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Top 7 Folding Bags, Backpacks, and Lightweight Luggage


Need to make a quick change at the airport to help handle shifting carryon/stowed luggage rules? Having a collapsible bag with you may save you time, frustration, lost goods, and even money. I never travel without a pair of folding backpacks with me, and usually I have another folding bag stuffed in the suitcase.

1. Victorinox NXT 5.0 Mobilizer Collapsible Wheeled Duffel

Victorinox Wheeled Duffel
Victorinox Wheeled Duffel - image provided by Irv's Luggage.

Victorinox has a reputation for standing up to challenges, and this bag upholds that tradition. It's a good, solid piece of luggage despite being collapsible. Victorinox has a variety of styles of collapsible luggage. The collapsible duffel bag is particularly useful for fitting into odd-shaped areas in the back of a van or in an overhead bin.

2. Kiva Convertible Clutch Bag/Backpack

This bigger version of a convertible keychain backpack works as a bag as well as a backpack.  They are relatively waterproof (against rain, not against immersion), very light, and remarkably durable. I've had one for eight years and it has been overstuffed, dropped, thrown, caught on doorknobs, machine washed, and generally maltreated, and it still is holding up just fine without any repairs. Only problem? An overzealous airline security person once demanded that I "open" the tiny solid pouch it folds into - and stared at me mystified as the "full" pouch ballooned into a now-empty backpack, at which he dismissively gestured me to move on. While I've had generic versions of the same thing work well, the one that is making the endurance record is a Kiva one.

3. Eagle Creek Packable Daypack (Backpack)

True confession: I travel with two or three packable backpacks. One, usually the more expensive and/or durable one, like the one mentioned here, ends up being my outer video camera bag with enough room left over to stuff in a long-sleeved tee, a few snacks, and sunscreen. The second one is usually lent to a fellow traveler who wishes they'd brought one, and the third is just in case I permanently lose or generously give away Number One or Number Two.

4. Kipling "Madhouse" Expandable Messenger Bag

While I love truly packable bags, this expandable messenger bag also has its uses and is a more stylish option than some of its collapsible kin.

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5. Eagle Creek Packable Duffel Bag

While not as convenient in my opinion as a folding backpack, this item is ideal for bringing back souvenirs.

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6. GoodHope Folding Totes

Like the folding backpacks, these are light, easy to pack, and a potential tripsaver or at least baggage-fee saver in a pinch. Here's how that works - if your purse is small you can throw it in the tote and have room for essential carry-on items if you're forced to check a bag. Remember some small regional airlines in Europe enforce a *single* item carryon policy - which can come as a nasty surprise if you've planned differently.

7. Expandable Tote with Wheels - 2.5 pounds empty

I don't get excited about much luggage, as I've had both cheap pieces and deluxe ones fail me at key moments, the only difference being that a duct tape repair looks somehow less pathetic on a cheap bag than it does on a more expensive one. But these light, expandable bags are enticing. If you're planning on bringing back a lot of fragile souvenirs, the soft sides might be a little nerve-wracking for you, but you'll make up for that in the lack of sore muscles since your bags will start out so light. And with ever-tightening baggage weight limits, having a bag that is so light may make a big difference to your fees, not to mention your sense of freedom.
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