Looking for the best leather backpack? Yeah, so was I. As a more adventurous traveler, this wouldn’t be my typical type of bag. But I decided to level up my style game and start researching leather backpacks as well.
The fact is, while most travel backpacks are incredibly functional and practical, they don’t always look great.
I mean, you can’t exactly walk into a trendy cocktail bar with a bright green Osprey pack and not feel a bit out of place. If I’m going somewhere a little fancier than usual, I like to bring along a nicer bag.
That’s why I love leather backpacks. They’re super versatile. You can use them for work, travel, school, and casual day-to-day life.
Not only does this Wilsons Leather Vintage Nebraska Leather Backpack have a cool vintage aesthetic, it's also super roomy. It also offers the best security thanks to the buckles and double closure system.
And best of all? Their style is timeless because leather backpacks are virtually indestructible.
There’s a reason for that too. Until 50 or so years ago, leather was the travel material of choice. And though it isn’t anymore, there’s something so incredibly charming about a leather backpack for travel.
So let’s take a look at some of my favorites.
Why Should You Invest in a High-Quality Leather Backpack?
First of all, let me get this straight for you. Given we have so many outstanding purpose-built mountaineering and trekking backpacks out there these days, I wouldn’t even think about taking a leather backpack on a proper hike.
However, for a weekender bag or carry-on backpack, a leather backpack is absolutely ideal.
They’re especially useful if you’re a photographer or digital nomad because they’re robust. They are able to hold a lot of gear. Leather has a surprising amount of give and it ages well over time. Scuff marks actually look good.
They add to that creative vibe you’re searching for.
If you want a backpack that looks good, but you don’t want to pay top dollar, a leather backpack is definitely not for you. You’ll have a hard time finding a decent quality leather backpack for under $300.
If it’s cheaper than that, it’s probably not real leather.
If you feel like a bit of a dork carrying around an ugly daypack that screams “I’M A TOURIST,” well, then a leather backpack might be exactly what you’re looking for.
I’m going to show you the best leather backpacks for travel for both women and men. I’ll show you how to sort the best leather travel backpacks from ones that are probably better off staying home (or in the warehouse).
The main things you want to look for in a good leather backpack for travel are:
It’s not faux leather.
That it can fit a laptop in a purpose-made section.
Of course, you want it to be comfortable and secure too. You’ll want buckles. I’ll run through a few things to look out for so you can be sure your leather backpack fits well and keeps your stuff safe.
Side note: Perhaps you like the look of leather, but you don’t like that it’s made from cow skin?
That’s fair enough, but you’re in luck. These days, you don’t have to settle for lesser quality, vinyl-based faux leather. There are a lot of brands producing really good synthetic leathers, as well as plant-based leather.
Plant-based leather is made from everything from seaweed to kombucha SCOBYs. Crazy, right? Do read on. I will also show you the best faux leather backpack on the market as of 2019.
Let’s dive into my picks for the best leather backpacks for travel as of 2019.
It’s the perfect leather travel backpack if you want that retro-feel but you need to travel with your tech.
I’ve weighed up all of the leather backpacks in this list. While they are all excellent backpacks, The Nebraska takes the prize for the best leather backpack for travel.
I’m a sucker for that vintage aesthetic. I’ve purchased many retro bags, but their lack of purpose-made space for tech has always been a problem. I also think this bag offers the best security thanks to the buckles and double closure system.
A very roomy backpack with lots of storage space in the main compartment
Vintage rugged design meets tech — a laptop sleeve is a must!
Buckled top flap combined with the drawstring closure makes this bag pickpocket-safe
Zippable large interior pocket
Fits snugly under a plane seat
This bag may not be big enough if you’re a heavy packer and you’re going anywhere for longer than a weekend
Straps are light on the padding, making it okay for a small load but your back will get fussy if you’re carrying a heavy camera
ISM makes tech-focused leather backpacks sans the luxury price tag. The company’s bags are made in the same factory, with the same materials as many of the top-of-the-line luxury bags on the market. With The Backpack,
you’re getting pretty much the same luxury product, at three to five times cheaper.
It’s not just the price point that makes the ISM pack a great leather backpack for men, or even women, however.
They’ve adopted the hyper-functionality of other tech bags, minus the clutter of all the unnecessary zippers and contraptions that they often come with. They’re specifically made for digital freelancers/nomads who love functional simplicity. That definitely sounds like me, what about you?
ISM also takes comfort seriously. That’s why their backpack straps echo the excellent support and comfort provided by hiking backpacks.
The ISM backpack comes in large and small. They’re not THAT much different in size. Go for the large one if you’re taller, or if you want to travel for a weekend or longer with a laptop. If you’re shorter than 5”5’, go for the small size.
It’s great for light-carry commuting and day trips. I love that you can keep your laptop separate from everything else. It’s simple but effective.
Excellent organization and compartmentalization
The pass-through flap makes it super easy to keep your phone charging AND easily accessible
The modern, sleek design is very appealing, ideal for all you minimalists out there
Made with highly durable, quality materials
The unisex frame suits almost everyone
The back external pocket does not make for easy access – a side pocket would have been better
It’s pretty rigid and doesn’t have much give when overfilled
Leatherology is a luxury bag company based in Texas. They do everything, from design to production in-house, so you know you’re getting an excellent product that has undergone a ton of quality testing.
Leatherology makes a huge range of timeless leather products for both women and men, including everything from coin holders to full-sized leather travel backpacks. If it’s leather, they make it.
Its organization is excellent. There are two huge zippered main compartments and a front zippered outside compartment. Its many pockets include a laptop pocket for slim tech up to 17 inches, 2 x 2-inch exterior side pockets for chargers and keys, and another small exterior zip pocket.
If you’re looking for a soft leather backpack for women, then the Leatherology Parker Backpack
is a good choice for you. It comes in a range of black leather and brown leather shades, and it’s pretty versatile.
Made with soft leather, making this a very comfortable bag to use
Available in Black Onyx, Cognac, Brown, Ginger, Taupe, Navy, and Charcoal
Very spacious inside — you can easily fit a water bottle and change of clothes
Keeps your tech separate from everything else
Ideal bag for frequent flyers as it fits perfectly under an airline seat
Personalized monogram service is not that expensive
It’s definitely on the expensive side for a travel backpack
There are more durable options — the soft leather is beautiful but it’s not as durable as other sturdier bags
No warranty (at such a high price, I’d expect something)
While still high quality, the leather grain is variable in look
ONA was founded in NYC back in 2010. They design stylish, highly-functional backpacks, especially for creative professionals and freelancers. Their designs are timeless too, so one of their leather backpacks should last you a lifetime.
This black leather backpack is primarily a tech backpack with removable dividers for when you want to use it as an everyday travel daypack. The main has room for a DSLR and up to 5 lenses, as well as a 13-inch laptop. It also offers a specially designed area to keep your personal items.
Better yet, it’s secure with a buckle fastening system. Each compartment has its own access point so you’re not constantly rooting around for your belongings.
Its sleek design suits the tastes of both men and women.
Perfect size for carry-on luggage and will slip right under the seat of the plane
Lots of room for tech storage, dedicated room for personal items, and each compartment has its own access point
Air mesh back panel is a great addition if you want to take some cameras to a humid climate and hate being sweaty
Double closing system that includes a zipper and buckle for ultimate security
Not very much room for personal items if you’re using the backpack to store a camera — it’s really only for small things like a wallet and phone, not clothes
Who doesn’t want a brown leather backpack? They’re beautiful, and they’re vintage-looking (and they’re available in black leather if you prefer that look).
This one has that vintage style that I love so much. I am also obsessed with the water-resistant rolltop too. It makes me want to get up from this desk right now and go for a hike through the Tirol.
This one is the most unique backpack, and it offers great little details like side access. You also get some much-needed room in order to store your travel or adventure tech, including a 15-inch laptop. It’s perfect for carry-on and commuting.
The Heritage Rolltop is definitely for you if you want to stand out from the crowd with a striking brown leather backpack.
The rolltop look of this backpack is very unique — I love the retro vibe, and I think you will too
This is the only backpack on this list to offer side access, which is very handy when you need to grab something closer to the bottom of your backpack
Everything about this bag is durable, and the full-grain leather is the kind they use to make horse riding bridles
Brass buckles are way more secure than zips
Great online customer service with free domestic shipping, a 25-year warranty, AND a 30-day money-back guarantee
No lifetime warranty, despite most other packs in this list of a lesser price have a lifetime warranty
Buckles are more secure than zips, but they’re a pain to use if you’re in a hurry
It’s a very slim bag, so you won’t be fitting any cameras in there
At 3 pounds, it’s pretty heavy and can weigh you down over the course of a day
Pad & Quill Heritage Rolltop Leather Laptop Backpack Specs:
Monte & Coe is an ethically-run, family business based in Toronto. They started up in 2012. The company makes handmade, limited-production leather bags made with sustainable Italian wool and full-grain Italian leather. They’re some of the best natural materials available.
Due to the small-batch numbers of their products, their quality control is outstanding and they keep their waste to a minimum, too. As they make their bags locally in Canada, you can be sure their workers make a fair wage.
The Camden is a women’s leather backpack purse. It’s a hybrid between a weekender backpack and a small commuter bag. If you’re looking for a beautiful leather backpack that you can slip under an airplane seat, or use around town, this might be the best leather backpack for you.
While it’s by no means big, this backpack is a good size if you’re a light packer and you just want to carry around the essentials, plus a laptop. It has a handy side panel pocket for your keys, wallet, phone combo. It also comes in some exquisite color variations, including Muted Black, Olive Green, and Ox Blood.
Extremely stylish bag with lots of color varieties
The leather gives the Monte & Coe Camden Backpack tons of structure and stability
Decent amount of storage and the padded laptop pocket is a nice addition to a fairly small backpack
The combined leather drawstring and brass buckle double the security of this bag
Big zippable interior pocket
VERY expensive for a carry-on backpack, but it’s still more affordable than designer brands
It’s lacking on the exterior pocket front (I usually like at least two pockets on the outside)
Photographers beware: it’s too small to comfortably fit a camera
Monte & Coe Camden Backpack Specs:
12.75” L x 6.25” W x 16” H
Italian full-grain leather, sustainable Italian wool, denim, cotton, brass
Wilsons Leather has been around since 1899 when they started leather production in Minneapolis. Wilsons Leather took their present form in 1988 when they headed west and applied some California-cool to their brand. Just like 120 years ago, everything they make is still handcrafted and built-to-last.
Wilsons Leather collaborated with fashion designer Kenneth Cole to produce the Reaction Modern,
a beautiful black faux leather backpack.
It can be hard to come across a good quality faux leather backpack. However, if you’re vegan or you just don’t like the idea of animal skin, this is a good faux leather backpack for you.
Personally, if I were to buy a faux leather backpack, I would usually go for something made of plant-based leather. This one is made of synthetic coated nylon, but it’s of such high quality, sturdy nylon, that I could barely tell the difference.
It’s also ideal for digital nomads. This backpack’s main compartment has two gusseted tech pockets, a tablet pocket, and a 15-inch laptop pocket. The thick, padded shoulder straps and the padded back panel make this bag wearable all day long, and the front zipper pocket has RFID blocking technology for extra security.
So, despite the synthetic material, the Reaction Modern still gets a big thumbs up from me.
Perfect bag for the digital nomad with a lot of tech storage
Fits a laptop of up to 15 inches, while most of the other backpacks on this list only fit a 13-inch laptop
Very secure with RFID tech AND a double locking mechanism
While the quality is good, this backpack is still made of nylon — I’d prefer to see bigger companies like WIlsons Leather try out plant-based faux leathers.
Wilsons Leather x Kenneth Cole Reaction Modern Backpack Specs:
Yet another Wilsons Leather product on this list. The Continental is perfect if you’re looking for a women’s small leather backpack that you can sling over your shoulders and take on-the-go. This one is very casual and more of a satchel that you put over your shoulders. It’s perfect for day wear.
For a small bag, the Continental Backpack has great organization. Its three-section interior features two zippered compartments, two accessory sleeves, and one open compartment with a zippered pocket and card slot.
Unlike the rest of the backpacks on this list, the Continental Backpack
is made of sheep leather. Yes, this actually exists.
Sheep leather is generally softer and smoother than cowskin leather, and it is more lightweight.
Just like wool, sheepskin leather also contains lanolin. This is a natural oil present in sheepskin. It helps the leather self-preserve and stays nicely conditioned for many years.
If you want a small backpack made from extra-soft leather, this one is for you.
Super soft leather that is self-conditioning, helping your bag stay wrinkle-free for longer
Versatile design that can be used as a backpack or a tote
Comes in red and black leather
This backpack is not very secure, and the snap closure can easily be opened by pickpockets
No space for a laptop, but you probably wouldn’t want this anyway if you’re looking for a small backpack
Digital nomads know how important carrying a laptop is.
The ONA’s Clifton is a great leather laptop backpack for creatives on-the-move. It’s especially good for those who need to carry cameras too. I’m one of those people, so it’s only natural that I love this leather backpack.
But here’s what I like the most.
It’s exceptionally comfortable for long days on the move.
Having a completely separate laptop compartment in a leather backpack is a wonderful addition for us digital nomads out there. Plus, there is still plenty of room for all your other tech. It’s also a breath of fresh air to see a camera bag made of natural materials.
Photographers take note: this bag holds between 4-6 lenses, but if you want to take other personal items (like clothes), go for the ONA The Camp’s Bay backpack instead. It’s not leather, so it doesn’t fit on this list, but I highly recommend it for its better use of space.
There’s a ridiculous amount of room for technology
Keep your laptop separate from everything else for better organization and security
The front compartment keeps all the odds and ends like chargers and pens within easy reach
The air mesh padding keeps you comfy and stops your back from sweating
Comes in Black, Antique Cognac, Smoke, and Camouflage colors
It can’t fit everything — if the backpack is loaded with camera gear, there is little to no room for clothes
No locking capability or buckles, so it can be an easy target for thievesIt can only fit a 13-inch laptop but a 15-inch capacity would suit a wider group of people
A leather backpack is the perfect travel companion if you want to look a little cooler than all of the other backpacking jokers out there.
You’re never going to find a full-size trekking backpack made of leather, but if you’re looking for a day backpack or overnighter that has a bit of cool factor, then a leather backpack is ideal for you.
While leather backpacks look great, don’t choose one based on aesthetics alone. To get the most out of a leather backpack for travel, you want to make sure it’s small enough to slide under an airplane seat, that it can carry a change of clothes, and that it can fit a laptop (preferably in a purpose-built sleeve).
What Actually Makes a Leather Backpack for Travel the BEST?
There’s no catch-all leather travel backpack that will suit everyone. We’ve all got different needs. However, there are a few things I strongly suggest you look out for when choosing a leather backpack.
Genuine Leather or a GOOD Faux Leather
It goes without saying that if you want a leather backpack, you want to make sure it is actually leather. Leather is an expensive material thanks to its incredible quality and durability. Whether you go for a soft or a rigid style, a good leather backpack should last you several lifetimes.
When you’re making your purchase, triple check with a salesperson or in the description that the backpack is genuine and/or full-grain leather.
There are some unscrupulous people out there though. So, here’s what I think. If the price seems too good to be true, it’s probably not real leather.
If you want the leather look without the cow, then a good quality faux leather backpack is what you need.
Rather than going for a cheap vinyl-based faux leather, look for some of the new faux leathers out there that are made of plant materials. Leathers made from seaweed and other tough, fibrous materials are almost as durable as real leather, and they look way better than cheap, faux materials.
If you can’t find any like that, go for something a little on the higher end of the pricing scale. Something like the Wilsons Leather/Kenneth Cole Reaction Modern Backpack uses synthetic materials but they’re still very robust and high-quality.
If you want to take a leather backpack traveling, it’s important that it can be secured.
I personally avoid zips on a daypack. In fact, the only reason I didn’t choose the ONA Cliften Leather Backpack is that it only has zippers. This is especially true if I’m going somewhere a little dangerous. Plus, who wants to spoil their beautiful, expensive leather backpack with a big, ugly padlock?
Instead, the best leather backpacks for travel have a double closing mechanism. I like leather backpacks that have a drawstring AND a buckling system. Many of them that I mentioned have this function.
While a genuine leather backpack might suggest you have a ton of money, at least a buckle system will be a good line of defense against pickpockets.
The thick leather is way harder to slash than some synthetic materials that other backpacks are made from too. That’s a bonus.
Leather backpacks aren’t exactly a new phenomenon, but older backpacks don’t have tech pockets. These days, it’s pretty much impossible to travel without at least a tablet, but you definitely need a laptop if you’re a digital nomad like me.
When you’re looking for a leather backpack for travel, make sure the backpack has a separate compartment where you can store a laptop.
If it has a place to keep a camera, you’re looking at a leather backpack that’s better than the best.
As you will get most of the use of your leather backpack as a day bag, organization is super important, especially external organization.
The best leather backpacks will have a few external pockets where you can keep small, day-to-day items like chargers and keys.
There should also be at least one internal pocket with a zip so you can stash away the more valuable items you’re likely to carry around while traveling.
While the comfort of a leather backpack for travel isn’t as important as a trekking backpack, you still want to make sure it fits well. The best leather backpacks offer adjustability and breathability.
Look for adjustable, thick shoulder straps that are well-padded. Bonus points if they are padded with breathable foam. The same goes for the back panel.
Another important thing to look out for is the placement of the mandatory laptop sleeve. Make sure it sits right at your back. This will maximize comfort.
You don’t want to end up with a leather backpack that’s too big for carry-on luggage requirements.
When you’re choosing between backpacks, make sure they are under 20 inches in height. This should set you up to carry your bag onto any flight in the world.
Final Thoughts on the Best Leather Backpacks
A leather backpack is a fantastic way to spice up your look if you’re sick of feeling disheveled on your travels. Leather backpacks are also super durable. Some leather objects have been buried in the earth for 1000 years and have been dug out of the ground semi-usable.
If you get a good backpack, there’s a good chance you’ll pass it down to your grandkids one day. And that’s pretty awesome in my eyes.
However, quality and durability come at a price. For a genuine, high-quality leather backpack with a tech sleeve and a few pockets, you’re definitely going to spend upwards of $300. This is considerably more than even some of the best and biggest trekking backpacks on the market.
So, be aware of prices when deciding.
Your Search for the Best Leather Backpack Is Over
It was tough for me to choose the best leather backpack for travel. All of the backpacks I’ve spoken about here have unique features and they all look good.
So I put it down to a personal favorite.
Based on aesthetics and functionality, my favorite leather backpack for travel is the Wilsons Leather Vintage Nebraska Leather Backpack
. The vintage look is a major selling point for me, and I love the increased security of the buckles. On top of that, it has a well-placed laptop sleeve.
There was a very close runner up though, so another leather backpack gets a special mention here.
If you want something a little sleeker and more modern, a black leather backpack is for you. In that case, I’d go for the ONA Monterey Backpack. It has the functionality of a tech gear bag, but I love that the makers have adopted the comfort of air mesh on the back panel and shoulder straps.
Leather backpacks are undeniably gorgeous. I can’t imagine many people wouldn’t want one. It’s understandably difficult to get caught up on the look of a leather backpack.
However, you should never make a purchase based on looks alone. You should make a checklist of “must-haves” and try out a few different packs to compare them.
A leather backpack is a big investment, so think carefully about what you need it to do!