February 28, 2024

Athens-airport-taxi

For splendid leisure

Best travel backpacks for short and long stays

12 min read
 (Pexels)

(Pexels)

When it comes to travel luggage, one of the top priorities is something that can be moved around easily.

Anyone who’s ever had to drag along a carry-on case with a dodgy wheel or – worse still – sacrifice their shoulders to an overstuffed weekend bag will know that finding a piece of luggage that can be easily carted around is of the utmost importance.

That’s what makes a good old travel-friendly backpack the most sensible option.

No – we’re not talking about those beetle-like 70 litre monstrosities used by gappies and serious hiking campers in lieu of a house to hold their earthly possessions. We’re talking about the smaller, more easily portable backpacks that are perfect for stashing in the overhead lockers as carry-on or bringing along on a day hike that, crucially, ends up with you back in the vicinity of four walls, a bed with a mattress and a hot shower.

Whatever reason you favour a travel backpack, there are certain elements you should bear in mind before committing to any particular one.

The openings

Firstly, if you’re planning to use it as your main luggage for short haul trips, it’s best to stick with an option that has a clam-shell style opening – a zip that opens up on three sides, like a suitcase, as opposed to a bucket-style that just has one opening at the top. If you’re just planning to use it as a form of hand luggage to stash your books, laptop and phone, or as a pack to carry around with you on day trips, this doesn’t matter so much. Either way, though, it’s best to avoid any backpacks that can easily be opened without you noticing, such as drawstring and buckle types – these are too easy to steal from.

Storing valuables

Speaking of theft, several backpacks come with secret compartments perfect for storing your most precious items such as your wallet, passport and phone. There are also plenty of options with special padded laptop sleeves too. If you’re heading off on a business trip, this is a feature to look out for.

Compartments

Of course, the best travel backpacks come with designated slots for just about everything – your travel documents, laptops, water bottles and wallets – so you can avoid being that person at the front of the queue to the plane scrambling to find the ticket you were sure you were just holding.

The fabric

As beautiful as a leather travel backpack looks, if you’ve got a holiday full of white water rafting or jungle-trekking day trips planned, choosing one of these might not be the best idea – unless you’re really hoping to give it that distressed look as soon as you’ve bought it. Canvas or polyester is a better option for this sort of excursion.

Bearing all that in mind, whatever adventures you’ve got planned, we’ve got a backpack that’ll fit the bill.

Read on for our pick of the best travel backpacks to buy in 2022.

Gomatic Travel Pack 20L – 30L

With a 20L capacity, with the possibility to expand the bag to 30L, and a padded compartment for a 17 inch laptop, this Gomatic design has a lot to offer. This one has a little more structure than the Eastpak in our list below, which, though heavier and more bulky to store, may give some people more confidence in its ability to stand the test of time as well as general wear and tear.

There are pockets galore on this – a large clamshell opening one for storing clothes as well as two inner mesh sections – one containing a transparent washbag. There is also a padded laptop sleeve (though this sits in its own outer zipped compartment – not quite as secure as an inner one) and a hidden pocket that sits flush against the back.

The backpack is made from water-resistant and durable materials and features magnetic water bottle pockets and RFID pockets. Along with the buckled chest straps and padded side and top handles, it’s got a solution for virtually every travel need or problem.

Buy now £219.99, Amazon

Away The Backpack

Like all of Away’s luggage, the Backpack is sleek and aesthetically pleasing, so if you’re someone who likes your luggage to look as good as it moves, it’s certainly worth considering.

Though relatively small on sight, it’s capacity is surprising – you can fit a large laptop (which has its own padded interior sleeve), several books, a bag of carry-on liquids, your travel essentials and a water bottle in and still have room to stuff in a jumper (trust us – we’ve tried). A panel on the back allows you to slip it over the hands of a suitcase (though not as wide as others it still does the job well) and also conceals a hidden pocket that’ll fit a wallet, phone and passport, that sits against the back.

Without any mesh panels, this design might start to get a little hot if you’re visiting a particularly humid country, but with several spacious top-loading compartments, it’s generously sized for quick and easy packing whilst still being small enough to stow under the seat in front on the plane. Made from nylon, it can be wiped clean, too.

Buy now £145.00, Away

Osprey Fairview 40

Osprey has long been respected in the travel luggage industry and you can rely on this backpack to stand the test of time in terms of quality and durability.

This Fairview model is slightly smaller and narrower than others, making it a good option for women. Though not the flashiest of travel backpacks, it certainly comes with everything you need for a short getaway trip (indoor or outdoor) or a day of schlepping across a city.

At 40 litres, it’s on the larger size, meaning you could use it instead of a suitcase and with a clamshell compartment for clothing as well as a top-loading compartment for laptops, it’s perfect for just that. One of its best features is its handles and straps – it has both a padded side and top handle, making it much easier to haul into an overhead locker, as well as adjustable padded waist straps to adjust it more comfortably on the hips.

Though perhaps not the most sophisticated to look at, this one wins top marks for its versatility.

Buy now £79.00, Blacks

Peak Design Travel Backpack

At the very top end of the price range is the Peak Design Travel Backpack – a longstanding favourite within the backpack community (if there is such a thing). This one has been made with photographers in mind and has several specially designed compartments for stashing your camera gear.

With a dedicated sleeve for your laptop, passport, water bottle and various other pieces of kit, it’ll help you ensure your most precious items stay safe and easy to find whilst the weatherproof zips and hard wearing material will ensure it’s all kept dry even in the most aggressive of downpours.

Despite opening in a clamshell style, one of our favourite things about this design is that, even when empty, it’ll hold itself up so if you prefer to pack it from the bottom up, you can do that. The shoulder straps and hip belt can all be stored away and replaced with a duffle style strap if you prefer.

The only thing this one is really missing is a side strap to make it easier to lift into the overhead cabin.

Buy now £259.00, Amazon

Antler Fenchurch recycled backpack

Those looking for a pack with an air of sophistication can’t go far wrong with the Stirling backpack – a vision in ergonomic design and sleek black fabric.

It’s made from a premium durable polyester that is both water-resistant and finished in an attractive matte black. With a 17 litre capacity and at 44x31x13cm in size, it fits within most airlines’ carry-on specifications and even comes with a backstrap to slot over a suitcase handle, in case you’re planning on carrying more than one piece of hand luggage.

Security wise, this is well-equipped with a TSA-approved padlock and several secret compartments for storing valuables. With padded laptop and ipad pockets as well as three divided compartments, this is well-suited to business trips or for use as a day pack for outings, rather than an all-in-one piece of carry-on luggage.

It gets extra points for being particularly smart to look at and supremely comfortable to carry – even with several gadgets and heavy documents in tow, it didn’t dig into the shoulders at all.

Buy now £129.00, Antler

Eastpak Strapverz S

With a clamshell zip system, two mesh-separated compartments and a handle and wheels, this backpack is a cabin size suitcase hybrid.

As such, the design makes it easy to pack clothes into and thanks to the canvas-style flexible fabric, can hold enough for a few days away. The compression straps are easy to manoeuvre, so even if you’ve overstuffed it, you can secure the back into a more compact shape and with material and zips that feel reassuringly sturdy. It makes you trust that it won’t fall apart in transit.

Perhaps one of its greatest features, though, is the variety of handle options you can call upon depending on the situation: padded shoulder straps to sling it over your back; an extendable telescopic trolly handle for carrying it like a suitcase. When empty, it also shrinks down to be completely flat, meaning it can easily be stored away without taking up the space of a suitcase.

The bag can hold up to 42L and the TSA lock is great if you’re looking for that extra bit of security.

Buy now £145.00, Eastpak

Kapten & Son Bergen

Those seeking something more sophisticated will love the Kapten & Son Bergen backpack – a heavenly homage to sleek Scandi style design. Made from a buttery vegan leather in a choice of sandstone or black, it’ll look particularly smart on a city break or business trip.

At just 11 litres, this one is on the smaller side, but comes with a special padded laptop compartment as well as two interior pockets and a larger exterior one. With both shoulder straps and carrier handles, it can be used as either a backpack or a tote. Of course, if you opt for the lighter option, it’ll show up dirt more easily but if you’re just planning to use it to explore a new city, you should get away with this – especially as the material can be wiped clean.

What it lacks in practicality it certainly makes up for in style, so if you’re wanting something that’ll look good on the ‘gram, this is the one for you.

Buy now £99.00, Kapten & Son

Cabin Zero Classic Pro

Cabin Zero looks to deliver one promise – cabin size baggage with zero fuss. As expected, therefore, the design of this bag is much like the rest of the line – simple and frill-free; something that will appeal to those who like classic and clean styles.

The bag can hold up to 42 litres, making it a worthy contender for a longer trip. Thankfully, despite its capacity, it isn’t particularly bulky – it’s made from 600d polyester, which is a slightly lower grade than some brands use but that offers more than enough hardiness to get you through even pretty rough conditions. Another clamshell opening design, this comes with one main compartment as well as an inner mesh one. If you’re planning to carry a laptop, be prepared to secure it yourself – though there’s an inner compartment, it’s fairly flimsy and doesn’t offer any extra padding.

There is, however, a decent amount of padding on the shoulder straps and the strap that sits across the chest makes for a more comfortable carrying experience if you’re moving around a lot.

Buy now £120.00, Cabin Zero

Rains Rolltop Rucksack

For something unique, take a look at Danish company Rains. Touted as a great option for cycling, the Rolltop Rucksack is classically Scandinavian: simple, striking and uniquely cool.

Rains is known for its splashproof designs so if you’re heading somewhere currently going through a wet season, this is a great option. As the name suggests, it comes with a roll top, so you can adjust the amount of space you need depending on how much stuff you’re carrying but will have to forgo more sophisticated fastening and compartment options available on other bags.

Ultimately, this one is a no-frills option but is practical enough to be worth consideration – it comes with both a front and laptop pocket, back padding and adjustable shoulder and chest straps.

Plus, with its unique design and four earthy colourways to choose from, it’s stylish as well, meaning you’re more likely to get decent use out of it even whilst not travelling.

Buy now £95.00, Rains

Topo Designs Mountain Pack 28L

Widely lauded as one of the best carry-on travel backpacks around, the Topo Travel Bag weighs just over 1kg and can carry up to 28 litres, making it one of the lightest fully-functional backpacks on offer.

Say hello to ample storage as the main clamshell zipper opens into two main compartments. There are several other organisational pockets too, including one for your laptop (fitting up to a 15 inch screen) and one with a key fob clip inside, ensuring your most valuable items are kept safe.

One of our favourite elements of this one is the heavy duty YKK zips that come with toggles, making them much easier to open and close than others. The back panel, shoulder and hip straps come with extra padding and with a chest strap included too, this one is well set up for carrying over uncomfortable terrain or longer distances. Including a duffle strap, it can be carried over one shoulder too.

Buy now £162.95, Alpine Trek

AER Travel Pack 2

Although on the pricier end, the Aer Travel Pack 2 offers all the organisation and intuitive design you’d need for an active trip away. With its longer, broader body, this one could be criticised for being a little boxy but has been confirmed by our sources to be one of the more comfortable designs for men.

he main compartment, which has a clamshell opening, can be used for clothes whilst the designated organisation panel has a pocket for pretty much everything. A laptop sleeve allows for a 13 inch laptop to be stored (so slightly on the smaller side than others) and the water bottle pocket on the side is elasticated, giving it more expandability than most.

The outer shell is made from Condura – a well-recognised material that’s highly durable – so you can rest assured that, despite its hefty price tag, it’ll withstand a few scuffs and scratches with ease.

It even comes with a dedicated shoe compartment and side and top handles for hauling around with ease.

Buy now £257.50, WannAccess

Inateck 40L Travel Bag

If you like to keep things simple by just having one do-it-all bag that works for hiking, longer and shorter trips, the Inateck Backpack checks all the boxes.

If you get to the point where you’ve had enough of carrying it like a rucksack, it can be flipped on its side and carried life a briefcase with the multiple handles. With a 40 litre capacity, even the least conservative packers will find that it can hold enough clothing for a couple of weeks whilst still giving you enough space to store your laptop and other gadgets in the dedicated padded sleeves.

The design is simple but not unappealing – though on the boxy side, it’s sleek enough to be inoffensive and, most importantly, the padded shoulder and chest straps make it comfortable to carry too.

Buy now £49.99, Amazon

Verdict

Though they all have their unique qualities, for a budget option that ticks most of the boxes, Gometric delivers a well-rounded backpack at a good price. Those looking for a more urban option that won’t look awful in city break pictures, the Away backpack is a stylish high quality option. Those looking to get out on treks or wanting to take their backpack on more rigorous day trips should turn to the Antler and for those after something that’s easy to pack in a hurry, the Eastpak won’t let you down.

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