The 9 Best Backpacks for Every Kind of Guy

The backpack is the ultimate bag. These are our favorites.

December 1, 2023 9:57 am
The best backpacks on a blurred subway background
Don't let anyone tell you backpacks aren't cool.
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I love my coworkers. They are hilarious, smart, thoughtful and, above all else, extremely talented. But on occasion, one of them will come up with a take so outlandish that it makes me question everything I hold to be true (mostly about them).

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This was the case when recently one of my favorite colleagues posted an Instagram poll inquiring whether it’s okay for any self-respecting adult to sport a backpack. There were two possible answers: “No” and “Never.” As a backpack loyalist myself, I had no choice but to confront him in the office. To my surprise, he not only doubled down on his position but also effectively told me to grow up.

Reader, I almost fell out of my chair. 

As someone who owns no fewer than seven backpacks and religiously wears one on my commute, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Not only because I have grown to value his mostly-good opinions over our time spent working together, but because I truly believe that there exists no more functional bag than a backpack. 

The Best Backpacks, At a Glance

Best all-around: Roam Continental
• Best for travel: Timbuk2 Wingman Travel Backpack Duffle
• Most versatile: Away F.A.R Convertible Backpack 45L
• Best commuter pack: Osprey Arcane Waxed Large Day Pack
• Best for organization: The Arlo Skye Backpack
• Best for the backpack adverse: Bleu de Chauffe Full-Grain Leather Backpack
Best looking: Herschel Little America Backpack
• Most affordable: Rains Rolltop Rucksack Mini
• For the outdoorsman: Filson Journeyman Backpack

For starters, backpacks are the bag of the people! I, a 31-year-old woman and avid traveler, carry a backpack. Cyclists commuting to work carry a backpack. Plenty of commuters wear backpacks. Hikers, and virtually all other manner of outdoor enthusiasts, carry backpacks. My CEO carries a backpack — and the man wears ascots!

And sure, school-aged children carry backpacks, too — but there’s a reason. Those kids are moving like four textbooks, a packed lunch, gym clothes and also, probably, rocks at pretty much any given time of day, and the backpack is the only bag that allows them to do so without causing them to slip their adolescent discs. So let us give credit where credit is due.

Not only that, there are hundreds — no, thousands — of stylish, adult-appropriate backpacks on the market, so I refuse to believe it comes down to a matter of “looking cool.” Backpacks are fucking cool. And, for what it’s worth, I’ve done the good looking bag thing. For a long time I relied on a very handsome Madewell messenger bag to transport my things to and from the office. I loved that bag. But the fact is, for as attractive as it was, it just wasn’t practical. The disproportionate weight allocation caused my shoulders to hurt, and it was a mess every time I tried to pack a change of clothes, whether it was for the gym or an after-work event. Conducive to living my life it simply was not.

But you know what is? My backpack. To prove my point further, I’ve gone ahead and rounded up the 9 best backpacks for every kind of guy and lots of different scenarios. Remember, anyone can carry a backpack, age be damned. Never let one of your coworkers try to convince you otherwise, either.

Best All-Around: Roam Continental Backpack

This is my beloved commuter backpack. Old faithful, if you will. It’s part of Roam’s Cool World Collection — a trio of custom backpacks. Mine is the Continental, and I have it in Cornwall Slate with a Rio Fire lining. I’ve put it through more travel-related abuse than you can possibly imagine, but it shows very little sign of wear and I still get complimented on it all the time.

Best for Travel: Timbuk2 Wingman Travel Backpack Duffle

Timbuk2’s Wingman hybrid is the quintessential travel pack. I promise you can get away with a full weekend’s worth of stuff in just this 38L bag — with a carry-on-like internal system and more pockets than a fisherman vest, it can fit a deceptive amount of gear inside, despite being “personal item” sized. Plus, if your shoulders get tired, there’s always the duffle strap.

Most Versatile: Away F.A.R Convertible Backpack 45L

For the uninitiated, F.A.R is Away’s first-ever outdoor-focused collection, but — while this guy is obviously very outdoor-focused —  it’s also the perfect companion for a short, very much not outdoorsy jaunt to, say, Europe. Obviously, as its name would suggest, it transforms into a backpack (the rest of the time it exists as a duffel), but its versatility earns it a place on this list. It also has a trolley sleeve (one of my all-time favorite features), so you can slide it over your carry-on handle and not have to worry about carrying it at all.

Best Commuter Pack: Osprey Arcane Large Day Waxed Canvas Backpack

This pack is a waxed version of the one our aforementioned CEO uses. Featuring a large J-zip front panel, a spacious main compartment with a built-in laptop sleeve and a convenient water bottle pocket, it’s minimalist in design, but functional and versatile, too.

Best for Organization: The Arlo Skye Backpack

I love Arlo Skye luggage (I made the mistake of gifting my Arlo Skye carry-on to my partner and, to this day, I deeply regret doing so), so it stands to reason that I would also love this backpack. It’s got a water-resistant exterior, padded laptop compartment, two RFID lined slip pockets to keep credit cards and passports safe from electronic pickpocketing and a trolley sleeve.

Best for the Backpack-averse: Bleu De Chauffe Puncho Leather Backpack

I think if the co-worker who inspired this piece was going to wear a backpack, it might look something like this. It’s timeless, handsome and an overall solid elevated, everyday option. Made from locally tanned leather in the brand’s Aveyron workshop, it’s only going to look better with wear.

Best Looking: Herschel Little America Backpack

A stylish bag with a toggle drawcord closure, this vintage-inspired backpack from Herschel is perfect for…literally whatever you could possibly want to use it for. It’s the brand’s signature bag, which is probably why it comes in 40 different colorways, and two different sizes.

Most Affordable: Rains Rolltop Rucksack Mini

A more contemporary pack made from Rains’ signature waterproof material, it’s got a spacious main compartment and a back zip pocket for easy access and it fastens with a signature carabiner. It’s sleek, hardwearing and it won’t break the bank, either.

For the Outdoorsman: Filson Journeyman Backpack

Alright, I concede that this isn’t exactly a hiking pack, but we love Filson around here and I’d be remiss not to include their bestselling packpack here. The main compartment is built with oil finish Tin Cloth to protect your gear from the elements and it’s loaded with features, without being fussy. So for a nice trek through the woods, perhaps.

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