Companies and Brands

Avoid All Backpack Brands Except These 19

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Backpacks used to be an item you could buy once and never worry about again. But like most products today, that has changed. Expensive backpacks made from cheap and weak material fill the stores and force you to buy a new one every year. What can you do to not only buy affordable and lasting gear, but also support worthwhile companies?

Below is a list of backpack brands that arecommitted to ethics, have transparent manufacturing practices, and help the planet. We included a recommended item from each brand along with its price so you can compare them here.

Why Are We Talking About This?

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Look no further for backpacks to fill your every need.

When all our stores are filled with absolute useless garbage, it’s hard to know where to go to buy quality products. Online internet searches are becoming filled with SEO-heavy junk and advertisements, so even your honest efforts are sure to be rewarded with frustration. We did the work to find some of the best and affordable backpack brands.

#1 United By Blue

Traveler with backpack discovering Vietnam. Man in the middle of a busy street full of motorbikes and bicycles in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Source: Jaromir Chalabala / Shutterstock.com
Having a quality backpack can make a big difference in your travels.
  • Ethics: Anti-waste, Plastic-free Packaging, Recycled Materials, Ethical Manufacturing
  • Product: (R)evolution 25L Transit Pack
  • Price: $118
  • Material: 100% Recycled Plastic Water Bottles

United By Blue’s (R)evolution 25L Transit Pack features a 17” padded interior laptop sleeve, adjustable padded straps, side water bottle pockets, and plenty of interior organization. It uses 100% recycled polyester and nylon and is water-resistant, tear-resistant, and stain-resistant. Did we mention that it has a lifetime guarantee? 

We love United By Blue which uses 100% recycled materials and is responsibly madein Vietnam. We also love that for every one product purchased, one pound of trash is removed from oceans and waterways around the world. So far, they have removed more than 1,800,000 pounds of trash! 

United By Blue uses a low-waste, slow-fashion business model and only works with ethical, certified manufacturing partners. In the name of transparency, you can even look at its list of partner factories on its website. Although some of the products are made with leather, that leather is vegetable-tanned which is much better for the environment than traditional chemical tanning. 

#2 Mafia

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There are all kinds of backpacks available to buy.
  • Ethics: Upcycled, handmade, regenerative products
  • Product: Sail Pack
  • Price: $147
  • Material: Upcycled Sails

Mafia is a cool company that uses upcycled materials. Its sail pack is made from upcycled sails, and no two bags are the same. The Sail Pack is sleek and lightweight, has a laptop sleeve, and a secret back pocket. The zipper pulls are even repurposed kite lines! 

This San Fransisco-based company crafts every product by hand from repurposed kitesurfing, windsurfing, and sailboat sails. This process means that every product is unique and one of a kind. Sails are the perfect material to upcycle bags because it is durable, non-recyclable, and versatile. It sources its sails directly from sailors and athletes all around the world. Mafia bags even come with a lifetime warranty! 

#3 Terra Thread

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You can even take your backpack to New Zealand.
  •  Ethics: Fair Trade Certified, Certified B Corp, Recycled Materials, Handmade, GOTS Certified, Carbon Neutral
  •  Product: Earth Backpack
  •  Price: $76.95
  •  Material: Certified Organic Cotton Canvas

As a GOTS Certified company, Terra Thread doesn’t use toxic chemicals during its manufacturing process and includes strong labor provisions to protect all employees. Handmade in a Certified Fair Trade factory, the Earth Backpack is the perfect everyday pack. Complete with a laptop sleeve, internal hanging pocket, lead-free zippers, external water bottle pockets, and a large zippered external pocket. 

Ethical and conscious consumerism is at the core of Terra Thread’s mission. Focused on regenerative organic cotton farming and redesigning the fashion industry to empower farmers, heal the earth, pay workers fairly, and reduce plastic waste is behind everything it does. Terra Thread founders Vik and Vizan Giri, a Nepalese immigrant father-daughter duo created Terra Threads to combat the fast fashion industry and the use of plastic-based fabrics. 

In an effort to do even more good, Terra Thread has a partnership with Feeding America, where a percentage of each sale provides meals to kids and families in need. 

#4 Etsy

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You can find anything hand-crafted on Etsy.
  •  Ethics: Small Business, Handmade, Recycled, Upcycled 
  •  Product: Many 
  •  Price: Many 
  •  Material: Many 

Etsy is the perfect place to find upcycled backpacks! Etsy is an online marketplace that acts as a platform for small businesses and individual creators and makers to sell their wares. When you search “upcycled backpack,” over 1,000 options pop up made from an incredible variety of materials including backpacks made from upcycled canvas, innertubes, truck cover tarps, embroidered 2nd hand finds, firefighter uniforms, life rafts, hemp, upcycled leather, cement bags, feed bags, rice bags, denim, tarpaulin, bicycle tubes, and recycled fabrics. 

The possibilities of design and sustainability are seemingly endless on Etsy. Also, you can feel good about putting money into an individual’s pocket, instead of a large corporation. 

#5 Upcycle That

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Hiking backpacks require a bit more thought and engineering.
  •  Ethics: Woman-owned, Upcycling, Repurposing
  •  Product: JOLLA Backpack 
  •  Price: $75
  •  Material: Upcycled Bedouin Stretch Tent, Upcycled Marketing Banner

The JOLLA Backpack is part of the Cape Town collection from Upcycle That. This slim pack is handmade with multiple storage compartments, a padded laptop pocket, and side pockets, holds 17.3 liters, and originates from Cape Town. 

Besides selling merch, Upcycle That is a platform that features the world’s best upcycling ideas and inspiration. Some of the categories of ideas you will find on its website that you can build yourself are furniture, garden, décor, storage, lighting, art, pets, and even entertainment. Upcycle That is activating upcycling communities globally. 

#6 Rewilder

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Backpacks are essentially required for long journeys.
  •  Ethics: 100% Salvaged Materials, Handmade, Zero-Waste
  •  Product: Airbag Backpack White 
  •  Price: $118
  •  Material: 100% Auto Airbags and Seatbelts

The Airbag Backpack is the ideal bag for urbanites. It has a modern design, is super durable, and is water resistant. It has a laptop sleeve, dual-zip main compartment, double top handle, secure zip pocket, front snap pocket, and is boasted as “the best eco-friendly backpack on the market.” The materials used are saved from landfills. “Each airbag backpack diverts the equivalent CO2 from the landfill as planting 6 trees, driving 300 miles in a passenger car, or charging your smartphone every night for 49 years!” 

Rewilder is a Los Angeles-based small business that uses 100% salvaged and upcycled industrial trash. Some materials they use are old beer filters, which American beer manufacturing plants go through 100,000 tons annually. Other materials include mesh, car cover fabric, and high-tech airbag material. 

Rewilder is an affordable handmade option and participates in a circular economy by offering free repairs and replacements, and a 35% discount on a new Rewilder backpack when you send your used one back to them. 

#7 Quince

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Backpacks actually exist in Pennsylvania.
  • Ethics: Natural Materials, Recycled Materials, Budget Friendly, BSCI Certified, Sedex Certified 
  • Product: Recycled Double Pocket Backpack Large
  • Price: $64.90
  • Material: Recycled Water Bottles, 

The Recycled Double Pocket Backpack is practical, functional, and ideal for kids on the go. It features a spacious design with two separate compartments, ample storage, pockets, clips, holders, and adjustable straps.

Quince has some wonderful back-to-school sustainable and child-friendly backpacks. You can choose from a variety of materials such as recycled nylon, 100% organic cotton, and neoprene. Each backpack is crafted from up to 29 recycled water bottles. 

Quince believes in providing you with sustainably made, affordable, quality, style-elevating pieces. Quince says that “everyone deserves to fill their life with the finer things.” It keeps prices low by using a factory-direct model that cuts out the middlemen and doesn’t cut employees’ pay. Quince only partners with factories that meet or exceed the Global Guidelines for Workplace Safety and Equitable Wages. 

#8 Pixie Mood

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Backpacks are not one-size-fits-all.
  • Ethics: GRS Certified Materials, Vegan, Recycled Materials, European Union REACH Compliant, Ethically made, Carbon Positive
  • Product: Blossom Backpack
  • Price: $110
  • Material: Recycled Vegan Leather, Recycled Water Bottles

The Blossom Backpack is chic, and stylish, and can even be converted into a shoulder bag. It’s spacious enough to fit a laptop and is “ideal for students, travelers, or working professionals looking for the perfect everyday bag.” Some other features include a trolley sleeve, 2 detachable woven shoulder straps, an interior key chain strap, interior elastic pockets, and 4 metal purse feet. 

Pixie Mood has been making fashionable backpacks made from recycled and sustainable fabrics for over a decade. Its backpacks are eco-friendly, tech-friendly, and durable enough to be outdoor-friendly. Pixie Mood is partnered with TerraPass, which means every order shipped helps remove atmospheric carbon. Sustainability doesn’t end with the products- all packaging is biodegradable corn-based and with recyclable EPE foam. 

#9 STATE BAGS

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All kinds of backpacks should be good quality.
  •  Ethics: Certified B Corp, Ethically Made, Non-toxic, Vegan, Family-owned, Fair Trade
  •  Product: Kane Kids
  •  Price: $120
  •  Material: 100% Recycled Polyester

For backpacks that give off cool-kid vibes for the whole family, look no further than STATE! STATE has sizes for kids of all ages and different uses. It has patterns, metallics, solids, and multi-colored backpacks that can be personalized with monograms or symbols. 

For every bag purchased from STATE, it donates backpacks full of school supplies to local students by partnering with local schools and charities. STATE also offers things like a travel academy, and a virtual tutoring program, and fights social injustices through its #WhatDoWeTellTheKids platform. 

STATE also participates in a circular economy by offering STATE Pre-Loved, a marketplace managed by Treet for buying and selling pre-loved STATE bags. Reduce your environmental impact by reselling your used STATE Bags when you’re done

#10 Troubadour

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Stylish backpacks can be quality backpacks.
  •  Ethics: Recycled Materials, Vegetable Tanned Leather, 
  •  Product: Ember Backpack
  •  Price: $195
  •  Material: Recycled Polyester, Vegan Leather

The Ember Backpack is made with lightweight waterproof fabric and is complete with a zipped external pocket, a separate padded laptop pocket, a breathable back panel, a trolley sleeve, and a non-slip grab handle. 

Troubadour provides you with everyday luxe for work and weekends. Troubadour is so confident that its products are built to last that it comes with a five-year guarantee against any manufacturing fault. 

Troubadour uses only vegetable-tanned leather, which is eco-friendly, and participates in a circular economy by working with customers by offering free repairs for the first five years and repairs at cost after that. 

#11 Everlane

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Get a backpack for the right size and person.
  •  Ethics: Renewed Materials, Clean Chemistry, Bluesign-approved Dyes, ASG Corporation
  •  Product: The ReNew Transit Backpack
  •  Price: $71
  •  Material: 100% Recycled polyester

Everlane is your stop for professional-looking bags and backpacks. The ReNew Transit Backpack is functional, travel-friendly, and is great for the office, and is a perfect airplane carry-on. The ReNew has an exterior laptop pocket, interior slip pockets, two water bottle holders, a magnetic closure, and a pass-through strap for luggage. 

Revolutionaries in what it calls the “Cleaner Fashion Movement,” Everlane uses a three-pillar framework that is aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals- Keep the Earth Clean, Keep Earth Cool, and Do Right By People. They are accomplishing these goals by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, achieving gender equality in their production line, promoting fair living wages, and supporting community impacts through the Black Friday Fund. 

#12 Cotopaxi

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If you go cheap on your backpack, you’ll regret it.
  •  Ethics: B Corp, Impact Transparency, Ethical, Sustainable, Carbon Neutral
  •  Product: Chiquillo 30L Backpack- Del Dia
  •  Price: $100
  •  Material: Recycled Ripstop Nylon, Recycled Ripstop Polyester

Cotopaxi is a B Corp Certified company that has bags for kids and adults! This kids’ backpack is super durable, made from recycled fabrics, zippered accessory pockets, and plenty of storage room. A cool way that Cotopaxi is contributing to sustainability is that you can trade in your pre-loved Cotopaxi gear! It also sells all of the previous years’ gear at a 50% discount to keep unused products out of landfills.  All Cotopaxi products come with a lifetime warranty and repairs guaranteed. 

Cotopaxi is a company that is fighting poverty and reducing inequality in Latin America through its Cotopaxi Foundation which supports local nonprofits. As a carbon-neutral company, Cotopaxi works closely with its factory partnerships to ensure that employees are treated right, and waste is eliminated wherever possible. 

#13 Stubble & Co

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Even school backpacks can be good quality.
  •  Ethics: B-Corp, Vegan
  •  Product: The Adventure Bag
  •  Price: $210
  •  Material: Recycled PET

The Adventure Bag is the ultimate travel bag. It is perfectly sized for an airline carry-on, has a convenient clam-shell closure, is waterproof, durable, tough, lightweight, and has a laptop compartment and trolley sleeve. Take it hiking, on the plane, on your next adventure, or just to class. 

Stubble & Co. is partnered with 1% for the Planet, is certified climate-neutral, uses responsible packaging, and prides itself on world-class customer service. 

#14 Day Owl

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Backpacks in Arkansas!
  • Ethics: Circular economy, Zero Waste, 
  • Product: Backpack Pro
  • Price: $155
  • Material: Waxed Canvas, 100% recycled polyester, neoprene, conflict-free metal

This sustainable company brings you the Backpack Pro is minimalist on the outside, and extremely functionalon the outside. The waxed canvas used to make this pack is made from 25 recycled post-consumer plastic bottles, taking plastic out of the environment. Complete with a laptop padded external sleeve, insulated interior neoprene sleeve (this was specifically designed to hold a bottle of wine, but put whatever you want in it!), and the Day Owls boats that its Backpack Pro has the lowest carbon footprint of any professional backpack on the market. 

Day Owl wants to be the first completely circular bag company. It works with First Mile to save plastic from landfills and is also partnered with the not-for-profit organization WORK. All products are built from landfill-bound materials and then repaired and refurbished used products to give them multiple owners. When a product is on its last leg, the materials then go into making a new bag. 

#15 Fjallraven

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Even kid backpacks can be responsible.
  • Ethics: Sustainable, Circular Economy, Carbon offset, 
  • Product: Kanken Outlong
  • Price: $155
  • Material: 100% Vinylon F, 100% recycled Polyamide

The Kanken Outlong is made of super durable Vinylon, has a convenient zippered compartment in the base, a sleeve pocket in the main compartment with a padded base for a laptop, and air-mesh shoulder straps and a back panel. It is the perfect bag for commuting, hiking, and any other outdoor adventure. 

Fjallraven uses organic, renewable, and recycled materials ethically sourced directly from the environment including G-100 Eco wool, hemp, cotton, and down material. All natural materials are traceable, and most everything else used is recycled. 

With a commitment to human rights, environmental protection, sustainable development, and animal welfare, it has a code of conduct based on the Fair Labor Association’s Workplace Code of Conduct that it requires all suppliers and manufacturers to follow. To offset its ever-shrinking carbon footprint, it supports UN-verified renewable energy projects and offers free lifetime repairs of products. Fjallraven’s goal is to be completely carbon neutral by 2025. It is also partnered with the Artic Fox Trust, which supports projects that put nature first. 

#16 Gulu Made

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Be happy with your backpack.
  •  Ethics: Ethically Manufactured
  •  Product: Innovator Backpack
  •  Price: $83.40
  •  Material: Nylon, Kitenge

The Innovator Backpack has 4 main compartments with 10 organizational pockets, 2 stretch-woven water bottle/ umbrella pockets, water-resistant reverse zippers, drop-safe computer and tablet sleeves, and a lux-comfort back panel. Gulu Made offers a lifetime warranty, free returns policy for 100 days, free returns, and free shipping on orders over $99.   

Gulu Made makes all its bags in Gulu, Uganda. The brand was created with the mission of empowering the people of Gulu and offering them sustainable jobs after surviving decades of civil war led by the infamous warlord Joseph Kony. Gulu Made is a company that wants to give redemption and hope to a place that has experienced extreme poverty due to the conflict. Rather than outsource manufacturing in Asia, Gulu Made made its own factory in Gulu, so every step of the process is completed in Uganda. 

#17 Matt & Nat

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That’s a good-looking backpack!
  • Ethics: PTA approved Vegan, 100% Sustainable Materials, Ethical Practices
  • Product: Dean Vegan Backpack
  • Price: $215
  • Material: Vegan Leather, Recycled Plastic Bottles

The Dean Vegan Backpack is vintage style luxury with adjustable shoulder straps, slip side pockets, a front zipper pocket, top zipper closure, a logo embossed vintage patch, and a padded laptop compartment. The exterior is made from Vegan Leather made from PVC that is “durable and gracefully ages with time.” The interior lining is made from recycled plastic bottles. 

Matt & Nat is a Canadian-based company that is constantly trying to increase their range of sustainable materials. Currently, they are experimenting with nylons, cardboard, rubber, cork, and windshield resins. It exclusively uses 100% recycled plastic bottles for its lining and recycles over nine million plastic bottles annually. 

#18 Rareform

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Backpacks can radically change your hiking experience.
  •  Ethics: Sustainable, Recycled Materials
  •  Product: Rio Duffle
  •  Price: $100
  •  Material: Repurposed Billboards

The Rio Duffle is lightweight and can be converted into a backpack or a crossbody with detachable, padded straps. It comes with an extra nylon shoe bag, a one-of-a-kind design, and padded carrying handles. These features make it the perfect bag to take to the gym, or on your next adventure.

Usually, the lifespan of a billboard is only 4-8 weeks before being sent to the landfill. Rareform wanted to change that by collecting, cleaning, and cutting billboards into usable material. So far, Rareform has repurposed 80% of all billboards in the United States and has rescued 340,743 billboards so far! It provides unique designs where no two bags are alike. Rareform loves using bold, bright colors and typography elements and avoids using food, logos, faces, or hair. 

#19 MYSTERY RANCH

  •  Ethics: Sustainable, 
  •  Product: Catalyst 18
  •  Price: $139
  •  Material: 500D Recycled CORDURA ® re/cor Nylon, YKK ® Chain and Coated Zippers

The Catalyst 18 has two internal zippered pockets, a padded laptop pocket with elastic holds, and a three-zip design. It even has an adjustable and removable sternum strap, and comes in multiple colors.

For sturdy packs designed for the outdoors, look no further than Mystery Ranch. Designs are inspired by military assault rucksacks and are extremely durable and ideal for outdoor adventures and extreme weather conditions. The bags are breathable, water repellent, abrasion resistant, and tough

MYSTERY RANCH has its own Hunter Conservationist Program, and supports many non-profit organizations including The Green Beret Foundation, Pararescue Foundation, SOC-F, The Station Foundation, Warriors and Quiet Waters, American Wildlife Experience, Grassroots Wildland Firefighters, Montana Mountaineering Association, The Conservation Alliance, Hunters of Color, Wild Sheep Foundation, and more. 

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