The world of backpacks is more vast and varied than the situations we use them in, which makes finding the perfect backpack an overwhelming and rather arduous task.
To save you both the time and trouble, we’ve put together an exhaustive list of over 20 different types of backpacks.
Each one is designed for a different scenario, be it bugging out, hunting, travelling, hiking, commuting, or saving someone’s life.
Table Of Contents
- Six Varieties Backpack For The Ultimate City Slicker
- The Best Seven Types Of Backpack For Outdoor Adventures
- Five Types of Backpack For The Outdoor Sports Enthusiast
- Six Varieties of Specialized Backpacks
Six Varieties Backpack For The Ultimate City Slicker
#1 The Basic Day Backpack
These versatile backpacks will look just as cool on a hiking trail as they do on the high street.
With multiple pockets and compartments, these functional packs sit comfortably on your back while providing enough space for your day-to-day gear.
Many day packs come with handles at the top as well as padded, adjustable shoulder straps.
Some of the best backpacks for daily use, like this one from Fjällräven, are now being manufactured from recycled plastic bottles, making them as good for the environment as they are for you.
#2 The Commuter Backpack
Similar to the basic day pack, commuter backpacks have a rather more sophisticated design that ensures they won’t look out of place in an office or meeting room.
Most commuter backpacks come with special compartments for office essentials like your laptop, smartphone, and business cards. A good commuter backpack looks as professional as a briefcase but offers better functionality.
This commuter backpack even comes with a USB charging port so you can charge your phone on the go.
#3 The Laptop Backpack
Similar to the commuter backpack but with a slightly less professional appearance, the laptop backpack is designed to keep your laptop securely in place as you dash from one Zoom meeting to the next.
A laptop backpack should be robust enough that you can cycle with it, yet cool enough to take on a casual night out. This Kroser backpack is not only affordable but is also waterproof and tear-resistant.
#4 Anti-Theft Backpacks
Another variation on the same theme, every aspect of the anti-theft backpack is designed to keep the contents safe from pickpockets and pilferers.
A professional anti-theft backpack, like this one from XD Design features secret pockets in which to hide your most valuable possessions, a cut-proof protection board, and hidden zippers.
It even includes in-built protection for your Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID), which blocks handheld scanners from reading the chip on your passport or credit card, thereby guarding against electronic pickpocketing and identity theft.
#5 TSA Friendly Backpacks
Frequent fliers may have been grounded by the coronavirus pandemic, but as the world starts to reopen, they’ll want to make their airport experience as smooth as possible.
A TSA-friendly backpack is specifically designed so you don’t have to remove your laptop or other valuable electronic devices out when passing through a checkpoint.
This TSA-friendly backpack from YOREPEK is big enough to function as an overnight bag, durable enough to survive abuse from Uber drivers, and comfortable enough to carry all day.
#6 Wheeled Backpacks
The last in our city-slicker category, the wheeled backpack is a favorite amongst travelers and commuters alike. Carry it on your back for shorter journeys or save yourself the effort by wheeling it across longer stretches.
Weighing just 2.4kg and featuring ergonomic shoulder straps, the Samsonite Wheeled Backpack is light and comfortable enough to carry for long distances, but also has wheels so, you don’t have to. It’s also the perfect size for carry-on hand luggage.
Although you can find a wheeled backpack for less than $30, spending between $50 to $100 will secure you one that’s durable enough to survive multiple long-distance journeys.
The Best Seven Types Of Backpack For Outdoor Adventures
#7 Sling Crossbody Backpacks
This slightly different design makes for a multi-functional backpack that you can use for travel, trips to the gym, or outdoor sports like hiking, climbing, running, or cycling.
Carry it on your shoulder for easy access or across your body for better security.
The best crossbody backpacks like the OZUKO Sling Backpack include anti-theft protection, water-resistant material, and a built-in USB charging cable.
#8 The Duffel Bag Backpack
This design combines the best features of the duffel bag with the convenience of a backpack.
Most backpacks of this type have a large main compartment and a separate section for dirty shoes and clothes.
The Fire & Ash Eaton Pack is ergonomically designed to be comfortable on your back, but also has a strong top carry handle that transforms it into a traditional duffel bag. It also incorporates shock-proof and waterproof protection to ensure your electronics survive both rough treatment and bad weather.
#9 The Rucksack
Before today, I thought rucksacks and backpacks were the same things, but now I’ve seen the light and can reliably inform you that, unlike a backpack, a rucksack is crafted out of a technical material like waxed canvas.
Similar to a tactical backpack, this Gootium canvas rucksack combines a vintage design with hard-wearing canvas fabric to create a durable luggage item.
Designed to reduce carrying effort, this canvas rucksack is large enough to use as an overnight bag and tough enough to take hiking.
#10 Dry Bag Backpacks
Ideal for sailors and fishing enthusiasts, a dry bag backpack has a roll-down top and waterproof welded seams to keep the contents dry even if the backpack gets soaked by an unexpected wave or lost over the side of a boat.
Guide Gear makes a durable dry bag backpack complete with handy mesh side pockets for your water bottles or survival canteens.
There’s no point in sacrificing quality for affordability when it comes to a dry bag backpack so, if you’re in the market for one of these, budget for around $35 to $150.
#11 Hydration Packs
My hydration pack is one of my favorite pieces of equipment. I take it everywhere with me, whether I’m hiking, horse-riding, fishing, or running.
Although I love it, it’s nowhere near as cool as this one which includes a personal cooling system as well as a hydration pack. With a remote control and pump, this backpack will spray you with a gentle mist every few minutes, keeping you refreshed on the hottest of days.
#12 Cooler Bag Backpack
Staying on the subject of keeping cool, a cooler bag backpack offers a practical way to transport cold food and beverages.
Whether you want to take a gourmet lunch to work with you or provide cold drinks for a summer picnic, the Igloo Outdoorsman Gizmo 32-Can Backpack is comfortable to carry and capable of keeping its contents colder for longer than your average cooler box.
#13 The Picnic Backpack
Take your picnic to a whole new level with a customized picnic backpack.
My grandparents used to have a vintage picnic set that looked like a small suitcase, but the modern version of this is far more practical.
The PT-Colorado insulated picnic backpack contains everything you could possibly need for a romantic picnic for two, as well as a cooler section for your food and drinks.
Five Types of Backpack For The Outdoor Sports Enthusiast
#14 The Hiking Backpack
The best hiking backpack is similar to the best survival backpack. The only real difference is that backpacks designed specifically for hikers tend to be a little smaller and lighter.
For shorter trips and day-long hikes, a backpack like the Osprey Daylite or Daylite Plus is ideal. It weighs just over 1lb and comes with compression straps, water bottle mesh pockets, and is constructed from recycled materials.
For longer trips, you need something a little bigger, like the Deuter Aircontact Lite. Designed for weekend to week-long adventures, this ergonomically designed backpack weighs around 4 lbs and can be adjusted to create the perfect fit.
#15 The Mountaineering Backpack
The key to a good backpack for climbing and mountaineering is weight distribution and easy access.
The Arc’teryx Bora AR 61 Pack uses a combination of thermo-molded Tegris frame sheet and aluminum stays to distribute your load evenly, and, although it’s top-loading, it also has side-access zips so you can more easily access items buried at the bottom without exposing the gear on top.
#16 The Frame Backpack
What makes this type of backpack stand out from the rest is, would you believe, the frame!
A backpack with an external frame will sit farther away from your body, thereby increasing ventilation and reducing chafing. It also positions the weight higher up on your back, allowing you to maintain a more upright walking posture.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Pack combines a frame design with features of various other backpacks. It has a roll-top like the dry bag backpack and a top Y-strap that acts as a compression bag.
#17 Backpacks for Snowsports
The trouble with snow is that it’s cold, wet, and abrasive so a good backpack for snowsports needs to be durable enough to cope with such conditions.
Waterproofing is vital, as is having somewhere to stash your skis, ski poles, and goggles.
The Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35 Pack has it all. Made with high-tenacity nylon and webbing daisy chains, this backpack will keep the contents dry while giving plenty of versatility when it comes to lashing gear to the outside of the pack.
#18 Cycling Backpacks
Although panniers are a better option for cyclists with a heavy load to carry, for those of you training for the Tour de France, a lightweight backpack designed to cope with all weather conditions is ideal.
This Patagonia backpack is made from durable recycled material that will protect your gear from scrapes, scuffs, and falls. It comes with handy Daisy-chain loops to clip your helmet to and an internal mesh pocket for your valuables.
Six Varieties of Specialized Backpacks
#19 Tactical Backpacks
Often associated with the military and police, tactical backpacks are suitable for all types of high-activity ventures and, as a result, can make an excellent bug out or survival bags.
This water-resistant tactical backpack from Frog & Co features multiple pockets to keep your gear organized and adjustable straps so you can get the perfect fit.
#20 EMS Backpacks
This type of backpack is specifically designed for emergency medical situations. They are durable enough to take into any environment and fully adjustable to make for a comfortable fit.
Most EMS backpacks have multiple pockets and compartments, many of which are removable or adjustable so, can accommodate a range of items. The North American Rescue Medic Trauma Pack is made from durable 500D nylon and has sand and water-resistant zippers.
It provides you with over 1000 cubic inches of gear capacity and a MOLLE-style attachment system.
#21 Gym Backpacks
Although a multi-purpose backpack can easily carry your gear to and from the gym, a strict gym backpack has a separate compartment for your shoes and sweaty gym gear.
The best gym backpacks, like the Under Armour Adult Hustle 5.0 Backpack, have lots of storage space, two side pockets for water bottles, and a scruff-resistant bottom panel.
#22 Camera Backpacks
A camera backpack is specially designed to protect your camera, lenses, and other expensive technical equipment while in transit.
They feature flexible interior dividers that can be moved around so you can fit each component of your camera kit in easily and safely.
A backpack like the Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II is not only heavily padded and rain resistant, but also comes with a reinforced section at the top to provide extra protection.
#23 Child Carrier Backpacks
When the youngest in your family isn’t quite ready for an expedition into the Adirondack Mountains but wants to come along for the ride, you need something that can accommodate them and your gear.
A durable child carrier that doubles up as a day pack provides comfort for both you and your precious cargo.
Top-quality models, like the Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature Child Carrier, even have in-built sun protection to keep your little one cool and a padded aluminum roll cage to keep them safe.
#24 The Pet Carrier Backpack
It’s not only the human members of your family that might struggle with a long hike – sometimes our four-legged friends need a break too.
Easy to clean and well-ventilated, this type of backpack is comfortable for your dog or cat and has separate compartments for your gear, as well as his.
I doubt that any of us need 24 different types of backpacks at our disposal, but more than one seems like a necessity now.
My current collection of backpacks includes a laptop bag, a hydration pack, and a pet-carrier backpack but, having spent hours looking at products and reading reviews I’m not sure it’s complete.
Is any self-respecting survivalist’s backpack collection complete without a tactical backpack or a durable survival backpack? I don’t think so.