I have put a lot of effort into looking for the best travel backpacks for kids.
So, when the time came to get some new travel gear for the kids, I knew I wanted to get for them a children travel backpack that was at least as good as my own.
My research happened both online and offline.
I started off searching Amazon and the web for good recommendations for travel rucksack for kids and then I made a point in going into all sports and luggage shops I encountered to see the items in person.
I asked the kids to try them on, asked their opinions on look, comfort and general appeal and bugged more than one shop assistant with questions about the differences between backpacks.
All this resulted in two good purchases (my kids ended up liking two different ones) and a good shortlist of great backpacks for kids.
I hope my research can be handy for you. Here are my picks for the best travel backpacks for kids in 2019.
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Best travel backpacks for kids comparison chart: quick links
|Kikki Deuter||6L||Toddler Daypack|
|Osprey Daylite Pack||12L||Daypack|
|Osprey Ace||38L||Overnight/Weekend bag|
|Deuter Fox||40L||Overnight/Weekend bag|
Children backpacks explained: useful terminology to know
Every time I research anything I discover a world of new words and this happened when researching children backpacks too.
Here are some of the terms I encountered and that are useful to know when looking for a rucksack:
This is the strap that connects the two shoulder pads across the chest.
This is a small but essential bit of any backpack as it helps the bag sitting nicely on your shoulders, in the correct position and saves your child from constantly pulling up and readjusting the shoulder straps
A hip belt is made of two straps fitted to the lower parts of the backpack sides and connecting to each other at the front of your hips.
It is the equivalent of the sternum strap but for your hips and is something you definitely want when buying a bigger backpack as it helps spreading the load nicely or the back and helps keeping it safe.
Many young children travel backpacks do not have a hip belt but this is ok for small ones, as for small rucksacks it is usually not needed.
These are straps external to the backpack useful to tighten it and make the backpack smaller.
I find these excellent to make the load more bearable on the shoulders and fantastic if using the travel backpack for plane travel, when space is always at a premium.
These are the loops on the outside of a pack.
They are used to attach objects that don’t fit inside the bag or require easy access. They are very useful in a backpack for outdoor travel especially.
A hydration pack is a built in drinking system you see in many sports backpacks, for hiking and cycling.
Kids tend to love this piece of gear and it is very handy to have if you want tour backpack to come with you on hikes.
I do, however, find this an item not worth investing on if you want a kids travel backpack for plane travel or city travel, when I find the hydration system redundant.
Buying a travel backpack for kids: what to look for
When I set out to buy a travel backpack for the kids, the first thing I did was writing down a series of characteristics to look for.
I based this list on my experience with my own backpack, what worked and what didn’t with my husband’s backpack and most of all what worked and didn’t work with several toddler backpacks we went though.
Now, when looking for children backpack for travel, I recommend you look for:
What will you use the backpack for?
Depending on the type of travel you do and other items you may already have at home, you may need to invest in a more or less technical backpack.
If your travel involves a lot of hiking and outdoor time, then investing in a backpack with a good camel-back hydration system for instance is a good idea.
On the other hand, if you are thinking of using the backpack as a carry on luggage and only the occasional day trip, then you may want to favor the number of pockets over the more technical stuff.
RELATED: how to pack light with children, tips for easier family travel
Before buying a rucksack, consider carefully what purpose it needs to serve or you may end up paying over the odds for nothing.
How heavy is is?
I love my backpacks to be super light.
I am passionate about traveling light and only carry essentials and it really bugs me if, after all the effort I put into a clever functional carry on packing list, I find myself dragging a round a heavy rucksack just because the thing itself is made of poor materials.
When shortlisting the best travel backpacks for kids, I selected only brands that have lightweight gear so the weight on the children shoulder is only the minimum necessary.
RELATED: if you are not sure a backpack is the best choice for your child, you may look at our picks for the best luggage for kids here
What capacity should the backpack have?
How big a rucksack your child can carry depends entirely on their age and built.
I found that for my young kids (age bracket 6 to 9) a rucksack with a capacity of 12 to 18 L is best.
This capacity makes for a good day pack and can fit in a packing cube worth of clothes, which means we are often able to use these packs for a weekend away as well as day trips.
The next size up, 20-25L works for slightly older kids and with 40L plus you are looking at a rucksack for teenagers or adults. This is the size I use for myself and can be good for teenagers and taller, stronger kids.
A 40L children backpack can work as carry on travel backpack on planes and will get them kitted out for several days of travel.
Just make sure you do not pack the bag too much: 40L get heavy fast!
How do I know the right backpack size for my child?
The easiest way to gauge if a backpack is suitable for a specific child is to measure their torso and then compare with the specs on the manufacturer websites (torso length is usually one of them).
A good fitting backpack should be big enough to sit nicely on their back, spreading the weight evenly on shoulders and hips.
I am passionate about the need for a sternum strap on a good travel backpack for kids and adults alike.
Clicking the sternum strap close make bearing the load on your shoulders immediately more bearable as better spread and in the case of children, saves them from the contrast need to pull up the shoulder straps.
Wide shoulder straps
Wide shoulder straps that spread the backpack weight nicely are my other must have for backpacks and I just cannot get over the fact that a very popular backpacks maker I will not mention made it as big as they did without decent shoulder gear!
Seriously have you ever carried a backpack with a small strap that cuts into your shoulders?
It is not a good idea: if you look at nothing else, wide shoulder straps I believe should be it!
Best travel backpacks for kids: top picks
Deuter Kikki: best travel backpack for small kids
If you have been to my site before you might already know that I am a fan of the Kikki Deuter backpack, the super cure toddler backpack with the look of an exotic bird.
My kids have now outgrown it but the bar was set so high by that backpack that I had to go though all of this research to make sure that the next purchase would be as good!
If you are looking for a toddler or small child backpack, the Kikki is perfect (you can read my full review here).
It has nice padded, shoulders, a sternum strap, external pockets with velcro for small items or a small water bottle and an internal elastic pocket too.
In 2020, they came up with a new design and a cute bear has now replaced the birdie – I love the bear but miss the beak!
RELATED: if you are buying for a toddler, you can find our list of favorite backpacks for toddlers here
Camelbak Scout 12.5L
Anther small but excellent travel backpack for kids is the Camelback scout.
This backpack is built with hiking in mind and has a built in hydration system but has the perfect size for city trips too and weekends ways, something that makes it a good versatile travel item to buy.
The Camelbak scout has good shoulder straps, chest strap with whistle, good main compartments and external mesh pockets for small items and water bottle.
Osprey Daylite pack 12L
I am obsessed with my Osprey pack so the first brand I looked at for my kids was osprey and it quickly delivered.
They make several excellent kids backpacks and the choice over one of another is really just down to look and preference: I believe that with an Osprey junior pack you cannot go wrong.
Currently, my daughter is using the Osprey Daylite day pack and we find it so good I often steal it off her!
The pack has a good size, very well built shoulder straps with just the right amount of soft padding to be conferrable yet not bulky.
I find this an excellent backpack for children travel as it fits nicely a packing cube and we still have space for books, snacks and a water bottle, which we carry in the external netted pockets.
Deuter Speedlite 16L ultralight daypack
My son wanted something different from his sister and opted for the excellent Deuter Speedlite 16 (also available in bigger capacity), an excellent day backpack for kids we have been using for the last two years,
This backpack is excellent for travel as it holds one packing cube worth of clothes, has external mesh pockets for water and fits nicely under the seat in front of you on the plane, making it an excellent piece of travel luggage for kids.
The shoulder straps are well built and sit nicely on the children’s shoulders.
My only less than enthusiastic comment about this backpack are the zips: a bigger loop to help opening and closing would make it even better (but seriously, I am nit picking here, this is a fantastic kids backpack for travel and school).
Osprey Jet 18 kids backpack
Another excellent kids backpack I recommend is the Osprey jet 18, suitable for travel and hiking.
This pack has AirScape™ backpanel, a Sternum strap with emergency whistle, a good number of pockets, external expandable mesh pockets to hold a bottle of water or a teddy and also the option of adding to it a hydration pack.
I like this pack because of its good make and because it is easy to use in several situations, limiting the number of gear we need.
Deuter Junior 18 children backpack
This is my son’s backpack and is an absolutely excellent one we use every day for school as well on all out days out and travel.
The pack has two wide shoulder straps and a handy sternum strap that helps keeping it in good position, it is made of breathable material so we can use it even in hot climates and has a reasonable, yet not excessive amounts of pockets.
Two external mash pockets are perfect to carry a water bottle too and small things such as easy space inside for writing your name make it a good choice also for school.
Osprey ace 38 kids backpack for travel and hiking
Once your kids are ready for bigger backpacks, I recommend looking at the bigger version of the brands above.
For Osprey, my choice falls on The Osprey Ace 38, which is a good in between option between a one day smaller backpack and a full on 40L one, which can fit big on some children.
The osprey ace 38 has all the characteristics of the excellent Osprey adult bags, has good straps for shoulders and torso, hip belt (which you want, for this size backpack) compression pockets, daisy chains and built it rain cover.
Deuter Fox 40L kids travel backpack
In the case of Deuter, I like the excellent Deuter fox 40.
This model is suitable for kids about age 8 and up and should last you a good few years thanks to its breathable materials, cool look (not baby-ish and good for teenagers too) and good size.
This kids travel backpack is great for international travel and the outdoors, which makes it a nice and versatile purchase.
Like the other items on this list, the pack has good size shoulder straps, adjustable chest harness, compression straps, a hip belt (useful for this size backpack) and has nice breathable panels on its back.
I hope this selection of the best travel backpacks for children helped you find good buys for your family. Safe travels!