I’ve been doing a bit of traveling lately, and am starting the hunt for a backpack that has a lot of room for gear and things, but will make it through the ever watchful eyes of the TSA agents at the airport. I don’t want something that is too flashy and catches their eye, but at the same time, it has to meet my needs.
That being said, no tactical backpacks, no bright colors, nothing unusual. The backpack has to blend in and not be noticed along with the other thousands of traveler’s bags that the TSA agents see everyday.
My requirements are that the backpack needs to be able to tote around my 15″ MSI laptop, cables and cords, a bunch of snacks, a medium travel-ready Everyday Carry kit, one emergency change of clothes (in case checked baggage is delayed or lost), work notebook, pens and pencils, phone charger and earbuds. It also has to check in under 20lbs with all my gear for easy carrying from the airport to the destination and back.
I generally look for backpacks that look the same as what everyone else usually has. The whole idea is to blend in and not stand out so the TSA agents don’t single you out.
It’s not like there’s anything you’re trying to get by them, it’s just that you don’t want to have them pull you aside and check everything you have because they either suspect that you have something you’re not supposed to, or because you’re on the short end of that agent profiling you in their mind.
As a side note, I dress casual with no loud colors and nothing unusual to again, blend in. At the end of the day, you just don’t need that kind of hassle.
The bags in this list all meet or exceed TSA regulations for carry on, and offer a wide array of creature comforts for the traveler. This list also happens to be the list I’m considering for a new backpack for my upcoming flight in a couple weeks.
The SwissGear Travel Gear 1900 Scansmart Backpack offers a ton of room and plenty of pockets to put gear into. There's two full length pockets, side pockets and two front mounted pockets, all of which can hold a lot of stuff! The backpack is made with durable, weather-resistant 1200D ballistic polyester to offer some weather resistance and the rigors and abuse of daily use as well. The backpack is designed to open up completely from the middle to lay flat on the belt so the scanners at the TSA checkpoint can easily see what's inside. I like this feature because it means I don't have to pull things out to put on the conveyor. The Backpack measures 18.5” X 13.5” X 9” (approx. 31 liters).
On the nicer, more refined side of things, the Briggs & Riley @Work Luggage Clamshell Backpack is a perfect backpack that offers a good amount of room to put your things into, yet still is designed for travel as it opens to lay flat for scanning. The bag offers two main pockets, two side pockets and two front pockets. Measures: 17" x 12" x 8".
The Hynes Eagle 44L Carry on Backpack pretty much peaks out the carry on size (will not work as the free personal bag on Spirit Airlines), but has all the room that you could want in a backpack. This monstrosity can only mean one thing... you're going to pack everything you can into it, and it's going to be too heavy in the end to be comfortable. Just kidding, but you get my drift. Measures 20.1" x 13.8" x 9.8"
The Neotec Fusion Compu-Backpack is a large backpack with nice clean design. It has two full length pockets, two side pockets and two front pockets. The bag measures 18" x 13.5 x 9.5", and is made from weather and abuse resistant 2064 Dobby Nylon, Neoprene and 600d PolyCanvas.
The Tumi Alpha 2 backpack is a bit on the pricey side, coming in at $500 or so, but is well worth the price if you're into buying really good quality items that are built to last. This backpack offers a front U-zip pocket, ticket pocket, water bottle/umbrella pocket, top handle with embossed leather trim, adjustable shoulder straps, back laptop compartment, add-a-bag sleeve and padded back area for comfortability. It measures 16.5" x 12" x 8" which falls in every domestic flight's carry on requirements (Free personal bag on Spirit Airlines too).
So the Timbuk2 Command Laptop Backpack is a bit different, but if you aren't concerned with TSA stopping you, then by all means, check this one out. It's 19.5" x 11.2" x 6.5" and offers a single large compartment, front compartment and side zipper front compartment. While there's not as many pockets, it can carry the same amount of gear as the other bags on average.
If your gear getting wet is a concern, the Kopack waterproof laptop backpack is what you need. Measuring 19.7" x 13" x 6.7", this backpack offers a sealed main compartment, front compartment, side zipper front pocket and open side pockets. While it's not submersible, it will resist a good rainfall for 30 minutes or less without damage to interior gear.
The eBags Professional Weekender is a taller bag that fits up to a 17 inch laptop with room to spare, plus enough room for the rest of your gear. There is two main pockets, two front pockets and two side pockets. The bag measures 21" H x 14" W x 8" D so it is pretty big. If you need something with a good amount of space, then this bag will probably do it.
Ok, so maybe a little bit of color isn't bad. In fact, on the Standard Luggage Co 35L Flight ReadyTravel Backpack it looks pretty nice. What I like about this bag is that there's a top and side handle so it can be carried like a messenger bag as well as backpack. Measures 21.5" x 13.5" x 7.5".
The LUXUR 37L weather resistant laptop backpack is a large pack that's big enough to hold all your gear, but isn't larger than the TSA carry on requirements allow. It's roomy main pocket holds your 15 inch laptop, while all the other gear fits 11 other pockets located inside the bag as well as on the exterior. Measures 19.68" x 13.3" x 8.4".
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