Sustainable Backpacks: 7 Awesome Backpacks Made from Recycled Materials

There’s no denying that backpacks have become an essential accessory for people at every stage of life – from elementary school students to college professors. In fact, the sales of backpacks is expected to generate more than $20 billion dollars by the year 2024.

However, many common backpacks are not very eco-friendly because they are manufactured using materials that are not sustainable or they don’t last very long. It’s easy to understand why. Backpacks generally aren’t seen as an article of clothing but rather a utility item, like a hat or gloves. In other words, most people don’t pay much attention to their backpack unless they need to use it.

What is a sustainable backpack?

Sustainable backpacks are made using materials that are either recycled or made of natural fibers. They are also designed to last longer than most standard backpacks so that you will not need to replace them as often. 

While buying sustainable backpacks will not eliminate the problem of over-production and growing landfill waste, it will help reduce the overall negative impact on the environment. With more businesses producing sustainable backpacks, buyers now have a wider selection of options and designs to pick from.

We’ve compiled a selection of the best stylish sustainable backpacks that are designed to last for many years and made from recycled and/or natural materials.  

The best sustainable backpacks made from recycled materials

REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Sustainable Backpack

Heavy Duty Construction, Highly Compressible

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The REI Co-op Recycled Ruckpack 60+ pack consists of a 60-liter backpack and a 20-liter daypack that can be attached to the main bag for a total capacity of 80 liters. The shell is constructed of tough, recycled ripstop nylon.

The shoulder straps are lightly cushioned for extra comfort, with a strap harness that is adjustable to accommodate your upper body length. The rucksack includes a detachable rain cover, lockable zippers, and space for a tube from a hydration reservoir.

The REI Co-Op rucksack is the perfect sustainable backpack for school, work or outdoor adventures.

SPECS

Activities: Daily Use, Travel

Capacity: 28 liters

Materials: Recycled nylon

PROS

Fabric is heavy-duty, rip-resistant recycled nylon

bluesign®-approved to be free of toxic chemicals

Ample storage and organization pockets

Easy-access side panels

Hydration system compatible

Daisy chain to attach gear

Compression straps

Load-lifters to securely position the backpack

Includes a rain cover so that you’re always prepared for unexpected bad weather

Osprey Archeon Sustainable Backpack

Technical Backpack Designed for a Wide Range of Activities, with Sturdy Suspension, Rain Cover, Ice Axe and Pole Attachments

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Looking for a pack that can tackle your daily grind? Look no further than the Osprey Archeon 24 Pack. This top-notch pack is built to traverse trails, streets, offices and everything in between. 

Made from recycled nylon canvas with a PFC-free durable water repellent (DWR) coating that sheds moisture and stains, this pack is tough yet lightweight, making it perfect for daily use.

The wide-mouth, bucket-style main compartment opening with internal zippered mesh pocket provides plenty of storage for your daily essentials, and the internal padded laptop sleeve with organization and key clip ensures that your tech stays safe and secure.

SPECS

Activities: Backpacking, Daily Use, Travel, Hiking

Capacity: 30 liters

Materials: Recycled fabrics

PROS

Sustainably crafted using Global Recycle Standard (GRS)-certified recycled materials

Made with high-performance, technical materials with the lowest environmental impact

bluesign®-approved free from toxic chemicals, verified by third-party labs

Clean, simple design that is adaptable to a wide variety of environments

Well-suited for hiking, traveling, and city commuting among other activities.

Fjallraven Sustainable Backpacks

Waterproof, Rip-Resistant, Removable Frame

Fjallraven is devoted to sustainability, from initial product design to manufacturing and production. The company prioritizes lifespan, recyclability, utility, and simplicity while using natural and recycled materials. The Fjallraven code of conduct encompasses human rights, animal welfare, environmental protection, sustainable development, and anti-corruption.

SPECS

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering

Capacity: 38 liters

Material: Recycled Nylon

PROS

Made with high-performance, rip-resistant, waterproof Bergshell fabric

Optimized for mountain climbing

Peak Design Backpacks

Expandable Compartments, Water Resistant 

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To date, Peak Design has sourced approximately 3 million water bottles of recycled plastic to be used for their outer backpack fabric with their partners at Repreve.

SPECS

Activities: Daily Use, Travel, Photography

Capacity: 30 liters

Materials: Recycled polyester, Recycled nylon

PROS

Polyester and nylon fabric blend provides the best of both fabrics – durable, rip proof and water-resistant

Designed for ease of access, organization, expansion

bluesign® certified free of dangerous chemicals

Cotopaxi Allpa Del Dia Sustainable Backpack

Low-Profile Harness Suspension System to Distribute Weight, Cushioned Hip Belt, Lots of Storage Compartments

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Cotopaxi is committed to sustainability across all of its sustainable backpacks, and sources non-virgin and alternative materials for a large number of products. In addition, the company is transitioning to using 100% reused, recycled, and ethical materials by 2025.

SPECS

Activities: Backpacking, Air Travel

Capacity: 35 liters

Material: Recycled fabrics

PROS

Includes a backpacking-style low-profile harness suspension system

Contoured shoulder straps

Air mesh back panel for ventilation

Adjustable sternum strap

Cushioned hip belt to evenly distribute weight and keep you comfortable

One-of-a-kind color combinations

Plenty of storage pockets

Perfect size for carry-on convenience

Patagonia Altvia Sustainable Backpacks

Lightweight, Water-Resistant, Ventilated Back Panel

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SPECS

Activities: Hiking, Trail Running

Capacity: 17 liters

Materials: Recycled nylon, Recycled polyester

PROS

Lightweight, optimized for lengthy hikes and climbs

Includes a ventilated back panel and shoulder straps

Guidewater Backpack made from recycled material

Certified Submersible, 100% Waterproof

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SPECS

Activities: Daily Use, Hiking, Fishing, Travel

Capacity: 29 liters

Materials: Recycled nylon

PROS

100 percent waterproof and submersible

Back panel and shoulder straps constructed with hydrophobic textiles that do not absorb or retain water

Sustainable Backpacks FAQs

How are backpacks recycled?

If your old backpack is still in usable condition, it can be donated to local charities like Out of the Closet or Goodwill. 

If the backpack is not in working condition, it may be accepted at a local municipal or private recycling facility. Once delivered to the recycling station, the various parts of the backpacks are manually or mechanically separated. If possible, the cotton, fiber, plastics, and metals will be collected, separated and melted to produce other useful items.

What are eco friendly backpacks made of?

Eco-friendly backpacks are produced from renewable, biodegradable, and non-toxic materials. This includes both recycled and natural fabrics, including polyester, nylon, organic cotton canvas, and hemp. Sustainable backpacks are often of better quality and greater durability.

How many plastic bottles are used to make a sustainable backpack?

The number of recycled plastic bottles needed to created a new backpack depends on the size and capacity of the backpack. On average, 10 – 20 recycled plastic bottles are needed to produce a 15 liter – 17 liter capacity backpack.

How are sustainable backpacks made from plastic bottles?

The clear plastic PET bottles are collected and cleaned in the recycling sorting plant. The bottles are also soaked in acid to erase the labels. 

The plastic bottles are crushed into little plastic flakes. The plastic flakes are melted into microscopic pellets. 

The pellets are heated again, then extruded and spun into thread. The thread is woven into cloth and dyed. The cloth is sewn together to create a new backpack.

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Kristina M.

Kristina M.

Providing shopping recommendations for organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly products.

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