What Are the 24 Different Types of Backpacks?

A female hiker with her lightweight hiking backpack stops to marvel at the view.

Many backpackers can attest that the backpack is the ultimate travel gear. This travel essential makes the experience of hopping from hostel to hostel and throughout the cities a breeze. For trips lasting 1-5 nights, the ideal size for a backpack is pegged at 40-60L. For 2-7 night trips, the recommended size goes up to 50-75L while trips going over a week require 60-85L packs.

Straps and other features of a backpack also contribute to a comfortable travel experience. Knowing the different types of backpacks will also be helpful to find the most suitable gear for your activities.


Climbing Daypacks

Climbing daypacks need room for the usual items, such as food and water, as well as items such as shoes, a good helmet, rope, and a harness. They are a little larger than a hiking daypack, and they usually have a rectangular but full shape, in part because they are made to carry a large selection of items comfortably and sit close to your body.

They are good at withstanding the elements, and when looking for a climbing daypack, there are two main aspects to take into consideration. One is the comfort, and the other is checking to make sure that they have enough room to store large items, such as ice axes and ropes. Of course, if you get a daypack specifically designed for climbing, this will take care of itself because the company that made it is already aware that certain features have to be included in the product.

Cycling Daypacks

Cycling daypacks come in a variety of sizes and capacities, so the size you choose will mostly depend on how long you intend to be out on your hike. If you plan to be gone for only a few hours, you can easily accommodate fewer items because as long as you have water and snacks, you’re all set. However, if you’ve got a day-long cycling trip planned, you’ll need more. All-day trips often require repair gears, tools, and extra layers, in addition to food and water.

For starters, your cycling daypack should be well-ventilated and very comfortable to carry. It should also remain still while you’re on your bike because if it moves around too much while you’re riding, it can become very uncomfortable and even cause chaffing. Naturally, you’ll want to try it on before you buy it, but keep in mind that it will be much heavier once you load it with all of your gear and supplies.

Hiking Daypacks

If you’re going hiking, you need a good backpack, and it needs to hold some important items, while at the same time providing the comfort that you need and deserve. If the backpack is too large, it can wreak havoc on your muscles by the end of the day, but if it’s too small you won’t be able to carry the items that you need for a successful hike.

When you’re shopping for a hiking daypack, pay attention to how it fits you, and yes, you should try it on before you buy it. Look at any features that you have a preference for, such as the type and design of the frame and its overall size. Most hiking daypacks have room for at least one water bottle, as well as enough room to include several layers of clothes and enough food and water to last you throughout the hike.

Sightseeing Daypacks

Since you likely won’t be needing the same supplies and equipment when sightseeing as you do when you’re participating in a competitive sport, such as hiking or cycling, these daypacks can be lighter than other types of backpacks, such as those made for hiking. The daypacks can be large or small, and they are indeed made in numerous sizes.

Of course, just because you choose a large one doesn’t mean that it has to be heavy because even if you choose to carry around your digital camera and other items while sightseeing, it shouldn’t make your backpack too heavy. Most sightseeing daypacks are comfortable and lightweight, as well as attractive and fun-looking.

In fact, because the items that need to be carried in these daypacks vary with each individual, you can have a little fun when shopping for one. You can even get a little creative with design and color. As long as it’s comfortable and lightweight, it can be used as a sightseeing daypack.

Snowsports Daypacks

These are specially designed backpacks for snowboarding and skiing, as well as other types of snow-related sports, so the first thing you’ll want to look for when shopping for one is the capacity to hold your skis or snowboard. If it doesn’t have that feature, move on to another bag because it is doubtful the bag was made for this specific purpose.

Above all else, you need to be able to secure your skis or snowboard successfully without it feeling awkward once you strap it on. The second most important feature is minimal movement while you’re carrying it around, so you have to make sure the bag is snug, but not so tight that it makes moving around difficult.

The large straps in the back of the daypack are for securing your snow equipment, so make sure those straps are strong and durable, as well as big enough to hold the size of snow equipment you own.

Work Daypacks

Obviously, these are backpacks you can bring to work with you, so they should hold at least your more important items, such as your wallet and maybe a comb. You can take them to the mall and with you when you’re out running errands, but it should do more than this.

Look for any type of bag that can hold a laptop, your cell phone, or a tablet, as well as one that has pockets that are secure for items such as wallets, which means there should be at least a zipper, if not another feature that will make sure that no one steals anything. Essentially, you can choose any type of backpack for a work daypack, but you have to first decide which features you want.

If a water bottle holder isn’t important to you, your work daypack doesn’t have to have that feature. If you don’t own a tablet, that’s all right, too. However, once you decide what is a must for your work daypack, you can go from there and choose the one that is right for you.

Hydration Packs

Cycling/Running Hydration Packs

Cycling and running hydration backpacks are small and lightweight, but their importance cannot be overstated. They are user-friendly and very comfortable, and they allow exercisers to get access to water any time they need it.

It usually has other characteristics as well, all of which are important to runners or cyclists. These include reflective tape in case they are exercising in the dark, adjustable straps that fit across the sternum, a padded back made of mesh, and fleece-lined pockets that provide the storage space you need when you’re out participating in these types of activities.

Although not usually waterproof, they are made of EVA bladder material that is BPA-free and which can withstand a lot more than you might think. Furthermore, the fact that you can have a drink of water anytime you need it is truly priceless when you’re out running or cycling.

Large Overnight Backpacks

Hiking/Trekking Backpacks

Since these types of backpacks are made for overnight camping and other stays, they need to be lightweight, comfortable, and well-fitting. After all, you’ll be packing more than just a few items of clothing to go on this trip, so make sure the backpack is lightweight, to begin with so that it isn’t too heavy once you get it packed and ready to go.

Hiking backpacks come in a wide range of sizes, and the size that you choose depends mostly on how long you’re going to be gone. As a general guideline, if you’ve gone up to 3 days, you’ll need a backpack that holds 40 to 60 liters; if you’re planning to be gone 3 to 7 days, you’ll need one that holds 50 to 75 liters, and if your trip is eight or more days in length, you should get a backpack that is 65 liters or bigger.

Most importantly, however, keep in mind that you’ll be carrying a lot of different items, some of them heavy, so a lot of space and different compartments are important characteristics.

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks

These are simply smaller hiking backpacks, and, in fact, they are usually under 50 liters in size. They are also made lighter but still have a lot of compartments and special features. They are perfect when your camping trip is scheduled to be just one or maybe two nights, or for light packers.

Today’s trends are moving towards backpacks and even suitcases that are more lightweight than ever before, and if you’re a light packer, this should be easy for you. Some of the most popular lightweight hiking backpacks are only about two pounds in weight, and they are nearly 100% waterproof and very durable.

Although the frames on these types of backpacks are roughly the same size as regular hiking backpacks, their overall size is much smaller and more lightweight, which often means you can carry around almost the same number of items as a regular size backpack. The backpacks are easy to care for and last a very long time, so you can count on using them for many years to come.

Traveling Backpacks

As long as your bag is convenient to carry around and has great storage compartments, it will make a great travel backpack. Comfort is important, but not as important as it is in hiking or other types of backpacks, mainly because you’ll likely only be carrying it through the airport for a while, which means you’ll only be using it for a few hours at the most.

You don’t need anything complex or technical, but if you’ll be working on your flight you may want to consider backpacks that hold a laptop. Backpacks that have a lot of storage compartments and pockets are perfect for traveling because even though you’ll need access to certain items while you’re on the plane, you won’t need access to everything you’ve packed for the trip.

Travel backpacks should also be sturdy, because even if you carry it with you on the plane, it can get roughed up a little. The main thing, however, is to make sure it has storage compartments that meet your needs, because there’s nothing as frustrating as needing something on the plane and not being able to get to it.

Miscellaneous Backpacks

Dry Pack/Waterproof Backpacks

These are backpacks that are 100% waterproof, not just water-resistant, which means they can take a lot of water, and it won’t get through to the inside of the bag. Their sizes vary quite a bit, with smaller ones that are 15 liters in size and the largest ones being 120 liters.

If you’re out hiking, running, or cycling, and it starts to rain, there’s no need to worry because the bags are completely waterproof. They are built to be very sturdy and durable, and every part of their outside design is waterproof, so rain is never a problem. They are usually made of a tough nylon, and they are made by well-known brand names, so you know that you can rely on them to work right.

They also have both interior and exterior storage compartments and tough shoulder straps that allow them to remain on regardless of what you’re doing

Packable Backpacks

Although not made for real heavy loads, these backpacks are perfect for a variety of uses, including cycling, sightseeing, and hiking. They have minimal padding and support, mostly because they are designed to be compact, and they are not meant to carry a large number of items because they’ll be too uncomfortable to handle.

If you’re just going shopping or running errands, packable backpacks can be just the thing you need because they carry more than a wallet or purse, but they still aren’t as big as regular backpacks. These backpacks are perfect for people on the go and people who like to get up and go at the spur of the moment.

They have zippered pockets and often even a loop that allows you to connect it to a piece of luggage. They are a great product when a normal travel bag is too small but backpacks are too large.


Climbing Daypacks

Climbing daypacks hold 30-40 liters and have features that include a main compartment that is quite large, loops for all of your external gear, a place to hold your helmet, and compression straps. You’ll also want to make sure your daypack isn’t too heavy, to begin with because if it is, it may be too heavy once you load all of the other items inside of it. The straps to hold the daypack onto your body should be reinforced and sturdy, and the length should be long enough, as well.

Cycling Daypacks

These daypacks hold from 10 to 35 liters because their size capacity is quite large, and their features usually include pockets for your tools and your helmet, loops to hold light attachments, a place for a water bottle, and a back panel that is well-ventilated. If you prefer other features, look for those, as well.

Hiking Daypacks

Hiking daypacks usually hold roughly 20 to 30 liters of items, have padded waist belts and shoulder straps, a panel in the back that allows some air to get through it, and one or two areas to hold water bottles. It is small enough that it won’t become too heavy while you’re hiking, but large enough to fit everything you’ll need to make the day a success.

Sightseeing Daypacks

Most sightseeing daypacks are between 10 and 25 liters, and they are lightweight, even low-profile, and they have pockets for the important items, such as sunglasses and a water bottle. Because no two “sightseeing daypacks” look alike, it is difficult to describe them in an exact way. They are all different, and as long as your backpack is comfortable and not too heavy for you, it will be a good bag for that purpose.

Snowsports Daypacks

Daypacks made for snowsports are usually 20-30 liters in size. They usually have a pocket specifically designed for safety equipment, fabric that is snow-repellant, good compression straps, durable straps to attach your snowboard or skis to, and a design that allows it to fit closely against the body.

Work Daypacks

For work, a backpack should be 20-30 liters in size and have several internal pockets, which you can use to store valuables such as your wallet. If you wish to carry your laptop to and from the office, make sure that it can accommodate this item, and make sure it is attractive.

The latter is important because, after all, you’ll be bringing it into a professional environment. A work backpack should never be ripped or torn, and some of the newer models even look professional, making them the perfect backpack for this occasion.

Cycling/Running Hydration Packs

Hydration packs are usually about a foot and a half long in size, weigh less than 12 ounces, hold up to 50 ounces of water, have padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap that is adjustable to both men and women, and are just the right size for most adults to feel comfortable wearing it. In addition, they can be true lifesavers if you end up exercising for longer than you’d planned to. The main difference between hydration packs made for cycling and those made for running is the size, with the running packs 3 to 5 liters in size and the cycling packs being 5 to 10 liters.

Hiking/Trekking Backpacks

Hiking backpacks come in a wide selection of sizes, and they can be anywhere from 40 to 60 liters in size. They usually have features that include a rain cover, water bottle holder, a back panel that lets air get through, storage pockets on the outside of the bag, a holder for your trekking pole, and padded shoulder straps and waist belts. They come with so much variety that it is all but impossible not to find something that is right for you.

Lightweight Hiking Backpacks

Lightweight backpacks for hiking and trekking are usually no more than 50 liters in size, and they can come with a lightweight frame or no frame at all. They contain external loops for your gear, a large mesh pocket on the inside, and have padded waist belts and shoulder straps. They are comfortable yet perfectly sized.

Traveling Backpacks

Travel backpacks are usually 45 to 80 liters in size and work best when they include features such as carry handles, zipper access to the main compartment, a removable top lid, and a back panel system that is hidden from view. Again, they need to have a lot of storage space because that is crucial when you’re traveling.

Dry Pack/Waterproof Backpacks

Waterproof backpacks vary quite a bit when it comes to size, and their features can include spacious storage compartments, a heavy-duty handle on the top of the bag, excellent compression straps to stabilize the load and make it more even and comfortable, an adjustable sternum strap, and even a main opening that is watertight.

Packable Backpacks

Packable backpacks are usually only between 5 and 20 liters in size and their features can include being very lightweight, very basic and standard features with nothing too fancy, and when not in use, you can compress these backpacks into something very small.

They do not take up a lot of room, and they come in a wide selection of colors, patterns, and designs. Best of all, they are perfect for people traveling short distances or even hikers and cyclists who try to keep only the basic supplies with them while exercising.

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