While governments fail to act on the climate emergency and large corporations use greenwashing as a marketing tactic, it once again falls to concerned consumers to make the right choices.
Buying a sustainable backpack is one small way we can play our part.
From travellers to hikers, parents to students, almost everyone needs a backpack. If it’s time to replace yours, opt for an ethical option!
The links to online stores (like Amazon) on this page are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate South East Asia Backpacker earns from qualifying purchases. We always write our reviews before checking whether affiliate links are available.
Best Sustainable Backpacks: Quick Answers
Best Sustainable Travel Bag
|Check Price On Tropicfeel
Best Sustainable Duffel Bag
|Check Price On Terra ThreadCheck Price On Amazon
Best Hemp Backpack
|Check Price On Bagmaya
Best Sustainable Daypack
|Check Price On BearMade
Best Sustainable Hiking Pack
|Check Price On OspreyCheck Price On REI
Best Sustainable Anti-Theft Backpack
|Check Price On Pacsafe
Best Sustainable Packable Backpack
|Check Price On Amazon
Why Choose a Sustainable Backpack?
The collective negative impact humanity is having on the planet is astounding. And, most of that impact comes from the developed world. If we’re lucky enough to be able to travel, we need to do what we can to limit the damage we’re causing. Making sustainable choices about the products we use is just one small step towards reducing our overall carbon footprint. But every step is an important one.
Beware of greenwashing! There are plenty of companies out there who claim to do all the right things but scratch the surface and you’ll quickly realise they’re just as destructive as everyone else.
The manufacturers on this list of eco-friendly backpacks all invest a great deal of time and money into not only creating truly ethical bags but also into social initiatives that help those in need.
Related: (links open in new tab)
Sustainable Backpacks – Our Top Picks
- Accessories are overpriced and overrated
- The Bag — Tropicfeel’s Shell Backpack is expandable. By utilising various straps, hidden pockets and attachments, the bag can grow from 22 litres to 40 litres! It’s easy to pack thanks to the clamshell style opening and top loading capabilities. There’s a hidden pocket for your valuables as well as a padded laptop sleeve to keep your electronics safe!
- Comfort & Protection — The Tropicfeel Shell features stiff but comfortable shoulder straps, a minimalist hip belt and padded back panel. The outer material of the bag is hardwearing, weather and abrasion resistant. No matter what your trip throws at you, the Shell Backpack will cope.
What Makes The Tropicfeel Shell Sustainable?
- Ethical Suppliers — All materials used in the construction of these bags come from ethical suppliers. They all meet the Bluesign Criteria, meaning they’re manufactured with the least possible impact on people and the environment. This also ensures harmful chemicals are avoided. Tropicfeel’s ‘Code Of Suppliers’ ensures staff along the entire supply chain are well looked after and compensated for their work. And it makes sure no animals are harmed and local laws are followed.
- Recycled Materials — Where possible, Tropicfeel use recycled materials in all their products. Currently, the Shell Backpack is made from 100% recycled nylon and 60% recycled polyester.
- Transparency & Certifications — Tropicfeel work with BCome to measure and reduce their overall environmental impact. They’re Climate Neutral Certified. To achieve this, Tropicfeel invest in carbon sequestration projects, offset their carbon emissions and actively work to reduce their overall footprint. They also provide transparency about their entire supply chain, powered by Retraced.
Terra Thread Bumi Eco Duffel Bag
- Loads of space
- Functional duffel bag
- Limited organisation
- Only ship within the USA
- The Bag — Terra Thread’s Bumi Duffel Bag is exactly what you’d expect from a minimalist, ethical duffel bag. It’s 56 litres, offering plenty of room for all your gear. It features grab handles and an adjustable long strap. There’s not much in the way of organisation, just a large compartment with a single floating pocket for small items. There’s also an external pocket for stuff you need in a hurry.
What Makes the Terra Thread Bump Eco Duffel Bag Sustainable?
- Materials — The Bumi Eco Duffel Bag is made from heavy-duty, rain-fed organic cotton canvas. The cotton is GOTS certified and the bags are made in a Fair Trade Certified Factory in India. These certifications ensure all workers are given good working conditions, fair pay and don’t have to handle harmful chemicals. On top of these certifications, Terra Thread are B CORP certified too!
- Ethics — Terra Thread donate 20 meals, via Feeding America, for every Bumi Eco Duffel Bag sold. They’re certified carbon neutral and offer information about the carbon offset projects they partner with on their website.
- Sustainability — Terra Thread only sell and ship bags within the USA. This is to limit their carbon footprint. If we all bought local, it would make a huge difference to our emissions!
If you like holdalls, check out ? The Best Duffel Bags for Travel! ?
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Simplicity
- Feature To Improve: Limited organisational options
Stubble and Co Adventure Bag
- Easy to organise
- Internal pockets reduce how much you can pack
- The Bag — Stubble & Co’s Adventure Bag is lightweight and comfortable to carry. It features a frameless design which keeps the weight down and makes it easy to store when not in use. Even without a frame, the bag carries heavy loads comfortably. The outer material is heavily water-resistant, keeping your gear dry even if you get caught out in a storm.
- Organisation — At 42 litres, the Adventure Bag just slips into hand luggage specifications for most international airlines. It has three main pockets, all separated by mesh partitions. The largest of these features three additional organisational spaces for your shoes, computer and water bottle. While useful, these spaces limit space inside the main compartment.
What Makes the Stubble & Co Adventure Bag Sustainable?
- Recycled Materials — The Adventure Bag uses recycled plastic from post-consumer sources — aka, plastic that has already been used by customers in things like fishing lines or plastic bottles. Only the YKK zips, tarpaulin base and air mesh backing aren’t made from recycled materials. Stubble & Co offer an in-house repair service for their bags. And, they don’t normally charge for repairs! They also send out all products in 100% recyclable packaging!
- Carbon Emissions — Stubble & Co operate from a zero carbon warehouse. It’s powered by solar, uses VRF cooling and features solar gain protection. The roof is covered in carbon absorbing sedum plants which pull CO2 out of the atmosphere over their lifespan. As well as this, Stubble & Co offset their emissions although how they do this is not completely clear on their website
- Ethics — Stubble & Co only work with suppliers who have passed BSCI audits to confirm their workers are treated ethically and legally.
Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Del Dia
- Rain cover included
- Amazing colour options
- Anti-theft zips are more irritating than effective
- No external water bottle pocket
- The Bag — The 35-litre Cotopaxi Allpa Del Dia is a statement bag. Available in an amazing array of colourways, the backpack features a suitcase-style opening and separate compartments that make organising your gear simple. There’s also a padded laptop and tablet sleeve that sits against your back when you wear the bag.
- Additional Features — The Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Del Dia comes with a rain cover as standard. The padded straps can be stowed in case you need to check the bag but it’s well within hand luggage specifications for most airlines. Anti-theft zipper tabs reduce the chance of opportunistic thieves getting into your backpack but these can be quite fiddly if you want to get into your bag in a hurry.
What Makes the Cotopaxi Allpa Backpack Sustainable?
- Del Dia — All bags in the Del Dia range are made with (RE)PURPOSE nylon — fabric left over from large production runs by other manufacturers. This means there are no virgin materials used and every Del Dia bag comes in a unique colour option. You can choose between the available options or buy a surprise bag and see what turns up!
- Ethics — As a member of Pledge 1%, Cotopaxi donate 1% of their revenue (via the Cotopaxi Foundation) to humanitarian projects across the Americas. They work with JPAL to determine which causes will benefit most from their donations. By using scientific evidence and randomised impact evaluations, JPAL are able to get the best bang for every donated buck!
- Transparency — Cotopaxi are certified carbon neutral and B CORP certified. They only work with suppliers who treat their staff well and abide by strict environmental practices. All companies within Cotopaxi’s supply chain must be regularly audited to ensure these standards are met. On the Cotopaxi website, it’s easy to find out which factory the products are made in and where the factory is based.
- Price Range: $$$$
- Best Feature: Amazing colour options
- Feature To Improve: No exterior pockets
Bagmaya Dakhla Backpack
- Made of hemp
- Very aesthetically pleasing
- Shoulder straps loosen throughout the day
- The magnetic buckles aren't the most secure
- The Bag — At 25 litres, Bagmaya’s Dakhla Backpack is a great choice for everyday use. The bag is handmade using sustainable hemp fabrics. It’s tall, slim and an all-around retro-looking pack. There are several small pockets for organising your stuff, as well as a laptop sleeve and large main compartment. The bag also features a waterproof lining, so your belongings remain safe no matter the weather.
What Makes the Bagmaya Dakhla Backpack Sustainable?
- Sustainability — Bagmaya’s vegan backpacks are made from 100% natural hemp. Cultivating hemp requires half the amount of land as cotton and uses a lot less water. For 1kg of cotton, almost 20,000 litres of water is required. For hemp, it’s 500 litres for 1kg (although only 30% of this is usable for fibres which means it’s more like 1500-1800 litres of water for 1kg of usable hemp).
- Ethics — Bagmaya donate 10% of their profits to Yuwa, a Nepalese charity working with young people in Nepal. They deliver information to young adults about sexual health, reproduction and menstruation. They also help encourage young people to take an active role in the future of the world and offer courses across a range of subjects. As well as this, Bagmaya fully support the UN Global Goals.
- Eco-Friendly — All Bagmaya products are delivered in plastic free, 100% recyclable packaging. They also have a blog section on their website which provides advice and information about sustainable travel, fashion and lifestyle.
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Handmade using sustainable hemp
- Feature To Improve: Magnetic buckles aren't the most secure
Salkan The Mainpack
- Easy to organise
- Internal pockets reduce how much you can pack
- The Bag — Made from a wax-coated 900D recycled polyester material called Cotna, Salkan’s Mainpack is weatherproof, ultra-tough and looks super cool — it’s the perfect blend of retro vibes and modern technology. Comfortable and supportive thanks to chunky straps and the rigid internal frame, this 45-litre backpack can carry heavy loads with ease.
- Organisation — The Mainpack features a large compartment with a few internal pockets to help keep small items organised. There are also a few external pockets, including two giant water bottle pockets, which give ample space for items you need quick access to.
What Makes the Mainpack Sustainable?
- Recycled Materials — Rather than using virgin polyester, Salkan’s Cotna fabric is made from recycled plastic. This durable material has been built to last and if well cared for it could last a lifetime!
- Repairs and Guarantee — If your Salkan bag does fail, it’s likely covered by the lifetime guarantee, which means you can arrange a repair or replacement with ease. Salkan offer a no-questions-asked 100-day free trial with their bags. This gives you the chance to try the bag out to see if it’s for you. Some of the most sustainable bags are the ones you love and never need to replace!
- Charitable Projects — Salkan are members of 1% for the planet, so donate 1% of their revenue to eco-projects around the world. They also donate to All Hands and Hearts disaster relief.
BearMade Gouthwaite Backpack
- Timeless look
- Built to last
- Too small for a main pack
- Expensive for a daypack
- The Bag — The Gouthwaite Backpack by BearMade comes in a few sizes. Our favourite is the largest version, the expandable 18-23-litre backpack. This simple, understated pack is made from dry wax cotton canvas with an internal cotton lining. It features a couple of small pockets and a laptop sleeve but the bulk of the bag is the main pocket. It’s comfy, relatively lightweight and is the perfect size to use as a daypack or everyday bag.
What Makes the BearMade Gouthwaite Backpack Sustainable?
- Materials — BearMade only use GOTS-certified organic dry wax cotton which uses 88% less water and 62% less energy than conventional cotton. All buckles and closures on the Gouthwaite backpack are metal for increased durability and recyclability. The bag’s padding is made from recycled wool products. All materials are either locally sourced or shipped by road and sea rather than by air. This reduces BearMade’s carbon footprint.
- Durability — The Gouthwaite Backpack is built to last a lifetime. BearMade offer a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects and reasonably priced repairs for any other issues. If you manage to wear your bag out, they have a recycling program which gives you 10% of the bag’s original value off your next BearMade product.
- Transparency — BearMade include nice graphs at the bottom of their product pages. These show exactly how much a bag costs to make, the profit margin and where within the business the profit is spent.
- The Wildish Club — When you buy a BearMade product, you’re helping someone get outdoors by funding The Wildish Club. It’s “like cubs, but for everyone!”
- Price Range: $$$$$
- Best Feature: Amazing looks and durability
- Feature To Improve: Limited stock – sometimes there's a waiting list
Osprey Archeon 30
- Looks amazing
- Perfect blend of retro styling and new technology
- Hip belt is a little thin
- The Bag — Osprey’s Archeon 30 pairs rugged old-school looks with innovative modern technology. It features stretchy bottle pockets, a water bladder sleeve and external attachment loops. It’s top loading but also includes a chunky zip running down the front which allows you to open the bag butterfly style. The bag is available in a range of sizes from 24-70-litres and comes in men’s, women’s and some unisex models.
- Comfort — As with most Osprey backpacks, the Archeon 30 is super comfy to wear. The fully adjustable Airscape back system, padded straps and hip belt allow you to haul heavy loads without overloading your shoulders.
What Makes the Osprey Archeon Backpack Sustainable?
- White label — The Archeon backpack is part of Osprey’s White Label range. Denoted by the Osprey logo on a square white background, these packs are all made from 100% recycled fabrics, are vegan friendly and completely free of PFCs. The Archeon even utilises metal buckles which are longer lasting than plastic but can be recycled at the end of their life. The nylon canvas used in these packs is recycled from post-consumer and post-industrial sources.
- Reducing Damage — The DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating in Osprey packs is 100% PFC-free. This prevents chemicals running off your pack and into the environment every time it rains. As well as this, Osprey offer Second Life packs. These are generally ex-samples, damaged returns or just pre-loved packs that have been painstakingly repaired and sold at a big discount. This heavily reduces the amount of Osprey waste being sent to landfill. All Second Life packs are covered by Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee.
- Ethics — Osprey are on a mission to become the world’s most ethical and sustainable hard goods company. As well as using sustainable materials and manufacturing methods, they partner with the EOCA, Nimsdai Foundation and Mountain Wilderness Project, as well as many other projects across the world. Finally, they have a strict code of conduct for their factories and suppliers which align with Ethical Trading Initiative Standards. Osprey Partner with Worldwide Ethics Alliance who perform factory audits and ensure all standards of wellbeing for staff are met.
- Price Range: $$$$
- Best Feature: The All Mighty Guarantee
- Feature To Improve: It's a heavy backpack
Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 (Econyl)
- Anti-theft features
- Suitcase style opening
- Too big for hand luggage on some airlines
- The Bag — At 45 litres, the Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45 offers plenty of room for all your travel gear. It opens like a suitcase, meaning it’s easy to pack and organise. The bulk of the bag is one main compartment, so you may want to use packing cubes. Internal compression straps help keep your gear in place and external straps help make the bag more streamlined. The Econyl fabric used to make the bag is water-resistant to protect your gear from the elements.
- Anti-theft Technology — As well as keeping your stuff safe from rain, Pacsafe’s Venturesafe EXP45 protects you from thieves. This anti-theft bag features the Roobar Deluxe locking system which allows you to lock the puncture-resistant zips shut. The bag is lined with eXomesh slashguard to prevent slash and run thefts and there’s a locking cable, so you can secure the bag to a chair or table while eating or enjoying a coffee!
What Makes the Venturesafe Backpack Sustainable?
- Materials — The Venturesafe EXP45 is made from Econyl. This regenerated nylon is made up of recycled fishing nets and other discarded plastic found in the ocean. It’s Bluesign certified to ensure the chemicals used in the processing aren’t toxic or harmful to either the environment or the people working in the factories. The entire Pacsafe supply chain follows the traceability standards set out by the GRS.
- Packaging — Almost all Pacsafe packaging is recyclable. They’re experimenting with Invisible Bags to replace the last vestiges of plastic in their shipping process. These look and behave like plastic but are fully dissolvable in water!
- Ethics — Pacsafe have very clear environmental and social policies laid out along with a manufacturing code of conduct on their website. These policies extend to their entire supply chain. As well as looking after their staff and reducing their environmental impact, Pacsafe donate 1% of website sales, via the Pacsafe Turtle Fund, to grassroots turtle preservation programs and arrange beach cleans across the world.
- Price Range: $$$$$
- Best Feature: Anti-theft technology throughout the bag
- Feature To Improve: Security features make the bag very heavy
Dare To Roam Packable Backpack
- No structure
- Expensive for a collapsible backpack
- The Bag — Dare To Roam’s 17-litre Packable Daypack is an excellent addition to any environmentally conscious traveller’s arsenal. It’s a standard collapsible daypack with a large main compartment, quick access external pocket and mesh bottle pockets. A small internal pocket is also used to pack the bag when not in use. It features an anti-microbial, water-resistant treatment on the exterior.
What Makes the Dare To Roam Packable Backpack Sustainable?
- Materials — The Packable Backpack is made from 100% recycled nylon. The anti-microbial treatment means you don’t have to wash the bag very often, saving on water and energy. All packaging used by Dare To Roam is recycled and either recyclable or biodegradable.
- Ethics — Dare To Roam are focused on fair trade, fair wage and a fair supply chain. They’re B Corp certified.
- Charitable Donations — Dare To Roam support children in the Seattle area through the Why Not You Foundation. 3% of all sales go towards mentoring kids through their early years to help them achieve their dreams.
- Price Range: $$
- Best Feature: Collapsible
- Feature To Improve: Expensive for a packable backpack
What Makes A Backpack Sustainable?
When choosing an eco-friendly backpack, you need to consider more than just the materials used. To be truly ethical, a backpack manufacturer needs to pay a fair wage, not overwork their staff, ensure there is no discrimination in their hiring practices as well as in the workplace and have an overall net positive effect on their workers’ lives.
At the same time, an ethical backpack producer should ensure that workers along their entire supply chain, including the companies they work with or buy materials from, are well paid and well treated.
From nylon to leather, cotton to polyester, backpacks are made from a wide range of materials. While there’s no single ‘most sustainable’ material, some are significantly worse than others.
Virgin plastics like nylon and polyester should be avoided if you’re looking for a truly sustainable pack. However, bags made from recycled plastics are a great way to remove these materials from the environment. A lot of companies making eco-friendly backpacks use plastic removed from the ocean to produce their bags!
Often, recycled synthetic materials like nylon are more sustainable than natural fibres like cotton because they can be woven into stronger, more weatherproof fabrics. This extra durability means the bags last longer and don’t need to be replaced as often!
While real leather is considered sustainable by some, it’s rarely considered ethical. There’s no denying leather is a better eco-friendly material than virgin plastic but with the prevalence of waste plastic in the environment, it makes more sense to recycle than kill a living creature to make a backpack.
If you’re keen on the look and feel of leather, vegan leather is often touted as an ethical option. However, you need to be very careful with this. A lot of vegan leather is just plastic that’s heavily treated to behave like leather — the chemicals used in its creation are often highly toxic! Some vegan leathers, like those made from fruit skins, can be very sustainable but you should always carefully research them before buying!
Speaking of chemicals…
When choosing a backpack, look out for waterproof or DWR (durable water-repellent) coatings. These are wonderful treatments that help protect your gear from bad weather but they sometimes contain PCFs (Poly-Fluorinated Compounds) or BPA (Bisphenol A). These compounds have been proven to have negative effects on the environment and human health. Avoid them where possible!
When choosing an eco-friendly backpack, the green credentials of the manufacturer are super important. There’s no point choosing a nice hemp backpack that’s made by a company that pumps nasty chemicals into the environment.
While there is a ton of greenwashing that goes on among gear manufacturers, there are a few things to look out for when checking a company’s green practices:
- Recycled Materials
If you’re buying a sustainable backpack made from synthetics, the materials have to be recycled. Otherwise, there’s nothing sustainable about the bag.
- Repair vs Replace
Look for companies that offer repair services rather than just replacing damaged or faulty gear. This is especially true for warranty claims. The most eco-friendly backpack brands should also offer a standard repair service for any of their products. Sure, they’ll probably charge if your bag is out of warranty but a repair job is cheaper than buying a new bag — and much better for the planet as it saves repairable gear ending up in landfill!
Some companies will also offer a trade-in service. If your bag is at the end of its life, you can trade it in for a discount on your next purchase!
- Renewable Energy
If you’re keen to find the most sustainable backpacks possible, look out for manufacturers who rely on renewable energy throughout their supply chain — especially in their own warehouses and factories!
- Carbon Net Zero
Seek out companies who are aiming towards or currently meeting carbon net zero goals.
Carbon offsetting is often touted as the ultimate greenwashing tactic but when used in conjunction with other strategies, it can be an effective way for manufacturers to help limit their overall environmental impact. However, to be truly net zero, companies must purchase greenhouse gas removals that directly result in carbon sequestration from the atmosphere! Carbon offsets are not enough.
- Charitable Causes
Ethical backpack companies should donate a percentage of their takings to charitable causes every year. These charities might be close to home — in the same country, region or even city as the company — or further afield. From pulling plastic out of the ocean or cleaning up beaches in Micronesia to supporting deprived kids in a local neighbourhood or helping developing nations access clean water, the different charitable causes are endless.
Information about a company’s ethics should be easy to find. If a business is proud of their ethics and eco-friendly practices, they’ll usually tell you! However, sometimes organisations will just do what they believe is right without shouting about it. If you can’t find information about sustainability from the backpack company you’re looking at, just ask. Send them a quick email and ask them to outline what they’re doing. If they don’t reply, or give some response that doesn’t answer your question, take your business elsewhere!
Fashion Revolution produce the Fashion Transparency Index which lists 250 of the biggest fashion brands and retailers in the world. It ranks them on how open they are about their social and environmental efforts. While there are very few (if any) backpack manufacturers on their list, it’s worth checking out regardless. It will give you a good idea of companies to avoid in the future!
What to Look for In a Sustainable Backpack
Aside from the previously mentioned sustainability practices, you’ll also want to make sure your eco-friendly backpack works well in its primary purpose: as a backpack. It’s all good and well having a backpack that doesn’t cost the earth but it’s a waste of time if the bag is crap!
Ensure the bag you’re looking at is the right size for your needs. For travellers, 40 litres is around the sweet spot. This will allow you to take the bag as hand luggage on most airlines while still being big enough to use for months of backpacking!
? Check out our backpack size guide!
Sustainable products cost more than their sweatshop-made counterparts. There’s very little you can do about this. If we want people to be fairly paid for their work, we need to be willing to pay a little more for the products we buy. If we can afford to travel, we can afford to ensure people are fairly compensated for what they do.
That said, an ethical backpack doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg! Shop around a little to find the best value for money bags!
Ensure the bag you’re looking at is made from good quality, durable materials. If not, it will fall apart and need replacing. Constantly replacing bags made of crappy materials isn’t sustainable.
Your backpack should always be comfortable. If not, you won’t want to use it and then it’s just a waste of time and money.
- Weather Resistance
If possible, find a bag that’s got a good level of weather resistance. This will ensure the rest of your gear remains safe and dry if you get caught out in bad weather. Just make sure the water-resistant coatings or materials are eco-friendly!
Final Thoughts on Sustainable Backpacks
When it comes to choosing the best sustainable backpack for you, there are several things to consider. Size, price, durability and weather resistance all come into it. But you should also make sure the company you’re choosing to buy from is truly ethical and not greenwashing.
The backpacks on this list are all ethical but the most sustainable backpack you can ever use is the one you already own. If you’ve got a working backpack, the best choice is to keep using it until it finally wears out and needs replacing!