Whether you’re a hiker, traveler, or adventurer – a reliable hiking backpack is one of the most important pieces of gear you should own. We’ve tested over 50 leading backpacks for hiking in real-world conditions and selected the 10 best for you.
In nature, one of the most important pieces of gear you can own is a high-quality, durable hiking backpack. After all, it holds all your gear! In this review we test the best backpacks for hiking, plus you’ll get tips on what to put into your pack (more on that below). But first, here's what you need to know when buying your hiking backpack!
Weight is a hugely important factor in making your purchasing decision. In general, you want a light hiking backpack. The lightest pack might not be the best choice though since you also need an internal frame. We've made sure to only recommend backpacks here that have an ideal balance of weight and functionality.
A cushy, well-built hip belt is really important but often overlooked. The reason you need a good hip belt is that without it you will quickly notice sore spots on your hips and lower back. A cushioned hip belt helps to prevent that (especially with heavy gear). It helps stabilize and soften the impact of your hiking backpack.
Padded shoulder straps offer better performance for your hiking backpack. You'd be surprised how heavy your gear will start to feel after several miles of carrying it. But no worries, that's where padded straps come in: They help to distribute weight and lower the impact on your shoulders so you can keep on going!
Should your hiking backpack be waterproof? Absolutely! Nothing is worse than having wet and moldy equipment, or even worse, rotten food supplies. Many modern hiking packs offer waterproof materials that still provide ventilation so you don't sweat (for example by using mesh back panels).
There are three types of backpack frames: Internal frames are hidden inside your backpack and the best choice overall. They provide great load-support technologies that all function to transfer the load to your hips. Go with internal frames: External frames are clunky and frameless packs don't offer support.
The capacity of your backpack is pretty self-explanatory: It's how much gear your backpack can hold, usually measured in liters. Capacity is important because you want to have enough supplies. The rule of thumb is: 30-50 liters capacity for 3 nights, 50-80 liters for up to 5 nights, and 70+ liters for extended trips.
A lot of modern hiking backpacks offer a special sleeve in which you can slip a hydration reservoir. This can come in handy when you want to carry water in an internal, refillable bottle and drink it through a tube without having to open your backpack. Is it required? No. Is it useful? Definitely! Get hydration reservoirs here.
Some professional hiking backpacks have separate, detachable rain-covers. Most packs already offer waterproof coating but some moisture can still slip in through zippers and other small cracks. So if you expect a lot of rain or moisture, we highly recommend getting an optional rain cover for your backpack, see here.
Most hiking backpacks are waterproof and made from strong materials such as nylon. The downside is that they can feel warm on your back and make you sweat. To prevent this, good hiking backpacks have ventilation technology (for example a mesh back panel) to keep your back cool and comfortable in any weather.
Here's the deal: There are hundreds of different camping and hiking backpacks available! So it can be really confusing to find the right one, especially at a good price. But no worries, we've got you covered. Here's how we tested: The GeekWrapped team selected the top 50 hiking backpacks based on verified online customer reviews and sales numbers. Then we took them into nature to test their durability, comfort, water resistance, performance, and many other criteria. Out of all tested hiking backpacks, we then picked the 10 best ones for you! All 10 are very high quality, offer great value, and are versatile and durable. In short, they're amazing backpacks for hiking that you can truly rely on! You can't go wrong with any of the 10 winners. Let's jump right in:
The Atmos AG 65 is an all-around excellent backpack. It features Osprey's proven "Anti-Gravity" suspension system, which is a continuous mesh structure that adjusts to the shape of your body. This back panel design makes the Atmos AG 65 very light, comfortable and also provides excellent ventilation. The new suspension system really works and feels like the bag is just floating on your back.
We also really liked the removable top lid which comes in handy when you have a lot to carry and as a day-pack. Underneath the top lid you'll find a well-designed main pack that offers very good weather protection and great compression. Osprey also includes loops and bungee tie-offs on the side of the pack which are useful for attaching different tools for easy access. The bottom features sleeping bag straps which can be removed to save weight.
The backpack's engineering is top notch. It features double compression straps on the top to balance even heavy loads. Hidden on the inside are additional compression straps which you can use to stabilize the load. The front hip belt was easy to use and adjust and very comfortable. another smart feature is that the torso length of the pack can be changed via an adjustable harness, to better fit your body.
The Atmos AG 65 has a great reputation with pro hikers for good reason: It offers excellent built quality, many useful features, and comes at a great price. It's also one of the lightest backpacks we've tested. Highly recommended!
If you're looking to save money, this budget backpack is a perfect choice! It includes a lot of high-end features, is made in the USA, and you can buy it at a great price. The Sports Scout 3400 offers incredible value.
With 55 L capacity, this mid-sized pack is ideal for 3-5 day, light backpacking. It's also a good choice if you're looking for a smaller pro-backpack or simply want to carry less. Either way, the Sports Scout 3400 gets the job done!
The backpack features well-designed compression straps at the top and bottom that help to keep all your gear secure. We were able to fit a sleeping bag, pad, and small tent, plus a lot of backpacking accessories - no problem at all.
Another plus is that TETON offers a limited lifetime warranty. that's always a good sign because it shows that the brand believes in their own product quality.
The backpack offers an adjustable torso length (from 15" to about 20"), a bottom sleeping bag compartment, and useful front and top bungee storage spaces. The latter comes in handy to quickly stow away and access jackets, shoes, rope, and other gear that you want to keep accessible.
Simply put, the Scout 3400 is an excellent backpack that's made even more attractive by its great price point! You pretty much can't find a cheap yet high-quality backpack with this many features.
Arcteryx is a comparatively newer backpack brand but has quickly made a name for itself with quality backpacks. The best pack that they offer is the Altra 65. The most interesting feature of this backpack is Arcteryx's "Load Transfer Disc" system, which is an internal stabilizer that pivots to the increase agility and stability of the pack. The Altra 65 also offers a very well-designed suspension system that makes the backpack easy to carry.
The backpack itself is constructed from very light and tear-resistant 210D nylon. Additionally, Arcteryx uses heavier and more durable 500D nylon in high-wear areas, which protects the backpack against tears and the elements. The internal frame of the backpack is sturdy and stable, using a very good aluminum construction.
If you plan to carry a lot of gear, the Altra 65 offers a large (removable) top lid that can be extended. It also has an extendable drawcord collar for additional capacity.
The shoulder and hip straps are very comfortable and anatomically shaped. The back panel works very well, it's lightweight, breathable, and very soft.
The Altra 65 has a lot of external straps that allow you to properly compress and tie down your load. Many pro hikers cut off extra strap material to save weight, but we'd recommend to store it instead. The Altra 65 actually offers the ability to tuck away extra strap material at the top and bottom of the pack, so keep an eye out for that.
In short, the Arcteryx Altra 65 is a very good backpack that will work great for almost any outdoor situation. It has a medium price tag for a backpack this size but offers a lot of high-quality features that make it very reliable.
Everybody knows The North Face. It's a global brand that's known to make professional-level equipment. The Banchee 65 doesn't stray from that formula, it's an excellent backpack that's large and comfortable enough, even for multi-day excursions. Best of all, the Banchee is by far the lightest backpack we have tested and it comes at a great price. There's a lot of proven technology built into in this pack and a lot to like. Let's talk details!
As mentioned, the Banchee 65 is VERY light, weighing only three pounds, a record for a 65 L capacity backpack. The North Face manages to set this new standard for lightweight backpacks by using a new aluminum frame structure, an updated harness system, and lightweight but sturdy nylon materials. The lower weight feels great!
The Banchee 65 comes with eight pockets for all your gear. On the back, you have The North Face's proprietary "OPTIFIT" harness system which fits great on your body. The internal frame does an amazing job of balancing heavy loads, even in complicated and tilted terrain. We tested it with over 50 pounds of accessories and it held up great!
Like most pro backpacks, the Banchee is top loading for easy access to your stuff. It has a very useful sleeping bag compartment with separate entry (e.g. to keep your other gear dry after a wet night). It also offers two tool keepers and a beavertail style expansion at the bag for more storage. You can really fit anything in this pack!
Lastly, we really liked the comfortable, soft, and ergonomically correct waist-belt. It features a patent-adjustment strap that makes fitting it very easy. All in all, this is one of the best backpacks money can buy!
A total of three Osprey backpacks made our top ten list. Why? The company makes ultra-reliable, comfortable, and affordable packs that come with a great warranty: Osprey guarantees to repair any damage or defect for ANY reason free of charge. It doesn't matter if your backpack was bought in the 1980s or today, they'll repair or replace it. That's an amazing deal - the best in the industry!
But let's dive into some details: The Xenith 75 is an excellent backpack if you're planning on carrying a lot of gear. It offers a huge, 75 L capacity that's designed to comfortably designed to handle large loads, even on extended trips. A larger pack means a little more weight. The Xenith 75 weights 6 pounds, which is still light for an XL backpack.
The pack comes with several very useful features. You get a separate sleeping bag compartment, an external hydration sleeve for easy drinking and refilling, internal compression straps to stabilize the load, and a great stretch mesh front pocket to keep often-used items accessible.
The Xenith 75 also has double side-compression straps that serve two purposes: They keep everything you put into the backpack stable and can additionally be used to carry larger tools, tent poles, and other long gear.
This backpack offers a lot of premium features, great durability, and a very comfortable fit. You get all that at an affordable price. The terrific Xenith 75 is a great choice!
Gregory is known to make high-quality backpacks that offer both comfort and advanced performance. The Baltoro 65 is no exception! Gregory uses what they call "Response A3" suspension technology, which actively balances your backpack's load, including in difficult terrain. This makes for very comfortable carrying and hiking. The backpack also has a great silicone lumbar support grip for more stability.
What makes the Baltoro 65 a top choice are the many useful accessories that you get. Unlike many other backpacks, it includes an excellent rain cover, an ultra-light, removable daypack, a side bottle holster, dual ice ax loops (great for you tools), a weatherproof smartphone hip pocket, and much more. All this comes at a very affordable price, that's surprisingly low for the features and the quality you get. Well, we won't complain about a good deal!
There are two great features in the spacious main compartment that are worth pointing out: First, Gregory created a very useful U-shaped top zipper that opens from top to bottom for rapid access to your gear. Second, the main compartment includes a separate sleeping bag compartment with removable divider. It's great for storing anything that's wet away from your other stuff.
Overall, the Baltoro 65 is an amazing backpack, with many well-designed features. It offers excellent durability and comfort, even on long hikes. We also liked the many ways the backpack can be adjusted for a perfect fit.
A second The North Face backpack made the cut. The Terra 65 Exploration is, simply put, an amazing backpack with lots of great features. Let's jump into the details!
One of the first things we noticed when testing the Terra 65 Exploration is that this backpack feels very cool and comfortable. No sweating on the back, which is great. The North Face achieves that through a cleverly designed, vertical vent channel on the back panel of the pack. This helps to circulate air and lets your skin breathe. It's dry, it's comfortable, and it's very useful on long hikes.
At only four pounds, the Terra 65 Exploration is also a very light backpack, especially since it still offers plenty of capacity. We also liked the well-designed, anatomically shaped hip-belt. It offers excellent load distribution to preserve your energy and protect your back.
The backpack is made from 420D, 600D, and 1200D nylon and polyester. It's a smart choice of material that allows the pack to be very light overall, but robust and tear-resistant where it counts. The North Face has been innovating backpacks for a long time and their experience shows.
The Terra 65 Exploration is a top rated backpack on our list for good reason. It's light, durable, very affordable, and offers all-around excellent quality and pro features. No matter if you're looking for a hiking backpack, survival backpack, or hunting backpack - this is a smart choice!
Deuter brings German-made quality to the backpack market and is known to make almost indestructible packs. Their backpacks have held up even in the toughest of situations, from the deepest forests of Europe to far off deserts and icy landscapes. The Deuter Aircontact pack continues this tradition. It's simply put a great backpack with some really clever features.
All right, where do we start? There are a lot of great things to say about this backpack! It offers a special inside pocket to make valuables hard to access for intruders, three side pockets for quick access to your most important gear, a height-adjustable top lid, and an excellent wet pocket to stow away sweaty clothes and wet gear.
A really unique feature of this backpack is the SOS label on the inside of the top flap. It gives you emergency numbers and international instructions for emergency cases. Very useful! We also liked that the backpack can be opened from the front for easy access. The frame and load-balancing system of this backpack are top notch. They adapt to the wearer's back and hold the load close to your body's center of gravity for easier carrying and stability. This is topped off with high-quality, breathable padding for extra airflow.
We liked how well this backpack fits and how good it feels to carry it. This is achieved by Deuter's big contact surface, adjustable height setting, and flexible hip fins. This is an incredible backpack that will be useful for a lifetime!
A total of three Osprey backpacks made it to our top 10. The outdoor brand makes some of the very best ultralight and best waterproof backpacks you can buy. So it comes as no surprise that the Aether 70 is a top rated backpack.
Besides the excellent design and quality which we will talk about in a second, one of the main advantages of buying an Osprey product is that the company offers an amazing warranty. They guarantee to ANY damage or defect, free of charge and for life (yes, even 30 years from now). If they can't repair it, you get a brand new one. It's the best warranty you can find in the backpack industry.
But let's talk about the Aether 70's features, which are the main reason it's one of the best backpacks for hiking. This bag stands out because of its smart design: You get zipper hip-belt pockets (for easy access to phones, maps, flashlights, etc.), dual access stretch pockets on the side (think water bottle and tools), and a large front stretch mesh pocket. All these are very useful in real life situations.
The front of the backpack features two horizontal compression straps that secure even heavy loads. The sides and bottom have tool attachments, a separate sleeping bag compartment, an external hydration sleeve, more compression straps, and more. We also really liked the removable top lid. It has two spacious compartments and once detached can be converted into a day-pack.
The shoulder straps and hip belt are very well designed, offering a perfect balance of firmness and comfort. The internal frame works great as well, noticeably shifting heavy loads to your hips. This reduces pressure on your back and therefore minimizes fatigue. Everything about this backpack feels just right. It's an amazing piece of engineering. Paired with Osprey's forever warranty, this is one of the very best backpacks you can buy!
Mountaintop is a relatively new brand, focusing on affordable budget backpacks. The brand new Mountaintop
70+10 manages to impress with both great features and a very good price. You get a lot of great functionality here, making the Mountaintop 70+10 one of the best cheap hiking backpacks.
One of the first things you'll notice is that this backpack has many compression straps. There are actually a total of 10, allowing you to compress and secure your load effectively. The straps can also be used to attach your sleeping bag, tent, and other gear. All these straps can come in handy.
On the backside, the pack features an eight stage height adjuster to ensure that your pack has the proper fit. The hip belts are well designed and comfortable. Additionally, they feature useful hip pockets for items you want to keep accessible. On a side note: The fabric of the Mountaintop
70+10 isn't 100% waterproof but still water resistant.
A really unique feature is the built-in emergency whistle on the sternum strap. We'd never seen this as a backpack feature before, but think it should now be standard. Overall, we liked the many ways this backpack can be adjusted as well as the many useful pockets and compartments that help keep your gear organized. For the low price, the Mountaintop 70+10 is actually quite loaded with features.
After dozens of hiking backpack reviews it becomes obvious from the first few minutes if packs are well designed. The Mountaintop 70+10 definitely is. In short, it's a very good budget backpack. It should be noted though that you get better build quality and ruggedness from our top budget pick, the TETON Sports Scout 3400. If you're looking for a pro-level backpack with more features, waterproof materials, and "forever" warranty, then chose the Osprey Atmos AG 65 (the best backpack we've tested).
When choosing your hiking backpack you'll notice that most packs are available in different sizes. Usually, those sizes are small, medium, and large. But which hiking pack size should you get? It's actually pretty simple, here's what to look for:
Step 1: Measure Your Torso Length
The easiest way to do this is to ask a friend for help. Simply measure the vertical distance from your neck (the bony bump at the base of your neck) to your the center of your back at the hip bones. Get a SMALL hiking backpack if the length is 16" or smaller, get a MEDIUM hiking backpack if your torso length is 16.5" to 19.5", and get a LARGE hiking backpack if it's 20" and up.
Step 2: Measure Your Hip Size
The size of your hips is less important than torso length but is still worth checking. To measure it, take a tape and measure around your hips (from your belly button to your sides and to your hip bones). Most hiking backpacks can accommodate a wide range of hip sizes, but here's a tip: Adjust the belt size so that it straddles your hips about an inch above and below the line we just measured. It should wrap around your two (pointy) pelvic bones in front. That's the perfect position for optimal comfort and weight relief.
Now that you know which hiking backpack to buy, let's talk about stocking up fro adventure! Your pack is the foundation of being prepared, but it's only as good as the hiking gear and tools you put into it. Here are essential outdoor products worth getting.