Men’s Visual Guide to Backpack Styles

Men's Visual Backpack Style Guide - Learn more at

Not all backpacks are created equal. Here you’ll learn about different backpack styles with our easy to follow visual guide.


The most common type of backpack you'll find in stores and online is a student backpack or "book bag". These backpacks are made especially for students to hold books, binders, laptops and other common school essentials. Often times these backpacks are more casual in style since they are primarily used by high school and college students.

Popular Brands: Jansport, Booq, SwissGear, High Sierra

Common Features:

  • Main compartment large enough to hold books, binds and notebooks
  • Small organizers for pens, pencils and calculators.
  • Come in a variety of sizes

Fitness Backpacks

Fitness backpacks are made for sports and the gym. These backpacks usually have special compartments such as a dry/wet pockets, water bottle holders and shoe compartments. Sports backpacks usually feature main compartments large enough to fit basketballs and football as well as compartments and straps for helmets, baseball bats and more.

Popular Brands: Under Armour, OGIO, Nike, Adidas

Common Features:

  • Large main compartments for gym clothes and gear
  • Wet / Dry pockets
  • Separate compartments for shoes
  • Water bottle holders
  • Usually made of polyester, nylon or tech fabrics

Tactical Backpacks

Tactical backpacks are the preferred bags of military and law enforcement for their tough construction and practical features for essential gear when on the field. Although originally used for tactical use, these backpacks make great everyday backpacks thanks to their utilitarian features.

Popular Brands: 5.11, Tactical Taylor, Sandpiper of California, GoRuck

Common Features:

  • MOLLE and QuickWeb attachments
  • Minimal branding
  • Place for attaching patches on front of the backpack
  • Hydration pock for water bladder
  • Usually made of tough cordura fabric
  • Commonly available in black and camouflage colors to match military uniforms

Business Backpacks

A class all of it’s own the business backpack is the refined older brother of the student backpack. Unlike a student backpack you won’t find a business backpack in loud prints or branding. Extra features includes pockets for a laptop computer and paperwork as well as organizers for your daily work essentials.

Popular Brands: Briggs & Riley, Knomo, Tumi, Solo

Common Features:

  • Mature colors and siluettes that are work appropriate
  • Laptop and tablet compartments
  • Large enough to fit essential paperwork, folders and binders
  • Made for business travel and commuting
  • TSA friendly features for business trips

Modern Fashion Backpacks

These fashionable backpacks are perfect for urban commuters, college students and others who just need a stylish and modern backpack for their daily essentials. A minimalist backpack is usually sleek in design with little to no branding or embellishments on the outside.

Popular Brands: Rains, Skagen, Matt & Nat, Everlane

Common Features:

  • Sleek and minimal design
  • Can be found from large brands or small designers
  • High quality materials like leather or waxed canvas
  • Little to no branding

Laptop Backpacks

Incase Icon laptop backpack (left) and Alienware Vindicator gaming backpack (right)

Incase Icon laptop backpack (left) and Alienware Vindicator gaming backpack (right)

The laptop or tech backpack is made for carrying your laptop and electronics. Unlike a school or work backpack, tech carry is it’s main feature. Many laptop backpacks are made especially for gaming and can hold large laptops and features special compartments for cables, a keyboard and a computer mouse.

Popular Brands: InCase, Targus, Case Logic 

Common Features:

  • Padded laptop compartment
  • Pockets for cables, chargers and computer accessories
  • A good laptop backpack should be water resistant

Outoor Backpacks

Osprey Men's Aether 70 Backpack (left) and CamelBak 2016 Fourteener 20 Hydration Pack (right)

Osprey Men's Aether 70 Backpack (left) and CamelBak 2016 Fourteener 20 Hydration Pack (right)

These backpacks are made for hiking or backpacking and come in a variety of sizes. Backpacking backpacks are usually larger in size and are made for carrying multiple days of gear like tents, clothing and food. Hiking backpacks are usually smaller, the smallest of being a daypack for just one days hike.

Popular Brands: Osprey, Camelbak, Columbia, Mountaintop

Common Features:

  • Backpack frames (Internal, external) are common for extra support under heavy loads
  • Ventilated backs and shoulder straps
  • Easy pack access (top loading, side access).
  • Sternum and waist straps
  • Sleeping bag compartments
  • External attachment points and loops for gear like trekking poles and canteens
  • Hydration pockets for water bladders.