The 10 Best Lightweight Backpacks of 2021

Our picks for keeping your load light and your hands free

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

Best Overall: Herschel Supply Co. Ultralight Daypack at Amazon

"It's made from recycled, water-resistant ripstop nylon and collapses into its own lid for easy storage."

Best Budget: Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Backpack at Amazon

"This wallet-friendly bag ticks off all the boxes: quality, durability, and functionality."

Most Versatile: Lands' End Travel Backpack at Lands' End

"Versatile and timeless, this bag might be the only one you need for years to come."

Best Waterproof: FE Active Waterproof Backpack at Amazon

"Has a dry-bag style closure with connecting buckles to keep contents safe."

Best for Camping: Osprey Lumina 45 at Amazon

"Streamlined and performance minded, this bag has features ideal for camping and backpacking."

Best for Hiking: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider at Backcountry

"There's a port sleeve to accommodate hydration systems and exterior mesh pockets to keep essentials visible."

Best Carry-On: Away The Backpack at Away

"Features a trolley sleeve that attaches to roller bags so you can get through airport terminals hands free."

Best for Commuting: Timbuk2 Tuck Laptop Backpack at Amazon

"Has plenty of pockets help you keep all your essentials tidy as you commute."

Best Style: LeSportsac Functional Backpack at Amazon

"Stay on trend year after year with this sleek and stylish backpack."

Best Packable: Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable 20L Daypack at Amazon

"Folding into a small front zip pocket for stowing away, it's great to pack as an extra bag."

A backpack provides a streamlined, hands-free solution for toting gear. But carrying a heavy load on the back can be uncomfortable and even painful. So if you’re going to be schlepping gear through airports, sightseeing, hiking, camping—even everyday commuting—you’ll want to start with a lightweight vessel that won’t weigh you down before any cargo even goes in. Our picks for the best options on the market include packs that are functional, stylish, and versatile and offered at an array of price points to fit your budget.

Whatever your cargo needs, these are the best lightweight backpacks available.

Best Overall: Herschel Supply Co. Ultralight Daypack

Herschel’s packs are known for timeless, unisex appeal, and the Ultralight Daypack provides many attractive features at a mid-range price point. Made for toting around town or taking on adventures anywhere, this pack collapses into its lid pocket so it stores easily and tidily. It’s made with recycled, water-resistant ripstop nylon in nine color options from versatile black or navy to more eye-catching options like plum or eggshell blue. Padded air mesh straps support a hydration system, and an adjustable sternum strap keeps the pack in place and fitted comfortably.

Best Budget: Venture Pal 40L Lightweight Backpack

Venture Pal 40 Liter Lightweight Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

This pack comes in at a truly wallet-friendly price point, and thousands of reviewers give it a five-star rating for quality, durability, and functionality—as well as affordability. The Venture Pal pack has a waterproof wet pocket in the main compartment, and a zipper on the back leading into it to help separate wet from dry items. It’s made with tear- and water-resistant nylon, solid metal zippers, and has bar-tacks at stress points for durability. It weighs well under a pound and folds into its own pocket for storage. Choose from nine color options including versatile black or grey, bright purple or orange, and leafy or floral prints.

Most Versatile: Lands' End Travel Backpack

Lands' End Travel Backpack

Courtesy of Lands' End

This Lands' End backpack is versatile and timeless—so it might be the only one you need for years to come. The durable bag is made from nylon and has a water-resistant finish to protect your cargo from the elements. Three compartments keep your stuff organized, and a padded technology pocket holds laptops up to 15 inches. Cushioning makes the adjustable shoulder straps more comfortable. And a trolley sleeve slides over a roller bag handle for travel. The bag comes in navy or red and can be customized with a monogram for a polished look (and a great gift idea).

Best Waterproof: FE Active Waterproof Backpack

FE's Active bag has hundreds of five-star ratings for performance, dependable waterproofing, and a budget-friendly price point. This bag has a rolltop, dry bag-style closure with connecting buckles. Made of environmentally safe PVC, the pack has bungee cords for gear (plus an included carabiner attached for more utility). The fully waterproof main compartment keeps contents safe—even tech gear like cameras and phones. And a small built-in pouch stores essentials such as passports and cash. The heavy-duty unisex pack weighs just under two pounds.

Best for Camping: Osprey Lumina 45

This women’s ultralight pack from Osprey is streamlined and performance minded, with features that make it ideal for camping and backpacking. An attachment allows you to store trekking poles when you need your hands free and the tensioned back panel helps keep the weight off your back for comfort. There’s a removable floating lid with zippered pockets for storing small essentials, and a flap jacket that protects gear from the elements when the lid is removed. This pack also has removable straps for your sleeping pad.

Best for Hiking: Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider

Courtesy of Backcountry

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider pack comes in at a splurge-y price point, so it’s best suited for serious hikers. (Intended for performance on the trail, it even has an ice ax loop.) It’s made from 100 percent waterproof fabrics and has a 40-liter volume for gear. Three mesh pockets on the outside keep essentials visible and allow wet to gear dry. There are straps for horizontal as well as vertical compression, and an adjustable sternum strap. There’s also a port and sleeve to accommodate hydration systems, and seam sealing to keep the pack protected from harsh elements. It comes in black or white.

Best Carry-On: Away The Backpack

Away The Backpack

Away

Away’s sleek and lightweight backpack is made for travel. Constructed from water-resistant nylon, the bag features three spacious compartments for clothes and other travel essentials, plus a laptop sleeve for computers that measure up to 15 inches. It also has a trolley sleeve that attaches to roller bags to keep you streamlined while you're walking through airport terminals. The backpack has a truly versatile look and comes in black, navy, light blue, green, and sand.

Best for Commuting: Timbuk2 Tuck Laptop Backpack

Timbuk2 Tuck Laptop Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

Timbuk2’s rolltop laptop backpack holds laptops up to 15 inches safely and securely. A front zippered pocket stores other essentials, and a hidden side zip pocket keeps valuables discreet. The pack is also water resistant and expandable from 20 liters to a 26-liter volume. To keep all your stuff tidy, there are internal organization pockets, a water bottle pocket, and two side slip pockets for items like a bike lock or umbrella.

Best Style: LeSportsac Functional Backpack

LeSportsac Functional Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

LeSportsac’s lightweight ripstop bags always look sleek and stylish—and they’re timeless, so they stay on trend year after year. This lightweight pack has a zippered main compartment with adjustable padded shoulder straps, two zippered front pockets, two additional open pockets outside, and an interior padded laptop pocket against the back. There’s also a top loop for hanging. Choose between seven different colorful patterns, including flowers, turquoise polka dots, and pink cheetah stripes.

Best Packable: Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable 20L Daypack

This 20-liter packable daypack is as light and versatile as it is budget friendly. It folds into its own smaller front zip pocket for stowing away, so it’s great to pack as an extra bag with souvenirs in mind. It works for sports and outdoorsy activities as well as it does for travel and sightseeing. A padded mesh back adds to the overall comfort, and the ripstop polyester fabric is durable enough to withstand the scrapes and bumps of travel. It comes in seven solid color options as well as a new tie-dye-esque purple.

FAQs

How should I clean my backpack?

Always check the manufacturer's directions for how to clean your backpack. Some may be machine washable while others may be made of materials that should only get cleaned with a damp cloth and be left to air dry.

What size backpack is best?

Think about what kinds of activities you'll be using your backpack for and what gear you'll pack inside. Travelers should look for bags that are big enough to carry a couple of days of clothes in and fits most airlines' carry-on dimensions. You should also check to see what capacity the bag has, which is measured in liters, to make sure it will have sufficient room for your belongings. Lightweight hiking packs should carry around 40 to 60 liters, which is enough to carry some clothes, food, and other accessories such as a first aid kit.

What to Look For in a Lightweight Backpack

Weight: Backpacks are a great solution to keep your hands free while out and about and help distribute the weight of your gear evenly so you can walk longer distances. But carrying a heavy load on the back can be uncomfortable and even painful. So if you’re going to be schlepping gear through airports, on hikes, or into work you'll want to have a lightweight vessel that won't weigh you down before any cargo goes in. Look for bags that weigh less than three pounds by themselves.

Pockets: Consider backpacks with enough pockets to keep all your gear organized. If you're traveling a lot with your backpack, look for ones with a main compartment to store clothes and smaller dividers that will keep travel accessories such as passports and airline tickets tidy. Commuters should prioritize bags that come with a padded laptop pocket and have dividers for a water bottle and chargers.

Material: Backpacks should be made of durable material such as nylon to stand up to the wear and tear of your travel adventures. Also, look for backpacks that have welded seams and a waterproof outer shell so you know that your belongings will always stay protected, even if you get stuck in inclement weather.

Was this page helpful?
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
Continue to 9 of 10 below.