best carry on backpacks for travelers

10 Best Carry-On Backpacks

Traveling is fun. But in this day and age when there are so many different security checkpoints and regulations wherever you travel, it might get exhausting sometimes.

No matter what time you show up for your flight it seems that there is never enough time to go through customs, TSA, and get to your gate without being winded.

Even if you are one of the few that plans ahead to get through all that in a decent amount of time, you may be delayed due to oversized carry-on that ends up having to be checked in.

Then you have to deal with the added costs of checking that item and you are without all your toys and entertainment during your flight.

What if though you could find a carry-on backpack that you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt would pass through customs?

What if there was one bag that could save you money and time when going through all the security checkpoints?

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Well, here you are going to find the ten best Carry-On Backpacks for your next plane trip.

The Purpose of a Carry-On Backpacks

A lot of people don’t realize that carry-ons are life savers when it comes to the horrible situation where the airlines lose your luggage.

Most people don’t even think twice about packing extra clothes for emergency situations like that. They think that a carry-on should be something you bring that has all your entertainment and goodies to keep you occupied until you reach your destination.

However, the real reason behind a carry-on is so that when you get to your destination and find that your luggage hasn’t arrived yet, you aren’t stuck with only the clothes on your back.

Things to Consider When Buying Carry On Backpacks

Before you go searching for your perfect carry-on backpack there are a few things you need to consider. You need a backpack that will carry everything you need to bring with you and then some. After all, the rule of thumb is to bring an extra change of clothes, personal items, and whatever else you think you may need.

You should also pack your valuables in your carry-on since it is less likely to get lost during your flight. In order to pack everything you need in such a small space, you need to know the Dimensions of your carry-on.

You also need one that will provide you with comfort for layovers and travel around. After a 7-hour flight and a 2-hour layover, the last thing you want is a bag that is uncomfortable. You will already be miserable thanks to the time change. So getting a bag that is soft with cushions in the straps just makes things that much easier for you.

Lastly, you want a backpack that will hold everything you want to bring with you or the capacity. A backpack that has multiple pockets to keep everything organized is the way to go when traveling. It also makes it easier for the TSA agents to go through when you are at the security checkpoints. The faster you can get through that area with no headaches the better.


Let’s look at the dimensions. There are three little words you never want an airline steward to tell you: “That doesn’t fit.” When those words are uttered you are guaranteed to have to bring your carry-on to the checkout counter. That is why it is so important to know the limits of your carry-on. You want to know that it will fit easily in the overhead compartment or under your seat with no issues.

Sure, you can use the airport’s baggage checker to make sure. Or, you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your bag will fit by doing a little research and knowing how big each carry-on for the different major airlines can be.

Rules and Regulations for the Major Airlines:

There are basically 9 major airlines that people use to get around the country.

  1. American
  2. United
  3. Delta
  4. Hawaiian
  5. Virgin
  6. JetBlue
  7. Southwest
  8. Spirit
  9. Alaskan

Each one of these major airlines allows you to bring with you one personal item like a purse or small bag and one carry-on at no cost to you. The sizes of these items differ between the different airlines.

Take Alaskan airlines for example. Your carry-on must be at the maximum 24in x 17in x 10in. That includes the wheels and handle that you use to move it around. But when you look at Spirit, the airlines won’t allow a carry-on to be bigger than 22 x 18 x 10 inches.

The standard size for your carry-on through JetBlue, American Airline, Delta, United, and Hawaiian is 22 inches x 14 inches x 9 inches. Believe it or not that one inch can mean all the difference between getting your carry-on in the overhead bulkhead and having to check it in. So pay attention to the dimensions of your carry-on to avoid this little problem.


Now, when it comes to comfort, you want one that is comfortable for you to be lugging around. The comfort level is crucial, especially when you have layovers and are traveling through different airports. You don’t want a bag that is going to cause you to hurt. One of the main pressure points that get irritated during traveling is the shoulder and neck area. That is because that is where the weight of your backpack rests. You want a carry-on backpack that will provide you with padding in that area so you don’t hurt after your trip.


Lastly, you want to think about how much stuff you can pack in your carry-on and how organized you can get it. There are some carry-on backpacks that open up and lay flat. These are super awesome when going through all the security checkpoints. It makes it easy for the TSA personnel to open it up and see everything all at once instead of digging through it. Plus, these kinds of backpacks hold everything from your laptop to an extra set of clothes and a toothbrush each in different compartments so everything is in its place.

Top 10 Best Carry-On Backpacks for 2018

1. Swiss Gear Scan Smart Travel Pack

When it comes to being prepared, the Swiss Gear is the way to go. When you are traveling and trying to get through customs quickly, the Swiss Gear opens up and lays flat exposing everything all at once. The TSA agents will love you for having this backpack and making their life easier. You will love it because it has a place to store everything you could ever need to bring.

The dimensions for the Swiss Gear are perfect for a carry-on backpack. The height is 18.5, the width is 13.5 and the depth is 9 inches. This pack will easily fit into any overhead compartment or under your seat when you fly. Plus it is well within the rules and regulations for all major airlines.

This backpack is rugged, durable and will outlast any backpack on the market. When it comes to comfort, this backpack is no joke. It comes with padded shoulder straps that target the pressure points in the neck, shoulders and lower back. You will also find that it offers great ventilation.

Now when you think of storage space, the Swiss Gear comes with two side pockets, two front pockets, and a side mesh pouch. Once you open it up, you will find a place for everything. Including a compartment so you can pack a 17-inch laptop should you wish to bring one.

Features I Like:

  • Plenty of storage space
  • Lays out flat for quick and easy security checks
  • Breathable polyester material
  • Water and Rip-proof
  • Airflow
  • Padded straps
  • Contours to the body
  • Multiple colors to pick from
  • Fits all major airline carry-on dimensions

2. Hynes Eagle Travel Backpack

Here we have a backpack that looks and functions more like a suitcase than an actual backpack. When you open it up, you will have plenty space for extra clothes and places to put your valuables. Although, it doesn’t offer a variety of compartments to keep things organized. Sure there are a few compartments for your smaller stuff like phone and wallet, but this design is more for the business traveler who doesn’t want to check-in any luggage. With it being able to hold up to 38L you will have no issues with storage space.

An interesting feature to the Hynes Eagle is how you can easily stash the shoulder straps into its own compartment. Before you stash this carry-on into the overhead bin, you simply tuck away the straps into the built-in pouch. This feature allows you to carry the Eagle with the handles on the top or side if you don’t want to lug it around on your shoulders.

When it comes to the material you will find that the Eagle is constructed of 600D polyester along with polyester lining for the inside. This allows you to easily hand wash this carry-on when it gets dirty.

The Eagle is designed to meet many of the major airline’s carry-on standards. You will find that the dimensions for the Eagle are, 13 x 7.9 x 19.7 inches allowing it to easily fit in any overhead bin or under your seat. You definitely won’t hear the airline steward tell you it’s too big.

Now when you are waiting for your next leg of your journey, you will find that the padded straps are an added bonus. The wide straps distribute the bulk of the weight across your entire back instead of just one place. You will be very comfortable carrying the Eagle on your back, or as a small suitcase.

Features I Like:

  • Meets Airline regulations for Carry-ons
  • Compact
  • Hand washable
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Multiple colors
  • Slick design
  • Hide-a-way straps
  • Multiple ways to carry
  • Thick shoulder straps

3. Cabin Max Metz Flight Approved Backpack

If you are looking for a carry-on backpack with loads of colors to pick from, then you should take a look at Cabin Max. You are certain to find a color or design you want since they have 39 different colors to pick from. While each backpack comes with the same dimensions, pockets, and features, you will find that they are fun and sure to get noticed.

You will find that the 44L Cabin Max offers you plenty of storage space. You will be able to easily fit an extra set of clothes, valuable items and whatever you need to keep yourself entertained during your trip. The front pocket keeps everything organized in separate pockets while the main compartment is best for your extra clothes.

You won’t find any problems storing this backpack in the overhead bin or below your seat on any major airlines. The dimensions for the Cabin Max are 22 x 16 x 8 inches. Plus it is constructed from water resistant material.

You will find that toting the Cabin Max around the terminals won’t strain your back or shoulders. The shoulder straps are padded and give you the comfort you need to get through to your final destination.

If you are looking to travel light and don’t need to bring a whole lot, the Cabin Max will suit your traveling needs. It is perfect for the weekend adventures or quick business trips.

Features I Like:

  • Plenty of Colors to pick from
  • Front pocket keeps everything organized
  • 44L of storage space
  • Padded straps
  • Fits in nearly all overhead bins
  • Compact and durable
  • Water resistant material

4. Amazon Basics

Are you one of those people that need that extra reassurance that your carry-on will pass all major airline carry-on regulations? Then you will need to get yourself the Amazon Basic carry-on backpack.

Like the Eagle, the Amazon Basic is designed to replace a regular suitcase. The main compartment of this backpack is suited for you to place your extra clothes or valuables. It then comes with a front pocket where you can keep all your personal items separated.

One of the main features of the Amazon Basic is how the straps can be removed. This allows you the option to carry this however you want. You can disconnect the shoulder straps and tote around the bag by the side handle. Or you can attach the single shoulder strap to carry it as a cross over bag.

This backpack really only offers you the basics when it comes to storing your stuff. You won’t have any issues when checking in your luggage as the Amazon Basic will fit any over bin on any major airline. The dimensions for the Amazon Basic are 15 x 7.9 x 20.1 inches. It offers you enough space for all your carry-on needs and works perfectly for those on business trips or weekend get-a-ways who don’t want to check in luggage.


  • Easy to set up under the hammock
  • Super lightweight
  • Compacts down to about the size of a football
  • Keeps you warm and snug
  • Water repellent finish
  • Adjustable suspension
  • Contours to your body

5. Prottoni Weekend Backpack

When it comes to finding a backpack that keeps everything separated you need the Prottoni Weekend backpack. You will have no issues getting to your passport in the anti-theft pocket that is hidden. Or your laptop that has its own zipped pocket for easy access. You will find more than enough room in this 45L pack for all your stuff and personal items. The Prottoni comes with three front pockets, main compartment, and hidden mesh pocket.

Getting through security will be a breeze with this backpack. Simply open it up and see everything inside without having to dig around. Plus you know it will fit easily in any overhead compartment. The dimensions for the Prottoni are 20 x 14.1 x 6.5 inches making it well within the flight regulations for your carry-on backpack.

When it comes to comfort you will enjoy the padded straps that contour to your body. The padded back is also a huge bonus when you are walking around the terminal waiting for your next flight or getting a bite to eat.

If you don’t want to use this pack as a backpack, you can stash the straps and tote it around by the two handles. One handle is located at the top of the bag while the second one is on the side.

Features I Like:

  • Super comfortable straps and back
  • Ventilation
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Guaranteed to fit all major airline regulations for carry-on
  • Hidden compartment for values

6. Outlander Compact Travel Backpack

If you are looking for a backpack that is durable and water resistant then you need the Outlander Compact Travel backpack. This carry-on backpack can hold up to 35 L and still pass airline regulations. You will find that the dimensions for the Outlander are 18.5 x 13 x 7.5 inches giving you more than enough room for everything you need to keep you entertained on your flight.

The Outlander comes in several different colors as well making it one of the more stylish backpacks you will find. Plus when you aren’t using it, you can very easily fold it down into a smaller bag and store it anywhere in your home. Or if you are looking for a bag that you can pack up in your suitcase and fill later, then the Outlander is the pack for you.

You will find that the Outlander is very comfortable with its padded straps. Also, everything you need is easy to access as it comes with two front pockets and two side mesh pouches for water bottles or other stuff.

The Outlander Compact Travel Backpack is the perfect substitution for a diaper bag. Easily store your bottles in the mesh side pockets. Keep the main compartment for your diapers and other necessities while the two front pockets can store your tickets, wallet and personal items.

Features I Like:

  • Stores easily
  • Compacts down to a lunch box size bag
  • Multiple uses
  • Water resistant material
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Multiple pockets to keep things organized
  • Lightweight
  • Padded shoulder straps

7. The Equator by Cabin Max

Looking for a durable, reliable, and all around great backpack? Then you need the Equator by Cabin Max. You will find that this carry-on backpack can hold up to 44L of stuff and has more than enough compartments to keep everything organized.

You will find that the Equator offers you easy access to all your stuff. However, the downside to this backpack is all the extra little pockets that may delay your time at the security checkpoints. On the other hand, you will find that this backpack is great to travel with no matter if you are taking it on a plane or using it every day.

The Equator is also constructed from water resistant material and very comfortable. Plus you won’t have any issues with the size as it fits into most overhead bins and is flight approved. The dimensions just to be on the safe side are 14.2 x 9.1 x 22.1 inches. So it doesn’t matter what airlines you travel with, this bag is sure to make it through the checkpoints without you having to check it in.

Features I Like:

  • Meets airlines standards for international and domestic flights
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Padded shoulder and waist straps
  • Keeps things organized
  • Water resistant material
  • Internal and external compression straps to fit your body and keep gear stored.

8. Excelsior Carry-On by OGIO

Looking for a pack that can store enough stuff for a weekend get-a-way without having to check in any luggage? You will need the OGIO Excelsior. This carry-on backpack will store everything neatly in separate compartments and still get you through security with no issues or delays.

You will find a place for everything you want to bring as this pack comes with two small front pockets, a laptop sleeve, and main compartment. This pack is perfect for a business trip or weekend get-a-way where you don’t need much.

You will find that the padded straps offer you that extra comfort you need on long layovers. Plus they are wide so they distribute the weight of the bag evenly.

The dimensions for the Excelsior are 19.5 x 13.5 x 9 inches assuring that this pack will have no issues being stored in the overhead compartment or below your seat.

Features I Like:

  • Plenty of storage space
  • Soft comfortable straps
  • Easy access to all your stuff
  • Perfect for everyday use
  • Strong and durable material

9. The Tortuga Travel Backpack

Like other backpacks on this list, the Tortuga is a front loading backpack. It is designed like a suitcase so that you can pack the most into it without having to check it in.

You will find that this pack offers you more than enough space and can carry up to 44 L. This carry-on backpack pushes the limits of space you can get away with without having to check it in. The dimensions for this pack are 22 x 14 x 9 which is the maximum limit for most major airlines.

When you are traveling you want a bag that keeps your stuff organized and safe. With the Tortuga, you can rest assure that each and every pocket comes with lockable zippers. While getting into your bag with that much security can be a pain, at least you know you won’t get pickpocketed.

The comfort level with this backpack is a ten thanks to the padded shoulder and hip straps. The weight of your pack will be evenly distributed to prevent any discomfort or injury while you travel.

Features I Like:

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to carry
  • Ample amount of storage space
  • Lockable zippers
  • Keeps everything organized
  • Front loading
  • Maximum size for carry-on for most major airlines

10. Tallinn by Cabin Max

Once again Cabin Max has made it on the list of the best carry-on backpacks you can find. With the Tallinn, you will find that it too offers a front-loading design. Simply put you pack it like a suitcase.

You will find that the Tallinn is constructed from water resistant materials. Plus there is plenty of storage space for all your goodies. The backpack comes with three main compartments for you to keep things separated as well as a place for you to keep your laptop. When it comes to comfort you will find that the padded straps distribute the bulk of the weight evenly.

If you are looking for a backpack that can fit all your necessities in it without having to check in luggage, then this is the bag for you. Fly through security with the open design making everything easy to see.

With Tallinn by Cabin Max, you can rest assure knowing that it is flight approved. The dimensions for the Tallinn are 15.8 x 9.8 x 21.6 inches. As long as you don’t pack this backpack to the brim you should be just fine storing it in an overhead compartment or under your seat.

Features I Like:

  • Comfortable padded straps
  • Easy to pack
  • Easy access to stuff
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Accommodates most airline regulations
  • Water resistant material
  • Padded back for added comfort

Editor’s Pick:

So, which carry-on is the best of the best? When it comes to comfort and speeding up your time through checkpoints you should get the Swiss Gear Scan Smart Travel Pack. The fact that it lays out flat giving you a quick view of everything inside not only speeds up time at the checkpoints, but it also helps you located things quickly.

Not only is the Swiss Gear perfect as a carry-on backpack but you can use it for any and all occasions. It doesn’t matter if you need it for school, as a gym bag, or if you are hiking, this pack will stand up to the test of time. Swiss Gear is a well-known company that makes their products last. You will find that you can put this thing through the ringer and it will hold up to any and all conditions. Plus you don’t have to worry about whether or not it will fit the rules and regulations for a carry-on as it is well below the standard limit size for all major airlines.


No matter where you are going or for how long you need a backpack that isn’t going to add any stress. You want one that will allow you easy access to all your stuff. Plus you don’t want it to be a pain for security to go through.

Sure, any old bag will do, but if you don’t do your homework you run the risk of picking one that doesn’t fit the regulated size. After all, not all airlines have the same standard. Some are bigger and some are much smaller. Most of the items on this list though will be fine for most major airlines foreign and domestic.

The only choice you have to make is deciding which one to pick and to make sure you take lots of pictures.

About Author

Neil Ferriss

Hey! I am Neil. Since I quit my job in 2015, I’ve traveled to several countries and have completed some thrilling items from my adventure bucket list. This blog is about sharing entertaining travel stories, useful travel tips and thrilling adventures with you from my non-stop adventure around the world.

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