Whether you’re on a pleasurable hike getting away from it all or racing across the city to meetings with your laptop in tow, a good backpack to carry all your gear can make a big difference to how you feel at the end of the day. That’s why we’re looking at the best ergonomic backpacks.
Ergonomics is the design of tools to work with the natural design and movement of the human body, rather than asking the body to adapt to using a certain tool. Adapting to use tools is what causes many people to develop serious injuries over time. Ergonomic design approaches can help minimize that problem.
Ergonomics is extremely important when it comes to backpack design as carrying a lot of weight on your back can affect your spine and back muscles and also key joints, such as your knees and hips. A well-designed bag minimizes stress so you feel better at the end of the day and better in the long run.
With that in mind, in this article we will share our top five picks for the best ergonomic backpacks, some designed for laptops and others for hiking. We will also share our guide to the most important factors to consider when choosing an ergonomic backpack. But whatever backpack you choose, remember that you should never carry more than 20% of your body weight on your back for extended periods.
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5 Best Ergonomic Backpacks
For city dwellers looking for the ideal backpack for daily use lugging their laptop and other essentials around, this backpack from Maitien is a great choice!
- 18” x 12” x 7.8”
- Separate laptop section for 15.6” device
- Waterproof polyester fabric
- Moisture-wicking padded back
- 11 color options
This backpack is designed with a laptop in mind and can fit computers up to 15.6”. There is a special “digital” pocket in the main section that holds your laptop securely in a separate waterproof shell, and then two other compartments in the main section.
This bag is fully ergonomic with adjustable straps and padded heavy-duty carry handle, and it fits over the handle of a suitcase. The back uses a multi-panel airflow design to keep you cool and pull moisture away. The entire bag is made from water-resistant and durable polyester with quality metal zippers.
There are lots of nice additional features such as a USB port so you can charge items in your bag, or connect your phone to your charger pack and use it outside your bag. There is also an anti-theft back pocket, an internal padded phone pocket, and 11 color options.
- Good-size protected laptop section
- Designed for easy access to important electronic devices
- Ideal for daily use and as carry-on luggage
- Designed to be compact, so may be too small for some
- There are no sternum or waist straps, but not really necessary for such a light bag
This is definitely a city bag for business travelers and digital nomads who want to carry their laptop and other electronics in comfort.
This bag attracts attention because Swiss gear is just cool, but this is also a highly functional bag that is big enough to carry even a 17” laptop.
- 19” x 13.25” x 9”
- Separate laptop section for 17” device
- Padded shock absorbing straps
- Vented back panel
- 10 color options
This bag is tall but flat, which means that it’s big enough to hold a 17” laptop, but sticks close to your back and doesn’t hang off. There is a separate waterproof compartment for your laptop, a padded section for other electronics, and a mesh section for cords and chargers. There is also an accordion section for files and documents and a large main compartment.
The bag is comfortable with padded, shock-absorbing shoulder straps that are fully adjustable, a reinforced molded top handle, and a padded airflow back panel with special venting technology to keep you cool. There is also a trolley strap if you want to take it as carry-on luggage.
There are lots of little additions that make it feel like there’s a pocket for everything. There is a sunglasses loop, two adjustable water bottle pockets, and two front organizer pockets. Choose from 10 colors.
- Fits a full-size laptop (rather than just smaller laptops)
- Cool Swiss design style
- Lots of well-considered compartments for organizing your essentials
- The bag is very tall, so may be too big for shorter people
- Would have been nice to be able to minimize compartments when not in use
There is something cool about Swiss army knives, and there is something cool about Swiss backpacks that are always multifunctional. This is a fun and ergonomic bag for city dwellers.
While the first two bags on this list have a “laptop first” design, this bag from Maelstrom is a hiking backpack that can also be used for work and city hopping.
- 37” x 33” x 9”
- Waterproof and durable nylon material
- Padded straps and sternum and hip straps
- Water bladder included
- 7 color options
This is a bigger backpack that can fit your laptop but also your hiking boots, sleeping mat, and more. The bag is made from 210D ripstop waterproof nylon that will probably never tear. It comes with an additional waterproof bag that can be used to separate wet items, or even take your phone into the water with you.
Since this bag is designed for long walks, it has lots of ergonomic features. As well as padded and adjustable straps, there are sternum and hip straps to better distribute the weight across your back. The back is cushioned and made from breathable decompression fabric. There are little pockets all over the bag so you can get at things while on the move.
Nice additional features include adjustable side pockets (not all water bottles are the same size), a front stretch strap for extra storage, and a water bladder space if you choose to hydrate in that way.
- Medium-sized backpack for serious hiking
- Versatile to use in various situations
- Easy access to all your gear while on the move
- No dedicated space for laptops if you want to carry one
- Probably too big for standard daily use
Hikers looking for something that will make carrying the load easier will love this bag. Remember that you should never carry more than 20% of your body weight on your back.
If you love the army look or you are just inspired by the troops, then you will enjoy this ArmyCamo backpack, which is expandable to use for different loads.
- 21” x 16” x 8”
- Expandable main compartment
- Water-resistant fabric and rainproof sewing
- Secure arm, sternum, and hip straps
- 7 color options
This bag has a cool army look, with seven color variations, and incorporates a lot of military functionality into its design. The main element is that the main pocket of the bag is expandable. Usually eight inches, it can be expanded to 13 inches if you need more space. This is convenient when you want a daily bag that occasionally needs to carry more.
The bag is designed to feel secure on your back with adjustable straps, plus good sternum and waist straps. It will stand up to harsh conditions with water-resistant and tear-resistant fabric made from 600 denier polyester with vinyl backing, plus rainproof sewing techniques.
This bag doesn’t have as many functional pockets as other options on our list, but this does also mean flexibility with your space.
- Expand or shrink the bag depending on what you need
- It feels very secure with lots of straps to distribute the weight
- Cool army design
- Limited pockets to organize gear
- No specific laptop section
This army-style bag is cool but also practical and functional, which is what we all really want! It’s built to last, and its expandable size means it can adapt to different situations.
This small bag is surprisingly roomy and great for carrying a laptop and other essentials around the city or when traveling.
- 18” x 12.6” x 8”
- Breathable back cushioning
- Hidden anti-theft bag
- USB charging functionality
- One color option
This bag is only 18 inches tall, but it can fit a 15.6” laptop securely. This sits in a digital compartment behind a main compartment and a front compartment for easy organization. There Is also an anti-theft bag for valuables, and a USB connector for charging your devices.
The bag is made from waterproof and scratch-resistant material with a breathable back to fight sweat. The shoulder straps are fully adjustable, and there are lots of handy features such as a luggage strap.
As a small bag, it does not have as many additional straps, but it shouldn’t need them if you are conscious about the amount of weight that you’re carrying.
- Smaller bag ideal for smaller people
- USB charger for devices inside your bag or connecting your phone to your charging bay
- Comfortable and breathable fabrics
- There is only one color available
- Not as many organizing compartments as some competitors
For more petite folk, finding a bag that is big enough to carry your laptop but doesn’t overwhelm you is challenging. Fenruien strikes a nice balance between size and capacity.
Ergonomic Backpack Buying Guide
There are a lot of important things to consider when choosing the best ergonomic backpack, and different people will need to consider different things depending on your user case.
The first thing to consider is what exactly you intend to carry in your backpack. You want something that is big enough to carry important things such as your laptop, water bottle, or maybe a change of shoes. But it should not be too much bigger than that. When a backpack is mostly empty it can sag where the weight is, which will make it less comfortable.
A good back has various sections that let you organize where you put your stuff. This is not just about finding your most important items quickly—it’s also about the dynamics of the bag. For example, if you carry a laptop, you will want to look for a bag with a laptop sleeve. These are usually waterproof and also tend to keep the laptop in place on your bag, rather than tipping forward in the bag. You may want similar waterproof sections for other items, such as dirty workout gear.
Bags that let you minimize sections when they aren’t in use with zips or tightening elastic also help the bag maintain its comfortable feel when not overly full.
One of the features that make the biggest difference when carrying a backpack are the shoulder straps. Rather than being straight, they should be s-shaped to follow the curve of the body, and should be fully adjustable since no two people are the same shape.
The straps should also be padded to prevent them from digging into your skin with the weight, and are best made from sweat-absorbing material so they don’t become soggy if you’re working hard.
It’s not only the straps of a backpack that can start to become soggy if you are working up a sweat—the side that sits against your back also needs to be made of moisture-wicking fabric. The heavy backpack can make it feel like your back is covered with a coat, and the moisture-wicking material will also help you feel cooler.
No one wants to get caught in the rain and find that all their stuff is wet! So the outer material of your bag should be waterproof. You should also have separate waterproofed sections within your bag for things like sweaty clothes, a wet swimsuit, and even a used umbrella. This means you can carry these items without worrying about getting everything else inside wet.
If you are carrying all of your valuables on your back, you don’t want crafty pickpockets getting their hands on your belongings. In some places, thieves can slash and grab from your backpack without you even feeling it. They love outer pockets designed to hold your small valuables. Good backpacks will often include features such as knife-resistant fabric and zippers, locks, and hidden pockets that let you store your small valuables more securely.
Have you considered what you put in your bag? What do you know about ergonomic pens?
What makes a backpack ergonomic?
The principal features of an ergonomic backpack are the strap design and padding, and also the design of the breathable cushioning on the back of the bag. Compact designs that can carry a lot of volume are also ergonomic as they allow you to keep the weight closer to your core.
Is it unprofessional to carry a backpack?
While briefcases used to be the professional standard, these days it is broadly accepted that a backpack is often the best way to carry essentials when traveling between meetings or home to office. It’s no longer considered unprofessional to carry a backpack.
An ergonomically designed backpack can make a big difference to how you feel when you put your feet up at the end of the day. Over the years, it can also greatly affect your posture and joint health.
Ergonomic backpacks don’t tend to cost more than regular ones since it only takes a few clever design features to make a big difference. So, really, there is no reason not to put your skeletal health first when choosing your next backpack.
Not sure what to read next? Check out our guide to the best ergonomic sofas.
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