Kaspars with his Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack - Best Carry on Backpack

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Are you currently looking for a new travel backpack? A carry on backpack?

If you indeed are looking for a new bag, then this is for you. In this guide we talk everything from the best travel backpacks available on the market to how to choose the best carry on backpack for your travel style. Apart from that here you will also find travel backpack reviews and also tips on traveling with carry on only, in case that’s what you are looking for right now.

We have done a research, tested a lot of backpacks, read hundreds of reviews from other travelers. All to help you to choose the best carry on luggage.

And not only that. In case you’re thinking of traveling carry on only, but it’s all new to you. And maybe you aren’t sure if it’s the way to go. Then we have got you covered, too.

I’ve been traveling carry on only since 2013. So I do have some tips to share with you.

To learn more about how and why to travel light, and how to choose the best travel pack for yourself, you’ll need to scroll down. Because I will start with the reviews of the best carry on backpacks.

Quick Answer:

Overall Best Carry on Backpack

Osprey Farpoint 40 (M)

Osprey Fairview 40 (F)

Best Cheap Carry on Backpack

SwissGear 1900

Most Practical Carry on Backpack

Standard

Best Travel Backpack 2019: Carry on Backpacks

Here they are – 9 of the best carry on backpacks available on the market now.

All of these backpacks I have grouped by their price – Affordable, Medium-Priced and Top Level. Some of them are available in several colors. For more photos, latest price and user reviews check them out on Amazon – just click on the name or image of the backpack!

NAMEIMAGESIZECATEGORYPRICE ON AMAZON
*** - our favorites
Cabin Max Metz Backpack44 literAffordableCheck the price!
High Sierra Loop33 literAffordableCheck the price!
SwissGear 1900***37 literAffordableCheck the price!
Kelty Redwing 4444 literMedium-PricedCheck the price!
Osprey Porter 30***30 literMedium-PricedCheck the price!
eBags Mother Lode TLS54 literMedium-PricedCheck the price!
Osprey Farpoint 40***40 literTop LevelCheck the price!
Tortuga SetoutTortuta Setout backpack44 literTop LevelGo to Tortuga.com!
Standard Carry-on Backpack 35/45 literTop LevelCheck the price!

Best Carry on Backpack 2019

Our Choice – Osprey Farpoint 40

My Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack

Size: 40 liter (S/M and M/L).

Dimensions: 21” x 15” x 14” (53 x 38 x 35 cm).

Colors: Black, red and blue.

Weight: 3.17 lbs / 1.44 kg.

Price: Check the price on Amazon!

The bag’s depth in reality is more like 8.3” (21 cm).

Yes, it can be also up to 14” (35 cm), but only if you attach something to the outside of the backpack. I use it myself a lot and I have never had any problems traveling with it as my carry on.

Pros:

– Minimalist design;

– Suitable for long distance walking and hiking;

– Laptop and tablet compartments;

– Lockable zipper sliders.

Cons:

– It’s rather heavy;

– Only one big and one smaller compartment for all of your stuff (packing cubes will come in handy),

– It’s hard to put a water bottle in any of the mesh pockets, when the bag is full.

See our full Osprey Farpoint 40 review.

See our full Osprey Fairview 40 review.

All in all the Osprey Farpoint 40 is clearly one of the best carry on backpacks you can buy today.

9 Best Carry on Backpack Reviews

1. SwissGear ScanSmart 1900 Review – AFFORDABLE

One of the best choices for everyone traveling with a laptop.

Being 37 liters big this backpack is roomy. But all the pockets it has (just look at the picture) make it into a really well organized backpack. Speaking about your laptop and tablet, there is a protective laptop-only compartment, which is big enough to fit in a laptop up to 17” in size. That’s a big compartment.

Not visible from the outside, but there are even more organizational pockets inside the bag. For everything you might want to take with you.

Looking for a backpack for college? The ScanSmart 1900 might be the right choice.

The backpack is made of durable and water resistant ballistic polyester. Its back features Airflow ventilation technology padding. Thanks to its size the SwissGear 1900 can be taken on board with by far most of airlines globally.

The backpack is available in several colors.

Dimensions: 18.5” x 13.5” x 9” (47 x 34 x 23 cm).

Size: 37 liter.

Weight: 3.3 lbs / 1.5 kg.

2. High Sierra Loop Backpack Review – AFFORDABLE

One of our favorites among affordable carry on backpacks is this sporty looking High Sierra Loop backpack.

It’s lightweight and compact, and it has several pockets and compartments.

The bag has two large compartments. The front compartment has a tablet sleeve. There are a few exterior pockets for better organization of your stuff: two small zippered pockets and a large front pocket with small organizational sleeves and a key chain.

There are two side mesh pockets as well.

At the bottom there are two adjustable straps that can be used to attach a jacket or a sleeping bag.

Because of its size with the High Sierra Loop you can always be sure that your bag will fit in as a carry on luggage. Even with the airlines like Ryanair and Wizz Air, who have smaller hand luggage allowances. Even with them you will be fine with it.

At the same time because of its size it will suit your needs only if you are a minimalist traveler. So only those of you, who are ready to travel with very little.

But that’s if you are thinking of traveling with one bag only.

Because of the design and the size of this carry on rucksack you will less likely be seen as a tourist. More like an expat or even a local. Because, you know, tourists mostly have huge suitcases and big hiking backpacks. While this one looks more like an everyday backpack.

The High Sierra Loop is available in several bright colors.

Dimensions: 19.0″ x 13.5″ x 8.5″ (48.2 x 34.3 x 21.6 cm).

Size: 33 liter.

Weight: 2.04 lbs (0.93 kg).

3. Cabin Max Metz Review – AFFORDABLE

An affordable carry on size backpack, which can fit a lot. That’s the Cabin Max Metz.

While it’s not the best carry on bag for actual carrying around, at least not for too long time. But it has a few serious advantages, nevertheless. It’s big. With it you can organize your belongings very well. And its latest model is also water resistant.

Have you ever heard anything about panel-loading backpack?

These are the backpacks that you can open the same way like a suitcase. Choosing this kind of backpack you will have a little bit of both – accessibility of a suitcase and mobility of traveling with a backpack. It’s one of the features you see more and more lately in the travel backpack industry.

And, yes, this backpack is a panel-loading backpack.

Apart from that this massive backpack is built to fit the maximum carry on baggage allowance. Giving you an opportunity to bring with you quite a lot, but still not too much.

The Cabin Max Metz is made of water resistant 600D nylon. But it isn’t a waterproof backpack, though. 

Its back and shoulder straps are padded.

Available in 20+ colors.

Dimensions: 22” x 16” x 8” (55 x 40 x 20 cm).

Size: 44 liter.

Weight: 1.5 lbs (0.68 kg).

4. eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender – MEDIUM-PRICED

A medium-priced carry on size panel-loading backpack for a weekend getaway or 1-2 week holiday overseas. Here you have it!

Similar like the Cabin Max Metz this bag is built to fit the maximum carry on baggage allowance. Main difference, however, is that this one is a higher level backpack.

It’s made of better quality materials and overall looks better.

And it is even better in organizational aspect as well. The bag features different pockets for small stuff like your phone, pen and a book or a magazine in front compartment of the backpack. Its main compartment has a foldable shelf.

And there is a special compartment for your computer or tablet.

Because of the size and materials its made of this backpack is quite heavy. Though, it’s not that heavy if you compare it to other similar bags and suitcases. It weights about 3.7 lbs (1.7 kilos), and you should keep that in mind, too. As it’s not only about the dimensions of your carry on baggage, but it’s also about the weight.

The eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender features contoured Airmesh shoulder straps. It doesn’t have an internal frame.

If we compare the price of these two backpacks, then the Mother Lode TLS Weekender costs about twice as much. But it’s not without a reason.

The eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender is available in several colors.

Dimensions: 22” x 14” x 9” (56 x 35.6 x 23 cm).

Size: 54 liter.

Weight: 3.7 lbs (1.7 kg).

5. Osprey Porter 30 Review – MEDIUM-PRICED

A compact travel backpack for all kind of adventures.

This is the newest model of the popular Porter backpack.

We like the new design. Because this compact backpack reminds us of the Fairview and Farpoint packs, two Osprey packs we have used a lot.

This amazing backpack is compact yet roomy. There are several compartments and pockets that will keep all your things organized. There is a large front pocket with several interior organizational sleeves. The main compartment of this bag opens all the way. This compartment is lockable and has two inner zippered pockets.

There’s a special, lockable laptop compartment at the rear of the bag. The Porter backpack also features a zippered top pocket and a vertical, zippered front pocket.

The sidewalls of the backpack are padded, as well as the harness and shoulder straps. The pack can be compressed using the compression straps at the front.

What we like the most about this backpack are the stowaway shoulder straps and harness that can be hidden in special pockets at the back of the bag. This feature comes in handy on the plane, when placing the bag in the overhead bin. 

The Porter is a versatile travel bag. It’s perfect for weekend getaways and vacations, as well as longer trips (if you are a minimalist traveler). As the bag looks smart enough, it’s great even for business trips.

As the backpack can be easily transformed into a duffle bag it is also good for gym and adventure travel. There are D-ring attachments for adding a shoulder strap which is sold separately.

You can even say that this is the one backpack for everything!

Be it a short weekend trip, a week of hiking in Himalayas or a holiday abroad. And even though Porter 30 is positioned as a travel/trekking backpack, for us it doesn’t look like an average trekking backpack. Far from that. And that’s a good thing.

If the Osprey Porter seems like too small for you, then you should check out the Osprey Farpoint 40 or the female-specific Osprey Fairview 40. Both of them are great carry on size backpacks we have been using ourselves a lot.

The backpack is available in several colors.

Dimensions: 19.7” x 14” x 8.5” (50 x 35.6 x 21.6 cm).

Size: 30 liter.

Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg).


If the Osprey Porter seems like too small for you, then you should check out the Osprey Farpoint 40 or the female-specific Osprey Fairview 40. Both of them are great carry on size backpacks we’ve been using a lot.

6. Kelty Redwing 44 Review – MEDIUM-PRICED

This is the newest model of the popular carry on backpack Kelty Redwing 44.

The Redwing is a roomy, 44 liter backpack for all kinds of adventures.

From the outside Kelty Redwing 44 looks like a regular trekking backpack.

The bag has several compartments to help keep your stuff organized:

Front compartment with several interior organization pockets;

Top quick access pocket for small items;

Stash pocket at the front for extra layers of clothing;

Two zippered side pockets;

Two mesh side pockets for water bottles;

Main compartment with a laptop / hydration pack sleeve.

The backpack’s main compartment has a U zip, so the bag is panel loading. But it is possible to use it as a top loader as well – just don’t unzip it all the way down. Also you can access your gear from the side of the pack, as it has a two way zipper.

As a quality adventure backpack Kelty Redwing 44 features an aluminum stay. Together with wide hip belt and sternum straps it helps to distribute the weight of the bag and the load really well. To make you feel as good as possible, even when you are carrying the backpack for hours on end.

The bag is made of durable polyester.

It’s not waterproof. So to protect your stuff from the rain use a rain cover. Any rain cover of the right size will do the work, but if you want something better quality, then here is one from Kelty on Amazon. 

Count in that it works both as a top loader and a panel loader and here you have it – one of the best carry on backpack for international travel and adventure travel.

When fully loaded the bag is 25 inches (63.5 cm) tall. If you are using this bag as a carry on, first check with your airline what are the carry on size restrictions. If the maximum height of the carry on bag is 22” then just don’t pack it to the brim!

Available in several colors.

For up to date information, check it online.

Dimensions: 25” x 15” x 12” (63.5 x 38 x 30.5 cm).

Size: 44 liter.

Weight: 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg).


If the Kelty Redwing 44 seems like slightly too big for you, check out the Kelty Women’s Redwing 40, a smaller version of the top-selling Redwing 44. Another difference is that the Redwing 40 is available in 2 colors.

7. Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack Review – TOP LEVEL

One carry on backpack for everything. Sounds like you have heard it from me already? You are right, I said it already. I said the same thing about the Osprey Porter 30 bag, which is our favorite among medium priced carry on travel backpacks.

But let me tell you, why I still chose the Osprey Farpoint 40 for myself.

Because Farpoint 40 is bigger. It’s that simple. Yes, if there is one thing that I have learned really well from all the years of traveling the world, we all need much less than we think we need. But why then I still choose 40 liter backpack instead of a smaller one?

I like to have as little possessions as possible.

But my style of traveling varies quite a lot. So having a bag, which is slightly bigger than I need for everyday use, means that there is enough space in it to use it for, let’s say, a short hiking trip to Siberia. And I don’t need to look for another bag for that occasion.

This backpack’s minimalist design makes it look good in all occasions. Whether it’s a trekking in the mountains or weekend city break.

For extra safety you can lock backpack’s main compartment, putting a luggage lock through loops on the zippers. Similar like few others on this list Farpoint 40 is a panel-loading backpack.

And it also has a designated pocket both for your laptop and/or tablet.

The frame suspension helps to distribute weight of the pack. And pack’s wide and comfy hipbelt and padded shoulder straps makes it into even greater backpack for carrying around. The Farpoint 40 features a removable shoulder strap, which you can use to turn this backpack into a duffel bag. And when you don’t need them its shoulder straps and hipbelt can be hidden behind a flap. For example, when you use it as a duffel bag.

All in all it’s clearly one of the best carry on backpacks you can buy today. And one of the best men’s travel backpacks out there.

The Osprey Farpoint 40 is available in few different colors.

Dimensions: 14” x 21” x 15” (35 x 54 x 37 cm).

Size: 40 liter.

Weight: 3 lbs (1.44 kg).


Ladies, check out also the Osprey Fairview 40, which is pretty much the same backpack, but with redesigned back system to offer female-specific fit. We have tested this backpack and can confirm, that it’s the same as comfy as the Farpoint 40. See our full Osprey Fairview 40 review.

8. Tortuga Setout Review – TOP LEVEL

Tortuta Setout backpack

Click Here for the Latest Price, More Photos and User Reviews on the Website of Tortuga!

A durable and weather resistant average-sized backpack, designed with city travelers in mind.

The Tortuga Setout is a maximum-sized carry on travel backpack, that has both the portability of a backpack and organizational features of a suitcase. It’s a front loading backpack, which you can open same way like a suitcase. Because of designated laptop (up to 17 – 19”) and tablet (up to 9.7”) sleeves it will fit you great also if you are traveling for work.

Or if you are a digital nomad same like I.

This highly-durable bag is made of 900D heathered polyester. It features padded, removable hip belt and hideaway shoulder straps and has some more than a few pockets. On one side it has a padded grab handle, in case you’ll want to carry your bag this way.

If you are a city traveler looking for the top quality carry on travel bag look no further.

The Tortuga Setout is available in dark grey.

Dimensions: 22” x 14” x 9″ (55.9 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm).

Size: 44 liter.

Weight: 3.3 lbs (1.5 kg).


In case you like this backpack a lot, but it’s a bit too big for you, there is another good option. Check out the Standard’s Carry-on Backpack. It’s a hybrid carry on backpack same like the Setout, but it’s also an expandable backpack, meaning it can be used both like a 35 liter backpack and 45 liter backpack.

9. Standard Carry-on Backpack Review – TOP LEVEL

Standard Carry-on backpack is one of the most practical backpack we’ve tried and used.

It is roomy, and has so many pockets and compartments you gonna squeal with delight.

There is one large, main compartment. Behind it there’s a big, separate laptop compartment, with detachable laptop + tablet sleeve. There are three pockets inside the main compartment (on the lid), two exterior pockets and a couple of organizational pockets in the laptop compartment.

Also there’s a hidden water bottle / umbrella pocket on one of the sides of the bag, and a pocket where you can hide the backpack straps.

After checking out all the pockets and compartments of the bag we accidentally found a secret pocket in the main compartment. Wow! The best part about all these pockets is that all of them are big and spacious.

The Standard carry on backpack is expandable. Simply open the zipper, and you’ll have not a 35 liter carry on backpack, but a 45 liter one.

Since it opens like a suitcase, it’s also very easy to pack it. Plus you can find that one thing without taking the rest of your stuff out of the bag. 

The backpack is made of high quality ballistic nylon (1680D). It’s not a waterproof backpack, but light rain isn’t going to be a problem for you and your belongings. If, however, you’re planning to be outside in the rain for a longer while or it isn’t just a light rain out there, you can always use the raincover that comes with the Standard’s Carry-on Backpack.

If you are from outside the USA, go to the website of Standard Luggage to order this backpack! FREE worldwide shipping and lifetime warranty is included.

Dimensions (zipped): 21.5” x 13.5” x 7.5” (54.6 x 34.3 x 19 cm).

Dimensions (expanded): 21.5” x 13.5” x 9.5” (54.6 x 34.3 x 24.1 cm).

Size: 35 liter (zipped), 45 liter (expanded).

Weight: 3.7 lbs (1.7 kg).

Best Lightweight Backpack

Are you looking for something cheap, probably only for one or few trips? Then take a look at the Outlander Packable Backpack.

This lightweight (220 grams / 0.5 pounds) carry on size backpack is durable. And it’s super compact, when folded. Yes, you can actually fold this backpack into zippered inner pocket and leave it somewhere or put it in another bag, which makes it into a great travel day pack as well.

But at the same time, if you travel very light, this bag is still big enough to pack everything you need for even a prolonged trip abroad. My first travel backpack was about this size, and with it I was able to travel for several months at a time in Southeast Asia and Europe (mostly in summer, though).

Do keep in mind, that the Outlander is made of very thin material and its shoulder straps lack any padding. Don’t pack it too heavy if you can.

The backpack is available in 2 sizes – 20 liter and 33 liter.

Just check out its reviews online, and you will understand why it’s here, among the best backpacks. Because thousands of people are using it and they love it.

Dimensions (folded): 6.29” x 5.90” x 2” (16 x 15 x 5 cm).

Size: 33 liter.

Weight: 0.5 lbs (0.23 kg).

Man carrying two backpacks

Carry on Backpack With Wheels?

Maybe you need a carry on backpack with wheels? There is such an option as well.

Just look up on Amazon or any other shop selling luggage.

How Big Can Be a Carry on Backpack

If we are looking at it very strictly – size differs.

It’s similar, but it’s not the same. And it depends from the airline that you are flying with. Different airlines have different hand luggage dimension and weight allowances.

In Europe, traveling with the most popular airlines, dimensions of your carry on bag should be around – 55 x 40 x 23 cm (22 x 16 x 9 inches). And your bag shouldn’t be more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) heavy. All of the bags mentioned above are this size or smaller.

See more detailed information here, on Skyscanner!

However, thinking globally and planning to travel with US airlines, it’s wiser to choose a little bit smaller carry on bag. Something like – 51 x 35 x 20 cm (20 x 14 x 8 inches). Which means, that Cabin Max Metz, eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender, Kelty Redwing 44 and Osprey Farpoint 40 might be slightly too big for you with some of the airlines.

Do check it before you buy a backpack!

Hong Kong views - Traffic, skyscrapers
In Hong Kong

How to Choose the Best Carry on Backpack for Yourself

To choose the best carry on backpack for yourself, answer these 2 questions first:

1. What will you be mainly using it for?

Weekend city breaks?

Look for something smaller, good looking and with a panel load access.

For holidays overseas, where you will leave your bag at the hotel for most of the time? 

Buy something roomy like the Cabin Max Metz, Standard or eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender. Anyway you will not be carrying it around too much.

Going on an adventure?

Look for a bag, that’s designated to be carried around a lot! Frame suspension will come in handy as well. And think about all the features you want to have. Thinking about having a waterproof backpack? In most of the situations having a rain cover you will be perfectly fine.

You need a bag for a little bit of everything?

Pay attention to the size of backpack. So it’s neither too big, not too small. If hiking might be in your plans as well, think about backpack that has a frame suspension, like the Osprey Farpoint 40. It will be helpful also if you simply move from a place to place very often, carrying your belongings with you.

Sewn attachment points will be helpful to carry around even more stuff.

Traveling for work or maybe you’re a digital nomad?

Check if the backpack has a designated place for your laptop. Look for a bag that has several organizational features for the rest of your gadgets.

2. Do you need a backpack for few trips or for a longer time?

This will help you to understand, how much to invest in it.

The rest is up to your preference.

If you want a smaller bag or a bigger one. Water resistant or not. More classic or more sporty looking. With just a couple of compartments and pockets or with 10+ organizational features. The choice is yours.

Hiking the Lion Rock trail in Hong Kong
Hiking the Lion Rock trail

Best Backpack Brands

One more not less important factor here is to know which are the best manufacturers out there. It will help you to make a choice and find the backpack for your needs.

Which ones are the companies making the best travel and hiking backpacks?

According to several sources and online reviews, 3 of the best backpack brands now are Osprey (founded in 1974, USA), Kelty (founded in 1952, USA) and Deuter (founded in 1898, Germany).

Why Travel With Carry on Luggage Only

Since 2014 I have been traveling carry on only for most of the time.

And from my experience I can assure you, that it really is the way to go. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, 1-2 week holiday overseas or an extended trip to volunteer abroad, one carry on backpack is all you need in most of the situations.

From the very first time abroad I have been traveling light. Mostly I’m traveling with one carry on size backpack only.

Even when in 2013 we were cycling across India for 5 months, we did it with just a little bit more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) of luggage each.

Why should you travel with carry on only, too?

Osprey Farpoint 40 and Osprey Fairview 40 backpacks
Osprey Farpoint 40 and Osprey Fairview 40 backpacks

1. Because It’s Possible to Travel With One Small Bag Only

Oh, but I can’t. I need so many things with me on my travels.

I can’t pack everything in one bag. Clothes alone take so much space. And shoes. And electronics. And…

Trust me – in most of the situations, you can pack everything you need in one bag. Leave all the “what if” stuff at home, and all the clothes that you aren’t 100% sure you will use. Instead choose clothes that you can wear for different occasions.

Don’t carry heavy camping equipment with you, if you will go camping only for a night or two. Rent it. Leave these big bottles of shampoo and shower gel at home, and buy these things once you arrive at your destination. That’s in case your hotel doesn’t provide them for free.

2. It’s Liberating to Travel With Carry On Only

Less luggage = less worries.

When you travel with carry on bag only, you don’t need to check in your luggage. You don’t need to worry about your luggage, while it’s being transported. And you don’t need to wait for it when you arrive. You can head out of the airport right away, leaving hundreds of others, waiting for their luggage, behind.

But that’s not all. It doesn’t end at the airport.

Traveling with one bag you will feel better every day. Because having less stuff with you, making decisions is so much easier as well.

Decisions like what to wear today? Or which shoes should I choose for that evening stroll? With only couple pairs of shoes, one or two trousers and few shirts with you making these kind of decisions is super easy.

A backpack and a pineapple

3. The Less You Have, the Less You Need to Care About

And I’m not speaking only about very expensive stuff like laptops, tablets, camera equipment or super light (and expensive) minimalist camping gear. Of course you should choose these things wisely, taking with you only what you will really use. Because otherwise, what’s the point of carrying them around?

But the same stands for everything else.

Don’t take that jacket, if it’s your favorite and you are afraid that it might get damaged. Of course, unless you really need it. Or that expensive perfume. Or your super cool Bose headphones.

Better take less and you’ll bring more great memories back home with you.

4. The Lighter Is Your Luggage, the Less You Need to Carry

And that’s one of the main reasons for me to travel with less luggage.

The less I need to carry, the happier I am. Who likes to walk around with heavy backpack? Not me.

5. Traveling With Carry On Luggage Only Is Cheaper

Yes, on long haul flights mostly you still get a free checked baggage allowance of 1 or 2 bags.

But traveling for shorter distances and on domestic flights more and more often nowadays checked baggage costs you extra.

Sometimes it costs just a little bit extra, when compared to the price of the ticket, other times – ridiculously a lot. But multiply it by two (for your return flight), and you will get a decent sum, which you could also save. With low-cost airlines, like Ryanair and Wizz Air in Europe, it may cost you even more than a ticket itself.

Pack less and save that money.

You can spend it later on some cool travel experience instead, or to buy another flight somewhere.

That’s it! Are you currently thinking of traveling with carry on only? Yes?

Then go back to the table of the best carry on backpacks and choose your next travel bag!