My top 6 sustainable backpacks

By now you’ll know I like to hang on to things. Why? Because I hate throwing things away that I know will go to landfill and just clutter up the beautiful world we live in, even before any horrible emissions are released through some process of non-bio degradation. But also, it’s my way of resisting this throwaway culture and showing those around me that you can in fact keep on keeping on with old stuff.

So, I hang on to things for as long as I can. If it’s broken, I’ll fix it or have someone else fix it. I treat all my clothes and personal items with as much care as a working mother to a teen and toddler can be!

But when my trusty second-hand backpack (already featuring a few quick fixes) was mauled to near oblivion by our sausage dog, Walter, I had to admit defeat. Besides you could practically see through the bottom. It was, quite literally, a dog’s breakfast.

So, after trying to resurrect it unsuccessfully, and having had no luck in finding the perfect pack in the local charity shops, I’ve decided see what ethical, sustainable long-lasting backpacks are out there.

The criteria – It should fit a laptop, my lunch box/bag, a diary, two phones, possibly a wetbag (for toddler accidents) ready to go, and water bottle. I love local or close to local too so probably prefer Kiwi and Aussie faves. Also, my husband should feel comfortable wearing it too.

One: The Beekeeper Parade backpack $$Sustainable Backpack beekeeper
I discovered this Aus brand a few years ago. I just love the story and the colours. They use upcycled high quality discarded fabrics, that they turn into beautiful, functional bright bags, including backpacks, weekenders, and accessories.

They also run BabyTree Projects, a charity the founder and his sister founded together to fight for children’s rights and to bring quality education to children in rural Cambodia, where they are originally from.

Don’t know if hubby will wear this one, but there are plenty of other options.

TWO: Kathmandu day packs $$Backpack Tote Kathmandu
These New Zealand pioneers of outdoor sports gear have really lifted their game in the last few years around environmental responsibility (tip for Kathmandu – don’t put these gems of info under the banner corporate responsibility. It’s an outdated term that people don’t seek for when wanting to know your ethical and sustainable credentials).

Anyway…They partner with conservation organisations and initiatives to reduce and mitigate waste and fibre microbeads. They use responsibly grown cotton and wool, down, plus recycled cotton and polyester.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 3.47.51 PM.png

Kathmandu also score well for worker’s rights through the Baptist World Aid report/Tearfund Ethical Report, which is heavily focussed on ethics in the manufacture supply chain.

I like this one above because it’s a tote too, or this one because hubby can use it too! Both use recycled materials. Apparently 17 bottles can go into a backpack!! Brilliant! They have 3,900,000 plastic bottles upcycled across their product range.

THREE: Kånken backpack by Fjällräven $$$
I’ve gone off shore for this one with a Swedish outdoor clothing company.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 3.55.18 PM.png

Like Kathmandu’s packs, these are are made from polyester recycled from 11 plastic bottles. They are dyed with SpinDye technology that uses less water, energy, and chemicals in production.

It looks like the right size and what I love – it has a removable seat pad! I really like the colours too, and I know it’s a sturdy brand. It is a little bit more pricy though than the packs already mentioned.

FOUR: Smateria – Kiwi brand, made in Cambodia $
I know Smateria for its hand bags. Although it’s not really my style, the COMMA backpack has caught my eye, and I like their ethics.

Great functionality with options – roll it up, side pocket for a smaller device – and the sturdy, slimline design with padded straps.Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 3.15.04 PM.png

Smateria bags are Italian-designed and handmade by Cambodian artisans using repurposed materials such as netting, vinyl and leather, and recycled plastic shopping bags.

The price is good too!

Let’s get onto the pretty ones!!

FIVE: Duffle & Co. $$$$
I like that this Bradley Backpack from Duffle & Co. is a bit smarter looking than just functional, however I couldn’t take it hiking, and it’s leather, and I generally reserve leather for shoes only.

Screen Shot 2019-04-21 at 3.13.31 PM.pngBut I want to share about Duffle & Co, because they are a very cool Kiwi brand doing great things. They are transparent about suppliers who are small craft businesses, are ethical and support Kiwi charities including KiwiHarvest (rescuing good food before it goes to waste and giving it to Kiwis in need) and Million Metres (working with community groups and landowners to raise enough funds to replant one million metres of waterway with native plants and trees).

They also create accessories in pinatex (that pineapple leather that’s so cool!) and canvas.

SIX: Matt & Nat from Australia $$

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 4.35.32 PMThe flip side to leather!

Matt & Natt is ideal for vegans. I was a vegan once, a long time ago, and so I empathise and can’t help taking notice of vegan products. Matt & Nat are well established and their style is smart.

The backpacks are beautiful – look at this one!

Some also double as handbags, and when zipped down fold open to fit a small laptop.



The old me would have bought three from this list, but nowadays it’s all about being minimal and smart about choices. It’s a very tough choice between Beekeper Backpacks – price, story, fun limited edition designs – and Kathmandu – longevity. Both points for style and sustainability, although Beekeper is a sustainable/ethical brand first, whereas Kathmandu is an outdoor brand becoming more sustainable, and I often prefer to support those who have gone out on a limb to be good from the start.

What do you think?




2 thoughts on “My top 6 sustainable backpacks

  1. Sharmon 🍃 The Road to Ethical says:

    Some really good choices. I love the bananas and other fun designs, but i suppose it’s not really practical for everyday. Kathmandu has a different more modern style that I like a little more. While Beekeeper definitely wins points for starting out ethical, I think it says a lot when a company is willing to rework everything that they’ve been doing in order to do things better. It’s a hard choice. I think I’d be leaning towards Kathmandu though.


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