20 Types Of Backpacks For Outdoor Adventures


When planning to buy your first backpack, the numerous choices available in the market could overwhelm you. If you are not familiar with the different types of backpacks, choosing the right backpack for your needs can be really tough.

In this guide, we will look at the main kinds of backpacks and their sub-types. By the time you reach the end of the article, you should find choosing an ideal backpack much easier.

Everyday Backpacks

Arguably, these are the most popular kinds of backpacks. People use them daily – for work, the gym, when commuting, for school, etc.

1. Basic Daypack

Basic daypacks feature a standard backpack design – a grab handle at the top, the main compartment in the front, a large front pocket, and 2 shoulder straps. The packs don’t have a lot of features; you will be lucky if you come across a basic daypack that has an internal pocket.

Their capacity usually ranges between 20 and 40 liters, depending on the number of pockets the daypack has and how big it is. Unlike some of the backpacks you will see in this article, basic daypacks rarely have ventilated and padded back panels.

2. Rucksack

Rucksacks feature a flap that covers their main compartment. The flap is usually attached to the backpack body using a magnet or a buckle.

Compared to the regular backpacks, rucksacks are much smaller. Their capacity ranges from 15 to 30 liters. Most rucksacks will feature several external pockets. It is also possible to find a laptop sleeve inside some rucksacks.

3. Anti-Theft Backpacks

At first glance, anti-theft backpacks will appear similar to the normal daypacks. However, when you look at them more closely, you will notice that the zipper pullers and the zipper themselves are not visible – this is basically their main design feature.

The packs often have several anti-theft features in addition to the hidden zipper pullers. The additional anti-theft features could include locks on the zipper pullers, cut-proof fabric, compression straps over the pack’s zippers, and belts/buckles whose purpose is to hold the zipper pullers in place.

High-end anti-theft packs will feature RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) blocking pockets. These pockets will protect you against electronic theft.

4. Laptop Backpack

These are pretty straightforward – they are basically packs featuring a sleeve for the laptop. If you do carry your laptop around, you probably already own a laptop backpack.

Different types of laptop backpacks exist. The laptop sleeves can be external, internal, and in some instances, removable. The backpacks can fit 15.6-inch laptops (most common), 13-inch laptops, 11-inch laptops, and 17-inch laptops. The size of the backpacks ranges between 20 and 50 liters.

While laptop backpacks are common everyday packs, it is worth noting that some hiking and backpacking backpacks may feature laptop sleeves. When planning a backpacking trip, deciding whether you would like to carry your laptop could help you choose the right pack.

When purchasing your laptop backpack, the first thing you will need to consider is the sleeve – ensure that it can fit your laptop. Secondly, consider the sleeve padding. Thicker padding will offer better shock-resistance – this can save your laptop if you happen to drop the backpack by mistake.

Finally, make sure that the backpack is water-resistant or waterproof. As you have probably guessed, laptops are not friendly with water.

5. Duffel Backpacks

Basically, these are duffel bags featuring shoulder straps that allow you to carry the bags like backpacks. While this may appear weird, some things make duffel backpacks an ideal alternative to the normal backpacks or regular duffel bags.

To give you an example, if you like to go to the gym, you will find duffel backpacks more comfortable to carry around than the normal duffel bags. If you prefer a backpack featuring a larger capacity but offers better organizational capabilities when you are packing the backpack, the duffel backpack may be an ideal option.

Duffel backpacks vary greatly when it comes to size. Their size ranges between 30 and 120+ liters. This makes them ideal for a wide range of activities. For example, when going camping, a big enough duffel backpack can help you carry sleeping bags, mosquito nets, and other camping gear comfortably.

6. Tote Backpacks

Just like the name suggests, these are basically tote bags featuring shoulder straps. In addition to the 2 shoulder straps which allow you to carry them like a backpack, they have the same design as normal tote bags – a top-loading compartment featuring a zipper closure, 2 large handles on top, and several internal and external pockets.

Since the majority of the tote bags are designed for use by women, most of the tote backpacks are ideal for women. Tote backpacks feature a capacity of 15 to 35 liters, which is pretty standard for the normal backpacks. It is not uncommon for the backpacks to feature a laptop sleeve.

The major downside of using tote backpacks is that they are generally not very comfortable. The shoulder straps are usually extremely thin. Most of the straps won’t have padding.

7. Drawstring Backpacks

These are generally gym sacks featuring shoulder straps and drawstring closure. The packs are usually small, featuring an average capacity of 10 to 25 liters.

What makes these types of backpacks extremely popular is the fact that they are generally lightweight. Even the biggest drawstring backpacks will weigh a few ounces.

Their small size allows the users to throw them in bigger backpacks. For example, you can throw the drawstring backpacks in your travel backpack. Once you reach your destination, you can use the drawstring pack to carry a few essentials when you are just out and about.

8. Fashionable Mini Backpacks

These kinds of backpacks are generally very cute, barely functional, and pretty small. Almost exclusively, they are women’s backpacks. The mini backpacks are designed to complement the outfit and be stylish – they rarely do much else. Their capacity ranges between 5 and 15 liters. Most of the backpacks will only fit your wallet and phone.

The packs are an ideal choice if your goal is to replace the everyday shoulder or tote bag. Compared to the regular purse, the mini backpacks are usually more comfortable to carry around. If, however, you are looking for the functionality offered by a traditional backpack, you won’t find it in the mini backpacks.

Biking Backpacks

Different types of backpacks for biking do exist. If bikepacking is your thing, you will mostly differentiate between hydration packs and packs built specifically for biking gear. In this section, we will look at these packs.

9. Hydration Backpacks

These backpacks are usually lightweight and small. Their capacity ranges between 3 and 10 liters. They are designed only for hydration. Very few hydration packs will feature additional pockets allowing you to carry some additional necessities.

Hydration packs offer their users hands-free hydration while they are riding the bike. The backpacks eliminate the need to stop and get off the bike now and then. If you were to use a water bottle, stopping would be necessary.

The hydration pack’s main compartment is designed to hold the hydration bladder. Most of the packs come with the hydration bladder and other accessories.

10. Biking Gear Backpacks

Compared to the hydration packs, the backpacks designed for biking gear are generally larger. Most of the packs will have a main compartment and an additional compartment (a pocket, in most instances) featuring an organizational panel for all the cycling tools and gear.

Most of the backpacks will feature an attachment point for the helmet. Attachments for the LED lights may exist on the front part of the bags.

Manufacturers try to keep the biking gear backpacks as small as possible. Their capacity ranges between 10 and 30 liters. The lightweight nature ensures that the bikers do not get slowed down.

It is worth noting that some of the biking gear backpacks do feature a sleeve for the hydration bladder. However, not all the backpacks will come with the bladder – you may have to purchase the bladder separately.

Trekking/Hiking Backpacks


Just as the name suggests, these kinds of backpacks are designed for people who like to go trekking or hiking. The backpacks will feature several attachments for all your hiking gear, a main compartment that is spacious enough to accommodate your clothes and all the other necessities, and a ventilated & comfortable back panel that keeps you dry and cool even when you are hiking in warm weather.

11. Small Hiking Backpacks

By small, we mean hiking backpacks featuring a capacity of 30 to 40 liters. The backpacks are ideal for people who prefer to go on shorter hikes and do not bring along a lot of gear. These backpacks are usually lightweight and have a ventilated and soft back panel.

The backpacks are not that small – as you have probably noted, they feature the same size as the regular day pack. They just have additional features that make them more ideal for hiking than the backpack you would use when commuting or going to school. Some of the additional features may include attachment points for some of your gear and even a hydration sleeve.

12. Large Hiking Backpacks

These backpacks are designed for people who are willing to take on more difficult trails. This means carrying plenty of gear and even spending a couple of nights in a backpacking tent.

The large hiking backpacks feature a capacity of 40 to 85 liters. The backpacks can be divided into 2 sub-categories – framed and frameless backpacks. We will discuss these subcategories below:

13. Framed Hiking Backpacks

Just like the name suggests, these are large backpacks featuring some sort of frame built into them. The frame allows them to stand upright even when they are 100% empty. The frames are usually made of aluminum.

These backpacks are much better when it comes to organization. Packing your stuff inside is made much easier by the frame. Also, the frame helps a lot with stability – this is crucial when you are exploring uneven terrain.

Compared to the frameless packs, the framed backpacks tend to be heavier. If you are looking for a lightweight backpack, we suggest that you move on to the category below.

14. Frameless Hiking Backpacks

These backpacks do not feature any type of frame. Their upside is that they are incredibly lightweight, with most of the packs weighing less than 1.5 pounds.

Since the load dictates the fit and shape of the frameless backpack, the packs are more ideal for smaller loads. When used with heavy loads, the frameless backpacks tend to be uncomfortable and heavy.

When empty, the backpacks collapse – this is because they lack a frame to keep them upright. This quality often makes storage easier since the packs will not occupy a lot of storage space.

Snow Sport Backpacks

If you do find snow appealing, you may want to invest in backpacks in this category. Skiing and snowboarding are the major snow sports. We will, therefore, discuss backpacks ideal for these 2 sports.

15. Skiing and Snowboarding Backpacks

These are pretty similar to the hiking backpacks. Their capacities range between 20 and 45 liters. They feature padded and adjustable shoulder straps, ventilated and comfortable harnesses, and sport hipbelts.

The major difference between the snowboarding and skiing backpacks is that they have attachment points for attaching your snowboarding/skiing gear. They will have a spot for your skiing helmet, your skis or snowboard, a spot for the skiing poles, and a place where you can stash a spare clothing layer. The packs are usually lightweight. To keep the gear inside dry at all times, the packs are usually waterproof.

Travel Backpacks

If you do like to travel, the types of backpacks in this main category should be ideal for you. Different sub-types are ideal for varying situations.

16. Backpacking Backpacks

These are large backpacks designed for people who plan to go on month-long trips. Their capacities range between 70 to 150 liters.

The backpacking backpacks can get really heavy. For this reason, they have some features which help keep them comfortable. Some of these features include a harness, thick padding, and good ventilation.

In terms of organization, the backpacks will have numerous compartments for items. Additionally, some of the backpacks will have a detachable daypack – this is ideal for when you want to explore new areas with just a few necessities.

17. Carry on Backpacks

These are slightly smaller than the backpacking backpacks and are more ideal for shorter trips. Their capacity ranges from 20 to 40 liters.

At most, they are 22 inches tall. Since the carry-on size limits do vary depending on the airlines, you may want to purchase a 20 inches backpack if you want it to be accepted inside the cabin everywhere.

The backpacks feature 1 or 2 main compartments and several compartments which allow you to organize your items. Some of the carry-ons will have a laptop sleeve and a whole compartment dedicated to the tech necessities you intend to bring with you.

18. TSA (Transportation Security Administration) Friendly Backpacks

These are basically carry-on packs featuring TSA friendly laptop compartments. This means that the compartment for your laptop can be easily unzipped to lie on the scanner – this eliminates the need to take out the computer every time you have to go through the TSA checkpoints. This reduces the time needed to go through the airport significantly.

In terms of other features, the backpacks are similar to regular carry-ons. Their capacity will vary between 20 and 40 liters. They are small enough to be accepted in the cabin just like the carry-ons.

You should expect the backpacks to feature one major compartment, a compartment for your electronics, and some pockets for your necessities.

19. Wheeled Backpacks

Wheeled backpacks are ideal for people who like the organizational aspect offered by the backpacks and the easiness and functionality of traveling with a wheeled backpack. In addition to the normal features you will find on a backpack, the wheeled backpacks feature wheels and a wheel handle.

The backpack’s capacity will range between 40 and 150 liters. You can find them in both the checked bag size and the carry-on size.

The backpacks feature thickly padded back panels. These reduce the chances of the wheels making you uncomfortable. You should expect the backpacks to have pockets, spacious compartments, and comfortable shoulder straps.

20. Tactical Backpacks

In most instances, you will find the military men and women traveling with tactical backpacks. The backpacks are manufactured using dense material. As a result, the backpacks are strong and resistant to environmental factors and water.

The backpacks are very rugged and easy-going in all types of environments. They feature additional assurance for the safety of the items you put inside.

The backpacks are generally big – they feature enough storage and are capable of carrying a lot of items. They are ideal for non-military usages, including camping and even hiking.

Globo Surf Overview

From basic items like food and water to the more technical outdoor gear, you won’t find a more efficient method of carrying your stuff than in a good trusty backpack. This article discusses the different kinds of backpacks you will find in the market. Armed with the knowledge provided by this article, purchasing an ideal backpack shouldn’t be complicated.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!