5 Best Minimalist Backpacks (Review) In 2020
Are you looking to get your hands on one of the best minimalist backpacks on the market? Before plunging into a world made up of dozens of packs, we should agree on what a minimalist bag means.
Indeed, the term minimalism is so overused these days that deciding which backpacks fit in this category is often challenging. Like loads of other things, minimalism is personal.
I can’t say what qualifies as a minimalist backpack to you, but to me, it must have a sleek, simple aesthetic mixed with an equally simple and seamless user experience. If it has a bunch of drag and dangle or is super complicated to use, it isn’t minimalist.
Unsurprisingly, this definition applies to dozens of backpacks out there. Which of those are genuinely worth your attention? To help you out, I chose my favorite minimalist bags in five categories. Check them out below to find the best one for you.
#1 - Tortuga Setout
The first of the best minimalist backpacks on our list, the Tortuga Setout, is an excellent choice for long-term travel. It may be minimalist, but is a behemoth of a bag designed to hold all your travel essentials needed for lengths of time.
Like minimalism, long-term travel is hard to define. All I can say is that the Tortuga Setout served me well during a 6-month journey around the world as a digital nomad.
What makes it stand out, besides its seamless design, is the superb user experience it delivers. It only has a couple of pockets and a more-than-generous main compartment, but that’s more than you need to organize clothes, electronics, travel documents, and gear.
Indeed, its main compartment is essentially a giant pool that can fit numerous travel cubes – something all minimalists and travel junkies will love.
You may also love the lack of unnecessary pockets and zippers, as well as the suitcase-style opening. Furthermore, the two pockets and the main compartment are super-easy to open and access.
The Tortuga Setout comes in two sizes; a larger 45-liter backpack as well as a smaller 35-liter variant. The bigger one weighs only 3.9 pounds and costs around US$199. A bargain, considering the super-premium quality of the materials.
This backpack looks great, is durable, and feels pleasant to the touch. No doubt, your best choice if you need a long-term travel companion.
Pros of Tortuga Setout
Cons of Tortuga Setout
#2 - Aer Capsule
Earning the title of the best minimalist backpack for one bag travel, the Aer Capsule delivers a really fun user experience.
It is only slightly smaller than the Tortuga Setout, coming in 40-liter and 35-liter variants, but this slight difference is precisely what makes it perfect for the more frugal traveler.
Sporting a more compact dimension than the Tortuga, the Aer Capsule is the backpack you need if you want to ditch the traditional carry-on and use this big guy as your sole travel bag. Despite its smaller size, the duffer style main compartment is ideal for modular packing with travel cubes – a method that allows you to stuff sufficient travel gear and essentials for a longer trip.
Perhaps the main downside is the heavier weight. Indeed, the 35-liter model weighs 4.1 pounds, a bit on the heavier side for those super hard-core backpacking enthusiasts who are obsessed with weight.
Besides the heavier weight, the Aer Capsule also comes with a heftier price tag. You’ll have to drop around US$230 for the smaller version of the bag, but rest assured you’ll get premium-quality materials for your bucks, including a ballistic Codura nylon exterior that’ll last for a lifetime.
Complying with most airline regulations and easy to take on board planes, trains, and other public transportation, the Aer Capsule is undeniably one of the best minimalist backpacks for short-term travel.
Pros of Aer Capsule
Cons of Aer Capsule
#3 - Peak Design Everyday Zip
The third on our list, the Peak Design Everyday Zip, is the best minimalist backpack for urban photographers and not only. Its greatest highlight is the 270-degree opening that ensures easy access to your camera and other gear stuffed inside the bag.
Ideal for use in the city, it sports gorgeous looks and can easily complement any stylish outfit. Clean lines with nothing hanging on the sides and optimal width also makes it perfect for busy people who want to glide smoothly through rush-hour crowds.
Particularly useful is the instant access design with dual side flaps closed by waterproof zips. I also like the interior dividers that not only allow you to stash multiple devices on top of each other but that also delivers a flexible configuration that adapts to your ever-changing gear.
Like the Tortuga Setout and Aer Capsule, the Everyday Zip comes in two sizes – a 15-liter and a 20-liter variant. Both models feature protective laptop sleeve and multiple slots for other gadgets. For this review, I tested the 20-liter one that fits 15-inch laptops, and that is adjustable for easy access to smaller notebooks. If you’d like the smaller one, keep in mind that it only fits 13-inch notebooks, and it isn’t adjustable.
Regarding the Everyday Zip 20-liter’s specs, its brags with a low heft and compact size. This backpack only weighs 2.5 pounds, way less than most minimalist bags. Made from 100% recycled nylon, it is also eco-friendly, durable, it looks great, and feels great on your shoulders.
The Peak Design Everyday Zip will cost you around US$220; it comes in four color options and is an excellent choice for photography students, tech geeks, or professional photographers.
Pros of Peak Design Everyday Zip
Cons of Peak Design Everyday Zip
#4 - Nomatic Backpack
Undeniably the best minimalist backpack for business and digital nomads, the Nomatic pack impresses with its functionality.
It has lots and lots of pockets and compartments for your laptop, gadgets, pens, notebooks, and anything else you might want to carry with you, including an RFID pocket for your bank cards and payment devices – all designed to help you keep everything truly organized.
While you might wonder how a backpack with so many pockets can be defined as minimalist, you should know that its design is flawless, sleek, and super-simple.
Indeed, the Nomatic only has two main compartments, each of the two featuring multiple pockets and sleeves for your laptop, tech equipment, diaries, pens, and so on. And while keeping everything organized is easy, the actual design and aesthetic are minimalist.
Different than the other backpacks we talked about, the Nomatic doesn’t come in two size options, but it is expandable. This is an excellent feature since you’ll get two backpacks in one – a 20-liter expandable to 24, everything weighing only 4.1 pounds.
Compared to the Aer Capsule, it is a bit on the heavier side, but you’ll get plenty of additional pockets, so real bangs for the buck.
Those who like to have plenty of size and color options to choose from could be disappointed that the Nomatic only comes in one size and one color, which is black. Counterbalancing these (potential) lacks is the choice of super-premium materials that include a waterproof tarpaulin exterior and waterproof zippers.
Overall, the backpack looks sleek and stylish but has poor scratch resistance, something to keep in mind if you can’t stand cosmetic flaws. At around US$250, this backpack is also on the expensive side. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind a scratch or two but want a truly waterproof bag for your laptop and other gadgets, this one is definitely it.
Pros of Nomatic Backpack
Cons of Nomatic Backpack
#5 - Wandrd Duo
Last but not least, the Wandrd Duo is the best minimalist backpack for everyday carry, as well as the most surprising backpack I’ve ever reviewed. Admittedly, the Wandrd Duo is that kind of bag that can make you fall head over heels for it from the first glance, and then some more as you’re using it.
Technically made for photographers – but also more than suitable for travelers, commuters, and anyone else looking for a minimalist backpack – it features a 270-degree zipper opening similar to the Everyday Zip by Peak Design. The main difference between the two is the interior layout, with Wandrd Duo benefiting not only photographers but also all other users.
Perhaps its biggest downside is the one size option. It only comes in a 20-liter variant, which is perfect for everyday carry but a bit too small for traveling. Nevertheless, this bag is big enough to hold all your stuff while being lightweight and easily maneuverable.
Talking about weight, its 2.6 pounds heft makes it almost as light as the Peak Design. Combine this nifty feature with high-quality materials, and you’ve got yourself a backpack designed to conquer the masses.
Indeed, the exterior is made from waterproof tarpaulin, which, combined with the waterproof zipper linings, keeps the interior completely dry even in a heavy downpour. The fabric not only resists water, but it also resists scratches – a big extra-point compared to the Nomatic.
While the Wandrd Duo isn’t the cheapest backpack out there, at around US$220, it isn’t the most expensive either. It delivers outstanding value for money considering its sleek looks, unique rubbery-leathery feel, and matches everyone, from students to busy office workers and anyone in-between.
Pros of Wandrd Duo
Cons of Wandrd Duo
Down to You
Deciding which is the best minimalist backpack is ultimately down to you. Do you need a big bag for long-term travel, a smaller one to sport around the town, or a pack built specifically for your gear? No matter your needs, you can surely find the best backpack for you on the list above.
I’m curious, though. What is your choice? Which is the winner, according to you? Tell me in a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
And before you go, don’t forget to share this article with your friends. Let them find out which are the best minimalist backpacks on the market to find the right one for them.