A backpack can make or break your travel.
Though different types of travel will require a specific type of backpack, a sure thing is, we all want it to be as compact as possible behind our back. If you’re serious about choosing the best small backpacks for travel, we can help!
Here are the best small backpacks for travel (May 2023 Update):
- Best Overall: Venture Pal 40L
- Best For Minimalist Travel: HIKPRO 20L
- Best For Off The Beaten Track Travel: PANS Backpack
- Best For Rainy Destination: Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50L
- Best For Urban Travel: Gootium 21101
- Best For Digital Nomads: MOUNTAINTOP 40L
|Best Small Backpack For Travel: Top 6 Picks|
|Venture Pal 40L||Read Our Review|
Best For Minimalist Travel
|HIKPRO 20L||Read Our Review|
Best For Off The Beaten Track Travel
|PANS Backpack||Read Our Review|
Best For Rainy Destination
|Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50L||Read Our Review|
Best For Urban Travel
|Gootium 21101||Read Our Review|
Best For Digital Nomads
|MOUNTAINTOP 40L||Read Our Review|
Best Overall: Venture Pal 40L
- Provide a waterproof wet pocket to separate wet, dirty clothes or items from the rest -> a good alternative of plastic bags
- It has a whistle buckle to use in emergency situations
- 40 liters’ capacity, high-quality nylon materials, and one double-layer bottom piece to provide a spacious room with endurance for your stuff
- Some undone stitching on the small pockets
- Not true to color
Boasting the best overall score, the Venture Pal 40L is our lead testers’ favorite.
It comes with many extraordinary yet practical features and therein lies a special waterproof wet pocket.
This additional storage space is added to the main compartment while its zipper is on the back of the bag so you can separately store your dirty clothes from the washed. And there will be less plastic bag use thanks to that.
Another small but really practical add-on feature that we appreciate is the whistle buckle on its chest clip. It helps you get attention from the others in some emergency cases when you need help.
And finally, 40 liters’ capacity is quite roomy for 2- or 3-day travel. As it’s made from high-quality tear and water-resistant nylon materials, plus, an additional double-layer piece at the bottom, you can count on it.
|Venture Pal 40L Specifications|
Fold Size: 6.6 x 1.9 x 8.2 Inch
Unfold Size: 12.5 x 6.3 x 19.3 Inch
A waterproof wet pocket
Double-layer bottom piece
Breathable mesh shoulder straps
Chest clip with a whistle buckle
Fully-featured for all-day adventure, we rank the Venture Pal 40L as our best overall choice.
Best For Minimalist Travel: HIKPRO 20L
- Simple construction, 20-liter capacity, and stylish look
- The material can hold up well in the rain within 1 hour
- Ergonomic S-shaped breathable shoulder straps add extra comfort
- The side mesh pockets are not really functional
Aside from the traditional packing, some guys prefer to travel light.
For them, a 20-liter backpack made with simple construction like this HIKPRO is the best companion.
Out of the minimalist look, it is ultra-lightweight and foldable to make your journey easier and more relaxing.
There are totally three zippered compartments in this small backpack and all of them are made of heavy-duty nylon material. It highlights tear and wears resistance ability that can keep the contents dry under the rain within 1 hour.
The worth-mentioning feature is, regardless of its modest 20 liters’ capacity, HIKPRO still adds wide breathable mesh shoulder straps featuring ergonomic S shape. While this feature is usually found in larger models, it significantly enhances comfort for this bag.
|HIKPRO 20L Specifications|
12 x 5.5 x 18 inches
20L Internal Space
Water-resistant nylon material
Ergonomic S-shaped shoulder straps
If you’re a minimalist traveler looking for the simplest all-around backpack out there, enter the HIKPRO 20L.
Best For Off The Beaten Track Travel: PANS Backpack
- Have a zipper on the back to adjust the bag’s thickness
- Volume can be up to 64 liters
- The Molle system allows attaching many pouches to fit your needs
- Two walkie-talkie holders to keep on communication among a group of people
- The lip on the access to the main zipper makes it hard to access
- When not full, the bag sags and falls over
While the PAN isn’t a “universal” backpack to fit all travelers, it can give a good match to most of them.
The 64 liters’ capacity with 4 main loading spaces is hard to beat. It suits more for 3-day packs and various occasions, such as extended travel, hunting, backpacking, and hunting.
You can even stack some more small pouches on this bag through its Molle system in the front and water bottles on two mesh side pockets for quick thirst quenching.
Don’t worry if your load isn’t that much as the thickness of this bag is adjustable between 8’ and 13’. On the side of this bag, you’ll find a zipper; just zip it if you want to narrow the bag’s capacity.
What’s more, two walkie-talkie holders to allow distance communication among a group of travelers.
|PANS Backpack Specifications|
21 x 16 x 14 Inches
Expandable construction between 8’ and 13’
64 liters’ capacity
Two walkie-talkie pouch
The PANS backpack really stole our hearts. Its 64 liters’ capacity and many other add-on features make this bag a perfect choice for off the beaten track travel.
Best For Rainy Destination: Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50L
- Completely waterproof
- Provide 8 adjustable straps to hang more gears on the bag
- Have breathable back support and padded shoulder straps for extra comfort
- A little heavy
Not many travel backpacks like this Loowoko that comes with such utmost waterproof capability. Aside from featuring the waterproof polyester material, it has a rain cover to keep the contents from wetting.
The bag is also designed for multiple uses thanks to its 50 liters of capacity.
On the outside, there are 2 mesh pockets and 8 adjustable straps for hanging extra gears or tying up your pack. Rest assured that its polyester material is also rip-stop to prevent wears and tears efficiently.
Loowoko didn’t close its eyes on the bag’s comfort levels, which is proofed perspicuously through the breathable back support and the widened s-type shoulder straps.
Besides, you’ve also got a 60-day limited guarantee to buy it with confidence.
|Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50L Specifications|
25.6 * 13.8 * 9.8in
(package Size: 22.28 x 14.72 x 2.75in)
8 adjustable straps
Waterproof rip-stop materials
A rain cover included; breathable back support
The Loowoko has usurped our top pick for a waterproof travel backpack thanks to its perfect combo of waterproof materials and a rain cover included.
Best For Urban Travel: Gootium 21101
- Give a nice vintage look
- The material delivers ultra-durability and soft hand-feel to stand the test of time
- Can accommodate a 17” laptop
- Not waterproof or water-resistant
If you want to travel in comfort and style, don’t hesitate to pick this Gootium.
It emphasizes the pure cotton thick canvas materials that have been washed for a retro look. This fabric apparently can’t be waterproof or water-resistant but it strikes back with ultra-durability and longevity that you can use for years.
Moreover, it features a large main loading space to fit a 17” laptop. Some pockets are also added to enhance the bag’s capacity. In general, it can hold up well 30/23 liters with good organizing.
|Gootium 21101 Specifications|
30 liters / 23 liters
2.1lbs / 1.85lbs
Large:13.5" x 8" x 17.7" (L x W x H)
Small:12" x 8" x 15" (L x W x H)
100-Percent Pure Cotton Thick Canvas
Two size options; fit A 17 Inch Laptop;
Overall, with the perfect combination of functionality and style, this Gootium backpack is best for urban travel. Maybe somebody will ask you if you’re an archeologist; who knows?
Best For Digital Nomads: MOUNTAINTOP 40L
- It can accommodate a 17” laptop with full protection
- Meet a personal carry for airlines to avoid paying an extra fee
- Multiple straps to keep the bag in place for convenience when you’re walking
- A bit heavy
- The hip pads don’t work greatly
- The two side mesh pockets aren’t deep enough to keep water bottles securely
While the Gootium 21101 can contain a 17” laptop, this Mountaintop provides full protection to it.
Inside the main compartment, you’ll find a specific pocket that is up against the back of the bag. Here it takes advantage of the back cushioning as a shock absorber to protect your laptop from impacts.
So we would say it’s a nice option for digital nomads.
The bag also meets all size requirements for most airlines so that you can load it down without paying for an extra checked bag.
Regardless, the Mountaintop 40L has plenty of straps. They efficiently prevent the bag from jangling around your back or the shoulder straps falling off your shoulders. If you intend to carry much, they are a worthy add-on feature.
|MOUNTAINTOP 40L Specifications|
20"h x 12"w x 4.5" deep.
A roomy, protective sleeve to fit a 17” laptop
Meets all size requirements for most airlines
YKK Zipper and YKK Buckle
Have belly strap & sternum strap to keep
Living without your personal laptop is an impossible mission in this modern life. If you’re a serious digital nomad, this protective, roomy Mountaintop backpack is best to go.
How To Choose The Best Small Backpacks For Travel?
First of all, there’s no “universal” backpack for all types of travel so you should determine with care these three vital things before making a purchase:
- How long your trip would take?
- What you intend to use the bag for?
- Your carry style
- Think about how much weight you want to carry along for this trip.
- Overstuff a small bag will lead to imbalanced weight distribution, resulting in more stress on your shoulders, hip, and back. Conversely, little carry on a too big backpack makes it unnecessarily bulky.
- Considering the base weight of your backpack is also important. The more convenient features, the heavier.
- That’s why you should identify your purpose of use with this bag to find out which features should be included and which shouldn’t.
- Now, how much weight is considered “light” and how much volume is suitable for you? Well, it is flexible from person to person. The table below will give you a quick guide about standard volumes and weights of backpacks based on specific travel styles.
A day pack or overnight travel (1 or 2 nights)
20 - 40
Weekends (2 or 3 nights)
40 – 60
2.5 – 4
Multiple-day travels (3 or 5 nights)
60 – 80
2.5 – 5
Extended trips (over 5 nights)
4 - 6
- No matter how much weight you intend to carry, the bag should be (at least!) tear-resistant to not expose its contents unexpectedly during the trip. This feature also saves you from losing stuff.
- There are two common kinds of materials that can afford that basic requirement:
- Nylon or polyester
- Canvas delivers a more stylish look and extra protection to your items but it won’t be waterproof or water-resistant. Meanwhile, some high-grade nylon materials are built to repel water efficiently for rainy destinations but they won’t look as fashionable as its counterpart.
Which Brands Make The Best Small Backpacks For Travel?
- With over 20 years’ experience of creating backpacks, HIKPRO is one of the top choices in this list. Their products are known for not only functionality but also fashion to let you travel with comfort and style.
- At Venture Pal, you get the freedom to choose from a wide range of colors and patterns for the best packable travel bag. Whether you are passionate about catching trends or basic fit, this is sure to fit.
- Like HIKPRO, Gootium has been over 20 years in this industry. Starting with a small workshop in Australia, the brand has now gained a worldwide reputation thanks to its unique retro-styled canvas bags.
Is the backpack considered as hand carry?
If your backpack meets a personal carry for the airline that you’re going to fly, it is considered as hand carry. Carry-on regulations are different from country to country and the class of your flight ticket.
In general, the carry-on dimensions will be within 6 in x 13 in x 17 into 10
Can you fit a backpack under an airplane seat?
Most airlines have some general regulations for carry-on luggage, which is it should fit under the seat in front of you. But sadly, they don’t tell exactly the measurements for the space below seats.
Below are some common measurements for the space below seats of different Airlines:
Southwest’s Boeing 737s
19” L x 14” W x 8.25” H
17” x 10” x 9”
17” x 10” x 9”
17” x 13” x 8”
22” x 14” x 9”
18” x 14” x 8”
20” x 17” x 11”
How do you pack a small backpack for travel?
How do you protect your backpack from pickpockets?
To keep your bag away from pickpockets, situational awareness maintaining is key. While you can pick a thief out of a crowd, there are some favorite places that they like to work:
- Hotel lobbies
- Bars and restaurants
- Public transportation
- Tourist attractions
Getting to know some common tricks that pickpockets usually use is also helpful. You know it, seeing through life and death will meet with the most success.
They will try their best to make you distract or misdirect then take the opportunity to steal your stuff. If someone acts a little too helpful or friendly towards you if someone approaches you asking for help in a strange way, be conscious.
The consideration of choosing a backpack for travel is totally different from one for fashion. Or at least, it shouldn’t. With the provided informative recommendations and reviews, we hope you can find the best small backpacks for travel to fit your own needs. Have fun!