In this guide, you will find a selection of 5 top-rated lightweight backpacks that are perfect for visiting Scotland, whether you’re heading to the Highlands, the islands, or the cities.
Each backpack is proven to excel in particular areas and they’re neither too big nor too small. All are reasonably priced and well-made and they’re available to buy on Amazon so you can make use of their superb returns policy if you change your mind.
The 5 best lightweight backpacks to use in Scotland
Sightseeing in Scotland usually involves lots of travel if you want to make the most of your time in the country. But hiking through all those Highland landscapes and strolling through all those city streets means you’ll have to carry lots of gear with you, from cameras to spare clothes and midge repellent to maps and guide books.
All that extra baggage needs to go somewhere and there’s no better way to transport everything than a backpack. But which one should you choose?
Pick one that’s too big and you’ll have an uncomfortable load on your back that will inevitably lead to shoulder aches and sweat-soaked tops. Pick one that’s too small and you’ll never manage to fit all your gear in it. Pick the wrong material and your expensive electronics will become waterlogged when the rain starts pouring (which it almost certainly will).
If you’re heading into the great outdoors you’ll need an extra-large pack to hold everything, but the fact is most visitors are either part of an organized tour or are day-trippers who just need an easy-to-manage solution for carrying a camera, a water bottle and a guidebook or two.
The best backpacks for the majority of people, therefore, are the ones that don’t put too much pressure on your shoulders, have sturdy buckles, zips and straps, and are also durable, waterproof and lightweight.
The following list of recommended backpacks have all those features and more, plus they’re reasonably priced and they’re small enough to be easily carried but big enough to hold everything you need, with sizes ranging from 20 to 30 litres of useable space.
In a hurry? If you don’t have time to read the reviews, follow the link below to purchase my #1 recommended lightweight backpack on Amazon.
Recommended lightweight backpack for visiting Scotland: Berghaus 247 Plus.
★ Buy on Amazon ★
Top 5 recommended lightweight backpacks
#1. Berghaus 247 Plus 25L- Recommended lightweight backpack
I have to say I love Berghaus kit, mainly because every single item I’ve ever purchased from them is supremely well-made. They might be a wee bit more expensive than other brands but their gear lasts for ages, looks good, and is ultra-functional.
The Berghaus 247 Plus backpack is no exception and as I own it myself I’ve no hesitation in placing it at the number one position in this list.
To begin, the price is very reasonable at around £30 for a bag that will last you a good few years and it really does feel like a premium product, from the durable polyester fabric to the tough reinforced shoulder straps.
At 25 litres it strikes the perfect combination of compact size and useable space and it has lots of handy compartments where you can stuff cameras, maps, a waterproof jacket and everything else you need for a visit to Scotland.
Clever features include attachments to carry walking poles, a chest strap, a top grab handle and a zipped compartment to store wallets, keys and other valuables, but my favourite feature is the fact you can use it with a hydration system to quench your thirst without having to continually take it off.
Perhaps most importantly, because Berghaus has been going for so long – over 50 years in fact – they’ve got the know-how to craft their backpacks so they’re exceptionally comfortable.
You can have the most expensive backpack in the world but if it gives you backaches you’ll end up throwing it in the loft, never to be seen again.
Thankfully, the 247 Plus sits amazingly well on your shoulders and as someone that’s trudged through snow, mud and busy city streets with it I can confirm I’ve never, ever suffered with any pain. Plus, it’s remarkably immune from causing the dreaded T-shirt sweat patch when you carry it.
10/10. Well done Berghaus.
#2. Trespass Albus 30L – Best general use backpack
Trespass is another British (actually Scottish, to be precise) brand that has been going for years and they’re one of the best-known manufacturers of outdoor gear.
Although their equipment isn’t as premium as Berghaus it’s significantly cheaper and is still well-made, but perhaps more suited to the casual user than the die-hard outdoors expert.
That being said, this Albus 30-litre backpack covers every requirement for a short visit to Scotland whether you’re romping along the West Highland Way or browsing around the shops in Edinburgh or Glasgow.
It’s a no-frills bag to be sure, but it has lots of zippable compartments, big comfy straps, a thick padded back and enormous mesh side pockets.
The polyester ripstop material feels decent quality and it will last a couple of years at the minimum unless you decide to go on lots of epic overnight camping trips with it – but then this backpack isn’t really designed for that.
At around 20 quid it gets bonus points for being exceptional value for money but having tested it out I’ve got a couple of niggles I have to point out. First off, there’s no chest strap so it doesn’t feel quite as secure as the Berghaus pack at #1.
Second, there’s no padding in the bottom so don’t go throwing anything delicate like a laptop in it and then dropping it on the ground when you take it off.
Other than that it’s full of positives with 2 internal compartments, decent waterproofing, a handy 30 litres of internal space, a big zippable front pocket and handy features like a key holder and an internal pocket for credit cards.
#3. Regatta Survivor III 20L – Best city backpack
Sightseeing in the city demands a slightly different backpack than you need in the countryside, mainly because you’ll have less to carry and you want something that looks good without drawing attention.
This Regatta Survivor III excels on those points but I’ve mainly included it in this list of top backpacks for visiting Scotland as it’s much narrower than most others you’ll find.
This is a point worth mentioning as bulky backpacks that stick out can cause a dent in your bank balance when you’re in a shop in Edinburgh and suddenly turn around, knocking over an expensive bottle of whisky. Don’t ask me how I know that.
Although it’s described as a hiking backpack, I feel that at 20 litres it’s too small for that use unless you’re only using it for an afternoon walk. However, as a city bag it’s second to none with its understated looks, secure zips, water bottle storage and air mesh straps that help keep your back cool.
It’s also made from a very sturdy and thick polyester fabric that feels like it will last a good battering and there’s a chest strap to keep it secured to your shoulders.
20 litres is more than enough space to store your camera gear and a city map along with snacks and a couple of small gifts you might pick up, and there are also 2 external pockets on either side for carrying water bottles.
Those pockets have a minor negative as they’re a bit shallow so it’s not easy to fit a big 1-litre bottle in there. Also, there’s only one internal compartment so you can’t separate your delicate phone from your scratchy keys, although that wee problem can be solved by purchasing a gadget pouch (see below).
#4. Zomake Ultra Lightweight 20L – Best foldable backpack
Out of all the expensive bags and backpacks I’ve owned, the one I’ve used more than any other is a cheap foldable backpack I got off Amazon for a tenner.
That’s not because it’s a particularly good bag or anything, but I’ve always got it with me because it easily slips inside a jacket pocket. Need a bag to carry a water bottle on a walk? Out it comes. Need a bag to carry sandwiches for a picnic? Out it comes. Need a bag for a quick shop at Tesco? Out it comes, yet again.
This ultra-lightweight foldable bag from Zomake is much nicer than the one I have and it now permanently resides in my other half’s handbag to be whipped out at a moment’s notice.
It’s in no way suitable for long excursions into the Highlands or for multi-day hikes or anything, but it’s superb as a backup when you need to carry anything and you haven’t got a ‘proper’ bag with you.
It actually holds a decent amount as it has 20-litres of storage space but although the Nylon material feels pretty good and has reinforced stitching I feel it’s best not to tempt fate by chucking anything heavy into it.
Still, it’s incredibly useful and the fact it folds into a tiny pouch means you can keep it in a pocket or handbag without it getting in the way, and at just 250 grams you’ll hardly ever notice you’re carrying it.
Positives with this foldable bag are the fact you can fold it up (well, obviously…), it has separate internal zippy pockets for cash and keys, it has mesh side pockets for water bottles, it’s water-resistant, and it has a reinforced bottom.
The zips on the main compartment feel good quality as do the reinforced shoulder straps and it even has a small zip pouch at the front for storing small guide books and the like.
The only negative I have is that the straps aren’t cushioned, but for short afternoon walks that’s not a problem at all.
#5. Regatta Blackfell III 20L – Best hydration backpack
If you’re going for a walk in Scotland (I’m talking just for the day, not an epic mega-hike) you really don’t need to carry much kit with you. Maybe your phone, sandwiches, snack bars, a pacamac (yes, they’re still a thing), and water.
This 20-litre Blackfell III backpack from Regatta covers all those bases in a compact bag that features an integrated water bladder with an external drinking tube.
While you could take any old backpack with you and throw a water bottle in it, you’ll find it’s a pain to keep stopping to dig out the bottle each time you work up a thirst. Being able to pop the integrated plastic tube from this bag into your mouth and have a good glug while you’re on the go is a lot less faff.
As bags go it’s quite small with the water bladder fitted but it’s still roomy enough to carry the essentials and it’s very easy on the shoulders at only 400 grams.
The polyester fabric feels decent but not as durable as the material on the Berghaus 247 and it’s not particularly water-resistant, but the latter point can be easily combatted with a foldable waterproof liner (see below).
The shoulder straps are ok but they could do with a wee bit more padding and I wish the zip on the main compartment had a covered flap. But other than that – as someone that uses this bag for cycling – I honestly haven’t got any more complaints.
Positives are the fact it has both chest and waist straps and it’s reinforced at the bottom, and of course at just over £20 it’s a very good price.
If you’re going to do lots of afternoon walks or bike rides this is most likely the only backpack you’ll ever need.
Must-have backpack accessories
Hydration bladder. These water reservoirs are basically strong leakproof plastic bags that you fill with water and place inside your backpack. You then run a drinking tube which has an auto shut-off valve out of the bag and under a small cover on the shoulder strap. Top-tip: If your backpack doesn’t have these fittings simply run the tube out of the main compartment zip and fix the tube in place with velcro (Amazon link).
Waterproof cover. No bag is completely waterproof but you can easily cope with Scotland’s famously rainy weather with this cover that secures in place using elasticated cuffs and buckle straps. It’s made from tough wear-resistant and waterproof Nylon and it folds down into a tiny pouch so it’s easy to store at the bottom of your backpack. It also has a reflective logo for additional safety if you find yourself walking on a road at night.
Waterproof wallet. An alternative – or maybe an addition – to a waterproof backpack cover is a waterproof wallet. These small, completely waterproof bags guarantee your phone and credit cards will remain dry no matter how wet it is outside. They’re actually rated to 50 metres so you could even go swimming with it. It comes with a lanyard to loop around your neck if you want to keep your valuables close at hand and it will float if you accidentally drop it in water. Highly recommended.
Pacamac. So you’ve got your fancy new lightweight backpack and you’re ready to launch yourself into the great outdoors when you see rain clouds overhead. It’s the middle of summer so you don’t want to carry a heavy jacket but you don’t want to get wet either. What to do? Well, how about taking one of these small, light and foldable waterproof jackets? They scrunch up into a pouch that sits nicely at the bottom of your bag and they’ll keep you dry if the clouds suddenly burst. This jacket from Regatta is rather stylish, has a 5,000 mm waterproof rating, and it features a hood and zippable pockets.
Features to look for in backpacks
- Water-resistant material. If you’re just rambling about the country and cities on day trips – which is where these 20 to 30-litre backpacks excel – you really don’t need the highest levels of waterproofing. However, it’s advisable for your pack to at least be shower resistant. A great option for packs without water resistance is to buy the rain cover listed above.
- Lockable zippers. This isn’t at all required for a countryside walk, but if you’re going to be using your backpack on a sightseeing tour of Scotland’s cities it’s advisable to lock your zips together to at least give some security to your valuables. Nimble-fingered thieves are known to unzip backpacks while tourists are wearing them so investing in a small combination lock (Amazon link) could pay for itself many times over.
- Multiple compartments. Again, this isn’t a necessity, but it’s very handy to be able to keep items like keys and wallets in their own compartments. As a long-term backpack user I recommend a separate internal compartment for keys and wallets, another for electronics, a front pocket for maps and guide books, and an external side pocket for a water bottle.
- Padded shoulder straps. This is a must-have unless you’re only going to be using your pack for an hour or two at a time. Make sure the straps have enough padding to cushion the weight on your shoulders but not so much that it makes your shoulders sweat. If you can find the Berghaus bag listed at #1 in a shop you’ll see the perfect amount of shoulder strap padding to look for.
- Padded back. A padded back is a bit of a double-edged sword as it will cushion you from any poky bits inside the bag but it’s almost guaranteed to give you a soaking wet T-shirt in summer. The best padded backpacks have a mesh covering that allows air to circulate between the pack and your back.
- Chest and waist straps. Chest and waist straps are a bit of a no-brainer if you’re an outdoors type as they prevent shoulder straps from slipping off while keeping the weight of the backpack correctly distributed. This is very important for hiking but not so important for city use where you’ll constantly be taking your pack off to fish things out of it.
If you’re visiting Scotland you’ll no doubt have a collection of gadgets, gizmos, books, maps, snacks and water bottles to carry with you which can become awkward if you only have a conventional shoulder-slung bag. A backpack solves the problem of back aches by keeping the weight low down on your back.
A good backpack will also keep your gear dry when it rains, offers security when walking through busy city streets and is small and light enough that it doesn’t become a hindrance.
All these criteria are covered with the Berghaus 247 Plus which is very reasonably priced and is made from high-quality materials that ensure it will last many years of use.
If you’re looking for quality gear to use on your visit to Scotland I have other pages like this one recommending my favourite hiking boots, waterproof clothing, camera accessories, camping equipment and much more. Check out the product review archives of this website for details.
Note that all product reviews on this page are the opinion of Out About Scotland and your experience with these products may differ.