No, we’re not saving the world when we buy backpacks made from recycled materials. As it is, the world probably needs something more drastic than that. However, switching to more sustainable consumer options does make those options more viable, which can only encourage more manufacturers to embrace more sustainable practices going forward. And that’s a good thing.
Good news is, there is more options in recycled backpacks than ever. Turns out, those discarded plastic water bottles, fabric scraps, and fishing nets make for pretty sturdy recycled fabrics that hold up just as well as traditional backpacks made from virgin materials. And they look just as good, too, putting these made-from-recycled-material backpacks on equal footing as far as consumer desirability is concerned.
These are the best sustainable backpacks made from recycled materials.
REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Recycled Daypack
Made from Bluesign-approved recycled ripstop nylon, this 18-liter backpack makes a great everyday bag that’s as rugged as any of REI’s regular backpacks. It has a full-zip design that makes packing and unpacking easy, as well as a number of features that make it an excellent pack for day hikes, including compression straps that keep the weight close to your torso, a sternum strap and a removable waist strap, a hidden daisy chain out front for lashing on gear, an access port on the right side for a hydration tube, and trekking pole attachments. The bag’s compact dimensions also meets carry-on size requirements for most airlines, so you can use this when traveling. It fits laptops up to 15 inches.
Girlfriend Collection Black Please Recycle Backpack
This bag looks every bit like the classic knapsack, from the rounded shape at the top and the big front pocket to the wide open pockets on the sides and the matte canvas-like shell. Except the entire shell, lining, and straps are all made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles, making it a modern sustainable version of the timeless design. Features include a water-resistant build, zippered main compartment and front pocket, adjustable straps, and an interior sleeve sized to fit a 15-inch laptop. You can also send the bag in to the outfit’s ReGirlfriend program for recycling when it’s outlived its useful life.
United by Blue Revolution 25L Convertible Carryall
A backpack and tote hybrid, you can carry this bag on your back, in one hand, or on one shoulder with equal amounts of comfort, making it perfect for folks who like to switch things up on the go. It’s made with recycled polyester for both the shell and lining, recycled nylon for the straps, and a blend of recycled poly and nylon for the air mesh padding. The exterior has a DWR finish for water-resistance, so you can brave the rain without any worries, while the 25L size should allow you to carry a day’s worth of gear with room to spare.
If you want a smaller backpack for those days you only need to carry a laptop and a few choice items, this recycled pack from Day Owl should do the trick. Equipped with a 10.5L capacity, it can fit a 14-inch laptop along with a few other gear in the main compartment, as well as other items in the spill resistant bottle pocket, floating top pocket, and flat front pocket. It’s made from First Mile waxed canvas, which is produced from 100 percent recycled post-consumer plastic bottles, along with 100 percent recycled polyester for the lining and trim. Features include water-repellent neoprene padding on the laptop pocket, algae-based foam on the back, and conflict-free YKK metal zippers.
Available in 25L and 32L variants, this burly bag is made from extremely durable 100 percent recycled poly ripstop that’s been coated with a TPU film laminate for water resistance. We love the bag’s slim profile, which almost makes it feel like a duffel if you put carry handles on the sides, as well as the spacious main compartment, which makes room for a 15-inch laptop. Features include a large front stash pocket, an airmesh back panel for ventilation, a padded shoulder harness for comfort, and a distinct look that you will either love or hate (personally, we’re fans).
This rolltop backpack is made from 59 percent recycled ocean plastic and 17 percent other recycled materials, so majority of the bag brings sustainable construction to the forefront. It does use 24 percent non-recycled materials, which are employed for the zippers, foam pads, and buckles, but the entire shell and lining are cut from repurposed refuse. The bag is highly waterproof, with TPU coating on the lining and PU coating on the shell, so it will keep you gear dry even in inclement weather – just make sure to roll up the opening tightly to keep water from seeping in. Of course, the rolltop design allows you to make it as compact or as big as you need, with up to 31L of volume available, so you can pack in a good load of gear when needed. It comes with a detachable sleeve sized to hold a 15-inch laptop.
Designed by Yves Behar, this backpack is made from recycled kite sails, discarded spinnakers, wetsuit scraps, and throwaway climbing ropes, making it an interesting for those who spend a lot of time in the water. In fact, it even has a dedicated waterproof pocket in front designed for wet suits, so you can just dump yours in there even while it’s still dripping. It has a 20L capacity, which makes it perfect an everyday pack, while the unique styling gives it a rather fresh aesthetic that we really dig. Manufactured in California, this bag comes with a lifetime warranty.
Like the outfit’s other backpacks, this one uses recycled ocean-bound plastic for the shell and lining. What makes it stand out from their other models, though, is the unique design, which allows the pack to transform into a veritable closet. That’s right, the whole bag can open up into a three-level closet, complete with a hanger on top that you can use to hang it on a closet rod once you get to your hotel room. It comes in two sizes: one that can accommodate up to five days’ worth of clothing and one that can fit an entire week’s worth. Features include a 16-inch laptop sleeve, special pocket for documents that keep them wrinkle-free, a protected glasses pocket, and a water-resistant base.