Take heart! At least if the world ends you’ll be able to keep your precious collection of scavenged items in one of these super-durable backpacks.
C’mon, think positive!
Apocalypse aside, If you are looking for the absolute toughest backpacks on earth these ones should definitely be on your shortlist.
You’ll find these recommendations can also be easily corroborated with other independent forums like the subreddit: buyitforlife.
Durable Backpacks by Category
EDC & Day Packs
Tactical & Bugout
School & College
How to Choose a Durable Backpack
What to Look For
- 1000D (Denier) or higher density weave for the most heavy-duty applications.
- Top Fabrics: Cordura, Kordra, Ballistic Nylon, or Dyneema
- 6-10 Stitches per inch on seams
- Heavy secure stitching, no fraying separation when seams and handle are tugged firmly
- Turn inside out: No loose threads, ragged seams, or crooked inconsistent stitching.
- Keywords to look for: Ripstop, YKK zippers, lifetime warranty
- Expect to pay more
What Kind of Backpack Do I Need?
Well, how do you intend to use your backpack?
If you regularly bike to work in rainy Seattle then you’ll want a solid waterproof urban work backpack vis a vis an urban professional who walks to work in the blistering heat of Phoenix. That person would want a light, well-ventilated pack.
Looks matter too. A super-rugged tactical backpack may excel in the wilderness but look completely redonculous as an urban commuter on the subway.
This is why I divided all of these durable backpacks recommendations into basic categories to make life a bit easier for you.
Choose Your Trade-offs
Be prepared to make some trade-offs with certain levels of durability in favor of functionality.
While 1000D Cordura nylon fabric is among the toughest fabrics available in backpacks today, it’s also heavier and less practical for long-haul hikers where every pound matters.
Weatherproof fabrics aren’t necessarily the most durable either so sometimes your climate conditions will demand a compromise.
Don’t Cheap Out
I’m sure it’s no shock that the most durable backpacks out there actually cost more. Obviously, they are built to last by using premium materials. Besides that, a lot of extra time is spent on reinforcement, high-quality seams, and tighter quality control. Naturally, this extra labor costs is why exceptionally durable backpacks cost more.
Durable EDC & Day BackPacks
If you can’t quite decide what kind of backpack you should choose, get an EDC backpack. These are the all-rounders.
EDC Daypacks live a much more rough-and-tumble life than other packpacks like commuters. Think: Mountain biking, gym visits, short hikes, the park, school, and even less formal work settings.
Expect durability coming close to mil-spec tactical backpacks.
Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 24
I own this pack and I’m convinced it’s one of the best EDC backpacks out there. The Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 24 has tons of internal organization and you can access it all via the unique Y zipper closure.
I have plenty of other reasons to like this backpack. For that, just head over to my Full Review of the Urban Assault 24.
The Urban Assault 24 has the same tough DNA as Mystery Ranch’s full-on military 3 Day Assault pack…just smaller, lighter and with more organization.
Made from 500D Cordura nylon, the unique 3-Way YKK weather-proof zipper allows you to flay the bag wide-open and access items at the bottom very easily.
The Urban 24 assault also has a full floating sleeve to protect your laptop, tablet sleeves, lid pocket, two internal mesh pockets, two internal long pockets, a passport pocket, pen pockets and two external water bottle pockets.
In my opinion, this one of the toughest and most versatile EDCs available today. You can check it out over at Mystery Ranch
- Capacity: 24L(smaller less feature-rich variants in 21L or 18L size)
- 500D Cordura Nylon fabric
- 3 Heavy Duty, weather-sealed YKK zippers
- 15″ floating laptop sleeve and tablet pocket
- Lid pocket
- External water bottlehodlers
- 2 Internal long pockets
- 2 internal zippered pockets
- Passport pocket
- Additional internal tablet pocket
- Pen pockets
- Extremely versatile pack(carryon, hiking, commuting, gym etc.) Extremely easy access all items in the main compartment
- proven durable construction(combat heritage)
- Very well organized
- Excellent value
- Only 4 color options
- Not 1000D nylon
The Refugio is a real Patagonia classic. This thing has garnered a lot of respect over the years.
The Refugio is tough, practical, and shows a lot of real attention to quality and comfort. The air-mesh back panel and thickly padded shoulder straps will keep you cool and comfortable over long stretches.
At 28 L, it’s replete with stash pockets, daisy chain loops, and organization galore. A 15″ laptop sleeve can even be used for an extra hydration reservoir if you decide to use the water bottle stretch pockets other things on hikes.
The Refugio is constructed from 630D water-resistant nylon and a 200d nylon liner to boot. It makes a tremendous jack of all trades ready for whatever crazy mission you throw at it.
- Capacity: 28L(Mens)26L (Womens)
- 620D Nylon fabric
- Airmesh back panel & straps
- Water-Resistant DWR coating
- Adjustable Sternum strap
- Compression straps
- Outside access stash pocket
- Made in the USA
- Classic Patagonia styling
- Good water resistance,
- Great for air-travel
- Very comfortable and cool
- Not very formal
Chrome Industries Hondo
Chrome Industries is a splinter brand from Mission Workshop. Although they now compete head to head with some of the most durable packpacks on earth.
The Hondo is one of Chrome’s most popular and truly rugged EDC day packs.
Built with 1050D Nylon and a 300D tarpaulin liner, the Hondo will keep things dry in driving rain. It can accommodate a 15″ laptop and has extra cushioning on the bast to protect electronics.
The price is the best part: only 100 bucks! That’s an enormous value for a durable backpack of this caliber. Plus, it’s got a true lifetime guarantee.
- Capacity: 21L
- 1050D Nylon Fabric
- 15″ Laptop sleeve
- Webbing for exterior attachments
- Quick access compartment
- Best value bag on this list
- Simple, minimalist design
- Extra laptop cushioning in the base
- Water bottle holder doesn’t have a cinch
- More outside pockets would be better
Durable Tactical & Bugout Backpacks
Tactical backpacks are the most durable backpacks out there. They are primarily designed for the military and survivalists for extreme environments. Expect them to carry a midsized load(20-40L) and endure the most punishing abuse you can throw at them.
A good tactical/bugout pack follows the KISS rule(Keep It Simple Stupid.) They are mission customizable for “as needed” modifications typically via Molle webbing.
The GR1 is an American-made legend that built GoRuck’s tough reputation. The GR1 has been our number one recommended backpack from a purely durability standpoint for quite a while now.
Here’s our hands’ on review of the GR1
The GR1 is immensely rugged and built from the ground up with one thing in mind: extreme durability.
To top it off GoRuck’s “Scars Lifetime Warranty” is a true forever guarantee. If anything happens to this backpack they’ll make it right.
Unfortunately, I find the GR1’s price harder to justify unless it’s for serious professional or outdoor applications.
- Variants: GR1 in 21L & 26L / GR2 in 34L & 40L / GR3 in 45L
- 1000D Cordura fabric
- YKK Silent zippers
- Stress tested to 400lbs loads
- Minimalist: Meets Military Dress code
- Hydration pocket
- Customizable velcro patch
- Laptop sleeve
- Molle webbing inside and out
- Rain Proof
- Opens flat for full access(not just from top)
- Made in the USA
- Easily one of the most rugged backpacks in the world
- Weather Proof
- Best Lifetime Warranty in the industry
- Available in tons of camo variations
- Pretty plain looking
- Not many compartments or pockets
5.11 Tactical Rush24
This is the Bug-out Bag of choice for tons of serious doomsday preppers. 1050D heavy-duty nylon makes it practically indestructible. 5.11 Tactical’s Rush24 is a very customizable backpack that won’t break the bank like the GoRuck GR series.
The 5.11 Rush series has compartments and molle webbing galore to keep your survival kit and mission-critical gear well organized and quickly at hand.
It also works with 5.11’s Tier system which means you can stack multiple packs via quick-release straps for extended missions and versatility.
- Variants: Rush 12(24L) / Rush 24(37L) / Rush72(55L)
- 1050D Heavy duty Nylon fabric
- YKK Zippers
- Wrap around Molle webbing
- Hydration pocket
- Velcro nameplate and flag patches
- Dual drainage grommets
- Excellent value for the money
- Highly customizable with plenty of Molle webbing
- Compression straps
- Plenty of internal storage pockets for hyper-organizers
- Water resistance is not the best(consider using a spray coating)
- Heavier due to extra internal pockets
Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault BVS
Mystery Ranch and GoRuck come in around in the same price range. However, the Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault BVS backpack is more technical, customizable and accessible than GoRuck’s GR series design. These packs are legit military spec. They are regularly used in combat deployments.
The unique three-zipper closure allows you to easily flay the whole pack wide-open to access all the contents very quickly. It’s a brilliant design.
- Capacity: 30L
- 500D Cordura with Teflon and PU coatings for weather resistance
- “3 Zip” closure design
- Top and bottom compression straps, stow-able hip belt
- Weather repellant
- Weather resistant YKK Zippers
- Zipper ports for radios/antennas/electronics
- 3 interior water reservoir sleeves
- Removable bolster for a stabilized fit over body armor
- Interior molle webbing and side pockets
- extremely accessible
- well-designed layout
- plenty of molle webbing for customizing
- Where’s the 1000D Cordura nylon?
- Zippers are snugger due to weather stripping so may require two hands.
Durable Work & Commuter Backpacks
Work and Commuter backpacks are typically light and nimble with a small to medium capacity(15-30L). Their slim profiles mean you can stay light on your feet on crowded streets and subways.
Work backpacks are designed with the tech-savvy urban professional in mind. Expect convenient pockets and spaces for your tech and what-have-you.
They definitely carry a more refined and understated look that is suitable in professional settings like meetings and office calls.
Mission Workshop Fraction
The Mission Workshop Fraction is an extremely durable and functional work backpack with a professional yet youthful flair. Bus stop downpours aren’t a worry. Your computer will stay bone dry. It has 4 internal weatherproof pockets. The 1000D nylon fabric is available in black or three tasteful shades of grey.
At only 14L it is definitely a minimalist carry but they do have bigger versions of the same design. The Fraction is also compatible with Mission Workshops Arkiv modular accessories which allow you to add extra pockets and pouches to fit your specific needs.
- Capacity: 14L
- 1000D nylon fabric
- 4 internal weatherproof pockets
- 13″ Laptop sleeve
- Made in the USA
- Slim design
- Limited colors
- A bit too boxy for some tastes
The North Face Access 02
The Access 02 is more than eye candy, it’s got some cool tricks up its sleeve too. It’ll certainly draw some admiring eyes at the office.
The Access 02’s main compartment opens more like a convertible than a traditional backpack. A proprietary steel button releases the top cover which folds down to reveal the main compartment.
Another cool feature is its ejector handle which allows you to quickly slip your laptop out without any fuss. It reminds me of those fancy toasters that push the toast all the way up so you don’t burn your fingers.
At 25L you’ll haul pretty much anything you need with this durable backpack.
- Capacity: 25L
- Materials: 420D nylon/polyester blend
- Laptop Ejector
- Up to 15″ laptop sleeve
- Push button main compartment access
- two external zip pockets for keys etc.
- Available in 3 colors
- Really great looks
- Large capacity
- Super convenient access to main compartment and laptop
- Not weatherproof
- Internal pockets a bit small for computer adapters etc.
Osprey Arcane Day Pack
Osprey is certainly a heavyweight backpack brand and their Arcane family of daypacks is one of their best. The Arcane has a very clean and modern and minimalist look going on.
The body of the Arcane is made with a waxed canvas which isn’t as bulletproof as nylon. The base, however, is made with solid 1000D nylon and since the base is typically the most prone to high wear. This thing will still last a long, long time.
- Capacity: Large(20L)/ Small(10L)
- Fabric: Waxed Poly-cotton canvas body/ 1000D nylon base
- Laptop Sleeve: Large (15″)/ Small(13″)
- Security feature: Aluminum securtiy hook can attach to chairs/tables to thwart theives from snatching the pack.
- Clean modern look
- One of the Top 5 luggage warranties out there.
- Not waterproof
- Small Day Pack may be too small at only 10L
- No outside pockets for gadgets besides mesh pocket on harness
Durable School Backpacks
Durable school backpacks don’t need to be expensive at all(under $40.) Outfitting your kid early on with a durable backpack is really a no-brainer cause these things pay for themselves many times over.
For instance, my daughter’s Deluxe LL Bean book pack has seen 7 years of heavy use and will easily serve her another 5 years. That’s an awesome value from a backpack that only costs $40!
A well-built school backpack should be simple, organized, and rugged. A typical school backpack has a a capacity of 20-30L
There aren’t many backpacks as iconic as the Jansport Superbreak.
Although they are basic, and a little uninspiring to look at, they are apocalypse-proof and have been proving it for decades.
The Superbreak is made from 600D polyester which isn’t the toughest fabric, but more than adequate to last the average student 8 + solid years.
- Capacity: 20L
- 600 D Polyester fabric
- One main compartment and one utility compartment with organizer
- Over 30 colors and patterns
- Typically Under $40: Check the latest pricing on Amazon
- Incredible price considering the many years of use
- Very Light (only weighs 12 oz)
- Simple design great for minimalists
- a recognizable icon
- a bit on the small side at only 20L
- no smart device pockets/organizers
- not a “looker”
L.L. Bean Quad Pack
If basic doesn’t cut it and your teen is extra rough on their stuff then seriously consider stepping up to the Quad Pack from LL Bean.
It’s a nice upgrade and will transfer nicely into the post-secondary environment to see your kids through to their college degree.
The Quad Pack has loads of modern features like a port for audio or hydration, side laptop sleeve, oodles of organizing pockets, upgraded shoulder straps and a ventilated back panel with lumbar support.
- Capacity: 33L
- Pack Body: 420D Ripstop Nylon
- Pack Bottom: 1000D Kordra Nylon
- Side entry laptop 15″ pocket and Stash pocket
- Sternum strap
- Water bottle pocket
- Side compression straps
- Carabiner loops
- Main compartment buckle closure
- Premium smart features
- Excellent for the organized type of person
- Extremely durable construction
- The laptop sleeve is barely suitable for a 15″ as advertised so a 13″ is advised.
- does not have a flat bottom so it doesn’t stand up on its own.
Durable Travel Backpacks
Travel backpacks range from carry-on compliant sizes (30L) up to extra large capacity(+50L.) The larger travel packs feature removable/ stow-able shoulder straps for checking them as airline luggage.
Expect easy access pockets for phone chargers & passports, security features, compression straps, well organized internal pouches and pockets.
Red Oxx Rail Runner
This list would not be complete without a Red Oxx bag. The Rail Runner is a true beast. It’s easily one of the toughest bags on this list.
From heavy duty metal clasps and #10 YKK zippers to the 1050D Urethane coated Dupont ballistic Nylon, its as tough as freight train.
Originally designed for train engineers, the Rail Runner is designed for a life of extreme abuse.
- Capacity: 68.5L
- 1050D coated Ballistic Nylon
- 400D Nylon lining
- Expandable Dust collar
- Double box-stitched stress points, all seams double-stitched
- Hardware: Mil-spec clips, welded d-rings, nickled-plated O-rings, one-hand side pocket button closures, stainless steel grommets, Fastex side-release buckles
- Cable-lock included
- Made in the USA
- Huge capacity
- Unconditional Lifetime Warranty
- Robust hardware
- Rugged no-nonsense looks
- On the heavy side at 5lbs
- Only available in black
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L
The Cotopaxi Allpa is a carry-on legal travel backpack that zips wide open like a suitcase. It features a quick access passport pocket, oodles of mesh dividers, side access to the main compartment and pickpocket resistant zippers.
Cotopaxi has one of the best warranties in the outdoor adventure industry and the Allpa 35 is well-constructed from TPU coated 1000D Polyester and 1680D ballistic nylon.
- Capacity: 35L (optional size: 28L)
- 1000D TPU Coated Polyester/ 1680 Ballistic nylon panels
- Suitcase style closure
- Security YKK Zippers
- Rain cover
- Laptop sleeve
- Mesh dividers
- 4 grab handles
- Clamshell closure design
- Stowable harness
- Excellent lifetime warranty
- External pockets lacking
- no water bottle holder
- TPU coatings can crack over time
Osprey Porter 46
Osprey’s Porter series is a familiar site in airport lounges for good reason. They are one of the best travel pack solutions out there. Osprey’s unique “straight jacket” compression straps allow you to cram a heck of a lot of stuff into the Porter series.
The Porter 46 can scape by as carry-on legal so long as don’t overdo it. Either way, you can check it by stowing the detachable shoulder harness and hip belt.
- Capacity: 46L (also in 30L & 65L)
- 420HD Nylon Packcloth fabric
- “Straightjacket” compression system
- Stowable hip belt and harness
- lockable zippers
- front panel travel document pocket
- The compression system is great when space is a premium
- plenty of outside pockets
- great security features
- Possible to over-pack carryon allowances
- Good for travel but not a comfortable long trekker
Durable Hiking/Trekking Backpacks
Hiking and Trekking Backpacks are designed to carry light to medium loads(15L-55L) for 1-3 days in all-weather conditions. To do this comfortably, hiking backpacks should ride snugly to the back and relieve your shoulders by distributing the load via cushioned hip belts.
Don’t expect 1000 D fabrics in trekking backpacks. It’s overkill, impractical and too heavy.
Patagonia Nine Trails
In my opinion, Patagonia’s gear deserves a tremendous amount of respect. Almost without exception, you’ll find that their products are over-engineered and built to last.
The Nine Trails family of Hiking backpacks are one of Patagonia’s flagship product lines. It’s not a surprise that it has a proven following of serious hard-core adventurers. (Available sizes: 14L-36L)
- Excellent sizing/fit options to match your body type
- Mens/ Womens
- 210 Cordura Ripstop Nylon
- Good abrasion and puncture resistance
- Some complaints that the shoulder straps being too close together at the neck for some body types.
Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 50L
The Ozonic series is a professional level expedition pack. It is waterproof, multi-day capable, and well-constructed with world-class durable ballistic nylon.
Do a quick Google image search of “Everest Summit pics.” Mountain Hardwear is clearly trusted by the pros for summit bids. This is a serious no-nonsense professional level brand.
- Available sizes: S,M: 51L / M,L 55L
- Weight: ~ 4lbs
- Rain room tested: Waterproof
- Body: 330D Cordura Ripstop Nylon
- Base: 840D Ballistic Nylon
- Huge Capacity
- Excellent bad weather hiking pack
- Robust no-nonsense design
- Very good competitive pricing: View at Moutain Hardwear
- On the heavier side for hiking packs
- Limited color options
Hyperlite Mounatain Gear 3400 Junction
And now for something truly different and cutting edge. Hyperlite Mountain Gear in Maine builds their packs from Dyneema which is literally the toughest fabric known to man. It is water proof and has a tensile strength 15x stronger than steel.
Racing yachts use Dyneema fabric in their sails because its incredibly strong, light and waterproof.
The 3400 Junction brings a lot to the table. It is is exceptionally light, tough and waterproof. This pack in multiples sizes and two colors (white or black.)
Every pound matters on long treks. The 3400 Junction features large external mesh pockets and tie-downs for hiking poles and make a great spot dirty/wet sneakers or base layers.
- Capacity: 55L
- Weight: 2lbs
- Durable Dyneema Fabric
- YKK Zippers
- Hydro port and pocket
- Large external mesh pockets
- Water sealed seams
- Removable, contoured aluminum stays
- 1/4” foam back panel pad
- Loops for ski/trekking poles
- Made in the USA
- Super Light and Rugged
- Ergonomic distribution of weight off shoulders to the hip belt
- Only two colors
- No frills