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Welcome to our guide to choosing the best personal item backpack. According to TSA, travelers are allowed one personal item that may be a small backpack.

Best Personal Item Backpack_ Top 5 Approved for Men & Women [2019] featured image

Airlines’ dimension allowances for personal items vary, and it’s best to err on the side of caution to avoid hefty day-of-flight fees that can instantly sour even the most cheerful person’s day.

Airlines usually provide “personal item” maximum dimensions and weight. We’ve found that the less budget an airline is, the more wiggle room they’ll give their passengers when checking personal items.

The rule of thumb is the bag must fit under the seat in front of you. Here’s a good way to look at it. If you know you’ll be flying on a smaller airplane, then there will always be less room under the seat in front of you and vice versa for larger planes.

Keep the tip above in mind and always be sure to check the airline’s official website for personal item rules before you fly. If you’re unable to track down the dimension allowances – because believe me, they’re not always easy to find – it’s best to check popular travel forums to see what people are saying.

In this guide, I share our top 5 best personal item backpack picks of 2019. These bags are all unisex.

At the end of our guide, you’ll find alternative women’s options for women who prefer prettier backpacks. Use the table of contents below for easy navigation.

Top 5 Best Personal Item Backpacks

Brand Highlights
#1 Best Personal Item Backpack of 2019

 

#1 KORIN Design FlexPack Pro

koring flexpack best personal item backpack 2019 unisex View at Amazon

  • Korin’s latest design the “FlexPack Pro” has some awesome new features and is better than the previous ClickPack Pro
  • A USB Port with an inlet and outlet gives you the ability to charge your power bank without taking it out of your bag!
  • Concealed TSA-approved combination zipper lock on the main compartment
  • A built-in retractable cable lock allows you to lock the bag to a fixed object and relax without worry while in the airport
  • Anti-Bacterial insulation pouch to store shoes, dirty laundry, or a wet umbrella away from your other belongings
  • Amazing internal organization
  • Magnetic chest strap takes the weight off your lower back while in transit
  • 18-Liter capacity
Verified by Business Travelers to Fit Below Seat

 

#2 NOMATIC Backpack

nomatic best personal item backpack 2018  View at Amazon View at Nomatic

  • When not expanded, the NOMATIC backpack is slim and easily fits below the seat on major airlines
  • Anti-Theft Features: Lockable Zippers, RFID-blocking pocket, reflective ink, and retractable key leash
  • Stowable shoulder straps allow you to carry it like a briefcase (perfect for traveling professionals)
  • 2 exterior water bottle pockets with magnetic closures
  • The best roller bag sleeve on the market for hooking the NOMATIC atop a rolling suitcase
  • Internal cord pass-through for charging your phone on the go
  • Included hard-shell sunglasses case
  • 20-Liter capacity (expandable to 24 liters)
Best Anti-Theft Personal Item Backpack

 

#3 Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350

pacsafe metrosafe best anti-theft personal item backpack  View at Amazon

  • 15-Liter capacity makes the Metrosafe LS350 a safe pick for all airlines’ personal item requirements
  • Pacsafe designs and manufactures the best anti-theft backpacks for travel
  • Lockable zippers, slash-proof materials w/ internal lightweight steel mesh, built-in RFID-blocking pocket to prevent sensitive information theft
  • Super lightweight at just 1.46 lbs
  • The lockdown shoulder strap feature allows you to hook the bag to a fixed object to prevent grab-and-go robberies
  • Expandable mesh water bottle pockets
  • Ample internal organization (padded laptop sleeve fits up to 13″ laptop, e.g. MacBook)
Ultimate Convenience Features

 

#4 XD Design Bobby Compact

xd design bobby compact personal item backpack View at Amazon

  • Concealed USB-charging port at your hip is the ultimate location for easy phone charging while on the move
  • The hidden back panel pocket is perfect for storing travel documents that you need quick access to while going through airport check-in and security checkpoints
  • TSA-Friendly lay-flat feature allows you to pass through security without removing your laptop
  • Built with slash-proof materials
  • Hidden zippers throughout the bag give you peace of mind while inside the airport and/or using public transportation to/from the airport
  • Thoughtful weight-balance design keeps excess pressure off your back
  • Integrated rain cover
  • Capacity: 11 liters, Dimensions: Height 40cm x Width 30cm x Depth 16cm
#1 Daypack/Personal Item Option

 

#5 Pacsafe Venturesafe GII

pacsafe venturesafe 15 liter carry on backpack View at Amazon

  • An excellent option to use as a personal item backpack and as a daypack once you arrive at your destination
  • Front panel pocket with locking zipper includes an RFID slot and internal organization pockets
  • Slash-proof materials with lightweight internal steel mesh
  • Padded back panel and shoulder straps with sternum strap for ultimate comfort
  • Padded and suspended interior laptop sleeve fits up to a 13″ computer
  • Side water bottle pockets and option to use an internal 3-liter hydration bladder
  • Capacity: 15 liters, Dimensions: 18.1″ Height x 10.2″ Width x 6.3″Depth, Weight: 1.64 lbs

What did you think of our top 5 best personal item backpacks? Did you choose one already?

If you’re still undecided, we included a brief FAQ below and videos of our top 5 picks in action to help you make your final decision.

Personal Item Backpack FAQ

Is a backpack considered a personal item or carry on?

Your personal item may be a backpack. The key is to ensure it fits below the seat in front of you, not in the overhead compartment. It’s also a good idea to check the airline’s official website to see their dimension requirements for personal items since all airlines are different.

You’ll find that most budget airlines have smaller allowances since the planes are typically smaller.

A personal item backpack becomes a carry-on backpack once it exceeds the airline’s personal item dimension allowances or if the bag doesn’t fit below the seat in front of you.

What size can your personal item be on a plane?

Always check the airline’s official website for baggage allowances. If you can’t find the exact dimensions, a good idea is to check popular travel forums. People with knowledge often share their experiences with airlines from all over the world.

Travel forums are also useful for checking to see how strict airlines tend to be in case your current personal item backpack exceeds the dimensions posted on the airline’s website. In my experience – and I’ve traveled all over the world – friendliness goes a long way during the check-in process.

A smile often makes going a couple of inches beyond the allowances okay.

What size bag can fit under an airplane seat?

Since all airplanes and interior layouts are different across airlines, it’s quite difficult to provide a general answer to this question. Frequent flyers recommend not exceeding 20″ Length x 11″ Height x 17″ Width.

All of the bags in our top five fit under the most common airplane seats.

Does an under-seat bag count as a personal item?

For clarification purposes, if your backpack meets the personal item dimension requirements and fits below the seat in front you, then it is a personal item.

If your bag exceeds the personal item allowances (weight and/or dimensions), yet fits under the seat in front of you, it may still be counted as a carry-on bag instead of a personal item.

Videos

Our favorite personal item backpack of the year is undoubtedly the new Korin FlexPack Pro. Korin took the already awesome ClickPack Pro design and made it even better.

Below you’ll find video demonstrations for each backpack in our Top 5.

FlexPack Pro and Go

NOMATIC Backpack

Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350

XD Design Bobby Compact

Pacsafe Venturesafe GII (15-Liter Model)

Honorable Mentions & Alternative Women’s Picks

Another popular antit-theft backpack brand is Travelon. Travelon anti-theft backpacks are primarirly designed for women, although there are several options for men as well.

Below are two popular Travelon designs for women that can be used as a personal item backpack:

Travelon Classic Backpack

travelon classic best personal item backpack for women

Travelon Signature Slim Backpack

travelon signature best personal item backpack for women

Below are two additional unisex personal item backpacks:

eBags Professional Slim Junior

ebags junior professional carry on

Kopack Slim Laptop Backpack

kopack slim best budget personal item backpack for men and women

Final Thoughts

These are our picks for best personal item backpack of 2019 and beyond until something better comes along. Be sure to bookmark this page for future updates.

You may be wondering why we treasure anti-theft features in a backpack? We have many, many miles of travel experience all over the world, and there’s nothing more valuable than peace of mind.

Anti-theft features not only keep your possessions safe, but they also make life so much more convenient while on the road and abroad. For example, an external USB port is a must-have feature while traveling.

Other thoughtful features such as the built-in retractable lock in the Korin pack allow you to catch a few Zs while in transit.

We also love locking zippers. Lock you zippers and have a peaceful nap on the plane without worrying about anyone accessing your valuable electronics and other possessions.

These 5 bags have the best anti-theft features, and that also makes them the best backpacks to use as personal items on flights.

Cheers and safe travels!