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The Best Backpacks for Everyday Use

From the rainproof and travel-ready to the casual and commuter-friendly, this list covers over two dozen backpacks tested and approved by our editors.


Although briefcases were once the gold standard in the office or at work, backpacks are more practical (and acceptable than ever). They balance weight better than a crossbody bag, and can tow more than a tote. Unlike some simple purchases, though — like a basic T-shirt or a baseball cap — backpacks came in an array of shapes, sizes and colors with a million different pocket combinations and with (or without) plenty of other add-ons.

Why You Should Carry a Backpack

With comfort and functionality as priorities, lots of people now use backpacks for their everyday commute — just throw it over your shoulders and you’re hands-free for a coffee, checking out or holding onto a handrail while the bus or train creeps forward. They offer a safe and secure place for everything you need: a laptop, books or textbooks, work supplies and even a change of clothing for the gym. Ideally, they offer interior organizational solutions to divide these different items. (You don't want your sweaty gym shorts to soil your laptop, for example. Ew.)

Backpacks are also better at distributing weight. Balancing a heavy tote bag on one shoulder can do serious musculoskeletal damage. In fact, many chiropractors say it's the primary contributor to back, neck and shoulder pain: "Over time, the amount of strain that we put on our bodies due to oversized bags can cause some pretty serious pain and even long-term issues like muscle spasms or a pinched nerve," personal trainer Caleb Backe told Healthline. If you do it for decades on end, you might run into something more serious — like thoracic outlet syndrome, which causes weakness in the muscles in your arms and back.

How to Pick the Right Backpack

While aesthetics (colors, textures, logos, etc) are a matter of personal preference, there are a number of features that some backpacks certainly have while others definitely do not. Do you remember Jansport? Their popular, perfect-for-grade-school backpack comes without many of the bells and whistles one by Filson or The North Face would. If you expand your search, you'll find there are backpacks for nearly every need: hiking, carrying a laptop, flying or even riding on a boat (in the case of waterproof packs).

As important as your use case is — translated: what it is you need it for — it's important to consider your cargo's total weight. If you're towing a ton of textbooks or lots of tech, you'll want something with a ventilated back and padded straps. If your contents are fragile or even remotely delicate, you'll want to find a backpack with a reinforced bottom, so when you set it down on the floor, it isn't your cargo making direct contact.

      How We Tested

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      a collage of a man wearing a backpack next to a backpack sitting on the floor
      Evan Malachosky

      Our testers took the backpacks they were assigned on trips, to work, on bike rides and beyond, ensuring they did what we asked of them — and, on occasion, then some. We observed how easy they were to open and close, access and unload, as well as carry and whether they were comfortable (or a burden). The backpacks below made this list because they excelled when it mattered most: while on.

      Best Overall Backpack
      The North Face Recon Backpack
      Best Upgrade Backpack
      Filson Dryden Backpack
      Best Affordable Backpack
      Jansport Right Pack Backpack
      Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25L
      Everlane The ReNew Transit Backpack
      Now 37% off
      Bellroy Classic Backpack Compact
      Rains Mountaineer Bag
      Topo Designs Daypack Classic
      Fjällräven Ulvö 30 Backpack
      Timbuk2 Tuck Laptop Backpack
      Sealand Archie Backpack
      Lululemon Cruiser Large Backpack
      July Carry All Backpack Series 2
      Epperson Mountaineering Climb Pack
      Peak Travel Backpack 45L
      Snow Peak Everyday Backpack
      Shinola The Runwell Backpack
      Billykirk No. 297 Standard Issue Backpack
      State Bags Kane Double Pocket Backpack
      Joshu+Vela Stone Backpack
      Troubadour Explorer Apex Backpack
      DSPTCH Bookpack
      Moment MTW Backpack
      Mystery Ranch In & Out Backpack
      Eastpak Diren Powr Backpack
      Aer Nylon Duffle Backpack
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