12 Best Minimalist Travel Backpacks & Bags for Trips

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Travel backpack

I don’t know about you, but packing is one of my favorite parts of travel prep. It takes some practice, but minimally packing is the best way to save money and space wherever you go. That is why minimalist travel backpacks are excellent luggage pieces to have.

Minimalist travel has a lot of advantages, especially when it comes to budget travel. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, you should understand that minimalist travel is about making do with less. For example, people going backpacking need a proper minimalist travel backpack.

Girl with a backpack walking through a field

What is so great about minimalist backpacks for travel? Well, it’s not just the sleek and modern look. Like all travel gear for minimalists, these backpacks are designed for optimal efficiency. Everyone has their idea of what makes a bag the best based on what they have to pack, but we have accumulated some excellent options for a range of travelers looking for a minimalist travel bag.

TL;DR

Best budget minimalist backpack Kaukko Laptop Outdoor Backpack
Best minimalist backpack for camping Thule Subterra Backpack
Best minimalist backpack for camera gear Endurax Extra Large Camera Bag
Best minimalist backpack for backpacking Osprey Kyte 46 Women’s Backpacking Backpack
Best travel backpack/weekender Peak Design Travel Duffel

Best Minimalist Travel Backpacks and Bags

1. Kaukko Laptop Outdoor Backpack

Kaukko Laptop Outdoor Backpack in black with sidebag
Kaukko / Amazon

Firstly, we have the Kaukko Laptop Outdoor Backpack. Kaukko has been a popular backpack brand since 1994 which specializes in minimalist designs, combining functionality with comfort.

The Kaukko Laptop Outdoor Backpack is an excellent choice for both men and women. There are two dozen colors to choose from with variations of grey, green, and even black and white anchor patterns.

Thanks to the nylon lining and 600D polyester material, the bag is pretty sturdy. It’s perfect for enduring rigorous TSA security checks and busy airports, plus it makes for a great carry-on backpack. You won’t get wrangled by budget airlines for having a bag that’s too big to go under the seat with this bag.

Also, the button-end closure keeps your belongings safe and secure. The adjustable padded shoulder strap makes distributing the bag’s weight much easier. This feature, along with the bag’s size, makes the bag neither too big nor bulky. These reasons summarize why we believe this is the best minimalist travel backpack for budget-conscious travelers.

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpacks for the budget-conscious traveler
  • Nylon lining for impact resistance
  • Adjustable padded shoulder straps
  • Ample storage capacity
  • Stylish minimalist backpack
  • The bag comes with a hip belt travel bag

Cons

  • Not a very wide bag
  • The backpack does not come in vibrant colors
  • Crossbody/hip bag may not fit plus-sized travelers

See Related: Types of Travel Bags for the Jetsetter

2. Thule Subterra Backpack

Subterra Backpack in black
Thule / Amazon

If you want something sporty yet minimalist, the Thule Subterra Backpack is for you. Thule is a Swedish brand that has been selling top-notch outdoor travel gear since 1942. So you can trust these products to cater to active and minimalist lifestyles.

The Thule Subterra Backpack 34L is an excellent choice for an outdoor adventure or camping trip. While it is perfect as an everyday backpack, Thule bags make incredible travel backpacks too. That is because they offer terrific storage capabilities with various pockets and compartments.

Although this Subterra makes the perfect minimalist travel backpack for any adventure, it is just as good as a companion bag. With a passthrough panel, you can easily slide this bag over the rotoscoping handle of a roller bag. You will not have to worry about balancing this backpack atop a rolling bag.

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpacks for camping
  • Separate compartments for dirty clothes
  • Padded 15-inch laptop sleeve
  • Charging capability through Power Pocket
  • Half the price of other tech bags
  • Internal and external pockets for organization

Cons

  • Not many color choices
  • The backpack may be too small for new minimalist travelers
  • No expanding capability

See Related: Best Travel Yoga Mats

3. Endurax Extra Large Camera Bag

For folks like my partner who need their small backpack to do double duty, a bag like the Endurax Extra Large Camera Bag is perfect. Lugging camera gear around is frustrating enough without having to worry about having a travel backpack that can protect it. Even if you do not plan on packing tons of equipment, you can use the extra space for your other luggage.

The Endurax Extra Large Camera Bag in black
Endurax / Amazon

This travel bag can keep your bulky gear together, including up to two pro-sized cameras, six to eight lenses, up to three flashes, and even little compartments for smaller items. If you use the main compartment with dividers for your camera stuff, you can use the bottom compartment for your packing cubes of clothes.

Besides the heavily padded equipment compartments, the minimalist pack also has a laptop pocket. Keeping your gear organized for international travel will make airport security much easier. That is why this is the best minimalist travel backpack for photographers.

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpacks for camera equipment
  • Includes a rain cover and waist camera bag
  • Can attach tripod on sides or front
  • Durable backpack with a divided main compartment
  • Easy access to gear

Cons

  • Shoulder straps may not hold up to overpacking
  • Side/front pouches may not hold all sizes of water bottles or tripod
  • Torso length adjustment is not ideal for tall people

See Related: Best Gifts for International Travelers

4. Osprey Kyte 46 Women’s Backpacking Backpack

Osprey Kyte in ice lake green
Osprey / Amazon

For backpacking bags, you cannot go wrong with Osprey bags. There is a reason why backpackers utilize these sturdy backpacks for their long-haul trips.

I highly recommend the Osprey Kyte in my favorite shade — the ice lake green. Regarding the best bag for minimalist backpacking, I cannot recommend Osprey bags more.

For my six-week European backpacking trip, I relied on an Osprey backpack. I frequently saw other backpackers with their Osprey packs in train stations and airports, signifying that these are one-bag travel backpacks trusted by globetrotters. This bag was never questioned as a carry-on by the cheapest European budget airlines, and digital nomads can attest that these bags are phenomenal.

A packing cube will be your best friend for keeping this backpack organized. That is especially true if you plan on packing for a long-haul trip.

I recommend Osprey for all one-bag travel, even for a new minimalist traveler. If your trip is more than one week, I recommend packing only one week’s worth of clothes and washing as you go to lessen the weight of your pack.

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpacks for backpacking
  • Removable rain cover
  • Integrated hip bag on backpack
  • Sleeping bag compartment
  • Rigged back helps support weight and keep you cool

Cons

  • Only a few color choices
  • These bags can be a pain to clean
  • The backpack may not pass as a carry-on with domestic budget airlines

See Related: Best Gift Ideas for the Avid Traveler

5. Peak Design Travel Duffel

Peak Design travel backpack in sage
Peak Design / Peak Design

Regarding the best minimalist travel backpack for weekends, you can’t go wrong with a Peak Design Travel Duffel. This is the best backpack for short trips because it’s condensed, can easily fit atop a roller bag, and is casual enough to be used day-to-day.

If you plan on using this minimalist bag for short trips, be sure to order the 35L, carry-on version rather than the 65L, a checked-luggage size. Modern travelers will appreciate the versatility of one-bag travel with this duffel bag with both padded hand straps and a padded shoulder strap. Not to mention this bag is fair trade certified, carbon neutral, and comes with a lifetime warranty.

These duffels are also doubly waterproofed with a waterproof shell and a waterproof bottom liner. That way, even if you get stuck in the rain without an umbrella, you won’t have to worry about ruining your things. That’s a win-win!

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpacks for short trips
  • Waterproof shell and bottom liner
  • Can be carried like a classic backpack
  • 35L size is a carry-on size
  • Lifetime guarantee

Cons

  • Zippers may not be durable for heavy packing
  • Hand straps are not comfortable
  • Backpack carry mode isn’t practical for some users

See Related: Best Travel Trailers for Couples

6. Osprey Daylite Daypack

An Osprey Daylite Daypack in cosmic red
Osprey / Amazon

Digital nomads know how crucial a good daypack can be. These Osprey Daylite Daypack bags are the perfect minimalist backpack for everyday use. I love mine, particularly when living out of a backpacking backpack, because it’s impractical to lug a giant bag around every day. When you need a minimalist travel bag for your excursions or even beach days, look no further than Osprey.

Like other Osprey backpacks, you can rely on these daypacks to have sturdy backing to keep you comfortable on the go. The laptop compartment doubles as a hydration reservoir, making these excellent hiking backpacks too. If you’re looking for a durable carry-on backpack, these daypacks are a terrific option.

As economically friendly backpack options, these Osprey daypacks also make it easy to access your stuff. This travel backpack is well-designed for optimal organization, ensuring a breezy trek through the airport or train security stops.

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpacks for day-tripping
  • Available in a dozen colors
  • Several pockets and compartments for storage
  • Comfortable back panel
  • Best backpacks for carry-on rather than full-trip packing

Cons

  • Straps can irritate the skin
  • Very narrow water bottle pockets
  • The back panel has terrible circulation

See Related: The Complete Backpacking Checklist for Travelers

7. Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack

Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack in navy blue
Amazon Basics / Amazon

Another minimalist backpack perfect for carry-on travel is the Amazon Basics Carry-On Travel Backpack. This travel backpack combines the comfortable mobility of a suitcase with the versatility of a backpack. It has multiple compartments lined with mesh and zippers for safekeeping.

Minimalist backpacks review writers indicate that the capacity of these backpacks is approximately 50 L when fully expanded. While that’s too large for some carry-on capacities, it doesn’t have to be expanded to be used.

Besides being worn as a backpack, this bag can also be worn as a shoulder bag. A waist belt helps balance the weight distribution to keep the load off your back, while the compression straps inside the minimalistic backpack will help you keep your pack as tight as possible.

Pros

  • Carry-on size
  • Affordable minimalist travel backpack
  • Laptop sleeve compartment
  • Can be worn as a backpack or shoulder bag

Cons

  • Only available in two colors
  • The crossbody strap is uncomfortable if the backpack is heavy
  • Buckles are flimsy and come easily undone

See Related: Best TSA-Approved Travel Locks

8. Travelon Anti Theft Classic Backpack

Black and white striped Travelon backpack
Travelon / Amazon

Regarding anti-theft backpack and bag design, Travelon is known for doing its best. Travelon’s slash-proof bag straps, body panels, and RFID-blocking capabilities make their bags and backpacks some of the best on the market. These backpacks are the perfect minimalist travel carry-on because of their safety features and organizers.

When using this travel backpack, you can use multiple compartments to keep your things tidy. While this backpack doesn’t have lockable zippers, it does have lockable compartments and straps to keep someone from snatching the back from your shoulder or back during travel.

This minimalist backpack will not be large enough to pack for a whole trip, even for the most minimalist traveler. However, it would make for a terrific daypack or additional travel backpack for long or short journeys.

Pros

  • Anti-theft bag
  • Lockable compartments and straps
  • Slashproof straps and body panels
  • Best carry-on backpack for security
  • RFID blocking capabilities

Cons

  • Too small for one bag backpacking trip
  • Straps will not hold up against overpacking
  • Zippers are not durable if overfilled

See Related: Best Camera Bags for Travel

9. Osprey Manta 34 Hydration Pack

An Osprey Manta 34 Hydration Pack in oak leaf orange
Osprey / REI

For the third time, Osprey is making our list, this time for having the best hiking backpack option: the Osprey Manta 34 Hydration Pack. If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, Osprey is the industry leader in travel backpack design. This hydration pack bag is the ideal hiking backpack for its load-bearing capabilities, space for bulky hiking equipment, and built-in water storage.

Like the previously mentioned minimalist backpacks by Osprey, the Manta also includes a supportive back panel, rain cover, and tons of storage space. Not to mention the sternum strap to reduce the back strain from carrying this minimalist backpack. That support is crucial for hikers, especially those on long journeys.

These Manta minimalist backpacks include hip access pockets for ID, money, or other sensitive item storage. Internal pockets keep your things safe, while the outer access pocket keeps your go-to items available at all times. Plus there is a trekking pole attachment to keep your hiking gear at the ready.

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpack for hikers
  • 34L of storage
  • Outer attachment for trekking poles
  • 2.5L water reservoir inside the bag
  • Hip access pockets built-In

Cons

  • Backpack only available in two colors
  • The water bladder is fragile
  • The backpack is water resistant but not waterproof

See Related: Best Travel Duffel Bags For Your Next Trip

10. Everyday Hip Belt

Everyday Hip Belt in grey
Peak Design / Peak Design

When it comes to minimalist travel, one of the things we rarely talk about is the more practical parts of single-bag travel. For those traveling with a minimalist backpack, carrying all your luggage with you can be a pain in the back. That is where an accessory like Peak Design’s Everyday Hip Belt comes in handy.

These belts attach to your minimalist travel backpack to provide additional support and comfort as you travel. Particularly for plus-sized travelers, the built-in waist belts on larger minimalist backpack set-ups do not always fit. Luckily these belts adjust from 29″ to 52″ waists making them far more equitable than the average backpack.

While this belt is a great addition to your minimalist backpack packing list, it is only compatible with a few variations of Peak Design’s Everyday Backpacks. These include the 20/30L, Zip 20L, and Travel Backpack 30L. So if you plan on purchasing your minimalist travel backpack from another company, these belts won’t work for you.

Pros

  • Reduces back and shoulder strain
  • Adjustable from 29″ to 52″
  • Excellent accessory for backpack-only travelers
  • Also adjustable for different torso lengths

Cons

  • Not compatible with all minimalist bags
  • May not be necessary for all backpack travelers

See Related: Best Travel Accessories and Gear

11. Aer Travel Pack 3

The Aer Travel Pack 3 in olive
Aer Travel Pack 3 / Aer Travel Pack

Aer has perfected the minimal backpack with three variations of their Travel Pack minimalist backpacks. Aer Travel Pack provides all the space you need for a short or minimalist long trip in a compact 35L bag. These are the best minimalist backpacks, particularly for recovering over-packers.

Set in water-resistant nylon, these travel pack backpacks include an interior frame to help support the wearer. As mentioned above, these backpacks also have attachment points for their hip belts to provide additional comfort and support. Plus, it has zipper locks for added security.

These backpacks also include load lifter straps to further protect you from wearing yourself out. Nothing will end a minimalist traveler faster than backpack fatigue.

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpacks for newbie minimalist packers
  • Compression capabilities
  • Load lifting straps to reduce back and shoulder fatigue
  • Water-resistant material

Cons

  • Only available in a few colors
  • Hip support belt sold separately
  • More expensive than other minimalist backpacks on this list

See Related: Essential Solo Travel Luggage & Accessories

12. NOMATIC Travel Pack

NOMATIC Travel Pack in black
NOMATIC / Amazon

In my opinion, this is the best minimalist backpack bar none. The NOMATIC Travel Pack is my go-to backpack for long weekend trips. Do not let its slim exterior deceive you.

This backpack holds far more than it appears. It can even expand from 20 to 30L. I can easily pack several days’ worth of clothes, a makeup bag, all of my tech, and even an extra purse in this bag.

Inside the NOMATIC Travel Pack, you will find anti-theft pockets, RFID lockable pockets, and a ton of packing compartments. Once you finish packing, the bag zips up and compresses better than any other minimalist backpacks I have used. If you want even better packing capabilities, do not forget to use your packing cubes.

This bag can be used as both a backpack and a briefcase. Its side water bottle pocket is larger than any other backpack I have ever used, and accessing your things for security has never been easier.

Pros

  • Best minimalist backpack for all travelers
  • Anti-theft pockets
  • Expandable up to 10 additional liters
  • Water-resistant
  • Compressive when fully zipped

Cons

  • Most expensive of the listed minimalist backpacks
  • It only comes in one color
  • Very heavy when full

See Related: Ways to Luggage-Free Travel (Yes, It’s Possible)

FAQ

Which backpack is best for traveling?

The best minimalist backpack is the NOMATIC Travel Pack, though the most economical choice is between the Amazon Basics and the Kaukko Travel Laptop Backpack. When choosing a minimal backpack for packing light, it’s vital to know what your budget and needs are for your bags.

What is the difference between men’s and women’s minimal backpacks?

Although generally, anyone can use either backpack, and gendered backpacks are sometimes named as such because of how they’re shaped. For example, a woman’s backpack may have a shorter torso, wider shoulders, and a different center of gravity than a man’s backpack.

What size backpack will fit under an airplane seat?

An under-seat bag or item for air travel needs to be less than 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches. Remember that some seats, like bulkhead seats in the front of economy, may not have under-seat storage. In liters, you can typically fit a 35L backpack under an airplane seat though that depends on the airline.

How do you pack for a trip like a minimalist?

The best minimalist packing advice is to plan your pack ahead of time. Knowing exactly how much you’ll need, whether you can wash things during your trip, and packing with intention is the key to packing minimally. It takes practice, but try to pack for seven days or less even if you will be traveling longer.

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Amanda Finn
WRITTEN BY

Amanda Finn

Amanda (she/they) is a Chicago-based queer travel, arts, and lifestyle writer who is passionate about exploring the world. Their work has been featured in Newcity Stage, The Chicago Reader, Huffington Post, and Yahoo, as well as the November 2022 book, "Chicago Like a Local" and other travel journals available on Amazon. Amanda's favorite destinations include Costa Rica, Prague, Dublin, Hong Kong, and every Disney park they've visited.

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