The right travel backpack can change everything when going on a trip. Whether it’s used as the only piece of luggage for a short jaunt, as additional storage for a longer vacation, or for quick access to essentials while on the move, a trusty bag with all the bells and whistles can go a long way. When looking for a dependable knapsack, consider the material for durability, weather resistance, organizational pockets, and useful features like anti-theft zippers. With all of this in mind, here are eight of the best travel backpacks to buy for your favorite traveler this holiday season.
Peak Design makes some exceptional products and their Travel Backpack continues to standout as one of the best. The award-winning bag comes in three sizes: 65 liters that requires checking in; 45 liters that’s technically considered as a carry-on size, but you’ll sometimes be able to get away with it as a personal item on some major airlines; and the new 30-liter option that was launched earlier this year. For most travelers, the 45- and 30-liter versions are the best fit. The biggest difference between the two other than capacity is the former allows more access points via rear, side, and front zippers; has two compartments thanks to an internal divider; an integrated hip belt; and a pair of hidden pockets. It ultimately comes down to how much storage the person needs, but you truly can’t go wrong with either. Made from recycled 400D nylon, these knapsacks are made to last and are weatherproof. The company believes in the bag’s durability so much that it comes with a lifetime warranty. Plus, with the combination of plentiful organizational pockets and desirable features like expandability, theft-deterrent zipper pulls, stowaway straps, and a luggage pass-through for roller suitcases, it really comes as no surprise why this backpack has garnered numerous accolades.
Aer—which also happens to make one of the best sling bags in the game—offers a range of knapsacks but their Travel Pack 3 X-Pac is arguably the best option for globetrotters. This particular model is made with sailcloth technology that makes it lighter, waterproof, and extremely durable. The 35-liter bag features a main compart that completely opens up for easy packing; a separate, padded laptop section with space for cords; and an additional zippered space in the front with organizational pockets. Quick-access stashes can be found all around the backpack including a fleece-lined pocket at the top that’s ideal for eyewear or a phone and one in the front with a key clip. You’ll also find an expandable water bottle pocket on the side, a luggage pass-through, zipper pulls with loops for locks, and even a hidden slot that’s been designed specifically for an AirTag or Tile tracker. And unlike any other backpack, the entire interior is lined with the company’s signature neon orange for easy visibility of your belongings.
Before expanding it, the Knack Pack is a slim backpack, but once unfurled it can hold up to 46 liters. There are three compartments in total. At the back, next to the padded laptop storage, there’s a compartment with a clamshell opening that results in a suitcase-like layout with a zippered mesh section on one side and a flap with a compression strap on the other. In the middle you’ll find another spacious section with three large pockets and a fleece-lined sleeve for a tablet. And at the front is where you’ll find the bulk of the organizational pockets, complete with a key leash, six pen slots, and a fleece-lined stash for eyewear. The water-resistant bag also boasts a hidden zip pocket for valuables, a discreet bottle pocket that zips closed, detachable waist straps, a luggage pass-through, and zipper pulls with loops for locking. And while it may seem odd at first that the shoulder straps pop out of a zippered pocket, this also means that they can be tucked away so that the backpack can be carried like a briefcase via the side handle, a feature that business travelers will highly appreciate.
This water-resistant backpack maintains its structure even when empty—which is great if you’re storing things that you don’t want crushed, but does add a little extra weight—and has the capability to expand to 41 liters. The main compartment has a clamshell opening, is incredibly spacious, and boasts built-in compression straps and two zippered pockets. The large front section is where you can organize smaller items and contains five slots that include an RFID pocket to prevent unsolicited scans of your cards. There are also two zippered multi-use bottle pockets on the side, a padded sleeve for a laptop, a fleece-lined stash at the top for eyewear, and a zippered storage at the front with a key clip. The knapsack also has some great features like reflective strips for visibility at night, theft-deterrent zippers, a luggage pass-through, and breathable back panels for extra comfort. And should you find yourself in need of waist straps or a pair of external carry straps, those are included with the bag and can be removed when you’re not using them.
If you’re looking for something that replaces a suitcase without an overwhelming number of pockets, then Cotopaxi’s Allpa Travel Pack is a great choice. The backpack opens just like a roller bag and on one side you’ll find the main compart with an internal pocket and zippered mesh to keep clothing secure while on the other side you’ll find three zippered mesh pockets for organization. There’s also a top stash at the front of the knapsack with a key clip for easy access that’s great for items like your phone, passport, or wallet; a padded sleeve in the back that fits both a laptop and tablet; and a side zipper that lets you reach directly into the main compartment if you want to quickly grab something from inside. While only the front of the bag is waterproof, it comes with a rain cover in case you’re caught in an unexpected storm. There’s also a removable waist belt and if you decide to carry it using any of the four grab handles, the shoulder straps can be stowed away. While it does come in all black, there are several eye-catching color-blocked options available to suit bright personalities. And if you’re searching for something smaller or bigger, there are also 28- and 42-liter sizes of the Allpa.
For the traveler who’s really concerned about stealthy robbers, there’s nothing quite like Pacsafe’s accessories. With the Venturesafe EXP35, every pair of zip pullers has a self-locking system; there’s a built-in stainless steel wire mesh that makes it resistant to slashing; an RFID pocket for your cards and passport can be found in the front stash; and one of the shoulder straps has a detachable buckle so that you can fasten it to a fixed object when setting it down. In addition to these anti-theft features, the backpack also boasts two side pockets, a roomy main compartment with organizational pockets, a padded laptop sleeve, a storage at the bottom for shoes or dirty clothing, external compression straps, and a luggage pass-through. Plus, the bag is sustainable, having been made from 37 plastic bottles, and has a PFC-free treatment that makes it water resistant.
For a more traditional-looking knapsack that works for both travel and everyday use, Herschel’s Classic Backpack is a winner. Earlier this year, the iconic company introduced a weather-resistant collection and added to this beloved style with bags made from plastic bottles. Storage is minimalistic with one main compartment—where the zipper is hidden under a storm flap—with a laptop sleeve, front storage with a key clip, and dual side pockets, but it’s spacious enough to carry all your essentials and a change, or two, of clothes.
If you’re in search of something completely waterproof for outdoor adventurers, Filson has you covered. The heritage company’s Dry Backpack is made from 840D nylon with a thermoplastic polyurethane coating that makes it lightweight, abrasion resistant, and impenetrable by water. The roll-top closure further ensures that contents stay dry, but also helps to compress the 28-liter bag if it’s not filled. For comfort, there’s a breathable back panel and padded shoulder straps with adjustable chest straps. The latter are also equipped with D-rings that can be used for whistles or any other gear that the wearer may need prompt access to.