Updated on January 12, 2022

Whether you’re new to hiking or have been backpacking for years, if you’re looking for one of the best hiking backpacks, you’re in the right place. We’ve surveyed the market and hand-selected a range of packs then shared some of our top picks for specific categories like lightweight, budget-friendly, and best for hauling heavy loads. Aside from the top picks, we’ve included some runner-ups you might want to consider. 

Each backpack we’ve selected has its pros and cons, and there’s not a single pack that will be perfect for every hiker, so we did our best to give you an honest opinion to help you decide if it’s the right choice for you and your style of hiking.

QUICK RECOMMENDATIONS

Best Backpack Overall >> Osprey Atmos AG 65

Best Ultralight Backpack >> Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400

Most Comfortable Backpack >> Osprey Exos 58

Best Backpack For Extended Trips >> Gregory Baltoro 75

Best Backpack To Carry Heavy Loads >> Deuter AirContact Lite 65+10

Most Affordable and Good Quality Backpack >> REI Co-op Trailbreak 60

Best Hiking Backpacks

 

Comparison Table - The Best Backpacks for Hiking

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NameVolumeWeightRaincoverPocketsPriceRatingReview
Osprey Atmos AG 6550L / 65L4 lbs 09 ozYes8$2705.0Read Review
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest55L / 70L2 lbs 03 ozNo3$3554.7Read Review
Gregory Baltoro 6565L / 75L / 85L4 lbs 13 ozYes10$3004.9Read Review
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 1060L / 75L4 lbs 06 ozNo4$2004.7Read Review
REI Co-op Trailbreak 6060L3 lbs 13 ozNo6$1494.6Read Review
Osprey Exos 5838L / 48L / 58L2 lbs 11 ozNo5$2204.6Read Review
Osprey Stratos 5036L / 50L3 lbs 11 ozYes7$2504.7Read Review
Gregory Optic 5848L / 58L2 lbs 08 ozYes5$2104.6Read Review
REI Co-op Flash 5545L / 55L2 lbs 10 ozNo9$1994.4Read Review
Granite Gear Blaze 6060L3 lbs 00 ozNo3$2704.5Read Review
Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 + 1060L4 lbs 08 ozYes3$2504.7Read Review
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 5050L1 lbs 13 ozNo5$2404.5Read Review
ZPacks Arc Blast 5555L1 lbs 04 ozNo3$3494.6Read Review
Gregory Paragon 5848L / 58L / 68L3 lbs 08 ozYes6$2304.5Read Review
Granite Gear Crown2 6038L / 60L2 lbs 05 ozNo4$2004.5Read Review
Osprey Aether 6555L / 65L / 70L / 85L / 100L4 lbs 14 ozYes7$2804.7Read Review
Osprey Rook 6550L / 65L3 lbs 08 ozYes5$1654.6Read Review
ULA Circuit 6868L2 lbs 09 ozNo5$2804.4Read Review
Mystery Ranch Glacier71L6 lbs 06 ozNo4$3504.5Read Review
REI Co-op Traverse 6032L / 60L4 lbs 04 ozYes10$2294.3Read Review
Kelty Coyote 6565L / 85L / 105L4 lbs 10 ozNo7$1604.5Read Review
Gregory Zulu 6530L / 40L / 65L3 lbs 11 ozYes6$2304.6Read Review
NameVolumeWeightRaincoverPocketsPriceRatingReview

* Weight and price shown for the M size and models closer to 60L.

For more specific hiking backpacks recommendations, check out the following buyer’s guides:

Hiking Backpacks for Women >>  

Hiking Backpacks for Kids >> 

Lightweight Backpacks >>

Solar Backpacks >> 

Hiking Day Packs >> 

Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.

Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.

Reviews - Best Hiking Backpacks

Osprey Atmos AG 65

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 4 lbs 09 oz
  • Pockets: 8
  • Volume: 50L / 65L
  • Raincover: Yes
  • Hydration Compatibility: Yes
Features
  • Mesh back panel
  • Built-in rain cover
  • Multiple sets of compression straps
Osprey Atmos AG 65

BEST HIKING BACKPACK OVERALL

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 and Aura AG 65 (women’s size) have become a top choice among hikers looking for a high quality pack that won’t leave your back all wet and soggy from sweat. The pack has a ton of great features like a hydration sleeve, pockets on the hipbelt, built-in rain cover and an adjustable harness that allows you to customize the fit. Like all Osprey bags, the Atmos AG is built like a tank with heavy duty quality zippers and durable outer material. Both the Atmos AG / Aura AG come in both a 65L and 50L option.

What we like the most about this backpack is how comfortable it is even after walking with it fully loaded for several hours. The main reason why the Atmos AG beats most other packs when it comes to comfort is what Osprey calls its Anti-Gravity system (hence the AG in its product name). The system is made up of a big, spacious, continuous mesh trampoline that extends from the top of the back panel to the hip belt. This open design allows air to flow between you and the pack. The hipbelt has the same suspended design which makes it feel like the backpack is hugging you rather than you are wearing it. 

After testing this pack over several 5-8 day backpacking trips in a variety of weather conditions, we struggled to find something we didn’t like about this backpack. One consideration is what it gains in ventilation it gives up in overall comfort when carrying loads heavier than 40lbs. If you’re looking for a real pack mule of a backpack, check out the Gregory Baltoro 75 or the Osprey Aether Plus 70.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest

Specs
  • Weight: 2 lbs 03 oz
  • Pockets: 3
  • Volume: 55L / 70L
  • Raincover: No
  • Hydration Compatibility: Yes
Features
  • Ultralight
  • Removable, contoured aluminum stays
  • Internal mesh hydro sleeve
  • Ice axe loop
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest

BEST ULTRALIGHT BACKPACK

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest is a super lightweight backpack that was made specifically for tough adventures that would rip most other ultralight-style packs to shreds. It’s loved by both thru-hikers and those who like to keep things simple. What makes this backpack stand out among the crowd is its fully Dyneema construction. Dyneema is one of the strongest materials in the world relative to its weight, resists moisture well, and is extremely light. 

What we liked the most about the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 is how light and simple it is. This basic design means it’s perfect for someone who doesn’t need a ton of excess pockets. This backpack doesn’t have any suspension system like many of the models on this list do, only a ¼-inch foam back panel pad, so we were surprised by how comfortable the pack is. It also doesn’t have any load lifters, instead it has removable aluminum stays to distribute the weight.

The 3400 Southwest is an excellent choice for a serious ultralight hiker but we’d like to make it clear that it is not for everyone. With a high price tag (currently retailing at over $350), people who are just getting into hiking should stay away from this pack. Also, this is a purely ultralight backpack, so if you plan to carry over 20 lbs, it’s not for you. Having it heavily loaded will make wearing the pack very uncomfortable. Finally, one purely aesthetic downside is that the pack is only available in white or black, which makes it look dull in photos compared to red or yellow packs. 

The Hyperlite Southwest comes in three sizes, the 2400 Southwest, 3400 Southwest, and the 4400 Southwest.

Gregory Baltoro 65

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 4 lbs 13 oz
  • Pockets: 10
  • Volume: 65L / 75L / 85L
  • Raincover: Yes
  • Hydration Compatibility: Yes
Features
  • Tuck-Away Bottle Holster
  • Quick-Stow System On Shoulder Harness For Sunglass Storage
  • Proprietary Suspension System (for all day comfort)
  • Removable Hydration Sleeve Converts Into Daypack

BEST BACKPACK FOR EXTENDED TRIPS

The Gregory Baltoro 75 (men’s version) and Deva 70 (women’s version) were built to haul heavy loads. Its supportive padding and many organizational pockets make it our pick for extended hiking trips. When it comes to larger internal frame packs, this is one of the best you can get your hands on. 

We loved how well it carried weight and how comfortable the harness system was. After walking for hours, there was very minimal rubbing and no pressure points. Even when fully loaded, we found it allowed for a big range of movement when climbing over trees and ducking under rocky overhangs. One little feature that’s particularly nice is the u-shaped zipper on the front of the main compartment which makes loading, unloading and digging around for your lost head torch much easier. 

The only con we could find in this pack is weight. What the Gregory Baltoro 75 gains in comfort it pays for in pounds. At nearly 5 pounds, it might be a burden for those who want to trek fast and light. 

The Gregory Baltoro comes in a 65L, 75L and 85L option. The women’s version of this pack, the Gregory Deva comes in a 60L, 70L and 80L option.

Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 10

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 4 lbs 06 oz
  • Pockets: 4
  • Volume: 60L / 75L
  • Raincover: No
  • Hydration Compatibility: Yes
Features
  • 10-liter pack collar
  • Wide range of fit options
  • Ergonomic Comfort Lock hip fins
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 10

BEST HIKING BACKPACK FOR CARRYING HEAVY LOADS

The Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 (men’s version) and the 60+10 (women’s version) is the workhorse on this list. Not only does it hold a ton of gear, but it can even carry loads of over 50 pounds relatively comfortably.

What we love about this pack is how soft and plush the padding is.  This cushy padding molds to the hiker which helps to distribute the weight across the hips and shoulders, reducing pressure points.  Also, the adjustable back panel makes it easy to dial in the fit. Another nice feature is the top lid that converts into a daypack. With a $200 price tag, it’s extremely well priced and a great value for money.

We didn’t care for the pack’s narrow design, which makes loading and unloading more time consuming than backpacks with wider frames. Also, one other minor bummer is that it doesn’t come with a raincover. It’s also heavier than other packs with similar capacity, but it is worth it if comfort and quality of construction are your top priorities. 

The men’s version of the Deuter Aircontact Lite is available in the following capacities: 65+10 / 50+10 / 40+10

The women’s version of the pack is available in these capacities: 60+10 // 45+10// 35+10.

REI Co-op Trailbreak 60

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 3 lbs 13 oz
  • Pockets: 6
  • Volume: 60L
  • Raincover: No
  • Hydration Compatibility: Yes
Features
  • Padded back & shoulder straps
  • Steel internal frame
  • Zippered sleeping bag compartment
  • Bluesign-approved materials
REI Co-op Trailbreak 60

BEST BUDGET HIKING BACKPACK

When it comes to price, the REI Co-op Trailbreak 60 is tough to beat. This awesome starter backpack is not only the most budget friendly pack on our list, it still has great design features that makes it a great pick for hikers looking to save money without compromising too much on quality.

Aside from the price, what we love most about this pack is that the bottle pockets are angled just right so that you can easily get to your bottles without having to take off the pack.

Some of the downsides we saw with the Trailbreak 60 is the lack of features that you find on high end packs such as a raincover, trekking pole attachments, removable daypack and so on. But to be fair, at this price point, it’s hard to ask for more. 

The Trailbreak also comes in a women’s version, also called the Trailbreak 60.

Osprey Exos 58

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Gender: Male
  • Weight: 2 lbs 11 oz
  • Pockets: 5
  • Volume: 38L / 48L / 58L
  • Raincover: No
  • Frame: Internal
Features
  • Affordable
  • Ample Storage
  • Sturdy Frame
  • Removable Lid (to increase storage or decrease weight)

BEST COMFORTABLE BACKPACK

The Osprey Exos 58 and Eja 58 (women’s version) is a hybrid between an ultralight and a traditional backpack, making it a great option for hikers who are looking at cutting down weight but still want the support of a frame that other lightweight bags lack.

What we loved the most about this backpack was the tensioned-mesh frame that makes it much more comfortable to carry heavier loads. The amount of ventilation due to the space behind the back panel is also a big plus when hiking in warm weather.

One thing we don’t love about the Exos 58 is it’s not very adjustable, unlike other models on this list, the back panel is fixed. It does come in three sizes though, so if you’re considering this pack be sure to follow Osprey’s sizing guidelines. Also, it doesn’t have hip belt pockets for stashing small pieces of kit you want to keep handy. If this is a big issue for you, check out the slightly heavier Gregory Optic/Octal that is also featured on this list. Another option is to rock a fanny pack up front.

If you’re looking for a slightly smaller backpack the Exos range also has an Exos 48 / Eja 48.

Osprey Stratos 50

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 3 lbs 11 oz
  • Pockets: 7
  • Volume: 36L / 50L
  • Raincover: Yes
  • Hydration Compatibility: Yes
Features
  • Trekking Pole Attachment
  • Zippered Mesh Pocket Under Top Lid
  • Zippered Hipbelt Pockets
  • Top And Side Panel Zip Access To Main Compartment

The Osprey Stratos 50 / Sirrus 50 (women’s version) is a great gateway pack to lightweight backpacking for people who want to cut weight but don’t want to lose out on features and comfort. If you’ve been eyeing the Osprey Atmos AG 50 but looking for something lighter, this might be what you’re looking for. 

The Stratos/ Sirrus use Osprey’s fully adjustable AirSpeed ventilated system which is a single piece of suspended mesh that allows for plenty of airflow between you and the pack, even when fully loaded. We loved the side zip that allows you to get to the main compartment of the pack without having to dig through the top of the bag. Also, the top lid is removable if you want to cut weight. We also love the versatility of the pack, it could be used for a day pack as well as for multi-day backpacking adventures.

Our only complaint is that the hip belt pockets are too small to fit a smart phone well, but it certainly isn’t a deal breaker.

If you’re looking for a smaller pack, check out the Stratos 36L, 34L, 26L, 24L men’s backpacks, or the women’s version Sirrus 36L, 26L, and 24L sizes.

Gregory Optic 58

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Gender: Male
  • Weight: 2 lbs 08 oz
  • Pockets: 5
  • Volume: 48L / 58L
  • Raincover: Yes
  • Frame: Internal
Features
  • Lots Of Pockets
  • Excellent Ventilation
  • Comfortable

The Gregory Optic 48 / Octal 45 (women’s version) is a lightweight backpack that provides good support and padding. This hybrid concept is similar to the Osprey Exos/ Eja pack also featured on this list.

Two of the features we really loved about this pack are the firm and supportive hip belt and the amount of padding on the shoulder straps. This combination makes carrying gear much more comfortable, even if it does at a few extra ounces. Another great feature is the ventilated mesh back panel keeps the pack away from your back, giving you lots of airflow which will keep you cooler while hiking in warmer weather. The sunglass loop, clip for hydration tube, and the rain cover are also nice to have.

One of the weaknesses we found with the Optic 48 was that the side pockets don’t handle as much abuse as other packs on this list, so if you do decide to buy, take care when storing hiking poles in these pockets. Also, the back panel does not adjust so you’ll need to measure your torso length and choose the right size for you. 

If you’re between the Gregory Optic/ Octal and the Osprey Exos/ Eja, our choice is the Optic/ Octal if you plan to carry heavier loads (over 30lbs), this is due to the Optic’s one piece extra cushioned hip belt that hugs the hips and gets the weight off your shoulders much better than the Exos.

If you want a larger backpack, check out the Optic 58. The women’s version, the Octal comes in both a 45L and 55L option. 

REI Co-op Flash 55

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 2 lbs 10 oz
  • Pockets: 9
  • Volume: 45L / 55L
  • Raincover: No
  • Hydration Compatibility: Yes
Features
  • Roll-Top Closure
  • Breathable Mesh Front Pocket
  • Exterior Side Pockets
  • Water Bottle Pockets

The Flash 55 is REI Co-op’s answer to lightweight backpacking. It also has the option to strip off the brain, straps, and side pockets to cut down even more weight.

We loved the affordability of the Flash 55, making it a great choice for people new to backpacking or someone who wants a lightweight backpack that doesn’t break the bank. It’s also a great option for those who’d like to cut weight but don’t want to commit to a full on ultralight backpack. The Flash range also has the same awesome side pockets as other REI packs, that allow you to pull out your water bottles and put it back in its place without taking off the backpack. Durability is also a big plus, even after scrambling in some gnarly terrain, we didn’t find any rips or tears that you might expect with such lightweight material. 

Some of our nitpicks are the lack of adjustability on the back panel and lack of water resistant material. 

The Flash also comes in an almost identical women’s 55L version. If you want a smaller sized backpack, take a look at the REI Co-Op Flash 45L.

Granite Gear Blaze 60

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 3 lbs 00 oz
  • Pockets: 3
  • Volume: 60L
  • Raincover: No
  • Trekking Pole Attachment: No
  • Removable Top Lid : Yes, converts to day pack
Features
  • Sternum Strap Whistle
  • Hidden Vertical Zipper (for secure access to main compartment)
  • Large Hip Belt Pockets
  • Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Treated Zippers (for extra rain resistance)

The Granite Gear Blaze 60 is a lightweight pack that can handle heavy loads. It’s a great option for long distance hikers who want to cut weight without missing out on key features.

The hip belt is fully adjustable which helps the pack hug your hips, taking weight off your shoulders. The top lid detaches allowing it to be paired with the hip belt converting it into a fanny pack. The Blaze 60 doesn’t have a trampoline suspension system like some of the other packs on this list, so it does sit right on your back. The back panel does have grooves that help warm air escape giving you some ventilation on warm days.

We didn’t care for the tiny buckles, they felt kind of flimsy and would be hard to use if you were wearing gloves. Another minor complaint is that the hip belt pockets are not waterproof and retain water.

If you’re in between the Granite Gear Blaze 60 and the Granite Gear Crown2 60, the Blaze is better at carrying heavy loads with a max load rating of 50 lbs compared to the Crown2 at 33 lbs. 

The Granite Gear Blaze 60 comes in a women’s version which goes by the same name. 

Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 + 10

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 4 lbs 08 oz
  • Pockets: 3
  • Volume: 60L
  • Raincover: Yes
  • Hydration Compatibility: Yes
Features
  • Zippered Stretch-Mesh Hipbelt Pockets
  • Large U-Shaped 2-Way Zip Opening
  • Front Stash Pocket
  • Valuables Pocket Located Inside Lid Interior
Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 + 10

The Deuter Futura Air Trek 50+10 is a hauler backpack that was designed for people who prioritize comfort over weight. 

What we loved about this pack was the U-shaped zipper on the front of the pack that let’s open the bag all the way up like a duffel bag, making packing and unpacking easier. Some other nice features are the rain cover and hydration sleeve. It has an adjustable back panel so you can dial in the fit or let your hiking partner borrow the pack. The hip belt is designed to move with you as you walk, giving the pack a more comfortable fit.

The biggest downside we found with this pack is weight. While it’s not the heaviest on the list, it’s up there. This might be a worthwhile trade off for people planning longer hikers or people carrying photography equipment. 

The Deuter Futura Air Trek comes in a women’s version that is 45+10 liters. 

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50

Specs
  • Weight: 1 lbs 13 oz
  • Pockets: 5
  • Volume: 50L
  • Raincover: No
Features
  • Great shoulder strap padding
  • Removable SitLight pad
  • Big side pockets reachable while walking
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 is one of the most well thought out, durable and comfortable ultralight packs on this list.  

We loved that Gossamer didn’t skimp on the shoulder strap padding when designing this backpack, the beefy straps make carrying heavy loads much more comfortable than with other lightweight bags. One unique feature is it has a removable SitLight pad which can be used as back cushioning while carrying the pack and a seat at camp. The hipbelt is removable so you can cut even more weight if you’d like. The side pockets are designed in a way that makes it so you can easily reach water bottles with the pack on.

One downside to this pack is they are difficult to find in outdoor gear stores so you’ll need to order it directly from the manufacturer. Gossamer does have an excellent customer service track record and you can send the pack back if it’s not right for you. The pack is water resistant but not fully waterproof like some of the other ultralight packs on this list, so you’ll need to use a rain cover or dry bags if you want to keep your gear dry.

The Gossamer Gorilla has a unisex harness designed for both men and women. If you’d love to try out the Gorilla but you want to carry a bit more gear, check out the Gossamer Mariposa 60.

ZPacks Arc Blast 55

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 1 lbs 04 oz
  • Pockets: 3
  • Volume: 55L
  • Raincover: No
Features
  • Made with Cuben fiber fabric (waterproof)
  • Arching frame provides great ventilation
  • Extremely lightweight
ZPacks Arc Blast 55

The ZPacks Arc Blast 55 is a super light backpack that is designed for hikers who want to go fast and light. It’s certainly not a hauler but if you keep your load under 15lbs it is an ultralight hikers dream. This backpack is made with hybrid Cuben fiber fabric which makes it light and waterproof, but it does also jack up the price tag.

What we loved the most about the Arc Blast was the arching frame (hence the name). This design gives you great ventilation as long as the pack isn’t fully loaded. This ventilation system is pretty unique among the minimalist, ultralight options which typically have a fixed foam back panel, making summer hiking not as enjoyable.

We didn’t care for the design of the front pouch. It’s not stretchy enough to comfortably fit a larger piece of gear like a rain jacket, especially when the main compartment is fully packed. Another bummer was the volume capacity seemed off and we found it hard to believe that it was truly a 55-liter pack

It was a tough choice between the ZPacks Arc Blast 55 and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 when it came to picking the best lightweight backpack for this list. Ultimately we passed on giving the Arc Blast that title because even though it is one of the lightest packs we featured, it proved to only be great at carrying lighter loads (under 15lbs). Having said that, the ZPacks Arc Blast will be a perfect choice for a true ultralight gear junkie who has his equipment dialed in.

ZPacks makes a comparable pack to the Blast that is specifically for female hikers with shorter torsos called the Arc Scout

Gregory Paragon 58

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 3 lbs 08 oz
  • Pockets: 6
  • Volume: 48L / 58L / 68L
  • Raincover: Yes
Features
  • Great suspension system to carry heavy loads
  • Wide and supportive shoulder straps
  • Side zipper for easy access to the main compartment
Gregory Paragon 58

The Gregory Paragon 58 / Maven 55 (women’s version) is another hybrid pack that cuts down on weight while still holding on to traditional backpacking pack features. It’s a nice balance between the heavy comfort focused models and the bare minimum ultralight packs. 

We loved that Gregory didn’t skimp on suspension when it comes to its Paragon/ Maven line, which makes it a considerably better load hauler than other lightweight packs you’ll find on this list. We also liked the wide and supportive shoulder straps, which also play a role in making carrying heavier loads more manageable. One little feature we appreciated was the side zipper that runs from top to the bottom of the bag making it easy to get to the main compartment without having to unload everything. Some other bonus points of the Paragon are the rain cover, generous hip pockets, sunglass loop and the hydration sleeve doubles as a daypack. 

This was one of those packs that we struggled to find any major downsides. The additional straps and pockets might put off a minimalist backpacker.

The Gregory Paragon is also available in a 68L, 58L and 48L versions.

The women’s version, the Gregory Maven is available in a 65L, 55L and 45L option.  

Granite Gear Crown2 60

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 2 lbs 05 oz
  • Pockets: 4
  • Volume: 38L / 60L
  • Raincover: No
Features
  • Large hip belt pockets
  • Top lid converts into a day pack
  • Large and elastic front mesh pocket
Granite Gear Crown2 60

The Granite Gear Crown2 has become a lightweight favorite among thru-hikers because it cuts down on weight without compromising features. It also has an attractive price point for a pack in this lightweight category.  This backpack is also offered with female sizing.

We loved that the Crown 2 has some nice features other lightweight packs tend to skimp on like a water bladder compartment, large hip-belt pockets, and a lid that converts into a day pack. While there is no adjustability on the back panel, you can adjust the hip belt so that it can really hug your hips, which takes the weight off of your shoulders. There are compression straps on both sides of the pack that can double as lashing points for trekking poles, a tripod, or tent poles. Also, we liked the large elastic front mesh pocket that’s great for drying out wet clothes.

We would have liked to see more cushioning on the shoulder straps, as they did start to cut in my chest after a few hours of walking. Other hikers said they haven’t had any issues with the shoulder straps, so this might be dependent on body type. Another annoyance we found was the hip belt is rigid. Keep in mind this pack was designed for lighter loads. 

If you need a smaller pack, check out the Granite Gear Crown2 38

Osprey Aether 65

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 4 lbs 14 oz
  • Pockets: 7
  • Volume: 55L / 65L / 70L / 85L / 100L
  • Raincover: Yes
Features
  • Lots of options to adjust the backpack
  • Top lid converts into a day pack
  • A bit heavier than similar options
Osprey Aether 65

The Osprey Aether 65 / Ariel 65 (women’s version) is a large-capacity pack that is loaded with features designed for carrying heavy loads. It’s a great choice for longer, gear-intensive trips into the backcountry. People who find that lightweight backpacks lack stability and comfort will be relieved to find the Osprey Aether. 

What we loved the most about the Aether 65 is its adjustability which allows you to really dial in the fit. It has a custom-molded hip belt and an adjustable back panel. We also love that the top lid converts into a 16L daypack, perfect for day hikes or side trips. 

The biggest downside of this pack is that it is on the heavy end of the spectrum, due to its rigid back panel and extra-padded suspension system. These extras are what make it possible to haul heavy loads relatively comfortably, so if that’s your goal, then the extra pounds are worth the trade-off. 

The Aether is also available in a 55L option. If you need to haul more gear, check out the Aether 60 Plus, Aether 70 Plus, and Aether 85 Plus models. If you’re looking for a real beast of a pack, look into the Aether 100 plus model. 

If you love the classic Osprey Aether models but want to cut weight, check out the Osprey Aether Pro 70 model. 

The Osprey Ariel (women’s version) is available in 65L and 55L as well as the Ariel 60 Plus and Ariel 70 Plus options. The Osprey Ariel Pro 65 is the lightweight version of this classic, tried and true backpack.

Osprey Rook 65

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 3 lbs 08 oz
  • Pockets: 5
  • Volume: 50L / 65L
  • Raincover: Yes
Features
  • Highly ventilated back panel
  • Integrated removable raincover
  • Great value
Osprey Rook 65 Hiking Backpack

The Osprey Rook 65 / Renn 65 (women’s version) is a budget minded backpacking backpack that doesn’t cut corners when it comes to quality and comfort. While it isn’t as padded or lightweight as top of the line models, it’s a great starter pack for beginners. 

What we love the most about the Rook is its balance between weight, durability, and price. Compared to other budget packs, it is considerably lighter and more robust. With a $165 price tag, it’s a great price point for a high quality Osprey backpack. The back panel is built using Osprey’s Airspeed mesh ventilation system that gives some airflow. The fabric is pretty thick and durable, making it a good choice for people who are just starting out, and being extra gentle with gear is not the highest priority. 

The biggest drawback of the Rook is it is not great for carrying heavy loads. If you plan to carry more than 35lbs you might want to steer clear of this pack. The padding on the shoulder straps is not that thick and could start to dig in after a few hours. While the Airspeed ventilation system was decent for hiking in warm weather, it’s nowhere near as comfortable as Osprey’s Anti-Gravity stems you can find on their premium packs like the Atmos/ Aura. All of our complaints are balanced out by the price and still think the Rook is excellent value. 

If you’re looking for a small pack, the Osprey Rook also comes in a 50L model

The women’s version, the Osprey Renn is available in both 50L and 65L.

ULA Circuit 68

Specs
  • Weight: 2 lbs 09 oz
  • Pockets: 5
  • Volume: 68L
  • Raincover: No
Features
  • Good back panel support
  • Front mesh pocket
  • You can get your name on it
ULA Circuit 68 Hiking Backpack

The ULA Circuit 68 is an ultralight backpacking pack that was designed to be comfortable enough for long distance hiking and tough enough to last for years.  

What we loved the most about this pack is its balance between weight, comfort, and durability. It does this by using a suspension hoop along with a dense internal foam frame which gives great back panel support, load stability, and stiffness while still being soft enough to hug your body and move with you. The pack weighs just over two pounds and can carry loads up to 30 pounds comfortably. A nice little touch ULA offers is to embroider your trail name or your real name on the pack for a small fee.

One thing you have to be careful with if you decide to get the Circuit is not to overpack it, especially at the bottom, because the back panel can bulge making it super uncomfortable. 

Looking for a lightweight backpacking backpack for kids? The Circuit can be ordered with a 12″ to 18″ adjustable harness system that works great for kids and teenagers.

Mystery Ranch Glacier

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 6 lbs 06 oz
  • Pockets: 4
  • Volume: 71L
  • Raincover: No
Features
  • Side zipper allows easy access to the main compartment
  • Side compression straps
  • A bit expennsive
Mystery Ranch Glacier Hiking Backpack

If you’re looking for a sturdy, built to last pack to comfortably haul all of your gear on extended trips into the backcountry, the Mystery Ranch Glacier might be the pack you’ve been looking for. 

What we love the most about the Glacier is its ability to haul serious loads. We’re talking 70-80 pounds. This is possible because of its light but strong frame and high density foam padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt. The whole back panel is super soft and plush. It’s like the Cadillac of backpacking backpacks. We also love the overall design and construction of this pack, it feels bombproof. Nothing about this thing is delicate. It has large zippers and is made with thick denier nylon. 

The biggest drawback of the Glacier is its price. At $350, it’s a big commitment. However, if you go on lots of long backpacking adventures where you need to haul a ton of gear, we think the Glacier is totally worth the cost. Also, it’s an extremely well pack and a purchase like this is an investment that could last you a lifetime. 

This pack also comes in a women’s version.

REI Co-op Traverse 60

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 4 lbs 04 oz
  • Pockets: 10
  • Volume: 32L / 60L
  • Raincover: Yes
Features
  • Ripstop nylon ensures durability
  • Adjustable back panel
  • Big hipbelt pockets
REI Co-op Traverse 60 hiking backpack

The REI Co-op Traverse 60 is a simple, well thought out pack that was designed for the weekend warrior in mind. 

REI Co-op redesigned the Traverse in 2021 to add some nice features like large hip belt pockets, hydration sleeve, a top lid that turns into a day pack, and an included rain cover. We liked the overall durability of the pack. It uses 300-denier ripstop nylon throughout, which makes it a good choice for people who are tough on gear. 

The biggest drawback of the Traverse is the value. At $229, it’s not cheap but it feels like it should be. This is most noticeable in the padding. The hip belt and back panel have soft, thick, squishy padding that isn’t supportive when carrying heavy loads. It might be ok for a weekend summer trip, but we wouldn’t recommend using this thing for extended trips in the backcountry. 

If your budget allows, consider looking at Osprey’s Aether 65/ Ariel 65 (women’s). It has a better ventilation and suspension system. The Aether is 50 bucks more than the Traverse but this is money well spent if you are going to be hiking longer distances with a heavier load. 

If you are looking for a smaller pack, the Traverse is available on a 32L model.

The REI Co-op Traverse is also available in a women’s version in 32L, and 60L model. 

Kelty Coyote 65

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 4 lbs 10 oz
  • Pockets: 7
  • Volume: 65L / 85L / 105L
  • Raincover: No
Features
  • FIT-Pro adjustment system
  • AMP-Flow back panel increases airflow
  • A bit heavy
REI Co-op Traverse 60 hiking backpack

The Kelty Coyote 65 / Kelty Coyote 60 (women’s version) is a budget backpack that gives you the level of comfort and carrying capacity you might expect from some of the more premium choices on this list.

What we love the most about the Coyote is its balance between comfort, features, load capacity, and price. The padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt is thick and supportive, which keeps them from digging into you. The back panel is well ventilated, making this pack a good option for summer backpacking. We also liked that the hip belt isn’t sewn into the pack. This design lets the pack move with you as you walk, which improves stability when carrying bulky and heavy loads. At $159, the Coyote is excellent value. It’s a great choice for beginners or backpackers who love a great deal. 

The Coyote does come with a hefty weight penalty, it’s 4.3 pounds. However, if you’re looking at carrying heavy loads, don’t let this put you off. This weight range is pretty common for haulers and it could be a worthy trade-off if comfort, support, and affordability are your highest priorities. 

The Kelty Coyote is also available in 85L and 105L.

The women’s version of the Coyote is available in a 60L model.

Gregory Zulu 65

View Women's Version
Specs
  • Weight: 3 lbs 11 oz
  • Pockets: 6
  • Volume: 30L / 40L / 65L
  • Raincover: Yes
Features
  • U-zip panel provides easy access to all of your gear
  • Breathable and adjustable back panel
  • Raincover included
Gregory Zulu 65 Hiking Backpack

The Gregory Zulu 65 / Jade 63 (women’s version) is a middle ground pack that’s not ultralight but not a hauler either. Its airy ventilation system makes it an excellent choice for summer backpacking adventures. 

What we loved the most about the Gregory Zulu is its adjustable free float suspension system. The name is well suited, it makes it feel like that pack is levitating and moving with you as you walk. Having the pack away from your back is much appreciated when hiking in warm summer weather. We also loved the large U-zip opening that makes it super easy to unpack gear. 

One little complaint we had was it’s harder to get water bottles in and out of the side pockets. 

If you love Gregory packs but you’re confused about which one in their lineup is for you, let’s quickly compare the main three options: The Zulu, Paragon, and the Baltoro. The Zulu 65 and Paragon 58 are currently priced at $230. The Zulu is more ventilated and has seven liters more volume without adding much weight. When it comes to hauling bulkier loads, the Paragon is much more capable and comfortable than the Zulu. But, for a true hauler, the Baltoro wins hands down. It’s the more expensive option but its trimmed down brothers can’t compete with the beefy Baltoro. 

The Gregory Zulu is available in three volume sizes: 30L, 40L, and 65L

The women’s version of this pack, the Gregory Jade is available in three volume sizes: 28L, 38L, and 63L.  

VIDEO REVIEW: BEST BACKPACKING BACKPACKS

THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BUYING THE BEST HIKING BACKPACK

GEAR CAPACITY

Choosing the proper size multi-day pack is the biggest decision you’ll make, as the size of your pack will affect how many days you’re able to stay on the trail. Consider when you’ll most likely be hiking, as winter backpacking will require much more room than summer camping.

30 – 50 liters

Best Hiking Backpacks 30-50L

Best suited for weekend trips, a multi-day pack in this range will comfortably pack enough gear for 1 – 3 days in late spring, summer, and early fall.

Depending on the type of gear you bring and how light you can pack, you may be able to extend this by an extra day or two. For example, summers have better conditions for sleeping in a hammock. Carrying a hammock instead of a tent would significantly reduce your overall pack weight. It would also leave room in the pack for other essentials like more food and water, allowing you to stay out longer.

50 – 70 liters

Best Hiking Backpacks 50-70L

Considered the most widely used type of backpack, these multi-day packs will comfortably extend your trip to the 3 – 5 day range. For winter backpackers, packs of this size will accommodate overnight and even 2-night trips.

The best thing about packs in this range is that they can be “sized down” to also be useful for weekend summer trips. Keep in mind that using a pack of this size for a shorter weekend trip in warm weather requires great discipline when packing, as it’s easy to fill the extra space with unnecessary items. You don’t want to carry a pack that’s uncomfortably heavy just because you couldn’t decide what to leave at home!

70+ liters

Best Hiking Backpacks 70L+

Multi-day packs that exceed 70 liters are best for extended trips that last a minimum of 5 nights. The sheer size of these packs will ensure that you’re able to bring enough supplies for the long haul.

Packs in this range are great for families with young children. With a 70+ Liter pack, you’ll be able to carry your children’s supplies as well as your own.

70+ Liter packs are also in high demand for winter treks lasting more than 2 nights. You’ll be able to haul thicker clothing, more layers, and larger, winter sleeping bags without worrying about running out of space.

SIZE

Torso length

Hiking Backpacks Torso Length

The most important measurement for choosing the correct size multi-day pack is measuring the length of your torso. To do this, you will need a flexible measuring tape and a helping hand from a friend or relative.

Your torso length can be determined by measuring the distance between your C7 vertebra at the base of your neck and your iliac crest at the top of your hip bones. Start by tilting your head forward. You want to feel for a bony bump on the back of your neck (the place where your neck and shoulders meet, AKA the C7 vertebra). This is your starting point.

Next, put your hands on your hips (at your waistline) and slide them down to the tops of your hip bones with thumbs pointing towards your back. Now draw an imaginary line between your thumbs.  This is your stopping point.

Last, using a measuring tape, have your partner measure the distance from the starting point down to the imaginary line on your hips. This is the length of your torso. Use the chart below to determine what size multi-day pack you will need based upon your measurement.

PACK SIZE TORSO LENGTH
EXTRA SMALLUP TO 15″
SMALL16″ – 17″
MEDIUM / REGULAR18″ – 19″
LARGE / TALL20″ +

It’s also important to note that most multi-day packs come with an adjustable suspension for torso length. This is designed for users to dial in the perfect length. Each brand has its own system – check the instructions on the pack for sizing adjustments.

Waist size

Hiking Backpack Waist Size

Although the proper size of a multi-day pack can usually be found with just the torso length, make sure to measure your waist size as well. Compare your waist measurement to the hip belt size on your chosen pack to make sure they match. If they don’t, double check to see if you can swap out the hip belt for a smaller or larger one. Most brands are willing to do this at no extra cost.

Waist measurement is also a good tiebreaker for those who may fall in-between sizes. For example, if your torso measurement is somewhere between 19” – 20”, it can be difficult to decide whether to size up or down. In this case, check your waist size. If you have average sized or narrower hips, size down to the Medium/Regular pack size. If you have wider than average hips, size up to ensure the hip belt will properly fit. In either case, the torso length can be adjusted up or down to ensure a snug fit.

ADJUSTMENT FEATURES

Hip belt

Best Hiking Backpacks Hip Belt

The first point of adjustment after donning your pack is the hip belt. Multi-day packs are designed to reduce stress and pressure from your shoulders by redirecting the weight to your hips. This creates ergonomic comfort on long hikes.

To properly adjust the hip belt, put on the backpack while fully loaded with gear and clip the hip belt buckle. Ensure the padded portions of the hip belt fit snugly on your hip bones. To adjust the fit, tighten the straps on either side until snug.

When fully tightened, the straps should have at least 1” of clearance between the buckle and the plastic adjustment pulley. If there is less than 1”, contact the manufacturer to see if a smaller belt is available.

Shoulder straps

Hiking Backpacks Shoulder Straps

The next thing you want to adjust when you first put your pack on is the shoulder straps. To tighten them, pull down and back on the strap. Be careful not to over-tighten these straps, as you don’t want them to cause discomfort by digging into your shoulders. The anchor points (the place on the pack where the shoulder straps come out from) should rest 1 – 2 inches below the tops of your shoulders, just about at the top of your shoulder blades.

Additionally, the shoulder straps should fit snugly without adding any weight or pressure to your shoulders. If this isn’t the case, double check your hip belt to ensure the load is being supported there. Finally, if the hip belt is loaded and tightened correctly, double check the torso length, as the suspension may need to be re-adjusted.

Load lifter straps

Hiking Backpacks Load Lifter Straps

Load lifter straps are a secondary point of adjustment after the hip belt and shoulder straps. Located near the top of the pack, they help add ergonomic comfort by assisting the shoulder straps. In order to achieve the best fit, adjust the load lifter anchor points at a 45° degree angle to the pack.

The shoulder straps should still be snug with your body after you tighten down the load lifter straps. If you find that there is a gap or separation between the shoulder straps and your body, loosen the load lifters. Over-tightened load lifter straps can pinch your shoulders over time, even if they felt good after the initial tightening. Don’t be afraid to play around with the adjustment of these straps the first few times you wear your pack, until you find a comfortable and reliable snugness.

Sternum strap

Hiking Backpacks Sterum Strap

The sternum strap is a small strap near the top of your pack that comes across your chest. An optional adjustment, buckling the sternum strap can help create additional support. To dial in the right fit, slide the sternum strap up until it is about an inch below your collar bones. Buckle and tighten the strap to a snug fit without over-tightening. Some prefer to hike without this strap buckled. Experiment to see what you like best.

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

Removable top lid

Hiking Backpacks Removable Top Lid

Multi-day packs in the 50+ Liter size range will sometimes come with a removable top lid that can double as a day pack or hip belt pack. These can be extremely useful for those who plan to set up a base camp for multiple days. Having a removable top lid will free you from carrying your big pack on small day trips within your backpacking/camping trip.

If you’ve opted for a 50+ Liter pack but find yourself on a shorter trip of 1 – 3 days, a removable top lid can also be left at home to trim down on pack size/weight.

Sleeping bag compartment

Hiking Backpack Sleeping Bag Compartmet

Some multi-day packs offer additional access to the main compartment via a zipper at the bottom. For instance, this bottom compartment allows you to easily reach your sleeping bag without completely unloading everything else in your pack. So keep an eye on this feature as it helps you stay organized.

Hydration reservoir pouch

Backpack Hydration Reservoir

The best hiking backpacks now include a slim pouch in the back of the pack that can hold a hydration reservoir. Typically sold separately, some brands (such as Osprey and REI) will include a 1.5 or 2 Liter hydration reservoir at no extra cost. Therefore, these hydration reservoirs (often called “bladders” or referred to by the trademarked name “CamelBak”) are a fantastic alternative to bulky and heavy water bottles.

Hydration reservoirs deliver water via a tube that attaches to the shoulder straps, allowing you to drink water on the go without having to stop and unhook your water bottle.

Raincover

Hiking Backpack Rain Cover

Having a raincover for your pack can save your gear from getting totally soaked in a sudden downpour. No one likes a wet sleeping bag!

Some multi-day packs come with their own raincover, such as those made by Osprey and REI, and have a dedicated storage pouch. These integrated raincovers are easy to deploy in case of a sudden rainstorm and can also be packed away quickly and efficiently. If your chosen multi-day pack doesn’t include a raincover, we suggest picking one up for a small cost.

FEATURES EXPLAINED ABOUT THE BEST HIKING BACKPACKS

Hip pocket

Backpacking Pack Hip Pocket

These padded arms located at the bottom of the pack are designed to help transfer the weight of the pack to your hips and minimize the downward weight on your shoulders. This is perhaps one of the most important parts of a pack. Hip belt pockets are ideal for storing small items that might be needed quickly while on the trail.

Hydration bladder 

Hydration Bladder

This water reservoir is advantageous when backpacking as it allows the user the option to sip water perpetually while in motion. The best backpacking packs come with an integrated sleeve in which to contain the bladder and have a hole in which the reservoir’s tube can be threaded. However, this bladder option is typically sold separately.

Stash pocket

Backpacking Pack Stash Pocket

A zippered pocket that can accommodate a couple of small items, such as a protein bar or a headlamp. Most hip belts have one on each side and some multi-day packs offer a few stash pockets in the top lid (AKA ‘brain‘) for easy access.

Side pocket

Backpacking Pack Side Pocket

Flanking either side of the backpack, side pockets are always open and can store tent poles, trekking poles, or even a large water bottle.

Side compression straps

Backpacking Backpack Compression Straps

Usually found near the side pockets, these handy straps can be tightened to pull a backpack’s load closer to the frame. Doing so creates a better center of gravity for the hiker. You can also use them in conjunction with the side pockets to help hold onto longer items such as tent poles.

Sternum strap

Backpacking Backpack Sternum Strap

The sternum strap connects the two shoulder straps and is ideal when it’s adjustable to allow the user to find the perfect location on the chest.

Tool loop

Backpacking Backpack Tool Loop

A loop found on the bottom of a multi-day pack that can accommodate extra gear, external to the main compartment. These are usually used to strap on a ground pad or tarp.

Top lid (aka the brain)

Hiking Backpack Top Lid

Provided it has one, the top lid of the backpack is often referred to as the ‘brain’. This is a great place to store items that you might need quick access to such as a headlamp, extra snacks, and other essentials.

Ventilated back panel

Best Hiking Backpacks Ventilated Back Panel

The best hiking backpacks offer some type of ventilated back panel that helps increase the air flow between the load and your back. This feature helps keep you cool and prevents your sweat from drenching your gear.

F.A.Q. ABOUT THE BEST BACKPACKS FOR HIKING

What qualities should the best hiking backpack have?

A hiking backpack should be big enough to carry all of your gear plus food and water. Similarly, it should have padded shoulder straps, a hip belt, and a supportive back panel. Additionally, some other features to look for are a fully adjustable suspension system, external pockets, attachment points for extra gear, and an internal compartment for a hydration bladder. 

What is the most comfortable backpack for hiking?

The Osprey Exos 58 is a very comfortable backpack for hiking. How comfortable a backpack is depends on many factors like the overall weight of the pack, amount of shoulder padding, a well ventilated back panel, and a well padded hipbelt. Also, a pack with a well designed suspension system will be much more comfortable than one without, this system distributes the weight of your pack across your back evenly. 

Which backpack is best for backpacking?

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is a great all round backpacking backpack. It’s comfortable, durable, relatively lightweight, and has a ton of features. It also comes in a women’s version, the Osprey Aura AG 65. 

What bags are good for hiking?

Backpacks that are specifically designed for hiking are the best for long days of walking with a fully loaded pack. The best hiking backpacks have plenty of room for extra clothes, food, water and gear. They also have padded shoulders and a hip belt that helps to take the weight off of your shoulders.

Are the best hiking backpacks worth it?

If you’re planning on using your backpack for long day hikes or multi-day backpacking trips, you will appreciate having a pack that is specifically designed for hiking. Bags that are designed to carry laptops or school bags might be ok for a short hike but will become very uncomfortable when loaded down with food, water and clothes. 

Which brand is best for backpacks?

Osprey, Deuter, Gregory, Granite Gear are all reputable brands that make backpacks. 

How much should you spend on a hiking backpack?

Firstly, for a day pack of around 20-35 liters, expect to spend around $80. Secondly, for an overnight pack between 35-50 liters around $150. And, for a backpacking backpack over 50 liters, expect to spend around $250. Above all, volume, quality of the materials and design features all factor into the price of a hiking backpack.

Are Fjallraven backpacks good for hiking?

Fjallraven makes high quality outdoor gear. However, their backpacks don’t typically compete well against other popular brands like Osprey, Gregory and Deuter. This could be because they tend to be more expensive and heavier than other backpacks on the market. 

Are Osprey packs good?

Osprey packs have a reputation for being incredibly comfortable and durable. They can be pricey but are also a great value for money because of their high quality design and materials. In conclusion, Osprey packs are definitely some of the best hiking backpacks out there.

What’s the difference between a backpack and a rucksack?

In Europe and within the U.S military, a rucksack is considered to be an extra large backpack that is designed for carrying heavy loads. In the United States, the use of the word rucksack is less common. Some refer to this type of large backpack as a backpacking backpack. 

What is the best size backpack for a day hike?

20-35 liters is a good size for most day hikes giving you enough room to carry extra layers, food, water, sunglasses and sunblock. If you will be hiking with kids or pets, you might need a bigger bag to carry their gear as well. Also, if you are hiking in cold weather, you might need extra room for clothing.

Deuter Aircontact Backpack

Backpacking with the Deuter Aircontact Backpack in Switzerland

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