What Makes a Great Travel Backpack for Women?

After traveling hundreds of thousands of air miles in the past twelve months to 30 different states, and awesome places like Iceland, Nicaragua, and Australia, the Knack team has real-world experience in what makes a great travel backpack. And we think that the best travel backpack for women combines stylish design, comfortable fit, superb organization, and holds all your essentials in a single carry-on compliant bag. Read our newest blog to get insiders’ insights, as well as tips, and say goodbye to the hassle of checked bags and hello to the ease of travelling with a women’s travel backpack that is perfect for you.
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How To Choose The Best Travel Backpack For Women

The right travel backpack can transform your journeys. From keeping everything you need at hand to allowing you to fly with a single carry-on instead of a bulky checked bag, a travel backpack can be the female traveler’s best friend.

To help demystify shopping for a travel backpack, we spoke to professional women who travel frequently to understand what they look for in travel backpacks. Together with the Knack team’s collective 50+ years of experience in the travel bag market, we came up with useful tips on what makes a great travel backpack for women.

How to Choose the Right Size Travel Backpack for Women

The best women’s travel backpack is one that fits the exact amount of clothes and essentials you’ll need for your trip while also meeting the TSA carry-on requirements. You really don’t want to check a bag if you can avoid it. With a capsule wardrobe and some creativity, you can maximize the space in your travel backpack so that even 1-2 changes of clothes can go a long way.

Start with the length of your journey and then figure out the bare minimum changes of clothes you need. Think about whether there will be an opportunity to wash your clothes while you are at your destination or whether you will be in one place long enough to send out laundry or dry cleaning.

Once you’ve decided on the number of wardrobe changes you typically make on your travels, then you can move to selecting the right size travel backpack.

  • 1-2 Changes of Clothes: You’ll want a small, lightweight backpack (<25 liters). This will allow you to carry your clothes, a small number of toiletries, and a 13-15” laptop. Travel backpacks this size are usually around 16-18” tall, 11-12” wide, and 5-7” deep and should weigh less than 2 ½ pounds empty.
  • 2-3 Changes of Clothes: You’ll need a medium-sized backpack (25-40 liters). With this size, you’ll have a few outfits to choose from with room for the toiletries you need for your trip, and up to a 16” laptop. Travel backpacks this size are typically about 18-20” tall, 12” wide, and 7-9” deep and weigh around 3 pounds empty.
  • 3-4 Changes of Clothes: You’ll require a large backpack (40+ liters). This should be large enough to carry your clothes, toiletries, a 16” or larger laptop, and any electronics you may need during your trip. A large travel backpack is approximately 19-22” tall, 14” wide, and 7-9” deep and weighs 3 ½ pounds or more when empty.

It’s really important to remember that bags over 45 liters are not considered carry-ons. The best women’s travel backpack will be one that is under 45 liters so you can always carry it on the plane.

Finally, packing like a minimalist can really help when traveling with a backpack, so pack a capsule wardrobe where you can mix and match items to cut down on space.

>>MORE: Minimalist Travel - How To Pack Light For A Trip


How To Choose The Best Travel Backpack For Women

Must-Have Features in a Women’s Travel Backpack

Choosing a travel backpack is like choosing your travel companion – it needs to be up for anything and supportive during your trips. When you start shopping for a women’s travel backpack, the following features are non-negotiable: style, comfort, expandability, organization, and durability.


None of us like sticking out as a tourist in a new place. When you’re traveling, and especially when you’re traveling alone as a woman, you’ll feel safer and have a more authentic experience when you blend in with the local crowd. 

Most travel backpacks, with their dangling straps, exterior water bottle pockets, and “outdoorsy” look, scream, “I’m a tourist!”. Knack travel backpacks are designed with a streamlined and professional aesthetic, and come in attractive colors, so you can use them as both an everyday work bag as well as a travel bag. With a good-looking travel backpack, you will never feel out of place ducking in a crowd, a coffee shop, or a nice restaurant.

Comfort Features

A great women’s travel backpack must be comfortable so it can get you through your trip without making your shoulders or back ache. It also should be multi-use, so you can transform it from your travel carry-on to a day pack and enjoy exploring your destination unburdened by a cumbersome travel bag.

If a comfortable travel backpack is a must-have for you, look for a backpack with these features: 

A comfortable travel backpack for women:

  • Is lightweight. Many travel backpacks are built with just durability, not weight and durability, in mind. Every time you wear one, you're putting a 4, 5, or even 6-pound bag on your back before you pack anything. Knack Packs buck the status quo and use proprietary fabrics that are both lightweight and strong. As a result, even the heaviest Knack Pack weighs no more than 3.4 lbs. or less than three Grande coffees at Starbucks.
  • Has good weight distribution. Your overall travel backpack design should have pockets and compartments that allow you to place your heaviest items in the bottom of your bag and close to your back. Storing them at the bottom of the bag distributes the weight to the hips and away from the shoulders and having them close to your back minimizes stress on your shoulders by keeping the bag close to your body rather than it pulling away.
  • Has closed cell foam padding. Look for a travel backpack that has closed cell foam padding (like EPE, EVA, and PE foams). While these foams are a slightly firmer than open cell foams (like PU), they have greater “bounce-back” memory and more longevity.
  • Is the right fit for women. Most backpacks are designed around men, but because Knack Packs are gender-neutral, we’ve accounted for both male and female builds by adding backpack straps with an S-curve that lies comfortably across all body types, and an adjustable sternum strap to help distribute weight on all body types.


    Oversized travel backpacks are a hard no when it comes to sightseeing or running errands at your destination and they also cannot be brought on a plane as a carry on. While having the right capacity for your travel backpack is a must, it may also feel like balancing size and carrying capacity will require trade-offs you don’t want to make. Don’t worry, expandability is the answer!

    With a versatile, expandable Knack Pack women’s travel backpack, you can easily go from a capacious 9” deep backpack in travel mode to a sleek 4.5-5” deep backpack in everyday mode with a simple zip. Without an expandable travel backpack, you may find yourself needing even more packing space to carry a separate daypack. 

    Organization Features

    How To Choose The Best Travel Backpack For Women

    Have you ever been in this situation? Your passport or wallet has fallen to the depths of your backpack, evading capture as it swims around the bag’s bottom while you wildly push things around. Panicked, your mind jumps to all the places you might have left it, so you dump everything out of your bag. A few cortisol-filled seconds more of rummaging, and you find it. You let out the breath you didn’t know you were holding.

    If you’re familiar with the unpleasant rush of adrenaline caused by this scenario, then you know the importance of a well-organized travel backpack. If this is your first rodeo, well – better to start things out on the right foot.

    The problem with most travel backpacks is that they’re black holes, lying in wait to suck your most important items to the bottom. They lack the easy-access pockets and compartments necessary to keep important things where you want them.

    Our key bit of advice to ensure a travel backpack that will keep your stuff in place, is to look for lots of organization pockets including:

    • Secure internal compartments for your passport, ID, and wallet
    • Easy-access pockets for your phone, sunglasses, and water bottle
    • Interior hanging pockets for must-have make-up, hairbrush, or car keys

    Importantly, your travel backpack should not be top-loading. Top-loading backpacks make it all but impossible to find anything without dumping out everything and scavenging through the mess. Choose a travel backpack with a clamshell or suitcase-style opening that will let you see into the entire compartment.

    >>MORE: How to Best Organize a Backpack For Travel

    Finally, from digital nomads and freelancers to remote workers and businesswomen, working on the road is a considerable part of many women’s travel experiences. For many women, a laptop or tablet is just as essential as the clothes they pack. So, always look for a women’s backpack for travel that has a dedicated, padded pocket for your laptop or tablet. And don’t forget to make sure the backpack you choose fits your tech!

    >>MORE: Which Knack Pack Fits Your Laptop?

    Durability Features

    A single broken zipper can put a jagged edge on any trip. A good travel backpack will use top-tier hardware rather than cheap plastic. For example, Knack Packs are made with reliable Duraflex buckles and YKK zippers.

    Durability is of the utmost importance in a travel backpack – you will be taking it everywhere, and it needs to withstand all sorts of environments and weather conditions. The best travel backpack for women is a design that has been made with fabrics that have been tested for abrasion, puncture, and tear-resistance.

    The exterior of your backpack should be made with water-resistant fabrics to protect your clothes and expensive tech if you meet with unfavorable weather. A sudden downpour mixed with a poorly constructed travel backpack can mean replacing expensive tech, such as your laptop. Knack Packs have a water-resistant coating with reverse coil zippers that prevent liquid from seeping through.

    Stain-resistant fabric is also a must because deep cleaning your backpack while on your travels may not be an option (and who wants to walk around with a dirty backpack?). All Knack Packs are designed with soft, stain-resistant fabrics that can be easily wiped clean. Ideally, your travel backpack will also have an antimicrobial interior lining (like all Knack Packs) so that you don’t have to worry about your dirty (or damp) clothes leaving an unappealing odor in your bag. 

    What Real Women Travelers Look for in Travel Backpacks

    The Right Size

    The best travel backpack for women

    The right size bag is critical, says fashion and beauty photographer Mariama Hutson who takes a lot with her when she travels.

    Planning for a trip to the Dominican Republic, she was worried all of her clothes wouldn’t fit in her large Knack Pack so she thought she’d also need to pack a checked bag. Turns out, Mariama didn’t need her checked bag, and was able to put all of her belongings into her Knack Pack – avoiding checked baggage fees.

    Travel Takeaway: Spend your money on travel experiences, not checking your bags.


    The best travel backpack for women

    Being comfortable is critical, says blogger Jenn Truman.

    “It’s super comfy since the shoulder straps are well padded. Recently, my husband and I spent the day at the Tampa Riverwalk and I carried this large backpack the entire day! Total logged walking for the day 6.4 miles!”

    Travel Takeaway: Travel backpacks shouldn’t hurt! Carrying a lot of stuff can be a killer on your shoulders and back, but Knack travel backpacks were designed with ergonomics and comfort in mind.


    The best travel backpack for women

    Expandability is something that world-traveler, actress, and online entrepreneur Vivianne Marie can’t live without.

    “The BEST part is that it’s expandable and it turns from a backpack to a full-size carry on, and it also comes in different sizes so I could pick the best one for me.” After unpacking her clothes and toiletries at her destination, Vivianne compresses the luggage compartment, making her Knack Pack perfect for sightseeing and souvenir shopping.

    Travel Takeaway: You don’t need to carry around a big (and mostly empty) travel backpack for daily use while traveling. Expandable travel backpacks help you travel easier – with less stuff!


    The best travel backpack for women

    Organizing the things she packs, while still looking good, is important to Renata Oliver, an online entrepreneur who has visited over 118 countries.

    She uses her large Knack Backpack to keep all the things she needs for a trip in specific places, saying, “I can pack multiple outfits and pairs of shoes in the different size compartments without the bag being too bulky.”

    Travel Takeaway: Having a place for everything is the difference between being in control during your travels or having your travels control you.

    Knack Travel Backpacks: Your Next Travel Companion

    The right travel backpack empowers women to travel solo, travel with friends or loved ones, blend in with the locals, and feel free to explore while holding all their essentials. From carry-on to day pack, versatile Knack Packs provide the best travel experience for women wanderers.

    1. Best Knack Travel Backpack for a Quick Trip: Small Knack Pack (17 to 27 liters), holds 1-2 changes of clothes, small number of toiletries, and a up toa 16” laptop
    2. Best Workhorse Knack Travel Backpack: Medium Knack Pack (24 to 39 liters), holds 2-3 changes of clothes, toiletries, and up to a 16” laptop
    3. Best Knack Travel Backpack for Longer Trips: Large Knack Pack (30 to 46 liters), holds 3-4 changes of clothes, toiletries, and a 17” laptop

    Whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally, there is a Knack Pack for you (and you may even be able to ditch your checked bag!). 

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