- Buyer's Guide
4 Awesome Sneaker Backpacks for Travel
If you’re a sneakerhead like me, at some point in your life, you went to that sneaker con where you wanted to take multiple pairs of shoes to sell, trade, or show off. While the shoes might not be heavy, having to carry them around all day can be a drag since they take up so much space in your bag. Even if this hasn’t been your case, you’ve probably had a weekend getaway or short vacation where you really wanted to take a pair of shoes for all of your fits. No matter how you try to organize your luggage, this usually doesn’t work out. Then you’re left with the tough decision to leave behind some of your favorite kicks. Does it have to be this way? Something that may not be well known within the carry community is the specialized niche of sneaker backpacks. Yes, that’s a thing.
These sneaker backpacks are specifically designed to not just protect your kicks but to make them easier to carry and give you some space for other essentials. In this overview, we’re going to take a look at four specialized sneaker bags from Modern Voyage, Private Label NYC, The Shrine, and Sole Premise.
The TruPak from Modern Voyage is a simple, yet functional pack that won’t break the bank. If you aren’t looking for any bells and whistles in sneaker backpacks, then this is the one for you. It features lightweight and water-repellent 1680D Nylon and comes with a laptop compartment that can hold up to a 17-inch laptop. It’s also padded on every side and has YKK zippers. The bag is about 26L and can comfortably carry up to three size 14 sneakers (size 11 for most hightops). This pack’s unique feature is the Velcro-lined interior, meant to utilize their Velcro-backed packing cubes that keep your items in place while protecting them from rattling around. I know, it sounds strange, but using this feature was actually a pleasant surprise. It could also work well with inserts made by other companies such as The Brown Buffalo.
The primary use of this bag is to take it on the road with you. The ability to clamshell open and attach any Velcro-lined packing cubes gave me the versatility to pack for various situations. I took this pack with me on a short weekend trip, and it was a great pleasure to use. I was able to pack my toiletries into one of their smaller clear cube cases, pack a pair of running shoes, and fit all of my clothing in this one bag. The three mesh compartments on the inside opening of the bag were handy for things like socks, boxers, a wallet, keys, and other smaller essentials, separating them from my sneakers.
The bag’s straps were padded, but they dug in a little around the back of my neck after prolonged use. However, this issue should resolve as the straps begin to break in from use.
My favorite thing about this bag is its open packing concept. While I mainly used it for short local trips, I see its usefulness extending past just taking clothes and shoes. The bag is small enough to be considered a carry-on. If you travel with small children, the ability to use one of the small or large packing cubes to carry some toys or snacks can be instrumental. However, I wish the bag had a quick-access compartment or front pocket where you could quickly grab smaller items. Having to fully open the clamshell could be a bit impractical, depending on where you are. Overall, this pack is great value for money. I would highly recommend it for folks seeking sneaker backpacks that are a simple and practical solution for carrying your kicks or hitting the road.
Simple and effective
Great carry capacity
Has great utility due to the Velcro packing cubes
Best for the Overprotective Sneakerhead/Traveler:
It goes without saying that this is one of the sleekest duffels out there. The Private Label NYC Bomber Black Duffel is a limited-edition variant of their famous duffel. It uses the same Nylon that many bomber jackets feature. This TSA compliant duffel has about 40L of capacity and carries up to four size 16 sneakers. It holds a 15″ laptop, slips onto luggage handles, and provides various ways to pack with their adjustable dividers.
The duffel contains three outer pockets and a zipper compartment on the outside. In comparison, the interior is Velcro-lined on either wall to secure the adjustable dividers. It contains three zippered pockets on the lid for smaller items like quick clean wipes, a dust brush, a memory card, etc. However, if you plan to slip your luggage handle through, you have to pass it through the back outer pocket. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t recommend packing anything small or delicate in there. If using the pocket is more important than sliding your duffel on your luggage, then the included padded strap is comfortable to use when the duffel is fully outfitted.
Private Label spared no expense on the smaller details of the bag either. The duffel is extremely well-padded all over, ensuring sneakers, tech, and other essentials are well protected during those bumpy flights. The bright orange interior makes it easy to find items in the main compartment while adding a nice design flair. They also added full metal hardware throughout the bag, ensuring no weak points when fully loaded. The inclusion of a few breathable packing cubes from Private Label made the experience even better. I ensured the inside of my duffel would stay clean by putting shoes in there and protecting the inner lining. They easily fit my size 12 shoes and hightops with some room to spare.
This was by far my favorite duffel to travel with. The bag really shines due to the packing versatility that comes from the three adjustable dividers. Depending on my travel needs, I could pack two pairs of shoes, four pairs of socks, four pairs of boxers, four tees, and some jeans comfortably in the internal compartments. I could also pack my laptop, some smaller essentials in the inner lid compartments, and smaller items like a portable charger, cables, snacks, and other in-flight necessities in the quick-access pockets on the outside. The versatility and size allowed it to be my main bag when making shorter trips and it was the perfect complementary piece when taking a check-in bag on a flight.
The padded nature of this bag also comes in handy for delicate items. When flying home to California with this bag, I sectioned off some space for delicate items I was taking to my family. As random as this may sound, knowing that I can fit a couple of ceramic mugs into this bag and have them make the seven-hour trip home in one piece put into perspective how well-designed the duffel is. I highly recommend this bag because it’s versatile enough to be a great travel duffel in its own right while being made for carrying your sneakers. This pack has easily made its way to being my go-to duffel no matter where I go.
Durable hardware and materials
Versatility in packing
At this point, we see a common theme between these sneaker backpacks, and that’s the versatility in their design. The Weekender V3 from The Shrine is no exception. One could argue that they’ve managed to make the perfect compact sneaker-carrying solution you can throw on your back.
The Weekender V3 is a 32L pack featuring water-repellant 900D black-coated fabric (accented with 600D black poly fabric). It comes with weatherproof YKK zippers, thick padded shoulder straps, a luggage passthrough, a 15″ side access laptop compartment, a pull-out hat sling, a water bottle pocket, dedicated watch and sneaker wipe pockets, a side handle, and it’s TSA compliant (that was a mouthful). However, I didn’t even mention that it can hold two to four pairs of shoes up to size 18. Now, I’m not sure who is wearing size 18 shoes, but this pack was made for you if you do.
The design of the backpack aims for sleek and modern. It works very similarly to a carry-on since it opens up lengthwise, much like a suitcase, and has a central dividing flap with built-in storage compartments. On one end of the bag are two dedicated shoe compartments with a dividing center to protect shoes from scuffing. There are also some straps to secure the shoes in place. I found these compartments perfect for separating clothing as well if you don’t need to carry your kicks around.
The middle divider separating the pack in half contains three dedicated sneaker wipe slots, three dedicated watch slots, and an extra zippered compartment for other smaller essentials. These pockets are great to carry toiletries since they have a clear plastic coating allowing me to visually see the small toiletry bottles that I packed. The other half of the bag is a spacious cavity. It’s meant to hold either two more pairs of shoes or two days’ worth of clothing. However, I managed to fit more using some compression packing cubes. The divider can be zipped closed over this compartment to secure your items in place, which is excellent! On the outside of the bag, there’s a zippered water bottle pocket, side access laptop compartment, and a small compartment between the two hat sling clips for small items like AirPods, a snack, or even your passport.
My favorite feature of this bag was the hat sling. I’m not sure about you, but one of my biggest gripes with travel equipment is the awkwardness of packing hats without them getting crushed. I was able to fit two hats under the sling with plenty of room for more. Knowing I could load up the bag entirely and safely carry my hats on the outside was a refreshing feeling. I even strapped a jacket under this sling when taking it around the city, and it worked like a charm.
I used this bag on the subway and buses while heading over to a friend’s place for the weekend. Far from the bulky style of some sneaker backpacks, the bag’s design is so low profile that it meshed well with the urban environment. You don’t stick out as you do with other travel packs. All in all, this pack is solidly built, with inventive features, spacious compartments, and a design perfect for travel.
Useful features such as the hat sling and zippered bottle pocket
Low-profile design fit for any situation
Separate compartments for shoes and clothes
“What a beast of a bag.” This was my first thought when seeing the Signature Bag in person. This bag is for those who love to pack more variation rather than packing lightly. Usually, I like to travel on the lighter side. But I found the Signature great for those times when I need just that much more for a trip, especially if it’s a road trip. That isn’t to say that this bag can’t be taken on a plane because this is one of those sneaker backpacks that’s TSA compliant as a carry-on. It’s jam-packed full of organization for any type of trip. So let’s break down the features.
If you’re after large sneaker backpacks, this pack delivers. It has a 50L capacity and can carry up to five pairs of shoes (up to size 18). Plus plenty of space for other essentials with the various organizational pockets built into the bag. It features durable weather-resistant polyester and a laptop compartment tucked into the middle of the bag for protection and easy top access. There’s also a squared bottom compartment (similar to a lightly padded packing cube at the bottom of the bag), a cords and paperwork compartment, as well as a passport and travel essentials compartment in the front. The straps on the bag are also well-padded and have webbing loops running down the length of them to clip on any extras you’d like. So how did it perform during actual use?
When I first started to use the bag, I won’t lie, I was worried about the congestion of organizational pockets. I wasn’t sure if they contained their own volume or if they would eat into a lot of the space as I packed, making other areas useless. However, Sole Premise provided some dedicated volume to each pocket. This allowed the bag to fully utilize all of its organizational features.
While looking at the external components, two small pouches in the front can store quick-access items such as cables, a portable battery bank, snacks, and even my passport. The squared bottom compartment can easily fit a pair of shoes plus some extra clothes. I preferred to use it to fully load out four tees, some jeans, socks, and boxers, which was enough to get me through a weekend. This opened the rest of the bag for anything else I needed.
There are still three other compartments in the bag. The compartment in the middle suits a laptop, maybe a tablet, and other documents. In this compartment, I was able to pack my personal and work laptops, plus the chargers. The last two compartments have two zippered mesh pockets each for a pair of shoes and two to three smaller mesh pockets opposite to those shoe compartments. On the short trip to New Jersey to visit friends, I decided I didn’t need four pairs of shoes. Instead, I could use two of the pockets for an extra pair of shoes for my girlfriend and me, plus use the final two compartments to pack enough clothing to get her through the weekend.
That’s right, I could pack enough clothes in this one bag for two people and still managed to fit two pairs of shoes. As sneaker backpacks go, this was where I saw the bag shine. The ability to one-bag travel with two people on short trips was amazing. Being able to just grab and go without worrying about taking two backpacks or two suitcases was the best feature of this bag. I generally frequent local areas on the east coast, so I will start leaning on this as my primary pack for two.
Even with all of these benefits, there are a few minor things I wish were different. First, while the shoulder straps do come with a sternum strap, I think the bag’s size may warrant the need for a hip belt at times. The bag can become heavy from packing, so I felt extra support or even load lifters would have been appreciated. Second, the straps could be a bit firmer and more padded. Once again, when the bag was fully loaded, I felt like the straps dug in a bit. Some extra support and padding would have been great for comfort.
Finally, the lack of a water bottle pocket was a bit unfortunate. I loved using the bag. I only wish I could bring along a water bottle since the bag is meant for travel. Having to make space for it internally wasn’t very convenient, especially with the lack of quick access on the move.
Overall, for sneaker backpacks, this bag is still well thought out, and I would highly recommend it. If you don’t like rolling luggage at the airport or want to pack for two on a short road trip, this bag will fit almost every need with its organization and space. At the end of the day, the bag won’t be on your back for extended periods. So the lack of a hip belt or load lifters doesn’t break the bag unless you’re a stickler for comfort.
Plenty of organizational features
TSA compliant for one-bag travel
While the four sneaker bags shown are vastly different from one another, I believe that they all have their place within the sneaker bag marketplace. There is something for every budget, carrying style, and size. The TruPak allows you to organize travel needs in your style with the versatile Velcro system and open clamshell design. The duffel-style bag from Private Label provides exceptional organization and space in a sleeker duffel style that fits various needs. The Shrine pack is sleek and won’t compromise your style whether on a flight or traveling through a city. Finally, the Signature bag from Sole Premise packs a punch with 50L of space in a very well-organized bag. It’s big enough to fit the needs of the biggest over-packer or even pack lightly for two.
If none of these sneaker backpacks fit your needs, please feel free to check out the featured company websites. Many of them contain various other models in multiple styles, and there is sure to be something for you there.
This article was written by Jonathan Hurtado.
Editing and sourcing by Jovanni Bello.