Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sustainable Backpacks That Hold Up In Any Environment


Whether commuting to work or exploring the outdoors, pack up these sustainable backpacks and get going.

Got a case of wanderlust? Whether you’re pining for an excursion into the great outdoors or a jet-setting adventure to a destination vacation, a durable backpack is a must. And for those keen on exploring the world sustainably, there is now a myriad of brands offering rucksacks made from eco-friendly and recycled materials.

Sustainable backpack materials to look for

For those looking to leave no trace, the average backpack — which typically features pollutive and energy-intensive materials like PVC, polyester, and nylon — just won’t cut it.

So, what should an eco-conscious shopper look for when shopping for sustainable packs? Considering that 85 percent of used packs wind up in landfills, it’s best to avoid backpacks that are made from synthetic materials like plastic and their derivatives such as nylon and polyester. Instead, opt for non-toxic and biodegradable backpacks made with natural materials like organic cotton and hemp are a more favorable option.

And while post-consumer materials like plastic still have an environmental impact—for example, recycled polyester can still shed in the washer — packs made with recycled materials do help minimize the resources required to make new packs.

Not sure what to do with an old backpack? Consider donating it to your local youth center or thrift store. There are also a number of backpack recycling programs that you can send in your old packs to, including TerraCycle and Patagonia’s Worn Wear initiative. The latter aims to reduce the carbon, waste, and water footprint of recycled products by 82 percent.

Sustainable backpacks to shop

Whether you’re looking for a knapsack to get you through your hiking adventures or a pack to hold all of your daily essentials, these sustainable backpacks are equal parts functional and fashionable. And be sure you know the ten essentials to take with you on any hike.

Solo New York

Made from recycled PET bottles, this all-purpose Solo New York backpack is water-resistant, fits a 17.3″ laptop, has side zippered pockets compatible with most water bottles, plus a shoe/laundry compartment. Solo New York has been making gear for more than a century and has recently put its focus on sustainable materials. “For us, design should always be purposeful in its form and function, the materials we choose, and the collective actions we take,” reads the website.

Solo New York backpack.
Photo courtesy Solo New York


With a focus on using remnant fabric, Cotopaxi makes exceptional backpacks that are perfect for humans and better for Mother Earth. The company’s efforts also give factory workers more creative control to create one-of-a-kind colorways from the vibrant, leftover fabric — each color combo the unique signature of an indispensable maker. This pack below, the Allpa 42L Travel Pack – Del Día, fits a 15″ laptop and protects all of your gear comfortably. The Allpa features a padded, mesh suspension system and load lifter straps for a comfortable carry.

Cotopaxi backpack.
Photo courtesy Cotopaxi


As Ganni moves away from virgin leather, it’s turned to certified recycled polyester in the Leopard Tech Backpack. The stylish pack features adjustable and padded shoulder straps, a top handle, front buckle fastenings, front pockets, and a foldover top.

Ganni leopard backpack.
Photo courtesy Ganni


It has plenty of pockets, need we say more? Made in part with recycled materials generated from production waste, this pack comes in six different colors. Throw in your water jug and energy bars for an outdoor trek or use it to carry all of your gym sesh essentials.

Nike backpack.
Photo courtesy Nike


Expanding on its popular Kånken family of backpacks, the Outlong is made from recycled polyamide and without harmful PFCs. The classic pack includes a front pocket and traditional Kånken aesthetics, a compartmented base that fits a laptop, large side pockets, and webbing attachment points that can be used for bike lights or other items.

Fjallraven backpack.
Photo courtesy Fjallraven


You’ll want to ditch your purse for this sleek pack. The travel-friendly backpack is made from 100 percent recycled polyester and plastic bottles. Dyed with Bluesign®-approved dyes, it’s water-resistant for all kinds of outdoor adventures.

Everlane backpack.
Photo courtesy Everlane

Terra Thread 

Vegan, Fair Trade certified, and carbon neutral, this company has just about any bag of your fancy, from duffel bags and tote bags to pencil cases and fanny packs. The brand’s backpacks features several styles — including the Semi Mini Backpack and the Zem Mini Backpack, which are made from organic cotton canvas. Ethically made in a Fair Trade-certified factory, the pack features two water bottle sleeves and a large compartment to store all of your essentials.

Terra Thread backpack.
Photo courtesy Terra Thread

Topo Designs

For a classic pack, shop Topo Designs. Stylish yet functional, the everyday backpack is made with 100 percent recycled nylon. Topo’s timeless styling and durable build make packs like the Rover Pack Classic iconic.


Made with 87 percent recycled materials, including recycled polyester and nylon, this Fair Trade-certified daypack is great for any outdoor adventure. Plus, it’s available in green, classic navy, red, teal, and black. There’s more reason than ever to support Patagonia after it announced that it transferred ownership to an environment-focused trust.

Looking for more sustainable hiking essentials? Click here for more eco-friendly products to shop, from hiking boots and navigation tools to water bottles and headlamps.

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All products featured on Ethos have been independently selected by our editorial team.
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