The quality of a backpack is important. But so is the design, because there is a type of backpack for every occasion. Indeed, according to our research, there are some 31 different types of backpacks on the market today!
And it is important that you know what they are.
Or at least a few of them.
Because this helps in getting the right type of backpack that caters adequately to your need.
In this post, you will find a detailed guide on these 31 backpack designs that you can use as a reference when shopping for a new backpack in the future.
You will also find a few good recommendations under the different types of designs for you to consider.
Ready? Let’s go.
Table of Contents
A quick rundown on the different types of backpacks
These backpacks are grouped into four major categories: everyday carry backpacks; tech backpacks; travel backpacks; and outdoor backpacks.
Just go further down and read an in-depth review of each of the backpacks.
Everyday carry backpacks (EDC)
- Mini backpack
- Work/ Business Backpack
- Messenger bag backpacks (convertible)
- Satchel backpacks
- Tote backpack
- Drawstring backpack
- Gym pack
- Convertible Backpack
Everyday carry backpacks are small to medium-sized packs designed to fit all the extras you may need in your day-to-day grind.
Inside are all the everyday essentials you need to stay on the move from morning ‘til evening, be it your tech, books, food, supplies, or whatever else.
When it comes to different types of backpacks, the EDC bag category is one of the most popular and versatile. Let’s explore the common ones.
A mini backpack is a fashionable carry that is smaller than a regular backpack but bigger than a purse.
It’s trendy, ultra-small, and comfortable to slip on and whizz off around the city.
It comes with modest storage, yet you still have the gains of the typical backpack convenience that beats a shoulder bag and even totes.
With a capacity range of 5-15L, it fits the very bare essentials- snacks, a phone, a tablet, or a book to read.
The best thing is that some mini backpacks are also convertible- you can switch into a satchel with a simple strap adjustment.
Daypacks usually spot simple designs, average carrying capacity (mostly from 20-40L), and come with minimal features.
They mostly have two shoulder straps, a padded grab handle, a large main compartment, a front pocket, and one or two exterior pockets, if you’re lucky.
They are available in various designs, sizes, and colors and usually feature minimal paddings on the back and shoulder straps.
This style of backpack fits into just about all types of settings, be it casual or formal. Although popular among college students, it can be used for work, hiking, or even an overnight trip.
A more comfortable alternative to briefcases, work backpacks feature some boardroom-friendly styling and allow you to haul your items hands-free.
The best thing about work backpacks is that they come with mature and sophisticated designs that make them look just as professional as a briefcase or handbag.
Prominent features include a suspended and padded laptop sleeve; durable fabrics and water-resistant zippers; and versatile storage options for paperwork and other office essentials.
And should you have to travel on a business meeting, some have a TSA-friendly laptop compartment, main compartment for clothes, and special pockets for passports and boarding passes.
A two-in-one-combo, this is a kind of bag you can sling over a shoulder like a messenger bag or wear like a backpack.
The sophisticated carrying and strapping systems ensures that the weight is optimally distributed on your two shoulders so that your back is balanced equally.
The major difference between a backpack and a rucksack is in the closure – how you close the main compartment.
Instead of zippered closure, there’s a flap and buckle design that covers the main compartment to secure your belongings.
Also, this closure design can be a drawstring closure, magnetic snap closure, or even remain completely open.
Its average carrying capacity is usually between 15-30L with pockets on the exterior and in the exterior to arrange your items.
A satchel is a rectangular-shaped bag with one strap but with lots of zippered pockets.
It’s a cross between a messenger bag and a shoulder bag but can be worn diagonally across the body or hung directly down from the shoulder.
Mostly used by students for carrying books, it can also hold laptops, phones, wallets, an umbrella, and other small accessories in different zippered pockets.
A tote backpack is a versatile carryall for just about anywhere — from work to grocery runs, and all-day shopping excursions.
It goes without saying, you get the luxury of carrying it on one shoulder as a tote bag or with straps as a backpack when you want to free up your arms.
Mostly within the range of 15-35L, it’s bigger than a purse and is roomy enough to fit a laptop, a water bottle, and more.
For features, there are two straps for your shoulders, two carry handles, a zippered main compartment with interior and exterior pockets.
Tote backpacks are however not best for extended travels because the shoulder straps are not thickly padded for comfort.
Drawstring backpacks usually come with thin straps, although there are some models with padded straps if you’re lucky.
For material and construction, it mostly made of water-resistant polyester, canvas, or nylon.
It features one compartment to keep all your daily essentials, as well as pockets (not all packs though) for small items.
It’s light and therefore suitable for different occasions – gym, sport, yoga, dance, camping, training, cheerleading, and more!
You should however note that the strings tend to dig into the shoulders more compared to straps and thus increase the burden on your shoulders.
Also, you can’t afford to overload it or carry anything sharp or pointy in it, as that could tear into the seams.
Gym packs allow you conveniently carry your workout items with you.
They are of two types: regular backpacks that look sporty, feature a drawstring closure, and tend to look out of place in the office.
And then, there are work-appropriate gym backpacks that come with compartments for your daily essentials like a laptop and business items while still having enough room for bulky stuff like a change of clothes and shoes.
Depending on the capacity, they are roomy enough to fit both work essentials, workout headphones, and gym clothes.
Some even have separate shoe compartments that double as pockets for dirty laundry, towels, and other gym items you may want to keep separate.
They are used for everything from the workplace to a workout, or even a weekend trip if you pack light.
That is, a backpack you can use in multiple ways- as a tote, crossbody purse, and even as a briefcase.
For instance, you can wear the Fossile Camilla Convertible bag as a backpack to the office during the day, detach the straps to use as a tote for grocery shopping, and turn it into a crossbody bag for a more fashionable look.
Also, convertible bags come in different models, sizes, colors, and designs.
Tech-friendly backpacks are bags designed to keep your laptop, cameras, drones, iPads, and other electronic devices organized, safe, and scratch-free.
There are tons of options to choose from ranging from bags with padded laptop sleeves to more specialized options with dividers, pouches, USB port cables, and pockets galore.
They are great for writers, photographers, techies, gamers, or someone with a long commute to work every day who needs to stay powered up.
Laptop backpacks have a designated and protective sleeve for your devices and additional compartments for your phone or computer accessories.
They feature multiple compartments for smart organization and a structured body to keep the bag upright when you set it down.
The compartments tend to be sealed with YKK AquaGuard zippers for protection from the elements.
Note: There are also backpacks specially designed with your camera, gaming gear and drones, in mind.
Smart backpacks have more modern, tech-oriented features and functions.
Smart backpacks not only hold your devices but charge them on the go, thanks to included USB charging ports.
Others include solar panels to both replenish and power mobile devices and more. Some packs even have speakers to blast your favorite tunes.
Anti-theft backpacks are specially designed to keep your valuables safe from pickpockets.
They are incorporated with features like slash-proof materials, lockable zippers, hidden zippers, secret pockets, built-in combination locks, and RFID protection against fraudsters having access to your credit card or passport data.
For extra security, there is a hidden pocket usually at the back for your passport or wallet and a secured laptop compartment that is only accessible when you take the pack off your back.
Whether it’s travel or everyday use, these backpacks help reduce the risk of thieves accessing and stealing your valuables.
A travel backpack is one that fits an assortment of the necessary equipment you will need on your next adventure.
Many travel-friendly backpacks are thoughtfully designed with pockets for everything – tech, water bottle, passport, pens, keys, and more.
And with important features like a laptop compartment, lockable zippers, breathable back panel, and padded straps that don’t hurt your shoulders, etc.
I’ll be discussing the different types of travel backpacks – carry-on, wheeled packs, TSA friendly backpacks, and packable daypacks:
Carry-on backpacks are bags you can take on board most airlines because they are within the preferred size and weight limit.
They let you save time and avoid additional luggage fees on some airlines.
They are small (mostly below 45L) and so fit in the overhead compartment or beneath the seat in front of you so you don’t have to worry about checking a bag.
Plus, you can easily take your carry-on backpack from the airport to natural trails, city tours, beach shores, and beyond.
A wheeled backpack is a pack with the option to roll it around like a suitcase.
They are versatile, easy to use, and better for spine health. And of course, they look great, too.
Because rolling backpacks come with both straps and wheels, they provide you with unique dual functionality.
For example, if you’re hiking across uneven terrain, you wouldn’t want to use the backpack’s wheels; in such cases, switching to straps is useful.
Checkpoint-friendly backpacks are backpacks engineered to help you speed through TSA checkpoints without having to remove your laptop and maybe even a bag of toiletries.
If you almost always travel with your computer, a TSA-friendly backpack is what you need.
The Transportation Security Administration requirements for this kind of bags:
- a designated laptop-only section
- free of zippers, metal buckles, or snaps on top or under the laptop section
- no pockets on the inside or outside of the laptop-only section
- no other items but the computer packed in the laptop-only section
- the designated laptop-only section lays flat on the X-ray belt.
Unfortunately, having a checkpoint-friendly pack is not a guarantee that you won’t have to remove your computer at a security checkpoint. The TSA reserves the right for any agent to require you to do so.
Packable daypacks (foldable backpack or collapsible backpack) are ultralight backpacks that can fit in your luggage (or even your pocket).
If your luggage is too big for a day of adventure, and you need something smaller and lighter to carry the essentials, packable daypacks come to the rescue.
And it compresses into a small pouch so you can easily stow it in your travel backpack.
They are usually lightweight—some weigh as little as 1 ounce! — and provide more features such as waterproofness, hip belts, or external pockets.
They are great for sightseeing, shopping, hiking, exploring, etc.
These are backpacks designed for outdoor activities like hiking, hunting, climbing, skiing, canoeing, camping, mountaineering, etc.
They are made with very durable materials and water-resistant exteriors to keep your belongings safe and dry.
They offer an array of features, such as specialized attachment points, suspension system, reservoir compatibility, adjustable torso loop, hip-belt pockets, compartments and sleeping bag compartments, etc.
We’ll go through the major types of outdoor backpacks below:
Backpacking backpacks are designed for adventure travelers who spend a lot of time in the mountains, deserts, and jungles. So, these packs can fit backpacking and camping equipment needed to survive outside in the backcountry for days.
They are large backpacks that can hold an impressive 60+litres, and they can weigh over 5 pounds when empty.
Of course, the bigger the backpack, the more specialized storage options they offer, including dedicated spaces for sleeping bags, hiking poles, and other camping gear.
Backpacking packs for women tend to be smaller, lighter, and have narrower shoulder straps as well as hip belts that are shaped for a women’s anatomy.
Hiking backpacks are durable as hell and are often made of rugged material with waterproof construction that’ll survive the trails.
They hold more than your typical bag—their carrying capacity can range from 30 – 50 to even 70L. The capacity you go for depends on whether you’re planning for a multi-day trek or heading out for a day hike.
A poor fitting or a heavy one without load balancing features will leave you with blisters and sore muscles. This is why many hiking backpacks have straps not just for your shoulders, but your chest and waist as well for an extra-secure fit.
No matter the capacity, however, a comfortable hiking pack is going to have a ventilated back, a thick and comfortable hip belt, and the ability to adjust in several places.
Smaller capacity packs like daypacks typically have no frame, while most larger packs come with internal frames.
Framed backpacks come with solid metal or plastic frame affixed to the bag that makes carrying heavy loads easier.
These frames help support the load and transfer the weight onto your hips so you can carry that weight more comfortably.
There are two types – internal frame backpacks and external frame backpacks.
Internal-frame packs have the rods that support it built hidden inside the back panel, which makes it super practical and easy to carry large and heavy loads.
With an external frame pack, you can see the structure that supports the load: aluminum (usually) hardware on the outside.
They tend to be cheaper than internal frame models and are good for carrying heavier loads with good ventilation.
With frameless backpacks, it is the load itself that provides the structure.
Frameless packs are lighter (1 lb or less) than frame bags.
The one caveat is that you must not overload them because they’ll be very uncomfortable to wear.
Plus, they cannot stand on their own, and when empty, crumble like an empty duffel bag.
The Ski and Snowboard backpacks are designed for trips to sidecountry adventures and everything in between.
They come with features and pockets specially designed to make your ski day easier, be it day touring, resort skiing, or ski mountaineering missions.
Unique design features that set ski backpacks apart include dedicated pockets for goggles and gear, multiple access points, and external ski or snowboard carry straps.
There are also dedicated pockets for avalanche rescue tools, insulated hydration sleeves, avalanche airbags and ski attachments.
Quite similar to hiking or frame backpacks, snow sports backpacks can carry up to 45L or more capacity of gear.
Made to survive the rigors of the outdoors, they feature durable and water-resistant materials, with the ventilated backside, padded shoulder straps, and supportive straps.
Notable brands like Osprey, Dakine, Burton, etc. make well-rated backpacks for skiers and snowboarders.
Hunting backpacks are built to survive rugged terrain and protect all your goods while you focus on your target.
For you to enjoy your hunt, your hunting backpacks must be flexible, durable, and light for use.
This is because they carry very specific items and, in the case of big-game packs, handle massive loads of meat after a kill.
They also have large compartments to carry all your equipment with comfortable shoulder straps.
Other features include hydration combability, back scabbards, and side scabbards for a rifle or bows.
Whether it’s a quick pedal into town or an epic descent down muddy forest tracks, biking backpacks allow you safely and comfortably transport yourself and your important gear.
Cycling-specific backpacks come with features such as a padded laptop sleeve, easy-access pockets, reflective detailing, and attachment loops for essentials like locks and lights.
Also, they are made from materials that can withstand the elements and, importantly, will minimize back sweat with clever fabrication that allows air to circulate while you ride.
If you’re carrying up to five kilos of stuff, the straps need to be up to the job and ideally need to be backed up by a waist strap and a chest strap.
Cycling (or commuter) backpacks mostly carry your lunch, laptop, clothes, etc. to work, the shops, or anywhere else you need to go.
While mountain bike backpacks have storage for spare clothes, food, hydration (3-liters or more), and storing body armor between descents.
Also, they are mostly within 20-30L and generally fall into three categories: zip-through, roll-top, or messenger, so you can pick what suits you best.
Hydration packs are designed principally to transport water and make drinking convenient and efficient.
Instead of water bottles, you get enough water to drink when you’re on the move; hiking, biking, climbing, running, and just about any outdoor sporting activity you can think of. You simply grab the drink tube that’s connected to the included water reservoir (sometimes called a bladder).
Hydration backpacks are worn on your back and typically have a reservoir that will hold more water than a typical water bottle.
They come in a variety of sizes.
Many of the specialized hydration packs for running, biking, and hiking will have several options between 5 and 20 liters. Anything less than 5L is good for minimalists whether running, hiking, or cycling.
The reservoir capacity is how much water your pack can hold to keep you hydrated during your adventures. Reservoirs can range from around 0.5L size to more than 3 liters.
Dry bags (or waterproof backpacks) are more than being water-resistant. You can submerge them in water or exposed them to sustained torrential rainfall, yet the inside of the bag would stay completely dry!
These kinds of bags usually come with waterproof fabrics, zippers, roll tops, and sealed seams and thus are great for water-based activities in the event your bag takes the plunge.
Be it hiking, running, or cycling, kayaking, paddle-boarding, or fishing, you can trust them to keep water out.
However, they are not the most comfortable of the bunch as the straps and back panel are minimally padded and they come with fewer organizational pockets. packs for running, biking, and hiking will have several options between 5 and 20 liters.
Anything less than 5L is good for minimalists whether running, hiking, or cycling.
The reservoir capacity is how much water your pack can hold to keep you hydrated during your adventures. Reservoirs can range from around 0.5L size to more than 3 liters.
A rolltop backpack is a simple and streamlined design with a closure that is like a dry bag; that being said, they’re not always waterproof.
An advantage of the roll-top opening how it offers a certain amount of flexible storage space.
When you roll the top down you can compress the contents or simply roll the top down less, and thus you have an extendable space incorporated into the backpack.
Rolltop backpacks will appeal to those who like a secure bag with one large compartment. However, if you prefer additional compartments and storage pockets, then you might want to opt for something else.
Looking for a more professional way to haul around the contents of your entire office?
Enter a briefcase with backpack straps so you can switch up the game however you like. A briefcase that can also be worn as a backpack.
The straps are more comfortable for when you really need to load up your bag with more items.
Duffel backpacks provide you the ease of a backpack and the black-hole space of a gym bag.
With adjustable and detachable padded shoulder straps you can sling it over your shoulder to use as a backpack. Alternatively, reinforced grab handles on the top allow you to carry by hand to rest your back.
They’re easy to load while the backpack straps make them comfortable to carry.
Whether it’s fashion or functionality at the top of your list, leather backpacks tick both boxes.
Leather is a great material choice because of its durability. And like a fine wine, leather backpacks stay in shape and only get better with age.
Plus, they come in many designs: vintage, modern, and rolltop- so you can better define your style statement.
There are, however, four types of leather out there.
Full-grain leather is super durable and expensive; top-grain leather is refined and lustrous, while genuine leather is moderately priced.
And of course, there’s vegan leather that does not involve harming any animals nor does it involve using any animal skin.
The pack usually features a water-resistant exterior, adjustable straps, laptop compartments, and pockets to help with organization.
Keep in mind, however, that well-made, real leather backpacks are heavier and won’t come as cheap as their fabric or nylon equivalents.
Tactical backpacks are bags made with military-grade textiles and fabrics that work well for tactical operations, travel, hiking, and even day-to-day use.
They are of two types- the professional military packs designed for law enforcement, military deployment, and other field activities.
As well as the more stylish, functional options to safely carry everything from your laptop to camera equipment or a sleeping bag and change of clothes.
Known for their durability, they are made with durable materials and resilient zippers that can withstand the demands of military operations or heavy outdoor use.
They come with practical features that work for different environments and uses. They include specialized compartments, hydration bladder compatibility, external ports for nozzles, radio antennae, or earphones, and more.
There is a wide array of sizes, styles, colors, and brands to choose from.
How many types of backpacks are there?
There are 32 types of backpacks in this list classified according to their design and functions. However, that number is not in any way conclusive because new designs and types will keep coming up to suit diverse tastes.
What is the best type of backpack?
The best type of backpack depends on your style preference and what you want to use a backpack for.
An everyday backpack may not be the best option for snowboarding, just as a laptop backpack is effectively useless for hunting.
But whatever your pick, the best backpack should be durable, comfortable, stylish, and with enough room to fit your essentials.
We have come to the end of this big 31 different types of backpacks review!
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the different types of backpacks, perhaps you’ve even learned something you didn’t already know!
Now that you’ve got a better idea of the specific kind of backpack you’re looking for, you can start flexing with it to different occasions.
Questions or suggestions are super welcome in the comments section!
This article is not sponsored in any way by any company. These backpacks 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.