The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (2024)

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Whether you’re hiking up a mountain, heading to the shops, or commuting on the train to work, having the best backpack at your side is essential. Formerly only used by schoolchildren, backpacks have become a must-carry for everyone, replacing the briefcase as an essential part of every office worker’s arsenal, but they’re also a serious fashion accessory nowadays.

“Backpacks have undergone a seismic reinvention over the last decade, from functional Karrimors for Duke of Edinburgh Award outings to luxurious pieces of kit,” explains Telegraph men’s style editor, Stephen Doig. “They’re now a key part of a sophisticated, dressy wardrobe, rendered in splashy prints at Louis Vuitton or studded in embroidery at Dolce & Gabbana.”

Even if you’re not a full-on fashionista, the very best travel backpacks can save you having to trundle around the airport with a suitcase (packing cubes can help to cram more in, by the way). And if you’re heading up into the hills, a good hiking backpack is a life-saver.

For advice on how to use them, head to the FAQ section at the bottom. You can read my full reviews of this year’s best backpacks below – but if you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick glance at my top five:

The best backpacks of 2024, at a glance:

How to choose the right backpack for you

If you’re commuting, you shouldn’t need a bag with a capacity of much more than 15 litres, possibly less. That should fit a book to read on the train, a lunchbox and your wallet. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for the best travel backpack for an overnight trip, you’ll want one well over 20L with harder edges or specialist compartments to keep a change of clothes and easily-accessible pockets for a laptop, tablet and travel documents.

Most backpacks nowadays are made of polyester or nylon which are waterproof, or at least water-resistant. For hiking or walking long distances, make sure you choose one with comfortable padded shoulder straps and a breathable back panel (no one wants a sweaty spine). For a top quality backpack, prices range from around £60 to over £200.

How I tested the best backpacks

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (1)

I’ve spent the past few weeks trialling all of the backpacks here in the everyday settings that anyone might use them in. I’ve taken a new backpack on my commute every few days, taken them to the gym, been shopping with them, taken them on holiday attached to my carry on luggage and even hiked in the Lake District wearing them to compare properly. I rated them for size, weight, comfort, style, ease of use and any extra features such as special pockets or waterproofing.

Best backpacks

1. Stubble And Co. The Backpack 21L

£115, Stubble And Co.

Best backpack overall, 10/10

We like: The ultra-comfortable straps and high-quality metal fastenings

We don’t like: Pockets are slightly small

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (2)
  • 21L capacity, 1kg
  • Waxed canvas material with breathable and cushion backpack and straps
  • Two outer bottle pockets, a small outer zip pocket and an inner zip pocket
  • 16” laptop sleeve

Based and designed in the UK, Stubble And Co.’s backpacks combine elegant, no-frills design with comfort and good quality for a backpack which feels a cut above from the moment you put it on. It’s all about the small details: the clip which holds the top down, zips and the strap adjusters are a fine quality metal rather than plastic; the straps are trimmed with natural leather; the waxed canvas material feels premium while also offering a measure of water resistance.

With a 21L capacity, The Backpack is large enough to be versatile (it suited me perfectly for grocery shopping, taking to the gym, and even on a 36-hour trip to Ibiza) but never too bulky. The back panel and straps are padded, making it ultra-comfortable to wear, even if it’s filled to its maximum capacity.

As a top-loading backpack, it’s easy to fill and feels secure with a drawstring opening covered by a clipped lid. Inside you’ll find a laptop sleeve which fits a reasonably large 16” laptop, and an inner zip pocket for valuables. That’s alongside the zip pocket on the outside of the bag. Personally, I’d have liked these pockets to be slightly bigger, but there’s easily enough room in both to fit a large wallet or purse, work pass, and set of keys.

During the testing process, I also tried out Stubble And Co.’s 20L Everyday Backpack (£125, Stubble And Co.) and 20L Roll Top bag (£110, Stubble And Co.). Both had the same attention to detail and high quality finishings which impressed me on The Backpack. The Everyday Backpack had a few more inner pockets and a more conventional zip-top opening, while the Roll Top seemed more designed for those who cycle to work with reflective elements and a bike light anchor point.

Ultimately though, The Backpack was my pick for its versatility, quality materials, and simple design which made it ideal for use in any setting I took it to.


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Stubble And Co.

2. VASCHY Classic Backpack

£24.79, Amazon

Best value backpack, 7/10

We like: The price, it’s one of the cheapest backpacks out there but still offers good quality

We don’t like: It’s a slight rip-off of a Herschel backpack below

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (3)
  • 23L capacity, 0.6kg
  • Various colours of polyester with a suede bottom
  • Two outer bottle pockets, outer zip pocket and three inner zip pockets
  • Laptop sleeve

The first thing you’ll note about the VASCHY Classic Backpack is just how similar it looks to the Herschel Heritage bag (reviewed below.) Despite being less than half the price of the better-known brand, if you squinted they could be the same. Alright, so the quality of the materials (this one is made of polyester) isn’t as good and you don’t get the brand name, but if you just need a cheap, simple backpack VASCHY’s dupe is actually a bargain.

Inside it is slightly different from Herschel’s designs, with more pockets. In addition to the zip pocket on the outside, there are no less than three inner zip pockets plus an A4-sized laptop or file sleeve, so there should be plenty of space for all your valuables.

Many long walks in the rain have shown me that while this bag isn’t entirely waterproof, the polyester makes it rather good at resisting water, so I never had to deal with soggy sandwiches when I got back from my walk to the shops at lunch. That material also resists wrinkles and dirt, so my grey backpack continued to look brand-new the entire time I was testing it.

Though 23L might sound quite big (and yes, you can fit loads into it) the backpack contains almost no solid elements, so it’ll sit flush against your back unlike some of the bulkier designs on this list.

Of course, it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles of fancier bags – padding on the straps is adequate at best and all the buckles and toggles are plastic – but for this kind of price, it does what it does very well.


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3. Osprey Arcane Large Day

£100, Osprey

Best work backpack, 10/10

We like: The huge number of pockets and luxurious metal fastenings

We don’t like: What is the carabiner for?

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (4)
  • 20L capacity, 0.6kg
  • Polyester material (limited edition version in hemp) with padded straps and back panel
  • One zip outer pocket, plus two hidden pockets and five inner pockets
  • A4 laptop and file sleeve

With one of the most simple designs of all the backpacks reviewed here, it’d be easy to write off the Osprey Arcane Large Day backpack. But to do so would be a serious folly.

Every element of his backpack design is carefully considered, from the inside clip to keep your keys near at hand to the convenient outer pocket which holds your water bottle while also ensuring it can’t slip out.

The Arcane Large Day is full of clever little design elements like that. There’s a handy pocket hidden in the strap for easy access; ideal for travel cards or loose change; and not one but two inner sleeves so you can keep your laptop and a few A4 pages safe. There’s also a long zip which goes right to the bottom of the back so you can more easily fit big items inside.

I am also personally a big fan of the sleek, rounded design which sits flush against the back. It’s also got incredibly comfortable padding on the back panel and the straps. The final design touches worth shouting out are the metal zips and strap adjusters which look and feel premium.

One strange design choice I will point out is the carabiner on the right-strap so you can detach that one from the bottom of the back. I’m not sure why this exists but I suppose it doesn’t detract from the bag’s other classy aesthetics.

For a professional on the go this is a smart, well-designed backpack which is versatile enough to be taken to the office or on a weekend away.


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4. Antler Chelsea Backpack

Currently £84, Antler

Best travel backpack, 9/10

We like: Surprisingly roomy with a detachable packing pocket

We don’t like: Using the compression straps makes the zip on the laptop pocket tricky to use

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (5)
  • 19L, 0.98kg
  • Water and dirt resistant nylon
  • Two inner compartments including a 16.5” laptop sleeve and a zipped outer pocket

Reviewed by Rebecca Astill

Antler’s Clifton Cabin is my go to suitcase so I had high hopes for the matching rucksack, which features a suitcase trolley sleeve at the back for seamless transportation. There are three other factors which make it a particularly great travel rucksack: the clamshell opening (meaning it unzips all the way to the bottom so it can be laid flat to pack), the detachable packing pocket and the compression straps. It may only have a 19l capacity but these design elements meant I managed to fit more in this rucksack than I did into a 23l rucksack .

The fact it weighs less than 1kg means I can load it up a little fuller for my daily 50 minute walk to work and the extra internal zipped pockets - one of which is mesh so I can see what’s packed - are useful for my wallet, office lanyard, glasses and lip balm. I keep my keys in the zipped compartment at the front, partly for easy access but also because there’s a convenient key clip. This pocket also has a card sleeve but I prefer to keep my wallet a little more hidden.

The removable packing sleeve inside the main compartment attaches with a popper button. It’s a slim zipped design, perfect for packing a pair of shoes or soft clothes. It fits a surprising amount inside and sits behind the compression straps so you can really condense the packing, although beware that pulling the compression straps to their maximum does impact the usability of the laptop pocket’s zip at the back. Speaking of the laptop pocket, I love that there’s an additional tablet sleeve as I carry mine with me most days and the extra protection gives me piece of mind.

5. Carl Friedrik City Hopper

£445, Carl Friedrik

Best for sheer, undeniable luxury, 9/10

We like: the luxurious leather construction and finish of the bag

We don’t like: the price (it’s still a backpack)

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (6)
  • 23L
  • Premium nubuck
  • One zipped pocket, two open exterior pockets

Nowadays the term ‘luxury’ doesn’t mean what it did. With so many brands, particularly online, looking to fleece a cheap buck from customers, ‘luxury’ has become an easy way to make basic items more desirable. It’s a rarer thing that really feels luxurious. And that’s exactly what this backpack feels like.

Alright, so let’s discuss the elephant in the room: £445 is not a figure most of us would spend on a bag. Will this backpack make it any easier to transport your stuff than a £30 one? No. Will it make your commute any easier or better? Probably not. But for those with a taste (and budget) for the finer things in life, this pricey bag feels like a worthy investment.

The bag is constructed from Nubuck, a type of sanded leather with a suede-like feel, and more standard leather detailing. The leather makes the bag totally waterproof, though the manufacturer does recommend reapplying a waterproofing spray every few months just to be on the safe side. The leather construction makes the bag slightly heavier than a polyester equivalent, but in my view, the weight just adds to the premium feel.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that luxury and practicality rarely go hand in hand, yet the City Hopper seems to be the exception that proves the rule. The bag has tonnes of pockets, spaces for your wallet, your keys, your 16-inch laptop, an easy access side pocket for a bottle. The main bag is a roll-over top, sealed with a solid metal clasp which I found less fiddly than other roll-top bags, albeit just as secure. Inside you’ll find a large zip pocket and two other spaces for storing smaller items.

A handy feature is the case slot on the back. In everyday use, this sits snugly against your back, but it’ll go over the handle of a suitcase to make transportation easier if you’re at the airport. You’ll also find a super secret hidden pocket there - an ideal place to store travel money or your passport.

Yes, the cost is considerable and will put off the majority of customers, but if you have the budget and want a really handsome, well-constructed, and thoughtfully designed backpack, I can’t rate this one highly enough.


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Carl Friedrik

6. Gomatic Original Backpack 20L

£259, Amazon

Best laptop backpack, 9/10

We like: Wealth of pockets, compartments and carefully considered little details

We don’t like: Slightly bulky design

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (7)
  • 20L (can be expanded to 24L), 1.8kg
  • Water and dirt resistant nylon and polyester coating
  • Two inner compartments with 20 total pockets, two zipped outer pockets and two magnetic bottle pockets
  • 15” laptop sleeve

Forget the rest of the bag, the thing that showed me I was onto something special with this backpack was the sunglasses case. Tucked away in the corner of one of the inside pockets, it’s a small sign of the attention to detail put into this bag which was seemingly designed by people who’ve thought of everything.

It’ll fit not just your big 15” laptop but your tablet, your important files, and a couple of changes of clothes. There’s a keyring with a stretchy cord so you’ll never have to take them out of the bag and put them somewhere to get lost. There’s a secret zip pocket in the back panel to keep your most valuable possessions close. There are flaps to hide away the shoulder straps if you want to look more professional by turning this bag into a briefcase. The zips can be fastened by padlocks should you require. Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough, you can unzip the sides to gain an extra 4L of room inside.

Yes, there’s no doubt this is an expensive bag but it’s also tough, hard-wearing, and has all the features you could require. I can very easily see a person buying this one and it lasting for a lifetime of journeys, whether abroad or just to the office.


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7. Sandqvist Ilon

£134.95, Wildbounds

Best fashion backpack, 9/10

We like: The fashionable design and practical considerations

We don’t like: The rolltop design can be annoying to access quickly

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (8)
  • 18L capacity, 0.6kg
  • Recycled polyester with compression straps
  • Outer and back panel zip pockets and inner zip pocket
  • 13” laptop sleeve

The rolltop design, metal buckles, subtly contrasting zipper tags and other embellishments mark Swedish backpack maker Sandqvist out as the choice for fashionistas. However, don’t let that lead you to think the Ilon is only for those who love a bit of frippery. It’s also a conveniently-sized, professional-looking bag ideal for the commute.

While it might not seem the most luxurious of materials, as mentioned above, polyester is a strong choice for backpacks as it has a measure of water and dirt resistance which makes it ideal for commuters. The rolltop design also means the backpack can be made quite small if you don’t fill it to the brim, which is helpful if you’re often getting on a crowded bus or train.

I was particularly enamoured with the zip in the back panel, which is large enough for a tablet or a small laptop and can be accessed without opening the bag’s main compartment. That made it the ideal place to store my electronics when I was passing through airport security and I needed to get them out and put them away in rapid succession.

The ease of access in the back panel pocket is worth noting because, as with all rolltop backpack designs, the Ilon can be a bit fiddly to get in and out of so it wouldn’t be recommended for those who need to get in and out of their bags a lot.

Still, in design terms the Ilon is incredibly fashionable and the perfect means of projecting an air of organised professionalism.


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8. Mous Extreme Commuter Backpack with Lid

£209.99, Mous

Best waterproof backpack, 8/10

We like: The special drop-resistant foam and the wealth of pockets

We don’t like: It will be a bit bulky for some

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (9)
  • 25L capacity, 1.8kg
  • Waterproof carbonated nylon backpack with adjustable shoulder and sternum straps
  • Four zipped outer pockets, plus a bottle pocket and nine internal pockets (four zipped)
  • Laptop compartment compatible with travel padlocks for security

For those who, like me, cringe whenever they see someone using a wheelie carry-on bag, allow me to present your ultimate travel accessory. With best-in-class security features including a magnetic clamp over the opening, hidden zipped compartments concealed everywhere, and zippers which can be sealed even tighter with a travel padlock, nothing will help your accessories feel more secure when you travel than this case.

There’s also a special impact-absorbing AiroFoam lining which should protect your most valuable tech if you drop the back or it gets hit or kicked.

Beyond that though, it feels premium with metal fastenings and well-considered design elements such as a waterproof nylon outer-shell and flush hidden zippers which will keep even the most torrential rain out.

The bag’s outer walls are reasonably firm too, so don’t worry about your folded clothes getting crushed or wrinkled within. That does make the bag a bit bulky, so I’d consider slipping it off your back while you’re wandering around duty-free, lest you knock over a display stand, but as a travel bag, it’s far more comfortable and convenient than the scourge that is wheelie carry-on suitcases.


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9. Troubadour Apex 3.0

£245, Troubadour Goods

Best city backpack, 9/10

We like: all the features you need for the commute in a slim package

We don’t like: the steep price

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (10)
  • 25L capacity, 1kg
  • Recycled polyester with vegan leather trim
  • Zipped outer pocket, two large bottle holders, zipped 17-inch laptop pocket, zipped phone pocket on shoulder strap, three zipped and two unzipped interior pockets

If it wasn’t for the high price this would be a 10 out of 10. It’s good-looking, light, fits all your work gear from 17-inch laptop to 8-inch phone and has clever features like an air-tag compartment and a special sleeve to slide it over a suitcase handle. It also fits snugly high up on your back and doesn’t stick out much, so you won’t knock old ladies over when you turn round on the tube. It’s a white-collar worker’s dream backpack.

I do think you are paying a bit of a premium for Soho bag-maker Troubadour’s cool reputation, though. The waterproof materials are not super luxurious (polyester and vegan leather), although they do look impressive – especially in special-agent black. It also comes in dark green, navy and blue. You may be able to justify the high price by the five-year guarantee and the fact it’s sustainably made from recycled materials.

Although expensive, there’s no denying you feel cool wearing it. My favourite city-boy feature is the phone pocket in the left shoulder strap, for easy access when you’re striding through the city making business calls to NYC. (Or in my case, playing Wordle on the bus.)


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Troubadour Goods

10. Herschel Heritage

£75, Herschel Supply Company

Best backpack for everyday use, 7/10

We like: The simple, practical design

We don’t like: Needs more pockets

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (11)
  • 24L capacity, 0.8kg
  • Various colours of recycled polyester with a polyurethane bottom (all made from recycled water bottles)
  • Two outer bottle pockets and an outer zip pocket
  • 16” laptop sleeve

You’ve seen the dupe, now let’s look at the real deal. The Herschel Heritage is a classic for a reason, it’s a simple, traditional-looking backpack which does everything it needs to: it’ll fit all your stuff and more, without being too big and bulky.

Everything about Herschel’s backpacks is carefully designed and it’s all about the little elements which make it feel more premium. There’s the striped inner lining, the tough, polyurethane detailing, and the labels. It’s a hard wearing backpack which can take whatever you can throw at it and look good at the same time.

The Heritage design has actually undergone a recent minor revamp to include a lip over the zipper to prevent water getting in and an additional two pockets on either side for your water bottle or umbrella. My one major criticism is the lack of inside pockets. Unlike the Vaschy dupe which has three zip pockets inside plus a laptop sleeve, the Herschel Heritage only features a laptop sleeve. Sure, there’s a zip pocket on the outside, but that feels like a slightly less secure spot for valuables.

The same problem persists on the other main Herschel designs: the Retreat (19.5L) and Little America (30L.) These two come with buckles which look fantastically retro, though really access is via magnets and a drawstring top. Again though, the lack of inner pockets made me feel slightly less secure. The latter does have a back-entry zipper which alleviates the problem somewhat and makes it easier to travel with to boot. These two are slightly boxier to wear, but for those who enjoy the buckle-strap design they maintain everything I loved about the Heritage original.

Finally, though I’ve only been testing my Herschel bags for a few weeks, it might be worth noting that many user reviews online have commented favourably on how their Herschel bags have lasted them years.


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11. YETI Crossroads Backpack

£199.99, Amazon

Best hiking backpack, 7/10

We like: The side pockets which make it easy to access the main pocket

We don’t like: Could do with some more zipped pockets for security

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (12)
  • 22L capacity, 1.4kg
  • Water and dirt resistant treated nylon with removable chest strap
  • Zipped top pocket and two outer zips for quick access to the main bag

If you’re looking for a rough, tough backpack that’s equally suited to a trip to the shops or a hike up a mountain, then look no further than the YETI Crossroads backpack.

Though it’s nominally a day pack designed for office workers and casual use, I found the Crossroads backpack an ideal companion on bigger excursions too. With padded straps and a specially designed back panel which removes pressure from the lower spine, I found it comfortable to wear for the whole day, even when I was doing quite a lot of walking.

Though it’s a top-loading bag, there’s handy adaptations including zips on either side through which you can access the main bag. This means you can reach right into the very bottom of your bag just by swinging it off one shoulder rather than taking the whole thing off your back.

There’s also a reinforced bottom which helps the bag keep its shape, and a large 15” laptop sleeve at the bottom. I could have done with a few more secure inner pockets, but that’s easy to overlook.


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12. Arc’teryx Aerios

£77, Arc’teryx

Best rucksack, 7/10

We like: The light-weight design and colourful highlights

We don’t like: The straps feel a little bit fiddly

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (13)
  • 15L capacity, 0.6kg
  • Waterproof nylon backpack with perforated breathable back panel
  • Two outer bottle pockets, five outer zipped pockets and one zipped inner pocket

This backpack is definitely one for the hikers rather than the average commuter. The first things you’ll notice here are the specially designed perforated and breathable back panel and ultra-comfortable padded shoulder straps.

There are other considerations for walkers too: a wealth of places to hang muddy boots, water cantinas, or to roll up wet jackets inside. I was happy to see a key ring at the top so that I didn’t have to go rooting through the bag to find my keys when I needed to get into my home quickly on a rainy day. There’s also a hard back-board in this backpack which will keep everything upright when you’re on the move, plus a few inside pockets so you can keep your valuables safe.

While I was told by one proponent who suggested this backpack to me that they use it as a commuter, it does feel slightly overboard for that use-case. The big straps around your stomach can’t be detached and frankly, I felt like a fool wearing it like that.

Even so, for those going for a big hike in the countryside, it’s the best rucksack I’ve ever used in that context, so it comes highly recommended.


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13. Finisterre Nautilus

£145, Finisterre

Best men’s backpack 7/10

We like: Feels rugged and straps are comfortably padded

We don’t like: Difficult to reach things at the bottom

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (14)
  • 23L capacity, 1kg
  • Recycled nylon backpack with removable chest straps
  • One bottle pocket, two zipped outer pockets and three inner pockets, one with a zip
  • 13” laptop sleeve

Another backpack which will probably suit the adventurer more than the daily commuter, this tough bag happily took whatever I could throw at it and looked good doing it.

It’s a particularly comfy backpack to wear with a really soft back panel and strap padding, plus plenty of pockets to keep your valuables safe. As ever, the roll-top design is slightly fiddling to access, though it does feel secure thanks to a solid, adjustable strap.

It’s also quite a long backpack which will sit right over your back when it is fully stocked. This might be seen as a positive as you’ll have plenty of room for all your valuables, but it can unfortunately make it difficult to access the very bottom of the bag. Not ideal when you’ve got a few changes of clothes inside while travelling.


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14. Columbia Unisex Trek 18L

£39.66, Amazon

Best school backpack, 6/10

We like: The colourful designs

We don’t like: Needs more pockets

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (15)
  • 18L capacity, 0.3kg
  • Polyester material
  • One zipped outer pocket and one bottle pocket
  • 13” laptop sleeve

Though Columbia is best known for its big trekking rucksacks, I can’t deny that I was charmed by this smaller, lightweight version. Coming in a variety of tonally contrasting colours (the one I reviewed was green and purple with orange details) it’s certainly an eye-catching proposition and one I can imagine schoolchildren delighting in.

Dispensing with a lot of elements found on other rucksacks, the Unisex Trek is certainly a minimalist affair. The straps - made from a similar material to seatbelts - have no padding whatsoever, and that which exists on the back panel is adequate at best. There’s a laptop sleeve inside but that isn’t padded either so I was vaguely worried about crushing mine. There’s a zip pocket on the outside but none on the inside.

It certainly won’t be for everyone, but that colourful design will no doubt find its fans.


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15. Fjällräven Kånken Laptop 15 18L

£120, Fjällräven

Best women’s backpack, 6/10

We like: The wealth of different colour options

We don’t like: It’s not the most comfortable backpack in the world

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (16)
  • 18L capacity, 0.5kg
  • Vinylon F material
  • Two outer bottle pockets, a zipped outer pocket and a zipped laptop pocket
  • 15” laptop sleeve

Originally designed and distributed to Swedish schoolchildren in 1978 in an attempt to prevent back problems, the Fjällräven Kånken has become one of the most iconic backpack designs of our age. With a classic design and hard-wearing vinylon material it’s easy to see how one of these bags could easily last a lifetime.

One of the smaller backpacks I reviewed, and more collapsible than many I tested, this backpack was a particular favourite among my female friends who enjoyed its versatility and marvelled at the amount of colours it came in.

Also in particular praise were the reflective Fjällräven badge on the outside - handy for cyclists - and the removable pad inside which not only prevents your laptop from getting bumped but also provides a comfortable place to sit at picnics. Personally, I was pleased to find a zipped inner pocket – why this has proved such a rarity on the bags I’ve tested I can’t say.

However, an element that gave me pause was the bag’s straps. Joining at the top-centre of the back, rather than the sides, I found it somewhat uncomfortable as a broad-shouldered chap. On the other hand, a friend of mine said she found it far more comfortable than her usual bag, so your mileage may vary.

I might also add that at £120, this backpack didn’t feel quite premium enough to justify the price tag. Fjällräven has become a fashionable brand name, so perhaps it’s understandable, but I couldn’t shake the feeling I was wearing an up-jumped school bag.


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16. Jimbag Black Rolltop Back

£52.99, Jimbag

Best gym backpack, 7/10

We like: The waterproof inner lining prevents smells

We don’t like: No inner pockets

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (17)
  • 33L capacity, 1.2kg
  • Treated polyester is waterproof with a waterproof inner lining
  • Zipped back panel pocket fits 15” laptop and zipped outer front pocket

The clue for this one is in the name. While there are a couple of outer pockets for your laptop and keys, this simple British-made bag (check the Union flag label on the front) is really designed as a gym bag.

On the inside there are no pockets, no compartments, no dividers. Just chuck in your gym gear and hit the road. There are some nice features - the inner lining is waterproof so you can transport your sweaty gear or gym towel home without getting a wet back. But beyond that this is a simple, bare-bones backpack designed with one thing in mind.


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Also tested...

Horizn Studios Shibuya Daypack M

£100, Horizn-Studios

We like: It’s small and flexible enough to be folded down and stuffed in a bigger bag

We don’t like: The price is outrageous

The 16 best backpacks of 2024 for travel and work, tried and tested (18)
  • 18L capacity, 0.3kg
  • Polyester backpack with a luggage strap on the back panel
  • Two outer bottle pockets and one outer zipped pocket and one inner zipped pocket

With a colourful, eye-catching design and an ultra-lightweight feel, the Horizn Shibuya Daypack will no doubt find its fans. It’s definitely a stylish option for those seeking a simple bag. With very little padding, hard elements, or dividers, you can crush the bag up into a fist-sized ball, perhaps even fit it in your pocket.

But simple really is the extent of it. With no back panel padding, and scarcely any on the straps, it’s not a particularly comfortable bag to wear. Everything about it feels quite cheap and poorly constructed. I couldn’t fit my water bottle into the dedicated slots or my wallet into the zipped inner pocket. The bag is constructed from polyester but doesn’t feel sturdy so I didn’t dare put too much weight into it.

At £100, I’m just not sure you quite get your money’s worth.


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Best backpacks FAQ

How to fit a backpack

To fit a backpack you need to measure from your C7 vertebrae (the one that sticks out from the back of your neck) down to the top of your hip bone. This is your torso length. Ideally you want to choose a backpack whose height is the same, or slightly larger than your torso length.

If you’re just looking for a casual backpack, you don’t need any specialist measurements to fit it. However, if you’re taking a backpack hiking or travelling it pays to fit one properly.

How to pack a backpack

To avoid back injury put your mid-weight items at the very bottom, put your heaviest items against your back so that it doesn’t throw off your centre of gravity, then put the lighter things at the front or on the top. Remember to keep the things you need at the top or in the side pockets where you can access them easily. No one wants to have to spend half an hour digging through their backpack to find their water bottle when they’ve put it at the very bottom.

How to wash a backpack

Most are made of hard-wearing man-made fibres such as nylon and polyester so, if you do get your backpack dirty, simply brush off any visible dirt and use a soapy cloth to spot-clean any stains. Avoid using strong stain removers on colourful bags, as they can cause fading. Most bags’ care instructions prohibit washing, but some can be put in the washing machine on a low temperature setting, then air-dried.

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