Minimalist travel has tons of benefits, and more people are making the switch to a minimalist approach to backpacking and traveling.

But there’s good news and bad news about minimalist backpacks…

The good news? Minimalist backpacks are amazing. They are often very modern, sleek, cater to modern travelers and are crafted with the utmost efficiency.

The bad news? There are so many awesome backpacks and different styles, that it’s completely overwhelming to know where to begin! This is exactly why I’ve put together this monster guide to the best minimalist backpacks of 2020.

This backpack guide gives you the best options, and helps you decide which of them is best for you. Whether you’re planning on simple budget travel or going on a long hike, there will be something for you.

I’ve made it easy for you to choose the right minimal backpack to suit your personal travel style, your budget, and your preferred style.

Let’s get right to it…

Quick Answer: Best Minimalist Backpacks Review

best minimalist backpacks
Welcome to the best minimalist backpacks review!

Best Minimalist Backpacks Review: Top Picks and Performance Breakdowns

This ultimate review of the best minimalist backpacks of 2020 provides you with my top picks, comparison table for easy cross-referencing, advice for first-time buyers, what I like and what I don’t like about each backpack, advantages of minimalist travelling and much more!

Let’s take a look at my top picks for the best minimal backpacks in 2020…

best minimalist backpack

Nomatic Travel Bag

  • Price > $$$$
  • Weight > 4 lbs.
  • Liters > 40
  • Best Use > International travel, everyday use.

Osprey Farpoint

  • Price > $$$
  • Weight > 3 lbs. 1.75 oz.
  • Liters > 40
  • Best Use > International travel, everyday use.
best minimalist backpacks

Tortuga Outbreaker

  • Price > $$$$
  • Weight > 4.6 and 5.1 lbs
  • Liters > 35/45
  • Best Use > International travel, everyday use.
Osprey Stratos 36 review!

Osprey Stratos 36

  • Price > $$
  • Weight > 3 lbs. 4.8 oz.
  • Liters > 36
  • Best Use > Day hiking, camping, travel, light backpacking.
best minimalist backpack.

Incase Icon

  • Price > $$$
  • Weight > N/A
  • Liters > 17
  • Best Use > Laptop storage, everyday use.
best ultralight backpacks

Osprey Daylight Plus

  • Price > $
  • Weight > 1 lb 3.8 oz.
  • Liters > 20
  • Best Use > Day Hikes/urban travel.
best minimalist backpacks

REI Co-op Traverse 35

  • Price > $$
  • Weight > 3 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Liters > 35
  • Best Use > Backpacking, travel, camping.

Best Overall Minimalist Backpack – Nomatic Travel Bag

best minimalist backpack
The Nomatic Travel Bag is probably the coolest bag for minimalist travelers on the market.
  • Price: $229.00/279.00
  • Weight: 4 lbs.
  • Capacity: 40 Liters
  • Carry-on: Yes

One thing should be clear from the very beginning of this review: the best minimalist backpacks are not featureless, bare-bones, impractical backpacks. Minimalist backpacking might limit the amount of stuff you can bring with you, but it certainly does not mean that you can’t travel in organized lightweight bliss.

For travelers on the move, a new minimalist bag is taking the internet (and the travel world) by storm. The Nomatic Travel Bag is one badass backpack.

Basically, if ever there was a travel bag to cover ALL of your minimalist travel needs, the Nomatic Travel Bag would be at the very top of the list.

It comes with a ton of brilliantly thought out pockets, compartments, and gear storage options. It even comes with a mesh laundry bag. No more cramming those dirty socks in the front pocket of your backpack, eh?

From start to finish the Nomatic Travel Bag features one sleek design after another. My favorite features include the fleece-lined valuables pocket, the laptop pocket, the high-quality water-resistant materials they used, and the specific compartment for your shoes (there is one for socks/underwear too)!

Remember, the Nomatic Travel Bag is one of the best carry-on bags for travelers as well. Well done, Nomatic, well done.

Check out my in-depth Nomatic Travel Bag review.

  • Great organization for travels
  • Sleek and sharp design
  • Mutiple pockets w/ specific compartments
  • Expensive
  • You’ll need to pay extra if you want the travel bag plus all of the accessories
  • Definitely not a hiking backpack

Best Minimalist Backpack for Women – Osprey Farpoint 40

Best Minimalist Backpack for Women
The Osprey Farpoint 40 is my top pick for the best minimalist backpack for women (though it is a unisex backpack).
  • Price: $160.00
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 1.75 oz. (size s/m)
  • Capacity: 40 Liters
  • Carry-on: Yes

The Osprey Farpoint 40 is not specifically a women’s minimalist backpack. In fact, it is a unisex backpack.

That said, I will not insult the adventurous lady-readers of this blog by offering up a pink, flimsy, featureless backpack. That would be pointless and not helpful in the slightest. The Osprey Farpoint may be unisex, but it is certainly one of the best minimalist backpack options for female backpackers on the market.

The Farpoint 40 makes for an excellent minimalist travel bag if you’re planning a trip to South America or South East Asia.

The backpack features a large zippered panel that gives access to the main compartment. The zippers have lockable sliders too for added security.

There are three different ways you can carry the Osprey Farpoint 40. The standard padded shoulder straps, the padded top and side handles for hand carrying, and detachable messenger-style shoulder strap.

An important point to make is that the Osprey Farpoint 40 can be carried on planes.  99% of airlines will let you use this minimalist bag as a carry on, which over your travels will save you a ton of time and money. #gamechanger.

By going with a minimalist travel-light bag like the Osprey Farpoint 40, you’ll be able to keep all of your valuables with you. Plus, you’ll save a ton of money on checked baggage fees (which pays for the bag ten times over!).

Check out my in-depth Osprey Farpoint 40 review.

  • Lockable zippers
  • Multiple ways to carry it
  • Super-lightweight and comfortable
  • Not a hiking backpack
  • Lacks the space for travelers with lots of gear needs
  • Laptop pocket might be too small

Best Carry-on Backpack for Minimalists – Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack

best minimalist backpacks
The Tortuga Outbreaker 35 L is my top pick for best carry-on backpack for minimalists.
  • Price: $299.00
  • Weight: 4.6 lbs and 5.1 lbs
  • Capacity: 35 Liters and 45 Liters
  • Carry-on: Yes

For this review, I am recommending the Tortuga Outbreaker 35 liter model. The 45 liter model is great, especially if you’re a minimalist bordering on the edge of having too much stuff, but it’s simply too large to be a consistent carry-on option. With the 35 liter though, you should always be able to use it as a carry-on backpack.

The height-adjustable suspension system and padding make the Outbreaker very comfy, in addition to it being super practical. For those backpackers obsessed with staying organized, the Tortuga Outbreaker will be your new best friend.

Now the Outbreaker is quite heavy for such a small backpack. All that padding and storage adds up, but the performance it delivers makes up for that in my opinion.

The Outbreaker’s design enables its the main compartment to be opened like a suitcase – which is 10 x’s more convenient than a traditional backpack. Reaching my stuff was simple because of the organization of the compartments.

I am a big fan of the Tortuga company and the gear they make as it is always top quality. For an excellent carry-on backpack, the Tortuga Outbreaker 35L is where it’s at.

Check out my in-depth Tortuga Outbreaker review.

  • Perfect carry-on size
  • Comfortable padding
  • Convenient access through big opener
  • Heavy
  • Doesn’t come with a rain cover
  • Expensive

Best Minimalist Backpack for Hiking – Osprey Stratos 36

Osprey Stratos 36 review
For minimalist hikers looking for an awesome backpack, the Osprey Stratos 36 is my top pick.
  • Price: $170.00
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 4.8 oz.
  • Capacity: 36 Liters
  • Carry-on: Yes

I am big fan of Osprey backpacks. For the best hiking backpacks, Osprey has been an industry leader for years. The Osprey Stratos 36 is currently a good reflection of that tradition!

The Stratos 36 is a fully functional, durable, and versatile minimalist hiking backpack. It provides excellent padding, weather protection (rain fly included), and hiking performance.

36 liters does have its limits—though it also comes with a certain freedom. Having less stuff is truly a blessing. In addition to your physical body being more able to move with less restrictions, in an age of hyper-consumerism, cutting down on useless shit in your life is a liberating feeling.

I really enjoy having a lightweight minimalist travel backpack that I can rely on for short hiking trips.

The hipbelt, chest straps, and shoulder straps are all fully adjustable allowing you to obtain the perfect fit. Even better is the fact that the hipbelt straps and the chest straps are padded with die-cut foam and covered in mesh to provide an even more comfy experience. A big bonus is that the Stratos 36 comes with its own rain cover, which isn’t normally seen in Osprey bags.

For a versatile minimal backpack that will do you right in the city as well as in the mountains, look no further than the Osprey Stratos 36.

Check out my full review of the Osprey Stratos 36.

  • Slick and comfortable design
  • Comes with raincover
  • Hip and chest straps for secure fit
  • Perfect for hiking
  • Side mesh pockets make it difficult to access waterbottles
  • Squeaks sometimes
  • Contoured back panel shape isn’t for everyone

Best Minimalist Laptop Backpack #1 – Incase Icon

best minimalist backpack.
The Incase Icon is my top pick for the best minimalist laptop backpack.
  • Price: $199.95
  • Weight: Not Available
  • Capacity: 17 Liters
  • Carry-on: Yes

Incase is a well-known gear company in the realm of laptop storage and protection solutions. Their Incase Icon backpack is the perfect minimalist laptop backpack. With only 17 liters of storing capacity, it is amazing how Incase incorporated so many features.

The design is sleek, practical, and durable; it is no wonder the Incase Icon has won heaps of awards recently.

For storage, the main compartment provides space for larger items (laptops) and organization for flat documents and small accessories. For smaller items, the secondary compartment offers a series of organizer pockets to hold tech accessories and other odds and ends.

A cool bonus feature is the  hip-side power pocket with an integrated cable port which allows easy access to a portable power bank or headphones.

My only complaint about this minimalist backpack is the price. A 17-liter laptop backpack isn’t super useful for much else other than transporting a laptop and the associated kit, but if you are looking for in a low-volume backpack to fit only this, then you have certainly found it.

I’m also a big fan of Incase’s products, and I’m sure you will be too once you put the Icon into action.

  • Low-volume but great features
  • Durable
  • Padded laptop pocket
  • Small (only 17 liters)
  • Expensive
  • Not super versatile

Best Minimalist Laptop Backpack #2 – Timbuk2 Spire Backpack

best minimalist backpacks
The Timbuk2 Spire Pack is another one of the best minimalist laptop backpacks for aspiring digital nomads.
  • Price: $72.00 – $99.00
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 2 oz.
  • Capacity: 30 Liters
  • Carry-on: Yes

Looking for an awesome minimalist laptop backpack that is comfortable, stylish, AND lightweight? Meet the Timbuk2 Spire Pack. In addition to being a high-performing minimal backpack, it was specifically purpose-built to safeguard your electronics and important documents.

The Timbuk2 Spire pack features expandable volume via the flap or roll top main opening. This design is cool for when you don’t need to pack HEAPS of stuff. Other backpacks end up being floppy and odd-shaped when they are not packed to full capacity.

Since more backpackers are traveling with high-end electronics, having a tough minimalist backpack that offers up sufficient padding and protection to keep your stuff safe is a huge bonus. AND the Spire Pack is highly water resistant, adding even more bonus points.

I’d say the Timbuk2 Spire is not the ideal long-term traveling backpack. It is simply too small to be used that way. For quick weekend trips or for everyday use in your busy digital nomad life, the Spire Pack is the perfect backpack.

  • Affordable
  • Water resistant
  • Expandable volume
  • Straps can feel stiff
  • Questionable zipper quality
  • Customers have expressed concerns about the long-term quality of the bag

Best Minimalist Backpack for Day Hikes- Osprey Daylite Plus

best minimalist backpacks
The Osprey Daylite Plus is my top choice day hikes on my list.
  • Price: $65.00
  • Weight: 1 lb. 3.8 oz.
  • Capacity: 20 Liters
  • Carry-on: Yes

Osprey has arrived on my best minimalist backpacks list again…. But I doubt you’re surprised 😉

For day hikes, the Osprey Daylite Plus is a top candidate for the best minimalist backpack. For most day trips where your primary needs are packing snacks, water, a few layers, and maybe some electronics, the Daylite Plus can serve all of your needs and more.

Frankly, Osprey did a truly fantastic job incorporating pockets into the Daylite Plus. Even this normally never-satisfied-by-amount-of-pockets-dude (myself) is very pleased, especially when looking at the price ($65!).

A great addition to the Daylite Plus is the open-topped pocket for quick-use items. To top it off, a small front zip pocket allows you to store items you use frequently in their own zone.

If you are the kind of minimalist hiker that likes to keep things organized, the Osprey Daylite Plus makes it easy to keep your stuff squared away.

The Osprey Daylite Plus helps keep you stay cool when you are active, perfect fro those sweaty-summer hikes. Be sure, the backpack is not a magical anti-sweat device, though the mesh back panels really do aid in keeping the air flowing as well as possible.

To add rain protection to your minimalist backpack, you can pick up a  Osprey Rain Cover ($23). Be sure to take the extra small size!

Check out my in-depth Osprey Daylite Plus review.

  • Fits the necessary equipment
  • Panels allows airflow when being carried
  • Very affordable
  • Not ideal for long hikes
  • No rain cover
  • Frameless backpack not intended for heavy loads

Best Budget Minimalist Backpack – REI Co-op Traverse 35 

best minimalist backpacks
For backpackers on a budget, the REI Traverse 35L offers up solid performance at great value.
  • Price: $139.00
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 2 oz. (size m)
  • Capacity: 35 Liters
  • Carry-on: Yes

Quality minimalist backpacks are neither super cheap nor super expensive. Luckily, the best minimalist backpacks do not share the same price tag as ultralight backpacks. With the REI Traverse 35, you get a good balance of quality offered up at a decent price point.

The Traverse 35 is an excellent option for a versatile travel and/or hiking backpack. It’s intended use is in fact hiking, though it makes for an excellent travel backpack for minimalist backpackers as well.

The REI Traverse 35 holds plenty of gear for overnight hiking trips, but it’s sleek enough to carry as a daypack if need be. And it’s designed to make every step of your trail time more comfortable.

Some of my favorite features include the large zippered front pocket for on-the-go organization which lies on top of a large stuff-it pocket to store wet, dirty or bulky gear. The “stuff-it” pocket is great for storing sandals, a travel towel, or others bits and pieces too.

You may be thinking $139 bucks isn’t dirt cheap. Remember this: REI has one of the best return policies of any outdoor gear retailer. If anything whatsoever goes wrong with your Traverse 35, you can get it repaired or replaced guaranteed.

If you are planning on traveling to warm-weather climates, the Traverse 35 is a great choice for that. Two more awesome features: a rain cover is included and the backpack is compatible with a hydration reservoir. Score!

  • Rain cover and hydration reservoir
  • Low-volume but big storage space
  • Sleek design
  • A few users have reported problems with the chest straps
  • Not ideal for super serious/long-distance hiker
  • Heavy for a 35 liter backpack

Best Minimalist Backpacks Comparison Table

Best Minimalist Backpacks Comparison Table

BackpackWeightVolumeCarry-on?Best UseRain Cover Included?Price
Nomatic Travel Bag4 lbs.40 LitersYesTravelNo$229.00/279.00
Osprey Farpoint 403 lbs. 1.75 oz40 LitersYesTravelNo$160.00
Tortuga Outbreaker Pack4.6 lbs35 LiterYesTravelNo$299.00
Osprey Stratos 363 lbs. 4.8 oz.36 LitersYesHiking/TravelYes$170.00
Incase IconN/A17 LitersYesLaptop BackpackNo$199.95
Timbuk2 Spire 2 lbs. 2 oz.30 LitersYesLaptop BackpackNo$72.00 – $99.00
Osprey Daylite Plus 1 lb. 3.8 oz.20 LitersYesDay Hiking/TravelNo$65.00
REI Co-op Traverse 353 lbs. 2 oz.35 LitersYesHiking/TravelYes$139.00

How to Choose the Best Minimalist Backpack: Buying Advice

Now that you have see my top picks for the best minimalist backpacks, you need to know a few more things before you go to buy your own.

Like any piece of gear, minimalist backpacks are very activity specific. What will be an excellent choice for certain activities/uses will not translate into a good choice for other applications.

Below I’ll cover a few factors that you should consider before buying a minimalist backpack.

best minimalist backpacks
The best part about low-volume backpacks? You don’t have a ton of shit slowing you down.

Finding the Best Minimalist Backpack Size

It’s a given that whichever minimalist backpack you go with, it is going to be rather small. That’s the point! Limiting what you can bring on any given journey is at the core of minimalist travel and philosophy.

For me personally, I’d say going with a minimalist backpack in the 35-40 liter range is going to give you the most versatility. Anything bigger and the backpack ceases to be minimalist. Plus, you won’t be able to use it as a carry-on backpack and things just start spiraling down hill from there.

If you are just looking for a smaller backpack to supplement your full-sized hiking backpacker, going with a 20-liter/30-liter is probably your best bet. You also have to keep in mind that it has to sit perfectly on your back, in order to avoid annoying scratches and pressure points. Finding the right fit is just as important as finding the right size.

Laptop-specific backpacks need not be overly large as the main purpose is just to transport your laptop and a few other bits and pieces.

Certainly don’t be intimidated by going with a minimalist backpack. You’ll find it to be a liberating feeling to hit the road without the burden of carrying a truly massive backpack.

best minimalist backpacks
What ever sort of (minimalist) adventures you’ve got planned… The Osprey Stratos 36 is ready for the challenge.

Organization and Design Features of your Backpack

Packing your bag can be a struggle, but certainly doesn’t have to be.

In order to get the most of each backpack, the ones featured in this review have created some pretty ingenious organizational features. Some backpacks are so well-endowed with pockets, sleeves, and compartments that my brain struggles to even see the backpack as minimalist at all.

For the sake of this review however, we are defining minimalist as small-volume backpacks, not bare-bones as I mentioned before. You will have noticed that some of the more expensive backpacks are loaded with cool features. This is something you simply have to accept. The more you want, the more you have to pay.

You can be sure that every minimalist backpack has its own unique offerings. Dial in what sort of features are important to you and factor that into your final decision when the time comes to buy your backpack.

Osprey farpoint 40 review
The Osprey Farpoint 40 is certainly one of the best backpacks around.

Hiking vs Travel Backpacks

I understand that for some backpackers, hiking just isn’t their thing. If you don’t foresee yourself doing much hiking on any given backpacking trip, then going with a travel-only minimalist backpack is the way to go. Often you get more travel-specific features and organizational bits when the backpack is designed for travel. Makes sense.

Likewise, if you’re a keen hiker, you are probably interested in things like comfort, fit, suspension, breathability, etc.

What you intend to use your minimalist backpack for most should determine what style of backpack you go with. If the bag you have your eye on is going to be your main travel backpack, again, you need to factor in what you will be doing most of. Simple, right?

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Make sure you’re properly prepared for your adventures!

I personally do a lot of hiking, so I need my backpack to be multi-functional. That means:

  • sacrificing look for efficiency
  • choosing comfort over sleekness
  • going for simple structure than lots of pockets and organizational features

That said, all of the best minimalist bags for hiking on my list still have plenty of cool features. They are just purpose-built for travel like some of the others.

For a stand alone pack the Nomatic Travel Bag is certainly the best minimalist backpack on my list for the reasons listed above. It has more features and clever designs built in than I have ever seen from a backpack of its size. Yet, it is compact and certainly limits what you can bring. In fact, the Nomatic is a bit of a catch 22 in the sense that it is the most tricked out minimalist backpack you’ll find.

For an awesome minimalist hiking backpack, the Osprey Stratos 36 is where it’s at.

best minimalist backpacks
For the best of both world (hiking and travel) the Osprey Stratos 36 is a solid choice.

Final Thoughts on the best Minimalist Backpacks

Well there you have my fellow minimalist care-free travelers… we have arrived at the end of my best minimalist backpacks review.

Minimalist backpacking is one fine way to travel. You’ll quickly discover the freedom and ease of travel that comes with going with a minimalist backpack.

After reading my ultimate review of the best minimalist backpacks, you now know some of the best options available to you. Like I’ve said, each minimalist backpack from this review has its own individual merits.

Now that you have an idea of what some of the top minimalist backpacks are, you can make an informed decision based on your own personal style and preferences.

If you are still on the fence about which minimalist backpack is right for you, I recommend going with my top pick for the best minimalist backpack of the year: the Nomatic Travel Bag.

Happy stress-free travel amigos!

best minimalist backpacks
Where ever your travels take you, traveling as a minimalist allows you to focus less on tons of possessions and more about the essence of why we all go traveling…

“Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a set of trekking poles, or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”