In this product guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 38 rucksack brands.

We also look at the materials used, toxics and animal welfare, as well as giving our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying a rucksack:

  • Is it PVC-free? Rucksacks need to be waterproof, but make sure that the rucksack you buy isn't finished with a PVC coating. Look out for packs which are coated in polyurethane (PU) instead.

  • Is it recycled? Some of the rucksacks in this guide are made from recycled material. This significantly reduces the environmental impact of your purchase.

  • Does it have a wooden frame? Bigger rucksacks often have frames for rigidity. Choosing a wooden frame over an aluminium one can reduce a bags' overall carbon emissions by up to 90%.

Best Buys

All of the following are our best buys for rucksacks:

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying a rucksack?

  • Is it made with toxic chemicals? Chemicals such as PFCs and phthalates have been linked to a range of health problems including asthma, obesity, breast cancer and endocrine disruption. We marked companies down under Pollution & Toxic if they failed to show commitment to phasing out these chemicals.

  • Does it have an aluminium frame? Bigger rucksacks also have frames, which are most often aluminium. Aluminium is famously energy intensive to make, and so it is believable when Fjällräven claim that their own analysis of one of their rucksacks showed the frame to be the part with the biggest environmental impact.

  • Is it abusing animal rights? Many rucksack brands also make down goods such as jackets. Some down is 'harvested' from geese and ducks whilst they are still alive, a process which is repeated year on year. Of the companies who sell animal down, the only ones that have decent policies to prevent live-plucking are Patagonia, Fjällräven and Sprayway.

Companies to avoid

We'd like to highlight Nike. Nike were marked down for a host of workers' rights abuses and animal welfare issues.

  • Nike

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Jack Wolfskin recycled packs [S]

Company Profile: Jack Wolfskin Ausrüstung für Draussen GmbH & Co.KGaA

Jack Wolfskin Packs

Company Profile: Jack Wolfskin Ausrüstung für Draussen GmbH & Co.KGaA

Patagonia recycled rucksack [S]

Company Profile: Patagonia Inc

Fjallraven recycled rucksacks [S]

Company Profile: Fjallraven

Deuter rucksacks

Company Profile: Deuter Sport GmbH

Patagonia rucksack

Company Profile: Patagonia Inc

Fjallraven rucksacks

Company Profile: Fjallraven

Howies rucksack

Company Profile: Howies Ltd

Sprayway rucksacks

Company Profile: Outdoor & Sports Company (OSC) Limited

Osprey rucksacks

Company Profile: Osprey Packs Inc

Lichfield pacs

Company Profile: AMG Group Ltd

Lowe Alpine rucksacks

Company Profile: Lowe Alpine UK Limited

Mammut rucksacks

Company Profile: Mammut Sports Group AG

Montane rucksacks

Company Profile: Montane

Trespass rucksacks

Company Profile: Jacobs & Turner Ltd

Vango rucksacks

Company Profile: AMG Group Ltd

Haglofs recycled rucksacks [S]

Company Profile: Haglöfs AB

Hi Gear rucksacks

Company Profile: Go Outdoors Ltd

Mountain Warehouse rucksacks

Company Profile: Mountain Warehouse Limited

Regatta rucksacks

Company Profile: Regatta Ltd

Columbia Rucksacks

Company Profile: Columbia Sportswear Co Inc

Craghoppers Packs

Company Profile: Craghoppers

Gelert rucksack

Company Profile: Gelert Limited

Haglofs rucksacks

Company Profile: Haglöfs AB

Mizuno Rucksacks

Company Profile: Mizuno Corporation

Arc'Teryx Rucksack

Company Profile: Arc'Teryx Equipment Inc

Ayacucho rucksacks

Company Profile: Outdoor and cycle concepts

Quechua packs

Company Profile: Oxylane Group (Decathlon)

Salomon rucksacks

Company Profile: Amer Sports UK Limited

Adidas rucksacks

Company Profile: Adidas AG

New Balance rucksacks

Company Profile: New Balance Holding Inc

Reebok rucksacks

Company Profile: Reebok International Ltd

Hurley backpack

Company Profile: Nike Inc

Jordan Backpack

Company Profile: Nike Inc

Nike Backpack

Company Profile: Nike Inc

Puma rucksacks

Company Profile: Puma SE

Marmot Rucksacks

Company Profile: Marmot Mountain, LLC

Karrimor rucksacks

Company Profile: Retail Ltd

What is most important to you?

Product sustainability

Our Analysis

Most rucksacks are made by general outdoor companies, although there are a few companies who focus specifically on rucksacks, such as Osprey, Fjällräven and Deuter. 

In this guide we focus on the materials that rucksacks are made out of, but since so many companies also make other outdoor kit, we also look at their policies on animal down.

Image: Ethical Consumer rucksacks guide


Daysacks are still sometimes made of cotton canvas, but it is considered too heavy for bigger packs. 

Larger rucksacks are now nearly all made of polyester or nylon with a synthetic waterproof coating. The coating is commonly polyurethane (PU), the same coating used to make the vegetarian leather used in shoes.

However, there are some that still use PVC, which is much more environmentally toxic. Hi Gear, Trespass, Regatta, Fjällräven, Vango, Craghoppers, Gelert, Addidas, Puma, Reebok and Hurley all sell some PVC rucksacks, and have therefore been marked down in the pollution and toxics category on the table.

Bigger rucksacks also have frames, which are most often aluminium, although some high end rucksacks use expensive composite materials instead. Aluminium is famously energy intensive to make, and so it is believable when Fjällräven claim that their own analysis of one of their ruckacks showed the frame to be the part with the biggest environmental impact.

They now make a rucksack with a wooden frame, which they claim this has reduced the emissions of the frame by 90%. Rather disappointingly, no one seems to make a rucksack with a recycled frame. 

Fjällräven, Haglofs, Jack Wolfskin and Patagonia all make some rucksacks out of recycled polyester. Each receives a product sustainability mark on the table above for this. As well as diverting plastic from landfill, recycling polyester uses about a-third-to-a-half less energy than producing virgin polyester, and generates half the greenhouse gas emissions.[1] 

Notable ratings – toxics and animal down

A number of toxic chemicals are used in the outdoor industry, particularly PFCs and phthalates, which have been linked to a range of health problems including asthma, obesity, breast cancer and endocrine disruption. As a result we rated all companies on their policies to phase out these chemicals. And they didn’t do too well. All brands receive our worst rating on toxics apart from Fjällräven, Patagonia, Mammut, Quechua New Balance, Adidas, Puma, Nike and Howies. 

Of the companies who sell animal down, the only ones which have decent policies to prevent live-plucking are Patagonia, Fjällräven and Sprayway. We discuss live plucking more in our guide to outdoor jackets.

The only brands that do not sell products containing down are Howies, Arc’Teryx, Craghoppers, Haglofs, Salomon, Mizuno, Adidas, Nike and Osprey. 

Forced labour in the cotton supply chain

When buying a cotton backpack you should consider whether the backpack brand has any policies in place to avoid using forced labour.

According to the US Department of Labour, cotton is one of the goods most commonly produced using forced labour. Forced labour exists in nine countries producing 65% of the world’s cotton – Benin, Burkina Faso, China, India, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Europe is the biggest single destination for Uzbek cotton.

While forced labour in cotton production remains endemic in many countries, nowhere is it more organised than in Uzbekistan. Farmers are ordered to grow cotton and every year at harvest time the repressive government forcibly mobilises over one million citizens, including teachers and doctors, to leave their regular jobs for a few weeks and go to the fields to pick cotton. The profits from the cotton production go to the country’s powerful elite.

Cotton sourced from the Xinjiang region in China

The End Uyghur Forced Labour (EUFL) says that there is evidence of the Chinese government using “forced labour as a means of social control” throughout the cotton-producing Uyghur region of Xinjiang.

Brands are being urged to cut ties with the Xinjiang Uyghur Region of China as a result. Find out more in our feature on Uyghur Muslims.

Company profile

Fjällräven is the consumer-facing brand name for the Swedish company Fenix Outdoor International. It started in 1960, intending to design more comfortable rucksacks than were around at the time. 

Fenix Outdoor is an environmentally conscious company, as can be seen by its exploring of ways reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of its rucksacks. It focuses on equipment that is high quality and functional rather than glitzy. 

Fenix gets our middle rating for Environmental Reporting and Toxics, and our best rating for Supply Chain Management. It uses animal down in some of its products, but has a good policy to prevent the use of live plucking, and it only uses wool from non-mulesed sheep. 

Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

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  1. “Ecological Footprint and Water Analysis of Cotton, Hemp and Polyester”, by Cherrett et al, Stockholm Environment Institute
  2. zero