Exploring the world and getting out into nature is something that many of us enjoy. However, depending on how long you expect to be out for, you may need to take a significant amount of equipment with you. But don’t let this put you off; provided that you have the right gear to carry everything, you’ll be comfortable and your belongings will be secure.
A rolltop backpack is a specific type of backpack that offers a simple design and lightweight nature that is perfect for hiking and camping. They are typically much more streamlined than other types of bag and have a closure that is similar to a dry bag; that being said, they’re not always waterproof.
In recent years, many outdoor enthusiasts have converted from the traditional Alpine-style backpack in favour of the rolltop. While they are suitable for both day hiking and overnight adventures, it is important to consider whether this type of pack is right for you. What’s more, there are so many to choose from that you must ensure you research each product before making a commitment.
Latest update: April 2021
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What Are The Benefits Of A Roll Top Backpack?
There are a lot of ways that you might find a rolltop backpack to be advantageous but as we mentioned earlier, they may not be suitable for everyone. If you like something with a lot of additional compartments and storage pockets then you probably won’t get on with the rolltop. Furthermore, people who prefer a water bottle over a hydration pack might be better avoiding the rolltop as almost always, they require a hydration pack.
But let’s not focus on the downsides because, as we know, there are a lot of plus points to these handy outdoor accessories.
Since rolltop backpacks do not have a lot of compartments and don’t typically use zips, you will find that they are much more durable. Quite often, the part of a backpack that goes first is the zip while the rest of the bag remains in perfect condition.
- Anyone who likes to take a more minimalist approach to their expeditions will likely fall in love with the rolltop backpack. Unlike some of the more traditional styles, there are a lot less straps which means that you won’t have to go through quite as much of a palava to get the backpack on or take it off again.
- One of the biggest advantages of the rolltop backpack is that it can be adjusted to meet your needs. If you are heading out on a day adventure, you can roll the top down much further to give you a smaller volume. Similarly, if you need much more space, you can achieve this and still be left with enough excess fabric to roll down and secure the contents.
- In line with the above point, rolling down the top to close the backpack means that the contents will be much more compressed and compact which can make everything easier to carry.
- Rolltop backpacks have large openings which makes it easier to put in bigger items without struggling as well as being able to get a better view of the contents.
- While a rolltop backpack is the ideal way to carry your things when out exploring, it can also be used for day to day needs such as going to work, school, or running errands.
The Top 10 Best Rolltop Backpacks
Whether you are looking for something simple and easy to use for a short afternoon hike or need something that is a little more heavy duty, there are rolltop backpacks to suit everyone. What’s more, there are typically many different styles so you can express your own style on the hiking trails. With this in mind, let’s take a look at our top picks.
OUR TOP PICK
There were a lot of rolltop backpacks that stood out to use but none were quite as adept in every aspect as the Johnny Urban one. This is a relatively new brand from Germany that prides itself on bringing quality products that are extremely functional. In the case of this backpack, you will benefit from its waterproof design, coated in PVC, which makes it ideal for outdoor adventures. Not all backpacks of this kind have this feature so if you find one that does, you’re on the right track.
Moreover, while the Johnny Urban rolltop backpack does have a very minimal design, it is surprisingly versatile. If you’re not trekking through the wilds, this is the perfect work bag thanks to the 15.6” laptop compartment. Now, this is standard in most rolltop backpacks so it's not exclusive to the brand but it is a nice touch.
If you’re looking for something durable then you won’t go far wrong with this backpack. It is made from 500D tarpaulin which is strong and resistant to most wear and tear. But comfort hasn’t been ignored and the straps and back are fully padded.
What we really loved about this rolltop backpack was that, for everything you get, you might expect this to be quite high priced, but it isn’t. While the Johnny Urban backpack is by no means the most budget friendly on the market, especially since you can pick a rolltop up for under £20, the price reflects the quality perfectly.
Reflective logo for safety
Heavy at 950g
Up to 20.5 litres space
If you are willing to pay a little more, and when we say a little more, we mean double the price of the last backpack we looked at, then the Victorinox deluxe backpack will bring some incredible benefits. At more than £100, this should be considered as something of an investment but it does come with a 1 + 10 year warranty so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.
The top rolls down but is also secured by a zip and buckles for extra security which makes this ideal for everyday use, especially in busy locations where theft may be an issue. It has a variety of additional small compartments, all secured by zips and is lightweight in comparison to some products at 870g.
One of the things that really sets the bag apart from the rest is how comfortable it is to wear. It boasts an adjustable sternum strap which is not something that we noted on any of the other backpacks we reviewed. The metal adjuster on this strap also serves as a bottle opener which is great for when you are on the go and another minimal feature that puts this bag on a higher plane.
Furthermore, this backpack benefits from an excellent ventilation system. If you’re hiking in hot weather, other bags may cause you to build up quite a sweat on the back, making your outing incredibly uncomfortable. However, the Victorinox deluxe uses a 3D diamond pattern on the back to promote excellent airflow.
What’s more, the Victorinox deluxe rolltop backpack has a series of accessory cords and compression molded straps and back so that the bag takes the weight.
Not as cheap as some
Accessory cords and additional storage pockets
Choice of three colours
Adjustable sternum strap
For a family, we like the idea of a barbecue on legs. It’s not a small pack, but it does fold down for carrying around. Again, it’s stainless steel, quite sturdy and has a grill area big enough for a party.
The charcoal goes into a removable steel ‘tank’ section so that the embers aren’t choked by the ashes. The fact it’s raised up makes for more comfortable cooking.
We like the non-stick grill pan (though we haven’t so far been able to find out if this is PFOA-free). The storage areas are useful, and the whole thing weighs around 5kg
Space for your laptop
Padded back and base
Easy to clean
This mid-priced rolltop backpack has a lot to offer and while the garish branding may be enough to put you off, just take a moment to consider the functionality and you may change your mind. The Jim Bag is fully waterproof so is ideal for all weather use and could make the perfect companion for adventurers. That being said, it works just as well as an everyday bag and is marketed as being ideal for the gym.
It has a massive 33-litre capacity so would be one of the best choices for camping trips and multi-day adventures. However, this weight does come at a cost and this bag is much heavier than any of the others we have looked at weighing in at over a kilo, unloaded. But you do get a secure clip fastening to keep your belongings secure as well as two zip pockets at the front and back of the bag.
The Jim Bag comes in a choice of four colours, but as we have mentioned the brand lettering is pretty in your face. While we know that aesthetics aren’t everything, some people might find that being a walking advertisement isn’t for them. But if you can get over this fact, this is a robust, reliable and functional backpack.
33 litres of space
Fits most laptops
Getting out into nature can often mean an unpredictable environment, especially in the UK. Even if the sun is shining, you can be certain that a downpour isn’t too far on the horizon. This means that having a waterproof backpack is essential. It is even more important if you want to get your teeth into some water-based activities like fishing or kayaking. The Earth Pak is a heavy-duty waterproof backpack that won’t fail you.
It comes with internal and external pockets and splash proof zips as well as a huge main storage area. The bag comes in two sizes; 35-litre or 55-litre for those who need to take more gear with them. Now this does mean that the bag is slightly heavier, especially when you compare it to things like the Bag Base but that is the sacrifice you have to make for a bigger bag.
The Earth Pak is heavily cushioned around the shoulder straps and the back so while it may be heavy, it’s not going to cause you discomfort. The straps are also beautifully contoured to fit your body shape. It’s also incredibly functional and a lot has gone into the design to make it as convenient as possible. Take, for example, the Molle system with D-loops which can act as an anchor for when you are on a boat or camping. If all of that wasn’t enough, the bag also comes with a waterproof phone case.
Waterproof and comes with phone case
Comfortable straps and padding
Choice of 5 colours
Large main storage compartment
Compared to the Johnny Urban, the Lark Street No2 backpack is a little friendly on the wallet, but not by a staggering amount. Before we get into the plus points of this bag, we must point out that it is lacking the waterproof nature of the pack we have just discussed and that is likely why it doesn’t cost quite as much.
That being said, for general wear and light hiking use, this is an ideal backpack. It is considerably more roomy than the Johnny Urban with up to 24 litres and comes with a front and back zip compartment for smaller items or valuables. Of course, there is the laptop compartment for all standard sized laptops as well.
If you’re after something comfortable, you’ll notice that this bag is padded at the back and across the shoulders using a neoprene padding. It is an incredibly flexible backpack and comes in a choice of five colours.
If you’re concerned with being sustainable, and who isn’t in these modern times, then this is an exceptional company to choose. All of their products are produced in a responsible manner and this one is made from recycled PET bottles which is a fantastic touch and certainly acts as a huge selling point.
Padded straps and back
Large main storage area
Choice of five colours
While some people are happy to use a block colour backpack, there are others who like to make a little bit more of a statement. The problem is that there are a lot of ‘fashion’ rolltop backpacks that are great to look at but barely functional. It’s challenging to find one that has the best of both worlds but the Larkson Tropical Jungle backpack does this effortlessly.
Made from recycled PET bottles, this is a great choice for people looking for a sustainable and responsible brand. While it isn’t the biggest rolltop backpack we have ever seen at just 20 litres, this is reflected in the reasonable price. Also, when you consider that this is the same size as the Johnny Urban from the top of our list, yet you’re paying a lot less, it’s hard not to be tempted.
The Larkson backpack is water resistant with a PFC-free coating which is great for the environment,, but it is important to keep in mind that this does not make it waterproof. The key difference is that a waterproof backpack will completely resist moisture whereas a water resistant one will keep water out but only to a point. Put it this way, you’d be OK in a rain shower but don’t try submerging the bag in a river. For this reason, we would say that this is a backpack better suited to light use.
The backpack features padded straps for comfort as well as a mesh design to make it more breathable which is great news for longer hikes where you might build up a sweat.
Fits most standard laptops
Coming in a choice of pink or blue, the Ground Mind backpack might not have as much aesthetic appeal as the previous bag but it certainly offers an attractive price. For less than £20, you are getting a serious bang for your buck. While you could be forgiven for thinking that it would not offer much but you’d be surprised.
The Ground Mind is a lightweight rolltop backpack at just 680g, this is great if you are going on longer trips as you won’t be as weighed down as carrying something like the Jim Bag. What’s more, you won’t be short on space since this one comes with the standard laptop compartment as well as a selection of front pockets for all your smaller bits and pieces.
Where comfort is concerned, nothing has been omitted and you are getting compression straps to help lighten the load. The back and straps benefit from a mesh design making them more breathable, again this is great for longer hikes. If all of that wasn’t enough, the backpack comes with a USB port for charging on the go.
In busy areas, there is always a risk of theft or pickpocketing; a lot of people become complacent and don’t think that they will be a victim but you can never be too careful. The Mupack backpack has a selling point that hasn’t been evident in many of the other bags that we have seen, aside from perhaps the Victorinox. This design features a secure zip as well as the rolltop giving it that additional security. All of this for the cheapest price of any backpack we reviewed - under £20!
But its features don’t end there, the Mupack is ideal for anyone on longer adventures or who needs to carry more gear thanks to its huge 35-45-litre capacity. There are two main compartments as well as seven zip pockets so you certainly won’t be short on space. Of course, there is a laptop compartment which is apparent in most of the products we have reviewed but important nonetheless.
This rolltop backpack has the advantage of mesh straps and as we have seen, this breathability function appears often but not always. One of the other features that makes this one stand out from the crowd is the carry handle, for times when you don’t want to wear the bag in the traditional manner.
Lots of compartments
The final product we reviewed was the ITShiny travel backpack which is comparable in price to some of the more budget-friendly options on our list, but this certainly doesn’t mean that it is lacking in features. This is a water resistant backpack that is ideal for moderate use thanks to the storage that will range between 24 and 32 litres.
The backpack is made from polyester which is durable and in this case, the bag is tear-resistant so if you’re hitting a rugged or remote trail where there is a risk of being snagged, you won’t need to worry too much about damage. Even if anything did go wrong, you are covered by a one year warranty. In many of the other bags we looked at, aside from the Victorinox, warranties are not something that come as standard with these backpacks so this is a nice touch.
Much like the Mupack, the ITShiny comes with a handy USB charging port as well as a series of additional pockets. But it does not boast the amazingly cheap price and comes in at more than double the cost. Still, it is good value at just £26.99.
Only water resistant not waterproof
Bottom and front pockets
Large capacity of up to 32 litres
Mesh straps and back
A rolltop backpack is great for so many things; whether you need a bag to carry your everyday essentials on your commute, or you are looking for something to accompany you while you explore the world, they’ll come in handy. The backpacks we have looked at in this guide prove the versatility of these products, large or small, lots of pockets, waterproof and an astonishing number of designs and colours, there’s not much you can’t love about the rolltop backpack.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a rolltop backpack?
A rolltop backpack is a type of backpack that has a flap, or "roll top" closure. A rolltop bag typically consists of two pieces of fabric sewn together on three sides with an opening at the top. The opening can be secured by either rolling up one end and tucking it inside the other end, or by pulling both ends tight so that they meet and fastening them with buckles, straps, clips, snaps or zippers.
How do you pack a roll top backpack?
The answer is simple: You should always load your heaviest items in the bottom of your bag. This will prevent you from carrying a heavy weight on your back for too long and it will also help distribute weight evenly.