Got back pain? Throw on a backpack! Said no one, ever…until they found the best ergonomic backpacks for back pain.
The three main things to look for in a backpack when you have back or neck pain are:
- An ergonomic back panel
- Load lifter straps and compression straps
- A hip belt
The Osprey Farpoint 55 has all three of these vital features for back pain. Read our extensive review to find more options tailored to your lifestyle.
|Overall Best||Osprey Farpoint 55||
|Runner Up||Kelty Coyote||
|Incase ICON Laptop Backpack||
|budget pick||The North Face Pivoter||
|Osprey Hikelite 26||
|Gregory Baltoro 75||
|Yorepek 50L Backpack||
|Osprey Atmos AG 65||
|Swissgear 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack||
Review of the Best Backpacks for Back Pain
Osprey Farpoint 55 – Best Overall
- Large, lockable U-zip duffel-style access to main compartment - 55L total volume
- Detachable daypack with designated laptop and tablet sleeve and scratch-free stash pocket
- Stowaway backpanel, shoulder straps and hipbelt with zippered rear flap for protection when checking
- Lockable zipper access to padded laptop & tablet sleeve (fits up to most 15" laptops)
- Lockable sliders on main compartment zipper
The Osprey Farpoint 55 is the all-around best backpack for back pain, specifically lower back pain. This backpack is so beneficial to people with back pain because it features an innovative suspension system.
Side note: the Farpoint 55 is a gender-specific design and is engineered to fit best on men. The women’s version of the Farpoint 55 is the Osprey Fairview.
Osprey uses a 3.5mm LightWire peripheral frame. This lightweight frame outlines the back of the pack connecting the top load lifters with the core and the hip belt. This design transitions the load properly and spreads the weight evenly while you carry the backpack. You’ll be able to move naturally with the backpack instead of working against it.
You might be thinking carrying a wireframe against your back doesn’t sound comfortable. You’re absolutely right. An Athlon framesheet (thick and cushiony foam) covers the LightWire frame to create a comfortable contact surface. You won’t even feel the frame against your back.
Secondarily, the Farpoint 55 has several straps to secure the load and improve the fit of the backpack. Dual StraightJacket compression straps are effective in cinching your load down tight to keep it from jostling around on your back. A thick hip belt supports your lower back. And a sternum strap allows you to customize the fit and adds an extra level of stability.
Finally, the Farpoint comes with a detachable daypack. This bonus feature is beneficial to have when hiking. You can give your back a rest for shorter day hikes by lightening your load and carrying the daypack instead of the main backpack. Check our review of Osprey Porter 46 vs Osprey Farpoint 40.
Kelty Coyote – Runner Up
- 65 Liters: Ample storage for all your essential gear. 4lb 10oz empty weight, 30 x 18 x 12 inches, optimal carry weight 30-55 pounds
- Versatile Pack: The Coyote is the flagship trekking pack from the bright minds over at Kelty. Fully featured and re-designed for 2020, the Coyote features an advanced perimeter frame for supreme stability on the trail.
- Plenty of Pockets: Kelty Signature wing pockets, two front zippered pockets, and large J-zip top loading access to the main compartment. Daisy chains, water bottle pockets, and sleeping bag compartment keep everything tidy on the trail.
- Tailored Fit: A thru hiker’s dream, the Coyote features the new Fit Pro technology, providing a quick and customized torso fit for each user. Fit pro can be adjusted on the fly with ease, when shedding layers or passing off your pack.
- Amp Flow: Sweaty backs? Not here. The Amp Flow ventilated back panel will keep you cool and dry on long jaunts in the wild. Aluminum Stay in the external frame keeps your load secure and balanced, for a stable and comfortable hike.
The Kelty Coyote backpack is the runner-up for best bag for bad backs. Its key feature is its torso adjustment system that allows you to customize the fit of the backpack ergonomically.
Here’s how it works. The main support of this pack is provided by the internal steel frame that lines the perimeter of the back panel. An HDPE (hard plastic, ergonomically shaped) frame sheet with added cushioning is positioned in the center of the frame for support and fit.
The Fit-Pro torso adjustment system is basically an extension of that center frame sheet. You can quickly and easily extend it by pulling it up from the top. This allows you to find the most comfortable fit tailored to your height and comfort preferences.
Load lifter straps are positioned at your shoulders. This allows you to keep the weight of your pack where it is most ergonomic, rather than it slouching down, forcing you to arch your back. Hip belt stabilizers allow you to do the same with the lower portion of your load, so your pack doesn’t swing side to side.
Another beneficial feature of the Kelty Coyote is its many pockets. This pack has several compartments along with large external pockets that allow you to pack smart. You can use these to distribute the weight in your pack evenly rather than having it all compiled in the main compartment.
- SPACIOUS, ORGANIZED STORAGE: Features three large dedicated compartments for your MacBook, iPad and iPhone, along with purposeful pockets for organizing extra accessories and other essentials. The internal laptop compartment stores up to a 15-inch MacBook.
- COMFORTABLE, CUSTOMIZED DESIGN: Incase engineered airflow channels into the compression molded back panel and padded shoulder straps with multiple adjustment points. Additionally, the integrated sternum strap helps to disperse the weight carried in the backpack for added comfort.
- LAPTOP PROTECTION: The dedicated laptop compartment is fully padded and faux-fur lined for optimal MacBook protection.
- LONG-LASTING DURABILITY: Constructed with heavy-duty, durable 840D ballistic nylon that holds up to everyday wear and tear.
- QUICK ACCESS TECH-OPTIMIZED FEATURES: The dedicated iPad pocket on the side is a quick arm’s length away, while the hip-side power pocket is designed with an integrated cable port to allow access to portable power or audio.
Let’s give the hiking backpacks a rest and take a look at a bag better suited for urban life. Need a backpack for school or work that is also good for back pain? The Incase ICON Backpack is the best option for professional use. Not only does it play the part with its ergonomic design, but its sleek aesthetic looks the part too.
The back panel of the backpack, the portion that makes contact with your back, is densely padded. There is an upside-down “T” shaped contouring channel to enhance spinal comfort when carrying the pack. A thick horizontal pad sits at the bottom of the back panel for lumbar support.
The shoulder straps are sufficiently cushioned, yet flexible at the top. This design allows the straps to mold to your body for the most comfortable carry. Load lifters are located at the top of the shoulder straps to secure the load on your back better. The sternum strap also aids in customizing and securing the fit of this backpack.
The Incase ICON features several tech pockets, including separate laptop and iPad pockets. These pockets are located at the back of the pack, which is the best location to carry them if you have back pain. These items can be heavy, so centering that load nearest to your back will allow you to keep your posture rather than making the bag front heavy.
Lastly, the ICON is designed to stand upright when you set it on the ground. This ingenious design minimizes the stress on your back even when you aren’t carrying it. With the bag propped upright at your feet, you can reach beside your desk and grab what you need. This saves you from overextending to pick up your fallen backpack before retrieving your things.
The North Face Pivoter – Budget Pick
- PIVOTER CLASSIC. We designed the Pivoter, our classic on-campus pack, with the input of students. It stands up on its own for easy loading and comes with simplified internal organization, and it's endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.
- FLEX VENT TECHNOLOGY. The FlexVent suspension system features a flexible yoke built from custom injection-molded shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel and a breathable lumbar panel for comfortable, ventilated support.
- TOTAL ORGANIZATION. A front external stash pocket provides quick access and holds a jacket. Two external water bottle pockets. A front compartment simplifies organization while maintaining essential storage features.
- CAMPUS READY. A huge main compartment holds all your books and binders needed for a day on campus and contains a padded laptop sleeve to protect your computer from bumps and falls.
- TECH SPECS. Dimensions: 11" x 8.5" x 18" (27.9cm x 21.6cm x 45.7cm). Laptop Sleeve: 11.5" x 11" (29.2cm x 27.9cm). Volume: 28 L. Fabric: 600D recycled polyester or 300D heathered polyester with a DWR finish depending on colorway.
The North Face Pivoter is a great backpack for everyday use that is ergonomically designed and available at a fair price. The North Face engineered the Pivoter to be gender-specific, with both men’s and women’s options available.
The Pivoter features The North Face’s own FlexVent technology in its suspension system. A flexible yoke consisting of molded shoulder straps, a cushioned back panel, and a lumbar panel. To the layman’s eyes, this looks like multiple sectioned pads split by one center column, with a larger lumbar pad at the bottom. These pads have small channels in between them to achieve a flexible fit.
The North Face Pivoter has many organizational pockets. This allows you to pack your belongings in a way that evens out the load and disperses the weight across your back. A laptop pocket is located at the back of the backpack to keep the weight at the backpack’s core.
Any extra weight can be a strain on your back. This backpack is extremely lightweight, weighing in at only 1 pound and 12 ounces. Additionally, a sternum strap helps you to achieve a more comfortable fit.
Like the Incase ICON, the North Face Pivoter stands on its own. You can set this bag down at the foot of your desk without worrying about it falling over, causing you to bend down further to reach into it. Check our review of North Face Bags here.
- Ventilated AirSpeed Mesh backpanel with side vents maintain a comfortable fit and keep your back cool
- Integrated raincover keeps your pack and gear dry in inclement weather
- Internal hydration sleeve accommodates up to a 3L reservoir (sold separately)
- Stretch mesh side pockets for storing smaller items
- Scratch resistant organization pocket for sunglasses and electronics.Trekking pole attachment with upper compression strap capture
The Osprey Hikelite 26 is a good backpack for backpain that packs a lot of value and versatility. This pack offers several features that make it a great hiking backpack for backpain. Nonetheless, its unassuming design allows you to carry this backpack in urban settings as well.
Unlike traditional daypacks or everyday carry backpacks, the Hikelite uses a peripheral Lightwire frame, which provides more support for your back. EVA foam atop this frame makes for a comfortable contact surface against your back. And, Osprey uses their suspended-mesh Airspeed technology over the back panel to achieve greater airflow.
Lightly padded shoulder straps with breathable foam are flexible enough to mold to your shape. Upper and lower compression straps, in addition to a sternum strap, secure the load of your pack to avoid it jostling while you walk or hike.
The Osprey Hikelite also comes with a hip belt. Although it is made of relatively thin webbing, the hip belt provides the perfect amount of lower back support for a daypack. Even more, the hip belt features Osprey’s ErgoPull technology, which pulls the weight of your pack into your lumbar region. This reduces back pain by creating a more ergonomic carry.
If you’re using this pack to reduce back pain while hiking, you may find the trekking pole loops beneficial. You can place your poles in the loops and secure them under the upper compression straps. If you’re back pain flares up on the trail, you’ll have your pulls in a quick-grab location to reduce some of that stress.
Before I move on, I have to mention that the Osprey Hikelite comes with an attached rain cover. This won’t abate your back pain, but it is one of those features that increase the value of this pack. Check our Review of Osprey Bags here.
- Vented back panel features LifeSpan foam & silicone lumbar grip for a precise fit Pre-curved LifeSpan foam components for precise fit
- Removable raincover stowes in its own zippered pocket
- WeatherShield PU-coated hipbelt accessory pocket
The Gregory Baltoro 75 is your go-to backpack for long hiking trips with back pain. This is a beast of a bag, so let’s get right into it.
The support and suspension system on this bag is hard to beat. The Baltoro has a wishbone-style peripheral frame made from aluminum tubing. The frame is reinforced with anti-barrelling cross-stay panels. These panels run horizontally across the pack to prevent the frame from caving when carrying a lot of weight.
A proper frame like this pulls the weight to your pack towards your back to encourage good posture. In addition, it transfers weight down towards your hips to even out the load and prevents one area of your back from over-exerting.
The Gregory Baltoro features a Response A3 ( Auto Angle Adjust) suspension system. This system is engineered so that each shoulder strap, as well as each wing of the hip belt reacts individually to your movements. This means the backpack moves with you and not against you.
A structured foam back panel provides ergonomic comfort. And the torso length is adjustable by moving the shoulder straps up or down to different cut-out slots in the frame. This pack has significant lumbar padding at the base of its back panel with silicone grip so the pack stays in place.
Upper and lower compression straps will secure the load of your pack, making it easier and more comfortable to carry. For smaller day hikes, the pack comes with a removable daypack that has a thin hip belt.
- LARGE CAPACITY & ORGANIZED: The large backpack owns 3 spacious compartments-one separate laptop compartment fits 17 inch laptops, one main compartment roomy for daily necessities, such as clothes, notebooks, portable charger, etc. The front compartment has many small pockets, as well as pen pockets and a keychain design to keep your things organized and easier to find. The large backpack for men has 10+ pockets, including 2 side mesh pockets for water bottles and umbrellas. Size: 18"x13.5"x6.5"
- TSA APPROVED & MULTIPURPOSE: At checkpoints, the large travel backpack can be freely unfolded 90-180 degrees, allowing you to quickly pass through airport security and keep things tidy, exclusive designed for airplane travel. A luggage strap allows the traveling backpack fit on the suitcase, great for international plane travel and day trips
- PRACTICAL & CONVENIENT: External USB port with built-in charging cable conveniently charges your phone and other electronic devices (pls provide your own portable charger). A hole in the travel laptop backpack is used for the outside of the earphone, which can be used conveniently. Besides, the large laptop backpack has a sturdy handle with a steel cable on top for easy portability. Side compression straps keep the exclusive pack in any size you need
- DURABLE MATERIAL: Made of water resistant and durable polyester fabric, high-density nylon lining for better tear resistance, the heavy duty backpack with metal zippers ensures daily long lasting use. Serve you well as professional office work backpack, large USB charging bookbag and school backpack. Ideal present for back to school, graduation, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day
- COMFORTABLE: With a comfortable padded back design and thick and soft multi-panel ventilated pads, the big backpack gives you great back support. Breathable and adjustable shoulder straps relieve shoulder pressure to reduce discomfort in long packs. The backpack for men woemn will be a good partner for travel, school, work, business, etc
Looking for an affordable backpack for back pain? The Yorepek 50L Backpack is a great option.
The back panel is designed to fit ergonomically with thick padding on your shoulder blades and lumbar region. A perpendicular channel split the padding to improve comfort by increasing airflow.
The Yorepek 50L Backpack is also great for travel. A luggage strap on the back panel allows you to secure the bag to your rolling luggage. This feature reduces stress on your back by relieving you from carrying the backpack through the airport.
In addition, the backpack features a scan smart design. A scan smart design allows you to simply unzip the laptop panel and lay it flat through TSA. You’ll reduce a good amount of lifting and twisting, which may tweak your back, by not having to completely unpack your laptop.
Compression straps are located on the lower sides of the pack. These are useful to cinch your load up tight in order to keep the backpack as close to your body as possible.
- Anti-Gravity suspension - feels like you are carrying less weight than is in your pack
- Adjustable harness and Fit-on-the-Fly hipbelt to dial in perfect fit
- Front stretch mesh pocket for quick storage of rain gear or extra layers
- Removable floating top lid with dual zippered pockets and web attachment points
- Internal hydration reservoir sleeve accommodates up to a 3L reservoir (sold separately)
Comparable to the Gregory Baltoro 75, The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is a superb pack for long excursions.
The shining characteristic of this bag is its Antigravity suspension system. Osprey engineered, and improved, this innovative technology to make it feel as if your load is lighter than it is.
The suspension system is made up of a tensioned peripheral frame and an adjustable harness with a load-lifter bar that transfers your load evenly. Thick foam creates a contact surface for lasting comfort. And, a seamless layer of large cell mesh covers the back panel to optimize airflow and reduce hot spots.
The harness is adjustable, so you can customize the fit to your torso length. The adjustment system is as easy as pulling two red tabs up or down.
This is not a one-size-fits-all pack. That’s good news. When it comes to hiking packs, the more customizable the fit, the better. Sizing ranges from small to large. check our review of Osprey Atmos 65 here.
- Tech Backpack: Pack all your essentials in the 1900 ScanSmart 17-inch laptop backpack specifically designed to speed you through airport security by allowing laptop-in-case scanning
- Secure Storage: This laptop backpack for men and women features an enhanced laptop compartment with zippered access for a 17-inch laptop and a padded TabletSafe tablet pocket
- Effortless Organization: Computer bag includes a main compartment with an accordion file holder and a RFID-protected organizer compartment with a removable key/fob clip and multiple divider pockets
- Multiple Pockets: Add-a-bag trolley strap slides over telescopic handles, 1 front and 2 side quick-access pocket secure essentials, and 2 mesh side pockets accommodate water bottles and umbrellas
- Comfortable To Carry: Lay-flat laptop bag includes ergonomically contoured, padded shoulder straps, adjustable compression straps, airflow back padding, and a reinforced, molded top handle
As you may be able to gather from this review, the Scansmart design is quickly increasing in popularity in travel backpacks. This is why the Swissgear 1900 ScanSmart Laptop Backpack is one of the best bags for back pain during travel.
The Scansmart design allows you to flip open the laptop compartment without the hassle of unpacking your electronics. This TSA-approved feature prevents excessive back torsion at security checkpoints.
The back panel on this backpack is heavily padded. An airflow column in the center separates the dense foam padding.
The shoulder straps also have built-in suspension. If you can picture non-adjustable load lifters, that is exactly what this built-in suspension is. The webbing pulls up on the backpack to combat heavy loads that pull the backpack away from your body. In addition, the shoulder straps are padded and contoured for added comfort and ease of movement.
The Swissgear 1900 design features compression straps on the lower sides of the pack. It is also designed with larger compartments at the back to encourage the heaviest items to be closest to your body.
Why Do Some Backpacks Cause Pain?
Some backpacks cause back pain because they are either poorly designed or under-designed.
A common weak point of some backpacks are the shoulder straps. Poorly padded straps with no curvature to them, essentially just add a slight amount of cushion while the weight of the backpack rests on your shoulders.
Another problematic component of some backpacks is the back panel. Many backpacks have only a foam sheet in the back panel, quality backpacks that reduce back pain have so much more. Again, all-foam does is pad. It has no capabilities to transfer or transition the weight in the pack.
How Can a Quality Backpack Reduce Pain?
The best backpacks for neck pain and back pain reduce stress in three main areas: straps, back panel, and pockets.
The straps on a quality backpack are sufficiently padded and contoured to curve with your body. Shoulder straps have load lifters to secure and transition the pack’s weight higher on your back to improve posture. Additionally, a quality backpack has a hip strap or hip belt to support your lumbar region.
I mentioned earlier that quality backpacks have a lot going on in their back panel. Peripheral frames, framesheets, and breathable mesh panels are all qualities of a great backpack. A backpack does not have to have all of these components, but depending on the pack’s purpose, it should have at least one.
Lastly, organizational pockets throughout the pack are essential for proper weight distribution. Imagine if you were to carry a backpack full of rocks. Would you want them all resting at the bottom of the main pocket, or each settled in their own pocket located throughout the backpack? The latter distributes weight evenly, reducing stress and making the load feel lighter.
Remember These 3 Things
By this point, I hope you’re feeling more prepared (and less afraid) to put on a backpack if you have neck, back, or shoulder pain.
The Osprey Farpoint 55 is a great starting point. Its ergonomic and load-bearing design are more than suitable for indoor, outdoor, or travel use.
Whichever backpack you choose, remember to look for an ergonomic back panel, load-lifting and compression straps, and a hip belt. These features will most effectively reduce back pain.