Why Are Backpacks Expensive? (Explained)

If you’re a student of any age, a backpack is a true necessity for the school year. When you’re in the market for a new backpack, it can be a challenge to find the right one that fits your price point. You may find yourself wondering why backpacks are expensive, and there may actually be several reasons.

In truth, you can find backpacks in nearly any price range from around $20 up to hundreds of dollars. Of course, the cost of the backpack is determined by various factors, including its style, size, materials, and any extra features it may have.

For a more thorough discussion of backpack pricing, read on below!

Why Backpacks are Expensive

What Are Backpacks Made Of?



Typically, an all-leather backpack will be more expensive than a synthetic fabric counterpart. Especially if you’re purchasing a bag made from top-of-the-line full-grain leather, you can expect to pay more of a premium.

Full-grain leather is more expensive because it is very durable, comfortable, and soft. It also resists water, mold, and mildew. Finally, leather ages more gracefully than other fabrics. This will help it to stay in top shape over time.

Nylon/Rip-stop nylon

Nylon/Rip-stop nylon

Another high-end fabric that you may see in more expensive backpacks is rip-stop nylon. This is even more durable than standard nylon, as it’s woven in a specific crosshatched style for extra reinforcement and strength.

Because of its durability, ripstop nylon is often found in hiking and camping backpacks. Nylon overall is very lightweight, resilient, smooth, static-resistant, and is often coated for waterproofing.

Cotton canvas

Cotton canvas

Backpacks made of 100% cotton will have a harder time with moisture retention and may not be as durable. Cotton canvas, however, is a mixture of cotton and linen and is very easy to clean. This fabric is durable and long-lasting and will likely have a middle-of-the-road price point. Keep in mind that cotton fades in sunlight.



Polyester is inexpensive and well-known for its ability to dry quickly and to resist fading. It resists wrinkling and creasing also. While it is not as lightweight, as breathable, or as durable as nylon, it is less heavy than leather and will be much less costly.

Cordura (polyamide)

Cordura (polyamide)

Cordura, which is nylon with cotton, is becoming rarer these days, but you can still find it if you’re looking for an ultimate rugged backpack that will withstand dirt, water, and abrasions. The downsides are that it’s heavier and more cumbersome to carry around, as well as being more expensive.



This is an inexpensive fabric that is essentially a type of woven cotton that resists ripping and is simple to clean. However, keep in mind that it is not waterproof and retains moisture. Denim is easy to spot by its unique jeans-like appearance.



Polypropylene is an inexpensive type of plastic material that is less commonly found but is very waterproof and easily cleaned. These backpacks are also lightweight and relatively durable, although they will fade in the sun.



PVC is a durable, bright fabric that is both waterproof and dries very quickly. It is inexpensive and lightweight but has more of a cheap appearance, as the fabric is shiny and gets dirty fast. It is also less durable.

Along with fabric, consider the zipper closures. YKK metal zippers are more durable and resist snagging, while plastic zippers will be less expensive but more frustrating to use.


Generally, you will find school-appropriate backpack sizes in the range of 10 to 40 liters. Typically, the larger the volume, the more expensive it will be, as more fabric was needed to construct it. When purchasing a backpack, always ask yourself how much you need to carry to determine how large of a size you need.

Here is a video showing a comparison of some commonly found backpack sizes, which demonstrates how much each size can hold:

Extra Features

The more features the backpack has the higher its price. These extra features may include lockable zippers; added padding in the straps; waterproofing; additional pockets for storing your phone, keys, wallet, and other necessities; a laptop compartment; wheels; magnetic flaps; water bottle pockets along the sides; USB charging ports, and much more.

Just because a backpack has these features, though, that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank. You can compromise in some areas if certain features are more important depending on your needs and your specific style.


Some backpacks will cost more simply because of brand recognition. Before making your purchase, make sure to research the brand to see if the higher price is worthwhile. Maybe the company includes a lifetime warranty, or maybe they provide information about durability or temperature testing to show how resilient their backpacks are.

How much do backpacks cost?

Here is a chart showing the typical average cost and approximate price range of specific backpack types. While there are outliers and deviations from these price points, this is usually what you will find for a standard backpack of any given type.

Backpack TypeAverage CostApproximate Price Range

How much should you pay for a backpack?

How much you personally should pay for a backpack depends on your budget. After you determine how much you want to spend, start thinking about what you’re going to use the backpack for and what you need it to carry.

Do you carry heavy books with you all day? You’ll probably want to prioritize size and comfort. Consider getting a backpack with wheels or very padded shoulder straps. These features may add cost but will probably be worth it in the long run.

Do you need a laptop sleeve? Do you carry water with you? How much of a commute do you have? Do you need your backpack to lock? What about water resistance? How many pockets do you need? All of these are important questions and will determine what you should prioritize when comparing the cost of different backpack models.

Are expensive backpacks worth it?

Expensive backpacks may indeed be worth it if you consider the cost over time. Replacing a cheaper backpack each school year may end up being more costly than buying one higher-end backpack once.

Also, more expensive backpacks may be more versatile. You may find that your ripstop nylon backpack is durable enough for both commuting to college as well as hiking on the trails. This way, you will only need to buy one backpack and use it for both purposes.

No matter which backpack you end up choosing, ideally it should be within your price range, comfortable, and relatively durable.

Here is a video discussion of how to choose a backpack:


The price of your backpack depends on many factors, such as its capacity, style, materials, branding, and any extra features it has. Prioritize what’s most important by evaluating what you’ll use the backpack for and if the added features, style, comfort, and durability are worth paying extra.

Leave a comment below if you have any other thoughts on choosing a backpack!