Best Carry On Backpack 2019: Reviews & Comparison

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

The eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On is the ultimate carry on backpack. It conveniently opens like a book, so packing is extremely easy. The expansion zipper allows you to add up to 10% more of your belongings with 1.5 inches of added space, while the laptop sling ensures your valuable computer is always protected. Oh, and it even has the ability to suspend your laptop! A smart feature of this bag is that it prevents your laptop from touching the bottom of the bag, so even if you accidentally drop the backpack, your laptop stays safe.

eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On


Thoughtful security features give frequent travelers peace of mind. It includes lockable rings on its zippers, and it already comes with an ID pocket for your luggage tag which eliminates the need to buy or use another one. When you’re traveling, walking, or commuting at night, the 210D orange nylon provides high visibility and added safety.  

Perhaps one of the best things about the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On is its generous capacity. With its 22 x 14 x 9 dimensions, this is pretty spacious for a carry on backpack. It has enough for a few days of travel, and is just right for a weekend getaway. Considering all that you can pack in this bag, its clever organizational features also come in handy so it never feels like you’re carrying a heavy load. Compression straps can be found both in and out of the bag, so it allows you to downsize even from outside. Carry all your goods with comfort thanks to its padded air mesh panel plus a removable and adjustable sternum strap. 

Based on reviews online, customers sing praises about the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On. In fact, one customer even wrote about using this carry on bag for a two-week trip to France using packing cubes, and found it extremely efficient! Others love how this model functions as a suitcase and backpack in one. Many have written about how the search for the best travel bag has ended with the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On, if that’s any indication of just how good it performs.

Some customers were disappointed about how this bag seems to be unable to carry significant weight, although this bag is designed for just a weekend or a few days away despite the numerous reviews from customers who have used this bag for multi-week trips to Europe. Some also commented about the lack of a hip belt, but while it isn’t a deal breaker, would help if you’re carrying the bag for hours at a time.

Considering all the shining reviews, it’s clear that the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Carry On is only travel bag you’ll ever use. It’s like using two bags in one, while simplifying travel thanks to its compact carry on size.  

Runner-Up: Osprey Farpoint 40

Not far behind is the Osprey Farpoint 40, which is certainly one of the best travel backpacks out there. It just so happens to be the right size for a carry on, which many customers find to be its most efficient and convenient purpose. This one is ideal for those who enjoy traveling light, without the hassles of checked in luggage, but require a bag that’s serious about its travel features.

Osprey Farpoint 40


The Osprey Farpoint 40 can accommodate up to 40 liters, and its size means that it’s the perfect carry on for nearly all airlines. It’s terrific value for money especially when you factor in its nearly indestructible build and the world-class craftsmanship that went into making this bag.  A lockable compartment adds another layer of security for your laptop and tablets, and dual front mesh compartments allow you easy access to small essentials. It comes with a harness and hi belt for comfortable carry, and packing is made simple with a large zip access opening to the bag’s main compartment. The bag’s rugged structure allows you to use it in wilderness or in the city since it can withstand wear and tear. Front compression straps come in handy in ensuring all your gear is compact and stable as you wear the bag, even if it’s only half packed. Need help hoisting your backpack? No problem: it’s got built-in top and side carry handles which are padded, too. 

According to reviews online, an overwhelming majority of customers find the Osprey Farpoint 40 a superior travel bag compared to the rest of what’s available on the market. A great deal of customers wrote about how this bag can pack a punch with its capacity; it can fit camping equipment and enough gear for backpacking in other continents. Travelers appreciate the hip belt because it does wonders for helping stabilize your load while making the pack even more comfortable to wear. 

Not all customers agree that the Osprey Farpoint 40 is the most ideal for long haul travel. A few have also commented that the front pocket is rather tight, and a bit difficult to pack things in it. Other than that, you’d be hard pressed to find anything wrong with this bag.

Overall, the Osprey Farpoint 40 is terrific for frequent travelers and those who value ease of use in a carry on while packing up to 40 liters or more. If you absolutely must need to, or prefer to, travel with only one bag, this is the way to go. Here’s a helpful chart on international vs. US carry on size and weight information on this bag.

Alternative: Witzman Men’s Travel Backpack

If you love rugged bags, the Witzman Men’s Travel Backpack is a carry on backpack you can’t go wrong with. This beautiful bag is constructed out of quality thickened canvas and features trimmings made of durable PU leather for a hint of luxury.

What truly makes the Witzman Men’s Travel Backpack stand out as a carry on backpack is its versatility. It’s a terrific travel companion and can accommodate your personal travel style: it can be used as a carry on, a backpack, duffel bag, and a tote bag. With strategically-placed straps and handles that aren’t a nuisance when not in use, this bag will immediately transform into another bag. It comes in two sizes: an 18.5 inch small, and a 21 inch large.

Witzman Men’s Travel Backpack


The Witzman Men’s Travel Backpack is big on capacity and organization, too. It’s got two front zipper pockets for small travel essentials such as a tablet, reading glasses, wallet, and passport. A side pocket can be used for holding an umbrella or a water bottle. Inside, it can fit an impressive amount of gear: from clothes, a laptop, books, and binders in the main compartment, to smaller pockets for keys, mobile phones, pens, and chargers. Capacity, aesthetics, and versatility: what else could you want in a carry on backpack? It’s no surprise then that the Witzman Men’s Travel Backpack is one of the best-selling bags out there. 

Based on reviews, customers absolutely love the Witzman Men’s Travel Backpack. Even women don’t mind its masculine, rugged look. It has held up to the test of aggressive traveling and the demands brought on by intercontinental backpacking and the outdoors. Customers also appreciate that the bag is affordable considering all that it’s capable of! A helpful tip: many have recommended using packing cubes or other organizational hacks when packing this bag, so that may come in handy should you decide to get it. Additionally, the reviews confirm that the straps and handles on this bag are indeed a lifesaver when traveling, since it allows you to switch from one style to another instantly. 

On the other hand, some customers were disappointed with the size of the pockets. Only a few customers actually questioned the durability and workmanship of this bag as the straps have broke on some customers. However, the presence of other straps saved the day. 

The Witzman Men’s Travel Backpack is a winner for travelers who need a reliable and sturdy bag. This is the one bag that you can take places, even off the beaten path, and you can be assured it won’t cramp your traveling style. It would be a shame to limit its use solely as a carry-on simply because it’s so functional and multipurpose. 

Alternative: Hynes Eagle 40L Flight Approved Carry On Backpack

The Hynes Eagle 40L Flight Approved Carry On Backpack is another excellent, multipurpose travel bag. If you’re one of those travelers who seems to spend more time in the air than on land, this bag is highly recommended. Switch it from backpack to duffel just by changing how you carry it, and its straps are strategically placed so that placing it in an overhead compartment or under the seat is a piece of cake.

Hynes Eagle 40L Flight Approved Carry On Backpack


It’s already designed to cater to IATA flights, so frequent travelers have one (major) less thing to worry about. The bag is equipped with several exterior compression straps which allow you to adjust its height to accommodate your needs. Inside, the Hynes Eagle 40L Flight Approved Carry On Backpack can accommodate enough of your clothing and belongings comfortably for a few days of travel; if you’re a light packer, you can even take this bag out on multi-week trips across the world. A sternum strap ensures stability no matter where you go, so even if you spend lots of time on foot, this bag is comfortable on your shoulders and back. The compression straps also come in handy for those trips where you set out with a partially filled bag, as it prevents your things from bouncing around inside the backpack. A padded laptop and tablet compartment will keep your valuable devices secure at all times.

Customer reviews about the Hynes Eagle 40L Flight Approved Carry On Backpack reveal that this bag is indeed perfect for use as a carry on as well as for traveling. It’s a true hands-free bag that allows you to get more out of your travels. A handful of customers were so happy with this bag that they even said once you have this, you no longer need any other travel bag. And while other bags have less pockets so that you can pack in your own style, many customers appreciate that this bag has just the right amount of pockets in the right places.

However, some customers were displeased with the quality of the buckles and straps on the bag. Even though they commented that the entire bag is of great quality, they can’t say the same for the other two aspects of the backpack. Some customers were also disappointed that it didn’t come with a hip belt or a waist strap. 

It can be said that the Hynes Eagle 40L Flight Approved Carry On Backpack is a universally appealing luggage. It caters to travelers of virtually all kinds; whether you travel light or not. Having said that, this bag is a must-have for every traveler. 

Alternative: Winblo Laptop Backpack

Here’s another great carry on for light packers: the Winblo Laptop Backpack, while not necessarily designed as a carry on, does the job well and at such a terrific price. In fact, it’s hard to tell if the best feature of this bag is its usability as a carry on, or its affordable price.

Winblo Laptop Backpack


The Winblo Laptop Backpack is ideal for travelers who only want to take the essentials on their carry on. As a specialized laptop travel bag, you can expect that it has world-class device compartments and storage, and you’re right. But its main internal compartment is just as awesome: you can pack books, snacks, a jacket, and other things to keep you comfortable during a flight. Best of all, it’s compact enough to be used as a day pack as you tick things off your itinerary. 

It’s extremely lightweight and made with elegant linen, meaning that you can take it from the airport to the boardroom without worrying about your travel bag compromising your professionalism. However, the Winblo Laptop Backpack has a solid and sturdy construction, and this one will last you a long time. Its back side is padded, preventing any discomfort from the edges of your books or laptops against your back. This bag is pretty simple, but it definitely does the job. It also takes into consideration the fact that humans come in different sizes – so if you’re one of those people who find it difficult locating a backpack that fits well, it ends here. The Winblo Laptop backpack is equipped with flexible attachments so that it fits any torso. 

According to reviews, customers were satisfied with how well the Winblo Laptop Backpack carries, even when it’s packed to its full capacity. Customers also love how compact this bag is; it fits snugly and your belongings don’t slosh around. 

However, some customers found that the bag’s linen material isn’t too comfortable on the shoulders when the bag is packed with a heavy load. A few have commented about the omission of a water bottle pocket on the side, although one can easily fit just as well inside the backpack. 

If you’re looking for a lightweight, professional carry on backpack, look no further than the Winblo Laptop Backpack. This is the ideal carry on for busy frequent travelers.

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.