The 6 best hydration packs of 2021 for day hikes, long-distance runs, and other outdoor activities

  • It’s crucial to stay hydrated while exercising, particularly in the heat.
  • Hydration packs make it easy and comfortable to carry liters of water on a run, hike, or bike ride.
  • Our top pick, Osprey’s Skarab 18 is comfortable for running or hiking and holds 2L of water as well as essentials.

You know it’s important to stay hydrated on a hike, run, bike ride, or literally any adventure that involves some amount of exercising. But carrying a water bottle and having to constantly stop to pull it out of your pack gets old very quickly.

Hydration packs are the ideal way to make carrying and accessing water easier and minimize stoppage time. The best hydration packs not only have a pouch big enough to hold 1+ liters of water, but they also provide storage for snacks, layers, a first aid kit, and any other essentials you might need on a day hike or run. What’s more, the pack also needs to be comfortable, breathable, and quick-drying to not weigh down your adventure.

The number of hydration packs on the market can be overwhelming, but we’ve rounded up six of our favorites from brands like Osprey, CamelBak, and Salomon.

For longer hikes and backpacking trips, check out our guides to the best backpacks for men and for women.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Here are the best hydration packs:

The best hydration pack overall

Osprey hydration pack

Osprey’s Skarab 18 is the only day-hiking hydration pack I wear, thanks to its high-quality construction, customizable fit, and easy-to-access water reservoir.

Pros: Comfortable to wear even over several hours, extra-wide clip-on water reservoir allows for easy cleaning and refills, 2.5-liter capacity is perfect for long day hikes, offers plenty of interior storage, and the ventilated foam frame helps avoid excess sweat

Cons: Too small for longer backpacking trips

Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks for decades, so it’s no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be my favorite hydration pack.

I’ve found it to be the ideal size for a day hike, weighing just over one pound with enough storage space for hiking essentials. Its foam frame allows for great ventilation and keeps my back cool and mostly sweat-free. Like all its packs, Osprey decked out the Skarab with plenty of straps to allow for the ultimate custom fit, regardless of whether I’m wearing it or I pass it on to a friend.

But what makes this bag truly shine is the large, 2.5-liter water pouch, which does quite well to keep me hydrated on all but the longest day hikes. Additionally, its extra-wide clip opening makes it easy to add more water or clean the reservoir after use. The pack even has a magnetic bite valve attachment that allows it to quickly attach to the Skarab’s sternum strap, allowing for easy access.

Added extras like stretch mesh pockets on the side of the pack, a scratch-free stash pocket, removable hip belts, and external bungees for more gear are Osprey staples and only add to the pack’s overall quality. Osprey’s Skarab 18 is simple when it needs to be yet is still a highly versatile and technical pack. 

The best hydration pack for male runners

camelbak hydration pack

Runners don’t want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak’s HydroBak weighs just five ounces — before being filled with water, of course. 

Pros: Weighs just five ounces without water, mesh back panel and harness aid in ventilation, new Crux reservoir allows 20% more water per drink, and its leak-proof valves are easy to flick on or off

Cons: Doesn’t offer much in the way of storage (not that runners need much of it, anyway)

A running-specific hydration pack should sinch down tight and comfortable, and be able to carry enough water for long miles. Camelbak’s HydroBak has a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation and keeping you cool. Its reflective accents help with visibility for early or late runs. 

Uniquely, the HydroBak features a Crux reservoir which lets you pull a full 20% more water with each swig. That means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on your stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push for less wasted water and no fumbling with the tube while running.

CamelBak also outfitted the Crux with a leak-proof cap and coated the tube with its anti-microbial HydroGuard technology, which is 100% BPA free and reduces the risk of bacteria growth.

Though it’s small, the HydroBak still features a few zippered pockets perfect for keeping energy gels, granola bars, and some cash for those well-earned post-run beers.

The best hydration pack for female runners

salomon adv skin 8

The Salomon ADV Skin 8 is specifically designed to sinch down on the female figure, and can carry 1 liter of water with the option of adding a reservoir in the back.

Pros: Female-specific design, adjustable to fit different chest sizes, soft material, 2 soft 500ml flasks included, many mesh and zipper pockets, room to carry warm layer

Cons: Expensive, straws can be a bit tricky to adjust

While females can wear any hydration pack, they’ll be the most comfortable in the Salomon ADV Skin 8. Designed by one of the leading trail running brands today, the ADV Skin 8 is uniquely shaped to sinch down tight around female curves so your pack isn’t throwing off your momentum. Specifically, this pack was crafted to alleviate pressure on your breasts and has an adjustable drawcord fasten in the front for a personalized fit. I’m small-chested and have lent this vest to friends as large-chested as 34DD who say it’s just as comfortable for bigger breasts.

While you can slide a traditional reservoir in the back of the pack, the other feature that makes Salomon running vests so great is their integrated soft flasks. Two half-liter water flasks sit on either side of your chest in a soft mesh pocket, allowing for quick water access mid-run.

Additionally, this pack has mesh and zippered pockets strategically placed in nooks and crannies, as well as down the back, to stash everything from car keys to a warm layer. You can even move the elastic cords and loops around to carry trail running poles wherever feels most comfortable to you.

I’ve been running in this hydration vest for two years and the only bad words I have to say about it is it’s expensive (but, in my opinion, worth it for runners) and the straw on the included flasks might need to be cut down, which can be a little tricky to do. –Rachael Schultz, Health and Fitness Updates Editor

The best hydration pack for day hikes

platypus hydration pack

The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker’s dream, offering 7 liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir. 

Pros: Plenty of storage options despite its modest 7L capacity, external tool and gear loops, capable of fitting many different body types, comes standard with huge three-liter BigZip water reservoir and magnetic hose, and FloatAir back panel offers comfort for even the longest day hikes

Cons: Expensive

Platypus’s Duthie A.M. 10.0 has plenty of internal and external storage options with a 7L capacity, perfect for short jaunts into the backcountry or several mile excursions. Its strategic approach to organization also means you won’t be digging past your car keys to get to your snacks — everything has its own place in the pack.

When it comes to the Duthie’s hydration capability, few companies deliver as well as Platypus. Featuring a large three-liter reservoir, the brand’s patented BigZip water pouch features a magnetic hose clip and also offers wearers the ability to route the house in multiple ways — a welcome function not typically seen in hydration packs.

For hardcore day hikers who also have other activities in mind, the Duthie also offers a useful carry system designed to hold pads or full-face helmets and even sports a fleece-lined pocket perfect for stashing a pair of shades.

Additionally, the pack easily conforms to a variety of body shapes and sizes with just a few adjustments of its straps and hip belt. After finding the perfect fit, Platypus’ FloatAir back panel keeps you mostly sweat-free and comfortable, no matter how long the hike.

The best hydration pack for cycling

gelindo hydration pack

Forget reaching down for any built-in water bottle holders because with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, staying hydrated while biking is as easy as simply drinking out of a straw.

Pros: Insulated water reservoir pocket keeps liquids cool for up to four hours, mesh back panel keeps airflow at a maximum, interior organization capable of holding a variety of items without feeling cluttered, and its easily adjustable straps are capable of fitting almost any body type

Cons: Limited reflective details

While most bikes have space for attaching a water bottle holder, a hydration pack makes staying quenched much easier and Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack is perfectly fit for the job.

This pack has an insulated pocket to carry its 2.5-liter water reservoir, which will keep your water cool for up to four hours. The pack is also designed to keep your body heat from warming the water. 

Gelindo included several storage pockets capable of holding energy bars and car keys, and bigger compartments to hold a spare change of clothes, larger items of food, or spare tubes. Organization also scores highly as it’s easy to reach for and access any of the interior contents, no matter how full the pack gets.

It’s no secret cyclists care about comfort and with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, finding a perfectly comfortable fit is easily done via its adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. Furthermore, its ergonomic mesh back allows for steady airflow to keep you from overheating, keeping you comfortable throughout the entirety of your ride.

The best hydration pack for commuting

gregory hydration pack

Gregory’s Inertia 30 makes it easy to stay hydrated while commuting with its easy-access water tube, ample interior storage, and comfortable shoulder harness.

Pros: Plenty of storage for whatever the workday requires, quick-drying 3L water reservoir is easy to fill up and features an integrated drying hangar, hydration sleeve auto-centers the water pouch to stabilize weight, versatile enough to even act as a day-hiking pack

Cons: Expensive

Even just commenting to wor requires energy, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The Gregory’s Inertia 30 is designed to not only quench thirst but also to pack a work day’s worth of gear. Be it a laptop, notebook, tablet, or otherwise, the Inertia offers enough interior storage space to tote along whatever the day calls for.

It even features several exterior pockets perfect for storing items that need to be quickly accessible, as well as a padded zippered pocket designed for sunglasses or house keys.

Gregory includes a quick-drying 3L water reservoir that has a built-in drying hangar, perfect for airing it out to avoid mold or mildew buildup. The Inertia’s dedicated hydration sleeve makes it easy to just toss the reservoir into the pack, and it automatically stabilizes the pouch’s weight to the center of your back. Gregory even made the reservoir’s tube magnetic, making it easy to take on and off.

Though we chose it for its ability to act as a commuter bag, the Inertia 30 also excels as a day-hiking pack, offering exterior loops for trekking poles, compression straps on either side, and load lifters that help stabilize the pack when it gets heavy.

At $120, it’s not the cheapest bag of the bunch but considering what it offers, and the Gregory name also means supreme durability, the Inertia 30 is worth every penny.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best carry-on luggage in 2021, including hard-sided, soft-sided, lightweight, and aluminum options

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A durable and reliable carry-on suitcase is a must-have for any traveler.
  • Hard-side vs. soft-side luggage and budget is a personal preference, so we’ve included options.
  • Our top hard-side carry-on is from Samsonite and our top soft-side carry-on is from Travelpro.

Waiting in a long line when running late for a flight, having to pay hefty baggage fees, and your shoulder hurting from carting around a heavy duffle bag are all hassles that make quality carry-on luggage a must-have.

The best carry-on suitcases are reliable, durable, easy to pack, hold plenty of clothes, and fit on both domestic and international planes of all sizes.

As a travel editor who pre-pandemic frequently took more than 50 flights per year and was often in a destination for just a day or two before moving on, I practically live out of my carry-on at times. I’ve also had checked luggage lost or arrive late enough times to avoid going that route whenever possible, making a carry-on my go-to item even for longer trips.

While my luggage may go through a few more rigorous trials than the average leisure traveler, most people are looking for these same qualities in any good piece of luggage.

For this guide, I put 10 carry-ons to the test. You can read our full testing methodology as well as tips on what to look for in a carry-on bag at the bottom of this guide. You can also find additional carry-on options for traveling with kids towards the end of this guide.

Here is the best carry-on luggage of 2021

The best hard-side carry-on overall

Best Carry-on luggage - samsonite side by side

Form, function, durability, and an excellent price all meet to make the Samsonite Centric Hardside Expandable Luggage a winner. 

Pros: Excellent price for the quality, durable, scratch-resistant, wheels easily, expandable

Cons: Handle wiggles a decent amount when fully extended, slightly heavier than other options available 

This hard-side carry-on suitcase will fit in just about any overhead bin for domestic and international flights with the exception of tiny jumper planes. The twill texture is scratch-resistant with a slightly shiny finish that helps it stand out in an airport crowd.

I’ve used this bag consistently for more than two years, and while it has a couple of very small white marks upon close inspection, it has overall remained in remarkably good shape — especially in comparison to other hard-side cases I’ve tried. 

It’s easy to lift into overhead bins and a rubberized grip under the top and side handles add extra comfort when lifting. The zippers have good grip and run smoothly without catching and the expansion zipper even has a finger hole for extra ease and agility. There is also a TSA-approved lock on the right side.

The four multi-directional wheels are quiet and making rolling the bag in front of you, beside you, or behind you on almost any surface a breeze, though it was harder to pull on thick carpet. 

Despite its small size, I’ve been able to pack a week’s worth of clothes in and the 1.5-inch expansion capability comes in especially handy if you’re like me and always end up coming back from a trip with more than you originally packed. While there aren’t any fancy extras when it comes to interior storage, it’s more than sufficient with a mesh zip close on one side and a strong buckle to keep clothes packed in tight on the other. 

The bag’s one downside is the adjustable push-button handle. While I’ve never had any major issues with it and it does have two different heights it can lock into, the handle is a little bit wobbly when fully extended. As is the case with most suitcases, the handle poles do also take up some space in the interior compartment, making it harder to lay items completely flat on that side.   

After multiple lengthy trips with this bag, it has stood up incredibly well in terms of durability. There are no dents or major scratches, and from a cursory glance, the bag still looks practically brand new both inside and out. As an added bonus, the bag is also backed by a 10-year warranty. 

For the affordable price, this Samsonite carry-on is a serious winner.

Read our full review of the Samsonite Centric Hardside Expandable Carry-On

The best soft-side carry-on overall

Best carry-on luggage - travelpro side by side

The Travelpro Platinum Elite Expandable Carry-On holds everything you need and then some, but its attention to detail makes it stand out from the competition. 

Pros: Durable and high-quality materials, leather detailing, doesn’t tip forward even when fully packed

Cons: Easy to overpack

Travelpro is well regarded among serious travelers for a reason. The brand was pioneered by a pilot who knew exactly which small details make a world of difference in a bag, and that thoughtful care and attention is apparent in the Platinum Elite Expandable Carry-On. The brand offers a warranty against defects for life. 

This particular bag meets FAA regulations for carry-on sizing and the high-density nylon fabric is durable, stain-resistant, and has not torn or ripped at all in the time I’ve used it. Leather detailing not only adds a sophisticated look but also makes the top lifting handle extremely comfortable compared to those made from plastic. However, the additional handle on the side is a little bit tight even for my small hands.

With an expansion option of two full inches, this bag holds a lot more than just your weekend essentials. There are three front pockets of varying sizes, including one that can hold a laptop. The main compartment has the standard layout of a soft-side bag with one deep side for packing most items and a smaller zipper compartment that is half mesh on the other side.

While the handle poles do take up some space, the bag is deep enough that it’s not much of an issue. Once buckled, there are also two additional mesh pockets available that are good for holding small items.  

Large chrome zippers are super easy to maneuver and the four, large PrecisionGlide wheels made this bag one of the easiest to wheel on every surface, including carpet. The adjustable handle is very sturdy and has a contoured grip making it extra comfortable. At 7.8 pounds, it’s a pretty standard weight for a carry-on and is easy to lift.

The bag also comes with several handy extras, including a garment bag, a built-in USB port (battery pack not included), and a removable clear plastic bag attached to the inside for holding toiletries and liquids.

However, I did find that with so many front pockets, the bag was very easy to overpack, especially when fully expanded, which defeats the purpose of having a carry-on if you end up having to check it in after all. 

Read our full review of the Platinum Elite Expandable Carry-On

The best budget carry-on

Best carry-on luggage - amazonbasics side by side

For the casual weekend traveler, the AmazonBasics Hardside Spinner Carry-On is an attractive bag that does the job at an extremely affordable price.

Pros: Very affordable, durable for the price, solid adjustable handle that doesn’t wobble

Cons: Marks up easily, may not hold up well over time, no lock

For a bag that costs much less than our top picks, I was thoroughly impressed by the quality and look of this carry-on. It was sturdier than I was expecting and the material only had a little bit of give when I pressed on the top and sides.

Though it is expandable up to 15% for additional packing room, I found that it held less overall than the similar Samsonite suitcase we recommend in this guide, making it a good option for shorter or weekend trips.

The interior has one mesh zip side and one side with a buckle. The buckle isn’t too sturdy, but it will do the trick of keeping clothes in place as long as you don’t overpack that side. The adjustable handle is comfortable and surprisingly didn’t wobble very much. The wheels also glided smoothly on nearly every surface (thick carpet gave it a bit of trouble), though they were just a little bit louder than others I tested. 

The ribbed exterior has a shiny finish, and other than the AmazonBasics logo on the front, is stylish enough that it won’t give away how little it costs. The zippers ran smoothly and for the most part, the bag held up throughout my tests, though it did get marks relatively easily and had a mark on the back after just one use.     

That said, some reviewers have complained that after about five or six trips the bag starts to break down, with complaints of broken handles, wheels, and zippers. It’s also missing a notable feature: There’s no lock, TSA-approved or otherwise.

But for the casual traveler who only takes a couple of trips a year, this is an extremely affordable option that still gets the job done.

The best high-end hard-side carry-on

Best carry-on luggage - blue rimowa essential lite carry-on suitcase side by side shut and open

True to its name, the Rimowa Essential Lite sets itself apart with its under 5-pound weight without compromising on durability or quality. 

Pros: Incredibly lightweight, durable

Cons: Not as good for organization, expensive

Rimowa is best known for its distinctive aluminum suitcases frequently spotted on celebrity Instagram accounts. While those bags will set you back a cool grand, the luxury travel brand has alternative high-quality options that won’t cost more than your monthly rent.

I was particularly impressed with the newer Essential Lite bag. When it first arrived, I actually assumed a vase I had ordered around the same time had come in an inexplicably large box because it never dawned on me that a suitcase would be that light.

The Essential Lite weighs less than five pounds, which is especially great for chronic overpackers who worry about their bag being overweight. Shockingly, the Lite suitcase actually holds slightly more than the classic aluminum suitcase, too.

To achieve this light-as-a-feather feat, the brand didn’t sacrifice when it comes to the quality of the materials. Although the bag has some give at the top when pressed, the suitcase is plenty sturdy. Its thicker glossy coating also keeps it from scratching or marking up as easily as matte-finished suitcases. I tossed it around several times and even after getting jostled around in a moving van, it came out the other side with no dents, scratches, or marks. 

If an aesthetically pleasing or eye-catching bag is important to you, you’ll also likely enjoy the glossy finish, subtle vertical ribbing, and array of rainbow-hued color choices that range from a candy apple red to a deep teal, along with classic black and white options.

The bag has a TSA-approved lock on top, a rubberized top handle that’s comfortable to grip, and a sturdy telescopic handle. The wheels are whisper quiet thanks to cushioned axles and worked beautifully on every surface from hardwood to carpet. I also liked that both sides of the interior had a mesh zipper, which I found made keeping everything organized and in place easier than the typical one-sided buckle system. 

The suitcase also comes with a complimentary leather luggage tag and is backed by a five-year warranty. One added bonus of owning a Rimowa bag is that the company not only does in-store and send-away repairs, but also works with a network of luxury hotels that do repairs onsite should anything happen to your bag while you’re traveling.

Read our full review of the Rimowa Essential Lite carry-on

The best high-end soft-side carry-on

Best carry-on luggage - briggs & riley side by side

The Briggs & Riley Baseline Domestic Carry-On is worth the investment thanks to an impressive compression feature and high-end materials that stand the test of time.

Pros: Durable, high-quality materials, smart and unique features to help fit more in 

Cons: Pricey, heavy

With a hybrid fiberglass frame, ballistic nylon exterior, reinforced corners, and smooth YKK zippers, this Briggs & Riley bag is made to withstand the test of time. The bag is incredibly durable and mine has experienced no rips, tears, or marks to speak of.

This suitcase is also full of ingenious tricks that make packing it a breeze and help you sneak in those extra outfits. For starters, the bag has a CX compression-expansion system that increases packing capacity by 25% before compressing back down to fit carry-on size regulations. I tried the feature out myself and it worked beautifully. 

The main compartment is extremely spacious and unlike every other bag I tested, Briggs & Riley has taken the smart step of making sure the adjustable handle is entirely on the outside of the bag so no packing room is lost to the poles. That said, it does mean that the poles are visible on the outside of the bag and may make it slightly harder to slide the bag into the overhead compartment.

Like other soft-side bags, it has one deeper side and a smaller side with a zippered compartment. But another smart feature that adds packable room to this bag is a fold-out divider in the smaller zippered compartment so you can stack clothes, fold it in, and then stack more clothes before zipping it all up. The zippered compartment also has an additional small mesh pocket. Sturdy mesh panels clip together to keep the deeper compartment secure.   

The wheels expertly navigated every surface, and the handle is sturdy and easy to grip. Two outer pockets on the front add additional space, but I found they didn’t expand quite as much as the Travelpro front pockets, which was actually a plus since it wasn’t as easy to overpack. There’s also a small zippered pocket on the back ideal for keeping your phone (especially when going through security) that also comes with a hideaway ID tag.

The biggest downside to this bag is the weight. It’s heavier than the other bags I tried and could be hard for some people to lift into the overhead, especially when fully packed. It also became front heavy and tipped forward slightly when completely full.

The best carry-on for extra space

Best carry-on luggage - monos side by side

If you’re not restricted to smaller overhead bins, the Monos Carry-On Pro Plus is a sleek suitcase with extra room inside and a smart front pocket for easily stowing accessories.  

Pros: Significantly more packable space, smart front pocket that doesn’t protrude when packed

Cons: Doesn’t meet all carry-on size requirements, marks up easily

At 23 inches, the Monos Pro Plus is just a hair too big for many standard flights. However, if you mainly take larger cross-country or transatlantic flights where overhead bins are bigger and space isn’t usually an issue and relish every last ounce of packable space, this carry-on is worth a look. 

It offers more packable space than any other bag on this list. It features one side with a zippered mesh compartment and an alternative side that has a fold-out mesh pocket and two wide and sturdy buckles that help to seriously compress clothes when pulled tight. 

But what really sets this bag apart is the front pocket space, which is unusual for a hard-side suitcase. The padded pocket holds a 15-inch laptop and has additional pockets of varying sizes for easily organizing everything from your phone to headphones. Unlike soft-side bags with front pockets, this pocket also zips up to fit its original size even when items are inside rather than protruding out. While some Away bags also feature a front pocket, this one has significantly more pockets for far superior organization. It’s also cheaper than other suitcases with front pockets like  Arlo Skye and Rimowa.

The bag itself has a simple and chic look and comes in an array of attractive colors like pale pink and royal blue. However, my bag did get several small white marks rather quickly. Though the company does include a small eraser with the bag that worked remarkably well when I tested it out. The adjustable handle is sturdy and doesn’t wobble, the YKK zippers didn’t catch, and the wheels glided smoothly on all surfaces. 

As an additional bonus, the bag is guaranteed for life and has a 100-day trial period. 

For those who want to ensure their carry-on fits on all flights, Monos recently launched a smaller carry-on option with a pocket, the Carry-On Pro. However, you do lose 10 liters of packable space, so the Pro is best for shorter trips.   

Read our full review of Monos carry-on luggage

The best aluminum carry-on

best carry on away aluminum suitcase

Away’s heavy-duty aluminum carry-on is as sleek and eye-catching as it is durable. 

Pros: Durable, sleek look, dual locks, ample packing space

Cons: Heavy, expensive

Aluminum suitcases are more expensive than standard polycarbonate options. However, they’re supremely durable and built to seriously last. They also have a sleek and shiny look that stands out from the crowd at the airport.  

Though I’ve only been testing Away’s The Carry-On: Aluminium Edition for about two months, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite suitcases. I was worried it wouldn’t easily fit into all overhead bins because it has a bulkier look, but I was even able to fit it on a small regional plane recently. 

As for that shiny look, I receive compliments every time I take this bag out. And on durability, this carry-on has held up remarkably well so far, with no scratches, dings, or dents to speak of, even after I also threw it around on my rooftop to simulate the wear and tear that comes with typical plane travel. 

Its 360-degree spinner wheels are a breeze to roll on numerous surface types, though they are a bit louder than some other carry-ons I own and have tested. Rather than a typical zipper, this aluminum suitcase features two sturdy TSA-approved locks that easily click into place.

What most impressed me was the huge amount of packing space. I took this bag on a weekend ski trip and was able to fit my long underwear, sweaters, ski pants, gloves, and a light jacket on just one side. I easily fit a weekend’s worth of everyday clothes on the other side. 

However, that durability and packable space does come with a price: the weight. At just under 11 pounds, this bag is heavy. While that isn’t too big of an issue on car trips, train trips, or some flights, with airlines that have stricter weight limits I would hesitate to use this carry-on.

As with almost all Away bags, you have the option to choose a standard bag or one that comes with a removable and TSA-approved battery. While the battery isn’t totally necessary and you will have to remember to remove it each time before you get on a plane, it can be a handy perk for on-the-go charging.  

The best carry-on luggage for travel with kids

carry-on luggage for travel with kids

Traveling with kids makes it significantly more complicated to bring just a carry-on bag. You have no choice but to think of every single thing your kids might possibly require, then pack it where you can actually find it.

You also need space for snacks, entertainment devices, and materials to change your child’s bottom mid-air. And of course, you’ll need several extra outfits on hand and within reach during the trip — you know, just in case your kid vomits unexpectedly or spills chocolate milk at the worst possible time.

That means your carry-on needs significantly more pockets for organizing and space-saving options will reign supreme. Here are some carry-on options to consider for family travel:

Genius Pack G4 Carry On Spinner ($219): This carry-on has a compartment for everything. Extra pockets you can use to stay organized include a hidden interior lining pocket perfect for shoes, a removable laundry compartment, and separate spaces for chargers, socks, underwear, and more. If you wind up needing extra room on the ride home, a simple pull of a zipper will garner a 20% increase in space.

Biaggi ZipSak Boost ($89.99): If storing bulky luggage is an issue for you, this bag will wow you by folding down so small that it can easily fit under your bed or inside a drawer. It also features a flexible outer shell that makes packing in lots of stuff a breeze. Its exterior pockets are perfect for storing baby wipes, tablets, or snacks, and you can haul this bag in more than one way — either wheel it along like a regular carry on or use the side handle to carry it like a briefcase.

Timbuk2 Quest Rolling Duffel ($139.30): Ideal for families with toddlers and babies, this rolling duffel has multiple exterior compartments perfect for diapers and wipes, bottles and formula, and extra onesies and sleepers. Not only does it roll like a spinner, but you can throw it on your back like a backpack if you need to free your hands. Extra exterior storage compartments are ideal for everything you’ll need for your baby in the air, and this bag is still appropriately sized as a carry-on.

— Holly Johnson

What else we tested

What else we recommend:

  • Away Carry-On ($225): I’ve had an Away bag for years and it’s another good option. I have found that over the years it’s gotten quite a few marks and scratches though, and it’s more expensive than the Samsonite bag and not as high-quality or lightweight as the Rimowa bag. That said, I would recommend this bag to anyone who absolutely wants charging capability for their phone or who wants a wide array of fun color options.
  • Tumi International Carry-On ($750): This is a high-quality, premium bag that will likely last you years. However, the extremely high starting price point is prohibitive for many. 
  • Target Open Story 21-inch Hardside Carry-On ($149.99): Travel Editor Emily Hochberg tested out this bag and found it to be another great option at a similar price point to the Samsonite bag. It features a durable but lightweight polycarbonate shell, heavy-duty zippers, quiet spinner wheels, and a telescoping aluminum handle. She also liked the multiple interior compartments for easy organizing and the built-in USB port for use with a power bank or battery charger, though that’s not included. However, the lighter colors especially show marks easily and more than one reviewer has noted that the lock didn’t work properly. It also doesn’t have an option for expansion.
  • Roam The Jaunt ($495): This bag is on the pricey end and didn’t hold quite as much as other options I tested, though it would be just right for a long weekend trip. However, when it comes to being able to customize, this bag stands out. If you want to be able to mix and match colors from the handle to the spinner wheels, this may appeal to you.

What we don’t recommend:

  • London Fog 20-inch Spinner Carry-On ($139.99, currently out of stock): I couldn’t fit in quite as much to this bag as other options I tried. Additionally, it comes in very limited color options and there is no plain black.

What we’re testing next

How we tested

For this guide, I narrowed down the field to the 10 top contenders based on my own considerable travel experience and knowledge as a travel editor, as well as additional research and user reviews. While some of these bags I’ve personally owned and used for several years, others I tested extensively specifically for this guide.

I put all 10 of the bags through the same tests, which considered durability, packability (both ease and how much the bag could actually hold), maneuverability across multiple surface types, as well as the weight of the bag. I also took into account the price point, style, quality of materials, and any extra features the bags included. 

Due to the pandemic, I have not been flying recently, but I still mimicked the conditions carry-ons would typically go through in a number of ways. I packed each bag to capacity, rolled them for several blocks on the street, tested the wheels on wood floors, thick carpet, and concrete, stress-tested the zippers, and lifted each bag onto a high closet shelf roughly the same height as an overhead bin.

I even used all of the bags in a recent move where they were thrown around the back of a moving van in a similar fashion to how they might be tossed around on and off a plane by bag handlers to test durability. 

What to consider when buying carry-on luggage

briggs and riley carry on amazon deal

Size

While this may be the most obvious thing to consider, it’s also the most important. Think about how you’ll be using your carry-on most frequently and factor that in. For most standard domestic flights, anything 22 inches and under will suffice. However, if you frequently travel on short jumper flights or often fly on budget airlines overseas, you may want to consider going even smaller. On the flip side, if you mostly take large cross-country or transatlantic flights, you might prefer a bag with a little extra space since overhead space won’t be as much of an issue.

Hard-sided vs. soft-sided luggage

While people on both sides of this debate swear their preference is the right one, this is pretty much a matter of personal choice. Soft-sided bags tend to have more front pockets you can stuff extras into, which can be a blessing or a curse depending on how prone you are to overpacking and going over weight limits. Hard-sided bags tend to have two compartments of equal size, one on each side, while soft-sided bags usually have one deep side and one small zipper compartment on the other. Your personal packing style will largely dictate which option is best.

Weight

Of course, in general, the lighter the bag, the better. But if weight isn’t a huge concern for you, you might like a bag that comes with some extra bells and whistles in lieu of one that’s more minimal to save on weight. However, if you frequently take small flights where every last ounce matters, you may want the lightest bag you can get your hands on. If you have mobility issues or trouble lifting bags into the overhead bin, weight will especially be a consideration. 

Wheel type

I am a staunch believer in the four-wheel systems that most newer bags have. While some are still adamant in their use of two-wheel bags, I have found four-wheel bags to be lightyears ahead in terms of maneuverability. If you are still living in the two-wheeled past trust me on this: Being able to easily wheel your bag in front of you, beside you, or behind you will change your life.

Materials

Materials will be dictated largely by your budget and choice of hard- or soft-sided suitcase. It can be worth splurging on a more durable option if you travel frequently or just want to invest in a suitcase you’ll have for years to come. In general, look for bags that are tear- or scratch-resistant. The most common materials for hard-sided suitcases tend to be aluminum, polycarbonate, and ABS. Aluminum is extremely durable, but also extremely pricey, and ABS is less durable but more affordable. A good polycarbonate bag can hit the sweet spot of price and quality. When it comes to soft-sided suitcases, ballistic nylon is one of the most durable options, but again can mean a higher price point. Regular nylon can still be high-quality while being more affordable, while polyester tends to be a good budget option.   

Style

The look of your bag is a very personal choice. Some suitcases are all about function but a bit of an eyesore, while others prioritize aesthetics and come in pleasing pastels practically made for Instagramming. How important a chic bag is, and what exactly that means to you, should be taken into consideration when choosing luggage.

More great travel buying guides

tortuga setout travel backpack
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The 5 best airline cat carriers in 2021, according to pet safety experts and extensive testing

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An airline-friendly cat carrier should be comfortable to carry, and to ride in, on long travel days.
  • We tested 20 airline-compatible carriers and kennels to select the best options for flying with a cat.
  • The best soft-sided carrier is the Wild One Travel Carrier, a unique bag that doubles as a bed.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Karie Johnson, veterinarian and co-founder of VIP Vet Visit, a mobile vet service in the south suburbs of Chicago.

No matter how you slice it, air travel with a cat is stressful. Whether they’re flying at your feet in the cabin of a plane or are being transported in the cargo hold, a well-built, cozy airline-compatible cat carrier is essential for their comfort and your peace of mind.

Over the last year, we’ve extensively tested 20 different airline-friendly cat carriers, including soft-sided carriers, backpack carriers, and hard-sided kennels. That, combined with advice from a veterinarian and pet travel experts, helped us to identify the best carriers for use in flight. Read more about our testing methodology and how to prepare your cat for air travel at the end of this guide.

Here are the best airline cat carriers in 2021

Best soft-sided airline cat carrier

Wild One Travel Carrier for pets

The uniquely designed Wild One Travel Carrier offers comfort and convenience in the air and at your destination.

Pros: Three ways to load, unzips into a bed, machine-washable interior mat, secure luggage strap, padded detachable shoulder strap converts into a leash, folds flat for storage, comes in three colors, limited one-year warranty

Cons: No padded carry handle

The innovatively designed Wild One Travel Carrier converts from an easy-to-transport bag to a comfortable, open pet bed in just a few zips. With a detachable padded shoulder strap that doubles as a leash for a cat harness and a cushioned, machine washable interior mat, this carrier is an ideal home-away-from home both at the airport and your destination.

The Wild One Travel Carrier has two important safety features: an interior tether and snaps on the zippers that prevent them from opening while in transit. On the outside, there are two wide zipper pockets on one side and two small pockets on the other side. The front and back doors both have zip-out privacy screens. A pet can also be loaded through the zippered top.

Wild One’s carrier shined in testing, earning the highest scores in our scrape, zip, and goop tests and its wide luggage strap kept the bag completely balanced on a rolling suitcase. It also has the most ventilation of any bag we tested.

It was comfortable enough to carry this bag by hand, but it does lack a padded carry strap. While it’s among the pricier carriers we tested, for the wide range of features included in its modular design, it’s well worth the extra cost.

Best expandable airline cat carrier

mr peanuts gold series expandable cat carrier

Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier unzips to almost double in size, providing a cat with extra room on long travel days.

Pros: Front and top-loading carrier, expandable compartment increases carrier’s size by more than 50%, secure luggage strap, padded detachable shoulder strap, washable interior plush bolster bed, comes in five colors, folds flat for storage

Cons: Limited pocket space, expandable section can’t be used in flight, no warranty

On long travel days with endless time spent in airports, Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier offers a jet-setting cat extra space to stretch out. When unzipped, a panel on its right side folds out into a mesh atrium that more than doubles the interior space.

The spacious Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier is front- and top-loading with a roll-up privacy flap over the top door. It passed our in-cabin fit tests and offers plenty of ventilation to keep a cat from overheating. Inside, there is a soft plush bolster bed and safety tether. Outside, there is an adjustable padded shoulder strap and a faux leather carry handle. There is just one 10-by-4-inch mesh zip pocket at the back. When not in use, this bag folds flat for storage.

Mr. Peanut’s carrier excelled in testing. The mesh remained intact in the scrape test, the zipper moved smoothly in the zip test, and both the interior and exterior of the bag came completely clean in the goop test. Although the bed is labeled hand-wash only, it looked nearly new after machine washing and air drying. 

On one side, this carrier has a luggage strap for slipping over the handle of a carry-on suitcase. In our luggage test, it remained mostly balanced as we walked, slipping only about an inch to one side. Carrying on the shoulder was comfortable and the strap was easy to adjust to the correct length.

While the expandable section of Mr. Peanut’s carrier can’t be used in flight, the inclusion of this feature in a durable, well-designed bag makes it an ideal option for cross-country air travel.

Best budget airline cat carrier

Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier

The Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier has most of the features of pricier carriers for a rock-bottom price.

Pros: Padded detachable shoulder strap, padded carry handle, secure luggage strap, multiple pockets, washable interior mat, collapses flat for storage, comes in six colors and two sizes

Cons: Not top-loading, seam of interior mat ripped in washing, no warranty

The convenient, cozy Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline Approved Carrier is an excellent budget option for feline air travel. The bag not only has many of the features of pricier options, it scored well in testing, too.

The Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Carrier has a soft fleece mat and safety tether inside and five different pockets outside, one of which unzips to convert into a luggage strap. When slid over a suitcase handle, the luggage strap kept the carrier well balanced on curbs and sidewalks. There is also an adjustable padded shoulder strap and a padded carry handle, both of which are comfortable to use. When carried on the shoulder, the bag does flex inward some.

A whopping 27.5% of the Elite Field is covered in mesh ventilation and it earned the highest scores in our scrape and zip tests. While both the bag’s exterior and its mat washed completely clean in our goop test, a seam along the length of the mat split open in the washing machine. It still fits over its interior panel and, because that panel is covered in polyester, the rip doesn’t compromise the mat’s utility. It collapses inward to store flat.

The only major features the Elite Field is missing is a top-loading door and a warranty. The carrier comes in two sizes, 17-inches long and 19-inches long, and is flexible enough that even the longer version we tested will fit beneath the seat on United Airlines and Southwest Airlines flights.

While it’s not perfect, the affordable Elite Field Soft-Sided Airline-Approved Carrier is easy to carry, rides smoothly on a carry-on suitcase, and has comfort and safety features that are almost as good as its more-expensive competitors.

Best airline backpack carrier for cats

Mr peanuts backpack pet carrier

 Mr. Peanut’s Backpack Carrier is comfortable to wear and has a spacious interior for your precious cat cargo.

Pros: Comfortable padded back and straps, plush wrap around interior mat for comfort when upright or laid flat, fits under the seat in most airlines, has several exterior pockets, has locking zippers, folds flat for storage, sold in four colors

Cons: Backpack straps are not removable, no warranty

If you won’t be traveling with a rolling carry-on suitcase, a backpack carrier may be a more comfortable way for both you and your cat to navigate the airport. Mr. Peanut’s Backpack Carrier has adjustable padded straps, padded back panels, and an adjustable chest strap for you. For your cat, it has a luxurious plush mat that wraps around the interior for a soft ride on the back and when laid flat beneath an airline seat.

This backpack has two important safety features: an interior tether and buckling safety zippers. A rollup privacy flap over the panel at the top of the backpack serves as the front-loading door when laid flat. There is a 7-by-7-inch zipper pocket on one side and a mesh water bottle holder and two smaller pockets on the other. At the end of the journey, the carrier folds flat for storage. 

Mr. Peanut’s Backpack Carrier did well in testing, earning the highest scores in our scrape, zip, and goop tests. It also has more ventilation than any of the other backpacks we tested, with 17.5% of its surface area covered in mesh. While the carrier has very little flexibility in its frame, it was compact enough to pass our in-cabin fit test. The interior mat is labeled hand wash-only, but it held up well to machine washing and air drying.

Convenient, durable, and comfortable for both you and your cat, Mr. Peanut’s backpack is an ideal carrier for use before, during, and after a flight.

Best crate for flying a cat in cargo

Gunner G1 Kennel

The super strong Gunner G1 Medium Dog Kennel was the only pet carrier durable enough to pass our tests with flying colors.

Pros: Five-star crash-test rating, extremely tough, escape-proof, lifetime warranty

Cons: Expensive, heavy, does not fold for storage, limited ventilation

With double walls, a reinforced aluminum door frame, and a welded nylon-and-aluminum door, Gunner’s G1 Kennel is the strongest, toughest crate we’ve ever seen. In crash tests conducted by the Center for Pet Safety in 2018, the Gunner G1 Medium Dog Kennel earned a five-star safety rating for pets up to 45 pounds and it was the only kennel to withstand our drop testing. 

The Gunner G1 Kennel’s door is escape-proof with a built-in lock that comes with a key and a door that can be hung to open from the left or the right. At the bottom of the crate are elevated nonslip feet and there are two extra-sturdy handles and built-in stainless steel tie-down pins on the top. The interior floor is recessed so that if your cat goes to the bathroom or spills their water in flight, the liquid will be funneled away from their bedding. 

At 38 pounds, the Gunner G1 Medium Kennel is the heaviest of those we tested, but that weight lends itself to the kennel’s durability. It did not suffer any damage after being dropped 10 feet with a 10-pound weight inside, and when a bag of 30-pound weights was dropped on it from 10 feet above, it left behind only a small exterior divot.

The Gunner G1 Kennel does not have much ventilation or fold down for easy storage. At $599, it’s also the most expensive carrier we tested by far. Despite these downsides, there’s no stronger, safer crate on the market. Plus, it comes with a lifetime warranty. If you want to be sure that your cat will reach their destination safely when flying in cargo, Gunner’s G1 Kennel is your best bet.

Our methodology

Throwing airline pet crate off play structure

With the exception of the Good2Go Expandable Pet Carrier, which I had previously purchased, the carriers in this guide were provided to Insider Reviews as editorial review samples by their manufacturers. The 20 carriers reviewed for this guide went through an extensive series of tests, which include:

Feature comparison: After conducting interviews with our experts, I created a point rubric for scoring each of the 17 soft-sided carriers based on the following features:

  • Shape and design
  • Interior mat
  • Loading doors
  • Carrying straps and handles
  • Pockets
  • Ventilation
  • Interior safety tether
  • No-escape petting hole
  • ID tag
  • Luggage strap
  • Dimensions and in-cabin airline capability
  • Safety certifications
  • Storage

In-cabin airline fit test: I made two boxes out of cardboard with the same dimensions as the underseat space in two major airline carriers, United Airlines (18-inches long, 11-inches wide, 11-inches high) and Southwest Airlines (18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches wide, 13.5-inches high). I then slid each soft-sided carrier and backpack into the boxes to see if they fit.

Scrape test: I scraped a mesh section of each soft-sided carrier 50 times with a fork to test its durability. When complete, I noted any damage or discoloration. 

Zip test: To test the durability of each carrier’s zipper, I completely zipped and unzipped one of its loading entrances 50 times. In the process, I noted any changes in the zipper’s ability to smoothly run its course.

Luggage test: Each soft-sided carrier with a luggage strap was attached to a suitcase handle, then rolled over a curb, up a ramp, and along the sidewalk and street of a city block. Inside the carriers, I placed a 10-pound weight and watched to see how well they remained balanced as we traveled.

Ventilation test: According to Wolko, ventilation is important to prevent a cat from overheating during travel. I measured the dimensions of each carrier’s mesh panels and calculated the percentage of the total surface area they comprised. I favored those bags with more ventilation. 

Walk test: I took each soft-sided carrier containing a 10-pound weight on a 15-minute walk around my neighborhood. Each was carried using the shoulder strap and held at the front of my body the way I would if I had a real cat inside. For the last block, I switched to using the carrier’s hand-carry straps. The backpack carriers were taken on the same walk but were not carried by hand. With each, I paid attention to how comfortable it was to carry, how much it bounced, and whether it collapsed inwards as I walked.

Goop test: I devised the goop test to determine how easy the carriers would be to clean if a cat vomited or defecated in transit. I mashed together cat kibble, canned food, and water with a mortar and pestle to make the goop, then spread a tablespoon on the exterior wall and interior mat of the contenders. After 48 hours, I wiped the goop from their exteriors using dish soap and water and washed the mats in the washing machine. 

Drop test: This test was designed for the hard-shelled cargo kennels. I brought the candidates to a local park and, with the help of my partner, loaded each kennel with a 10-pound weight and threw it off of a 10-foot play structure, looking for any damage that occurred upon landing. In the second test, we dropped a bag of 30-pound weights on top of the kennel from the 10-feet play structure to test for structural integrity.

What else we considered

Cat carriers we tested

Soft-sided airline-friendly cat carriers

Sleepypod Atom: This Sleepypod carrier, which earned a five-star crash-test rating from the Center for Pet Safety, has a unique design with a zipper that runs around the perimeter of the top of the bag. Unfortunately, the only way to load a cat is through that elevated opening. That, combined with a shoulder strap buckle that dug into my skin, kept this carrier from the top spot.

Away Carrier: I love this carrier by Away, which also earned a five-star crash-test rating from the Center for Pet Safety. It comes with a hefty price tag, though, and does not fold down for storage. While it beats out the Wild One Travel Carrier for car travel, the lower cost Wild One is a better value for flying.

Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Carrier: This is yet another good carrier by Mr. Peanut’s that has two points of entry, a padded shoulder strap, a luggage strap, and a safety tether. It lacks an expandable section and has fewer bells and whistles than the Wild One Travel Carrier.

Mr. Peanut’s Soft-Sided Carrier: This carrier is just like the Gold Series but is missing a privacy flap over the top door.

Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier: The Original Deluxe is a solid carrier, but it was less comfortable to transport than many of the other bags. The buckle on the strap dug into my shoulder and it was difficult to balance the bag on a rolling suitcase. 

Sherpa Element Carrier: At 14.75-inches long, 12-inches wide, and 10.5-inches tall, Sherpa’s Element is tiny compared to other carriers. It also lacks padding in the shoulder strap and a safety tether, has only one tiny pocket, and provides less ventilation than most of the other carriers we tested. 

Bergan Comfort Carrier: This cozy carrier has a comfy bolster bed inside and zippers with safety buckles. But in our luggage test, it shifted dramatically while rolling on top of a suitcase, which could put a cat in danger of falling. This carrier also does not fold flat for storage.

Frisco Travel Carrier: I really like this carrier and it scored well in our testing. But with no padding on the shoulder strap, it’s less comfortable to carry than the Elite Field. It also comes in only black, a color which Wolko recommends avoiding in pet carriers to prevent a cat from overheating.

Expandable airline-friendly cat carriers

Mr. Peanut’s Platinum Series Double Expandable Carrier: I love the expandability of this carrier, which nearly triples in size when fully unzipped. It performed just as well as the Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable on all of our tests and has all of the same features, plus a second expandable atrium. Because the Platinum Series has slightly less ventilation and a slightly higher price, we ultimately chose the Gold Series as our favorite.

Good2Go Expandable Pet Carrier: I like this expandable carrier, but it was the priciest of the expandable carriers we tested and is only sold in black, the color most likely to lead to overheating.

Petmate See and Extend Carrier: For the price, this top- and front-loading carrier was somewhat disappointing. Its expandable section was spacious, but it has no luggage strap for easy airport rolling, no safety tether, and limited pocket space.

Airline-friendly backpack cat carriers

Sherpa 2-in-1 Backpack Carrier: Sherpa’s carrier is innovatively designed with removable backpack straps, one of which converts into a shoulder strap to turn the bag into a traditional carrier. It was missing some of the features of Mr. Peanut’s, though, including safety buckles on the zippers, a privacy flap, a chest strap for balancing the pack’s weight, and a safety tether. It also has a less substantial interior mat. 

Kurgo K9 Carrier Backpack: I love the look of this backpack, but that’s about it. This carrier has very little ventilation and a molded base that digs into the back while carrying. Additionally, it only fit under the seat of one of the airlines we tested (Southwest) and our goop test left both the exterior and interior worse for wear.

Crates for flying a cat in cargo

Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier: If Gunner’s G1 Kennel is out of your price range, the Sky Kennel is your next best option. This sturdy crate held up to our drop tests better than the Ultra Vari, remaining structurally sound through both trials. The Sky Kennel is also one of those recommended by Elaine Matthis, pet travel specialist and project manager at Happy Tails Travel in Tucson, Arizona.

Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel: Although this kennel withstood being dropped from 10 feet above the ground, dropping 30 pounds of weights on it completely destroyed the cover. Had a cat been inside, they would not have survived the impact.

FAQs on flying with a cat

Most cats are just small enough to comfortably fly in the cabin of an airplane at your feet. This is always the preferred way to travel with a cat for Wolko. “We have had videos shared with us in which operators drop kennels, sometimes the kennels roll off the moving band, sometimes they flip, sometimes they roll off, sometimes they fall,” she explained. “Those risks are far less likely if your cat remains in your possession at all times.”


How much does it cost to fly with a cat? 

Fees for flying with a pet in the cabin of a plane vary between carriers. At United Airlines, a one-way flight for your cat adds $125 to the price of your ticket. At Southwest Airlines, a pet fare is $95 each way. Flying a cat in the cargo hold on a domestic flight is typically around $300 pet flight. Sending a cat on an international flight can cost up to triple that amount.


What are the age restrictions for flying with a cat? 

Age restrictions for flying with a pet differ from airline to airline. At United Airlines, cats must be at least 16 weeks of age to fly in the cabin while on Southwest, kittens as young as 8 weeks can accompany their guardians on a flight. Eight weeks is also the minimum age for most kittens flying in cargo. Always check the pet policy of the airline you’ll be flying to make sure your cat meets their requirements.


How do you properly size a cat carrier for a flight? 

To fly with a cat in the cabin of a plane, a soft-sided carrier must fit within the dimensions allowed by the airline, which vary a little from company to company. United Airlines, for example, requires carriers to fit in a space 18-inches long, 11-inches wide, and 9-inches high while Southwest Airlines allows carriers 18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches wide, and 13.5-inches high. Within these parameters, make sure your cat has enough room to stand up, turn around, and comfortably lie down inside, said Wolko. Additionally, there should be at least 2 to 3 inches clearance from the top of their ears to the interior roof of the crate.


How much ventilation should a carrier have? 

For soft-sided carriers, Wolko said mesh ventilation should be on at least three sides of the bag. In cargo, airlines require that a kennel is ventilated on all four sides.


Do cats need to go to the bathroom on a flight? 

Unless a cat suffers from a medical condition, they will be fine without access to a litter box for the duration of a flight. “Just based on the physiology of cats, they could probably go from Boston to Hawaii and without needing to void,” said Bob Murtaugh, veterinarian and chief professional relations officer at Pathway Vet Alliance in Austin, Texas.

In the cargo hold, kennels cannot be outfitted with a litter box or anything other than an absorbent liner and a soft bed or blanket. “If the travel day will be more than eight hours, during a layover pet owners can arrange a comfort stop for cats to be let out of their carrier,” said Matthis.


Do cats need food and water on a flight? 

On shorter in-cabin flights, your cat is unlikely to require food or water. However, if you’re flying your cat in cargo, Matthis explained that a food bowl and water bowl should be in the carrier regardless of the length of the flight. She recommends using dishes that fasten to the door of the crate and can be refilled easily from the outside such as Lixit’s Quick Lock Crock 10-ounce bowls.


What else does my cat need to fly?

Most airlines require a health certificate provided by a veterinarian to prove that a cat is safe to fly in the cabin or cargo hold.


What are the signs that my cat may be in distress in flight?

According to Murtaugh, there are a few obvious signs that may indicate your cat is in distress during a flight, either due to fear or excessive heat. A cat that is panting, restless, and vocalizing could be experiencing significant anxiety or overheating. If the membranes in their gums turn bright red, the latter is most likely and it’s important to cool them off quickly. Placing the carrier on your lap so they can feel the air blowing from the vent above your seat or wiping them down with a wet cloth may help lower their body temperature.

How to set up a cat for flying success

cat sitting on wild one carrier

The best way to combat a cat’s flight anxiety is to tackle it before getting on the plane. In the weeks before their trip, introduce your cat to their carrier or kennel in a positive way. “Make the carrier feel like a cave or a home or something that’s comfortable, something that they’re not just jammed into the first time they’re on their way to the airport,” said Murtaugh.

Place the carrier in an area of the home where your cat spends a lot of time and encourage them to explore it by placing catnip and treats inside, or by playing with them in and around the space. 

Taking your cat on a car ride or on other forms of transportation while in their carrier may also be helpful in the weeks before the flight, said Murtaugh. He recommends placing a bed or blanket that smells like home inside the carrier and using a pheromone spray or collar to help take the edge off. 

If your cat has a record of experiencing debilitating stress during travel and will be flying in the cabin, you can speak to your vet about prescribing an anxiety-relieving medication. It’s important, however, to test medication out before your flight. “Make sure there won’t be any untoward side effects. Your vet can help you tailor that to your cat’s needs,” said Murtaugh. 

Sedating a cat prior to flying in the cargo hold is not recommended by the International Air Transport Association and can be potentially fatal for old, chronically sick, or highly stressed animals.

Rules for flying with a cat in cargo

While working with an animal shipping professional can help make preparing your cat for travel less stressful, it is not a requirement in the United States. International destinations may have other regulations for air-shipping pets. Always confirm your airline’s requirements well in advance of your pet’s flight. 

To air ship a cat, the kennel must meet the following standards established by the International Air Transport Association:

Crate size: The interior width of a crate or kennel must be at least two times the width of a cat. The kennel’s length must be at least the length of a cat plus half their height. The height of a carrier must be at least as tall as the animal’s natural height in a standing position from the tip of the ears to the floor. Matthis recommends using a medium-size crate for cats that is at least 2 to 3 inches taller than this minimum. If you have a cat with a snub nose or smooshed face, the kennel must be 10% larger than for non-brachycephalic pets.

Crate material: A crate must be made from rigid plastic, wood, or metal with a solid roof containing no doors or ventilation. There should be only one metal door that closes securely. “If the crate looks cheap and flimsy, it’s not suitable for air travel,” said Matthis. 

Crate extras: Crates in cargo cannot have wheels, plastic doors, or plastic latches. They also cannot be collapsible or have a door in the roof.

Crate interior: The only items allowed inside an animal crate during a flight are an absorbent liner or potty pad, a soft pad or blanket, and clip-in water and food bowls that attach to the crate door

Our sources

We consulted the following experts and internet sources for this guide to the best airline-friendly cat carriers:

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best travel pillows of 2021 for a good night’s sleep in the air or on the road

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Falling asleep while traveling can be very difficult, but having the right travel pillow can help.
  • The Trtl pillow is our top pick because it is comfortable, portable, and affordable.
  • See Insider Reviews for more travel coverage.

Sleeping while traveling is an exercise in futility. For many people, long-haul travel – whether it’s by air, rail, or road – is one of life’s great discomforts, especially when they need to get some shuteye. Some can’t sleep a wink, while others wake up with sore necks and bodies. While they aren’t foolproof, the best way to get some sleep while traveling is with one of the best travel pillows.

There are innovative travel pillows today besides the classic U-shaped options. Some use memory foam that mold to your neck and body, while others are inflatable for easy storage. There are some that prevent heads from nodding forward, and there are some designed for full upper-body comfort. Even if sleep isn’t the intention, a travel pillow can help make the journey a bit more comfortable.

Here are the best travel pillows

The best travel pillow overall

trtl

Despite its unique scarf-like design, the Trtl offers huge support for your neck.

Pros: Comfortable, low profile, innovative design, soft, not too warm, easy to pack

Cons: Only offers support on one side, only comes in one size

At first glance, the Trtl pillow looks nothing like a pillow. It seems more like a scarf or blanket, and in some ways, that’s actually what it is. A soft, lightweight fleece wrap hides and cushions a plastic neck support on one side, which rests on either shoulder or your chest to keep your head in a comfortable position.

The neck support consists of a few stiff ribs on one end of the scarf. To use the Trtl, simply place the ribs in the position you find most comfortable, then wrap the scarf around your neck. Velcro on the other end of the ribs holds the wrap in place while you doze off. The ribs have a little bit of flexibility to eliminate any pressure points or discomfort.

It’s actually pretty ingenious, and, despite the weird design, surprisingly comfortable. The strengthened ribs almost look like one of those emergency neck braces, but since they only rest on one side, instead of both, it’s more comfortable and less restrictive. Trtl, which is based in Scotland, was founded by two mechanical engineers in 2010. The inventors claim that the design is based on scientific research into sleep positions and independent testing.

Because there’s no stuffing and the pillow is made of soft fleece — aside from the ribs — the Trtl is both lightweight and low profile, which makes it easy to stash in a bag on your way to and from the airport or train station.

The biggest downside to the pillow is that, since it only offers support on one side, you’re out of luck if you toss and turn or shift positions during the flight. Some buyers also report that the support is a bit too short for taller people — the pillow only comes in one size — but this was easily remedied by using a folded airline blanket. You can read our full review here for more details.

Read our full review of the Trtl Travel pillow on Insider Picks.

The best traditional travel pillow

cloudz pillow

The Clöudz pillow is a simple microbead travel pillow that works for just about everyone.

Pros: Snap closure, warm and cool sides, soft, affordable

Cons: Doesn’t shrink, fold or compress to fit in a bag

I’m personally a big fan of the Clöudz pillow. This is the first pillow that was comfortable enough to help me sleep during a trans-Atlantic red-eye flight. It’s simple and straightforward, which makes it a perfect solution for most people’s needs.

The design is mostly traditional — it’s exactly what comes to mind when you hear the words “travel pillow.” Shaped like a giant U, the pillow is designed to go around the back of your neck, supporting your head if you lean backward or to the side — although when I use it, I spin it around.

A helpful feature that makes this pillow stand out is the nifty snap at the ends. The strap is perfect for attaching the pillow to a bag handle or strap when you’re walking through the airport. When I use the pillow, I close the snap when the pillow is on my shoulders before turning it around. That way, it doesn’t fall off my neck when I lean forward.

Something that makes the Clöudz pillow stand out is the fact that it’s can accommodate people who tend to feel either too warm or too cool when they’re sleeping. The top side of the pillow is covered by a warm, cozy felt-like material, while the bottom has a cooler spandex fabric. It’s filled with tiny microbeads, which conform to your head and face as you lean on them. At the same time, though, they hold enough shape to stop the pillow from collapsing under you and falling flat.

The best memory foam travel pillow

cabeau

The Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow uses ergonomically-molded memory foam to keep your head supported in flight.

Pros: Ergonomic design, 360-degrees of coverage, comfortable

Cons: Can get warm and sweaty, no “cooler side”

The Cabeau looks similar to the Clöudz pillow because it’s the same traditional U shape. The pillow is designed to go around the back of your neck and rest on your shoulders. Like the Clöudz pillow, the Cabeau closes around on the front, but instead of snaps, it has a drawstring with a fastener that you can use to turn the U into an O. The biggest difference is that instead of microbeads, the pillow uses memory foam.

When you pull the drawstrings taut, it pulls the two ends of the U together, allowing for 360-degrees of coverage, so that if your head falls forward when you sleep, you don’t need to spin the pillow around. The back portion is a bit thinner and is designed to sit flat against the seat and conform to the back of your neck so that it doesn’t push your head forward.

Instead of a smooth tube-like shape bent into a U, the Cabeau pillow has an ergonomically designed hump running the length of the pillow to support your head more effectively. The cover is removable and machine washable. In reviews all around the web, buyers say the Cabeau is helpful and comfortable, even if they haven’t liked past travel pillows.

Some people will prefer memory foam to a bead-filled pillow, but there’s a big drawback. Some buyers report that the pillow can get pretty warm, which can make you sweaty and uncomfortable. Beyond that, the pillow is a bit less convenient to attach to the outside of a bag while you’re in transit — the workaround is that the pillow can be compressed to about 1/4 of its size for stowing in a bag. The company warns against compressing it for long-term storage so that the pillow doesn’t lose its shape.

The best inflatable travel pillow

Lewis_1

The inflatable Lewis N. Clark Pillow can fold up small to fit anywhere, and provides adjustable support. 

Pros: Fits just about anywhere when deflated, easy to adjust firmness, comfortable

Cons: Bulkier in the back than some other pillows

By nature, pillows are large and bulky. To provide the right amount of support, they need enough stuffing, and they need to be big enough to provide an adequate surface area. That’s fine when you’re leaving it on a bed or couch, but when you travel, there’s a big premium on storage space. You need to keep your luggage as small and light as possible so that you can deal with transiting, and a big pillow can take up more room than you can justify.

That’s why an inflatable travel pillow can be handy. When you’re in transit to an airport or your hotel, you can deflate the pillow, fold it up and shove it in a corner of your bag. When you’re ready to use it, it just takes a few breaths to fill it all the way.

Some inflatable pillows can be a bit uncomfortable, since the airtight material is, by its nature, not breathable. Lewis N. Clark solves that problem by covering the pillow with a comfortable jersey material, which is much nicer to have against your skin than plastic or vinyl. Because you control how full the pillow is, you can easily adjust it. If the pillow feels too firm or unyielding, you can use the well-designed release valve to deflate it a tiny bit at a time, while wearing it, until it feels right.

When it’s fully inflated, the Lewis N. Clark pillow forms a U-shape like many traditional travel pillows, although it has a slightly more squared profile. The back of the pillow is a little bit bulkier than pillows like the Cabeau, but most buyers agree that it’s a comfortable solution.

The best travel-friendly body pillow

Travelrest

The Travelrest Pillow is perfect for side sleepers, offering support to the entire side of your body.

Pros: Great for side sleepers, supportive, comfortable

Cons: Can fall out of place, can take a bit of effort to find the most comfortable position

The Travelrest has a completely different design from most travel pillows. Rather than going around your neck and just supporting your head, it goes across your entire torso like a sling, offering a totally different kind of support.

When seated, you wear the Travelrest pillow basically like a shoulder seatbelt. A bulkier portion rests on either shoulder, while the “tail” goes across your body. Alternatively, it can go down your side. Your head and the side of your body are supported, giving you a more bed-like feeling than most neck pillows can offer. A cord attached to the top of the pillow can loop around a plane or car seat headrest, keeping the pillow secure and in place while you rest.

The pillow is conspicuously bulkier than most other travel pillows, but fortunately, it’s inflatable. You can fold it up into a nice, small package and keep it near the top of your carry-on, inflating it to full-size once you’re ready to settle into your seat. If your seat doesn’t have a headrest, you can secure the pillow’s cord to its tail and wear it around yourself like a sling.

The pillow is covered with a soft velvet-like material, but you can purchase an optional cover that is a bit softer. The cover also has a memory foam pad at the top of the pillow to provide an extra soft place to rest your head.

The best rectangular compressible travel pillow

thermarest pillow

The Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow rolls up into a tiny package and expands to a full, rectangular pillow.

Pros: Compresses to a travel-friendly size, normal-shaped pillow, many sizes and colors, affordable

Cons: Heavy for backpackers

If you want to bring a normal-shaped pillow with you on your travels, but you don’t want to waste space in your luggage, Therm-a-Rest’s compressible pillow is the one for you. It comes in a variety of sizes, but the small one is probably best for most travelers. 

The small pillow measures 12 x 16 x 4 inches when it’s open and 13 x 4 x 4 inches when it’s compressed. It weighs just 7 ounces, which is quite impressive. The foam filling is 4-inches thick and quite comfortable. Its polyester cover is relatively comfortable, and it comes in a few fun colors. The pillow is machine washable, which is nice.

When you’re done using the pillow in flight, you can roll it up and pop it in the drawstring pouch until you need to use it again at your hotel or campsite.

Experts from the Outdoor Gear Lab gave this pillow a great rating, and the reviewer’s only complaint is that it is a bit heavy for backpackers. However, if you’re just throwing it in your carry-on bag or purse for use on a plane, that’s probably not a huge deal.

The small size is ideal for travel, but if you think it is too small for you, the medium measures 14 x 18 x 4 inches expanded, 14 x 5 x 6 inches compressed and weighs 9 ounces; while the large measures 16 x 23 x 4 inches expanded, 16 x 7 x 7 inches compressed, and weighs 12 ounces. There’s also an XL version that measures 16.5 x 27 x 4 inches expanded, 18 x 7 x 7 inches compressed, and weighs 15 ounces. — Malarie Gokey

The best travel pillow for head bobbers

bcozzy travel pillow

If you tend to hang your head while you sleep and wake up with some serious neck pain, then the Bcozzy is the only travel pillow for you.

Pros: Great for folks who nod off frontward while sleeping, allows for the wearing of large, over-the-ear headphones, lightweight

Cons: Not much side support, can’t be compressed or deflated for easy storage

Plenty of travel pillows have attempted to support sleepers whose heads tend to roll to the left or to the right as they doze off. But far fewer have attempted to solve the challenge of the forward sleeper (unless, like David, you use a U-shaped pillow in reverse). For these people, the Bcozzy is a pillow designed to support the head, from the front.

The pillow’s design hinges on its overlapping ends, which create an extra level of support. Whereas most pillows have a gap where there ought to be a platform for your chin, the Bcozzy solves this problem by creating a sort of supportive collar that has some additional cushion at the front. The pillow is fully adjustable, which is to say that you can decide for yourself how much overlap and support you really want. 

Most other travel pillows will all but require you to use earbuds or other in-ear options, lest their high walls push off your headphones. But this presents no problem for the Bcozzy. Really, it’s almost as though this pillow realized that you wouldn’t need support on your sides — after all, that’s the job of your noise-canceling headphones.

The Bcozzy also comes with a small loop that lets you clip it to the outside of your backpack or another piece of luggage. So even though you can’t deflate it or roll it out, it’s still supremely portable. Plus, at just 7.4 ounces, you’ll hardly notice it’s there.

The best no-slip travel pillow

travelrest

Thanks to the Travelrest Ultimate’s ability to lay flat against your seat, your head will be well-supported without being pushed outward, which is key for long drives or flights.

Pros: Great support all-around your neck, no slipping, adjustable Velcro fits any seat as well as your neck

Cons: High walls make using over-the-head headphones difficult

The Travelrest Ultimate may look a lot like the traditional travel pillow you’re accustomed to, but a few key tweaks make it far better. Most notably, this pillow’s flat-back design allows it to lay flat against your seat, allowing you to rest your head comfortably during long journeys.

Though it’s inflatable, the Travelrest Ultimate doesn’t feel like it’s just full of air. Instead, the memory foam cushion keeps your entire neck comfortable while easing into a comfortable sleeping position. And even if your head tends to loll around quite a bit while you’re dreaming, the pillow will prop you up.

The Travelrest Ultimate has rubberized grips that ensure the pillow won’t slip, even if your head does. Thanks to the pillow’s adjustable Velcro strap, you can customize its size based on the seat you’re in. Whether you’re looking to get some repose on a plane, train, or automobile, the Ultimate will help.

One of my favorite things about the pillow is that its cover is removable and machine-washable. If you’re like me and are perennially perturbed by the potential for germs in various travel environments, rest assured that this is one travel pillow you can keep clean.

When you’re not using the Travelrest Ultimate, you can deflate it, and because it weighs less than a pound and can be rolled into its Velcro-secured carrying case, it’s about as portable as they come.

Check out our other buying guides for long-haul travel

carry on luggage plane
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The 6 best hydration packs for day hikes, long-distance runs, and other outdoor activities

  • It’s crucial to stay hydrated while exercising, particularly in the heat.
  • Hydration packs make it easy and comfortable to carry liters of water on a run, hike, or bike ride.
  • The Osprey Skarab 18 hydration pack is comfortable and holds 2L of water plus all your hiking essentials.

You know it’s important to stay hydrated on a hike, run, bike ride, or literally any adventure in exercising. But carrying a water bottle or and having to constantly stop to pull it out of your pack gets old quick.

Hydration packs are the ideal way to make carrying and accessing water easier and minimize stoppage time. The best hydration packs not only have a pouch big enough to hold 1+ liters of water, but they also provide storage for snacks, layers, a first aid kit, and any other essentials you might need on a day hike or run. What’s more, the pack also needs to be comfortable, breathable, and quick-drying to not weigh down your adventure.

For longer hikes and backpacking trips, check out our guides to the best backpacks for men and for women.

The number of hydration packs on the market can be overwhelming. But we’ve dug into which packs can actually keep up on your putting and, therefore, which are worth your money.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Here are our top picks for the best hydration packs:

The best hydration pack overall

Osprey hydration pack

Osprey’s Skarab 18 is the only day-hiking hydration pack you’ll need, thanks to its high-quality construction, internal frame that keeps it comfortable mile after mile, and easy-to-access water reservoir.

Pros: Comfortable to wear even over several hours, extra-wide clip-on water reservoir allows for easy cleaning and refills, 2.5-liter capacity is perfect for long day hikes, offers plenty of interior storage, and the ventilated foam frame helps avoid excess sweat

Cons: Too small for longer backpacking trips

Osprey has consistently made some of the finest backpacks for decades, so it’s no surprise that the Osprey Skarab 18 also happens to be our favorite hydration pack.

It’s the ideal size for a day hike, weighing just over one pound with enough storage space for hiking essentials. Its foam frame allows for great ventilation, keeping your back cool and mostly sweat-free. Like all its packs, Osprey decked out the Skarab with plenty of straps to allow for the ultimate custom fit, regardless of who’s wearing it.

But what makes this bag truly shine is the large, 2.5-liter water pouch, which should keep you hydrated for most day hikes. Additionally, its extra-wide clip opening makes it easy to add more water or clean the reservoir after use. The pack even has a magnetic bite valve attachment that allows it to quickly attach to the Skarab’s sternum strap, allowing for easy access.

Added extras like stretch mesh pockets on the side of the pack, a scratch-free stash pocket, removable hip belts, and external bungees for more gear are Osprey staples and only add to the pack’s overall quality. Osprey’s Skarab 18 is simple when it needs to be yet versatile and technical for those who demand it.

The best for male runners

camelbak hydration pack

Runners don’t want anything weighing them down, and CamelBak’s HydroBak weighs just five ounces — before being filled with water, of course. 

Pros: Weighs just five ounces without water, mesh back panel and harness aid in ventilation, new Crux reservoir allows 20% more water per drink, and its leak-proof valves are easy to flick on or off

Cons: Doesn’t offer much in the way of storage (not that runners need much of it, anyway)

A running-specific hydration pack should sinch down tight and comfortable, and be able to carry enough water for long miles. Camelbak’s HydroBak has a mesh back panel and harness to help with ventilation and keeping you cool. Its reflective accents help with visibility for early or late runs. 

Uniquely, the HydroBak features a Crux reservoir which lets you pull a full 20% more water with each swig. That means less time sucking on the tube and more time focusing on your stride. Additionally, the pack features easy-to-use leak-proof valves that you can flip on or off with a gentle push for less wasted water and no fumbling with the tube while running.

CamelBak also outfitted the Crux with a leak-proof cap and coated the tube with its anti-microbial HydroGuard technology, which is 100% BPA free and reduces the risk of bacteria growth.

Though it’s small, the HydroBak still features a few zippered pockets perfect for keeping energy gels, granola bars, and some cash for those well-earned post-run beers.

The best for female runners

salomon adv skin 8

The Salomon ADV Skin 8 is specifically designed to sinch down on the female figure, and can carry 1 liter of water with the option of adding a reservoir in the back.

Pros: Female-specific design, adjustable to fit different chest sizes, soft material, 2 soft 500ml flasks included, many mesh and zipper pockets, room to carry warm layer

Cons: Expensive, straws can be a bit tricky to adjust

While females can wear any hydration pack, they’ll be the most comfortable in the Salomon ADV Skin 8. Designed by one of the leading trail running brands today, the ADV Skin 8 is uniquely shaped to sinch down tight around female curves so your pack isn’t throwing off your momentum. Specifically, this pack was crafted to alleviate pressure on your breasts and has an adjustable drawcord fasten in the front for a personalized fit. I’m small-chested and have lent this vest to friends as large-chested as 34DD who say it’s just as comfortable for bigger breasts.

While you can slide a traditional reservoir in the back of the pack, the other feature that makes Salomon running vests so great is their integrated soft flasks. Two half-liter water flasks sit on either side of your chest in a soft mesh pocket, allowing for quick water access mid-run.

Additionally, this pack has mesh and zippered pockets strategically placed in nooks and crannies, as well as down the back, to stash everything from car keys to a warm layer. You can even move the elastic cords and loops around to carry trail running poles wherever feels most comfortable to you.

I’ve been running in this hydration vest for two years and the only bad words I have to say about it is it’s expensive (but, in my opinion, worth it for runners) and the straw on the included flasks might need to be cut down, which can be a little tricky to do. –Rachael Schultz, Health and Fitness Updates Editor

The best for day hikes

platypus hydration pack

The Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0 is a day hiker’s dream, offering 7 liters of storage, strategically-placed tool organizing loops and compartments, and a huge, three-liter water reservoir. 

Pros: Plenty of storage options despite its modest 7L capacity, external tool and gear loops, capable of fitting many different body types, comes standard with huge three-liter BigZip water reservoir and magnetic hose, and FloatAir back panel offers comfort for even the longest day hikes

Cons: Expensive

Platypus’s Duthie A.M. 10.0 has plenty of internal and external storage options with a 7L capacity, perfect for short jaunts into the backcountry or several mile excursions. Its strategic approach to organization also means you won’t be digging past your car keys to get to your snacks — everything has its own place in the pack.

When it comes to the Duthie’s hydration capability, few companies deliver as well as Platypus. Featuring a large three-liter reservoir, the brand’s patented BigZip water pouch features a magnetic hose clip and also offers wearers the ability to route the house in multiple ways — a welcome function not typically seen in hydration packs.

For hardcore day hikers who also have other activities in mind, the Duthie also offers a useful carry system designed to hold pads or full-face helmets and even sports a fleece-lined pocket perfect for stashing a pair of shades.

Additionally, the pack easily conforms to a variety of body shapes and sizes with just a few adjustments of its straps and hip belt. After finding the perfect fit, Platypus’ FloatAir back panel keeps you mostly sweat-free and comfortable, no matter how long the hike.

The best for cycling

gelindo hydration pack

Forget reaching down for any built-in water bottle holders because with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, staying hydrated while biking is as easy as simply drinking out of a straw.

Pros: Insulated water reservoir pocket keeps liquids cool for up to four hours, mesh back panel keeps airflow at a maximum, interior organization capable of holding a variety of items without feeling cluttered, and its easily adjustable straps are capable of fitting almost any body type

Cons: Limited reflective details

While most bikes have space for attaching a water bottle holder, a hydration pack makes staying quenched much easier and Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack is perfectly fit for the job.

This pack has an insulated pocket to carry its 2.5-liter water reservoir, which will keep your water cool for up to four hours. The pack is also designed to keep your body heat from warming the water. 

Gelindo included several storage pockets capable of holding energy bars and car keys, and bigger compartments to hold a spare change of clothes, larger items of food, or spare tubes. Organization also scores highly as it’s easy to reach for and access any of the interior contents, no matter how full the pack gets.

It’s no secret cyclists care about comfort and with Gelindo’s Insulated Hydration Pack, finding a perfectly comfortable fit is easily done via its adjustable shoulder straps and hip belt. Furthermore, its ergonomic mesh back allows for steady airflow to keep you from overheating, keeping you comfortable throughout the entirety of your ride.

The best for commuting

gregory hydration pack

Gregory’s Inertia 30 makes it easy to stay hydrated while commuting with its easy-access water tube, ample interior storage, and comfortable shoulder harness.

Pros: Plenty of storage for whatever the workday requires, quick-drying 3L water reservoir is easy to fill up and features an integrated drying hangar, hydration sleeve auto-centers the water pouch to stabilize weight, versatile enough to even act as a day-hiking pack

Cons: Expensive

Even just commenting to wor requires energy, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The Gregory’s Inertia 30 is designed to not only quench thirst but also to pack a work day’s worth of gear. Be it a laptop, notebook, tablet, or otherwise, the Inertia offers enough interior storage space to tote along whatever the day calls for.

It even features several exterior pockets perfect for storing items that need to be quickly accessible, as well as a padded zippered pocket designed for sunglasses or house keys.

Gregory includes a quick-drying 3L water reservoir that has a built-in drying hangar, perfect for airing it out to avoid mold or mildew buildup. The Inertia’s dedicated hydration sleeve makes it easy to just toss the reservoir into the pack, and it automatically stabilizes the pouch’s weight to the center of your back. Gregory even made the reservoir’s tube magnetic, making it easy to take on and off.

Though we chose it for its ability to act as a commuter bag, the Inertia 30 also excels as a day-hiking pack, offering exterior loops for trekking poles, compression straps on either side, and load lifters that help stabilize the pack when it gets heavy.

At $120, it’s not the cheapest bag of the bunch but considering what it offers, and the Gregory name also means supreme durability, the Inertia 30 is worth every penny.

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The 7 best duffel bags of 2021

  • Durable and utilitarian, duffels can make for a great travel companion.
  • We found the best duffels for overnight trips, camping, taking to the gym, and more.

Though often overlooked in the carry-on luggage world, duffels provide a quick and easy way to pack, whether it’s for a short weekend getaway or as an extra bag on long-haul trips.

I’ve been a believer in the utility of a good duffel ever since my trusty red Reebok duffel got me through my first whirlwind tour across Europe with the USTA’s junior tennis team. In fact, I found it to be such an easy way to travel that I doubled down on my duffel bag game and bought a duffel that included wheels and could easily convert into a backpack. I used it for years as a travel journalist.

Now, with better design features and more durable fabrics and materials than ever, a good duffel can last a lifetime and make for an excellent travel companion. From long weekends to long-haul flights and everything in between, I put 17 duffels to the test with an eye for functionality, quality, and design.

Here are the best duffel bags

The best overnight duffel

best duffel bag travelpro

The Travelpro x Travel + Leisure Drop-Bottom Weekender is a thoughtfully designed and chic duffel just right for overnight trips. 

Pros: Lightweight, spacious interior, drop-bottom storage 

Cons: No interior laptop sleeve, pricey

Travelpro x Travel + Leisure Drop-Bottom Weekender offers many of the same features as Away’s Duffle, but with a few major differences. 

This bag’s greatest asset is the drop bottom zipper panel that’s great for storing anything you’d want to keep separate, like shoes or dirty clothes. The drop bottom can also unzip and detach completely if you want to consolidate or if you don’t find it necessary for a particular trip.

As far as usable storage space, this bag is plenty roomy enough to get you through an overnight stay, but you won’t fit too much beyond that. I used it on a recent overnight staycation and found it to be an ideal two-day, one-night bag that easily fit a change of clothes, gym wear, a pair of sneakers and sandals, as well as hair accessories like my travel-sized blow dryer and curling iron. 

Thoughtful details include a magnetic closure on the front button of the trolley sleeve, which attached effortlessly over the handle of my carry-on suitcase. This bag fits under the seat of an airplane and is also designed to fit in the overhead compartment on standard US airlines. 

The material is stain-resistant, durable, and didn’t show any sign of wear after a couple of uses. It’s also extremely easy to keep clean.

One major drawback with this duffel is the lack of a laptop sleeve on the interior, especially since I never travel without my laptop.

The best duffel on a budget

best duffel bag calpak

The CALPAK Luka Duffel is a lightweight bag with numerous pockets for easy organization that won’t break the bank.

Pros: Extremely light, stylish, lots of pockets, separate shoe compartment, affordable

Cons: Laptop compartment is small

The first thing I noticed when testing the Luka Duffel is it’s extremely lightweight. In fact, it’s the lightest bag I tested for this guide. I ordered the Luka in Metallic Bronze, and it was actually more elegant and a bit bigger than I expected based on the photos I saw online. The fabric is also extremely soft (it feels like your favorite puffy coat) and is made from scratch-resistant polyester. 

It’s big enough to pack a day’s worth of clothes if you want to use it as an overnighter, but I found it to be most useful as an oversized daytime bag; it’s stylish enough to wear to brunch or take to the office and fits all the daily essentials.

One of the best features is the pockets and compartments. There are nine pockets in all, including a separate shoe compartment on the bottom and a trolley sleeve on the back in case you want to take this bag on the road. There’s no built-in padded laptop compartment, however, there is an oversized zipper that can easily fit an iPad or 13-inch laptop. I have a 15-inch Macbook Pro, which, unfortunately, was a bit too big to fit into this sleeve.

For an easy everyday duffel for the gym, work, or running errands, this is an excellent option that offers exceptional value.

The best duffel for the gym

best duffel bag 73 originals

Made from water-resistant fabric with a separate compartment for storing gym shoes, the ’73 Originals Super Duffel is an ultra-lightweight gym accessory. 

Pros: Casual, lightweight, shoe garage, interior and exterior pockets and compartments for separating items, water-resistant

Cons: More of a standard size duffel than “super”

Between the water-resistant fabric, shoe garage, cloth side pockets, internal mesh accessory pocket, and pockets on each end, I was thoroughly impressed by the ’73 Originals Super Duffel

At first glance, this bag looks like your run-of-the-mill duffel, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover all of the little extras that set it apart. The lining on the inside is not only ultra-soft but water-resistant, which I learned quickly as I somehow managed to accidentally leave an unopened hand sanitizer inside which dried quickly and left no residual damage.

The shoe garage easily fits a pair of gym sneakers in a totally separate side compartment, and the front zipper pocket is great for keys or anything else you want to keep protected but accessible. There are also tons of storage compartments on the inside, which makes for super easy organizing.

The interior packs a roomy punch for how small it appears. You could easily use this bag for a quick overnight trip in addition to your regular go-to for the gym. That said, the name “Super Duffel” is a bit deceiving, as it’s not big enough to really work beyond an overnight amount of clothes and accessories.

The best wheeled duffel

best duffel bag rei wheeled

The REI Co-op Big Haul Recycled Rolling Duffel is spacious enough to pack for a week and makes hauling it all easy with its oversized wheels.

Pros: Large wheels, sturdy frame, plenty of interior storage space, pockets and compartments 

Cons: Heavy, might be too tall for some travelers

I’ve used other wheeled duffel bags in the past, but I tested the REI Co-op Big Haul Recycled Rolling Duffel on my first trip since the pandemic and was so impressed with the quality and ease that came with it that I genuinely can’t wait to use it again on future long-haul trips. 

This bag is not only extremely sturdy, but tall to boot. I fit everything I needed for a week-long trip and then some, which was both a blessing and curse because it provided so much space that I found I was packing more just to fill it up. 

It’s also extremely high quality and water-resistant. Made from a recycled ripstop nylon with a tough nylon base, this bag is both heavy-duty and easy to wheel around thanks to its oversized and smooth wheels. It also lays flat on the top so if you have a smaller bag, purse, weekender, or tote, you can rest it across the top. The interior wall of the bag features mesh pockets and compartments that are great for keeping garments separate and organized. The side, front, and end handles also made the bag easy to grab and there are compression straps that help to keep the bag more compact.

Fully packed, this bag was heavy and because of its height, which might be a challenge for some travelers. While the two wheels were great, I did wish this bag had four wheels just for the ease of being able to push it instead of wheeling it behind me. Overall, and especially compared to other wheeled duffels I’ve used over the years, this is a winning option at a very reasonable price.

The best leather duffel

best duffel bag duluth

Rugged, roomy, and boasting thick, premium leather, this rough-and-tumble duffle by Duluth Trading Company is built to last. 

Pros: Durable, sturdy, roomier than expected with beautiful flannel lining

Cons: Heavy, no interior pockets

Made using full-grain cowhide leather that’s “built to take a pounding,” as Duluth puts it, this bag is not only a best-seller, but it’s sturdy. The detachable shoulder strap and no-frills U-shape zipper make packing and unpacking extremely easy and I loved the flannel lining on the inside. 

The bag also zips and clips for added security. The antique brass details on the zippers and belt buckles are a nice touch and the premium materials ensure this bag will last for years. The overall weathered look of the leather does give it a more casual overall feel than a typical leather bag you might take to work.  

This duffel is deceivingly spacious and you could easily use this bag for a long-weekend getaway, with enough internal packing space for shoes and multiple days’ worth of clothes (depending on how light you pack).  

That said, this duffel is not only heavy-duty, it’s also just plain heavy. Even without anything packed inside, the duffel has some heft to it, so if weight limits are an issue for you, keep that in mind. There are also no pockets on the interior or exterior, so if you’re a pocket person, this bag might not suit you. 

Duluth has a “no bull” guarantee so if you’re not satisfied with this duffel you have one year to return it for a full refund. 

The best splurge duffel

best duffel bag filson

The Filson’s Medium Rugged Twill is a high-quality bag made from premium materials that’s sure to last.

Pros: Quality, top-notch craftsmanship, durable, rich color 

Cons: Not many zippers or compartments

If you’re looking for a classic duffel that’s equally great as an elegant everyday bag or a weekender and worth the splurge, you can’t do much better than Filson’s Medium Rugged Twill bag. 

The duffel, which is one of Filson’s best-sellers, comes in a variety of colors. I tested the Chessie tan and was blown away by the understated but handsome color and overall craftsmanship. Details like the gorgeous, adjustable leather straps and the snap-secured flap that runs along the top of the bag add to its look, quality, and usability.  

Made from Filson’s signature rugged twill and bridle leather, the materials are scuff-resistant and the bag feels extremely sturdy with very little flop factor. The look is versatile enough to use for both business and leisure. Although pricey, the quality materials and construction ensure it will last year for years to come, making it a solid investment piece.

There’s one interior pocket, but no zippered compartment space and no exterior pockets, so if you like a lot of pockets this may not be the bag for you. 

The interior is roomy enough to easily fit all your daily work essentials or to pack for an overnight trip or as your under-seat personal item. It does become a bit cramped once you pack for a full weekend, but if you prefer a larger duffel, there is a bigger version of this bag available.

The best duffel for camping and hiking

best duffel bag north face

The Base Camp Duffel by North Face is built to withstand the elements and can fit all your gear and then some. 

Pros: Durable, waterproof and can be used as a backpack or duffel

Cons: No exterior pockets, might be cumbersome for some travelers

It’s easy to see why the Base Camp Duffel by North Face is beloved by travelers and adventure seekers the world over. This duffel can not only withstand the elements, but it’s designed as an all-terrain bag that works for everything from scaling a mountain to weekend car camping trips. 

The shoulder straps easily detach and adjust with an ergonomic fit that’s designed to throw it right over your back when the going gets tough. Alternatively, you can use the padded carrier handles for a simple grab-and-go option.

Due to its height and width, this 95-liter duffel might be a bit cumbersome for some travelers who prefer to travel light, but is a boon for those who have a lot to bring with them. 

On the inside, the bag comes lined with a large mesh pocket as well as a detachable mesh bag which is great for extra storage for dirty clothes or anything you’d want to keep separate. As far as usable storage space, this bag has tons of room for at least one and up to even two weeks worth of clothes and gear depending on what you need to bring. There’s an interior zipper on the top of the bag, and the tag sets the tone with the famous John Muir quote, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” 

What else we tested

best duffel bag what else we tested

What we recommend and why:

  • Away The Duffel: This is actually my top overall pick for the best duffel. Its size is just right and there’s plenty of packable space for two to three days of clothes, plus room for accessories. It even features a hidden and padded 15″ laptop pocket, along with two interior side pockets. However, it’s unfortunately currently out of stock. 
  • Away Weekender Bag: I’ve owned an Away carry-on for years but this was the first time I’ve tested the canvas Weekender bags. While it offers some of the same features of The Duffle (which is my pick for the best overall travel duffel) this bag offers a separate shoe compartment on the bottom. While you do get more packing space with this option, it was much flimsier than The Duffel. 
  • Travelpro Crew Versapack-Weekender Carry-on Suiter Duffel Bag: Professional, spacious, and great for keeping clothes wrinkle-free, for serious business travelers, this a top option. There are a lot of great features but the real star of the show is the suiter which can accommodate up to three suits, or a few dresses, blouses, or other garments. There’s also a padded tablet sleeve on the outside of the bag and hidden pockets on the front.
  •  Escape 35L Duffel by Nixon: Another great option that was just edged out, this duffel features tons of interior packable space, including numerous zippers and compartments. It converts easily into a backpack and is made from recycled ocean plastic. The interior features a lining with a mesh zipper compartment that can fit toiletries. However, the bag felt flimsier than others I tested.
  • Sseko Designs Garment Duffel: Featuring a beautiful design and dual-functionality as a duffel and garment bag, this duffel by Sseko Designs is made with cotton canvas, leather straps, gold hooks, and zippers. Along with the removable leather crossbody strap, the bag completely unzips flat with a hanger hook at the top to keep your clothes wrinkle-free. You could easily use this duffel without the garment function, and includes an exterior pocket and a trolley sleeve. That said, the material is a bit on the thin side and the zippers didn’t connect all the way.
  • Duffle by von Holzhausen: If James Bond were a duffel man, I have no doubt this von Holzhausen would be his go-to bag. Made from a patented Technik-Leather that is 100% animal-free and sustainable, from the double zipper on top for easy packing and unpacking in the main compartment to the concealed large front pocket with zipper closure, this Italian-made beauty is as graceful as it is gorgeous. However, I personally preferred the overall construction and packability of the Filson. 
  • Herschel’s Little America Backpack-Duffel: This 25-liter backpack-duffel is sleek, long and narrow, and includes a 15-inch interior padded laptop sleeve. This model is a “mountaineering silhouette” and there’s a drawstring closure that ties the bag together at the top giving it more of a casual look. The front storage pocket with hidden zipper and key clip, interior pinstripe pattern, and two interior side pockets make this bag ideal as an everyday work duffel, but it doesn’t have quite as much space as other options I tested.
  • Eddie Bauer’s Expedition Drop Bottom Rolling Duffel: Another good option for a wheeled duffel that was barely beaten out by our top choice, this bag is lightweight while still being plenty durable. It’s available in three sizes, including medium, large, and extra large. I tested the large and was really impressed by how maneuverable this bag is when it’s fully packed. You could easily fit a week’s worth of necessities, and the bag expands and compresses. My main gripe is that the interior lining did tend to catch in the zipper.
  • Grand Tour Duffel: Currently only available for presale, Paravel has long been a leader in sustainable travel bags, and their Grand Tour Duffel is no exception. Made out of upcycled plastic water bottles and protected using a silicone coating to prevent stains, I love the design touches from the easy-grip handles on the top of the bag to the leather trim against the eco-canvas. On the inside, there’s beautiful blue lining along with two identical pockets on each side which are great for phone, passport wallet, and cosmetic bag. However, it’s better suited for an overnight trip or day trip as opposed to hopscotching around the globe as the name suggests.

What we don’t recommend and why:

  •  Herschel’s Sutton Duffel Mini: I also tested the Sutton Mini Duffel in Ash Rose. This bag comes in three sizes including mini, mid-volume, and standard, each of which come with a removable crossbody strap and offer more of a traditional duffel look and feel. I enjoy the mini, but it really operates more like a purse than a true duffel and can only fit a handful of everyday items. 

What we look forward to testing next

best duffels go pro backpack duffel
  • GoPro Backpack Duffel Bag: GoPro fans and gearheads might find this to be an interesting duffel option because of the mount that’s actually attached to the strap of this bag. The bag also looks deep and roomy and features interior zip pockets on the top flap for additional storage. As an added bonus, it can also transition from a duffel to a large backpack.
  • The NOMATIC 30L Travel Bag: Known as the “go anywhere, do anything bag,” the Nomatic is made with durable, water-resistant materials and zippers. The patented strap system also transitions from duffel to backpack and there’s a shoe compartment with a ventilated door and a water-resistant flap.
  • YETI Crossroads 60L DuffelYeti recently released a new collection of premium bags including their expedition-grade duffel, which is made from water- and abrasion-resistant material and features three interior divider panels, pockets, and modular compression straps to keep your stuff nice and snug.

Testing methodology

For this guide, many of the duffels I tested are by brands that I know and have used personally for decades as a travel journalist and adventure junkie. In addition to my own thorough research, I also tapped colleagues and fellow travel writers to see what duffels they love and use on a regular basis to narrow down the field. For this guide, I first-hand tested 17 duffels to find the best. 

While many elements of a duffel come down to personal preference and needs, there are some key features I looked for across every bag I tested, including: 

  • Packability: While I’m not traveling at the rate I once was pre-COVID and couldn’t test all of these bags in a real-world setting, I did pack, unpack, and do a simulated test run of each and every duffel included in this guide from home, in my car, and around my neighborhood. I packed everything from my daily essentials to a week’s worth of clothes when I could into these bags to determine both ease of packing and the amount of clothes the average traveler could fit into each bag. 
  • Functionality: From smooth wheels and adjustable straps to comfortable handles and numerous interior pockets for organizing, I tested every bag through a critical lens to determine which ones stood out from the pack and made travel easy. I also considered the bag’s primary function and how it worked in that space, since a durable camping pack needs very different features than a chic overnight duffel.    
  • Durability: I tested these duffels for about two months. Several went on real trips with me, and those that didn’t I still put through rigorous stress tests to simulate travel conditions. Additionally, I’ll be continuing to test top recommendations to see how they hold up over time. 
  • Extras: Whether it’s separate shoe compartments or the ability to convert into a backpack, I considered extra features when choosing my top picks and whether those extras really added additional value. 

What to consider when buying a duffel

Finding the right bag that fits your overall needs will depend on numerous factors. Here are a few things to keep in mind before buying a duffel.

  • Use: Duffel bags come in a wide variety of styles, materials, sizes and price points. There’s really no one size fits all, so the first thing you really want to ask yourself is: what am I using this for? If you want an extra personal item for trips or an easy bag to grab for an overnight, you’ll have very different needs than someone looking to take a duffel on a long-haul trip as their main bag.
  • Function: If you’re someone like me who likes to bring their laptop with them wherever they go, having a duffel that offers little details like a laptop sleeve is crucial. An exterior trolley sleeve is also a really nice design detail and can go a long way especially when you travel. Many duffels I reviewed also had dual-functionality, which can come in handy. Additionally, if one strap tends to make you uncomfortable, look for a duffel that can convert into a backpack.
  • Weight: Another major consideration when picking a duffel is weight. If you’re picky about this, go for lighter materials like cotton or polyester over leather, which tends to be heavier. However, bear in mind that leather also tends to be more durable. Since the majority of duffels don’t have the luxury of wheels, having something on the lighter side is generally a good idea.
  • Budget: Once you’ve established what you’re using your duffel for, then you can narrow down your choices. A great duffel doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg and there’s a ton of great deals to be found out there. If you’re testing out a new duffel for the first time, see if there’s a warranty and what the return policy is. Many brands offer a limited lifetime warranty, so make sure to read up and see what that covers and what it doesn’t.
  • Style: Much like carrying a purse or a briefcase, the style of your duffel, is very much an extension of you and your personality. While it might not be the most important consideration, with so many options to choose from, you don’t have to sacrifice on style if that’s a key factor for you.
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The 5 best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An airline-friendly cat carrier is a must if you’re traveling with your pet in cabin.
  • The Sleepypod Air In-Cabin Pet Carrier offers an unbeatable combination of quality, durability, pet comfort, and safety features.

If you are traveling by plane, then you’ll need to purchase a pet carrier that meets a particular airline’s regulations, both in terms of size and design. We evaluated cat carriers that are suitable for in-cabin travel based on a number of factors, including durability, size, ventilation, security, and comfort, as well as feedback from experts and our testing results.

While these cat carriers are generally acceptable for use in airplane cabins, check your airline’s requirements before purchasing. Different airlines have different rules and regulations. For instance, United Airlines requires that a soft-sided carrier be no larger than 18-inches long by 11-inches wide by 11-inches high. However, Southwest Airlines allows a slightly larger maximum size of 18.5-inches long, 8.5-inches high, and 13.5-inches wide, while Delta Airlines has varying requirements according to the specific flight that you’re on.

You should also research an airline’s general rules for pets before you book, and be sure to have documentation that the airline might require. Your pet may need a veterinary examination and particular vaccines to fly, and if necessary, schedule an appointment with your vet to ensure your travel plans go smoothly.

Here are the 5 best airline-friendly cat carriers in 2021

The best airline-friendly carrier overall

sleepypod air in cabin pet carrier

The Sleepypod Air offers the durability and comfort your cat needs for frequent travel.

Pros: Compresses to fit under plane seats, durable construction, straps can anchor to a car seat belt, crash-tested

Cons: Heavier than other soft-sided carriers

The Sleepypod Air in-cabin pet carrier offers an ideal blend of a highly durable exterior and a soft, comfortable interior to keep your cat both comfortable and safe during travel. The exterior is made of luggage-grade ballistic nylon for strength, and tear-resistant mesh makes this carrier a long-lasting choice.

The Sleepypod Air’s unique design allows you to expand or compress the carrier’s size. When you’re in the car or the airport, your pet can enjoy increased space. Then, compress the carrier when you board so it meets your airline’s requirements and fits underneath a seat.  

A large opening provides easy entry, and there are zipper pockets on both sides for ample storage. Straps on both sides of the carrier can secure to a car seat belt for increased travel safety. This carrier also passed crash-testing conducted by the Center for Pet Safety

The best expandable airline-friendly carrier

mr peanuts gold expandable cat carrier

The Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier is compact enough to meet most airlines’ size regulations, but also expands to offer your pet extra space.

Pros: Expandable panel for extra room, two entry doors, folds flat for storage, washable interior bed, lightweight

Cons: Hand-wash only, no warranty

To comply with airline regulations, most pet carriers are small and offer limited space. The Mr. Peanut’s Gold Series Expandable Carrier solves the issue with a side flap that folds out — just unzip and, voila, your pet has extra space to stretch out while staying securely inside the carrier.

Top and front entrances make it easy to load and unload your cat and a privacy flap can help keep cats calm. The luggage sleeve and comfortable shoulder strap are particularly beneficial when you have to carry your pet long distances through the airport.

The carrier is made from durable nylon and includes a sturdy but lightweight plywood base. An interior fleece bed is removable and hand-washable. When not in use, the carrier folds completely flat for easy storage. 

The best hard-shell airline-friendly carrier

frisco hard shell kennel

Affordable and easy to assemble, the Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel offers extra protection.

Pros: Sturdy hard shell, ventilation on all sides, easy assembly

Cons: Only two color options, low weight limit, may be too large for some airlines

The Frisco Two-Door Top-Load Kennel offers your cat the extra protection and spaciousness of a hard-shell carrier in a size that meets most airlines’ regulations. Thanks to the plastic kennel’s durable construction, you don’t have to worry about the occasional bump or nudge to your cat.

There are secure wire mesh doors on both the front and top of the carrier and ventilation openings on all sides. The doors latch securely and the top-mounted handle is strong.

It arrives in two pieces and requires assembly with the included bolts. The carrier is available in a larger 24-inch size, but it’s likely it won’t meet airlines’ regulations.

The best wheeled airline-friendly carrier

katziela rolling carrier

The Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier is easy to pull through the airport and removable wheels ensure it meets size regulations.

Pros: Removable wheels, mesh top can be compressed to fit under a seat, carrying handle and shoulder strap for convenience

Cons: Can tip over if wheels aren’t properly centered, may be too large for some airlines

With the Katziela Luxury Rider Pet Carrier, you can pull the carrier with a telescopic handle, or opt for the handle or shoulder strap. Whichever way you choose to transport your cat, this carrier makes traveling with pets easier.

Six wheels give the carrier extra support, but they’re also easily removable to keep the carrier within the size limit of most airlines.  You can also squish down the top of the carrier to make it fit under a plane seat.

A mesh top and windows give your cat plenty of ventilation. Pockets can hold small supplies, a name tag attached to the handle allows for easy identification, and zippers can be locked to prevent your cat from opening the side flap and escaping. Just make sure you can unlock it, in case of an emergency.

The best budget airline-friendly carrier

frisco travel pet carrier

Affordable and appropriately sized, the Frisco Travel Carrier is a practical option for the occasional trip.

Pros: Front- and top-loading, secure luggage strap, washable interior bed, folds flat for storage, one-year warranty

Cons: Less ventilation, shoulder strap is uncomfortable for shorter individuals

For an affordable option, the Frisco Travel Carrier offers a combination of comfort, durability, and features to make traveling with a pet easier for cats up to 16 pounds.

The durable nylon bag includes doors at top and front and includes privacy flaps. Along with a shoulder strap, there is a luggage sleeve and convenient carrying handles. The removable interior mat provides your cat a soft place to rest.

The downsides: This bag’s ventilation is more limited than that of our top picks. We also found that the shoulder stap lacks padding and can be uncomfortable to carry.

What we’re looking forward to

We’re testing additional airline-friendly carriers for an update to this guide, including the following:

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The 5 best men-sized backpacking packs, perfect for everything from multi-day treks to weeks spent on the trail

  • The right backpacking pack makes trekking with a 30-pound bag on your back a more comfortable experience.
  • The best packs evenly distribute large loads, have several access points, and feature adjustable straps and hip belts. 
  • Our top pick, the Osprey Atmos AG 65, carries tons of gear yet stays comfortable with mesh venting and padded straps.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Backpacking is a fun but grueling outdoor activity – but it doesn’t always have to be. With the right equipment, a multi-day trip into the backcountry could feel like a literal walk in the park, and achieving this starts with purchasing the right backpack. 

Since backpacking requires you to haul everything you need to survive, your pack needs to both hold up to the harshness of the outdoors yet remain comfortable across long distances. This means finding one that’s capable of packing everything from a change of clothes and a sleeping bag to ample food and water (which includes gear like backpacking stoves, changes of socks, and, of course, equipment for making coffee). 

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve embarked on my fair share of backpacking trips, both big and small. Some had me spending just a couple of days on the trail with minimal mileage hiked each day while others were more intensive multi-day to week-long treks with tens of miles of ground covered between camps. While some of the gear you bring may be influenced by the season (like sleeping bags or hiking apparel), the pack you wear depends entirely on the trip you plan on taking.

But finding the right pack isn’t always an easy process. With so many on the market, it’s difficult to know which are best suited to the type of backpacking you prefer. To help, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite packs from brands like Osprey, Arc’teryx, and Gregory, all designed to function well in a variety of use cases. 

A note on fit

The backpacking backpacks featured in this guide are marked as “men’s” packs for a few reasons, all pertaining to their specific fit. Men’s packs tend to have larger carrying capacities, wider straps, taller hip belts, and larger torso dimensions.

Though they’re marketed as “men’s” packs, this doesn’t mean someone of any gender wouldn’t be able to find a men’s pack that fits them well and serves their backpacking needs (same goes for women’s backpacking packs, too). 

Here are the best men’s backpacking backpacks:

Best overall

Atmos AG backpack

With 65-liters of cargo space, upper and lower compression straps to stabilize heavy loads, and Osprey’s Anti-Gravity mesh back panel, the Atmos AG 65 is a backpacker’s dream.

Pros: Osprey’s Anti-Gravity mesh back panel molds to your back to create a comfortable, custom fit, included FlapJacket fly helps protect against rainy weather, upper and lower compression straps reduce load weight

Cons: Size could be bulky for smaller people, not ideal for short, day trips

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 focuses on providing absolute comfort no matter how far you’re hiking or how much cargo you’re hauling. Its 65-liter capacity may be too much for anyone setting out on an overnight trip, as it’s meant more for a weekend or longer excursions. Even when it’s not completely full, the pack never feels as though it’s flopping around on your back or creating a poor fit. 

It features a top-loading design in its main compartment, as well as several exterior pockets designed to hold water bottles, ice climbing tools, or trekking poles. The Atmos also has a zippered bottom area designed to hold a sleeping bag, as well as removable exterior straps which are used to secure a sleeping pad. 

For load management, Osprey’s LightWire frame connects the upper part of the pack to the hip-belt and central core to help distribute weight. Compression straps located on both the upper and lower part of the pack also reduced the pack’s bulk and balanced out heavier loads during my tests. 

Its best feature is the Anti-Gravity ventilated mesh back-panel that contoured to our back to create a snug fit. This helped evenly distribute weight, specifically taking it off our shoulders, hips, and back. This allowed us to carry more weight without feeling bogged down. 

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is one of the best values among any picks on this list. Being uncomfortable can quickly ruin any backpacking trip, so investing in a pack like this one is always well worth the money.  

Best for short trips

REICoop

REI Co-op’s Flash 45 offers ample cargo room for weekend-long adventures but remains lightweight enough for quick day trips or overnighters.

Pros: Smaller capacity perfect for day trips, compatible with hydration pouches, contoured foam hip belt provides a snug and comfortable fit, UpLift Compression tech raises the load to improve stability, and it’s inexpensive

Cons: Not suitable for venturing off-grid for multiple days

Backpacking trips don’t always need to be grueling multiday treks, so when shorter day trips or overnighters are on the agenda, REI Co-op’s Flash 45 is the pack you’ll want. Small enough to avoid slowing you down but with enough cargo space to support you for one or two days on the trail.

Even for a smaller pack, it’s loaded with features geared toward making backpacking easier. REI designed its back panel to provide extra lumbar support while remaining breathable and flexible. It has a contoured hip-belt with foam padding throughout which sits snug against your body to create a custom fit.

On longer trips when I had more cargo, its compression straps helped raise its load while pulling it toward my center of gravity. This helped with pack stability which left me better balanced, and the pack better supported, while I hiked.

Other features include compatibility with a hydration pouch and external tool keepers for trekking poles or ice axes. It also has conveniently-placed bottle pockets that allow you to easily remove and place back water bottles. 

The Flash 45 is a great option for anyone just getting into backpacking but not interested in investing in a larger, more expensive model. 

Best for durability

Hyperlite backpack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 2400 Southwest Pack features a Dyneema composite exterior that allows it to hold up to hanging branches, sharp rocks, or anything you come across while on the trail.

Pros: Constructed out of durable and lightweight Dyneema fabric, 40-liter volume offers enough cargo space for weekend trips, dedicated hydration pack pocket, seamed seals to keep the rain out

Cons: Only offers a few external pockets that can fill up easily

It’s not just your body that will take a beating on backpacking trips — your gear inevitably will, too. If you plan on backpacking in densely wooded areas or you find that your gear tends to get more scratched and scraped than you’d like, then check out the Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 2400 Southwest Pack.

Constructed out of durable Dyneema fabric, the pack can be taken into the harshest environments with confidence. Dyneema’s light weight also helps reduce overall pack weight, something that proved beneficial when we packed this 40-liter bag to the brim. Its size is perfect for three-day treks and can even be an option for ultralight backpackers setting out for four or five days. 

Its roll-top closure system is easy to secure, though it did make it slightly difficult to reach gear in the bottom of the pack while we were on-the-move. There are a few external pockets to store gear that we could quickly access, but these are limited to the front of the pack. Vertical and horizontal compression straps along the sides of the pack help properly secure loads, which was especially useful when the pack wasn’t completely full. 

Its interior houses a mesh hydration sleeve that’s separate from the main compartment, so it won’t take up valuable gear space. Other features include fully-seamed seals to keep water out, as well as ice ax loops. The pack is a little expensive at $310 but its durability more than validates the investment.

Best for heavy cargo

Gregory backpack

With a lightweight aluminum chassis and an innovative suspension system, the Gregory Paragon 58 weighs less than 4 pounds, saving wearers some valuable packing weight.

Pros: Lightweight frame and suspension system makes heavy loads easier to haul, matrix ventilation system allows for increased airflow to keep your back cool, adjustable hip-belt makes it easy to customize the perfect fit, hydration sleeve doubles as a small daypack

Cons: The stitching on the daypack isn’t very durable 

Every backpacker knows that despite their best-laid plans to keep their pack light, they often end up bringing much more gear than anticipated. With Gregory’s Paragon 58, those heavy loads become much easier to handle, no matter how long the trip might be. 

The pack achieves this by way of an incredibly lightweight frame and suspension system that clocks in several pounds lighter than any other pack on this list. Though it may not seem that crucial, every pound counts when you’re hiking 10-plus miles for days-on-end and living solely out a backpack. 

Along with its matrix ventilation system that promotes increased airflow, the Paragon 58 is best-suited for trips anywhere from three to five days long. The final days of any backpacking trip can feel as though food, water, and clean socks are at a minimum but we took its lower weight into consideration and packed extra. This let us get through even a five-day trip with ease. 

One of its highlight features is its hydration sleeve that also doubles as a removable daypack. If we had camp set-up, this allowed us to not have to haul our big 58-liter pack on short treks to a nearby river just to tote along water or food. The daypack’s stitching isn’t the most durable and although it didn’t come undone on our trips, we could see how it might when used often. 

For $230, the Gregory Paragon 58 is a great backpacking option with incredible value. It’s best used for longer backpacking trips, or for anyone who has a hard time deciding on what to bring or what to leave behind. 

Best suspension system

Arc'teryx backpack

The Arc’teryx Bora AR 50’s innovative suspension system, which allows wearers to freely move without worrying about shifts in weight, is worth its high price tag.

Pros: Best suspension system on the market makes heavy loads feel lighter and promotes a wide range of movement, pivoting hip belt helps avoid the displacement of pack weight, constructed out of weatherproof materials, large enough capacity for weekend trips

Cons: Expensive

A backpacking pack’s suspension system has the ability to make or break a backpacking trip. Not only are they responsible for distributing the weight of a pack to make it more manageable for the wearer, but they help promote a range of motion and establish a comfortable fit. Right now, no pack does suspension better than the Arc’teryx Bora AR 50.

Thanks to the brand’s RotoGlide hip-belt, its suspension system is designed to completely rotate side to side while also offering free movement up and down. What this does is that with every step, the pack slides in either direction to allow for a natural stride, even when it’s packed full. This also reduces chafing and helps wearers maintain balance. 

Though this is helpful for any length of trip, we found it to be especially useful during weekend trips where our pack needed to carry the most gear. Whether crouching underneath a fallen tree or stepping up onto a high rock, the suspension system helped the pack remain stable through a wide range of motion. 

The pack also features a number of internal and external pockets that helped keep our gear organized. Its exterior kangaroo pocket was great for storing snacks we could access quickly, and would also function well for stashing wet gear. There are also side pockets sized for water bottles, as well as loops for trekking poles.

Arc’teryx designed the Bora AR 50 as a top-loading pack but included side zippers to make it easier to access gear stored at the bottom. The pack is also compatible with hydration pouches and features external storage loops for ice axes.

It’s the most expensive pack on this list at $500, but no other model offers as functional a suspension system as the Bora AR 50. If it wasn’t for the high price, we could easily see this as our overall pick.

Backpacking packs FAQ

Backpacking packs differ from traditional travel backpacks in that they’re designed to hold upward of 30 or 40 pounds of cargo, while still being comfortable to wear. The best packs do this by distributing weight across its frame to avoid having the bulk of the weight sit on any one part of your body.

These packs also tend to feature an abundance of pockets to hold a variety of gear, a sleeve for a hydration pouch, and multiple points of entry to make accessing what you pack along easier than just dumping everything out and repacking. You’ll also find most packs come with a series of adjustable (and padded) straps to fine-tune the fit, ventilation systems to promote airflow and keep you cool, and some sort of durable fabric to hold up to the harshness of the outdoors. 

How do you pick out the right size?

Many backpacking packs come in sizes such as small, medium, or large, but finding the right fit also comes down to personally customizing the pack yourself. This means adjusting the hip belt and changing the size of the pack’s torso length. You’ll also want to make sure the shoulder straps and any other stabilizing strap (sternum, load-lifter, etc.) are able to customize to your liking. 

A good rule of thumb for initially picking out a pack, too, is that your specific torso length is far more important than your height. Just because you wear medium shirts doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll wear a medium pack. Fine-tuning these adjustments and picking out the correct size allows the pack to be far less fatiguing while on the trail, and assures you’re able to get from point A to point B in as comfortable a way as possible.

How important is the pack’s fit?

Aside from packing the correct gear like sleeping bags, tents, and food and water, how your pack fits is one of the most vital steps to any backpacking trip. An ill-fitting pack can spell the difference between making it to camp without immense back pain or having to stop and readjust your load every few feet.

What are the most important features that it should have?

All backpacking packs should come with some form of padded hip belt, padded shoulder straps, a load-fitting strap (this is separate from the shoulder straps), and a sternum strap. Beyond those which help with the fit, you should also look for packs that come with a variety of useful storage pockets.

Personally, I like packs that have pockets on the hip belt for easy access to snacks, sunglasses, or anything else small I might need on the trail, as well as easily accessible water pouches (if it doesn’t come with space for a hydration pouch). Some packs also come with removable top pouches which can serve as day packs if you venture off from camp. 

You also want to make sure your pack can carry everything you need it to (but don’t go overboard). It’s not always smart to just buy the largest capacity backpack, even for long trips, because you run the risk of overpacking and a heavy backpack can severely weigh you down on trail. The best way to judge how much gear to bring is by weight, and you generally don’t want to pack more than 20% of your body weight. 

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