Best Hiking Backpacks: For serious hikers, the activity is as essential as it is recreational. But while some may feel threatened by the image of lugging around a huge backpack for their travels, climbs, or hikes, the modern hiking backpack is something very different. Choosing the best hiking backpack is one of the first things that a considerate traveler needs to have sorted before venturing out. While meant for carrying all your hiking gear in one place, the backpack itself has become a crucial component among them. But you need to have a few ideas before you know which ones to buy. Fortunately for you, we have a thorough guide to buying the most essential hiking backpacks available on the market.
What are Hiking Backpacks?
While it is easy to think that a backpack is a backpack- whichever name you call it by- this could not be further away from the truth. There are a few pointers that stick out as the obvious, like the matter of weight. But considering the growing importance of lightweight construction anywhere in the accessory industry, this is but a given. There are a number of things that distinguish a lightweight hiking backpack from its ordinary counterparts, which makes them ideal for the kind of use they are put through.
Typically, the best hiking backpacks are designed packed with features that enable them to carry anything camp-worthy. This includes your tent, your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, liners, and everything else in between. Not all of these can be stuffed inside, but rather, hooked up to several of the belts on the outside of the pack. Now you know what all those grooves and belts do on the outside.
Besides that, the construction is designed in a way so that you can maneuver the pack in a number of ways to ensure the best fit for your liking. Overall, it does not need to be said out aloud that a hiking backpack is a backpacker’s best friend.
Buying the Best Hiking Backpack: Essential Factors to Consider
As with all things backpacking oriented, it is advisable that you buy your pack after careful consideration. We understand that you may not have really been as thorough while buying a pack before, but you must have surely suffered the consequences. No one likes a pack that unfurls or gives in when a climb (or any other activity) is going just right. As we have said before, buying the best hiking backpack is a more technical affair than you may be used to. You need to know what factors to look for in a similar way to for, say, buying a down jacket, or a sleeping bag liner (interlink both).
When you are out hiking, or enjoying a serene camping trip all by yourself (or with a partner), there is no end to the things that can go wrong. The backpack that you take along with yourself, like any gear, needs to be paid special attention before buying so that you can avoid any undesirable mishaps on the way. So take a look at the points below to understand how to better buy the best hiking backpack or choose the perfect hiking backpack brands for your requirements. We have jotted down the factors with the assumption that you will be spending a few days on the road, with a considerable amount of gear.
Pack Capacity: The overall volume of your pack will determine how much stuff you will be able to carry. Of course, this is entirely dependent on the kind of trip you are planning, or for how many days you plan to be on the road. There are various options to choose from, but it is prudent to try and fit your belongings into a smaller pack. If you are a hiking novice, you may require a larger pack. As you continue to gain experience and upgrade your gear, you can size down considerably. Also, the capacity of your pack may also depend on the season you are traveling in. Winter hikes or camps will require carrying some thermal gear, which will add to both the weight or volume. It is hardly possible to buy one backpack for all purposes, but you can start off with one that will cater to your most immediate needs. For a short trip, you can go with an option below 50L, while opting for a larger one will be better if you have to pack in less-compressible matters.
Weight: One of the most important factors to keep in mind before buying anything backpacking or hiking related is the weight. Considering the fact that your backpack will be the place to hold everything else you carry on your shoulders, it needs to be considerably lightweight so as to not add a lot more to the weight. However, do note that your pack will collectively be the heaviest thing that you have to physically carry on your hike. So make sure that you pick a bag that sits comfortably on your back. Also important to consider is the age of your trekking gear. If they are older (which basically translates to heavier), then that will obviously translate to more collective weight for your pack. In case you need to haul heavier stuff, then it may be more prudent to ditch the lightweight options (check our list to choose the best lightweight hiking backpack for your requirements) and go for something sturdier. Packs that are light on their own and yet capable of carrying more load do exist, but be prepared to shell out the money for those (as is the rule with all camping gear). This brings us to the next point on our things to consider before buying the best hiking backpack.
Price: If you are going to spend the next few days out in the wilderness, all by yourself, then it might not be a good idea to compromise on quality. But you only get quality products from the best hiking backpacks brands who charge what their packs are worth. With that said, a hiking backpack does not necessarily have to be the most expensive thing to carry on the road (save that for the tent, or the sleeping bag). Do pay attention to finding out exactly what you may need, and buy accordingly. While more expensive packs will cater to some requirements, others will not. However, durability is a big factor with anything worth your money, so keep that on your mind before shelling out the bucks.
Water Resistance: This does not need to be said, but we will say it anyway just to remind our readers. Water resistance/ weather proofing is one of the most crucial things that you need to have in order to guarantee a good trip in the outdoors. As any outdoors person will tell you, there is no predicting when the weather may go bad. Moreover, there is the question of the occasional crossing the brook. Even without it all, a good water proof hiking pack will protect your belongings from the accidental spill, which may prove to be a threat to many of the stuff you have packed inside, especially the electronics (think, GPS). Most hiking backpacks will offer protection from water, but for a monsoon camp where you may be stuck in the rain for long hours, it is better to go with a product designed for heavy rainfall.
Comfort: Your hiking/ camping backpack will spend most of its time traveling on your shoulders, so it goes without saying that it should be a comfortable walk to the site. The weight of the pack will be an unavoidable issue, so look for elements that are made with long carrying in mind. To ensure that your pack provides you with the most amount of convenience, look for nicely padded shoulder straps that will be able to carry heavy loads over a long time. For this purpose, look for straps that put aside foam-based construction. These ultimately end up being stretched out of form, thus bringing the support factor to an untimely demise. Also, see to the fact that the pack fits your body well. Too large, and the sagging effect will not be beneficial to your back and end up spoiling your overall experience.
Features: Each hiking backpack will come with a number of unique features to aid your journey. While there are many of these to choose from, make sure that you know exactly what you need. Easily accessible external pockets are some of the first things that you need to look for, as are additional belts that let you add more structure to your pack to ensure effective loading. You will find the features on any reputed pack manufacturer’s website for a particular product that you are interested in, so do remember to check them out.
How to Buy the Best Hiking Backpack
You can choose to buy your pack from either online or offline stores, as each of them has its own set of conveniences. Buying offline will let you explore multiple options at the same time, while online options will let you have access to a larger variety. In either case, follow these few rules while buying the best hiking backpack for yourself.
First, it is crucial to see if your new pack fits all the stuff that you need to carry. The only way to find out is actually pack all your essentials inside the pack and see if there is any extra room still remaining for last minute add-ons. We suggest buying online from a source that lets you return the item in case it does not work out. In that case, you can bring the pack in directly to your house and stuff it all in. If you are going to the store, it is best to try and carry as many things as you can to optimize your search.
Next, you have to find out about how well the pack fits your upper body. The aim is to buy one that hugs your back well and sits comfortably on your shoulder. Once again, this will work out best if you load your pack fully.
Additionally, check if your pack has all the extra features that you may need. A water compartment that is place conveniently at the sides should be at the top of your list of features priority, while external pockets and strategically placed grooves (to hang your sleeping pad, for instance) and belts are must-haves. It is, however, best not to go overboard with these. Check our hiking backpack reviews and choose for yourself.
Best Hiking Backpacks of 2018 Buying Guide & Reviews: Top Ten List
Before we proceed to the products themselves, we should tell you that the items on our list have been picked only after they have passed thorough rigorous testing. Buyer reviews for a wider perspective have also played a significant role. The list below includes a variety of products and the reviews of best hiking backpacks, all with top-notch build quality, and will cater to different kinds of travel needs.
Women love backpacking as much as men, and Osprey’s Aura 65 AG for women has been built specifically for them. Women’s body shapes can be very different than that of men’s, leading to different ways of carrying something over their shoulders. The Osprey Women’s Aura 65 AG is definitely the best hiking backpack for women, not only because of its thoughtful construction (which aids in uniform weight distribution), but also for its excellent features. First off, you can tell just by looking at the pack that it boasts of great quality. Moving along, there are the shoulder straps which are well cushioned, durable, and extremely comfortable.
Carrying the load become all the better by the inclusion of the adjustable on-the-fly strap near the hip. The back of the pack is fitted with breathable mesh, which ensures against chafing and adds to the comfort by adjusting to the contours of a woman’s frame. It also packs in a bunch pf great features, like sleeping pad belts and a top lid, that you can easily leave behind at home of in case you don’t need them. In short, we love everything about the Osprey Women’s Aura 65 AG Backpack, and it clearly ranks among the best hiking backpack for women, even for long distance trails and thru-hiking.
Very thoughtful construction that makes it fit different body shapes beautifully
Comes is an array of sizes (with capacity ranging between 60 to 65 L), so a woman can have one fitted just for her
Excellent features, some of which are also removable
Comes with an emergency whistle
None that we can think of
Verdict: The Osprey Women’s Aura 65 AG Backpack is at the top of our list for a reason, and you have to try it on to believe just how wonderful it is specifically for women. It boasts of some of the best materials that can be included in a pack, and is great to be carried along literally anywhere. Ladies, go get it before your next travel to anywhere.
One of the most utilitarian hiking packs you will come across, the Kelty Redwing 50 takes the cake for being great at fitting your body well and letting you carry almost anything that you may need. Do not be fooled by its size; the Redwing 50 is a great option to pick even if you are traveling with a lot of load. The pack comes with a volume of slightly under 50 L, which makes it ideal for going on a multi-day backpacking spree. Stuffing your gear inside the bag is really easily, thanks to the full access tongue shaped zipper.
What we love about the Kelty Redwing 50 is its versatile looks. You certainly will not look like you are being bogged down by an oversized pack. The fact that it does not compromise on spaciousness is an added bonus. That makes it suitable not only for backpacking or taking along for a trip to the mountains, but also for travel within the city. Besides the main compartment, there are two side packs that let you store your knickknacks. Its overall construction is also remarkable, and the different size variations make it a great choice for everyone. It is also a great hiking backpack for beginners.
Great size to volume ratio
Available in different sizes
Suitable for a large number of activities
Weight can be reduced by removing some features
Verdict: If you don’t mind a little extra weight, the Kelty Redwing 50 pack is an amazing investment for all kinds of people. The best part about buying this is that you do not have to relegate it only to use it for camps, thanks to its multipurpose construction. The simplicity of this pack also makes it a great one to kick off your backpacking adventures with.
It makes sense to have your camping companions carry their own loads, and if you have someone in the younger age group accompanying you, it is good to consider buying a kid’s hiking backpack. The dimensions will be friendlier to the smaller frame, making it much easier to carry their stuff inside. The Deuter Junior Backpack is a great options that you can take a look at in this case. From the appearance angle, the Deuter Junior packs in the aspects of both a backpacker’s delight and a kid’s pack.
There are enough small pockets to ensure they have space to store all those tiny things. But that does not mean that you have to bear with any compromises on the functionality front. The shoulder straps are comfortable, and the primary compartment large and spacious. The cinch closing also works well for the kids, while the top flap keeps everything secure. For easy hydration access, it has two mesh pockets on either side. But what makes it a great choice for kids on the camp are the safety details, such as the reflectors.
Thoughtful construction for kids
Great for backpacking or camping
Safety measures are great
Lack of zipper closure
Verdict: The Deuter Junior Backpack is a great option for young campers and hikers. No matter if your kids are headed to the summer camp or accompanying you a weekend long trip to the outdoors, this unit will accommodate their every need and even leave space enough to hold their knick knacks. Its durability ensures endurance against the rough handling that young people are wont to do.
For serious backpackers and hikers, Osprey is a name that cannot be ignored. The Aether 70-litre pack will take you literally everywhere, including those severe treks where you need to travel lightweight and easy. As with the Aura 65 AG listed at the top of this section, the Aether too boasts of a fantastic structure that helps in the even distribution of the weight you are lugging inside. Speaking of the storage, the Osprey Aether 70-litre backpack is made to pack in everything that you need.
Besides the ample room you will get to carry all your backpacking essentials, there are also a number of belts and grooves to help you carry the bigger stuff on the exterior. In addition, the cleverly added hydration pack makes sure that you never run out of fluids. The other details are remarkable as well, including the beautifully constructed shoulder straps, and the stretchy extra pockets that can accommodate more than you moight think.
Designed with long, challenging hikes in mind
Slightly on the heavier side
Verdict: The Osprey Aether 70-litre backpack would make an excellent choice for male or female hikers (although the Osprey Aura 65 AG would be a better option for women, considering its gender-specific build). It does not matter if you are a thru-hiker or a weekend traveler who likes to travel big, the Osprey Aether 70-litre bag can do it all.
If ultimate lightweight backpacking is what you are looking for, then the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 is one of the best choices that you can go for. While most lightweight backpacks usually spell compromise on the quality front, which usually means a tear or two within the first few uses, the Gear Crown VC 60 manages to find that elusive balance between comfort, weight, and functionality.
You can’t go overboard with the packing, as it can accommodate around 35 lbs comfortably without chafing your shoulders. However, if you must pack more (there is ample room, so you may do that if necessary), be sure to adjust the shoulder straps. The durability is also dependent on the weight factor, and that means that you have to stick to the limit to make the most out of its life. But what stands out with the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 is the amazing feeling of comfort that this pack affords- something that ultralight packs fail to deliver.
Best ultralight hiking backpack
High on comfort
Verdict: If ultralight backpacking is your thing, then the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 backpack is the ultimate option. The steep price may not appeal to everyone, but that is reasonable if one considers its other properties. Be sure to be responsible with loading on the additional weight, and you will be able to wean a great life out of it.
While the NG 5160 does not belong to the types we have been exploring till now, it has been designed for a different purpose. The NG 5160 Earth Explorer range is a photographer’s delight, and it has dedicated chambers for the safety of your camera. Mainly belonging to the rucksack category, this one has several compartments for your (expensive) camera parts at the bottom section, while the top half can be used to carry other things and traveling essentials. Its no-nonsense construction is undoubtedly durable, but if you plan to walk for a long time, be warned against chafing.
However, the backside of the pack is padded for extra comfort, and the breathable material adds more to that. There are two side pockets that can be used to carry a number of things, including a small water bottle. Overall, this pack is meant for a specific set of consumers who delight in photography, and in that purpose, it succeeds marvelously. However, if you are going to be on the road for quite a while, we recommend carrying a smaller backpack alongside this one.
Great hiking backpack for photographers
Comes with dedicated chambers for your camera
Enough room to carry other essentials
Not the best at comfort
Verdict: As has been made clear in the review above, the National Geographic NG 5160 Earth Explorer Camera Rucksack is the best option there is for photographers on the run. You may be faced with some discomfiture with this unit, but it is difficult to come across a better pack for your hobbies/ profession.
If you do not mind shelling out the money, then you will surely not regret buying the Arcteryx Bora AR 63 Backpack. Fit for serious hikers and climbers, this one is designed to face the harsh weathers and even carries a few pieces of equipment to help you on your way up. On the heavier side, it comes with lush padding on the shoulders and the back to reduce chances of chafing over prolonged use.
And that treatment is not limited to those only. We love the adjustable hip belt which not only guarantees against discomfort, but also helps in adjusting the shape of the pack to your body. The Arcteryx Bora AR 63 boasts of a wonderful frame that is rare to come across, and it is one of the best weather proof packs on the block- built to last in punishing snowstorms and rainfall (the zippers don’t let a drop of water in). The side packs can be used to store your water bottles, and pairing a hydration bladder is also possible. One of the most functional packs available for extreme adventurers, we say.
Weather proof for extreme functionality
Extremely comfortable for challenging hikes
Pricey, and heavy
Verdict: While definitely the most expensive pack on this list yet, its high cost comes in exchange of some of the best features one can hope to come across for braving the terrains. The weight can be evenly distributed, which means that you can hike as long as you want without feeling the strain on your back. It comes with excellent hydration system as well, and is designed with the most extreme conditions in mind.
If a feature-rich unit is what you are looking for before going on an extended trip, then the new Gregory Mountain Men’s Baltoro 65 may be the best hiking backpack for you. While it is definitely on the heavier side, it allows you to load up big for your time on the roads. Moreover, the new model is way slimmer and more compact than its predecessor, which works fantastically to aid your long lugging period.
Another great plus of this model is the comfort factor, which ensures that your weekend off the trails will be made as comfortable as possible. The shoulder harness is ergonomically designed, and the hipbelt is equipped with a water resistant pouch that is the perfect place to store your electronic equipment, including your phone and GPS. It also comes in a number of sizes, so take your pick to suit your torso measurements the best way possible.
Packs in a lot many modern features
Verdict: The Gregory Mountain Men’s Baltoro 65 backpack is a great alternative to other packs that can feel like a load. Although it is heavy, its excellent frame makes sure that the weight is spread out much better. Just be sure to buy the right size for the best fit.
A lot of new technology has gone into making ultralight backpacking what it is today. For many, ultralight backpacks are not meant to be comfortable; they’re supposed to chafe against one’s shoulders and back. But contrary to widespread belief, the whole point of going ultralight is to ensure comfort and convenience. And while it has taken a while to achieve the perfect balance, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider Backpack represents a thru-hiker’s delight in traveling light.
With a volume of around 3400 Cu In, the Windrider is as spacious as it is light. It is perfect to be taken along on the snowy mountains or areas prone to heavy rainfall as well, thanks to the fact that they are 100 percent waterproof. It packs in some serious foam support in strategic areas (such as the back), as well as a spacer mesh technology (in the shoulder straps) to minimize inconveniences over long hauls. They are also a minimalist’s pack, which means that there isn’t much in the way of organization. But that’s a small price to pay for the weight.
Ultralight pack weighing in at 2 lbs
Comes in sizes
Verdict: For the ultimate lightweight hiking backpack, there are few options that can aspire to be better than Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Dyneema packs. Besides the super light yet very strong material, this unit also comes with aluminum frames to give the pack structure and you, support (you can remove this if you want to go even lighter). Go for it if you are serious about going out sans the added weight of the pack. But if you would like a little more in the way of organization, take a look at the next option.
The North Face Banchee 50 pack is a great substitute to the Hyperlite Mountain Gear unit listed above, especially if your basic requirements are mostly similar with a couple of differences. Weighing in at a little over a pound over the Windrider, the Banchee 50 utilizes its bulk with a number of compartments- a necessary feature for many (and one that is so sorely lacking in the Windrider). Thanks, to that, you can organize your hiking essentials so that you don’t have to shuffle through the entire pack looking for a small equipment.
The external pockets are positioned for optimized packing, and the interiors are spaced out to hold all your necessities. At around 3 lbs, the Banchee is still light enough to lug around on your back for the better half of the day. The added weight is also balanced out due to the excellent structuring mechanism that it is built with. Although built to carry heavy loads, it can easily hold its shape even while carrying smaller loads for a shorter outing. But it is meant to hold huge amounts of necessities, and that it does marvelously without you feeling the strain of the load at all.
Lightweight, but luxurious
Excellent at maintaining structure
Not for ultralight packers
Verdict: The North Face Banchee 50 hiking backpack is comfortable, lightweight, and versatile. It offers great protection to both you and your belongings, which means that you are good to go on that long trek without feeling the bite of the weight. While not the best for the minimalist, ultralight traveler, it is one of the best options for those who want a combination of functionality, lightweight comfort, and excellent features.
We have now reached the conclusion of our best hiking backpacks buying guide. There is no dearth of options, as we can see, and there is one to fit every preference. However, you do have to know your requirements before investing in a pack. And that is what this post aims to do: guide you effectively through your buying spree based on your basic needs to ensure you have a hay journey. So take your pick from among our top ten and let us know how convenient it made your trip. Have suggestions for us about products you love? Get in touch with us using the comments box.
- What are Hiking Backpacks?
- Buying the Best Hiking Backpack: Essential Factors to Consider
- How to Buy the Best Hiking Backpack
- Best Hiking Backpacks of 2018 Buying Guide & Reviews: Top Ten List
- Osprey Women’s Aura 65 AG Backpacks
- Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack
- Deuter Junior Kid’s Backpack
- Osprey Aether 70-Litre Backpack
- Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Backpack
- National Geographic NG 5160 Earth Explorer
- Arcteryx Bora AR 63 Backpack
- Gregory Mountain Products Men’s Baltoro 65 Backpack
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider Backpack
- The North Face Banchee 50 Backpack