Best Backpacks in 2020 (October Reviews)

To help you find the best backpacks on the market today, we spent over 15 hours researching, reviewing customer data, critic’s reviews and comparing product specs. During the search, we also looked for all types of bags, selecting only those suitable for just about every activity. We also ensured they were durable, offered ample storage space, and include have padded a laptop compartment — pretty much a standard requirement for the packs of today.

Our top pick is the Nike Hayward 2.0 Backpack because it’s the best all-around bag. The Hayward can be used for just about anything, from school and daily use to outdoor activities. It would also be the best weekend backpack. The MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack earned an honorable mention. It’s a strong runner up as an all-purpose bag and offers some excellent travel features, to boot. Also, it’s the best commuter backpack. Examples include an anti-theft pouch, built-in USB charging port, dedicated laptop sleeve and luggage straps. Keep reading to learn more about our other top picks.

Top 7 Best Backpacks

 #1  Nike Hayward 2.0 Backpack

Award: TOP PICK

WHY WE LIKE IT: This backpack is the best all-around, which is why it’s our top pick. You can use it for just about any activity, from camping to travel and beyond. The only downside is there’s no dedicated laptop sleeve, but there’s still plenty of space in the main compartment to fit one.

Read Full Review: Nike Hayward 2.0 Backpack


Pros

  • Best for casual use
  • Sizeable main compartment
  • A cool graphic design in several colors

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No laptop sleeve


The Nike Hayward 2.0 is a more conventional backpack, with a durable polyester shell and inner lining. It has a large main compartment that offers an impressive amount of storage space. Being Nike, it is more expensive than comparable packs, but the design and durability warrant it. It earns our top spot because it’s the best all-around pack, good for just about any activity.

The Hayward is not water-resistant and it’s not made with rugged materials, so casual use is best. But it is lightweight and will last the test of time. It’s a great pack for school, daily commutes, and even some light outdoor activities. For adventures, get the best backpacking backpacks.

 #2  MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack

Award: HONORABLE MENTION

WHY WE LIKE IT: This backpack is a close runner-up to our top pick, so it’s our honorable mention and the best backpacks for travel. It offers a long list of features, like a built-in USB port, anti-theft zipper pocket, dedicated laptop sleeve and much more. It’s an excellent day bag, travel bag, a commuting bag, or even a school bag.

Read Full Review: MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack


Pros

  • Excellent for those that commute
  • Dedicated laptop sleeve
  • Anti-theft zipper pocket

Cons

  • Bulky when full


The MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack is an excellent day bag, which is why it earns our “honorable mention” title. It’s made of a soft, yet durable water-resistant fabric, so it will protect your laptop and other belongings from the elements. The laptop compartment fits anything up to 15.6 inches in size in a dedicated segment of the main compartment. It also has a built-in organizer to help keep all stowed items clean and safe. An anti-theft zipper back pocket can be used to store valuables, passports and other important documents.

Some additional features include a luggage strap, a built-in USB charging port, and side mesh bottle pockets. Overall, it’s an excellent pack for daily use and travel, offering plenty of great features for a competitive price. It can be quite bulky when it’s full, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for something more compact. It could be the best disaster kit backpack for some.

 #3  The North Face Borealis Backpack

Award: BEST ALL PURPOSE

WHY WE LIKE IT: This backpack is the best multi-purpose pack, because you can use it for outdoor activities, as well as more conventional ones—like travel and commuting. It has a removable waist belt for added back support, plus The North Face offers a lifetime brand promise.

Read Full Review: The North Face Borealis Backpack


Pros

  • Fully water resistant
  • Excellent for outdoors and hiking
  • Has a removable waist belt

Cons

  • Expensive


The North Face Borealis is an all-purpose backpack good for anything and everything. You could use it as a day bag, for commuting, outdoor activities, travel, and much more. It offers 28L of space, which, suffice it to say, is quite a bit of storage room. A removable waist belt provides added support to the wearer’s back if and when it’s full and heavy. It’s built to last, and, when purchased from an authorized reseller,

Compared to many of the other bags on the list, it’s expensive but it does offer incredible longevity. Additional features include side water bottle pockets, a padded tablet sleeve, an external fleece-lined pocket, water resistance, and built-in elastic bands on the front. The compartments provide a lot of room to organize and stow various belongings. Like the best backpacking stove.

 #4  AmazonBasics Laptop Backpack

Award: BEST FOR STUDENTS

WHY WE LIKE IT: This backpack is one of the best on the list for carrying laptops, tablets and other common electronics. That makes it a great day bag, allowing you to safely carry items to and from home to work or school. Plus, it offers a large, dedicated laptop compartment that can hold up 17-inch computers.

Read Full Review: AmazonBasics Laptop Backpack


Pros

  • Also great as a day bag
  • Holds up to 17-inch laptops
  • Three main compartments

Cons

  • Not for outdoor activities


The AmazonBasics Laptop Computer Backpack, as the name implies, is an excellent option for carrying electronics and larger laptops or notebooks. A padded and separate laptop sleeve can accommodate up to 17-inch laptops. Two additional larger compartments offer space for other items like documents, folios, clothing and more. Smaller organizational compartments are spaced all around the exterior of the bag, including two mesh water bottle pockets on the side.

While the AmazonBasics Laptop is relatively durable, and should hold up just fine to normal wear and tear with it’s heavily padded shoulder straps, it’s not at all rugged. Therefore, it’s not an ideal pack for outdoor activities and instead works well as a day bag, while commuting or even for light travel. In terms of price, it’s one of the cheaper and more competitive packs on the list. Right up there with the best luggage.

 #5  May Tree Clear Backpack

Award: BEST SEE-THROUGH FOR SAFETY

WHY WE LIKE IT: This backpack is the most unique, as it’s made of clear PVC material and it’s very affordable. It doesn’t offer a ton of space and only has a single bottle pocket. It’s meant for use as a day bag during recreational events, such as during concerts or music festivals. It’s see-through, so you’ll pass through security checkpoints quickly.

Read Full Review: May Tree Clear Backpack


Pros

  • Most compliant with school safety
  • Clear for fast security checks
  • Mesh water bottle pocket

Cons

  • No extra features


The May Tree Clear Backpack seems a bit odd at first glance, but it has a very specific purpose. It’s made of clear and see-through PVC material for convenient entry at security gates during concerts and events. These days, you’re usually only permitted to carry a small bag at such events and they must be searched at security checkpoints. The see-through nature makes it so much faster. The pack is large enough to hold several necessities in its main, zipper-based enclosure. On the side is a single mesh water bottle pocket.

May Tree’s bag doesn’t have a lot of features, but they aren’t necessary. It’s incredibly cheap, one of the most affordable packs on the list. Plus, it’s only meant to carry enough items to get you through the day and keep your valuables safe. For what it is, it offers incredible value and works great for recreational use at venues and outdoor events—like concerts. You can use it as an alternative to one of the best laptop bags.

 #6  SOLDIERKNIFE Waterproof Anti-Theft Laptop and Travel Backpack

Award: BEST ON A BUDGET

WHY WE LIKE IT: This backpack is an excellent choice for travel, but it’s even better for daily use. Students and professionals alike will enjoy a long list of features. It includes a combination security lock, built-in USB port, anti-theft front pocket, binding buckles, small dedicated item pockets, and much more.

Read Full Review: SOLDIERKNIFE Waterproof Anti-Theft Laptop and Travel Backpack


Pros

  • Built-in security lock
  • Comes with combination security lock
  • Built-in USB charging port

Cons

  • Not meant for outdoors


The SOLDIERKNIFE Waterproof Anti-Theft Laptop and Travel Backpack is an excellent option for students and professionals. It offers a ton of storage space, with varying compartments, including a dedicated padded laptop sleeve—which holds up to 15.6-inch laptops. Several of its added features make it a great day bag, like the built-in security combination lock, integrated USB charging port, and binding buckles to help compress the pack when it’s full. The smaller front compartment also includes a key fob hook, pen pockets, and a dedicated phone pocket, among some additional space. Side mesh water bottle pockets offer convenient and quick access, too.

The bag is made of a durable nylon fabric that is soft, breathable and water-repellant. An anti-theft pocket in the front will keep wallets, passports, phones and other valuables safe. To top it all off, it’s available at an excellent price, and when coupled with all the features it has, that makes it the best budget pick for our list. You can compare it to other best bags.

 #7  PANS Large Military Travel Backpack

Award: BEST WEEKEND BACKPACK

WHY WE LIKE IT: This backpack is hands down the most durable and reliable pack on the list. That makes it ideal for outdoor and extreme activities, such as camping, hiking, climbing, and much more. It features a massive and expandable main compartment and can hold up to 3 days worth of supplies.

Read Full Review: PANS Large Military Travel Backpack


Pros

  • Very resistant to H20 and great for boating
  • Huge and expandable main compartment
  • Built for survival and outdoor activities

Cons

  • Not water-resistant


The PANS Large Military Travel Backpack is the most durable pack on the list. It is our top pick for outdoor activities and would hold up great in situations where rugged gear is necessary, such as while climbing, hiking, camping, and more. It’s also unique thanks to its modular, velcro system. That means you can attach small pouches and other accessories to the bag as needed. It holds enough for up to three days worth of travel, including clothing, food and other extraneous items. A water bottle mesh pocket on the side offers quick access to whatever stored within. A walkie-talkie pouch is conveniently placed on the rear of the pack, which can also hold small items and valuables.

The pack is made of tough, durable fabric and although it’s not water-resistant it can withstand a lot of wear and tear. That also makes it an excellent bag for travel, especially long backpacking trips where the pack will be frequently taken off and put back on. The entire pack is expandable, thanks to belt clips on each side, but altogether it holds anywhere from 39L to 64L—3905 cu. Inches. Heavy, oversized zippers and tabs, can withstand frequent use. Plus, the bag has a nifty built-in compartment for tools, survival items and more.

How We Decided

The first thing we considered when choosing backpacks was the primary application. A pack that you would use out on the open trail or while camping is going to be much different than the best backpacks for school. Yes, you can use them interchangeably if you want, but ultimately, there are different requirements. We tried to choose the best packs for each situation. The best all-around is the Nike Hayward 2.0, while a close runner-up is the MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack.

Next, we considered general durability. A rugged or outdoor-friendly pack like the PANS Large Military Travel Backpack is always going to be much more durable than, say, the Nike Hayward 2.0. However, every backpack on this list is reliable and will hold up to regular wear and tear as needed. The Nike Hayward, for instance, will do just fine as a day bag for daily use, even over an extended period. Another aspect of durability is the water-resistance and all-weather protections. Most of the packs here will keep the belongings stored inside dry even when it’s raining, which is a huge deal for electronics and laptops.

Storage space is another major consideration. Again, while total space is going to differ from pack to pack, every bag on this list offers plenty of space to store a wide variety of belongings. Furthermore, nearly every bag on the list includes a padded laptop sleeve or pocket, except for the Nike Hayward. Even in Nike’s case, however, there is plenty of storage space to put a laptop inside.

Finally, the price was another major consideration. We tried to stay between the ranges of $20 to $150. Nothing on the list exceeds that price range. It’s the ideal range to find a durable, full-featured backpack for nearly every purpose.

Best Backpacks Buyer’s Guide

The Most Important Features to Consider

  1. Durability and Material
    Depending on how and where you’ll be using the bag, the durability is one of the most important features to consider. A MIL-SPEC and rugged pack, for instance, can withstand a lot of wear and tear, and might even hold up against extreme weather. Some anti-theft packs can withstand knife and sharp object attacks. Other packs are merely made of a soft, water-resistant fabric. Before choosing a pack, decide how durable you need it to be. If you’re going mountain climbing or spending a lot of time outdoors, a cotton or soft fabric bag is probably not a good choice. For the latter, we’d recommend the PANS Large Military Travel Backpack, or The North Face Borealis Backpack. The build material plays a huge role in its durability and longevity. Thin, weak fabrics may stretch, tear or worse. Furthermore, exterior build materials are what provide weather and water-resistance abilities. Without the appropriate composition, the pack loses a ton of value. So, when selecting a bag, consider not only what it’s made of but also how that affects the durability of the pack.
  2. Extra Pockets
    Think about how you’ll be using the backpack. Are you taking it with you during outdoor activities like hiking or camping? Is it going to be your everyday bag for carrying your laptop, work papers and lunch? Are you using it for something else entirely? Once you know what you’ll be using the bag for, it’s important to consider the extra pockets and compartments it has. It’s reasonable to assume for outdoor trips you’ll be carrying a water bottle, for example, so you’ll need a bottle holder or dedicated pocket for that. If it’s going to be a day bag for work you’ll want compartments for pens, keys, your cell phone, laptop and other regular belongings. If the bag is for travel, then you’ll want a main compartment that’s large enough to store clothes, undergarments and maybe even a spare set of footwear. In terms of the bag, you’re talking about something like the May Tree Clear Backpack versus the MATEIN Travel Laptop Backpack. The May Tree bag is meant for concert and venue use, with fewer compartments and pockets. The MATEIN Travel pack is the exact opposite, with lots of compartments and pockets to carry all the different items you’d bring while traveling.
  3. Laptop or Notebook Compartment Size
    There are only a few people that don’t carry a notebook or laptop with them in their day bag. The exception would be for outdoor trips like hiking, climbing or camping. That said, a backpack’s compartment size for laptops matters a lot. Anything that accommodates 17-inches and up gives you plenty of space to store most computers, with few exceptions. Anything smaller means you’ll want to double-check the size of your laptop to ensure it fits.

Best Backpacks FAQs

What Are the Best Quality Backpacks?

Choosing the best of the best is always a subjective process. What one person considers to be the “best” may not be what another does. For example, a suit-wearing professional looking for a suitable day bag is not going to agree with an outdoorsman that needs a rugged, all-purpose pack. To decide what’s best for you, first consider how the bag is going to be used. The top choice for the best laptop backpack might not jive if you’re looking for the best backpacks for travel. Our list outlines the best backpacks for each scenario or situation, so use that to your advantage. If you’re looking for a super-durable backpack to use while camping or hiking, the PANS Large Military Travel Backpack or The North Face Borealis Backpack would be some excellent choices. If you want a good travel pack, check out the SOLDIERKNIFE Waterproof Anti-Theft Laptop and Travel Backpack. If you just want a reliable pack to carry your laptop and a few small items, you can’t go wrong with the AmazonBasics Laptop Computer Backpack.

What Is the Most Durable Backpack Brand?

There are many durable brands on the market, but the ones on our list include PANS, The North Face, and Nike.

What Backpacks Are Popular?

Some of the most popular backpacks on our list include the Nike Hayward 2.0 — our top pick — the AmazonBasics Laptop Backpack because of its price, and the SOLDIERKNIFE Waterproof Anti-Theft Laptop and Travel Backpack because it offers incredible value.

What’s the Best Backpack for Hiking or Camping?

Technically, you could bring any pack you want if you’re going hiking or camping. However, the best backpacks for hiking and other outdoor activities are going to be the ones that have higher durability to withstand the elements. The backpack we recommend for extreme outdoor activities is the PANS Large Military Travel Backpack, followed by The North Face Borealis Backpack. You can also get away with using the Nike Hayward 2.0, or the SOLDIERKNIFE Waterproof Anti-Theft Laptop and Travel Backpack.

What’s the difference between Cordura Nylon and Ballistic Nylon?

Ballistic is a “filament type” yarn, vs cordura which is texturized, meaning ballistic nylon yarns are smooth and slick, whereas cordura yarns are slightly fuzzy. Ballistic is typically the heavier of the two fabrics and has the superior tensile and tear strength. But, when it comes to backpacks, both fabrics are super heavy-duty. They may be able to endure some serious wear and tear, but chances are your backpack will have some weight to it before it’s even packed, which may not be desirable for most people, especially if you only need a basic backpack for work or school.

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Learn More About Backpacks

Backpacks are a great way to carry your stuff around without feeling encumbered, much like the best messenger bags. There's no better outdoor gear than a pack that holds all of your essentials. The best bags will hold a lot, feel comfortable and look good.

For just your laptop needs, check out the best laptop bags, and for your kids, the best kids laptop case.

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