This planet is pretty special. As far as we know right now, it’s the only planet with intelligent life anywhere in the cosmos… We all want to do our part to protect our amazing home and this means we all have a duty to ensure we are sourcing products that have as little negative impact as possible on the environment.

Well friends, whether we are hiking, travelling, or just heading down to our local cafe for a work session – a solid go-to backpack is an essential piece of kit. Let’s be honest – we all need a solid backpack for our everyday life and adventures…

But why should this backpack cost the earth, literally?

Rather than your rucksack contributing to the problem, why not start there and instead buy one made from sustainably sourced materials. You can still keep all your essentials inside these ethical backpacks and most are still made from super durable materials.

So we’ve put together this list of the best eco friendly backpacks and the best sustainable backpack brands to give you a helping hand.

 

Product
Description
Best Sustainable Backpack
Best Sustainable Backpack

Osprey Nebula

  • Price > $140
  • The Deets > 32l Storage
  • > Cool design
  • > Fully recycled

What Makes A Backpack Sustainable?

Here at The Broke Backpacker, we review many of the world’s best backpacks. The more backpacks I test out, the more I question how they were made and what sort of manufacturing ethics were involved or if sustainable materials are used. Sometimes, I am not pleased with what I learn and we have to stop promoting certain products or backpack brands.

As issues of climate change, environmental collapse, and destructive government policies loom large on the horizon, we all need to step back and re-think how the gear we buy for our adventures impacts the planet and the people working in the production side of this industry. Wherever possible we always try to buy sustainable travel products and backpacks are an important part of that.

I know the terms “sustainable” and “eco friendly” get thrown around a lot these days. But when it comes to backpacks – how do those terms apply and which companies are making the best sustainable backpacks right now?

Well, there is a lot to learn about the world of sustainable backpacks. And this is something I’ve taken a DEEP dive into over the last two years. Right now, I’m working on a top-secret project – Neco backpacks – the world’s most epic travel eco backpacks made out of recycled ocean plastic bottles… Stay tuned, we hope to launch in June 😉

But till then, let me share with you guys some other quality options! We have put together this mega review of the best eco-friendly backpacks our team has tested recently. ..

What is a Sustainable Backpack?

best sustainable backpacks
Photo: Chris Lininger

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Before we get started here, I want to explain how we define what we consider to be an eco-friendly backpack and what makes the best sustainable backpack brands pass the test.

In order to be considered a “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” backpack, the pack needs to have one or more of these specific criteria:

  • Be manufactured using sustainable methods, IE is made from recycled fabric, plastic, etc.
  • Produced by a company with high ethical environmental standards and/or an active contribution to environmental projects (as an example: working with non-profit groups for land conservation projects.)
  • Ethical and transparent supply chain
  • Free of animal products and GMO corn or soy (probably grown in a burned down rainforest).
  • Produced by workers paid a fair wage.

When searching for sustainable travel gear seek out fair trade materials such as Organic Cotton as opposed to polyester (though, recycled polyester is fine). Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best sustainable backpacks for hiking and travel that are currently on the market. Meet the best eco-friendly backpacks!

Incidentally, I was into recycled backpacks long before recycled backpacks were cool. Yep, every September my Mum would hand me down my older brother’s beaten school rucksack from the previous year… I was less than thrilled as you can imagine.

Anyway, let’s get on and actually show you our picks for the best environmentally friendly backpacks out there!

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Best Sustainable Backpacks: Our Top Picks

best sustainable backpacks
Photo: Chris Lininger

When choosing your next backpack it is important to consider:

  • Size and functionality – What purpose do you want this backpack to serve?
  • Features – Do you want more of a laptop-ready digital nomad pack or a full-sized trekking backpack?
  • Price – What is your budget?
  • Carry-On – Anything over 40 litres probably won’t be accepted by airlines as a carry-on item.
  • Ecological footprint – Being a conscious consumer and a mindful traveller.

Best Sustainable Backpack: Osprey Nebula

Need to Know
  • Price: $140
  • Great size for a day pack
  • Global Recycle Standard (GRS) certified recycled nylon
  • Backed by Osprey’s “All Mighty Guarantee” (free repairs under warranty)
  • Best Use: Travel, Hiking, Everyday bag

just earlier this year, Osprey released a whole line of sustainable backpacks. The Archeon series became the first line of Osprey backpacks to be made out of Global Recycle Standard-certified recycled nylon.

Now, Osprey has been making outstanding gear for decades, but this new Osprey Nebula made from sustainable materials is truly something special and different… It’s one of the reasons we rate them as one of the top sustainable backpack brands.

Depending on what your needs are, there is literally a whole size spectrum to choose from. On the more compact end, the Osprey Nebula is a great everyday backpack, and commuter bag and is even a solid choice when it comes to hiking backpacks.

The Osprey Nebula is sort of urban-hiking pack hybrid, with minimalist features and a compression straps. You’ll find a laptop sleeve, and this durable backpack does have several handy side access pockets for storage and the back pannel has an AirScape® ridge foam for ultimate comfort.

If you are in the market for a technical, fully-featured hiking backpack with lots of storage options and exterior fixing points, the Nebula falls short when compared to Osprey’s flagship Aether series.

Just look at how sexy these things actually are! I mean come on! Our team just couldn’t get enough of how cool these bags looked and just fell in love them their utilitarian and hipster style. Not only that but they really appreciated the useful size these bags came in and liked the sustainability and features that they came with. They also felt the materials used felt very durable and long lasting.

Pros
  1. Wide size range
  2. Durable, tough materials
  3. Comfortable fit
Cons
  1. Can sometimes be top heavy.
  2. Not big enough for some longer hikes
  3. Not as fully-featured as some of Osprey’s other hiking packs

Best Eco Carry-On Backpack: Monarc Brand Settra

Monarc Backpack
Need to Know
  • Price: $175
  • Made from recycled plastic bottles
  • Carry-on compliant
  • 2-1 Duffel/Backpack
  • Best use: Travel

The realities of travel can really take their toll on the planet. It’s no surprise that Ecological and Sustainable travel initiatives are now really gaining momentum. The Monarc 2-in-1 Duffle-Backpack is the world’s first backpack made from 100% recycled plastic bottles and the producers have been awarded a highly coveted “plastic negative” rating.

But hear this, not only is this backpack totally eco-friendly but it’s also a bloody great pack. Firstly, its 2-1 concept design means it can be worn as a backpack or carried as a duffel using the comfortable handle. If you do wear it on your bag, there are adjustable straps to help carry the weight.

Then there are the organisational possibilities. Its’ 40L of storage can go pretty far and the pack offers a shoe compartment and a 17” laptop sleeve. Coming in at $149.00, it’s well worth the bucks although if you have the budget we also recommend picking up the full set including the camera cube, compression cubes and laundry bags. If you’re looking for eco-friendly laptop backpacks then you can’t go far wrong here.
Anything else? Oh yeah, it’s also water-resistant, TSA Carry-on compliant and comes with a lifetime guarantee!

Our team were first off really impressed by the lifetime guarantee on this bag and felt it really did make the bag super sustainable by reducing waste and the need to keep buying new bags every few years. They also felt this bag was probably one of the most well thought out they’d ever used and loved that it was jam-packed full of great features like the ability to carry it in different configurations, the organisational sections and the shoe pocket and felt all of these actually worked super well in practice.

Pros
  1. Excellent organisational features
  2. 40L of storage
  3. TSA Carry Compliant
Cons
  1. 40l is not enough for all trips
  2. No real waterbottle pocket

Best Solar Charger Backpack: Solgaard Lifepack

Solgaard Lifepack
Need to Know
  • Price: $245
  • Made from up-cycled ocean plastic
  • Anti-theft
  • Solar charging bank compatible (power bank included)
  • Best use: Travel, everyday bag

When we did a full review of the Solgaard Lifepack last year I was really impressed by the idea of having a solar power bank integrated (and fully functional) into a backpack design.

Having mobile solar charging capabilities is pretty handy for a variety of reasons – but perhaps the best part of the Lifepack is that you don’t have a clumsy solar panel dangling from your backpack. The solar bank sits in its own compartment, exposed to outside light, charging as you walk around. Just when you thought your eco-friendly backpack couldn’t be any more sustainable!

The Lifepack is outfitted with a padded pocket for your laptop and has individual storage compartments for storing all of your day-to-day bits and pieces.

Being made from recycled plastic sourced from the ocean, the Solgaard Lifepack earns big sustainable backpack points as one of the few backpacks on this list that employ both solar power and ocean plastic to create a sleek, functional backpack for digital nomads and travellers.

The team loved the concept behind this bag and the fact that not only is the pack itself eco-friendly, but the power it provides you is too! What a time to be alive! They also felt it went above and beyond when it came to the other features of the bag too like the secret passport/ wallet pockets, anti-theft lock, drop-proof laptop storage and superior organisational features like the work and life zones.

Pros
  1. Excellent organisational features
  2. Optimum size for a day pack
  3. Integrated solar battery bank
Cons
  1. No hipbelt
  2. Too small if you have lots of camera gear
  3. No real waterbottle pocket

Best Small Daypack: REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Recycled Daypack

REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Recycled Daypack
Need to Know
  • Price: $79.95
  • Made with rugged, recycled ripstop nylon (18 liters)
  • Full-zip access for improved accesability
  • Hydration pack compatible
  • Best use: Travel, day hiking

The REI Ruckpack 18 Recycled Daypack is a conventional daypack built to handle years of abuse whilst carrying the daily essentials. Each pack earns its eco-cred by employing recycled nylon fibres.

18 litres is probably the minimum size that I would travel with as my day hiking or “in-the-city” pack. REI still managed to squeeze in some handy features here like a hydration reservoir, lockable zippers, and a Nalgene-sized water bottle pocket.

For a smallish day pack, the carry feel is aided by padded shoulder straps (though not as padded as you will find on a full-sized backpacking backpack).

Perhaps best of all, this backpack is affordable. The price varies depending on if you catch this pack on sale, but the normal retail price is around $65 – which is hard to beat for a backpack that you could potentially use every day.

For a bare-bones essential sustainable backpack that won’t break the bank, the REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Recycled Daypack is a fine choice.

Our team love how hardwearing and durable this pack is, especially considering its price. They were also really impressed by the level of waterproofing it offered too for such a reasonably priced product. Other areas they sent us feedback on were how comfortable and light it was to wear for long periods each day.

Pros
  1. Very affordable
  2. Comfy fit
  3. Features a laptop compartment
Cons
  1. Too small for adventures where carrying lots of stuff is necessary.
  2. Shoulder straps can dig in if the pack is overloaded.
  3. No way to stash hip belt straps when not in use

Best Eco-friendly Duffel Bag: REI Co-op Big Haul 60 Recycled Duffel

REI Co-op Big Haul 60 Recycled Duffel
Need to Know
  • Price: $139
  • Recycled ballistic nylon base for durability
  • Comes in various sizing options
  • Versatile carrying options: backpack or duffel
  • Best use: Travel, expedition/base camp bag

Before you say “Hey! That’s a duffel bag, not a backpack!” I can tell you that you’re not wrong – because this bag is both a duffel and a backpack.

Featuring removable shoulder straps (so it can be carried like a backpack or a duffel bag), the REI Big Haul 60 Recycled Duffel is a handy option for road trips, extended vacations, and even as a primary base camp bag whilst on an expedition or a long-distance trek involving porters.

Depending on how much gear you have, the REI Big Haul series comes in a few sizes, all the way up to 120 litres if you are looking to pack a ton of gear and equipment.

The bag storage features are all (literally) tied together with an interesting compression strap system that helps to maximize the space available.

Like other REI bags made from recycled materials, the Big Haul 60 contains materials that meet the Bluesign criteria – a certifying body that ensures products are meeting the requirements of the strictest and most advanced regulations worldwide concerning sustainable textile production.

Our team really love the technical style of this bag and felt it wouldn’t look out of place at the climbing wall or on the trails. They also found it to have great weatherproofing and to have a solid and sturdy construction and also loved how adaptable the bag is.

Pros
  1. Easy to pack and organise
  2. Tough and very practical for a variety of travel scenarios
  3. Versatile carry options (Shoulder straps/duffel handle)
Cons
  1. Not a proper hiking backpack
  2. Big sizes can easily go over airline weight limits if over packed
  3. Limited individual pockets

Best Eco-friendly Duffel Bag #2: Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 55L

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel - 55L
Need to Know
  • Price: $169
  • Body fabric, lining fabric and webbing are all recycled material
  • Well padded and re-enforced bottom pannel
  • Versatile carrying options: backpack or duffel
  • Best use: Travel, expedition/base camp bag

Like the REI Big Haul Duffel above, the Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 55L is one of the best sustainable backpack duffel hybrids out there. Patagonia has been making this bag for years now, and it is tried and tested across the globe.

In keeping with Patagonia’s strong environmental ethos, the new version of the Black Hole Duffel incorporates recycled materials into most of the main construction design.

So why go with the Black Hole vs the REI Big Haul bag mentioned above? It’s actually a hard call really as the two bags are quite similar. The major difference I found lies in the thickness of each bag’s material. The Big Haul employs a 400-denier recycled ripstop whilst the Black Hole uses a beefier 900-denier post-consumer recycled ripstop polyester.

Overall the Patagonia Black Hole is the tougher bag (though the base of the REI Big Haul offers,1680-denier recycled ballistic nylon.) Both have similar strap systems, daisy chain tie-on options on the exterior, and limited extra pockets.

Strictly from an environmental point of view, Patagonia wins every time as they are likely the most environmentally active big company in the outdoor space.

Our team loved this bag for carry-on and felt it was the perfect size for carrying all the gear they needed for a Euro trip in winter without becoming too heavy. A few members of our team have had these bags personally for years before this roundup and they are still going strong. If you’re looking for a bulletproof bag then this is it!

Looking for more options? Check out the rest of the best Patagonia backpacks.

Pros
  1. Super tough: perfect for an expedition haul bag
  2. A majority of the bag is made of recycled materials
  3. Comes in a big range of sizes (25 – 100 L)
Cons
  1. Can feel a bit stiff when brand new
  2. 55 liters too big to be a carry-on
  3. Limited internal pockets

Most Ethical Daypack: Gulu Made Motivator Pack

Meet the best EDC pack for university Commuters: Gulu Made Motivator Pack

Need to Know
  • Price: $
  • Best Use: Going to work and urban, travel
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Liters: 25 liters
  • Rain cover included: No

Gulu Made is a socially conscious ethical start-up based in Uganda whose credentials are amazing. The team who work at Gulu Made all trained to sew in the aftermath of Joseph Kony’s horrible civil war. They now leverage their skill to make beautiful bags and to build a future for themselves and their families. 

The pack itself has certainly impressed me. It zips down into 3 main storage compartments so you can organise your files, gym kit and lunch as you see fit and there is a dedicated laptop sleeve. There is no front pocket, but the pack does have 2 water bottle slide-in pockets at the sides. Best of all, the bag is lined with beautiful colourful traditional African fabric.

This pack is great for a great commuter bag that’s also great for day trips and is roomy enough for short-stay vacations. It could also be used for easy day hikes but does not have a hip/waist support belt so is perhaps less suitable for strenuous mountain treks.

The pack also comes with a lifetime guarantee which is a testament to the sheer quality and yet another way this bag is super sustainable. Our team really love how compact this bag is especially given the sheer amount of features. One of their favourites was the fact that the bag has a separate dedicated zippered laptop section which the digital nomads amongst us really appreciated.

Pros
  1. Lovely internal fabric
  2. Great storage layout
  3. Handmade in Uganda by War Survivors
  4. Lifetime Guarantee
Cons
  1. No hip belt
  2. No front/lip pocket

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    Best Eco-friendly Commuter Pack: Pacsafe MetroSafe LS350 ECONYL Daypack

    Pacsafe MetroSafe LS350 ECONYL Daypack
    Need to Know
    • Price: $
    • Made from ECONYL fiber, which is recycled from discarded fishing nets and other nylon waste
    • 3 pockets plus the main compartment
    • Padded laptop sleeve (fits 13-inch laptop)
    • Best use: Day pack, everyday bag

    How cool is it that Pacsafe has created a bag out of old fishing nets? Pretty damn cool indeed. Thus I bring you another fun day-use sustainable backpack…

    Pacsafe outfitted this thing with just about every feature you can reasonably expect from a backpack of this size (15 litres). Apart from the main backpack “belly” there are 3 additional pockets for storing your various bits and pieces plus a water bottle pocket.

    The MetroSafe LS350 ECONYL Daypack also has interesting security features like RDIF blocking technology.

    For me personally, 15 litres feels small if I want to carry anything other than snacks, water, my wallet/phone, etc. That said, many people don’t have a need to carry around a camera body, four lenses, and a drone-like I do, so from that perspective, the minimalist approach can be enticing.

    The MetroSafe LS350 ECONYL Daypack isn’t very big but it also is not too bulky either, making it ideal for short hikes and getting from point A to B in the city. Short of packing a whole travel safe, it’s a good way to keep your valuables safe from prying hands.

    Pacsafe is a popular brand with our team and those who travel with laptops, expensive cameras and the like. They love the sheer amount of security features on this bag and felt they were easy to use and really gave them that extra peace of mind when travelling. In particular the lockable zips and slash-proof material proved to be super valuable whilst some of our gang were travelling around South America.

    Pros
    1. Well built and durable
    2. Good storage options for a pack this size
    3. Made from fishing nets – come on.
    Cons
    1. Maybe too small for carrying anything other than essentials
    2. Can’t fit 15-inch laptops
    3. Water bottle pocket too small for 32 oz. Nalgene bottles

    Best Sustainable Camera Backpack: Peak Design Travel Camera Pack 45 L

    Peak Design Travel Camera Pack
    Need to Know
    • Price: $299.95
    • Features 100% recycled 40-denier nylon canvas shell
    • Expands to 45 liters, collapses to 35 liters
    • Laptop sleeve plus plenty of room for large camera kit
    • Best use: photography, travel, weekender bag

    Alas, we finally have a legit camera bag. The Peak Design Travel Camera Pack 45 litre is a fully-featured sustainable backpack specifically designed for photographers.

    Expandable to 45 litres and collapsible to 35 litres, the Peak Design Travel Camera Pack is large enough for extended weekend missions when you need to pack some clothes, your laptop, plus your camera kit.

    Security features are found everywhere and Peak Design went so far as to say that this backpack is “pickpocket-proof.” Hidden stash pockets (for cash/your passport) plus clever hideaway zippers don’t make it easy on thieves.

    If you are wanting to use this pack as a camera bag only, you’ll have plenty of room to work with. Like many camera cube designs, the “camera zone” of the pack has a network of customisable dividers for lenses, a camera body, a drone, batteries, etc.

    The main camera body I use is a Fujifilm X-T3 and it fits fine here (along with four lenses). I can’t say if a full-frame Canon body with a massive lens would fit, but it looks like it should do, especially if you detach the big telephoto (something like a 100-400 mm) from the camera body.

    Overall, the Peak Design Travel Camera Pack is an interesting pack for travellers packing a big kit plus clothing and other essentials.

    Our team loved this bag, especially for those looking for the ideal one-bag travel solution. The clamshell opening is something they really felt made the bag stand out against its competitors, allowing them to use packing cubes and camera cubes to really maximise the space and organisation available. They also felt the shoulder straps and waist strapping made the bag super comfortable even when packed out to the max.

    Pros
    1. Multiple access points (back, side, bottom)
    2. Big enough for extended travel
    3. Shell is made from 100% recycled material
    Cons
    1. Unproven as a trekking camera bag
    2. No rain fly (though Peak Design claims it is waterproof)
    3. Heavier than many other 45 litre packs out there

    Best Sustainable Adjustable Backpack: Shell Backpack by Tropicfeel

    Shell Backpack
    Need to Know
    • Price: $249
    • Constructed from recycled nylon andr polyester
    • Adjusts from 22 – 40 liters!
    • Can be extended & used with accessories
    • Best use: Travel

    The Shells from Tropicfeel is a special little pack indeed. Not only is it made from sustainable, recycled materials but this backpack is also seriously innovative and versatile. It’s an adjustable backpack that can be transformed from a humble 22l day pack to a 40l baby behemoth! It’s one of the things that makes TropicFeel one of our favourite brands.

    By pulling up the roll-top, pulling down the tucked bottom, and attaching the clip-on tech bag, the backpack very nearly doubles its storage capacity. This kind of makes it a backpack for all occasions which saves you from buying another which makes it even more eco-friendly.

    The optional accessories are well worth the investment especially the tech bag, toiletry bag and best of all the wardrobe cube which makes packing and unpacking clothes clean easy and fast.

    Our team really love how innovative this pack is and for many of them, this has become their new favourite pack. One of the features they really felt made it stand out above the rest was how the pack expanded to almost twice its size without being bulky. The wardrobe feature was also one of those things that they felt actually worked really well in practice and wasn’t a pointless gimmick. Not only that but we love how stylish this travel bag is.

    To better see how it world, click below to see it on the Tropicfeel store.

    Pros
    1. Adjustable
    2. Strong material
    3. Accessories are cool
    Cons
    1. Feels heavy
    2. Accessories cost extra

    Best Sustainable Hiking Backpack: Gregory Paragon 58

    Gregory Paragon 58 Pack - Men's
    Need to Know
    • Price: $259.95
    • Constructed from 420-denier high-density nylon/135-denier high-density 50% recycled polyester
    • 58 liters
    • Breathable, 3D perforated foam breathable back panel with adjustable torso length
    • Best use: Backpacking

    One of my favourite sustainable backpacks – you might be thinking “Wait…Gregory? This is a sustainable backpack?”.

    Yes, indeed it is as the Gregory Paragon 58 is made using 135-denier high-density recycled polyester. It may not be made from 100% recyclable materials, but we will give it a pass for now.

    I used the Paragon 48 for a few years including when I travelled in Pakistan some time ago. After hundreds of trail miles logged, I can say that the Paragon series packs are one of my top all-time favourite backpack picks.

    This backpack is the best hiking backpack on this list and apart from being eco friendly, it offers an all-around solid design, fit, and carry capacity.

    The back panel has just the right amount of curve to encourage airflow even on sweaty, steep ascents. With 58 litres, you can definitely pack in enough gear for 2-3 days out – and for thru-hikers out there this is the kind of backpack candidate I would consider for a big trek like the AT or PCT. (I hiked a majority of the AT with a 70-litre pack).

    The Paragon 58 has a pocket for every purpose too, including hip belt pockets, a top lid pocket, a sleeping bag compartment, and a hydration reservoir zone.

    Our team were impressed by the comfort of this pack, especially for the size. The super padded shoulder and waist straps alongside the lightweight frame of the pack made hiking in it for hours a dream!

    Not too much negative to say here, the Paragon 58 is just a bread-and-butter hiker pack.

    Pros
    1. Very comfortable for long-distance backpacking
    2. Great storage options and exterior strap features for hauling extra gear
    3. Excellent suspension system for carrying big loads
    Cons
    1. Too big for a carry on
    2. No laptop sleeve (it’s a hiker pack, duh!)
    3. Pack will not hike the trail for you

    Best Recycled Pack For Cycling: The Roll Top by Stubble & Co

    Stubble & Co Roll Top
    Need to Know
    • Price: $170
    • Made from robust recycled materials.
    • 30 liters
    • Handy laptop compartment
    • Best use: Cycling and Motorbikes

    This one has only recently come to our attention but has impressed us very much. The Stubble & Co Roll Top backpack superbly combines functionality with performance all in a part recycled, eco-friendly package. It’s one of our favourite roll top backpacks out there.

    This lightweight backpack is durable and very comfortable and intended for all weather conditions making it perfect to wear on your bike. Custom built with cycling and the outdoors in mind, the Roll Top features sealed seams, water-resistant zips, reflective logos and considered compartments. It’s also very well priced.

    Our team felt this bag was one of the coolest looking on the market and really loved the combination the of trendy hipster roll top, technical material and minimalist design. One of the real stand-out features for our team was the separate back pocket for their laptops. They also loved how protected their gear felt with the water-resistant and super-durable external materials.

    Want more options? Check out our rundown of the best Stubble & Co. bags.

    Pros
    1. Individual padded laptop sleeve
    2. Stylish and cool
    3. Pretty good storage capacity
    Cons
    1. No rain cover
    2. Not fully recycled
    3. The roll top opening isnt for everybody

    Best of the Rest… Even More Epic Sustainable Backpacks

    Patagonia Refugio 30L Pack 

    Need to Know
    • Price: $129
    • Made from 50% recycled/50% high-tenacity fabric
    • Full-sized 28-liter day backpack
    • 2 main compartments for storage
    • Best use: Day hiking, travel, everyday bag

    Another great eco backpack from Patagonia worth noting is the Patagonia Refugio 30L Pack. This day pack is significantly larger than my previous day pack recommendations and is the ideal candidate for hikers/commuters looking for more gear carrying capacity.

    The Refugio 30 is a no-frill pack capable of housing a 15-inch laptop, which can be accessed from a pocket separate from the main pack “belly”.

    This women-specific pack is decently padded and well ventilated, offers storage options in all the right places, and generally ticks the boxes most day hikers are after from a feature and comfort point of view.

    I would have liked to have seen Patagonia include a rain cover here, as they are pretty crucial to have for any hiking-specific backpack. While buying a rain cover separately is annoying, the Refugio 30 will be well-equipped for harsh weather on your commute or up a high mountain pass once paired with a rain fly.

    Our team was impressed by just how much this bag could hold for the relatively small and compact size. The bag really lived up to the Patagonia name and standards when it came to both sustainability and build quality. On top of this, they felt the bag offered some great organisational features with the 3 main zippered sections.

    Pros
    1. Individual padded laptop sleeve
    2. Balanced suspension and decent breathability
    3. Large enough for serious all-day hiking missions
    Cons
    1. No rain cover
    2. Water bottle pocket can push into laptop compartment when in use
    3. The laptop compartment can’t be locked

    REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack

    Need to Know
    • Price: $149
    • Recycled ripstop nylon; recycled nylon (bluesign® approved)
    • 40-liters
    • Raincover included
    • Best use: Travel

    Ok, so buying a sustainable backpack for hiking or expeditions might be overkill if you’re not the type. Maybe you must want a purpose-built travel pack instead.

    The REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack is one of the few travel-specific backpacks out there made using recycled materials. I’d describe this pack as a “made-for-digital-nomads” sort of deal.

    40 litres might be too small for some travellers though. Before you plan out your next long-term backpacking trip, consider this: if you are going for the minimalist approach (laptop, shorts, a few shirts, sandals, other essentials) then 40 litres you can get away with. Otherwise, the REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack makes a great secondary pack if travelling with a slightly larger second main backpack.

    The REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack literally has pockets everywhere – three outside, plus two main compartments. Finding the right place for your stuff won’t be a problem; remembering what you stashed where might be though!

    As mentioned, this backpack is not intended to be used as a hiking pack. In terms of other travel backpacks made by the likes of Nomatic or AER – the REI Co-op Trail 40 Pack is nearly there in terms of performance, costs less, and is eco-friendly (well, at least eco-friendlier).

    Our team loved all the different pockets, zippered sections and hidden compartments alongside the straps on the front. They felt it was a great pack for digital nomads with a lot of gear looking to keep their stuff organised and safe.

    Pros
    1. Tons of storage pockets
    2. Water bottle storage
    3. Padded, ergonomically shaped shoulder straps with an adjustable sternum strap, plus a hide-away hipbelt and comfy back panel
    Cons
    1. No dedicated laptop compartment
    2. Lacking side compression straps
    3. Water bottle pocket not compatible with larger bottles if pack is very full

    Best Recycled Roll Top Backpack

    Got Bag Roll Top
    Need to Know
    • Price: $
    • Made from fully recycled ocean plastic
    • 30-liters
    • 17 in. laptop compartment
    • Best use: Urban

    This hipster friendly, fully recycled backpack from Got Bag is entirely made from recovered ocean plastic. It comes with a fully removable 15″ laptop sleeve, making it a great backpack for work or college.

    This pack is also very durable and the weather proofing is strong enough to keep your gear dry even in pretty drastic downpours.

    The backpacks fabric does feel quite stiff and is not exactly pleasant to the touch and the shape is very angular and square. As a bonus the backpack is ideal for carrying vinyl records making it a good backpack for old stool DJs!

    Our team loved the trendy design of this bag that both looks cool and is super functional too. The roll top and super weather-resistant material really gave them that added confidence when it came to transporting their cameras and laptops. They also felt the 30l size of the bag was pretty useful and cornered an untapped area of the market where 25l was too small and 40l way too big.

    Check out our full breakdown and review of GOT BAG’s lineup.

    Pros
    1. Good organisational potential
    2. Removable 15″ laptop sleeve
    3. Fully recycled and adjustable
    Cons
    1. Feels a bit stiff
    2. Not the most comfortable to carry
    3. No water bottle pocket
    The best present of all… is CONVENIENCE!

    Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.

    So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉

    Buy on REI!

    How to Choose a Sustainable Backpack

    wandrd duo review
    Photo: Chris Lininger

    As travellers, hikers, digital nomads, and environmentalists – we all have different needs. Choosing a backpack from this list is not rocket science and it doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing experience.

    From the various options listed above, you’ll have to ask yourself what exactly you are in the market for.

    A new day pack? A long-haul backpacking pack? A photographer-friendly camera pack? These are all pretty specific backpack genres, so if you take a minute to reflect on what you’re after, making a section should be easy.

    Companies like Patagonia are leading the fight against environmental destruction from big business and political machinery – and they have our full respect in terms of being an eco-conscious company.

    Other big brands like REI are on their way there too in terms of broad minimum eco-standards, but as you search for a sustainable backpack or any piece of outdoor gear – keep in mind what kind of company you are supporting and how the gear you are purchasing is being produced.

    Is Recycled Material as Tough as Brand New Material?

    You might be wondering if a product is made from recycled fishing nets, will it be as strong as a material that has had no former life before.

    From all of our product testing, I’ll say that there is no evidence to suggest that recycled fibre/fabric is any less tough or durable than brand new material.

    sustainable backpack fiber
    Amazing that they can make sustainable backpacks out of this stuff!

    The fabric recycling process involves a complete transformation of the old material into a like-new material manufacturer can use to produce backpacks. From a toughness perspective, you can have full confidence in recycled fabrics.

    Another factor that comes into the sustainability of a backpack is whether or not it’s designed to be fixed up rather than thrown away. This is where we have to mention Lojel backpacks and luggage, their innovative design process and openness to help buyers fix their gear puts them ahead of the pack.

    Fair Wages and Eco-Friendly Backpacks

    When we are talking about sustainable backpacks, we are not just considering what is good for the earth. The people and the conditions they work in are equally important factors to consider.

    More and more outdoor gear companies are embracing fair trade and fair wage practices that go hand in hand with the production of sustainable backpacks. For decades, some people working in factories in a developing country have been desperately exploited by the garment industry players in the west.

    garment workers vietnam
    Garment workers in Vietnam.

    When seeking out your next eco-friendly backpack purchase, look for brands that are transparent about how they employ and support their workforce abroad.

    We at The Broke Backpacker love inexpensive, quality products as much as anyone – but if the price tag of a piece of gear seems higher to you, try to remember the individual who created it – consider the human element that went into making the beautiful new backpack you are after.

    Best Sustainable Backpacks by Comparison

    Product
    Description
    Best Sustainable Backpack Line
    Best Sustainable Backpack Line

    Osprey Nebula

    • Price > $140
    • Liters > 32
    • Weight > 2 lbs. 2 oz.
    • Best Use > Travel, Hiking, Everyday bag
    Best Eco Carry-On Backpack
    Best Eco Carry-On Backpack

    Monarc Brand Setra

    • Price > $175
    • Liters > 40
    • Weight > 4.5 lbs
    • Best Use > Travel
    Best Solar Charger Backpack
    Best Solar Charger Backpack

    Solgaard Lifepack

    • Price > $245
    • Liters > 18
    • Weight > 4 lbs
    • Best Use > Travel, everyday bag
    Best Small Daypack
    Best Small Daypack

    REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Recycled Daypack

    • Price > $79.95
    • Liters > 18
    • Weight > 1 lb. 2 oz.
    • Best Use > Travel, day hiking
    Best Eco-friendly Duffel Bag
    Best Eco-friendly Duffel Bag

    REI Co-op Big Haul 60 Recycled Duffel

    • Price > $139
    • Liters > 60
    • Weight > 2 lbs. 9 oz.
    • Best Use > Travel, expedition/base camp bag
    Best Eco-friendly Duffel Bag #2
    Best Eco-friendly Duffel Bag #2

    Patagonia Black Hole Duffel 55L

    • Price > $169
    • Liters > 55
    • Weight > 2 lbs. 9.1 oz.
    • Best Use > Travel, expedition/base camp bag
    Most Ethical Daypack
    Most Ethical Daypack

    Gulu Made Motivator Pack

    • Price > $
    • Liters > 25
    • Weight > 2 pounds
    • Best Use > Going to work and urban, travel
    Best Eco-friendly Commuter Pack
    Best Eco-friendly Commuter Pack

    Pacsafe MetroSafe LS350 ECONYL Daypack

    • Price > $
    • Liters > 15
    • Weight > 1 lb. 7.4 oz.
    • Best Use > Day pack, everyday bag
    Best Sustainable Camera Backpack
    Best Sustainable Camera Backpack

    Peak Design Travel Camera Pack 45 L

    • Price > $299.95
    • Liters > 45
    • Weight > 4 lbs. 8 oz.
    • Best Use > photography, travel, weekender bag
    Best Sustainable Adjustable Backpack
    Best Sustainable Adjustable Backpack

    Shell Backpack by Tropicfeel

    • Price > $249
    • Liters > 22 – 40
    • Weight > 3.3 lbs
    • Best Use > Travel
    Best Sustainable Hiking Backpack
    Best Sustainable Hiking Backpack

    Gregory Paragon 58

    • Price > $259.95
    • Liters > 58
    • Weight > 3 lbs. 9 oz.
    • Best Use > Backpacking
    Best Recycled Pack For Cycling
    Best Recycled Pack For Cycling

    The Roll Top by Stubble & Co

    • Price > $170
    • Liters > 30
    • Weight > 2 lbs
    • Best Use > Cycling and Motorbikes

    How and Where We Tested To Find The Best Sustainable Backpacks

    To test to find the best environmentally friendly backpack, we were sure to give each pack a fair but extensive test ride by various members of the team. They well and truly put them to the test as well as analysing their sustainability claims.

    Packability

    A backpack is designed to carry your gear and we expect a good backpack to do that well. We’re not just talking about throwing your gear into a back hole and spending hours trying to retrieve it from this Mary Poppin’s-like abyss.

    A good backpack will facilitate effective packing and unpacking and will maximise its space well. We also love pockets and organisational features too, so those bags that put extra effort into allowing us to store our gear in the best way possible, were awarded extra points!

    Weight and Comfort of Carrying

    If a pack is overly heavy or awkward to carry then taking it along on trips becomes frankly unenjoyable. It’s all well and good picking out an eco backpack and saving the world, but if it gets left in the bottom of your closet because it’s a pain to wear, then it’s still a waste!

    Believe us here, we’ve had our share of crappy backpacks that weighed too much and had straps that felt like they were made out of barbed wire! So, with this in mind, we awarded max points to those packs that looked after your back and shoulders!

    Functionality

    In order to test out how well a pack fulfilled its primary purpose we used it for this purpose! That might seem simple but when it came to eco-friendly backpacks we were interested in more than just how the bags functioned practically, but on a sustainability level too.

    We looked at how each bag fulfilled the criteria for being sustainable and environmentally friendly. We took a deep dive into their production practices from sourcing materials, ethical working practices, longevity and repairability of each bag too.

    Aesthetics

    We believe a sustainable backpack should also be a sick-looking backpack too! For us cool kids at TBB we won’t accept wandering around looking like a geography teacher on a field trip! Oh no!

    As such we also awarded points for how sexy a pack looks. 

    Durability and Weatherproofing

    One of the key components that needed testing when it came to sustainable backpacks was their durability and waterproofing. This was two-fold. Firstly, the materials used to make an eco-friendly backpack differ and sometimes fall short of the mark in terms of protecting your gear. Secondly, we believe that in order for a bag to truly be sustainable, it should be long-lasting.

    So, we did what was in our power to test these packs out. Sure, we couldn’t afford to drop them from a plane and nor would that be environmentally friendly, so instead we went back to basics. We inspected how well each pack was made looking at areas like pressure points, zipper traction, seam sewing and general build quality and feel. We then poured a glass of sustainably sourced water over them and any leaky packs were sent… packing!

    FAQ about the Best Sustainable Backpacks

    Still have some questions the best eco backpacks? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:

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      Final Thoughts on the Best Sustainable Backpacks

      There you have it guys – you are now equipped with some solid buying advice when it comes to choosing eco-friendly luggage. After going through this list of sustainably made backpacks you should be in a position to hopefully make an informed decision.

      Becoming a responsible consumer does not happen overnight. It takes effort and awareness to actively seek out brands and products that are doing the right thing for the environment and their workers.

      eco friendly backpacks

      Thankfully though, the outdoor industry is trending towards offering more and more sustainable backpacks and eco-friendly outdoor product options – which is definitely a good sign.

      Do you have direct experience with a backpack on this list? Did we miss a wonderfully-designed sustainable backpack that you love? Let us know in the comment below!


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