Best Travel Backpacks for Women: Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

You can’t deny it: there’s something special about travelling with one of the best travel backpacks for women.

Sure, carry-on luggage and wheeled suitcases have their place. But there’s no rawer and more intimate feeling than hitting the open road strapped into your favourite rucksack.

The problem is: Where do you start looking? There’s been a veritable explosion of backpacks for travel slamming the marketplace in the past several years. Designs are always getting lighter, more convenient, and more comfortable; finding the best one to carry your most essential travel gear for your next big trip can be like trying to hit the bullseye on moving a target!

To help you out, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to the top women’s travel backpacks for 2021. Besides our top 10 picks, we’ve also included a quick travel backpack buyer’s guide to help your figure out what to look for in your backpack.

Best women’s travel backpacks of 2021: 12 top reviews

You’ll find women’s travel backpacks in all shapes and sizes. Of course, that’s not to say that all are the right choice for your next trip.

As minimalist travellers, we’re a little biased towards the smaller end of the backpack spectrum. There’s no doubt you’ll find some excellent choices by top manufacturers in the 55-65L range; we just feel they are often unnecessarily bulky and large for the shorter trips that the majority of backpackers make.

With this in mind, we’ve selected backpacks that are not just high quality but support fast and convenient travel. Most of our top picks linger in the 40-50L range, our admittedly-biased sweet spot for short-term travel abroad.

We’re confident that all these choices will be faithful companions. They’re perfect for helping you trounce from point A to point B with as little hassle as possible. Let’s take a look, shall we?

In a rush? Here are the top travel backpacks for women of 2021 compared…

  Product Capacity Rating More Info
The North Face Terra 40
Best Outdoors
40L 9.0/10
Osprey Porter 46
Best Overall
46L 9.5/10
Tortuga Setout Tortuga Setout Travel Backpack
Best Urban Carry-On
35L / 45L 9.5/10
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
Best for Air Travel
45L 9.0/10.0
REI Co-op Women's Ruckpack 40 REI Co-op Ruckpack 40
Best Value
40L 9.0/10.0
Osprey Kyte 46 46L 9.0/10
Kelty Redwing 40 40L 8.5/10
REI Co-op Women's Traverse 65 REI Traverse 65
Best Long-Term Travel
65L 9.0/10
Osprey Sirrus 36 36L 9.0/10
Deuter ACT Lite 45 + 10 SL
Best Hiking
45L 9.0/10
Gregory Amber 60 60L 8.0/10
High Sierra Summit 40 40L 7.5/10

The North Face Terra 40 Travel Backpack

Capacity: 40L
Best Uses: Hiking, active travel

Best Outdoors

Planning to dig into the backcountry on your trip? The North Face Terra 40 is one of the best picks for the job. The North Face retools this 40L backpack for women every couple years. Its latest update is the lightest and leanest yet.

What you’ll love most about The North Face Terra 40 is that it’s designed specifically for women, not unisex. The pack works especially well on smaller women who often find it difficult to find packs that distribute weight correctly to the hip belt.

With 40L of space in the main compartment, there’s more than enough room. You can use the pack for a weekend trip and even up to a two-week backpacking trip if you limit your packing.

The new The North Face Terra 40 also improves the comfort of the old design. They’ve narrowed the harness and lined the hip belt with a soft air mesh to cool you down. The back panel redesign also adds a channel that improves air circulation and reduced sweating.

For outdoorswomen, the North Face Terra 40 also offers six lashing points. You can use them to strap on extra gear for camping, hiking, or mountaineering. It’s also hydration compatible. There’s enough room for a large (about 30L) hydration bladder for longer treks.

The biggest downside of this bag is that it’s top-loading. For general backpacking, top-loading backpacks are less convenient than front-loading ones. Stuffing everything into the top, it’s far more difficult to organize your gear. There are, however, seven pockets and a sleeping bag compartment on this backpack. Compared to other top-loader, it’s less of a pain to stay organized with The North Face Terra 40.

Pros:

  • versatile and good for travel, trekking, and mountaineering
  • plenty of pockets for organization
  • comfortable hip-belt and back panel
  • hydration-compatible

Cons:

  • top-loading design makes it harder to access belongings quickly
  • slightly too large to use as carry-on

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Backpack

Capacity: 46L

Best Uses: Travel

Best Overall

There’s a reason why the Osprey Porter 46 has attained a huge fan following over the past few years. And we have to admit: we’re huge fans of the Porter 46, too. (Not just for women, but also for the dudes.)

First things first. The Porter 46 features a flexible and convertible design. It morphs seamlessly between a travel duffel bag for quick exits or a backpack. For longer hauls, the pack offers a padded belt, adjustable shoulder straps, and sternum strap. The convertibility alone puts this backpack into a league of its own!

What really sticks this among our favourite picks is that the Osprey Porter 46 is a front-loading backpack. Stowing your gear and keeping it organized is a cinch with this backpack. For digital nomads or other itinerant workers, the back-panel laptop sleeve is perfect for keeping your work at hand. With 46 litres of capacity and a design that fits as a carry-on on most airlines, there’s a massive convenience factor present with this awesome bag.

Pros

  • Front-loading design for easy access
  • Convertible between backpack and duffel bag
  • Carry-on sized

Cons

  • Non-traditional look for backpack

Tortuga Setout Backpack

Tortuga Setout

Capacity: 35L / 45L

Best Uses: Air travel, urban travel

Best Urban Carry-On

Planning a quick city getaway? There’s no better choice for the job than the Tortuga Setout Travel Backpack.

This new & innovative pack marries the convenience of carry-on luggage with the ease of a rucksack. It creates a winning combo that’s as sleek as it is practical.

The true genius of the Tortuga Setout (available in both 35L and 45L capacities) comes at the hands of its organizational capabilities. Despite its compact carry-on size, the bag crams in a multitude of compartment & zippers. It’s a cinch to keep all your travel essentials in check.

Close-Up - Tortuga Setout

The front-loading design (for some reason harder to find in female-friendly packs) helps you to quickly find whatever you’re looking for without the frustration of digging through to the bottom of your bag. Two additional zippered pouches—plus a small front stash pocket—add to the space.

If you find yourself carrying a ton of tech, you’ll absolutely love the padded laptop compartment at the rear of the Tortuga Setout Backpack. It’s large enough to hold up to 17″ laptop. The compartment also offers substantial extra room for accessories like your power cord, external hard drive, power bank, and so on.

Laptop Pouch - Tortuga Setout

Although not built specifically for females, the suspension system on the Tortuga Setout is designed to be lightweight. It fits torsos between 17″ and 19″, making it a great choice for most women. The shoulder straps and removable hip belt are also well-padded. They use injection-molded foam and feature air mesh to keep you cool & comfortable.

Pros

  • Robust innovative design
  • Incredible organizational capabilities

Cons

  • Non-adjustable suspension system

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

Capacity: 45L
Best Uses: Air travel, urban travel, city-hopping

Best for Air Travel

Among the most innovative packs on the market, the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L immediately grasps your attention. It’s fitted with a sleek design that’s years ahead of the curve.

What you’ll notice instantly is the quality of this bag’s build. The 400-denier nylon shell, made from 100% recycled materials, is one of the most robust we’ve tested. It’s even weatherproof for those (not so rare) moments when you’re running to catch a bus, cab, or train in a sudden rain shower.

Close-Up - Peak Design

One of the Peak Design Travel Backpack’s best features is its organizational capabilities. The pack is chock-loaded with internal & external pockets. It’s super easy to keep all your stuff handy and separated. When combined with the company’s small army of packing cubes and camera cubes, this bag’s a serious winner for Type A personalities and Marie Kondo fans alike, seeking out true one-bag travel.

Zippered Compartment - Peak Design

Ever spent an inordinate amount of time digging through a top-loading hiking backpack? You’ll absolutely love Peak Design’s zippers & compartment design. A full-length U-zipper provides total access to your clothing & accessories through the rear. If you’re in a hurry, the dual side zippers also let you dig through your stuff quickly.

Keeping the bag at its natural 35-litre capacity, Peak Design Travel Backpack will fit comfortably as carry-on luggage. The capacity can be expanded to 45L by opening the dual compression zippers along the front panel. It gives you a little more room for carrying extra gear on longer trips. For speed and convenience, it can also be carried via handles on the top, sides, back, or bottom.

Shoulder Straps - Peak Design

Our only gripe with this pack is the suspension system. Although extremely well-constructed, the shoulder straps are not adjustable. For most female travellers, it’s not a deal-breaker. But if you’re taller than average (over 5’10”-5’11”), you may want to look elsewhere. Likewise, if you’re planning to haul heavier gear over longer distances the lightly-padded shoulder straps and hip belt might prove awkward. They’re better-suited for quick urban travel & city-hopping.

Pros

  • Sleek and innovative design
  • Excellent build quality
  • Top-notch organizational capabilities

Cons

  • Suspension system not adjustable

REI Co-op Ruckpack 40

REI Co-Op Women's Ruckpack 40

Capacity: 40L
Best Uses: Travel, backpacking

Best Value

For urban adventurers, there’s hardly a better choice than the REI Co-op Ruckpack 40. Designed to keep you insanely organized, this versatile pack features a full-zip design that crushes others in accessibility and convenience. (And, yes, that absolutely means no more rustling around to reach those pesky socks at the bottom of your bag!)

Extras like a laptop sleeve and a stow-away harness system sway the Ruckpack 40 towards ordinary travellers. REI doesn’t stray too far from its adventurous reputation, however. Hikers will love the option to swap out their laptop for a 3L hydration sleeve. You can also strap on some trekking-poles to the hidden gear attachments for an epic day or two on the trails. There’s even a rain cover for when the weather takes a turn for the worst.

What’s perhaps best about the REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 is its suspension system. At its heart is a supportive back panel. It’s built upon the same principles as REI’s hiking backpacks and padded with ventilated mesh for comfort and better airflow. The straps and hip belt are also designed specifically for women. They curve around the chest and adjust for shorter torso lengths and different hip sizes.

Pros

  • Full-zip design for excellent organization
  • Female-friendly suspension system
  • Awesome value

Cons

  • Limited capacity (40L)
  • Too big to use as carry-on on some airlines

Osprey Kyte 46 Travel Backpack

Capacity: 46L
Best Uses: Hiking, active travel

With a trail-friendly design, intelligent detailing and a load range from 20-45 lbs, the Osprey Kyte 46 is a versatile & nifty backpack. It’s suitable for a range of uses and activities. The pack comes with a wide mouth access to the main compartment. You can easily grab anything you want without wasting too much time rummaging.

The Airscape back panel is a boon for those hot and humid days when you can’t let the sun and heat deter your love for the trail. With its durable exterior fabric, the pack is unfazed when thrown onto buses, trains, or baggage claims.

There is a built-in rain cover too, reliably protecting of your belongings from the rain. A barrage of pockets spread throughout the Osprey Kyte 46 means you’ll be able to organize your stuff like a pro. To help distribute weight within, the backpack features a unique internal hammock.

The only deal-breaker is the lid. It’s not adjustable, so if you load the top section in excess, it can rub against the back of your head uncomfortably.

Despite one or two minor flaws, the Osprey Kyte 46L is a solid choice for most female backpackers. It accommodates everything you need and maintains its integrity in the face of abrasion and bad weather.

Pros

  • Durable exterior
  • Plenty of pockets for organization
  • Built-in rain cover

Cons

  • Inconvenient lid

Kelty Redwing 40 Travel Backpack

Capacity: 40L
Best Uses: Hiking, active travel

The Kelty Redwing 40 is hands down one of the most popular travel backpacks among young women. The top-loading design makes it easy to stuff a ton of items in a crammed space. The bag also hosts several separate compartments. It gives you better opportunities for organization than traditional packs.

The suspension system on the Redwing 40 is cutting-edge. It’s one of the best performers on our list for distributing pressure to the hips. There’s a U-zip as well. It provides convenient access to the primary compartment and the electronics sleeve. Since the bag is supported via Air Mesh straps, it allows for a comfortable use—even when you have walked for miles at a stretch.

Overall, the Kelty Redwing 40 is suitable for women looking for a moderately-sized bag at a moderate price. It’s large enough to accommodate your stuff for a short backpacking trip yet small enough to carry without discomfort. And the fact that it’s hydration pack compatible makes it ideal for long day hikes.

Pros

  • Excellent suspension system
  • Easy gear access via U-zip
  • Hydration compatible

Cons

  • Smaller capacity is better for shorter trips

REI Co-op Traverse 65

REI Co-op Women's Traverse 65

Capacity: 65L
Best Uses: Extended backpacking trips

Best for Long-Term Travel

If comfort and capacity are top of mind, then strapping on the REI Co-op Traverse 65 will put a huge smile on your face on your next adventure. This pack draws its strength from its tactical load-handing capabilities. It’s designed to help you carry heaps of gear for extended periods of time with little fatigue or discomfort.

Nearly every element of the Traverse 65’s suspension system shoots above industry norms. Accompanying the usual well-padded shoulder straps is a 3D-contoured hip belt. It’s built with sculpted foam for comfort and equipped with REI’s ActivMotion technology. The combo helps offer stabler movement over uneven surfaces.

The suspension system also features REI UpLift™ Compression. This technology brings your pack’s load closer to your centre of gravity. It’s truly a tour-de-force of stability and balance.

Despite its appearance and load-carrying features, the REI Co-op Traverse 65 isn’t just for hikers. The pack is somewhat of a hybrid. It boasts both a top-loading panel for the outdoors crowds and a convenient front J-zip for more run-of-the-mill travellers.

The only major drawback of the Traverse 65 is its size. At 65-litres this women’s backpack is hardly a minimalist’s dream. But if you’re planning to both hit the trails and the streets of your new favourite city, there’s hardly a more versatile choice out there!

Pros

  • Spectacular load-carrying capabilities
  • Extra features for outdoorswomen

Cons

  • Too big for carry-on
  • Limited colour choices

Osprey Sirrus 36 Travel Backpack

Capacity: 36L
Best Uses: Urban travel

With a revamped design, fresh upgrade, and a robust set of features, the Osprey Sirrus 36 has all your travel needs covered. The most noticeable quality is the side-zippered entrance design, which allows easier access to the contents of the main compartment as opposed to the U-shaped front design.

A seamless mesh on the harness, hip belt, and back helps you trek endlessly in the hot weather without getting sweaty and smelly. The adjustable torso length, ergonomic shoulder straps, narrower harness, and angled hip belt all add up to a female-friendly design and prove that Osprey is a brand that lives up to its claims. Included as well is a rain cover to protect your belongings from bad weather.

Other than being one of the smaller contenders on our list, it’s hard to find many faults with the Osprey Sirrus 36. We’d be hard-pressed to not recommend it to women looking for a compact and feature-rich rucksack that’ll grow with them. The bag offers tons of bonus features and an appealing, stow-on-the-go design. There’s also a wide availability of dynamic color choices. It’s a must-have for women looking to embrace the wilderness with unbridled joy.

Pros

  • Side-zippered entrance provides quick access
  • Mesh harness
  • Adjustable suspension system

Cons

  • Limited capacity

Deuter ACT Lite 45 + 10 SL Hiking Backpack

Capacity: 55L
Best Uses: Hiking, active travel

Best Hiking

With a lightweight structure and its patented AirComfort Lite back system, the Deuter ACT Lite 45 + 10 SL is built to cater to both the petite form and adventure needs of a woman.

At the apex is the pack’s excellent suspension system. It’s fully adjustable to a variety of frames. It features load-stabilizer straps to balance your gear as you trek through different terrains. The AirComfort Lite is a breezy feature for hikers, too. It’s guaranteed to keep you cool and dry even after miles of walking in erratic weather.

In addition to the main top-loading compartment, the pack comes with a small zippered sleeping bag pouch on the bottom. Even when you’re just using the Deuter ACT Lite 45 + 10 SL for travel instead of camping, stuffing in extra items on the go is a breeze.

A moderate 45L capacity makes the Deuter ACT Lite 45 + 10 SL most apt for weekend trips and short-term backpacking trips. It also offers hydration compatibility, making it a good choice for hikers. It’s especially suitable for women who hate bulky old-fashioned packs and prefer to keep it stylish on the trail.

Pros

  • Superb suspension system
  • Stylish classic look

Cons

  • No interior side pockets (mesh pockets only)
  • Limited capacity for longer trips

Gregory Amber 60 Travel Backpack

Capacity: 60L
Best Uses: Hiking, longer-term travel

The Gregory Amber 60 is a lighter, smaller and more versatile sibling of the Amber 70. The top-loading design gives you access to components in the main compartment. An outer zip pocket stores the rain cover for timely safety from bad weather, or, on pleasant days, doubles as accessory storage space.

Features like the trekking pole attachment, side pockets, dual hip-belt pockets, and bottom compression help you survive and stay organized when you’re miles away from home. The combination hydration sleeve works well for unscheduled day trips and long journeys.

Although it’s lightweight, the Gregory Amber 60 lacks mesh ventilation for the back. Wearing it in extreme heat and on extended journeys without frequent breaks will leave you feeling sticky and unpleasant.

Overall, the Gregory Amber 60 is a comfortable & trail-friendly pack. The backpack hits the sweet spot for women looking for extra capacity on extended trips yet still light enough for a comfortable journey.

Pros

  • Large 60L capacity
  • Lightweight
  • Rain cover included

Cons

  • No back ventilation

High Sierra Summit 40 Hiking Backpack

Capacity: 40L
Best Uses: Hiking, active travel

For the price, it’s hard to find anything much better than the High Sierra Summit 40. First-time backpackers will love the “classic” features available on this compact, yet spacious, bag.

The main compartment holds approximately 40L. It’s top-loading with a drawstring closure and a rainproof top lid. Although front-loading bags are generally more convenient, the Summit 40 has several extra pockets. They’ll help you easily organize your clothing and gear.

Like most of the best women’s backpacks, the High Sierra Summit 40 has a comfortable foam back panel. It includes airflow provisions to keep you cool on longer journeys or on warmer days.

Both the shoulder straps and the hip belt are lined with High Sierra’s HEX-VENT mesh padding. Although the HEX-VENT mesh does a good job of cooling down the straps, it’s been known to cause chafing on bare skin. Depending on how it fits, wearing it with a tank top could be uncomfortable for you.

Pros:

  • budget-friendly
  • plenty of pockets for organization
  • good airflow on back panel to reduce sweating

Cons:

  • top-loading design is a pain for getting to your stuff quickly
  • mesh on shoulder pads can cause chafing
  • designed for petite women with shorter torsos

Older women’s backpacks for travel (2018 and before)

Sadly, not all rucksacks make the cut from year to year. Here are a few oldies but goodies that have been discontinued. You might still be able to find these used or on clearance.

Kelty Catalyst 46 Travel Backpack

Kelty Women's Catalyst 46

Capacity: 46L
Best Uses: Short-term travel

Featuring the one-size-fits-all structure, the Kelty Catalyst 46 sports a female-friendly design. It shines with angled shoulder straps and a conical waist belt. Both help finely distributes pressure throughout the spine and hips.

Apart from a customized fit, the Catalyst 46 offers a lightweight and comfortable feel during hot, sultry days. It’s a mid-sized backpack, best suited for a shorter-term trip rather than an extended travel break.

The PerfectFIT suspension system makes it easier to achieve an accurate on-body adjustment. Simply locate the straps near your lower spine and pull them downwards for a quick, more comfortable fit. It also comes with load lifter straps. They’ll help further alleviate stress on your shoulders and prevent chafing. The integrated spindrift collar enables you to carry more gear and secures the bag’s contents.

All in all, the Kelty Catalyst 46 is perfect for women looking for a moderately-sized ruckpack with a solid feature set. The backpack’s comfort & support is perfect for both day hikes and short backpacking tours.

Pros

  • Excellent suspension system
  • Lightweight
  • Well-ventilated back panel

Cons

  • Minimal pockets for organization

Boreas Lost Coast 60 Backpack

Boreas Lost Coast 60

Capacity: 60L
Best Uses: Hiking, active travel

The Borreas Lost Coast 60 is a technical pack that combines alpine design elements with an ultralight structure.

It’s a bit heavier than other lightweight backpacks, but the suspension system and plastic frame are removable. It’ll help bring down the weight to three pounds. And it does it without compromising the main functionality of the backpack.

Additionally, the Borreas Lost Coast 60 offers a rich ton of storage options. They include both open and closed storage for arranging your gear in a manner that best suits your needs. The presence of elevated side pockets makes the pack less prone to abrasion. There’s also a comfortable lumbar pad to help provide better load-to-hip weight distribution.

Just keep in mind that sizing on the Lost Coast 60 runs small. If your waist and torso measurements don’t match the specs, you’re better off avoiding it altogether. Other than that, there is little to be wary about this backpack. It’s a durable product with clever detailing to make your travel memorable for happy reasons only!

Pros

  • Durable
  • Large 60L storage capacity

Cons

  • Most suitable for shorter torsos and smaller waists

How to choose a women’s travel backpack: A buyers’ guide

There’s a huge difference between picking out regular carry-on luggage or a suitcase and choosing the perfect women’s backpack. Unlike most other types of luggage, it’s not just about style.

The best travel backpacks are less a piece of luggage than an extension of you; it’s not always a one-size-fits-all scenario. Some designs will fit some women better than they will fit others. Unfortunately, there’s no universal answer. While you’re shopping for your new backpack, here are a few big things you’ll want to look at:

Fit

More important than anything is how the backpack fits. Even if the bag is the most stylish and hippest travel accessory of the year, it means very little if it’s ill-fitting and uncomfortable to wear. Here are the major components you’ll need to know about regarding fit:

Hip Belt

Perhaps the most important piece of a backpack is the hip belt component of the suspension system. Many people wearing backpacks for the first time ignore this all-important feature. They rest the entire load onto the top of the shoulders. Most often, it leads to both fatigue and needless pain.

The hip belt transfers the pack’s heavy load from your shoulders onto the hips at your centre of gravity. To do its trick though, the hip belt needs to sit at the right spot on your body. It should form a three- to six-inch gap between the padded belt section when secured.

Not every hip belt and travel backpack for women will suit every body. Some are made for smaller frames, others for bigger frames. This is one of the reasons we wholeheartedly recommend backpacks designed for females rather than unisex models!

Torso Length

Like the hip belt, not all rucksacks are created equal in regards to torso length. Although most women’s backpacks are made with small torso lengths in mind, some will be better suited for you than others.

Your torso length the distance between your C7 vertabrae (the protruding bone on your spine between your shoulder blades) and the top of your pelvis. Whenever you can, be sure to match your torso length with those listed in the bag specifications. On more expensive models, there’s often a torso length adjustment that allows you to fully customize the rucksack to your back.

Load-lifter Straps

An often overlooked feature on backpacks, load-lifter straps don’t look like much. But these small straps— linking the main bag to the shoulder harness—are a vital part of the suspension system.

When choosing a backpack, you’ll want to make certain that the load lifter straps are long enough to do their job of transferring the load to the hip belt. To use them properly, loosen them to the point where a 45˚ angle forms between your shoulder straps and the top of the backpack. If the angle is significantly off, you’ll need to either adjust the torso length or find a different sack that provides a better fit for your frame.

Back Panel

Another oft-ignored or misinterpreted part of a backpack is the back panel. To the untrained spectator, it would appear that more padding is better, right?

Back Panel on Kelty Travel Backpack

Well, it’s not quite that simple. Sure, a more heavily padded back panel will give you a cushier feeling as your wear the backpack. But over longer periods of time, the thick foam on less expensive models will cause you to sweat and possibly chafe.

Better than normal foam is when back panels include an air mesh ventilation system. This allows sweat vapours to escape and keep you drier.

Volume

When choosing your backpack, you want to be sure to match up the volume to your intended use. A two-week adventure in Europe will require a different approach than a two-month trek through the Andes.

Some may lean towards the bigger-is-better camp; if you’ve got a little extra space, no big deal, right? Our personal preference, however, is to go as small with your backpack as your trip will allow.

Why? We’ve always been fans of minimalist travel, that is, hauling around the least amount of gear needed for maximum comfort. It’s better to be quicker and more agile than to pack your luggage to the brim with things that you, frankly, don’t need for your trip.

Most of the backpacks we’ve chosen here fall between 40L and 60L. We really feel that this is the sweet spot for most trips. Many of our personal favourites here lean towards the smaller end of the spectrum. With some minimalist travel packing techniques, 40L is usually plenty of room to jam all your gear in for a typical two-week vacation. Plus, there’s an added bonus: Many 40L bags can be stowed in overhead bins to avoid checked baggage fees.

Features

Besides volume and fit, there’s a number of features that you’ll find swirling around our picks. Here are some to look out for:

Main compartment access

Backpacks usually fall into one of two categories: front-loading or top-loading. More and more, travellers are opting for more convenient front-loading packs. It’s far easier to access and to organize your belongings when you aren’t digging through the entire bag to find them.

We’ve included both types in our guide, but you’ll find that we recommend front-loaders like the Osprey Porter 46 over other models when the main use is travel rather than hiking.

Stow-away suspension

Although not an overly common feature, you may want to check whether you’re able to conceal the suspension system. For carry-on-sized backpacks, this isn’t much of a concern; it becomes more imperative when your bag is constantly being tossed onto baggage claims and conveyor belts. The ability to stash away the suspension system will ensure that your buckles and straps don’t get caught and damaged in transit.

Zippered pockets

It all comes down to preference when you’re looking at the number of pockets on a backpack. If you plan to carry lots of gear that you’ll need to frequently access from the exterior, you’ll want to look for bags that offer things like hip-belt pockets or zippered side pockets.

Backpack Main Compartment Access

Lockable zippers are another feature you should look out for. It’s especially important if you’re travelling to destinations where petty theft is a problem.

Water resistance

Some bags are better than others when it comes to water resistance. In wet destinations, you’ll want a bag that will suffer through some inclement weather without drenching your stuff. When in doubt, most bags offer rain covers—either included or purchased separately—for extra protection in the worst weather.

Gear loops & compression straps

If you’re planning to do any outdoor activities, you’ll want something that offers gear loops or daisy chains. These allow you to hang extra travel gear like hiking poles, pots, pans, and tactical flashlights externally on the bag to expand its carrying capacity.

Compression straps, on the other hand, help maximize the gear you’re carrying inside the backpack. When you’ve overpacked the bag, compression straps can be tightened to squeeze the bag into smaller spaces. They also help to redistribute the load closer to your centre of gravity.

Final recommendations

  • Looking for a great all-around travel backpack? Our hearts go out to the Osprey Porter 46 for its convenient front-loading design.
  • Need something a little bigger for a longer trip? For its versatility and lightweight, REI Co-op Traverse 65 is our top pick in the 50-60L category.
  • Carrying around a lot of tech while city-hopping? We absolutely love the sleek & sophisticated Tortuga Setout Travel Backpack and the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L for short-term urban travellers.
  • Spending a lot of time in the air? The carry-on-sized Tortuga Setout Travel Backpack and the Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L each get top marks for their elegant one-bag travel designs. Both make a stellar case for being the absolute best travel backpack for women in the carry-on-sized category.
  • Don’t want to break the bank? There’s no pack that provides better value than the robust REI Co-op Ruckpack 40.
  • Need to look good while keeping cool? For walking over longer distances with a backpack, the amazing cooling prowess of the AirComfort Lite system on the Deuter ACT Lite 45 + 10 SL gets our nod. And you’ll even look great in it!

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Gearing up for your next trip? Travel in style with one of these best travel backpacks for women! #travelgear

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