The Ultimate Guide to Small Backpacks for School, Work and Travel

Regardless of whether you’re a master-hiker, adventurer, or backpacker, or simply need something that would be great for both classes and trips away, small backpacks are undoubtedly useful in more ways than one. And as with most things today, this too comes with a host of choices, in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, and capabilities.

The right backpack can make all the difference between a lousy camping trip and a good one. It should be comfortable, sturdy, and rigorous, whilst also being effective and convenient. Choosing such a backpack can also be a confusing task, which is why this guide has been so helpfully drawn up so you can have a comprehensive look at the subject for yourself.

Your Guide to Buying a Small Backpack

No matter what your needs may be, what matters at the end of the day is that you have a small travel backpack that’s right for you. Naturally, this means that as with most other products and services today, we need to survey details, pros, and cons efficiently. Whilst there isn’t anything particularly devastating about not acquiring such a backpack, it’s a whole lot easier when it’s around. So with that, let’s take a look at the points below:

It is also useful to take a look at where this backpack would come in most handy when taking your daily life into account. What sort of things do you do? Are you very outdoorsy or sporty? Maybe you like to travel a lot and so just need an easy way to lug your belongings about. Or perhaps you’re looking for something that suffices for sleepovers.

These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling. Identifying your needs will make things so much more convenient, as will breaking the backpacks down for a better understanding of what you can expect.

Backpacks are in general very popular because they tend to stay in good shape, and are always with you. If you take suitcases, for instance, think about how much abuse they endure whenever you have to travel. Plus, people tend to be generally careless with suitcases and so toss them about without much thought, often damaging them or your precious belongings inside. Of course, they’re alright for when you need to spend a long time away, but if you’re going to be hopping about, you’d rather opt for a backpack. Besides, can you imagine what a nightmare it’d be to hike with a suitcase bumping alongside you?

A Few Crucial Things to Look For

When choosing a backpack, as mentioned above, there are many things to look for. However, some of these things are more important than others, and as such have to be considered a priority. Think of it this way: once you’ve eliminated the points listed here, you can factor in the rest of your backpack criteria. Not until then though. Be it a mini backpack or larger backpack for that matter, these still count.

  • Water Resistance: Backpacks big or small, come in a multitude of different materials, which no doubt make them quite interesting and diverse, but you’re also looking for usability, so don’t forget that. Which means that you need to be on the hunt for water-resistant backpacks made of water-resistant material. Mind you, it doesn’t have to be 100% waterproof; even semi-waterproof material is fine. You just want it to withstand unexpected showers or moisture.
  • Double-Zippers: No matter how much of an honest, responsible traveller you might be, unfortunately not everyone else is, and that’s a fact. Theft and other complications are all too rife, so you need to protect yourself every step of the way. If you travel between countries a lot, for instance, you want to ensure you opt for one that comes with two zippers, so they can be locked together. You can then invest in special travel locks that will allow you to easily open up when your bags need to be checked, without destroying the lock itself.
  • Several Compartments: What good is a backpack that doesn’t have any compartments in it? The whole point is to be able to carry many different things at the same time, without jumbling them all up. This makes it a whole lot easier to access what you need when you need it, especially during an emergency. You don’t want to be rummaging through your bag during a crisis now, do you?
  • Padding For The Straps: Sure this is a mini backpack, so you may not think you need to bother with this whatsoever, but you’ll soon find that padding really does make it all better. This is particularly useful when going hiking or camping, so you can enjoy your adventuring without dealing with raw, painful shoulders. It can be difficult to be on your feet with a backpack weighing you down, especially if the said backpack is not very comfortable either.
  • Contoured Backs: Chronic back problems are a widespread complication globally, which is why you should take this point seriously. Modern-day backpacks come with superior structuring, including contoured backs. This provides incredible support, ensuring you don’t experience any pains or complicate existing issues. Lumbar support is essential, and a primary guiding point of your purchasing decision.

At A Glance

Now that we’ve covered some of the intricacies of backpacks, we can look at a few other tips that’ll help you in your search. You’ll find that they’re simple, yet definitive points that will help you make a sound decision.

For starters, you should measure your torso. This helps you determine just the right size backpack for your body. If you neglect this, you’re putting your shoulders, neck, back, hips, and legs under a whole lot of strain. And if you’re always out and about, you’re going to speed it up even more. Why put yourself through this when you can remedy the situation with a simple solution? Grab a friend or family member to help you, and either use a tape measure or string to get the numbers. Take the measurements with you when shopping, so you can refer to them at any time.

Secondly, you want to look at capacity. With a mini backpack, there’s only so much capacity you can expect realistically, but you should still compare them with each other. If you get a backpack that’s bigger than your needs, you’re sure to fill it with junk, which means unnecessary weight to carry about. The unit of measurement used to measure capacity with backpacks is liters, though you also find them listed in cubic inches.

Types of Backpacks

The next thing to tackle would be the types of backpacks in the market. As you’d imagine, there are many different variations, even if you’re considering a mini backpack. Before you head out, it’s best to familiarize yourself with them so you know exactly what you’re looking for. Here you’ll find a list of some of the most common categories backpacks typically fall into, so you’ve some idea of what’s in store. That said, all backpacks are generally classified into frameless, external frame, internal frame, and bodypack. Something to bear in mind.

  • Hiking backpacks
  • Snow/ski backpacks
  • Biking backpacks
  • Business/work backpacks
  • School backpacks
  • Fashion backpacks
  • Traditional backpacks

These don’t really need extensive explanations, because well… they’re rather self-explanatory since their names imply their purpose quite clearly. What’s less obvious though is what sort of capacities and volumes you have to choose from. Here’s a basic guide to get you started.

  • Mini And Small Backpacks: Range anywhere between 6-10 liters.
  • Daypacks: The bigger ones usually clock in anywhere between 20-35 liters. A small travel backpack or daypack in this instance, is better suited for ½ day hikes and no more, mainly because you’d be limited in the amount of supplies you can carry. Which isn’t advisable, especially if you head off on remote camping trips and treks. Also as the name suggests, these are just for the day.
  • Weekend Backpacks: If you’re looking for longer trips away, you need to check out weekend backpacks. For a 1-3 day trip, a 40-50 liter backpack should suffice. Although of course this does mean that you cannot really opt for a mini backpack when it comes to this sort of thing. After all, you’re going to be carrying sleeping bags, stoves tents and so on, which isn’t very practical with something smaller.
  • Multi-Day Backpacks: The good thing about these names is that since they’re quite straightforward, you won’t be racking your brains to figure out which is which. This one is to allow you to carry more food and any additional gear necessary, with around 50- 70 liters of capacity.
  • Expedition Backpacks: These are pretty much the mammoth species of backpacks, and come in at a whopping 80 liters. Of course this also means you should have the stamina and strength to take on this sort of trip, because that much of weight is definitely not easy for someone who isn’t properly accustomed to it.

Measurement Of Backpack Volume

Whilst there are just two different ways in which backpack capacities are measured, there’s usually no knowing which of these methods has been used unless you ask the manufacturer yourself. One is, they use the total added volume of all closed storage, including every little compartment. Others use all of this, plus any open side pockets and so on, though these are the smaller-scale manufacturers. Though it’s unlikely you’d measure them yourself, it’s good to know how it’s done overall.

Top 10 Best Small Backpacks

1 – Osprey Kresta 20

Osprey Packs Women's Kresta 20 Ski Pack
  • Material: [main body and bottom] 420HD nylon packcloth, [accent] 420D nylon mini check dobby
  • Volume: [x-small/small] 18L (1098cu in), [small/medium, medium/large] 20L (1220cu in)
  • Support/Suspension: LightWire
  • Shoulder Straps: contoured
  • Waist Belt: yes, padded

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Kresta 20:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Kresta 20

  • Comes with very stylish and modern design. Many women found it stylish and trendy in looks.
  • Plenty of useful features to carry your skiing equipment, such as skis, helmets, snowboard, and snowshoes.
  • Zippered hydration pocket is kept separated from dry compartment which is the best thing Osprey did to its backpack.
  • According to many reviewers, it is a back pack comes with women-friendly design. The harness is shaped well to fit a female body very well.
  • It has got very useful dual zippered pockets that are placed on hip belt.
  • It has got very durable and reliable built with great features.
  • Both snowboarders and skiers found it useful.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • According to many women skiers, the backpack is overly priced. Other backpacks with almost same features come in lower price range.
  • It is sized a bit smaller which may cause trouble for tall women.

2 – Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15L Backpack Obsidian, M/L
  • Material: MonoRip Mesh, 100D Robic Triple-Ripstop, Power Span Stretch Mesh
  • Volume: 21L (1281cu in)
  • Support/Suspension: sternum straps
  • Shoulder Straps: adjustable
  • Hydration Compatible: yes

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15:

Reviewers like these things about the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15

  • According to several reviewers, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack backpack provides ample support which keeps them comfortable for overnight hikes.
  • Other users noted that it fits comfortably well on them.
  • Users also commended its spacious space for storing of gears and personal belongings.
  • Other reviewers thought that is pockets and compartments can be accessed quickly.
  • Reviewers thought that the backpack is ultra lightweight.
  • Its pockets are designed to make unloading of items much more manageable.
  • Many users have mentioned that its main compartment can expand to fit a lot of equipment.
  • Other users said that its dual adjustable sternum straps and side straps make the bag more stable and balanced.
  • Several others pointed out that it is also easy to stash certain gears due to its low-profile daisy chain system.
  • Testers felt that its back panel and shoulder strap system prevents users from abrasion and discomfort.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the backpack rode low on his back.
  • Another reviewer felt that the bag has a tendency to bounce.

3 – Black Diamond Bolt 24

Black Diamond Bolt 24 Backpack, Black, Small/Medium
  • ReACTIV suspension with high-flow OpenAir backpanel, shoulder straps and waistbelt
  • Zippered panel access Fleece-lined electronics and zippered organizer pockets
  • Trekking pole/ice axe attachment loops, bike light clip
  • Front, side and hipbelt stretch pockets, and raincover pocket (raincover not included)
  • Hydration compatible with external-access hydration sleeve

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Black Diamond Bolt 24:

Reviewers like these things about the Black Diamond Bolt 24

  • Many reviewers recommend that Black Diamond Bolt backpack for trekking and climbing because of its reACTIV suspension and a top-loading design.
  • Many climbers who used the product praised the bag for its comfort and ease of use.
  • Several reviewers found out that the pack is lightweight, providing ease when climbing and hiking.
  • Many of the users commended the backpack for its pockets and attachments where they can place their trekking equipment and personal belongings.
  • Users like that the bag has a side zip for easy access inside the bag.
  • Other users enjoyed that the waist belt of the backpack allowed them to move independently from the frame of the bag while still giving weight support.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that the buckles of the backpack could easily break.
  • A reviewer thought that the pack is already fully loaded, it would be difficult for you to place your hand inside.
  • Another reviewer felt that top pocket has a small opening.

4 – Mountain Hardwear Direttissima 35

Mountain Hardwear Direttissima 35 OutDry Hiking Backpack One Size Shark
  • Guaranteed watertight OutDry construction main compartment, rain room tested for 12+ hours
  • Flexible design concept allows removing or adding pack components for optimal versatility
  • Multiple lash points and long compression webbing allow for overloads while effectively reducing volume as needed to keep any size load stable
  • HardWave suspension conforms comfortably to the curve of your back and distributes weight evenly but is removable for carrying light loads
  • Intuitive, easy to secure and adjust ice-axe / ice tool carry system with pass through sleeve to conceal picks

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Mountain Hardwear Direttissima 35:

Reviewers like these things about the Mountain Hardwear Direttissima 35

  • Most of the reviewers have said that it is a great, durable backpack with good volume for both day trips and overnights.
  • Reviewers have also mentioned the easy attaching and removing of skis and ice axe on the sides of the pack.
  • A few travellers appreciated the great suspension system and supportive back and straps. It helped them to adjust the pack and carry it comfortably for long hours.
  • Some reviewers also complimented the waterproofing of the pack.
  • A few travellers also stated that the adjustable hip belt made them walk comfortable for miles.
  • Climbers said that the highly padded hip belt can be easily removed and replaced with an additional 1.5 inch nylon strap hip belt. It can be great for people with large belly.
  • Some travellers said that the pack can be compressed down using the compression straps and they have used it for a day pack also.
  • A few reviewers said that the back padding is stiff enough to give the pack support and make it stand rigid with less stuffing of the pack.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some of the reviewers complained for not providing a proper hydration system for the pack.
  • A few of the travellers also complained about no mesh pockets in the hip belt to carry emergency things.
  • Some of the reviewers are also dissatisfied with the less number of side compartments and no external water bottle pockets.

5 – Tumi Voyageur Just in Case

Tumi Women's Voyageur Just in Case Travel Backpack Black
  • Features zip closure and add-a-bag sleeve

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Tumi Voyageur Just in Case:

Reviewers like these things about the Tumi Voyageur Just in Case

  • Reviewers agree that the Tumi Voyageur bag provides comfort to the user of the pack.
  • Reviewers also noted that it is durable due to its nylon construction.
  • Users thought that the bag offers ample organization due to its pockets.
  • Other reviewers pointed out that it could be carried using its leather handle.
  • Users noted that the bag is stylish and attractive.
  • Reviewers found that the pack has a removable and adjustable shoulder strap.
  • Reviewers noted that its pockets are easy to access.
  • Other reviewers said that it has just the right size.
  • Users thought that the bag has a lightweight design.
  • They have also mentioned that the bag may be used for travel, commute, or everyday use.
  • Testers have noted that it holds a good amount of items for such as a small bag.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user noted the bag is smaller than expected.
  • Another user noted that it is an expensive bag.

6 – Quechua Arpenaz 10

Quechua ARPENAZ 10 Day Hiking Backpack
  • Age:Any , Gender:any
  • Easy to transport:Padded back and straps. Thumb loops.
  • Capacity:Volume: 10 litres / Weight: 160g / Full pack dimensions (cm): H 40 x W 23 x D 1.
  • Composition:POLYESTER.
  • Easy storage:Pockets: 1 outer.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Quechua Arpenaz 10:

Reviewers like these things about the Quechua Arpenaz 10

  • Most users said that this is the best backpack they have ever owned.
  • Many reviewers said that it has one small or medium size pocket which they used to store all their small items.
  • Users also said that the main compartment fits a pair of indoor shoes, soccer shin-guards, a shirt, socks and other small items.
  • Several other users said that it has very durable material.
  • They also said that it’s a very light bag and not very expensive.
  • Other reviewers said that this backpack it’s super small and super comfortable.
  • Buyers said that it is just big enough to hold a water bottle, wallet, can of soda.
  • They mentioned that the back has enough padding to be comfortable while still maintaining a very slim profile.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some users said that the main pocket only has one zipper. It would be more convenient to have two.
  • Another user complained that the material used is cheap.

7 – TYR Alliance 45L

TYR Alliance 45L Backpack Color: Avictor Blue
  • TYR Unisex Alliance 45L Backpack Prelude, Black/Blue, OS

Here’s what the reviewers think about the TYR Alliance 45L:

Reviewers like these things about the TYR Alliance 45L

  • Most users chose the bag for its storage capacity,solid construction,easy access and multiple pockets.
  • Others thought it’s an awesome transition bag for triathlons with tons of room for everything.
  • Many find the wet compartment feature convenient for stuffing things in after a shower or swim.
  • Many agree that this is the best bag for gym and swimming.
  • One user love the loops around the zipper ends and how it stands up on its own.
  • Many find it very useful for training and competition.
  • A lot of users agree it’s the best bag for the price they paid.
  • One user thought it’s a great bag for serious recreational swimmer.
  • A reviewer said it’s exactly what he needs: large, solid, capable.
  • Some users described it as an affordable, well made swim bag,large enough for all the swim gear.
  • Others love the reinforced waterproof bottom.
  • Many find the attached hooks on the outside useful for attaching wet suits.
  • One swimmer liked how it’s about as as lightweight as you can get yet still packs in everything you need for a day at
    the gym and swimming.
  • One user find the different pockets and compartment a user-friendly feature of the bag.
  • Others find the front straps useful for carrying helmets to transition areas.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer noted the wear and tear on the seams after a few months of usage.
  • Some users thought it has plenty of space but found the base very rigid and can’t fit in their lockers.

8 – Mammut Lithium Speed 20

No products found.

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Mammut Lithium Speed 20:

Reviewers like these things about the Mammut Lithium Speed 20

  • One favorite feature among users is its multiple storage options that comes in handy on multi-day or multi-week journeys.
  • A lot of users enjoy the stuff sack in the bottom which is perfect for sleeping bag.
  • Others find the bottom compartment ideal to keep damp or stinky clothes separate from the rest of their stuff.
  • Some users that another handy thing the pack offers is the ability to easily change the back length.
  • Others thought the back pads make hauling gear just a little bit easier.
  • Many reviewers love how the rainfly rolls up nice and tight in a zipper on the top of the pack and is super easy to throw over when unexpected weather rolls through.
  • MAny hikers like how the hip pocket allows them to easily access necessary items without having to stop.
  • Others are thankful that the pack has an integrated place for a bladder and they can snake the mouth spout through the back to attach to the shoulder straps for easy access on the trail.
  • A lot of users thought it’s an extremely well built and sturdy bag.
  • Others said it has a nice structure but still lightweight and comes with all the handy features of a bag.
  • Many owners find it perfect to bring on hikes, overnight trips and camping.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Others find the material low quality.
  • Some reviewers find it too big for their liking.

9 – Shacke Pak

Shacke Pak - 5 Set Medium/Small Packing Cubes - Travel Organizers (Orchid Purple)
  • 5 Packing Cubes - 4 x Medium (13.75x9.75x4) 1 x Small (11" x 6.75" x 4")
  • Made From High Quality Water Resistant Nylon Material to Withstand the Wear and Tear of Traveling
  • X Design with Double Stitching - Creates a Strong Reinforced Lid to Hold Your Clothes in Place and Prevents the Bag Material in the Middle to Fold Upwards.
  • 4 inch Deep Design Allows You to Fit All The Clothes You Need into Our Bags
  • High Quality YKK Zippers with Extended Zipper Cord

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Shacke Pak:

Reviewers like these things about the Shacke Pak

  • Many users thought the packing cubes are nice, decent quality, and look good.
  • A lot of users find these bags very handy for organizing and rearranging.
  • Many users love how the bags let them save some space and help keep things extremely neat and tidy.
  • One users expressed how she liked using them and look forward to using them for all her future travels.
  • A lot of users agreed these little packing cubes are awesome as it lets them roll or fold a ton of items within each little cube.
  • A number of reviewers thought it’s a smart way to travel and does not add much weight but really keeps thing neat and organized bag.
  • Other users particularly noted how the zippers slide nicely and are strong, good stitching and with a nice handle.
  • A lot of users liked how the cubes themselves are very lightweight and compress down when packed fully.
  • Other reviewers how the material of the bag makes it easy to slide into the bag even when it’s very full.
  • Many users thought it’s very well-made, perfect size for a full-size luggage.
  • One user said these offer the best bang for the buck with its outstanding size, quality and detail.
  • Some travelers thought it’s the perfect bag for all the TSA walkthroughs and constant hotel changes.
  • One reviewer who’ve used it for a while particularly liked its strong zippers and very doable material.
  • A lot of users love how it keeps everything so organized and how easy it is to get to the bottom of the bag without unfolding and wrinkling everything else.
  • Many users appreciate the various sizes options.
  • Majority of users find the packing cubes very sturdy.
  • Many users thought the zippers are outstanding as they don’t get stuck or hang with constant use.
  • Many users appreciate how the zippers come with corded pull tassels which make them easy to grasp.
  • A lot of users thought not only do these help them keep your suitcase organized, but they allow them to fit a lot more into their suitcase.
  • Many users loved how they are light enough not to add excess weight and the mesh gives a preview of the contents.
  • A lot of reviewers thought these are very attractive, easily store items that should come in handy for travel.
  • Easy organization, good construction, durability, storage capacity, different color options, attractive, sturdy zippers and easy on the budget were some of the reasons cited for choosing these bags.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Others said the mesh tears away easily.
  • Some reviewers thought the bags are functional but starts to fray around the edges after a week of use.

10 – 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.

Selected reviews

Black Sheep Adventure Sports reviewed the Osprey Kamber 32

Well thought out and comfortable with all the features that I really look for in ski touring pack. Ideal for day trips into the backcountry.

Posted 13 February 2018 by Monte Johnston – Read full review

The Big Outside reviewed the Gregory Miwok 24

These daypacks are not for ultralighting speed hikers and trail runners. But theyre a great choice for hikers who want extra comfort and may often carry a little extra weight (water, clothing, food), and who heat up on the trail.

Posted 13 April 2016 by Michael Lanza – Read full review

Backpack Gear Test reviewed the Gregory Z

Aside from the size and placement of the top stash pocket (noted in the previous reports) I can find nothing wrong with the pack, and just about nothing more I could want in a day pack.

Posted 9 June 2009 by David Wilkes – Read full review

Backpack Gear Test reviewed the Gregory Z

I don’t use this in winter as I feel it is too small for extra winter clothing, ice axe, crampons, and possibly snowshoes. It has many nice features including the two side pockets, hiking pole loops that can be connected to attach a jacket to the outside, and hip belt pockets.

Posted 7 May 2009 by Cheryl McMurray – Read full review

About MightyGoods

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.

So far we have checked more than 2,1 million reviews!

Using our bag review summaries, we aim to help you find the perfect bag without having to spend a lot of time reading an endless list of reviews.

Last update on 2018-11-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *