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 definitely possible without losing out on its caliber. And one easy place to start is with investing in a less expensive backpack. While it may seem that all the good backpacks can cost a small fortune, this just isn’t the case. Here we have compiled a list of the best, still stylish and feature-filled, budget-friendly backpacks available today.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 14 hrs of research
Great travel backpack
Good for day hikes
- Vbiger Hiking
- Sami Studio Foldable
- Nike Club Team Swoosh
- Osprey Daylight
- EcoCity Lightweight Foldable
- Paladineer Hiking
- Venture Pal Lightweight Daypack
- OutdoorMaster Hiking 50L
- Armycamousa Expandable Tactical
- Sea to Summit Ultra Sil
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Expert Interviews & Opinions
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Vbiger Hiking
Great travel backpack
Good for day hikes
Uncomfortable when heavy
Could be more durable
The Vbiger Hiking Backpack 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.
The Vbiger Hiking Backpack 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. Sami Studio Foldable
Can be folded inside of its own pocket
Good daily bag
No waist belt
Uncomfortable when heavy
The Sami Studio Foldable Hiking Backpack is lightweight and packs easily, making it a good choice for a travel backpack. It can be folded up and stored within one of its own inner pockets, so when you aren’t using it you can easily store it out of the way. When folded it also has a small strap that makes it easy to carry.Read more
This pack has one large compartment that can accommodate up to 35 liters worth of gear. A mesh compartment on the back can also be used to store items such as an extra layer, and a small compartment in the top flap can be used for small items.
This bag has a mesh compartment on either side that can fit a water bottle. These compartments have straps that can be synched down to ensure that items placed there won’t fall out. This back is not designed to be compatible with a hydration bladder, although it will fit a small one if desired.
This bag has shoulder straps with padding, and a chest strap to keep it in place. The padding on the shoulder straps is inadequate for comfort if the bag is packed with too much weight.
The material that this bag is made from repels water, but is not waterproof. It will help keep your items dry in light rain, but a rain cover should be used in truly inclement weather. A large flap on the top of the bag covers the main compartment, making this the driest area in the bag.
The Sami Studio Foldable Hiking Backpack makes a great travel companion, gym bag, or light day hiking backpack. However, it is not sufficient for longer hikes and will become uncomfortable if you pack it with too much weight.
3. Nike Club Team Swoosh
Great for everyday use
Sturdy shoulder straps
Does not work as ball bag
No compatible with hydration pack
No chest strap or waist belt
The Nike Club Team Swoosh Backpack is a good choice for a daily bag or a gym bag. Designed to be a ball bag, this backpack 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 backpack has one mesh compartment on the side that can fit a water bottle. It is not compatible with a hydration pack.
This backpack has large, comfortable and sturdy shoulder straps. Meant to be used for school, work, or the gym, this backpack 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 Backpack is an excellent choice for a daily use bag. However, if you are looking for a more versatile backpack that you can use hiking or as a travel bag, this backpack 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 Backpack 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 backpack 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 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 Backpack is an excellent choice for a daily pack that will work either out on the trail or in the city. With its lightweight body, comfortable padded straps, and hydration pouch, this is a great pack for anything looking for something versatile.
5. EcoCity Lightweight Foldable
Inner hook to hold a hydration bladder
Can be folded inside of its own pocket
No waist belt
The EcoCity Lightweight Foldable Backpack is another great choice for a lightweight hiking and travel pack that can be folded up and fitted into an inner pocket. On the small side, this bag works great for carrying everything you need on a day hike.Read more
This bag has a large main compartment that can hold up to 30 liters worth of gear. It also has two littler compartments that can fit small items, making them easy to find.
What really sets this backpack apart is the inner hook that will keep your hydration bladder upright in the pack. This bag also has mesh pockets on the sides that can hold your water bottle.
The shoulder straps on this bag make it comfortable. It also has a chest strap that helps to secure it in place. However, this bag does not have a waist belt and should, therefore, be kept lightweight while hiking.
The material on this bag is lightweight and easily compressible. Some customers have found that the bag falls apart after just a few uses, but most report that it stands up to normal wear and tear. Although slightly resistant, this bag will not keep rain out and should be used with a rain cover in even a light storm.
A lightweight and easily compressible bag, the EcoCity Lightweight Foldable Backpack works great for day hikes or as a travel backpack. With extra features that make it more compatible with a hydration bladder, this bag has a slight edge over other similar products.
6. Paladineer Hiking
Comes in two styles
Fully compatible with a hydration bladder
Comfortable, breathable straps
High-quality water-resistant material
Only one style comes with a rain cover
The Paladineer Hiking Backpack is a quality backpack at a great price. It is perfect for day hikes, camping, and any other outdoor activity that requires a decent amount of gear. This bag comes in two different designs with slightly different features, so carefully inspect which is which before making a purchase.Read more
This bag can fit up to 30 liters worth of gear in its large main compartment. It also has multiple smaller pockets that are great for organizing everything you have, and a mesh compartment that can be expanded as needed.
Both styles of this bag are compatible with a hydration bladder, featuring helpful additions such as a separate pocket for the bladder, a loop to hold the bladder up, and spots on the straps to secure the hose. One of the styles also has a mesh compartment on each side that can fit a water bottle.
The shoulder straps on this bag features breathable mesh padding that is incredibly comfortable and keeps the bag cool. Waist and chest straps also help to distribute weight more evenly, and keep the bag securely in place. One style of this bag features a wide, padded waist belt, while the other has a thin, yet sturdy belt. Both styles also include an internal frame, which helps to lift the backpack off your back, making it even more comfortable.
This bag is highly water-resistant, and although it is not waterproof it will keep your things dry in light to moderate rain. Each compartment also keeps moisture in, so a leak in one area of the back does not mean all the compartments will become wet. In severe weather, a rain cover is recommended. One version of this bag comes with a rain cover, but for the version other the rain cover must be bought separately.
The Paladineer Hiking Backpack is a highly recommended economical choice for a great outdoor adventure bag. Coming at a much cheaper price point than most other bags of similar quality, this bag offers comfort and spaciousness, and will hold up well to wear and tear.
7. Venture Pal Lightweight Daypack
Good for day trips
Can be folded inside of its own pocket
Can’t secure hose on 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.
8. OutdoorMaster Hiking 50L
Hole for hose on hydration bladder
Comes with a rain cover
Hot shoulder straps
Uncomfortable fit on tall people
The OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack - 50L is a versatile backpack 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 backpack 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 to 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 Backpack 50L can be a great companion whether you are hiking trails behind your house or traveling the world. 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
Highly water resistant
Not all versions come with waist belt
The Armycamousa Expandable Tactical Backpack 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 backpack 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 of received bags that fall apart quickly. Usually, the problem is with the seams or zipper, and it doesn’t 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 Backpack is a solidly made bag that offers a great deal of space and works well as a hiking backpack. 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 Backpack is an ultra lightweight choice that provides comfort while engaging in a variety of activities. While this backpack 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 int his 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 any 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 backpacks are typically measured in liters. So, if the backpack you have in mind is a 20-liter pack, imagine filling it up with 10 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 backpacks ranging from 13-liters to 60-liters. Depending on the intended use of the backpack, 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 backpack for a full day hike, 35-liters is the typical size you would want to look at.
When looking into the features of a backpack, 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. Sami Studio Foldable backpack features tie-down straps in the main interior pocket to keep your items from shifting. Other important pockets include zippered or velcro pockets along the waistbelt. Waistbelts 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 backpack. Most of the backpacks 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 pack but no specific features to keep in in place or upright.
The comfort of a backpack 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 backpacks, we focused mainly on the straps. We noted whether or not they have a decent amount of cushioning and/or breathability. The Venture Pal backpack features thick, mesh straps that are both comfortable and breathable. On the other hand, the Sami Studio backpack features inadequate cushioning and can be uncomfortable when over-packed.
As mentioned earlier, waist and chest straps are great for alleviating the weight of the bag and distributing it more evenly. Backpacks 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 backpack, the material could be a dealbreaker. For hiking, you will definitely 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 backpack 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.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Using a backpack for travel can be comfortable and easy to manage alternative to a suitcase. If this is what you primarily need a backpack 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 backpack for things like going to work, school, or the gym, then you options for economically priced bags is much larger. Everyday backpacks 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 backpack 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
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 cheap backpack. 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 backpack. 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: What features of a backpack should never be sacrificed for price?
Often times, a product’s price is a reflection of the quality of the materials and workmanship that goes into it. This is true for backpacks, too. However, there are certain features of a backpack 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 backpack. These straps are what keep a back firmly on your back. If they begin to tear than the integrity of the backpack becomes compromised. If they come off completely than the backpack is rendered useless. If a backpack has problems in this area than it is too expensive at any price.
High-quality material that does not tear easily is another deal breaker for backpacks. The backpack is a utilitarian bag that is meant to make it easy for you to move and engage in an activity. It is therefore important that backpacks be able to stand up to general wear and tear without falling apart. Finally, no backpack is worthwhile if it can’t fit everything that you need it to carry. A cheap price for a bag is great but if it can only carry half of what you need on a daily basis than it is rendered unusable. Know what you will need to carry in your backpack 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 backpacks?
Going to local thrift shops can also be a great way to find a cheap backpack. 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 specifically designed 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 backpack 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 backpack. 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 truly cheap and which are a good deal.
q: Can you purchase just any type of backpack?
Backpacks that work for day hiking are much less particular and smaller. For truly short hikes a backpack 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 compatibly 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 backpacks including adventure backpack 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 backpacks have which add to the price and aren’t really 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 really 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 important, most backpacks 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 backpack for strenuous activity or carrying heavy load, waist belts and chest straps are another example 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 backpack. Small extra pockets are great for organization and can be truly helpful, however, they are not truly necessary.
q: What size of a budget backpack should you opt for?
While you may want to invest in a backpack 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 backpack, 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 backpack 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.
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