Anatomy of a Backpack - Common Terms & Definitions

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The Anatomy of a Backpack guide is a quick breakdown of common backpack terms and definitions so that you can make the best informed decision when shopping for a new backpack in-store or online. Below we break down a simple everyday backpack and define feature.

anatomy of a backpack - learn more at
anatomy of a backpack - learn more at
anatomy of a backpack - learn more at

Featured backpack: Vaschy Classic Backpack (Amazon)

Common backpack features DEFINED:

  1. Loop handle - Usually made out of nylon or leather in higher end backpacks. A loop handle is usually present for easy handling or for the ability to hang up the backpack on a hook or closet when not in use.

  2. Bike light attachment - A small square sewn on to the front of the backpack that most commonly made out of leather or synthetic leather material. Originally a safety feature to help bicyclists on the road, it's main purpose is to have the ability to attach a clip-on bicycle light although some fashion brands use it as a decorative feature.

  3. Front Pocket - A smaller zipper pocket found on the front of the backpack for quick access to smaller items like pens, wallets or cell phones.

  4. Side Pocket - Narrow and deep pockets found on the side of a backpack. Usually used to hold water bottles and umbrellas. Some backpacks add velcro or zippers to keep these pockets closed when not in use.

  5. Reinforced Bottom - Usually made of leather or another tough synthetic material. This feature prevents the bottom of the backpack from premature wear and tear when being placed on the ground. Not all backpacks have this feature, but it's a nice addition and one to look out for when shopping for a new backpack.

  6. Padded back - Most backpack backs are padded to provide a nice cushion when worn. Some backpacks include extra back features to aid in overheating or extra padding for comfort. These features can be different with every manufacturer.

  7. Shoulder straps - Should straps can be made of a variety of material and like padded backs, can include special features to be more ergonomic when worn. Most backpacks have padded shoulder straps, especially ones made for heavy load carry like hiking or school backpacks.

  8. Shoulder strap adjustments - The hardware on the shoulder straps that allow you to adjust it length. This allows for the wearer to adjust where the backpack sits on their back when worn. Most modern backpacks have this feature.

  9. Main Compartment - The largest pocket in the backpack is called the main compartment. Some main compartments feature smaller accessories pockets to compartmentalize smaller items.

  10. Mesh pocket - A small pocket usually sewn into the main compartment made out of mesh.

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Other common terms:

  • Laptop Compartment - A piece of foam or material that creates a pocket in the main compartment that can fit a laptop or tablet. Laptop compartments can be padded for extra protection.

  • Hardware - A term used that refers to the zippers and other small parts in a backpack. For example: Metal hardware i.e. metal zippers, zipper pulls, etc.

  • Pull tabs - Usually a piece of leather, nylon or other material attached to the end of a zipper to make it easier for the user to open and close the zippers.