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Backpack for Airplane Travel

Find out which is the best backpack for airplane travel and learn how to choose the right type of luggage for your adventure.


November 14, 2023

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Picking the best travel backpack for air travel is a crucial aspect that will help you avoid headaches and have a much more comfortable trip. So, before you buy anything, make sure you check the airline’s baggage policy. This way, you will know about the characteristics that your backpack should have and the applicable restrictions, avoiding problems when you have to board the plane.

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How to choose the best carry-on backpacks to take on the plane?

The first step to picking the best backpack for the airplane is knowing the three types of most common baggage for flights: Personal accessories, hand backpack or cabin luggage, and a suitcase.

The second step is learning to differentiate the types of baggage allowed in the cabin and the plane’s hold. We will explain the primary measurements, characteristics, and functions of every kind of luggage below.

In general terms, airplane policies establish the rules of weight and dimensions of the luggage allowed to be carried in the cabin and the aircraft hold. Its flexibility or exceptions depend on the type of flight ticket you purchased, the aircraft size, the objects to be transported, and other aspects.

Types of carry-on backpacks: what are they?

Knowing the type of backpack or luggage you need for your trip will help you save time and money. So, if you are looking for the most beautiful travel gear online, stop for a moment and check the luggage included in your airfare. Here, we will tell you what they are and what they are for.

1. Accessory or personal item to carry on the plane

example of small backpack
Traveler with a small backpack. Source: Freepik

It is a small backpack that travelers can carry under the front seat in the plane’s cabin. It is meant for you to store a laptop, a wallet with essential documents, medicines, and even a tiny diaper bag with baby care products. For some travelers, this is the option to use if they want a one-bag travel.

Measurement of the bag to carry personal items

The following comparative chart shows the dimensions established within the baggage policy for transporting personal items of Iberia Group, Avianca, Ryanair, and Lufthansa.

AirlineType of LuggageMeasurements
IberiaPersonal accessory40 x 30 x 15 cm
AviancaPersonal accessory25 x 35 x 45 cm
RyanairSmall backpack40 x 25 x 20 cm
LufthansaPersonal object40 x 30 x 10 cm
Table N°1. Standard dimension for personal luggage.

2. Hand backpack or cabin luggage

example of backpack
Example of a hand backpack. Source: Freepik

The hand backpack or cabin luggage is the luggage that can be carried in the overhead bin compartments of the plane. Its weight has to be between 10 and 14 kg, and it is used to transport coats, electronic equipment, baby accessories, medicines, or any object allowed in the aircraft cabin. When we have shorter trips or business travel, this type of luggage will be enough to carry the necessary belongings. 

Measurement of the hand backpack or cabin luggage

The dimensions of this type of baggage vary depending on the type of flight. This means flights in first class, executive or business class, premium economy class, and Tourist or economy class. In the following table, you can find some examples of tourist and business classes.

AirlineType of LuggageMeasurements
IberiaCabin Luggage56 x 40 x 25cm (Height, Width, Depth) 10 kg tourist class 14 kg business class
AviancaHand backpack55 x 35 x 25cm (Height, Width, Depth) including wheels and handles 10 kg tourist class 14 kg business class
RyanairCabin Luggage55cm x 40cm x 20cm / 10kg (Height, Width, Depth)
LufthansaHand backpack55 × 40 × 23cm / 8kg (Height, Width, Depth)
Table N°2. Standard dimension for cabin luggage.

3. Suitcase or hold luggage

woman with a suitcase
Suitcase. Source: Freepik

They are all those suitcases that exceed the dimensions allowed in cabin luggage. They have greater storage capacity and range from 23 kg to 32 kg. To carry this type of luggage, you must pay an extra price, depending on the weight that must be transported. We associate them with rolling suitcase and similar cases that we use when traveling for long periods.

Measurement of the suitcase or hold luggage

Usually, the weight of a suitcase or hold luggage goes from 23 kg to 32 kg. Nonetheless, there are some exceptions, considering that some airlines allow the transport of hand luggage in the hold without additional fees.

AirlineType of LuggageMeasurements
IberiaChecked baggage158cm (height + width + length) 23kg (maximum 32kg)
AviancaBaggage158cm (length + width + height) 23 kg economy class 32 kg business class
RyanairChecked bag20 Kg + 3 additional kg Up to 3 pieces with this measure
LufthansaHand luggageUp to 23 kg and 158 cm (height × width × depth)
Table N°3. Standard dimension for holding luggage.

Guide to Finding the ideal carry on backpacks 

Now that you know the different types of luggage and the regulations established by airlines such as Iberia, Avianca, Ryanair, and Lufthansa for the transport of luggage, you will have cleared some of your doubts about the weight and size of the backpack you are going to choose for your trip.

We already told you about the measurements and the regulatory weight; now let’s discuss the material and the capacity that a backpack or cabin and hold luggage should have.

What type of material is the best for a carry-on backpack?

The material is also essential when choosing the backpack in the cabin or under the front seat. Some of the best are the following:

Materials for cabin backpacks:

  • Nylon: waterproof, light, resistant, and flexible.
  • Polyester: lightweight, flexible, and soft.

Materials for holding suitcases

  • ABS: It is rigid and resists impacts and scratches.
  • Polypropylene: It is the most rigid and most abrasion-resistant.
  • Polycarbonate: It is hard and resistant, but it is a little lighter and more flexible.

What capacity is needed in a backpack to travel on a plane?

The capacity or volume of a backpack means the available or usable internal space. Its measurement is given in liters and not in kilos since, in this case, the weight is not considered. This capacity can be affected by a wrong design choice or a selection of materials that take away space from the backpack.

Anyway, the maximum capacity of an airplane backpack is approximately 40 liters.

Tips to pick the best backpack for your trip

No matter your travel style or needs, there is a travel backpack out there that is perfect for you. Do some research and compare different models before you make a purchase. And be sure to try on the backpack before you buy it to ensure it fits well and is comfortable to carry. When choosing a travel backpack, it’s essential to consider the following factors.

best backpack for airplane travel
Best backpacks. Source: Google

Shoulder Straps, hip belt, and more

  • Capacity: How much stuff do you need to pack? Choose a backpack with enough capacity to fit all your essentials but not so much that it’s too bulky and heavy to carry around.
  • Comfort: Make sure to choose a backpack with a comfortable suspension system. This will help distribute your backpack’s weight evenly and prevent shoulder and back pain.
  • Features: Consider what qualities are important to you, such as a built-in laptop sleeve, multiple pockets for organization, and easy-access pockets for your essentials.
  • Durability: Choose a backpack that is made from durable materials and construction. This will ensure that your backpack can withstand the rigors of travel.

The best carry-on backpack for your trip in 2023

girl with a backpack
Best backpacks for your travel in 2023. Source: Freepik

The perfect carry-on bags for this 2023 meets the requirements of the airlines in terms of weight, capacity, and size, but also one that meets your expectations, such as comfort, light and easy movement, and style!

The best backpack for your trip in 2023 will depend on your specific needs and travel style. But here are a few of the most popular and highly-rated travel backpacks on the market.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

This durable and versatile backpack is a great all-around option for travelers of all types. It has a comfortable suspension system, plenty of storage space, and easy-access pockets for keeping your essentials handy.

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack. Source: Cotopaxi Europe.

All the features

  • Carry-on compatible: This is designed to fit within most airlines’ carry-on bag size restrictions. This means avoiding baggage fees and always keeping your belongings with you.
  • Suitcase-style, full-wrap zipper opening on the main compartment: There is a suitcase-style opening on the main compartment, which makes it easy to pack and unpack your belongings.
  • Weight-distributing, low-profile harness system: The Allpa 35L has a comfortable harness system that helps distribute the backpack’s weight evenly. This can help to prevent shoulder and back pain, even when carrying a heavy load.
  • Padded laptop sleeve: A padded laptop compartment and tablet sleeve accommodating up to a 15-inch laptop. This helps to protect your devices from damage while you’re traveling.
  • Top zippered pocket to store essentials or a smaller bag: The top zippered pocket can hold essentials such as your passport, wallet, and phone. It can also keep smaller bags like the Cotopaxi Allpa X Hip Pack.
  • Security anti-theft YKK zippers: The Allpa 35L has security anti-theft YKK zippers that help to protect your belongings from theft. These lockable zippers are dedicated to keeping our sensitive belongings secure in small pocket.

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L

This innovative backpack is designed to be easy to pack and unpack, with a clamshell opening and multiple access points. It also has a built-in laptop sleeve, plenty of storage space, and a comfortable suspension system.

Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L. Source: Peak Design.

Some features

  • Expandable main compartment: The main compartment of the Travel Backpack 45L can be expanded from 35L to 45L, giving you the flexibility to pack more or less gear depending on your needs.
  • 360-degree access: Multiple access points, including a clamshell opening, top zippered pocket, and side access zippers. This makes it easy to get to your gear no matter where it is in the backpack.
  • Built-in laptop pocket: The Travel Backpack 45L has a built-in dedicated laptop pocket that can accommodate up to a 17-inch laptop. The sleeve is padded and suspended to protect your computer from damage.
  • Comfortable suspension system: With padded shoulder straps and a hip belt. This helps to distribute the backpack’s weight evenly and prevent shoulder and back pain.
  • Weatherproof construction: Made from a weatherproof fabric, it has weather-sealed zippered mesh pockets to protect your gear from the elements, even in the internal pockets.
  • Compatible with Peak Design packing cubes: The Travel Backpack 45L is compatible with Peak Design packing cubes, which can help you organize your belongings and pack more efficiently. It should be able to hold four large packing cubes, a medium packing cube, and a toiletry bag.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack

This comfortable and lightweight backpack is a great option for budget-minded travelers. It has a spacious main compartment, multiple pockets for organization, and a comfortable suspension system.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack
Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Pack. Source: Osprey.

Best Features

  • Adjustable torso fit: The Farpoint 40 Travel Pack has an adjustable torso fit system that allows you to customize the backpack’s fit to your body thanks to waist straps. This helps to ensure that the backpack is comfortable to carry, even when fully loaded.
  • Extensive panel zip access to the main compartment: There is a large panel zip opening on the main compartment, which makes it easy to pack and unpack your belongings. The opening also gives you a clear view of everything inside the backpack, making it easy to find what you need.
  • Lockable sliders on the main compartment zipper: This helps to protect your belongings from theft.
  • Dual front compression straps: These help to keep your belongings in place and prevent the backpack from bulking out.
  • Large front-shove-it pocket: A sizeable front-shove-it pocket is perfect for storing items you need to access quickly, such as your passport, wallet, and phone.
  • External zip toiletry pocket: The Farpoint 40 Travel Pack has exterior water bottle pockets perfect for storing toiletries and other wet items. The pocket is also water-resistant to help protect your belongings from the elements.
  • Padded compartment and side handles: The Farpoint 40 Travel Pack has a padded top and side handles that make it easy to carry the backpack, even when fully loaded.

Patagonia Arbor Lid Pack 28L

This lightweight, versatile everyday backpack is an excellent option for day gateway and short weekend trips. It has a comfortable suspension system, plenty of storage space, and easy-access pockets for keeping your essentials handy. Unlike other backpacks, It’s also made from recycled materials, so it’s a good choice for eco-conscious travelers.

Patagonia Arbor Lid Pack 28L
Patagonia Arbor Lid Pack 28L. Patagonia New Zealand.

Highlights features

  • Body made of 100% recycled polyester (solution-dyed) with a PFC-free DWR finish (durable water-repellent coating that does not contain perfluorinated chemicals)
  • Dedicated laptop compartment for added protection with a 15-inch length 
  • Zippered exterior front and lid pockets keep small items secure and close at hand
  • The internal organization pocket separates smaller items so they don’t get lost among gear in the main compartment. Ideal for keeping your versatile carry-on backpack in order.
  • Top-loading design with a roll-top closure for easy access and to keep your gear dry
  • Adjustable straps and sternum strap for a comfortable fit. This way, you can attach the backpack straps with full customization.
  • Haul loop for easy carrying
  • Reflective accents for visibility in low-light conditions

What to pack in your carry-on travel backpacks?

To know what you need to pack, you must consider the weather, the destination you are visiting, the season of the year, and other aspects that will guide you in choosing the most appropriate clothing and items.

Some of the most common items are clothing, shoes, coats, grooming and personal care, organizers, cameras, electronic equipment, travel documents, cash, etc.

It may interest you: What to take in your suitcase to Switzerland?

We recommend you review the policy:

  • Restricted items: These refer to those items that can put the life, health, and integrity of people at risk, as well as the safety of the aircraft.
  • Liquids: You can carry liquids in containers that do not exceed 100 ml and 1 liter, adding all the products (water bottles, gel, deodorant, aerosol, alcohol, hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • Special baggage: Medical equipment, weapons, sports equipment, and musical instruments are some examples of this category, which can be transported fulfilling certain conditions and characteristics.

Remember that the restrictions may vary depending on your destination or even between airlines if you choose a flight with several connections.

You may be interested in How to get internet on a plane.

Tips to prepare your backpack

Always think about taking what you need. Prepare your backpack or hand luggage with anticipation so you can check if it is worth taking everything you are packing or if there is something you do not need.

Make the most of the internal space and exterior pockets. Many travelers use rolling clothes to expand storage capacity and use the lightest garments to fill gaps.

Repackage liquids and creams in standard-size containers. Remember, each bottle must have a capacity of 100 ml, and everything cannot exceed 1 liter. So, you can ensure you take the products you need for your care without restrictions.

Check the weight of the travel backpack. Remember that if your baggage exceeds the weight allowed in the cabin, you must pass it as check-in baggage in the hold.

Related articles: Top 10 Best Apps to Travel the World

Frequent questions about backpacks for travelers

What size backpack can I take on a plane?

The typical carry-on bags have approximate dimensions for the baggage compartment of 23x14x9 inches 56x36x22 cm. A laptop computer, a wallet with travel documents and cash, a diaper bag with baby care products, and other examples were allowed.

What is a carry-on backpack or cabin luggage?

It is the baggage that goes in the upper compartment of the plane. Usually, its weight is a maximum of 10 kg. However, this information depends on each airline’s baggage policy.

What is a suitcase or hold luggage?

This is check-in baggage larger than the characteristics allowed in the aircraft cabin. They are between 23 kg and 32 kg.

What items are not allowed in airline luggage?

Here are some of the items that you cannot carry in your luggage: explosives, pyrotechnic material, aerosols or irritating substances, pipettes or scuba tanks, electroshock weapons, electronic cigarettes, lighters, rechargeable batteries, scooters, etc.

Can I have internet while on the airplane?

Nowadays, there are some alternatives that you can use for the internet on the airplane, such as antenna services on the plane, as well as data packages offered by some operators. It all depends on the destination you are flying to and the airline you are flying with.

How do you secure your backpack for air travel?

Although it may sound obvious, the first thing to do is to ensure that the zippers are tightly closed and that you don’t have any loose straps. In addition to this, you may want to wrap it in plastic wrap or use security padlocks so that your backpack can’t be easily opened. Finally, you may consider using a TSA-approved lock to secure it. TSA-approved locks allow TSA agents to inspect your bag without damaging it.