The best travel backpack might serve a need you already have, like carrying your life around with you everywhere you go. Maybe after years of splitting your time between frequent business trips and impromptu weekend trips, you’ve realized it’s time for a luggage upgrade. On the other hand, simply owning the best travel backpack might inspire you to create a need for it in you life, as in, yes, 2020 might be the year that you finally quit that crummy job and go nomad with a virtual office. Well, if you get a haul-all, tough-as-nails backpack, you're already one step closer to living that dream. Whether a travel backpack is a necessity for your current lifestyle or a nudge toward the life you've always wanted to live, there’s no better time to invest in a solid backpack that can seamlessly carry your life through TSA without breaking a sweat.
Sure, it might seem obvious, but an important disclaimer: Not all backpacks are created equal. There are about a billion on the market right now to choose from. When it comes to travel luggage, function will always be more important than form, but if you’re prepared to spend some serious money on a serious bag, we think you should be able to have both. After all, travel gear is getting smarter with all sorts of cool ways to keep organized and stay plugged in (hello, packing cubes). Might as well look good while you’re doing it.
We took the following bags on planes, trains, and taxis. We dragged them through customs. Baggage handlers abused them. We toted them through extreme weather conditions and temperature-controlled five-star hotel lobbies. Whatever life throws you, these backpacks can get handle it. Here our the best travel backpacks out there.
The Best Travel Backpack for Business Travelers
$195.00, Knack Pack
Don't judge the Medium Expandable Knack Pack on the relatively small size impression, because this pack is basically the inflating frog neck bubble of bags. With a quick unzip it expands to double in size from 17 liters to a max of 31 liters. That's enough space to fit up to three changes of clothes (or even more, if you’re an above-average packer). It’s small enough to fit under an airplane seat in case you want to travel light, or can pull double-duty for overflow lingering items that won’t fit in your carry-on suitcase. It's totally water-resistant down to the zippers so your valuables are be protected from the elements. Also, a 180-degree opening makes for easy access, along with lots of hidden pockets and zippers good for stashing everything from soiled laundry and shoes to a passport, wallet, and other essential small items.
The Best Travel Backpack for the Guy Who Doesn’t Want a Backpack
$199.00, Eagle Creek
Turns out you don't have to choose wheels or straps—hybrid, convertible luggage exists and you can have it both ways. Eagle Creek’s Expanse Convertible International Carry-On is a rolled carry-on with removable straps tucked into the back for instances such as sprinting across the airport to catch your flight after realizing you in the wrong terminal or dealing with a five-story walk-up to your Airbnb pied-a-terre. More importantly, it’s tough as hell and made with high-quality stitched "Bi-Tech Armor Lite" material that can withstand the worst wear and tear, durable wheels for pounding the pavement, and compression straps that can easily lock in two large packing cubes.
The Best Travel Backpack for Adventurers Doing it for the 'Gram
$229.00, Topo Designs
If you’re the kind of guy who would rather be hanging off a cliff in Denali or shooting hot dog photos in Reykjavik, you’ll probably want a bag with a splash of personality like the 40L Travel Bag from Topo Designs. Aside from the head-turning colors that make it easy to spot on the luggage conveyor belt, the bag is a total workhorse. It can fit up to five packing cubes, a Dopp kit, 15” laptop, and accessories all inside a carry-on compliant size.
The Best Travel Backpack You'll Never Have to Replace
If you want something with military-grade durability that looks like something you just picked up at the local surplus store, GoRuck’s GR2 is your best bet. Developed by a former Green Beret, GoRuck’s collection is best known for its grit in extreme conditions. It's also the only backpack on this list that touts a laptop compartment which is both rainproof and bombproof, so if your traveling destinations are more 38th parallel than Cabo, your valuables are protected. Bonus: it comes with a lifetime warranty, so you basically never have to buy another backpack again.
The Best Travel Backpack for Urban-to-Rural Off-Roading
When you need to lug around a ton of stuff but want to look good doing it, the Travel Pack 2 from Aer is the best of both worlds. Don’t be fooled by its simple black facade—this bag is tough as nails. Made from Cordura ballistic nylon and Duraflex plastic hardware, this bag is as ready for the Hunger Games as the airport. It comes with a solid amount of utility for the business traveler such as a shoe compartment, plenty of internal pockets for accessories and storage, easy laptop compartment access, and side compression straps for shoving every last bit in. Did we mention it also looks really cool?
The Best Cheap Travel Backpack
If you're truly married to the road, you don't want to skimp on long-haul luggage. That said, if you're on a tight budget and need something serviceable right now, this backpack from AmazonBasics will more than do the trick. It's lightweight and carry-on sized with ample pockets for storing folders, a laptop sleeve, and multiple packing cubes.
The Best Stylish Travel Backpack
Black Ember’s Citadel R2 is the health goth of travel backpacks. Developed by a team of Nike and North Face vets, this is a true form-meets-function backpack made of neo-futurist textiles like "Microhex 800 denier," "T6 aircraft-grade anodized aluminum," "laser-cut hypalon," and "durable YKK aquaguard zippers." Don’t expect to fit your whole life in this slick minimalist bag, but with a more-than-decent 25 liters of storage and room for a 15” laptop, it is perfect for an impromptu weekend trip or the airport-to-office hustle.
The Best Travel Backpack for Tech Bros
The hyper-organized, 2.2-pound Genius Pack Travel Pack with Integrated Suiter somehow expands to a full 25 liters. And it comes with a full tri-fold suit-stashing compartment built into the back, a laundry compression bag, padded laptop and tablet compartments, a micro umbrella pocket, a smartphone recharging pocket, and plenty of room for up to three days of clothing.
The Best Really Big Travel Backpack
If your long-stint travel tends to take you off-road more than into the city, the Outbreaker Backpack by Tortuga is a solid bet to make sure your gear stays protected. At 45L, you’re essentially wearing a comfy, carry-on size suitcase, but it fits in way more than your average rollie. Ample pockets and compartments can squeeze in at least one week of travel clothes, a 17” Macbook, 9.7” tablet, Dopp kit, and more chargers than you probably need. Since the bag is geared towards carrying your life around with you, keeping your valuables safe from the elements is key and that’s why the Outbreaker is encased with waterproof sailcloth woven with all kinds of impressive but indecipherable materials that we won't bother listing here.
Originally Appeared on GQ