Carry-on backpacks can be the best way to conveniently transport your gear during air travel. They allow you to pack in a surprisingly large amount of luggage while remaining lightweight and compliant with airline restrictions.
However, with so many options on the market, it can be hard to find the product that is right for you. In this article we break down everything from design, to accessories, to durability to help you find the carry-on pack that best meets your specific needs.
Our top pick: Osprey Farpoint 40L Ultralight Travel Backpack
Osprey is one of the most trusted names in the outdoor gear world and with this pack they integrate their high-end tech with travel functionality.
Designed for comfort, yet not compromising on features and durability, it’s hard to look past the Farpoint if you’re in the market for a great carry-on travel pack.
This backpack is built for total all-round use and for versatile, on the move, light packers.
Whether It be a city or a campsite, its minimalistic design and customisable setup (it can be transformed in a duffel bag) makes it perfect also as a carry-on bag for airplane, train or bus travel.
- Trusted market leader in outdoor gear
- Very lightweight and comfortable
- Multiple carry options
- Suitable for everyday use
- Lifetime guarantee
- Excellent value for money
- Not too many accessories or compartments for devices
- Design may seem too minimalistic for some
Kathmandu Litehaul 38L Carry-On Pack
The Kathmandu Litehaul one of our favourite lightweight travel packs thanks to its incredible external size to internal storage ratio (dimensions are 55cm x 32cm x 30cm).
This makes it an excellent option for those wanting to maximise the gear they can transport while still remaining within airline luggage restrictions.
It comes with a myriad of accessories including an Air pod system, tuck-away zip belt, external laptop pocket, lockable main zipper and more.
To top it off it is made of polyester recycled from plastic bottles.
- Impressive internal capacity despite its small size
- Opens up like a suitcase for easy access
- Can also be carried like a suitcase (good for airports once shoulder straps packed away)
- Feature packed
- Environmentally friendly
- 38L may be too small for some travellers
- Side pockets if packed can impact space availability of the main compartment
Osprey Fairview 40L Womens Travel Backpack
The Osprey Fairview is similar to the Osprey Farpoint but designed specifically with female travellers in mind. Like its male counterpart it is crafted for maximum performance in all settings and situations.
At 53.3 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm it is smaller than the Litehaul and Farpoint but still scores highly in airplane carry-on compliance.
- Light and comfortable for extended travel
- Impressive hide-away strap system
- Variety of colours options
- Sleek design
- Works well as cabin luggage
- Location of laptop compartment may not be best for weight distribution
- When the main compartment is full the front compartment space is less usable
NOMATIC Water Resistant 40L Travel Bag
Nomatic as a company is quickly making a name for itself with its top of the line highly technical and effective backpacks.
Not only is this pack completely water resistant making it a great outdoors bag, but it is also completely TSA approved and designed for maximum efficiency while travelling.
It is also the most accessorized bag on this list with RFID pockets, cord organizers, laptop and tablet pockets and more.
- Feature packed
- Designed to be the ultimate modern light backpack
- Impressive storage space
- Top of the line water resistant nylon lining
- High TSA compliance
- Layout may be considered counterintuitive by some users
Hynes Eagle 38L Flight Approved Weekender Carry On Backpack
The Hynes Eagle 38L is an affordable compact bag that still packs a punch, with numerous accessories including compression straps, handy front organizer pockets and multiple carrying options backed by a sleek design.
- Clever, spacious design
- Highly water-resistant polyester and nylon exterior
- Compartments work well for organisation
- Straps may lose grip faster than other counterparts
- Likely to be less durable than more high-end options
Carry-On Backpack Buyer’s Guide
Want to know what to look out for on your search for your perfect travel pack
Below we discuss the key considerations:
It might seem obvious but how can you effectively choose a backpack the right size for a trip of any given duration? The perfect backpack should be able to comfortably fit and protect your most crucial travel equipment.
This could range from a few changes of clothes and footwear to documents (passports, insurance documents etc), toiletries, medication and electronic equipment.
A good backpack should be able to reasonably fit whatever is needed for the voyage comfortably, as well as offering basic protection from the elements for more fragile belongings.
Perhaps most importantly, you need a carry-on backpack that will comply with airline restrictions.
Below are links to the carry-on rules for some of the more popular Australian and International carriers:
Your choice of backpack should reflect your destination. Mountain, jungle, wilderness or urban settings all present different challenges in choosing the correct gear.
Nowadays backpack engineering is an incredibly high precision effort with many different facets.
There are state-of-the-art backpacks for every use. From tech-savvy duffel bags compliant with airplane regulations to models intended for hardcore trekking, hiking and camping all the way to backpack brands that try their best to make both ends meet.
RELATED: The Best Wheeled Backpacks
DESIGN AND ACCESSORIES
As backpack technology and design improves, there are a number of features and accessories that are becoming mainstays in terms of providing the level of functionality that users demand.
- Some of the most important features to consider are:
- Separate pockets and compartments (including shoe pockets, hidden pockets, RFID or Radio Frequency ID pockets, sunglasses pockets, book and document compartments and for the tech-savvy, laptop and camera compartments)
- Retractable sleeves
- Adjustable, comfortable and customisable straps
- Water-resistant covers for rain
- Lockable zippers
- Magnet clips
- Material resistant to other elements such as snow, mud, dirt and sand
Choosing the right balance between accessories, spaciousness and design is an integral part of opting for the right backpack.
DURABILITY AND WARRANTY
Another extremely important factor is the lifetime of your backpack. Regardless of use, all travel gear will eventually succumb to some wear and tear.
Try and understand the strengths and weakness of the backpack’s structure and material and make sure it comes with a reasonable warranty (most companies on our list offer extended or even lifetime warranties) on any product.
A great carry-on backpack can really elevate your travel experience to the next level.
When choosing your pack be sure to consider your personal preferences and style of travel, in conjunction with the various considerations mentioned in our buyers guide.
While any of the products on this list would make an exception travel companion, our top pick is the Osprey Farpoint thanks to its exceptional design, durability, and value for money.