Can You Use a Backpack As Carry on Luggage?

As a frequent traveler I’ve lugged around the world using both backpacks and suitcases as carry-on luggage, and if you still wonder whether a backpack can be used as a carry-on or not.

The short answer is: Yes, a backpack is a convenient and practical choice for carry-on luggage and you can use it as carry-on if it fits your airline’s carry-on size and weight.

So let’s find out.

In this blog post, we will answer all your questions about using a backpack as carry on and provide tips for taking your backpack on board stress free and avoid any inconvenience.

Let’s dive right in.


Can You Use a Backpack As Carry-on Luggage?

Yes, you can use a backpack as carry-on and a personal item, but you will need to make sure that it is within your airline carry-on size and weight.

Your backpacks must fit in either in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

If you are taking a large backpack that exceeds the airline carry-on size, then your backpack will be considered as a checked bag.

What Size Backpack Can Be Used As A Carry-on?

Each airline has its own carry-on size restrictions ( Check this luggage calculator ) , but the most carry-on size is  22 x 14 x 9 inches.

This size is usually for a 20 inch suitcase, so if you are planning to take a standard backpack I’m sure the backpack won’t be bigger for this size.

And because most of the airlines are strict with their carry on size, in this size less than 40 liter backpack will be just the right size to go with.

If you encounter some less experienced airline staff, they may tend to check in your backpack if they assume that it is oversized or the is no room in the overhead compartment.

Like what happened to Melanie, when the United Airline staff make her check in her backpack, but this doesn’t occur frequently.


Things To Consider Before Taking Backpack As Carry on Luggage 

Size and Weight

As I mentioned earlier, most airlines have size and weight restrictions for carry-on luggage, including backpacks.

So ensure to choose a backpack that fits within the airline’s size limit and is lightweight.

Packing Efficiency

Backpacks can be tricky to pack efficiently, but with some prior planning, you can maximize space and minimize the weight of your backpack. 

You can use packing cubes or compression bags to organize your items and clothes and eliminate air pockets. 

Take only what you need to ensure your backpack can easily fit into the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

TSA Regulations

Ensure that you have some knowledge about items that you are allowed to take in carry-on baggage.

Don to place any prohibited items in your backpack such as large quantities of liquids, sharp objects, and firearms.

Also, be prepared to remove your backpack during the security screening process.

Types of Backpacks

There are several types of backpacks that you could travels with, however, the type of backpack you take depends on your preferred and the type of your trip:

Travel Backpacks

Travel backpacks are larger backpacks and designed specifically for longer trips.

They have more compartments than a daypack to store more items, and they come with additional features, like locking zippers, padded straps for added surly security and comfort.

If you are planning to use one of these backpacks ensure that it does not exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches.

Wheeled Backpacks

Wheeled backpacks are convenient for those who prefer to have the option of rolling their backpacks instead of carrying them.

They usually have a telescoping handle, durable wheels, and padded straps that can be tucked away when not in use.

If you are messing your wheeled backpack ensure that you include the wheels and handles, just like a suitcase.

Hiking Backpacks

Hiking backpacks are bulky backpacks and are designed to carry heavy items and gear.

Usually larger hiking backpacks will be accepted as a checked bag, unless your backpack is less than the airline size.


Daypacks are lightweight and small in size, making them perfect for short hikes, day trips, or as a personal item on a flight.

They usually have small pockets and one main compartment.

Alternatives To Backpacks

If you find that a backpack isn’t the right fit for you, there are many alternatives to use as carry-on baggage.

Here are some alternative options:

Wheeled Suitcases

Wheeled suitcases are a popular and good choice for traveling.

Suitcases have a hard exterior shell that protects your belongings and fragile items.

You can find them in various sizes, shapes and colors, and the good news is most of the luggage factories are aware to make suitcases respect the airline size and weight policies.

Duffel Bags

Duffel bags are also a popular choice, even though they are not suitable for all trips, but they are also lightweight and flexible.

If you are taking bulky items such as sports equipment or clothing. 

The good thing about duffle bags is they can be squeezed in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you with ease.

Tote Bags

Tote bags are a great choice but they will work only as a personal item, you can’t count on them if you are traveling on a 2 week trip or more.

They are stylish and come in various sizes, but you can only use them for small stuff like electronics.

Final Thoughts

Using a backpack as a carry-on has plenty of advantages.

It’s easy to carry, leaving your hands free to hold other items. It can also fit easily into the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you, allowing for easy boarding and onboarding during the flight.

Just ensure that your backpack is within your airline carry-on size and weight restrictions and you won’t face any issues at the airport.

We hope this helps 

Happy travels.

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