Trip Planning Tech & Gear The Best Mini Backpacks of 2023, Tested and Reviewed Keep your hands free and valuables handy with our top picks By Jessica Macdonald Jessica Macdonald Facebook LinkedIn King's College London Jessica Macdonald lives in South Africa's Eastern Cape province and has been TripSavvy's Africa Expert since 2016. She also covers travel products and has written about everything from camping knives to climbing chalk. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Published on 04/24/23 Share Pin Email We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more. TripSavvy / Lecia Landis Mini backpacks can be the niche fashion accessory you need to complete your outfit. They can also serve a specific purpose at home and on your travels. Heading out on a sightseeing tour and need a way to carry the essentials without being weighed down by a larger backpack? Want to keep your phone, e-reader, and maybe a snack or two handy on the plane without having to unload your carry-on from the overhead bin every time you need something? These are just two scenarios where a mini backpack is a perfect solution. When choosing yours, things to look for include the right balance between compact size and useful capacity, pockets and pouches to keep your belongings organized, adjustable straps that fit comfortably, and, of course, the right colors and materials to go well with the rest of your wardrobe. To help you narrow down the many options out there, our travel experts tested 21 mini backpack brands in the laboratory and in real life. We scored each for design, capacity, comfort, durability, and value. Our overall winner was the lightweight yet spacious, attractively convenient Paravel Mini Fold-Up Backpack. The other mini backpacks we tested and rated highly are listed below. The Rundown Best Overall: Paravel Mini Fold-Up Backpack at Maisonette.com Jump to Review Best Overall, Runner-Up: AOTIAN Mini Nylon Women Backpacks at Amazon Jump to Review Best Budget: Madison & Dakota Canvas Mini Backpack at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Hikes: The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Travel: Dakine Mini Backpack at Amazon Jump to Review Best for Commutes: Topo Designs Rover Pack Mini Backpack at Amazon Jump to Review Best Classic: Bellroy Classic Backpack Compact at Amazon Jump to Review Best Anti-Theft: Cheruty Women's Backpack Purse at Amazon Jump to Review Best Splurge: Dagne Dover Small Dakota Neoprene Backpack at Dagnedover.com Jump to Review Table of contents Expand Our Picks TripSavvy’s Picks How We Tested What to Look For FAQ Why Trust TripSavvy Best Overall Paravel Mini Fold-Up Backpack 5 Paravel View On Maisonette.com View On Shopbop.com View On Tourparavel.com Folds into a zippered pouch Deceptively spacious Optional monogramming Nothing! Receiving perfect scores across the board from both of our testers, Paravel’s Mini Fold-Up Backpack features water-resistant Negative Nylon (recycling up to ten plastic bottles per bag). The material is extra durable, resulting in zero signs of wear and tear at the end of our test period. It’s also ultra-lightweight, a factor that combined with the backpack’s super soft straps to make it very comfortable to wear—even on bare skin. We loved the capacity and were able to fit everything on our list with space to spare. We also loved that despite its small size, the backpack offers a secret interior pocket (great for keeping valuables such as keys or your wallet within easy reach) and an exterior pocket that’s roomy enough for a large-model cell phone. One of our favorite features was that the backpack folds flat and zips together into a tiny pouch, making it ideal for packing into a larger bag for “just in case.” It’s the ideal travel companion, whether you’re attending an event across town or packing for your next vacation. Finally, there are six bold colors, including Safari Green, Scuba Navy, and Canyon Yellow. And, with optional monogramming available in a choice of more than ten complementary colors, personalizing your purchase couldn’t be easier. Price at time of publication: $55 Dimensions: 10 x 12 x 6 inches | Weight: 0.44 pounds | Materials: Recycled nylon Best Overall, Runner-Up AOTIAN Mini Nylon Women Backpacks 5 Amazon View On Amazon View On Walmart What We Like Multiple interior and exterior pockets The rear zippered pocket conceals valuables Padded straps are easy to adjust What We Don't Like Some may prefer a more luxurious fabric Made of sturdy nylon with a polyester lining, the AOTIAN Mini Backpack is an ideal everyday choice with padded straps that are easy to adjust, even on the go. We found it very comfortable to wear for extended periods. We loved the oversized, smooth-pulling zippers and the backpack’s surprisingly large capacity. We could fit everything on our list with space to spare for at least a few extra shirts or a water bottle—while tablets or iPads of up to 9.7 inches are easily compatible. The multiple zippered and non-zippered interior and exterior pockets were a particular highlight for us, making organization simple and keeping essentials within easy reach. We especially loved the rear zippered pocket, which is excellent for concealing valuables, and the elasticated side pockets for your water bottle or umbrella. After the test period, the backpack showed no signs of wear and tear. It comes in six colors, from Deep Blue to Hot Pink, to suit every style preference. Price at time of publication: $21 Dimensions: 9.4 x 12 x 4 inches | Weight: 0.68 pounds | Materials: Nylon and polyester Tripsavvy / Tamara Staples Best Budget Madison & Dakota Canvas Mini Backpack 4.6 Amazon View On Amazon View On Walmart What We Like Minimalist style Comfortable, easily adjustable fit Choice of beautiful colors What We Don't Like No interior organization Retailing for approximately a fifth of the price of our overall winner, the Madison & Dakota Mini Backpack offers a simple yet stylish and functional design. It features strong polyester with a padded back panel and padded straps. We found it easy to adjust the fit and comfortable, although the backpack rode a little too high for our liking. Other features include top carry handles and easy-grip dual zippers. The backpack is small yet mighty, with plenty of storage space. We fit everything on our list with ease. The only drawback is the main compartment is unstructured, which makes it difficult to keep things organized. A roomy front pocket was the backpack’s saving grace in this respect. Finally, we really liked the bag’s aesthetic, especially given its rock-bottom price. There are nine rustic shades, including Peach, Sangria, Almond, and Kale, all with zippers and a diamond-shaped lash tab in contrasting leather. Price at time of publication: $12 Dimensions: 4 x 10 x 13.5 inches | Weight: 0.66 pounds | Materials: Polyester Best for Hikes The North Face Borealis Mini Backpack 4.9 Amazon View On Amazon View On Backcountry.com View On Dick's What We Like Durable, water-resistant material Superb interior and exterior organization Padded back panel and straps What We Don't Like Perhaps a little too structured for casual use The ideal companion for days out on the trail, the Borealis Mini Backpack from The North Face fits well and is comfortable even when fully loaded, thanks to easily adjustable padded straps and a padded back panel lined with breathable, sweat-wicking mesh. It features recycled ripstop nylon and polyester, with a non-PFC durable water-repellent finish that helps to protect your belongings if you get caught in the rain. The backpack survived our test period without visible wear and tear. We loved the organization options, which include a zippered interior mesh pocket, a spacious front zippered pocket, external water bottle holders, and a quick-draw smartphone pocket. You can also use the adjustable front bungee system to attach larger items—an extra layer, perhaps, or a hydration system. With a place for everything, we never had to waste time rummaging around for what we needed. The backpack has attractive two-tone colorways, including Lunar Slate/Lime Cream and Black Heather/Burnt Coral. Price at time of publication: $59 Dimensions: 8.65 x 4.15 x 13.5 inches | Weight: 0.75 pounds | Materials: Recycled ripstop nylon and polyester with DWR finish Tripsavvy / Tamara Staples Best for Travel Dakine Mini Backpack 4.9 Amazon View On Amazon View On Backcountry.com What We Like Padded, easily adjustable straps Dedicated tablet sleeve Impressive capacity No water bottle holder The Dakine 365 Mini 12L Backpack is an excellent low-volume, unisex choice made from bluesign-approved recycled polyester and nylon. It features a water-repellent finish and is durable enough to look brand new at the end of our test period. We liked that the lightly padded shoulder straps can be made both super long and very short for added comfort—so much so that we barely noticed the backpack even after wearing it for extended periods. We also appreciated the thoughtful organization options. These include a dedicated tablet sleeve in the main compartment (which features a padded bottom panel for added protection), a zippered front compartment for smaller essentials, and a small, concealed zippered pocket on the back of the backpack. The overall capacity was impressive—we could fit multiple shirts, a water bottle, a phone, a wallet, keys, sanitizer, and more. Finally, colorways range from solid to two-tone and patterned, with reflective accents for nighttime safety. Price at time of publication: $17 Dimensions: 15 x 11 x 7 inches | Weight: 0.61 pounds | Materials: Recycled nylon and polyester Tripsavvy / Tamara Staples Best for Commutes Topo Designs Rover Pack Mini Backpack 4.8 Amazon View On Amazon View On Nordstrom View On Backcountry.com What We Like Simultaneously compact and spacious Comfy, lightweight fit Stylish design and color choices What We Don't Like No small interior pocket Available in professional Black or Cocoa and several more eye-catching colorways (think Bone White/Coral or Sage), the Rover Pack Mini from Topo Designs is our favorite pick for commuters. We love that it has water-resistant, recycled nylons ideal for bad weather days, with a cinch-top closure that helps to keep everything inside dry. It’s super adjustable in terms of its compression straps, buckle closures, and shoulder straps, with sturdy buckles and zippers that are both high quality and easy to operate. We found the padded straps and adjustable fit made it comfortable to wear for hours on end. It’s also a very versatile choice: small enough for when you just want to carry the essentials, but also with plenty of space for longer days. The backpack’s compactness made it easy to wear on the subway or bus without impacting other commuters. Regarding organization, it boasts a zippered front pocket and a top flap pocket for smaller items, side slip pockets, and an integrated tablet sleeve in the main compartment. Price at time of publication: $69 Dimensions: 13.5 x 8.5 x 3.75 inches | Weight: Not published | Materials: Recycled nylon Best Classic Bellroy Classic Backpack Compact 4.8 Amazon View On Amazon View On Bellroy.com View On Moosejaw.com What We Like Thoughtful organization Padded laptop and tablet sleeves Comfortable, contoured shoulder straps What We Don't Like Considerable price tag The Bellroy Classic Backpack Compact is certainly not a budget choice, but its higher price tag is justified by its durable recycled nylon construction (which survived our testing unscathed) and its versatility. After all, it is one of only a very few mini backpacks that can fit a laptop. We loved its thoughtful, purpose-built organization features, including padded laptop and tablet sleeves, an internal zippered mesh pocket, and a front zippered pocket with a built-in key clip. There’s even a soft-lined pocket for sunglasses on top. Overall, it offered plenty of room for everything on our list. At the same time, it was wonderfully compact and comfortable to carry even when fully loaded, thanks to the contoured, rolled-edge shoulder straps. The padded back panel provides additional lumbar support. You can choose from six stylish colors, including Bronze, Navy, and Ranger Green. Two options (Saltbrush and Limestone) are leather-free, while the others have sustainable leather accents. Price at time of publication: $139 Dimensions: 15.7 x 10.2 x 7 inches | Weight: 1.1 pounds | Materials: Recycled nylon, optional leather accents Best Anti-Theft Cheruty Women's Backpack Purse 4.9 Amazon View On Amazon View On Walmart What We Like Cute, vegan leather aesthetic Very spacious The rear opening affords peace of mind What We Don't Like A little larger than the average mini backpack If you’re looking for an option that comes with peace of mind included, the CHERUTY Anti-Theft Mini Backpack is a great pick. Made of water-resistant vegan leather in a rainbow of color choices (from Burgundy to Tan or Blue), its unique main compartment opens at the back to protect it from potential thieves by your body when worn. It’s a very effective tactic, although we did find that it made it slightly less convenient to get things out in a hurry. With adjustable, removable straps, the bag can also be worn as a tote or shoulder purse. We found it super comfortable, even without padded straps. It fit nicely on our tester’s back and was so light that it was barely noticeable. It’s also incredibly spacious, with space for a 9.7-inch tablet and everything on our list with room left over. Organization features include two interior slip pockets, a zippered interior pocket, two exterior side pockets, and a front zippered pocket. Overall, the backpack’s functionality, safety, and chic style made it well worth the very reasonable cost. Price at time of publication: $37 Dimensions: 12.6 x 5.9 x 12.6 inches | Weight: 1 pound | Materials: PU vegan leather Tripsavvy / Tamara Staples Best Splurge Dagne Dover Small Dakota Neoprene Backpack Dagne Dover View On Dagnedover.com What We Like Luxe yet functional aesthetic Amazingly varied organizational options Lightweight, padded comfort for all-day wear What We Don't Like Material is a little too casual to dress up Dagne Dover’s Small Dakota Neoprene Backpack may cost roughly three times the price of our overall winner, but we feel that it’s made to last and more than justifies its cost by offering the perfect balance of style and substance. The neoprene material is vegan, water-resistant, and hand-washable, with a Repreve lining made from recycled plastic bottles. It stood up impeccably to our durability tests and felt so lightweight that it was barely noticeable even after hours of wear. The straps are easy to adjust and lightly padded. Where this backpack particularly excels is in its organization features. The main compartment features an air mesh tablet sleeve, two mesh pockets, and a front panel with three integrated zippered sections perfect for small items (think chapstick or headphones). There are two zippered side pockets, a front pocket with D-ring and elastic loops, and a detachable key leash. The backpack is also much more spacious than it appears, making it incredibly functional. Six colors include Heather Grey, Dark Moss, and Camel. Price at time of publication: $155 Dimensions: 9.5 x 5 x 13 inches | Weight: 1.8 pounds | Materials: Neoprene, recycled plastic fabric Tripsavvy / Tamara Staples TripSavvy’s Picks Our favorite was the Paravel Mini Fold-Up Backpack, which we loved for its durable lightness, intelligent storage options, and foldable design. If you’re looking for a budget alternative, consider the Madison & Dakota Mini Backpack. How We Tested We tested each backpack in our testing lab and in the real world. First, we evaluated how easy it was to fit a list of essentials, including a phone, wallet, and keys. Then, we wore the backpack a minimum of seven times throughout a two-week test period for many activities ranging from running errands to walks around the city. We scored each on a five-point scale for design, capacity, comfort, durability, and value. Overall scores determined our category winners. What to Look for in a Mini Backpack Activity Before choosing a mini backpack, consider the activity you will most likely use it for. Are you wearing it in the city for casual strolls or dates with friends? If so, the primary concern could be a fashionable aesthetic that complements your style. Do you need it for traveling? An anti-theft design could give you peace of mind while exploring. For commuters, a slim profile that won’t be too bulky on the subway is a plus, as is some level of weather-proofing, whereas hikers may prioritize durability and a little more space for snacks or extra layers. Material Mini backpacks can feature many different materials. Two of the most popular are nylon and polyester, chosen for their blend of lightness and durability. If you’re often out in all weathers, opt for one with a water-repellent coating; or one made of naturally water-resistant material like neoprene or leather. Leather is a top choice for fashion backpacks since it is classically stylish and can easily be dressed up or down. For a more ethical alternative, consider vegan leather. Recycled and responsibly sourced materials also score sustainability points. Style The basic premise of a mini backpack is simple: it’s a regular backpack but smaller. However, specific style details can vary quite a bit. Some have removable straps that convert them into a tote or shoulder bag. Others have a standard zippered opening, while others use a roll-top and buckles (or a drawstring and flap top) to protect contents from the elements. Shapes differ, too, from streamlined rectangles to boxy, statement-making squares or classic, curved profiles with functional exterior pockets. Some mini backpacks even open via a zipper at the back to protect your valuables from thieves. Pockets and Other Features Mini backpacks can be super minimalist, with very little organization at all. This unstructured style suits some travelers, allowing them to pack the bag however they wish, but for others, at least a few designated pouches and pockets are preferable. Options to look out for include a zippered front or side pocket to provide easy access to smaller items like your metro card, side water bottle, or umbrella pouches and interior zippered pockets for keeping your valuables secure. If you plan on packing your tablet, a padded electronics sleeve is a bonus. Many people also like the idea of a key leash to prevent unnecessary fumbling at the door. Frequently Asked Questions What is a mini backpack, and how is it different from a backpack? A mini backpack is much smaller than a traditional backpack, typically ranging in capacity from 5 to 15 liters. They have space for your phone, wallet, keys, and perhaps an extra layer or make-up items, but not much more. For some people, they’re as much a fashion accessory as a practical purchase; others simply prefer their compact size. This could be because they find regular backpacks too bulky for a petite frame or because they have limited items to carry but prefer the freedom of movement offered by a backpack versus a small purse or tote. Does a mini backpack count as a carry-on? Luggage rules and restrictions vary from one company to the next, so it’s impossible to guarantee how an individual airline will classify your mini backpack. But, more often than not, small backpacks are considered personal items alongside purses, laptop bags, and briefcases. This means you can take them onboard with you for free, in addition to your carry-on luggage. A good rule of thumb is that personal items should fit beneath the seat in front of you. This is especially true on budget airlines which often charge for space in the overhead luggage compartment. What are the best uses for a mini backpack? Mini backpacks are great for any situation where you might want to keep essentials handy without carrying much more, for example, on a casual trail hike or city sightseeing tour while on vacation, running errands, or going out for a meal back home. They make a useful addition to a larger carry-on bag when traveling since they can be stowed beneath the seat in front of you or kept on your lap for easy access. They’re also lighter than regular backpacks, making them a good choice for petite people or those with back or shoulder pain. For commuters, they take up less space on crowded transport and streets. Why Trust TripSavvy Jessica Macdonald is TripSavvy’s Africa travel expert and a regular contributor of commerce articles relating to adventure and family travel. Having visited more than 50 countries worldwide for everything from scientific research trips to city breaks with friends, she is well versed in the benefits of a great backpack, big or small. This article is supported by the results of real-life and laboratory testing carried out by the TripSavvy team. Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! Submit Continue to 5 of 9 below. Continue to 9 of 9 below.