What makes a backpack minimalist? Is it the sleek design? The number of pockets it has? Or is it the weight?
A minimalist backpack is a tool that helps you live your life without all the extra things. If that means you have lots of extra pockets, then so be it. If that means you opt for a bright color instead of the typical minimalist black, good for you!
Whatever minimalist backpack you choose, it should help you make the conscious decision to do with less during your day. Check out our list of minimalist backpacks designed for every walk of life.
Minimalist Backpacks For Everyday Carry
1. Osprey Packs Daylite Plus Daypack
Osprey created the Daylite Plus Daypack with the intention of attaching it to other backpacks. By its nature, the Daylite Plus is down to the essentials. You’re not going to go on any major hiking tours with this, but that’s the point.
It’s the kind of pack you strap onto your larger backpack, the one you’ll use for your hiking and traveling adventures. Then after you put your big bag in a safe place for the day, the Daylite Plus is for local adventures.
It carries 20 liters, and has seven pockets for your different items. Some of these pockets can expand to accommodate thick sweaters or hiking shoes. The front panel features the “Shove It” pocket for all those things you need to get to quickly.
Inside the Daylite you can use the interior sleeve for your waterpack or computer. This way you can take the Osprey Daylite Plus to school or work during the week. Then on the weekends make the quick transition to hiking by replacing your computer with your water pack.
One important feature of the Osprey Daylite Pack is the large loading panel on the front. It opens like a suitcase, so you won’t have to worry about shoving all your things to the bottom of your backpack.
2. Rains Backpack Mini
The Rains Backpack Mini is the best minimalist bag for the fashion conscious. It’s a small 10L backpack with a stylish top-loading design.
The front strap has a clasp that keeps the Rains Backpack closed. The clasp is metal, so it won’t snap off after too many uses. The straps are adjustable and thin. They’re not as comfortable as gel-straps you get on hiking backpacks, but they’re good for biking to work.
The size of this mini backpack is deceptive. You can fit your basic work gear into this pack, including a 13-inch laptop and other notebooks. While there’s no side pocket for a water bottle, you can easily fit one inside.
While it’s roomy, it’s not Mary Poppin’s carpetbag. If you’re worried about your 15-inch computer, Rains offers a larger version of the same minimalist backpack.
There are a few pockets on the inside that you can use to organize your things. There’s also an outside exterior pocket for the things you need to get to quickly.
The Rains Backpack Mini is versatile enough that you can bring it to work and drinks afterward.
3. City Backpack- Black
Unlike the Rains Backpack, Incase Designs City Backpack is as comfortable as it is sleek.
The mesh back has padding to give you the kind of cool comfort needed on hot days. The straps are also padded, and fully adjustable.
Incase City Backpack has two chambers, plus two front zip-pockets. The back chambers open like a suitcase. You can reasonably take this backpack on a weekend trip as well as class.
It is, however, definitely made for students and workers. The backpack has a 360-padded chamber for your full-sized laptop, unlike the Rains or Osprey backpacks.
The second backpack chamber is full of pocket space. It’s a good place to store things like wallets, or extra batteries for your phone.
The City Backpack is light but has lots of pocket space. As such, it’s a minimalist bag in looks only. That’s what some people want: a sleek minimalist look with all the hidden pockets of a normal backpack.
4. Bellroy Slim Backpack
Do you remember packing your brown paper bag lunch, then rolling it over at the top so nothing came out?
The Bellroy Slim works like that, but it also has a strap for extra protection.
Bellroy as a company takes cues from the simpler times in life to create their designs. When slim cut pants became more popular in 2010, Bellroy set out to create an even slimmer wallet. The wallet leads to other great designs, including their minimalist Slim Backpack.
The bag itself has only two panels of fabric. The inside has padding to keep your laptop in place, while extra pockets add organization.
The design is simple, like the Rains Backpack. But with the added padding, your stuff is a little more secure.
They also added a neat size zip enclosure, so that you don’t have to roll open your backpack all the time. Instead, you can stash your wallet or keys near this zipper, then pull them out when you need them.
Bellroy also does their best to use the most eco-friendly materials. Not only will you embrace the true minimalist mentality with the Slim, but you can also feel good about taking care of the planet.
5. Cocoon Innovations Slim Backpack
Are you an organizational nerd? Do you spend hours making sure you’ve arranged everything on your desk just so?
Then you need the Cocoon Innovations Slim Backpack.
This backpack has the same padded compartment for your laptop or other fragile items. The straps have padding and are adjustable. The back is also padded, with the same mesh lining that keeps you cool on summer days.
But the real draw for this backpack is the award-winning GRID-IT system. The GRID-IT lets you store all your items vertically, and opens flat like a suitcase. That means you can open your backpack and everything inside looks like a James Bond suitcase.
It’s durable, waterproof, and perfect for that person who loves a clean bag. Isn’t cleanliness what having a minimalist backpack is really all about?
6. Belkin Slim Polyester Backpack for Laptops and Notebooks up to 15.4” (Black / Light Gray)
If your concern is for your computer and you refuse to jump on the Bluetooth bandwagon, you should check out the Belkin Slim Backpack.
This backpack is thin, and loads from the front. You won’t be able to front load it completely, but the compartments open wide enough that finding things shouldn’t be a problem.
The laptop interior chamber fits most full laptops, up to 15.4”. It also comes with a special pouch for your cords and chargers that fits nicely at the bottom of the bag.
You can leave your phone inside, and use the headphone grommet so you can keep listening to music. If you are someone who uses Bluetooth headphones, you can still use the grommet to store an extra battery pack. This way you can charge your phone and still use it while on the go.
This backpack is lightweight with padded shoulder straps and back. It’s a comfortable option to keep your electronics safe while you commute to work or school.
7. Incase Icon Pack, Black
Incase made the Icon Pack with the modern worker in mind. This light, sleek backpack has special compartments for your computer, tablet, and music player.
The other cool feature is the side pocket designed to hold your charging cables. It’s right at your hip, so you can charge your phone while using it, or even while carrying it in your pocket. You never have to worry about losing charge again!
The Incase Icon is more long and thin than wide, but it will still hold a full-sized laptop. The straps are also padded for your extra comfort, and the pack has built-in air channels to keep you cool.
The other unique part of this backpack is how well they arranged the pockets. In some backpacks, using one pocket negates the use of others. The Incase Icon Pack has solved this problem with careful planning and engineering. The means you can pack your backpack to the brim without gaining any bulk.
8. Opposethis Invisible Backpack One Mini
The Opposethis Invisible Backpack Mini is the smaller version of their Invisible Backpack One.
This oddly shaped rhombus of a backpack has many hidden pockets. Each pocket has a designated purpose, like the hidden water-bottle pack on the side. There’s a padded pocket for your small computer, 13.5” or smaller.
The computer is side-loaded, so you can take it out with ease. Everything else is top-loaded. This can be a pain if there’s something at the bottom of the bag you’d like to get. Otherwise, it helps protect your items from the elements.
All these hidden pockets mean you have the storage you need, without sacrificing the original style.
The whole backpack is weatherproof, so you can take the Invisible Backpack One Mini on any short trips or adventures. It won’t carry you through the week, but this bag is perfect for weekend retreats into the woods.
9. Cote & Ciel Men’s Isar Ecoyarn Medium Backpack
If unique minimalist backpacks are your thing, then this design from Cote & Ciel is your new favorite pack.
Cote & Ciel created the Isar Ecoyarn medium backpack for fashion-forward minimalists. It’s made of stiff, well-constructed canvas that is water and weatherproof.
The design is ergonomic, which means it’s made to protect your back and shoulders.
The backpack itself is side-loading with a reinforced zipper. The zipper might seem hard to work with at first, but after a few uses you should have it working in no time. The interior has a padded laptop sleeve and 3 pockets.
This backpack is like a duffle bag you can put on your back. You can adjust the width of the interior on the side using adjustable straps. The side-loader is good for getting to your things easily, including your weekend-away items.
Despite the odd shape, it’s easy to carry around on your back. You can adjust the straps, and the padded back is ergonomic.
Out of all the minimalist backpacks on this list, this one is both the strangest and the best made. You have to loosen up the zippers, but after that you have a well-made backpack for the next several years.
10. Herschel Supply Co. Heritage | Minimalist College Backpack
Herschel is one of the best-known backpack companies in the world. Although they’ve only been in business since 2009, they’ve quickly made a name for themselves.
With the Minimalist College Heritage Backpack, Herschel has returned to the basics. The backpack itself has two compartments: a main interior and a front pocket. The interior pocket has a padded laptop sleeve, as well as a side pocket for a water bottle.
The rest of the backpack is a basic as it gets. The front pocket is good for stashing things you need to get on the go, like your phone or wallet.
There’s also an extra key clip at the top of the bag. Use it to store your keys or attach your water bottle to a D-Ring.
If you’re worried about the lack of bells and whistles, rest assured. Herschel applies the same level of craftsmanship to the Heritage as they do for the rest of your backpacks. It might be minimal, but the Minimalist College Heritage Pack will last your entire academic career.
11. Canvas Backpack | Cheap Minimalist Backpack
Upoalker made an amazing minimalist backpack that does what we all need: charges our phones on the go.
This backpack is simply and well made. The canvas is 100% cotton, and the zips are genuine leather. The straps are easy to adjust, so you can put it as high or as low on your back as you want.
As for storage, Upoalker’s Canvas Minimalist Backpack has several hidden pockets for all your needs. There are two size pockets, along with the main interior. The front has two zipped pockets with inner storage. The laptop compartment is padded, so you won’t have to worry about scratching or jostling.
The main feature of this bag is the USB charging port. At the bottom of the bag, Upoalker has included a fully chargeable extra battery. This battery connects to the USB port at the top of the bag. If you’re out and about, and your battery is running low, plug it at the top and store it in the side pocket.
This minimalist bag is both tech-savvy and simple. It’s the perfect bag for people with long commutes or lots of classes during the day.
Minimalist Travel Backpacks
12. Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L (Black Camera Bag)
With it’s odd design, many zippers, and thick straps, you might not think this is a good minimalist backpack. And you’d be right… if you were not a photographer.
Photographers, however, will love this backpack. The Peak Design Everyday 20L Backpack is specifically for your camera and all it’s needs. The main interior compartment has two side-loading options. Both side-loading flaps have extra dividers for lens caps and other accessories.
Inside the main compartment are large Velcro dividers. They’re perfect for stashing your lenses and main camera body without jostling them around. The Velcro allows you to make your storage one-of-a-kind, so you can adjust it however you need.
The back of the Peak Design Everyday Backpack has a compartment for your laptop or tablet. This way you can do your editing and work on the go with your camera.
The straps are stiff, but they have a chest strap and padding to make traveling with your camera even easier.
13. Hynes Eagle 38L Flight Approved Weekender Carry On Backpack
There is nothing worse than getting to the airport, everything you own in a carry-on, and having to check that bag.
This is the kind of situation you avoid with the Hynes Eagle 38L Flight Approved Weekender Carry On Backpack. The bag was crafted with airline travelers in mind, so it’s dimensions are perfect for fitting in over-head compartments.
This bag is also the perfect alternative for a suitcase. The front-loading design simulates a suitcase, so you can get whatever you need with ease. You can even use your packing cubes with this backpack.
There are three ways to carry this backpack. The handles on the top and side mean you can pick it up and move it easily, while the padded straps will help you carry it on your back during adventures. The straps themselves are “hidden” so you can easily make this into a suitcase.
Use the compression straps to keep your belongings in place, and this backpack will last through any adventure you throw at it.
14. Incase EO Travel Backpack
If you’re headed for a weekend work trip, then the Incase EO Travel Backpack is perfect for carrying all your work gear.
This weather-resistant backpack will carry all your electronics, like a laptop, iPad tablet, and any other cords you have. In fact, they have several built-in pockets to organize all your work accessories, from pens, notebooks, to cords and batteries.
Another wonderful thing Incase thought about while designing this backpack is how easy it is to remove your computer. All you have to do is flip open the top, and you can take out your computer for airport security points. It’s so easy, everyone standing behind you in line will thank you.
There is no external storage, so you’ll need to think about how to carry around your water bottle. Other than that, this is a good little travel backpack. The main compartment is expandable, so you can transition this backpack from weekday to weekend with no trouble.
15. Timbuk2 Uptown Laptop Travel-Friendly Backpack
Since 1989, Timbuk2 has been making backpacks and messenger bags for workers on the go. At first, they thought of how to help the commuters in their San Francisco market, but as the world has changed Timbuk2 has grown.
The Uptown Laptop Travel-Friendly Backpack is the go-to bag for digital nomads and minimalist travelers. The straps are adjustable, comfortable, and the back has airmesh ventilation.
More importantly, it has several compartments for all your work travel gear. The back compartment can hold both your 15” computer as well as a tablet. It opens up “butterfly style” so that you don’t have to remove your electronics while going through security. The bag can lay flat, so both you and security save time.
The main compartment is great for storing notebooks, pens, and any other carry-on essentials. There’s even an external side pocket for water bottles and umbrellas. The reinforced handles on the side help you grab the bag and go.
If you’re a digital nomad looking for the best minimalist backpack, Timbuk2’s Uptown Travel-Friendly Laptop bag is for you.
16. eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack
This backpack is like the Cocoon model, but for travel.
eBags created an amazing backpack that solves the “separation anxiety” travelers feel when there’s too much stuff in their bags. This bag is perfect for the kids who didn’t like their food to touch and grew up to be adults.
Open the front pocket to see all the mesh pockets and pen holders you can use for work travel. There’s an “AC Adaptor Garage,” which is a special compartment for all your computer adaptors and batteries.
The two main compartments in the back are perfect for storing your laptop and tablet, or any other important work documents. You can use the slip-sleeve on the back to attach this bag to your suitcase.
One thing to keep in mind about this minimalist backpack is the weight. It’s a very sturdy bag, but some of that is because of its weight. If you’re looking for a light bag, this isn’t it. But if you’re looking for an organized bag with lots of security, the eBag Professional Slim Laptop Backpack is a great choice.
17. Kopeck Deluxe Black Waterproof Laptop Backpack
If you’re a student or a tech worker who has to travel, the Kopeck Deluxe Black Waterproof Laptop Backpack is a good option.
This backpack has three large compartments for everything you need. The anti-theft compartment in the back is the perfect place to store your full-sized laptop.
The second compartment has pockets for tablets, wallets, or any books you need to carry.
The front compartment is the best place for pens, cords, or small notebooks.
Sturdy zippers seal off each compartment on the backpack. The backpack material is anti-scratch and water repellant. If it gets dirty, you should be able to just wipe off the mess.
The straps are thick, padded, and sewn to help improve your back posture. The padding on the back is comfortable, with special air vents.
If you’re looking for a sturdy travel backpack that will also stand up to the rigors of student life then check out the Kopek Deluxe Black Waterproof Laptop Backpack.
18. Osprey Packs Stratos 36 Backpack | Minimalist Hiking Backpack
Hiking backpacks need a lot more bells and whistles than most everyday backpacks. That’s because hiking is a multi-day adventure over rough terrain. Even the most tranquil hiking trails need some strength and endurance.
That’s why it’s important to get the right backpack for hiking. If you’re looking for minimalist hiking backpacks, then the Osprey Packs Stratos 36 Backpack is one of your best options.
First of all, the straps are padded, well-made, and sturdy. You can adjust them to your height and comfort. The chest straps and hip straps are also adjustable, so you carry more of your stuff with your hips rather than your shoulders.
The storage capacity is also excellent. The pack has both a top-loading and a side-loading feature to make getting your items a lot easier. The little extras, like the hydration tool, hiking pole storage, and sleeping bag compartment, make this a great option for hiking.
19. Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack | Minimalist Travel Backpack for Women
Women have different needs than men when it comes to backpacks, especially if they’re on the curvy side. They also need adjusted hip-straps.
The Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack is the best solution for weekend warriors and hikers.
This backpack is front-loading, so you won’t have any problems with packing or unpacking your things. It’s has a 40L capacity, so you can pack quite a lot in this light backpack. There are also front compression straps to keep your stuff in place and ease the pressure on your zippers.
If you’re checking your bag, then use the Stowaway Backpanel. You can tuck away the padded straps, hip-strap, and chest-strap. This makes everything easier to pack in overhead bins, so there’s less of a chance you’ll have to check your bag.
The construction of the Osprey backpack makes hiking or exploring a breeze for women. If you’re someone who loves to have weekend adventures, this is the backpack for you.
How to Choose the Right Minimalist Backpack
When it comes to minimalist backpacks, aesthetics are just as important as practicality. In fact, the two should work hand-in-hand to help you live your minimalist lifestyle.
If you’re a minimalist, you want to be able to pack only the things you need in the smallest receptacle you can. That’s because minimalist travelers don’t want too many things. They only want what they need, and they don’t want to lug around a suitcase to have it.
That’s where minimalist backpacks come in. These backpacks are sleek, and great for storage. They don’t have a lot of extra zippers on the outside, so it makes it easier to travel with these backpacks on planes and while hiking.
Everyday Minimalist Backpacks have as few pockets as possible. They encourage you to bring only the essentials, and leave the rest at home. This makes it easier to carry, while making you think about your day in a purposeful way.
Minimalist Traveling Backpacks are a different animal. They’re made for weekend trips or long hikes. While they’re still engineered to help you carry the essentials, you need more space and organization for your trip.
Minimalist Hiking Backpacks are like traveling backpacks in spirit, but they’re made for the rugged outdoors. They’ll have more features, like chest and hip straps, so that you can have an enjoyable hiking experience.
No matter what kind of minimalist backpack you choose, each pack should have some of the same features.
– Lots of Pockets to store all your things.
– Durability, because part of the minimalist lifestyle means buying less stuff.
– Easy-to-Open for practicality.
– Versatility so you can take your minimalist backpack wherever you go.
Buying a minimalist backpack is about finding the best product for your lifestyle that will last as long as you need it.
How to Get the Right Fit
In an ideal world, we could walk right into our corner store and try out as many minimalist backpacks as we need until we found the right one. We don’t live in a perfect world, so we often have to make the best guess we can base on what’s on the Internet.
The first thing you’ll need to help you fit a backpack is a measurement. This measurement should be from the base of your neck to the top of your hips. It should be taken along the spine.
Based on this measurement, you can pick out the size of your pack.
– Extra small packs are 15” and under.
– Small is 16” to 17”
– Medium to Regular is 18” to 19”
– Large is 20” and up.
After this, adjust the load of your backpack to keep the load forward. It should never be dragging you down, as this puts a lot of weight on your shoulders. If you’re fitting a hiking backpack, make sure the load is more on your hips than on your shoulders.
Picking the Right Capacity
Choosing the right capacity for your minimalist backpack depends a lot on what you want to do with it.
Are you carrying it to work? Then you really don’t need a backpack with more than 20L capacity. In fact, 10L capacity should be just fine.
Instead, if you’re choosing an everyday minimalist backpack, it might be easier to choose a pack based on laptop width. Most of us carry computers with us to work or on trips, so your backpack needs to accommodate this.
Full size laptops can be up to 17” or more, so make sure you get a backpack that fits this size.
Most backpacks will fit a laptop up to 15”, but again you need to make sure of this before you buy the pack.
If you’re going on a weekend long adventure, then choose a backpack with 50-60L capacities. Experienced minimalists can make this capacity work for longer than a weekend, but that takes lots of experience and practice.
Going on a week-long trip? 60-80L is the best capacity for you. The problem with this large pack is that you won’t be able to check it in as a carry on. That’s the true mark of a minimalist backpack.
That said, you should sacrifice a comfortable trip for your minimalist ideals. If you’re going on a month-long hiking trip through the Alps, take as big a bag as you need. You’ll need to pack things like food and cooking utensils, so don’t be afraid to take a large bag to do so.
How Much Should A Minimalist Backpack Weigh?
Again, the weight of your backpack will have a lot to do with what your goals are.
Unlike minimalist shoes, there isn’t a weight limit for a minimalist backpack. Yes, it should be as light as possible, but the goal of a minimalist backpack is not the same as minimalist shoes.
Minimalist shoes want to improve your life by simulating a barefoot experience. Minimalist backpacks know there’s no way to simulate a “bareback experience.” Instead they make your life better by making it easier for you to carry the essentials on your daily journeys.
With that in mind, there are still some guidelines for how much your pack should weigh.
No matter what you’re doing, a loaded hiking backpack should never weigh more than 20% of your body weight. For example, if you’re 200 lbs, your backpack should never exceed 60 lbs.
When it comes to everyday backpacks, the weight should never be more than 10% of your body weight. Again, if you’re 200 lbs then you shouldn’t carry anything more than 20 lbs during the day.
This is one way minimalism comes into play for backpack users. To reduce the weight of your backpack, you need to drop any unneeded items. This can include extra pairs of pajama pants, when you really need extra socks.
Minimalist backpacks are about using your space and tools in the most economic way possible. If your backpack isn’t helping you do that, it’s not minimalist.
What Sort of Organization and Design Features Should a Minimalist Backpack Have?
To be honest, your backpack can have as many or as few design features as you want. Again, the whole point of a minimalist backpack is to make life easy for you.
For example, some people need those extra pockets to help them organize all their things. If they know where everything is, then they can find it more easily.
Others though think the extra pockets are a waste of space and unnecessary weight. These purists are the ones who would rather have a lightweight bag with a few things than a bag with a ton of extra compartments.
Yet again though, minimalist purists need to be wary of cutting out too much when it comes to long trips. For example, they might want a simple Herschel Heritage bag for work but need the eBags Perfect Slim for traveling overseas.
When it comes to features, think about your lifestyle. Do you always seem to run out of battery life on your phone? Get a bag with a USB feature.
Do you travel by plane all the time? Then a travel bag that makes security easier could be a god-send for you.
Don’t let the minimalist mantra of “less is more” stop you from getting the best bag for your lifestyle. If it doesn’t work for you, you’ll only end up buying more things, which defeats the purpose of minimalism.
What Do Women and Children Need to Look for in Minimalist Backpacks?
There are a few key differences in the way women and children carry their backpacks versus men.
Children are still developing, so it’s important to get them a pack that helps them rather than harms. It’s important to get them something with thick padded straps. The backing should spring back when you press it. It should never pop like bubble warp or crinkle.
You also need to be very careful not to overpack a child’s backpack. Again, we should only be carrying 10% of our body weight. If your child is 80 lbs, they should only be carrying 8 lbs worth of stuff.
Adjust the straps until the load is leaning forward instead of weighing them down.
If you can, get a backpack with wheels instead. They’ll still enjoy their new minimalist backpack without having to worry about carrying it.
Women also have different things to worry about when it comes to minimalist backpacks. Curvy women already have a lot of strain on their backs, so it’s important to get a backpack that fits properly.
Each woman should measure her torso before ordering a backpack to ensure she has the right size. She should also consider getting a backpack with chest straps and hip straps made for women.
As far as everyday backpacks go, women need to make sure the load of her backpack is sitting forward. It can help her shoulders and reduce the weight on her back.