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20 Best Travel Backpacks | Efficient Carry-On Options

20 Best Travel Backpacks | Efficient Carry-On Options

A good, sturdy travel backpack is a necessity these days. Carrying your belongings while keeping your hands free during travel is life-changing.

Believe me.

As a traveling woman, it’s much more convenient to have your things within reach yet comfortably snugged across your back.

Between purses and tote bags, the shoulders can be the hardest working parts of a body on any given day. But after hours of traveling? Oof. Where’s the spa?

Let me tell you about one memorable late-night arrival at Montreal Trudeau International Airport from Dallas. I was balancing so much stuff in my aching arms that I literally kicked a satchel through the customs and immigration line.

Yeah, the customs agent was not amused. Neither was I, but I didn’t have many options.

Years later, backpacks designed to make travel easier on you and your spine (and grumpy customs agents, I suppose) are readily available. They come in all shapes and sizes, are loaded with features, are stylish as heck, and are comfortable to boot.

For this list, we took a hard look at dozens of travel backpacks and ranked them according to user reviews, personal experience and general usability.

Our recommendations will have preferred features, such as side pockets for water bottles, Camelback option or electronics pocket. They’ll also be waterproof and machine washable (unless otherwise labeled).

So save some wear and tear on your shoulders and neck. Make one of our recommended backpacks your luggage staple.

Looking for even more protection while you travel? Consider World Nomads for your travel insurance needs.

Best Travel Backpack for Seeing the World: A Buyer’s Guide

These travel backpacks can handle all the trips, treks and globetrotting you can throw at them. But our review wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t fill you in on what you should look for when purchasing the best travel backpack.

There’s a science to this y’know!

Travel Backpack Type

There really is no one size fits all option when it comes to travel backpacks because we all have our own needs and wants.

For example, if you are going on a work trip and need to bring your laptop, you want a travel bag with a laptop pocket. Or you may be someone who just needs to pack a charger but still needs plenty of room for clothing and other items. In this case, you may want something bigger.

Travel Backpack Capacity

And that brings us to the capacity of your travel backpack. A travel bag often replaces a suitcase. If this is the case for you, then you want something that is at least 40 liters of capacity. The average carry-on suitcase has a 35-45L capacity, so keep this in mind as you narrow down your choices.

When considering capacity, you also need to look at the pockets and organization the bag offers. If there are several external pockets and other compartments, this may reduce the amount of space you will have in the main compartment.

Material and Quality

When choosing the best travel backpack, you definitely want to prioritize the materials and quality. Polyester is a material often seen used in cheaper travel backpacks. Ballistic nylon and ripstop nylon are the two materials you want to watch for because they can hold up to all the bumps of travel. They are also usually water and abrasion-resistant.

If you notice that the travel backpack has mesh, it will have good ventilation and be comfortable to carry around, even on hot days during your travels. If there is no mesh, it might get too hot and cause you to sweat more.

Finally, padding is important for a travel backpack, especially if you carry your laptop or other electronics. More foam means you will have better shock and impact resistance.

Best Travel Backpack – My Top 4

The best travel backpack is the one that fits you and your specific needs. Meaning that what works for one person may not necessarily suit you. With that being said, these are solid options with great all-around features and are useful in most situations.

1. Thule Subterra Backpack 34L

Thule Subterra Backpack 34L

You’d be hard-pressed to find many travel backpacks as sturdy and as versatile as the Thule Subterra Backpack 34L. It has a large magnetic roll top opening to easily reach in and find what you need quickly–useful when customs agents are scowling at you.

One of the greatest inventions in the luggage space is the packing cube, and the Thule has one inside of it. Holy Mother of Organization.

Thule Subterra Backpack 34L Inside Pockets

Traveling with your laptop? Of course, you are. You’re not an animal. The Thule Subterra has a padded space for it that securely closes. It also has an internal power pocket to keep your cords neat between your mobile charger and device. Stop crying; there’s more.

A small pocket on the side holds your water bottle. Finally, it has a pass-through panel so that you can secure it to your rolling luggage.

Thule Subterra Backpack Water Bottle Holder


  • The packing cube is removable if you don’t need it
  • Has a zippered side opening


  • Not waterproof, but it is water-resistant
  • The exterior pocket is small

See Related: Best Travel Drones

2. Peak Design Duffelpack 45-65L

Peak Design Duffelpack 45-65L

If luxury is important to you in backpacks for travel, you’ll love the first-class feeling of the Peak Design Duffelpack.

It can expand from an already roomy 45L to a massive 65L. You know, in case you’re sailing around the world.

The substantial nylon fabric is extremely durable and is rip-resistant. It’s also waterproof.

You could probably camp in it. Kidding (maybe).

Peak Design Duffelpack Inside Pockets

As for comfort, the shoulder and hip straps are padded and can even be stowed if needed.

It also has padded carrying straps for grabbing so you won’t amputate your fingers.

And convenient storage galore for your little things in two external and two internal pockets


  • Comes with a lifetime warranty.
  • Attractive sage color so you’ll spot it immediately at baggage claim in the sea of black bags.


  • No laptop compartment.
  • It’s not designed to be a carry-on.

3. Mystery Ranch Glacier

Mystery Ranch Glacier

The heavy-duty Mystery Ranch Glacier is the best travel backpack for men and women who call hitting the trail a vacation.

The company is a personal favorite of my outdoorsy husband, who planned a hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. After spending hours researching and talking with customer service reps of various outfitters, he settled on Mystery Ranch’s 100L T100.

The Glacier is the 70L option but still has a ton of features and room. Unless you, too, are planning an epic trek, you probably don’t need 100L.

It has a large top opening for easy gear packing. The top also can be detached and used as a daypack. There are zips on the sides, so you can access the interior without unpacking the whole darn thing.

Mystery Ranch Glacier Side View

On the exterior are two large pockets for everything else. This is the ultimate travel backpack for the ultimate travel adventure.

Mystery Ranch Glacier Foldable Design


  • One of the highest quality packs on the market. Many users are former and currently deployed military
  • Awesome (and patient) customer service


  • Pricey, but the pack will last longer than you will – an instant heirloom
  • Most experienced hikers know this, but you’ll need to buy and carry a couple of extra hip belt buckles. They will break on the trail–even on Mystery Ranch packs

4. High Sierra Access Laptop Backpack

High Sierra Access Laptop Backpack

The High Sierra Access Laptop Travel Backpack comes in a variety of color options you can choose from. It has a large, multi-compartment 45-liter capacity and design, making it easy to organize all your items for your trip. The laptop sleeve is fully padded and fits most 15” laptops. The deluxe media pocket has a headphone port.

This High Sierra travel backpack also has mesh beverage pockets and articulated S-shaped mesh shoulder straps with an adjustable sternum strap. The zippered accessory pockets and the tricot-lined media pockets are sure to protect all your items.

High Sierra Access Laptop Backpack Front Pockets


  • Comes in a variety of color options
  • Large main compartment
  • Plenty of storage and organizational options
  • Deluxe airflow with mesh padded back panel
  • Dedicated padded laptop sleeve and Tech Spot sleeves


  • Does not have a built-in rain cover like its previous model
  • If you overfill the bag, it might not pass as a carry-on for your flight

Best Men’s Travel Backpack

We’ve picked out a few bags that make the best backpacks for travel for men due to their style, usability, durability, functionality, and, most importantly, a good fit.

See Related: Best Credit Cards for International Travel

5. Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG Backpack

ATMOS 65 Osprey Travel Backpack

One of the best travel backpacks for men is the roomy, rugged Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG.

If you’re more likely to travel for adventure than for business, this travel backpack will deliver.

Anti-gravity suspension makes the pack feel lighter than it should. The shoulder harness and hip belt will facilitate the ideal fit.

Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG Backpack from Back
Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG Backpack Side Net

The pockets on this thing are made of mesh. Perfect for shoving in a rain jacket or windbreaker.

You can stow water bottles in the zippered mesh hip pockets. But it also has a hydration sleeve for a 3L water reservoir (like a Camelback. Sold separately).


  • Breathable mesh on the back will keep you from getting sweaty
  • Over-the-top comfort and fit


  • Hikers commented that the pocket zippers are difficult to open with one hand
  • The suspension system may not work as well for big, heavy loads
  • The water sleeve is sold separately; booo

See Related: Best Luxury Travel Gifts for Him

6. Tortuga Setout Backpack

Tortuga Setout Travel Backpack

What makes the Tortuga Setout Backpack the best business travel backpack for men is its lightweight versatility.

While it’s carry-on sized, it’s still the roomiest pack Tortuga makes. Pack a week’s worth of clothes, and you’ll be ready for any event.

It opens like a suitcase for easy packing. Ample pockets hold all your little nomad office things and keep the entire bag organized. It also has YKK zippers for enhanced durability and security.

Tortuga Setout Backpack from Inside

Molded foam shoulder straps and the padded hip belt will make this one of the more comfortable travel backpacks in this guide.

There are also sleeves for both your laptop and tablet. Cords and chargers will stow nicely away too.

Tortuga Setout Backpack Description


  • It’s one of the most affordable travel backpacks found, yet still quality-made, weather-resistant and an overall durable travel backpack
  • Staps can be stowed while the travel backpack is in storage


  • One reviewer noted that the fabric doesn’t keep its shape
  • No internal frame for structure while filled

See Related: Best Cross-Body Bags for Travel

7. Pacsafe Venturesafe Anti Theft Travel Backpack

Pacsafe Venturesafe Anti Theft Travel Backpack

The Pacsafe Venturesafe travel backpack is a 25-liter anti-theft backpack. It is on the smaller side, but its features make up for this. This carry on travel backpack has interlocking zippers, cut-resistant fabric with a lightweight steel mesh inlay, a detachable shoulder strap to secure the bag, and an RFID blocking pocket to prevent unauthorized credit card scans.

The newer models after 2019 have a completely redesigned strap adjustment system, so you can now adjust the backpack straps between 17 and 36-inches. The top carrying handle is now also padded, and the bag also features honeycomb padded back support.

Pacsafe Venturesafe Anti Theft Travel Backpack Backview

When it comes to organization, this Pacsafe Venturesafe travel backpack doesn’t disappoint. There are two lockable zipper compartments, one padded and suspended interior notebook sleeve that can fit a laptop up to 15-inches, and one mesh zip pocket and key clip.

The opening at the top of the bag can fit a hydration pack, and there are two side pockets for water bottles or even your umbrella. The shoulder straps and hip strap are padded for comfort, and the adjustable sternum strap can also be adjusted for height.

Pacsafe Venturesafe Anti Theft Travel Backpack Top Pocket

Finally, the bag is made of soft but durable and water-resistant materials. It is easy to clean nylon and polyester that ensures long-lasting use.


  • Keeps your belongings safe and secure as you travel
  • Water-resistant and easy to clean
  • Plenty of compartments for organization
  • Adjustable for height and better weight distribution


  • No organizational pockets in the main compartment
  • Bag has a smaller capacity than other travel options

8. Osprey Porter Travel Backpack

Osprey Porter Travel Backpack

The Osprey Porter travel backpack is a good choice if you want a larger 46-liter capacity while also having a bag that travels well. The Osprey Porter meets all carry-on size restrictions for most domestic airlines. It has a U-zip design allowing access to the main compartment. Here, you will also find lockable zippers for the main compartment as well as the laptop compartment.

Osprey Porter Travel Backpack Backview

If you don’t need the shoulder straps or hip belt, they can be tucked away. The protected rear panel zip laptop sleeve and the front panel vertical zippered pocket are good for holding your laptop, electronics, books, or documents.

The bag also features straightjacket compression straps that compress the bag down to a smaller size when it isn’t full.

The dual internal zippered organizational side pockets and the front panel organization has a zippered pocket and key clip. You can purchase reinforced cord loops you can attach to the Osprey Porter travel backpack separately.

Osprey Porter Travel Backpack Inside


  • Zippered top pocket allows for easy access
  • The padded sidewalls create a large bucket-sized opening, making it easier to pack
  • Lots of organizational pockets and compartments
  • Build with sustainable materials
  • Versatile bag that can be used as a carry on backpack or duffel for your trip


  • Lacks smaller pockets for smaller items
  • No webbing in the pack, so it can get hot

Best Travel Backpack for Women

Confidently travel the world with these stylish, durable backpacks comfortable enough to take anywhere, girlfriend.

See Related: Best Travel Toiletry Bags

9. The North Face Women’s Terra 40 Pack

The North Face Terra 40 Pack for Women

Looking for a traveling backpack as adventurous as you? Take a look at The North Face Women’s Terra 40 Pack.

It’s a true technical pack comfortable and roomy enough for a backcountry camping trip. You’ll be able to use this as luggage too.

The company’s patent-pending lift system and complementary support technology are designed for quick load adjustments.

Along with an adjustable hip belt, you’ll be able to carry the largest loads comfortably.

Interior compartments keep your things separated and easily accessible. Carry a sleeping bag under the floating lid too,

This heavy-duty pack is also designed to hold your preferred hydration system.


  • Offers tons of space.
  • Completely waterproof.


  • Doesn’t seem to have the ventilation of other similar packs.
  • The pack itself weighs more than its competitors.

10. Osprey Daylite Plus

Osprey Daylite Plus

Thousands of five-star reviews say the best travel daypack is the Osprey Daylite Plus. Let’s take a look. The opening is large, so you can easily reach inside. There is also a sleeve that will hold either a water reservoir or tablet.

Osprey Daylite Plus from Back

On the outside, two-sided mesh exterior pockets to secure your small extras and will accommodate a water bottle. Another pocket on the front is good for stowing rain gear. The back is covered in ventilating mesh for comfort and is water-resistant.


  • For a daypack, it’s quite spacious, and reviewers were surprised by how much stuff it would handle
  • Lightweight yet still a high-quality pack


  • There are limits to how much you can adjust the backpack straps, and they don’t stow if you don’t need them
  • Other than the sleeve on the inside, there are no other interior pockets

11. High Sierra Loop Backpack

High Sierra Loop Backpack

The High Sierra Loop backpack is a great option as a travel backpack for women because of the stylish colors you have to choose from as well as the generously large main compartment and multiple pockets for storage and organization.

High Sierra Loop Backpack Laptop Pocket

There is a dedicated laptop sleeve and multiple pockets, including pen pockets and a key fob hook. You can keep even your smallest items secure as you travel.

The compression strap design allows you to cinch the bag down smaller and secure your gear as you carry it. The straps also provide extra storage for additional items like your jacket or even a sleeping bag.

The suspension system of the High Sierra Loop travel backpack is good for when you have to carry a heavier load as you travel. It helps dampen the shock of the weight and spreads the weight more easily.

Girl Wearing High Sierra Loop Backpack


  • Many designs and colors to choose from
  • Premium organizer with multiple pockets
  • Mesh padded shoulder straps for comfort
  • You can attach extra gear with the bottom compression straps
  • Has a large, multi-compartment design
  • Can be used as a carry on


  • This travel backpack is not waterproof
  • It is not machine washable, making it harder to clean

12. TUMI Voyageur Carson Laptop Backpack

TUMI Voyageur Carson Laptop Backpack

The TUMI Voyageur Carson laptop backpack should be on your list if you are looking for a stylish yet dependable travel backpack. It features a double zip entry to the main compartment and a front U-zip pocket. It also has a zippered entry to the laptop compartment.

In addition to these storage and organizational options, you will also find a side zip pocket, a side zip water-resistant water bottle pocket, a quick access phone pocket with magnetic snap, and a front straight pocket with a locking zipper pull.

TUMI Voyageur Carson Laptop Backpack Pockets

The laptop sleeve can accommodate a 15” laptop. Inside the travel backpack, you will also find a tablet pocket, one large open pocket, two smaller open pockets, a zip pocket with a TUMI tracer, and a card pocket and pen pocket.

It comes in a few different colors, each one pretty dang sheeny n’ chic. You might even want to swap out your purse for this jazzy snazzy number.


  • Will hold all your essentials without being too bulky
  • Has a back sleeve so it can slip over extended luggage handles
  • The TUMI tracer helps with lost or stolen travel bags
  • Specially designed waterproof pocket can hold umbrellas, water bottles, and damp items
  • Padded laptop compartment for enhanced protection
  • Simple and practical design


  • This travel backpack is on the more expensive side
  • Some find that the straps are too long

Best Carry On Backpack/Daypack

The difference between the small travel backpack that’s often referred to as a daypack and a regular travel backpack is in its intended purpose.

The more you know.

Daypacks are great for daily commutes, urban excursions, taking to the beach, short treks from basecamp and much more.

13. Topo Designs Men’s Daypack

Topo Designs Men’s Daypack

As far as travel backpacks for men are considered, the Topo Designs Men’s Daypack is a fantastic daily option. It’s made of ballistic weave fabric for superior durability and has padded straps for ultimate comfort.

Your 15-inch laptop will fit easily. And the diagonal zips and other touches give it a stylish, contemporary look. Unlike many daypacks, this one has a few internal pockets for extra organization.

There are also pockets for water bottles on either side.

For traveling, the pack makes a great carry-on and fits easily under your seat. If you’re just going for a weekend, this may be the only baggage you’ll need.


  • Great fit and stylish look
  • Internal and external pockets


  • Some reviewers weren’t crazy about the fashion-forward design
  • The compact size makes it good for a weekend but nothing longer

See Related: Best Travel Gadgets for Long Flights

14. Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack

This marvel is a small travel backpack loaded with features that will take you from the airport into town and the country.

Although the Cotopaxi Allpa Travel Pack is lightweight and compact, the roomy 35L interior holds enough clothing for a 10-day trip (says one reviewer).

Cotopaxi created this second-gen pack as a smaller and carry-on compatible alternative to their popular adventure carry on backpack system.

The low-profile harness system of the Cotopaxi Allpa keeps the weight evenly distributed. There’s a padded pocket for a laptop. Heavy-duty zippers closing the main compartment and pockets keep belongings secure. External pockets offer theft-proof webbing too.

Carabiner loops, straps that stow, grab handles, and packable rain cover round out this pack’s utility and ruggedness.


  • Mesh across the back helps with ventilation and comfort
  • The pack is waterproof even without pulling out rain cover


  • Reviewers noted the hip belt is flimsy compared to the other straps
  • Reviewers also said interior compartments took up valuable clothing space

See Related: Best Portable Travel Toothbrush

15. Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack

The best backpack for travel during a gap year experience is the Osprey Farpoint 40 because of its utility. It comes in two versions: the Osprey Farpoint 40 for Women and the Osprey Farpoint 40 for Men.

Both have a front-loading design especially convenient for hostel stays. But it’s also super comfy due to its durable suspension system. It features straps that neatly stow and a padded grab handle if you need to carry it like a duffel.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack in Green

A functional hip belt works as intended and can be used as a hiking backpack. Two front pockets made of mesh hold convenience items, water filters and water bottles. And a zippered smaller pocket contains a key fob for quick accessibility. Also works well for stowing sunglasses. It even has a compartment for your laptop.

Girl with Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack


  • Airline carry-on compliant
  • Also good as a hiking backpack


  • If the pack is filled, the laptop compartment loses capacity
  • Exterior mesh pockets are not zippered

See Related: Best Travel Gifts for Backpackers

16. Nomatic Navigator Premium Backpack

Nomatic Navigator Premium Backpack Pockets

The Nomatic travel bag is on the smaller side with a 15L capacity, but it does have a built-in 6L expansion providing you with more space. It is a good carry on backpack if you want something more minimalist for your travels. It is functional and stylish with many innovative features.

The Nomatic travel pack also features cord pass-throughs, pen slots, mesh organizational pockets, quick-access fleece-lined pocket, external carry straps, laptop storage, a breathable back panel, sternum backpack strap, and external handles.

The small size allows you to carry the Nomatic travel bag anywhere but is also large enough to carry all the essentials you need. The five mesh pockets, two zipper pockets, and RFID safe pocket offer optimal storage opportunities.

The Nomatic travel bag is a premium option made with water and tamper-resistant materials, including YKK zippers and reflective bars for protection and security when using the bag. It is built to last.

Nomatic Navigator Premium Backpack Laptop Pocket


  • Functional everyday carry design
  • Water and tamper-resistant materials, making it more durable and long-lasting
  • Comfortable and versatile
  • Can be slid onto your rolling luggage, making it easier to transport everything


  • Only has an internal water bottle and no external water bottle pockets
  • This travel backpack is priced higher than other options

Cute Travel Backpacks for Kid Travelers

Our review wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention a few cute travel backpacks for our kid travelers! All of the options listed below are cute, stylish, and functional.

With a kid’s travel backpack, you can get them adopting  good travel habits practices early on – and (hopefully) carrying their own stuff!

17. Cherubic Kids Travel Mini Bag

Cherubic Kids Travel Mini Bag

The Cherubic Kids travel mini bag comes in various colors and patterns your child will love. Find me the toddler that hates dinosaurs or unicorns, I dare you.

While it is on the smaller side, it does offer ample space with two front pockets and the main compartment. The adjustable straps allows you to find the best and most comfortable fit for your child, according to their height.

This travel backpack is versatile and can serve multiple uses, including camping, backpacking, hiking, and school. It is great for a day trip to the zoo or traveling on an airplane. It can hold all your child’s essentials, including crayons, pens, paper, snacks, and so much more.

Cherubic Kids Travel Mini Bag Designs


  • Adjustable shoulder straps for the perfect fit
  • Made of durable materials, so it is long-lasting
  • Comes in fun designs and colors
  • Perfect for most 3-5 year olds


  • No water bottle compartment
  • On the smaller side

18. Cute Casual Travel Backpack

Cute Casual Travel Backpack

When it comes to cute travel backpacks, this one definitely makes the list. It is made of thickened Oxford cloth material and has a large capacity that is perfect for any trip. It is 16.54” x 12.6” x 7.87” and is also made of waterproof materials.

It features S-shaped widening shoulder straps that fit the child’s shoulders and neck, relieving pressure. It also has an anti-theft back pocket where you can place valuables where they will be safely protected. There is even a compartment on the side that holds a water bottle.

Cute Casual Travel Backpack Pockets

There are plenty of mesh pockets for organization and even a mesh pocket that can hold a small tablet and smaller pockets for a cell phone, pens, markers, or whatever smaller items your child travels with.

It’s cute as all heck. I’m buying one. For me. No shame.


  • Plenty of storage and pockets for organization
  • Large capacity main compartment
  • Anti-theft features for safety and protection
  • Multi-functional bag made with durable materials


  • Does not offer any padding to protect the electronics
  • Can only be hand washed

19. High Sierra Loop Backpack

High Sierra Loop Backpack

The High Sierra Loop Backpack is another cute option and offers a good deal of space for all your travels. Start by choosing a color, pattern, or design your child will love. There are several to choose from. After this, check out the spacious main compartment and its secondary pockets with a tablet sleeve and two more accessory pockets.

The suspension system of the High Sierra travel backpack provides your child with some relief when carrying heavier loads. The system effectively dampens the shock of the weight transfer when carrying the pack.

The compression straps of this backpack are designed to cinch down and can be secured as you travel. Its multi-compartment design allows your child to stay organized while ensuring they have all the essentials they need for their next trip.

High Sierra Loop Backpack BackView


  • Many colors, designs, and patterns to choose from
  • Spacious main compartment
  • Smaller pocket organizers for smaller items
  • Adjustable bottom webbing straps that allow you to carry a sleeping bag or even a tent
  • Padded back panel


  • It is not waterproof
  • Interior is not padded

20. Eagerrich Kawaii Backpack With Cute Pin Accessories

Eagerrich Kawaii Backpack

The Eagerrich Kawaii Backpack comes in a ton of cute options to choose from. Each bag is made of nylon material and has zipper closures.

There is a spacious main zippered compartment that is an expanded size (12.6” x 4.3” x 16.9”), two side pockets, and three front pockets. It is also a good bag for holding loose items like books, a mobile phone, stationery, and clothing.

The adjustable shoulder straps are padded and soft to reduce the pressure on the child’s shoulders, making it comfortable to wear during weekend trips.

The nylon and mesh fabric is lightweight but durable. The material is coated and wear-resistant. The material stops the water from penetrating the bag if it gets wet during the rain. It is also breathable and functional.

Best of all, it comes with 3 different pins to decorate the bag, as well as a fluffy little buddy!


  • Many cute designs to choose from
  • Just the right size for your child and their essential travel gear
  • Multi-functional compartments for organization
  • Abrasion and water-resistant


  • Backpack is dry clean only

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