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.
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. 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.
|#1 Best Personal Item Backpack
#1 KORIN Design FlexPack Pro
|Verified by Business Travelers to Fit Below Seat
#2 NOMATIC Backpack
|Best Anti-Theft Personal Item Backpack
#3 Pacsafe Metrosafe LS350
|Ultimate Convenience Features
#4 XD Design Bobby Compact
|#1 Daypack/Personal Item Option
#5 Pacsafe Venturesafe GII
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.
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.
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
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:
Below are two additional unisex personal item backpacks:
These are our picks for best personal item backpack in 2020 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!