Say goodbye to checked bag fees with our 7 favorite travel backpacks

Apr 10, 2020

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If you’re a frequent traveler, you know the gear you take with you can make or break your trip.

Can’t fit all of your essentials into your carry-on? Does your bag keep falling off your suitcase? Do you keep misplacing your passport — and your boarding pass, wallet and cell phone? Or worst of all, are you always paying a checked bag? Those are surefire ways to start your trip off on the wrong foot.

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To that end, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite travel backpacks to keep on your radar for your next trip. Whether you’re looking for something light and versatile or with a little more depth for active adventures, there’s something for every type of traveler here.

Before you press “confirm purchase,” though, do yourself a favor and check out our guides to airline shopping portals as well as the best credit cards for online shopping. That way, the gear you’re buying for your next trip is helping you actually get there, too.

Related: These are the best cards for online shopping

The best travel backpacks

  • Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack
  • MZ Wallace Metro Backpack
  • Calpak Glenroe Backpack
  • Beis The Backpack
  • North Face Router Transit Backpack
  • Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack
  • Tumi Alpha Bravo Nellis Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack

(Photo courtesy of Dagne Dover)
(Photo courtesy of Dagne Dover)

Why we love it: This backpack is a TPG editor favorite, and it’s no wonder why: It’s stylish yet practical, and easily transitions from the gym to the office and to the airport without breaking a sweat. The neoprene bag boasts adjustable shoulder straps, interior mesh pockets and even an exterior shoe bag, although the latter is only available for medium- and large-sized backpacks. One of our favorite features, though, is the luggage trolley sleeve that slides seamlessly over our carry-on handles. It also comes in almost a dozen colors, some of which are seasonal while others are always in rotation, though not every size is available in every color. We love the classic onyx (black), dune (a dusty rose) and heather gray.

Sizing: The Dakota Backpack comes in small, medium and large. The small measures 9.5 inches by 5 inches by 13 inches; the medium measures 11.5 inches by 5 inches by 17 inches; and the large measures 13.25 inches by 5.25 inches by 17.5 inches.

To buy: Full-prices backpacks start at $135 directly on Dagne Dover, although you might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere. For example, Bandier is having a site-wide 30%-off sale, including all Dagne Dover products.

MZ Wallace Metro Backpack

(Photo courtesy of MZ Wallace)
(Photo courtesy of MZ Wallace)

Why we love it: Another versatile backpack no matter the situation, this bag fits up to a 15-inch laptop, has three exterior pockets and a top handle. It also comes in a handful of colors, including black, dazzle (blue) and camouflage.

Sizing: The Metro Backpack only comes in one size: 12.2 inches by 5.5 inches by 16.5 inches.

To buy: MZ Wallace bags start at $245 and is sold at Saks Fifth Avenue — so if you haven’t used your $50 biannual credit (up to $100 annual credit total), courtesy of The Platinum Card® from American Express, this is a great way to knock down the price. If you’ve already taken advantage of that, don’t fret. You can sign up for MZ Wallace emails and receive 15% off when purchasing directly through the retailer.

Related: What your luggage brand says about you

Calpak Glenroe Backpack

(Photo courtesy of Calpak)
(Photo courtesy of Calpak)

Why we love it: Calpak is a massively popular luggage company, and you’d be hard-pressed not to encounter one of their metallic pink bags rolling around the airport. And the Genroe Backpack also lives up to those high expectations with a luggage trolley sleeve, as well as adjustable shoulder straps, a side handle and a 15-inch laptop pocket. It’s lightweight as well, weighing in at only 1.3 pounds. It comes in a variety of colors, ranging from olive to lavender, and of course, a signature black.

Sizing: The Glenroe Backpack only comes in one size: 12.5 inches by 10 inches by 18 inches.

To buy: Calpak’s Glenroe bag is considerably cheaper than many other comparable options on the market. It retails directly from Calpak for only $52, and you can get 20% off when you sign up for texts. Keep in mind, though, you’ll have to pay $75 total to get free shipping. The good news is we’ve also spotted it on sale at Nordstrom Rack for under $40 — and because Nordstrom Rack is available on many airline shopping portals, you’ll be able to rack up some miles for your favorite airline in the process. You’ll get free shipping here on orders over $100.

Beis The Backpack

(Photo courtesy of Beis)
(Photo courtesy of Beis)

Why we love it: Shay Mitchell — who many of you will recognize from “Pretty Little Liars” and “You” — launched her travel brand Beis back in 2018. The Backpack is one of the highlights of the collection, thanks to its padded shoulder straps, key fob, water-resistant lining and padded laptop sleeve. It’s perfect for quick weekend trips or overnights, and weighs less than 2 pounds.

Sizing: The Backpack only comes in one size: 13 inches by 5.5 inches by 19 inches.

To buy: The black and beige colors retail for $78, but the evergreen color is on sale for $68. Unfortunately, Beis isn’t available through any online shopping portals, although it is available at Nordstrom if you want to boost your Nordy Club balance.

Related: Target just unveiled its brand-new luggage line — and there’s something for every traveler

The North Face Router Transit Backpack

(Photo courtesy of The North Face)
(Photo courtesy of The North Face)

Why we love it: If you’re going away for a few weeks or having a more adventurous trip, this bag should be your new go-to. It comes in light and dark gray, as well as black. The backpack fits up to a 17-inch laptop, and has a removable waist belt, padded handles and a separate compartment for books and binders.

Sizing: North Face doesn’t list dimensions in inches, but the backpack fits up to 41 liters.

To buy: You can purchase directly from The North Face for $159 — and your bag will also come with a lifetime guarantee. It’s typically available on Amazon, as well, but was sold out at the time of publication. The North Face is also available on Delta, American, United, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska shopping portals.

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack

(Photo courtesy of Tortuga)
(Photo courtesy of Tortuga)

Why we love it: Tortuga’s Outbreaker Backpack is the best of both worlds, a genius combination between a hiking backpack and a standard, rolling carry-on. Seriously, this thing fits everything. Even though it’s carry-on sized, it boasts both laptop and tablet sleeves, lockable zippers, a removable hip belt, a height-adjustable suspension system and plenty of padding. Depending on how much you pack, it can fit enough for a week of travel. It has large mesh pockets to store shoes, clothes, toiletries and more, and ensures your belongings will stay organized no matter the situation.

Sizing: The Outbreaker Backpack comes in two sizes: 45 liters or 35 liters.

To buy: The backpack starts at $269 directly on Tortuga’s website.

Related: How to tell if your backpack counts as a personal or carry-on item.

Tumi Alpha Bravo Nellis Backpack

(Photo courtesy of Tumi)
(Photo courtesy of Tumi)

Why we love it: We love this backpack — and not just because it references the pilot’s alphabet or has the same name as TPG’s reviews editor, Nick Ellis. It fits a 15-inch laptop sleeve and features a zip entry to the main compartment. There are plenty of external compartments, and it’s stylish and sleek: sure to please even the pickiest travelers.

Sizing: The Nellis Alpha Bravo Backpack only comes in one size: 14 inches by 6.5 inches by 16 inches.

To buy: This backpack doesn’t come cheap — it’s $625 when purchased on Tumi’s website. You may be able to find it cheaper on Amazon from $339.

Related: How and why I travel the world with only a Tumi backpack

Frequently Asked Questions

What to look for when shopping for backpacks

No matter what type of traveler you are or where you’re headed, you’ll want to make sure your backpack, above all, is practical. This is an item you should get a lot of mileage out of, and it’s important that it fits and organizes all of your essentials. You’ll also want to make sure it’s an item you enjoy taking with you on trips. Ideally, it fits your style and preferences, and is versatile no matter the situation. So, if you need to transition from a business meeting to sightseeing, you might opt for the Dagne Dover or MZ Wallace bags. If your trips are likely to include day hikes and more active adventures, you’ll be better off with The North Face or a competitive bag.

Benefits of traveling with a backpack

Traveling with a backpack means you’ll always have your go-to items at your disposal. As it’s smaller than a suitcase or your typical rollaboard, you’ll always be able to take it on the plane with you, instead of checking it underneath. Once you get to your destination, it’s easy to take with you for a day of sightseeing, as well.

Featured photo by Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images.

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