IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

17 travel backpacks that are lightweight, durable and filled with compartments

Heading out of town? No matter your destination, there's a backpack for you.
Couple relaxing after hiking and taking a break, wearing backpacks
DaniloAndjus / Getty Images

Traveling to a new destination is always exciting, especially when you are well packed and prepared for the journey ahead. When it comes to packing, there are two types of travelers: backpackers and over-packers.

A sturdy travel backpack always comes in handy wherever you go. Whether it is visiting a theme park or hiking a mountain, backpacks allow you to carry your essentials and keep them nearby in case your suitcases don't make it to your final destination.

Travel backpacks come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and patterns, so the options may seem overwhelming when you're shopping for one. But fear not, the Shop TODAY team got some of the top questions about travel backpacks answered by travel expert Valerie Joy Wilson.

Why is a backpack a necessity when it comes to travel?

When many people think of traveling, they think of toting a backpack around an airport, while exploring a new city or storing it safely on a rollercoaster at a theme park. “Backpacks are the easiest way to carry personal items and essentials in one place,” said Wilson. No matter what your essentials are, you’re going to want a backpack that fits them all, can be easily organized and isn’t too big and bulky.

What features should someone look for in a travel backpack?

“If you’re considering the purchase of a travel backpack, start by looking for smart, well thought-out compartments for organizing your items," said Wilson. "Think about what you will typically pack and how you will need to access it. Look for something lightweight and durable with an excellent warranty.”

For those going to a national park or on an outdoor backpacking trip with friends, you’re going to want to find a bag that’s waterproof for those splash-and-dash summer showers. Families traveling to the theme parks should try to find something that’s easy to carry and will be comfortable for long days on the move. Travelers going on a road trip should consider something with a lot of pockets and compartments, so you can still find your wallet, laptop or cell phone in a pinch when the car is overloaded with suitcases and snacks are everywhere.

How big of a travel backpack should you consider?

“Backpacks should be small enough to fit the carry-on requirements for airplanes, which are generally 15-by-8-by-20 maximum," explained Wilson. "Everyone is different and what’s essential can vary from one traveler to the next, so one backpack will not fit everyone’s needs. It’s a good idea to decide what you absolutely must have with you.”

Travel backpacks for hiking and outdoor trips

Diamond Candy Waterproof Hiking Backpack

This backpack is a good option for outdoor travel thanks to its hydration system. The backpack is weather-resistant and can withstand most of what the trail might bring including sharp objects and water. The multi-compartments and roomy interior will give you the convenience to carry all your essentials without feeling extra weight due to its lightweight construction.

Herschel Little America Backpack

The Hershel backpack is perfect for outdoor trips and great for mountaineering expeditions. The design offers a versatile look with modern adjustments. No need to adjust the straps either, as it has magnet fastened straps and a sleek interior to store your laptop. This is the perfect backpack for a quick getaway in the woods or even for your daily commute.

Coowoz Large Travel Backpack Women

With a more feminine design, this backpack is ideal for a woman that enjoys simplicity and organization. It comes with a separate shoe compartment, built-in charging port, interior pocket, anti-theft pocket and even a laptop sleeve to keep your things ultra-organized.

"This bag is the perfect size to use as a free airline personal item. Lots of organization built in and the way the bag is designed you are able to utilize every inch of space," said one Amazon reviewer.

The North Face Women’s Borealis Backpack

For those unexpected weather conditions, keep this North Face backpack in hand. The design encompasses a 360-degree reflectivity to keep you safe in low-light conditions and is made with a water-repellent material to keep your essentials dry. Also, it has enough compartments inside to keep your electronics and food separated.

Land's End Travel Printed Backpack

This water-repellent backpack from Land's End comes with triple compartments for easy organization. No matter if it starts raining, this bag will keep your shoes and clothes dry. It has a trolley sleeve to put on top of your carry-on and enough pockets to keep small things neat and tidy.

Rupumpack Insulated Hydration Backpack

This lightweight backpack has an integrated 2.5-liter bladder for water while hiking, biking and camping. One unique thing about this backpack is that the waist strap features two pockets where you can store items, including your phone to snap the perfect Instagram photo. The backpack comes in seven different colors to choose from including purple, dark orange and lemon green.

Compass Backpack

The Compass Backpack is made from recycled water bottles and is slash-proof, which is a nice feature when hiking through the woods with sticks and thorns. The backside pocket can also keep valuables like a phone and passport safe and out of sight.

Hauler 25L Backpack

This backpack can fit just about anything you might need for a weekend camping trip with friends or family. It’s made from recycled plastic and has multiple compartments to keep everything organized. There are also two removable compartments that can hold small accessories like hand sanitizer or headphones on the shoulder straps.

Travel backpacks for road trips

Open Story Commuter Backpack

This one is for your daily commuter or last-minute trips. One TODAY writer said this backpack is the perfect weekender tote and carry-on. "The backpack has five additional interior and exterior pockets for holding the essentials. I use the zippered inner pocket to store everything I want to keep safe and clean, like my passport, disposable masks and antibacterial wipes."

With plenty of space and enough compartments, this seems like a winner for weekend trips.

Carhartt Unisex Adult Essentials Backpack

Customers keep coming back to this brand for its durability and comfort. What makes this backpack so reliable are the rain defender technology, 600 denier canvas material and large compartment. "Straps are wide and padded. I've scrapped and dropped my bag on walls and floors and hardly a scratch on it," shared one Amazon shopper.

STM Myth Backpack

This stylish backpack is the perfect size for road trip essentials. One unique thing about the STM Myth is that it has an integrated charging cord organization, so you can charge any of your devices without getting tangled up in wires.

GoPro Daytripper Backpack

Road trips often mean hopping in and out of the car as you travel to different locations. The Daytripper backpack is ideal for that since it has protective compartments for cameras and lenses, along with a designated spot for a laptop or hydration bladder for when your family gets thirsty while touring a new place.

Kånken Water-Resistant Backpack

Water-resistant construction, dual bottle pockets and top carry handles are the main features of this versatile and iconic backpack. It comes with a padded seat cushion that can be removed to use it on hard surfaces and you can easily fit a 13-inch laptop. With a wide interior to store other essentials and exterior pockets, this is a great backpack for short trips.

Dare To Roam Packable Backpack

Traveling to your next Airbnb just got easier with this lightweight backpack featuring antimicrobial technology. With a roomy interior and interior organizational pouch, you can store your essentials in a breeze. Also, this backpack is easy to fold and store in your purse in case you need extra storage at the end of your trip.

Travel backpacks for theme parks

Vera Bradley Recycled Lighten Up Reactive Mini Sling Backpack

This Vera Bradley backpack is roomy enough to fit everything you’re going to need for a day at the theme parks. The two side pockets are big enough to fit a large refillable water bottle along with sunglasses and your phone. We also love that this backpack has water-repellent material so your travel documents don't get damaged during unpredicted weather.

Adventurist Classic

The Adventurist Classic is the perfect size for theme parks like Dollywood or Busch Gardens, where you’ll be slinging your bag on and off as you head to big roller coasters and water rides. The two side pockets are a good spot to put a refillable water bottle and your phone.

Baggallini Naples Convertible Backpack

This Baggallini backpack is so functional for a day around the park. It can be worn over one shoulder or you can expand the zipper and wear it as a backpack. It comes in 15 different colors and features a grab-and-go phone pocket, a padded pocket for your tablet, many interior compartments for organization and four card slots.