Different Types Of Backpacks (20 Styles & Designs Explained)

If you think there’s only one type of backpack to fit all your needs, think again! There are many types of backpacks to choose from, so whether you’re looking for school-friendly laptop backpacks or durable backpacks for hiking, it’s possible to find a bag that fits your exact needs and style preferences.

Even though we love that there are so many different types of backpacks to choose from, this can also make the process of choosing one more challenging. To help with the process, check out this guide on backpack types, featuring 20 different styles.

20 Different Types of Backpacks (to Fit Your Needs and Style)

Instead of browsing the entire selection of backpacks offered by big brands like North Face and Jansport, you can make the buying process so much easier by filtering your search based on the specific backpack type and style you’re looking for.

As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of types to choose from - here’s what they are:

1. Traditional or Standard Backpack

A traditional backpack comes with a standard design that can be used in a number of different ways, like school, work, or just everyday general use. They’re all about the basics and come with 2 straps, a compartment for storing your things, and a zipper - that’s about it!

2. Rucksack

A rucksack is basically just a rugged backpack. The main difference between a rucksack and a standard backpack is that a rucksack uses a flap and buckle to close instead of a zipper. Because they’re durable and rugged, many rucksacks are designed for military use, but they’re also great for outdoor activities like hiking, trekking, and camping.

3. Laptop Backpack

Since more people are working remotely and carrying their laptops everywhere they go, laptop backpacks are all the rage right now. A laptop backpack is designed specifically to keep a laptop safe and secure. It has a dedicated compartment for storing a laptop as well as the main compartment for carrying around additional personal items.

4. Day Pack/Knapsack

A day pack (also called a knapsack) is designed to be small in size, making it ideal for one-day trips and excursions. They’re a great choice for day trips while traveling or short camping/hiking trips.

5. Hydration Backpack

Hydration backpacks aren’t like any other backpack type; these bags aren’t designed to hold your typical possessions. They’re specifically designed to hold water for hikers, campers, trekkers - basically any type of outdoor adventurer who needs to stay hydrated. Hydration packs make it possible to carry water on your back so that you don’t ever have to worry about dehydration.

6. Sling Bag

Sling bags are designed with one strap instead of two. Similar to a satchel, they are worn across the body, and some people find them more convenient than the traditional 2-strap design. Sling bags are made for many different activities, so they can be used as a laptop bag, daypack, or hiking bag.

7. Tote Backpack

A tote backpack is a combination of a tote bag and a backpack. It’s designed to be portable enough to be used every day. Not only does it come with backpack straps for wearing on the back, but a tote backpack is also designed with carrying handles at the top of the bag.

8. Drawstring Backpack

Drawstring backpacks are extremely lightweight and often used for carrying a few small items. They’re made with light fabric and a string system that pulls the top of the bag closed. You won’t be able to fit much inside one of these, but they’re still great as an additional carry-on or small gym bag.

9. External Frame Backpack

With an external frame backpack, the bag itself is attached to an aluminum or composite frame. Things can be attached to the frame, like a sleeping bag or tent, so it's a good choice for lengthy outdoor adventures.

10. Tactical Military Backpack

Tactical backpacks closely resemble regular backpacks. But compared to regular backpacks, they’re tougher, more durable, hold more items, and are better equipped for long, strenuous, or potentially dangerous expeditions.

11. Duffel Bag Backpack

The duffel backpack is the perfect combination of a comfortable backpack and a spacious duffel bag. It’s basically just a duffel bag with backpack straps.

12. Rain Cover Backpack

Backpacks designed with rain covers are ideal if you know that you’ll be exposed to water or rain. Unlike the standard dry bag, the waterproof material of a rain cover bag is removable. Just add the rain cover when you need it, and take it away when you don’t.

13. Suitcase Backpack

Similar to the duffel bag backpack, a suitcase backpack combines the best of both worlds and is a great option for travelers. This suitcase with straps offers a lot of storage, and it’s comfortable enough to wear through the airport.

14. Dry Bag Backpack

Dry bags are designed to keep your valuables, well, dry. Dry bags are generally smaller in scale than traditional waterproof backpacks, so they're not suitable for long trips or lots of storage. However, they're extremely handy for keeping phones and other valuables dry from rain and water.

15. Carry-on Backpacks

Carry-on backpacks follow the standard backpack design; only they're specifically made to fit carry-on size restrictions set in place by airlines. Carry-on bags have to be small enough to fit in a plane's overhead bins, but they also must be large enough to hold everything you need for your upcoming trip. That's exactly what you'll get with a carry-on approved bag.

16. Wheeled Backpacks

Wheeled backpacks, also called rolling backpacks, come with a set of wheels on the bottom and an extendable handle on top. They can be rolled or worn on the back, so they're an excellent choice for anyone with back problems or foresees carrying heavy items.

17. Fishing Backpack

The best fishing backpacks are designed to make things easier for every angler. They come equipped with special compartments and holders that are specifically made to hold common fishing gear, and of course, they’re waterproof.

18. Disc Golf Backpack

Disc golf is a sport that’s growing in popularity, and it uses very specific gear. Disc golf backpacks are a great tool for storing and carrying that gear. This type of bag is built with compartments that are specifically designed with special compartments to hold each disc.

19. Soccer Backpack

If you play sports regularly, a soccer backpack will be much more practical than an everyday backpack. This is because standard backpacks aren't designed to carry sports equipment, and they’re normally too small to fit a ball inside, but that’s not the case for a soccer backpack.

20. Cycling Backpack

There are so many brands and styles of cycling backpacks on the market designed especially for optimum functionality when cycling. This type of backpack is made to be comfortable, tight to the body, and lightweight.

Types Of Backpacks

Most Popular Type Of Backpack 

After going through this long list of types of backpack bags, you might be wondering which one is the most popular. The traditional/standard backpack has always and will always be a popular choice since it’s extremely versatile, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right one for you.

To decide which type of backpack is best, consider things like:

  • The activity you’ll be doing
  • Where you’ll be using the bag most often
  • How much space you need (and how much weight you plan on carrying)
  • Any special backpack needs (like an internal hydration pack)
Most Popular Type Of Backpack

Most Common Backpack Uses and Benefits

Even though all backpacks are designed to help you comfortably carry and store your personal items, the exact usage specifications and benefits depend on the type you’ve chosen. The majority of backpack types fall under 4 usage categories:

1. Outdoor and Hiking Use

Backpacks designed for outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and camping are generally made with tough, durable material that is waterproof or water-resistant. Having a good outdoor backpack is a great investment for adventurers who want to keep their possessions and valuables protected from the elements.

2. Travel Use

Many travelers are ditching their bulky suitcases and using travel backpacks instead. Whether you’re going on a weekend getaway or a 6-month backpacking trip, using a travel backpack has a lot of advantages, especially for travelers who prefer to keep their possessions close by.

3. Sports Use

Even though duffle-style gym bags are still a popular choice, backpacks designed for sports use are being used by many gym-goers and athletes. Using a backpack for the gym is a better option for your back since it carries weight evenly across the shoulders rather than weighing down only one side of the body.

4. Casual/Everyday Use

Modern backpacks are designed to be versatile and diverse, which means you can use the same backpack all day, even if that means going straight from the office to a night out. Some casual-use backpacks even serve as a fashion statement.

Most Common Backpack Uses

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What type of backpack should I get for high school?

There are many types of backpacks for high school, like laptop bags or rolling backpacks. The main concern for choosing a high school-friendly backpack is to find one that can comfortably hold all of those heavy textbooks.

Of course, high schoolers are generally concerned with staying on top of fashion trends and choosing a stylish pack, so check out our guide to the best backpacks for high school to find comfortable, stylish options. 

What is the best backpack for heavy books?

If you’re looking for a high school or college backpack that can handle the weight of heavy books, you’ll want to pay close attention to the backpack materials - especially the straps. If the contents of a backpack are too heavy, it’s common for the straps to start ripping and holes to form in the bag’s base.

One of our favorite backpacks for heavy books is the Vancropack Student Backpack. This bag is made with durable canvas, making it both fashionable and sturdy.

What is a small backpack called?

While there's no official name for a small backpack, many people call them "mini backpacks" or even "daypacks" in the travel community.

What are military backpacks called?

Military backpacks are often called "rucksacks." This name comes from the German word "ruck," which means back.


Next time you start shopping around for different types of North Face backpacks or new backpacks from Deuter, remember that there are many different styles to choose from. Each backpack style/type is designed to fit a specific need, so make the search easier by focusing on the right type of backpack for you.

  • Updated November 3, 2021