Best Hiking Backpack Reviews

Hitting the trails can be an exhilarating adventure that provides years of outdoor bliss. The best outdoor backpacks specifically designed for hiking and backpacking will allow you to bring along any necessary items and give you the ability to carry your gear in a safe and comfortable manner. When beginning the buying process for hiking backpacks, It is important to find a pack that fits properly and is designed for your specific needs. Choosing the best hiking backpack requires research, but a proper backpack will provide hikers with the tools and accessories necessary to enjoy their outdoor hiking and backpacking adventure.

Considerations in Picking a Hiking Backpack

Prior to purchasing a hiking backpack, considerations must be made to ensure the purchase of the correct backpack for each individual hiker. Consider the following prior to making any final purchases:

  • Fit - The proper fit of a hiking backpack is the most important feature of any pack. A properly fitted hiking backpack will fit snug around the shoulders, with the weight of the bag sitting on the hikers hips with the majority of the weight situated close to the hiker’s body. Look for packs that have hip and chest straps which help distribute weight more evenly. When you try on a new hiking backpack, and if it does not feel correct, move onto another option.
  • Capacity - Each manufacturer has bags in a variety of sizes. Determine what your need is before making any final decisions. Typically, daypacks are in the 15 to 35 liter range. Weekend hikes can be accomplished with backpacks in the 40 to 65 liter range, and multi day and expeditions can be accomplished in hiking backpacks larger than 70 liters.
  • Frame Type - Frameless backpacks are backpacks with no internal support system and are typically smaller. The most common backpack is the internal frame backpack, where an internal metal frame is integrated into the design of the pack. External frame backpacks are less common, but offer some advantages. These packs can accommodate varying weights and load sizes while also offering many options to attach gear to the outside of the pack and frame.
  • Type of Hiking - frameless backpacks are great for shorter (one full day or less, no overnight camping) hikes over a moderate terrain. If you plan to encounter steep or alpine sections, consider researching framed backpacks in a variety of sizes. If you are planning to climb in addition to simple hiking, research specific climbing backpacks.
  • Features - Determine what features are best for your needs. The most common features to consider are:
    • Ventilation - Does the bag sit on the hikers back, or does it provide a venting feature to keep you cool? Hiking backpacks with adequate ventilation will keep hikers cooler for longer. This can be helpful on long hikes on hot days.

    • Pockets - Look for a bag that has plenty of pockets and ensure that they are easily accessible. Each manufacturer will design their pockets and pouches differently; test out and practice using each feature prior to your first hike.

    • Rain or Waterproofing - Alone, very few backpacks will be completely waterproof. Many contemporary bags are already water resistant, but certain manufacturers will offer a built in rain fly. A rain fly can be attached to the bag and thrown over the bag in inclement weather, but other manufacturers simply include a separate rain fly with the purchase of a particular backpack. These can save money, as it is one less item that needs to be purchased.

    • Hydration - Ensure a new hiking backpack bag has an internal hydration system. When wearing larger bags, it can be challenging to take them on and off. Therefore, internal hydration pockets will allow hikers to install water bladders to drink from on the go.

    • Removeable Daypacks - Backpacks in larger sizes may come equipped with a removable day pack which can make your weekend hike even more convenient; Once camp is set up, you can hike and explore with smaller detachable bag.

    • Fit - Determine if the bag fits properly to your body. Load the bag with weight in order to see how that affects the bag’s fit. Follow all manufacturer instructions on how to properly fit and adjust your new hiking backpack.

Different Types of Backpacks

here are different types of hiking backpacks on the market; the the two main types of hiking backpacks are frameless and framed backpacks. Both offering their respective advantages.

Additionally, some manufacturers offer ultralight and lightweight packs along climbing specific, gender specific, and youth options. No one hiking backpack is superior as each serves a specific purpose and is designed to meet those needs.


Frameless Backpacks

The most basic of hiking backpacks are frameless backpacks. Many daypacks, backpacks designed for single day hikes and trips, are frameless. These bags have no internal frame to support the packed load. Due to their small size, these packs are typically used for day hikes. Their framed counterparts can carry more weight, while daypacks and frameless packs will store only your most essential hiking items. Frameless backpacks are often your most cost efficient way to carry your gear with you on the trail. If you are looking for ultralight backpacks, many of those models are frameless or have a removable frame option.

Best Frameless Backpack

Osprey Packs Daylite Daypack

This 13 liter hiking pack is a great option for your shorter day hikes. It’s 13 liter size can hold water, food, small electronics, and a few clothing items. This bag also has a hydration compartment to insert a water bladder. This is a great option for the weekend warrior or a seasoned hiker looking to get out on the trails for a few hours.

Internal Frame Backpacks

Internal frame backpacks have a rigid frame sewn into the lining of the bag. This frame helps provide support and distribute the weight to the hikers hips, making the hiker more comfortable and stable. These bags fit tightly to the body and have hip straps that fit snug on the hiker’s hips. The weight of the bag, when fitted properly, will sit on these hip straps. Finding the best internal frame backpack can take time, but follow these general rules:

  • Always try on the pack before taking it out on your actual hiking trip.
  • When trying on the pack, load it with items.
  • Follow all instructions on how to fit and adjust the backpack.
  • Purchase a bag that is the correct capacity for your needs.

Internal frame backpacks come in a variety of sizes and volumes. Typically, backpacks with internal frames will vary in size from 30 liters to 120 liters. Each size will offer its own unique benefits.

30 Liter Backpack


All backpacking backpacks’ capacity is measured in liters. The larger the bag is, the more gear that can be packed. Always choose a bag that is best for your ability and hike. A 30L backpack is a small backpack that can have an internal frame or be frameless. A bag of this size will be best for day hikes as you can pack water, food, cameras, a few clothing items, and emergency kits or other small items. The best 30 liter backpack will fit snugly, but comfortably and should be easy to access. Some of these smaller packs will include waist straps, but that is not a requirement.

Best 30 Liter Backpack

Kelty Redwing 32

Kelty backpacks are a value brand that provides both reliability and a manageable price point. The Kelty Redwing 32 is a great pack that will allow hikers to head out for day long and even overnight adventures. However, keep in mind that 32 liters may be a bit restrictive if you plan to hike more than one night. This bag can be opened from the top and side, allowing for easy access to your gear. It also has an internal padded pocket that can store electronics or serve as a hydration sleeve. At two pounds, this bag is light enough to be comfortable to hike long distances with yet large enough to carry all of your essential hiking gear.

50 Liter Backpack


Hiking backpacks in the 50 liter range will provide more versatility and still be compact and light. Bags in this size range can carry all of the aforementioned items in the 30L category and will also be able to carry some larger items. They should be able to carry a sleeping bag, tent, cooking items and stoves, a few days worth of food, and a few more days worth of clothing. At this size, it can still be challenging to pack any luxury items, but as you get better at packing, you may be able to be more flexible in what and how much you pack. Some of the best backpacking backpacks can be found in the 50 liter size range. They offer hikers the options to hike for multiple days while still packing all necessary items. These packs, when fully loaded, will be more cumbersome and tiring than 30 liter packs, but a properly fitted pack will be comfortable and secure.

Best 50 Liter Backpack

Osprey Exos 58

Weighing in at only two and half pounds, this pack provides comfort and support with considerable weight savings. Osprey packs are known for their longevity, and since the Exos’ introduction, it has been a best selling among ultralight enthusiasts and avid expedition hikers alike. This daypack offers hikers with a hydration sleeve that allows up to three liters of liquid to be stored. The internal compartments of the backpack are easily organized and its sleek design sits high on the back with its weight falling on the newly redesigned hip belts. This is a great hiking backpack in the 50 liter range that is both lightweight and comfort.

70+ Liter Backpack


Multi day and longer excursions may require large bags. 70L backpacks or larger are spacious enough to pack gear for longer hikes and adventures. These bags can pack many of the items previously mentioned, but may also hold larger tents, specialty equipment such as climbing and mountaineering gear, extra food, and bear canisters.

Best 70+ Liter Backpack

Osprey Aether 70

The Osprey Aether 70 is a favorite for long expedition like hikes. The packs size and design allows the wearer to pack all of his or her large items such as tents, sleeping pads, bear cans, cooking items, and sleeping bag. This pack comes in four different sizes to ensure a proper fit and also has exterior straps that can be used to attach an additional daypack if necessary. This hiking backpack’s versatility will provide years of comfort and convenience out on multi day and week long trips.

Ultralight Backpacks

Ultralight backpacking is the idea of hiking and backpacking with as little equipment and with the lightest gear possible. A typical 50 liter backpack will be in the four to five pound weight range when empty, but some lightweight backpacks can be as light at one and half pounds. Ultralight backpacks may even be frameless or have removable frames to reduce the weight a hiker has to burden. If your goal is to pack as little weight as possible, simply compare each backpack’s weight before purchase.

Best Ultralight Backpack

Granite Gear Virga 2 (52 liter)

This backpack comes in three different sizes; their medium/regular size weighs a scant one pound three ounces. Granite Gear has designed this pack on the premise of weight reduction. It has multiple pockets and a hydration hanger. With 52 liters of storage space, this pack is perfect for the avid minimalist looking to cut weight wherever possible.

External Frame Backpacks

Internal vs External Frame Backpacks

External frame backpacks are another option every hiker has to consider. These bags are larger in size and are built differently than internal frame backpacks. External frame backpacks hold the weight of your gear away from your body. This means you can stay cooler and comfortable while the pack positions the weight of your gear high on your body. This can help hikers walk in a more upright and natural poster. Conversely, with the weight sitting high on your body, you may not feel as stable. It is important to try these bags on and even test them out before embarking on a multi day or long hike. Finding the best external frame backpack can be challenging, but there will only be limited options. These bags have not changed much in the past few decades, but hikers that wear these bags swear by them.

Best External Frame Backpack

Kelty Trekker External Frame Pack

The external frame backpack is a timeless and reliable piece of hiking gear that cannot be overlooked. Kelty has modernized the external frame backpack in style and practicality, but remains true to it’s rugged and stable heritage. This pack comes with 65 liters of storage space and plenty of pockets and features (including a hydration sleeve). This backpack loads from the top and has a specific sleeping bag compartment that can be divided from the remainder of the backpack. External framed backpacks provide comfort and stability for long expedition, and this pack is no different.

ALPS OutdoorZ Commander and Pack Bag

This rugged piece of outdoor equipment is versatile and reliable. It offers a number of outside pockets and sleeves to store hiking and outdoor equipment. The pack also detaches from the frame allowing outdoorsman to use the frame to haul other gear and equipment. This pack is made from a durable fabric with a lower access door to access gear easily and it’s lifetime warranty will protect your pack through challenging conditions.

Women's Backpacks

Women’s backpacks are not simply different colors and sizes of other hiking backpacks; these female specific bags are designed to fit specific body types. Straps and load bearing features are specifically designed to be easier to carry and more comfortable for women. The other features of the bag will generally be the same as their standard sized backpack. The main consideration when purchased a bag designed for women is the overall fit.

Best Women's Hiking Backpack

Osprey Aura AG 50

Due to Osprey’s “Anti Gravity Suspension”, this pack holds up to 40 pounds without the wearer even noticing. This pack provides plenty of ventilation to keep the hiker cool. It comes in a number of sizes and Osprey has designed its shoulder straps and hipbelt to fit specifically to women. In addition to its women’s specific design, the Aura AG 50 also offers a removeable daypack, gear straps for storing accessories, and internal and external (side) compression straps. This backpack is one of the best women’s hiking backpacks on the market.

Mountaineering Backpacks

Mountaineering backpacks are packs that are specifically designed to carry and store climbing and alpine mountaineering equipment. These bags are often sold as climbing backpacks. These bags have specific compartments to pack away climbing shoes, ropes, carabiners, helmets, and other climbing tools. Additionally, these bags are narrow, compact, and fitted. This allows climbers to ascend and descend without their pack getting in the way. Mountaineering backpacks are designed to allow the users to move freely and unrestricted which is important to climbers and mountaineers.

Best Mountaineering Backpack

Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30

This mountaineering backpack is perfect for the minimalist or avid climber. This pack distributes weight evenly over your back and fits snug to your body. The inside of the bag offers compression straps and a unique watertight main compartment that is guaranteed to keep your gear dry. It can be challenging to find waterproof hiking backpacks, but this pack, according to my research, seems to do the trick.This backpack is one of the best mountaineering and waterproof backpacks available and is bound to keep any outdoorsman or outdoorswoman happy.

Backpacks on a Budget

Often times, for many, finding the best hiking backpacks comes down to budget. As backpacks become less expensive, hikers will find some common themes. Some of these themes include:

  • Weight - Typically, the less expensive a backpack is, the more the backpack will weigh.
  • Quality - A more expensive backpack will last for years with little issues, whereas their cheaper counterparts may rip, tear, or malfunction prematurely.
  • Warranty - Many of the most reputable manufacturers will put a lifetime warranty on their products, but they often times comes with a higher price tag.
  • Features - Cheaper hiking backpacks will only be equipped with basic features and may not include the most recent innovations in hiking backpack technology.

Best Hiking Backpack for Under $100

Teton Sports Scout 3400

This hiking backpack provides quality at an appealing price for the budget conscious hiker. The Scout 3400 is an internal frame backpack with 55 liters of storage space and is sold with a rainfly. This backpack is a practical option for shorter, two to four day adventures. Teton Sports also offers a limited lifetime warranty on this backpack which can protect hikers in the long run, but keep in mind that no warranty can help you out on the trail.

Backpacks for Kids

Kids and children can easily get involved in hiking, and finding a quality children’s backpack will provide a young hiker with a comfortable option on the trail. Children’s specific backpacks offer many of the same features as their adult counterparts, but in a smaller size. Larger and stronger children can opt for larger volume packs, but to ensure enjoyability, choose a pack that is as small as feasible. Otherwise, all considerations taken with adult backpacks can be taken into account with childrens backpacks.

Best Children's Hiking Backpacks

Osprey Jet 18

This frameless backpack is a convenient size for young hikers. At 18 liters, this pack provides enough space to pack away clothing, hydration, food, and small hiking and backpacking tools such as first aid kits, fire kits, and cooking equipment. This backpack provides a chest and hip strap for added comfort and weight distribution. Note that while hiking can be started at a young age, an improperly fitted backpack can be uncomfortable and unpleasant.

Backpacks for Cameras

Hikers that wish to pack camera and photography equipment can do so with relative ease. Camera specific backpacks have specialized padded compartments and features to keep equipment dry and protected. The hiking photographer must plan out how their pack will be packed as camera gear can take up substantial amounts of space. Always choose a backpack with positive reviews as this hiking backpack will be responsible for protecting expensive and delicate photography equipment.

Best Backpacks for Cameras

AmazonBasics Hiker Camera and Laptop Backpack

This backpack is designed to hold SLR cameras and their respective accessories. This pack will limit the amount of other hiking items that can be packed, but will ensure that your camera gear stays dry and functional. Besides that, this pack would be ideal for a day hike through scenic landscape. Lastly, it allso includes a rainfly to keep your pack and gear dry during inclement weather.

Conclusion

Along with choosing the correct boot, finding the best hiking backpack can be vital to any outdoor hike or expedition. Understanding the terrain to be covered and the gear to be packed will help any hiker begin the hiking backpack buying process. In addition to the unique features backpacks have to offer, it is important to keep in mind the fit of the backpack, the capacity or volume of the bag, and the overall weight of the backpack. As you can see, a number of reputable companies offer a variety of choices, but ultimately, the perfect hiking backpack comes down to your budget and, often times, simple trial and error.

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