Just like dresses with pockets or well fitting jeans, a good backpack can make your life so much easier. No longer just designed for children or hikers, these days backpacks come in all shapes, sizes, materials and colours so there is always a match made in accessory heaven just waiting to be found.  

No more trying to stuff trainers into your satchel or, more likely, having to take a large tote everywhere as well as your handbag. Especially as autumn draws in and you have more layers to carry around, any look can be completed with a backpack that you can wear from breakfast meeting, to work, to the pub and back again.

A good backpack can be cute or suave as well as useful, so we’ve rounded up the best on the market to keep your hands free and your aesthetic uncompromised.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Herschel Nova Backpack Mid-Volume: £70, Amazon

The ultimate all-rounder, these Herschel backpacks are quietly stylish and durable for all your carrying needs.

Our tester prefers the classic Nova, which comes in three sizes mini, XS and mid the largest of which can fit a laptop (13-inch), gym kit, shower stuff, makeup bag, book and boxed lunch with only minor cramming.

There’s a water bottle pocket on each side and a front pouch for the items you need on the regular. They come in an attractive range of colours, from smart grey to statement yellow.

The shoulder straps aren’t too bulky so you don’t look ready for an Everest base camp ascent and the gold zips add a nice finishing touch.

Buy now

Hunter Original Top Clip Backpack: £245, hunterboots.com

Despite being on the pricey side, this backpack from Hunter is a firm favourite with our tester. 

It’s cavernous inside but doesn’t look hulking. Made from rubberised leather, it’s highly water resistant, even around the zips, which is great for those who cycle or walk their commute.

It also has a neoprene slot for laptops and the top is double secure with a zip and parachute clip.

Practical without compromising on style, like the classic Hunter wellies, it’s a bag that will likely last for several years.

Save yourself having to buy a new backpack every six months and make this worthy investment instead.

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Goodordering Classic Backpack: £60, goodordering.com

Run out of a flat in Hackney, Jacqui Ma started Goodordering as a cycling accessories business in 2012.

The box-shaped bags are ideal for keeping belongings organised, with plenty of pockets and a separate laptop slot large enough for even 15” screens.

True to their cycling roots, all Goodordering bags are made with water resistant nylon to keep your things dry through the winter and are trimmed with highly durable PVC.

Available in seven pinstripe patterns, our tester particularly liked the retro style of the design.

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Dune Ducky Backpack: £75, dunelondon.com

The Dune Ducky backpack is so romantic and feminine it could be worn strolling beside the Seine in Paris on your way to a candlelit dinner.  

If that’s not on the cards however, the style pretty style and classic colours are a great addition to any outfit. It’s also practical, with plenty of space for all your bits and a removable front pouch which is perfect for any essentials you don’t want to get lost in it’s depths.  

Our tester especially loved the cherry red to brighten up winter days with finishing details in gold and black.

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Fjallraven Kanken Backpack: £65.92, Amazon

The Kanken backpack was created in 1978 to counter the increasing number of back problems in Swedish children. The style has changed very little, but these bags look just as good today.

You see Fjallraven bags everywhere for a reason. They’re durable, spacious and come in a huge range of colours so everyone can find one they like.

What’s more, we really like the outdoorsy style, as if you could take it hiking and then straight to a brunch date.

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ASOS Design Soft Backpack with Zip Detail: £20, asos.com

This backpack from ASOS is adorable.

It’s not quite big enough for our laptop, but is spacious enough to be practical – it’s a good size for city exploring or days when you don’t have quite as much to carry around.

Our tester loves the simple style with cute button detail and slim straps, it’s also an absolute steal at just £20.

All of the ASOS Design backpacks are stylish and reasonably priced, definitely worth a look.

Buy now

Sandqvist Hege Backpack: £199, John Lewis

Backpacks are rarely described as elegant, but the Sandqvist bags are an exception.

It must have something to do with their Swedish heritage, the brand was founded in Stockholm in 2004 and its creators cite the Nordic landscapes forests and rivers as their main inspiration.

The Hege is made with organic cotton canvas and top grain leather, and comes in four classic colours.

The double buckle fastening is attractive and good for extra security and the tiny silver embossed logo is a nice finishing touch.

It’s also particularly spacious, carrying up to 18l and large enough for a 15-inch laptop, and has a hidden zip pocket accessible from the outside for frequently used items.

Buy now

Rains Backpack Mini: £52, Amazon

Another Scandi company on our list, Rains specialises in making waterproof products with contemporary designs. Their bags, clothes and accessories all promise to withstand even the stormiest of weather, all in beautiful and simple styles.

The Rains Mini is a smaller version of their original backpack, which is also great, but it’s by no means impractical.

Still large enough to fit a 13-inch laptop this backpack also has an easy access outer phone pocket and is made from water resistant fabric.

Like all Rains products the style is sleek and understated. It comes in a range of subtle colours and with a matte finish.

Buy now

The Verdict: Best women’s backpacks

Herschel was the best all-round backpack, but we liked the story behind Goodordering.

It might be pricey, but we also really liked the whole range of Hunter backpacks.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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