What is the best carry on backpack for women?
When deciding on the best travel backpack carry on for your next holiday, be aware that many of them are very different from backpacking backpacks and packable daypacks. While the former may be too large or heavy to pass for carry on luggage, the latter won’t be strong enough or have enough features to be suitable for travel. Of course, there are a few options that are versatile enough to work for air travel as well as casual backpacking or city sightseeing. In fact, many travel backpacks also come with detachable daypacks.
If you’re looking for a backpack mainly for short business trips, there are options that have laptop compartments built in with space for a few other essentials. If you can’t handle much of a weight on your back, then choose a rolling backpack.
Generally, framed backpacks up to 45 liters and frameless up to 60 liters will fit as carry on luggage, but it is also advisable to pay attention to the specified dimensions, i.e. 45 linear inches all around. If you’re flying within Europe, the limit is even less, so we have different recommendations for travel backpacks for Europe. There are two important aspects of a travel carry on backpack to consider before buying – comfort and functionality.
If you want your backpack to double up for long outdoor activities or you plan on carrying heavy items in it, then the best travel backpack carry on should be comfortable enough to carry for extended periods of time, so make sure that it has a frame and hip belt. Ideally, you should be using a hiking backpack in this case and there are a few that will pass as carry on. However, a framed pack should fit your torso correctly. The best brands make special framed travel backpacks for women just for this reason. It should ideally have breathable shoulder straps and provide for good air circulation at the back.
Also look at how strong the zippers are and whether they’re lockable or not. This feature is useful in deterring pickpockets. These anti-theft backpacks double down on security and so does the new Eagle Creek Deviate Travel Pack. Regular top opening packs that are deep can be a pain to dig through when you’re searching for something. A front opening is more convenient, especially at security checkpoints. Backpack straps and buckles are prone to getting torn off during transit, so a good pack should give you the ability to tuck them in when not in use.
A convertible backpack suitcase usually packs more than a regular one and can withstand rough treatment better, not to mention being great for a laptop AND clothes. While some are made of the stronger nylon material, polyester can be just as good but lighter.
Keeping in mind all of the above, here are our top 5 best carry on backpacks for women sorted by price range.
Backpacks under $150
This convertible backpack suitcase from eBags is rated the most popular and best carry on backpack for travelling on Amazon. It is made of durable polyester and has many innovative design features.
There’s a laptop sling that is discretely placed on the top and back of the bag, which is padded with thick foam on the outside and cushioned on the inside by your clothes. The height of the cradle can be adjusted according to your laptop’s length (between 10” and 19”), the way you pack your clothes and the height at which the laptop is most comfortable for you to carry. Once the sling is adjusted, your laptop is easily inserted and removed while going through airport security.
The main compartment is expandable to add up to 10% more packing capacity and features a fold down fabric shelf that splits the compartment in half. The tie-down straps can be adjusted for cinching to also help minimize the shifting of your things.
The inside of the main compartment’s lid contains a mesh zippered panel for added organization, while the front compartment features an outer travel organizer zippered panel. Both compartments taper slightly towards the top for a less bulky look.
If you want to separate small things, the front compartment has a zippered pocket with a floating lining attached. You also have a water bottle pocket that is zippered and hidden in that is an ID pocket for your luggage tag.
There are contoured hideaway air mesh padded shoulder straps with adjustable webbing, and a sternum strap system, both of which are adjustable and removable. Four external compression straps reduce the strain on the YKK self-repairing zippers when fully loaded, but help keep your things secure if not.
All the main zippers have lockable D rings to keep your belongings safe. Three grab handles on the top, bottom and side make lifting the bag easy.
This carry on travel backpack measures 9 x 22 x 14 inches and weighs just under 4 pounds. The interior nylon lining is orange, while you can choose from 7 different colors for the exterior.
There’s another option from eBags that’s very similar – the eTech 2.0 Weekender Convertible. It is slightly lighter but with fewer organizational pockets. It is an updated model of the original. It may actually be a better option for petite women.
Osprey Porter Travel Pack Duffle, 46 Liter
If you’re looking for a simple backpack that’s specifically meant for travel and casual city exploring, you can’t go wrong with this popular Osprey Porter 46. It’s great looking in that it does not look like a normal adventure traveler’s pack. The design is sleek, light and compact, and very suited to a woman’s body. The durable ballistic nylon construction makes it long lasting as well.
This backpack for carry on has structured padded walls and a front opening panel, so it’s very easy to pack. There’s also a top zippered pocket for you to quickly remove things like liquids and toiletries at security checkpoints.
The main panel’s zippers are lockable, while the internal zippered pocket on the front panel provides storage for small items.
This new model has been upgraded to include a zip-away shoulder harness with a sternum strap, a minimalist fabric tuck away waist belt, and a patented StraightJacket compression strap system to keep everything inside secure. These features make carrying the bag very comfortable, and in addition to the top and side grab handles, they make it able to withstand rough baggage handling.
Its measurements are at the exact legal limits of 22x14x12″, it weighs just 2 lbs 8 oz and its capacity is 46 liters, making it possibly the best backpack for airline travel carry on.
If you want to take this with you as a daypack, it can fold down into a compact bundle using the straps, so you can pack it into another carry on if you wish. It also comes with D-ring addons if you want to purchase the Osprey Daypack to attach to this backpack.
Choose from matte grey, juniper green and salsa red.
Pros: Standard legal carry on size.
Lightweight and sleek – great even for petite women.
Cons: The short and wide design may make it tough to be aware of who’s behind you.
Not good for traditional backpacking.
Kelty Redwing 40 Internal Frame Pack for Women
This Kelty Redwing 40 is the women’s version of the popular Kelty Redwig 44 (the old Kelty Redwing 2650 model is now retired) is value for money if you want a travel backpack that has a light frame. The suspension is ideal for women traveling and going on a day hike.
It’s proven to be a rugged choice that is comfortable to carry, as its shape, padded shoulder, sternum and hip straps are specially designed to fit the body and evenly distribute weight. The material is ripstop polyester and oxford polyester.
The hip belt is also adjustable and removable and all the straps and back panel are fitted with a moisture-removing mesh to enable you to stay comfortable and dry while on the move.
The internal Stiff LightBeam suspension stay and framesheet that distributes the weight to the hip belt is lighter that most other stays. Four side compression belts keep your belongings secure and a convenient carry handle
The roomy main compartment is panel loading and has a reservoir sleeve and tube port if you need to carry a hydration reservoir. You can keep small items in the large front pocket which contains an organizer panel. There are also two zippered side pockets and a smaller zippered pocket in the front as well. Hiking gear can be attached with the help of daisy chain and an ice-axe loop.
Made to fit a 14.5” to 18.5” torso, this pack measures 21 x 16 x 13.5 inches and weighs 3 lbs and 2 oz, and is available in four colors – black, medium blue, bright blue and green.
Pros: Roomy and rugged.
Good organizational features.
Comfortable for travel and hiking for women.
Cons: Not the lightest bag.
The side pockets will not fit regular sized water bottles.
High Sierra Rev Wheeled Backpack
Lots of travelers have a hard time finding a good wheeled carry on that can hold their laptop as well as some clothes and personal items. Either the wheels and telescopic handle usually take the bag over the carry on dimensions limit, or the packing space and weight limit are taken over by the wheeling apparatus so there’s almost nothing left for a laptop and clothes. The High Sierra Rev Wheeled Backpack can take that dilemma out of the equation.
This backpack is a true wheeled carry on pack because it can be wheeled over rough terrain due to its corner mounted inline skate wheels and protective kick plate in between and its extending handle stores away completely into its own zipped cover on top. When you don’t want to use the wheels, the back panel zips away and down to reveal hidden padded S-shaped shoulder straps and the panel can be folded and secured via a Velcro patch under the pack to cover the kick plate and wheels so that carrying the pack on your back is as comfortable as possible. A padded grab handle on the top provides the third carry option.
Th main compartment opens book style to reveal a roomy space for 2 days worth of clothes and accessories that are held in place by dual restraining straps. The zipped compartment in front of the main one is for your gadgets. This is a fully padded section with a pocket for a 17″ laptop and one for a tablet. In front of that is a fleece-lined organizer compartment with multiple pockets for your phone, charging cords, pens, cards, etc., and a key fob. The last pocket right on the front is a small zipped one that’s just right for last minute items. There are two vertical zipped pockets on the side that expand via gussets to accommodate a water bottle and an umbrella.
The zipper tabs may be the only weak point of this backpack so they must be used carefully and the various compartments should not be overstuffed.
This bag weighs 6.2 lbs and measures 21 x 9 x 14 inches. You can get this in 3 colors – black, navy and red.
Pros: Roomy and durable.
Will be allowed as carry on and fits perfectly in all overhead bins.
Good organizational features.
Comfortable enough for carrying on your back for short periods.
Good as a school backpack as well.
Affordable for the features.
Cons: Won’t fit under your plane seat when fully packed.
No hip belt for load balancing.
A few customers report that the zipper tabs break after some uses.
Backpack under $200
Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Pack
While the Osprey Porter 46 is ideal mainly for travel, the Osprey Farpoint 55 can easily do double duty for travel and light backpacking. The main backpack comes with a detachable daypack that can be taken out for city exploring or hiking.
Available in 5 colors, this nylon backpack comes in two sizes. The small one is of a 52 liter capacity, weighs 3 lbs 12 oz, and measures 24 x 13 x 13 inches. The larger one holds 55 liters, weighs 3 lbs 15 oz, and measures 26 x 13 x 13 inches. As you can see, neither one falls under the legal carry on size, but many customers have said that if you detach the daypack, the smaller one is usually allowed as carry on luggage.
The dimensions of the removable daypack are 19 x 11.5 x 7 inches – a good size if you want to leave the backpack at the hotel and explore a city with just the daypack. It zips and clips into place on the back but can also be carried at the front by attaching it to the front straps.
This bag fits a torso of 15-19 inches while the larger one’s fit is 18-22 inches. These ranges are enough to classify this backpack as unisex, but many women of average height say that the larger one is not comfortable to carry, while most men like it.
This pack has an adjustable unisex harness system, including a light alloy peripheral frame that transfers a good deal of the weight to the padded hip belt, so it’s comfortable to carry even when heavy.
The back panel features spacer mesh to promote air flow, and a light wire suspension system that can be tucked into its own panel slot if you want to check this bag or carry it like a suitcase using the side or top carry handles. The tall and slim design also makes this bag easy to carry.
There are also multiple slots and loops for backpacking gear to be attached, a StraightJacket compression system to keep your things from being jostled around, a lockable zippered panel for the main compartment, a zippered mesh pocket on the interior of the front panel, removable sleeping pad straps, and a rescue whistle attached to the adjustable sternum strap. All the straps are well padded.
Pros: Increased comfort while carrying because of the frame and suspension system and the tall and slim design.
Versatile daypack attached.
Cons: May not fit into overhead bins on small commuter planes if it is fully stuffed and has the daypack attached.
If none of these are suitable for you, go ahead and browse through Amazon to find the best travel backpack carry on for your needs.