Best Backpack Reviews in 2018

Best Backpack Reviews

If you’re in a hurry, we think the Osprey Packs Quasar Daypack has a good chance at being exactly what you need, but backpacks are one of those things which are hard to pin down in such a broad way. We’ve pulled five of the best day-to-day packs to show you just what is possible if you spend some time on your selection. So, dig in, read about five of our favorites and then we’ll show you how to find the best bag for your life.

Backpack design has come a long way from the simple sacks that many of us carried during out school years. While those simple, canvas bags are still around you can take a look and find something which is perfectly suited for your needs instead. For those of us who carry a bag every day already, convenience, design, and portability can make a huge difference. Even if you don’t, you might find yourself converted at the end of the day.

Best
overall
pick!

Osprey Packs Quasar Daypack

Best overall: Osprey Packs Quasar Daypack

If you’re looking for the best daypack around, then dig in to the Osprey Quasar. It’s performance, toughness, and organization put it in a league of it’s own.

View On Amazon

Name Capacity Rating
Osprey Packs Quasar Daypack 30L 5/5 Check Price
JanSport Big Student Backpack 34L 4.5/5 Check Price
Ogio Renegade RSS 29.5L 4.5/5 Check Price
Osprey Packs Osprey Stratos 24L 4/5 Check Price
AmazonBasics Backpack 26.6L 3.5/5 Check Price

1. Best Overall Backpack

Osprey Packs Quasar Daypack

Osprey Packs Quasar Daypack

Product Rating
5/5




Osprey makes some of the smartest and best packs in the world, and many a digital nomad proudly sports one of their packs on their back. For most people, we feel the Quasar is the absolute pinnacle of what you need in a backpack.

Boasting a fairly impressive 30L capacity in a tight package, you also have the benefit of compression straps to keep things tightened up when you’re not filed to capacity. Add in a laptop sleeve which can hold a computer up to 15” and you’ve got an immensely useful bag.

It’s also got an impressive layout, leaving you with a ton of organization without being overly specialized. Add in the immense durability of the material it’s been constructed with and it’s clear why we favor this one.

Pros and Cons

  • Big laptop sleeve built in
  • Organized pockets
  • Blinker attachment for lights
  • Enormous capacity with compressions straps to keep things tight
  • Could be a little better organized
  • No water bladder, making it unsuitable for long hikes

2. Best Backpack for Highschool

JanSport Big Student Backpack

JanSport Big Student Backpack

Product Rating
4.5/5




When it comes to school bags, you’re going to want to make sure that you have something with room for books, binders, and papers. On top of that, in modern schools you’re also going to want to make sure that you’ve got a laptop pocket as well.

With a 34L overall capacity, you’re unlikely to be at a loss for room unless you’re planning on carrying the entire library and the multiple pockets allow you to keep things well organized while you’re on the go.

The laptop pocket is particularly nice, allowing you to safely stow up to a 17” computer without any difficulty. The material itself is also water-resistant enough you can have faith it’ll protect your electronics in the rain, although we don’t recommend going for a swim with it.

We recommend the Big Student Backpack from JanSport for anyone who needs a school backpack. It’s simply one of the best we’ve seen for making sure you’ve got everything together and organized.

Pros and Cons

  • 34L capacity
  • Tons of sizable pockets
  • Water-resistant material
  • Laptop sleeve
  • Top-strap has a tendency to come off
  • Zippers are rather small

3. Best Tech Backpack

Ogio Renegade RSS Laptop:Tablet Backpack

Ogio Renegade RSS Laptop/Tablet Backpack

Product Rating
4.5/5




It’s hard to settle on a tech backpack these days, they’re one of the fastest growing segments of the market and it really depends on exactly what you’re going to be carrying. In this case, we had a reviewer who has a lot of devices and travels frequently… and they recommended the Ogio Renegade.

This pack has a pretty impressive 29.5L capacity, but more importantly there’s a ton of different side pockets and it’s specially designed to ensure that all of your devices are well protected. We’re not sure if the nylon should really be called “ballistic grade” but the example we looked at certainly has been through a lot without any visible damage.

It’s also remarkably comfortable to wear. The only real disadvantage is that it’s not going to be called an “ultralight” backpack anytime soon since it weighs in at 3.5lbs empty.

If you’re looking for a tech backpack which will protect all of your devices and leave you with some room for extra stuff, then we can personally recommend the Ogio Rengade. It’s in a class of it’s own when it comes to protection and utility.

Pros and Cons

  • Amazingly tough
  • 29.5L capacity
  • Awesome protection for devices
  • Easily accessed side pockets
  • Expensive
  • A bit heavy

4. Best Hiking Daypack

Osprey Packs Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack

Osprey Packs Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack

Product Rating
4/5



While we didn’t look into truly large capacity backpacks for this guide, instead digging up the best frameless and under 40L bags around, the Stratos 24 stands out as one of the greats if you’re into day hikes.

Contrary to popular opinion, most hikers end up not needing much while they’re on the trail and 24L is just about right for those who want to keep things light on their day hikes. The sturdy hip-belt and stretchy mesh pockets on the side make it ideal for hiking, allowing you to support the weight on your hips and store water bottles of any size respectively.

Add in the durable material and mesh back to allow for aeration and you’ve got a winner for the outdoors athlete. It even has a trekking pole attachment for the serious hiker.

Osprey once again makes our list with the Stratos 24, one of the best ultralight hiking backpacks on the market as long as you don’t mind paying a premium for the excellent construction.

Pros and Cons

  • Mesh back for aeration on the go
  • Expandable mesh side pockets for water bottles
  • Compact construction to keep things tight against your back
  • Hip belt to get the weight off your shoulder
  • Expensive for a smaller pack
  • Not suitable for multi-day hikes

5. Best Budget Backpack

AmazonBasics Backpack for Laptops up to 17-inches

AmazonBasics Backpack

Product Rating
3.5/5



Not everyone is willing to drop a bill or more on a backpack, and if you’re in that category then it’s definitely AmazonBasics to the rescue. This is an awesome day-to-day backpack for a bargain price, which is going to let you haul whatever you need all day.

While the estimate that it can hold a 17” laptop is probably a bit much, it’s got a laptop pocket, easily accessible mesh side pockets, and solid construction. It might not be in the lague of Osprey but under normal usage you’re not likely to run into many problems.

It even has a great little organizer for office items as an added bonus.

If you need a solid daily backpack without a premium price, then this cheap little number is going to be right up your alley.

Pros and Cons

  • Laptop sleeve
  • Mesh water bottle pockets
  • Organizer for daily items and office supplies
  • Super low price
  • No reinforced bottom
  • Thin pocket dividers

Your Day-to-Day Backpack

Figuring out which backpack is the best for you is largely a function of what you’re going to be carrying. If you live a mobile, tech-intensive lifestyle you’ll need something different than a high school student or a hiker.

Thankfully, there are simply a ton of different innovations which have been made in recent years. It might be surprising if you’re used to the old two-pocket Jansports but due to the prevalence of modern devices you might want to take a closer look at what can be accomplished in order to make your day go by a lot easier.

What to Look For in Your Bag

There are a number of things to keep in mind when you’re looking into getting a great bag for your day. These will vary depending on your usage, of course, but keep the following in mind and you’ll end up with a bag that will last for years and enhance your life, rather than just carrying your stuff.

Organization and Pockets

This is the biggest concern for most people. A lot of us are used to old-school bags, which usually only had a pair of pockets, or perhaps a pen organizer for something “high end.”

Modern bags, on the other hand, can have a huge variety of different pockets in order to facilitate what you need to carry.

Built-in laptop sleeves are super useful for most people. They’re probably the best example of modernized pockets, and are often accompanied with a tablet pocket for those who need to carry a lot of tech in their day to day-lives.

Office supply organizers are also extremely handy for many. Being able to organize pens, notebooks, and other supplies is really handy for some people, but not quite as useful for a hiking bag for instance.

Multiple pockets is always a good thing as well. Side pockets are usually easily accessible while you’re carrying your bag and are great for small, everyday objects for instance. On the other hand, too many pockets can lead to problems with the thickness of the bag and make it either unwieldy or hard-functioning.

The pockets and organizers you need are probably going to be the deciding factor for most people, at least when compounded with the price, but the average person is also going to be limited by price.

The rest of this is important when you’re comparing bags directly across, but make sure your bag has the pockets you need before you consider anything else seriously.

Straps

Your Day to Day Backpack

There are two big considerations with straps. The first is the upper straps which all backpacks have.

They can make a huge difference in how comfortable your backpack is to wear. The ideal straps are airy, light, and fairly thick so that the weight is distributed properly over your shoulders and traps rather than being concentrated in one uncomfortable area like your collar bone.

You can, of course, make do with straps that lack those qualities but the backpack in question isn’t going to be quite as easy to wear for long periods of time. They’re especially important for hiking bags, which are worn for a long time, and tech backpacks which often have a considerable amount of weight in them when all is said and done.

For hiking backpacks you may also want to look for a hip belt. These are a strap which wraps around the waist and buckle together in the front. Used properly, they’ll distribute most of the load onto your hips and waist which both keeps the bag in place properly and makes the bag a lot easier to carry overall.

You ideally want the same qualities in your hip belt as the shoulder straps.

Material

The material of your bag is basically going to be the deciding factor in how long you’ll have it around. High-quality nylon, for instance, is going to last a lot longer than a cheaper synthetic weave material.

The material itself is only part of the equation, however, the thickness and weight of the material also plays a big part in how tough things are.

Different needs can make different materials a little bit better overall than they’d seem at first glance. For a school bag, for instance, you’ll want something with a tough reinforced bottom but the exterior might not be super important since it isn’t going to be rubbing against shrubs and bark like a hiking bag might be.

Tech backpacks should be tough and as waterproof as possible, for obvious reasons.

Leather is used in some specialty bags, but is much more of a luxury material than a practical one. While it’s tough, durable, and will last practically forever if you take good care of it, it’s also prohibitively expensive and the bags themselves are often quite simple.

For most people, 1000 weight nylon is more than sufficient. Just remember that the material is going to determine the longevity of the bag.

Capacity

For hiking bags especially, capacity can be more important than the actual number of pockets. If you’re planning on carrying a lot of stuff, then you need the extra room.

Too much capacity can be too much for around town or at school, however, since the bag will also be larger and a bit more unwieldy in tight spaces.

For reference, a big travel backpack might end up being around 30-36L, while a regular school backpack will run around 12L of storage. It’s not too hard to work out what exactly you need from there.

Additional Things to Look For

What to Look For in Your Bag

Of course, backpacks are versatile things overall, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for some of the extra stuff which will be highly situational.

  • Strap pockets are great for hiking. Some are sized for phones, for instance, or you might be able to find something with a MOLLE strap to hold your favorite knife at-the-ready on the front of your bag.
  • Tech backpacks which let you slide things open are awesome for those who are planning on traveling frequently to get through those tiresome TSA checkpoints more quickly.
  • MOLLE straps, in general, are good for people who want to carry a lot of gear. There are tons of compatible accessories which are easily available to go with them if that’s your thing. They do add a somewhat “tactical” look if you’re trying to avoid that however.
  • Easy-carry handles can make it a lot easier to move your bag around when it’s not on your back, keep an eye out for them if you’re planning on carrying some extra weight in the backpack.
  • Frequent travelers may also want to look for backpacks with slots which can support handles for luggage. They’ll make things a lot easier to get around the airport or trainstation.

Of course, most of these features aren’t really make or break, but if they sound attractive they’re definitely around.

Cost

Backpacks are kind of a weird item when it comes to pricing. If all you need is basically a sack to hold some stuff, then there are plenty of inexpensive models available which are made of tough materials.

In the middle range, they’ll tend to run from $80-$120 or so, and this is where most people find themselves looking for more specialized backpacks. These tend to be a good deal more comfortable and easier to use overall than their less expensive cousins.

At the high end of things, backpacks can run into multiple hundreds of dollars with relatively minimal improvements for most people. In the end it really depends on what you’re willing to spend and how much you need the high-end features offered by some packs.

Conclusion

Finding the best backpack for your own needs is a highly personalized choice, but we think that at least one of our favorite five will be great for you. Just take a closer look and figure out what you need, you’ll be impressed with how much of a difference a great backpack can make in your life in a short amount of time. Snatch one up and find out for yourself.

References

  1. https://www.rei.com/
  2. https://www.jansport.com/
  3. https://www.tsa.gov/