The 10 Best Carry On Backpacks

Updated May 09, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Frequent flyers and those who just hate waiting at airport carousels will find the perfect carry-on backpack from our selection of the most stylish and functional on the market. Coming in a range of looks to suit any taste and in sizes to meet any short-term need, they can also save you from exorbitant checked bag fees. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best carry on backpack on Amazon.

10. SwissGear ScanSmart 1900

The SwissGear ScanSmart 1900 is very comfortable to wear, even for long periods, as it doesn't have any edges that dig into your back or shoulders like some other models. Unfortunately, the fabric doesn't breathe well and it may make your back sweaty.
  • don't have to remove laptop for tsa
  • rugged oversized zippers
  • limited number of small pockets
Brand Swiss Gear
Model 19002415
Weight 3.2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. High Sierra Freewheel

The perfect choice for weekenders who travel often or even flight attendants who travel daily, the High Sierra Freewheel has an extra long telescoping handle, making it easy on your arms and your back. It also features a fully-padded computer sleeve.
  • convenient headphone port
  • extra large all-terrain wheels
  • laptop pocket is surprisingly small
Brand High Sierra
Model 53991-1050
Weight 6.8 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Cabin Max Metz

The Cabin Max Metz is designed to meet the maximum size allowance on IATA flights, so you can take as many personal belongings as you can squeeze into the pack and then zip it shut, secure in knowing it will make the flight.
  • available in some unique styles
  • extremely lightweight
  • adjustable shoulder and side straps
Brand Cabin Max
Model Metz
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Tortuga Travel

The expandable Tortuga Travel can hold a total of 44 liters, which makes it large enough for all of your essentials and then some, so hopefully you won't need to check a bag as well. It has heavy-duty handles on the top and side to give you carrying options.
  • thickly padded laptop pocket
  • cushioned hip belt
  • only comes in one color
Brand Tortuga
Model 6537975
Weight 4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. Hynes Eagle 40L

The Hynes Eagle 40L is larger than most carry-on backpacks, so if you like to pack a lot, it's a good choice. It is made from a combination of polyester and PVC that makes it water resistant, and can easily convert to a duffle when needed.
  • multiple interior compartments
  • sternum strap for added stability
  • clips are a touch flimsy
Brand Hynes Eagle
Model HE0691-3
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

5. eBags Mother Lode Weekender

The eBags Mother Lode Weekender has a convenient divider to help you keep items separate, and a full expansion zipper that adds an additional 10 percent of volume when you need it. It comes in several bright colors to suit anybody's style needs.
  • backed by a lifetime warranty
  • slings keep laptop securely in place
  • divider shelf can fold down
Brand eBags
Model EB2146-22-TRQ
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

4. Osprey Farpoint 40

The Osprey Farpoint 40 is made from a super durable material that resists tears and punctures. It has multiple storage compartments that make staying organized easy, including a compact, easy access pouch for your keys and passport.
  • shoulder straps are well padded
  • internal compression straps
  • zipper loops for locking it
Brand Osprey
Model 10000295
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Timbuk2 Uptown

The Timbuk2 Uptown sports a sleek design that minimalists will love. It works well whether commuting or traveling, with designated spots for your tablet, laptop and the accessories that go along with them. The main compartment is big enough for large jackets.
  • side pockets stretch to hold tight
  • strategically reinforced handles
  • laptop area is tsa-compliant
Brand Timbuk2
Model 252-3-7755
Weight 2.7 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Crazy Ants Military Tactical

The Crazy Ants Military Tactical is simple, yet impressively durable, making it great for those who go on wild adventures and subject their gear to extreme conditions. It has a breathable mesh backing, strong webbing on the pouches, and well-padded straps.
  • can be carried like a messenger bag
  • distributes weight evenly
  • good value for the price
Model pending
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Osprey Packs Fairview 40

Designed for those with shorter torsos, the Osprey Packs Fairview 40 is a compact option that packs a lot of punch in the organizational and security departments. Its stowaway zippered back panel protects the straps when packed away.
  • straitjacket compression
  • dedicated liquids pocket
  • attachment loops for day packs
Brand Osprey
Model 10001133
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Taking The Stress Out Of Air Travel

In order to have relatively low stress travels, then you will need to plan ahead. That means researching your routes, reading up on your destination, and paying attention to everything from weather to potential activities to how you'll spend your leisure time. Accounting for everything you'll need on your journey is an important part of travel planning regardless of whether you are going for a 48 hour business trip or a two week overseas vacation. Beyond the basics like medications, toiletries, and under garments, the process of choosing which garments and sundry items are necessities, which are important, and which can be left behind is a highly individual process. The manner in which one packs the items he or she chooses to bring is a bit more scientific, however.

If you want to make the travel portion of your time away as easy as possible, work backwards when packing. First pack those items you know you need to bring but that you won't need to access while en route, such as certain items of clothing or a charger for your computer or other devices. Next account for those items you have to bring and may well need to access during travel, such as a tablet or your medicines. Make sure to leave room for these items, but note that they should be packed last, so you know right where they are and so they are easy to access. And if you are traveling via air, make sure your baggage and everything in it is fit for flight.

The best thing you can do to make airline travel as easy and obstacle free as possible is to make sure both you and your luggage are ready to comply with all rules and regulations. That means meeting and restrictions as imposed both by the Transportation Security Administration (or TSA for short) as well as with the guidelines and rules imposed by the airline with which you'll be traveling.

You can ensure that you speed through the airport security checkpoint (when it's your turn, at least) by having your travel and identity documents at the ready as you approach the TSA officers, and by wearing outer clothing and footwear that is easy to remove if required. As you pack, make sure you know where your properly portioned liquids are stashed in your bag, and be ready to quickly remove your laptop or other larger electronic devices. The more you plan ahead and pack your items strategically, the faster and lower stress the security checkpoint will be.

The same approach holds true when you board the aircraft at your gate: by taking the time to ensure you are only trying to bring approved carry on bags onto an airplane, you avoid the hassle of negotiating with a gate agent and potentially having your bag taken away to be checked under the plane. An approved carry on backpack won't become overstuffed like a duffel bag can, and it won't be too inflexible to be fitted under a seat or into an overhead like many roll aboard bags tend to be.

The Right Carry On Backpack For Business Travel

The savvy business traveler is all about efficiency. That means direct flights, travel apps, and bags picked for ease of movement.

Many modern carry on backpacks are more like compact roll aboard bags in disguise, featuring wheels and telescoping handles and, almost as an afterthought, backpack straps. This type of carry on backpack can be perfect for the business traveler who likely has multiple files and a laptop to bring along on the trip, items which can quickly add weight and might be better toted via wheels than by shoulders for as long as possible. The drawback with a backpack that also features wheels and and a handle is that those accessories take up room, limiting carrying volume when compared to a backpack alone.

As business travel often happens to be much shorter than travel for leisure, a reduced carrying capacity is no problem in most cases, and there tradeoff of smaller storage space for more toting options is a fine one to make.

And for the professional traveler more concerned about keeping a suit or blouse crisp than storing documents in their baggage, there are even carry on approved backpacks that operate like a smaller standard suitcase, zipping open to reveal a rectangular interior with sturdy walls that can help prevent clothing from being crushed and wrinkled.

The Right Carry On Backpack For The Adventurer

If you're strapping everything you need on your next backpacking adventure (or just on a vacation for which you're just packing light) onto your back, then you had better be sure that backpack is airline carry on approved, because you can't afford to be separated from your bag (and potentially to have it lost) when it has all your clothing and gear inside it.

Choosing the right backpack for a long trip means balancing carrying capacity and comfort. A bag without proper and easily adjustable support is a poor choice for long trips even if it can carry lots of stuff. So too is a bag with modest capacity and great ergonomics. Look for the right balance, and consider accessories like waist straps and water bottle pouches.

And keep in mind that while a backpack that can roll on wheels might seem like a convenience, as soon as your trek takes to across sand, mud, or grass, those wheels will be useless. If you're heading out for a long trip, choose a carry on backpack that will feel great on your back and don't worry about such bells and whistles.

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Last updated on May 09, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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