BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper
Beyond reviews, our team aims to provide you with useful, compelling, and fun how-to guides, gift ideas, and deep dives into trendy products consumers like you love. Here are our latest articles.

Best carry-on travel backpack

Find the best carry-on travel backpack

If you’re planning on flying soon and need to buy a new carry-on, consider investing in a travel backpack. Many seasoned travelers have embraced backpacks as their go-to carry-on style. It allows them to walk hands-free around terminals, train stations and other legs of their journeys. Backpacks can be more comfortable alternatives to totes and messenger bags, as they distribute weight evenly across the back and shoulders.

What to know about carry-on travel backpacks

Carry-on sizes

On average, carry-on luggage pieces measure 22 by 14 by 9 inches. Certain pieces, including some travel backpacks, may have slightly larger or smaller dimensions.

It’s important to note that carry-on size requirements may vary among airlines. As a result, it’s best to confirm dimensions with the airline before beginning embarking on your search for a carry-on travel backpack. 

Level of organization

Like other types of carry-on luggage, travel backpacks are available with different levels of organization. 

Some styles, like Venture Pal 40LPackable Backpack, have only a handful of compartments and pockets. They’re considered ideal for travelers who either don’t have a significant need for organization or focus on storing larger or bulkier items in main compartments. 

Others, including laptop styles like High Sierra Swerve Laptop Backpack, may have as many as a dozen or more compartments and pockets, as well as organizer panels for storing small essentials. They’re popular for travelers who prefer having dedicated spaces for individual items.

Security considerations

Security is always a concern with travel, so many travelers opt for luggage equipped with security features. Unfortunately, carry-on travel backpacks typically lack these features, though a few styles, such as Travelon Anti-Theft Slim Backpack, have RFID-blocking compartments that store wallets.

Some travelers with travel backpacks boost personal security in other ways. TSA-approved locks, for example, can secure zippers on backpacks. RFID-blocking wallets and money belts may protect credit cards from skimming devices. 

Features to examine in carry-on travel backpacks


Because travel backpacks withstand heavy handling, it’s no surprise they’re made with durable materials. For example, Nylon and Oxford have high resistance to tears and abrasions. Neoprene, while lightweight, is rip and weather-resistant. Polyester isn’t as durable as the materials mentioned earlier, though it’s effective at repelling moisture. 

Laptop backpacks vs. regular backpacks

The main difference between laptop and regular backpacks boils down to compartments. Laptop backpacks typically have dedicated compartments for devices padded for enhanced protection. Additionally, they often have several device- or tech-focused compartments. 

On the other hand, regular backpacks lack specialty compartments for devices. While many styles are large enough to accommodate most laptops, they simply lack the necessary protection for safe travel. 

Not all travelers with laptops use laptop backpacks, either. Instead, they store devices in protective sleeves or padded cases and then place them inside regular backpacks. According to some of these travelers, sleeves and cases offer far better impact protection. 

Comfort features

Travelers spend considerable time on their feet, whether it’s standing in line or walking across terminals. Carry-on travel backpacks’ design keeps this in mind. 

A fairly standard feature in carry-on travel backpacks is adjustable straps. Many styles have padded straps and back panels, while others use an ergonomic design to distribute weight evenly. Some backpacks have mesh panels to boost airflow around the body. 

How much you can expect to spend on carry-on travel backpacks

Standard carry-on travel backpacks with a few compartments cost $40 and below. Mid-range options, priced $50-$90, include better construction and advanced organization features. High-end travel backpacks, made by premium luggage brands, cost $100-$500 and are made to withstand several years of heavy travel.

Best carry-on travel backpacks

Best laptop carry-on travel backpacks for laptops

The North Face Borealis Backpack

In addition to a wealth of compartments and pockets, this backpack has a bungee system for flexible storage solutions. 

Where to buy: Amazon, Backcountry and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Herschel Little America Laptop Backpack

This simple-yet-durable Herschel style features a double-reinforced laptop compartment with padding and a plush layer. It has wide, ergonomic straps that reduce tension across the shoulders. 

Where to buy: Amazon and Backcountry

Best rolling carry-on travel backpacks

High Sierra Powerglide Wheeled Backpack

Travelers appreciate this style’s front organizer panel and the fully padded laptop compartment. The backpack has all-terrain wheels for easy rolling across most ground types. 

Where to buy: Amazon and Macy’s

Jansport Driver 8 Rolling Travel Backpack

Made by a trusted backpack brand, this laptop-style backpack has rugged construction and comes with a lifetime guarantee. The bottom of the back has a rubberized bumper panel to minimize impact in transit. 

Where to buy: Amazon

Best carry-on travel backpacks under $100

Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack

This simple, affordable travel backpack draws inspiration from spinner luggage with an expandable design with a spacious interior. It has a padded, ventilated back panel for comfortable carrying. 

Where to buy: Amazon

High Sierra Litmus Backpack

Considered an ideal option when organization is a top priority, this popular High Sierra style has nearly a dozen pockets and compartments. The bottom of the backpack has built-in drop protection. 

Where to buy: Dick’s Sporting Goods and Macy’s

Best premium carry-on travel backpacks

Samsonite Kombi 17.5 Inch Backpack

This Samsonite travel backpack is constructed with durable ballistic nylon and has fully padded straps. The back features a trolley sleeve, which slips over telescoping handles of spinner luggage.

Where to buy: Macy’s

Travelpro Platinum Elite Business Backpack

Designed for rough and tumble travel, this Travelpro backpack has plenty of premium features, including RFID-blocking compartments, water-resistant coating, tamper-resistant zippers and padded device pockets. 

Where to buy: Macy’s


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: