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The Best Carry On Travel Backpacks for 2021

As restrictions being to ease, travellers are once again faced with the inconvenience of airline travel. Airports are confusing, plane tickets are expensive, and checking a bag can be pricey and time-consuming. Travellers can always avoid bag check expenses by packing a carry-on backpack, but carry-on measurements can be allusive, and it’s not always clear what makes a good carry-on bag.  So to make travelling as easy as possible, here are our recommendations for the best carry on travel backpacks for 2021. 

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Guest post by Catalin from TravelTrained 

Why Take A Carry On Backpack Instead of Checking In?

Checking in a bag can be expensive, depending on your airline and the type of ticket you choose.  Low budget airlines charge a fortune for checking in luggage, which can cost more than the cost of the flight ticket! 

Not only will sticking to hand luggage save you money but also valuable time at your destination, as you can walk straight off the plane and out of the airport without having to wait at luggage carousels or worry about your stuffgoing missing!

Finally, carrying less weight on the plane also makes your flight slightly more eco-friendly, so it is a no-brainer – if you can pack light, then carry on luggage is definitely the way to go.

What makes a Good Carry On Backpack?

The ideal carry-on travel backpack must be able to fit within airline restrictions for carry on luggage – which unfortunately do vary quite a bit.  One huge benefit of carrying a travel backpack instead of a hard-sided suitcase is that they are flexible, and can usually be squeezed into the space available if they’re not packed too tight.  

Carry on backpacks also have to be small enough to comfortably ride on the traveller’s lap and have enough storage to carry all your belongings. While it might sound like a challenge to find a good carry-on travel backpack, there some excellent options on the market.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Backpack 

In 2020, US News and World Report awarded the Osprey Farpoint 40 as the Best Overall Travel Backpack of the year. This award-winning backpack is designed for light packing and easy travel. The Osprey Farpoint 40 for men, and its equivalent for women, the Osprey Fairview 40, is practical, but unlike other backpack brands, it’s also fashionable.

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This travel backpack comes in a range of colours and is highly versatile as it can be worn as a backpack, duffel bag, or messenger bag. This backpack has features such as lockable zippers, comfortable handles, detachable shoulder straps, internal and external compression straps, dual mesh pockets, and an additional 15-inch laptop pocket.

The Osprey Farpoint 40 and Osprey Fairview 40 are number one on our list and our recommended choice because of its quality craftsmanship, comfortable fit, and affordable price. 

Ebags Mother Lode Travel Backpack

Carry-on bags see a lot of action, so it’s crucial to bring a bag that can withstand some damage. The Ebags Mother Lode Travel Backpack (formerly known as the Mother Lode Weekender Backpack) is made from sturdy materials with rugged zippers and lockable rings, making this backpack perfect for active globetrotters.

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While competitors may break down after a few trips or tear under too much weight, the Mother Lode Travel Backpack will hold any load – although you need to be mindful of any carry on bag weight restrictions for your airline.

While this carry on backpack might be a little pricey, it’s definitely worth the cost! Ebags Mother Lode Travel backpack is an excellent carry-on because of its easily accessible main compartment and smaller internal compartments. 

Nomatic 40L Travel Bag

The Nomatic 40L Travel backpack is specially designed for easy travel with over 20 valuable, travel-safe features. While this backpack might be a little expensive, it’s worth the price with its high quality, water-resistant materials and 20L to 30L expansion feature.

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The Nomatic 40L Travel bag is sleek, stylish, and versatile, but what makes it a great carry-on bag is its multiple internal compartments that make for easy organization. This travel backpack also comes with an extra TSA safe laptop case, travel pack, sunglasses case, and retractable key leash. 

Lifeasy Travel Backpack

A Lifeasy Travel Backpack is an affordable option for travellers looking for quality without breaking the bank. The Lifeasy travel backpack comes with many features like ventilated design, waterproof fabric, zippered shoe compartment, two padded laptop compartments, and adjustable straps.

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This quality backpack also has anti-theft features like a fold-over top and buckle closure. With an affordable price, outstanding durability, and compact size, the Lifeasy travel backpack is the perfect carry-on travel backpack for budget travellers. 

Active Roots Foldable Daypack

The Active Roots Foldable Daypack is a good carry-on bag because of its durable quality, seven separate internal compartments, and ability to fold down to a compact size. While the Active Roots Foldable Daypack can expand to 34L, this backpack can fold down to the size of a small book, small enough to stash away in another bag.

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The best part about purchasing an Active Roots Foldable Daypack is that the distributors donate money to environment-saving charities with every backpack sold. So not only is the Active Roots Foldable Daypack great for plane travel, but it’s also great for the environment. 

SwissGear ScanSmart Backpack

The SwissGear ScanSmart Backpack is an excellent carry-on choice for any traveller for its durability, various features, and travel-friendly size. This backpack is made from durable ballistic polyester fabric and heavy-duty zippers.

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This full-featured ScanSmart carry on backpack comes with internal compartments, airflow technology, thick contour-shaped padding, tablet safe pocket, accordion file folder, and ScanSmart pocket flaps that protect electronics and allows quick access for security. 

It’s aimed more at professional travellers than budget backpackers and is perfect for short city trips and business travel.   

Tortuga Outbreaker

The Tortuga Outbreaker is a fully-featured backpack designed especially for carry-on travel, making it the second-best choice on this list. The Tortuga Outbreaker is versatile, easy to carry, and packs like a suitcase. This backpack is a comfortable carry-on size, but it has an expanded capacity of 45L.

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The Tortuga Outbreaker has many great travel features like waterproof sailcloth outer material, duraflex buckles, adjustable suspension, removable hip belt, laptop and tablet safe sleeves, lockable zippers, and so much more.  This version comes complete with a set of packing cubes. 

Veegul Multipurpose Travel Backpack 

The Veegul Multipurpose Travel Backpack is reasonably priced yet still high quality with many internal compartments and organizational options.  It is on the small side with a capacity of 18L, so perfect for minimalists!

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This backpack is made out of durable polyester and features of the Veegul Multipurpose travel backpack include a padded laptop and tablet compartment, light-coloured lining, wide access opening, side pockets, and adjustable padded shoulder straps. 

Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Backpack 

Timbuk2 backpacks are known for quality and durability, which is why the Timbuk2 Uptown laptop made this list. Timbuk2 backpacks come with groundbreaking features like custom-fit strap design, air mesh ventilated panels, crush-proof sunglasses compartments, padded laptop compartment, and easy access front zip pocket.

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The Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop backpack is ideal for travel with its compact size and ability to lay flat while going through security. 


All travel expenses can add up, lower financial strain by bringing a carry-on backpack onto your next flight. Always remember, a good carry-on backpack will be fashionable, compact for travel, fit the airline’s size requirements, and carry all belongings without hassle. Before booking that next flight, invest in one of the carry-on backpacks listed above and you’ll save money and time at the airport. 

About the Author

Catalin Geangos is an ex-professional poker player, the founder of TravelTrained and an aspirant travel blogger who mainly focuses on nightlife, pub crawls and party experiences while travelling in Southeast Asia. He moved from Romania to the UK 6 years ago and since then he travelled to over 30 countries.  You can also find him on social media on Instagram, FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Youtube.

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The Best Carry On Travel Backpacks


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