Why do you need a musicians’ backpack? – Every musician has to travel at one point or another in their career. Even as a student of an instrument, you still have to go get some lessons or go to a rehearsal studio.
No matter what instrument you’re playing, you always have a need to carry some effects or instruments or accessories with you. Yes, even if you’re just the lead singer.
5 Practical Backpacks for Serious Musicians
So, how do you go about picking the best affordable backpack for your needs? – Skip the boring stuff and dive straight into my top five picks.
Table of Contents
- 5 Practical Backpacks for Serious Musicians
- It’s Not the Same as a Backpack for Clothes
- Waterproofing – It’s Nice But Not Your Main Concern
- Compromise Between Weight and Height
Although the Thule looks badass in all black, you’re not getting it for its design or its association with occultism. This backpack is ideal because of the integrated laptop compartment which can be helpful to any musician, whether they’re spinning or playing an instrument.
The extra padding adds a bit of weight but also plenty of protection for your sensitive equipment that you always carry with you. And, what’s even better is that this is one of the lightest backpacks that doesn’t trade protection for less weight.
This 25L backpack weighs just 1.94lbs empty. And, it has a very sturdy strap too that will let you pack it to its maximum capacity. I'd prefer slightly more padding on the straps for more comfort, though.
Although it doesn’t look it, the Thule Crossover isn’t very elastic. This means that the protection you get on the backplate and on the bottom is quite good for the money and the weight.
It can hold fairly larger laptops without any issue. Most musicians and producers tend to use either 15 or 16 inch MacBook Pros, and I personally use the latter. It fits within this backpack without any issue. The fit is snug and there is no wobbling. The laptop stays off the hard surface of the floor when you keep the backpack on the floor.
You can easily fit handy things like compact MIDI keyboards, guitar and drum tuners, extra strings, wireless microphones, in-ear monitors and even over-ear folding headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH M50x.
It has plenty of compartments for storing different types of gear, but not all of them are zippered. The overall build quality of this backpack seemed fairly solid to me and should be enough to protect your fragile stuff.
If you prefer a hard case, you can now get it in a backpack in the form of the Pelican S115.
The 8.65 lbs of weight is more than made up for by the side zippered pockets. They’re large enough to hold strings, keys, batteries, earphones and tuners.
This backpack also features a laptop compartment with additional cushioning. It can support up to a 16-inch MacBook Pro. Another interesting thing is the waterproofing. The Pelican S115 remains watertight for up to 30 minutes under 3.2 feet of water. Not that you should ever put it in that position, obviously.
The interior is also compartmentalized to hold various gadgets, but the usefulness of that will vary according to each musician’s needs. I'm not a big fan of the straps, which connect to a plastic piece which isn't the sturdiest component. If the plastic part breaks, it'll render the entire backpack useless.
Due to the sturdy construction, it's an ideal backpack for storing valuable and fragile gear. That could be expensive microphones, top-of-the-line music production laptops and studio headphones.
Here’s something that might interest you if you expect to be wearing your backpack for a long time. This Brinch model features a nice airflow back system which should solve all your overheating problems.
It’s also fairly cheap and designed with multiple pockets both inside and out. It also features a laptop sleeve of limited padding. While it may not be the most rugged of them out there, this model is certainly quite light at 2.6 lbs for what it packs.
The backpack might be particularly useful if you carry voluminous accessories like telescoping cymbal stands, practice pads, pedal rigs, or even cymbals themselves. If you’re a DJ, you can rest assured that the backpack will fit most 17” laptops but it may struggle a bit with widescreen models.
There's one negative worth considering regarding the laptop compartment. As it's fairly large and capable of fitting even the largest laptops around, most 13-inch and even 15-16 inch laptops will not fit that snugly in that compartment. Even the velcro strap isn't of much help to make the fit more snug.
This backpack is not for everyone. It’s solid and doesn’t weigh much, but the design is quite specific. If your career revolves around using controller keyboards and you use a 25-key controller as your bread and butter, this Rockville backpack might be the last carry bag you’ll need.
You can keep it strapped across your chest or carry it college-style. The interior separation and padding are designed to accommodate a wide range of 25-key controllers so you shouldn’t have to worry about compatibility at all, unless you’re using something custom.
Although it has some weight to it, the many handles implemented in the design let you carry it whichever way is easier. The laptop pocket is interesting. It’s placed on the outside of the backpack, as the main compartment is for midi controllers.
Because of this, the laptop may not be as protected as in other backpack designs. But, if you need to carry a 15” laptop, a couple of heavy-duty gadgets, or of course, a 25-key controller, the Rockville has your number.
I'd have preferred slightly thicker straps with more padding and some sort of ventilation. Overall, this laptop is a decent option for carrying lighter gear like lightweight keyboard controllers, but not much more than that.
This XL backpack is designed with DJs in mind. However, it’s more than capable of serving other musicians too due to its rigidity and spacious design.
There’s one controller compartment on the inside. You can also store a laptop up to 17” in its own padded compartment. You can make use of the various mesh pockets to hold smaller accessories.
One thing that’s missing is a dedicated slot for your headphones. However, you might already have a dedicated carry case for those. And, unless you’re carrying a lot of stuff with you, there should be enough room inside the Magma Riot for a headphone case, laptop, and a MIDI controller.
Last but not the least, the Riot also has some serious waterproofing. A combination of Tarpaulin and PVC-coated zippers is used to provide protection from spills and rain. This makes it ideal for carrying valuable electronics like laptops and other electronic components in rainy weather.
As there are several smaller compartments, you can easily store even external SSDs, a compact bluetooth speaker, and things of a similar size. You might also appreciate being able to make adjustments to the interior by removing some foam or dividers.
It’s Not the Same as a Backpack for Clothes
When I’m buying a backpack to carry clothing items, I want it to have a bit of give. Elasticity allows me to stuff in more stuff. But, when I’m traveling and carrying musical instruments or even things like portable turntables, I need rigidity so that a small hit won’t go right through and bend my headphones or break my laptop.
I also suggest looking for extra exterior pockets. Not all musicians carry the same stuff with them. Extra pockets are always good for carrying batteries, tools & accessories, extra picks, spare strings, you name it.
Waterproofing – It’s Nice But Not Your Main Concern
Yes, it’s nice to have a waterproof backpack. It provides extra protection to your most precious tools. But, if you’re hauling your headphones, distortion pedals, or your laptop in a backpack, you might want to avoid walking in the rain in the first place.
Quality waterproofing is not hard to find but it may get expensive. Therefore, as long as you have a sturdy backpack that can handle intense use, you’ll be fine. Also, serious waterproofing that can survive a large puddle is going to add a lot of weight.
You should worry more about quick access and sturdy zippers than how well the material fares against hale or heavy rain.
Compromise Between Weight and Height
No one wants to carry a heavy backpack that’s just going to get heavier once stuffed. But, sometimes you may not have a choice. In most cases for a musician, you will benefit more from a taller backpack because it can allow you to carry a variety of gadgets.
But as with anything else, when backpacks get bigger, they also get heavier. Try to find that perfect balance depending on what it is you’re carrying. If it’s just a laptop and a pair of DJ headphones, you’re not going to need a lot.
On the other hand, if you want to carry drum sticks, cables, or maybe even a practice pad, things might start to get too cramped and you’ll need extra space.
Beginner or Pro, You Need a Backpack
By now you should have enough information to pick your favorite backpack. All the backpacks on this list are hand-picked for their utility and versatility in various situations, and they’re all TSA compliant. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate protector or just something cheap that you can strap on your shoulders and hit the road in a hurry, there’s something here for everyone.