Person opening the split back design of the Gregory Border 40-litre backpack
Travel,  Travel Accessories,  Travel Bags

Top 5 Carry-on Travel Backpacks of 2024

Now, depending on where your destination is and what you would like to do there, choosing the right carry-on bag for your purposes can be a make-or-break travel experience. It can either be smooth and uneventful or an absolute pain in the arse from day one. A badly designed travel bag that you have to access daily can grind your gears faster than someone not standing to one side on an escalator. This is made worse if a bag suddenly falls apart and fabric unexpectedly tears, mysterious holes appear or zips randomly snap off.

Carry-on bags are just as they sound; they allow the traveller a backpack that meets most airlines’ cabin bag dimension restrictions. The size is usually around the 40-litre mark, and when combined with a smaller day pack, it should be plenty if you’re a minimalist traveller like myself. There are advantages and disadvantages to only taking carry-on luggage, and I will create another post for that. Personally, I like that all my possessions are easily accessible, won’t go missing on trips that require connecting flights, and appreciate the fact that the limitations restrict the amount of stuff I take (and lug around), ultimately making my travel experience much better.

There are also different styles of carry-on bags; some come with wheels and are often heavier. For the purposes of this list, all bags will be for good old-fashioned carrying only. Lastly, all bags in the list are designed to meet carry-on standards, but please check with your airline provider before you fly to avoid any hidden surprises.

1. Gregory Border Carry 40 

Now, I could be biased here, but this has got to be one of the best carry-on travel bags on the market. I say this because I have this bag and have travelled extensively throughout Southeast Asia with it. The quality of build and comfort of this bag will be hard to match for other brands, and the hardcore, durable zips alone will have you reaching for your wallet.

The Boarder Carry has a split-case design – keeping everything neat and tidy, this is separated by the main zip along the bag. One side of the split is a zipped compartment with two top-facing storage pockets, and the other is a Polygiene Activeshield compartment that separates your clean items from your dirty ones (which is also good if you have smelly shoes you want to tuck away and keep separate from your other stuff). The Gregory has tuck-away shoulder and hip straps for a neater and tighter stowaway space, a back compartment for a 15” laptop (it fits my 16” MacBook comfortably), and is lockable if security is something you take seriously (which you should). There’s also a zip-away side mesh water bottle pocket, along with a front padded pocket with a key clip, and a quick-access top pocket that is also lockable.

The Gregory Border Carry has everything you could want in a travel bag and I would happily recommend it. 

2. Thule Landmark 40

Before receiving the Thule logo, these bags undergo rigorous testing to ensure they will withstand whatever you throw at them and the carry-on Landmark 40 is no exception. This is a tough and clever travel bag at the same time. It features a CashStash hidden compartment to keep your money and passport out of sight, a SafeZone compartment at the top of the bag for securing smaller items, LoopLocks allowing you to secure zipper pulls, and a back compartment that can accommodate a 16” MacBook and 12.9” tablet.

The bag opens to a main compartment with a zippered mesh pocket, and your belongings can be secured with handy internal compression straps. Other neat features include tuck-away shoulder straps for smaller stow-away spaces, a zippered side pocket that can accommodate a water bottle, and a sternum strap with a whistle. The Thule Landmark 40 is available in two colours—Dark Forest (army green) and Obsidian Black (I like the Dark Forest) and is truly a traveller’s delight.

Thule Landmark 40 unzipped to reveal the main compartment with mesh pockets.

3. Osprey Farpoint 40 (men) and  Fairview 40 (women)

The Osprey Farpoint and Fairview carry-on bags have been a popular choice among travellers I’ve met overseas, and with Osprey’s trusted reputation for tough and well-thought-out products, it’s no wonder why both the Farpoint and Fairview are favourites.

Designed for travelling far and light, and serving as a kind of ‘one-pack-does-all,’ the bag features durable fabrics in high-wear areas, making it a tough pack. The Farpoint comes loaded with features: a large panel zip access (lockable) that provides access to the main compartment, an internal front flap zippered mesh pocket, dual front exterior compression straps (plus two internal ones), a large front shove-it pocket, an external toiletry pocket, tuck-away shoulder and hip straps, and a back zipped compartment that can accommodate a 16” laptop. Lastly, if you’re an Osprey enthusiast who already has or plans to get a day pack, the Farpoint and Fairview packs are compatible and conveniently attach to one another.

These sturdy all-rounder Osprey carry-on bags are absolute crowd-pleasers.

4. Cor Surf The Island Hopper 40 

A catchy name for a travel bag, and for good reason. This is a piece of kit that will give you tons of flexibility when on the road. Designed for the light traveller, The Island Hopper folds out like a suitcase so you can store all your gear while staying organised. The bag is built with comfort in mind, featuring wide padded ergonomic shoulder straps, hip straps, sternum strap and is made tough with double stitching, splash-resistant YKK zippers, and an eco-friendly TPU weather-resistant exterior.

An easy-access top pocket allows for quick access to items such as sunglasses, sunscreen, power bank etc. The shock-resistant padded laptop pocket (up to 16”) is also a welcome feature. In addition, the bag also includes two hidden pockets for cash, passports, and valuables, one of which is concealed from sight.

The Cor Surf Island Hopper boasts a lifetime guarantee, proof that the company truly backs the durability of this bag.

5. Caribee Traveller 40

The Caribee Traveller comes in at a more budget-friendly price, but by no means skimps on any features. I have owned and still own the Caribee Wasp 30L, and I can attest that at Caribee, the company really works hard to give you a good quality and well-thought-out bag at a competitive price.

This bag has split-level packing with multiple internal compartments to keep your belongings neat, large front pockets for easily accessible items, a rear zipped padded laptop compartment (38cm), a side water bottle pocket, concealable shoulder straps, and a nifty rear luggage trolley pass-through that allows you to mount your Caribee Traveller on top of your check-in gear if that’s how you roll.

This pack is also one of the lightest on the list at 1.2kg and has dimensions of 56x32x22cm. This is a great carry-on bag and won’t break the bank.

This concludes the list of our top 5 Carry-on bags of 2024.

We hope you have enjoyed the read and hopefully the article has helped you in making a more informed decision on your next travel bag.

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