Best Budget Backpacks – 2023 Buying Guide
We tested and reviewed dozens of the top backpack models and found that the Canyon 2100 outperformed in nearly every testing category. Read our full review below to learn more.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
As with any type of backpack, budget or expensive, travel or leisure, the capacity is important.
As odd as it may sound, these packs are typically measured in liters. So, if the option you have in mind is a 20-liter pack, imagine filling it up with 10 two-liter bottles of two-liter bottles of soda. Obviously, do not actually do this, it would be very messy, but it’s a great way to picture the size of the pack. On our list, we feature packs ranging from 13-liters to 60-liters.
Depending on the intended use of the budget backpacks, you’ll want to pay close attention to the size. If you will be using it as a day tote, around town, about 20-liters would be ideal. This would be enough for a water bottle, a snack, a notebook, a sweater, and miscellaneous items. However, if you are looking for the best affordable backpacks for a full day hike, 35-liters is the typical size you would want to look at.
When looking into the features of the budget backpacks, we focused on the organizational features and versatility of the bags.
Organizational pockets can be very useful if you plan to use the bag for school. Not being able to find your favorite pen when you need to jot something down is a nuisance.
If you plan to use the bag for hiking, these pockets can also be useful. Other important pockets include zippered or velcro pockets along the waistbelt. Quality waistpacks are usually seen on the heavier models, as they help to distribute the weight more evenly. Waistbelt pockets are a great place to keep your keys, phone, or wallet so that you don’t have to remove the bag and go digging to find these important items.
Lastly, we also researched the water storage options in each of these best cheap backpacks. Most of the cheap durable backpacks feature a designed water bottle pocket and some feature a built-in hydration pack. Other bags have enough space and a decent sleeve for a hydration reservoir but no specific features to keep in in place or upright.
The comfort of a pack is one of the most important factors to consider.
If it isn’t comfortable, you’re not going to want to use it. To determine the comfort of these options, we focused mainly on the straps. We noted whether or not they have a decent amount of cushioning and/or breathability.
As mentioned earlier, waist and chest straps are great for alleviating the weight of the bag and distributing it more evenly. Packs without these extra straps are better suited for the gym, school, or work, such as the Nike Club.
Depending on how you intend to use the pack, the material could be a dealbreaker.
For hiking, you will want to keep an eye out for strong, abrasion-resistant, and possibly waterproof or resistant. A great bag from our list for hiking is the Osprey backpack. This bag is made from denier nylon and is known to stand up to the tests of time. If the pack you are interested in is not water-resistant, you can invest in a rain cover to keep your belongings safe from water. Besides the actual materials of the bag, no matter what you plan to use it for, the zippers are also something to look into. Well known, YKK zippers have the best reputation and are luckily the most utilized.
This is an article about investing in quality hiking gear and saving money - you could argue that this is the most important criterion!
Each product on our list has been vetted for each criterion and then compared to its price. The price alone of an item doesn't determine its value.
When trying to save money, the internet is full of great deals if you know where to look. If you are looking for cheap outdoor or athletic gear we have made a list of the best cheap backpacks on the market, so make sure to read our reviews thoroughly and decide which of these products is perfect for you.
Checking in on brands at the end of a season is another smart way to find a cheap price on a nice pack. When stores switch over what they carry, they will often offer massive sales. If you miss the big sale, make sure to double-check our website for the brands you like the most.
Top 13 Cheap Backpacks
1. Teton Sports Canyon 2100
Teton Sports is one of the leading brands when it comes to outdoor gear, and the Canyon 2100 brings top-notch quality at an affordable price point. If you are serious about your outdoor adventures and need something that can keep up with you all day and night, the Canyon 2100 is worth checking out. We love that this design is lightweight, roomy, and water-resistant.Read more
One of our favorite features of the Canyon 2100 is that it boasts a frame that holds a lot of gear quite comfortably. It has a long frame that evenly distributes the weight of your gear from the top of your shoulders to the bottom of your back. The straps are wide and padded and include buckles that cinch across your chest for added stability and support.
The Honeycomb Ripstop shell is incredibly lightweight and breathable and allows the wearer to carry heavy gear without straining the seams. It also includes a twenty-liter dry bag to ensure that your water-sensitive gear and gadgets stay completely dry in the event you run into rainy weather. Two mesh pockets along the side also allow you to store your phone or snacks for quick and easy access as well.
What we love most about this option is that it is very affordable and made for series trekkers. It is composed of string and sturdy materials that hold up quite well over the years, and work to keep your back and shoulder comfortable and your gear protected.
2. Gregory Miwok 18
Gregory is a brand that is known for high quality, and often high price tags. However, if you want something that boasts all of the great features and quality of the more expensive designs without the heavy-hitting price tag, the Miwok 18 is an excellent choice. It is composed of high-quality materials that hold up very well over the years, as well as features to keep you comfortable on the trails.Read more
It’s important to note that this design is much smaller than some of the other designs that we have seen. While many packs listed have a carrying capacity of about 40 liters or more, the Miwok 18 can only carry 18 liters. It’s the perfect fit for casual day treks where you need extra gear, but hate being weighed down by cumbersome packs.
Hikers love that the Miwok 18 is constructed with soft and comfortable materials that make you feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all. It has a padded hip belt that cinches in the front to help distribute weight away from your shoulder. Thick shoulder straps also work to distribute weight evenly across your entire back for a lightweight and comfortable fit.
If comfort is your number one concern, this design from Gregory is your best option. It may be significantly smaller than some of the other options, but it is made to last for years of adventures and packed with features that are sure to keep you light on your feet as you walk.
3. Osprey Daylight
The Osprey Daylight is a super lightweight backpack for your day hikes or city breaks. It has a sleek design while also having compression straps, mesh water bottle pockets and an outside pocket for easy access. These are great, inexpensive backpacks for carrying your essentials.Read more
It features one large main compartment with an external hydration sleeve and a smaller front pouch. The pack can hold 13 liters comfortably with added extra space in the water bottle pockets. There is an external hydration compartment.
The shoulder straps on this bag are large and comfortable and do a good job of spreading the weight of this bag across your back even when it is full. There is also a small chest strap and a waist belt that help to keep the bag securely in place. Straps along the sides also help secure the bag by synching extra space when it is not full.
This bag is made of 210 denier nylon along the front and 420 Denier on the bottom, making the pack moderately durable and able to stand up to typical daypack use.
The Osprey Daylight is an excellent choice for a daily pack that will work either out on the trail or in the city. Especially for carrying the Osprey name and warranty, this bag is affordable. With its lightweight body, comfortable padded straps, and hydration pouch, this is a great pack for anything looking for the best affordable backpacks.
4. High Sierra Loop
You won’t have to sacrifice space, function, or quality when it comes to this design from High Sierra. It is made from durable materials that work to keep your gear dry and protected, and it packs tons of pockets to keep organized. We love that this design boasts padded shoulders for a comfortable and curved fit, and it comes in a wide variety of color options that are bound to get you noticed.Read more
What makes this option one of our favorite picks is that users find that it is incredibly comfortable to wear, no matter how much you weigh it down with necessities. It boasts very wide and adjustable padded shoulder straps that work to evenly distribute the weight of the pack so it doesn’t dig into your back. It is also made from 100 percent polyester so it is a snap to clean.
If you are a fan of pockets, the High Sierra Loop has you covered. It boasts two main compartments to help you avoid throwing your gear “into the giant void” like some larger options that only have one large main pocket. It also has smaller zippered pockets along the front, and mesh panels along the side to hold water bottles or phones for quick and easy access.
Not only is this option offered in a myriad of bright and fun color options, but it is also offered in many designs as well. If you want something that is large enough to carry all of your gear and comfortable enough to wear all day long without breaking the bank, the High Sierra Loop is worth checking out!
5. The North Face Jester
The Jester is a great looking and versatile addition to our list. It doesn't overwhelm us with features but has two great pockets, a padded laptop sleeve, and deep mesh water bottle pockets. We love the vast amount of color options and the overall comfort of this pack. If you are looking for a sidekick to take hiking, traveling, or to school, the Jester is a great option.Read more
Oddly enough, each affiliate website lists a different capacity for the Jester. We found numbers ranging from 26L to 29L. However, we decided to investigate for ourselves and find out the truth straight from the source. The North Face says this bag has an overall capacity of 28L. There are two main compartments. The smaller of the two is a front accessories pocket and the other is the main pocket. There is also an exterior bungee that allows you to attach a helmet, jacket, skateboard, or anything else you may want to attach.
The Jester is very versatile. It is a great pack for school, hiking, travel, or even as a diaper bag. There is a 15” padded laptop sleeve and two deep side mesh water bottle pockets. Perhaps best for hiking instances, as well, there is a built-in whistle on the sternum strap.
To help evenly distribute the weight of the pack, there is a sternum strap and a removable hip belt. For cushioning and breathability, both the back panel and shoulder straps have injection-molded FlexVent technology. Reviewers have been very pleased with just about every aspect of the Jester.
While there are many different thicknesses of polyester built into this pack, for the most part, it is made from 600D polyester. The North Face is known for making quality products and for having smooth zippers. If there were one thing we could improve about the Jester, it would be the weather-resistance. While the polyester material lends slight water-resistance, we wouldn’t count on it to keep your laptop safe and dry. You could use a waterproof spray to protect it from the rain.
With the North Face branding and a lifetime warranty, this bag is a great investment. It isn't the least expensive bag on our list but it will certainly last you quite a while. We would have liked to see some more weather-resistance integrated, but we are still pleased overall.
6. Mountaintop Internal Frame
Looking for something that is a little more serious? This internal frame design from Mountaintop is made for serious trekkers. The internal frame allows for users to really pack all of the essentials for serious outdoor adventures, and it doesn’t boast a price tag that drains your bank account like other similar models. If you need something a bit more heavy-duty, you can’t go wrong with this option.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this option was the shape of the frame. It boasts a contoured design that helps to evenly distribute the weight of your gear to prevent strain on your shoulders and lower back. Instead of zippers, it utilizes drawstring closures so that you can easily access your gear, and well as really pack it full without the need to fidget with uncooperative zippers.
Our favorite feature of this design is that it hosts a ton of features that you need when out of the trails. It comes with a hydration compartment so you won’t need to pack space-eating water bottles. It is composed of water-resistant polyester that wicks away moistures to keep your gear dry. It also boasts a series of smaller zippered compartments so that you can stay organized.
Internal bladders, trekking pole attachments, drawstring enclosures, and an internal frame all make this design really stand out from the pack. It is the perfect option for serious trekkers or campers that need something built tough. While many similar designs often boast a price tag that is pretty steep, this design is incredibly affordable and worth a look.
7. Outlander Packable
Have you ever taken a vacation but not had enough room to pack a daily exploration bag? Or perhaps you overpacked and didn't have enough room to bring back souvenirs? The Outlander is a great travel companion that weighs only .5-pounds and folds into its own internal pocket. It is abrasion and water-resistant and has proven to be a trusted sidekick to over 8,000 reviewers.Read more
This collapsible, foldable, packable bag is available in two different capacities. You can choose a capacity of 20L or 33L. For both options, there is a large main compartment, a medium-sized pocket, and a small front pocket. One feature that we especially love about this pack is the small internal zippered pocket. It’s a great place to stash important or valuable items, such as cash, a passport, or jewelry. A fun fact included from the manufacturer is that inside the 33L bag, you can fit 26 compacted bags.
This is a great bag for travel. It can be folded down into its own interior zip pocket. When collapsed, it’s about the size of a hamburger. Additionally, it is incredibly lightweight. The 33L option weighs only .5-pounds. There are two side mesh pockets that are perfect for water bottles or umbrellas. The Outlander is available in 16 different colors and also includes a free carabiner.
The comfort is an area that we initially felt very skeptical about. However, as long as you don’t pack the bag with heavy items, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. As an example, one reviewer claims that a gallon of milk would be uncomfortable to carry. The shoulder straps are made from breathable mesh.
The Outlander is made from strong nylon material. It is abrasion-resistant and water-resistant. The stress points are reinforced and the SBS zippers are quite durable. While we wouldn’t recommend dragging this bag down the street, as a lightweight and general use pack, it is quite impressive.
This may not be the ideal choice for daily use, but it is great for short jaunts or to bring on vacation. It is affordable, packable, and dependable. There is a lot of impressive features and durabilities stuffed into these cheap durable backpacks.
8. Wasing Internal Frame
If you need something that is built for more than just casual day trips, this internal frame design from Wasing is a great choice. Not only does it come in at a price point that makes it one of the more affordable designs on our list, but it is packed with essential features for serious campers or trekkers that aren’t dissuaded by a little bit of bad weather.Read more
What users love most about this sleek design is that it is incredibly comfortable. The back panel holds a layer of molded EVA foam that contours to the shape of your back. It also hosts breathable mesh materials to keep you cool and dry as you work up a sweat. The internal aluminum frame is able to be adjusted to accommodate a wide array of users for a personal fit.
This design is also equipped with a water-resistant rain cover that slips up and over the pack to keep your gear dry when the rains start to pick up. It has a large main central compartment for all of your heavier gear, and two small mesh pockets along the side. The mesh pockets are ideal for snacks or bottles of water for quick and easy access as you walk.
The Wasing Internal Frame design is packed with a ton of features built to keep you comfortable when out on long adventures. The included rain cover works to keep your gear high and dry in soggy conditions, and it is also able to be adjusted to accommodate a wide array of users as well.
9. Venture Pal Lightweight Daypack
The Venture Pal is a great cheap lightweight backpack for day hikes. However, the material is not very sturdy, and this bag does become uncomfortable when too heavy. This same lightweight material makes the bag easy to pack though – it can be folded up and zippered into one of its inner pockets.Read more
This cheap lightweight backpack can accommodate 35 liters of gear within a large main compartment. It also has two smaller front pockets that can be zippered shut. Each of these storage areas features compartments for organizing everything you have with you, whether you use this backpack for hiking or to go to school.
This bag has a mesh pocket on either side that can fit a 1-liter water bottle. It also has a pocket in the main compartment that can fit a hydration bladder. However, this bag is not designed to be compatible with a bladder system and therefore has nowhere to secure the hose.
This bag has thick, breathable mesh shoulder straps and a chest strap that help to distribute weight across the body. Customers have reported that this bag can be uncomfortable when filled too much.
The material that this bag is made from is weak and tears easily, so be careful to not subject to excessive wear and tear. It is also resistant to moisture, however, some customers have found that the waterproof lining begins to separate from the bag after some use.
The Venture Pal is an economical choice for a hiking bag. However, with weak material and insufficient straps, this bag should only be used for day trips and can become uncomfortable when filled to excess. Luckily, this bag is priced accordingly and really won't set you back financially.
10. The North Face Flyweight
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to this design from The North Face. What users love most about this lightweight option is that it doesn’t get bogged down with extra zippers or padding that add to the overall weight. It is composed of incredibly lightweight materials that work to wick away water and boasts a frame that is comfortable enough to wear all day.Read more
When not in use, this simple design folds up compactly so you can easily store it in a closet or the trunk of your car. It is made from Cordura ripstop nylon that helps to wick water and moisture away from the surface. It has one central compartment to store your gear with ease, and a handle at the top for additional methods of carrying.
While this design doesn’t boast supportive features such as hip belts or padded back lining, users find that it is still incredibly comfortable. It is one of the lightest designs out there on the market, so the only thing weighing you down is your gear. It also boasts wide shoulder straps that work to evenly distribute the weight to avoid undue pressure on your shoulders or lower back.
If you just want something simple and affordable to sling over your back on your next outdoor adventure, this design from The North Face is an excellent choice. It clocks in at an incredibly affordable price point, and it is one of the lightest overall designs making our list.
11. OutdoorMaster Hiking
The OutdoorMaster - 50L is a versatile piece that can work well for hiking, camping, and traveling. Its large carrying capacity will fit everything you need for a short backpacking trip or a longer trip oversees.Read more
This addition has two main compartments that together accommodate up to 50 liters worth of gear. It also features a front flap that can be expanded or synched down and can fit items such as an extra layer or helmet. Pockets in the waist belt provide space for small items and make them easy to get to.
These good cheap backpacks have a mesh compartment on either side that can fit a water bottle. A pocket inside the main compartment closer to the back can fit a hydration bladder. Although there are no internal hooks to support a bladder, this bag does have a small hole that allows the hose to be fed through without opening the zippers.
The shoulder straps on this bag are sturdy and do a good job of distributing weight. They do not breathe well though and can get hot on warm days. A small chest strap and thick waist belt also help keep this bag in place. Taller people do report that the waist belt sits too high on their hips.
This bag is made of sturdy yet lightweight moisture-wicking material. For the truly rainy days, it also includes a rain cover.
The OutdoorMaster Hiking pack 50L can be a great companion whether you are hiking trails behind your house or traveling the world. This is one of the best budget hiking backpacks as it is much more affordable than many bags of similar use. It provides adequate support so that it stays comfortable even when fully loaded with gear, and is roomy enough to fit everything you need.
12. High Sierra Pathway
High Sierra makes our list yet again with this small yet mighty Pathway design. What users love most about this compact pack is that it is incredibly comfortable for long or short treks, and it is packed with features to make you feel like you aren’t carrying anything at all! Plus, it is one of the most affordable and functional designs making our list!Read more
Comfort is the name of the game when it comes to the Pathway. It boasts a smaller pack that really hugs your body, and limits the potential of causing shoulder or lower back pain. It has a padded hip belt with a strap that cinches it to your hips to take some weight off of your shoulders.
We also love that the back panel, as well as the shoulder straps, are thick and padded, and covered in mesh materials to help circulate air as you start to build up a sweat. It boasts large separated pockets with zippers that open wide for easy access to all of your gear. Side mesh pockets are ideal for storing snacks or water for easy access as you travel.
If comfort is your number one concern on your next outdoor adventure, the Pathway from High Sierra is worth checking out. It is packed with a few more supportive and comfortable features that work together to take the pressure off of your shoulders and back so it feels like you aren’t carrying anything at all!
13. Everest Classic
Looking for a simple pack for daily adventuring? Whether you are hitting the trails for the day or packing up for the beach, the Everest Classic is a perfect companion. We chose this classic pack because it’s insanely affordable (about as expensive as the cappuccino and muffin you had for breakfast), lightweight, and incredibly comfortable. If you feel like you simply cannot afford a new pack, you clearly haven’t stumbled across this design!Read more
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to the Everest Classic. It boasts a large central pocket that is perfect for snacks, extra clothes, and all of your essentials for wherever the day takes out. It also has a small front pocket to keep important small items available for easy access.
We also like that this option comes in a wide variety of color options to match your personal style. It is composed of lightweight polyester that makes it a cinch to wipe down and works to wick away water and moisture in soggy conditions to keep your gear dry.
If your budget is super tight and you need something simple and easy to carry, the Everest Classic is one of your best options. We love that it is made from durable materials that hold up well over the years, and clock in at a shockingly low price point that makes it worth checking out!