Rollaboard luggage is so last century. Duffel bags and backpacks are the new undisputed kings of versatile luggage. The best travel backpack can laugh over cobblestone streets and other rough surfaces that wheeled luggage can’t handle. They’re lighter than traditional hard-sided suitcases. They contort and cram easier into overhead bins and under airplane seats. They transition seamlessly from the airport to the streets to the backcountry with ease. Plus, unlike pricier suitcases, you can find some truly great deals on backpacks, including some men’s backpacks for under $100. All of these reasons make the backpack the single best luggage type for almost anyone looking to travel carry-on-only. If you’re looking for the best travel backpack for men, here are 12 of our favorites.
Best Travel Daypacks
A comfortable, well-made daypack is essential for urban and outdoor exploring on the road.
Osprey Arcane Roll Top
Osprey is well-known for its trail-ready backpacks and daypacks. New for 2020, the Arcane Roll Top embodies a slightly different aesthetic — one that combines a streamlined silhouette with vintage hemp material and modern for a unique look. The construction is a blend of hemp, GRS-certified recycled polyester, and PFC-free DWR so it not only looks great but is also durable and environmentally conscious. The 22-liter capacity hits the sweet spot for the ideal everyday pack. A low-profile stretch pocket provides a home for your water bottle, while a 15-inch padded sleeve ensures your laptop stows safely inside.
SOG EVAC Sling 18
SOG is best known for its military-approved knives and tactical gear. It brings that considerable clout and expertise to bear on the deceptively simple EVAC Sling 18. This 18-liter bag is designed to carry everything you need and nothing you don’t, making it one of the best small travel backpacks on the market. The main compartment is accessible via top and side access points, and a pass-through laptop compartment cleverly doubles as a spot to stow a hydration bladder. An impact-resistant top pocket stows and protects valuables like a smartphone, binoculars, or sunglasses. The unique, single-strap sling design carries slightly different than a traditional backpack making it ideal for lighter loads and everyday carry. The rear is also lined with laser-cut MOLLE panels for easy expansion and customization.
Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 Anti-Theft Carry-On Travel Pack
Among everyday household materials, plastic waste is the single worst threat to our oceans and the environment. Manufacturers are ditching their virgin plastic processes to rely 100% on recycled materials. Pacsafe is leading the charge with its ECONYL collection — an eco-conscious line made of regenerated nylon fiber. The plastic content within the unique fibers is mainly sourced from fishing nets and other discarded nylon fabrics. The material is inherently durable and water-repellent, making it ideal for building the best travel backpack carry-on. What’s more is the integrated anti-theft technology built into every Pacsafe bag, including the Venturesafe EXP45 Anti-Theft Carry-On Travel Pack, that virtually guarantees they can’t be slashed or stolen.
Swissgear 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack
Swissgear doesn’t make the swankiest backpacks and it doesn’t pretend to. The brand’s aesthetic seems like a grown-up version of the bookbag you carried to school every day in 10th grade. What the brand lacks in modern style, however, it makes up for in thoughtful functionality and utility. The Swissgear 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack is well-suited to urban executives and road warriors who carry plenty of electronics gear. The exterior is made from durable 1200D ballistic polyester with an oversized main compartment and zippers. Inside, a built-in suspension system ensures your laptop, tablet, and other electronics stay safe. Lay-flat technology means your computer can remain in the bag at TSA checkpoints. Simply unzip and unfold the clamshell design and run the entire bag through the scanner. The best part? The value. Swissgear makes some of the best sub-$75 travel backpacks for the money.
Best Carry-On Travel Backpacks
True packing ninjas and expert travelers wouldn’t dream of checking a bag. These clever carry-on backpacks offer maximum volume in a sleek footprint — ready for any trip, anywhere, no matter the duration.
Chrome Industries Macheto 2.0
Chrome Industries has long been a favorite among cyclists and urban bike messengers. The brand’s latest Macheto 2.0 is sleek, durable, and stylish with an exterior crafted from durable 1680d ballistic nylon with a tarp shell so it’s water-resistant and impervious to the elements. The two-way design features stowable ergonomic backpack straps ensuring it’s easy to carry on long-haul, transoceanic flights or hopping around city trains and subway platforms. The interior is also expandable with a padded laptop sleeve for stashing up to a 15-inch Macbook Pro.
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
Peak Design offers some of the best-designed bags on the planet. From its premium camera messengers to its streamlined travel backpacks, it’s clear no detail is overlooked. The brand’s Travel Backpack 45L is no different. It’s an international carry-on-sized 35-liter pack that expands to a generous 45-liter hauler when needed. Because it’s designed to be the best camera travel backpack, the system of pockets, sleeves, and pouches is remarkably well thought out. This is especially true for modern nomads prone to packing tons of electronics gear, cables, and other travel essentials. It’s all wrapped in a handsome, weatherproof shell made of 400D recycled nylon canvas. The clever tuck-away shoulder straps and hip belt easily conceal to make passing through airport security a breeze.
Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Travel Backpack
Minaal is proof that backpack design has come a long way in just the last few years. Its bags are sleek, minimalist, and, dare we say, classy. They feature an urban stealth aesthetic that’s equally at home in the boardroom as on a crowded train platform in Vietnam. The Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Travel Backpack can be shouldered like a traditional backpack or carried on its side with a briefcase-style handle. It accommodates up to 15-inch laptops and 11-inch devices within a shock-proof DeviceNest compartment. It’s sized right to both maximize interior volume and comply with U.S. and European carry-on limits. Plus, the included seam-sealed rain cover wraps around the entire affair to keep valuables safe and dry. For all these reasons, it’s one of the best business travel backpacks available.
Tortuga Outbreaker 45L
Tortuga’s streamlined catalog of products is still among our favorites for urban travelers. The Outbreaker 45L is a maximum-size carry-on with plenty of space to accommodate everything pro packers might need. It combines the convenience and go-anywhere portability of a backpack with the sensible organization design of a traditional suitcase. The exterior is stripped down to only the basics, while the inside features a bevy of well-thought-out pockets and sleeves for organizing laptops, tablets, books, paperwork, and accessories. Unlike most travel backpacks, the Outbreaker includes a padded hip belt that transfers up to 80% of the bag’s weight to the shoulders, ensuring it’s comfortable to carry over long distances. Plus, the entire affair weighs just 5.1 pounds.
Best Large Travel Backpacks
These packs are ideal for checking through to your final destination and can contain everything you might need for weeks, even months on the road.
Osprey Farpoint 55
Osprey has long been one of our favorite backpack brands. It recognizes a good design and doesn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. The Osprey Farpoint 55 feature a streamlined piggyback design that combines a 42-liter main bag with a zip-off 13-liter daypack. The main compartment is accessible via lockable zipper pulls, while inside the bag contains designated laptop and tablet sleeves. The pack’s suspension system stows away inside a zippered panel for a sleeker profile. The entire affair can be checked through to your final destination, or detached as a complete, two-piece carry-on “kit.” For travelers who can’t part with every convenience of home (We’re looking at you, Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker), there’s also the massive Farpoint 70 which boasts 15-liter of additional cargo space.
Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor
The best backpacks are designed to pack down as small as possible but expand substantially when needed. Sierra Designs’ Flex Capacitor balloons up to 50% from 40 liters to 60 liters in a pinch. It’s unique, however, in that it doesn’t expand upward like most packs but rather the overall circumference expands to provide a more stable and comfortable load carry. The smooth, duffel-bag-like exterior keeps it more streamlined than its competitors, so it won’t snag as easily in transit. It’s ideal for both travel and trail, particularly for adventure travelers looking at multi-day expeditions once they land.
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10
The Deuter brand flies under the radar next to well-recognized competitors like Osprey, Gregory, and The North Face. Still, there’s a lot to like about its backpacks. For adventure travelers who value capacity, durability, and affordability over all else, the Aircontact Lite 65+10 is our go-to backpack. The design is lighter than most comparable bags, yet remarkably durable. Generous padding, ample torso adjustment points, and a hearty suspension make it ideal for carrying heavy loads whether through the airport or in the backcountry. There are better, more full-featured adventure backpacks on the market, but none at this price point.
Eagle Creek Gear Warrior Convertible Carry On
If you can’t bear to part with the convenience of wheeled luggage (Yes, we admit there are rare circumstances where rollaboards beat their travel backpack counterparts), split the difference with a convertible wheeled backpack. The Gear Warrior Convertible Carry On from Eagle Creek is a jack of all trades — a wheeled bag when you need it, a backpack when the terrain gets rough. Like Osprey’s Farpoint, this 55-liter “bag” is actually two bags in a piggyback configuration — a 37-liter wheeled main bag and an 18-liter traditional daypack that combine via a series of adjustable straps. The entire setup, including rugged, off-road capable wheels, corner bumpers, kick plates, and abrasion-resistant exoskeleton, is ideal for adventurous travelers.
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