We have done a research, read hundreds of reviews and comments from other travelers. All to help you to choose the best carry on luggage. And not only that. In case you are all new to the concept of traveling light. And maybe you aren’t sure if it’s the way to go. Then we have got you covered, too.
To learn more about, how and why to travel light, and how to choose the best travel pack for yourself, you will need to scroll down a bit! Because I will start with the list of the best carry on backpacks.
- Overall Best Carry on Backpack – Osprey Farpoint 40 / Osprey Fairview 40 (female version).
- Best Cheap Carry on Backpack – SwissGear 1900.
- Best Weekender Backpack – eBags Mother Lode TLS.
Best Carry On Backpack 2018
Here they are – 9 of the best carry on backpacks available on the market now, in 2018. Great travel backpacks that thousands of people are using on their travels.
All of these backpacks I have grouped by their price – Affordable, Medium-Priced and Top Level.
To read more about every one of them scroll down! Most of these carry on backpacks are available in several colors. For more photos, latest price and user reviews check them out on Amazon – just click on the name or image of the backpack! I have also included a link to Amazon under every backpack review.
|NAME||IMAGE||SIZE||CATEGORY||PRICE ON AMAZON|
|*** - our favorites|
|Cabin Max Metz Backpack||44 liter||Affordable||Check the price!|
|The North Face Jester||26 liter||Affordable||Check the price!|
|SwissGear 1900***||37 liter||Affordable||Check the price!|
|Kelty Redwing 44||44 liter||Medium-Priced||Check the price!|
|Osprey Porter 30***||30 liter||Medium-Priced||Check the price!|
|eBags Mother Lode TLS||54 liter||Medium-Priced||Check the price!|
|Osprey Farpoint 40***||40 liter||Top Level||Check the price!|
|Timbuk2 Wingman||40 liter||Top Level||Check the price!|
|Tortuga Setout||44 liter||Top Level||Buy from Tortuga.com|
Our Choice – Osprey Farpoint 40
Size: 40 liter (S/M and M/L).
Dimensions: 21” x 15” x 14” (53 x 38 x 35 cm).
The bag’s depth in reality is more like 8.3” (21 cm). Yes, it can be also up to 14” (35 cm), but only if you attach something to the outside of the backpack. I use it myself and I have never had any problems traveling with it as my carry on.
More colors: Yes, black, red and blue.
Weight: 3.17 lbs / 1.44 kg.
- Minimalist design,
- Suitable for long distance walking and hiking,
- Laptop and tablet compartments,
- Lockable zipper sliders.
- Only 1 big compartment for all of your stuff (packing cubes will come in handy),
- It’s hard to put a water bottle in any of the mesh pockets, when the bag is full.
RELATED: 10 Best Cheap Travel Backpacks
How Big Can Be a Carry on Backpack?
If we are looking at it very strictly – size differs. It’s similar, but it’s not the same. And it depends from the airline that you are flying with. Different airlines have different hand luggage dimension and weight allowances.
In Europe, traveling with the most popular airlines, dimensions of your carry on bag should be around – 55 x 40 x 23 cm (22 x 16 x 9 inches). And your bag shouldn’t be more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) heavy. All of the bags mentioned above are this size or smaller. See more detailed information here, on Skyscanner!
However, thinking globally and planning to travel with US airlines, it’s wiser to choose a little bit smaller carry on bag. Something like – 51 x 35 x 20 cm (20 x 14 x 8 inches). Which means, that Cabin Max Metz, eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender, Kelty Redwing 44 and Osprey Farpoint 40 might be slightly too big for you with some of the airlines. Do check it before you buy a backpack!
How to Choose the Best Carry on Backpack for Yourself?
To choose the best carry on backpack for yourself, answer these 2 questions first:
1. What will you be mainly using it for?
- Weekend city breaks? Look for something smaller, good looking and with a panel load access.
- For holidays overseas, where you will leave your bag at the hotel for most of the time? Buy something roomy like Cabin Max Metz or eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender! Anyway you will not be carrying it around too much.
- Going on an adventure? Look for a bag, that’s designated to be carried around a lot! Frame suspension will help a lot. And think about all the features you want to have. Thinking about having a waterproof backpack? In most of the situations having a rain cover you will be perfectly fine.
- You need a bag for a little bit of everything? Pay attention to the size of backpack! So it’s neither too big, not too small. If hiking might be in your plans as well, think about backpack that has a frame suspension, like Osprey Farpoint 40. It will be helpful also if you simply move from a place to place very often, carrying your belongings with you. Sewn attachment points will be helpful to carry around even more stuff.
- Traveling for work or maybe you’re a digital nomad? Check if the backpack has a designated place for your laptop! Look for a bag that has several organizational features for the rest of your gadgets.
2. Do you need a backpack for few trips or for a longer time?
This will help you to understand, how much to invest in it.
The rest is up to your preference. If you want a smaller bag or a bigger one. Water resistant or not. More classic or more sporty looking. With just a couple of compartments and pockets or with 10+ organizational features. The choice is yours!
Best Backpack Brands
And one more not less important factor here is to know who are the best manufacturers out there.
Which ones are the companies making the best travel and hiking backpacks?
According to several sources and online reviews, 3 of the best backpack brands now are Osprey (founded in 1974, USA), Kelty (founded in 1952, USA) and Deuter (founded in 1898, Germany).
Why Travel With Carry on Luggage Only?
For the last 4 years (and counting) we have been traveling carry on only for most of the time. And from our experience we can assure you, that it really is the way to go. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, 1-2 week holiday overseas or an extended trip to volunteer abroad, one carry on backpack is all you need in most of the situations.
From the very first time abroad we have been traveling light. Mostly we are traveling with one carry on size backpack only.
Even when we were cycling across India for 5 months we did it with just a little bit more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) of luggage each.
Why should you travel with carry on only, too?
1. Because It’s Possible to Travel With One Small Bag Only
Oh, but I can’t. I need so many things with me on my travels. I can’t pack everything in one bag. Clothes alone take so much space. And shoes. And electronics. And…
Trust me – in most of the situations, you can pack everything you need in one bag. Leave all the “what if” stuff at home, and all the clothes that you aren’t 100% sure you will use. Instead choose clothes that you can wear for different occasions.
Don’t carry heavy camping equipment with you, if you will go camping only for a night or two. Rent it. Leave these big bottles of shampoo and shower gel at home, and buy these things once you arrive at your destination. That’s in case your hotel doesn’t provide them for free.
Do you need some more inspiration to travel with less? Check out my packing list – how I pack under 7 kilos.
2. It’s Liberating to Travel With Carry On Only
Less luggage = less worries. When you travel with carry on bag only, you don’t need to check in your luggage. You don’t need to worry about your luggage, while it’s being transported. And you don’t need to wait for it when you arrive. You can head out of the airport right away, leaving hundreds of others, waiting for their luggage, behind.
But that’s not all. It doesn’t end at the airport.
Traveling with one bag you will feel better every day. Because having less stuff with you, making decisions is so much easier as well.
Decisions like what to wear today? Or which shoes should I choose for that evening stroll? With only couple pairs of shoes, one or two trousers and few shirts with you making these kind of decisions is super easy.
3. The Less You Have, the Less You Need to Care About
And I’m not speaking only about very expensive stuff like laptops, tablets, camera equipment or super light minimalist camping gear. Of course you should choose these things wisely, taking with you only what you will really use. Because otherwise, what’s the point of carrying them around?
But the same stands for everything else. Don’t take that jacket, if it’s your favorite and you are afraid that it might get damaged. Of course, unless you really need it. Or that expensive perfume. Or your super cool Bose headphones.
Better take less and you’ll bring more great memories back home with you!
4. The Lighter Is Your Luggage, the Less You Need to Carry
And that’s one of the main reasons for me to travel with less luggage. The less I need to carry, the happier I am. Who likes to walk around with heavy backpack? Not me.
5. Traveling With Carry On Luggage Only Is Cheaper
Yes, on long haul flights mostly you still get a free checked baggage allowance of 1 or 2 bags. But traveling for shorter distances and on domestic flights more and more often nowadays checked baggage costs you extra.
Sometimes it costs just a little bit extra, when compared to the price of the ticket, other times – ridiculously a lot. But multiply it by two (for your return flight), and you will get a decent sum, which you could also save. With low-cost airlines, like Ryanair, WOW Air and Wizzair in Europe, it may cost you even more than a ticket itself.
Pack less and save that money! You can spend it later on some cool travel experience instead, or to buy another flight somewhere.
Best Travel Backpack 2018: Reviews
1. SwissGear ScanSmart 1900 Review
Being 37 liters big this backpack is roomy. But all the pockets it has (just look at the picture) make it into a really well organized backpack. Speaking about your laptop and tablet, there is a protective laptop-only compartment, which is big enough to fit in a laptop up to 17” in size. That’s a big compartment.
Not visible from the outside, but there are even more organizational pockets inside the bag. For everything you might want to take with you. Looking for a backpack for college? The ScanSmart 1900 will be a good choice in this situation as well.
The backpack is made of durable and water resistant ballistic polyester. Its back features Airflow ventilation technology padding. Thanks to its size the SwissGear 1900 can be taken on board with by far most of airlines globally.
The backpack is available in several colors.
Dimensions: 18.5” x 13.5” x 9” (47 x 34 x 23 cm).
Size: 37 liter.
Weight: 3.3 lbs / 1.5 kg.Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on Amazon.com
2. The North Face Jester Review
It’s lightweight and compact, and it’s a laptop-ready backpack. The bag has 2 main compartments, laptop sleeve and few pockets for better organization of your stuff. In front it has an elastic bungee, which you can use to attach something that either doesn’t fit in or that you don’t want to put in the backpack, for an instance your wet rain poncho. But on the sides there are 2 pockets for your water bottles.
Because of its size with The North Face Jester you can always be sure, that your bag will fit in as a carry on luggage. Even with the airlines like WOW Air and Wizzair, who have smaller hand luggage allowances, you will be fine with it. At the same time because of its size it will suit your needs only if you are a minimalist traveler. So only those of you, who are ready to travel with very little.
Backpacks soft back panel with a spine channel for ventilation and comfortable shoulder straps lets you to carry it around for hours on end without getting too tired.
Another cool thing – because of the design and size of this carry on rucksack you will less likely be seen as a tourist. More like an expat or even a local. Because, you know, tourists mostly have huge suitcases and big camping backpacks. While this one looks more like an every day backpack.
The North Face Jester is available in several bright colors.
Dimensions: 19.7” x 13.4” x 7.5” (50 x 34 x 19 cm).
Size: 26 liter.
Weight: 1.8 lbs (0.82 kg).Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on Amazon.com
3. Cabin Max Metz Review
While it’s not the best carry on bag for actual carrying around, at least not for too long time. But it has a few serious advantages, nevertheless. It’s big. With it you can organize your belongings very, very well. And its latest model is also water resistant.
Have you ever heard anything about panel-loading backpack? Well, in short these are the backpacks that you can open the same way like a suitcase. Choosing this kind of backpack you will have a little bit of both – accessibility of a suitcase and mobility of traveling with a backpack. It’s one of the features you see more and more lately in the travel backpack industry.
And, yes, this backpack is a panel-loading backpack. Apart from that this massive backpack is built to fit the maximum carry on baggage allowance. Giving you an opportunity to bring with you quite a lot, but still not too much.
The Cabin Max Metz is made of water resistant 600D nylon. But it isn’t a waterproof backpack, though. Its back and shoulder straps are padded.
Available in 20+ colors.
Dimensions: 22” x 16” x 8” (55 x 40 x 20 cm).
Size: 44 liter.
Weight: 1.5 lbs (0.68 kg).Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on Amazon.com
4. eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Review
Similar like the Cabin Max Metz this bag is built to fit the maximum carry on baggage allowance. Main difference, however, is that this one is a higher level backpack. Its made of better quality materials and overall looks better, if you ask me.
And it is even better in organizational aspect as well. The bag features different pockets for small stuff like your phone, pen and a book or a magazine in front compartment of the backpack. Its main compartment has a foldable shelf. And there is a special compartment for your computer or tablet.
Because of the size and materials its made of this backpack is quite heavy. Though, it’s not that heavy if you compare it to other similar bags and suitcases. It weights about 3.7 lbs (1.7 kilos), and you should keep that in mind, too. As it’s not only about the dimensions of your carry on baggage, but it’s also about the weight.
The eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender features contoured Airmesh shoulder straps. It doesn’t have an internal frame.
If we compare the price of these two backpacks, then Mother Lode TLS Weekender costs about twice as much. But it’s not without a reason.
eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender is available in several colors.
Dimensions: 22” x 14” x 9” (56 x 35.6 x 23 cm).
Size: 54 liter.
Weight: 3.7 lbs (1.7 kg).Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on Amazon.com
5. Osprey Porter 30 Review
What I like most about the Osprey Porter 30 and Osprey travel backpacks in general is their design. It’s simple and minimalist. And even though, for example, Porter 30 is positioned as a travel/trekking backpack, for me it doesn’t look like an average trekking backpack. Far from that.
And that’s a good sign, a compliment to Osprey.
Because, that means you don’t need several backpacks. You can use one bag for several purposes. One week you can be hiking in the mountains, next week – strolling around in Dubai. Otherwise – you know, it feels strange to walk around in Paris with your trekking backpack on your back. Of course, you can do like that. And I have done it, too. But who wants that extra attention? Not me.
The same like 2 previous backpacks Porter 30 has a panel load access. But as a trekking pack it’s much more comfortable for carrying around. A zippered front panel is great for all your small stuff. And it features also a padded laptop and tablet sleeve. But its padded side handle gives you yet another way to carry this travel bag. The Osprey Porter is made of quality Nylon. It feels sturdy and you can be sure, that its gonna last. The bag features a padded hipbelt and a whistle buckle.
The Osprey Porter 30 is available in several colors.
Dimensions: 20” x 13” x 8” (50.8 x 33 x 20 cm).
Size: 30 liter.
Weight: 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg).Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on Amazon.com
If the Osprey Porter seems like too small for you, then you should check out the Osprey Farpoint 40 or the female-specific Osprey Fairview 40. Both of them are great carry on size backpacks we are using ourselves right now.
6. Kelty Redwing 44 Review
From the outside Kelty Redwing 44 looks like a regular trekking backpack. It has 3 zippered pockets – 2 on the sides and one on the top of the backpack. There are 2 water bottle pockets on both sides as well.
As a quality adventure backpack Kelty Redwing 44 features an aluminum stay. Together with wide hip belt and sternum straps it helps to distribute the weight of the bag and the load really well. To make you feel as good as possible, even when you are carrying the backpack for hours on end.
The bag is made of 420D Polyester. It’s not waterproof. So to protect your stuff from the rain use a rain cover. Any rain cover of the right size will do the work, but if you want something better quality, then here is one from Kelty on Amazon. Count in that it works both as a top loader and a panel loader and here you have it – one of the best carry on backpack for international travel and adventure travel.
Currently available only in one color. For up to date information, check it on Amazon!
Dimensions: 22” x 15” x 12” (56 x 38 x 30.5 cm).
Size: 44 liter.
Weight: 3.2 lbs (1.45 kg).Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on Amazon.com
If the Kelty Redwing 44 seems like slightly too big for you, check out the Kelty Women’s Redwing 40 (see it on Amazon), a smaller version of the top-selling Redwing 44. Another difference is that the Redwing 40 is available in 2 colors.
7. Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack
One carry on backpack for everything. Sounds like you have heard it from me already? You are right, I said it already. I said the same thing about the Osprey Porter 30 bag, which is our favorite among medium priced carry on travel backpacks.
But let me tell you, why I still chose Osprey Farpoint 40 for myself.
Because Farpoint 40 is bigger. It’s that simple. Yes, if there is one thing that I have learned really well from the last 4+ years of traveling the world, we all need much less than we think we need. But why then I still choose 40 liter backpack instead of a smaller one?
I like to have as little possessions as possible. But my style of traveling varies quite a lot. So having a bag, which is slightly bigger than I need for everyday use, means that there is enough space in it to use it for, let’s say, hiking trip to Siberia. And I don’t need to look for another bag for that occasion.
This backpack’s minimalist design makes it look good in all occasions. Whether it’s a trekking in the mountains or weekend city break. For extra safety you can lock backpack’s main compartment, putting a luggage lock through loops on the zippers. Similar like few others on this list Farpoint 40 is a panel-loading backpack. And it also has a designated pocket both for your laptop and/or tablet.
The frame suspension helps to distribute weight of the pack. And pack’s wide and comfy hipbelt and padded shoulder straps makes it into even greater backpack for carrying around. The Farpoint 40 features a removable shoulder strap, which you can use to turn this backpack into a duffel bag. And when you don’t need them its shoulder straps and hipbelt can be hidden behind a flap. For example, when you use it as a duffel bag.
All in all it’s clearly one of the best carry on backpacks you can buy today.
Osprey Farpoint 40 is available in few different colors.
Dimensions: 14” x 21” x 15” (35 x 54 x 37 cm).
Size: 40 liter.
Weight: 3 lbs (1.44 kg).Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on Amazon.com
Ladies, check out also the Osprey Fairview 40, which is pretty much the same backpack, but with redesigned back system to offer female-specific fit. We use this backpack right now and can confirm, that it’s the same as comfy as the Farpoint 40.
8. Timbuk2 Wingman Travel Backpack
Thanks to its removable backpack straps, you can use the Timbuk2 Wingman both as a duffel bag or a backpack. And that’s not all – remove the shoulder strap and use it as a briefcase.
This versatile backpack is roomy – 40 liter – and it’s a panel loading backpack, which means you can organize your stuff the same way like in a suitcase. At the bottom it has a special expandable compartment for your shoes or anything else, that you might want to put separately from the rest. And there is also a padded pocket for your laptop (up to 17’’ MacBook Pro) and your tablet.
In the front the Timbuk2 Wingman has a small zipper pocket, where you can store your phone, passport and other valuables.
Timbuk2 Wingman is available in several colors.
Dimensions: 20.9” x 15.7” x 7.9” (53 x 40 x 20.1 cm).
Size: 40 liter.
Weight: 2.2 lbs (1 kg).Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on Amazon.com
9. Tortuga Setout
A durable and weather resistant average-sized backpack, designed with city travelers in mind.
The Tortuga Setout is a maximum-sized carry on travel backpack, that has both the portability of a backpack and organizational features of a suitcase. It’s a front loading backpack, which you can open same way like a suitcase. Because of designated laptop (up to 17 – 19”) and tablet (up to 9.7”) sleeves it will fit you great also if you are traveling for work. Or if you are a digital nomad same like we.
This highly-durable bag is made of 900D heathered polyester. It features padded, removable hip belt and hideaway shoulder straps and has some more than a few pockets. On one side it has a padded grab handle, in case you’ll want to carry your bag this way.
If you are a city traveler looking for the top quality carry on travel bag look no further.
The Tortuga Setout is available in dark grey.
Read our full review of Tortuga Setout backpack!
Dimensions: 22” x 14” x 9″ (55.9 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm).
Size: 44 liter.
Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg).Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on the Website of Tortuga!
In case you like this backpack a lot, but it’s a bit too big for you, there is another good option. Check out the Standard’s Carry-on Backpack. It’s a hybrid carry on backpack same like the Setout, but it’s also an expandable backpack, meaning it can be used both like a 35 liter backpack and 45 liter backpack.
Best Lightweight Backpack
Are you looking for something cheap, probably only for one or few trips, but still OK quality? Then take a look at the Outlander Packable Backpack (see it on Amazon).
This lightweight (220 grams / 0.5 pounds) carry on size backpack is durable. And it’s super compact, when folded. Yes, you can actually fold this backpack into zippered inner pocket and leave it somewhere or put it in another bag, which makes it into a great travel day pack as well.
But at the same time this bag is still big enough to pack everything you need for even a prolonged trip abroad. My previous backpack was even smaller, and with it I was able to pack everything I needed for 6-9 months in Asia and Europe (mostly in summer, though). But do keep in mind, that the Outlander is made of very thin material and its shoulder straps lack any padding. Don’t pack it too heavy if you can!
The backpack is available in 2 sizes – 20 liter and 33 liter. Compared to the others mentioned above, Outlander Packable Backpack (33 liter version) is bigger in size than The North Face Jester, Osprey Porter 30 and Direct Action Ghost. And it’s way cheaper, too. Just check out its reviews online, and you will understand why it’s here, among the best backpacks. Because thousands of people are using it and they love it.
Dimensions (folded): 6.29” x 5.90” x 2” (16 x 15 x 5 cm).
Size: 33 liter.
Weight: 0.5 lbs (0.23 kg).
See many more small travel backpacks here!
Carry On Backpack With Wheels?
Maybe you need a carry on backpack with wheels? There is such an option as well.
Here are 2 cheaper ones: one from High Sierra and one from Targus – Targus Compact Rolling Backpack, and more expensive one from Osprey – Osprey Ozone Convertible. For more details check them out on Amazon! Just click on the name of the backpack!
For more great wheeled backpacks check out our guide to the best wheeled backpacks!
That’s it! Are you now ready to travel with carry on only? Yes?
Then go back to the table of the best carry on backpacks and choose your next travel bag!
If you have any more questions about travel gear, check out our other gear guides! Or contact us!
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.