Whether you’re ready to upgrade your trusty Jansport or need something sleek for work, a good leather backpack is an investment worth considering. The material is hardy and decidedly supple, connoting everything from vintage luggage to high-end handbags. Care for it well, and you’ll have it for years if not decades. The best leather backpacks are made from high-quality hides with plenty of design features that make life easier on the go — and there are plenty of options at multiple price points. That said, all leather is not created equal — here’s what to look for when you’re reaching for that credit card.
Full grain leather is considered the highest quality leather around. It needs minimal processing and, as such, is truly tough and durable with a visible grain that develops a deep patina over time. This is the kind of leather that looks good and lasts for decades. Then you have something called top grain leather, which has been smoothed to remove surface flaws for a pristine look. It’s a little bit thinner than full grain leather, but it’s still high-quality and a bit more budget-friendly than full grain leather, which makes it a popular choice for handbags. The term “genuine leather” is what its name implies, but it ranks lowest in terms of quality. That said, it’s easy to find and a lot more affordable than full grain or top grain pieces.
Leather backpacks look pretty stylish by default, but some are more utilitarian while others have fashion to spare. Commuters and frequent flyers will appreciate tech-friendly features like padded laptop sleeves (that zip down flat if you’re going through TSA), built-in USB charging ports, and padded straps for comfortable carrying. If you’re in the market for a chic backpack, look for exotic textures like crocodile or plush quilting that read luxe.
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