The simplest backpack design is a bag attached to a set of shoulder straps. Such packs are used for general transportation of goods, and have variable capacity. The simplest designs consist of one main pocket. This may be combined with webbing or cordage straps, while more sophisticated models add extra pockets, waist straps, chest straps, padded shoulder straps, padded backs, and sometimes reflective materials for added safety at night. These packs are generally produced inexpensively.

Rolling backpacks are backpacks with wheels on the bottom and an extending handle. Because of their design, rolling backpacks reduce the strain on the user, though the shoulder straps may be used to carry the pack for short distances when the terrain is not suitable for wheels. Rolling backpacks are most commonly used while traveling by airplane or train.