With the best carry on backpack, there is no need to check in any additional luggage. Not only will you be able to take advantage of airline deals by travelling with just the best carry on backpacks, but if you read any of the best carry on luggage reviews, you will also find it a super convenient way of travelling too.
After years of travelling with way too much stuff, we have recently converted each to a carry on luggage backpack, and absolutely love it! Before purchasing my hand luggage backpack or Andy’s, I did a fair bit of research as to what was the best carry on travel backpack for us. I read various travel backpack carry on reviews to see what others considered as good backpacks for travelling overseas as well as read up on the best travel backpack brands. Keep reading to find out which packs we ended up purchasing.
To help you choose the best carry on backpacks for your family, I have created this guide on how to select a cabin luggage backpack. This guide will go through the various features you should consider to ensure you purchase the best travel carry on backpack for your needs as well as compare some of the best travel backpack carry on options currently on the market.
Whether you are looking for the best carry on bag for women, the best front loading backpack for travel or even the best cheap carry on backpack, you will no doubt find the perfect carry on bag for you in this guide.
This post may contain compensated links. Please refer to my disclaimer here for more information.
Why you should consider travelling with hand luggage only?
There are so many reasons you should consider travel with just carry on backpack size luggage, let’s look at some of these reasons below:
- You will get through airports quicker, no need to line up to drop off your bags, nor do you have to wait for your bags to come off the plane. Simply jump off the plane, and you are on your way! You will miss those long custom and taxi lines too.
- No chance of the airline losing your luggage. You will have your carry on backpack luggage with you the entire time. The other thing I love about this is you don’t have to spend time wondering what to pack in your checked baggage and what to pack in your cabin backpack as you only have the one bag.
- Some airlines are charging a fortune these days just to have passengers check in a bag. Save money by only having a carry on size backpack and not having to pay for checked baggage. Check here for over 170 airlines carry on restrictions.
- You have less luggage to carry around with you. It’s such a hassle carrying multiple bags when you are in transit, with just a cabin size backpack you have so much more freedom. You are less likely to leave a bag behind or have it stolen too.
- Travelling only with a carry on backpack size means you are going with less stuff. This means it is easier to pack up when you check out of your hotel as well as unpacking when you get home.
Why you should consider travelling with a hand luggage backpack?
Ok, so hopefully I have now convinced you to travel with carry on only luggage, but next, let me assure you as to why a backpack makes the best carry on bag for travel as opposed to a small suitcase.
First of all, backpacks are not just for young backpackers sleeping in dorms and eating baked beans, the best carry on backpacks for international travel (in fact for any type of travel) are for smart travellers who don’t want to be weighed down with suitcases.
Let’s look at the reasons why backpacks make the best cabin bags for travel over suitcases:
- Backpacks are lighter, so you are not wasting precious baggage allowance on luggage;
- Backpacks are easier to move through busy crowds;
- In some destinations, it is not common for hotels to have elevators, backpacks are far easier to get upstairs than a suitcase;
- Backpacks are easier for families as your hands are free to hold little people’s hands; and
- Backpacks are easier when using public transport to get to hotels.
Now that I have convinced you that a backpack is the best cabin bag for your next trip, what is the best hand luggage backpack? Keep reading for my tips!
Our Pick for the Best Carry On Backpack 2023: Osprey Zealot 46
Don’t have time to read the entire carry on backpack review? If you want the best carry on travel bag, I highly recommend you consider the Osprey Zealot 45. This Osprey carry on backpack has it all.
Unfortunately Osprey don’t make my trusty old favourite Porter 46 anymore – but the Zealot 45 is pretty close to it. You can easily fit everything you need in this pack, whether you’re travelling for a few days to a few weeks. This includes a laptop and DSLR camera as well. It has a range of different pockets for smaller items and everything is easily accessible.
Check out below for my full review of the Osprey Zealot 45 or click here to buy now!
Comparison Chart for Best Carry On Travel Backpack 2023
|Osprey Porter 46||1.81 kgs||45||61H x 37W x 29D||Check Price|
|Osprey Farpoint 40||1.4 kgs||40||51H x 36W x 20D||Check Price|
|Osprey Kyte||1.54 kgs||46||70H x 34W x 32D||Check Price|
|AmazonBasics||1.6 kgs||40||55H x 36W x 14D||Check Price|
|NEVO RHINO ||1.2 kgs||46||66H x 32W x 23D||Check Price|
|Kathmandu Valorous||1.5 kgs||45||67H x 33W x 32D||Check Price|
|Asenlin ||1.1 kgs||40||47H x 33W x 23D||Check Price
|Weekender||1.7 kgs||40||49H x 36W x 19D||Check Price|
|Hynes Eagle ||1 kgs||40||51H x 34W x 25D||Check Price|
|Osprey Transporter||1.2 kgs||40||53H x 31W x 27D||Check Price|
What to Consider when Buying the Best Hand Luggage Backpack?
The best travel carry on bag for you is not necessarily the perfect carry on bag for me, so you must take the time to consider what it is you need out of your backpack.
Consider the following features before purchasing your carry on bag backpack.
Unfortunately, there is no standard maximum carry on backpack size limit, so I highly recommend you double-check with your airline before you travel. However, all the luggage I recommend in this guide are generally accepted on most airlines as suitable cabin baggage.
For me, I think the ultimate carry on bag has a capacity of between 40-45 litres. You can easily fit in everything you need in a pack this size regardless of whether your trip is for a few days, a week or even a month. The only time you may find this size pack too small is if you are visiting cold climates.
Any smaller than this and it is unlikely you will fit in everything you need. Any bigger and it won’t fit within the airline’s restrictions.
In the best Cabin Luggage reviews below, there are a variety of backpacks between 40 – 46 litres.
With airlines being super strict on the weight of carry on baggage, it is super important to choose the best lightweight travel backpack which meets your requirements. Some carry on luggage bags can be heavy, eating into your precious baggage allowance. If your bag is over the limit, you may be asked to check your luggage which can add an unexpected expense.
In the below carry on backpack reviews, I have included various options for the best lightweight carry on backpack bags, and the table above includes the weight of all luggage reviewed below.
Backpacks can either be top loading or front loading. Basically, the difference is either accessing your things via the top of the bag or the front. In my view, front-loading packs are far easier; they are like a suitcase and usually have various compartments making it easy to locate your items. I personally recommend front-loading (sometimes called panel loading backpacks) as the best backpack for carry on luggage.
I am not overly concerned with compartments as I like to use packing cubes and find this a far easier way to organise my things rather than having multiple compartments. Click here for information on packing cubes.
Even for people carrying a laptop, I don’t think it is necessary to have a separate compartment for a laptop as usually, your laptop comes in its own protective case. Neither Andy’s or my backpack have laptop compartments, and we always travel with our laptops. However, many of the best cabin backpacks do come with laptop compartments.
I prefer to keep items such as passport, tickets, purse, phone etc in a smaller bag across my body, so I am not concerned about having compartments for these items either.
All of the best backpacks for carry on luggage come with a good strap system to spread the load of the backpack across your back, with most of the weight resting on your hips via the hip belt, some backpacks come with pockets in the hip belt for snacks or small phones.
Things to consider when looking at straps include padding, breathable fabric, are they removable, adjustable, do they stow away for plane travel and do they have any pockets.
Backpack straps are adjustable around the hips, the shoulders, and even across the chest to keep the shoulder straps in place regardless of body shape. You will find these days; even the best budget travel backpack will come with adjustable straps.
The best hand luggage bag will have additional carry handles. Top and side carry handles are vital to help load your bag in and out of overhead plane lockers as well as on buses, trains and taxis.
A water-resistant bag gives you extra protection when travelling in wet weather. While water-resistant bags aren’t designed to be waterproof, they do give you that extra bit of time to seek shelter or pull out a rain cover without your personal belongings getting wet.
The Best Hand Carry Backpack Reviews
Below is a list of our top recommendations for a carry on backpack.
Best Carry-On Luggage Backpack Overall: Osprey Zealot 45
Osprey is easily one of the best carry on luggage brands in the business, so it is no surprise that I feature three different Osprey packs in this carry on luggage backpack review. The Zealot 45 is definitely worth considering if you’re after the best Osprey backpack for travel.
I’d love to be able to recommend my trusty old Osprey Porter 46 – but they don’t make them anymore. I’ve had mine for forever and just love it! But from all my research the Osprey Zealot is very similar and in fact, could be even better!
Pros of this Osprey backpack include the comfortable EVA back panel, harness, sternum strap and hip belt for additional support. There is even a small zippered pocket on the hip belt so you can reach small items quickly. The top-load cinch closure coupled with the full side duffel opening provides easy access to the main compartment.
There are also great internal and external smart storage options that help keep small travel items organised. These include an internal zippered mesh pocket, side zippered pockets, an external zippered side pocket and a front panel. Foam sidewalls and compression straps ensure that your gear is protected and secure.
Front upper panel attachment loops offer quick access to essential items such as GPS units, water bottles, or other attachable gear. The sustainable durability is provided by the Bluesign-approved recycled nylon ripstop material, which is highly resistant to abrasion.
The only thing to consider for this Osprey travel backpack is the weight (1.81 kg) which may be too heavy if you have a lot of weighty gear. Just make sure to consider this when looking for the best carry luggage backpack.
The Osprey Zealot 45 is best suited for those seeking a durable, feature-rich, and versatile backpack. It meets carry on requirements so is well worth considering as one of the best hand carry backpacks.
Best Small Travel Backpack: Osprey Fairpoint 40L
The Osprey Farpoint is considered one of the best 40L travel backpack options on the market, perfect for those after the best small carry on backpack.
Like all Osprey backpacks, this Osprey travel backpack is backed by the Osprey “All Mighty Guarantee”, Osprey states that they will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If they are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, they will happily replace it.
This best small travel backpack is a good size for travellers that are good at packing the essentials. If you want something a bit bigger then check out the Osprey Porter above. The features of this panel backpack include a laptop and tablet sleeve, external compression straps, stowaway straps for travelling and carry handles. The suspension system is a light wireframe with a mesh back panel to keep you cool while wearing the backpack.
This is an excellent travel backpack carry on size, not too big, with solid features. The Osprey backpack 40L is a good choice for those looking for the best carry on bag for international travel.
The Osprey Kyte Backpack is a great choice for travellers after a light carry on backpack and one of three Osprey packs that feature in this best carry on bag review.
Pros of the Osprey Kyte 46 as carry-on luggage include its robust construction and materials, ensuring it can handle the rigours of air travel.
The pack offers smart organization features, such as side zip access to the main compartment, a vertical zippered side pocket, a fixed top lid with external and under lid pockets, a front panel shove-it pocket, zippered hip belt pockets, dual side stretch mesh pockets, dual front panel daisy chains.
The zippered sleeping bag compartment with a floating divider is ideal for separating clothing and other essentials. Dual StraightJacket compression straps help to cinch down any unwanted volume, making it easier to fit the pack into overhead compartments.
The AirScape carry system provides adjustable torso length for a comfortable fit, while the mesh-covered foam back panel allows for maximum ventilation. The LightWire suspension, Atilon frames, and hip belt ensure effective load transfer and comfort during long periods of wear. The adjustable sternum strap adds extra stability.
In summary, the Osprey Kyte 46 is an excellent option for carry-on luggage. Its thoughtful design and features make it easy to access and store essentials while on the go. Osprey is one of the best carry on luggage brand around, and with this Osprey Kyte 46 backpack, you won’t go wrong.
If you are looking for a super cheap, yet still great size and lightweight pack, then the AmazonBasics Carry On is for you. This is one of the best affordable travel backpack options currently available and certainly the cheapest in these reviews.
For a budget bag, this pack is packed with features. The main compartment is large and resembles a standard suitcase. Like a suitcase, it has a zippered mesh space as well as two internal compression straps to keep your belongings in place. The front compartment contains various interior pockets for your smaller items and at the back of the pack is a laptop sleeve.
Other features include stowaway padded shoulder straps as well as removable sternum strap, waist belt and three well-placed exterior handles.
I think this is a great budget pack and especially love how it opens like a suitcase, making use of every inch of space. Certainly a great choice for those after not just a budget case but the best backpack for air travel.
Best Lightweight Carry On Backpack: NEVO RHINO Ultralight Backpack
If you are looking for one of the largest carry on backpacks, but still want it to be lightweight, this NEVO RHINO ultralight backpack is a good one worth considering.
Despite being a big carry on backpack at 45l, this bag is one of the lightest in these carry on travel backpack reviews at 1.2kg.
This NEVO lightweight backpack for travel is a top loading backpack which isn’t for everyone; however it does feature a range of different areas to keep your things well organised. As well as the large main compartment, separate compartments include a hat bag, mesh bag, sleeping bag storage area, waist pockets, key pocket and plenty of attachment points for carabiners.
Several compression straps help to keep items secure inside the pack, while a ventilated harness and hip belt aide in keeping you cool and can be stowed away easily. It also comes with a rain cover to keep your gear well protected in case you get stuck in an unexpected downpour.
This pack is one of the cheaper backpacks in these reviews and yet still comes with plenty of great features. Being of a bigger size, yet lightweight, the NEVO RHINO travel bag is another excellent option for the best carry on backpack.
Best Travel Backpack for Women: Kathmandu Valorous
This Kathmandu Valorous backpack has been designed especially for women, making it our pick for the best travel backpack for women. This best women’s carry on backpack has a women’s specific waistband and the shoulder straps are contoured for comfort.
Pros of the Valorous Women’s Pack as carry-on luggage include its lightweight design and durable recycled nylon construction, which protects your pack from abrasion during travel. This best light travel backpack has a unique Crossflow AirXF+ harness that allows for breathability and airflow. While the ergonomic hip belt, tailored to a women’s specific fit, offers natural support and comfort. Ventilated shoulder straps further enhance carrying comfort.
Accessibility is a key feature of the Valorous, with a convenient J-shaped side access zip for quick and easy retrieval of essential items. The adjustable back length offers two size options, catering to individual preferences. The pack also boasts a hydration bladder sleeve with a clip and single exit port, multipurpose compression straps, and anti-tamper security loops. The removable top lid and multiple pockets provide ample storage and organisation options.
Versatile enough to take on a plane or into the outdoors, this medium-sized pack is an excellent choice for the best carry on bag for a woman.
Best Cheap Travel Backpack: Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack
The large Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack is a versatile carry on back pack with numerous compartments, storage bags, and smart features. This backpack caters to the needs of various types of travellers, ensuring convenience and organization while on the go. We’ve just bought this one for Myla and so far so good for being her new carry on back pack.
Measuring 47 x 31.5 x 24 cm, this travel backpack complies with aircraft size standards and features a dedicated pocket for a 17-inch laptop. Its full length side zipper opening allows for quick airport security checks, while the water-resistant, high-quality polyester Oxford cloth material and explosion-proof zipper provide durability and protection. This backpack can be fixed on a trunk pole, carried by hand, or worn as a backpack with its hidden shoulder strap design.
Those looking for the best carry on backpack luggage will love that this option comes with three custom-made storage bags and built-in elastic bands to secure your clothes. The main duffel bag, laptop bag, front small bag, and water bottle/umbrella bag offer ample space and organization for your belongings. Additionally, the reflective safety strip on the front panel ensures visibility during night travels.
The exterior compression straps provide maximum compression, reducing stress on the zippers and preventing items from moving around. The hide-away shoulder strap allows for easy conversion into a carry-on duffel bag, while the adjustable sternum strap ensures stability and comfort.
In conclusion, the Asenlin 40L travel backpack offers an excellent combination of functionality, versatility, and durability, making it suitable for various travel needs and its full zipper opening makes it one of the best suitcase style bags.
The Flylite Weekender backpack is one of the best 40L travel backpack options on the market if you want something light but with heaps of space, perfect for those after the best small carry on backpack. This best small travel backpack is a good size for travellers that are good at packing the essentials. If you want something a bit bigger, then check out the Osprey Zealot 45 above.
This carry on backpack has some great storage solutions including two mesh side pockets, one zippered side pocket, a small top zip compartment and three front zippered pockets, so it’s really easy to keep your gear organised. There is also a padded laptop sleeve so you know expensive electronics are secure. This backpack even has a hidden security pocket and an RFID protected pocket for those who like to travel with a little added peace of mind.
The rear of the backpack has a padded back panel and padded straps for additional comfort. There is also a trolley slide so the bag can fit neatly on top of a suitcase. One of the straps also has a USB port so you can connect a power bank and easily charge devices on the go.
This is an excellent travel backpack carry on size, not too big, with solid features. The Flylite Weekender backpack is a good choice for those looking for the best carry on bag for international travel.
The Hynes Eagle backpack is available in a range of colour options and is the perfect choice for the organised traveller also wanting one of the best backpack carry on luggage options.
This carry on bag can transform from a duffel bag into a backpack in seconds and also has multiple side buckle straps giving you the ability to adjust the height based on your needs.
Travellers wanting a carry on laptop backpack will love this bag as the compact front compartment can easily fit a laptop up to the size of 15.6 inches as well as other small items. The main zipper compartment is a great size to fit your luggage.
Made at a great size from premium quality polyester, this bag will easily fit in the overhead compartment or in the seat in front of you, making it one of the best cabin backpack options.
Another great backpack from Osprey is the Osprey Transporter duffel bag. As the name suggests, this pack is a little different to most of the other bags in these reviews as it can be used either as a backpack or duffel.
This 40 l backpack is a good size for travellers that are good at packing the essentials. If you want something a bit bigger than I’d recommend you check out the Osprey Porter above. The features of this duffel backpack include a large main compartment which has internal compression straps and on the outside, it has overlapping rain flaps to keep your personal items protected in case you get stuck in a downpour. The end of the pack has a small compartment for things you need to quickly access, as well as straps for travelling and carry handles.
Like all Osprey backpacks, this Osprey travel backpack is backed by the Osprey “All Mighty Guarantee”, Osprey state that they will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If they are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, they will happily replace it.
This Osprey backpack 40L is a good choice for those looking for a carry on pack. It is a good size, too big or too small and comes with all the essential features.
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