The Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

These spacious and comfortable carry-on backpacks can easily replace a suitcase.

Anna Popp is a Commerce Writer at Travel + Leisure where she tests, researches, and writes about travel products. Since living overseas in 2018, Anna has been a travel writer and began reviewing products in 2021. Black Backpack Women

The Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

Skip the stress of checking in a bag or lugging a traditional carry-on suitcase around an airport by adding a carry-on backpack to your travel gear. Practical, functional, and hassle-free, a carry-on backpack can fit up to a week’s worth of clothes, depending on your wardrobe and packing prowess. Whether you’re backpacking through Europe or embarking on a weekend getaway, this style helps make your trip as efficient and enjoyable as possible.

We tested 34 carry-on backpacks and evaluated them based on traits like capacity, comfort, durability, and design. First, we tested the backpacks in our New York City lab and then took them out into the world to further test them on a variety of trip types. From rugged to sleek styles, we tested plenty of carry-on backpacks ranging in design and size that impressed us.

The backpack has an unstructured style that makes it easy to pack clothing and accessories, plus a plethora of thoughtful features catered to frequent travelers.

There isn’t a designated water bottle holder.

Salt Lake City-based outdoor gear brand Cotopaxi builds brightly colored clothing and accessories to last. The Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack earned our top pick as the best carry-on backpack with its perfect performance in all categories of our testing. We loved its high capacity and thought the unstructured style was ideal for wedging clothes into every corner, maximizing packing space in the clamshell-style compartments. The shell is made of a TPU-coated 1000D polyester with a rubbery feel, and although it feels resistant to liquids, the backpack comes with a rain cover to ensure that your belongings stay dry while traveling. Handles on all four sides of the backpack make it easy to carry and lift into an overhead bin from any angle. The only downside to the bag is that it doesn't have a water bottle holder on the sides so you'll have to carry one or try to fit it in the top pocket in the front.

We think this durable Cotopaxi bag will remain in excellent condition no matter how many times it hits the road, as it was not damaged at all after we repeatedly tossed it onto the ground. The rubber texture also seemed easy to clean and resistant to liquid spills. After six months of regularly using the bag, we found that it's the perfect size for long weekend trips and helps keep all of our items organized and easy-to-access. Both stylish and functional, this backpack can even be made one-of-a-kind by choosing the surprise colors option when purchased through Cotopaxi’s website.

Price at time of publish: $200

The Details: 35 liters | 20 x 12 x 8 inches | 3.8 pounds | TPU-coated 1000D polyester, nylon | Padded laptop sleeve

It’s spacious and comes with three packing cubes to stay organized while traveling. 

After six months of use, the bag is scuffed up with noticeable scratches.

Perfect for travelers on a budget, the Asenlin 40L Travel Backpack impressed us with its packing features and comfortable fit. We thought the bag provided excellent organization thanks to the interior and exterior compression that provided extra room for packing. The backpack also includes three different packing cubes; small, medium, and large. We also like that this backpack includes both a suitcase strap and a handle to hold it horizontally. The backpack itself also includes straps in the inside and a laptop sleeve to easily hold down items and pack electronics.

The design didn’t blow us away like those from some of the more costly brands, but it does feature a laptop sleeve and a water bottle holder. We also liked the flexibility of being able to wear the Asenlin as a backpack, hold it like a briefcase, or use the trolley sleeve to slide it onto a roller suitcase’s handle. However, a bigger adjustment range for the chest strap would have been ideal. During our durability test, the backpack didn’t scuff or show signs of damage. We think this budget pick is well worth the low price for those looking to get a durable, comfortable, and spacious carry-on backpack. 

Price at time of publish: $80

The Details: 40 liters | 18.5 x 12.5 x 9.5 inches | 2.7 pounds | Polyester | 17-inch laptop pocket

The bag can be carried as a backpack, duffel, or tote bag.

It wasn’t the most comfortable bag to carry that we tested and it doesn't have a water bottle pocket.

With plenty of space to pack bulky clothes, we think the Nomatic Travel Bag 40L would make an excellent carry-on backpack for any and all types of trips since it can be carried multiple different ways—which also makes it an ideal convertible bag. It can be converted from a backpack with shoulder straps to a duffel bag with tote straps depending on your preference. There are two separate shoe compartments, a padded laptop sleeve, and several smaller pockets for work-related items like pens, glasses, chargers, and folders. The bag also includes a laundry sack — a thoughtful touch for separating dirty garments while traveling. This is much slimmer than other bags we've used in the past, and having the full zipper is much more ideal than a top-loaded backpack, which can be difficult to pack.

While we loved the design of the backpack, the straps weren’t super comfortable to wear, as they were stiff and may dig into your neck slightly. However, we appreciated the hip belt and felt that it helped to evenly distribute the weight of the backpack. Although comfortability wasn’t the backpack’s strongest attribute, we still think it’s worth the price thanks to its durable, efficient design that can keep you organized on work trips.

Price at time of publish: $290

The Details: 40 liters | 21 x 9 x 14 inches | 3.42 pounds | Polyester, nylon | Laptop sleeve

It’s like a suitcase without wheels.

Some of the straps weren’t intuitive to use.

The Samsonite Silhouette 17 Backpack is ideal for travelers who like the structure and sleek, minimalist style of a traditional suitcase but want the portability of a backpack. We love that this bag opens like a suitcase, making it easy to access everything inside. There was plenty of space leftover after packing the backpack, and the classic clamshell opening allowed for easy access to items in the compression-strapped main compartment and the zippered pockets on the inside of the front flap. All of the interior and exterior pockets, including the water bottle holder and padded laptop sleeve, are useful for traveling. The backpack can be converted to being worn as a duffel bag or a briefcase, and it has a rear strap to place on a rolling suitcase if desired. The straps were easy to adjust and felt like the weight was nicely distributed thanks to the structured style of the backpack. There was a small scuff on the bag after it was tossed during our durability test, but the contents of the backpack were unharmed. When flying with the bag during our six-month test, we found that it easily fits in airplane overhead bins and under the seat. Overall, it’s a backpack with the features of a well-compartmentalized suitcase and much more.

Price at time of publish: $200

The Details: 13 x 20.5 x 10.5 inches | 3.31 pounds | Polyester, recyclex | Padded laptop pocket | Convertible straps

You can access the main compartment on the bag from four different exterior zippers.

This is the most expensive backpack on our list.

This 45-liter backpack has a main compartment that is spacious enough to fit clothes for at least four days, and its expansive design is helpful for packing bulky items like jackets and shoes. Placing the clothes and shoes into the bag during testing was efficient and simple thanks to a removable divider sleeve and compression straps to hold everything down securely. Designed with photographers in mind, the backpack can fit camera cubes, and four points of entry to the main compartment allow travelers to quickly grab clothes or accessories without unzipping the backpack. There is a padded laptop sleeve and stretchy side pockets for water bottles or a camera tripod. 

Peak Design didn’t let any space go to waste on its backpack, so even the hip belt has a small pocket on it for storage and can be packed away when you’re not looking for extra support. It’s also easy to adjust all of the straps to prevent weight imbalances and pinching. Made of weatherproof and water-resistant recycled nylon, the bag held up perfectly after we tossed it on the ground, showing no signs of scuffs or damage. Although the price of this bag is steep, it comes with plenty of helpful features for travelers, and the stellar performance leads us to believe that it would last a long time. 

Price at time of publish: $300

 The Details: 45 liters | 13 x 22 x 9.5 inches | 4.8 pounds | Nylon, polyester | Laptop sleeve | Expandable

It can be converted from 40 liters for traveling to 22 liters to use as a daypack. 

The handle on the top of the bag wasn’t as comfortable to hold onto as we hoped. 

We love this backpack’s thoughtful features geared toward all types of travelers. The Tropicfeel Shell Backpack has the ability to store up to 42vliters worth of clothing for a weekend or week-long trip, but it can also be used as a 20-liter backpack for day trips, sightseeing, and everyday use. After regularly using the bag for six months, we found it to be incredibly sturdy and durable. We had no issues fitting the number of clothing items and added that there was plenty more room thanks to the variety of buckled straps that allow you to adjust the size of the bag. The front buckle can be loosened to allow the roll-up opening flap to expand to fit more items, and there is a kangaroo pouch at the bottom of the backpack that provides an additional 6 liters of space for shoes or other items you want to keep separate. There’s also a padded compartment in the back of the backpack that can fit laptops up to 17 inches long. We thought the backpack was comfortable to wear after adjusting the shoulder and waist straps, but we found that it might take some effort to get the buckles into your desired setting. 

The Shell Backpack didn’t show any signs of damage throughout testing, and the material is weather-proof. For travelers looking to add upgrades to their backpack, the brand has an organization system and accessory pouches that can be added for additional fees. If you need an all-in-one kind of carry-on backpack, we think this backpack’s versatility makes it well worth the higher cost. 

Price at time of publish: $249

The Details: 20-42 liters | 12 x 20 x 7.5 inches

It comes with packing cubes in a variety of sizes to organize your belongings and an expandable water bottle pocket. 

After six months of use, we noticed the bag can feel quite heavy if packed full.

Packing for a trip can often feel tedious, but the Topo Designs Global Travel Bag 30L helps make it easy and efficient. The backpack comes with a removable packing system that includes two compression bags, two accessory bags, and one toiletry bag. The compression bags are designed to fit inside the main compartment along with the toiletry bag, and the accessory pouches can be placed in the zippered mesh pockets along the inside of the front flap. There are plenty of places to stash cords, travel documents, electronics, water bottles, and more.

We loved how convenient it is to store a laptop up to 15 inches in the padded compartment in the back of the bag, and there are two front pockets for easy access to a tablet or phone charger. The adjustable shoulder straps helped evenly distribute the backpack's weight, making it easier and more comfortable to carry around. The 100 percent recycled nylon material also felt durable and would likely stay in good condition over time. 

Price at time of publish: $199

The Details: 30 liters | 12.5 x 20 x 7 inches

Why We Love It: You can choose from four colors to customize the shade of the front, back, sides, and straps of the backpack. 

What to Consider: The laptop sleeve isn’t padded.

Customized luggage can be hard to come by but Roam’s The Continental backpack makes it easier than ever to build the carry-on backpack of your dreams. The front, back, sides, and straps of the bag can be red, green, black, or blue, or you can keep the backpack all one color for a monochromatic look. During testing, we loved all of the exterior pockets to stash headphones, snacks, chargers, water bottles, or anything else you could need whether lounging in the airport or mid-flight. The bag is made with a lightweight, water-repellent fabric and YKK zippers so it easily handles temperamental weather while traveling. Spacious and easy to access, the front flap opens wide so packing the bag with clothes and shoes was a breeze, too. The laptop pocket in the back could easily fit a 17-inch device but it isn’t padded so you may want to store your computer in a case to be on the safe side. 

Price at time of publish: $350

The Details: 26 liters | 17.75 x 14 x 8 inches | 2.4 pounds | Water repellent fabric | Laptop pocket

Why We Love It: The expandable zippers add an extra 3.5 inches of space which increases the capacity to 30 liters.

What to Consider: Some of the pockets feel unnecessary.

The Nomatic Travel Pack is the ultimate versatile carry-on backpack thanks to its expandable zippers that add an extra 10 liters of space. Ideal for an overnight trip or a long weekend getaway, the bag has a variety of pockets and compartments to efficiently organize shoes, clothes, accessories, and technology. While the number of pockets on the interior was a bit overwhelming at first, travelers who like to be extra organized will appreciate the designated padded laptop sleeve, sunglasses case, discrete passport pocket, and plethora of slip and zippered pockets in the main compartment. The handles and padded shoulder straps are comfortable for carrying the bag and the small to medium size of the backpack makes it super comfortable to carry since it doesn’t feel bulky or heavy. 

Price at time of publish: $300

The Details: 20 liters (expands to 30 liters) | 18.5 x 12 x 6-9.5 inches | 4.16 pounds | 16-inch laptop pocket

Why We Love It: It has several compartments for keeping clothing, shoes, tech, and accessories organized.

What to Consider: The materials feel a little lower in quality than other backpacks we tried.

If you’re not ready to invest in a pricier carry-on backpack, you can always dip your toes with this functional and spacious one for under $50. This 40-liter backpack has one large main compartment that can fit several tops, bottoms, and a toiletry case without any issues. We particularly love the separate footwear compartment to prevent the bottom of your shoes from coming into contact with clean clothes and that storage can even fit pairs up to size 12. In addition, there is a laptop pocket and a large front pocket with spots to put items like phone chargers, headphones, and other smaller accessories that could get lost easily. Compared to the pricier bags we tried, this one feels a bit lower in quality but none of the nylon fabric tore and scuffed during our durability tests so we still think this bag has a good lifespan ahead of it. 

Price at time of publish: $43

The Details: 40 liters | 20 x 13 x 8 inches | 2 pounds | Water-repellent nylon

Why We Love It: The 25-liter capacity makes this backpack versatile for an airplane or the great outdoors.

What to Consider: It takes some adjustments to get it to fit comfortably on the back.

This rugged carry-on backpack from Kühl is the perfect option for travelers embarking on an outdoor adventure. The smaller size of this bag is its greatest strength since it can easily fit enough clothes for a weekend trip or it can be used as an adventure pack for day hikes or camping trips. There are a variety of thoughtful features for hikers including a stowaway hip belt for extra support while trekking, load-lifting shoulder straps, and the bag is made with durable TPU-laminated nylon. Plus, the chest strap slides up and down the shoulder straps so travelers can get the most comfortable fit for their upper body. We found that it takes some extra effort to adjust all of the straps for the right fit but once you do, the bag is comfortable to carry for long periods of time. For even more versatility, the bag has a padded laptop pocket and a variety of other small and large zippered pockets to stay organized if you’re commuting or traveling for work. 

Price at time of publish: $269

The Details: 25 liters | 20.5 x 9.5 x 12.5 inches | Waterproof nylon | 17-inch laptop pocket

Why We Love It: This bag is basically a suitcase without wheels thanks to its large capacity and clamshell-style opening. 

What to Consider: The bag can feel a bit heavy to carry when it’s fully packed.

If you’re traveling somewhere with a rainy climate, you’ll want a carry-on backpack like this one from Tortuga that can ward off the elements. It’s made with the brand’s 100 percent recycled and waterproof Shell200 or “sailcloth” material to protect your belongings and prevent bad weather from putting a serious damper on your trip. This is a seriously spacious bag at 40 liters so we found that you can seamlessly fit a week’s worth of clothing (or more) between the two clamshell compartments. Because of the split style of the bag, packing it up is hassle-free since it’s easy to see exactly how much space is left on each side. And if you run out of space in the main compartments, there are top, front, and side exterior pockets to store a laptop, accessories, water bottles, and more items that you’ll want to have handy while traveling.

Price at time of publish: $350

The Details: 40 liters | 21.7 x 13.8 x 7.9 inches | 4.5 pounds | Waterproof sailcloth | 16-inch laptop pocket

On two separate occasions, we tested carry-on backpacks in our New York City lab to make sure we were updating this article with the best carry-on backpacks from trusted luggage brands. To date, we've put 34 carry-on backpacks through a series of trials that compared capacity, design, comfort, durability, and overall value. After completing our in-house testing, we sent the backpacks out with our expert product testers to give us insight on how they fared during real-world travel. We have been updating this article with long-term testing insights as soon as they become available. 

To test for capacity, we began by packing the bags with three shirts, two pairs of pants, one jacket, one pair of shoes, and a toiletry bag. Each tester noted if any space was leftover as well as how functional the compartments were for organizing the contents packed. We evaluated the overall design of the bags by paying attention to how they fold out, how well the zippers and buckles work, and the functionality of each pocket or compartment. 

Next, we put on the backpacks and walked around for 10 minutes to rate comfortability. The highest scoring backpacks were exceptionally enjoyable to wear with the weight evenly distributed on the shoulders or hips.

Then, we threw the backpacks a few feet to test for durability. The highest-rated bags had no scuffs or tears after being handled roughly, and the packed items inside remained unharmed as well. 

Our testers had no previous knowledge of the cost of each backpack until after testing was completed. This allowed them to give an unbiased rating of their overall values, where the top bags were determined to be fairly priced based on a high-quality performance, especially for the pricier bags. 

While we tested plenty of high-scoring carry-on backpacks, there were some that almost made our list but didn’t quite make the cut due to several weaknesses revealed during testing. 

Osprey Fairview 40: The compartments and various straps made packing effortless but the bag is very large so it can cumbersome to carry if the straps aren't adjusted properly.

Bellroy Transit Backpack Plus: We loved the adjustable sternum and waist straps that could be tucked into the bag when not in use, but we think there are better bags out there for a fraction of the price. 

AmazonBasics Carry-on Travel Backpack: It had plenty of compartments for staying organized and the material felt durable, but there weren’t any standout features that made it a must-have backpack. 

Vancropak Carry-on Backpack, Extra Large 40L: This backpack fits all of the packing items, and it even fits under an airplane seat, but our budget pick performed slightly better and it costs less. 

Not all carry-on backpacks will fit under the seat of an airplane, but if that’s your intended use, we recommend checking an airline’s underseat dimensions before heading to the airport. Similarly, with a carry-on backpack for the overhead bin, you’ll want to double-check the airline’s carry-on size restrictions to avoid paying unwanted fees if the bag is stuffed full of clothes. 

For those traveling by foot, a smaller, lightweight backpack would be better for portability and comfort. For those traveling by air, a compression bag or backpack that has plentiful organization could be a better choice so you get the most out of the limited airline baggage space.

During our test, we packed three shirts, two pants, one jacket, one pair of shoes, and a toiletry bag into each bag and often had extra space for more clothes. Many backpacks come with a laptop compartment, but you’ll want to make sure that feature is included before purchasing yours.

Carry-on size restrictions vary by airline, and it’s possible for a carry-on backpack to not fit within some limits. Most bags will have a product details section highlighting the dimensions of the backpack. If you’re looking to fit the bag solely under the seat, you should check to make sure the bag fits the dimensions while it’s packed.

Anna Popp is a commerce writer at Travel + Leisure, where she reviews travel products and writes the majority of the team's "Travel + Leisure Trusted" articles. Anna owns several carry-on backpacks, including the top pick from Cotopaxi, so she combined knowledge of traveling with just a backpack and the thorough lab testing and real-world insights to put together this list of the best carry-on backpacks.

The Best Carry-on Backpacks of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Ice Packs For Coolers Love a great deal? Sign up for our T+L Recommends newsletter and we'll send you our favorite travel products each week.