Best Carry On Backpack (2020): Reviews & Comparison

  • April 6, 2020
  • / By Keith Terrell
Backpack Contents

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.

Backpack Contents

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.  

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!

eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On



  • An expansion zipper for 10% additional space (1.5 inches)
  • 840D and 900D twisted polyurethane composition
  • Laptop sling (can support laptops up to 11.75 x 19 inches)
  • 2-in-1 backpack — can be used as a backpack as well as a suitcase
  • 2 main compartments
  • Many organizational compartments (a fold-down shelf splits one of the main compartments in half) such as a mesh panel with zip closure, an easy-access zippered pocket (which can be detached) and a travel organizer in the front compartment
  • A pocket for your water bottle
  • A removable air-mesh back panel that’s padded
  • A sternum strap that’s adjustable
  • Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 10 inches
  • A weight of 3.15 pounds (shipping)Interior and exterior compression straps


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!


  • Generous packing capacity, especially thanks to the expansion zipper
  • Even distribution of weight within the backpack thanks to the efficient organization pockets
  • Functions perfectly well as a suitcase as well as a backpack
  • Many users concur that it is the best backpack for travel.
  • Fits as cabin baggage (either overhead or under the seat) even at full capacity
  • Reasonably priced and great value for money
  • A special laptop sleeve that can fit a 19-inch laptop
  • Excellent security features
  • Extremely durable thanks to the polyurethane composition


  • No hip belt which can get inconvenient when you have to carry the bag for long periods or distances; this can also affect even weight distribution.
  • Some customers expressed dissatisfaction with the weight the bag can carry (though it is ideally meant for a weekend trip).
  • There have also been complaints about the bag’s durability, with users stating that the sternum straps ripped off and there were tears in the bag post-travel.

Our Verdict

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.

Osprey Farpoint 40



  • Comes with a hip belt and harness
  • The main compartment has a zip closure (lockable)
  • Compression straps in front
  • Dual mesh pockets in front
  • Built-in side-carry handles and top handle (all padded)
  • Dimensions: 20 x 8 x 14 inches
  • A weight of 3.11 pounds
  • LightWire frame suspension that can be stowed under a panel (with zip closure)
  • A back panel of mesh
  • Attachment points to add extra gear
  • StraightJacket Compression System
  • Osprey All Mighty lifetime guarantee


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.


  • Ventilation is assured thanks to the mesh back panel.
  • The LightWire frame makes for super-comfortable carrying, along with the hip belt and harness.
  • The option of stowing away the suspension system keeps the bag’s size compact and sleek.
  • Versatile; can be used perfectly well in different environments.
  • Lightweight
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • The zip access to the main compartment ensures easy packing and quick access to belongings.
  • Secure, thanks to the lockable zippers.
  • Compression straps keep your gear in place, even at the bag’s half capacity, which also makes the bag easier and more stable to carry.


  • Not ideal for the long haul.
  • The front pocket is a little tight, adding a measure of difficulty in packing.
  • The suspension may not fit well for those who are on the taller side, in addition to being a bit bulky and space consuming.
  • Some users have stated that the hip belt isn’t comfortable. 

Our Verdict

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.

Dinictis 40L Carry-On Flight-Approved Travel Backpack



  • Polyester composition; highly scratch resistant and water repellent
  • Lined with nylon
  • IATA flight approved
  • Supports 40 liters
  • Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Weighs roughly 2.6 lbs
  • Hidden shoulder straps for comfortable carrying
  • Luggage trolley straps
  • Equipped with side handles in addition to the main handle
  • Can carry 15.6-inch laptops and 10.1-inch tablets in a foam-padded compartment
  • There’s a storage bag with a key buckle for small items on the lower front side.
  • Sponge handles and padded shoulder straps, along with a sternum strap


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.


  • Highly durable
  • Comfortable to carry thanks to the padded straps
  • Even weight distribution owing to the sternum strap
  • Can be used as a backpack or as a carry-on bag
  • Separate sleeves for your tablet and laptop
  • Lightweight
  • Super budget friendly
  • Easy to organize belongings in the different compartments


  • Some users have stated that the straps come off the bags after the very first use itself.
  • An issue with zippers jamming.
  • The main compartment doesn’t have a sturdy frame, meaning you may have to use additional packing cubes to retain its shape.

Our Verdict

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.

Hynes Eagle 38L Flight Approved Weekender Carryon Backpack



  • 600D-polyester construction
  • Dimensions: 19.7 x 13 x 7.9 inches
  • Supports 38 liters
  • Weighs of 1.8 lbs
  • Zip closure compartments
  • Sternum strap
  • Shoulder straps that are adjustable and suppressible
  • Handles on the top and side
  • 4 compression straps
  • Comes with 3 packing cubes included
  • Organizer mesh pockets in front
  • Hideaway shoulder straps that are contoured and air-mesh padded


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. 


  • Super lightweight
  • Packing cubes included
  • The compression strap buckles let you adjust the backpack to your height, along with keeping your belongings secure.
  • Flight-approved size for carry-on bags
  • The zip closure ensures easy access to belongings and easy packing.
  • Budget friendly
  • Great value for its price
  • Can stand on its own and retains its shape thanks to the packing cubes
  • Can hold quite a substantial number of belongings


  • The bag is made of polyester and not nylon, which means it won’t be as durable as other options.
  • Some customers have faced issues with the straps loosening on their own after some use, as well as the buckles unbuckling on their own.
  • Unsatisfactory customer service from the company
  • Not comfortable for users on the taller side

Our Verdict

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.

NOMATIC 30L Travel Bag



  • The perfect carry-on size
  • Durable and water-resistant construction
  • A laptop sleeve that’s TSA ready
  • Ventilated shoe pocket that can fit 2 pairs of shoes (size 12)
  • A safe pocket that’s RFID protected
  • A sleeve for roller bags
  • A specific pocket for your underwear
  • Fleece-lined pockets to store items that require quick access
  • A pocket for your water bottle
  • A flexible strap system that lets you use the bag as a suitcase or a backpack
  • Waist straps that are detachable
  • Dimensions: 19 x 9 x 13 inches
  • Weighs roughly 4.2 pounds
  • Supports 30 liters of baggage
  • A power-feeder hole (cable pass through)
  • Two zipped pockets and smaller pockets inside the main side panel
  • Sternum straps
  • Handles on 3 sides


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.


  • Well designed in both physical appearance and organizational efficiency
  • Small enough without compromising on its carrying capacity
  • Durable
  • Water resistant
  • Has tons of great features
  • Convertible from duffel to backpack
  • Specific tablet/ laptop sleeve
  • Easily adjustable straps to suit the user’s frame
  • Even weight distribution while carrying the bag
  • Great placement of the cord organizer


  • Quite expensive at over $200.
  • Difficult to access water bottle in the pocket while walking.
  • The material and the back design of the bag results in it getting quite warm after a few hours of wearing, which means it can get uncomfortable in the long run.
  • The zippers tend to get a little sticky when exposed to moisture.
  • The outer pocket is quite tight, making it hard to carry devices larger than a wide screen cellphone.
  • The bag tips over if you’re not carrying your laptop in it.

Our Verdict

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.

Standard Luggage Co 35L Flight-Approved Backpack



  • Expandable zip to make it go from 35L to 45L
  • Full-perimeter zip closure for easy access and packing
  • 3-in-1 (shoulder bag, suitcase and backpack)
  • A separate padded laptop sleeve (detachable and sliding) that can accommodate a 17-inch laptop
  • A tablet sleeve that accommodates a 10-inch tablet
  • A ventilated back panel
  • A hip belt that’s adjustable
  • Padded shoulder straps for comfort
  • A pocket for water bottles
  • The interior pockets are all made of wrinkle-free mesh.
  • A roll-aboard strap is included.
  • 2 pockets in front for quick-access items
  • Lockable YKK zippers, buckles, and clips
  • Made of 1680D water-resistant nylon
  • A raincoat for the bag comes included
  • Compression straps in the interior
  • A custom built-in safety whistle
  • Padded, soft-grip handles
  • The buckles and clips on the sternum strap are from ITW Nexus.
  • Weighs of 3.7 lbs
  • Dimensions: 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 (9.5 when expanded) inches 


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.


  • Adjustable capacity
  • Meets all IATA regulations for carry-on/ cabin baggage
  • Extremely durable make
  • Generous capacity (can fit belongings of two people for a week-long getaway or 1-2 months’ worth of gear for solo backpackers)
  • Apart from being water resistant, it also comes with a custom rain cover for the bag.
  • Separate laptop and tablet sleeves
  • Airline carry-on size approved even with the use of packing cubes
  • Allows for efficient organization
  • Included roll-aboard strap
  • Easy and comfortable to carry thanks to the padded shoulder straps, ventilated back panel, adjustable hip pads, sternum strap, removable waist strap and daisy chains; there is also a small loop at the back to hang the bag


  • There’s no way to fasten the flap on the laptop sleeve.
  • As the sleeve sits on the bag’s bottom, any dropping of the bag may result in damage to your laptop/ electronics.
  • Though the soft compressible back panel is great while carrying the bag, it could mean that the bag could get damaged or wear out prematurely due to its soft nature.
  • The zips and luggage tags are weak and break off in the initial uses itself.

Our Verdict

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.

Carryon Backpack

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. 

  • North America - Most airlines in North America permit a carry on of 22 x 14 x 9 inches, with a maximum weight of 22 lbs. The exceptions to the rule are certain airlines that allow a maximum of just 11 to 15 lbs., while a handful of others allow as much as 40 lbs. 
  • South America - In South America, airlines follow similar size and weight restrictions although some are stricter and permit only 17 lbs.
  • Europe -  The average size of allowable carry on bags in Europe are 21.5 x 15.5 x 8 inches, and a weight of 17 lbs. Some airlines allow just 11 lbs. while others allow 13, 15, and 22 lbs.  
  • Asia/ Middle East -  Airlines in Asia and the Middle East tend to have far stricter hand baggage weight restrictions than the West, ranging from 11 to 15 lbs. A few carriers permit up to 17 lbs. Meanwhile, the most commonly allowed carry on size is 22 x 14 x 9 inches.
  • Africa - Planes in Africa permit an average of 22 x 14 x 9 inches, with some that are stricter or flexible with weight restrictions. The average carry on weight allowed is 15.4 lbs., but some allow as much as 22 or 26 lbs.
  • Australia/ Oceania - In Australia and Oceania, airlines typically follow similar size and weight restrictions as North America, although most of them allow only 15 lbs. or less. 

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: 

  • Size - Size is the most important consideration when selecting a carry-on backpack. Airlines in various regions set their own guidelines for carry-on luggage restrictions though to be on the safe side, try to meet the 45-inch rule (45 linear inches). You should also consider the duration of your trips when choosing a backpack size. For short trips or light packers, choose a larger carry-on. Bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to backpacks; sure, it allows you to bring more items but halfway through your travels you may realize that you’re carrying far too heavy a load but you won’t have a choice other than to just keep going. A bigger bag might also only encourage you to bring unnecessary items, and any frequent traveler can tell you that over packing is a big mistake.
  • Weight - Airlines also have a weight limit for all carry on bags. Ideally, your goal should be to get a bag that is less than 20% than the airline’s weight restriction when it’s empty. For example, if your airline allows a maximum of 15 lbs., then your bag should only be 3 lbs. in empty weight. If you browse bags with this in mind, you will be able to ensure that most of your carry on weight will result from the items that you’ve packed and not from the luggage itself.
  • Fit - When wearing a backpack, carry on or not, good fit is crucial to comfort. Find out your hip size and torso length so that you can get a bag that fits you like a glove. Shoulder, waist, and sternum straps should be positioned correctly so that you can balance out your load particularly when you’re carrying heavy gear.
  • Organization - The main compartment ideally allows you to organize your belongings in your preferred manner. Some people prefer less pockets, and use packing cubes instead. On the other hand, some people prefer the presence of many strategically-placed pockets. Regardless of which type you are, choose a carry-on backpack that allows you to pack quickly and efficiently. Keep in mind that you may also want to consider a bag with exterior pockets for storing your passport, ID, boarding pass, mobile phone, and other items you may need to empty out as you go through airport security, or before you place your backpack on the conveyor belt. These pockets should be in easy reach.
  • Straps - Bags that utilize breathing, padded, and adjustable backpack straps help you adjust and hence stabilize your load. It makes a world of a difference in terms of comfort, and this is not something you’ll want to treat as an afterthought. Choosing a bag with adjustable sternum straps also prevents your backpack from shifting while you wear it, while minimizing stress on your shoulders, neck, and back. Padded hip belts are also important; these help distribute up to 90% of the bag’s weight to your hips to effectively eliminate pressure on your shoulders and back.
  • Rain covers - If your travels will be taking you to rainy climates or outdoor hikes, rain covers will always come in handy. Many soft carry on backpacks come with their own rain cover, and if it’s already attached, you’re reducing the chances that it’ll go missing. Alternatively, if you’ve found the dream carry on backpack of your choice, you can also purchase a rain cover separately.
  • Grab handles - A good carry on backpack should have at least one padded grab handle, found on either the side or top of the bag. This will help you efficiently and safely lift your bag from underneath a seat, retrieve it from the overhead storage, or pull it out of a car trunk.
  • Laptop compartment - A dedicated sleeve for your devices prevents theft or damage during your travels. It would also be extremely helpful if the laptop compartment was located in a part of the bag that makes device removal easy at the screening checkpoints.
  • Compression straps - Interior and exterior compression straps help you cinch your bag in different positions while preventing its contents from moving. Exterior compression straps also help reduce any pressure on zippers.
  • Unique style - The truth is that honest mistakes do happen, but theft is also prevalent. To prevent this, you’ll want a distinguishable bag; be it by design or color, it reduces the risk of these mishaps. Black bags offer the benefit of hiding stains, debris, and dirt while allowing you to blend in. Get creative and add your own distinct features to a black carry on such as colorful bag straps or handle wraps.
  • Expandability - It’s definitely useful to have a carry on with expandable features. Expandable backpacks also come in handy by giving you extra space whenever you need it (we’re all a little guilty of going overboard with shopping sometimes!). However, the presence of expandable features usually means a more expensive bag, but if you’re the kind of traveler who typically ends up with more items at the end of a trip, this is an investment that will save you headaches. Without this feature, you may end up checking in your carry on bag at the counter, or end up with two bags. It simply isn’t convenient.
  • Exterior pockets - Accessing your travel documents and other valuables is more convenient when you have a carry on with exterior pockets. This way, you don’t need to unzip the main compartment in order to retrieve it. 
  • Optional features - Other features you may want opt consider in a carry on backpack are: telescoping handles, wheels, and luggage tags.

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

Air Travel

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.