15 Best Minimalist Travel Backpack 2021: Review & Buying Guide

For travelers, not getting bogged down by heavy luggage is an extremely liberating feeling. Imagine walking down European cobbled streets with rolling luggage instead of a backpack. Would it be a huge hassle? When traveling by plane, do you want to avoid checking in luggage and save a ton of money? If your answers to these questions are yes, choosing a backpack that can carry all of your travel essentials may help. Find out what the best minimalist travel backpack is in our list of top 15 products in 2020. 

If you don’t want to look like a backpacker, there are many minimalist backpacks that look stylish and still have great compartments. However, selecting the right travel backpack that does not sacrifice quality for aesthetics, or vice versa, can be quite tricky. Therefore, in this post, we have also compiled a helpful buying guide to help you choose the best minimalist travel backpack. 

Let’s dive right in.

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** Below, you will find our detailed reviews of the Best Minimalist Travel Backpack, but you can also click these following links to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

Top Best Minimalist Travel Backpack Reviews 2020

NOMATIC 40L Travel Bag - Best premium minimalist travel backpack

In the industry of travel backpacks, manufacturers may include too many features, which can be overkill and reduce the overall functionality, or sacrifice aesthetics for the sake of function (or vice versa). In contrast, this backpack finds the perfect balance between the three characteristics: number of features, looks, and function. The balance is so “just right” that Goldilock would definitely pick this backpack. 

The capacity is 40 liters - spacious enough for an average trip of one week and still able to have a dimension that fits into carry-on requirements. 

There are 20+ features - yes you read it right, 20 plus -  including pockets designated to separate different types of travel essentials, RFID safe pocket, full perimeter zipper, and shoe compartments. There is a specially designed sleeve that allows you to keep the laptop in the bag when going through TSA. 

What is more, the shoulder straps can be adjusted to turn this into a duffel bag,  avoiding the tangling mess of straps normally seen in travel backpacks. On top of that, the bag has a slim and sleek design given its large capacity and many features, and a premium material from sailcloth that is sturdy and waterproof.

However, the quality between bags can be uneven - some are of excellent build, some are sadly not.

PROS

  • Perfect balance between features, aesthetics, and storage capacity
  • Opens like a suitcase
  • Pockets designated for everything: liquid, tech, shoes, and more
  • Long-lasting and waterproof material

CONS

  • Inconsistent quality

Nomatic McKinnon Camera Pack

In a collaboration with famous photographer and Youtuber Peter McKinnon, Nomatic created the best minimalist travel backpack for photography enthusiasts and normal travelers alike. There are many special pockets for the photographer’s needs: a side pocket so you can quickly pull out the camera, and an easy access pocket to store items such as keys, batteries, and passports. 

The compartments are divided to organize camera gears separately, protecting them from damage. There are pockets for cords and some miscellaneous items. It also has a separate compartment to store some changes of clothes. The side can store externally a tripod, and it expands from 32 liters to 40 liters. Photography equipment can be heavy, so it has a special support system to lighten the load for you.

The price can be high for a normal backpack, but this backpack will be worth every penny for photographers who struggle to travel minimally.

PROS

  • Solves a photographer’s pain points: storing equipment when traveling
  • Separate camera cubes
  • Internal support system

CONS

  • The price can be prohibitive

Sterkmann Expandable Carry on Backpack 20-30L

Considering its price point, the backpack has a premium and well-built similar to products in higher price ranges. It can withstand wear and tear from years of use. However, because of the premium material, the backpack alone weighs 3lb (1.3kg). If you are willing to carry some extra weight for the sake of quality, then this is not an issue.

Moreover, it has a sleek Nordic design that suits the taste of us minimalists. The design also makes it suitable for business occasions.

Most importantly, the backpack is expandable so that you can adjust it to the exact size of our luggage. This will save a lot of hassle and keep your belongings in place.

PROS

  • Waterproof
  • Sleek Nordic design
  • 1 packing cube, 1 laundry bag, and 1 shoe bag
  • Expandable
  • Durable

CONS

  • Zippers are designed to be waterproof so they can be stiff at the beginning.

Incase EO Travel Backpack

This is the best minimalist travel backpack for tech-savvy people on the go. It is spacious enough to hold a large 17 inch Macbook and some light camera gear. It is best for overnight trips and commutes, but the main compartment can expand to accommodate longer trips. It can fit 3-4 days’ worth of clothes, so if you travel minimally, it may even work for 2-month trips. 

Most importantly, the shimmer and sleek design with sharp edges can satisfy any minimalist.  The material is 70% cotton and 30% polyester - the mix of cotton and polyester makes it durable and breathable.

However, the product is quite minimal in features. It would be better if the shoulder straps could be secured to change it into a duffel bag, or there were more designated pockets for special items such as keys and passports.

PROS

  • Suitable for getting around the city
  • Sleek design
  • Expandable

CONS

  • More features would be desirable

Osprey Fairview 40 Women's Travel Backpack

An important aspect to choose the best minimalist travel backpack for you is whether its build suits your silhouette. Therefore, manufacturers should design backpacks specifically with different genders’ fits in mind. Sadly, very few minimalist travel backpacks have a customized design for women’s specific fit, and Osprey Fairview 55 Women's Travel Backpack is arguably the best among them.

The backpack has the maximum dimension for carry-on, so there is no wasted space AND you still save money from luggage check-ins. Most importantly, it has a special technology called LightWire frame suspension system to transfer some of the weights from your shoulder to the hipbelt. This means less exhaustion in long hikes or flight transits. 

Osprey has gained a reputation in the market of hiking and travel gear thanks to its reliable quality and durability. The brand also has a unique lifetime warranty: it will repair any product damage due to any reason, whether manufacturing defects or simply wear and tear, for free. What’s more, there is no time limit on this 

However, the design is not really minimalistic or stylish, and there should be better color choices.

PROS

  • Built specifically for women’s fit
  • Maximum carry-on dimension
  • Can transfer load to the hipbelt
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS

  • Appearance could be better

Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack

If you take day hiking trips or simply want a medium-sized, lightweight yet sturdy add-on to your travel gear, Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack is perfect for you. The backpack’s capacity is 20 liters, so it is enough for 2-3 days’ worth of clothes, liquid bag, and a laptop. It is also suitable to get around the city - commuting or going to the farmers’ market.

Like every Osprey product, it has a lifetime warranty and durable quality.

However, the compartment strap to tighten your stuff from shuffling around must be unbuckled every time you want to get your stuff out. This can be a bit of a hassle, yet you will get used to it over time.

PROS

  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Reliable quality
  • Can be attached to other Osprey packs
  • Lifetime warranty

CONS

  • Unbuckling the compartment straps every time you open the bag may be a bit of a pain.

Thule Subterra Backpack 34L

Ever feel frustrated to keep your electric cords from becoming a tangled mess when traveling? Then this bag can solve your problem with a special Internal PowerPocket to organize cords neatly and separately.

It also includes packing cubes for a neat and no-brainer packing. The material is thick and sturdy 800D nylon, which can withstand years of wear and tear. It also has a magnetic rolltop opening that protects your bag from theft and allows easy access to content.

However, the back is not breathable so you can sweat after wearing it for a while.

PROS

  • PowerPocket to manage cords
  • Packing cubes
  • Sturdy material
  • Magnetic closure

CONS

  • Can make you sweat

Herschel Travel Backpack

Thanks to its unique hipster designs, Herschel quickly becomes a favorite among young people. The Herschel Travel Backpack is a stylish and functional choice for modern travelers.

The bag can hold 2-3 changes of clothes, a laptop, and a pair of shoes. The material is also of high quality. Most importantly of all, it has a cute and stylish design that fits everyone, and many color choices.

However, the bag is not waterproof and only slightly water-resistant. The zippers constantly clink loudly when you walk, which can be a bit of a pain.

PROS

  • Stylish unisex design
  • Durable material
  • Suitable for day-long trips

CONS

  • Not water repellent
  • Loud noises from zippers

Hynes Eagle 38L Carry on Backpack

The backpack has an affordable price yet decent quality and a neat design. It includes 3 packing cubes to help organize your items neatly and maintain the backpack’s sleek shape. With a large capacity of 38 liters, it fits all necessary items for weeks-long trips: 3-4 days’ worth of clothes, a tablet/laptop, personal care, etc.

Best of all, it fits the size requirements for carry-on luggage of all airlines, even super strict ones such as Ryanair. This is great news for budget travelers.

PROS

  • Opens like a suitcase
  • Includes 3 packing cubes
  • Versatile carrying options.

CONS

  • Not water repellent despite the brand’s claim
  • Sternum straps need strengthening => may be tiring to carry heavy luggage for long periods

KORIN ClickPack Travel Backpack

This backpack is an icon in Kickstarter and the receiver of many design awards thanks to a host of innovative features. 

It has anti-theft triple protection: a TSA lock, a metal wire lock, plus specially designed zipper. This makes the bag the best in terms of safety. On top of that, it has a USB charging port so that your digital gadgets can stay fully charged when you are on the go. 

The design team apparently has put a lot of thought into the backpack’s features to accompany the users’ needs. However, it can be overkill: sometimes all we look for in a bag is enough room, not USB ports or metal wire lock. Yet, the backpack only has storage capacity for trips of max 2-3 days. Therefore, this bag is only perfect for commutes, getting around the city, or at most, weekend trips.

PROS

  • Futuristic design
  • Triple protection
  • USB port

CONS

  • Not much storage capacity

Inateck 40L Travel Backpack

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If you are looking for a durable and affordable backpack for all purposes, this can be the right choice for you. The backpack has every basic feature that you can ask for in a travel backpack: many specialized pockets, side handles, anti-theft zippers, and more.

The sleek and upright design is suitable to store papers without crumpling them, and two compartments for your laptop and tablet respectively. Therefore, besides using for traveling, the bag is also great to use for school.

However, due to its slim width, the backpack cannot carry bulky items such as shoes. Despite the seller’s claim, the size when packed fully can also exceed the carry-on size of most airlines.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Decent quality
  • Upright design suitable for school

CONS

  • Slim width that cannot accommodate bulky items
  • Can exceed carry-on restrictions

HIKPRO 20L Travel Hiking Daypack

This is a convenient and affordable choice for hiking gear. It is affordable, foldable, and compact. It has enough space for a day-long hiking trip. It has three compartments to organize your belongings neatly. The shoulder straps and back panel are from breathable mesh materials for your maximum comfort.

However, one downside of it is a small size. It can only accommodate a kid’s belongings or a day-long excursion, and no more than that. Despite the water-repellent material, the zipper is not waterproof so you still need a rain cover.

PROS

  • Affordable and foldable
  • Three compartments
  • Breathable materials

CONS

  • Small size
  • Non-waterproof zipper

AmazonBasics Slim Travel Backpack Weekender

Regarding the design, this AmazonBasics Weekender Backpack is one of the best. It has a casual yet minimalistic look with sleek edges, beautiful rugged-looking material, and the orange inner lining gives it a splash of boldness. 

The backpack has many special pockets to separate items such as a fleece-lined laptop sleeve and a tablet pocket. The side pocket for water bottles can be zippered and hidden to keep the pack’s minimalistic shape. 

The back panel is from a special material - Airmesh - so it is very breathable, allowing maximum comfort. 

However, the backpack is heavily padded so there is not much room left. The heavy pad is perfect to protect tech gear from damage though.

PROS

  • Beautiful design
  • Many pockets
  • Airmesh fully vented back panel

CONS

  • Not much capacity

Peak Gear Sling Compact Crossbody Backpack

If you simply look for an option for light urban traveling, this crossbody backpack will be enough. The size is just right - not too big and not too small for a cross-body bag. It fits all your essentials - keys, water bottles, wallets, etc. - when getting around the city or going on a walk. The bag is petite and sleek with a unisex design so both men and women can wear it. The material is water repellent so it can be cared for easily. There is a magnetic closure for easy access to the items.

However, the strap is not long enough for people with larger chests.

PROS

  • Just right size
  • Unisex design
  • Magnetic closure

CONS

  • Not comfortable for people with larger chests

Charmore Women Travel Backpack

The Charmore travel backpack is perfect for female travelers who want to look fashionable everywhere. It has a stylish design and looks good with any outfit. 

The bag is surprisingly bigger than it looks: it can pack all essential belongings for a short trip. There are pockets and compartments galore to organize stuff neatly, avoiding them to shuffle into a mess.

Thanks to its innovative adjustable strap,  the bag can be in three ways: as a casual backpack, a top handle purse, or a shoulder bag.  This makes it a versatile bag for any occasion: day trips, school, or date nights.

Most importantly, the backpack has an anti-theft zipper that stays hidden behind the wearer’s back.

However, the backpack is only suitable for day trips, and does not have enough ergonomic features to carry heavy luggage.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Chic and feminine design
  • Suitable for any occasion
  • Anti-theft zipper

CONS

  • Not suitable for heavy luggage and long trips

How To Choose The Best Minimalist Travel Backpack: Things To Consider

best minimalist travel backpack

Each traveler will have different tastes and needs, and different trips also require various types of backpacks. Therefore, there is no perfect minimalist travel backpack for everyone and every occasion. Choosing the right travel backpack can also be a taxing challenge as there are many aspects to take into consideration. Not to mention the market is so saturated with many brands and products with different prices, material, quality, and a host of new features added every year. You can easily get confused among all the options and jargons. Therefore, we have compiled the aspects that you should consider when selecting the best minimalist travel backpack.

Size & Capacity

best minimalist travel backpack

This is one of the deciding factors in choosing a travel backpack. If you embark on a weeks-long trip, or start to become a digital nomad, choose as big a backpack as possible. However, considering human strength, it is better to stay under the 50 liter capacity. If you travel mainly by plane and want to avoid hefty fines from exceeding size and weight restrictions, make sure to stick to the average dimension of 56 x 36 x 23 cm for carry-on and the average weight of 7 kg. From our experience, a 40 liter backpack can stay right under the carry-on restrictions of most airlines. However, check with the airline before you buy the backpack.

Durability

best minimalist travel backpack

As you pack all of your belongings into one place - your backpack, you should invest in a high-quality backpack that can last as long as possible. Believe us, there is no worse feeling than realizing that you lost your wallet in a strange place because the backpack was easily broken into, or torn down from use. However, it is quite difficult to determine the backpack’s durability upon purchasing - you can only test it throughout the years. However, you can judge this factor by the materials and parts. For example, the best minimalist travel backpacks will go for the best zipper on the market - YKK zipper. The fabric used is also a key factor to consider in terms of durability. Some good materials include rip-stop nylon, CORDURA® Nylon, polyester, and ballistic nylon.

Body Type

best minimalist travel backpack

When you carry a heavy backpack for long periods, comfort is a key factor. The backpack is, surprisingly, not an “one-size-fit-all” fashion item. For example, a good decently-sized backpack for a 5’5’’ person may not look as good on a 6’8’’ traveler.  Different body types will be of importance when you carry heavy luggage, which backpacks with good ergonomic designs can lighten. For example, many new backpacks are designed to the frame of specific genders, so there are women’s fit and men’s fit.

Harness system

best minimalist travel backpack

This is not a kinky term - harness systems in backpacks refer to the collections of straps and belts. A well-designed harness system can make a whole difference in terms of ergonomics. It can transfer the weights evenly, lighten the pressure on one part of the body, usually the shoulder.  There are, for example, hip belts/waist straps/sternum straps that go horizontally across your torso to carry some weights from the shoulder straps.

Padding

best minimalist travel backpack

The padding in the back of the bag and the shoulder straps also contribute to its comfort. It will help to ease the pressure from the weights. However, the padding should be from breathable mesh materials so you don’t end up with wet backs and sweaty shoulders.

Organization

best minimalist travel backpack

The contents in a backpack can easily shuffle from your movements if there is no organization system for them. While some may be able to live with that, we perfectionists cannot stand messy luggage. Therefore, we highly regard backpacks with smart designs of pockets and compartments. To help with the organization, you can also buy some extra packing cubes to separate belongings in the largest compartment.

Do you struggle to pack light and neatly into a backpack? Watch this short video to learn how to pack for a long trip with just a backpack:

Our pick of the best minimalist travel backpack - Nomatic 40L Travel Bag - has a balanced mixture of features, aesthetics, and function. This balance can satisfy minimalist travelers in almost any occasion and for any need. Not only it has over 20 special features with pockets galore to store every item neatly, it has an ergonomic design that lightens your load. The boxy design with stylish pearl-finish gray is also pleasing to the eye. It also stays right within the carry-on restrictions of most airlines, saving a ton of money. The material is also durable and long-lasting. We can say that it is the “Goldilocks’ choice” - not too much or too little, but just right. Therefore, it will be a great companion on most occasions.

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