12 Most Durable Backpacks in 2017

Backpacks are generally built to last and not something you tend to throw out every year. Some are far more durable than others, however, as is the cast with most gear. Finding the most durable backpack can definitely be a challenge, even if you know what to look for as you can’t always rely on what the manufacturers tell you. That’s where we are going to step in to lend a hand.

While there are plenty of things to consider when looking for a rugged sack for you back, the materials used are at the forefront. Even if the bag can withstand tears and stains, it won’t do you much good if it is uncomfortable to wear or doesn’t suit your needs. Like we said, it can be challenging.

Our guide will help you narrow the field and choose the best backpack to fit your sense of style and keep your belongings safe. Before we tell you what to look for, let’s take a quick look at our top 12.

Top 12 Durable Backpacks Comparison Table

DesignNameTypeWater ResistantRating (1-5)
  1. Lenovo GX40L16533 Y Gaming Armored Backpack Hard Shell Yes 4.9
  2. Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack Soft Shell No 4.7
  3. The North Face Unisex Borealis Soft Shell Yes 4.6
  4. Mardingtop Military Backpack Soft Shell No 4.6
  5. Kelty Redwing 32 Liter BackpackSoft Shell Yes 4.5
6. Gootium 21101 Specially High Density Thick Canvas Backpack Soft Shell No 4.5
7. High Sierra Fat Boy Backpack Soft Shell No 4.5
8. Crazy Ants Military Tactical Backpack Soft Shell No 4.5
  9. Pelican U100 Elite Backpack Hard Case Yes 4.4
  10. Meru Swedish Backpack Soft Shell Yes 4.4
  11. Kensington SecureTrek 15″ Lockable Anti-Theft Laptop Backpack Soft Shell Unknown 4.3
  12. Pelican Products 0S1150-0003-110 ProGear S115 Sport Elite Photo/Laptop Backpack Hard Shell Yes 3.8

Backpack Buying Guide

While any bag can easily be ripped, all of our picks should be more than tough enough as long as you think about what you need beforehand.

Hard Shell or Soft Shell?

What do you plan to protect? If it’s just the usual stuff like books, papers or your personal gear, then you can probably make due with a soft shell backpack. These are by far the most common style, and as long as the materials and build quality are solid, you will be good to go. You may want to consider a bag with a reinforced bottom, but if you aren’t likely to be in the wild, your choices are vast.

If you do plan on trekking through the wilderness, keep a lookout for “Ripstock” fabric which can live up to its namesake. Hard Shell backpacks have become harder to find, and most are geared towards a specialty product like drones or laptops. That said, many of those packs can be converted and offer up a maximum amount of protection against blunt force.

Material

We won’t spend too much time here but will highlight a few of the tougher materials used in modern backpacks. With hard shell packs, the material can vary wildly from vinyl to aluminum but usually just covers a panel or compartment. There are a few exceptions which offer up hard protection from all sides, but those are rare and usually specialty backpacks that most consumers can’t use for general use.

When it comes to the soft shell backpacks, things open up although canvas, nylon, and polyester will be some of the more popular materials used. The aforementioned Ripstock moniker will come into play more often than not here as well but that’s a good thing.

Usage

Are you heading up the mountain to take photos of the land? If so, you probably want a durable backpack with a hard shell. That or one with a hard casing on the inside to protect your gear in the event of an accident. If you are just lugging around 30 pounds of books each day, you don’t need something that’s going to add to that weight.

That said, you may need a backpack with a reinforced bottom similar to those old Jansport bags with the canvas top and leather bottom. They lasted for decades for a reason and you probably still have on in your closet. Reinforced shoulder straps and strong stitching are also something to consider if you plan on carrying a considerable amount of weight.

Top 5 Most Durable Backpack Reviews

1. Lenovo GX40L Armored Gaming Backpack

Do not let the moniker or the manufacturer fool you with this one. Lenovo is known for making tech, not necessarily for backpacks or any wearable accessory that don’t involve electronics. The Lenovo GX40L does not have any tech inside, but it will keep yours safe. It is billed as a “gaming” backpack although it is suited to a wide variety of uses thanks to a rugged exterior.

While we do not know exactly how tough the case is on the GX40L is, it features a tough, textured vinyl shell. That will offer an amount of protection you can’t get from a soft shell back, and there is more than enough room inside for laptops, clothing or other goods. If you love pockets and don’t tote a laptop around, you will be blown away by this bag considering it has 16 pockets spanning three separate compartments.

The build of this backpack ensures water, snow or other liquids will not put a damper on any trips although you don’t want to put that water-resistance to the test. Throw in a water bottle holder on the side and a very comfortable looking back panel, and you have the most durable backpack on our list.

2. Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack

Some backpacks are tough because they have a sturdy shell or inner casing. Others like the Osprey Farpoint pull off that feat through quality construction and mean materials. Our choice from Osprey is geared towards backpackers but is normal enough looking to fit right in on campus or around town. It’s made from nylon and comes with zipper loops which allow for backpack locks. A good feature to have on hand regardless of how sturdy your knapsack is.

This 40-liter backpack is spacious on the inside and has a zippered pouch in the flap for easy access. There is an exterior pocket as well to go along with an interior slip and ID windows. Concerned about comfort? Don’t be as the Osprey has a hip belt and comfortable strap system that allows for easy adjustments on the fly. It’s a great pack for men or women and is available in Caribbean Blue, Jasper Red or Volcanic Grey. You can also choose from a 38-liter bag or between Small and Medium sizes depending on your torso.

3. The North Face Unisex Borealis Backpack

Style is probably the first thing to come to mind for most consumers when the name North Face comes up – unless you are actually into outdoor sports. The company has plenty of casual fans, and those folks and pros alike will dig the North Face Borealis backpack. It’s tougher than that old Denali fleece that just won’t die and is of average size at 29-liters.

Before we get to rugged, we will start with comfort. The suspension setup of this knapsack will keep your back from aching and cool with features like a sternum strap, a padded back panel with a spine channel, and a wicking lumbar panel. It can also keep your belongings comfy as well with a 15” fleece lined sleeve for laptops and an external fleece pocket for your shades.

The Borealis is billed as a Unisex bag and is more than tough enough to withstand the rigors of daily life along with the trail. It is water “resistant” as well and comes in a whopping 45 colors including fun choices like White Sasquatch or Trickonometry. There is truly a hue or design for everyone.

4. Mardingtop Military Molle Backpack

You know who needs a tough backpack? The military and Molle bags are designed with battle in mind. They are not bulletproof but are tougher than most bags on our most durable backpack list as its made from 600D polyester which is also water-resistant. As a bonus, it doesn’t look like an old-school Molle backpack as this one has plenty of style even if the colors are drab.

A few of the fun features of this backpack include a sternum strap and an internal hydration pocket. That pocket has dual exit ports for the tube and can be used with other gadgets as well. As for the rest of the pockets, there are three on the outside including two zippered side pockets. A handle up top will let you carry the bag if needed while those bands across the body let you clip on a wide array of accessories. The Mardingtop Military Molle Backpack comes in one size at 35-liters and three colors with Khaki, Black, and Army Green.

5. Kelty Redwing Backpack 32

If you need a solid backpack for the trail, school or casual use, Kelty is a name to remember. They are one of the more well-known manufacturers in this area, which means they know a thing or two about making durable knapsacks. The classic Kelty Redwing 32 was our choice from the company due to a nice mix of durability, comfort, and style.

This bag has a volume of 1900 cubic inches, so it’s roomy enough to stow all type of gear and goods. It’s also light at 2.8 pounds and built to keep your back fresh, but small enough to meet carry-on requirements for many airlines. Needless to say, the bag isn’t going to rip if it hits a snag thanks to fine craftsmanship and a tough vinyl exterior.

The Redwing is quite roomy on the inside and features a “hybrid” loading system; this allows you to go in from the zippered top or front – something you don’t find on casual backpacks. There are two pockets on the outside, and the pack is hydration compatible if you need to stay hydrated while you are on the go. This particular pack is only available in Black in one size although the strap setup allows for plenty of adjustments.