The best hiking backpack for you can make or break your next trip. We all want the perfect pack that is comfortable, organized, light, and rugged. With summer 2018 right around the corner, we have several hikes planned and can’t wait to get into the mountains and on the trail.
We searched for months before we nailed down the best hiking backpack. There are so many online and in outdoor stores to choose one or the right one can be downright daunting. There are so many things to consider when buying a trekking backpack.
This collection of backpacks all excel at overnight and multi-day treks. They’re leading in class for comfort, durability, organizations, and most importantly weight.
15 Best Hiking Backpacks
Osprey Atmos AG
*Best Overall Men’s Hiking Backpack*
The Atmos is the pack Cameron carries most often, and it’s treated him exceptionally well. The Atmos has two size options with a 50L and 65L that should fill the need of most needs from short overnights to extended treks. Don’t be afraid to load the bag up as I can carry 40lbs and it still sits comfortably on my back. This top loading pack has a removable floating top lid that can be utilized to lighten your load. As well as an internal frame and side compression straps that when combined with its anti-gravity back panel, make for excellent weight distribution. If you have a heavy load to carry the Atmos is undoubtedly one of the best choices for a hiking backpack.
I also love the dual front paneled pockets, a mesh area for dirty shoes, and straps for your tent poles. To back it all up, Osprey has one of the best guarantees in the business. They have been designing great bags for years now so it shouldn’t be any surprise they make one of the best hiking backpacks on the market. If you’re a minimalist hiker or a fast thru-hiker, you’ll probably want a lighter pack. My personal preference is a blend I like the versatility of a big backpack like the Atmos, but I also have a lightweight bag for objectives that is only a few days.
Weight: 4 lbs. 9 oz.
Fabric: Nylon (100D x 630D)
Capacities: 50, 65L
Pros: Amazing suspension system and strong construction
Cons: Only top load access and it does not sit upright. It seems silly but with only a top load it’s a PIA.
Osprey Aura 65
*Best Overall Women’s Hiking Backpack*
The Osprey Ariel is the perfect women’s trekking backpack. It’s a great all-around bag built to fit a woman’s torso. Made of Nylon ripstop material it comes in two sizes 55L and 65L. Complete with a custom fit and interchangeable IsoForm5 harness and even a padded hip belt the Ariel is great for long hikes.
Its Anti-Gravity technology is throughout the entire back and can be found in the lightweight mesh material in the upper torso and lumbar area. My favorite feature of the Ariel is the convertible top lip day back which can be removed if you want to climb a nearby peak without the entire pack. The pack has trekking pole attachments and hydration sleeves to keep hydrated. With their LightWire peripheral frame, the Ariel is also one of the lighter backpacks on this list.
Weight: 4.42 lbs
Fabric: Nylon (210D & 630D)
Capacities: 65L & 50L
Pros: Strong construction, anti-gravity system,
Cons: Top Load Access like Atmos
Granite Gear Blaze 60
*Close Second For Overall Hiking Backpack*
Granite Gear’s Blaze has picked up a slew of awards and great reviews from outdoor editors and users alike. It’s a lightweight bag that is rated to carry a heavy load (50lbs). That substantial payload rating means a sturdy frame and a well-padded suspension system that’s comfortable to carry on long treks. It’s padded
Granite Gear has their patent-pending ReFit Hipbelt on the backpack that allows for the perfect size adjustment. It takes some time to adjust properly, but it’s not a problem once the pack fits. One of my favorite features on the backpack is the massive front and side compartments, capable of carrying sleeping pad, jacket, and water bottles. The only complaint is the padded back panel lacks ventilation, so it runs a little hot when ascending steep terrain or in hot weather. Altogether, it’s easily one of the best backpacks on the market that is a full pound lighter than the Atmos!
Weight: 3 lbs. 0oz.
Pros: Lightweight, Organization, Compression System, Comfort
Cons: Hot, Durability,
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60
*Best Ultralight Backpack*
I’m a minimalist traveler and always love cutting out whatever weight or unnecessary features I can. Ultralight packs are a popular option for a lot of multi-day and thru-hiker for a good reason. When covering long distances every pound counts such lightweight options like the Mariposa can save your knees and back in the long run. The result is often a pack that is less comfortable and durable due to lightweight materials and suspension. What’s exceptional about the Mariposa is how few tradeoffs there are in a backpack that weighs just over 2 pounds.
The backpack has an internal frame and a suspension system that does an excellent job at distributing weight evenly. The bag comes in a new lightweight material called Robic nylon. Robic Nylon feels more substantial than Dyneema used in other ultralight packs like the Z-Pack and Hyperlight; however, you’ll still want to be mindful of potential punctures. I love the number of pockets, including one large side and front pocket for stashing items such as a rain fly. Another stand out feature is the egg crate backplate that can be removed and used as a seat, which eliminates the need of carrying a Z-Seat. Altogether, it’s the best ultralight pack that blends the more robust features of the Atmos, Baltoro, or Traverse into a lightweight package.
Weight: 2 lbs. 0.6 oz.
Pros: Lightweight, Organization, Comfort, Robic Nylon, Comfortable Suspension
Cons: Hot, Backpack Panel Moves Around
*Best Eco-Friendly Hiking Backpack*
Fjallraven does not get a lot of credit in the outdoor. Fjallraven makes the Kaipak from their G-1000 Heavyduty Eco fabric that is similar to canvas. The material is made from recycled polyester and organic cotton and then waxed for water resistance. Over time the wax will come out of the fabric, but Fjallraven sells the bar that can be applied. We already have the bar for the Keb-1000 trousers, which are some of my favorite hiking and mountaineering pants. What we love the most is this pack is eco-friendly avoiding the article material not made from oil.
The system has a fixed back length and is very stable for the size of the backpack so it carries very well. I would like the bag to be adjustable, but the stability is nice. It’s a top loading backpack with plenty of room and a snow lock with two loop attachments for ice axes or trekking poles. Kaipak also includes a rain cover and compression straps. Above all, it’s pretty affordable for a high-end brand and stylish bag.
Gregory Baltoro/Deva 65 Pack
*Best Hiking Backpack For Heavy Loads*
Gregory has been building bags for a long time, so they know how to make a quality pack. This hiking backpack is a workhorse designed to be used and abused. The Baltoro/Deva is designed to carry a heavy load without breaking your back on the trail. It has a superior suspension system with plush padding and a great organization. If you’ll be on extended thru hike trips and don’t mind sacrificing a pound or two, this is your ideal hiking backpack.
A comfortable mesh backpack makes for excellent ventilation, and it has attractive features like a built-in rain-fly, water bottle holder that offers easy access on a hike, and hydration compatible. It’s still a heavy pack, but with the quality of the build and substantial load capability, it’s a reliable backpack. The Backpack comes in the men’s, Baltoro, and women’s, Deva, version. It’s in close competition with the Atmos and its versatility is admirable.
Weight: 4 lbs. 10 oz
Fabric: Nylon (210D)
Capacities: 65, 75, 85, 95L
Pros: Large Capacity, Durability, Feature Packed, Suspension
Cons: Heavy Bag, Top Loading
REI Co-op Flash Pack 55 Pack
*Best Small Hiking Backpack*
We love to shop at REI and love the gear the design. It’s often high value, and we’ve personally used their backpacks for years. The Co-Op Flash Pack is made out of ripstop nylon and is an excellent 45 L trekking backpack for both men and women. With 45L it’s manageable for a gear-heavy day hike or even an overnight. The REI compression technology helps keep your belongings up and in to improve your balance, stability, and posture while hiking. Its super lightweight frame is exceptional and appreciated on the trail.
There are attachment loops on the front to allow ice axes, poles, and other tools to be stored as well as snappable water bottle pockets on the hip belt. The mesh back panel allows for airflow keeping you cooler when walking in the sun and the removable top lid offers customizable pack volume. We think this pack is perfect for those on a long weekend hiking trip in the mountains or on cross-country trails and has even been named the “Best Women’s Fit” backpack by Backpacker Magazine.
Weight: 2 lbs. 12 oz.
Fabric: Nylon (420D)
Pros: Lightweight, manageable, nice features
Cons: Too small for any longer than three days
Arc’teryx Bora AR 63
Arc-teryx needs no introduction as they’re well known for their top of the line gear. The Bora is the most expensive pack on this list and probably the most robust with a wide range of features. It’s a workhorse of a bag and super tough, but you pay good money for that with a price tag over $500. It’s a great pack meant to handle a heavy load and will appreciate for multiday objectives in mountaineering conditions. If you carry climbing ropes, harness, crampons, helmets, and an ice axe lightweight backpacks are not a tremendous option.
Arc’teryx knows their intended market and has implemented a feature called RotoGlide. It’s a hip belt that moves up and down as you lean forward on a climb or descent (nose over toes). The Bora AR is for harsh mountain conditions and bushwhacking expeditions on rough trails. It’s very likely the toughest and most comfortable backpack on this list, but you do pay the price.
Fabric: Nylon (420D & 630D)
Capacities: 50L, 63L
Pros: Robust, Innovative, Comfort, Superior Design
Cons: Price, $$$$$$$
Teton Sports Scout 3400
*Best Hiking Backpack for the Money*
This durable top hiking back is one of the cheapest on the market and is suitable for men, women, and even children. The internal frame makes the Teton an excellent choice for camping and hiking. Even though this pack is well under $100 it still has sturdy zippers, open-cell foam lumbar pad support, and extra padded waist and shoulder straps.
There are loops for your ski poles. Although this pack is not waterproof it comes with an integrated rain fly for when you get caught in a downpour. There is no bladder included, but there are side holsters to place your water bottles while trekking. In our opinion, this pack is one of the best packs you can get for your money. It might not be the right fit for serious hikers, but those just getting their toes wet will love its affordability.
Weight: 4 lbs. 8oz.
Pros: Affordable, nice features
Cons: Cheap feel, okay suspension
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest
The Hyperlite 3400 is easily one of my favorite packs on the market. The material in this bag has allowed for weight previously not seen. It’s impressively durable, super lightweight, and close to waterproof. Hyperlite Mountain Gear specializes in building outdoor gear with this unique material called Dyneema Composite Fabric. Their backpack line comes in several sizes, but the 3400 is their middle of road backpack with 55L of storage. Personally, If I’m going to be carrying a large load like 70L, I’d prefer the support of the Atmos at 65L.
We have a few nitpicks with the bag such as a lack of organization, but that is the price of being ultralight. The suspension systems leave a little to be desired with a lack of a women’s fit and a large hip belt. If you’re big on buying American made this company is based and manufactures in Maine, bonus point. The higher price point may deter some, but it comes with the territory of buying top of the line materials.
Weight: 2 lbs. 0.6 oz.
Capacities: 40, 55, 70L
Pros: Lightweight and water resistant
Cons: No Organization Features, Suspension Drawbacks,
REI Co-op Traverse
Another stand out from REI is their feature-packed Traverse hiking backpack. It’s on par with the Atmos/Aura and Baltoro/Deva backpacks at a more affordable rate. We have a lot of love for REI gear, and this backpack delivers a lot of features. The Traverse is a large hiking backpack designed to carry heavy loads in all four seasons. It’s loaded with features and the pack carries weight comfortably.
I love the large hip belts perfect for stashing some snacks, gloves, sunblock, or an extra layer. Then there is an adjustable water bottle holder that is easy to access while hiking and fits wide/slim bottles snugly thanks to a quick snap. Other standouts include a large j-shaped zipper for access to the main compartment, rainfly, removable daypack, and a stuff-it pouch. When it comes to the ride, REI has their UpLift compression system which effective at pulling the gear up and close to your back for a good center of gravity. It’s about $50 cheaper than the other two competitors, or the cost of a camp burner, I like that value.
Weight: 4 lbs. 14 oz
Fabric: Nylon (200D & 420D)
Capacities: 35, 65 (women’s), 70 (men’s), 85L
Pros: Large Capacity, Durability, Feature Packed, Suspension, Love the J-Zip Access
Cons: Heavy Bag, Top Loading
Osprey Levity 60
The Osprey Levity is their answer to the wide range of ultralight packs popping up everywhere these days. The levity is their updated version of the previous ultralight model the Osprey Exos. The Levity weighs less than 2lbs, which is pretty amazing while still providing you with a metal frame. Like most Osprey packs it has a solid construction. Despite its lightweight build, the bag is surprisingly robust, and the straps sit well on your shoulders and back. The vented back ensures you don’t overheat when carrying the pack. It does have an internal frame and can carry a load up to around 30lbs, but any past that it will likely be uncomfortable to wear on extended periods.
Weight: 2 lbs. 0.6 oz.
Fabric: Nylon and Silnylon (100D & 300D)
Capacities: 45, 60L
Pros: Lightweight, Water Resistant
Cons: Like the Atmos it falls over and is top loading, Durability
Zpacks Arc Blast 55L
If you’re an ultralight fiend, the Z-Pack Arc Blast is the lightest pack on this list at 1 pound 8 ounces. It’s a minimalist pack that has the options to include hip belt pockets or simple straps. Z-Packs uses the water-resistant Dyneema found in the Hyperlite that delivers good strength in a lightweight form. They have managed to shave off a good half pound compared to the Hyperlite with fabric, smaller size, and a more bare-bones approach.
That design has resulted in a less durable bag that I would not feel comfortable carrying in the Rockies or Alpine regions where sharp scree makes it easy to tear. However, for dessert and low elevation thru-hikes, the lightweight nature of this bag will surely be appreciated. Don’t worry about heat either as the name Arc from the unique cinch system in the back panel to pull the backpack away from the middle of your back for ventilation. If you’re about weight than the Arc Blast is the best hiking backpack for you.
Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz
Pros: Super Lightweight, Water Resistant
Cons: Fragile, Lacks Organization
The Aircontact is a decent all-around pack for an affordable price from a reliable bag manufacturer. The capacity is rated as +10 which refers to an expandable top portion of the main compartment. It provides some options for size and keeping your bag compressed. It’s a robust backpack that is meant to comfortably carry a heavy load and considering the price that’s a great value. Deuter has loaded the bag with features such as multiple compression straps, a hydration port, bottom access, trekking pole loops, and an adjustable back length. It comes in a variety of size options and men/women’s versions.
I wouldn’t consider it to be one of my favorite backpacks; however, it’s worth a mention as it’s a quality pack that’s cheaper than the more robust Atmos/Aura or Baltoro/Deva. It would be a mistake to count this backpack out for being this far down on our list best hiking backpacks.
Weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz
Fabric: Nylon 210D
Capacities: 60, 75L
Pros: Rugged, Comfortable, Price
Cons: Not Perfect
The North Face Banchee
This is one of the first hiking backpacks I bought and it’s still sitting in my closet. I don’t use it as much, but the new Banchee is feature rich and comes in just under 4 pounds. It has a solid organization system with multiple pockets, eight, on the exterior and a few interiors. The Banchee is rated to carry 40lbs with comfort thanks to the aluminum frame and cushioned straps. I really like the Banshee for the price and it’s a great pack similar to the REI Traverse. However, the primary difference is a more feature rich Traverse or the Banshee which a full pound lighter. Either, way I’d weigh my options and look at the intended use if considering either of the two hiking backpacks.
Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz
Fabric: Nylon 210D
Capacities: 35, 50, 55L
Pros: Solid, Comfortable, Price
Cons: Not Perfect
How to Choose a Good Hiking Backpack?
The first thing you need to assess with hiking backpacks is how you intend to use the backpack. How many trips a year are you going to take? How long will the trips last? How far do you plan to trek on an average day?
The first thing to think about when it comes to picking a great hiking backpack is your budget. Good quality backpacks are expensive, but you also don’t want to blow your entire budget on a backpack. However, if you invest in one of the best hiking backpacks on the market chances are it will stand the test of time. Many companies like REI, Osprey, and The North Face will offer to repair your products.
Like with anything, make sure that the hiking backpack you choose is comfortable on your back. You should be able to hike comfortably for at least two hours. When buying online it’s a good idea to check the return policy in case the backpack does not fit you the way you would like.
A hiking backpacks design capability is crucial. A good backpack doesn’t necessarily mean a bunch of bells and whistles. Make sure you narrow down if you want a top loading backpack or front loading, and check for any extra straps, harnesses, zippers, and clips you may or may not want and need.
Make sure you pick a hiking backpack that is made out of good material. Most backpacks are made out of either Ripstop Nylon or Dyneema. Dyneema is generally more expensive since it is lighter, but both are extremely durable.
Determine everything you will want to carry in your backpack for that will determine the volume bag you buy. A good starting point is 40-50L. You’ll want to choose a relatively lightweight backpack since you will be hiking with it for long treks. A backpack can easily be your heaviest piece of gear so choosing something lightweight could make all the difference for your comfort. And finally, choose a frame that serves its purpose for what you need. If you are carrying a lighter load then a lightweight frame is a great option, same goes for the opposite.
It’s important to consider your trip length when picking a hiking backpack. There are great day backpacks on this list that are great for just that – a day. While others can serve you well for hikes longer than a week.
It may seem silly, but if you have a brand you love and trust, stick with them. In my opinion, there is no perfect answer to backcountry or hiking set-ups as there are so many great options and backpacks on the market these days. While you can certainly go wrong with backpack it’s hard to do so with just a little bit of research.
Look for customer reviews. See how the backpack holds up in regular use. I like to look for issues that may be a problem for myself. In particular, that is pack fit, I have narrow hips, and if reviews mention a large hip belt, I’ll consider other options. The same could be said for large hips, a short torso, or a long torso, you get the idea.
Elements of a Good Hiking Backpack?
You’ll want to make sure that the main compartment of your backpack is large enough to carry all of your belongings while still having easy access. Store the heavier things at the bottom of your bag so that the weight is closer to your back. Small compartments can be good for storing little extra items, or they can just get annoying if you don’t find that you need them.
Trekking Pole/Ice Ax loops:
These are great little additions to any bag that can optimize your comfort and free your hands if you use poles or ice axes on hikes. Of course, this all depends on your intended use we live in the Rockies and this feature is more or less necessary, but for many, an ice ax loops is something to catch and snag.
Along with the hip belt, your shoulder straps carry a lot of the weight of your pack. Thick and comfortable padding will keep your shoulders from hurting after a long days hike.
We use a bladder when we hike, so a pack with a hydration port is absolutely essential to us. Most hiking and day backpacks have this now, however, if you don’t use a bladder then this shouldn’t be a factor in your purchasing decision.
Water Bottle Holders
If you aren’t using the hydration ports or a bladder you will want at least one water bottle holder to hold your liquid.
We look for bags that are waterproof or have a rain fly. Nothing is worse than wet gear. New products like Dyneema are fantastic for their waterproof and lightweight capabilities.
A good hip belt is essential for any trekking backpack. Putting the weight of your backpack and gear on your hips helps take the pressure off your back, so you will want a good, well-cushioned hip belt that is sturdy to help do that.
A well cushioned back panel can make the difference between having a backache or not.
The Best Hiking Backpack Brands
- Osprey: Osprey undoubtedly makes some of the best travel backpacks on the market. All of their products are backed by their All Mighty Guarantee and have no BPA or PVC.
- Arc’Teryx: Arc’Teryx is a Canadian outdoor supply company founded in 1989. They use high-quality materials in all of their products and back them with the Arc’teryx guarantee.
- Teton: Teton Sports is run out of Utah and is another brand well-known for their outdoor gear. All of their products have a limited lifetime warranty, backed both by Teton Sports and the store where the product was purchased.
- The North Face: North Face products have, for years, been tested against the harsh conditions of nature around the world. They feature the latest technology in all of their products, with many backpacks even standing the test of time. They also launched their Responsible Down Standard, a global nonprofit dedicated to sustainability in the apparel and textile industry.
- Deuter: Deuter is a German company that specializes specifically in backpacks and accessories. They make durable products that last and pride themselves their commitment to social responsibility.
- Mountain Hardwear: Mountain Hardwear prides themselves on the great performance of their products and has for the last 20 years. They make great products and backpacks all backed by a limited warranty.
- REI: REI is where I get the majority of my outdoor gear. Everything in their store is backed by their 100% satisfaction guarantee. Since 1998 they are have consistently been listed on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and they give back millions each year to conservation.
Which Hiking Backpack?
My two cents is to think about the intended use and not to hang up on the details. There has been a real concerted effort to deliver a lightweight hiking backpack, while we love the push for lighter gear it’s not everything. Personally carrying an extra pound is worth my comfort if the pack checks off all the other boxes for necessary features. The Atmos is my primary pack, but I do love the lightweight features for short objectives around my home.
Like with anything, choosing the best hiking backpack really depends on the intent. Are you going on a short hike or a multi-day hike? Would you like a backpack with many compartments and bells and whistles or is simpler better for you? Most importantly, is the backpack comfortable? Everyone is built-in different shapes and sizes and what’s comfortable for some may not be ideal for you.
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