It wasn’t that long ago that most of us wouldn't be seen dead in a backpack. Once the reserve of high school students and tourists, backpacks just weren't a consideration for those with an inclination for good design. 

This couldn’t be further from the truth now. Thanks to an ever-increasing number of brands adopting the backpack as their signature bag style, it's become the ultimate go-anywhere, do-anything carrier of choice for a new generation of backpack lovers. Simply throw it over your shoulders and go, hands-free, into the day ahead.

On the hunt for your perfect backpack? Scroll on for our pick of some of the best backpacks for men in 2021.

Why you need a backpack

If you’re going to invest in just one bag this season, it may as well be backpack. Pick a medium sized one that will serve you well for a day out, an overnight trip or even as a weekend bag if you pack light. The best thing about backpacks is the ability to keep your hands free, which is something you’ll appreciate if you’re used to lugging around a holdall or shoulder bag. 

This functionality is something that’s been harnessed by militaries for decades – backpacks are essential for the field, keeping soldier's belongings secure while their hands remain free. Like plenty of other much-loved garments, certain backpacks styles originated in the military – roll-top styles, popular today, were issued to US soldiers during WW2, while multi-pocked canvas bergens were developed for the British army.  

Best backpack styles to consider

Roll-top backpacks

This design originated in the military but has since gone on to become one of the staple backpack styles for men. Roll-top backpacks are defined by their opening, which is designed to be wide and easy to access, making it easier to put in and retrieve items from the bag. It then rolls down and clips shut, making the bag weatherproof.

While original military packs would have been made from canvas, many of today’s best roll-tops are constructed from high-tech nylons or leather. 

Hiking backpacks 

Hiking backpacks are made for pure functionality. Designed for long excursions and trips away, you’ll find numerous pockets and features not usually found on other backpacks. Expect drawstring closures, expandable interiors, padded compartments for laptops, reflective panels, mesh pockets and water-tight construction.

Hiking packs are usually made from lightweight polyester or nylon fabrics, meaning they suit a more laidback, outdoors-inspired look. 

Leather backpacks 

Given the rise in popularity of the backpack, it makes sense that luxurious variations are now readily available, made from materials usually reserved for larger luggage styles. Leather elevates the backpack, further removing it from its previous adolescent associations.

Due to the expense of high-grade leathers, these luxury packs are often on the pricier side, but work as excellent investment pieces should you want a hand-me-down piece that will endure for decades, and arguably get better with wear.  

Minimalist backpacks

Minimalist backpack styles are incredibly easy to wear, thanks to their lack of extraneous detailing. With pared-back designs you can expect to find perhaps a single zip, clip or opening as well as subtle colourways which easily combine with a straight-forward, capsule wardrobe.

If you want to go for a tonal look, a minimalist backpack could work well, or find one in a muted colour that could combine well with an all-black look. 

Canvas backpacks

While it's rooted in military history, canvas material still works incredibly well in backpack form. It’s rugged and hard-wearing, ages well and perfectly balances the line between casual and formal. Good quality canvas is tough, and if you find the right one can be waterproof too, making it hard to beat for all-round use.

Stone or green may be the obvious canvas choice, but why not try a more unexpected shade? Brown and burgundy are surprisingly easy to wear.  

The best backpack brands

Bennett Winch 

Founded in 2014, Bennett Winch has mastered the classic canvas backpack. With military-grade webbing, heavy duty brass zips and 24oz bonded waterproof canvas, it could be the ultimate everyday bag. More recently the brand has crafted this style entirely out of full-grain leather too, so if you want a super luxurious take on a versatile design, Bennett Winch could be for you. 

Troubadour

London-based label Troubadour is renowned for its minimalist bags and accessories that marry a clean, refined aesthetic with ultimate functionality and high performance. Crafted from weatherproof fabrics including waterproof Italian vegetable-tanned leather, its backpacks are designed to perform in all conditions. Their sleek, timeless style will look just as good in the boardroom as on a hiking trip.

Carl Friedrik 

Founded in 2012, Carl Friedrik has become known for its minimal designs in which form follows function. Following Dieter Rams’ motto of ‘less, but better’, the brand prides itself on simple, good design that allows its quality materials to do the talking. Look out for its C3-1 backpack constructed from leather and nylon – it’s perfect for business or pleasure. 

Mismo

Beautiful design and refined details define Mismo’s backpacks, which are somehow classic looking yet contemporary at the same time. Solid brass D-rings clip down the top compartments, giving a luxe update on a WW2 military-inspired design, while the tight-woven cotton and nylon canvas fabrics and bridle leather trimmings ensure they’ll last a lifetime. 

WANT Les Essentiels

WANT Les Essentiels was founded upon the premise of simple and honest design. Championing a minimalist aesthetic and conscious craftsmanship, the Montreal-based brand creates travel accessories and bags that are removed of any extraneous detailing in order to showcase the top quality of the materials used, which range from high-grade leathers to recycled nylon. Its backpacks are as functional as they are stylish, designed for fuss-free travel.

Royal RepubliQ

Danish label Royal RepubliQ specialises in high quality leather footwear, bags and accessories that are characterised by minimalist, functional design. If you're on the hunt for a sleek leather backpack that features plenty of pockets, laptop compartments and functional detailing, Royal RepubliQ has just the thing.

Hardgraft

Hardgraft's beautifully hand-finished vegetable tanned leather backpacks epitomise true understated luxury. Produced in small batches in Italy, they're strong and sturdy with just the right amount of artisanal finesse, so you can be guaranteed years of timeless wear.

For more on staple accessories, check out our ultimate guide to men's belts.