Spring showers and the gnarliest city streets are no problem for the Timbuk2 Spire. But after years of testing and further comparison against dedicated travel backpacks and improved hybrids (such as the Tom Bihn), the MLC is simply outclassed. Photo: Caleigh Waldman, Osprey placed the laptop sleeve in the outside pocket of the bag; this puts the weight of the electronics in an awkward position relative to your body. However, wheels, retractable handles, and frames subtract from precious packing space and add weight, and can make a bag difficult to manage on busy city streets. Both bags are exemplary carry-on travel backpacks that are designed for comfort, durability, and organization. All these bags are of the finest quality, stylish and will suit your needs. They’re good cubes, and they compare well to the ultralight Eagle Creek Specter Tech set, our upgrade pick for packing cubes. Timbuk2 the Authority Pack. With classic design touches that evoke 20th-century Alpine mountaineering backpacks and the ability to transport all your 21st-century tech in comfort and safety, Little America represents the best of both backpacking worlds. This design (with its included load-adjuster straps at the top, to prevent the bag’s weight from sagging toward your lumbar region) is the best of those we’ve tested at distributing the weight of an otherwise fairly heavy bag. However, the intense design focus that’s evident in the interior of the bag seems to have slipped a bit when it came to the exterior. Once you’ve played with them, you’ll wonder why every backpack doesn’t have something similar. A buy-it-for-a-lifetime backpack should last you for years of heavy use. After testing, we think it’s a great bag too. The perfect size and layout for work or school. Also, the lack of a hip belt (once a mere inconvenience when compared with the competition) is now glaring. Plus, it has a large capacity of 20 liters and a well-designed system of shoulder straps, sternum straps, and mesh back. Made from 210D nylon double-diamond ripstop. For heavier loads you’ll want padded, adjustable shoulder and waist straps as well as a sternum strap to stabilize the load when you corner or have to stop quickly. Tortuga Setout Divide: We’re fans of the Tortuga Outbreaker and Setout travel bags, and we consider them both to be great maximum-size carry-on backpacks. With fewer items, you have more time to concentrate on and appreciate the journey. That means no one is going to miss you. $54.99 $ 54. The Sunhiker Small Cycling Backpack is one of our favorite budget backpacks. Hip belt comfort and design: A hip belt transfers heavy loads from your back and shoulders onto your hips, letting your legs—not your back—bear the brunt of the weight. FREE SHIPPING. Additionally, we lurked on Reddit’s r/onebag and r/heronebag forums, and emailed and had phone interviews with the moderators of those subreddits, Addison Ryan and Lindsay Lorraine Calderón, respectively. Capacity: 45 litersWeight: 5.1 poundsMain compartment access: clamshell openingStyle: minimal, with a rigid constructionColor: Black. Across moderate distances, these straps do help with the bag’s overall weight. A: Each cycling backpack will come with its own care instructions germane to the material and fabrication methods. This bag also has the largest capacity of any of those we tested, expanding to 65 liters—well beyond any airline’s regulated 45-liter limit. Eytan Levy is the owner and operator of the Snarky Nomad travel website, which combines travel guides and tips with in-depth gear reviews. It’s about 2 inches longer and pushes right up to most airline limits. In terms of pockets, it has two main pockets, an exterior zippered pocket, and two mesh bottle pockets. If you don’t believe us, check out the thousands of positive reviews from Amazon customers. But for the bag’s price, we think you’ll be happier packing and carrying the Cotopaxi Allpa. The Topo bag’s compartment is a little tight for large laptops, so it isn’t the best when going through security. Proviz provides maximum space with minimum weight. Style: This is purely subjective. Kelty Redwing 44: When we got our hands on the Redwing, we realized that it was closer to a top-loading light camping backpack than to the panel-loading packs we tested. And that’s despite the bag’s hefty (just over 5 pounds) weight when empty—it’s roughly 2 pounds more than most of our other picks, except the Peak Design Travel Backpack. There are significant improvements if you pay slightly more for our pick, the Cotopaxi Allpa. However, it’s not as comfortable as pricier options, and it can expand well past the limits of most overhead bins. The Outbreaker is available as a 45-liter bag (the max space for a carry-on bag), which we tested, along with a 35-liter version that’s compliant with some intra-European flights. The Allpa’s front panel is made of a waterproof, TPU-coated 1000-denier polyester (a strong fabric covered in a flexible plastic coating), which means you can lay it on its back in a wet field or in gravel without worrying about moisture soaking through or jagged edges ripping the fabric. This bag is a front-panel loader (which we find very easy to pack), organized around a main pocket that can fit two large packing cubes. The computer pocket is the sturdiest we tested, but it is also slim. © 2021 Wirecutter, Inc., A New York Times Company, minimalist designs that can fit in everywhere, Best small carry-on bag for most situations: Cotopaxi Allpa 35L, Best large bag for most situations: Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L, Best bag for document organization: Topo Designs Travel Bag 30L, Best bag for long journeys on foot: Osprey Farpoint 40 and Fairview 40, Best bag if you need a large suitcase on your back: Tortuga Outbreaker 45L Backpack, Best affordable large backpack: eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender, The Savvy Backpacker’s Guide to Europe on a Budget, A versatile small pack for a week or a weekend, you can toss as easily into an overhead compartment, An easily customizable large bag for long trips and expensive gear, Combines more organization with a simple interior, lifetime warranty is renowned within the industry, 35-liter version that’s compliant with some intra-European flights, best product-comparison spreadsheets we’ve seen, The Best Underseat Personal Items to Pair With Your Carry-On Bag—and Most of Them Aren’t Backpacks, The Best Buy It for Life Backpack (Please Don’t Call It Tactical). 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