I typically stay in hotels for 300 nights a year and keep a very minimalist lifestyle with just a carry-on suitcase and backpack (sometimes a briefcase instead of a backpack). Keeping only items I need without any unnecessary items is part of my minimalistic lifestyle and minimalist backpacks come in handy often.
The backpacks you will see below are minimalist backpacks I would personally use to travel the world nonstop. Some of the minimalist backpacks will be for everyday life, activities like hiking, or for trying to get as light as you can get. In addition to covering their features, I will go over what you should look for in a backpack so that you can choose the perfect match.
What are minimalist backpacks?
A minimalist backpack is like any other two-strap backpack, but with a design that is more simple than a regular backpack and with fewer organizational pockets and a slimmer, more compact design.
Instead of having a huge bulky backpack, a minimalist backpack will be designed for only the basic space you need. Minimalist backpacks aren’t designed to carry everything you own. In fact, minimalist backpacks might not be for you if you prefer to stuff your backpack full.
Luckily, minimalist backpacks can come in many shapes and sizes, so down below, you will most likely find one that you will work for you.
To me, minimalist backpacks are typically more fashionable than other bulkier backpacks, but still bigger than sling backpacks, which are basically glorified fanny packs.
What are the best minimalist backpacks?
Minimalist backpacks come in many different shapes and sizes. Still, the best one for you will depend on your personal preferences. There are a few factors that you will want to consider when buying a minimalist backpack:
- Special compartments
Minimalist backpacks are usually defined by their smaller size and more straightforward design, but the sizes of each backpack might be different.
Some minimalist backpacks can hold 15″+ laptops. That means you could still have a minimalist backpack but pack in your more massive 17″ gaming or editing laptop. However, most minimalist backpacks may only be able to hold a 15″ laptop and a couple of smaller types of chargers.
If you are someone who likes to bring your whole office or gaming set-up with you on the go, pay very close attention to what the maximum size is for electronics that can fit properly in the bag.
Luckily, most minimalist backpacks will be able to hold a laptop, tablet, chargers, phone, documents, and reusable water bottles with some extra room to spare.
For me, the material being used for any type of product is essential. So, when it comes to a backpack, like a minimalist backpack, it will be as important as any other factor.
Why is material so important?
Well, it’s because quality material can last much longer than cheaper material. For example, a cheap backpack will last a shorter amount of time than a backpack that is backed with a lifetime warranty.
Many bags advertise that they are waterproof when, in reality, the actual bag is just water-resistant. While the fabric that makes up the bag is waterproof and would not allow water to penetrate the fabric, that does not mean that the entire bag is waterproof.
An authentic waterproof bag could be tossed into a lake, and water would not seep inside the bag. But the backpacks in this article are not those types of bags.
Minimalist backpacks, or any type of backpack for that matter, will have specific compartments for specific needs. You might find a compartment that holds a power bank and a hole for a charger. You might find another compartment that holds a tablet and another holding a laptop.
Compartments can offer more protections for devices or items as they will be secured in place instead of floating around in your bag. So, always be on the lookout for compartments that could serve your unique needs.
As I will talk about below, the type of strap you have is super important for comfort and for relieving strain. Most backpacks allow you to alter the length of the straps allowing you to position the backpack higher or lower on your back.
The padding of the straps is a crucial player for longterm comfort. Not every backpack will have a lot of padding. This is especially true for the fashion-oriented bags, which basically compromise comfort for style.
If you are going to be wearing your bag a lot and traveling through hot or humid environments, then you might also want to find the straps that have an excellent mesh padding that can help you stay cool.
Are backpacks healthy?
Back in June of 2004, Harvard Medical School did a short article named Bad backs and backpacks. It focuses on backpacks causing stress to the spine and shoulders of children, but the same goes for adults as well. Verywellfit verifies explaining anyone any age can gain back problems when wearing backpacks improperly.
Research has found that backpacks that are too low can cause back problems later on in a young adult or child’s life. While backpacks worn the wrong way as an adult can cause back issues more immediately as muscles and bones are weaker. So, it’s best to keep the backpack two or three inches over your waist. Otherwise, your shoulders will carry most of the weight if the backpack is too low.
Luckily, all the backpacks below are easy enough to adjust for the best placement on your back.
Overloading your backpack can also cause problems in your future unless the backpack can carry the weight evenly instead of on your shoulders. See, most backpacks are designed for a certain amount of weight. If it exceeds the weight it’s designed for, the backpack can still function, but it won’t be optimized for carrying the weight. Hence, if you are hiking, you need a backpack that is designed with enough capacity. Otherwise, it will put a strain on your shoulders and spine.
Using a hop strap can help carry heavy loads to distribute the weight more evenly.
The best minimalist backpacks
The Lenovo Casual Backpack B210 is the cheapest minimalist backpack on this list, being less than $20. It’s also an Amazon Choice with over 300 reviews and four and a half stars. It’s not just a random cheap backpack, it’s also made by Lenovo, which is a massive name in the PC manufacturing space (they own IBM).
Inside the backpack, you have two small compartments suitable for chargers or any other accessories. Then you have the 15.6″ laptop sleeve. You will then find no other compartments in the whole backpack, not even additional outside pockets in the front or the back of the backpack.
The material is water-repellent with reviewers supporting the claim of how durable the bag is. With regular wear and tear, you won’t have to worry about stitching coming undone. Even with a low retail price, the straps are well-padded and comfortable, with reviewers complimenting the soft feel of the bag for everyday use.
If the Lenovo Casual Backpack B210 wasn’t to your liking because of not having enough pockets or the design isn’t flashy enough, you need to check out the Lenovo Urban Backpack B810.
It is almost three times the price of the Casual edition by Lenovo, but this Urban edition sports more organizational compartments, while also keeping the durable, sturdy water-resistant material that is used on the Casual edition backpack.
You can find a 15.6″ laptop sleeve, front pocket for smaller accessories, side zippers for easy access without taking your backpack off, and a glasses loop. The straps and back of the backpack are padded with mesh allowing it to feel colder than non-meshed backpacks. Reviewers all agree that the backpack is comfortable to wear for everyday use and durable enough for regular use.
In terms of design, I like the leather accents. It allows the backpack to have a more premium feel, but without breaking the bank. Plus, the leather will wear better over time, unlike fabric.
The BAGSMART Backpack is another great addition if you don’t want to break the bank on a backpack. The price is usually around $30 coming in three colors. It’s a rolltop backpack, where you can open the backpack from unrolling the top. However, you can also access all the contents of the backpack from the back. So, there are two ways to access the inside of the backpack, making it easy to store things that might not fit as easily from the top of the backpack.
Even though this is a minimalist backpack, you can hold multiple college size textbooks, numerous devices, and everything else you might need during your day. In terms of storage, it’s one of the biggest backpacks here being able to hold multiple devices with sleeves for a 15.6″ laptop and 12″ tablet. It also has zipper compartments for valuables, two front zipper pockets to hold small little accessories, and a side pocket for a water bottle.
The material is a water repellent, tear-resistant, and anti-scratch polyester. There is padding for the laptop sleeve, tablet sleeve, and on the back of the backpack, the back padding is a soft mesh allowing airflow. For the straps, they aren’t a mesh material, but padded and adjustable. There is also an extra strap on the back to go around a luggage handle. This back luggage strap is essential to me, so I don’t need to wear a backpack when I am rolling around my suitcase in an airport or hotel.
The JOHNNY URBAN “Milo” Backpack is an eco-friendly minimalist backpack made out of recycled PET bottles. It comes in four colors, and out of the four colors, the pink one is my favorite. You might have noticed this backpack is by far the most urban minimalist design out of all the backpacks on this list.
The material is probably the most unique quality of this backpack. The material is made out of 100% recycled PET bottles making it both eco-friendly and sustainable. You might think eco-friendly material might have some downsides, but this backpack is still water-repellent with tight quality stitching. The back and straps aren’t a mesh material but are both slightly padded. There is also a strap for suitcase handles.
You can find a laptop sleeve supporting up to a slim 15″ laptop. On the front of the backpack, you can find one zipper pocket for small accessories. Then in the inside of the backpack, you can find little pockets for other smaller accessories. If you care about stuffing your backpack with everything, do take note this backpack is on the smaller side.
The JOHNNY URBAN “Alec” Rolltop Backpack is bigger than the “Milo” backpack listed above, and it’s even more minimalistic. And again, the material is what makes this backpack unique. It’s made out of 500D tarpaulin. 500D tarpaulin is exceptionally durable, lightweight, and water-resistant. It’s actually more water-resistant than most backpacks on this list.
As the material is unique, it’s going to feel different too. Different as in less comfortable than some of the backpacks on this list. On the back, six soft meshed pads allow airflow to keep your back cool and still semi-comfortable, even though the material is slightly rougher than other materials. You will also find the straps to be adjustable, but thinly padded. This means if you are carrying around this backpack for extended periods of time, it’s not gonna feel as comfortable.
However, the style of the backpack is excellent. You will notice no opening for accessing the insides of the backpack except the top. Inside of the backpack, you will find a 15.6″ laptop compartment and few other pockets for devices and accessories. If you prefer to have no laptop compartment, you can take out the laptop compartment leaving the insides of the backpack even bigger.
If you prefer a minimalist backpack that is tech-oriented and anti-theft, then the Oscaurt Anti-theft Backpack should be on your radar. It’s offering tech-friendly features like a USB pass-through for your phone, discreet pockets, and zippers for preventing theft.
What shines about this backpack is the number of compartments it has. You will find 15.6″ laptop, tablet, phone, power bank, pen, water bottle, wallet, etc. compartments all inside this backpack. You can find any pocket for any type of situation, device, or accessory.
This backpack offers a unique EVA back material for protecting your laptop in the event of a drop. You will also find reflective material on the front of the backpack. Plus, the backpack is water-repellent making it good enough for those potential downpours. In regards to the straps, you will find mesh padding on the straps, making them comfortable but also breathable for long days of wearing this backpack.
The Zrui Slim Backpack is another tech-friendly anti-theft backpack with a lock, but slimmer with a briefcase-like side handle for easy carrying.
On this anti-theft backpack, you will find locks that require codes to access the contents of the bag. You will also find that the zippers are all hidden, so they will be hard to access unless you physically take off the backpack or move the straps. You can find secret compartments in the straps too, which allow easy access for items like money or cards but are still hard to access for anyone not wearing the backpack.
Inside the backpack, you can find 15.6″ laptop, phone, tablet, pens, wallet, etc. compartments. What I love about this backpack is the fact that you can carry it on its side with its handle, plus there are three ways to open the backpack. Opening it up on a 30, 90, or 180-degree angle. This allows you to access all the contents of the bag in any type of way you wish.
There is also a USB passthrough for charging your phone with your power bank inside your bag.
The Briggs & Riley Kinzie Street Medium Backpack is basically a Rolls-Royce of backpacks. Briggs & Riley is hailed to make some of the best bags in the industry. It’s kind of like Rimowa, but specializing in fabric and not metal. Each Briggs & Riley product has an industry-leading lifetime warranty.
There is a 15.6″ laptop compartment that is separate from the main part of the backpack. In the main part of the backpack, you will find compartments for a tablet, umbrella/water bottle, pen, cards, glasses, document, etc. On the outside of the backpack, you can find a small zipper RFID blocking pocket on the back of the backpack for passport, money, or cards. On the side of the backpack, you have another small zipper pocket for small devices or accessories.
The material is top grade, and if you want something that will last for a lifetime, this is your bag. Not only do you have stylish leather accesses throughout the bag, like on the handle, you also have a proprietary Tartex body fabric that is water-repellent. Then on top of that, you still have a lifetime warranty. So you don’t have to worry about it breaking down and needing to buy a new bag, you just send it into Briggs & Riley, and they take care of the rest for you.
The Briggs & Riley Kinzie Street Flapover Expandable Backpack is a flapover expandable minimalist backpack. It’s thin but expandable to a bigger size for storing flexibility.
The material is their proprietary Tartex fabric allowing for durability with water-repellent infused into the fabric. You can then find top-grain leather touchpoints and access through the bag. The straps are padded with mesh for breathability and comfort.
The compartments are similar to the Briggs & Riley backpack listed above. You can find a separate 15.6″ laptop compartment and compartments for tablets, pens, cards, sunglasses, zipper pocket, etc. all in another area of the backpack. There is an easy to access front pocket with a zipper for small accessories. Then your valuables like passports, cards, and cash can go into the RFID blocking zipper pocket on the back of the backpack.
If you wish to have a minimalist backpack holding a small notebook, charger, and laptop, then look no further to the Designer Lightweight Backpack. This backpack offers a little compact experience just for people that want to carry around a laptop.
As you can see from the picture, the material of the backpack is felt and canvas-like material that isn’t water-repellent. So, if you are caught in the rain, make sure your bag stays dry, or it won’t do much protection from the rain as other bags on this list. However, the material is unique as it’s soft all around and super slim. In fact, this is the smallest backpack on our list.
You will find the laptop sleeve suitable for up to 15.6″ laptops and a notebook, both of which will be located under the flap. Then in the front of the backpack, you can find a small pocket where you can store your charger or other small accessors like dongles. Reviewers do love the size and weight of the backpack as it’s meant to be super light.
For the minimalist hikers out there, the KAUKKO Outdoor Backpack is for you. It’s on the larger size, robust, and ready for the outdoors. It’s made out of 600D polyester fabric, which is prepared for action fighting off the elements. Then there is also a nylon lining, which makes the backpack soft and comfortable. Both of these materials together create a water-repellent backpack.
The straps are designed with padding and mesh for support and comfort. Then on the back of the backpack, you will find meshed padding that has caved out sections to allow better airflow to keep you cool.
This is the most enormous backpack on the list, being able to hold 22L of capacity. The laptop compartment can fit up to a 15.6″ laptop. Then there is an outer compartment that can hold up to 18″ object like a huge editing or gaming rig, clothes, umbrella, books, hiking gear, etc. There is a mini pocket on the front of the backpack that allows you to hold tiny accessories. Then you can find two side pockets for two water bottles.
What I love about this backpack is the design. The material is durable enough for nature, but also stylish enough with accent stitching, leather, and metal. It’s basically a good compromise of design and practicality.
As you can see, there are many different types of minimalist backpacks. Some are so thin that you can only fit a laptop, while others can be used for hiking. No matter what, you can narrow down your preferences and find out what will work for you.
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Steve is a senior contributor for UponArriving and spends close to 300 nights a year in hotels while traveling the world and trying to eat as much as he can. Steve has spoken at summits like the FBZ Elite Summit in Austin. He holds top-tier elite status with almost every hotel program as a Marriott Ambassador, Hyatt Globalist, Hilton Diamond, IHG Spire, and GHA Black. Utilizing credit card points and miles, Steve takes over 100 flights per year while experiencing some of the top first class and business class cabin in the sky.