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The Best Packable Backpacks for Travel in 2023

Best Packable Backpacks 00 Hero
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Though a hard-sided suitcase or a full-size travel backpack should serve as your primary storage solution while flying or on the road, packable bags can make a stellar and sensible addition to any travel loadout, providing a smaller, secondary vessel for shorter excursions that don’t require your complete kit. Whether hitting the trails for a day hike or exploring the concrete jungle of a new city, packable backpacks offer a more streamlined and compact carrying solution to traditional pieces of travel luggage — plus they don’t make their user stick out like a sore thumb or readily announce themselves as being an obvious tourist.

While options in this space have traditionally been fairly limited, the packable backpack and bag space has absolutely exploded in recent years, giving way to an ever-growing number of increasingly lightweight, compact, and utilitarian packs that can conveniently break down and stow away when not in use. With so many bags currently on the market, it can be difficult to know which to even consider, much less buy. So, with this in mind, we’ve thoroughly scoured the segment to deliver this handpicked guide to the best packable backpacks and bags for travel and adventure. Alongside counting down our picks for the best packable bags on the market, we’ll also be delving into which factors to consider when shopping.

The Best Packable Backpacks

Packable Practicality

The 6 Main Areas To Review When Buying A Packable Backpack Or Bag

While they serve a similar function to regular everyday-focused backpacks, there are more than a few factors that are unique to the packable bag space. Below, we’ll briefly touch on half a dozen of the most crucial areas to take into account when shopping around for a packable backpack.

Video Guide: Best Packable Backpacks

Want a better idea of how these bags pack down? Then be sure to check out our accompanying 4K video review of the best packable backpacks for a visual breakdown.

Storage Volume: The entire purpose of a packable backpack is to provide a smaller, more streamlined storage solution so your main suitcase can be left at your hotel or accommodation. As a result, the amount of storage space that one of these bags offers is arguably the most important factor to consider — along with packed size, which we’ll touch on more below.

Weight: While not quite as important as packed size or storage volume, the weight of a packable bag is still more than worth taking into account, as it will be another item that will be added to your larger kit — and its overall weight. Fortunately, these secondary storage solutions have been engineered to be as compact and lightweight as possible, with most models tipping the scales at around the one-pound-mark — though some packable bags are as light as just 0.2lbs.

Materials: Just like with hiking packs or everyday carry bags, the overall quality and durability of a packable backpack will primarily boil down to the materials used to make it — as well as the construction technique(s) used to piece it together. In addition to a bag’s primary construction, you’ll also want to look into whether or not it features a separate liner material, if its bottom (or any other areas) has been reinforced, or if the bag has been fortified through the use of a PU or DWR coating or treatment. Despite the lightweight and packable nature of these bags, quite a few models on the market are actually crafted from some surprisingly hardwearing, high-denier materials, with ripstop nylon and CORDURA being two of the most popular choices.

Hardware: Though a bag’s primary construction is the main factor determining quality and durability, its hardware also plays a key role in its overall longevity, performance, and toughness. This includes everything from zipper tracks and pulls to buckles and sternum straps to carabiners and metal keepers and loops.

Organization & Storage: Unlike office bags or travel packs that are rich with organizational features, packable models tend to be fairly sparse when it comes to pockets and compartments. For this reason, it’s important to review a bag’s internal organizational features, as well as if it has exterior pockets or other storage amenities such as external attachment points or MOLLE webbing.

Packed Size: The primary benefit of a packable bag is that it can be broken down and stored in a larger bag when not in use. As such, the size a packable bag breaks down to is extremely important. Luckily, most manufacturers give a decent sense of just how compact their respective bags get when folded, rolled, or packed. While on the subject, it’s also worth noting that most of these bags come with an accompanying stuff sack, while a few models on the market break down and are self-stowing, fitting into one of their own pockets or compartments.

Selection & Testing Process

How & Why We Got Hands-On With These Particular Packable Backpacks

Best Packable Backpacks Tested
Photos: HICONSUMPTION

As always, we began our search for the best bags in this particular segment by first compiling a list of what we suspected to be the best packable backpacks on the market, based on criteria including style, overall design, features and amenities, comfort, hardware such as buckles and zippers, shell material, secondary materials such as the constructions used for items like the bag’s shoulder straps or liner. Additionally, we also looked at not only the total storage volume being offered, but also how small of a form the bag breaks down into when not being used — and how big said form is relative to the internal real estate the carry solution offers when unstuffed. Using these parameters and criteria, we then proceeded to get our hands on each and every model that we suspected of being one of the best of the best — all of which we then put to the test via our hands-on field-testing and review process over the following weeks, allowing us to narrow down our initial list to a final shortlist that we found stands as the latest and greatest the segment has to offer. 

When using these packable backpacks, we tested them in several different ways and judging several different areas. This included not only how the bag operated and functioned compared to a normal backpack — with us paying special attention to whether or not sacrifices had been made to make the thing more packable, or if it could pass as a regular backpack. This included taking into account each bag’s list of features, how comfortable it was, and if it showed any signs of tearing, fading, or failing over the course of our testing. With this out of the way, we then proceeded to spend time breaking down each of these packable bags into their packable form. Doing this for every bag side-by-side-by-side allowed us to not only see which broke down into the smallest and most compact forms, but also which were the easiest to pack, and to unpack. We also made sure to focus on how these bags looked right after being unpacked from their compacted form. 

The Best

Our Top Packable Bag Picks

Herschel Packable Daypack

Photo: Herschel
Pros
  • Packable version of/modeled after Herschel’s ultra-popular Classic Backpack
  • Offers fantastic value
  • Collapses into own internal pocket
  • Sold in huge variety of colors & patterns
  • Backed by limited lifetime warranty
Cons
  • Not as rugged as other more premium packable bags
  • Looks very wrinkled after being packed away
  • Very limited organizational amenities

Best Minimalist Pick: Offered in more than a dozen different patterns, solid color, and camo options, the Herschel Packable Daypack is about as minimalistic as packable bags get. Offering 24.5 liters of storage space, this bag is modeled directly after Herschel’s best-selling Classic Backpack, sharing its exact shape and silhouette while seeing the regular pack’s polyester or recycled 600-denier construction jettisoned in favor of a markedly thinner and more pliable 70-denier poly ripstop shell. While this may not sound like the most hardwearing material, it actually possesses decent strength, plus if it should fail under regular use, Herschel stands behind the product with a limited lifetime warranty.

Herschel Packable Daypack 1
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

The bag is comprised of a single main compartment that’s supplemented via a single quick-access front pocket. The interior of the pack also features an internal self-storage pocket with a snap closure that the entire bag can fit inside when not in use. Herschel’s Packable Daypack also features custom HERSCHEL-branded plastic zippers and adjustable webbing shoulder straps. And, while this minimalistic storage and carry solution is largely devoid of organizational amenities, its incredibly spartan design allow it to break down into one of the most compact forms of any of the packable bags that we tested — backpack or duffel.

Herschel Packable Daypack 2
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Note: The color that we tested the Herschel Packable Daypack in is no longer in production.

Capacity: 24.5L
Primary Construction: 70D Poly Ripstop Fabric
Weight: 0.41LBs

Aer Go Pack

Photo: Aer
Pros
  • Has 210D CORDURA crinkle nylon shell w/ hi-viz orange soft woven lining
  • Features great fit & finish for a packable bag
  • Equipped w/ full clamshell opening & quick-access front pocket w/ magnetic fastener
  • Comes w/ full-size suspended laptop pocket fitting notebooks up to 16″
  • Rolls up into highly compact form for easy travel
  • Weighs in at only 1.3lbs
Cons
  • Doesn’t use Aer’s signature 1,680D shell or weatherproof zippers
  • Laptop pocket is suspended but not padded

Best Grab-&-Go Pick: Cut from a 300-denier CORDURA ripstop, the Aer Go Pack is a highly-calculated packable travel bag that can accommodate everything needed for day trips and brief excursions — and then some. Despite, the incredibly compact size that the bag breaks down to, the Go Pack boasts a slew of amenities and organizational features that are typically reserved for more robust travel and EDC backpacks. This includes a dedicated suspended laptop pocket, a luggage handle pass-through, an interior zippered pocket, and dual exterior water bottle pockets.

Aer Go Pack 1
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

What’s more, the Go Pack also boasts YKK zippers running along a full clamshell track that provides complete unobstructed access to the entirety of the bag’s contents — though the pack also features a quick-access front pocket that’s secured via a magnetic fastener. Tipping the scales at just 1.3lbs while affording a full 20 liters of internal storage space, this Aer pack also sports an additional soft-lined quick-access top pocket for housing smartphones and other small items, valuables, or badgets. Aer has also outfitted the Go Pack with a range of top-shelf hardware that includes Duraflex hardware and YKK zippers with custom Aer-branded Hypalon pulls.

Aer Go Pack 2
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Capacity: 21.4L
Primary Construction: 300D CORDURA Ripstop
Weight: 1.0LBs

Mystery Ranch In and Out 22

Photo: Mystery Ranch
Pros
  • Engineered as grab-and-go, do-it-all packable backpack
  • Has integrated 2L hydration bladder sleeve & drink tube ports
  • Benefits from Mystery Ranch’s usual top-notch build quality
  • Cut from rugged & lightweight 100D CORDURA Mini Rip
  • Boasts great harness system w/ contoured shoulder straps
  • Loaded w/ features normally reserved for non-packable trail packs
Cons
  • Wealth of features doesn’t allow pack to break down into as compact of a form as it would otherwise

Best Space-Saver: A larger, updated version of the In & Out 19, the Mystery Ranch In and Out 22 is a feature-laden daypack that offers nearly 22 liters of storage volume while breaking down to a size no larger than a Nalgene bottle. Like its 19-liter predecessor, this bag was engineered from the ground up as a grab-and-go, do-it-all carry solution that lends itself just as well to use out on the trail as it does at the airport or railway station. Capable of being stuffed into its own front pocket, the In and Out 22 sports a shroud-style main compartment fortified via a lid flap and a drawstring closure, plus a pair of external zippered access pockets, and dual tool carry loops with securing straps, side compression straps.

Mystery Ranch In and Out 22 1
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Like any decent hiking bag, this model features a comfortable and supportive harness system that’s comprised of a set of contoured shoulder straps fitted with an adjustable sternum strap. What’s more, on top of boasting an exterior stretch-woven water bottle pocket, Mystery Ranch’s In and Out 22 bag also comes outfitted with a two-liter hydration reservoir pocket with internal channels that connect it to drink tube ports just above the its shoulder straps. Constructed around a fixed harness, the bag is also made from a 100-denier CORDURA Mini Rip and features YKK zippers inside and out.

Mystery Ranch In and Out 22 2
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Capacity: 21.9L
Primary Construction: 100D CORDURA Mini Rip
Weight: 0.9LBs

Matador Beast18

Photo: Matador
Pros
  • Absolutely stellar trail pack that’s highly packable
  • Constructed around innovative spring steel frame
  • 210D Robic nylon shell is UTS-coated, DWR-treated, & paired w/ 100D Robic Nylon liner
  • Exterior has Hypalon-reinforced external daisy chain & oversized water bottle pockets,
  • Features fantastic harness system w/ EVA foam-padded breathable mesh shoulder straps
Cons
  • Packable form is larger than other models we tested
  • Robust frame & harness system not needed for many travel applications

Best Hiking Pick: Weighing only 1.3lbs, the Matador Beast18 is a fully-featured alpine backpack that’s also fully packable. Constructed around an innovative spring steel frame, the Beast18 sports a UTS-coated, DWR-treated 210-denier Robic nylon shell that’s been paired with a 100-denier Robic nylon liner. The Beast18 also just happens to — at least, in our opinion — be one of the absolute best hiking and trail packs currently on the market. It’s also worth mentioning that the internal spring steel frame lends the impression that this is a regular, non-packable backpack, making its packable nature all the more impressive and noteworthy.

Matador Beast18 1
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Sold with an included compression storage sack for travel, the Beast18 also features gear loops for hiking poles, ice axes, or tools, an adjustable sternum strap and removable hip belt, Hypalon-reinforced external daisy chain, oversized water bottle pockets, and EVA foam-padded breathable mesh shoulder straps and back panel — a setup that collectively makes for one of the most comfortable and supportive harness systems that we’ve ever tested. This packable hiking backpack also boasts an asymmetrical dual compartment design with a half clamshell zipper that opens to reveal a key loop and a pair of internal pockets.

Matador Beast18 2
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Capacity: 18L
Primary Construction: 210D Robic Nylon
Weight: 1.3LBs

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack

Hyperlite Summit Pack
Photo: Hyperlite Mountain Gear
Pros
  • Made from insanely-rugged yet lightweight DCH150 Dyneema composite
  • Constructed using proprietary seam-taping & bar-tacked reinforcements at all key stress points
  • Has removable top vertical compression straps
  • Weighs less than 1lb & has 20lb carrying capacity
  • Rolltop closure, taped seams, & Dyneema shell collectively afford stellar waterproofing
Cons
  • Limited organizational amenities
  • Expensive price

Best Ultra-Tough/Rugged Pick: An insanely-hardwearing alpine pack that just happens to be fully packable, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack is a spartan affair, consisting of a large main compartment with a roll-top closure and a front face adorned in shock cord and four external daisy chains. Made from DCH150 (or DCH50 for the available white colorway) — an ultra-rugged woven Dyneema and polyester hybrid — this highly-durable pack is made all the more hardwearing via the addition of bar-tacked reinforcements on all stress points and a proprietary seam tape on all main body seams.

Hyperlite Summit Pack 1
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

The Summit Pack has also been bestowed with an Ultralight 3/4″ webbing hip belt, multiple grab loops, removable top vertical compression straps, minimalist shoulder straps with spacer mesh, and an adjustable sternum strap with an integrated whistle. Weighing less than one pound, this Dyneema-shelled daypack comes loaded with a generous 30-liters of storage space and an equally robust 20-pound carrying capacity — a figure that puts a great many packable backpacks to shame. If you’re simply looking for a no-nonsense packable bag with a spartan design — and some exterior features — than it really is hard to beat Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Summit Pack.

Hyperlite Summit Pack 2
Photo: HICONSUMPTION

Capacity: 30L
Primary Construction: DCH150 or DCH50 (Dyneema Composite)
Weight: 0.82LBs (or 0.96LBs)

The Rest

Seven More Stellar Packable Bags

Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack

Photo: Osprey

Produced in four color choices, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack is an extremely svelte backpack that offers 18 liters of internal real estate while tipping the scales at a scant 0.2lbs. Despite the remarkably lightweight nature of this pack, it still manages to bring quite a few amenities to the table, including a dual-zippered main compartment, a top zippered slash pocket, a stretch mesh side gear or water bottle pocket, and an ultra-compact, built-in storage pocket. What’s more, the use of 40-denier nylon ripstop for the bag’s primary construction, accents, and bottom allows for it to be incredibly lightweight yet rugged. 

Capacity: 18L
Primary Construction: 40D Nylon Ripstop
Weight: 0.2LBs

Dakine Packable Backpack 22L

Photo: DaKine

Another minimalistic yet well-appointed packable day bag, this Dakine item offers 22 liters of storage space in an 18” x 10.25” x 8”, 0.7-pound package. Depending on the colorway or pattern selected, Dakine’s Packable Backpack 22L is crafted from either 115-denier, 150-denier, or 182-denier plain-weave recycled nylon — all three of which are bluesign-approved and fortified via a water repellent finish. Capable of packing into its own internal pocket, this packable backpack also sports lightweight, mesh shoulder straps, an adjustable and removable sternum strap, a mesh side pocket, a dual web handle with a snap loop, and an exterior quick-access pocket. Though it is devoid of a storm flap, the backpack’s main compartment is also protected via a drawstring closure.

Capacity: 22L
Primary Construction: DWR-Coated Recycled 115D, 150D, or 182D Nylon
Weight: 0.7LBs

The North Face Flyweight Duffel

Photo: The North Face

For those times when a bit of extra storage space is needed, a packable duffel can be a fantastic option. The North Face’s take on the genre — the Flyweight Duffel Bag — provides a full 27 liters of storage space while still being able to break down to a fist-size footprint, stuffing inside its own pocket. The duffel bag’s body is crafted from a combination of 1.7oz nylon and CORDURA which have both been DWR-treated before being paired with 210-denier nylon and 70-denier mesh outer pockets. The bag also boasts webbing handles, an adjustable shoulder strap, and a pair of external, water bottle-sized mesh pockets to supplement its main zipper-secured compartment. 

Capacity: 27L
Primary Construction: DWR-Coated CORDURA Ripstop
Weight: 0.41LBs

Fjällräven High Coast Foldsack 24

Photo: Fjällräven

Clocking in at only 1lb, the Fjällräven High Coast Foldsack 24 is a feature-rich, outdoor-focused, 24-liter daypack that rolls up into a water bottle-sized package. Manufactured in eight color options, the High Coast Foldsack 24 sports zippered pockets inside and out, lightly-padded shoulder straps, detachable sternum straps, a removable hip belt, a laptop compartment capable of housing notebooks as large as 15”, and a main compartment that’s secured via a G-hook-equipped storm flap. This five-pocket bag is also made from a 210-denier polyamide construction, and while it doesn’t sport taped seams or waterproof zippers, the use of this heavily-water-resistant fabric `affords the pack solid weatherproofing. 

Capacity: 24L
Primary Construction: 210D Polyamide
Weight: 1.01LBs

Snow Peak Packable Daypack

Photo: Snow Peak

For Snow Peak’s take on a packable day pack, the renowned outdoor brand has followed its regular MO, delivering a streamlined and fully-functional bag that’s as rugged as it is minimalistic. Produced in navy blue, OD green, or black colorways, the Snow Peak Packable Daypack features a shell made from a 40-denier CORDURA nylon that’s backed by a repellent finish. In addition to a quick-access front pocket supplementing its primary compartment, this pack also comes with a mini stuff sack that the entire bag can neatly fit inside of. What’s more, the stuff sack also comes with an integrated carabiner that allows the compacted pack to easily be attached to the outside of other larger storage solutions. 

Capacity: 20L
Primary Construction: DWR-Coated 40D CORDURA Nylon
Weight: 0.41LBs

Waterfield Packable Backpack

Photo: Waterfield

Made in America, the Waterfield Packable Backpack benefits from an enormous amount of public and user feedback — intel that ultimately lead to this pack’s proprietary construction, a layered Taslan nylon and tricot woven structure with a micro-porous breathable waterproof coating. Cut and sewn in San Francisco, the bag also features a 400 x 300-denier Silver, diamond ripstop nylon lining, two side pockets, waterproof zippers with custom metal lockable pulls, and a front pocket with a sewn-in keyfob. Sold in five color choices, the entire pack also breaks down and easily stows away inside one of its own pockets.

Capacity: 16L
Primary Construction: Proprietary DWR-Coated Layered Taslan & Tricot Structure
Weight: 0.75LBs

The Best Hard-Sided Suitcases For Travel

Photo: Monos Check-In Large

A packable backpack is an excellent addition to any travel loadout, however, the bags aren’t particularly useful without a solid main piece of luggage to store them in. So, if you haven’t already got a main piece of luggage, we highly recommend checking out our guide to the best hard-sided suitcases for travel for a look at the finest options currently on the market.