Why You Need to Consider the Best Packable Backpacks

While backpacks are one of the more versatile bags available, they themselves can be a bit bulky and heavy. So, if you are looking to travel light, it is a good idea to get yourself a packable backpack. This way, you will have the freedom to move around without being burdened by your bag.

Since packable backpacks are still a bit of a novelty, you may not be certain about how to choose one. However, if you want a pack that will be able to last you through your adventures, you will need to be careful about your choice. In this guide, we take you through all of the features and elements that you need to keep an eye out for when shopping for packable backpacks.

Packable Backpacks: Your Guide to Traveling Light

There is a good chance that you turn to your trusty backpack for almost all types of traveling. Whether you are getting on a plane or hiking through the woods, a backpack is the only bag you need. While it is incredibly handy, these bags can be a bit difficult to lug around as they can be a bit heavy themselves.

If you want all of the advantages of a backpack but none of the burdens, then you should consider a packable backpack. Also known as foldable or folding backpacks, these can revolutionize the way that you travel. In this article, we discuss the best way to find one suitable for you:

The Benefits of Packable Backpacks

Now, we have established that one of the main advantages of this type of backpack is weight. Due to the way that they are designed and made, these bags are made from thinner material and often don’t have the same framework as a typical bag. So, while the average backpack weighs around a pound, usually more, packable backpacks can be as light as 3 ounces. As you can see, that it is a considerable difference. If you are looking for an ultralight backpack, this is it.

Weight is not the only advantage afforded by this type of backpack, however. By its very nature, this backpack can be folded until it can fit in a small pouch. This makes it excellent for storage purposes as it can be kept almost anywhere. In fact, packable backpacks are often kept in emergency kits for precisely this reason.

Types of Packable Backpacks

Packable backpacks can be categorized by how they are folded. Some backpacks have external pouches. So, once the bag is empty the frameless backpack becomes slack and can easily be followed and then placed in the pouch. The advantage with these backpacks is that folding up the bag is hassle-free and it doesn’t have to be in a discernible pattern as long as it is the right size.

The other type of backpack is where the pouch is built into the bag, often in the form of a pocket. Here, the bag is folded up in a specific way so that it can be fed back into the pocket. The great thing about this type of bag is that it doesn’t require you to remember to bring the pouch along with you – it is always there. On the other hand, it can sometimes get a little tricky trying to get the bag into its own pocket.

Choosing the Capacity

There is actually not a great deal of range to choose from when it comes to foldable bags. This is because the most common option is a packable daypack. This means that most of the foldable backpacks that you come across will be able to carry between 20 and 35 liters.

So, if you are headed out camping, this is a good choice for food, water, and a change of clothing. If you are traveling and are only taking clothes, you may be able to take enough for a weekend trip.

Size of the Backpack

Due to limited size range with packable daypacks, you aren’t likely to encounter an overly large or long backpack. That being said, you still need to pay attention to the dimensions of the bag. Ideally, a good well-fitting backpack will fit between your lower neck and the top portion of your hips. With these measurements, you will be able to carry most of the weight with your hips – which is how it should be.

The Fold Down Size

Typically, when you consider capacity and size of a backpack, you think about just how much you can fit into the bag. With packable backpacks, though, there is something else that you have to take into consideration – the size that it can be folded down to.

Depending on the size of the bag and the material it is made from, the packed version can greatly differ. Some are the size of a large envelope or even bigger. Others can be folded down into the size of a small wallet. So, you should always take this factor into consideration when choosing a packable backpack.

The Material

Most of the packable backpacks tend to be made from either nylon or polyester, although the fabric can change from manufacturer to manufacturer. While this isn’t always the case, polyester tends to be lighter than nylon. Of course, it is not as strong, though. So, if your main concern is weight, these backpacks are a good option. With nylon packable backpacks, you are being afforded a bit more durability. Of course, the offset is that they can be a bit heavier and pricier too.

Both polyester and nylon packable backpacks are available in ripstop versions as well. These materials have been constructed so that they are resistant to abrasion. Not only are they unlikely to develop tears, if tears do appear, they don’t spread. If you want your backpack to last a long time, then ripstop polyester or ripstop nylon is your best option.

If your packable backpack is for solely outdoor purposes, you may want to look into waterproof options as well. Here, the polyester or nylon is coated with a water-resistant finish that helps to keep moisture away from your belongings.

The Suspension System

While a packable backpack might be lighter, it does need to function in the same way as a traditional backpack. This means that it has to make it easier for you to support the weight that you are carrying. So, in order to choose a backpack that helps with this, you will need to look at the suspension system.

The suspension system refers to the straps and belts involved with your backpack. The first thing to look at is the shoulder straps. These need to be adjustable so that you can customize the backpack to fit your torso length. Also, the straps need to be wide enough to be comfortable but not so wide that they will fall off your shoulders. Padding can help to disperse the weight further so that the straps don’t cut into your skin.

If you want to carry heavier loads, you will need to look for a hip belt and maybe even a sternum strap. This is something that you may need to search for as it is not available with all packable daypacks. With most traditional backpacks, you will find a padded hip belt although this is unlikely with a packable backpack. So, you will need to be mindful of chaffing if you are carrying a heavy backpack.

Additional Features

Here are some of the additional features that you want to look for:

Waterproof Features

It is not all that common to come across a waterproof packable bag. Still, there are ones that can almost completely prevent moisture from seeping in. For this feature, you will need to look at sealed seams instead of just stitches. The zippers will also need to be coated with a watertight seal on the inside of the bag. Last but not least, a rolltop cover can also help. This makes it more difficult for the water to find its way in.

Attachment Loops

If you are going camping and want to carry more equipment or items, then backpack loops come in handy. You can then use these as attachment points for anything that you need. This is especially handy for bags that don’t have a lot of internal capacity.

Ventilated Backs

If you are going to be a lot of walking or if you will be experiencing warm weather, it can help for the back of your bag to be ventilated. Most backpacks simply have mesh in this area so that none of the sweat will be absorbed. If you really want to stay cool, though, look for mesh-covered, padded protrusions on the back. This will allow the air to circulate, cutting down on how much you perspire.

What You Need to Know About Packable Backpacks

To wrap things up, there are just a few things to keep in mind about this type of backpacks. First and foremost, you will have to compromise a bit when choosing a packable backpack for yourself. Often, you will have to choose either comfort and function or weight. The lighter the backpack is, the more compact it can become. However, this also means that it will have a fewer number of pockets, no hip belt, and may even lack padding.

As mentioned, these backpacks are made from much thinner materials than what you are traditionally used to. This can make them quite vulnerable to the elements, particularly rain. So, if you plan on spending any time outdoors, a water-resistant option really is best. In the same vein, if you plan on spending any time outdoors, a water-resistant option really is best. In the same vein, if you plan on using your packable backpack quite regularly, you should look for a tougher material as well.

So, you should ensure that you are choosing and using your packable backpack in the right situation. On that note, this is the extent of what you need to know when perusing through the array of packable backpacks available to you.

Top 10 Best Packable Backpacks

1 – Cotopaxi Luzon 24L

Cotopaxi Luzon 24L Del Dia Daypack - Del Dia 24L One of A Kind!
  • Lightweight, remnant nylon fabric. Large main compartment.
  • Zippered shoe pocket with internal divider. Top drawstring closure. Front zippered pocket.
  • Ultralight mesh shoulder straps. Internal organizer with key clip.
  • Dual mesh water bottle pockets.
  • ONE OF A KIND! Each Del Dia product is made proudly in the Philippines by an employee who has total creative control over the pack's colorway. No two are the same!

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Cotopaxi Luzon 24L:

Reviewers like these things about the Cotopaxi Luzon 24L

  • Reviewers thought that the Cotopaxi Luzon daypack is one light pack.
  • Other reviewers noted that this bag is handmade, and workers have control over the colors of repurposed nylon used in each pack.
  • Testers also said that its design is enough for short hikes, beach outings, and bike rides.
  • Several users pointed out that the bag’s chest and hip belt allow them to tighten the mono-compartment.
  • Other users noted that it holds up to perspiration and light water contact when cleaning the bag.
  • Other reviewers pointed out that the manufacturer uses a nice ripstop nylon on the pack.
  • Some users are pleased with the stitching at the seams the held fast.
  • According to some users, its strength-to-weight ratio is solid.
  • Other reviewers thought that its splashy color scheme gets a lot of attention and starts a lot of conversations.
  • Some users felt that it has a unique aesthetic.
  • Many commended its sustainability ethic.
  • Users were delighted that it’s easy to like this simple, goofy bag.
  • They also mentioned that its almost imperceptible weight makes it great for easy travel and simple loads.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that it does not have anything beyond a sleeve for a hydration bladder, one big main compartment, and an outer zip pocket for small things.
  • Another reviewer noted that the items inside will have a tendency to shift and sort on their own unless they carefully pack.

2 – Gonex Ultra

Gonex Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack Daypack Handy Foldable Camping Outdoor Travel Cycling School Backpacking(Black)
  • PERFECT COMPANION FOR TRIPS: This compact backpack is the perfect companion when you are out and about. It will be a fantastic necessity for not matter outdoor sports or leisure activities in or out of the city. Perfect for day trips, vacation, travel, day hikes, school, camping and shopping.
  • INCOMPARABLE QUALITY: Made from High Quality Water Repellent and Tear Resistant Nylon Material, durable Abrasion Resistant SBS Metal Zipper available. Reinforced more than 25 places with Bartack Process.
  • MORE STORAGE SPACE& KEEP THINGS ORGANIZED: Three zippered compartments. Main pocket is Large enough to carry what you need in the trip. Outer smaller pocket is great for quick access such as guide books and camera. Inner zippered pocket is a perfect place for valuables such as cash, credit cards and passport.
  • CONVENIENT AND LIGHTWEIGHT: It fits into an ultra-compact pouch. Easy to folds up into small pocket (Sandwich size). So you can easily pack it in your suitcase for use at their destination as an extra bag for the trip.
  • AIRPORT HERO: Avoid overweight charges, simply unfold from your luggage and use it as a carry on for your excess baggage.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Gonex Ultra:

Reviewers like these things about the Gonex Ultra

  • Most users said that it is super lightweight.
  • Many users love that it is made of water-resistant material.
  • Several users said that the side pockets are great for water bottles.
  • Reviewers said that small inner pockets are best for keys or cell phones.
  • Many users said that the zippers are super smooth.
  • Reviewers who have used the pack said that straps are adjustable and very comfortable on shoulder.
  • They’ve also mentioned that it folds up and fits into its own inside pouch.
  • Most reviewers agreed that it showed no wear and tear after several rugged uses.
  • Users said that it’s a quite large backpack for a reasonable price.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that the zipper had fallen apart after few uses.
  • Another user complained that it does not have a waist strap.
  • Some users complained that it has no structure and very little padding.

3 – Eddie Bauer Stowaway 30L

Eddie Bauer Unisex-Adult Stowaway 30L Packable Pack
  • Do not wash or bleach. Spot clean with warm water and mild detergent. Air dry. Do not dry clean.
  • 19"H x 12"W x 9"D (9"H x 8"W x 2.5"D stowed)
  • StormRepel WR finish sheds moisture
  • Lightly padded shoulder straps
  • Velcro pocket on back panel

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Eddie Bauer Stowaway 30L:

Reviewers like these things about the Eddie Bauer Stowaway 30L

  • Some users find it the perfect size for sightseeing as they can throw in some snacks, a jacket, camera etc.
  • Others like that it’s lightweight, doesn’t take up a lot of space and is great to put in a carry on.
  • A lot of reviewers love how it folds into its own front pocket for easy storage.
  • Some users thought it has well-sewn seams and substantial carry-back back straps.
  • A number of reviewers love the versatility and spaciousness of the bag.
  • Some users find it easy to pack and unpack.
  • Others love how it fits laptop and work papers with enough space to carry enough clothes for a day or two.
  • Many users find it lightweight and neat.
  • Others find it breathable and functional.
  • Some hikers thought it’s a great pack for day hiking.
  • Others are pleased with the wide and comfortable straps.
  • Some reviewers find it very comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
  • Others find it a great little day bag for bus tours.
  • Some users noted the zippers work smoothly and do not stick.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users said it would be so much better with a chest strap.
  • Other reviewers thought the straps are not very padded.

4 – Outdoor Research Isolation

Outdoor Research Unisex Isolation Pack Lt, Black, 1size
  • Fabric Performance: Water-Resistant, Durable, Ultra Lightweight
  • Pockets: 1 interior zip

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Outdoor Research Isolation:

Reviewers like these things about the Outdoor Research Isolation

  • Many reviewers commend the Outdoor Research Isolation backpack for its durable construction.
  • According to users, the fabric of the bag is water-resistant.
  • Reviewers note that it is lightweight.
  • Testers noted that the pack consists of a drawcord Cinch closure with a flap.
  • Several of those who have tried the backpack mentioned that organization of small yet essential things is made more convenient because of its zippered pocket.
  • Other users recommended the use of the bag for camping, traveling, or hiking.
  • Others indicated that it could also be used as an all-around bag.
  • Reviewers noted that its foam back panel offers support and comfort.
  • Testers said that its foam rear panel could be removed when the weight and size are crucial.
  • Other testers thought that it is a good minimal bag.
  • Testers praised the fact that it is easy to wear.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the pack is a little small.
  • Another reviewer had issues with the pull tabs of the bag.

5 – Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack


Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack

  • Some users find the whole design of the bag ingenious.
  • Others find the top and side pocket a great addition.
  • Many loved the lightweight, durable and streamlined look of the bag.
  • A lot of users liked how the zipper pull design makes opening and closing the bag easy.
  • Others appreciate how the straps are lightly padded with mesh,providing some comfort and support.
  • Many users find the bag suitable for everyday errands, quick trips and short hikes with its ability to carry a decent amount of weight.
  • Quality material,well-made stitches,comfy straps,functional pockets and light weight are cited as the main reasons for choosing this bag.
  • Other users enjoy the presence of mesh waterbottle pocket.
  • One user dubbed it as the perfect packable day-pack.
  • Some hikers described it as rock solid pack, perfect for dayhike.
  • Other users love how it weighs super light and folds up into a small pouch.
  • Frequent travelers find this travel backpack useful in handling all their essentials without weighing them down.
  • The extra little zipper compartment is also a favorite feature as it provides easy access for small items.
  • Some users said this pack has far superior shoulder straps for extra comfort.
  • Many users thought it’s comfortable to wear and stays in place without sagging.
  • A lot of users liked how it packs down flat,doesn’t take up much space in the suitcase,yet sturdy enough for daily hikes.
  • Other reviewers thought it’s a lightweight pack that’s great for cycling as it stuffs down to about the size of a fist and can fit in a bike bag if needed.
  • Some users who fly frequently, described the bag as well-balanced,good-looking and spacious backpack.
  • Hikers and campers find the bag tiny yet attractive,perfect for exploring,camping and hiking.
  • Comfy straps, durable, folds flat, holds a ton, lightweight, functional pockets are cited as the most favorire features of the bag.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users thought the material is so thin that the contents can be easily seen.
  • Other reviewers said it’s almost perfect except for short padded strap and rubbing.
  • A number of users thought it’s super light, good capacity, good color, but ridiculously small.

6 – Aqua Quest Himal 20L

Aqua Quest Himal Backpack - 100% Waterproof 25L Dry Bag - Lightweight, Foldable, External Pocket - Blue
  • 100% WATERPROOF - From extreme adventure to daily urban use, the AquaQuest Himal keeps your valuables safe from rain, snow, dirt, dust, or sand, and even protects against quick temporary submersion. Once you go waterproof, you'll never go back!
  • ULTRA-LIGHT - At only 1.1 lb, the Himal is ultra-light yet tough. 70D RipStop fabric + TPU lamination + Heat taped seams = A waterproof pack that's so light that you might even forget you're carrying it!
  • COMFORTABLE - The waist and shoulder straps are fully adjustable, soft, flexible, dry easily and contour to the shape of your body. The Air-Mesh back panel is soft and breathable, and stays comfortable all day.
  • FOLDABLE + COMPACT - The Himal can't make your breakfast, but it can fold up into its own front zip pocket! Perfect for athletes, minimalists, and travelers concerned about space. Size when packed: 11 x 7 x 2.5 inch. Compressed: 11 x 4 x 1.5 inch
  • USA SERVICE & WARRANTY: Aqua Quest is based in the Pacific Northwest, where they have designed and tested waterproof gear since 96. All products are protected by AQ's Two-Year 'No Worries Warranty'. Toll-free customer service Mon-Fri, 10-5 PST, at 1-844-775-7770.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Aqua Quest Himal 20L:

Reviewers like these things about the Aqua Quest Himal 20L

  • Most users said that the material is top notch, waterproof, lightweight but durable.
  • Users said that it fit all their essentials in the bag cavity easily.
  • Many users mentioned that it has wide opening will accommodate even large items.
  • They also said that it is equipped with comfortable straps and two sets of support straps both on the chest and waist.
  • Many reviewers said that the front pocket is also a great feature with a decent amount of storage space.
  • Some reviewers said that the front pouch is not waterproof.
  • Most reviewers also said that the ability for the backpack to fold itself into the pouch was a great feature.
  • Users also said that the straps, stitching and padding on the bag are fantastic.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that the shoulder straps are very thin and without much padding.
  • Another user complained that It has a thin rubberized lining inside the case for waterproofing that may be susceptible to puncture if not careful.
  • Some users complained that the front pocket is not waterproof.

7 – Zomake Ultra

ZOMAKE Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack Water Resistant Hiking Daypack,Small Backpack Handy Foldable Camping Outdoor Backpack Little Bag
  • MULTIPURPOSE - Ultra-light. Ultra-durable. Ultra-awesome. The backpack is perfect for day-to-day use or day trips, vacation, travel, day hikes, school, camping and shopping, and great gift for everyone
  • CAPACITY - 20L storage space, keep things organized
  • INCOMPARABLE QUALITY - Made with High Quality Water and Tear Resistant Nylon Material. Duarable Abrasion Resistant SBS Metal Zipper Avaliable. Reinforced more than 31 places with Bartack Process
  • CONVENIENT AND LIGHTWEIGHT - It fits into an ultra-compact pouch. Easy to folds up into small pocket (Sandwich size). So you can easily pack it in your suitcase for use at their destination as an extra bag for the trip
  • AIRPORT HERO - Avoid overweight charges, simply unfold from your luggage and use it as a carry on for your excess baggage

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Zomake Ultra:

Reviewers like these things about the Zomake Ultra

  • Most reviewers mentioned that the fabric feels strong and the stitching seems good.
  • Reviewers also said that it is lightweight and very practical.
  • Many users said that it doesn’t look big but it holds a lot of stuff.
  • They said that the shoulder straps extremely comfortable.
  • They also said that despite being so lightweight the straps are extremely sturdy and padded for extra comfort.
  • Several users mentioned that the material seems sturdy.
  • One great feature mentioned by many users is that it is able to fold inside out into a simple pouch.
  • Some reviewers said that the bright color made it very dirt-resistant.
  • Some users said that the number of pockets is wonderful and it is well constructed.
  • Some other users said that it is very versatile and easy to clean.
  • Many buyers said that it holds a large number of items without being huge and bulky.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that the small compartmentalized pouch in front ripped after few uses.
  • Some users complained that the material is a little thinner than they thought.
  • Another user complained that the zippers are fragile and seem to separate easily.

8 – Eagle Creek Packable

Eagle Creek Packable Daypack, Black, One Size
  • PROTECTION: Armed with two-way lockable zippers on the main compartments and two central lock points, this backpack will keep all your belongings safe and secure.
  • CONVENIENCE: The pack-in pockets allow for this backpack to be folded in on itself for convenient packing giving freedom to any and all travelers.
  • COMFORT: Built with breathable mesh shoulder straps allowing for all day wear without worrying about any sweat marks on your shirt.
  • DIMENSIONS: 11 X 17.5 X 4.75 in.
  • LIFETIME WARRANTY. We ensure that all of our products measure up to quality expectations, and we rigorously test our products before putting them in your hands. Our return rate is less than 1%. The Lifetime Warranty covers workmanship and materials against defect for the entire life of the product.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Eagle Creek Packable:

Reviewers like these things about the Eagle Creek Packable

  • Most of the users said that the fabric is heavier and bulkier.
  • Many users said that the bag was comfortable to wear.
  • Many like it as it packs itself up nice and compact changing into a small backpack.
  • Reviewers who have used the bag said it was really convenient for daily use.
  • Several users like it as it did well in rain and kept the stuff inside well and dry.
  • Some of the users praise it as it folds up into its own portable pocket.
  • A user said this thing has lasted through cities, storms, hikes, biking tours and even inside a volcano.
  • Reviewers love it for being very lightweight, stowable and easy to carry, and durable as well.
  • Some other said that the design is practical and uncluttered.
  • Users also said that all of the seams are reinforced and the zipper is sturdy.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some of the users complained that the straps are of lower quality that continuously slips off the shoulder while wearing it.
  • One of the users discovered a hole that had formed on the upper part of the bag just under where one of the shoulder straps is attached.
  • A few of them said the zipper broke and the fabric tore within the first month.

9 – Kalusi Lightweight

Kalusi Large 35l Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Daypack ,Foldable Outdoor Backpack
  • COMPACT: Folds into zippered inner pocket to fit anywhere. Unfolds from pocket to backpack. Must have on every trip
  • DURABLE: Backpack is made from highly rip and water resistant nylon fabric which provides strength and long-lasting performance with minimal weight.
  • Seamless, adjustable and breathable padded shoulder strap to meet different requirements for both men and women.
  • LIGHTWEIGHT: Weight(11 oz) and ROOMY(35 Liters). A true space saver. Stuff the bag into its own pocket for storage, and unzip it when you reach your destination.
  • Perfect for hiking, occasional travel, day-to-day use, a trip to the beach.  Really an amazing pack for anyone!

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Kalusi Lightweight:

Reviewers like these things about the Kalusi Lightweight

  • Many users praised the fact that the pack has padded shoulder strap with sternum strap.
  • Users said that it also has variety of deep and accessible pockets.
  • Some other reviewers said that water bottle pockets on side have an additional securing strap.
  • Reviewers who have used the pack said that it sits perfectly on their back.
  • Many users said that it easily fits the smaller under seat section on a plane.
  • One great feature mentioned by many users is that it is made of water-resistant nylon fabric.
  • Several users said that the sternum strap has a whistle as a part of the snap clip.
  • Reviewers have mentioned that there is a hydration sleeve for water bladder.
  • Most reviewers agreed that the external pockets are made of stretchable material.
  • Another fantastic feature mentioned by the users is that there are loops on the bottom for hiking poles.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that the nylon is very thin and got ripped off.
  • Another user complained that clothes got stained after a full day use.
  • Some users complained that there is no waist strap to balance the load.

10 – Herschel Packable

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

Reviewers like these things about the Herschel Packable

  • Most users said that the material is super flexible.
  • Several users said that the pack is ultra-portable, compact and foldable.
  • Many users said that it’s easy to pack into a suitcase when not in use.
  • Users of Herschel Packable said it is lightweight and fits even in crowded transport.
  • Users said that the zippers are of really good quality.
  • Reviewers who have used the pack said that folding it into its own pocket is very easy.
  • They’ve mentioned that the pack is made of windbreaker material.
  • Most reviewers agreed that the backpack is of perfect size, handy and comfortable for everyday use.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • One user complained that the straps are flimsy and got ripped off early.
  • Some users complained that the material is not waterproof.
  • One user complained that no padding in the strap feels very uncomfortable.

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

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