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9 best men’s backpacks to take you from the commute to the countryside

From the classic Fjӓllrӓven kånken to offerings from Nike, Eastpak and Patagonia, here are the men’s bags we really rate

Paddy Maddison
Monday 16 August 2021 17:17
<p>We looked for comfort, practicality and style </p>

We looked for comfort, practicality and style

Finally, daily life is returning to something vaguely resembling what we used to call “normal”. Offices are reopening, holidays and weekend breaks are back on the table, and workouts have moved from bedrooms back into gyms.

There wasn’t much to carry back when lockdown restrictions were at their tightest, but now that the world is opening back up, a new backpack seems like a timely and necessary investment.

Backpacks come in a whole host of different shapes, sizes and configurations. Which one will be best for you depends on your lifestyle, aesthetic preferences and how you intend to use it.

But regardless of these differences, all good backpacks should have a few things in common: they ought to be comfortable and practical and look good. We’re talking plenty of compartments, good weight distribution and stylish design – which is exactly what we were looking for when we tested some of the best options on the market.

How we tested

We tried to include a range of styles to suit different tastes and lifestyles while still ticking all of the boxes above. We put each of these bags to the test, both around town on our day-to-day duties, and out on day hikes in the Northumberland wilderness for some of the more outdoor-focused styles. Below, you’ll find our selection of the best we tested – from fashion-forward urban commuter bags to mountain-ready workhorses.

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The best men’s backpacks for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Fjӓllrӓven tree-kånken: £120,
  • Best for urban exploration – Troubador aero: £240,
  • Best for getting outdoors – Klättermusen delling compact hiking backpack: £150.30,
  • Best for day-to-day duties – Millican smith the roll pack: £125,
  • Best for weekend adventures – Patagonia black hole backpack: £99.99,
  • Best for design lovers – Côte et Ciel sormonne backpack: £250,
  • Best for tight budgets – Nike heritage rucksack: £25,
  • Best for a splash of colour – Eastpak pak’r backpack: £45,
  • Best for sheer simplicity – Cos drawstring backpack: £49,

Fjӓllrӓven tree-kånken

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

The kånken from Swedish outdoor brand Fjӓllrӓven is one of the most recognisable backpacks of all time. It was first introduced in the 1970s and has remained largely unchanged since. Why? Because there’s really nothing that can be done to make it any better than it already is. Or at least that’s what we thought until we got our hands on the tree-kånken.

Aside from the fact that the logo is printed rather than being a stitched patch, this new bag is largely indistinguishable from its elder sibling. The differences only become apparent when you begin to examine the fabric. Instead of using Fjӓllrӓven’s signature G-1000 textile, this pack is made from pine weave – a durable, hard-wearing material made from Swedish wood chips.

The bag itself is super-simple and very practical, with a main compartment, a concealed front zip pocket, two pouch pockets to the sides and an internal sleeve to accommodate up to a 13in laptop. We’re big fans of the update and think you will be, too.

Troubadour aero

Best for: Urban exploration

Rating: 9/10

Troubadour is a brand born and raised in London, and it shows. This cavernous backpack is the only bag you’ll ever need for long days in the city, boasting a whopping 34l capacity and plenty of handy compartments that have clearly been carefully thought about with urban life in mind.

The bag is big and barrel-like but still manages to live up to its name with its sleek, streamlined design. There’s a colossal main compartment with more than enough room for files, folders, gym gear and lunch, with plenty left over – you could probably get the kitchen sink in there too if you really wanted to. There’s also a smaller zip compartment at the top, a concealed zip pocket at the front and a dedicated pocket for gym shoes.

One detail we really like is that the laptop compartment is located behind the straps. This makes it very difficult for someone to access it while the bag is on your back, which is valuable peace of mind when you’re commuting on crowded public transport, or in busy areas late at night.

Klättermusen delling compact hiking backpack

Best for: Getting outdoors

Rating: 9/10

We’re big fans of Klättermusen’s outside-the-box approach to outdoor gear. The Swedish brand always manages to take something you’ve seen 1,000 times before and make it completely different… and in many cases, better too.

Take this backpack for example – it’s a hiking daypack, but not as you know it. From the striking colour to the innovative drawstring system at the top of the main compartment, everything the backpack does, it does in its own way. We had this pack out on day hikes in rural Northumberland and just out and about around town. No matter where we took it, all of its features felt intuitive and cleverly designed.

In terms of pockets, there’s a large main compartment with an internal zip pouch and an opening for a water reservoir. There’s also a smaller zip pocket on the lid and two mesh pouches to the sides, which are perfect for storing water bottles. We also love the bungee cord on the front, which, as well as looking pretty cool, provides a handy space for cinching down a spare jacket on the move or hanging odds and ends that you need easy access to.

Millican smith the roll pack

Best for: Day-to-day duties

Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking for one bag to do everything – from the daily grind to heading into the hills at the weekend – this classic roll pack from Millican is the one for you. Aside from looking really nice, it’s kitted out with loads of handy pockets and made from a super-durable recycled polyester fabric that ages really nicely (we’ve been using ours for a year now).

The roll-top design is really useful, as it means you can adjust the capacity to suit the situation, and we love the depth of the side pockets, which can each comfortably hold a 2l bottle of water. There’s also a laptop compartment and an internal zip pocket for valuables. All in all, this is our top pick for an everyday backpack and a true jack of all trades.

Patagonia black hole backpack

Best for: Weekend adventures

Rating: 8/10

Whether you’re camping, exploring a new city or heading off for a weekend in the sun, Patagonia’s black hole backpack is the perfect companion. The 25l capacity puts it slap bang in the middle of Goldilocks territory for a daypack, but there’s more than enough room to get some overnight bits in there too.

Perhaps the best thing about this backpack is the weather resistance. It’s not completely waterproof, but the durable water repellent (DWR) finish means that water simply beads straight off the surface in all but the most torrential of downpours. It certainly never let us down, which, for the northeast coast, is really saying something.

There are plenty of pockets, space for up to a 15in laptop and water reservoir compatibility. Buy this bag if you’re looking for something you can take on any type of adventure, come rain or shine.

Côte et Ciel Sormonne backpack

Best for: Design lovers

Rating: 10/10

Parisian luggage brand Côte et Ciel’s bags would be equally at home accompanying you on your morning commute or perched atop a plinth in a whitewashed room in a contemporary art gallery. Suffice to say, these are some seriously good-looking bags, and although it was hard to choose just one, the Sormonne is our personal favourite.

Straight away, you’ll notice the unusual folds on the front of the backpack. These are actually concealed pockets, and they’re designed in such a way that they can be easily accessed when the bag is slung over one shoulder. Behind them, there’s a roomy main compartment that is home to a padded laptop sleeve and a double mesh pouch for valuables. The neoprene security strap is a nice touch too. We never quite figured out how to use it, but there’s no denying it looks cool.

This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most stylish backpack we tested, and its good looks are matched by its practicality, durability and carefully considered design. It’s a premium piece of kit in every way and a fantastic option if you’re looking for something well-made that will stand out in the crowd.

Nike heritage rucksack

Best for: Tight budgets

Rating: 8/10

Good backpacks don’t have to cost a fortune. If you’re looking for a simple but effective bag that’ll do the job without breaking the bank, this one from Nike will be just the ticket.

It features two zipped pockets to the sides, which are useful for small odds and ends, a main compartment with a flap opening and oversized drawstring, and two buckles for extra security.

It’s a solid bag for the price and looks great, too. Plus, the curved, padded straps make it nice and comfy, even when it’s on your back for extended periods of time.

Eastpak pak’r backpack

Best: For a splash of colour

Rating: 8/10

The pak’r from Eastpak is endearingly simple. Two zip compartments – one big, one small – two straps and a small woven patch bearing the brand’s name. It’s been that way for decades, and we think a design this resilient deserves to be celebrated, which is why we’re so fond of this striking, colour-blocked version.

In a patchwork mix of navy blue, maroon and something approaching Day-Glo yellow, this eye-catching bag is perfect for injecting a bit of colour into your day-to-day life and keeping your essentials secure in the process. It’s a colourful twist on a classic style and would suit anyone looking for something with a bit of personality.

Cos drawstring backpack

Best for: Sheer simplicity

Rating: 8/10

Backpacks loaded with technical features can be cool, but sometimes it’s best not to overcomplicate things. If you’re not heading up a mountain or trying to keep your valuables safe in a crowded environment, then something uncomplicated and low-maintenance will do the trick just fine.

This fuss-free drawstring backpack from Cos is super basic but does everything it needs to. We love the slouchy look and the fact it’s made from recycled materials, and think it’s an excellent alternative to bulkier, more traditional styles.

The verdict: Men’s backpacks

The Fjӓllrӓven kånken is a timeless design that’s difficult to improve on, but by upping its green credentials, the Swedish brand has managed to do just that. It’s a simple backpack that will never go out of fashion and is perfect for handling everyday life. For a smarter alternative, we’re big fans of Côte et Ciel’s fashion-forward designs and the Sormonne backpack is a seriously stylish option that’s smart enough to take to the office and beyond.

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