Updated May 27, 2019 by Brett Dvoretz

The 10 Best Carry On Backpacks

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This wiki has been updated 18 times since it was first published in July of 2015. Frequent flyers and those who just hate waiting at baggage carousels will find the perfect carry-on backpack in 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 need, they can save you from exorbitant checked bag fees while leaving your hands free while you walk. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best carry on backpack on Amazon.

10. OutdoorMaster Hiking

9. Standard Luggage Co 8000

8. Hynes Eagle HE0828-7

7. SwissGear ScanSmart 1900

6. American Stoic AS1001

5. High Sierra Freewheel

4. EBags Mother Lode Weekender

3. Osprey Packs Fairview 40

2. Olympia Cascade

1. Osprey Farpoint 40

Editor's Notes

May 22, 2019:

Foregoing traditional luggage for a carry-on backpack shouldn't leave you feeling like you made too many compromises if you have one of our selected models. Though they may be designed to be carried, many still have large storage capacities, like the EBags Mother Lode Weekender, which can be expanded to boast an extra 10 percent of room inside. The American Stoic AS1001 can also hold a lot, including a 19-inch laptop, so you aren't restricted to tablets when traveling and hoping to not check a bag. The Hynes Eagle HE0828-7 looks like a suitcase inside, with its multiple zippered mesh compartments. Some of our selections were designed with the particular hazards and inconveniences of travel in mind, like the Olympia Cascade and the High Sierra Freewheel, both of which transform into rolling luggage when your back gets tired and you need to run to catch a flight. Meanwhile, for times you're in an unfamiliar place and don't feel safe, the Standard Luggage Co 8000 has an attached safety whistle. The Hynes Eagle HE0828-7 has its laptop compartment discreetly tucked into the back panel, that would sit against your body when carrying it, making it very hard for a thief to access.

Taking The Stress Out Of Air Travel

The more you plan ahead and pack your items strategically, the faster and lower stress the security checkpoint will be.

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.

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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Brett Dvoretz
Last updated on May 27, 2019 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously 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 has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.


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