No matter what your use case for a backpack, be it something for work, travel, active, or a general everyday bag, having something that is lightweight is always an important feature to look for.

The demand for lightweight backpacks derives from a few trends that we frequently talk about with bags; how the digitization of our lives has allowed us to carry less objects around and how our changing work lifestyles have given way to more professionals carrying backpacks to and from work.

A lightweight backpack is ideal for optimizing around convenience and ease of use, whether it provides additional storage and organization for a day trip, or if its the one bag for travel.

What materials make-up a lightweight backpack?

A lightweight backpack gets its lightweight properties first and foremost from the materials and their construction. Many are made of technical non-woven materials like Dyneema (Dyneema is the world’s strongest fiber, the premium brand for Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene).

Other woven fabrics like nylon or polyester also do well because of their light, but durable nature. Some of the most lightweight backpacks are also made with ripstop fabrics; woven fabrics that use a unique sewing technique that allows them to be incredibly sturdy due to alternating stronger fibers in a warp pattern.

As a result of this material, tears do not increase in size because they are caught in the grid and can even ‘heal itself.’ The size of the tear remains constant rather than increasing with use as is the case with most other materials.

With ripstop fabrics, typically nylon is used since it is stronger than polyester for the same denier count, with a 420d nylon being considerably stronger than its 420d polyester counterpart. Nylon’s lower denier fibers are significantly finer, therefore establishing a sturdier foundation.

The denier count is particularly useful to know when evaluating a backpack’s weight, since most heavy duty backpacks are above 420D and can be upwards of 500+ denier.

When looking for a lightweight backpack that’s made of real leather, it’s best to choose a backpack that isn’t made of full leather, as leather is one of the heavier materials that bags can be made of. This might look like a backpack that has leather trims, or is made up of a combination of materials like nylon and leather.

Because of the use of multiple materials, particularly in the inner construction of the backpack, the end result is a lightweight backpack that has leather trims and details, but is still usable for work or travel because of its weight. If a full leather backpack is more of a preference, then opting for a vegan leather backpack might be an option, since vegan leather is synthetically made and can be designed to be lighter than its real leather counterparts.

Another component of a backpack that adds or subtracts to its weight ar the straps and back panels. Typically instead of stiff foam or a stabilizer board made of polyethylene (which can’t bend or be compressed), many lightweight backpacks instead use spacer mesh and low-density foam. The end result is a backpack that optimizes for comfort and support without heavy bulkness.

What features contribute to a lightweight backpack?

A lightweight backpack is not intended for holding heavy items or filling to max capacity, its lightweight properties are designed for a convenient comfortable option for regular use, be it work, travel, active, or everyday.  

Though the features of a lightweight backpack may vary depending on its use case (e.g. a laptop compartment for work versus a shoe compartment for the gym), there are some commonalities with how a bag is made that can add to its lightweight nature.

Common hardware features found in more outdoor bags like sternum straps or additional support straps aren’t found in as many lightweight backpacks for everyday use, since they add weight without much functionality for their use case.   

The number of compartments and webbing used in the compartments is also fewer. Typically, a lightweight backpack will only have one or two compartments, to allow for less zippers, pockets, hardware, and material use; all of which contribute to a backpack’s weight.

With lightweight materials, it’s useful to have the weight of the bag closer and higher up against the body, which is often achieved via compression straps on the side and load lifters on top of the bag.

In terms of volume, lightweight backpacks tend to be approximately 10-20 liters in volume, with 16-20 liters seeming like an ideal size; not too big or small, but just enough to serve its purpose.

Final Thoughts

Lightweight backpacks are a great way to literally “lighten the load,” especially given its specific use case in work, travel, active, or everyday.

The materials used are an important place to start when considering what kind of a lightweight backpack to go for, from the main body composition to how some of the hardware is used. With most backpack brands for the everyday optimizing lightweightness as a feature, there’s a large variety of good options to choose from when considering a new lightweight backpack.