The Best Travel Backpacks for Women That Are Lightweight, Functional, and Actually Cute
Updated: Mar 6, 2022
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When it comes to your carry-on travel bag of choice, once you go backpack, you never go back.
You may think you're a duffel bag person or a crossbody bag kinda gal—and that's all good in our book. But nothing beats the freedom of hands-free travel and even weight distribution.
If your items are in a backpack, you can walk through the airport terminal with ease, even when your gate is annoyingly the furthest possible gate from security. And you can shop, flip through magazines, check your phone, or even eat a snack along the way. You can pack more without struggling to carry it, too. The same items that would make one shoulder feel like it was going to fall off when carried in a tote won't give your back an issue, as long as you choose the right bag.
What makes the perfect travel backpack stand out from the rest? Look for a backpack that's lightweight, compartmentalized, and water-resistant. The best size for maximum efficiency without breaking your back is usually around 40 liters, and you don't want it to weigh more than 20% of your body weight when packed. Adjustable, padded shoulder straps are a plus.
Some of our favorite backpack brands are Lo & Sons, Briggs & Riley, Away, Brevitē, Baggu, Dagne Dover, and Cuyana.
Here are our top picks for travel backpacks in 2021.
Lo & Sons Rowledge Backpack
This water-resistant nylon backpack is so versatile, it even converts into a tote. It comes with a laptop compartment, a secret passport pocket, and more sections for organized packing. It also comes in eight color combos, so you never have to sacrifice style.
Briggs & Riley Large Fold-over Backpack
This is the type of backpack you buy when you want to work smarter, not harder. It's expandable yet compact, and it even has one easily accessible pocket for all items you may need to take out quickly in the TSA line. Reviewers call it "well-made and functional," and we agree. Plus, you can even have it monogrammed.
Away The Backpack
A cult-favorite among travelers, Away's backpack is water-resistant, has a suitcase sleeve and separate laptop pocket that fits a larger laptop than many (15"), and has so many hidden compartments to make it as organized as it is sleek. It has padded straps and a leather top handle, and it comes in six colors.
Brevitē The Daily Backpack
This Brevitē backpack has so many helpful features, from a laptop pocket to a passport pocket to a main compartment ideal for an extra set of clothes, but there's one feature that stands out above the rest: It's extremely lightweight. Trust us, if you've ever lugged a backpack through an airport, across a new city, and back again, this factor is game-changing.
Dagne Dover Dakota Neoprene Backpack
Made of premium neoprene, this backpack is hand washable, water-resistant, insulating, and durable. It only weighs 2.6 lbs and holds 20 liters. You can safely store your laptop, shoes, and so much more. Shoppers call it "deceptively spacious"—is there a greater compliment for a travel bag?
Cuyana Large Leather Backpack
Yes, Cuyana's large leather backpack is a fashion backpack—it's gorgeous. But made of strong Italian leather and coming with padded and detachable shoulder straps, it's also functional. Its exterior pockets have hidden magnetic closures, and its main compartment fits a 15" laptop. If you want a quality bag you'll use from the airport to the office to dinner with friends, this is the investment worth making.
Baggu Drawstring Backpack
For an easy, wearable daypack, we love Baggu. These backpacks are machine-washable (they're made of recycled cotton canvas), lightweight, come with adjustable straps, and fit a 13" laptop. Plus, they come in lots of fun colors and prints. For $46, you can't go wrong.