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The Best Backpacks for Digital Nomads

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When leading a nomadic life, you will often find yourself living out of your backpack. You, therefore, want to make sure that you’ve got the best one with you.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five best digital nomad backpacks currently on the market.

Digital Nomad Backpack Overview

Before we delve into the reviews, it’s worth clarifying a few things.

How does a digital nomad backpack differ from a regular laptop backpack, for example? For this list, we’re looking at products that you can use to travel around the world, rather than smaller daypacks.

Let’s find out more.

What Are the Benefits of a Digital Nomad Backpack?

The life of a digital nomad is anything but stationary. As such, you need to choose a backpack that suits your lifestyle, rather than a standard one. Bags for digital nomads are designed with this in mind and offer an array of useful features to those who are both working and traveling.

Increased Functionality

As most nomads try to travel light, the chances are that your backpack will be the only kind of luggage you own. Therefore, it’s essential that you can use it in a variety of different scenarios. The best ones are equally suitable for taking out in the city, hiking, or air travel.

More portable

Backpacks are generally a better option for digital nomads compared to suitcases or duffle bags. This is mainly because they’re easier to carry in any type of environment. A case with wheels is great in the airport, but as soon as the ground becomes rough, it’s not so user-friendly. A nomad backpack, however, can easily be shouldered wherever you are.

More Comfortable

Digital nomad backpacks are designed to be more comfortable to wear compared to standard, low-cost ones. A combination of padded shoulder straps, chest straps, and hip and lumbar support straps spread the weight of your luggage. This is important, as when you’re carrying your life on your back, you don’t want it to become a drag.

Improved Organization

Designed with nomads in mind, these backpacks offer a far greater number of pockets and compartments than a regular bag. A padded laptop compartment is standard, while the rest of your tech can be kept safe in several purpose-made pockets.

What Size Backpack Do I Need?

What Size Backpack Do I Need

Before choosing the best pack for you, it’s worth thinking about your particular needs. Several external factors, plus the type of traveler you are, will determine what works best for you. Many digital nomad backpacks do meet airline carry-on requirements, but some larger options will typically have to be checked in.

What Do You Need to Carry?

Depending on the work you do as a digital nomad, you might need to carry a lot of valuable equipment. Photographers, for example, typically have to pack extra lenses, which will soon take up space, whereas copywriters can generally get by with just a laptop. If you can travel light, a carry-on backpack should have space for everything on your packing list.

Where Are You Traveling To?

Consider the climate of your destination while you’ll be there. Colder and wetter parts of the world, such as Northern Europe or Canada, will require adequate clothing. Thick clothes take up a lot more space, so you might have to go for a checked-in option. Warmer climates are generally easier to pack for, however, and you can fit a lot of light clothes in even the smallest travel backpacks.

How Long Are You Traveling For?

Similar to the previous point, the length of your stay can also determine how big your backpack needs to be. However, if you stick to the mantra of only-ever packing enough to last one week, you should be able to survive with a smaller backpack. Learning to adopt a minimalist attitude is a real benefit for a digital nomad and will soon make life on the road easier.

Carry-on or Checked Luggage?

Carry-on luggage is often the more attractive option. First, you spend less time at the airport checking in your luggage and waiting to pick it up when you arrive. Second, there’s less chance of losing or damaging it. Of course, it’s also free on most airlines. However, checked luggage has advantages beyond being able to carry more. You have no restrictions on what you’re able to pack, and there’s no risk of expensive additional costs if your bag is too large. This can be a problem if you’ve overloaded your carry-on luggage.

What to Look for in a Good Backpack for Digital Nomads?

Features Good Backpack for Digital Nomads

Backpacks vary from budget to elaborate premium options. You don’t necessarily need to buy an expensive nomad backpack to get a good one. Just be sure to look out for the following key features.

Size

For a backpack that you can take on a plane as carry-on, you need to make sure it meets the size limits imposed by airlines. While there are slight variations in the US, the typical limit is between 45 and 51 linear inches. It’s essential to check the restrictions of your specific airline, and budget airlines, in particular, can impose stricter limits. Generally speaking, though, a capacity of up to 45L will usually meet the size limit.

Comfort

You can expect to carry your nomad backpack pretty much everywhere you go, so it must be comfortable. Look for backpacks that offer a variety of straps that can help distribute the weight so that you’re not carrying it all on your shoulders. Adjustable straps are essential to ensure that your pack fits your body well, especially if you’re larger or smaller than average. The best have shoulder, chest, and hip straps, as well as a lumbar pad. Also, look for additional padding and cushioning, as well as moisture-wicking layers and ventilation systems that can reduce perspiration.

Durability

Seek out backpacks that are made from high-quality fabrics and feature tough, double-stitching, and reinforced zips, buckles, and strap adjusters. Additionally, those with waterproof or water-resistant materials not only keep your belongings safe but also last longer.

Organization

The best backpacks for digital nomads are full of features to help keep your belongings organized. Look for bags that offer a wide variety of different sized pockets, both internal and external. Besides, the main section should be split into several compartments so that you can easily divide your possessions. A clamshell design is another bonus, which allows it to be opened like a book for superior organization.

Safety and Security

When you’re carrying your worldly belongings on your back, you need to know that they’re safe from damage and theft alike. Cushioned laptop compartments keep your tech safe from falling damage should accidents happen. Meanwhile, slash-proof materials and lockable zips keep thieves and pickpockets at bay.

The 5 Best Digital Nomad Backpacks

Now that you know what to search for in a great digital nomad backpack let’s take a look at five of the best.

Tortuga Outbreaker (35-45L)

Blending the comfort of a hiking pack with the organization of a suitcase, the Outbreaker is a fantastic nomad backpack packed full of features.

There are two versions, 35 and 45 liters, with the previous meeting even the strictest carry-on restrictions.

Pros

Waterproof: made from VX21 sailcloth, it’s guaranteed to keep your valuables safe from even the most torrential downpour.
Comfortable: the thick foam padding is moisture-wicking, keeping sweat at bay. A variety of straps ensure an excellent fit for chest sizes from 16-20”.
TSA compliant laptop pocket: lays flat for ease of use and fits most 17” laptops. There’s also a secure sleeve to carry a tablet.
Excellent organization: with separate pouches for clothes, toiletries, electrics, and accessories, it’s easy to find what you need.
Spacious: both sizes have ample space for at least a week’s worth of clothes, plus your other luggage.
Secure: 3 lockable zippers made from sturdy materials will keep your belongings safe.
Durable: well-made using high-quality sailcloth, many travelers have had theirs for several years without issue.

Cons

The 45L option may exceed carry-on limits on some airlines, particularly budget ones.
Unattractive design: it’s a little bulkier than other options on this list, and the aesthetics are slightly lacking.

Nomatic 40L Travel Bag

Designed to comply with carry-on regulations around the world, the 40L Nomatic Travel Bag is a popular choice among digital nomads.

While it may seem a little bulky, there’s also a smaller 30L version that is ideal for minimalist travelers.

Pros

Fantastic organization: with seemingly endless pockets and compartments, there’s a place for everything. There’s even a laundry bag.
Waterproof and tough: made from durable tarpaulin material, the bag will survive rainstorms and last for years.
Space for tech: the TSA compliant laptop compartment can house a 15” laptop, while a protective sleeve keeps tablets up to 8.5” x 11” safe.
Adaptable: the design means the backpack can transform into a duffle bag while adjustable straps make it comfortable to wear, even when full.
Secure: tough materials, an RFID protected valuables pocket, and lockable zippers keep your belongings safe.

Cons

Bland design: with a blocky appearance, it looks rather cumbersome when worn as a backpack, although the duffle bag looks good.
Sweaty: as the bag sits flat against the back, you might find it causes excess sweating.
Too large for a daypack: while it’s a great travel bag, a lack of compression straps make it a little bulky for day to day use.

Osprey Porter 46

A personal favorite, the Osprey Porter, has been a trusty companion on many trips. It’s a highly versatile backpack that looks small but can pack a lot more than meets the eye.

If the 46L version isn’t quite right for you, there’s also a smaller 30L model and a larger 65L one.

Pros

Ultra-adjustable: compression straps on the front ensure it’ll meet most carry-on restrictions, while other straps can be configured to transform it into a duffle bag.
Lockable laptop sleeve: fits a 15″ laptop with ease, while many other compartments can safely house your chargers and other equipment.
Versatile: while it can fit a lot of luggage when full, it’s also small enough to work well as a daypack, making it great for light travel.
Modern design: compared to other packs on this list, the design of the Osprey Porter is a lot more attractive and comes in a variety of colors.
Great value: one of the most affordable options on this list, yet it doesn’t compromise on quality.

Cons

Extra costs: the shoulder strap for the duffle bag is not included and must be bought separately.
It lacks the internal support and thick straps of other backpacks and can become a little uncomfortable to wear when fully loaded.

Deuter Quantum 70+ 10 Internal Frame Pack

If you need a little extra space and don’t mind checking your luggage, this is a superb choice that offers tons of little extras.

Pros

Lots of space: with a total storage capacity of 80L, you can be sure that you’ll fit all your belongings in when you travel.
Great for carrying expensive equipment: compression straps and numerous compartments ensure your fragile devices are stored securely.
Detachable daypack: ideal for holding onto your valuables and other essentials, the daypack can be taken as carry-on luggage. It’s also great for taking around the city, or on other excursions. When attached to the main pack, it frees your hands up rather than carrying another bag.
Comfortable and easy to carry: a well-padded shoulder harness and ergonomic hip fins make carrying a full load feel effortless.
Organized: there are several pockets and compartments that can be used to store all your goods safely.
Waterproof rain cover included: valued at over $50 when bought separately; this addition ensures your luggage remains dry when in use.

Cons

Lacks a laptop compartment: there’s no protective pocket to keep your laptop safe from scratches or being crushed, so you’ll need to buy a separate sleeve.
Not carry-on compliant: you’ll need to check this bag in, though the daypack is good for hand-luggage.

Minaal Carry-on 2.0 Bag

Designed to make air travel as easy as possible, this is ideal carry-on luggage that is both functional and spacious.

The minimalist aesthetic might not be for everyone, but it’s available in 2 stylish color options: Aoraki black and Vancouver grey.

Pros

Easy packing: the clamshell design makes it effortless to open the bag right up and organize your luggage.
Secure: lockable zips keep your stuff safe.
Durable: built with sturdy buckles, 600D nylon fabric, and 1000D nylon in high abrasion areas, the bag lasts for years.
Adjustable: 4-point harness system allows the bag to fit almost any body type.
Carry-on compliant: at 35L, it is almost guaranteed to meet airline restrictions across the globe.
Patented DeviceNest laptop pocket: the shock-proof sleeve that can fit a 16″ laptop, with a separate sleeve for tablets up to 11″.
Water-resistant: a seam-sealed rain cover is included. This can be packed away with ease while not in use and quickly attached when required.

Cons

Unattractive: looks big and bulky, similar to a wheeled suitcase, and seems quite odd when worn.
Not very versatile: too big to work well as a daypack.

Conclusion

Having had a look over 5 of the best digital nomad backpacks on the market, hopefully, you’re closer to choosing yours. For us, the competition is tough, but our top pick has to be Osprey Porter 46. It offers the perfect balance between portability and functionality.

At 46L, you can fit everything from your toothbrush to your exercise equipment while compression straps keep it small enough to comply with carry-on limitations. When you’re not traveling, it becomes a spacious daypack that doesn’t look out of place in the city or on the trails.

It has an excellent price tag, too, without compromising on features such as lockable zips, a secured laptop sleeve, and quality materials.