The 5 Best Backpacks for Everyday Carry
A couple of months ago, we introduced you to our picks for the 7 best slings bags for everyday carry. We personally tested, reviewed, and compared each bag to get deeper into what makes each a good choice for guys with different EDC styles.
That sling bag roundup went over so well, we decided it was time to do the same for another EDC staple: The humble but irreplaceable backpack. So we worked with some of our favorite brands to get hands-on with our testing, poking and prodding the ins and outs of each bag to figure out which features really make a bag one of the best backpacks for everyday carry.
We really believe that the five backpacks collected here each represent the best of the best in a certain everyday carry style and budget range. And we hope that one will be the perfect match for your lifestyle. So let’s get into the details.
Our take on a traditional backpack style uses the same materials and design cues as our other bags: A durable waxed canvas construction, full-grain leather detailing, and all-metal hardware. It takes after the classic design of a military rucksack, but veers more into casual everyday carry territory instead of going full tactical.
A little bit more about that waxed canvas construction: The Rucksac is made with an extra-durable 18 ounce duck waxed cotton canvas, which gives it a lot of heft and longevity. And the full-grain leather accents also add to this buy-it-for-life resilience, especially the bottom panel.
Compared to the other bags on this list, the Rucksac is relatively light on pockets and zippers. It’s definitely a more minimalist take on the whole backpack category. But thanks to a drawstring closure under the flip-top hood, it can really store a surprising amount of gear. A 15-inch laptop sleeve makes it easy to store your electronics safely, too.
Extra padding on the back panel and along the straps makes the Rucksac particularly comfortable to carry. Overall, it’s an excellent bag for versatile, general purpose everyday carry, and it comes with a full lifetime guarantee so you know your investment is a safe one.
- Dimensions/Capacity: 19″x13″x5″, approximately 20 liters
- Materials: Waxed canvas and full-grain leather
- Notable features: Internal laptop sleeve, side zipper access, all-metal hardware
- Best for: All-purpose everyday carry, commuting
- Country of origin: USA
- Price: $379
GORUCK GR1 Heritage Rucksack
GORUCK has made a name for themselves with their highly detailed lineup of tactical-inspired, USA-made backpacks that are meant to last a lifetime. They have a refreshingly wide range of styles to choose from, each with a slightly different emphasis — but we’ve chosen the GR1 Heritage Rucksack for this review, as it seems to be the most everyday carry friendly.
The GR1 Heritage is made from a lighter-weight duck waxed cotton canvas. That 10 ounce canvas still has the supple look and feel we love in a backpack, but it cuts down on the overall weight of the bag. That’s a nice feature if you’re looking for a multi-purpose bag for casual use. And leather accents all over the bag add a touch of style and a boost to the bag’s overall durability.
If there’s one thing we’d like to see improved on the GR1 Heritage, it’s the hardware. It’s almost all plastic, which kind of gives an aesthetic clash with the rest of the natural materials used.
A clamshell-style opening makes the GR1 Heritage very easy to pack and unpack, and it’s accompanied by a good half-dozen other pockets. There’s a lot of storage space in here, and a lot of ways to organize your gear, including a few rows of molle webbing on the interior back panel of the backpack.
Overall, GORUCK makes really high quality gear, and the GR1 Heritage is no exception. It can feel a bit large when you’re carrying it, almost like a turtle shell, but you can’t deny the appeal of its combination of style, durability, and versatility.
- Dimensions/Capacity: 12" x 20" x 6.75", 26 liters
- Materials: 10 oz duck waxed canvas, full-grain leather accents
- Notable features: Clamshell opening, hidden pockets, laptop sleeve, hard plastic frame
- Best for: Mixed-use casual and tactical everyday carry
- Country of origin: USA
- Price: $415
5.11 Tactical Rush Rush12 Backpack 2.0
5.11’s Tactical Rush Backpack offers maximum features for a surprisingly low cost. But now, you’ll have to ask yourself: Do you need as many features as this backpack offers?
From one glance, you can tell that this is a dedicated tactical EDC backpack. There’s about a dozen rows of molle webbing. A half dozen individual compartments. More pockets than you’ll likely ever need. A hydration pack compartment. A laptop sleeve. In short, it’s got the works.
The Rush12 is made from a tough 1050D nylon, so even though there are a lot of moving parts, the overall quality and durability is there. For a little over $100, the overall quality of materials, construction, and design is solid.
We can see this bag being a really solid pick for someone who is willing to put the time and effort into learning the ins and outs of exactly how to pack it. There are an untold many clips, straps, velcro loops, pockets, zippers, and attachment points you’ll need to get acquainted with to put it to its best use. And if you’re getting a headache just imagining that, go for a simpler bag. But if you like the tactical aesthetic and want to have a dedicated pocket for your carefully-selected pen, it’s a great bag.
- Dimensions/Capacity: 18" x 11" x 6.5" main compartment, 24 liters
- Materials: 1050D nylon
- Notable features: One million pockets, front and side molle, padded laptop sleeve, rear hydration compartment
- Best for: Full-on tactical everyday carry
- Country of origin: Vietnam
- Price: $105
Alpaka Elements Backpack
From the decidedly tactical bag featured above, we move to the opposite end of the spectrum with Alpaka’s Elements Backpack. It’s a sleek and casual backpack that we think would make a great fit for urban EDC, and it has some unique design features that make it stand out well for a tech-centric carry style.
First off, the Elements Backpack is made mainly from a 500D nylon. But the base is reinforced with a much tougher 1680D nylon, so there’s a nice balance here between weight and durability.
The zippers for the Alpaka’s multiple compartments are especially worth taking note of. They’re all YKK, so bonus points there for using good hardware. And the main compartment has an Aquaguard zipper for even more weather resistance, which pushes this bag firmly into the tech-centric category.
Open those zippers up, and you’ll find another signature Alpaka touch: Contrasting liner materials that make it really easy to see the contents of your bag. There’s a laptop sleeve in there that can hold up to a 16-inch laptop, too.
We really like the padding style that Alpaka uses on their straps on back panels. It’s a unique honeycomb design that gives a very comfortable ride. That combined with the bag’s slim profile makes it one of our favorites for casual urban carry.
So in the end, the Elements Backpack is a novel and well-made bag that comes in at a medium price range. We think it would be a great fit for someone who wants a slimmer bag that they’ll mainly be using for carrying their tech gear while commuting.
- Dimensions/Capacity: 12.5” x 5.5” x 20.4”, 24 liters
- Materials: 500D nylon body, 1680D nylon base
- Notable features: Padded and suspended laptop pocket, exterior water bottle pockets, contoured back panel
- Best for: Sleek and casual urban everyday carry
- Country of origin: Vietnam
- Price: $159
Baronfig Venture Backpack 3.0
The Baronfig Venture Backpack 3.0 is the smallest of all the packs we’ve featured here, coming in at approximately 12 liters of storage space. It’s super light at less than two pounds, and it’s made of a lightweight nylon material.
Despite its diminutive size, the Venture Backpack 3.0 has a surprisingly wide range of zippered pockets and organization features — and it can even fit a 16-inch laptop, though just barely. The microfiber cloth lining is a really nice tech-friendly touch here, as are the pen loops on the interior.
If we have just one gripe with this bag, it’s that the zippers are pretty noisy. We appreciate that they went with metal instead of plastic, but some different pulls here would have added to the overall aesthetic pleasantness of the bag.
So who is this bag for? We can see it being put to great use as a commuter bag for someone with a more minimalist EDC style. It’s small, slim, and lightweight, and not too expensive for what it offers.
- Dimensions/Capacity: 17” x 11" x 4”, approximately 12 liters
- Materials: Nylon
- Notable features: Microfiber laptop compartment, 10 internal compartments, luggage loop
- Best for: Travelling light
- Country of origin: Vietnam
- Price: $118
How to Choose a Backpack for Everyday Carry
One of those backpacks may have jumped out at you as the obvious choice for your everyday carry style and needs. But if not, then you’ll need some criteria to help narrow down your options.
Here’s the advice we give our friends when they’re looking for a new backpack:
- Consider your budget. This is always going to be a factor, so at least have a rough idea in mind of how much you want to invest. Just keep in mind that more affordable backpacks are less likely to last a lifetime, while high-dollar packs often come with a lifetime guarantee.
- What size of bag do you need? We’ve seen people get by happily with 12 liter bags for casual EDC, but if you’re planning on using a bag for multiple purposes you may want to go larger. 20 to 25 liters seems to be the sweet spot. But if you’re looking for larger than that, camping backpacks are where it’s at.
- How tough does your backpack need to be? If you’re hard on bags, then investing in a much tougher material is a must. But if you’re basically just taking your backpack from home to work and back again, a thinner and lighter material might be more comfortable.
After that, take into consideration things like where the bag is manufactured, and whether it has a warranty or not. That will point you in the right direction for finding the everyday carry backpack of your dreams.
Frequently Asked Questions
And before we go, here’s the answers to your most burning questions about everyday carry backpacks.
What’s the best size for an everyday carry backpack?
We’ve used a range of backpack sizes for everyday carry, and found that the best size is anywhere from 12 to 25 liters. Any less than that and you’d be better off with a sling; any more, and a camping backpack is probably a better fit.
What’s the best material for an everyday carry backpack?
We’re partial to waxed canvas for our everyday carry backpacks, as it’s weather-resistant, durable, and looks and feels quite nice. But nylon is a good choice too, as it’s even more abrasion-resistant than waxed canvas.