Best Carry On Backpacks That You Can Take On Your Next Plane Ride

Carry on backpack

What do you carry on when you fly? We all have stuff that we want with us during our flight. Laptops and magazines top the list, but many travelers like to carry on things that they don't want to risk temporarily losing due to their checked luggage being put on the wrong plane. And sometimes all of your stuff will fit in a small bag that will fit in the overhead compartment or under a seat.

These are all reasons why carry-on backpacks are gaining popularity. They offer the convenience of a carry-on bag and a slew of great features that enhance organization and save space.

Since there seem to be more carry-on backpacks popping up every day, we decided to take a look at them all and see which ones are good enough to be called the best.

Product Name

Key Features

Price

BEST OVERALL

Incase Via

incase via backpack

COLORS

Anthracite, Black, Deep red

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITY

19"x12.25"x6.25"

WEIGHT

2.5lbs

MATERIAL

Ballistic Nylon

Briggs & Riley Verb-Accelerate

Briggs & Riley Verb-Accelerate

COLORS

Black

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITY

14"x18.5"x7.5"

WEIGHT

2.69lbs

MATERIAL

Nylon

Tumi T-Pass

Tumi T-Pass

COLORS

Black, Navy, Pewter

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITY

16.5"x12"x7.5"

WEIGHT

3.8lbs

MATERIAL

Ballistic nylon

Eagle Creek Global Companion

Eagle Creek Global Companion

COLORS

Black, Smoky blue

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITY

22"x14"x9"

WEIGHT

3.7lbs

MATERIAL

Patented X-Pac fabric

Osprey Meridian

Osprey Meridian

COLORS

Blue, Green, Grey

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITY

22"x9"x14"

WEIGHT

8.37

MATERIAL

Nylon

eBags 3.0

eBags 3.0

COLORS

Black, Burnt orange, Crimson, Navy, Olive green

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITY

23.5"x15"x9.5"

WEIGHT

8.5lbs

MATERIAL

Nylon

BEST Low-Budget

Patagonia Black Hole Cinch Pack

Patagonia Black Hole Cinch Pack

COLORS

Grey, Purple, Blue, Black, Light green

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITY

Soft bag - 20 liters

WEIGHT

1 pound

MATERIAL

Nylon

How We Reviewed These Carry-On Backpacks

Prices of carry-on backpacks vary wildly. Our first job was to eliminate the ones that were priced too high to justify their value. We're not kidding when we say that we found some $900 packs that were worth about $200.

Then we looked at construction and material. Cheap zippers, very thin material and weak seams were all common problems we encountered. Strangely, many high-end packs exhibited poor craftsmanship.

Once the junk was out of the way, we picked seven carry-on backpacks and ended up with an assortment that holds something for everyone.

Every pack on our list meets our exacting standards of value for the money, durability, style and function.

The Best Carry-on Backpacks Compared And Reviewed

Now let's get into some specifics on each of these backpacks. Keep reading to dive deeper so you can decide which backpack is best for you.

Budget Pick:
Patagonia Black Hole Cinch Pack

Patagonia Black Hole Cinch Pack

Let's start with a simple yet functional carry-on pack.

This is a stylish and lightweight backpack that will appeal to the minimalist. It is comfortable to carry and features a chest strap for added stability.

The closure a simple drawstring cinch. Inside is a zippered pocket that keeps your smaller items from getting lost in the clothing or whatever else you carry in the 20-liter main compartment. There is also a pocket on the outside for keeping stuff you may want to get to easily on the plane.

The Black Hole Cinch pack is available in several colors. We like the way it combines style and simplicity.

Pros

  • Stylish
  • Simple
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Material is a bit thin

Osprey Meridian

Osprey Meridian

The Meridian by Osprey is not as light or simple as the Black Hole Cinch Pack, but it is pretty straightforward as far as carry-on packs go.

It is designed mainly for carrying clothing and a few accessories. The main compartment has garment straps for securing folded clothes, one medium zippered mesh compartment and two smaller ones.

We like that the backpack harness is removable and stows in the rear compartment for when you want to use the handle to carry or roll the pack on its sturdy wheels.

A detachable daypack has a built-in padded laptop sleeve. This is great, because who wants to be far from their laptop anymore?

The rear panel is made to hold magazines, which is something that can be very convenient during a long flight or a weather delay.

If style and a recognizable name brand are important to you when you travel, you may want to check this one out.

Pros

  • Built-in magazine rack
  • Detachable daypack
  • Removable harness
  • Check Circle
    Wheels

Cons

  • Expensive
  • ban
    Does not "butterly," or fold out like a suitcase. A pack designed to mainly hold clothing should.

Incase Via

incase via backpack

This one reminds me of a regular suitcase, but of course it is smaller. It butterflies open for easy access to everything inside. Instead of garment straps to hold your clothes in place during handling and travel, this pack uses mesh panels that completely zip closed to effectively make each side of the open pack its own compartment.

Getting to the padded 15" laptop compartment is quick and easy, which will make security checks easier and less stressful for you.

The thin harness straps are well-padded and comfortable. The back has airflow channels built into it for comfort during long waits.

Take a good look at this carry-on backpack if you want a simple one that offers easy access to your clothes and tech gear.

Pros

  • Quick access to the laptop compartment
  • Fully butterflies
  • Comfortable to carry
  • Check Circle
    Nice price

Cons

  • Only one exterior zippered compartment. We like to see two for better organizational capability

eBags 3.0

eBags 3.0

This pack butterflies open to reveal a nice-sized clothing compartment with garment straps. The other side is a huge mesh compartment that will keep all of your other bulky items secure.

There are three zippered compartments on the front. The largest is almost as long as the main compartment and is great for holding magazines and documents. The medium one has different size pockets for holding pens, a phone, a wallet, charging cords and other smaller things you can't live without.

You can carry it by its side handle like a small suitcase if you wish. Another carrying option that caught our eye is the little strap near the bottom on the back. At first, we couldn't figure out what it was for. Then we realized it was there so it could be carried piggy-back style! If you have a rolling case with an extendable handle, you can set this pack on top of it and the little strap secures the pack to the other one's handle.

Pros

  • Plenty of room
  • Multiple carrying options
  • Great organization capabilites
  • Check Circle
    Nice price

Cons

  • A bit bulky
  • ban
    Some don't like the traditional "schoolyard" styling

Eagle Creek Global Companion

Eagle Creek Global Companion

This pack almost didn't make our list, but we're glad it did.

At first, we thought that it was a little to complicated to be a carry-on backpack. It looks like it would be more at home on a hiking trail or in the urban jungle than on an airplane. But with more and more people traveling lighter and lighter, this could make a good pack for someone who only wants to bring a carry-on bag and no checked luggage at all.

It has two big main compartments for clothing and several smaller ones for everything else. It even has a water bottle pocket! You won't lose your keys if you figure out what the key lanyard inside one of the exterior pockets is for. It took us a minute.

This is probably the most comfortable pack on our list. The chest strap and waist strap both add stability whether in line or walking through the streets.

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Several storage compartments
  • Can also be used as a hiking backpack

Cons

  • Expands well beyond the stated 8" thickness when full - Be careful when packing or you will have to check it
  • ban
    A bit too complicated for some with all of its compartments

Briggs & Riley Verb-Accelerate

Briggs & Riley Verb-Accelerate

This carry-on backpack is touted by Briggs & Riley as an electronics bag, and it fits that bill nicely. It will hold all but the largest laptops, and there is plenty of storage room left over for a tablet and any cords and small accessories that you would need.

The front zippered compartment folds out to reveal an interior that looks a lot like a nice briefcase. There is a place for just about everything in this storage area.

The straps are padded well and are fully adjustable. This bag actually looks like a carry-on bag, but it offers all the advantages of a briefcase and the comfort of a backpack.

This would be a great bag for the travelling professional.

Pros

  • Briefcase-like organization
  • Room for a big laptop and a tablet
  • Contemporary styling

Cons

  • A bit pricey - You are paying extra for the name
  • ban
    Higher quality zippers would be a plus

Tumi T-Pass

Tumi T-Pass

Here is another business class carry-on backpack. This one has a much roomier main compartment that can carry a change of clothes easily. You won't fit a suit into it, but a day of casual attire will fit pretty easily.

The laptop compartment, in the rear of the pack, is designed to meet TSA checkpoint requirements. This means that you may not have to remove your laptop from the pack to have it scanned. They can scan it right through the bag. Of course, they have every right to ask you to remove it, especially if you pack anything else in that compartment, but this may help to speed things along in the security line.

There are two zippered side pockets for carrying charging cords and other accessories. There are also three small compartment on the front that will easily hold documents, a passport and other smaller things you may need on your trip.

Pros

  • Several storage compartments
  • TSA compliant laptop compartment
  • Roomy main compartment

Cons

  • Despite the big main area, the other compartments are rather small
  • ban
    This is an expensive pack

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It OK To Store A Carry-On Backpack Under An Airplane Seat?

Of course it is. You can store it under the seat if it will fit or in the overhead storage compartment if it doesn't. Carry-on backpacks are just like any other carry-on bag, but they are easier to carry and offer other benefits that different types of bags don't, as outlined in the reviews.

Are Carry-On Backpacks As Secure As Other Carry-On Bags?

Yes, they are. Good carry-on back packs are compatible with small padlocks, and every one on our list has this feature even if not noted in the individual reviews. Get a good TSA lock. These are small padlocks that can be easily opened by authorized TSA employees.


The Final Verdict

Carry-on backpacks are a good choice for travel. There are many styles available, and the goal of this review was to show you that variety and help you choose one that you will love for years to come.

Our budget pick is a simple and stylish cinch-top pack that offers plenty of room for clothing and other essentials. It comes in several colors to suit any minimalist.

The best overall pack that we reviewed combines style and function at a fair price. The casual traveler will like it.

We also included a couple options for the business traveller. These two bags feature contemporary styling and ample capacity for the gadgets you need to be productive.

If you like to carry as much as possible with you onto the plane and wherever you go, check out Eagle Creek's offering.

Many of these carry-on backpacks butterfly open like a regular suitcase. This offers a convenience that we are just now beginning to see in this type of pack.

Did you find one you love in our reviews? We couldn't include every single great option we came across, but here you have the best of the lot!

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