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Best backpacks for women: comfy, stylish and practical rucksacks

Looking to ditch your handbag or tote in favour of a durable yet stylish backpack? Here are our top picks, including women's backpacks tried and tested by Mumsnetters.

By Tammy Jacks | Last updated Dec 20, 2023

backpacks for women

Whether you’re a keen traveller, hiker or hybrid worker, the one thing we all need is a durable, trusty backpack to comfortably carry all our stuff around. And they're said to be a better option than traditional handbags for relieving neck, shoulder and back pain as the weight of the pack is evenly distributed across your body.

With so many women’s backpacks to choose from, how do you know which one will be best suited to your needs and lifestyle? The good news is that we’ve done the hard work for you and spent hours on the Mumsnet forums gathering users’ tried and tested recommendations, covering everything from work commutes with a laptop, to travelling and running. When compiling our list, we also took note of key factors such as the size and weight of the backpack, the material used, overall design, ease of use, whether it has enough secure zips and pockets as well as the price point.

If you want to keep cosy while looking stylish this winter, we've got you covered with our guides to the best winter coats, the best leggings and jeggings and the best wellies.

Here are the best women’s backpacks to buy.

1
Best overall women’s backpack

Sandqvist Roald Ground Organic Cotton Backpack, £145

What we like
  • Super comfortable

  • Adjustable straps

  • Has a 15" laptop sleeve

What we don't like
  • Quite pricey

  • Not 100% waterproof

Key specs

Size: 36cm x 28cm x 17cm | Colours: Black or Blue/Dusty Blue

What Mumsnet users say
Chezrone · Tried & Tested
“I have a Sandqvist and love it! It’s the Roald model in black and holds my laptop, gym kit and toiletries easily. I like the pockets on the front for easy access to my work pass, lip balm etc. and I like the understated branding. Plus, the bag is comfy on the shoulders with lightly padded straps. It’s very well made...”
See Post
SaberToothKitten · Tried & Tested
“Sandqvist. So many compliments on a bag!”
See Post
Our verdict

We love that this bag is durable and practical, yet super stylish – everything you could want in a reliable backpack.

The Sandqvist Roald Ground Organic Cotton Backpack has been awarded our “best overall” title for good reason. It’s a firm favourite amongst Mumsnetters thanks to the Scandinavian brand’s comfy, stylish design.

It has plenty of storage space with two fairly large outer zipper pockets to carry essentials such as car keys, wireless headphones or your portable phone charger, as well as a large internal space with a 15" laptop sleeve, which is a little larger than most backpacks. One Mumsnetter explains, “It has a laptop sleeve hidden in the back part so no one can nick it which I thought I'd hate but I love, plus a secret compartment at the bottom so it can be one big bag and a little extra bit at the bottom.” Even though this backpack is fairly large, it moulds perfectly to your back and sits well thanks to the padded, adjustable straps.

2. Best budget women’s backpack: Lekesky Laptop Rucksack Bag

Lekesky

Price: RRP £22 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size: 28cm x 20cm x 42cm | Colours: Black, grey, light grey

What we love

  • Practical, unisex design

  • Water-resistant

  • Extra-large laptop sleeve

What to know

  • Some say shoulder straps may come away from the bag with repeated use

What Mumsnet users say

“My friend has this one, really practical and nice!”  Recommended by Mumsnet user jellybeans4

Our verdict

Our favourite features? A practical, yet stylish backpack with plenty of storage for under £30.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly backpack, the stylish Lekesky Laptop Rucksack Bag will fit the bill. The main compartment is well organised with dividers and has loads of space for a large laptop such as a Chromebook as well as a few books, your lunch carton, water bottle and an extra item of clothing or two. Plus, it’s designed with two front, medium-sized pockets for easy access.

The solid back (with additional padding) and comfortable straps sit flat over the shoulders making it ideal for longer journeys and the additional features we like include a double zip, retro arrow print design, reflective tape for visibility and a smaller anti-theft pocket for valuables. Reviewers also note that it’s exceptionally water-resistant, just a quick wipe and it’s dry again.

3. Best women’s backpack for work: Herschel Supply Co. Settlement Backpack

herschel

Price: RRP £70 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key specs

Size: 45cm x 31.3cm x 14.8cm | Colours: Raven, Ash Rose, Navy, Ivy Green, Peacoat, Port, Chilli/Green, Garden Topiary, Black, Light Taupe, Daybreak

What we love

  • Large 23L interior compartment

  • Padded shoulder straps

  • Front pocket with key clip

What to know

  • Only has three pockets

  • No exterior water bottle holder

What Mumsnet users say

“I’ve recently bought this one and love it.” Tried and tested by Mumsnet user, TheMotherlode

Our verdict

Our favourite features? A clean-looking, highly organised backpack with the brand’s signature striped lining.

Even with all the options out there, finding the right-sized backpack for work can be tricky, but the good news is that Herschel Supply Co. has you covered with their Settlement Backpack. Although it only has three pockets, this spacious backpack can comfortably fit all your work essentials, including your lunch and snacks, water bottle, files and books, plus it’s made with a handy 15" laptop sleeve and key in the clip front pocket for easy access.

The durable, waterproof material and mesh padded shoulder straps will help to keep you comfortable on longer commutes and work trips. We also love the wide range of colours available, and the leather zip pulls for a refined finish.

4. Best leather women’s backpack: Fossil Women's Tess Laptop Backpack

fossil

Price: RRP £177 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size: 29.2cm x 10.2cm x 39.4cm | Colours: Black, tan

What we love

  • Versatile

  • Great quality

  • Has plenty of pockets

What to know

  • Pricey

  • Not fully waterproof

What Mumsnet users say

“I have a leather one from Fossil and I LOVE it. It wasn't cheap but I use it every day and it fits all my stuff in when I'm in the office.” Recommended by Mumsnet user idontlikealdi)

Our verdict

Our favourite features? A versatile, timeless backpack that’ll never go out of style

Made from the softest eco-leather material and a nylon/polyester webbing, this classic backpack from iconic watch and premium leather brand, Fossil won’t disappoint. The versatile design is suitable for all occasions, and the ample size, complete with seven pockets (1 zip pocket, 1 back slide pocket, 1 padded laptop pocket, 1 front slide pocket with magnetic snap, 1 side zipper pocket, 2 front zipper pockets) plus a separate bottle holder means that it can double up as a stylish travel bag or baby changing bag, should you need it.

The four elastic loops on the inside of the backpack are also convenient for extra essentials such as pens, phone chargers and keys and we like that it has an extra sturdy top handle for easy carrying no matter how full the backpack is.

5. Best women’s backpack for running: OMM Ultra 8 Marathon Pack

omm backpack

Price: RRP £40 | Buy now from Wiggle

Key specs

Size: Not specified | Colours: Black/orange, blue/black, grey/black

What we love

  • Easily secured with shoulder and waist straps

  • Has plenty of useful pockets

  • Waterproof

What to know

  • May be a little small for some

  • Top pocket may not fit all phone sizes

What Mumsnet users say

“I have an Omm one, sold for cyclists but very good for running too. Very light, lots of useful pockets.” Tried and tested by Mumsnet user AuntieStella

Our verdict 

Our favourite features? We like the simple design and adjustable straps on this ultra-light backpack

Whether you’re walking or hiking, running or cycling, there’s no doubt that you’ll need a reliable, durable backpack that’ll keep your stuff safe and dry. The OMM Ultra 8 Marathan Pack will do that and more. The 8L yoke (oval) shape helps to spread the weight of the pack evenly across your shoulders and back, and this design has a unique chest and waist harness system with fully adjustable straps to ensure the backpack sits high up on your back and won’t bounce up and down.

But possibly one of the best features of this backpack is the large mesh side pocket which can comfortably fit your water bottle or small jacket, with a hook and loop tape attached to secure your bottle on the move. There’s also a smaller space at the front of this pocket for energy gels and snacks. The main pocket has a two-way zipper with a storm flap on it, plus there’s another smaller pocket on the top with a key clip, which is perfect for storing smaller items like your phone, wallet and car keys. We also like the whistle on the chest strap, which may come in handy in an emergency.

6. Best everyday women’s backpack: Targus Newport Backpack

targus

Price: RRP £93 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Size: 11.14cm x 5.91cm x 16.06cm | Colours: Grey/black

What we love

  • Sleek and stylish

  • Versatile

  • Waterproof

What to know

  • Pricey

  • Not all compartments are spacious

What Mumsnet users say

“I've got a Targus backpack. Not quite as sophisticated brand as the others here, but I really like it - very slim but can fit tons into it. And the orange lining makes me happy.”  by Mumsnet user SallyOMalley

Our verdict

Our favourite features: This versatile backpack is slim, stylish and modern enough to be carried around all day.

This Targus backpack has curves and pockets in all the right places, making it super comfy and ideal for daily use. Despite its streamlined design, this slim backpack can fit all your essentials thanks to five zipped front pockets and a separate rear laptop section which can fit a 12” laptop, MacBook or notebook. It also has a nifty smaller pocket at the top for essentials such as your wallet, smartphone and car keys.

The faux leather accents add a nice touch to the waterproof nylon exterior and we’re fans of the cheery orange interior. The only downside? The straps aren’t padded or as wide as some other backpacks out there, and they could do with a little more adjustment space for smaller framed people. But overall, this backpack is good value for money and solid enough for daily use.

7. Best small women’s backpack: Mia Tui Jess Backpack

jess

Price: RRP £41 | Buy now from Mia Tui

Key specs

Size: 25cm x 29cm x 10cm | Colours: Berry, Black, Navy, Silver, Aubergine, Graphite, Tan, Orange, Green, Claret, Army Croc, Denim Croc, Tan Croc, Black Croc

What we love

  • Small, yet spacious interior

  • Has plenty of useful pockets

  • Available in a wide variety of colours

What to know

  • A little pricey for the size

  • Too small for a laptop or standard tablet

What Mumsnet users say

“Yes, they’re practical. I bought my mum and MIL one each, the one that goes over your suitcase handle - so much easier for them when they are travelling. Having your bag at a height on top of the case is fantastic when trying to manage tickets etc.” Recommended by Mumsnet user GenevaLane

“I have two. They’re practical, not too stylish but I reach for them when I’m travelling or have a long day out planned.” Vetted by Mumsnet user Longestfewdaysupcoming

Our verdict

Our favourite features? A small, practical and easy to carry backpack that fits more than you think!

The soft faux leather Mia Tui Jess backpack is the perfect balance of style and practicality and most certainly deserves a spot on your shoulder. Given that it’s the smallest backpack in the Mia Tui range, we were surprised at just how much it can fit including an iPad mini or Kindle, a water bottle or flask, plus it has pockets to neatly store your smart phone, keys and pens as well as a notebook and sunglasses.

The backpack also comes with an additional clear PVC bag for hand cream, sanitiser or make-up essentials, as well as a zipped pocket at the back which can be used for things like your passport and air ticket, making it the perfect travel companion. What’s worth a mention is the stylish details on the bag including the cute silver star on the front and back zipper and studded details on the handle.

8. Best lightweight women’s backpack: ROKA Canfield B Collection Sustainable Nylon Backpack

Roka

Price: RRP £75 | Buy now from Amazon 

Key specs

Size: 42cm x 30cm x 12cm | Colours: Alloy, Black, Corn, Graphite, Mars Red, Midnight, Teal

What we love

  • Made from sustainable materials

  • Super lightweight

  • Weather-resistant

What to know

  • Pricey

  • Shoulder straps aren’t padded

What Mumsnet users say

“I have a Roka and it’s great. I wanted something very light, and I use it to walk to the station - half an hour’s walk, with laptop and other stuff in it. Good value” Suggested by Mumsnet user Musmerian

“I love my Roka backpack, but I'm not sure they would ever be described as smart. It's neat and simple, but has loads of useful pockets” Recommended by Mumsnet user LubaLuca

“I have a Roka which is really useful pocket and size wise. I can get laptop and charger in with everything else and it never looks overstuffed or like I'm off on a self-supported hike through the Mongolian Steppe. It's the most comfortable to wear that I've ever owned.” Tried and tested by Mumsnet user LozzaChops101

Our verdict

Our favourite features: With both interior and exterior pockets as well as adjustable straps, you're getting a lot of practicality for a bag under £100.

Whether you suffer from back pain or have posture problems and don’t fancy lugging a heavy backpack around, the ROKA Canfield B Collection Sustainable Nylon Backpack is designed to be as light as a feather and won’t weigh you down.

Made from weather-resistant, recycled smooth nylon material (which comes from 12-15 recycled bottles) this backpack is durable and easy to clean no matter how you use it. The bag itself has a 15L capacity and has been designed with a large outer pocket and two side pockets for water bottles. Inside you'll find a secret back panel pocket along with two zip pockets and a laptop sleeve, so it has plenty of space to carry everything you need. With Roka’s aim to reduce ocean waste and reuse recycled plastic bottles, we think this backpack deserves its place on our list.

9. Best stylish women’s backpack: Matt & Nat BRAVE Vegan Backpack

matt and nat

Price: RRP £130 | Buy now from Matt & Nat

Key specs

Size: 25.4cm x 35.5cm x 14.6cm | Colours: Vineyard, Fondant, Espresso, Citrine, Harvest, Parrot, Tapioca, Black

What we love

  • Good quality

  • Sustainable brand

  • Made with vegan leather

What we know

  • Pricey

  • Shoulder straps aren’t padded

  • May not be as waterproof as other brands

What Mumsnet users say

“A couple of very swish colleagues in their 30s to 50s have a collection of rather nice Matt and Nat bags for work.” Rated by Mumsnet user Dustydoorframes

“I love my Matt & Nat backpack. It’s a decent size but looks stylish. I have this one but there are other colours and styles on their website.” Recommended by Mumsnet user Swiftier

Our verdict

Our favourite features: This backpack is a safe bet when it comes to versatility, durability and a comfy carrying experience

Every few years a bag comes along that becomes a signature design for a brand, and in this case, the Matt & Nat Brave Vegan Backpack has claimed the spot. It has the luxurious look and feel of a leather backpack but is made with 100% sustainable materials including vegan leather and the interior linings are constructed from recycled water bottles.

This rectangular-shaped Brave backpack is lightweight and sits flush on your back thanks to the sleek design and thin, yet sturdy adjustable shoulder straps. It also has a robust handle for easy carrying, and the exterior includes a practical front zipper pocket and two side pockets. As you open the double-zipped main compartment, you’ll find another zipper pocket, smartphone pocket and laptop sleeve that’s most suited to a 13” laptop.

How to choose the best backpack

Choosing the right backpack very much depends on your lifestyle and unique needs, with the most important questions being, how will you use it and what will you use it for?

For instance, if you’re a runner or cyclist and need a robust backpack that fits snugly on your back, then the OMM Ultra 8 Marathon Pack is a good choice, whereas if you’re looking for a more stylish backpack that comfortably fits your laptop and other work essentials then you might like the Matt & Nat BRAVE Vegan Backpack.

If you’re still undecided, here are some of the most important features to look for in a backpack.

Your budget: Sounds fairly obvious, but your budget plays a big role in the type of backpack you choose. Most good-quality backpacks range from £30 to well over £100, but general consensus is that you get what you pay for in terms of quality and longevity.

Colour and style: Are you looking for an oval-shaped backpack, a square design, or a more rectangular shape that’ll comfortably fit your large laptop and notebook?

Perhaps you need a backpack with multiple zipped pockets for your smartphone, keys, purse and other important documents versus one with just one main compartment and fewer pockets. Is black your colour or would you prefer something a little bolder with a pop of colour? The good news is that there are so many different types of backpacks out there in a wide variety of colours and styles.

Size: Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes including smaller types like the Mia Tui Jess Backpack, which is ideal for quick commutes or trips to the park. Or you may need a larger, more practical design.

Outer material: Are you looking for a classic leather backpack, or is faux leather more your thing? If you’re on the hunt for a waterproof, durable material, then a canvas-style backpack or a flexible nylon fabric will undoubtedly keep your contents dry.

Number of pockets: Before you settle on the right design for you, it’s important to consider the number and size of the pockets on the backpack you’re looking at. Also, you’ll need to determine whether you prefer larger, more visible, easy-access pockets or hidden, anti-theft pockets on the inside of the backpack.

Laptop compartment: Most backpacks we’ve vetted come with a separate laptop sleeve/compartment, but they vary in size. For instance, the Sandqvist Roald Ground Organic Cotton Backpack can comfortably carry a 15” laptop (the standard size), whereas the Targus Newport Backpack is only suitable for 12” laptops, iPads or other tablets. It’s important to take note of this before you buy.

Type of zipper: Are you looking for a dual zipper that closes from both sides like the one you’ll find on the Lekesky Laptop Rucksack Bag or is one main zip easier for you to manage? Additionally, some zippers also come with zip tags which act as a zipper pull extension, making it simpler to open and close. The type of zipper is also something to consider. Some of the most popular zippers on backpacks include plastic, metal, nylon, coil and plastic. Ultimately, you want a smooth, flexible zipper that’s easy to use.

Shoulder straps: If you’re going for comfort over style and need a practical backpack to take on longer trips and commutes, then wider, padded shoulder straps that have a contoured to your shape are a must. If, however, you’re looking for a modern, stylish backpack that can double up as a tote, then a sturdy handle and thinner, straighter shoulder straps might be a better choice.

When it comes to shoulder straps, it’s also wise to check whether they’re adjustable or not, as well as how simple it is to adjust them. Do they have plastic adjuster buckles or metal buckles like you’ll find on the Fossil Women's Tess Laptop Backpack.

What are the best bargain backpacks?

There are various backpacks to buy in the UK and you’ll find many at a decent price. However, when it comes to value for money and good-quality backpacks that are affordable, we’ve picked the Lekesky Laptop Rucksack Bag. It’s stylish yet robust and has several pockets, plus a large main compartment (24 litres) to store your 15.6” laptop. This bag is a firm favourite amongst Mumsnetters too.

For running or cycling, we’re also fans of the OMM Ultra 8 Marathon pack. At £40, it’s good value for money and offers everything you need to keep your stuff safe and dry on the move.

What's the best women's backpack to buy?

After considering more than 20 backpacks for women on the market and assessing all the feedback we received on the Mumsnet forums, we picked the Sandqvist Roald Ground Organic Cotton Backpack as our overall winner.

Mumsnetters love the overall quality of the brand as well as the attention to detail of this backpack. It stands out as being super comfortable to carry (thanks to its streamlined shape and padded shoulder straps, plus it has plenty of internal space and pockets to carry everything you need. Fans don’t seem to mind the slightly higher price tag as many believe it’s a great long-term investment.

How we chose our recommendations

We’ve thoroughly researched the best backpacks you can buy this season including tried-and-tested experiences from a wide range of honest, trusted sources. Here’s how we narrowed it down to our top picks.

Mumsnet community

When it comes to stylish, comfy backpacks which offer all the bells and whistles in terms of storage, Mumsnetters know a trusty carrier when they see (and use) one.

We first assessed all the recommendations from the Mumsnet community, getting feedback on the best backpacks they have personally used, reviewed and rated, including their favourite models, and must-have features such as hidden pockets and adjustable shoulder straps. We also considered the reasons why Mumsnetters would avoid certain backpacks, with ‘value for money’ being a big deciding factor.

Expert opinions

We know that choosing the right backpack takes a lot of thought and consideration, so we made sure our recommendations were well received within the bags and luggage industry, rated or recommended by travel experts and industry leaders.

Trusted consumer reviews

Finally, we scrutinised honest customer reviews on retailer sites such as Amazon, Wiggle and John Lewis to get wider consumer opinions on the products on our shortlist. Through this research, we were able to weigh up the top backpacks for a variety of needs including commuting to work, travel and running, and gain a greater understanding of the pros and cons of each.

About the author

Tammy Jacks has 15+ years' experience in the publishing industry, enjoying a long and fruitful career as Managing Editor and Health & Beauty Editor for Woman & Home magazine in South Africa. She later went on to become Assistant Editor of popular South African parenting title Living and Loving, and has written for lifestyle publications including Oprah Mag SA, Health Intelligence, Your Family and Longevity. She has also edited books for popular fitness influencers and health professionals.

Tammy has always been passionate about fitness, wellness and nutrition and is a keen marathon runner and cyclist. She is also a mum to a busy six-year-old girl.

Why you should trust us

Mumsnet has been helping parents make their lives easier since 2000 and, in those years, we’ve seen, tried and reviewed thousands of products in a wide variety of categories.

We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust and we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find products that real parents rate.

Transparency is important to us and that's why we're always upfront about the research we do, and where we find our recommendations. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their own friends and family and strive to offer impartial advice across the board.