Take some weight off with our three favorite backpacks

By
tech-spanfeller
BestReviews

If you plan to be outside a lot with your backpack, make sure it's at least water-resistant if not water-proof.

Do you need a bag for school, camping, or as a carry on for your next flight? Consider investing in a quality backpack. With a backpack, you can easily carry everything you need while your hands remain free to do other things.

The question is, which backpack is best? The choices are seemingly endless, from standard styles to feature-packed bags with a plethora of pockets, compartments, and other conveniences.

Below, we take a look at different types of backpacks on the market as well as tips for what to look for and how to make the most of your purchase.

Types of backpacks

Everyday backpacks

An everyday backpack is a soft, lightweight bag with no internal frame. These bags can hold about 10 pounds and are ideal for school use. You can also take this type of backpack to the gym or on a flight as a carry on.

Overnight backpacks

An overnight backpack is a large bag designed for camping, hiking, and other trips. It's usually large enough to hold clothing and supplies for two to three days away from home. Though it may be fairly lightweight, this type of backpack often features an internal frame and can hold 15 to 20 pounds.

Expedition backpacks

An expedition backpack is a large bag meant for camping, hiking, and outdoor trips that last three to five days. Many expedition backpacks can hold up to 30 pounds and feature an internal frame.

Technical backpacks

A technical backpack is small and portable. It usually has a single compartment and enough space for one day away from home at the most.

Backpack materials

Nylon and polyester

Nylon and polyester are two common backpack materials. Many users favor these materials because they're lightweight, resistant to water, and fairly inexpensive. However, these materials aren't as durable as some other choices and may tear.

Ripstop and ballistic nylon

If you want something a bit more durable, consider a backpack made of ripstop or ballistic nylon. These materials withstand the elements better than standard nylon and polyester.

Leather and canvas

If you seek to make a fashion statement with your backpack, you may wish to consider one made of leather. If you prefer a casual, rugged look, cotton canvas is another good option.

Finding the right fit

Size

Whether you're toting heavy books across campus or enjoying a weekend excursion in the great outdoors, it's important to have a backpack that fits, as you want the weight of your belongings to be evenly distributed across your body. Most backpack manufacturers use torso length to determine size. Measure yourself from the base of your neck to the middle of your back, and compare that number with manufacturer's sizing chart.

Straps

Comfort and fit go hand in hand, and in addition to size,the straps on a backpack go a long way toward determining how comfortable it is to carry. Look for a backpack with adjustable straps so you can tighten them as needed to avoid sagging. Straps with padding are especially nice for your shoulders and back.

Hip belt

If you're looking for another way to lighten your burden, consider a backpack with a hip belt. A hip belt will help take some of the weight off your shoulders for greater comfort.

Other features

You may wish to look for a backpack with any or all of the following features.

Internal pockets to help you organize your belongings
External pockets that provide easy access to often-used items
Padded compartments for laptops and other fragile items
Flap-covered zippers to prevent water from seeping into the pack
Built-in rain cover
 

Tips

Pack your bag strategically. Place the heaviest items in the center of the pack with lighter items above and below them. Stash mid-weight items in the sides of the pack alongside the other objects.
Don't overload your backpack. To maximize comfort and avoid injury, don't carry more than 15% of your body weight in your backpack.
Mind your anchor points. For the best fit, the anchor points on your shoulder straps should sit approximately one to two inches beneath the tops of your shoulders.
 

FAQ

Q. How can I tell if a backpack is made well?

A. Examine the backpack to make sure the stitching is neat and clean with no loose threads. All of the fabric edges should be finished, too. Rough edges could catch in the zipper or weaken the integrity of the backpack over time.

Q. What features should I look for in a child's backpack?

A. For an everyday backpack that your child will carry to school, most options work well. For safety reasons, you may wish to buy a backpack with reflective fabric patches. These patches can help make your child more visible to motorists.

Recommendations

Best of the best: SwissGear Travel Gear ScanSmart Backpack

Our take: A generously sized backpack that can double as a carry on bag, making it ideal for school and travel.
What we like: It's big enough to fit a 17-inch laptop and has plenty of external pockets for fast-access items. It can sit flat for airport security screenings, too.
What we dislike: Some users say the straps and zippers wear out over time. This backpack is somewhat heavy due to the added padding, and the laptop pocket may not be the most secure.
 

Best value: JanSport Right Pack Backpack

Our take: A favorite brand among students for years, this particular JanSport model is highly durable and less pricey than some other high-end choices.
What we like: Its traditional size and construction allow it to fit a laptop, and the padded straps and handle make it comfortable to carry.
What we dislike: This model doesn't have as many external pockets as some other choices.
 

Choice 3: 5.11 Tactical Rush Backpack

Our take: This backpack is large enough to function as an overnight bag for outdoor adventures; it may actually be too bulky for school or carry on use. Though pricey, you get outstanding security with reinforced zippers and seams.
What we like: Its tactical design makes it ideal for camping trips, while the mesh pockets allow for proper drainage in inclement weather. It features a drawcord that allows you to expand the bag, too.
What we dislike: This choice doesn't work well for carrying computers and other fragile electronics. It isn't big on comfort and doesn't offer a waist belt, either.

 

Jennifer is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.