed above, the Fairview is a carry on that can be used as both a general travel bag and a hiking carry on.
The high-quality materials used are covered by Osprey’s lifetime manufacturing warranty, and the bag has the added advantage of being able to convert between backpack and duffel bag. Fitted to match the female form, the Fairview is also said to be permitted on 99% of flights, making it a worry-free carry on too.
Is the Osprey Fairview for you?
If you’re a woman looking for a carry on backpack with all the advantages of Osprey’s Farpoint, you really can’t go wrong with its sister bag, the Osprey Fairview. Large enough to fit all you require while being permitted onto almost any flight you can think of, it also has the handy option to put away the backpack straps and use the bag as a duffel backpack should you prefer.
#17 – Osprey Stratos
It may be another carry on backpack from the Osprey brand, but we simply couldn’t ignore the Osprey Stratos for that reason alone. For those looking for a carry on that is suitable for use while hiking, then this is another great choice for you.
This 33 and 36 liter backpack (there are two sizes to choose between) won’t have any issues with carry on compliance, and though opting for a minimal design, has much to recommend it when it comes to organization internally. What’s more, the Stratos comes with a rain cover integrated into the design.
Is the Osprey Stratos for you?
If you’re after a small, lightweight carry on backpack that’s right for shorter treks then the answer is almost certainly yes. Its smaller size means you won’t have any concerns over flight compliance, while the rain cover ensures you’re prepared whatever the weather throws at you.
#18 –Wandrd Prvke 31
German-made, you can almost be certain of the high craftsmanship and materials used in the Wandrd Prvke 31, even if the name does leave a lot to be desired. Both durable and versatile, this is a great carry on backpack for the amateur photographer.
There’s a decent amount of space, ensuring all that kit will fit, for instance. This bag comes with a handy series of accessories to its (rather odd) name, and more pockets then you’ll know what to do with. All in all, this is not only a great carry on backpack for amateur photographers, but the Prvke 31 can be used for hiking and general travel requirements too.
Is the Wandrd Prvke 31 for you?
Amateur photographers will undoubtedly be impressed by the number of pockets and helpful accessories the Prvke 31 comes with. As a bag aimed at the photography market, this bag is well thought out. German made, you can be sure it will be long lasting too.
Editor’s Note – You can also check out our article about the best Travel Daypacks.
The Standard Luggage Company’s 35 liter model is designed from start to finish with modern air travel in mind. As a result, you won’t face any problems about carry on compliance. But more than that, it includes some super features, such as the very high quality materials used throughout.
For those looking for adaptability, this carry on is actually a 3-in-1 model, where’s its possible to use as either a traditional backpack, a suitcase, or a duffel backpack.
You’ll also find a dedicated sleeve for a laptop or tablet, and pocket for a water bottle, as well as a rain cover, and zippers that are lockable for extra security while on the road.
Is the Standard Luggage Company’s 35L Backpack for you?
This is a surprisingly good mid-range carry on backpack, which will suit the needs of many travelers. Though orientated towards city breaks and urban travel rather than getting out into the great outdoors, it has a high-quality feel that you’ll love, and nice features, such as the laptop sleeve and bottle pocket.
P.S. – Take a look at our AMAZING guide to the best Travel Yoga Mat
The Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack is another versatile choice when it comes to carry on backpacks. Its versatile in both design (coming in several different color options to help you express your own personality) as well as in use.
The Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack looks as happy in the city, in business meetings, or hanging from your shoulder for leisure.
What we really like about this carry on however is the fact the design has been tallied around TSA’s carry on protocols, meaning you’ll have no problem with compliance. It also boasts a separate laptop pocket capable of fitting a 17” laptop.
Is the Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack for you?
If you’re looking for a carry on compliant, TSA approved, backpack for transporting your laptop both around town and around the country for business, the Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack is a good overall choice for you. It’s both versatile and durable, and good looking too.
P.S. – Save a bit of cash during Traveling with our EPIC guide to the best Travel Jackets
The Sumtree Lightweight Foldable Backpack is a great option if you’re after a simple lightweight backpack that still does the job intended. Although considered to be a daypack, you can fit a lot of content into the Sumtree, with a small internal pocket to keep items such as headphones safe, and external side pouches for water bottles.
As the name suggests, this Sumtree model also has the capacity to fold in on itself to create a pouch or fanny pack, making it a great choice for a secondary bag that can otherwise be packed away and forgotten about. It also comes in a range of eight different colors.
Is the Sumtree Lightweight Foldable Backpack for you?
Small, lightweight, and foldable, there’s a huge amount to recommend in this Sumtree carry on. If you’re looking for a simpler bag that minimizes the fuss of traveling about the city for the day, or perhaps heading out on an overnight stay, this is a great option to consider.
Editor’s Note – You can also check out our article about the best Travel Strollers.
Keeping your tech safe from physical and digital attack while on the move is becoming ever more important, and this is the modern-day issue the Kensington Secure Track 17 aims to counter.
With a professional look that will please business travelers, the lockable zippers have been made extra tough to help prevent theft. The interior, which can be accessed two different ways, has a number of different pockets, including a laptop sleeve, to keep your tech safe and secure.
Further, there’s the ability to position a wheeled suitcase’s handle into the Secure Track’s open back, thus connecting the two for even easier travel.
Is the Kensington Secure Track 17 for you?
For the extra security it provides while traveling, it’s definitely worth considering the Kensington Secure Track 17 as your next carry on backpack. Designed to counter attempts at theft, it also has all the pockets you’ll need to remain organized without being overly complicated.
The Oakley Accessory is an updated version of the brand’s popular Kitchen Sink Backpack. Named for those who travel ‘with everything but the kitchen sink’, this bag includes a whole host of little extras, such as hooks for attaching neck pillows, or even a pan or two.
If that’s not enough, there are also a good number of pockets across the backpack to help with internal organization. In short, the Accessory is large enough to contain everything you might want to take on a short trip but small enough that you won’t face any issues with carry on compliance.
Is the Oakley Kitchen Sink Accessory for you?
If you’re someone who doesn’t necessary travel light, the attachment hooks and quantity of pockets the Accessory backpack includes will be a definite help. But on top of that there’s the side zipper giving quick access to a laptop, and the certainty you won’t face problems with carry on compliance.
Further Recommended – Take a look at our AMAZING guide to the best Hiking sandals
A good carry on backpack that meets your personal needs is an incredibly important way of making modern travel easier. We’ve given you all the info you’ll ever need to find the right carry on for you, from the big brands to newer kids on the block. Whether you need a carry on for business or pleasure, for the city or the country, or for long or short term travel, we’ve got you covered.
Editor’s Note – No matter where you are traveling, you NEED to have great travel insurance. We have personally tested TONS of travel insurance companies, and can say without a doubt that World Nomads is the absolute best (and most affordable!). Fill out the form below to get a quote.
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