Best Travel Carry On Backpack


Turns out, my innocent-looking May goals are considerably more difficult to put into practice than I thought. I’m getting ready to leave my apartment of 2 years and also plan a 3-month-long adventure in Europe and it feels like I have a really bad case of crazy brain and yet not much is getting accomplished. “Spinning my wheels” is a phrase that keeps coming to mind. There has been small progress – never did I think I’d be so elated to sell a piece of furniture on Craigslist – on both fronts, but it is still slow-going. There are about a billion unanswered questions that I’m going to need to find answers to in the next 50 days before I leave, but I’ve figured at least one thing out: my bag.

I decided very early on that I wanted to do this trip with only one bag, carry-on sized. I had so many reasons for doing so, but here are a sampling: I never wanted to need help with my bag, I never wanted to pay baggage fees, I never wanted to risk losing my stuff, I didn’t want to have to wait for my bags. If you want more information about carry-on travel, check out Rick Steves’ guide to packing light or One Bag.


So, once that was settled, I just needed to find the right bag. I fell in love almost instantly with Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut, but unfortunately it was just a little too steep for my budget (that didn’t stop me from lusting after it for weeks, however..). Once I wrapped my head around the fact that the bag would cost me as much as an iPad mini, I focused on researching other bags. I wanted a bag without wheels (so I could more easily navigate with my hands free), and that was a “convertible” – in other words, had backpack straps that could be tucked away so it can also be carried like a suitcase. At the risk of exposing just how much of a planner/researcher I really am, I’m showing you my spreadsheet of convertible carry-on sized bags. Maybe it’ll save one of you some researching.

You can access the spreadsheet directly (with clickable links) here. You should know that this list is by no means complete, there are quite a few other contenders that didn’t make it on. Check out some other great bag recommendations at One Bag One World. (I got lost on that site for a couple of days, by the way!)

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After a lot of consideration, I decided to go with the LL Bean Quickload Travel Pack. It was the right decision for me: it is an incredibly light bag, it is unassuming and comes in black, it hinges open like a suitcase so I can get at all my stuff without taking everything out and rummaging around, and it has a pretty big capacity.

As you can see, I’m pretty excited about it. As soon as it was delivered (which only took 2 days, which was wonderful), I promptly packed it the way I am planning to for my trip, and started testing the weight by walking around wearing it and holding it above my head. So far, so good. I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot of that kind of stuff right up until the day I leave.


Now that I have my bag, and my plane tickets to Europe, things are starting to feel very real, and scary and exciting at the same time. I can’t quite imagine what it’s going to be like or how I’m going to feel, but I’m ready to find out. The hardest part about packing my bag so far has been that once I packed it, I was totally ready to go to the airport and leave all my other belongings behind. Realizing that I still had to deal with all the other stuff in my apartment was a bit of a bummer.


Other equipment shown in the above photo: the personal toiletries organizer from LL Bean, which I’ve had for years but is similar to this model, Toms shoe bags that come with your purchase of Toms, and a cube from Eagle Creek’s Pack-It system (I have the regular and half-size cubes).