Buyer’s Guide to the Best Canvas Backpacks for Men and Women

Backpack styles and fabric have evolved over time. However, if you like the old-school style, you probably still appreciate a well-crafted canvas backpack. While these types of backpacks aren’t as common as they once were, they are still popular choices.

Of course, if you know anything about canvas, you are aware that it is important to make the right decision when it comes to backpack. Only the ones that have been well designed and built are going to hold up. Here, we go through all of the different aspects of such backpacks and help you decide how to narrow down your options.

Tips for Selecting a Canvas Backpack

Before you actually get to the backpack selection process, there are a few things that you should know regarding the material and its properties. In this guide, we cover everything that you need to be aware of with canvas backpacks so that you can make the best possible choice. Let’s get started:

The Properties of Canvas Backpacks

Now, the first question that you need to answer is just what can this material offer you? What are its properties and do these attributes make for a good backpack material? You should be informed of regarding modern canvas backpacks is that there are rarely made of canvas alone. Pure canvas is usually found in day to day packs, typically for fashion purposes. In most instances, this fabric is often blended with polyester or the backpacks are made from synthetic canvas. This is why the actual properties of canvas backpacks can differ from those of those of the canvas material.


One of the reasons that canvas was used in the first backpacks was due to its strength. This material tends to be able to endure quite a bit of stress and carry a considerable amount of weight as well. This is why it is still used for book bags where considerable solidity is required.

Water Resistant

The modern versions of canvas material are actually water resistant to a certain extent. This is because the fibers in the fabric are woven so tightly together. As a result, it is quite difficult for moisture to pass through. A backpack made of untreated canvas, however, may be prone to absorbing moisture.

Wind Resistant

The same properties that make this material water resistant also make it wind resistant as well. The interlocking features of the fabric make it quite difficult for the wind to pass through. In backpacks, this helps with insulation and to keep the wearer warm in windy climates.

Responds Well to Treatment

Canvas can easily be made waterproof. In fact, this material is frequently fortified with a variety of other attributes. This is possible because the fabric responds well and holds treatments applied to it. This means that it is very good at taking on additional, more improved properties.

Types of Canvas Backpacks

Canvas backpacks are available in all forms, designs, and sizes. Therefore, it is quite possible to find one for almost every occasion:

Waist Packs

These are the smallest type of canvas backpacks. They often have several liters in capacity and are worn around the waist. The main purpose of these packs is the compartments, which have enough room to carry phones, wallets, and other small personal belongings. They are typically worn by travelers.

Commute/Laptop Backpacks

As mentioned, one of the most common uses for canvas is for knapsacks, school bags, and now laptop backpacks. These backpacks usually have a capacity between 20 and 25 liters. The newer designs have a separate compartment specifically for laptops and most of them have plenty of internal organization features. They may or may not be waterproof, depending on the material treatment.

Hiking Packs

With canvas backpacks, the hiking packs are usually daypacks. These bags usually do not come in larger than 30-liter capacities, although there are exceptions. These hiking packs are typically large enough for a day’s worth of food, drink, supplies, and clothing. They are durable, have wider straps, and are mostly water resistant or waterproof.

Outdoor Backpacks

There are canvas backpacks that are made to be completely waterproof. These are complete with no-rust features and impenetrable closures. The outdoor backpacks can be submerged and don’t contain any exterior compartments.

Camera Backpacks

There are actually quite a few backpacks that are solely made to carry cameras around. These are sturdy backpacks that are capable of carrying additional weight. They also have organizational compartments inside to store all the equipment safely.

Waterproof Canvas Backpacks

When it comes to choosing a backpack that can repel moisture, you need to understand the distinction between the various options. The most common type is water resistant canvas backpacks. These are the backpacks that use a canvas material that is tightly bonded together. This means that it takes a while for the moisture to seep through. These backpacks should be more than sufficient for drizzles or light rain showers. Anything more prolonged than this, however, and the backpack will take on water, especially if there is no waterproof lining.

Waterproof canvas backpacks are ones that can actually be submerged in water for a while and still not absorb water. Untreated canvas cannot do this. To achieve waterproof properties, a backpack must be made from waxed canvas. This is done by pouring liquid wax over the fabric, causing it to repel water. This layer does have a tendency to wear off over time, especially if it is exposed to the elements or friction. However, this layer can be reapplied oftentimes with store-bought waterproofing products.

Now a waxed canvas backpack is only as waterproof as the rest of the components. Therefore, if the seams, zippers, closures, or other features are constructed properly, water will leak in. A true waterproof canvas backpack will have as few seams as possible through which the water can get in. The seams that are there should have tape across them to act as a sealant. The same product will need to be applied to zippers and other openings.

Canvas backpacks that are truly waterproof will also have components that cannot rust. This means that the buckles, zippers, or other external parts will either be made from heavy-duty plastic, stainless steel, or aluminum.

Types of Access

The places of access tend to differ in canvas backpacks, depending on where the openings are. The type of access usually depends on the design of the backpack. A common theme among canvas backpacks used for school, work, or commuting is a vintage design. These packs are largely focused on storage and convenience. As a result, they have top loading access points, complete with drawstring. There is a flap over this opening which can be secured with a buckle or strap.

Other top loading canvas backpacks are waterproof ones. These, however, have a roll-top design. Here, the opening is rolled down several times until it effectively seals it off. The flap is then fastened down with a buckle. This is one of the most effective ways of keeping the water out.

The more modern versions of the canvas backpack are front loading, however. These have numerous pockets and compartments on the outside. This makes it quite easy to access your belongings as well as organize them internally.

The Straps

Since canvas backpacks have been somewhat phased out in the outdoor gear market, they are most typically used for daily commutes and fashion purposes. This is why the straps on bags for these purposes are quite thin and made of tough fabric. These, however, are only suited for smaller weights, such as a few personal belongings carried in a knapsack.

If you want to carry around heavy books or want a backpack for hiking, you are going to need to pay attention to the straps. You will need wide straps, preferably with a little bit of padding. These types of straps help to distribute the weight of the bag more evenly. This, in turn, prevents the material from digging into your flesh as you are moving. You will feel more comfortable when carrying this type of bag.

On the same note, you should always look for adjustable straps. Despite the trend to wear canvas backpacks slung below your waist, this can actually be quite bad for your back. You will need to adjust the backpack so that the majority of the weight is being carried by your hips. This way, the weight of the backpack feels more natural and is easier to carry.

To ensure that a canvas backpack is truly strong and durable, you need to pay attention to the seams where the straps are sewn. To offer the best support, these should have double stitching. This way, even if the backpack has to carry a considerable weight, the straps won’t separate from the rest of the bag.

The Cost

The canvas backpacks used for commuting or as school bags are often the least expensive options. These tend to have minimal features and as such, don’t cost a lot. If you are looking for specialized bags, however, like incredibly durable options or ones that are waterproof, you will find yourself having to pay more.

This is because, on its own, canvas material is strong and water resistant but is lacking in many other departments. To fortify it, the fabric needs to be treated with wax, chemicals, and other substances. Due to this, there are usually additional charges included. Nonetheless, these types of backpacks do offer one advantage – aesthetic appeal. Even the hiking backpacks or the more durable ones tend to look quite stylish when made from canvas. This material also holds dyes quite well, making the color look quite unique. Therefore, if you want the best of both worlds, paying a little more for canvas backpacks is completely worth it.

This is all of the information that you need on hand when choosing a canvas backpack. By understanding the properties, advantages, and disadvantages you will be better equipped to make the right choice.

Top 10 Best Canvas Backpacks

1 – Dakine Miley

Dakine Women's Miley Canvas Backpack
  • Polyester lining
  • Exterior organizer pockets
  • PU Vinyl bottom
  • Chalet color is a cotton-wool blend

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Dakine Miley:

Reviewers like these things about the Dakine Miley

  • A lot of users thought that the Dakine Mission backpack has ample storage for necessary equipment and personal belongings.
  • Other users found that its pockets were sufficient to store and organize things securely.
  • Laptop users found it easy to store their gadgets due to a compartment dedicated for laptops.
  • Gadget savvies likewise praised the sleeve devoted to their tablets.
  • Reviewers note that it has a specialized fleece lined pocket for sunglasses.
  • Other reviewers said that it has several attractive designs to choose from.
  • Several users observed the bag is comfortable to carry due to its ergonomic shoulder harness.
  • Many of those who have tried the backpack thought that it is versatile.
  • They also mentioned that the pack could be used for travel, short day hikes, or commute.
  • Others also said that the bag could be used for everyday use.
  • Many testers noted that it has ample support in carrying an essential load.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user remarked that its waist belt is not removable.
  • Another user thought that its zippers are very loud when used.

2 – Brooks Pickwick

Brooks England Pickwick Day Pack
  • HANDMADE IN ITALY - Manufactured by skilled craftsmen using 100 year old traditional techniques and the finest vegetable tanned leather on the planet.
  • BLUESIGN CERTIFIED- The Pickwick is made using water resistant, Bluesign certified textiles.
  • ROLL TOP CLOSURE- The Pickwick features a roll top closure that protects its contents from the elements, a large front pockets, side pockets and elastic net.
  • INCREASED STABILITY- The chest strap locks in the Pickwick for better stability while riding.
  • VEGETABLE TANNED LEATHER- Brooks England uses only the finest 3.5mm vegetable tanned leather for their bags, straps and accessories.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Brooks Pickwick:

Reviewers like these things about the Brooks Pickwick

  • One user described it as smart looking and utilitarian.
  • Some users liked how the inside sleeves fits a full sized macbook pro.
  • Other reviewers thought it’s a nice vintage bag with a nice color.
  • Well built, solid zippers, perfect size, heavy duty stitching and materials, lightweight and long lasting materials are cited as the main reasons for choosing this bag.
  • Many users thought the wide straps are properly placed, no tangling, solidly made and high quality.
  • Some reviewers thought it has a clean look and simple design that goes well with some outfits.
  • Many owners liked how it’s very spacious yet very compact and sturdy.
  • Many agree that it’s got top notch quality and style and works great for commuting.
  • One user said that every detail of this bag was made with love.
  • An owner described it as an epic, aesthetically pleasing and functional bag.
  • Some users find the straps useful in keeping the bag’s weight well balanced.
  • Other reviewers find its straight forward simple design timeless.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users thought it’s a bit expensive for a backpack.
  • Other reviewers said it would’ve been perfect if the straps are padded.

3 – Herschel Heritage

Herschel Heritage Backpack, Black
  • Spacious main compartment can hold books, clothes, or other daily essentials.
  • Interior sleeve pocket can hold up to a 15" laptop.
  • Additional front compartment with a key clip;Pebbled leather zipper pulls.
  • Internal media pocket with headphone port for added storage options.
  • Leather diamond detail accents the front of bag.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Herschel Heritage:

Reviewers like these things about the Herschel Heritage

  • A lot of users thought that the Herschel Heritage bag is generally considered a casual kind of backpack and more commonly associated with teenagers and university students.
  • Other users found that it complemented the business look but kept a relaxed and down to earth vibe.
  • Reviewers noted that the bag is very light and easy to swing around the shoulder.
  • Other reviewers said that the zips are an interesting feature of the bag.
  • Several users observed the bag straps are adjustable and have a comfortable ventilated-mesh cushioned lining.
  • Many of those who have tried the backpack thought that the inner lining adds more contrast to the bag and comes in either paisley or candy stripe patterns depending on the outer colour and season releases.
  • They also mentioned that the bag has a document compartment within the main compartment.
  • Others also said that the backside of the bag is padded.
  • Many testers noted that the bag features an internal key clip in the front compartment.
  • They also mentioned that it is able to fit everything needed, and still have enough room for more.
  • They also noted that the bag is elasticated so it helps to keep important notes and documents upright and conformed to the back padding.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that the bag’s lightweight material makes the bag a bit flimsy and fails to hold its shape when empty or half full.
  • Another user thought that the flap that conceals the zip definitely could make it more difficult to open with one hand.

4 – Hynes Eagle Retro 28L

Hynes Eagle Retro Designer Canvas Backpack 28L Brown
  • Please hand wash with clean water in ordinary temperature. DO NOT wash it with hot water or alkaline detergent. Wash separately to avoid staining. Hang to dry .Do not dry clean, tumble dry, bleach or iron
  • Product Dimensions: 19H x 13.3W x 7.3D inch , Weight: 1.9 pounds , Large Rucksack with 28 liter capacity, ample roomy for storing IPAD AIR, portable textbooks, A4 magazine etc, and will fit 15.6 inch laptop , Better fit for tall people
  • Multiple pockets design sure for your practical needs: 3 exterior pockets with metal snaps closure for quick access , 1 big rear zipped security pocket to store your necessary gadgets , music player , wallet and cell phone etc , 1 small zipper pocket inside
  • Drawstring Rucksack with metal quick snaps closure , Adjustable padded shoulder straps with drop 26.8 to 33.1 inches for carrying comfort ,Top web handle for easy carry with a single hand or be hung up for storage
  • Whether you're running errands around town or heading to the school,Travel,Hiking,Camping,Business Casual, this Spacious Backpack, vintage Backpack will make the perfect companion!

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Hynes Eagle Retro 28L:

Reviewers like these things about the Hynes Eagle Retro 28L

  • Some users liked the presence of Velcro strap which will holds the computer in.
  • Others liked the meshed zippered area which will hold a number of things that they do not want to fall out.
  • Many users liked how the shoulder straps do not cut into shoulders and are adjustable so that the pack can be carried of higher.
  • Many find the ability to zipper the straps inside the pack is a great feature.
  • A lot of users liked the laptop pocket with some embedded padding, fuzzy fabric and a Velcro style strip to secure a laptop.
  • Users also like external compression straps as they are very useful to get an inch or two more of vertical space if needed.
  • Some particularly liked the exterior tightening straps that allow them to shrink the size for storage in smaller airplane overhead bins.
  • Others thought the side straps are wonderful: lets them cinch down the sides to reduce the profile of the suitcase.
  • Many love how it comes with plenty of tightening straps and zippered compartments that both minimize space that the bag takes up and maximizes packing room.
  • A lot of reviewers find the compartments reasonably sized, the straps neatly tuck away when not needed, and the overall build quality is fantastic.
  • Many thought the zippers are durable and it’s got a lot of nice features like the backpack straps.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users thought it’s a nice bag but with poor quality material.
  • Others say the straps need to be reinforced better.

5 – Cotopaxi Nazca 24

Cotopaxi Nazca 24L Travel Pack
  • Durable cotton/polyester canvas shell.
  • Suitcase-style, full-wrap zipper opening on the main compartment. Internal mesh storage compartments.
  • Separate zippered, padded laptop sleeve. Zippered, fleece-lined front pocket.
  • Security YKK zippers. Tuck-away straps.
  • Complies with airline carry-on restrictions.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Cotopaxi Nazca 24:

Reviewers like these things about the Cotopaxi Nazca 24

  • Reviewers agree that the Cotopaxi Nazca pack’s build and quality feel excellent.
  • Other reviewers thought that the bag’s padding isn’t very thick, but it feels like enough.
  • Reviewers noted that it covers the back without feeling bulky..
  • They also stated that it has organized zipper compartments inside.
  • Users noted that the pack’s small size is great for short trips.
  • Testers praised its theft-prevention zippers.
  • Other testers thought that it fits the carry-on restrictions for any airplane.
  • Users pointed out that it has tuck-away backpack straps and removable shoulder sling strap.
  • Reviewers found that it can be transformable between being a backpack, messenger bag, or just something the user wants to hand carry.
  • Reviewers noted that it has a zippered, fleece-lined front pocket for sunglasses and electronics.
  • Other reviewers said that the pack has a slot on the backside that’s big enough for a 13? laptop.
  • Users thought that it is water resistant.
  • They recommend the use of the pack for overnight or weekend trips.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user thought that it feels incredibly uncomfortable to carry on the shoulder as a messenger-type bag.
  • Another user noted that it’s hard to find things inside.

6 – Burton Metro

Burton Metro Backpack
  • Dimensions: [20.5in x 12in x 5.5in] [52cm x 30cm x 13.5cm]
  • Volume: 26L
  • Weight: 1.5 lbs. / 0.7 kg.
  • 600D Polyester TPE Coated [Denison Camo Colorway]
  • 70D x 200D Nylon Coated PU2 [Drab Flight Satin Colorway]

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Burton Metro:

Reviewers like these things about the Burton Metro

  • Testers say that it is a lightweight, compact and great backpack for daily use.
  • Some of the testers have also said that the pack is durable with good built materials.
  • Reviewers say that the pack is spacious to fit a large laptop.
  • Some reviewers also mentioned about the good number of external pockets that helped them to carry extra gears for daily use.
  • Some travellers said that they have used the pack for snowboarding and camping also and it was a good fit.
  • A few travellers have also complimented about the excellent waterproofing quality of the pack.
  • Most reviewers said that it is a stylish backpack and is very comfortable to carry.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some reviewers have complained that pack to be small in size for travelling.
  • A couple of reviewers also complained about the built of the pack. They say that the pack is not enough padded to carry sophisticated gears like a professional camera.

7 – Jansport Houston 26L

JanSport Houston Backpack Navy Moonshine One Size
  • Claimed Weight: 1 lb 3 oz
  • Volume: 1600 cu in
  • Dimensions: 17.7 x 12.8 x 5.5 in
  • Pockets: [external] 3 zippered front, [internal] 1 tablet sleeve, 1 padded laptop (15in)
  • Material: cotton canvas, faux leather

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Jansport Houston 26L:

Reviewers like these things about the Jansport Houston 26L

  • Many reviewers commend the Jansport Houston backpack for it offers a considerable amount of functionality topped off with an attractive heritage aesthetic.
  • Reviewers praised the internal padded laptop compartment and tablet compartment of the pack.
  • Testers pointed out that the pack is a handsomely crafted bag designed for their everyday needs.
  • Some users thought that the bag’s premium faux leather bottom and trim details are a nice touch.
  • Reviewers noted that its main compartment is quite spacious and features a padded sleeve.
  • Other reviewers thought that the bag to be quite light, considering the premium cotton canvas fabric that’s used for the bag.
  • Reviewers pointed out the presence of various pockets for easy access and to separate various items.
  • They noticed that its zipper loops are a handy feature.
  • Several testers also indicated that it is pretty comfortable to wear; it’s fully padded and fully adjustable.
  • Other users found that it is versatile.
  • Testers pointed out that it is simple, campus aesthetic, but packs a punch in feature practicality.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the capacity of the bag is limited.
  • A tester said that the bag is a little heavy for longer ski tours.

8 – Sherpani Havana

Sherpani Havana Rucksack Backpack, Canvas, One Size
  • Classic, rugged and roomy rucksack accented with modern vintage hardware; comfortable padded back straps that adjust up to 26".
  • Cinch closure paired with a magnetic flap allows you to access your items easily while keeping them safe and secure.
  • Spacious main opening enabling you to fit everything you need for your commute to work, school or wherever your adventures take you.
  • The waxed cotton canvas and eco leather material is naturally water repellant.
  • Finishing off the Havana, the interior is fully equipped with a 14" laptop sleeve, organizational wall and a zippered pocket.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Sherpani Havana:

Reviewers like these things about the Sherpani Havana

  • Reviewers thought that the Sherpani Indie backpack holds everything they need for a variety of uses.
  • Other users were able to secure and quickly access its zippered pockets.
  • Laptop users agree that a padded computer sleeve which is found inside its compartment secures their laptops in place.
  • Many of those who have tried using the backpack have noted that it is naturally water repellent due to its boiled wool and eco leather material.
  • Testers found that its polyester lining adds to its strength.
  • Other testers found the bag comfortable due to its soft cotton shoulder straps.
  • Some reviewers found out that its compartments have plenty of room for necessary equipment.
  • Other reviewers thought that the bag might be used for camping, hiking, or everyday use.
  • Several users believed that the pack is durable.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer observed that the backpack might not be suitable for high-intensity activities including climbing and skiing.
  • On the other hand, a user thought that it might not be ideal for small kids due to the small parts.

9 – Timbuk2 Cask

Timbuk2 Cask Laptop Backpack, Black, One Size
  • A zip-top pack with premium leather and Waxed canvas
  • Internal organizer for pens, phones, and other small stuff
  • Laptop pocket fits 15 inch MacBook and iPad
  • Genuine leather binding and trim
  • External dimensions - Size:OS, Top width:11.2 inches, Bottom width:11 inches, Height:18.3 inches, Depth:4.5 inches, Volume:1098 cubic inches

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Timbuk2 Cask:

Reviewers like these things about the Timbuk2 Cask

  • Most of the buyers said that the zip top pack is made up of high quality leather and waxed canvas.
  • Reviewers said that the bag is ideal for storing a 15-inch laptop.
  • Many users found the front pocket for keys, wallet, sunglasses or other small items quite useful.
  • Most of the reviewers said that this bag is suited for people with moderate requirements.
  • Some of the buyers said that the bag’s body is well padded.
  • Many reviewers of the bag were quite appreciative of the design of the bag.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Many users said that the bag is too small as compared to the other bags in this category.
  • Some buyer said that it is an expensive purchase.

10 – Sherpani Amelia

Sherpani Amelia Travel Backpack, One Size, Fern
  • This sophisticated wool backpack will catch anyone's eye.
  • Accented with genuine leather and a removable tassel, the Amelia has all the features your looking for in a backpack.
  • Pure, natural, Mongolian wool exterior. 100% cellulose, plant based Jute exterior. Crafted carefully to blend natural aesthetics and trouble free travel.
  • Genuine leather trims & soft adjustable cotton cross body strap that's easy on your shoulder and clothing.
  • Main compartment secured with a zippered fold over. Fit comfortably all your textbook, laptops and notebooks. Comes with complimentary wristlet bag / cell phone holder.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Sherpani Amelia:

Reviewers like these things about the Sherpani Amelia

  • Several users have commended the Osprey Kamber backpack for its gorgeous and trendy design which can be used by all age groups.
  • Reviewers recommend the pack for everyday use, primarily those who are working or commuting every day.
  • Users have noted that there are several pockets which can be useful in keeping valuables such as phones and wallets.
  • Many reviewers commented that it pure and natural Mongolian wool fabric may provide a certain level of durability to the backpack.
  • Other reviewers highlighted on the seamless and even stitching of the pack.
  • Most of those who have tried the bag praised its main compartment can fit laptops, tablets, or large binders.
  • Testers commented on the zippered fold which secures the things placed inside the main compartment safely.
  • Other testers thought the overall design of the backpack is striking.
  • Others felt that it was comfortable to use.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user noted the backpack sacrificed its utility for its design.
  • Another user thought that the bag might not be suited for high-intensity activities like alpine climbing and cross-country skiing.

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Here at our site MightyGoods, we have checked thousands of reviews in order to build the biggest directory of backpacks, luggage, handbags and lots of other bags.

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Last update on 2018-12-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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