Packable backpacks are ideal companions when you want to travel and explore without limitation. They’re light and compact enough to fit inside any hardside luggage and carry-on bag. Aside from our top picks for the best packable backpacks, we’ll also share important factors to consider to help you zero in on exactly what you need.
Best Packable Backpacks
Mystery Ranch In and Out 22L
Like its predecessor, the In and Out 19, the Mystery Ranch In and Out 22L only weighs 0.9 pounds (around 14.4 ounces). But this newer version has a larger storage capacity.
At 22 liters volume, it’s big enough to carry everything you need for a 7-mile hike, like your base layers, food, small first aid kit, rain gear, trekking poles, water, and other hiking essentials. If you decide to use it as a carry-on bag for your air travel, you could probably fit into this backpack your laptop.
The Mystery Ranch In and Out 22L also has many organizational pockets:
- There are two zippered pockets on the front, one of which is a breathable mesh pocket that provides enough space for your lightweight rain jacket. This is the same pocket wherein the backpack will stuff into itself.
- The other pocket, which is around 5.5 inches deep, is big enough to hold your small items, such as your camera, keys, knife, pens, and a large smartphone.
- On the side, there’s a stretchable side pocket with an elastic top edge for your small water bottle (less than 1 liter).
- Inside, there’s a sleeve pocket for a 2-liter hydration bladder and side port on the left side.
- On the front, there are nylon daisy chain straps that serve as attachment points for your mountaineering and camping gear. They also allow you to hang your things to dry.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack
If you’re looking for a packable backpack that’s going to last for years, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack should be part of your to-consider list. It’s made from 50D Dyneema/Polyester hybrid (DCH50), which manufacturers claim to be fifteen times stronger than steel.
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack features a minimalist design. Aside from the chest strap with whistle, it has four daisy chains (external) and shock cord lacing for attaching additional gear or the HMG Porter Stuff Pocket. It doesn’t have compartments or pockets.
Weighing at less than a pound, it’s a great choice for ultralight backpacking, day biking, daily commuting, peak bagging, and even climbing waterfalls. When you’re not using it, it folds down easily to the size of a Nalgene water bottle.
It offers a generous 30-liter storage volume, which strikes a good balance between capacity and mobility. It might seem almost too big or heavy, but with the right packing strategy, the roll-top closure can help compress your load to make it more compact.
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
At first look, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack might seem flimsy because of being lightweight. But you’d be surprised by the portability, sturdiness, and storage capacity of this ultralight packable backpack.
The 18-liter Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack is made of high-strength 40 denier ripstop nylon fabric. It’s more than capable of carrying items weighing up to 15 pounds or more (or about the same weight as a bowling ball). It’s just the right backpack size for carrying a few small items, such as a water bottle, base layer, camping blanket, hammock, keys, snacks, sunglasses.
To keep its weight low (3.8 ounces) and make it easier to pack, Osprey didn’t use an external or internal frame. They did, however, kept a small amount of padding in the bag’s shoulder straps for comfort. It also has no back ventilation or straps for the chest and waist, so it’s not the ideal choice for long hikes in hot weather.
The North Face Flyweight Duffel Bag
The North Face Flyweight Duffel Bag is most suitable for activities where carrying the lightest and least amount of gear is crucial. It packs down into its own pocket for a stress-free storage and travel.
This piece is made from recycled and heavy-duty fabric, which means it can withstand rough handling and give years of service. And if that’s not enough, it’s treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish that serves as a reliable barrier against light moisture and saturation.
It weighs around 11 ounces (310 grams) and can take up to 17 liters of items. With that amount of space, you can already bring with you a lot of your essential items, such as your cords and cables, headphones, keys, sunglasses, passport, tablet, wallet, water bottle, or probably even your laptop (depending on its dimensions).
Aer Go Pack
The Aer Go Pack is a solid option for those who want to go on long trips with a sleek-looking and well-built packable backpack, without the hefty price tag. There are compartments and pockets to keep your items organized and easy to find: a spacious main storage, a pocket for your travel documents, and side pockets for your water bottle.
You can take the Aer Go Pack for camping, hiking, and walking without any worries. The exterior is made from heavy-duty 300D Cordura ripstop fabric that’s coated with nylon 6.6 for water protection. It’s equipped with magnetic fasteners from Fidlock for easy fastening and release.
REI Co-Op Flash 18
The REI Co-Op Flash 18 is a suitable option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly and lightweight packable backpack. Use it under most weather conditions and other types of outdoor activities, from short hikes to traversing multiple climbing routes.
The low weight and packability of the REI Co-Op Flash 18 are a great combination. Weighing in at only 9 ounces, it allows you to move around more easily. When packed, it can go as small as a softball and can turn into a stuff sack, which you can use for storing and protecting your small outdoor adventure gear.
The stretch-mesh shoulder straps have thin, fold-over padding. The back panel is also lightly padded, so this backpack can rest comfortably on your back. Just be careful not to overstuff (more than 10 pounds) it. Othewise, the back panel will become round and uncomfortble.
The Matador Beast18 weighs approximately 20 ounces (595 grams), which is about three times the weight of a baseball. While it might not be as lightweight as the REI Co-Op Flash 18, it makes up for it with other excellent features.
Thanks to its rigid construction, the Matador Beast18 is built with a steel frame suspension system. This load-supporting system offers two advantages: First, it allows you to move freely with your backpack, not against it. Second, it evenly distributes the weight of your backpack and gear across your body.
Then, there’s the flexible frame that makes it easy to pack the Beast18 when not in use. Simply twist and fold the spring steel frame, and then stash it into its compression sack.
High Coast Foldsack 24 – Fjallraven
Incredibly comfortable, lightweight, functional, and secure—those are just a few things you’ll love about the Fjallraven High Coast Foldsack 24. You can use it for a variety of purposes, like for your errands, day trips, and travels.
Not many people are a fan of a fold-over top closure. But if you favor functionality over aesthetic, you might not be bothered by it that much. Its fold-over top opening will help expand the storage capacity of the main compartment, while the large zippered pocket on the front keeps your small items accessible.
The Fjallraven High Coast Foldsack 24 is a waterproof packable backpack (but not submergible), except for its seams and zippers. It’s made from polyamide 210D, a high-strength, flexible, and lightweight nylon fabric. Around 31% of this nylon is recycled, so the Fjallraven’s eco-friendly approach is a big plus point.
WaterField Packable Backpack
If supporting locally made products is important for you, check out the WaterField Packable Backpack. It’s proudly made by a skilled sewing team in San Francisco, USA.
Like most backpacks in the same category, the WaterField Packable Backpack is convenient to bring anywhere because it’s light and easy to stash away when not in use. It easily folds down into thirds and rolls into a 9×9 square pocket.
We’re a fan of its classy and minimalist design. It’s available in five color options (black, burgundy, khaki, olive, and royal blue) to suit your preference.
But what’s even more impressive is it’s made from high-tech and reliable materials. The outer shell is cut from heavy-duty Taslan polyester fabric, combined with soft and sturdy tricot mesh fabric. The inside of the backpack is lined with ripstop nylon to ensure any small tears won’t easily spread. The zippers are from Duraflex, which you usually see on the most high-end products.
Another interesting feature of this packable backpack is its non-elastic water bottle pockets on both sides—a great feature for anyone who never compromises on their hydration. It’s deep and big enough to hold an 18-ounce tumbler.
Triple Aught Design Azimuth Pack
With its versatility and packability, the Triple Aught Design Azimuth Pack would make a great carry-on bag for your travels and backpacking trips. The 2022 version of the Azimuth features more padding on the shoulder straps to make it more comfortable when you’re carrying heavier loads.
It has a 19-liter capacity, which is more than enough storage space for a day of hiking or touring. Depending on your purpose, it can stuff a battery charger, extra base layer, snacks, winter coats, and water bottle.
Although it doesn’t have a lot of storage options, the design of the Triple Aught Design Azimuth Pack makes it easier for you to organize and access your essential items. It has a zipper side opening that allows you to effortlessly get your gear at the bottom of the backpack. A side compartment is also available to separate things that you always use or that you need to be at an arm’s length away.
4 Considerations When Choosing a Packable Backpack
While there’s no surefire way of getting the best packable backpack, it’s always helpful if you know what features to look for. Below are some of the things you need to think about when buying packable backpacks.
The weight of a packable backpack is not as important as its storage capacity, but it’s still important to consider for two main reasons:
- Anything that can help lessen your load can make a huge impact on your fatigue level, especially if you’re going to hike for hours or days.
- In order for a daypack to fold up or roll down nicely, it should be made from a thin and flexible material.
Fortunately, these bags are specifically designed to be as light as possible. Anything that weighs below 9 ounces are good enough. However, if you want something that’s ultralight, there are packable backpacks below 4 ounces.
The whole point of a packable backpack is to have a smaller bag that can carry your essential items. In that way, you don’t need to lug your possessions every time you go out of your home or accommodation.
If you don’t have a clue on what size you need, a packable backpack with a capacity of 16 to 20 liters is often enough for a day tour. But if you’re going on a weekend trip, you might need one that has a bigger storage capacity. A 30-liter or 40-liter packable backpack is already huge. It can already carry your clothes, tent pad, small tent, and sleeping bag.
There are two ways of stashing away a packable backpack: fold it into itself to fit a zippered pocket or roll it up then put it inside a separate travel pouch. Ideally, the first method is the best choice of storing it. A separate pouch is just one more thing to carry and lose, which defeats the purpose of getting this type of bag.
Materials and Weather Resistance
You want a packable backpack that’s made of a thin and heavy-duty material. The sewing technique, fiber-weaving technique, and waterproof fabric coating (e.g., durable water repellent and polyurethane) are also important considerations. Generally, you can’t go wrong with packable backpacks that use Cordura and ripstop fabrics, which are highly resistant to ripping and tearing.