There was a time in your life that flashy, bulky backpacks were all the rage. It was about the same age that your sneakers would light up, and sugar was its own food group.
As we get older, our taste evolves (as it should) and we gradually move from the flashy options to the more mature, sensible ones. For the modern man looking to appear sleek, sharp, and together, a minimalist backpack will certainly shelter some of the burdens. Whether taking your minimalist backpack on a long commute, on a stylish backpacking trip where a minimalist backpack will help you stay light on every trek you embark on.
The bag you carry says a lot about you; it can imply how wealthy you are if you prefer things that are more classic or ornate. Minimalist backpacks give an effortless, timeless look to the many that carry it and come in different designs and shapes to fit every man on the go, no matter where you're headed.
Types Of Minimalist Backpacks
Minimalist backpacks are far from a one-size-fits-all item, and there are plenty of designs to fit your style and needs. The different types of backpacks, including:
Day Pack: Often referred to interchangeably with traditional backpacks, it denotes a smaller size; often lighter and more compact than regular backpacks. For example, The Ridge’s Classic Backpack is one of our favorites.
Drawstring bag: Closed securely by a drawstring or cord, it is lightweight and ideal for short, light trips and everyday use. It’s both very simple and often a more affordable option because of less padding and pocket functionalities.
Rucksack: This type of backpack can be identified by its buckle flap at the top of the bag, and likely have more outer pockets than traditional backpacks.
Satchel: This always-leather backpack features a double-buckled top flap and front pocket. For fans of Zach Galafanakis’ iconic Alan in The Hangover, this one might be all too familiar.
Knapsack: Always made of canvas and waterproof materials, this bag typically features a drawstring and flap at the bag's opening, like a more modern Rucksack.
Randoseru: if it sounds fancy, you’re right. It features a hard shell shape that is typically made from leather or to resemble it for a sleek face.
What Is The Best Minimalist Backpack?
When choosing the right minimalist backpack for you, it is important to consider the attributes that make up your favorite bag:
Comfort: The ideal backpack will have padded, adjustable straps. Bags designed for longer wear may also have a chest strap or waist belt, which can help maintain posture.
Size: You want a bag that is sized appropriately for both your body type and compliments the width of your back — and laptop! Most backpacks will range between sizing 13 to 18-inch laptops.
Material: While all minimalist backpacks share a simple yet sleek aesthetic, there are different materials that greatly impact the overall look and feel of your minimalist backpack. Your ideal backpack will fit into the various activities in your life. For example, if you don’t work in a fancy office and love to adventure outdoors, a canvas or polyester backpack may be a better fit than a leather or Cordura one. If you like (getting Pina Coladas and) getting caught in the rain, consider a waterproof material like cotton canvas or certain types of nylon. If you’re commuting on public transportation, a slim backpack might be the best fit for your on-the-go lifestyle.
Features: Where you’ll use your bag will advise what features to prioritize. Planning on commuting to your job with this bag? Better make sure you have a roomy laptop sleeve. Hoping to bring it on a hiking trip? Make sure there is one, if not two, easily accessible places to hold your water.
What To Pack In Your Minimalist Backpack
What you put in your bag is the best way to determine how big it should be, and what style fits your needs the best. Whether you’re backing for an adventure with friends, or just your essentials into your backpack for your commute, it’s important to be prepared:
The Outdoors Essentials:
Whether glamping with friends or taking a solo hike on your favorite trail, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need to stay hydrated and on track:
- Large refillable water bottle (or two)
- Sweat towel
- Spare pair of socks
- Map of your hike
- Cell Phone
- Cell Phone Charger
- Protein bar (or two!) to keep you energized
- Small first aid kit (bandaids, rubbing alcohol, ace bandage, and medical tape)
- Pocket compass
- Waterproof outerwear
- Shoes to change into in the car
The Commuter Essentials:
Working 9-5? Whether you’re a CEO or an intern, showing up prepared to face the day starts with a smartly-backed minimalist backpack?
- Your laptop
- Your laptop charger
- Your cellphone charger
- Notebook/day planner
- Refillable water bottle
- Spare shirt, just in case of a lunch or coffee mishap!
- Outerwear layer in case the weather changes
- Corporate ID/badge
- Travel-size cologne/perfume and mouthwash to freshen up midday
- Small vitamin case with any medicine, painkillers, and prescription you need
- Don't forget your cell phone, keys, and wallet before leaving your home!
The World-Traveler Essentials:
Taking a much-needed vacation? You’ll need to pack these things in your minimalist backpack for a sleek daytime look:
- Camera (can be your phone!)
- Camera charger
- Cell phone
- Cell phone charger
- Checklist of your daily itinerary
- Refillable water bottle
- Protein bar or piece of fruit to keep you energized on the go
- Travel tube of sunscreen
- Pair of sunglasses
- Dictionary of the local language, if traveling abroad
- A little extra room for souvenirs you buy during the day
- Piece of paper with your contact information and hotel address written down, in case you lose your phone or wallet!
- Don’t forget your cell phone, keys, and wallet before leaving your hotel!
The Overnight Chic Essentials:
Whether visiting your partner, friends, or family, your minimalist backpack is all that you need for any perfect overnight occasion. Start by packing:
- Sleeping shirt
- Pajama pants
- Pair of underwear
- Pair of socks
- Pair of pants for the next day
- Top for the next day
- Piece of outerwear
- Change of shoes
- Phone (and laptop, etc) charger
- Don’t forget your cell phone, keys, and wallet before leaving the house!
- Bonus point: gift for your host!
Once you’ve determined the features and style that’s important to you, it’s time to find the perfect minimalist backpack to match your needs and what you plan on packing. Below we share some of our favorite sleek backpacks that are perfectly suited for the smart, modern man on every occasion.
How To Pack Your Minimalist Backpack
Packed efficiently, your minimalist backpack can hold a surprising amount of gear for whatever kind of day you have planned. The best way to pack your minimalist backpack is with your heaviest items at the bottom, and lightening up as you get to the top — just as you would a bag of groceries!
If your minimalist backpack has side pockets, consider putting your smaller items in there to save room for the main compartment. The only exception to this is your valuables, it is smart to put them in less-accessible locations for safekeeping. The exception to this rule is if you need to regularly access these items on the go!
If you need to regularly access certain items (like your water bottle) it would be smart to not stow them away too deeply in your bag, or else you’ll wind up spilling the full contents on the ground whenever you’re looking for it!
Be sure to not overpack your minimalist backpack or put too much pressure on the seams – you want it to last as long as you want it to!
The Ridge's Top Picks: Our Favorite Minimalist Backpacks
Ripstop - The Weekender | This lightweight, the 5-star rated bag is the perfect companion when making a quick getaway out of town. This minimalist weekend bag comes in navy, olive, white, and black, and is made of the same ripstop material found on parachutes, sails, and hot air balloons for dependable durability. The roomy inner compartment is lined with convenient storage departments and includes a shoe tote and laundry bag, so it’s ready to keep up with whatever adventure you take it on. Take 10% off your purchase for new customers on The Ridge.
Ripstop - The Classic Backpack | 60’s rock and roll, black and white movies, and handwritten thank-you notes — you can’t go wrong with a classic. Ripstop’s Classic Backpack is available in navy, olive, and black, and made from the same performance-grade material as The Weekender. The classic design is given a modern twist with an integrated power bank, outer USB port, and is as perfect for hiking as it is for your office commute. This durable, versatile, classic is yours for just $75.
- The Weatherproof Commuter | Never take a rain check with this waterproof backpack that has nearly 300 5 star reviews on The Ridge. The classic design includes full compartment access for horizontal packing, thoughtfully designed pockets, a comfort-lined laptop holster, and mobile charging so that you can stay plugged in and powered on while on the go.
Once you’ve picked your favorite minimalist backpack style, material, use-case, and packed it tight, there’s just one thing left to do — take on the world! One thing is for sure, is that your new sleek, slim, and minimalist-style backpack will certainly have your back. As will the team at The Ridge!
Evan Grimm is a practical writer, blogger, editor, and knowledgeable up-and-coming authority in the outdoor realm. His best-known content is published on Bowhunting.com, The Alaska Frontier, and Exodus Outdoor Gear. He and his family reside in central Alaska, where daily common sense and practicality are necessary. His commercial pilot and aircraft technician certifications make him focus on what is relevant and solidly provable. You will find him writing or proving more content.