Best Personal Item Bags: a Tom Bihn Synik 22 backpack under an airplane seat

If you’re anything like me, you know the struggle of finding the best personal item bags. It’s got to fit under the seat, hold all your essentials, and be tough enough to handle the rigors of travel. I’ve been in your shoes, lugging bags through countless airports on both domestic and international flights, learning the hard way what works and what doesn’t.

So, to save you from the same trial and error, I’ve compiled a list of the 15 best personal item bags. This list isn’t just a random collection – it includes bags I’ve personally tested and others I’ve seen fellow travelers use successfully. These bags are designed to fit under any airline seat while keeping your items organized and within easy reach.

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or planning that long-awaited vacation, I’ve got you covered with these expert picks.

SPOILER ALERT – Our Top Picks…

  • Nomatic Travel Pack 20L: This is our top choice for a personal item backpack. Known for its durability and high ratings, it fits comfortably under airplane seats.
  • Samsonite Underseat Spinner with USB port: Ideal for those who prefer a wheeled option, this underseat bag is a hit among frequent flyers and is designed for longevity.
  • Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack 5L: For a lightweight option, this fanny pack is perfect. It allows you to carry your essentials easily without the bulk of a larger bag.

Our full list

Best personal item bags (backpacks)

In this section, I’m diving into the best backpacks that double as personal item bags. I’ve made sure each one fits the typical airline size limit of 18 by 14 by 8 inches, so they’re just right for almost any flight. Just remember not to pack them too full, and you’ll find they slide under the seat with ease. 

Nomatic Travel Pack 20L

Best Personal Item Bags: Nomatic Travel Bag 20l

If you’re like me and always want to ensure your bag fits under any airline seat, even on budget flights where only one personal item is allowed, I highly recommend the Nomatic Travel Pack. It’s lightweight at 4.16 pounds and has dimensions of 18.5” x 12” x 6”, meeting most airlines’ personal item size criteria. So, you can travel without the worry of extra fees for your bag.

Traveler Pablo L, who had similar concerns, found this pack useful for low-cost airlines. He said, “Used it a lot for travelling, and it was especially useful for low-cost airlines… So you can get on the plane with the same amount of luggage without paying the extra fare.”

Another seasoned traveler, Justin S, also vouches for its versatility. Justin shared, “Bought it for both everyday professional use as well as travel… Serves perfect as a personal item on both domestic and international travel. Stuffed it with stuff and still keeps its shape.” As long as you don’t overstuff the bag with lots of items, I don’t think airline staff would have an issue with this bag being your personal item bag.

What we also love

The pack’s organizational capabilities are fantastic. It offers a spacious main compartment, a sunglasses case, a water bottle pocket, and a 16” laptop sleeve. And I like that it can hold up to 20 liters of your essentials, perfect for 1-3 day trips. Need more space? It expands to 30 liters, giving you that extra room when necessary.

What we don’t like

The pack is not without its drawbacks. Tom Wahlin of Pack Hacker notes some comfort issues when the bag is fully expanded and heavily loaded.

He advises, “This isn’t a huge deal if you’re using the Travel Pack in the 20-liter mode as an everyday carry, but you’ll want to keep this in mind if you’re planning to expand the bag to 30-liters, load it with heavy gear, and use it as a full-blown one-bag travel backpack. If that’s the case, you’re going to feel that weight on your shoulders.”

North Face Borealis backpack

Best Personal Item Bags: North Face Borealis backpack

Wondering if your North Face Borealis backpack fits under an airplane seat? I had the same question and found my answer on Reddit, where various travelers confirmed that it fits perfectly as long as it’s not overstuffed. One traveler shared their experience: “I flew with mine on Allegiant. It worked fine. Just don’t overpack it.”

From my own experience, this 28L backpack is a gem for short trips. I managed to fit two pairs of pants, a jacket, three shirts, a water bottle, and more. It even has a 15” padded laptop compartment, an extra padded tablet sleeve, and fleece-lined pockets for sunglasses or electronics.

What we also love

It’s not just about storage; comfort is key too. The backpack features a sternum strap, a removable waist belt, and padded back panel, and mesh shoulder straps, making it comfortable to carry, even when fully packed.

What’s not great

Some reviewers have noted that it doesn’t fare well in heavy rain. Though it’s quite water-resistant, in a downpour, your belongings could get wet. I recommend getting an additional rain cover for those unpredictable weather conditions.

Tom Bihn Synik 22

Best Personal Item Bags: a Tom Bihn Synik 22 backpack at the airport

I’ve always admired the Tom Bihn Brain Bag and Synapse, but the Synik 22 has captured my attention as one of the best personal bags. Perfectly sized at 16” x 11.4” x 7.1”, it fits comfortably within most airline size restrictions, and its slim, soft-sided design ensures it doesn’t hog space under the seat.

What we also love

Like other Tom Bihn bags, the Synik is a marvel of organization. It boasts a clamshell design for easy packing, much like a suitcase. The main compartment is spacious enough for laptops, change of clothes, and other essentials, while the five front exterior pockets and additional attachment points like webbing loops and o-rings make quick access to items a breeze.

What we don’t like

The Synik 22 is not a budget-friendly option. It’s on the pricier side, and if you’re planning to add accessories like a laptop cache or extra pockets, the cost increases further.

But from what I know, this bag is an investment in durability and quality. If you’re looking for a long-lasting bag, this could be a worthwhile investment.

Matein Travel Laptop Backpack

Best Personal Item Bags: Matein Travel Laptop Backpack

Like Ebenezer Scrooge, I like great deals that offer quality without costing a fortune. That’s why the Matein travel laptop backpack, a bestseller with positive feedback from over 74,000 users, really stands out for its quality and value.

Its dimensions of 18 x 12 x 7.8 inches, combined with a weight of just over 1.5 pounds, make it an ideal personal item for flights. A fellow traveler echoed this, noting, “The bag also fits nicely under the plane seat or on its side in the bin above.” Similarly, Craig, another user, mentioned, “It’s my go-to carry-on for flights and fits perfectly under an economy seat.”

What we also love

What makes this 34L backpack a winner is its organization-friendly design. It has a dedicated tech compartment with plenty of pockets and padding to protect your smartphone, tablet, and up to a 15.6-inch laptop. Another handy feature is the foam-padded top handle and a luggage strap, making it a breeze to handle during hectic airport dashes.

What we also love

There’s one caveat I’ve noticed, which is echoed by customers on Amazon and Reddit. The backpack’s bottom lacks adequate padding, which could be a concern for the safety of your laptop or gadgets during a rough journey. While the sides of the laptop compartment are cushioned, the bottom is not, posing a risk if the bag is dropped. It’s something to be mindful of when placing your backpack under the seat.

Monos Metro Backpack

Best Personal Item Bags: Monos Metro Backpack attached to a rollie

For those who appreciate a blend of simplicity and elegance in their travel gear, the Metro Backpack stands out. Its 18L capacity is a bit smaller than other bags on this list, but its sleek design is versatile enough for various settings, be it a casual day at the office, a trip to a co-working space, or a quick weekend getaway. And yes, it effortlessly fits under airplane seats thanks to its 11.4 x 15.9 x 6.6 inches.

What we also love

One feature I like is its trolley sleeve, which allows for easy attachment to a suitcase – a handy feature for seamless travel. The minimalist design also adds to its charm, making it a stylish accessory for any journey.

What’s not great

I want to point out that some users have mentioned the bag’s weight as a downside. One person commented, “Even if all you put is a small and thin laptop in it, it is heavy. On its own it’s already heavy, which is frustrating when you are traveling,” while another said, “Much too heavy to use while traveling.”

Best personal item bags (underseaters)

In this part, we’re focusing on underseat luggage with wheels. And don’t worry, all these bags are sized just right to qualify as personal items!

Samsonite Underseat Spinner with USB port

Best Personal Item Bags: Samsonite Underseat Carry-On Spinner with USB port

Despite its compact size, this bag is incredibly functional. It has various pockets and even a padded sleeve for a laptop.

I came across a review from an Amazon customer who managed to pack a week’s worth of clothing, two pairs of shoes, toiletries, and small essentials like headphones and a charger into this bag! This means that even if you’re not a minimalist packer, you could comfortably pack for a 3-4-day trip, or perhaps even longer with some strategic packing.

What we also love

What I also appreciate about this bag is its practicality. It includes a built-in USB port, which is super handy for charging devices on the go. The four spinner wheels and push-button handle make it incredibly easy to maneuver in busy airports.

What’s not great

That said, there are some things to consider. According to and some users, the bag doesn’t come with a TSA lock, and its laptop sleeve can’t accommodate laptops larger than 13 inches. This is something to keep in mind if you typically travel with larger tech items.

Travelpro Crew VersaPack Rolling Tote

Best Personal Item Bags: Travelpro Crew VersaPack Rolling Tote bag

The VersaPack Tote, measuring 15.75 by 8.5 inches, really tests the boundaries of what can be considered an underseater. Yet, its flexible design still allows it to fit under most airplane seats.

Kit Dillon, a senior staff writer at Wirecutter, points out an important consideration: “If you catch a seat with an underseat power bank or any other kind of obstruction, you won’t be able to wedge this case into place like you might be able to do with a soft bag or backpack.” This is crucial to keep in mind for those who frequently fly on different airlines or aircraft.

Kit also highlighted the bag’s durable design, noting its internal frame wrapped in nylon fabric. This makes it resilient against the usual wear and tear of travel and is especially valuable for carrying sensitive items like camera equipment or fragile gifts.

What we also love

The tote bag comes with two wheels, making it a great option for those who prefer wheeling their bag rather than carrying it. It’s particularly handy for travelers who need to navigate through airports without the strain of carrying a bag. The pass-through strap is another plus, allowing you to securely mount the bag on the handles of a larger rolling suitcase.

What’s not great

On the downside, the VersaPack features just two wheels, not multidirectional spinners. This means it doesn’t rotate 360 degrees, which can make maneuvering through tight spaces, like narrow airplane aisles or crowded areas, a bit more challenging.

Calpak Hue Mini Carry-On Luggage

Best Personal Item Bags: Calpak Hue Mini Carry-On Bag

The Hue Mini from Calpak is like a mini version of a standard carry-on suitcase, offering all the benefits of a regular suitcase but in a smaller, more manageable size.

Mia Maguire, the commerce editor of the Daily Beast, validates its practical size, stating, “Not only is Calpak’s Mini Hue approved as a carry-on for international flights, but it’s one of the only hard-shell suitcases on the market that actually fits under the seat.” Its dimensions of 16″ x 14″ x 8″ make it a perfect underseat fit.

And it’s not just about looks; the durable polycarbonate hard-shell exterior of this bag keeps your items safe, and the TSA-accepted lock provides extra security.

What we also love

Despite its petite size, with a 31L capacity, the Hue Mini can surprisingly hold a lot for a short trip. Anvita Reddy of PopSugar magazine confirms this, stating, “it can fit a good amount of stuff for a three or four-day weekend.”

The bag’s interior is well-organized, too, with a zippered divider and multiple pockets, alongside upright and compression straps to keep everything securely in place.

What’s not great

The lack of exterior pockets is a slight downside. While it’s not a dealbreaker given the spacious main compartment, it might be inconvenient if you need quick access to certain items.  

Rockland Melrose Underseater Luggage

Best Personal Item Bags: Rockland Melrose Upright Wheeled Underseater Carry-on Luggage

Choosing an underseater doesn’t mean you have to skimp on packing. The Melrose is a fantastic option for those who tend to pack a bit more or love staying organized. Its spacious design is surprisingly accommodating. One traveler mentioned, “If you pack judiciously, you can get 5 days worth of clothes in this bag.”

What we also love

The true charm of this bag lies in its organizational features. It opens U-shaped for easy access to a large main compartment, perfect for clothes. The flap itself has multiple mesh and zippered pockets for smaller items. I was also impressed with plenty of interior compartments, two mesh water bottle pockets, and two zippered front pockets.

What’s not great

While the bag’s generous space is a plus, it could be a downside too. Overstuffing it might make it challenging to fit in some underseat spaces, especially on smaller planes or depending on your seat. So, it’s wise not to overpack if you want to ensure it fits comfortably under the seat in front of you.

Briggs and Riley 2-Wheel Cabin Bag

Best Personal Item Bags: Briggs and Riley 2-Wheel Cabin Bag

I highly recommend the Briggs & Riley Baseline Duffle for anyone looking for a top-quality personal item bag. Crafted from robust, water-resistant 1600d ballistic nylon and accented with genuine top-grain leather, this bag isn’t just durable—it also exudes a sense of style and sophistication.

What we also love

Its ultra-compact form makes it a breeze to handle, easily navigating through tight airplane aisles and fitting snugly under seats or in overhead compartments. You can travel with ease and confidence, knowing your belongings are safely stored in a bag that’s both functional and fashionable.

What’s not great

This bag has inline wheels, not spinners, so it’s a bit tricky to maneuver around corners. It rolls smoothly when pulled but can be cumbersome to push upright.

And it’s important to note that, like many Briggs & Riley luggage, this bag is on the pricier side. This might not be the best option for those sticking to a tight budget. But if you’re in the market for high-quality, durable luggage, the Briggs & Riley Underseater is a fantastic investment.

Personal item bags (Totes, Fanny Packs, Duffel Bags, etc.)

In this part, let’s explore totes, duffel bags, and fanny packs perfect for traveling. These are great options if you’re looking for something different from traditional backpacks or underseaters.

Nomad Lane V4 Bento Bag 

Best Personal Item Bags: Nomad Lane V4 Bento Bag

The Bento bag works brilliantly as a sleek business travel bag, a stylish weekender, and of course, as an onboard personal item bag. Measuring 17” x 10” and weighing 2.9 lb, it’s perfectly sized to fit under airplane seats. The Travel Fashion Girl echoes this in her review, stating, “It fits under the seat on all the planes I’ve flown, even on small domestic planes!”

The design features an adjustable side strap, top handles, and a convertible trolley sleeve pocket, and is made from weather-resistant nylon and LWG-certified leather.

What we also love

Pockets are abundant, ensuring everything has its place. Its unique suitcase-style opening allows for flat packing, and the array of compartments, including a tech pouch, padded laptop sleeve, toiletry pouch, shoe bag, and more, keeps your items well-organized and accessible.

What’s not great

While the bag is excellent for carrying a lot, it can become bulky and awkward when fully packed. A Reddit reviewer shared their experience: “Just a bit more awkward and heavy to carry than I thought it would be. It does hold my larger laptop, but the whole bag gets really heavy.”

 Narwey Foldable Travel Duffel Bag 

Best Personal Item Bags: Narwey Foldable Travel Duffel Bag

I’ve been impressed more than once by the Narwey foldable travel duffel. When expanded, it offers a spacious space for your essentials, and when you don’t need it? It folds into a neat, book-sized pouch.

And as one of the best personal item bags, it measures 18 x 13 x 6.3 inches and fits under airplane seats of most airlines, like Spirit and Frontier Airlines. This is great because you can slide it under your seat and skip the extra baggage fees.

What we also love

Its 25L capacity is deceptively spacious for all your essentials. An Amazon shopper shared their experience, saying, “My husband and I both had room left over, even after packing for 5 days with toiletries, chargers, etc. Definitely recommend if you need an approved carry-on for flights that are very specific about their bag sizing!”

What’s not great

That said, it’s important to manage expectations with this budget-friendly option. Some users have pointed out that it’s not the most durable bag out there, especially if you’re using it frequently or for heavy items. So while it’s a great short-term or occasional travel bag, it might not be the best choice for rugged, frequent use. 

Béis The Mini Weekender

Best Personal Item Bags: Béis The Mini Weekender

I’ve always been a fan of the Béis Weekender Bag, and its smaller counterpart, The Mini Weekender, is no less impressive.

Ideal for those who need a compact bag for short trips or as a personal item on flights, The Mini measures 16 x 15.7 x 8 inches, making it a great fit for both frequent flyers and occasional vacationers.

What I appreciate is the versatility of how you can carry it. You have the option to sling it over one shoulder or carry it tote-style, depending on your preference and comfort.

What we also love

With a 33L capacity and well-designed pockets, The Mini Weekender can surprisingly hold a good amount of items. It’s perfect for packing a few outfits, and even has a padded 13” laptop sleeve, not to mention a trolley pass-through sleeve, which is super convenient for those who travel with additional luggage.

What we don’t love

When packed to its full capacity, The Mini Weekender can become quite bulky and heavy. I’ve noticed that it can be too large to fit under the seat in front of you on some flights, which might be a drawback for those strictly using it as a personal item. 

The Away Everywhere Bag

In my quest for the perfect blend of an everyday carry and a personal travel item, I discovered the Away Everywhere Bag. It’s become a favorite for its dual role as a personal item and a compact overnight bag. 

The bag’s 20L capacity, weighing just 2.8lbs, strikes the right balance between being spacious and easy to carry. Inside, you’ll find slip pockets, a water bottle pocket, and a detachable key clip, making organization a breeze. The inclusion of a 15” padded laptop compartment is a bonus for those who like to stay productive while traveling.

What we also love

What really impresses me is its versatile design. Whether you’re heading to a work meeting or catching up with friends over drinks, its sleek design fits every occasion. The detachable shoulder strap allows easy transformation from a shoulder bag to a handbag, adding to its adaptability.

What’s not great

The bag’s design lends itself to being packed flat, which might be a challenge for bulkier items like jackets. And, while it’s not the most budget-friendly option out there, its quality and versatility make it a worthy investment for those who aren’t on a tight budget.

Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack 5L

Best Personal Item Bags: Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack 5L

There are times when you just want to travel light, like heading to a festival, concert, or a day of sightseeing. In such situations, the Patagonia Black Hole Waist Pack 5L is the perfect choice. It’s just right for those moments when a large bag is more of a burden than a necessity.

What I particularly love about this waist pack is its combination of lightness and strength. It’s made from recycled nylon ripstop fabric, making it not only durable but also weather-resistant. This means you can count on it to protect your valuables, rain or shine.

What we also love

Despite its compact size, the pack comfortably holds all your essentials. You’ll find it easy to store passports, chapsticks, sunglasses, wallets, and airpods, and it even includes a water bottle pocket. It’s incredibly lightweight – almost featherlike – which I found greatly reduces the hassle of carrying extra weight during your travels.

What’s not great

I must say, the bag’s design might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It comes in a variety of colorful options, which are great for some but might not align with everyone’s style preferences. I do wish there were more neutral color choices to easily match a wider range of travel outfits and personal tastes. 


What bags are considered personal items?

Personal items are those smaller bags you can easily slide under the seat in front of you on a plane. We’re talking about things like purses, briefcases, fanny packs, laptop bags, small backpacks, totes, and even some small duffel bags which I covered in my detailed article.

What size is a personal item bag?

The size can vary depending on the airline, but a good rule of thumb is that it shouldn’t be bigger than 18 x 14 x 8 inches. That’s usually the max size allowed. But it’s always a good idea to double-check with your airline for their specific rules.

What items are allowed in a personal bag?

In your personal bag, you can pack essentials like your wallet, keys, travel papers, meds, phone, a change of clothes, some snacks, and gadgets. Just make sure to follow TSA rules, especially about liquids and sharp things. I’ve got a comprehensive list in another article if you need more info.

What is an example of a personal carry-on bag?

Think of something like a laptop bag with a special spot for your computer and extra room for bits and bobs, or a small backpack with different pockets to keep things sorted.

Is a backpack OK for a personal item?

Absolutely, as long as your backpack can fit under the seat and meets the airline’s size limits.

What is the best bag to take on a plane?

The best one for the plane is something light, tough, and airline-size friendly. I prefer bags with lots of pockets to keep my things organized, comfy straps, and extra perks like a spot for my laptop or a bottle holder. Personally, I’m a big fan of the North Face Borealis backpack, and for these reasons.

Bottom Line

Best Personal Item Bags

And there you have it – our top 15 personal item bags, handpicked with care! I hope there’s at least one in the mix that feels just right for you and your travels.

I’ve gone through these bags myself, looking at them through the eyes of real travelers. I wanted to understand what works, what doesn’t, and what people really think about these bags when they’re out and about.

So, when you’re getting ready for your next flight, why not give one of these bags a try? And if you’ve got a favorite bag that’s been your loyal travel buddy, I’d love to hear about it! Drop your suggestions or any questions in the comments. 

Why You Should Trust Travelccessories

If you’re looking for trustworthy guidance on travel accessories, you can count on Travelccessories. Femi, an expert in travel gear, and our team have put together a comprehensive review that draws on our hands-on testing, extensive research on reputable brands, careful examination of product manuals and customer feedback, and evaluation of numerous luggage models.

We specifically looked for bags with robust construction, exceptional features, and high ratings from real users. And most importantly, our team consists of experts who do not accept payment for reviews and are committed to providing honest and thorough information to help you make informed decisions when choosing the right luggage.  

Also, this article is not sponsored in any way by any company. These products have been independently selected by myself and my team. And the only thing I receive is a small commission from our affiliate program if you buy any of them through the links and buttons on this page. It doesn’t cost you a penny. But it really helps me out as this money goes to paying for maintaining the website, editing software, my time, team and everything else that goes into preparing this post.

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