The more you travel the less you want to pack, especially for shorter trips. Checking luggage can add 30-60 minutes to your airport experience, not to mention baggage fees, there are many other advantages to ditching checked bags altogether. As more people opt for carry-on only, an entire class of one bag travel backpacks has developed. Choosing the right one can be daunting so these are 3 of the best to start your search with.

1. Aer Travel Pack 2

Most one bag travel bags tend to either lean toward carrying clothing or carrying tech. Most of us don’t travel without both as the Aer Travel Pack 2‘s designers have clearly understood. The 34-liter Travel Pack 2 [full review here] has a dedicated shoe compartment in addition to a flat front organizational pocket for electronics. There are compromises made on both sides, tech and clothing, but the Aer Travel Pack 2 will satisfy a large group of people looking for a one bag travel backpack for shorter, city trips.

2. GORUCK GR2

There are two versions of the GR2: a 34L and 40L. The two versions of the GR2 are identical but the 40L is for taller travelers 5’8” / 172 centimeters according to GORUCK. These backpacks are tough – literally with a bombproof laptop compartment – created by an American Green Beret. The 1000D Cordura nylon will last a lifetime but comes with weight; the GR2 is a heavy backpack. Clothing should keep the GR2 under most international airlines’ baggage weight limits however if you’re going to load it up a camera lens, laptop plus other tech, you’ll feel it on your back. For travelers who go hiking or spend a lot of time exploring outdoors however, the GR2 rucksack is good option.

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3. Tortuga Setout

Still on the higher-end of one bag travel backpacks, there’s a noticeable drop in the quality of the Tortuga Setout compared to the other two bags listed above. The 900D polyester fabric feels a bit flimsy (though is lighter than nylon) but overall the design is ideal if you want control over how you pack. There is a smaller organizational pocket but really, the Setout is one big main compartment (with a 35 and 45L option). Pockets in a backpack often mean the designer is leading you toward a packing strategy whereas in a bag like the Setout, it’s all up to you. Keep in mind for the Setout especially, packing cubes are probably an accessory you’ll want to add to your gear.

Shacke Pak - 5 Set Medium/Small Packing Cubes - Travel Organizers...
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    Only The Beginning

    Shopping for backpacks can be daunting, fortunately most reputable companies (including all those listed above) have 30 day money back return policies. It’s worth trying out several bags 4-8 weeks before a trip, packing them as you would for your next adventure to see how they fit, feel, and meet your particular travel needs.

    To help narrow your search even further, keep in mind the best one bag travel backpacks tend to be 30-40L and start in price at around $200. Some like the McKinnon Camera Pack are well over that price but a bag that protects all of your gear is an investment not worth skimping on.