Expandable Suitcase Backpacks for Worry-Free Travel

These days, hassle-free travel means having as little luggage as possible. Enter: the suitcase backpack. A backpack that opens like a suitcase offers the portability of a backpack with the convenience and packing space of a suitcase, all in a carry-on sized package.
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There are many stressful aspects of travel that are out of our control - like the understaffed and overcrowded post-pandemic airports, sky-high baggage fees, and, of course, all the other unknowns of leaving home. But the luggage that we carry with us is entirely within our control, and choosing the right bag can actually make every part of a trip - from the packing to the hotel and everything in between - far less painful. 

That luggage, though, isn’t a traditional carry-on rolling suitcase. Rather, it’s an all-in-one suitcase backpack, an innovative carry solution that combines the convenience and capacity of a suitcase with the portability of a backpack. 

With ample space for your travel essentials, a suitcase backpack eliminates the need for a checked bag, saving you time and money. And because it’s a backpack, it gives you the freedom and flexibility to explore your destination without being weighed down.

We’re sharing why suitcase-style backpacks are a great packing solution, what to look for when shopping for yours, and pro tips for maximizing your suitcase backpack packing space.

  • Features to Look for and to Avoid When Shopping for Your Suitcase Backpack
  • Why Suitcase-Style Backpacks Are a Great Packing Solution
  • The Knack Pack Solution for Travel and for Everyday
  • FAQs

Features to Look for and Avoid When Shopping for a Suitcase Backpack 

Not all suitcase backpacks are created equal. We designed the Knack Pack to be a suitcase-style backpack without all the features that cause discomfort, and with the features that will make your journey hassle-free. Here’s how:

Backpacks with Wheels? Nope!

Many suitcase backpacks have wheels, but have you ever tried dragging rolling luggage down cobblestone streets, or up a narrow, winding flight of stairs? Wheels are clunky and difficult to maneuver in crowded spots like airports and downtowns. And when carried as a backpack, the dirty wheels, which have been rolling through all the grime of public places, touch your back and rub against your clothes. Yuck. 

Worse yet is the fact that roller bags absolutely rule out your ability to keep your bag under the seat in front of you on the plane, so you’ll either have to pay for a checked bag, or, hopefully, squeeze it into the overhead compartment.

Knack Packs are carried like traditional backpacks, but they also have a top handle that allows you to carry your bag by hand, and the Knack Convertible Duffle features a removable strap for carrying over the shoulder. Without wheels, Knack Packs will fit under the seat in front of you, and will easily slide into the overhead compartment on any flight. 

Suitcase Compartment That Opens Like a Suitcase—Not Top Load!

suitcase backpack

Traditional travel backpacks are top-loading, so, if you want to locate the charging cable that inevitably fell to the bottom of your bag, you have to dig through or dump out the entire contents of your backpack. 

The travel compartment of Knack Packs has a “book opening” or, in other words, a traditional suitcase opening. With a compartment that opens up entirely, suitcase backpacks provide easy access to all of your belongings.

In addition to the book opening, look for a suitcase backpack with at least two compartments: one for everyday items and another for travel items. This way, you can keep all your clothing, toiletries, and other travel items separate from your electronics and everyday items. With a Knack Pack, you’ll find plenty of organization in both compartments, so you’ll always know where you put things. 

>>MORE: What’s a Travel Pack? Finding the Right Backpack for Travel


expandable suitcase backpack

A suitcase backpack that can expand to give you extra space when you need it is a game-changer when it comes to packing for your travels. Why? Because the same bag can work for both overnight trips and  3-4 days trips. An expandable travel compartment is particularly beneficial for those who tend to overpack or pick up new items during their trip.

There are a number of mechanisms that allow a bag to expand: full and partial zip-around zippers that hide an expansion gusset for the travel compartment, buckles and straps that compress the travel compartment, or velcro straps that expand and compress the travel compartment. While all can expand and compress the travel compartment, we think there’s nothing like a full zip-around zipper to keep your suitcase backpack looking neat and sleek when you’re not using the travel compartment.   

>>MORE: The Best Business Backpack for Carry-On Travel

Carry-On Friendly

The size of bag you can bring onto the plane depends on the airline. However, just about every commercial airline allows a “personal item,” and the vast majority of airlines consider a personal item to be a bag that fits under the seat in front of you. 

All Knack Packs fit under the seat in front of you on most airlines when unexpanded, and all Knack Packs fit in the overhead compartment when expanded. As we mentioned before, roller bags will never fit in the seat in front of you, and you’ll most often end up squeezing their ungraceful form into the overhead bin, or paying a fortune in time and money to check them.

The ability to waltz onto the plane last minute, and leave the airport the second you emerge from the jet bridge saves a massive amount of time and hassle. And the ability to access your entertainment, work stuff, snacks, and more layers of clothing can actually make your flight enjoyable.

Of course, check the airline’s website to confirm their baggage sizes. To make it super easy for you to compare Knack Pack sizes with your airline’s baggage sizes, take a look here.

Packing Tips for Expandable Suitcase Backpacks

An expandable suitcase backpack is a tool for seamless travel, but you need to know how to use it. To help, we pulled together some of our favorite tips for making the most of an expandable suitcase backpack. 

Make a Packing List

Packing lists ensure that you don’t underpack or overpack. When traveling somewhere new, it’s tricky to anticipate everything that you’ll need. But a packing list makes you think systematically about your trip, and during the packing process, it serves as a reference point that helps you stay focused. It’s an exercise in preventing last-minute panic. Check out this blog post for a step-by-step guide to writing your packing list.

Lay Everything Out

Once your packing list is complete, lay out all the items you plan to pack in your suitcase backpack. This will give you a visual as to whether everything will fit, and it will allow you to remove any unnecessary items. Group your belongings according to the categories on your packing list, and cross-check all of them. 

Because Knack Pack expandable suitcase backpacks have multiple compartments, we recommend designating items to specific compartments. For example, clothes can go in the expandable compartment, your toiletries in the main compartment, and your tech in the designated tech pockets. Take a look at all of the Knack Pack pockets here (link).

Use Packing Cubes

Travel packing cubes are like drawers for your suitcase backpack, and are especially useful for organizing clothes and small items that don’t have dedicated pockets. 

Look for packing cubes that offer expandability and compression to help you save space, like these. Organizing your clothes by type, such as socks, undergarments, and shirts, and then put them together into a packing cube, makes packing and unpacking a breeze. Once you reach your destination, simply remove your packing cube from your suitcase backpack and place it in your hotel drawers or shelf.

By using packing cubes, everything in the suitcase compartment of your backpack has a designated spot, which makes it extra easy to find what you need without having to dig through layers of clothing and other items. This level of organization helps you stay on top of your packing and makes your trip more enjoyable and stress-free.

>>MORE: How To Pack A Carry-On Travel Backpack

The Knack Pack Suitcase Backpack Solution for Travel and for Everyday

everyday carry backpack

A Knack Pack is an ideal suitcase backpack choice for anyone looking for a backpack that works equally as well for daily use and travel, thanks to its patent-pending design.

Every Knack Pack features two main compartments: an organization compartment for everyday use and another hidden, expandable packing compartment for clothing, toiletries, and other travel essentials. The packing compartment has a suitcase opening that provides quick access, and the handy back panel exterior pocket lets you tuck away your bag’s shoulder straps in the one-in-a-million chance that a gate agent makes you check your bag (which should never happen because Knack Packs meet most popular carry-on requirements and can be stowed under your seat).

Knack Packs compress into a stylish and functional everyday carry backpack. The spacious main compartment has multiple organization pockets, and a fleece-lined tablet pocket. The easy-access, padded side-zip computer pocket keeps your precious tech safe and easily accessible (See Our Laptop Size Chart). 

Built strong with durable, water-resistant fabric and YKK™ water-resistant, reverse coil zippers, your belongings will stay dry and secure, no matter the weather. The back panel is designed with comfort-cool foam and the straps are padded with closed-cell foam, ensuring that you can wear it all day in complete comfort.

>>MORE: What to put in each Knack Backpack Pocket | One Bag Blog 

Expandable Suitcase Backpack FAQs

backpack suitcase

Is a backpack better than a suitcase?

It’s no secret that we think that freedom of movement alone makes a suitcase backpack better than a traditional rolling suitcase or rolling backpack. Suitcase backpacks are versatile and can be used as more than just luggage, and a Knack Pack specifically will be your constant companion for both travel and everyday living. 

What is the biggest backpack for carry-on luggage?

The biggest backpack for carry-on luggage that is allowed by airlines is generally 50 liters. At Knack, our Medium Expandable Knack Pack expands from 25 to 35 liters, and our Large Expandable Knack Pack expands from 30 liters to 46 liters.

Have you used our expandable suitcase backpack? We love hearing about the adventures you’ve taken your Knack Pack on, so be sure to share your stories on our social media channels. Don’t forget to tag @KanckBags or use #KnackBags and #OneBagLife so we can see how you’re using your Knack Pack. Your story could be the one to inspire our next blog post, or even a new feature in our bags. 

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