What Are the Types of Backpacks for Hiking, Backpacking & Travel?

Do you want to know more about the types of backpacks for your upcoming hiking or camping trip? After all, no matter what kind of outdoor activity you have planned, you need the right backpack. That has you wondering which backpack types are available?

Here are the different types of backpacks:

You may be new to the world of backpacks now, but by the time you’re done reading, you’ll feel like an expert. Ahead, we’ll go over each of the 14 types of backpacks at your disposal so you can choose the right one for all your various outdoor activities. Keep reading!

The 14 Different Types of Backpacks

Frame Hiking Backpacks

If your hiking buddies bring a backpack with them on their adventures, more than likely, it’s a frame hiking backpack. Named after the internal frame built into the bag, a frame hiking backpack is your best friend when venturing for long treks into the wilderness. It’ll provide support with its frame so you don’t have to think about the bag.

TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack; High-Performance Backpack for Backpacking, Hiking, Camping; Hunter Green (121)

Sturdy even with nothing in it, the frame keeps this backpack upright at all times. Organizational sections within the backpack make sorting through all your stuff a breeze. The one downside to using a frame hiking backpack is that, due to its construction, it’s heavier than many other bags. That’s even despite the aluminum framing that’s typically used.

To accommodate for the heavier weight of a frame hiking backpack, consider packing light!

Frameless Hiking Backpacks

As you probably guessed from the name, frameless hiking backpacks have no internal frame whatsoever. They still boast a similar look to a frame hiking backpack, but they’re lighter-weight and less arduous to carry.

60L Waterproof Lightweight Hiking Backpack with Rain Cover,Outdoor Sport Travel Daypack for Climbing Camping Touring (Green)

A frameless hiking backpack won’t hold its shape when empty. You’re also lacking the weight distribution you get from the organization system within a framed hiking backpack, so you might not be able to sort your stuff as easily.

Your items can move within the bag as you enjoy your outdoor activities, all shifting to one spot. You’ll have to be careful how and where you pack your gear when using a frameless backpack if you don’t want neck and/or shoulder pain after a long day of hiking. It’s also recommended you buy a framed backpack if your load exceeds 20 pounds.


If your outdoor excursion is just an afternoon jaunt and not an overnight stay, there’s rarely any need for a hulking backpack to accommodate you. Instead, you can get away with a basic daypack, one of the simpler types of backpacks.

TETON Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack; Free 2-Liter Hydration Bladder; For Backpacking, Hiking, Running, Cycling, and Climbing; Orange

A daypack is made entirely of fabric for less weight. It includes comfortable shoulder straps and may be able to hold up to 40 liters of your essential items. Internal and external pockets are rather sparse, so you just have to store all your items in one area of the backpack. Considering you only need your bag for the afternoon, this isn’t such a big deal.

Cycling Backpacks

Here’s another specialist backpack, a cycling backpack, also referred to as a biking gear backpack. No matter what you want to call it, cycling backpacks are designed for those who enjoy their outdoor time while cycling.

Cycling Backpack Bike Pack Outdoor Daypack Running 18L

Within the backpack is the main compartment and often a secondary, smaller compartment, giving you about 30 liters of storage space overall. Organization panels in the bag make it easier to segment your stuff, from emergency tools to spare clothing. Since these backpacks are made for cyclists, it’s not uncommon to see LED illumination on the bag as well as a helmet attachment point and a hydration bladder sleeve.

The streamlined design of a cycling backpack is such that you can ride your bike without the bag shifting or weighing you down. You’ll feel as free as the wind!

Climbing Backpacks

Like a cycling backpack, a climbing backpack or crag pack is built to accommodate a certain group of outdoor enthusiasts. This time, it’s those who enjoy scaling cliffsides and tall rocky terrain. Most climbing backpacks are rugged inside and out so you don’t have to stress about your bag getting scuffed up on stones and rocks.

PETZL, Bug Climbing Pack, 18L / 1098 Cubic Inches, Orange

The crag pack will include an array of handles so you can grab your bag conveniently whether you’re about to start climbing or even when climbing (safely, of course!). Inside the backpack is room for storing everything a climber needs, including extra layers, water, food, climbing shoes, rope, and quickdraws.

Rain Cover Backpacks

You don’t stop playing outside even when the rain comes, but you do appreciate some extra protection from the downpour. It sounds like a rain cover backpack could be just what you need. Rain cover backpacks tend to look like your average daypack, but the included rain cover can be fitted tightly over the bag when it starts to sprinkle or pour.

Hiking Backpack, Esup 50L Multipurpose Mountaineering Backpack with rain cover 45l+5l Travel Camping Backpack

The rain cover is water-resistant and sometimes even waterproof. You definitely do want to check out the labeling carefully before buying, as water-resistant and waterproof are not the same.

The difference is that water-resistant backpacks are coated with a special seal or covering that keeps the water out. This works well enough at first, but the seal can fade with time, making the water-resistant properties of the backpack vanish. Waterproof bags are weaved that way and are always reliably waterproof even years after buying the backpack.

Wheeled Backpacks

We’ve all seen travelers wheeling their luggage around, especially near airports and train stations, but did you know that some backpacks come on wheels as well? It’s true! Wheeled backpacks may be able to store as much as 150 liters of all your important everyday items. If you need a break from wearing that much cargo on your shoulders, you can wheel the backpack around.

Targus Compact Rolling Backpack for Business, College Student and Travel Commuter Wheeled Bag, Durable Material, Tablet Pocket, Removable Laptop Protective Sleeve for 16-Inch Laptop, Black (TSB750US)

The back panels of the bag are intended for comfort so when the above-mentioned wheeling does occur, it’s a smooth, easy experience. The shoulder straps are also designed to accentuate your comfort when carrying the bag.

An included hip belt gives you another option for secure carrying of the backpack. Plenty of compartments within the bag make organizing your everyday items quite simple and efficient.

Sling Backpacks

If you want a backpack that’s even more convenient to carry than a daypack, try the sling backpack. Nicknamed after the slingshot it resembles, a sling backpack is worn over only one shoulder, freeing up the other half of your body. For some outdoor activities, having less weight on your shoulders–or at least one of them–can really come in handy.

Allen Company, Daypack, Cedar Creek Sling Pack (Fishing Pack/Sling Backpack), Olive

Sling backpacks are smaller in size so as not to overwhelm the single shoulder that supports them. You can’t overload these bags or you’ll be unstable on your feet, not to mention you’ll be in quite a deal of pain. Pack your gear carefully.

Don’t fret about storage in a sling backpack, as you do have options. Many sling bags feature pockets, not to mention a main compartment as well as a second or third smaller compartment. That’s enough room for a few must-have items.

Dry Bag Backpacks

We talked before about rain cover backpacks, which are designed for getting wet. So too are dry bag backpacks, which are called that due to how they reliably keep your bag contents dry.

How? Well, unlike rain cover backpacks, dry bags are always waterproof, never water-resistant. These bags also feature thick outers so rain has even less of a chance of getting in. To further ward off liquid, a dry bag backpack can fold and attach onto itself through a clip, creating a barrier that water can’t get past.

Mustad Dry Backpack 30L, Water-resistant 500-Denier Tarpaulin, Easy-Adjust Shoulder Straps w/Breathable, Mesh Lower Back, Grey/Blue

If you often travel in the rain, a dry bag backpack is a must. The same is true of outdoor lovers who prefer swimming, fishing, paddle-boarding, kayaking, or any activity near water.

Hydration Backpacks

It doesn’t matter if you’re vigorously hiking or relaxingly cycling on your bike, you must stay hydrated. Few backpacks have a dedicated spot for a water bladder, which is why so many outdoor lovers favor hydration backpacks. They’re your smartest bet for ensuring your hydration needs are met all day (or night!) long.

CamelBak Classic 85 oz., Lapis Blue/Atomic Blue, One Size

More so than just offering a spot to hold a water bladder, hydration backpacks also tend to include a hose attachment. This gives you a second means of consuming water if you happen to lose your water bladder. You can also get clean water in a pinch.

Just keep in mind that hydration backpacks are good for transporting water but not a lot of other items. You might want a hydration backpack as a secondary bag, not your main backpack.

Traveling Backpacks

Perhaps rather than explore what’s in nature’s backyard, you prefer to jet-set on a plane and drink in the world’s natural wonders that way. Traveling backpacks will take you further in your adventures, as these bags tend to be TSA-approved. That means you’re free to take your bag with you on and off flights and then right into the wilderness or wherever you wish to explore.

Eagle Creek Women's 65 Liter, Smokey Blue, One Size

You may get around 40 liters max in capacity with a traveling backpack, which is not too shabby. There’s your main compartment as you’d expect as well as pockets and a few secondary compartments. Due to the nature of this bag, those extra compartments may be intended more for storing a laptop than snacks and shoes.

Carry-on Backpacks

Speaking of backpacks intended for travel, next, we have the carry-on. If you’ve ever flown before, you know a carry-on bag is a suitable size for bringing onto your flight without bumping into every other passenger near you. The same is true of a carry-on backpack, which is lightweight and compact for easy, convenient travel.

Swiss Gear SA1923 Black TSA Friendly ScanSmart Laptop Backpack - Fits Most 15 Inch Laptops and Tablets

Measuring 20 to 22 inches, carry-on backpacks can still hold around 40 liters at most depending on the model. You won’t have to skimp on what you bring in the carry-on, but make sure all items are TSA-approved so you don’t get held up at the checkpoints!

Duffel Bag Backpacks

Who doesn’t love a duffel bag? They’re large, durable, and totable. Now you can have all the perks of a duffel bag with a backpack in what’s known as a duffel backpack.

This is more like a portable duffel bag than a standard backpack. Carrying straps for your shoulder make transporting your bag easy, although you could always carry your duffel bag by hand if you truly wanted to.

MARMOT Unisex Long Hauler Small Travel Duffel Bag, 2300ci (35 Liter), Crocodile/Cinder, One-Size

If you’re planning an overnight camping trip, a duffel backpack is seriously worth considering. Few backpacks have the storage capacity of a duffel backpack, which may come with more than 120 liters of space. That gives you room for everything you need and then some.

However, like any real duffel bag, your duffel backpack likely doesn’t have any compartments, so balance the weight of what you put in there carefully.

Anti-Theft Backpacks

When your love of nature and travel brings you to new and unique places, it’s always a good idea to be a little cautious. An anti-theft backpack will protect everything inside, including valuables like cash or credit and debit cards.

Pacsafe Venturesafe G3 25 Liter Anti Theft Travel Backpack/Daypack-Fits 15' Laptop, Goji Berry

All sorts of useful theft-proof options abound in these backpacks, among them buckles and belts, locking zippers, secret pockets and compartments, and cut-resistant material. Some pockets can even block radio-frequency identification or RFID signals so criminals can’t steal your personal information via radio frequencies.


When you’re outdoors exploring the world, having the right backpack is everything. You’ll have a backpack suitable for your favorite type of activities, be that cycling, swimming, hiking, or climbing. The backpack should have enough room for your gear and other essentials yet be comfortable enough that you’re not fatigued or sore after using it.

Now that you know the different types of backpacks, you can be sure you’re equipped with the best backpack for whatever and wherever your adventures take you!