Best Budget Backpacks
Wu-Tang Clan said it right, C.R.E.A.M. Whether you are hiking through the Rockies, day-tripping to Laguna Beach, or heading to an intense spin class, your exciting activities need to be funded. But it can be tough to know where to cut cost corners with the gear you need without sacrificing quality.
Luckily, spending less on gear is possible without losing out on its caliber. And one comfortable place to start is with investing in a less expensive backpack. While it may seem that all the right options can cost a small fortune, this isn’t the case. Here we have compiled a list of the best, still stylish and feature-filled, budget backpacks available today.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
Great travel option
Good for day hikes
Top 10 Picks
1. Vbiger Hiking
Great travel option
Good for day hikes
Uncomfortable when heavy
Could be more durable
The Vbiger Hiking pack has a large carrying capacity and is a good choice as a travel bag. It also works well for hiking and backpacking, although be careful not to weigh it down too much as it does not have an internal frame. 20 to 25 pounds is what this bag can carry comfortably.Read more
This bag can store up to 55 liters worth of gear. Many other small pockets throughout the bag make it easy to organize your things. Especially important are small pockets on the waist belt which allow you to access important items such as your wallet, keys, and phone without removing the bag.
This bag has mesh pockets on either side the allow for easy storage of a large water bottle. This can accommodate a hydration bladder, however, it is not designed for one and therefore has no special features to help secure the bladder.
This bag has large shoulder straps that help to distribute weight across your back and prevent hot spots. It also has a wide waist belt that moves much of the weight from your back to your hips. A chest strap keeps everything in place. Some customers have reported that the straps are weak and broke during their first use of the bag.
Water-resistant fabric helps to repel water and keep the contents of this bag dry. However, this bag is not waterproof and should be used with a rain cover in heavy rain.
For a bag of this nature, it is a very affordable option! The Vbiger Hiking pack can fit everything you need for a long trip overseas and provides an easy solution for carrying your things while you travel. However, without an internal frame, this bag will become uncomfortable for long backpacking trips and is better utilized for day hikes.
2. The North Face Jester
Many color options
The Jester is a great looking and versatile addition to our list. It doesn't overwhelm us with features but has two great pockets, a padded laptop sleeve, and deep mesh water bottle pockets. We love the vast amount of color options and the overall comfort of this pack. If you are looking for a sidekick to take hiking, traveling, or to school, the Jester is a great option.Read more
Oddly enough, each affiliate website lists a different capacity for the Jester. We found numbers ranging from 26L to 29L. However, we decided to investigate for ourselves and find out the truth straight from the source. The North Face says this bag has an overall capacity of 28L. There are two main compartments. The smaller of the two is a front accessories pocket and the other is the main pocket. There is also an exterior bungee that allows you to attach a helmet, jacket, skateboard, or anything else you may want to attach.
The Jester is very versatile. It is a great pack for school, hiking, travel, or even as a diaper bag. There is a 15” padded laptop sleeve and two deep side mesh water bottle pockets. Perhaps best for hiking instances, as well, there is a built-in whistle on the sternum strap.
To help evenly distribute the weight of the pack, there is a sternum strap and a removable hip belt. For cushioning and breathability, both the back panel and shoulder straps have injection-molded FlexVent technology. Reviewers have been very pleased with just about every aspect of the Jester.
While there are many different thicknesses of polyester built into this pack, for the most part, it is made from 600D polyester. The North Face is known for making quality products and for having smooth zippers. If there were one thing we could improve about the Jester, it would be the weather-resistance. While the polyester material lends slight water-resistance, we wouldn’t count on it to keep your laptop safe and dry.
With the North Face branding and a lifetime warranty, this bag is a great investment. It isn't the least expensive bag on our list but it will certainly last you quite a while. We would have liked to see some more weather-resistance integrated, but we are still pleased overall.
3. Nike Club Team Swoosh
Great for everyday use
Sturdy shoulder straps
Does not work as a ball bag
No compatible with a hydration pack
No chest strap or waist belt
The Nike Club Team Swoosh pack is a good choice for a daily bag or a gym bag. Designed to be a ball bag, this addition does not actually fit a soccer ball, volleyball, or basketball and is better suited for everyday use.Read more
This bag has a large upper compartment that can items such as books, or gym clothes. The lower compartment is great for carrying smaller items such as pens or shoes. This bag is not large enough to fit a computer.
This bag has one mesh compartment on the side that can fit a water bottle. It is not compatible with a hydration pack.
This pack has large, comfortable and sturdy shoulder straps. Meant to be used for school, work, or the gym, this pack does not have a chest strap or waist belt.
The material that this bag is made of is sturdy, although a bit thinner than what is found on a typical Nike backpack. It is not waterproof, but does resist some moisture and holds up well in the rain.
The Nike Club Team Swoosh is an excellent choice for a daily use bag. For a Nike bag, it is priced quite affordably. However, if you are looking for a more versatile pack that you can use hiking or as a travel bag, this bag will not be sufficient.
4. Osprey Daylight
External access hydration compartment
Breathable back panel
Compression straps to compact gear
On the small side
The Osprey Daylight is a super lightweight for your day hikes or city breaks. It has a sleek design while also having compression straps, mesh water bottle pockets and an outside pocket for easy access. This is a great, inexpensive pack for carrying your essentials.Read more
This addition features one large main compartment with an external hydration sleeve and a smaller front pouch. The pack can hold 13 liters comfortably with added extra space in the water bottle pockets.
There is an external hydration compartment.
The shoulder straps on this bag are large and comfortable and do a good job of spreading the weight of this bag across your back even when it is full. There is also a small chest strap and a waist belt that help to keep the bag securely in place. Straps along the sides also help secure the bag by synching extra space when it is not full.
This bag is made of 210 denier nylon along the front and 420 Denier on the bottom, making the pack moderately durable and able to stand up to typical daypack use.
The Osprey Daylight is an excellent choice for a daily pack that will work either out on the trail or in the city. Especially for carrying the Osprey name and warranty, this bag is affordable. With its lightweight body, comfortable padded straps, and hydration pouch, this is a great pack for anything looking for something versatile.
5. Outlander Packable
Great for stashing in a suitcase while traveling
Internal zip pocket
Uncomfortable when packed with heavy items
Not for everyday use
Have you ever taken a vacation but not had enough room to pack a daily exploration bag? Or perhaps you overpacked and didn't have enough room to bring back souvenirs? The Outlander is a great travel companion that weighs only .5-pounds and folds into its own internal pocket. It is abrasion and water-resistant and has proven to be a trusted sidekick to over 8,000 reviewers.Read more
This collapsible, foldable, packable bag is available in two different capacities. You can choose a capacity of 20L or 33L. For both options, there is a large main compartment, a medium-sized pocket, and a small front pocket. One feature that we especially love about this pack is the small internal zippered pocket. It’s a great place to stash important or valuable items, such as cash, a passport, or jewelry. A fun fact included from the manufacturer is that inside the 33L bag, you can fit 26 compacted bags.
This is a great bag for travel. It can be folded down into its own interior zip pocket. When collapsed, it’s about the size of a hamburger. Additionally, it is incredibly lightweight. The 33L option weighs only .5-pounds. There are two side mesh pockets that are perfect for water bottles or umbrellas. The Outlander is available in 16 different colors and also includes a free carabiner.
The comfort is an area that we initially felt very skeptical about. However, as long as you don’t pack the bag with heavy items, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. As an example, one reviewer claims that a gallon of milk would be uncomfortable to carry. The shoulder straps are made from breathable mesh.
The Outlander is made from strong nylon material. It is abrasion-resistant and water-resistant. The stress points are reinforced and the SBS zippers are quite durable. While we wouldn’t recommend dragging this bag down the street, as a lightweight and general use pack, it is quite impressive.
This may not be the ideal choice for daily use, but it is great for short jaunts or to bring on vacation. It is affordable, packable, and dependable. There is a lot of impressive features and durabilities stuffed into this small and lightweight package.
6. Under Armour Storm Recruit
Padded laptop sleeve
No waist or sternum strap
Some have had issues with the overall durability
The Storm Recruit is a large capacity but daily use pack. It has plenty of pockets, along with two mesh water bottle pockets, and webbing on the front. The materials used to create this bag are water-resistant then finished with a water-resistant treatment, to further instill this feature.Read more
This is a fairly large bag that could be used for school or travel. In total, it has a capacity of 33L. The 33-liters are split up between four pockets. There are two large compartments, a small valuables compartment, and a medium-sized front pocket.
In addition to four great pockets, there is also a soft-lined laptop sleeve that fits a laptop up to 15”. There are also two side mesh pockets for water bottles. If you plan to use the Storm Recruit for hiking or travel, there is convenient webbing and a D-ring on the front. The bag is available in six different neutral colors.
Many reviewers have been pleased with the comfort of the Storm Recruit. It features padded HeatGear shoulder straps and a padded top grab handle. There isn’t any specific breathability built-in but there also haven’t been complaints about the breathability.
The Storm Recruit from Under Armour is made from polyester and nylon. It is finished with a water-resistant treatment, on top of the already semi water-resistant materials. Some reviewers are even brave enough to call it waterproof, but Under Armour hasn’t made that claim. The bottom panel of the pack is abrasion-resistant, but this is also the area that most of the durability complaints come from.
To be honest, this bag isn't over-the-top expensive, but it does cost more than we would expect from Under Armour. If the issue of durability could be improved, the overall value would be increased. However, it is a great looking and comfortable bag that is loved by many.
7. Venture Pal Lightweight Daypack
Good for day trips
Can be folded inside of its own pocket
Can’t secure hose on the hydration bladder
Uncomfortable when heavy
No waist belt
The Venture Pal Lightweight Daypack is a great choice for day hikes. However, the material is not very sturdy, and this bag does become uncomfortable when too heavy. This same lightweight material makes the bag easy to pack though – it can be folded up and zippered into one of its inner pockets.Read more
This bag can accommodate 35 liters of gear within a large main compartment. It also has two smaller front pockets that can be zippered shut. Each of these storage areas features compartments for organizing everything you have with you, whether you use this backpack for hiking or to go to school.
This bag has a mesh pocket on either side that can fit a 1-liter water bottle. It also has a pocket in the main compartment that can fit a hydration bladder. However, this bag is not designed to be compatible with a bladder system and therefore has nowhere to secure the hose.
This bag has thick, breathable mesh shoulder straps and a chest strap that help to distribute weight across the body. Customers have reported that this bag can be uncomfortable when filled too much.
The material that this bag is made from is weak and tears easily, so be careful to not subject to excessive wear and tear. It is also resistant to moisture, however, some customers have found that the waterproof lining begins to separate from the bag after some use.
The Venture Pal Lightweight Daypack is an economical choice for a hiking bag. However, with weak material and insufficient straps, this bag should only be used for day trips and can become uncomfortable when filled to excess. Luckily, this bag is priced accordingly and really won't set you back financially.
8. OutdoorMaster Hiking 50L
A hole for the hose on the hydration bladder
Comes with a rain cover
Hot shoulder straps
Uncomfortable fit on tall people
The OutdoorMaster Hiking Pack - 50L is a versatile piece that can work well for hiking, camping, and traveling. Its large carrying capacity will fit everything you need for a short backpacking trip or a longer trip oversees.Read more
This addition has two main compartments that together accommodate up to 50 liters worth of gear. It also features a front flap that can be expanded or synched down and can fit items such as an extra layer or helmet. Pockets in the waist belt provide space for small items and makes them easy to get to.
This bag has a mesh compartment on either side that can fit a water bottle. A pocket inside the main compartment closer to the back can fit a hydration bladder. Although there are no internal hooks to support a bladder, this bag does have a small hole that allows the hose to be fed through without opening the zippers.
The shoulder straps on this bag are sturdy and do a good job of distributing weight. They do not breath well though and can get hot on warm days. A small chest strap and thick waist belt also help keep this bag in place. Taller people do report that the waist belt sits too high on their hips.
This bag is made of sturdy yet lightweight moisture-wicking material. For the truly rainy days, it also includes a rain cover.
The OutdoorMaster Hiking pack 50L can be a great companion whether you are hiking trails behind your house or traveling the world. It is much more affordable than many bags of similar use. It provides adequate support so that it stays comfortable even when fully loaded with gear, and is roomy enough to fit everything you need.
9. Armycamousa Expandable Tactical
Comes in multiple styles
Not all versions come with a waist belt
The Armycamousa Expandable Tactical pack can be bought in a variety of different styles. Whichever one you choose, this bag offers spacious room and durability and will work well for many different activities including hiking, traveling, and daily use.Read more
This bag can comfortably accommodate 40 to 60 liters worth of gear. It features a large main compartment and two smaller, yet still spacious compartments in the front. Some styles of this bag also have a small mesh side compartment and a small pocket on the shoulder straps that can be shut with Velcro.
This bag is compatible with a hydration bladder, although there are no special features to accommodate this system. Some versions of this bag also include one mesh pocket on the side that can fit a very small water bottle.
The shoulder straps on this bag are wide and offer generous support. All versions of this include a chest strap, and some also include a detachable waist belt. If a waist belt is important to you, make sure to double-check that the style you are buying has this feature.
While most customers have found that this bag stands up to the test of time, some have received bags that fall apart quickly. Usually, the problem is with the seams or zipper, and it does not seem to be an issue every time. The material this bag is made from is also highly water-resistant, although it won’t repel all water in heavy rain.
The Armycamousa Expandable Tactical pack is a solidly made bag that offers a great deal of space and works well for hiking. For its capacity and features, it is priced averagely. Because it comes in a few different styles, make sure you have picked exactly what you want before making a final purchase.
10. Sea to Summit Ultra Sil
Medium / large size
No waist belt
Not the most comfortable
The Sea to Summit Ultra Sil is an ultra-lightweight choice that provides comfort while engaging in a variety of activities. While this is not for extremely strenuous climbs, it can stuff down completely to about the size of a pair of keys. And that doesn't mean it's lacking in strength as the fabric can resist loads of up to 350 pounds.Read more
This bag can fit up to 20 liters worth of gear, making it on the smaller side. All of this carrying capacity is found in the large main compartment.
There's no designated water storage in this pack.
The straps are minimalist. They may not be comfortable, but when buying this pack, you're buying it for the ease, ultra-lightweight, and compatibility. You're not getting it to summit Everest.
This bag is water-resistant and is suggested to be used as a large dry bag to carry wet gear after a day out. The material is also incredibly strong for how lightweight it is, being able to resist loads of up to 350 pounds, though you probably won't be carrying that around on your back in this pack.
This is an inexpensive, lightweight, collapsible option for anyone looking to just grab a pack for multiple uses and get outside. It might not have many frills, but it's useful.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
As with any type of backpack, budget or expensive, travel or leisure, the capacity is important. As odd as it may sound, these packs are typically measured in liters. So, if the option you have in mind is a 20-liter pack, imagine filling it up with 10 two-liter bottles of two-liter bottles of soda. Obviously, do not actually do this, it would be very messy, but it’s a great way to picture the size of the pack. On our list, we feature packs ranging from 13-liters to 60-liters.
Depending on the intended use of the budget backpacks, you’ll want to pay close attention to the size. If you will be using it as a day tote, around town, about 20-liters would be ideal. This would be enough for a water bottle, a snack, a notebook, a sweater, and miscellaneous items. However, if you are looking for an affordable pack for a full day hike, 35-liters is the typical size you would want to look at.
When looking into the features of the budget backpacks, we focused on the organizational features and versatility of the bags. Organizational pockets can be very useful if you plan to use the bag for school. Not being able to find your favorite pen when you need to jot something down is a nuisance.
If you plan to use the bag for hiking, these pockets can also be useful. Other important pockets include zippered or velcro pockets along the waistbelt. Waistpacks are usually seen on the heavier models, as they help to distribute the weight more evenly. Waistbelt pockets are a great place to keep your keys, phone, or wallet so that you don’t have to remove the bag and go digging to find these important items.
Lastly, we also researched the water storage options in each pack. Most of the packs feature a designed water bottle pocket and some feature a built-in hydration pack. Other bags have enough space and a decent sleeve for a hydration reservoir but no specific features to keep in in place or upright.
The comfort of a pack is one of the most important factors to consider. If it isn’t comfortable, you’re not going to want to use it. To determine the comfort of these options, we focused mainly on the straps. We noted whether or not they have a decent amount of cushioning and/or breathability.
As mentioned earlier, waist and chest straps are great for alleviating the weight of the bag and distributing it more evenly. Packs without these extra straps are better suited for the gym, school, or work, such as the Nike Club.
Depending on how you intend to use the pack, the material could be a dealbreaker. For hiking, you will want to keep an eye out for strong, abrasion-resistant, and possibly waterproof or resistant. A great bag from our list for hiking is the Osprey Daylight. This bag is made from denier nylon and is known to stand up to the tests of time. If the pack you are interested in is not water-resistant, you can invest in a rain cover to keep your belongings safe from water. Besides the actual materials of the bag, no matter what you plan to use it for, the zippers are also something to look into. Well known, YKK zippers have the best reputation and are luckily the most utilized.
This is an article about investing in quality gear and saving money- you could argue that this is the most important criterion! Each product on our list has been vetted for each criterion and then compared to its price. The price alone of an item doesn't determine its value.
When trying to save money, the internet is full of great deals if you know where to look. If you are looking for cheap outdoor or athletic gear there are websites like Moosejaw.com, Sierratradingpost.com, and Backcountry.com that sell quality brands at discounted prices. This is a great place to look for a budget pack. Although items can often still be pricy, sometimes you will come across an incredible deal.
Checking in on brands at the end of a season is another smart way to find a cheap price on a nice pack. When stores switch over what they carry, they will often offer massive sales. If you miss the big sale, make sure to double-check the websites for the brands you like the most. Many stores often always have a rotating lineup of sale items.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Using a pack like these for travel can be comfortable and easy to manage alternative to a suitcase. If this is what you primarily need a bag for, there are plenty of great options for low prices. Look for a bag that can accommodate a large amount of gear. An internal frame is less important on the kind of bag because most of what you are carrying will be lightweight clothing.
If you are mostly going to be using your budget backpacks for things like going to work, school, or the gym, then your options for economically priced bags are much larger. Everyday packs don’t need special features or frills. Still, look for a bag made with quality material and workmanship, as you still want it to be able to last you a few years. Once you figure out exactly what kind of pack you are looking for you can narrow to search. This makes it much easier to figure out what the lowest price you’ll be able to pay without losing any of the features you need is.
Other Factors to Consider
If you’re short on cash, it’s safe to assume that you are looking to invest in a pack that will last you for quite some time. Just because the options on this list are affordable doesn’t mean that they are not durable. A few features to look at when determining the durability of a product include the materials used to make the bag, the stitching (and whether or not it is reinforced), the warranty (if there is one), and the customer reviews. Warranties are a great way to see how a company stands behind their product and also gives the buyer peace of mind.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What features of a backpack should never be sacrificed for price?
Often, a product’s price is a reflection of the quality of the materials and artistry that goes into it. This is true for budget backpacks, too. However, there are certain features of a pack that should never be compromised. These features apply to every bag no matter what activity it is best suited for. Sturdy shoulder straps are a must-have for any pack.
These straps are what keep a back firmly on your back. If they begin to tear than the integrity of the product becomes compromised. If they come off entirely than the pack is rendered useless. If a pack has problems in this area, then it is too expensive at any price.
High-quality material that does not tear easily is another deal-breaker for packs. The backpack is a practical bag that is meant to make it easy for you to move and engage in an activity. It is therefore essential that these bags be able to stand up to general wear and tear without falling apart.
Finally, no pack is worthwhile if it can’t fit everything that you need it to carry. A low price for a bag is great, but if it can only take half of what you need daily than it is rendered unusable. Know what you will need to carry in your bag before buying it, and spend a little more if you have to get the big bag.
q: Where do you find or shop for budget packs?
Going to local thrift shops can also be a great way to find a cheap option. You can look up some thrift stores in your area to help you shop as well. Many outdoor gear stores also have thrift programs that are designed explicitly for reselling quality outdoor gear. Although it is always a gamble, great deals do happen to those who are persistent.
Another great easy idea for budget pack shopping is to shop amazon used items or go through customer reviews for options. Customer reviews are another way you can use the internet to find a cheap alternative. Some have a low price because they are cheaply made or uncomfortable. This is not always the case though, and reading customer reviews can help you figure out what bags are genuinely cheap and which are a good deal.
q: Can you purchase just any type of pack?
Bags that work for day hiking are much less particular and smaller. For truly short hikes a pack without a waist belt or chest strap will even due. If you plan on carrying gear or climbing steep mountains though, a bag with quality straps and features such as hydration bladder compatibility and water repellent fabric are going to make you much more comfortable.
There are many different types of options you can get for all types of packs including adventure pack but depending on the type of terrain to activities you will be doing, you will need certain options such as front pockets, being waterproof, or even a hydration water pack.
q: What are easy ways to cut corners in price?
There are certain features that many bags have which add to the price and aren’t necessary. Easy access to water is one example. Having pockets that can fit your water bottle on the outside can be handy but is not necessary. Hydration bladder compatibility can also be really nice, but unless you are using your bag to exercise, is an easy feature to let go of.
Furthermore, if you do decide to use your bag for running, biking, hiking, or another sport where convenient hydration is essential, most packs that aren’t designed to be compatible to fit a hydration bladder can still accommodate one. Unless you know that you are going to be using your pack for strenuous activity or carrying a heavy load, waist belts, and chest straps are other examples of features that aren’t truly necessary.
If you are going to sacrifice just one of the two, waist belts are usually the first to go. This is because chest straps work better to secure a pack in place on their own. Getting rid of extra pockets will also significantly decrease the price of your bag. Small extra pockets are great for organization and can be truly helpful. However, they are not truly necessary.
q: What size of budget backpacks should you opt for?
While you may want to invest in a product that has a bit of a larger capacity, so that it can be used for almost any occasion, including overnight trips, it’s important to make sure you feel comfortable and not weighed down while you do other things. So before purchasing your pack, take a minute to consider the main activities you will be using your bag for. To get you started, here is a rough guideline of pack size (budget or not).
-15-30 liters is optimal for day hikes, school, the gym, or work
-30-50 liters is great for a one-two day overnight trip
-45-55 liters is best for a few nights of camping or hosteling
-55 or more can be used for a longer trip or backpacking adventure. Not to mention, this size is great for packing camping belongings.