19 of the Best Backpacks for Travelling in 2021
Snapshot list | Buying guide | Reviews
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.
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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: Craghoppers Kiwi Classic Rolltop
Best for style: Bellroy Tokyo Totepack
Best for day hiking: Berghaus Remote Rucksack
Best lightweight: Patagonia Ultralight Blackhole
Best for multi-day backpackers: Berghaus Trailhead 2.0
Best waterproof: Fjällräven High Coast Rolltop
Best for city dwellers: The North Face Base Camp Fuse Box
Best for short trips: Columbia Unisex Convey
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 compress 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.
1. Columbia Unisex Essential Explorer 20L
This is as classic a backpack as you can get. It’s charcoal black design with lighter grey straps makes it versatile and sleek. Not a fashion statement but a practical pack, ideal for walkers and day hikes. The polyester pack offers little in the way of water resistance, so that’s a consideration. It does, however, come with a built-in sternum strap, removable hip belt and a handy lash down system for your walking poles and smaller items. The rolltop closure has a secure clip, and the front zip pocket is useful for stashing maps, techs like your phone and other quick access bits.
Find the Unisex Essential Explorer from £55
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.
Find the Kiwi Classic from £50
3. Patagonia Women’s Nine Trails Pack 18L
Also coming in a 26L capacity, the Nine Trails from Patagonia is ideal for hikers. Specifically designed to fit a woman’s torso, this pack has a number of handy features. The U-shaped zipper top makes it easy to quickly access what you need while the zip hip pockets are perfect for storing small essentials. Chest and waist straps help to distribute weight and ensure you won’t be losing your pack on hard scrambles. It’s made of nylon ripstop so can take some abuse on the trails and extended wear is comfortable with its breathable back pad. Available in S/M and L/XL.
Find the Nine Trails Pack from £110
4. The Travel Backpack Original by Wayks
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.
Find the Trion Spine here from £250
6. Knomo Thurloe Backpack
For day hikes, city exploring and day to day life, the Knomo Thurloe ticks all of the boxes. Pictured is the navy design with black accents, ideal for a day on the trails as well as your daily commute away from weekends spent camping. Built from water-resistant nylon, you can fit a 15” laptop in the device compartment, and the padded straps and back will help ensure your comfort while toting around any devices. On the outside, you have an RFID protected pocket which is ideal for storing your cards while in busy public spaces. Side pockets make it easy for you to quickly access essentials while on the go and the main compartment is easily accessed with a top opening design.
Find the Thurlow Backpack here from £199
7. Berghaus Trailhead 2.0 50L
With fully adjustable straps, movable chest straps, enhanced padding and a customisable back, the Berghaus Trailhead 2.0 makes it comfortable to carry up to 50L. Exterior pockets, zippers and attachment points make it easy to organise your essentials. For hikers, the walking pole attachments on this pack are useful. Multi-day backpackers will also welcome the rain cover, hydration system compatibility and separate bivi compartment to keep your clean and dirty kit away from each other.
Find the Trailhead 2.0 here from £100
8. Patagonia Ultralight Blackhole 20L
This packable, lightweight option from Patagonia is ideal for anyone short on space, not needing a backpack for their whole trip. The body, lining and webbing of this backpack are made from 100% recycled materials. Don’t let that fool you though, the Ultralight Blackhole is a resilient pack, carrying up to 20L of gear. The top-loader design is perfect for walkers, providing quick access to the main compartment and the zipped interior pocket is good for valuables.
Find the Ultralight Blackhole here from £60
9. Columbia Unisex Convey 25L Rolltop Daypack
The striking Columbia Convey Rolltop is just as good for long commutes as it is a day on the trails. This pack has a front zip pocket, water bottle holder and externally accessible 15” padded laptop sleeve. When at the 25L capacity the foam-padded back, and adjustable sternum strap should help to keep you comfortable. The contrasting black and white colour combination will go with your favourite walking outfit and help you to stand out from the crowd.
Find the Convey 25L Rolltop here from £65
10. Craghoppers Kiwi Classic Rolltop Backpack 26L
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.
Find the Kiwi Classic Rolltop here from £65
11. 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.
Find the Kaipak here from £140
12. Berghaus Remote Rucksack 12L
The sleek remote rucksack from Berghaus comes in a range of sizes, but this 12L is perfect for storing essentials on short walks. There are three colour options, including red (pictured), blue and black. Adjustable chest and waist straps and ventilation keep you comfortable, and there are external pockets for water bottles. It’s impressive to have a walking pole holder on such a small pack. The top handle, key clip, zipped front glasses pocket and zipped internal pocket are all handy features to have. Overall, this is a good walking backpack for those travelling light.
Find the Berghaus Remote 12 here from £45
13. The North Face Base Camp Fuse Box 30L
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.
Find the Base Camp Fuse Box here from £115
14. Bellroy Tokyo Totepack 20L
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.
Find the Bellroy Tokyo Totepack here from £159
15. 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. The timeless design comes in khaki (pictured), grey and camo.
Find the Eastpak Tecum in Khaki here from £100
16. 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.
Find the Borealis Classic Backpack here from £90
17. Fjällräven High Coast Rolltop Backpack 26L
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.
Find the High Coast Rolltop Backpack here from £90
18. 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.
Find the Vango Mica 25L here from £30
19. Patagonia Altvia Backpack 22L: launching March 2021
Launching in March 2021, the Altvia Backpack from Patagonia is made from durable, recycled nylon. More information to follow soon but if you’re interested in bagging the latest releases, keep an eye on the Patagonia website for this one.
RRP £110. More information on the Patagonia website.
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