If you’re looking to travel, you’re going to need a way to hold all your stuff, and backpacks are one of the best options out there.
Available in sizes from tiny little day bags up to giant monster packs that hold a week’s worth of gear alongside an entire campsite, tent and sleeping bags.
But with so many makes and models, it can be hard to sift through the options and make a choice. Which is why we’ve written this guide to help you make the best choice.
Best Large Backpacks in 2020
Osprey Atmos AG65
Travelling or trekking for the whole day takes it toll, especially when you’re laden down with gear. Which is why our top pick is designed to take the load off. It’s designed around smart anti-gravity suspension tech that spreads the load across your body, so you feel like you’re carrying far less than you actually are.
Minimalist but stylish, the Atmos AG65 is built around an adjustable harness and hip belt that helps the pack wrap around your body, hugging to your contours so it doesn’t bounce around.
There’s massive amounts of storage, with front stretch mesh pockets to store quick access gear like rain-proofs, web attachment points, a hydration sleeve that holds up to a 3 liter reservoir, sleeping bag straps, a trekking pole attachment, basically anything you might need.
Made from highly ventilated, incredibly comfortable material, it comes in 3 sizes that can be fit to you, with the medium size holding up to 50lbs of gear. Just use Osprey’s own bespoke sizing chart to find out what fit you need.
If you want the best large hiking backpack on the market, that’s going to take every situation in its stride, in our opinion there is no better choice.
Tortuga Men’s Setout
Designed to be the biggest bag you can possibly take as a piece of carry on, the advantages of the Setout are obvious.
To start, it’s a 45 liter backpack, sized specifically to be exactly as large as airline regulations allow. Construction is flawless, with 900D polyester that’s treated to be weather resistant, injection moulded foam in areas that take increased pressure, heavy duty shoulder straps, and a removable hip belt that takes as much as 90% of the weight off your shoulders.
Whether you’re going on a weekend break or touring around the world, this bag is going to take everything in its stride, and stay comfortable the whole time.
Internal storage is huge, taking a full sized laptop and a week’s worth of clothes easily, with a full YKK zipper that runs the entire length of the bag and lets it open fully like a suitcase, for instant access.
Internal storage is neatly divided, with the extra option for storage cubes, and if you don’t need a full size 45 liter backpack, there is a smaller option available.
Teton Grand 5500
An absolute monster, the Teton Grand is one of the largest bags we’ve looked at, and has enough carrying capacity for a week long expedition into the toughest jungle, or a few days away with the family.
Holding a massive 90 liters of internal space, the Grand 5500 is colossal, but still only weighs a really reasonable 2.7kg (6lbs.) Built around a solid aluminum internal frame, the pack will keep its structure no matter what it’s holding. Storage pockets are scattered around the pack, including a sleeping bag pocket and 3 liter detachable daybag.
Despite the size, it’s incredibly comfortable, even when loaded down. Wide shoulder straps and a big waist belt spread the load across your body, all of which has multiple points of adjustment to fit to almost all body types.
The whole thing is also covered by Teton’s lifetime warranty. Whether you’re taking this to the top of a mountain or a woodland walk, the Teton Grand 5500 is going to take it all in stride.
Veckuson 55L Extra Large Gaming Backpack
Built around the needs of transporting modern technology, Veckuson’s gaming backpack is an absolute monster, if you need to transport half an office or a gaming rig to an event.
The 55 liter capacity can hold 2 large laptops (up to 18.4 inches) and a tablet in padded, secure internal storage. There’s a phone pocket with phone connection, and a headphone port so you can listen and talk on the go. Built in USB charging lets you connect a power bank and keep everything up and running. There’s also a secure RFID protection pocket to keep your wallet, credit cards and data safe.
Water resistant in case of sudden showers, the whole bag is made from high-quality polyester and breathable mesh. Adjustable shoulder straps hold it securely to your body, and when you get to the airport, the whole thing opens to a completely flat 180 degrees.
One thing to bear in mind is that this bag is a little too large for a carry-on piece when it’s fully packed, so be careful if you’re flying. But apart from that, this is the best way to transport your tech on your back.
Swissgear 1900 Scansmart
Equally at home on business trips or accompanying students on bohemian backpacking trips, the Swissgear 1900 is a stylish and effective piece of luggage.
Made from 1200D ballistic polyester, it comes in multiple color options and the entire thing is built to an incredible standard, as we’d expect from industry standouts Swissgear. Even laden down, it’s comfortable, with contoured shoulder straps, side compression straps and a heavy duty grab handle.
Storage is excellent. A wide internal pocket protects any laptop up to 17 inches, and ScanSmart layflat technology lets you open the bag near instantly for travel use, letting you scan everything at airports without issue.
Despite this being the smallest backpack on the list, it’s packed with features, including a media pocket with headphone ports, a floating tablet pocket, reflective material on the shoulders for night safety, and even a specifically designed strap to attach it to larger pieces of luggage. As a large carry on for the frequent traveller, this is the perfect choice.
JanSport Driver 8 Rolling Backpack
A fantastic generalist backpack with built-in rolling wheels, the JanSport Driver is a fantastic weekend bag, or a supplement carry on when you’re travelling.
80mm inline skate wheels let it move easily on most surfaces, and the two stage handle is retractable and stable. The shoulder straps tuck away when not in use, so they won’t catch on anything, and it also has a padded grab handle.
It’s available in multiple colors, and has a large amount of storage including twin internal compartments, a front stash pocket, and a utility pocket. JanSport are also a known brand, with a 50 year heritage. This shows in the quality, with a no questions asked lifetime warranty, and the fact that, as backpacks go, this is as environmentally friendly as they come, including using solar power and recycled materials in the construction.
Bange Travel Overnight 40 Liter Backpack
Designed to perfectly meets all carry-on restrictions, the Bange Travel Overnight bag is built around a tri-modular main compartment that easily fits into overhead compartments or under seats, even when it’s laden down and packed solid.
The backpack comes with three compression packs, a large, sized for clothing, a medium for toiletries, and a small one specifically for valuables. They slot into the backpack, saving you massive amounts of room and letting you pack far more into this bag than otherwise possible.
Extra storage is provided by 2 front pockets, a large vertical pocket, and a 7 shaped pocket across the outside of the bag. A hand strap and top strap lets you carry this as a tote, and the adjustable chest strap locks it to your body for comfort and safety, even when it’s packed full.
Capable of holding up to a 17 inch laptop, and only weighing 3.3lbs even with its storage options, this is perfect for weekend trips.
Witzman Vintage Canvas Duffel Backpack
A gorgeous vintage duffel that serves double duty as a large backpack. Usable as a shoulder bag, or held with any of side or top straps, when it’s time to sling this across your back, just unzip the hidden straps from their compartment and convert it into a fully usable backpack.
Storage is excellent, with 2 front zipper pockets, a side pocket, large main pocket, laptop window, and various other smaller pockets scattered across the entire bag. Built out of cotton canvas with real leather trim, the bag comes in multiple color options, and two separate sizes.
Highly durable, with a large capacity, the smaller bag actually meets carry on restrictions, despite the size. The whole thing is also covered by a 1 year warranty.
Dinictis 40L Flight Approved Backpack
Perfectly sized for carry on luggage, the Dinictis 40L is an incredibly light (1.2kg!) and flexible backpack, especially for the budget price.
With 40 liters of internal space, it’s big enough for several days of supplies. Internal space is protected by foam padding, and has space for a laptop up to 15.6 inches. Twin front pockets and a side bottle pocket extend the space.
With a top handle, side handle, and shoulder straps that tuck away when not in use, it’s easy to carry, and made of hard-wearing, high-density polyester. As a budget choice for smaller breaks, this backpack is fantastic, but for anything longer or more specialized, we’d recommend something a little heavier duty.
Teton Sports Scout 3400
A big backpack for longer trips, the Teton Scout has a large 3400 cubic inches of internal space (55 liters,) which can hold enough for several days of hiking or a long weekend of travel.
Storage is laid out across multiple external pockets, including a dedicated sleeping bag pocket. Just in case you’re taking everything, including the kitchen sink, there’s also extra compression straps and gear loops scattered around the outside.
It’s made from 600D ripstop nylon and 600D Oxford canvas, and tough enough to take a beating. The included rain cover will keep all your gear dry if you get caught out.
Ergonomic straps with a wide array of adjustment levels, a huge padded waist belt, and a hydration bladder pocket make this a great choice for longer hikes.
Available in four colors, you can easily match this to the rest of your gear.
Best large backpack buying guide
Most standard backpacks and day bags sit somewhere in the 20 to 35 liter range. A large backpack, whether you’re using it for a long hike, a weekend break, or something else entirely, is generally going to be anything upwards of 40 liters.
The largest backpacks can run upwards of 80 or 90 liters, and are suitable for multiple day hikes, including tents and gear. But beware that backpacks over around 45 liters are going to be much harder to travel with when you’re not walking. You’re likely to face checked baggage fees when you fly, and might need to stow your luggage on trains and buses.
Increased size comes with increased weight, but better quality backpacks will be made of materials and use manufacturing methods that help reduce the total weight you feel.
Things like adjustable handles,
Straps and carry handles
Obviously, a big backpack packed full holds a lot of weight, and after a long day, you’ll definitely start to feel the strain.
Bigger backpacks tend to have straps designed to shift the load. Smaller, conventional backpacks put all of the weight on your shoulders. But properly designed travel packs will have hip straps that shift the majority of the weight downwards.
More expensive and larger backpacks may even have full hip belts that take almost all of the weight and put it on your hips instead of your spine.
When it comes to shoulder straps, bigger tends to be better. Thicker and wider straps will distribute the weight better, but be warned, don’t buy straps that are too big if you’re a smaller person, as you’ll get swamped.
Finally, there are going to be times when you’re not carrying your backpack on your back. A lot of packs have carry handles, most commonly on the top, but larger packs might also have side mounted carry handles, or even wheels, allowing you to carry them like a piece of hard sided luggage.
Most modern backpacks are made out of the same two or three materials, namely nylon, cordura and polyester.
Polyester is the cheapest and lightest material. It’s generally not suitable for larger backpacks, as it’s vulnerable to ripping and tearing, especially if overstretched.
Cordura is an incredibly durable, fully synthetic material that’s used in a wide variety of other applications, including hiking clothes and military gear. The strength is balanced out by added weight and cost.
Nylon is a happy medium between polyester and cordura, being reasonably costed for good performance. Cheaper backpacks might still rip and tear easily, so look for reinforced nylon material, commonly called nylon-6 or rip-stop nylon.
Half of the struggle when you’re packing is organization, and a good backpack will have multiple pockets to give you as many options as possible.
Look for bags with a large number of external pockets, which are ideal for quick access to things you need regularly, for example water and documents, and secure internal pockets, which can be used to store things like identification and money.
Font Loading vs Top Loading
If you need ready access to your gear, you should look for a front loading backpack.
The difference is right there in the name. A top-loading pack is only accessible from the top, which is fine on smaller backpacks, but on a fully laden large pack, means the items at the bottom are basically inaccessible.
A front-loading pack, on the other hand, can zip down much further, giving you much easier access to everything inside the pack. Given the choice, front-loading is always preferable.
If you’re travelling at all, you’re going to need to make sure that your bag has paired, lockable zippers that accept a padlock, so you can keep your things safe and secure.
It’s also worth pointing out here that when you’re buying a padlock to fit your bag, you should buy locks that are marked as TSA safe. This lets your bag be opened so it can be checked without breaking your locks. TSA safe padlocks should be available at all major retailers, on and offline.
What size backpack do I need?
The size of your backpack depends on what it’s going to be used for.
Consider the amount of space you’re going to need. The best way is to use a sizing guide, like this one, to approximate what you’re packing inside.
Then consider any specialist needs you might have, including:
- What weather conditions you’re likely to face
- Whether you regularly travel by air
- What you’re storing inside, for example, tech like a laptop
- How comfortable it’s going to be on long hikes
- Whether you need a liquid bladder pocket
How large can my backpack be for carry on luggage?
The most common dimensions for carry on luggage in the USA is 22 x 14 x 9 inches. That works out at around 45 liters.
Some carriers might be different, so it’s always worth double checking with your particular airline what the specifications are. But 45l is a safe limit to play around.