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Updated Sep 9, 2022 10:00 AM

We’ve all been there, wishing the drawstring backpack we grabbed at your local big-box retailer was just a little bit better. Sure, it was cheap, but the tradeoff is that it was…cheap. Sometimes, you just need a sleek little bag to throw in a pair of shoes, snacks, or other odds and ends for a quick run to the gym, an afternoon at the park, or a day hike up the mountain. While cinch bags abound on the market, many feature razor-thin drawstrings, slick panels, and cheap materials to match their cheap builds. That said, there is a solution.

Some drawstring backpacks offer all the functionality and convenience of traditional cinch bags but with all the comfort you never knew they could offer. Whether you need thick, comfortable drawstrings, an external phone pocket, or a water bottle sleeve, we’ve got you covered with this list of the best drawstring backpacks on the market.

While plenty of trusted brands produce top-notch drawstring backpacks, the Under Armour Undeniable 2.0 Sackpack earns the top spot on our list. Even without the supersized UA logo on the front, this pack stands out from the crowd with its particular combination of traditional and drawstring backpack features.

At 19 by 15 by two inches, the Undeniable 2.0 Sackpack provides plenty of storage space without being too large or bulky. The main compartment conforms to the traditional drawstring pack’s minimalistic design philosophy, but the front outer panel provides plenty of magic with two zippered storage compartments. The main compartment features a setup commonly found in admin pouches on traditional backpacks, complete with organizational pockets. The smaller compartment sports a microfiber lining, making it the ideal choice for storing sunglasses. The adjustable drawstrings, sternum clip, and front panel D-ring round out this sleek package.

This UA backpack’s most glaring downside is its price tag. Add to that some pretty thin drawstrings, and you’ll see that Under Armour’s swing for the fences with this pack fell just a little short of a grand slam. That said, its top spot on this list is well-deserved.

Product Specs
  • Design: Cinch pack
  • External storage: Yes
  • Internal organization: No
Why It Made The Cut
  • While plenty of “sackpacks” offer external storage and convenience features, this Under Armour offering manages to combine the best of both the traditional and drawstring backpack worlds.
PROS

Plenty of storage options

Main external compartment includes organizational pouches

Small external compartment includes microfiber lining

Includes adjustable drawstrings, sternum clip, D-ring

CONS

Pricey for what it is

Relatively thin drawstrings

If you’re on a budget but still need a cinch bag that provides more than the bare essentials, the Adidas Alliance 2 Sackpack checks that box with ease. This bag is one of my personal favorites thanks to its high degree of comfort and functionality.

Compared to its competitors, the Alliance 2 offers a good value, and if you find one on sale, it turns into an outright steal. The first feature that stands out is its thick cord drawstrings which strike a nice balance between comfortable wear and ease of closing. As with most cinch bags, the interior is one giant storage space, but the exterior of the front panel boasts a mesh stuff pouch with a large panel over the top that sports a microfiber-lined zippered pocket for storing small electronics and other pocket gear. Want a splash of color? The Alliance 2 has those bases covered, as well.

In terms of drawbacks, this Adidas pack scores quite well. Our only real gripe is that the center panel over top of the stuff pocket somewhat limits the pouch’s ease of access.

Product Specs
  • Design: Cinch pack
  • External storage: Yes
  • Internal organization: Yes
Why It Made The Cut
  • Adidas makes some of the most comfortable cinch packs on the market, and the Alliance 2 may just be the most useful all around. That’s a win-win in our book.
PROS

Reasonably priced, good value

Thick, comfortable drawstrings

Mesh and zippered external storage options

Zippered pocket includes microfiber lining

CONS

External mesh pocket not the easiest to use

If you love water sports, the great outdoors, or both, the Geckobrands Drawstring Waterproof Backpack is the only way to go. Whatever your needs, this cinch pack can’t be beaten.

This drawstring pack measures a healthy 20 by 13.5 by 1.5 inches, which offers users 10 liters of cargo capacity, more than enough space for a trip to the surf or an outdoor concert. The roll-top closure ensures water will not enter the bag unless submerged for at least 30 minutes. Inside, this waterproof pack includes a small, zippered pocket spacious enough to hold large smartphones and a few other odds and ends. The included drawstrings are thick cords designed to enhance comfort, and the included sternum clip helps secure the bag to your back.

The only drawbacks to this Geckobrands cinch bag are its relatively high price tag and the lack of external storage options. Then again, outside pouches on a waterproof bag may not be much appreciated in a heavy downpour.

Product Specs
  • Design: Cinch pack
  • External storage: No
  • Internal organization: Yes
Why It Made The Cut
  • The term “waterproof drawstring backpack” may sound like an oxymoron, but this cinch bag defies convention. Whether on the waves, the lake, or the slopes, this bag’s got you covered.
PROS

Submersible for up to 30 minutes

Thick, comfortable drawstrings

Internal storage pouch

Includes sternum clip

CONS

Pricey for what it is

No external storage options

Best for Travel

If we’re honest, cinch packs are far from travel-ready, but with its traditional backpack design, the Osprey Daylite Cinch is an incredibly handy travel bag with an easy access drawstring compartment.

The Daylite Cinch is built with Bluesign-approved recycled polyester and features a PFC-free water-resistant finish. With 15 liters of cargo capacity, this pack can handle plenty of gear without weighing you down. The ventilated shoulder straps and pack panel, sternum strap, and removable hip belt make heavy loads a breeze, whereas the external zippered storage compartment (complete with key clip), dual daisy chains enhance, and modularity with other Osprey pack systems make it an incredibly versatile pack. The top carry handle/yoke sports a luggage handle passthrough to make navigating airports simple.

Unfortunately, this Osprey pack is expensive compared to traditional cinch packs. The other obvious drawback is the lack of a laptop sleeve, making it a non-starter for some travelers. That said, the included hydration reservoir sleeve should accommodate a tablet with ease.

Product Specs
  • Design: Backpack
  • External storage: Yes
  • Internal organization: Yes
Why It Made The Cut
  • While not a traditional drawstring backpack, this offering from Osprey may be the most comfortable, travel-friendly cinch bag on the market for everything from day hikes to international tourist treks.
PROS

Versatile, modular

Large cargo capacity

Air travel-friendly design

Built with durable, sustainable materials

CONS

Expensive

Lacks electronics sleeve

Best for School

Originally designed as a travel pack, the Kuhl Kove 22L offers students the convenience of a drawstring backpack with all the storage and organizational features they need to take on the modern classroom. Its sleek, classic aesthetic is sure to spark more than a few non-academic conversations, as well.

Paying tribute to the first mountaineering rucksacks of 19th-century Norway, the Kove 22L features a water-resistant cotton and nylon construction with a simple flap top with an antiqued metal hook closure. The auto-locking cinch cord and top flap keep gear safe and secure while providing easy access to school supplies. Inside, this Kuhl pack employs storage pockets (including a water bottle pouch) and a laptop sleeve (with side panel access) to organize your odds and ends.

The front panel also hides dual external pouches for smaller items, and this Kuhl pack also includes a low-profile carry handle between the top of each shoulder strap. This carry-on-compliant pack also comes with a padded back panel and shoulder straps complete with mini storage pockets to make travel on school breaks easy. Weighing two pounds six ounces, it does weigh four to five times that of most cinch packs, although the Kove 22L isn’t a backbreaker.

With its 22-liter capacity, this pack is fairly spacious but may be a little cramped for certified bookworms. Owing to its quality build, the Kove 22L is pricey indeed, and downright expensive by cinch pack standards. One final gripe is that the water bottle pouch is located inside the main compartment, making it a bit inconvenient to access and keeping liquids uncomfortably close to your electronics.

Product Specs
  • Design: Backpack
  • External storage: Yes
  • Internal organization: Yes
Why It Made The Cut
  • Traditional drawstring backpacks cannot take the beating or handle the stress students throw at them, but the Kove boasts the toughness and the features necessary to endure the toughest pupils.
PROS

Classic, minimalist design

Plenty of organizational, storage features

Carry-on compliant

Accommodates up to 15-inch laptops

CONS

Very expensive

A little small for some students

Water bottle pouch located inside main compartment

Best for the Gym

Most drawstring backpacks employ a simplistic stow-and-go design, but the Vooray Stride Cinch bucks that trend. Instead, it offers the space and storage compartments you need to accommodate and organize all your gym essentials.

Compared to most cinch packs, the Stride Cinch is downright massive. It measures 16 by 10 by seven inches, offering users a whopping 19 liters of cargo capacity. The main compartment features a drawstring top (shocking) with an interior mesh zip pocket to store energy bars, wallets, and other items. On the outside, the front panel also supports a weather-resistant zip pocket ready to secure your phone, keys, or AirPods. This Vooray pack features a padded back panel and ventilated shoulder straps to accommodate hot, heavy loads. Best of all, the Stride Cinch’s price tag sits well within most people’s budgetary wheelhouse.

There aren’t many reasons to complain about the Stride Cinch, but there are a couple of nits worth picking. Most notably, this drawstring backpack lacks both dedicated water bottle storage and a dedicated shoe compartment. It also lacks variety in the color department, and by its very nature, it isn’t quite as quick and convenient as a cinch pack. Still, these objections are minor when compared to what the pack does well. Go ahead and pick one up.

Product Specs
  • Design: Backpack
  • External storage: Yes
  • Internal organization: Yes
Why It Made The Cut
  • The gym-ready Stride Cinch strikes a great balance between the speed and convenience of a cinch pack and the comfort and familiarity of a traditional backpack.
PROS

Reasonably priced

Plenty of cargo space

Internal and external storage compartments

Includes padded back panel, ventilated shoulder straps

CONS

Lacks dedicated water bottle storage, shoe compartment

Not quite as convenient as a cinch pack

Few color options

Stadium-ready clear drawstring backpacks are cheap, simple affairs, but the May Tree Clear Drawstring Bag raises the bar a notch. While still employing a minimalist design, the addition of a few subtle features makes it a bit more user-friendly.

As with many similar bags, this May Tree offering consists of two transparent PVC panels with dual drawstrings. It measures a good 13.5 by 17 inches — more than enough room to pack along your stadium event essentials. Where this inexpensive backpack deviates from its competitors are its external mesh storage options. It sports a zippered mesh storage pocket and a mesh water bottle pocket, available in one of three color options. This makes hydration and access to critical essentials a breeze.

On the downside, this bag is still a budget affair, most obviously demonstrated by its skinny drawstrings. Due to its PVC construction, the May Tree bag is hand-wash-only. That said, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a similar (or better) bag at this price point.

Product Specs
  • Design: Cinch pack
  • External storage: Yes
  • Internal organization: No
Why It Made The Cut
  • Most transparent drawstring backpacks feature barebones construction and features, but this clear PVC bag includes a handful of extras that make it more convenient than most.
PROS

Inexpensive

External storage pocket, water bottle pocket

Stadium security-compliant

Multiple accent color options

CONS

Thin drawstrings

Hand-wash only

For the best PLA-grade tactical drawstring backpack on the market, look no further than the Fitdom BP-1 Drawstring Sports Backpack. Not only is this bag ready for the gym, but it also packs (a few) tactical features that no special operator can live without.

Constructed with tactical black honeycomb nylon, this just-right bag is built to handle a basketball, shoes, a water bottle, and maybe a pair of shorts or two. Outside, the BP-1 Sports backpack features dual mesh water bottle pockets, perfectly sized to handle any complimentary-size water bottle on the market, a zippered external pocket, and two strips of MOLLE-esque webbing. The bottom sports a fully zippered drop compartment equipped with dual ventilation ports to handle rank tactical gym shoes.

Information regarding the bag’s interior requires a Top Secret clearance or an Andrew Jackson to access. That said, the bag’s exterior dimensions (18 by 17 by 7.5 inches) ensure plenty of storage space for a modest loadout.

Sadly, this bag fails to live up to the highest quality standards. Most notably, it lacks both mag pouches and a rifle scabbard, limiting it to amateur operations. It also lacks compatibility with most body armor panels on the market. That said, this drawstring backpack can handle plenty of other operations. Whether you are a real-life mall ninja or an undercover Chinese spy, your kit isn’t complete without the Fitdom BP-1 Sports backpack. Get yours today.

Product Specs
  • Design: Cinch pack
  • External storage: Yes
  • Internal organization: Unknown
Why It Made The Cut
  • Every special ops tactical operator needs a low-drag drawstring backpack for high-speed operations. This cinch pack features MOLLE-esque webbing for navigating shopping mall hallways with your preferred ninja loadout.
PROS

Webbing drawstring straps

Spacious interior

MOLLE-esque webbing

Ventilated

CONS

Lacks mag pouches, rifle scabbard

Not compatible with most body armor

Things to consider before buying a drawstring backpack

Design

Technically speaking, drawstring backpacks can fall into one of two categories. The first is the bag we all know and love (or hate) and is commonly called a cinch pack or “sackpack.” The cinch pack design is simple, streamlined, and ready to roll at a moment’s notice, yet is clearly designed to offer convenience over comfort. 

The second is a more traditional backpack with a drawstring top that (usually) includes a protective flap that sits over the top of the drawstring opening when not in use. These packs are designed to be worn for longer periods of time and (usually) can handle much heavier loads than the “sackpack.”

Construction materials

While drawstring packs employ a very simple design, the materials used to construct them matter just as much as with larger packs. Tough nylon or canvas bodies help increase a bag’s longevity, while zippers and mesh selections improve the durability of the bag’s storage and organizational features (where applicable). The drawstring cords also matter, as thin, round strings will quickly make you regret your bag selection. Instead, look for cinch packs with thick drawstring cords or webbing drawstrings.

Cargo capacity

The classic cinch pack is a quick, stow-n-go bag designed for quick trips and light loads. As such, they tend to have low cargo capacities, usually in the 10-liter ballpark. Due to their small size, most manufacturers neglect to publish actual cargo capacity measurements for their cinch packs. On the flip side, traditional backpacks with a drawstring opening are more likely to come with volume listings, although some still don’t. Generally, these bags run in the 20-liter range, with some pushing the 30-liter mark.

Extra storage and organization

Traditional backpacks frequently include internal and external storage and organizational components, but cinch packs aren’t exactly traditional. These handy little packs do feature extra storage pouches and pockets from time to time, usually in the form of small zip pouches, large mesh pockets, and/or the odd water bottle slot. Internal storage, however, is usually completely non-existent.

Pricing

In most cases, drawstring backpacks are quite affordable. Cinch packs usually run in the $10 to $30 range with most decent quality bags ringing in somewhere in the ballpark of $15 to $25. As for more traditional backpacks with drawstring tops, about $30 to $50 seems to be the sweet spot. Of course, high-end and specialized packs can be a bit more expensive with anything over $75 representing the threshold of what might be considered premium pricing.

FAQs about drawstring backpacks

Q: How do I re-string my drawstring backpack?

A: First, purchase a new drawstring cord (two yards is a fairly standard length). Untie the old cord, then attach one end of the new cord to one end of the old one with a strong safety pin. Pull one end of the old cord through the first tunnel, carefully guiding the new cord into the tunnel. Create some slack on the new cord, then repeat the process with the other tunnel. Even out the new cord, then attach it to the bottom corner of the pack. Repeat with the other string.

Q: Can I wash my drawstring backpack?

A: Usually, you can wash your drawstring bag. Place the bag in a lingerie bag or other washer-friendly zippered mesh bag to protect the drawstring cords. Then, wash according to the instructions. If your bag lacks care instructions, remember that natural materials (e.g., cotton) should be washed in cold water to prevent shrinkage.

Q: How do you even out a drawstring bag?

A: On the side opposite the uneven drawstring cord, pinch the bag’s opening just beneath the exposed cord. Then, use your other hand to pull the uneven cord taught. On bags with thicker cords or narrow tunnels, adjusting the uneven cord may take a bit more finagling near the tunnel openings.

Q: How do I make a drawstring backpack?

A: If you’re handy with a sewing machine (or have the patience of Job for a needle-and-thread affair), there are plenty of instructions on how to make a drawstring backpack. We found some simple DIY instructions and instructions for a drawstring backpack with an external pocket to get you started.

Final thoughts

Today’s marketplace is flooded with drawstring backpacks, but we really like the Under Armour Undeniable 2.0 Sackpack’s expert combination of cinch bag convenience with traditional backpack organizational features. With dual external compartments designed to store and organize your essentials and a handful of other helpful extras, the Undeniable 2.0 Sackpack outshines some very bright competitors.

Methodology 

Drawstring backpacks may not be the pinnacle of backpack technology, but these lowly bags still deserve plenty of attention. As such, I exploited my own practical knowledge of cinch bags to begin evaluating the pros and cons of each bag. I relied on my own experience wearing such bags to and from events, up and down mountain trails, and on trips around the country to evaluate which features were must-haves and which were merely window dressing. 

I also asked myself what materials these bags used in order to develop a sense of their durability and weather resistance, both valuable yet overlooked features in cinch packs. A couple of times, I did find it necessary to hit up outside sources, and as such, I want to give a special shoutout to Spade Outdoors and Tote Bag Factory.com for their help in this process. In the end, though, I tried to put myself in your shoes in order to provide helpful recommendations and a little bit of humor.