The best minimalist backpacks for backpacking, city travel, hiking and carrying camera gear – all lightweight, practical, and with an attractive design.
I may love souvenir shopping, but I’m a minimalist traveller at heart.
I always try to travel as light as possible, including on our 10-month trip around the world where I packed carry-on only. When it comes to travel luggage, I prefer a clean look and a modern aesthetic.
Travel backpacks are notorious for being clunky, clumsy, and let’s be honest, a little bit unsightly. Flaps, cords, pouches and pockets, zippers gaping and straps flailing about – it’s not a good look! Sometimes all you want is a minimalist backpack with a simple, street-ready design.
Read next: 10 tips to help you pack light every time.
Practicality is essential, and you don’t want to skimp on any features. You want a bag that gets straight to the point without any unnecessary details. Carrying a minimalist travel bag will also encourage you to travel light, keeping your pack tight and your costs down.
Whether you’re planning a quick European city break with carry-on only or a long-term jaunt across Southeast Asia, I’ve found the perfect pared-back travel pack for you. This post brings together 24 of the best minimalist backpacks for women and men.
In This Post
- How I chose these minimalist backpacks
- Best minimalist backpacks for women
- Best minimalist backpacks for men
- Minimalist backpacks for hiking & outdoors
- Minimalist backpacks for photographers
- Minimalist backpack accessories
- What to put in your backpack: Travel packing lists
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How I chose these minimalist backpacks
There are lots of minimalist travel backpacks out there. When curating this list, I focused my search on sleek, contemporary designs that look just as at home in urban environments as they do in the great outdoors.
The best minimalist backpacks have a simple silhouette without too many bits and bobs. But they don’t compromise on features – each of these backpacks has that latest practical mod-cons inside, with a sleek profile outside.
Without unnecessary additions to weigh them down, minimalist backpacks are lightweight by nature, which makes them perfect for travel. Many of the bags featured on this list are crafted from ecologically friendly performance materials, so you know they’re made to last. And don’t worry – they’re not all black, either! I’ve made a point of featuring minimalist travel backpacks that use colour and texture, albeit in a more restrained palette.
Most of these designs are unisex, but I’ve grouped them into men’s and women’s backpacks for ease. I’ve also included both checked backpacks and carry-on backpacks.
Best minimalist backpacks for women
Sleek but still feminine, these travel backpacks are big enough to fit all your gear for a backpacking trip. I’ve also included 6 of my favourite minimalist laptop bags and day packs for women to help you stay organised on the road.
Minimalist travel backpacks for women
1. Packsafe Venturesafe
- Capacity: 45 litres / 65 litres
- Weight: 3.81 lbs
- Dimensions: 21.65 x 13.78 x 8.66 / 15.8 x 13 x 29.6
Approved for carry-on, the straps on this bag tuck in neatly when not in use. Even the zipper pulls fasten down flat. This is actually an a safety feature – this anti-theft backpack is self-locking and also has a top flap for extra protection. If you’re looking for security and streamlined design, this bag is a great choice. It comes in Black, Eclipse blue and Plum (pictured) and has a 5-year warranty.
2. Osprey Porter
- Capacity: 65 litres
- Weight: 1 lb
- Dimensions: 25 x 14 x 12
When it comes to popular backpack brands, Osprey has the best minimalist designs. Multiple pouches make the Porter practical – but it’s also super light-weight and rather petite for a 65 litre backpack. The monochrome colour palette really helps to give Osprey bags a clean look (I love the Diablo Red). ‘Padded wings’ on either side in a textured fabric conceal the zippers, while the special ‘StraightJacket’ compression system allows you to bind the bag into a streamlined parcel when it’s not quite full. If you like Osprey designs, I’m also quite fond of the Renn.
3. Thule Landmark
- Capacity: 40 litres / 50 litres
- Weight: 3.17 lb / 4.5 lb
- Dimensions: 9.8 x 13 x 21.5 / 19.3 x 13 x 24.8
Even with the matching 20 litre day pack added-on, this bag still manages to look sleek. There’s a SafeZone compartment and CashStash pocket for security, and I love that this backpack opens up suitcase-style so you can keep everything neat and tidy inside. The Majolica Blue colour (pictured) is subtle, or there’s a sophisticated Dark Bordeaux version. If you like Thule, I also recommend checking out the Thule Guidepost.
Minimalist day packs & carry on backpacks for women
4. Herschel Travel Daypack
More streamlined than some of Herschel’s other designs but with all the same great features, this backpack has a fleece-padded laptop compartment (15″), dual water bottle holders, and a breathable Airmesh covering on the straps and back. I adore the clean yet feminine Ash Rose colour and the single dark stripe on the exterior, which gives this backpack a lithe shape. Pinstripe lining inside adds a bit of quirky character.
5. Travelon Anti Theft Classic Backpack
Secure bags are all the rage right now, and the Anti Theft Classic by Travelon is widely considered one of the best on the market. This day backpack has lockable compartments, a slash-resistant body and straps, and built-in RFID blocking slots for your cards and passport. It’s available in 6 neutral shades to match any outfit. I really like the classic handbag-like shape and the touch of quilted stitching on the front.
6. Himawari Laptop Backpack
This bag is made for students, but it works perfectly as a travel day pack as well, especially in the city. The textured body is made from water-resistant nylon, and the straps are padded for comfort. A single flap covers the entire front of the bag, concealing pockets and slots. It fits a 15″ laptop, has two handy side pockets, and my favourite feature of all is the full-length vertical zip that runs along the back of the bag so you can easily pull out your travel documents. Available in six minimalist colours.
7. Expatrié Leather Backpack
The most elegant minimalist backpack on the list, the Noelle marries effortless glam with a practical interior. There’s something very 90s about this bag – in a good way! I love the squared-off shape and the uniform tone, even in the stitching. This bag is made from vegan leather, features a hidden pocket at the back, and uses a combined drawsting/magnetic closure for easy access. It’s not as secure as some other day packs, but boy does it look good. I like all the colours in the range, especially the Nude and the Mauve.
8. The North Face Kaban Pack
If you’re all about performance fabrics and durable design, look no further than this day pack from The North Face. Top-loading, free-standing and voluminous, it has a wraparound zip closure, a 17″ laptop sleeve, and padded back panels and straps. This is a perfect example of a versatile minimalist backpack made for the street and the great outdoors. The back is a bit strappy, but the angular lines on the front and sides present a clean look to the world. Military Olive and Metallic Silver colourings are on-trend and great for travel.
9. Cote&Ciel Isar Eco Yarn Backpack
For those who like to go minimalist but still stand out from the pack, the Isar backpack by French label Cote&Ciel using simple elements to create a high-fashion look. From the back, it looks like a regular backpack, with mesh elements and adjustable padded straps. The exquisite shape at the front is created by a fold-over fabric panel, which secures down with a minimalist buckle strap. The colour is perfect for winter, and it comes in a medium or large. I can see this bag on the streets of Milano or Barcelona!
Best minimalist backpacks for men
Minimalist backpacks don’t have to be black! Here are 9 of my favourite men’s designs, all utterly practical yet still with a bit of character.
Minimalist travel backpacks for men
10. Peak Design Travel Duffelpack
- Capacity: 45-65 litres
- Weight: 4 lb
- Dimensions: 13.4 x 16.5 x 26
I’m a huge fan of Peak Design’s unisex travel bags. The Duffelpack is versatile and chic, and with two external zippers, expands in width to fit up to 65 litres. Stowable straps mean you can carry this bag either as a backpack or a regular duffel. The top opens up like a giant ‘purse’, revealing vertical side pockets and a huge internal area. Best of all, the shell is made from weather-proof recycled nylon canvas.
11. Gonex Hiking Backpack
- Capacity: 70-80 litres
- Weight: 4.83 lb
- Dimensions: 32.28 x 13.38 x 11.02
The Gonex resembles a regular backpacking bag, but the pared-back colours and slick fabric are enough to give it a minimalist aesthetic. The design is performance-focused – durable materials, an adjustable weight-bearing system for easy carry, and aluminium supports inside to protect your gear. There are five colours available, but I like the simple Navy or Black best. There’s also a smaller 45-50 litre version for shorter trips or hiking.
12. Heimplanet Monolith Rucksack
- Capacity: 45 litres
- Weight: 4.34 lb
- Dimensions: 24.8 x 13 x 11.4
The Monolith might not be to everyone’s taste, but I can really see this design coming into its own after a few months of rough and tumble on the road. Horizontal and vertical front straps look great when they’re snugly fitted. The Copper Red colour is a bit different, and although I don’t love the detailing on the front, it does add some texture. Inside and on the back, this pack is as practical as they come: There’s even a separate side-accessible sleeve pocket for a laptop, unusual for a bag of this size.
Minimalist day packs & carry on backpacks for men
13. Black Ember Citadel Minimal Backpack
I love everything about this design, including the dedicated tech pouch on the front and the oversized zipper pulls that add a bit of flare. The Jet Black finish is very urban, but this bag does well on the road, too. Performance textiles, waterproof construction and an air-flow back panel are added for comfort.
14. Ucon Acrobatics Hajo Backpack
Berlin-designed Ucon Acrobatics bags are the epitome of minimalist sophistication. The Hajo blends urban and outdoor effortlessly. It fits a 15″ laptop in its neoprene internal pocket, and has loads of pouches inside for storing bits and pieces. Ultra-soft PU coating on the exterior is weatherproof and oozes cool. I love the roll-down top, which can be adjusted to pack more inside, and the easy-access side zipper.
15. Bellroy Campus Backpack
Don’t let the simple shape fool you – this rather inconspicuous little day pack has been engineered to perform as well as any other backpack on the market. Padded straps and quick access zips are among the perks. I love the dual padded laptop/iPad sleeve that stands in the middle of the bag so you can pack around it. Extra clasps on the side straps help keep everything tight and tidy. There’s also an A5 document pocket inside, perfect for keeping your travel paperwork in order. The Bellroy comes in six gorgeous colour combinations, some with a contrasting bottom panel and all with a luxe internal lining.
16. Fjallraven Raven 28 Backpack
You probably know the name – Fjallraven has a reputation for quality luggage, and their Raven 28 Backpack, one of the simplest designs in the collection, is no exception. Made from eco-friendly recycled polyester and organic cotton, it features a padded 15″ laptop sleeve, fleece-lined pockets to protect screens or lenses, side pockets, and internal compartments. Minimal colours and a smaller version for kids.
17. Incase City Compact Backpack
With an ultra-slim profile, this backpack is as compact as they come. The 15″ latop sleeve has 360-degree faux fur-lined padding, and there are multiple pockets for keeping gear organised. This minimalist backpack is perfect for city wear and made for digital nomads. Design-wise, I really like the matte texture of the woven fabric and the use of horizontal stitching on the front. It’s also available in Red and Khaki.
18. Opposethis Invisible Backpack One
Low-key is the imperative when describing the Opposethis luggage range. Designed in Lithuania, these bags embody Baltic chic and in the words of the creators, are made to ‘simplify air travel’. A waterbottle pouch, 13″ laptop compartment and various storage compartments are hidden inside this inconspicuous design. The shell is weather-proof, and the whole thing packs down virtually pancake-flat when not in use.
Minimalist backpacks for hiking & outdoors
Lightweight, waterproof and streamlined, these minimalist hiking backpacks won’t weigh you down when you’re off exploring. Here are 3 unisex options for an outdoor adventure.
19. The Friendly Swede Graneberg Waterproof Backpack
Nordic cool in bag form, the Graneberg waterproof backpack looks like a hiking pack, but it was actually designed for the city (hence the 13″ laptop pouch). That doesn’t mean you can’t take it out for a spin in the great unknown. A toxic-free tarpaulin body, roll-down top and splash-resistant zippers can withstand anything you throw at it. With a 15 litre capacity, and ultra-light weight body, it’s easy to carry, too. Functional, simple and sustainable is how I’d describe this bag. Actually, there’s a Swedish word for that – it’s Lagom.
20. Hikpro 20L Hiking Backpack
The 20 litre Hikpro is one of the most lightweight, versatile hiking packs out there. Unisex and available in a rainbow of 10 colours, it still manages to look sleek thanks to its pared-back shell. Padded S-type straps and external mesh pouches are practical for the outdoors, and the inner-zip pocket (which doubles as a storage pouch when you want to collapse the bag) is a secure place to stash valuables. It looks delicate, but the nylon outer is both water and tear-resistant.
21. Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
Another Osprey favourite, the pack-down Stuff Pack is ultra-light, rip-proof, and generally low-profile. An airmesh harness and stretch-mesh sides have been designed knowing the wearer will probably be spending long days in this pack in mixed conditions. It fits up to 18 litres – perfect for an overnighter.
Minimalist backpacks for photographers
Photographers must be onto something – most camera bags these days are slick and monotone. Here are 3 of my favourite minimalist backpacks for photographers.
22. Thule Enroute Camera Backpack
A true multi-tasker, the Enroute accommodates a DSLR, lenses and accessories, and a 15″ laptop and an iPad. There is side-zipper access to both tech compartments.
23. Peak Design Everyday Camera Backpack
A Kickstarter success story, Peak Design is now a fully-fledged luggage brand. Their signature Everyday Camera Backpack is a favourite among professional photographers and it’s not difficult to see why: Nothing has been spared in the design of the ultra-modern, pimped-out backpack. Inside, it resembles a Transformer, with adjustable pockets, felted shelves and all sorts of nifty features. Outside, the bag’s profile is sleek and smart.
24. Powerextra Waterproof DSLR Camera Backpack
I love the understated design of this budget-friendly DSLR bag. Flip down the front panel to reveal a matrix of foam-padded compartments and mesh pouches, which make storing camera gear, cords and other accoutrements a breeze.
Minimalist backpack accessories
What to put in your backpack: Travel packing lists
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