What Are the Best Backpacks for Seniors? 

 June 1, 2023

By  Diane Wuthrich

The elderly can benefit from using a backpack as opposed to other types of bags, primarily because it can distribute weight evenly. However, there are certain age and health-related features seniors should look out for. Having said that, many seniors wonder about the right type of backpack for them.

Lightweight backpacks that are equipped with wide, padded straps are recommended for seniors. It also helps to have hip belts, sternum straps, or the option of converting them into a wheeled backpack. These features are beneficial for protecting seniors from back and shoulder pain everywhere they go.  

There are also other considerations to think about when choosing a backpack for seniors. Read on below to learn more.

Backpacks are such a great way for seniors to carry belongings around. Whether it’s for going on walks, easy hikes, or traveling, backpacks simply make it simpler and more comfortable for seniors to enjoy life while minimizing pain and injuries.

Before deciding on a backpack, think about its purpose. There are backpacks designed specifically for certain activities, so it’s important for seniors to decide the primary purpose of the backpack they are looking for. The material, capacity, weight, and other factors you choose for a pack should be influenced by the reason you’re buying the backpack in the first place.

All-around day packs or backpacks are always a good idea. These are small to medium-sized, lightweight backpacks that can be used for running errands and short walks. You can also choose from travel and hiking backpacks which are more rugged and designed to withstand more wear and tear.

Additionally, here are the features you should be looking at when shopping around for the best backpacks for seniors:


Due to weaker backs in general, it’s best for seniors to carry around light loads and that includes backpacks. As much as possible, go for backpacks that weigh under 1-2 pounds when empty so that it doesn’t contribute to the overall weight once your belongings have been packed. Not only will you be more comfortable, but a lighter load is critical for reducing injuries and pain in your back or shoulders.

Wide, padded straps

The wider the backpack strap is, the more efficient it will be when it comes to weight distribution. This is because the straps cover a larger surface area of the shoulders. On the other hand, narrow backpack straps place a lot strain on a narrow part of the shoulder, which can cause discomfort and even injury when used for long periods of time.

Thick, soft padding adds shape to the shoulder straps and makes it much more comfortable to wear. Straps should also always be adjustable which make it easy to customize the fit of your backpack.


While the general rule of thumb is to use backpacks that weigh less than 20% of your total body weight, for seniors, it should even be significantly less. If you are able to fit everything you need in a pack that weighs less than 10-15 pounds when loaded, this is ideal.

The ideal capacity for the best travel backpack for seniors would be between 10-25 liters, depending on the purpose it will be used for.

Optional Features To Consider

Water bottle holder

Having an exterior water bottle holder or compartment is ideal for short hikes, traveling, and long errands because it provides a dedicated space for a water bottle while making it easy to access. Some ultralight backpacks don’t have this features though may have ample space inside for a small water bottle.

Waterproof material

Backpacks with waterproof material are excellent for seniors who are frequently outdoors or live in a city with unpredictable weather. Some backpack models are not waterproof but do come with a hidden compartment with a rain cover, which can also do the job just fine except in the event of an extreme downpour.

If you think there is a possibility of encountering an extreme downpour, it’s always better to stay on the safe side and invest in a backpack with waterproof material for peace of mind that your belongings are always dry.

Sternum straps

Active seniors who enjoy going on hikes should consider backpacks with sternum straps. These straps, which are designed to be connected across the chest, are effective in dispersing backpack weight as well as reducing pressure from the shoulders.

Hip belt

The best travel backpack for seniors who are active will include a hip belt, whose job is to redistribute the load from the shoulders to the hips. They may come attached to the backpack or may be removable for added versatility.

Some hip belts are designed with small pockets which are useful for storing small belongings including a smartphone, sunscreen, and snacks. Seniors who suffer from arthritis, neck, and shoulder pains will greatly benefit from the presence of a hip belt.

Wheeled backpacks

Being able to convert your backpack into a wheeled suitcase is a useful feature that many seniors would appreciate. This is a versatile feature that will protect your back when you no longer want to carry it from your shoulders. Wheeled backpacks are also a terrific option for travelers since it’s more convenient to switch from backpack to rolling suitcase when going through various modes of transport in other countries such as airplanes, trains, and cars.

Backpack Recommendations for Seniors

Daypack Backpack

Oakley Vigor Backpack: The Oakley Vigor Backpack is made from recycled, lightweight material that is designed to last many years. In addition, the material is also water repellent, making it a great choice to accompany you during your excursions.

Because of its versatile and flexible design, the Oakley Vigor Backpack can accommodate seniors with varying needs. It also comes with adjustable shoulder and chest straps so that you can easily customize its fit and comfort.

Travel Backpack

Columbia ZigZag 18L Backpack: If you are looking for a small travel backpack that doubles as an every day pack, look no further: the Columbia ZigZag 18L Backpack has got you covered. This is a popular model used on the trails for day hikes as well as for travel, and it’s equipped with a front pocket and a laptop sleeve too.

The foam back padding gives seniors added comfort and support, while the side pockets can fit small water bottles. It is both functional and high-performance; this is one of the best travel backpacks out there for seniors.

Hiking Backpack

The North Face Women’s Jester 27L Backpack: As the perfect everyday backpack and travel pack, The North Face Women’s Jester 27L Backpack ticks all the right boxes: you will be comfortable thanks to the padded mesh back panel as well as shoulder straps, allowing you to carry more without feeling the weight on your shoulders.

It helps you stay organized because of all the appropriate compartments both inside and out. This backpack also comes with an adjustable sternum strap and a padded top handle for extra comfort and versatility, making it a must-have for seniors.

Wheeled Backpack

Samsonite Wheeled Backpack: Older travelers will appreciate the features of the Samsonite Wheeled Backpack. When worn as a backpack, the padded back panel provides extra protection from scrapes that may be caused by items packed inside. It also comes with an ice pick pull handle which adds to its versatility especially while traveling.

Inside, the main compartments provides generous space for all your travel essentials. Switch from backpack to wheeled luggage at any time with ease; this is highly recommended for senior travelers. 


Backpacks are a terrific way for seniors to travel around without compromising health and safety. With all the excellent options out there, you can certainly find one that best suits your lifestyle.

About the author

Diane is our head writer and researcher for our backpack informational content. Her everyday carry is a Herschel.

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