With so many backpack brands filling every imaginable niche, choosing the right bag can be overwhelming.
Over years of travel, hiking and backpacking, the South East Asia Backpacker team have trialled gear from the most popular brands to tiny cottage companies and everything in-between.
No matter your next adventure, you’ll find the perfect backpack from one of these brands! ?
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|Brand||Top Choice||Features||Where To Buy|
Hyperlight Mountain Gear
|Visit Hyperlite Mountain Gear|
|Visit Peak Design|
A Closer Look at the Best Backpack Brands
As you’d expect, the backpack brands on this list build exceptional gear. Comfort, ease of use and durability are paramount. But plenty of companies make bags with those things in mind. It’s going the extra mile that makes these backpack brands stand out from the rest!
Read on to see why these backpack brands stand out from the crowd as the very best!
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Our Favourite Backpack Brand — Osprey
- The Start — Beginning life in 1974, Californian bag manufacturer Osprey has spent almost five decades evolving into the go-to backpack brand. Mike Pfotenhauer started the company with nothing more than a sewing machine and a deep passion for the outdoors. Straight out of university, Mike made bespoke bags for customers in the Santa Cruz area – getting a buzz from hearing how far his packs had travelled.
- Innovations — Throughout their history, Osprey have pushed the world of backpacks forward. From breathable mesh and advanced suspension systems, to backpacks built for women and custom moulding technology — we have Osprey to thank for many of the features that are common in quality bags today.
- Versatile — From their humble beginnings, Osprey have gone on to produce a vast array of bags for a ton of activities. Today, you can pick up an Osprey backpack for hiking, cycling, snow sports, climbing, expeditions, travel, commuting and even carrying children — and that’s just the start! If you need a new backpack, the chances are Osprey will have the perfect choice for you already in their range!
- Environmentally Friendly — Osprey packs are built to last. They only use high-quality materials that stand the test of time. At the time of writing, Osprey packs use 60% recycled material in the main body of their bags. By spring 2023, that will be 80%. Look out for their white label packs (denoted by the Osprey logo having a white background). These are made from 100% recycled materials, are 100% vegan and contain zero PFCs. They’re some of the most eco-friendly backpacks available!
- All Mighty Guarantee — While the wording in Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee has changed in recent years, it’s still one of the best warranties available. They strive to repair rather than replace — as long as it’s within ‘the reasonable lifetime’ of the pack. This helps keep bags out of landfill while ensuring you get truly top quality gear!
- Price — Considering the workmanship, build quality, comfort and durability of Osprey packs, they’re very well priced. While not the cheapest bags available, they’re certainly not the most expensive. And with the expected lifespan of a backpack from Osprey, they’re great value for money!
Backpack Brand for Photographers — Peak Design
- The Start — Peak Design founder Peter Dering started the company after an around the world backpacking trip in 2010. But Peak Design didn’t start out creating backpacks. Instead, it was Peter’s Capture Camera Clip that began this journey. The camera clip was a huge success on Kickstarter, raising over $350,000 in 2011. Since then, Peak Design have introduced various other camera accessories as well as some of the best backpacks for photographers!
- The Good Guys — Peak Design are very clear with their ethics. They prioritise the welfare of their staff, ensuring they’re well looked after and are living meaningful lives. Imagine how much better the world could be if every employer behaved this way!
- Mission Statement — Peak Design’s mission statement is simple and achievable:
- Make the best things.
- Succeed at the expense of nobody.
- Treat customers as peers.
- Offset our environmental impact.
- Use our voice to inspire positive change.
- Prioritise happiness over growth.
- Built for Photographers — Peak Design build their backpacks predominantly for photographers. They have a ton of features that make life easier for shutterbugs. Side entry zips to the main compartment, modular organisation, MagLatch hardware and weatherproof construction ensure Peak Design backpacks keep your gear safe and easily accessible so you never miss the perfect shot!
- Kickstarter — Peak Design use a crowdfunding model, via Kickstarter, to produce each of their products. Not relying on outside investment gives PD full control of their company and products. It allows them to take risks and lets their customers play a role in the design process.
Ultralight Backpack Brand — Hyperlite Mountain Gear
- The Start — Experienced hiker and avid outdoor lover Mike St Pierre was on a quest to make an adventurous lifestyle just a little easier on the body. By lightening the load he carried, Mike managed to travel more efficiently, helping him avoid injury. But lightweight gear only got him so far. Soon he started searching for ultralight backpacks to no avail. Then Mike took the sensible option to build one himself and Hyperlite Mountain Gear was born!
- Exotic Materials — What made Mike’s dream of a durable, lightweight backpack possible was his discovery of a company called DSM and more specifically their proprietary fabric, Dyneema. Ultra-lightweight, cut, abrasion and UV resistant, Dyneema has a higher tensile strength than steel!
If you’re into outdoor pursuits, you may have already heard of Dyneema in its previous guise — Cuban Fibre.
- Pro Program — Hyperlite Mountain Gear offer the chance for outdoor industry professionals, guides, outdoor athletes, retail workers and environmental activists (*claps with glee*) to join their Pro Program. This unlocks discounts on packs, shelters and other accessories. You can also join the program if you’re a first responder (e.g. police, fire, ambulance or military).
- Specialised Gear — Ultralight packs are already highly specialised. They need to be rugged enough to deal with hiking, climbing and other adventures, while also being easy to pack and comfortable to wear. HMG take this specialisation one step further by developing and building packs for specific environments and trails. For example, they recommend the Junction for hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail and the Windrider for the Appalachian Trail.
- Warranty — While a one-year warranty doesn’t come close to Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee, it’s excellent compared to other ultralight backpack brands. Hyperlite Mountain Gear have a reputation for building rugged gear and by offering a one year warranty against all manufacturing defects, they truly stand behind their products.
Backpack Brand for Hiking — Osprey
- The Brand — Osprey have already made it onto our list as the overall best backpack brand. Innovation, sound environmental practices and well-priced backpacks are all part of the Osprey brand. But what makes their hiking bags so good?
- Suspension Systems — Suspension systems and padded back panels aren’t solely an Osprey innovation — they’re available on outdoor packs from a ton of brands. What makes Osprey’s stand out is the range available: AirScape, AirSpeed and AntiGravity. The Airscape back panel is built to carry heavy loads close to your body while promoting airflow and reducing sweat build-up. The AirSpeed system keeps your pack away from your body with a mesh trampoline suspension panel for maximum manoeuvrability and comfort. AntiGravity is much like the AirSpeed system but offers more lumbar support!
- Customisable — Unless you’re Nims Purja or Aldo Kane, you’re unlikely to get your hands on a custom-built Osprey backpack. However, most Osprey hiking packs include features that allow you to get a customised feel and carry experience. ErgoPull and Fit-On-The-Fly hip belts deliver adjustability and comfort. InsideOut Compression straps can be left on the outside of the pack for ease of use or hidden away to provide better access to your mesh side pockets. The FlapJacket system allows you to remove the lid, or brain, of the pack and still safely seal your gear inside the bag — it’s an excellent option for saving weight and reducing the amount of superfluous gear you’re carrying!
- Education — Osprey don’t just make bags for the outdoors. They actively educate people on how to use them and how to enjoy their adventures. From packing guides on their website to product tours and examples of use cases on their YouTube channel, Osprey aim to inspire us all to enjoy the outdoor world! They even have The Osprey Podcast in which they chat to adventurers, athletes and a ton of other interesting folks!
Carry On Backpack Brand — Tortuga
- The Start — In 2009, two friends from the USA, Fred and Jeremy, visited Europe on a classic backpacking trip. While the journey was ‘a blast,’ they both faced luggage issues. This prompted them to create ‘the perfect travel backpack’ and Tortuga was born.
- Simple — In recent years, Tortuga have shrunk their range of backpacks to just one key model, the Outbreaker. It comes in a few sub-models — the 35 and 45-litre versions, the Laptop Backpack and the Daypack. Each is designed for a slightly different kind of traveller and the daypack is packable! This simplicity has allowed Tortuga to excel in making carry on specification travel bags!
- Paying It Forward — A portion of every purchase you make with Tortuga goes towards The Tortuga Study Abroad Scholarship. This grant helps American college students, who would otherwise be unable to afford it, to study abroad. Tortuga also provide a free backpack to the winner of the scholarship. As well as this, they’re supporters of the Travel Access Project which helps students make the most of their gap year by providing them with meaningful experiences and vetted opportunities that are otherwise hard to find!
- Warranty — Tortuga’s Common Decency Guarantee covers all product failures due to defects in the manufacturing process. And they don’t mess about. If you need to talk to them about getting your bag repaired, contacting them is easy. All their customer service team are knowledgeable and have the authority to get your bag repaired without having to refer the problem up the chain. This ensures you get a speedy response to any issues with your Tortuga backpack!
Sustainable Backpack Brand — Tropicfeel
- The Start — As far as backpack brands go, Tropicfeel are newcomers to the game. Starting in 2017, Tropicfeel began with two friends creating ‘the ultimate travel shoe.’ The shoe gained huge momentum on Kickstarter, becoming the most backed shoe the platform had ever seen! In just five years, the Tropicfeel brand grew to include seven pairs of shoes, various clothing items and of course, travel backpacks!
- Sustainability — Tropicfeel are one of the most open and honest companies we’ve ever seen. They publish data about their carbon footprint, water use, manufacturing processes and what they’re doing to reduce their environmental impact. They abide by 5 key principles in everything they do:
- Transparency is the first step to being sustainable
- Don’t cause unnecessary harm
- Reduce your carbon footprint and compensate for everything you cannot reduce
- Durability is the key to sustainability
- Activate the power of collaboration to challenge the status quo
While the final principle is hardly quantifiable, it sounds great and is an idea we can get behind!
- Kickstarter — Tropicfeel are another brand that use Kickstarter as a key part of their business model. Rather than relying on outside investors, Tropicfeel raise capital by crowdfunding. This allows them more creative freedom and provides an excellent way for customers to drive the development of projects. It’s a great way of challenging the status quo too!
- Versatile — Tropicfeel’s backpacks are based on innovative ideas to make travel easier! Their main bags are expandable, almost doubling their capacity when required. As well as this, they include several add ons to make packing and organising your gear a cinch!
- Range Of Products — Tropicfeel don’t just make backpacks. Their travel shoes, all in one jackets and clothing range are top-notch additions to any travellers setup. Plus, they’re all made using the same sustainable techniques as their travel bags!
Anti-Theft Backpack Brand — Pacsafe
- The Start — In 1998, two pals, Rob and Magnus, created Pacsafe to reduce the stresses of travel. The pair have travelled the world together — working on superyachts, trekking in Asia, hitchhiking through Europe and backpacking through South America. After having their belongings stolen, crossing sketchy borders with all their worldly possessions and sleeping on top of their backpacks to ensure they were safe, Rob and Magnus realised getting ripped off didn’t have to be part of the travel experience. Pacsafe was the answer. Comfortable, well-built backpacks that protect your belongings!
- Anti-theft Features — From their inception, Pacsafe have crammed their backpacks with innovative and reliable theft protection devices. Cut resistant straps and eXomesh slashguard linings rely on stainless steel wire to prevent cut and run thefts of your gear. Lockable zips and puncture-proof zippers deter pickpockets while RFID blocking materials keep you safe from electronic crime. Finally, lockdown technology allows you to attach your bag to solid objects, preventing snatch and grab thieves from getting away with your belongings!
- Sustainability Efforts — Pacsafe do their best to ensure their bags have as small an impact on the planet as possible. In 2022, 75% of all Pacsafe bags use recycled fabrics and by 2025 it will be 100%. They rely heavily on ECONYL fabric which is made from discarded fishing nets and plastic bottles. To date, more than 2.5 million plastic bottles have been turned into Pacsafe backpacks!
- Huge Range — From small hip bags and sling packs to big travel packs and even hidden wallets, Pacsafe produce scores of anti-theft bags. If you can’t find a Pacsafe anti-theft bag to suit your needs, I’ll eat my hat… I’m not actually wearing a hat but you get the point.
- Giving Back — As well as ensuring their bags are made sustainably, Pacsafe donate 1% of their website sales to protecting endangered sea turtles. To do so, they partner with small, local charities and NGOs such as Haka, Ecosystem Impact, Olive Ridley Project, SEE Turtles and Te mana o te moana. As well as this, Pacsafe organise and support beach cleans across the planet!
Travel Backpack Brand — Osprey
- Osprey — Osprey have made it onto our list of the best backpack brands three times! Everything about the brand screams value and expertise. Their Almighty Guarantee, technical innovations, incredible build quality and competitive pricing make Osprey the best choice when choosing a premium travel backpack.
- Variety — Back in 1974 when Osprey began producing backpacks, they specialised in durable outdoor bags for hikers and backpackers. But over the years they’ve moved on to produce a vast range of packs and luggage options for every occasion. Today they make rolling backpacks, suitcases with wheels, carry-on bags, duffel bags, daypacks, travel bags, a wide range of 30-litre bags and even hybrid backpacks that excel in multiple use cases.
- Vast Range — Osprey’s collection of travel bags is second to none. Whether you like to travel carry on only, prefer to carry a bit more gear or need massive haulers for around the world trips, Osprey have a luggage option to suit your needs!
- Specific Fit — While Osprey are not the only backpack brand to build bags for different body shapes and sizes, they’re one of the only companies to ensure all their most popular bags are suitable for everyone. Most models come in male and female sub-models and the vast majority are available in multiple torso sizes. To determine the correct torso size for you, Osprey have an app, Osprey Pack Sizer 2.0 (only available on Google Play), for measuring your torso. They also provide full instructions for how to measure your torso manually on their website.
- The Farpoint & Fairview 40 — Osprey’s Farpoint and Fairview 40 are our favourite travel backpacks of all time. The Farpoint is built for men, while the Fairview is the same bag made for women. These 40-litre bags are easy to pack, comfortable to wear, fit within hand luggage limits and offer excellent value for money!
What Are the Best New Backpack Brands?
New backpack brands are arriving on the scene faster than ever. Some are doomed to fail but others are here to stay.
Our favourite new backpack brands are:
What To Look For in a Backpack Brand
When choosing a bag from a backpack brand which is new to you, there are several things to look out for. Just a few minutes of research can help ensure you don’t get ripped off or waste your money on an inferior product!
The best backpack brands will consistently have good reviews. But it’s not always the best reviews you should look for. Read the worst too. See if there are any consistent issues mentioned by their customers. Issues like build quality, durability or constant failures should all be treated as red flags.
It’s also a good sign if manufacturers respond to their bad reviews. This gives you an idea of how they’ll react if you have any issues with their bags!
What Materials Are Used?
Unique or proprietary backpack materials are a good indication that you’re looking at a brand that cares about their product — especially if they’ve invested in the R&D themselves! It shows they’ve put a huge amount of time, thought and money into their backpacks.
The use of recycled materials and transparency with their environmental impact is another good sign. Brands who give you environmental information about their whole supply chain are making a statement that they want to protect the planet we all depend on for our survival!
Special Features for Each Use Case
The best backpack brands ensure your life is made easier by the features in their bags. For example, high-end hiking packs should almost* always have a hip belt to help distribute the weight of your gear. Likewise, good travel bags should include easy access pockets and a laptop sleeve!
Unless the brand you’re looking at specialises in super-simplified rucksacks, they should always tell you what features they include to make your life easier!
*Some ultralight hiking packs forgo hip belts because they don’t tend to get heavy enough to require one!
DO NOT BUY A BACKPACK UNLESS IT HAS A GOOD WARRANTY!
Now I’ve got that off my chest, let’s continue… A company that doesn’t provide a good guarantee doesn’t believe in their product. This is true of everything you buy. Warranties vary but if a company doesn’t offer at least a year’s guarantee, I won’t be buying from them and neither should you.
Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee and Tortuga’s Common Decency Guarantee are excellent examples of high-end warranties that all companies should strive for!
Contrary to popular opinion, the most expensive backpacks aren’t always the best. You only have to look at how well Osprey do in everyone’s lists of the best backpacks to see that! Sure, they’re not the cheapest bags available but they’re by no means the most expensive!
On the other hand, the very cheapest packs are unlikely to be very good. You’ll often find they break quickly and the companies can be impossible to get hold of when things go wrong.
Price alone isn’t an indicator of whether a brand is good or not — but when noted in conjunction with the other factors we’ve mentioned, it can help build a good overall picture of the company!
Final Thoughts on the Best Backpack Brands
Overall, our favourite backpack brand is Osprey. You’d have to go a long way to find a company that provides such a wide range of well built, versatile backpacks. There’s a reason you’ll see an Osprey bag adorning the shoulders of every third traveller you meet in a hostel. Their range of hiking and travel bags are excellent value for money and their guarantees are second to none.
For photographers, we recommend Peak Design and for those of you wanting to travel carry on only, Tortuga have you covered. If you’re searching for a backpack that’s as eco-friendly as possible, we don’t hesitate in recommending Tropicfeel.
Do you know of a backpack brand that should be on our list? Let us know in the comments below!