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Best Minimalist Backpacks

When backpacking one rule I have is to have the best minimalist backpack with me. It’s also the same backpack that I would use for hiking if on short 2-3 days hiking trips.

When you have a minimalist backpack it makes you think more about what you are packing and you end up travelling with just the essentials with no extra weight of things you ‘might use.

I’ve experimented with numerous backpacks over the past 20 years of travel and these are the ones I recommend using. They are the more recent ones from the past several years as the older ones are too outdated now.

What Makes A Good Minimalist Backpack?

The perfect minimalist backpack should be not too big as it will make you think more about what you are packing and you will end up with just the stuff you really need.

There are a lot of ultralight hiking backpacks but I generally don’t recommend those for backpacking in the travel sense as although they are great on the trail they won’t be as durable in the material to withstand the rigours of backpacking where your backpack might be subject to some abuse.

Trust me I have tried backpacking with ultralight hiking backpacks and they ended up with tears in the fabric and generally falling apart.

Military gear actually make for some of the best minimalist backpacks as they are generally designed to be minimalist in nature and very tough.

The backpacks mentioned here cover different size requirements, although I find the “sweet spot” to be around the 40 litres range.


Karrimor Sabre 35

minimalist backpack
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The Karrimor Sabre 35 is perfectly the best minimalist backpack in terms of everything you would want for minimalist backpacking.

To give you an idea of its credentials Ray Mears, the leading UK survival and bushcraft expert, has used this for many years, as well as other Karrimor backpacks.

minimalist backpack in desert
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With the Sabre 35 in a remote house in the Atacama Desert of Chile in 2011.

Osprey Mutant 38

minimalist backpack - Osprey Mutant 38
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The newer version of the Osprey Mutant 38.

I seriously love this backpack and it lasted me a few years!

Sadly it got stolen in a hostel I was staying in while in Alaska but I ended up buying a newer, bigger version (52 litres option) when I reached a place I could find it. I took the bigger option then as I was doing 5 days wilderness treks in Alaska and needed extra space for food.

However, just for minimalist backpacking without planning 5 days or more trekking with food then I would definitely take the 38-litre option.

What makes the Mutant 38 a good minimalist backpack?

For starters, it’s a climbing backpack and is minimalist in nature just because of that. I actually got it initially to get into rock climbing but when a backpacking trip to Iceland came up I took it as my general backpacking backpack and loved it.

minimalist backpack - Mutant 38 hiking in Iceland.
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With the older Mutant 38 on a 3-day hike in Iceland on the Laugavegur Trail.

The North Face Recon

best minimalist backpack north face recon
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The North Face Recon has been around for a long time now and still makes a great minimalist backpack.

It has a lot more options than other minimalist backpacks mentioned here when it comes to the organization as it has smaller zipped pockets to use and a proper laptop sleeve inside if you travel with a laptop.

Initially, I had this as an around-town backpack when at home for using out and about. But then I took it on a backpacking trip around Europe and it did the job of minimalist backpacking perfectly.

Personally, I don’t use this one anymore as it accidentally got thrown in the trash by someone (not naming names) and I never saw it again! Instead of getting another one I just continued using the Karrimor packs.

Karrimor SF Predator 30 

bug out backpack Karrimor Predator 30.
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Along with the Sabre 35, this is another great option. They are similar except for the fact the Predator 30 does not have the built-in side pockets but has molle webbing on the outside giving you the option to add external pockets if you want.

The 30-litre size is a great fit for a minimalist backpack, as mentioned before.

Savotta Light Border Patrol

minimalist backpack
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Want to really go minimalist backpacking? Then try with a 25 litres backpack, or even less.

The Savotta Light Border Patrol 25 fits this option. Savotta has been making backpacks for the Finnish military for 50 years and this border patrol pack was initially designed for their border patrols.

The one downside to Savotta packs is the price as they generally go for twice the price of the Karrimor packs which is why I tend to recommend Karrimor as the best overall option.


Best Minimalist Backpack

Undoubtedly there are plenty of good minimalist backpacks out there to choose from but these are what I would recommend if you’re looking for a great one.

Personally, I travelled to Columbia with only a 10-litre messenger bag for 3 weeks and loved it.

For more on minimalist backpacking check out what to pack.


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