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19 Types of Backpacks and When To Use Them

By Molly Weinfurter


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Backpacks are the most versatile bags because there are tons of different types of backpacks for every occasion. Whether you need a bag for your daily life, travels, or exercise routines, there’s a backpack to fit your needs. After all, backpacks are one of the easiest bag types to carry.

So, let’s look at some of the many backpack kinds to determine which ones might benefit you.

Types of Backpacks

Below are 19 of the most popular backpack styles. This article will cover what each type of backpack is for.

1. Standard School Backpack

Standard School Backpack

When most people picture a backpack, they think of the standard style that students use from grade school through college. They’re spacious and versatile, so they can hold whatever books, binders, and folders you need for your classes. Most backpacks also have smaller pockets and pouches for items like water bottles, phones, and keys.

Of course, these backpacks can be used outside of school too. If you’re spending the night at a friend’s house, a standard school backpack might be the perfect size to hold everything you use on a daily basis. This backpack style is often affordable and easy to find.

2. Laptop Backpack

Laptop Backpack

Laptop backpacks look visually similar to traditional school backpacks, but the main difference is that they have a sleeve to slide a laptop in. This makes them ideal for most high schools, colleges, and offices. Since they’re designed to hold laptops, they’re usually sturdier with a more professional appearance.

These backpacks often have more compartments than traditional school bags because you’ll need places to store other electronics, such as headphones and chargers. When selecting the perfect laptop bag, make sure you read the measurements closely to ensure that it’s the right size for holding your laptop.

3. Rucksack


Rucksacks are another traditional backpack type, but they have a more stylish appearance. While most school backpacks and laptop bags zip closed, Rucksacks use flaps to cover the main compartment and pockets. Those flaps give your items more breathing room and often allow you to fit more items into the bag. Some of these models are casual while others are designed for intense activities like hiking, so you’ll need to browse your options to see which one is your ideal type.

4. Sling Backpack

Sling Backpack

Regular backpacks can be bulky, so if you don’t need to carry many items, you should consider a sling backpack. Sling backpacks only have one strap that goes across the body, and their pocket is only big enough for the essentials. They can only hold smaller items, like your phone, keys, and wallet. If you don’t have a purse or large pockets, this backpack can be a good alternative. It’s lightweight, affordable, and compact, so many people use it on short hikes.

5. Mini Backpack

Mini Backpack

This backpack style is the perfect purse alternative. These little bags are essentially purses in the style of backpacks to make them easier to carry. They can hold anything small that you might need on a regular basis, such as a phone, wallet, keys, sunglasses, or hand sanitizer. They’re usually more stylish than traditional backpacks, but don’t expect to use one of these to carry all your school and work supplies. 

6. Anti-Theft Backpack

Anti-Theft Backpack

Of all the different types of backpacks, anti-theft backpacks are the safest. They look and act like traditional school or laptop bags, but they come with several features that make the items inside less likely to get stolen. They may have hidden zippers, zipper locks, compression straps, and cut-proof fabric. So, if someone is looking to steal a backpack, they may determine that an anti-theft one is too much trouble.

7. Rolling Backpack

Rolling Backpack

Rolling or wheeled backpacks are perfect for travel. If you’re walking at an airport, train station, or just down the street, this backpack can roll behind you, making it easier travel with. When you need to walk up stairs or on rugged surfaces, you can pick the bag up and put it on your back like a normal backpack. So, it’s a versatile option.

These bags are more spacious than similar models, but they’re heavier than traditional backpacks because they have the handle and wheel added to them. However, they’re still lighter than most suitcase sizes. If you plan to bring a wheeled backpack on a plane, make sure it meets the carry-on requirements.

8. Drawstring Backpack

Drawstring Backpack

Drawstring backpacks are a simple design that includes one pouch area with a drawstring closure. These bags are lightweight and convenient, so they’re perfect for holding a few items when you’re on to go or for bringing a change of clothes to the gym. They’re usually much more affordable than a traditional backpack.

The only downside is that they don’t have any pockets or pouches to divide up items. They’re also not durable enough to keep fragile items safe.

9. Duffel Backpack

Duffel backpacks are versatile because they can be carried in several ways. They can go on your back like a traditional backpack, you can sling them over your shoulder, or you can carry them like a normal duffel bag. These bags are larger than most backpacks, so they’re great if you’re packing to stay over more than one night somewhere.

10. Tote Backpack

A tote bag is a large bag with one opening that’s usually carried over the shoulder by two straps. So, a tote backpack is a tote bag that also has straps so you can carry it on your back if needed. These bags are perfect for reusable shopping bags or beach bags. Overall, they’re very versatile and can be used for almost any occasion. However, they’re not recommended for holding items that are valuable since the fabric is usually thin.

11. Biking Gear Backpack

Biking Gear Backpack

As the name implies, these backpacks are designed to carry everything you need when going for a bike ride. They’re usually spacious, lightweight, and waterproof so they won’t weigh you down on your cycling journey. They usually have several small compartments to hold essentials like keys and phones. Most biking gear backpacks also have a spot to store water to keep you hydrated.

12. Hydration Backpack

Hydration Backpack

Hydration backpacks are any bags designed to carry water, so they’re ideal for running, cycling, or climbing. They can either be shaped like a vest or a small pouch that goes on your back. What both types have in common is that they have a tube that connects to the water stored inside. That way, you can drink the water without needing to stop your activity or unscrew a bottle cap.

These backpacks mainly hold water, but they may also have small pockets to hold other essentials like keys and a phone. They’re generally used for intense exercise sessions. 

13. Running Backpack

Running Backpack

Running backpacks are similar to hydration backpacks because they’re usually a thin vest instead of a a bulky bag. The vest has pockets to hold water bottles and other essential items like keys and a phone. These bags are very lightweight and more comfortable than carrying a traditional backpack. They can hold a wider variety of items than a hydration backpack can.

14. Messenger Backpack

Messenger backpacks often look more professional and stylish than a standard backpack. They look like a messenger bag, but they have straps that allow you to carry the bag on your back. In addition to the backpack straps, they usually have a shoulder strap and a carrying handle as well, so they’re versatile.

These bags don’t have as much room as a school backpack, but they’re usually big enough to fit a few essentials, like a laptop and binder. They often have pockets so you can organize smaller items inside.

15. Hiking Backpack

Hiking Backpack

These types of backpacks are perfect for hiking or backpacking. They’re usually narrow and lightweight with comfortable straps to make them easy to carry for long periods. They’re perfect for storing everything you need for survival, whether you’re going on a short hike or a remote camping trip. However, you should choose the size of your hiking backpack based on how long you’ll be among nature.

Hiking backpacks differ from traditional backpacks because they have straps that go around your chest and/or waist to keep them more secure on your body. All the pockets and compartments on them are secure so nothing falls out while you’re on the go. Also, they’re waterproof to withstand moist weather conditions.

16. Snow Sport Backpack

Snow Sport Backpack

A snow sport backpack is a hiking backpack that works well for snow activities like skiing and snowboarding. They’re slim and tall without weighing too much. They’re also waterproof to prevent the items inside from getting damaged by snow.

These types of backpacks are perfect for storing an extra change of clothes in. General hiking backpacks don’t have a lot of unique accessories, but ones made for snow sports may have specific attachments for snow gear like helmets. 

17. Hunting Backpack

Hunting Backpack

Hunting backpacks are designed specifically for hunting in mind, but they can be used for a wide variety of other activities too, such as camping or hiking. Thus, their features resemble those of hiking backpacks. They’re durable bags that are usually made with camouflage fabrics to make them harder to spot in the woods.

They’re spacious on the inside to allow lots of room for essential items and hunting supplies. The straps are extra padded since you’ll likely be wearing them for long periods.

18. Military Tactical Backpack

Military Tactical Backpack

These are a versatile and durable backpack type that can be used for most outdoor activities. They’re especially great for traveling, camping, hiking, and hunting. They’re more durable than most types of bookbags, and they have a more rugged style. 

Military backpacks are spacious with more secure closures than similar bags. They’re also waterproof in most cases. The only downside is that they’re usually heavier than most outdoor backpacks, so they’re often used for shorter journeys.

19. TSA-Friendly Backpack

TSA-Friendly Backpack

TSA-friendly backpacks or carry-on backpacks are great alternatives for people who don’t like using suitcases when traveling. Any backpack that fits TSA’s in cabin size requirements can fall into this category. TSA-friendly backpacks are usually a large bookbag style with secure closure and lots of compartments. 

Most airlines require that a carry-on bag is 22 x 14 x 9 inches or smaller. Yet, if you want the bag to fit under the seat in front of you, then 18 x 14 x 8 inches or less is ideal. If you’re unsure if your backpack is TSA-friendly, you should measure it before arriving at the airport.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some commonly asked questions about kinds of backpacks.

Can You Bring All Styles of Backpack on a Plane?

Yes, you can bring any backpack style on a plane as long as it fits the airline’s size requirements. If it’s a small backpack, you may be able to bring it as a personal item or a carry-on in the cabin. However, if it’s too larger to bring through security, you can use it as a checked bag.

What are the Best Backpack Brands?

There are endless options for backpack brands, but here are a few of the most popular ones: Patagonia, Fjallraven, Osprey, North Face, and Herschel.

What are Mini Backpacks Used For?

Mini backpacks are trendy, but they don’t have nearly as much space as other backpack types. So, most people use mini backpacks as an alternative for purses.

What Types of Backpacks Do You Need?

When most people think of backpacks, they imagine them for school. However, there are many types of backpacks on the market, so there’s some that can be used for every occasion.

If you’re looking for a backpack for a specific activity, take a look at all the different backpack styles on this list to decide which one best fits your needs. Then, choose a product of that type that’s the right size with the ideal features.

About Molly Weinfurter

Molly Weinfurter is a freelance writer and editor that specializes in family, travel, and animal-related topics.

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