17 of the Best Backpacks for Travelling
Whether you’re a serious hiker, budding outdoor photographer or looking for something that will work for your daily commute and weekend trips away, these are the backpacks and brands to put on your radar.
Read on for an in-depth review of the best backpacks on offer in 2021 or use this quick list as a starting point in your research mission.
Best overall: Columbia Unisex Atlas Explorer
Best for style: Bellroy Tokyo Totepack
Best lightweight: Berghaus 24/7 Rucksack
Best for multi-day backpackers: Fjällräven High Coast Rolltop
Best waterproof: Berghaus Arrow Backpack
Best for city dwellers: Columbia Unisex Convey II
Best from independent brands: The Travel Backpack Original by Wayks
Think all you need from a backpack is enough space to store your stuff? Well, pay attention because there are so many aspects to consider when buying a new pack. From comfort to different materials and finishes, we’ll briefly explain what to look out for.
Backpack size explained
Outdoor brands display the size of a backpack in litres. This measurement is the total capacity of all pockets combined. It’s good to remember that this isn’t the size of the pack in inches. Sometimes a smaller pack in height and width may have a larger capacity than a pack measuring slightly taller or wider. This is why it’s handy to try a variety of sizes, even if you’re set on a certain capacity. In simple terms, backpack sizes can be defined like this:
Small: 6 – 10 litres. These are the smallest backpacks available. This size includes kids backpacks in all fun shapes, small daypacks and bags for day trips.
Medium: 10 – 50 litres. Here we have day packs for men and women, walking and hiking packs and those designed for commuting or short breaks.
Large: 50 litres +. Here we start moving into rucksack territory, packs designed to carry enough for long backpacking trips, camping and expeditions. When you start looking at 70 – 80 litre packs, the size measurements start to become a big focus because a good fit will determine your comfort levels.
Backpack features to consider
All backpacks come with different properties and features you may find useful or even invaluable.
Rain cover - Some backpacks will come with these or some will have them to buy separately. Rain covers are a good idea to prevent your backpack contents from getting wet- especially if you’re facing the UK weather.
External clips, hooks and straps - Gear such as walking poles, sleeping mats and things you’ll need quick access to can be attached to the outside of your pack using clips. This is an especially handy feature for walkers.
External pockets - Again, handy for quick access items and water bottles.
Internal pockets - Internal compartments and pockets help to separate items, keeping them safe and allowing you to grab things quickly because your packs more organised. Some bags will have padded sections for tech equipment while some will have small zipper pockets for easy to lose items.
Compression straps - These can be found on larger backpacks and rucksacks. They can be on the top, sides or front of your pack and help to prevent movement by compressing the volume of your contents. Think about how you can squeeze a sleeping bag smaller than it is when rolled, compression straps help to do that.
Type of access - This is the way the backpack opens to allow you to retrieve items from its main compartment. Different openings include top access (think large rucksacks), front access (smaller day packs) and even side access.
Types of fastening- Zips, drawstrings, buckles and rolltops are all examples of the different closure methods available.
Fitting your backpack
As mentioned above, it’s important when carrying a substantial weight on your back that your pack fits comfortably. The size of your pack will depend on the length of your back and how much you can physically carry comfortably. On larger rucksacks, you’ll find the backstraps, hip belt (which will carry 70% of the weight) and chest straps are all adjustable. Some rucksacks will have an internal frame to help distribute weight and help you keep a good walking posture. Mountain Warehouse has a useful in-depth guide to fitting your backpack.
This is as classic a backpack as you can get. Available in two colours, black and frosted purple, this is a versatile and sleek pack, ideal for walkers and day hikes. You can fit a 13 inch laptop in the main compartment which makes this Columbia pack perfect for commuters too. Other features include the bungee storage at the front, two water bottle pockets and plenty of padding for comfort.
2. Craghoppers Kiwi Classic Backpack 22L
From Craghoppers Kiwi range we have the classic backpack, perfect for walks, commutes and short weekends away. Padded shoulder straps and a back panel keep the pack comfy, and the interior compartments are great for organising kit. The padded laptop section accommodates a 15” laptop or 12” tablet. There’s then a handy zip compartment for smaller items such as headphones or cords. This backpack is made from recycled bottles so you can boost your eco points with this one. Pictured is the colour potters clay, but other options include classic black, navy and woodland green.
3. Patagonia Refugio Daypack 26L
The Refugio from Patagonia is ideal for hikers. The midsize backpack has two main compartments, is made from recycled materials, and comes in a range of colours for the style conscious. With a one size fits all design, the adjustable sternum strap and mesh back panel allow for a comfortable fit.
Berlin-based, independent brand Wayks are on the higher pricing scale but if you’re looking for customisable quality that’ll last through heavy use, this is a great option. The crowdfunded company places a heavy significance of sustainably sourcing the mainly recycled materials each element of the pack is made from. This backpack is a 3-in-1 and can transform to carry anything from 7 – 45L. There are 13 different sections to this pack which can be detached or attached as you need them. Built from waterproof coated polyester, this pack comes in both sand (pictured) and black. Opening like a suitcase with a sturdy zip, the interior of this pack is full of pockets and compartments for organisation. The cube at the bottom can be zipped off to transform the pack into a smaller daypack, the back padding can be removed, and the padded straps can be switched to seatbelt style versions for lighter use. Chest and hip straps are included to help you out when you’re at full capacity, and there are plenty of easy to access side compartments for your quick-grab essentials. Check it out and read about the many features for yourself using the link below.
Find the Travel Backpack here from €289 (note exchange rate)
5. Mammut Trion Spine 50L
From the trusted Swiss brand Mammut, the Trion Spine 50L is ideal for those needing to pack a lot of equipment but needing a lightweight pack with plenty of external straps. The large front opening provides easy access to the main compartment, and there’s a useful trekking pole carrier, adjustable suspension system, internal zipper for valuables and plenty of spine support, allowing you to walk comfortably, even with a heavy weight. Lateral compression straps help to secure your contents, and the pack is compatible with a hydration system. Overall, a good pack for mountain climbing. This rucksack is available in both granite-black (pictured) and olive-black colourways.
The Arrow 30 by Berghaus is a sleek backpack for day hikers with up to a 30-litre capacity. The top opening pack also has side storage compartments as well as attachments for walking poles. This pack comes with a raincover and chest strap so will carry what you need comfortably, no matter the weather.
This lightweight option from Patagonia is ideal for anyone looking for enough space to stash daily essentials whether it be for everyday life, exploring a new place or while on your adventures. Made from 100% recycled body fabric, with plenty of pockets and comes multiple colourways.
The striking Columbia Convey Rolltop is just as good for long commutes as it is a day on the trails. This pack has two water bottle holders, a zippered external pocket, and a fleece-lined laptop sleeve for up to a 15 inch laptop. When at the 27L capacity the foam-padded back, and adjustable sternum strap should help to keep you comfortable. This is available in a number of colour combinations including classic black and striking pesto.
Smart in style and functionality, the Kiwi Classic Rolltop Backpack by Craghoppers is a great all-rounder. With a 26L capacity and sleek design, you can use this for carrying your essentials to work during the week and then for hitting the trails at the weekends. Made from recycled materials (approx. 15 water bottles), this pack is mainly polyester with a PU coating for water resistance. The RFID pocket is perfect for storing credit/debit cards, and the rolltop is secured with a sturdy strap for security. Padded straps protect your shoulders, and the padded compartment will fit a 15” laptop.
10. Fjällräven Kaipak 28L
Fjällräven describes the Kaipak as rugged, robust and timeless which rings true. There are five colours on offer in the streamlined design, all with the same 28L capacity. This pack is made from G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco in recycled polyester and organic cotton and can be coated with Greenland Wax for extra water resistance and durability. The trekking pole fasteners, side pockets, compression straps, rain cover and chest strap, make this a great backpack for day hikers.
The sleek 24/7 pack by Berghaus is perfect for storing essentials on short walks. Walking pole holders, stretchy water bottle pockets, an adjustable sternum strap and laptop sleeve make this a comfy and affordable option.
Visually the Base Camp Fuse Box from The North Face is like no other backpack in this list. The top opening zip bag is perfect for city explorers. The zipped laptop sleeve and hidden smartphone pocket offer a little bit of security while on the move. To keep this backpack sleek in design, the water bottle holder can be found in the main compartment, along with zipped pockets and an easy to access key clip. If you’re one to fill your pack, on the sides, you’ll find handy compression straps to keep your kit secure.
The Bellroy Tokyo range is designed to adapt to your day-to-day life, so this pack works just as well for your daily commute as it does for time spent exploring the coast and countryside. The padded straps on this bag unclip and fold away to transform the pack into a handheld tote. You can fit a 16” laptop into the padded compartment, and all of the interior pockets make organising your kit easy. Bellroy ensures all materials are created and sourced sustainably and that the leather features have been tanned under gold environmental protocols.
14. Eastpak Tecum Top 23L
For city lovers carrying tech, the Eastpak Tecum might be a great option. The 23L pack has a padded sleeve to fit a 15-inch laptop as well as a padded tablet sleeve. The padded back panel, straps and adjustable chest strap are all designed to keep you comfy while carrying your gadgets around.
15. The North Face Borealis Classic Backpack 29L
The North Face Borealis Classic can hold a 13” device and with a 29L capacity has plenty of space to store extra layers or hiking gear. Two water bottle pockets, a front zip pocket and great internal organisation gives you plenty of storage. A removable chest strap, winged hip belt and moulded straps with extra padding are useful if you are filling your pack to capacity. This is a hard-wearing all-rounder from a trusted brand.
If you’re after a lightweight, waterproof pack, look no further. The High Coast Rolltop Backpack is made from 100% recycled nylon and with taped seams, the main compartment is waterproof. With adjustable chest and waist straps, this functions perfectly as a backpack but can be packed down to store when needed given its lightweight fabric.
17. Vango Mica 25L
New for 2021 and part of the Earth collection, the Vango Mica 25 is made from recycled plastic bottles. This pack reduces waste without compromising on performance, with an adjustable harness for comfort, a breathable back system and highly durable grid patterned fabric. Zipped front and side pockets and a padded laptop sleeve make this a versatile option for lovers of the outdoors.
For more gear guides and inspiration, view our camping holiday advice.