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If you’ve been hanging on to your trusty college backpack for years, and travel is in your near future (and even if it’s not!), here’s your sign that it’s time for an upgrade. Travel backpacks for women have specific features that make them comfortable to wear, easy to organize, and sturdy enough for carrying your laptop or tablet (or both).
Backpacks made with travel in mind are full of features to make life easier when you’re on the go, like padded laptop sleeves for your work trips, locking zippers, wide straps to slip your bag onto a rolling suitcase handle, specialized pockets (including spots for water bottles), and other easily accessible storage spaces of all sorts.
If you’re going on a quick trip and don’t want to check a bag, using a large enough travel backpack as a carry-on can help you avoid dealing with baggage claim. Travel backpacks are a smart choice for longer trips, too. When you’re already lugging some sort of shoulder bag and pulling a wheeled suitcase, it’s awkward to add another rolling bag behind you. So, just sling on a backpack to add hands-free storage space!
Whether your bag preferences run to classic or sleek or rugged, and whether you typically go for simple designs or styles with lots of bells and whistles, you’ll definitely find something you like among these travel backpacks—either for business trips or vacations or both. (Some are even made from recycled materials!) Up ahead are the best travel backpacks for every need.
The best travel backpacks for women
Tumi Voyageur Just in Case Nylon Travel Backpack — $100.00
Not totally sure whether you’ll need an extra bag on an upcoming trip, or just don’t like bulky backpacks in general? This aptly-named “Just in Case” backpack conveniently folds flat, so you can easily pack it in your suitcase. It could also work well if you need a small, hands-free carry-on—and it has a wide strap on the back to slide over the handle of your suitcase and lighten your load. This sleek backpack is small (about 12” x 15”), super light at only 0.6 lb., and it has a handy large outer zip pocket (no inner ones, though) and adjustable shoulder straps. It’s available in black, “hibiscus” (a dark pink), and dark turquoise.
One traveler shared, “I love this backpack. It’s comfortable and looks great. It can hold a lot of things easily. I like the outside pocket for my phone. It’s waterproof. I was caught in a downpour and nothing inside the bag got wet.”
Athleta Kinetic Backpack — $139.00
Athleta has more to offer than great sports bras and athleisure. They also have a few highly-rated bags and wallets, for example—including this backpack. So far, this is the brand’s only backpack, and it’s made from recycled nylon. Its features include a front zip pocket, two water bottle pockets, a separate area for your laptop, a shoe storage bag, and an ergonomic back panel. Don’t worry too much if you get this bag wet, because it dries quickly. Also, surprisingly, it’s machine washable and dryer-safe. The backpack is about 10” x 18”.
A happy customer noted, “Great bag! I recently traveled with it … The padded straps are a huge plus. I was able to fit my computer, wallet, makeup bag and a puffy fleece (to name a few!) in it. Solid water bottle holders and not such a huge bulky size. I love it!”
Samsonite Detour Travel Backpack — $100.00
This water-resistant backpack definitely isn’t the most sophisticated or professional style out there, but sometimes you just want something durable and super functional. One really handy feature of this backpack is the full-zip front portion; it has pockets and it opens on three sides; plus, it’s big enough for packing cubes (as one photo shows). Beyond that, the bag has a laptop compartment, lots of pockets (including one for a water bottle), padded back and shoulders, front handles, and a wide strap that fits over a rolling suitcase handle. Bonus: Samsonite offers a limited 3-year warranty.
With more than 100 5-star ratings, this backpack has earned high praise like this: “Someone really put a lot of thought into this backpack/overnight bag. It is fantastic and if you are any kind of traveler I would recommend it.”
Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack — $55.00
This lightweight, relatively affordable travel backpack has earned 4,500+ 5-star reviews at Amazon. It’s even professional enough for work, for those who prefer non-leather bags—and it has a convenient laptop sleeve. One feature that’s especially great for travel is the large section that unzips on three sides to make packing easier. You can also unzip one of the zippers to create 10 percent more space, or keep it closed for a more streamlined bag. (Packing cubes can fit inside!) The backpack has a detachable shoulder strap and chest strap, exterior pockets, an ID pocket, and handles. It’s available in black, red, and navy.
Customers have uploaded lots of helpful photos of their bags, so it’s easy to get a closer look, and one of them shared, “Whoever invented this bag was a genius, they are so roomy and versatile. There is an amazing amount of organizers and place to put most anything you will need to travel about with.”
Lo & Sons The Beacon Backpack — $224.00
Popular brand Lo & Sons has a wide selection of backpacks, and this one is their smallest. After all, sometimes you just don’t want or need a big bag. While it’s only about 10” x 14”, it has a ton of spaces to organize everything you’d like to carry, including a laptop compartment (for 13” devices), large front pocket, two small “secret” pockets on the back, a slip pocket for folders or papers, and six interior pockets. It has a wide strap that fits over a rolling-suitcase handle, too. The Beacon is water-resistant and is made with nylon with 37 percent recycled content. (Note that it’s not a vegan bag, however, as it has some leather accents.)
Reviewers love this backpack for travel and work alike. One raved, “This is a fantastic bag/backpack! On the smaller side but cleverly designed with easy to use pockets and compartments that kept me organized on my trip abroad. Well made, comfortable to wear and looks great too!”
The North Face Women’s Borealis Backpack — $99.00
Rugged-looking and available in a ton of colors, this backpack is designed for women (as opposed to the brand’s original Borealis pack). Fortunately, The North Face didn’t simply add “women’s” to the product name, make it pink, and jack up the price—although there are pink and pink/black options available, plus a pretty pink print. This women’s backpack costs the same as the regular version! Its “FlexVent” suspension system is tailored to a woman’s body and is certified by the American Chiropractic Association. This recycled-nylon, water-repellent backpack’s many features include a padded tablet sleeve, laptop sleeve, and water bottle pocket.
Reviewers frequently mention using this backpack for school, college, hiking, and/or work, but many customers also love it for travel, as this review shows: “This backpack is so versatile. It is spacious, yet compact. It is comfortable and stylish. There is literally a place for everything. I use this as a carry-on for airplane travel with packing cubes for organization and it is perfect.”
Madewell Travel Nylon Backpack — $138.00
Madewell makes several backpack styles, and this 11” x 14.5” travel backpack is part of its collab with Topo Designs, a company that specializes in outdoor clothing and gear. It’s designed to be a “vintage-meets-technical daypack,” both sturdy and lightweight—and it’s partially made from recycled materials! The backpack has an inner sleeve that’s big enough to fit most 15” laptops, as well as two outer side pockets, a sizable outer pocket, padded shoulder straps, and more.
Baggallini Securtex Anti-theft Vacation Backpack — $93.00
The safety features on this backpack will make you feel a bit more secure while traveling. They include anti-theft, slash-resistant fabric; a cut-resistant strap; locking zippers; and RFID-blocking technology in one of the pockets. The backpack also has a pocket that’s hidden against your back when you wear it. This bag has lots of pockets, plus an opening for charging and headphone/earbud cords. The material is water-resistant, so you won’t have to worry about wet weather. This backpack is about 10” x 13” and available in black, charcoal gray, and “Pacific,” a rich medium blue.
One of the almost 200 5-star reviews reads, “Bought for trip to Greece. I’m small (5 ft.) and wanted something smallish, lightweight and secure. This fit the bill perfectly. Was great to carry water bottles and other essentials while sightseeing and it held what I needed on the flight.”
Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack — $85.00
Part of Everlane’s ReNew collection, which features shoes, bags, outerwear, and activewear made from recycled polyester and nylon from plastic bottles, textiles, and fishing nets, this backpack offers everything you need while on the go. This particular travel backpack is 100% recycled polyester! It has an unusual but interesting structure for a backpack—very modern and … rectangle-y. Pockets abound, with spaces designed for a 15” laptop, water bottles, passports/tickets, and magazines and notebooks—plus a luggage-handle strap. If you like your travel bags in neutrals rather than brights, take note: This one’s available in black, “warm charcoal,” and “warm quartz.”
In one review, titled “Great travel backpack,” a customer raved, “This is a great, sleek backpack that fits so much and is super functional. All of the pockets are convenient whether you’re driving, walking or on a plane. Highly recommend!”
Lululemon City Adventurer 17L Backpack — $128.00
Lululemon has four backpacks in its City Adventurer line, and this 17L size is a recent addition. Available in a pretty pale pink and four neutrals, including black, this bag is made from water-repellent fabric and has reinforced straps. The laptop pocket is padded and can fit devices up to 16” (giving it a bigger compartment than many backpacks), and the backpack has handy pockets, including an expandable one for clothes. (The company suggests using that one for “your sweaty gear,” but bear in mind that the bag isn’t machine washable!)
Because it’s new, this backpack doesn’t have a ton of reviews yet, but those it’s received so far are very positive, including this one: “I love this backpack! I use it for work mostly, but would also work great for travel. There are so many pockets inside that fit loose items (lip balm, hair ties etc.) and a water bottle pocket on the interior. The bottom pocket is great for storing shoes, or other toiletries.”
SwissGear Laptop and USB Power Plug Backpack — $90.00
SwissGear parent company Wenger also makes Swiss Army knives, so it’s not surprising that this bag is super functional. It boasts tons of features you won’t find in a typical travel backpack, such as shoe storage; a crush-resistant sunglasses compartment; ergonomically contoured straps; a ventilated back panel; insulated (!) water bottle pockets; designated pockets for your cell phone, ID card, memory stick, and pens; and even a USB port for charging your devices (battery pack not included). Its more common features include a padded laptop pocket, padded tablet pocket, water bottle pocket, and luggage-handle strap. Bonus: SwissGear provides a 5-year warranty.
With 200 reviews, this backpack has earned a 4.5-star rating. One reviewer shared, “This is the best backpack I have ever owned. It is a beast! I was able to fill it with two days of clothes, a computer, chargers, toiletries, a book, snacks, a wallet, and more, and flew without having to roll a bag, or check any luggage.”
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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.