May 23, 2024

Holiday Gift Guide 2023: The Best Travel Backpacks

Holiday Gift Guide 2023: The Best Travel Backpacks

In addition to a reliable suitcase, most frequent travelers will tell you a trusty backpack is a must for any trip. But what makes the perfect travel backpack? It depends on the scenario, but most would agree that it’s a combination of the right size, an array of organizational pockets, comfortable shoulder straps, and a durable, ideally weather-resistant material. With all of these factors in mind, I’ve rounded up some of the best knapsacks out there right now. Whether it’s a carry-on size bag that’s suitable for a five-day trip or a packable daypack that you can carry at all times, here are the best travel backpacks to gift this holiday season.

Really just about everything Peak Design makes is extraordinary, but their travel backpack has continually topped “best” lists, and for good reason. It boasts some of the most desirable features you could drum up such as multiple access points, a variety of pockets including hidden stashes, several grab handles, stowable straps and hip belt, luggage passthrough, and theft-deterrent zippers. The recycled nylon shell is both weatherproof and durable, withstanding the most rugged adventures. And at 45 liters it can easily be used for multiday trips. This is the type of backpack your loved ones will want to keep and use forever—and thankfully it’s backed by a lifetime warranty to help them do so.

If you have someone on your list with a hyper-organized, type-A personality, this option by Aer might just be the perfect fit. The 35-liter backpack is separated into three compartments and has a whopping number of pockets—16, to be exact—that includes a lined sunglass stash, quick-access side pocket, padded laptop slip, and a discreet AirTag slot. This X-Pac version also sports a neon orange lining so belongings can be easily spotted. And rest assured that everything will stay dry thanks to the weather-resistant fabric and waterproof zippers.

The O.G. maker of the wearable duffle now offers a new option for travelers who want to stay a little more organized. The entire bag—body fabric, straps, lining, webbing—is made from recycled materials and is coated in a recycled TPU laminate that makes it resistant to the elements. The backpack is separated into two sections and has a clamshell design, making it very easy to pack. The main compartment features three zippered pockets, a great way to keep clothes separated from undergarments. The back section has been designed for tech and accessories, boasting a variety of pockets, key leash, zippered document sleeve, and a laptop holder with a Velcro strap for easy removal when going through airport security. And if you decide to switch things up, the hip belt doubles as a shoulder strap or you can tuck away all of the straps and carry it by the side handle.

For those just-in-case moments, this lightweight, 16-liter backpack conveniently packs into its own pocket so that you can always have it on hand. It features one spacious main compartment, a front pocket, two stretch pockets on the side, and a top stash that’s great for storing essentials. Made from recycled nylon, it also has some surprising touches for a bag of this size such as water-resistant zippers, slightly cushioned shoulder straps, and even a removable sternum strap.

For a slightly larger daypack that offers more organization, Bellroy’s Lite Daypack takes the cake. The bag’s durable double-walled ripstop fabric is made from recycled plastic bottles and it’s thin and lightweight enough that it can easily be folded to be stashed away in your primary travel backpack or luggage. The main compartment is covered by a storm flap and inside you’ll find an internal document sleeve, a zippered “essentials” pocket with a key clip, two stash packets including a stretchy one designed for bottles, and an inconspicuous AirTag holder. The backpack also offers a top stash with a water-resistant zipper that’s great for sunglasses or your phone; multiple attachment points; and an removable sternum strap. And thanks to the cushioned and breathable shoulder straps and back panel, it’s incredibly comfortable to wear.

Do you have that friend or loved one who always complains about unpacking once they’ve arrived to their destination? Then this is the backpack for them. Building off the success of the company’s lauded suitcase, Solgaard now has a backpack with a built-in wardrobe. The unassuming bag comes with a removable, three-tiered hanging closet that fits right into the main compartment—complete with a few pockets and a key loop with a bottle opener because, why not?—thanks to the compression straps. In addition to this ingenious feature, the backpack is also expandable and boasts a back compartment with multiple pockets that includes a felt-lined laptop slip. There’s also two side pockets, a zippered front pocket, luggage passthrough, and two discreet stashes on the comfortably padded shoulder straps for quick access to cards.

For a more classic aesthetic, Lo & Sons’ new Hanover Supreme might have a minimalist look from the outside, but you’ll find plenty of ways to stay organized once you open it up. It sports two side pockets, a front pocket with multiple stashes, a laptop section protected by a waterproof zipper, and a top stash that’s perfect for things like identification, credit cards, or a phone. The most impressive feature, however, is the padded insert in the main compartment with multiple pockets and a slip for an additional laptop or tablet. But if the other pockets are enough, simply remove the insert to reveal a spacious interior with one zippered pouch.

Whether it’s to protect prized travel gadgets like cameras and drones, fragile goods, or a beloved pair of leather shoes, a more structured backpack can come in handy. Not only does Ekster’s Grid bag maintain its shape, but it’s also water-resistant thanks to a material made from recycled bottles and the waterproof zippers help further protect belongings. The main compartment has a clamshell design for easy packing and a few pockets to help you stay organized while the back section has space for a laptop along with a lined sunglass pocket. The pack also has an elastic bottle pocket on one side and a zippered stash with RFID protection on the other.

If you’re looking to include some useful accessories with your gift, these two items from Matador will instantly upgrade any backpack. The frequently sold out Speed Stash (pictured) attaches to the shoulder strap so that wearers can quickly access essentials like a phone, passport, or GPS. And for those concerned about theft or like to make use of a backpack’s attachment points, the carabiner-style BetaLock is a great addition.