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Top 5 Carry-on Backpacks for Travel & Yoga

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November 2018 update: Along with carry-on backpacks for traveling we also added our top 5 yoga mat backpacks for commuting to the studio. If you’re here for a backpack with yoga mat holder… Click here to skip to the yoga backpacks section

Let’s start with the carry-on sized backpacks for traveling…

So you’re looking for a new backpack, eh?

But you’re not looking for any old bag; you’re looking for the backpack? I’m with you – and it’s not an easy task. With 100’s of options out there – where do you even start?!

After spending the past few months thinking obsessing about which backpack to choose, I narrowed it down to the top 5 backpacks.

What I was looking for:

While we’re on the subject, stop reading and quickly write down the top 3-5 backpack features that fit your needs………… are you done? Good, this list will prevent you from getting overwhelmed later.

This guide was designed to make choosing the right backpack a breeze! (or at least give you a starting point)

I will share which pack Anne and I chose at the end, however you couldn’t go wrong with any of these

Top 5 Carry On Backpacks for Travel and Yoga 2

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Let’s start the high level overview…

Carry on Backpack Comparison

Minaal Carry-onOsprey Farpoint 40LGORUCK GR2Tortuga v2Osprey Porter 46L
Price (USD)$229$149$395$199$99
Weight (lbs)3.19lbs2.15lbs5.30lbs3.65lbs2.44lbs
Carry On Sized
Hip Beltno
Yoga Mat Readynono
Rain Covernononono
Laptop Compartmentno
Zip Away Strapsno

Alright lets move on to the individual reviews…

Minaal Carry-on


The smallest backpack on the list (35L) but don’t let that fool you – you can fit a lot in this pack. Video to prove it.

There is a lot of buzz surrounding this company and backpack. Rightfully so, the “Brothers Minaal” completed a record breaking Kickstarter Campaign. The Minaal is the only pack on the list that comes with a rain cover – while not a crucial feature, it will save you the hassle of finding a 3rd party rain cover (if that is important to you). This sexy backpack is feature rich and has the best overall design – if Steve Jobs was a 25 year old digital nomad, he would choose this pack.

In 2016Minaal launched their carry on backpack 2.0 and a daypack on Kickstarter to the tune of $700k. They also expanded to include packing cubes, modular hip pads, and accessories. Minaal is here to stay. Full product line at Minaal.com

Potential downside: The Minaal doesn’t have hip pads which means if you have a heavy pack and plan to wear it for long periods of time it might start to hurt your shoulders. They went for a minimalist design (which I appreciate). In my experience the lack of hip pads didn’t negatively impact my experience.

2018 update: Started using the Minaal for weekend trips and shorter backpacking trips. Although it’s only 35L it fits a surprising amount thanks to the minimalist design. It’s sleek, it’s sexy, has great handles, and I love using it.

Osprey Farpoint 40L

Osprey 40L Farpoint

The Farpoint is sleek and the lightest pack on the list. Not a huge deal, but every ounce counts. The Farpoint 40 comes in two sizes: M/L for the guys (and girls over 5’ 8”) and S/M for everyone else. Osprey is my favorite brand on the list because time and time again they create awesome gear (been using their Aether 70L for back-country camping excursions for years). Note: If you’re less than 5’3” – look no further, this IS your pack. Get the S/M size and you’ll never look back.

Potential downside: Without a side holster spot for a yoga mat, you’ll have to get creative with your yoga mat if that’s important to you.

2018 update: Anne has been using this pack since 2014 and still loves it.


GORUCK - gr2

This is one bad-ass backpack. Originally designed for military use – anticipate a rugged designed build to last a lifetime (you can even get it in camo color). It looks great and is practically indestructible, but a few things held me back from purchasing. The GR2 is by far the most expensive backpack on the list and also the only one without hip pads or the option to zip away the back straps. Although an awesome backpack; probably not my first choice for digital nomads.

Potential downside: Price tag ($395) and lack of hip pads could make long walks to find your hostel miserable.

Tortuga V2 44L

Tortuga - v2

Fred and Jeremy were frustrated with the backpack market so they decided to create their own bag. If you ask me, they did a mighty fine job designing the Tortuga V2. In terms of size, it’s the second largest on the list (44L) yet maintains its carry-on friendly status for most airlines. The Tortuga’s hip belt has the best padding I’ve seen in this class of backpacks. The internal compression straps were a nice touch and will help you maximize space.

Potential downside: it only comes in one size, while it fit me great (6’3’’) it was uncomfortable on Anne’s smaller frame (5’2’’)

2018 update: I’ve been using this pack regularly for several years

Osprey Porter 46L

Osprey - Porter 46L

You already know I love Osprey. The Porter is the largest pack on the list (46L), extremely light and also the cheapest. I personally do not like this design, but many people use it. If you want to save a few dollars, don’t need an easy access laptop compartment or a padded hip belt, you found a bag that will do the job!

Potential downside: Hip belt has no padding and there isn’t a laptop compartment which to me is unacceptable for long term travel

2018 update: they’ve come out with an updated design and I haven’t had a chance to test it out. It looks way better, feature set improved, and increased the price to $139 which seems fair. If you have experience with this pack please share in the comments below!

Honorable Mention: Standard Luggage Co

standard luggage co

This Toronto based company is the new comer on the scene. After a successful Kickstarter Campaign, they moved into full production. I was fortunate enough to receive an early run of the product to test out. It has all the features we need – laptop compartment, clam shell design, enough space while staying carry-on compliant, and looks great too. As with all new products, durability is a question as no one has owned the bag long enough 🙂

Happy to say it’s an excellent product and is contenting with the Tortuga V2 and the Minaal as my favorite carry on backpacks for digital nomads or travelers.

After much consideration, here is what The Yoga Nomads selected…

2018 update: Brandon still uses the Tortuga most of the time but rotates in the Minaal for shorter trips. Anne still loves her Farpoint. We’ve been traveling with the Tortuga, Minaal, and Farpoint since 2014/2015.

Is There a Yoga Mat Backpack Attachment for the Tortuga?

Readers asked about how we traveled with a yoga mat attached to the Tortuga V2. In my opinion, carrying a yoga mat attached to the Tortuga V2 was a breeze. Click here for our recommendations for traveling yoga mats.

attach yoga mat to backpack
Tortuga V2 carrying a Manduka eKo superlite travel yoga mat

2018 Update: Readers keep asking for recommendations for yogi backpacks to commute with. We added our top picks below…. 

Top 5 Yoga Bat Backpack Reviews
(for commuting to the studio)

There are many ways to carry your yoga gear to and from the studio. We’ve got backpacks with yoga mat holders, yoga mat totes, simple yoga carrying straps, and the list goes on.

If you’re wondering how to strap a yoga mat to a backpack, there is no easy answer. Each bag has their own method and it just comes down to personal preference.

backpack for carrying yoga mats

Before we jump into the individual reviews, just wanted to mention that I’d love to hear from you in the comments… what is the best yoga backpack from your experience?


Yoga Sak 

Yoga Sak is designed as a yoga travel bag with a central strap to secure your yoga mat. This makes commuting by bike very comfortable. There is plenty of space to carry the necessities but don’t plan on fitting your entire home studio into the backpack. Nice looking design. Steel Grey and Navy are my favorite color options.

Check prices on Amazon

yoga back pack

Manduka Go Light Yoga Mat Bag

Yet again, our friends at Manduka nailed it with a backpack for yoga mat transporting. Great design, breathable fabric, multiple pockets to keep you organized, and padded strap. Can choose from two sizes, Small will work for most yoga mats and the large fits anything, including their Manduka Black Mat Pro. It only comes in one color, Black. Good thing that’s my favorite color.

This would also be a great yoga mat backpack for biking in case that’s your thing.

Check prices on Amazon

tote bag for carrying yoga mats

Aurorae TOTE 

Hey ladies, I know you like tote bags! Aurorae makes the best yoga mat tote around. Looks great and has several little pockets to keep all your stuff organized. They use magnets to keep the bag shut. 4.8 stars on Amazon (top rated yoga bag we’ve seen). Chose your favorite color!

This is one of our favorite womens yoga backpacks on the market.

Check prices on Amazon

backpack yoga matAurorae Yoga Mat Bag

Another backpack with yoga strap, except this time the yoga mat is attached vertically on the side of the backpack. Fits a ton of stuff while still maintaining a slim profile. The most purchased yoga backpack on Amazon with over 1,142 reviews and a 4.5 stars rating.

Check prices on Amazon

backpack with yoga mat holder

MatPak by Yoga Rat

Our final bag with yoga mat holder, the MatPak. Yoga Rat has been making great yoga products at a very affordable price for quite awhile. Just like the beloved Yoga Rat Towel, the yoga rucksack MatPak gets it done. Hybrid design so you can carry with one strap like a sling, or use two straps like a backpack. Plenty of space for your gear. Similar to the Manduka Yoga Sak but the MatPak has more room to pack your stuff.

Check prices on Amazon

Let’s wrap up

Hopefully this helped you narrow down the right carry on backpack or yoga mat travel bag for you! I know it can be a daunting task, however you can’t go wrong with any bag mentioned in this article 🙂

Until next time,

PS: Looking for more gear? Check out our recommended daypacks.

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Top 5 Carry On Backpacks for Travel and Yoga 1
About Brandon

Former corporate sales rep turned nomadic entrepreneurial yogi. Street food ninja, avid outdoorsman, craft beer geek, and live music junkie. Co-founder of The Yoga Nomads.

21 thoughts on “Top 5 Carry-on Backpacks for Travel & Yoga”

    • Hey Fred – my pleasure!

      Going to officially break it in next week. Spending a few weeks in the mountains in Colorado and then down to Arizona. I’ll send you an update with how everything worked out.

  1. We travel just with carry-on luggage,
    Gianni with The North Face Router Daypack (41 L), me with The North Face Surge II Backpack (32 L). So far, we are very satisfied. Practical for taking flights, buses, easy to take with us anywhere. Enough space for all the gears we are carrying, too.
    The only potential downside of mine backpack is a bit tough back straps. But hopefully with tie they become softer and more adjusted to the body.

    • Good call with only carry-on luggage – glad to hear it working out for you. We looked at both the Router and Surge II – both are sweet packs! Do you also carry smaller day packs? I’m trying to decide if I should pick up a tiny collapsible drawstring day pack or an actual sturdy day pack.

    • You’re welcome, Jeff. Your review is very in-depth and I learned a ton by reading. Looks like you and Anne are both getting close to breaking in the Farpoint 40L! Happy travels!

  2. Great roundup of backpacks! The Minaal looks really good but I don’t think its released yet at this point in time. I’m also concerned about its build quality…. its quite a new brand compared to the others on the list.

    I was thinking of getting a Goruck because the molle webbing seems perfect for hooking up yoga mats and other types of gear. It’s expensive but I’ve not seen any bad reviews of it so far online! 🙂

    • Hey thanks Marissa! Yeah you’re right, the Minaal is not quite in customer’s hands yet. I had the same concern regarding durability – hopefully they pull through on their first bag. Looks like they provide updates on their Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/minaal/protravel-carry-on-travel-faster-happier-and-more/posts

      I love the Goruck design and almost bought it… until I realized it doesn’t have hip pads. I inevitably end up walking around with my pack on longer than I’d like and personally require hip pads.

      I’m about 40 days into a 12month trip through Asia and the Tortuga v2 has been great for me so far. Any of these bags will be great – let me know what you end up with!!

  3. I have a question. I will mainly be using my backpack to commute from home to work to yoga and then home again. With the Osprey bags, where are you putting your yoga mat? Will it stay in the front buckle area?

    • Hey Sadie – if you plan to roll your mat, you can definitely attach it on the front straps. Make sure to pull it really tight so it doesn’t fall off. Another option is to fold your mat and place in the bag (assuming your mat is foldable). Maybe bring your yoga mat to the store and play around with the backpack selection? Hope it works out for you!

  4. Thanks for the comparison chart! The specifications you were looking far are very similar to what I think I want out of a new backpack. I’ve been using the same basic Jansport for the last 15 years, first through school and now through plenty of airports and trunks–so I’m pretty unfamiliar with all the different types of backpacks out there. I’m trying to educate myself before making a decision, and your review was really helpful.

    • You’re welcome Holly, hope the backpack search goes well. Nice work getting 15 years out of your Jansport!! I still have my Colombia backpack from 2002 ha ha. Let me know if you have any specific questions about these backpacks!

  5. Great comparison, thanks!

    My beloved Osprey 90 Porter has been telling me for about a year that is about ready to retire. I replaced my very first pack (Greggory Palisade top-loader… yuk!) with the Osprey mid-way through my first year in Asia and I’ve loved it ever since. Obviously though I check the Osprey when I fly. I have a Crumpler Sinking Barge which carry on and I think is the best laptop+camera/small-stuff bag ever made… Oh I how I love that Crumpler bag, sadly no longer made or I’d buy a spare just in case.

    What’s interesting is checking a bag has never really bothered me. Over the years though I’ve pared down what I carry and the Osprey 90 is just way bigger than it needs to be. It’s time to downsize. I have friends who are enamored by the Minall, but only because it was a Kickstarter campaign, not one of them actually owns the bag… heck they don’t really even travel much 😉

    Anyway, what do you think of checking any of these these bags you’ve reviewed here? Durable enough?

    Right now I’m strongly drawn to the Tortuga and Osprey 46L, although given my lack of aversion to checking bags I haven’t completely ruled out the the newer wheeled Osprey’s (seems like they have finally come down a bit in empty weight after a few years of being heavy monstrosities).

    • Hey John,

      Thanks for the thoughtful discussion here. Sad to retire your Osprey 90, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of use out of it. I use an Osprey Aether 70 for backpack camping and love it. Ha ha and yes we both hate toploaders 😉

      Just looked up that Crumpler bag, it looks amazing. And funny because I’m in the market for a new daypack to fit my Mac Air, and Olympus Em5 (micro 4/3s) camera + 2 lens. Do you have any other suggestions?

      I use the Tortuga and have had to check it a few times when flying on super budget airlines in Asia. Always handled great, no complaints, and I haven’t had to pay for checking it once. I can’t say how the Osprey Porter 46 would do checking, as I’ve never done it.

      If you’re deciding between the Porter 46 and and the Tortuga, I would say Tortuga all day long. I’ve been traveling with it for the past 10 months and it’s been great. Holds a surprisingly large amount of stuff, fits comfortable, great organization, comfortable hip pads, and the laptop compartment is convenient in airports. And you can vertically attach a yoga mat to the side (rolled up)!

      Funny about the Minaal. I’ve never touched one either, it looks sweet online, and a few other well respected travel bloggers have had good things to say. Who knows!

  6. Hi Brandon,
    Could you take and post a photo of how you attach your yoga mat to your Tortuga? What kind of yoga mat are you using for traveling?


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