The Wyngraf team isn’t 100% sure if we coined the phrase “backpack fantasy,” though it definitely owes something to the tabletop RPG Sword & Backpack and we often use the terms interchangeably.
Backpack fantasy focuses on travels and adventures in the wild (hence the backpack!), as opposed to cozy fantasy’s traditional focus on the home community. The stories often involve some danger, but as much or more time is spent discovering wondrous landscapes, communing with nature, and getting to know one’s traveling companions. There’s danger out there on the road, but in backpack fantasy, the forest path leads to discovery, wonder, bonding, and personal growth.
We consider it a subgenre of cozy fantasy, like cozy’s cool older cousin who goes out on the road, fights some slimes, finds a magic fountain, and comes home road-weary, bruised, and a little wiser.
Ryuutama: Natural Fantasy Roleplay, aka “Hayao Miyazaki’s Oregon Trail,” is pure, concentrated, uncut backpack fantasy.
The Dragon Quest JRPGs are pretty backpack. Breath of the Wild has a lot of great backpack moments.
The wilderness art of Ma-Ko would make a great cover to a backpack fantasy book.
The Hobbit can be pretty backpack at times. The Lord of the Rings less so, because its travel sequences are darker and more dangerous, but it has some classic backpack moments.