Carry on backpacks offer serious advantages for all kinds of travelers. Their benefits clearly eclipse those of other carry on bags such as small or wheeled suitcases, duffel bags, and tote bags.
All of these can clearly function as a carry on, as long as it can store the essentials you’ll need while on the plane: travel documents, cash, medications, toiletries, electronics, and other valuable items.
But frequent travelers know that the success of a trip has much to do with small yet impactful decisions you make long before the journey has even started - like the kind of like the kind of carry on you choose. It might sound inconsequential but it really does make a difference.
Carry on bags, in essence, are a specific type of luggage which travelers are permitted to bring into the airplane. Airplanes are designed with spaces designated for carry on bags located underneath seats or in overhead compartments. Because of the nature of its intended purpose, they are often more compact than other kinds of bags. Checked baggage, on the other hand, are luggage that are stored in the plane’s cargo area.
If you haven’t considered using a carry on backpack, you might be surprised at how convenient it is. In fact, you might never look back! Carry on bags are designed to be easily stowed away, but they also have the added versatility to be used as a travel backpack wherever you go. If you know how to pack light, carry on backpacks will also save you money from the often ludicrous fees that come with checking in baggage.
Best Overall: eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Carry On
Runner-Up: Osprey Packs Farpoint 40-Liter Men’s Travel Backpack
Best Budget: Dinictis 40-Liter Carryon Flight-Approved Backpack
Best Women’s: Hynes Eagle 38-Liter Flight-Approved Carryon
Best Modern: NOMATIC 30-Liter Travel Bag
Best Minimalist: Standard Luggage Co. 35-Liter Flight-Approved
Table of Contents
- Our Picks For The Best Carry On Backpack
- Winner: eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On
- Runner-Up: Osprey Packs Farpoint 40-Liter Men’s Travel Backpack
- Best Budget: Dinictis 40-Liter Carryon Flight-Approved Travel Backpack Weekender Bag
- Best Women’s: Hynes Eagle 38-Liter Flight-Approved Carryon Backpack
- Best Modern: NOMATIC 30-Liter Travel Bag
- Best Minimalist: Standard Luggage Co. 35-Liter Flight-Approved Backpack
- Carry On Backpack Size And Weight Restrictions To Consider
- Features To Look For In Carry On Backpacks
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Carry On Backpacks: The Fastest Way To Fly
Our Picks For The Best Carry On Backpack
Carry on backpacks come in several styles, each with their own unique advantages. Investing in a high-quality backpack that allows you to travel with ease and in style is crucial. Browsing through the best carry on backpacks in the market can be time-consuming, so we’ve found up the best ones by reading what the customers have to say.
Winner: eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On
There are as many backpack types as there are backpacker types out there, but our “best overall backpack” vote goes to the eBags TSL Motherload Weekender. You get one of these high-quality backpacks and you probably won’t need another one for a few million years or a few million trips, whichever comes sooner. Yes, it’s that durable, that rich in high-quality user-friendly features, and that secure!
With a book-like opening to ensure easy packing, the backpack comes with an expansion zipper (this means an additional 1.5 inches of space, which means at least 10% more can fit in) as well as a laptop sling to keep your laptop safe (a crucial feature; after all, we don’t want that few-thousand-dollars-worth Macbook getting damaged now, do we?).
One of the best features of the bag, though, is that it keeps your laptop from touching the bag’s bottom, which means that it’s super-protected even if you should channel your inner klutz and drop the bag by accident (don’t worry, we’ve been there too!). It also comes with excellent security features, such as zippers with lockable rings, an included ID-tag pocket and a 210D-orange-nylon make which keeps you visible in dark spaces, or should you get lost in a forest while exploring!
With a price just a very few dollars above 100, the eBags TLS Weekender Convertible carry-on backpack is deemed the “ultimate travel bag”; it would seem that the bag’s excellent features outnumber and overshadow its few cons to a large extent.
It manages to carry quite a substantial amount of weight (excessive, even if it’s a weekend trip we’re talking about, though some users have even spent weeks in Europe with the bag!). If that doesn’t convince you, maybe the fact that it won the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Best-of-Field Award for Design” in 2009 will?
Runner-Up: Osprey Packs Farpoint 40-Liter Men’s Travel Backpack
Ladies, don’t let the name throw you off; if you can handle it, this bag’s a great option, regardless of your gender. The perfect size for a carry-on bag, this backpack is a great option for light travelers who’d much rather spend time and money on their vacation than on long lines at the airport.
With a 40-liter capacity, the Osprey Farpoint can meet all the overhead-bin or under-the-seat requirements of most airlines. With highly durable construction, the bag is sure to last you for a long time to come. Add to that security features, such as a lockable compartment, and front mesh compartments for quick access and it isn’t hard to see why the Osprey Farpoint is a highly popular choice.
The perfect travel buddy for a weekend getaway, whether it’s another city or the wild, wild west, the Farpoint's LightWire frame suspension ensures comfortable carrying, ensuring an even distribution of weight, whereas the mesh back panel keeps you cool with superior ventilation. Additionally, the mesh on the hip belt and harness ensure that users don’t get chafed, regardless of the load they’re carrying and for how long they carry it.
To further help with this, the backpack has an excellent StraightJacket compression strap system that doesn’t let you feel an ounce of discomfort - stabilizing the load - even if you choose to stuff all the pockets and compartments to full capacity and attach extra gear to the attachment points. Even better, the entire suspension system can be stowed away under a zippered panel to ensure that the backpack is compact and sleek for easy transporting.
The Farpoint’s many pockets and compartments are sure to make organizing your belongings a whole world easier, as will the compression straps that keep your belongings strapped, preventing them from moving around during transit.
Whether you toss the backpack into the back of a bus or neatly store it overhead, the extremely comfortable handles let you easily access your backpack and pull it out. Add to this the detachable day pack and the lightweight yet tough nature of the bag and we’ve definitely got a strong contender.
Despite the cons, a lot of users worldwide (at least the World Wide Web) swear by the Osprey Farpoint. With its range of excellent features, the not-so-satisfying ones can be forgiven, especially with the price tag it comes with (anywhere from $144 to $160, depending on where you buy it from).
The bag’s capacity, whether for camping equipment or normal vacation stuff, is almost unparalleled, making it a great option for frequent travelers and those who prioritize convenience while carrying 40 liters worth of load.
In fact, most of the bag’s features are unparalleled, except (at least on our list) by the eBag TSL Motherload Weekender, which is why it’s a close runner-up.
Best Budget: Dinictis 40-Liter Carryon Flight-Approved Travel Backpack Weekender Bag
Well, the heading says it all and no, it isn’t an exaggeration. This carry-on bag has a capacity of 40 liters, is flight approved, can double as a carry-on bag and a backpack and comes at a mere $40, which is why it’s our “best budget” pick.
The backpack comes with a separate compartment that can store 15.6-inch laptops, and padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap for comfortable carrying; this is in addition to a front pocket and side pocket to store essentials that you can quickly reach.
Additionally, though polyester is less durable than nylon, the bag comes with an additional nylon lining to negate the lack of durability that polyester comes with. It’s also lightweight and is IATA approved, meaning that it’s the perfect size to store in an overhead bin or under the seat, which also means that you can bid adieu to long lines at the baggage check-in and claim.
While the padded shoulder straps keep your shoulders comfortable, the sponge handles ensure the same comfort when you have to carry the bag as a suitcase or a duffel. In addition to the sponge handles, the fact that the padded shoulder straps can be hidden also adds positively to the backpack’s ability to be carried as a backpack.
Last but not least, the bag has a generous capacity, able to support 40 liters worth of baggage; it’s sure to accommodate every belonging you need.
The biggest selling point of this Dinictis backpack is its price; with a price tag well below $100, it really does present some outstanding features. The material itself is highly durable and resistant against water and damages, despite the overall durability of the bag (straps breaking, zippers jamming and so on). This means you may have to use it at less-than-full capacity and restrict its usage to certain days or travels (such as weekend trips that require light packing).
Best Women’s: Hynes Eagle 38-Liter Flight-Approved Carryon Backpack
Well, ladies, if the previous pick had you grumbling about sexism and discrimination, here’s some cause for celebration! This Hynes Eagle backpack, part of the reputed company’s Travel Lite series, can comfortably carry 38 liters worth of baggage, is flight approved, and won’t burn a gaping hole in your wallet. It’s also super stylish and chic without compromising on its functionality and efficiency.
Smaller than the previous men’s backpack but by no means lesser, the Hynes Eagle 38-liter backpack is durable, efficient and comfortable to carry, whether you’re walking on smooth pastures, running up flights of stairs or fielding cobbled pavements and pathways. Its soft-side feature means it isn’t too space-consuming and thus, great for stowing away in the overhead bin or under the seat, even if other fliers have gotten to them before you!
Additionally, the backpack is super-lightweight, adding to its already long-list of comfort-oriented features; not only does the lightweight nature make it easy on all users in general, but it also makes it a great option for those with light builds or petite frames. Lastly, the backpack has a very hard-to-beat price for its given range of features.
That (cons) being said, the Hynes Eagle 38-liter bag is still a great pick, especially for the average woman. It’s quite comfortable to carry and super lightweight, so even if you have a petite frame, this bag will not present a problem.
With a price ranging from $42.99 to around $63, depending on where you buy it from, the bag still provides great value for your money, durability issues apart; so if durability is your priority, other backpack companies may be a better option, though most of them aren’t designed with a specific focus on women and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that’s this small and quite as efficient. And also, one that provides packing cubes included in the product’s price.
Best Modern: NOMATIC 30-Liter Travel Bag
The NOMATIC Travel Bag gives travelers plenty to cheer about, if you dig minimalist designs, are a light packer, value efficiency and don’t intend to load it heavily or carry it on hardcore treks or indefinite soul-searching journeys.
That out of the way, the NOMATIC travel bag in question is a great option for a variety of trips, whether it’s to your office, the gym or a quiet weekend getaway in the Hamptons. It’s sleek, durable and versatile, making it compatible with a range of different environments and purposes.
You’ll be quite hard-pressed to find the level of organizational efficiency that this bag provides in most other competitors’ products; it’s also durable, waterproof and versatile, with a ton of appealing features and sexy, sleek design that will have even the Fashion Police singing its praises, let alone us normal mortals.
One of its many standout features is the specific ventilated shoe compartment with a flap that’s water-resistant, which lets you choose whether you want to allow ventilation or block the water. Did we mention that it’s just one of 20 such standout features? Smartly-designed and durable, the backpack strikes the right balance between style and efficiency, with a ton of user-friendly features.
Regardless of how much you’re carrying or how you’re built, the backpack’s got you covered with its outstanding weight distribution and adjustable straps that can be adjusted to suit any frame.
As mentioned, the NOMATIC 30-liter bag is great as a gym bag, travel bag or vacation bag and is sure to make heads turn with its minimalist and sexy design, which is one of the main reasons this bag clinches our “best modern” prize. Though you may have rivulets of sweat running down your back after a few hours of wearing the bag, it’s quite durable and honestly, the sweat is a given on even most averagely-sunny days (unless you travel with a personal snow flurry like Olaf). Of course, if you’re using this as a gym bag, then the point is quite moot, anyway!
Best Minimalist: Standard Luggage Co. 35-Liter Flight-Approved Backpack
If you found the NOMATIC backpack reviewed before minimal and completely dug its minimal vibe, wait till you meet the Standard Luggage Co’s 35-liter flight-approved backpack. This 3-in-1 backpack lets you carry it however you’re most comfortable doing so — whether as a shoulder bag, backpack or suitcase.
Perfect for a month (or two) of backpacking, this offering from Standard Luggage Co. comes with hideaway backpack straps, handles designed for comfortable carrying, and super-efficient compartment dividers to get your organizing game on point! Can’t fit in that additional pair of pants you’re dying to carry anyway? No problem; the backpack’s got your back with an expandable capacity — no one’s going to be complaining about how quickly this “35” changes to “45”. It also comes with a separate laptop compartment.
Additionally, the bag is extremely durable, right from its construction to its zippers to its water-resistance, making it an ideal weather-proof option, especially in areas with unpredictable weather or constant downpour (thanks to the rain cover). It’s also super-comfortable to carry - equipped with a ton of comfort-oriented features - and comes with a great capacity that’s adjustable, so you can just as easily carry this backpack on a weekend getaway as you can on a month-long sojourn, without having to worry about it being too big or small.
A little on the expensive side (around $190), this 35-liter bag from Standard Luggage Co. is only minimalist in design; no way is it minimalistic in the tons of features it offers, its functionality and its performance. This bag will suit all your travel needs and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that you can live out of this bag quite safely for a month or two (though that also depends on whether you’re a minimalist traveler or not!).
Though it is more comfortable to carry as a backpack, it still functions satisfactorily as a suitcase and shoulder bag and in its given price range, is probably one of the best options.
Carry On Backpack Size And Weight Restrictions To Consider
Depending on where in the world you travel, it’s necessary to consider airline carry on size and weight restrictions. If you have a carry on instead of checked in luggage to prevent long lines and potential hiccups at the counter, it will defeat the purpose if you arrive at the airport only to find out that your carry on doesn’t meet the airline’s restrictions.
It’s worth investing a few minutes of research before you purchase a carry on. Keep in mind that when measuring your carry on, it’s best to include its handle and wheels.
Keep in mind that a standard international carry on size doesn’t exist. All airlines have the liberty to write up their own restrictions for the weight, size, and quantity of items that passengers are permitted in the cabin.
Features To Look For In Carry On Backpacks
The idea of the perfect carry on backpack varies from one person to another. The kind of trip you’re taking will also have its own requirements for your carry on bag. As you set out to shop, here are the essentials features to consider:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a backpack allowed as a carry on?
Yes, a backpack can be used as a carry-on. However, it’s important to ensure that the backpack meets TSA requirements, as well as the requirements of the airline. Check with your carrier to find out what the size limits are.
Do note, however, if the backpack is larger when it is filled, it will likely need to be checked.
What is a good size carry on backpack?
The best size for a carry-on backpack depends on the particular needs of the user. For example, if you intend on using a backpack in lieu of checked luggage, you’ll need a larger backpack. However, if you only plan on using it to stow essentials, a smaller backpack would be a better choice to ensure storage space in overhead compartments.
Do note, however, that the largest size backpack most airlines will allow measures 22" x 14" x 9". Check with your carrier to find out the exact size restrictions.
How to measure a backpack for carry on?
A backpack that will be used as a carry-on must meet the size requirements for the specific airline the pack will be used on. To determine the size, measure the pack from top to bottom to determine the height, measure it from end to end to determine the length. Then, measure from an interior corner to an exterior corner to determine the width.
What is the volume of a carry on backpack?
A typical 22" x 14" x 9" backpack translates to about 45 linear inches. In terms of volume, it should be around 40L to 45L. Make sure to check with the airlines if this meets their requirement for a carry on.
What is the largest backpack allowed as a carry on?
Airlines establish size requirements regarding carry-on luggage that passengers are permitted to bring on-board. While the requirements can vary, for most airlines, the maximum size for a carry-on is 22" x 14" x 9", for both backpacks and rolling luggage. Assuming that those dimensions are the maximum your airline allows, a 45 liter backpack is the largest sized backpack you will be allowed to bring.
Do check with your carrier before boarding to ensure your backpack does not exceed the maximum size requirements, otherwise you may need to check the backpack.
Carry On Backpacks: The Fastest Way To Fly
Carry on backpacks are the secret of happy travelers. They know that checking in luggage can be risky; you never know when an airline ends up breaking, soiling, or even losing your luggage when you check it in. The peace of mind you’ll get when you carry on your valuable belongings instead of checking it in is priceless.
It’s also the most convenient way to travel. Passengers who bring backpacks are usually exempt from checking their bags in, while passengers traveling with wheeled luggage will be asked to check their bags in. There you have it! I hope our guide has proven useful in your search for your carry on backpack.