MY BEST HIKING BACKPACKS COMPARISON:
MY BEST HIKING BACKPACKS REVIEWS
BEST ALL-ROUND HIKING BACKPACKS
- What we like: This backpack is all about durability and comfort, lifetime guarantee, incredibly large, suits longer hikes
- What we don’t like: It is quite pricey, the hip belt is said to loosen a bit after a few hikes
If you are looking for a true hiker backpack, the Osprey Exos is what you should be going for next. This amazing backpack comes from a legendary brand that has in the past wowed us with spectacular designs. The Osprey Exos comes packed with great features, making it a great choice for any serious hiker looking to balance both performance and weight.
The pack coming in at around 2 and a half pounds, it is amazing how it comfortably carry up to 40 pounds of weight. The pack features an astonishingly light suspension system right on the back panel. This will not only comfortably come in contact with your back, but also allow air to seamlessly flow. The aluminum that forms the overall structure is incredibly lightweight.
The Osprey Exos does come in two different sizes, and you can pick one depending largely on your torso measurement. Interestingly, it does matter the size you get, the pack is will weigh barely over 2 and a half pounds.
Another amazing thing about the pack is that; if you want to go even lighter, you can choose to remove some of its pieces to make it even lighter. The top lid comes with some pockets that can be taken off at home.
Although the hip belt tends to loosen at times, the Osprey Exos is our overall winner. It is super light and extremely comfortable to wear. In fact, you won’t regret ever putting your money on this great investment.
- What we like about the backpack: It is super comfortable, big and thick padded shoulder straps, anti-gravity features.
- What we don’t like: It is quite heavy for beginners, It is not fully waterproof.
The Osprey Packs Atmos AG is also another great option if you are looking for a top-rated hiking backpack. It comes with a 65-liter space to help you carry quite a number of things and an amazing anti-gravity technology to make sure you are not pulled down when walking. That is not even all; the straps have seen a lot of work go into; the compression straps located on the upper and lower side will make sure you evenly stabilize the load.
The backpack also features central core coupled with an upper load lifter that seamlessly connects to the hip belt, allowing you to spread the weight in an even manner. Although the Osprey Packs Atmos AG is not fully waterproof, you can actually use the flap jacket to protect it from getting wet. It is an amazing tool for a serious hiker.
- What we like about this backpack: Incredibly lightweight, durable, nearly waterproof, enormous hip belt pockets
- What we like: Expensive, not padded as some packs
If you are looking at striking both exceptional balance between durability and weight, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest is all you ever wanted. This pack is like no other; it comes with a very minimal design, but the number of great things you can get from it is virtually endless. The frames are incredibly effective; they feel sturdier than most packs in this weight range.
The unique DCF fabric alongside taped seams that have gone into the construction makes the pack a worthy choice. They all make the pack weather resistant and durable all at the same time. When it comes to space, there is no way, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest is going to provide enough space for 3 to 5 days. It comes with one main issue though; it is quite pricey due to its high-end fabric. You will be forced to dig dipper into your pocket for this amazing hiking backpack.
- What we like: Incredibly comfortable. Great for heavy loads, longer trips
- What we don’t like: It is huge and quite heavy, doesn’t come with great water resistance
If you are looking for spectacular design, the Deuter Air Contact is definitely what you should be going for next. Its presentation is amazing. It exhumes quality and the actual time it took designers to put it together. When it comes to comfort, the Deuter Air Contact sits right at the top of the list. It has been designed with your comfort in mind, making it a suitable choice for longer trips. There is a lot going on; on the shoulder straps and waist belt. They are well padded making it perfect for heavy load.
As for ventilation, there is no way this bag is going to disappoint you. It comes with a competent ventilation system that will ensure you stay cool at all times. With that, we could say the bag is best suited for multi-day hikes, especially areas that can get really hot.
One major issue though; the backpack can get really heavy. That can be a problem if you are going to walk for miles. Its water resistance capability is also questionable. It doesn’t provide the kind of waterproofing, we all would want to see on a backpack. Nonetheless, it is an amazing choice. Its advantages certainly outnumber the disadvantages. We would highly recommend it to any serious hiker.
BEST BUDGET HIKING BACKPACKS
- What we like about the backpack: Inexpensive, Quality built, Built-in water-resistant rainfly, lots of packing configuration, adjustable shoulder straps and waist belt
- What we don’t like: A little bit bulky
Coming in three different colors, if you are looking for an affordable backpack, the Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal frame backpack is what you should be going for next. Other than coming with a great price, this is one of the most lightweight backpacks you could lay your hands on today.
Some of the features you can net from the Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal frame backpack include adjustable shoulder straps. With this, you can be sure of amazing comfort while you are out there. When it comes to storage, there is a lot going on with this backpack. It comes with plenty of storage for your hiking essentials.
As for durability, this a cheap backpack that is incredibly durable. This pack has been built to last. It comes equipped with polyester fabric materials that are said to withstand any wear and tear. The backpack also features an internal support system that will ensure you use the bag now and for many years to come.
- What we like: Incredibly comfortable, quite easy to organize, built to last adverse weather conditions
- What we don’t like: rainfly not included, lower compartment zipper problems
The Kelty Red Cloud 90 bag is an amazing choice from a legendary name in the industry. This budget-friendly hiking backpack comes packed with a handful of useful features. First is all about its design. Its suspension design is like no other. It comes with a perfect fit suspension mechanism, making the pack fit your body size perfectly. With it, you do not need to worry about your torso or even shoulder measurement. This pack will fit any size.
When it comes to durability, the Kelty Red Cloud 90 bag is just perfect in almost every aspect. The pack has received a lot of updates and now boosts a frame sheet that offers load-bearing strength on the pack. It keeps the pack in its perfect shape no matter the kind of stuff you have stashed inside. This feature also acts as a shock absorber. The Kelty Red Cloud 90 bag is also impressively lightweight. The frame comes made of aluminum making it reasonably light and durable as well. In the end, really, there is no way you will go wrong with the backpack. It is worth checking out.
- What we like: Great ventilation, plenty of pockets, useful gussets
- What we don’t like: Rain cover is not sturdier, only suitable for people with a small torso
If you have a very small body, the High Sierra Titan 55 Frame Pack is suitable for you. The backpack has a capacity of around 55 liters, making it more practical for shorter trips and hikes. One of the best things about this pack is that; it comes packed with plenty of front and side pockets where you can stash your stuff. It is also equipped with a top-load compartment and divider sleeping bag compartment. A gusset on the side has also been included. You can actually use it to store your camping gear and ropes, as well.
Although the pack comes with plenty of features, there have been some concerns from customers. Yes, the rain flap can help protect against elements, but it said to tear a bit easily. The fabric that has been used is said to be less durable than a number of designs in the same price range of High Sierra Titan 55 Frame Pack.
WHAT MAKES A GREAT HIKING BACKPACK?
All having said and done, at the end of the day, it is important to understand what makes a great hiking backpack. Here are some of the things that will ensure you get the most out of your investment.
It must provide great storage and easy access
One of the main reasons we buy these bags is for storage. It is, for this reason, you may want to go for a backpack that offers plenty of options when it comes to storage and also eases of access. At any given time, make sure your backpack comes with front pockets, hips pockets, and shovel pockets also. This is important as it will ensure you have everything you will need while out there in the wilderness.
It must allow for the essentials
Secondly, you will want to buy a backpack that lets you carry everything ranging from hiking essential to your hiking gear. For example, make sure it comes with enough attachment points to help you carry your tools with ease.
It must be comfortable
There is no point going hiking with a hiking backpack that would leave you with some serious back and shoulder pains. It is for this that you may want to put your money on a very comfortable backpack. It must come with competent padding. The straps must also be well designed to give you all the comfort you will need. In short, you need something that will distribute its weight evenly. It cannot get better than that.
It allows you to breathe
If you have hiked before with a wrong backpack, we are pretty sure you know exactly what we are talking about. When you are trekking, you know how it feels when your back starts to sweat. This can be made even worse if your backpack presses into you. It is because of this reason you may want to go for a backpack that features built-in mesh ventilation. This will drastically reduce the amount of sweat and also discomfort you feel when you are out there. With this, you will enjoy your trip.
It must be right for you
This is important. For example, if you are out there looking for an internal framed backpack, probably, you will need to ensure it comes equipped with a great ventilation system. This will make sure you get better stability. Moreover, if you want to take your ventilation to a whole new level, you may want to invest in an external framed backpack. Yes, they offer greater ventilation, but do offer the much-needed support for the weight. They are not as comfortable as internal frame backpacks.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR HIKING BACKPACKS
Nailing a perfect hiking backpack can be quite tricky. Basically, very much like any purchase, you make today, there is a lot that goes into the whole process. How much money are you willing to part for that backpack? What style do you need? What about the features? In short, a whole list of questions will run through your mind and that can leave you feeling even more confused. We understand the hassle, but this guide will save you all the time. It will in a myriad of ways help you choose the right backpack.
Your Budget, Constraints And Other Needs :
Similarly, much like when you are shopping for any other piece of hiking gear, few things will come into play when buying your hiking backpack. Other than just the price, there are other things that you need to factor in as well.
How much should you spend on the pack?
How much money you are willing to put on this gear is probably the first thing that comes into mind. If you are looking for a high end and much larger pack, there is a chance you will have to part with hundreds of dollars. Similarly, if you are just looking for a pack for a one day trip, you may want to go down on the price. However, know you will have to sacrifice a number of features.
Backpack prices depend largely on a number of things; brand and fabric being the two key things. The big brand tends to put their price up; but again, that will come with plenty of benefits. Those expensive high-end backpacks from big names like North face and Gregory tend to offer more bells and whistles; we are talking about special padding and materials and overall quality design.
Length of your trip
For how many days are you going to be in the wilderness? The length of your trip is also key and must be factored in at all times when buying a backpack. This will decide if you need a larger or small backpack. For example, if you know you are going hiking for days, you will actually require a backpack that is larger enough to carry a number of essentials. You need space for hiking gear, room for water bottles, as well as oversight provisions. On the other hand, if you are going out for just a few hours, a smaller back will be more practical.
Here some configurations you may want to keep in mind at all times when it comes to the length of your trip.
- 30-50 liters
This is a perfect choice for 1 to 3 nights. These packs are relatively small. They are less bulky and can be used to keep essential for around 1 to 3 nights. However, it is important to note; very light packing needs a bit of discipline and careful planning as well. However, if you can pull it though, this pack will give you some fantastic rewards.
- 50-80 liters
This is a practical choice for 3 to 5 days. They are the most popular designs have in the market right now. They are excellent options for warm weather hikes that can last for around 3 to 5 days that sometimes can go for 2 nights.
- 70 liters or larger
These packs are probably the largest we have in the market right now. They are suitable for 5 day hikes or even more. They have enough room for extra clothing, warmer sleeping bag or a 4-season tent. It is also a perfect option if you are going out hiking as a family. It will provide enough room for children gear among others things
What activities are you likely to engage in?
Before anything else; come up with a list of some of the things you are likely to do while out there. This important as it will dictate the kind of pack you need to buy. Do you need extra pockets for carrying camera gear? What about waterproofing? Are you likely to cross rivers or even being rained on? This will help you decide if you will need your pack to come with plenty of storage for your camera gear and waterproof fabric to protect your essential from the rain.
How fit is the backpack
Fit forms an integral part of your backpack; you can’t miss out. The size determines if you are going to have a very smooth trip out there or not. To help you get the right fit, you need to get the correct measurement of your torso starting from the top of your shoulder going right down to hips bones. If you find it falling below 15 inches, you need to go for a smaller backpack. On the other hand; if your torso goes beyond 20 inches, a larger backpack will make sense.
How comfortable is your backpack
Like size, the comfort of your pack is very important. It is one thing that can make or even break your whole trip. Similarly, once you have an idea of the capacity and the size, you may want to try a few pack designs that match your profile. Try to find out how comfortable the pack is on your back.
Many at the time, a suitable backpack should place the majority of its mass on your hip area. The shoulder straps should keep the pack stable and reasonably close to your back. The best thing about this is that; a good number of stores have pre-stuffed bags for their customers to try on. So make sure you try it before you have it packed for you. It cannot get better than that.
What About Durability?
Much like any other piece of hiking gear at the end of a few days in the wilderness or the road, your backpack will also be subject to a degree of wear and tear. Zippers and those buckles are probably the weakest joints. For this, make sure these parts have been built to last. They must be heavy-duty and you may want to try them before you dish out your money for a new backpack.
The Sex Factor
Pretty much like when you are shopping for clothing, sex factor will also come into play when choosing a hiking backpack. Most ladies would agree with this; if you are putting your savings on one of the best hiking backpacks for your next hiking trip, at least, you want to make sure it looks great on you. They are numerous styles and designs out there, and many women would want to go for a style that look great and makes them look sexy at the same.
Types of Backpacks Designs and Styles :
Hiking backpacks now come in different sizes and styles. This is a good thing. This will ensure you get one that perfectly suits your needs. The following are some of the styles and designs you will find today in the market.
Mostly their sizes vary from 25 to 35 liters. With this pack, you can only carry those items that you will need for a day trip. We are talking about a bottle of water, maps, first aid kit, a rope and torch among others. Other things that take a lot of space like a mattress, cooking tools, sleeping bags are often excluded. Their compartments can be easily accessed through a u-shaped zipper. It is also less water-resistant and its back support is relatively poor.
- Where and when to use these packs
As the name suggests, this is the best option for a typical short trip. One of the best things about daypack backpacks is that you get easy access to your stuff.
From the name, you can get an idea of what this pack is all about. They come deigned to handle a number of terrain including ice, rock, and snow. They come equipped with a great number of cords and a loop right on the outside. You can use these loop to attach your climbing tools, as well as, crampons without damaging your pack. As for fabric, they come with a lighter fabric to help you shed off weight.
- Where and where you can use
These packs are basically meant for mountain terrains: places where things like weather and terrain can get really nasty.
Trail Running Backpacks
This type of backpacks comes with a very minimalist design. Incredibly, they manage to offer superb stability and much-needed comfort. Most feature shaped shoulder straps alongside an adjustable chest strap. For great ventilation, you get a mesh paneling. As for storage, you also get a wide range of pockets apart from the main compartment.
- Where and when to use the,
If you are planning on adding a bit of running while you are out there, obviously, you would want something to help you carry those essentials. This type of pack will help you in a myriad of ways in such situations.
This option ranges from 35 to 60 liters. A mid-sized backpack is ideal for cross-country activities. This is a perfect choice for people who have a small body frame, especially women.
- Where you can use them
These packs are incredibly lightweight, making them an amazing option for longer trips. You can leave your main pack in a hotel and hit the nearest hill or hiking location with a mid-size pack.
As the names suggest, these types of backpacks are incredibly lightweight. Designers understand the hassles you go through with heavy packs, and they have made sure you get a very light design. Other than its incredibly low overall weights, they come with a nice design. They are also comfortable and offer excellent stability.
- Where and when to use
This is an amazing option if you want to keep your pack’s weight down. It is a more practical option if you know you are going to do a lot of walking.
This is an amazing choice for 3 to 5 days and often comes with a capacity of around 50 to 80 liters. The way this bag has been designed, especially the straps aims at allowing you to carry the maximum weight while making sure you remain comfortable all through. It comes with plenty of pockets where you can keep your gear for smooth accessibility.
- Where and when you can use
It is incredibly versatile. It is also the best choice if you know you are going to hike for days. There is so much you can do with this backpack.
Pretty much like mountaineering packs, climbing backpacks are designed for agile ascents. They come with a very clean design, durable and most importantly lightweight. They also come with plenty of features to help you carry every single essential up in the mountain. As a way to keep its weight down, the fabric is incredibly light. Most of them come with small volume though.
- Where and when to use
These packs are basically meant for agile ascents.
This option is quite popular among many hikers. With this pack, we are talking about compact, solid, rigid and most importantly a very comfortable design. This pack comes in handy in so many areas. You can use it if you know you are going to walk off-trail or do some steep descent hiking. Internal frame backpacks offer an outstanding level of stability. They come equipped with one huge internal compartment, with a wide range of zippered smaller compartments.
- Where and when to use
Because of their stability and a wide range of features, they come with, theses bags are quite popular among many hikers. They in a way suit just about everyone. They also come with a great ventilation system.
These backpacks are pretty much the opposite of internal packs. They come equipped with external frames made of super-light materials like plastic and aluminum. You can actually detach the backpack from the frame every time you feel like it. That is not even all, you can decide to hang up your dirty hiking boots on the frame. That alone will help you from going through all the hassle whenever you need as you will not be forced to unpack everything.
- Where and when to use
This backpack is amazingly cheap. It is also the best for heavy loads. So if you know you are going to carry a lot of stuff and hiking essentials, this backpack will truly come in handy.
Top Features To Consider When Choosing A Hiking Backpack :
Hiking backpacks mostly come fully made of nylon. However, the nylon comes in different density and the higher the denier the stronger and durable the fabric.
However, a denier material means one thing, heavier fabric. It is because of that most of them don’t usually come with a heavier fabric. To help it resist abrasion, they are usually reinforced using a tougher fabric to increase its overall durability. Mostly you will find a durable Cordura fabric. This material is incredibly durable and can be used in abrasion prone areas.
In other cases, nylon can be made stronger with interwoven thread. They can be used at regular intervals, giving it the much-needed resistance from tear.
When buying a backpack, the size is crucial. Different people have different needs and picking a backpack that is quite small or larger for your trip means you will have to overstuff it, or under fill it. Doing this will put too much pressure on some of the parts of your back, and that can make your trip very uncomfortable.
To help you counter this problem; before you head out shopping; put on paper everything you will need for your upcoming trip or even a list of some of the things you always carry during hikes. This will give you a clear idea of how many liters your backpack will need to be. Most of the hiking backpack range from small, medium and larger. They also come with a wide range of adjustability in torso height, as well as, hip belt. So in the end, you need to consider the length of your torso and not the height when choosing a backpack, as it will dictate what you are going to go home with.
Metal or plastic zippers
It is often said metal zipper is far much better than plastic zippers; plastic zipper tends to warp and can easily break. While this could be true, we have seen new technologies being introduced. We can now find plastic zippers that are well designed. They are now more durable than metal zippers and comes with a number of added benefits. They are completely waterproof and are quite easy to operate in muddy conditions.
Buckles and Clips
These are the other two weakest points; however, they can be replaced with ease. So you may want to go for a backpack that offers a level of replaceability.
Once you have the right size, you need to think about the kind of suspension systems your backpack comes with. A backpack can get really heavy. It will make a lot of sense to find a backpack that can seamlessly spread the weight around your body, with no pressure points.
For example, if at one point, you buy a bag with no suspension, your shoulders will carry all the weight and that can leave you in pain within hours. It is always best to choose a backpack that comes with very thick and well-padded straps. This will not dig your shoulders and those thick straps will help distribute weight evenly across the shoulders. Think about comfort.
It is for a fact, there is nothing you can do to prevent your back from sweating, especially when you wear an internal framed hiking backpack. Although this cannot be avoided, it can actually be reduced with a great ventilation system.
What this system means is that you get a breathable mesh that can rest on your back, allowing your backpack to rest a few inches away from your back. This will in a way allow air to flow, giving you the much needed back ventilation.
A pretty good number of hiking backpacks come equipped with their own ventilation system while others do have this great feature. So for comfort, you may want to ensure your pack comes with a competent ventilation system.
When you are out there carrying tons of essential and hiking gear in your pack, comfort is crucial. So look for a pack that comes with adequate padding. Since most of the load will rest on your hips, a backpack that is equipped with a padded hip belt will make sense. When shopping, you may want to try a few designs. Pay close attention to any kind of discomfort or those rubbing spots. It doesn’t stop there; your shoulder straps must also come with adequate padding. A poorly padded shoulder strap can lead to a sore back or even shoulder joints after a long day hiking.
Like a number of hiking gear such as tents, how well is your backpack accessorized? It is now time to talk about a few additional things that will make your backpack much better.
- Rain cover:
If you are going out for days, the chance of being got up in the rain is relatively high. Even the driest places on earth receive some little rain and you don’t want your gear being rain on, do you? Although most packs come with a bit of resistance to water, in case of heavy downpour, you will need to do a bit of precaution with a rain cover.
- Storage bags:
Great internal organization is key when it comes to proper weight management. Having a pack that comes with some extra ultra silk nylon for food or hiking gear will make a lot sense. It will come handy every time you are looking for extra protection from rain. Moreover, those nylon silk can seamlessly slide around for better pack packing. You can actually shove them in those dead spaces to help conserve space and help keep your pack in place.
Top or sideloading
This will largely depend on what you want and your own preference. Top loading backpacks are quite popular though. But this option packs everything in a linear fashion. You will be forced to pack based on when you will need to access things.
Sideloading backpacks are also fast becoming quite popular. They mostly open like duffle bags and that gives you access to practically everything. While this can be very convenient, it will give you awkward handling. In the end, really, there is no perfect decision when it comes to loading; it is up to you and your preference.
This is the part of your backpack that sits against your back. It, in a number of ways, influences your comfort. They usually come made of ergonomically shaped foams. Because it determines the level of comfort you are going to net from the pack, it always makes sense to go for a competent and comfortable back panel. However, know you will have to sacrifice its overall weight. Those lightweights backpacks you see on the market today usually don’t come with such panels.
Compartments and Multiple access points
If you have to have everything really organized, you need to consider these two features. A backpack with several access points to the main compartment is more practical, especially when you are going on longer trips. You will be able to get in and out of your backpack more frequently as you get individual items without being forced to unload everything from the pack. However, keep in mind a backpack with more organization will be more costly.
Most hikers enjoy the convenience of tube water some packs come with; your water is always a quick sip away. If you like a pack that comes with this kind of hydration and a design that comes equipped with a hydration sleeve as well as a port, you may also need a bladder to complete the whole package. You can drink your water without any hassle.
This may sound very insignificant, but it can be a deal-breaker. Here are some of the pocket designs you may want to look out for when shopping for a hiking backpack.
- Side pocket: Several packs will come with elasticized side pockets. They are perfect for keeping your bottle of water. It is also a nice spot to keep your sandals.
- Hip Belt Pockets: A backpack lacking hip belt pocket can turn off a lot of hikers. These pockets are the best place to keep snacks, cell phone or even your GPS. They are quite close and incredible convenient as you can easily reach what you want without being forced to take off your backpack.
- Lid Pockets: This is a perfect location to safely store your map. Some front pockets often come with an internal pocket for better organization. Moreover, others will even come with a waterproof features to allow you to separate wet gear from dry ones.
- Lid pocket; Few backpacks come with a lid pocket. They are typically small and are purely meant for small items. It is a nice place to keep your gloves if you are traversing a colder region.
Load Lifter Straps
If you are a serious hiker, obviously, you will need your backpack to come with load lifter straps. These straps play a key role as they can be the difference between having to deal with a sore shoulder at the end of the hike or no soreness at all. However, you may want to ensure the backpack is reasonably close to your back. If the straps are too loose, your pack will tend to hang off your back.
A number of backpacks are equipped with lids. They are great for keeping small items that you want to have easy access to, but you can have them removed if you want to save on weight. You can also use them as a lumbar pack and that will come in handy if you are planning on setting up a base where you will do your hiking from. It actually gives you a very convenient way to carry small items like a water bottle.
Zippers also play a key role. For this reason, you may want to go for a backpack that comes with two zippers for each compartment so that you can lock them together. This will provide some level of security to your belongings.
Color plays a key role, but it is often looked down upon. Backpacks come in a wide range of colors. Others are super bright while some are a bit dull. When it comes to color, you may want to go for one that blends well with the environment. It must not be too bright as that will make you be easily spotted when you are out there. In the end, really, the color will not affect the performance of your backpack and the color you go will largely depend on your own preference.
Updated on January 20, 2021 by Ben