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7 backpacks that are perfect as hand luggage when travelling

If you’re looking for a bag that’s big enough to travel with but small enough to take as carry-on, search no more.

By Rebecca Roberts | Last updated Apr 10, 2024

Rucksacks and backpacks

Recently, Mumsnet user SisSuffragette took to our style and beauty board with a specific request. They were in search of a bag that’s the right size for hand luggage, but one that is “preferably not leather”. As always, the thread soon filled with recommendations from the hive mind working their magic, as they brought forth a bunch of backpacks and rucksacks from brands like Osprey, Antler and Cabin Zero that are practical for travelling with. 

So, if you’re in need of a new rucksack or backpack that’s big enough to travel with, but small enough to take on as carry-on during your next flight, keep scrolling to find the bags our users own and use themselves. 

Starting with this 28L classic backpack by Cabin Zero that’s available in six colours and two capacity sizes. We particularly like the Aruba colour. 

Classic Cabin Zero Backpack 28L, £55 | Buy now from Cabin Zero

Mumsnet seal of approval: “I use this one, it’s small enough for Ryanair and Norwegian but I can fit enough for a whole weekend away if I use packing cubes.” Spudlover 

“Another Cabin Zero lover here- they often have 20% off events so worth waiting for one if you can. Their website has a filter that shows you what airlines accept which of their bags as hand luggage.” FirstFallopians

Osprey has a huge following on our boards, and it’s no wonder when they have backpacks like this Sojourn PorterTM that has 30L of space, is available in four colours and straightjacket compression to make it even more compact. 

Osprey Sojourn PorterTM , £160 |  Buy now from Osprey

Mumsnet seal of approval: “I love the Osprey range - I’ve travelled with only carry on for years and it’s still great - fits a weeks clothes in easily and cabin bag size. Mine is like this but older. Actually this makes me want a new one!” Nextbitoflife

“Another vote for Osprey from me. I can't find my exact one as it's years old but it's similar to the previous one linked. DH and I take one each when we go on holiday and I can pack everything I need for a week.” SingingSands

Unsurprisingly, Antler’s Chelsea Backpack was recommended in the thread - further proof that the love affair between our Mumsnet users and Antler bags that began late last year is staying strong. 

Antler Chelsea Backpack, £140 | Buy now from Antler

Mumsnet seal of approval: “I have this, and like that it opens like a suitcase.” oldgreysquirrel

Available in a whopping 25 different colours and designs is this SEVENTEEN LONDON modern urban and unisex Wimbledon backpack that’s slim, has lots of pockets and fits laptops up to 13”. 

SEVENTEEN LONDON Urban and Unisex Wimbledon Backpack, £36 | Buy now from Amazon

Mumsnet seal of approval: “I have a Seventeen London one and I absolutely love it. The front opens wide and it’s quite deep so you’ve got plenty of packing space, plus it has many many pockets which is brilliant when travelling as it stops everything getting lost at the bottom of your bag.” GrannyWeatherwaxsHatpin

With broad padded shoulders, this Cabin Max Manhattan Travel bag is small enough for carry on but big enough to pack your essentials in a packing cube and stuff your handbag on top. Plus, it’s comfy to wear! 

Cabin Max Manhattan Travel Bag, £35 | Buy now from Amazon

Mumsnet seal of approval: “This one, also available from Amazon. I use it a lot when travelling, it has broad padded shoulder straps and opens fully. It also has a separate laptop/document compartment. I travel reasonably often so I’ve got packing down to a fine art. If you’re only allowed one piece of hand luggage, this will take a handbag shoved in the top section with all your other bits in a packing cube underneath.” Ohpleeeease

“Another vote for Cabin Max, they open like suitcases so no having to pull everything out to get to something at the bottom, and they have a pocket for a water bottle, wee zipped compartments for passport, kindle etc, padded backs and straps and last forever.” shrodingersvaccine

Both light and waterproof, this Finisterre Drift 30L Waterproof Roll Top Backpack is available in black and olive, and is perfect for whatever adventures you have planned. 

Finisterre Drift 30L Waterproof Roll Top Backpack, £185 | Buy now from Finisterre

Mumsnet seal of approval: “I use this. It's a roll top so you can squish quite a lot in, and its really light and waterproof.” Verv

And lastly, this Nordace Siena backpack that is available in nine colours, has a laptop compartment, an organisational pocket, a USB charging port and an anti-theft pocket. 

Nordace Siena Backpack, £89 | Buy now from Nordace

Mumsnet seal of approval: “My DD has this and swears by it.” PrinceLouisWeirdFinger

“I have a Nordace Sienna, had it for years and it's great.” NellePorter

About the author

Rebecca Roberts is a writer, editor, and content marketing expert hailing from Leeds. Here at Mumsnet, she commissions, writes, and edits to bring parents content designed to make life easier. After birthing and breastfeeding two babies in two years, Rebecca knows first-hand how hard it can be to prioritise self care. So, she’s on a quest to find the best beauty, skincare, and make-up products, with the help of Mumsnet user recommendations. 

Beyond her role as an editor here at Mumsnet, Rebecca can be found balancing life as a working mum of two toddlers and when she’s not at her desk, you’ll likely find her at a local playgroup, in a nearby coffee shop, or walking the dog up and down country lanes.

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