15 Best Travel Backpacks in 2024 For Tackling Long-Distance Travel

The best travel backpacks 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 your life. As in, yes, 2023 might be the year that you finally release your job and go full digital 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 have, there’s no better time to invest in a solid backpack that can seamlessly tote your belongings through TSA without breaking a sweat.

The Best Travel Backpacks, at a Glance

Speeding to get to your next destination and short on time to stop for a full rundown on all things luggage? Here’s a quick look at our top travel bag picks on this list, assembled after racking up all the air miles toting these around. 

What to Look Out for in a Decent Travel Backpack

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: Things like reinforced handles, chest straps for locking your bag in place as you navigate your destination, padded back panels, versatile carrying options, and ample storage pockets is what makes all that transit time much easier. A generous warranty also makes it easier to invest in something worthwhile without falling for any old cheapo backpack you spot online.  But if you’re prepared to spend some serious money on a serious bag, we think you should be able to find something stylish, too. 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.

How We Tested

We tested most of the following bags on planes, trains, and taxis (and tacked on a couple other handsome options that have the stats to measure up to their peers). We dragged them through customs. Baggage handlers abused them. We carried them through extreme weather conditions and temperature-controlled five-star hotel lobbies. Whatever life throws you, these backpacks can get handle it. Here, our top picks for the best travel backpacks out there that are ready for the long haul.

The Best Travel Backpack for Most People: Patagonia Black Hole

Patagonia Black Hole 40L duffel bag

You’ve probably spotted Patagonia’s instantly recognizable Black Hole duffel in many an airline terminal or baggage claim carousel over the years. This ruggedly handsome bag comes in a variety of sizes, whether you’re toting it in economy class or checking it for later, and is beloved by off-the-grid trekkers and budget shoppers alike. We’ve previously deemed this shiny convertible bag one of the best carry-ons overall, but it also secures the top spot in the backpack category for its versatile design that allows you to schlep it via its reinforced top handles like a duffel, on your back like a student of learning, or by its grab handles when you’re hauling it into the overhead compartment. 

Its weather-resistant exterior, made of recycled ripstop materials, keeps your goods dry when rain’s in the forecast, and at $125, it’s also accessible for anyone on a college student budget or beyond. Another big plus: As its name suggests, the depths of its large main compartment feel virtually bottomless. In it, you can make several changes of clothes disappear, along with any camera gear you’re taking off the grid.  

The Best Rolling Travel Backpack: North Face Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder 30in Rolling Gear Bag

You might be thinking that rolling backpacks should have been retired after entering high school. But despite their dorky reputation, you won’t feel so embarrassed when you’re sprinting across the airport to catch your flight, or dealing with a five-story walk-up to your Airbnb pied-à-terre. That extra wheels assist can really come in handy for maneuvering, and the backpack straps make it easy to shoulder your pack up a steep ascent. North Face’s Rolling Thunder is one extremely solid piece of hybrid, convertible luggage exists that lets you have it both ways, with shoulder straps and a slick set of wheels in a bright red hue. It’s tough as hell and made with eco-friendly recycled polyester and nylon that can withstand considerable wear and tear, plastic bumpers to give it more shock absorption against thumps in transit, and spacious enough to squeeze about a week’s worth of clothes in here.

The Best Travel Backpack You’ll Never Have to Replace: Goruck Slick GR2

Goruck x Huckberry

Slick GR2 Travel Backpack

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 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 will be safe and secure. This Huckberry collab is a slight spin on the original GR2, with silent YKK zippers, extra padded shoulder straps for trekking heavy loads, and a design that opens flat so you can rearrange your meticulously packed essentials more easily. Sure, it’s certainly more expensive than most other packs on this list. But with its generous lifetime warranty, just think: You’ll never have to worry about ponying up to buy another backpack again.

The Best Really Big Travel Backpack: Tortuga Outbreaker

Tortuga Outbreaker 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. 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-inch Macbook, 9.7-inch 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. 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 out here.

The Best Luxe Travel Backpack: Tumi Alpa Bravo Endurance

Tumi Alpha Bravo Endurance Backpack

With an extra $800 to spare, you could upgrade your international flight to first class, splurge a little more on your accommodations, or book that trip to Bali instead of Boston. But when your next direct deposit hits, you might also feel compelled to ball out a little on the bag that’s stowing all your gear. To that end, there are plenty of options out there, but few that match the style of Tumi’s rucksack-esque Alpha Bravo Endurance backpack.

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