You may have your itinerary down, you may know where you’re going, you may have bought that waterproof coat you’ve been eyeing up for the last month waiting for it to go on sale, but arguably the most important thing about a backpacking trip abroad or a trek in the wilderness is the backpack itself.
It’s in the name, isn’t it? Backpacking. Allow us to take some of the guesswork out of finding the best hiking backpack for your next adventure.
Everything you have for the crucial few days of a long hike will be encased in this thing you carry on your back. Even more alarmingly, in terms of long-term travel, everything you will own for the next few months, or a year, or more, will need to be kept safe, dry and tidy in that bag you’ll be shouldering for the next umpteen hours.
And it’s not just what’s in the bag: it’s the bag itself. It becomes your world. The last thing you want is a ripped bag, or a broken zip, or a bag that just isn’t comfortable whatsoever, because often (and especially if you’re literally in the middle of nowhere) there’s no going back.
But what to buy? It depends. It depends on whether you prefer seamless, easy to use bags, or if you are all about gizmos and functionality. It depends if you’re on an extended South East Asia trip or a multi-day mountaineering jaunt.
It depends if you want ultimate comfort or can stand something more rigid. It depends on how much money you want to part with. And it depends whether you’re male or female. There are a lot of things to consider. So to make life easier, here’s a shortlist of the top contenders.
Top 6 Best Hiking Backpacks
|Men's Eddie Bauer Bacon 2.0 Pack |
-Retractable Tool Loops
-Attachment points for holster poles or axes
-Perforated Thermo-formed EVA Back panel
|Men's Lowe Alpine Airzone Trek+ |
-45L expandable to 55L
-Breathable Tensioned Mesh
-Stretch mesh front pocket
-Adjustable chest strap
-Adaptive fit hipbelt & harness
|Men's Osprey Volt 60 Backpacking Pack |
-Adjustable Fit hip belt allows for the perfect fit
-One size fits all adjustable torso
-Front panel hybrid shove-it pocket
-Dual front panel daisy chains
-Dual ice tool attachments
-Internal hydration sleeve
|Women's Kelty Coyote 65 Backpack |
-Belt stabilizer straps
-Single Lightbeam aluminum stay
-Large front pocket with organization
-Side compression straps
|Women's Osprey Ariel AG 55 |
-Removable top lid converts to DayLid daypack
-Zippered sleeping bag compartment
-Stow on the Go trekking pole attachment
-Internal hydration reservoir sleeve
-Zippered hipbelt pockets
-Side panel access to main compartment
|Women's Osprey Kyte 46 Backpack |
-Breathable AirScape ridged foam backpanel
-Fixed top lid with external zippered pocket
-External reservoir sleeve
-Full length vertical zippered side pocket
-Zippered sleeping bag compartment
-Side zipper access
Quick Answer: Best Hiking Backpacks
- Best on a Budget for Women: Mountaintop 40L Hiking Backpack
- Best on a Budget for Men: AmazonBasics Internal Frame Hiking Backpack
- Best Lightweight Backpack for Women: G4Free Lightweight Packable Hiking Backpack
- Best Lightweight Backpack for Men: Gregory Mountain Products Men’s Optic 48 Liter Backpack
- Best Overall Backpack for Women: Osprey Packs Eja 58 Women’s Backpacking Pack
- Best Overall Backpack for Men: Osprey Packs Atmos Ag 50 Backpacking Pack
- Best Waterproof Backpack for Women: Chaos Ready Waterproof Backpack
- Best Waterproof Backpack for Men: Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack: 35L / 55L
- Best Daytrip Backpack for Women: Osprey Women’s Lumina 45 Backpacking
- Best Daytrip Backpack for Men: Arc’teryx Brize 25 Backpack
Where To Buy Your Hiking Backpack
It is possible to find the best hiking backpack at a number of places, but we prefer to shop at places that specialize in selling outdoor gear. Our go-to shop for this is REI for the simple reason that they offer a 1-year guarantee on all their products.
This means you can literally return anything you buy at that store, for any reason, within a year of purchase with your receipt. I know this sounds too good to be true, but we’ve used it on several occasions and can vouch that its gold.
Women’s Hiking Backpacks – Our Top Recommendations
Previously, most if not all backpacks were classed as ‘unisex’. However, once the adventure traveling world realized that women liked hiking and backpacking and stuff – you know, outside and everything – and that women also had a body shaped differently to men, the next thing was to try and tailor-make a backpack that fit females properly.
So the comfort of backpacks for women has never been as good as it is now. It’s down to innovations in framework, hip belts, and shoulder straps as much as it is about the slimming down of the bags themselves, retaining the ability to carry big loads without being bulky.
All that said, not all female sized bags are created equal so you’ll have to do your research to find the right one. I have always been challenged with finding a backpack that works for me.
I have a very short torso that borders on child-size and standard hip size, requiring an x-small harness. So the challenge of finding one that fits me and can also carry a decent load for a multi-day adventure was an undertaking, but I persevered. Below you’ll find the backpack I carry, and love, along with some other recommendations to check out dependent on your budget and needs.
Osprey Women’s Aura
My top recommendation is the female equivalent to the Osprey Atmos, the Aura AG is all about quality. The ‘AG’ actually stands for AntiGravity, a system that Osprey seems to have honed when it comes to making a backpack actually feel like your own weight, rather than feeling like you’re carrying loads.
Part of this has meant actually creating the world’s first fully ventilated hip belt. Accordingly, this backpack is super comfortable. Though not the cheapest, feeling comfy whilst being eminently practical doesn’t have to break your bank: the Aura AG costs $230 for the 50-liter version, $260 for the 65.
I have personally carried this bag in both the 50 and 65-liter sizes for the past 2 years and love it. The bag is comfortable and adjusts right down in every way possible for the perfect fit. I’ve carried it through Patagonia, over mountains in Kyrgyzstan, around salt flats in Chile and across Greenland.
Check prices on REI: Osprey Women’s Aura
Thule Versant 60L Women’s
The women’s version of the Versant is a 60-liter offering that’s perfect for adventures of a few days or long-term international travelers alike. Many adjustment options on this Thule pack allow for it to sit snugly on your back, and their ‘StormGuard’ partial rain cover system helps keep gear drier than with a traditional rain cover.
The removable lid also converts into a shoulder pack for summit hikes or for use as a handy day pack if you feel like a town/village/city-based day of respite. Couple that with a duffel-style front zipper and this is a pack shaping up to be a backpacker’s dream. That’ll be around $260.
Check Thule Versant 60L Backpack price at Amazon.
Berghaus Trailhead 60L Women’s
This is a great entry-level backpack from Berghaus, built with comfort and simplicity in mind, and with a 60-liter capacity that can fit all backpacking essentials, making it a spacious multi-day option.
There are a number of nifty features here, like the height-adjustable removable chest strap, curved hip belt, top tension straps, and the Biofit women-specific harness, that make this Trailhead a much better fit for women than the average backpack. As far as pricing goes, it’s something of a bargain at around $120.
Check Berghaus Trailhead 60L Backpack price at Amazon.
The North Face Women’s Terra 55
Ever-reliable North Face has it down to a T with this women-specific favorite. Perfect for multi-day excursions with a decent 55-liter capacity, the women’s Terra is slimmer than its male counterpart and comes equipped with North Face’s own Optifit system that allows the pack to be adjusted for length of the body, shoulder shape, and more.
There’s a long zip down the front of the pack, which is perfect for when you don’t feel like, or can’t face, popping the top and digging through all your stuff. Hovers around just below and just above the $150, so it’s certainly affordable.
Check The North Face Terra 55 Backpack price at Amazon.
Gregory Women’s Deva 70 Liter Backpack
An extraordinarily capable backpack, this offering from Gregory has fully customizable suspension designed specifically for women – with contoured shoulder straps and waist belt, too – making for both better weight distribution and a better fit.
As such, it’s easy to stuff this pack to the brim without feeling that you’re carrying a ton – even with that super generous 70-liter capacity. The pockets running down either side are more reachable and more balanced than having everything on the back as per.
You’ll feel light and agile no matter whether it’s for a week-long jaunt or if you’re embarking on a proper trek. However, at over $300 it’s best to think of the Deva as an investment.
Check Gregory Deva Women’s Backpack price at Amazon.
Men’s Hiking Backpacks – Our Recommendations
The world of backpacks has historically been kinder to men, with more on offer that fit a male body shape than there has been for women. Nevertheless, the days of standard fits and lack of padding are long over.
There are now more features than ever jostling for your attention, with various companies championing their own technological advancements in adjustability and comfort, as well as durability and space maximization.
David has always had it easy when looking for a hiking backpack as he has a very standard size. It must be nice. However, after all of the bags he’s owned and tried over the years, his favorite is the Osprey Atmos. This is due to the extremely comfortable hip belt and air ride harness that Osprey puts on their bags.
He also loves all the pockets and places that he can clip stuff to around the bag. He’s carried the Osprey Atmos 65L for 2 years and I don’t see him parting with it anytime soon.
Osprey Atmos AG
As we now know the ‘AG’ is for AntiGravity, a blend of ventilation, distribution, and adjustability that results in the pack feeling relatively weightless.
Aside from that bit of genius engineering, the Atmos is chock full with trademarked parts that make up the whole of Osprey’s standout backpack, including an easily adjustable hip belt; a covering that allows the bag to be used minus its top flap; and ‘Stow-on-the-go’ trekking pole attachments.
It ticks boxes for accessibility too, since you can get to all your stuff from two zips down the front, or from the bottom, and traditional top. For all the perks and extras of this system, you’ll pay around $260, but it’s worth it.
Check Osprey Atmos 65L Backpack price at Amazon.
Gregory Baltoro 75 Liter Men’s Backpack
Combining excellent organization with strong suspension and supportive padding, this is Gregory’s flagship backpack for men. For its 2018 edition, it arrives a little more slimline than it has been in previous iterations, with an improved ventilation system, a stretchy front shove-it pocket, and with some weight shaved off for good measure.
The Baltoro is a roomy pack that allows you to shoulder some serious weight whilst feeling deceptively nimble at the same time. It’s by no means a light pack, but with all that space – and more handy pockets besides – you’ll want for nothing.
The price is $300, making this feel like quite a premium purchase, though it’s the extra space that you’re probably paying for.
Check Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack price at Amazon.
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10
The newest iteration of Deuter’s Aircontact is more modern and slimline than previous packs, but it retains that extreme durability the German brand is known for.
It’s also more comfortable now, which, if you’re gonna be wearing this over multiple days, is a godsend; it’s got an adjustable multi-chamber aluminum x-frame that helps to distribute weight more evenly, amongst elements designed for versatility.
The ventilated backing on this one – something that Deuter actually pioneered and perfected (hence the ‘Aircontact’ trademark) – helps put the cherry on top of what is a great system for ultralight hiking. Price-wise, you’re looking at around $250.
Check Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 price at Amazon.
Kelty Coyote 80L
Kelty has been a go-to for outdoorsmen on a budget since it hit the market. Competitively priced, Kelty offers a large variety of feature-rich backpacks for you to choose from.
The Coyote is an 80L bag featuring a padded hip belt, exterior pockets, room for a water bladder, Kelty’s PerfectFIT adjustable suspension with HDPE frame sheet harness and ventilated mesh back panel. The top lid of the bag converts to a sling pack, which is convenient for side hikes away from camp. It’s a great pack if you need to carry a lot of gear. Prices come in less than $200.
Check Kelty Coyote 80L Backpack price at Amazon.
Mammut Trion Guide
Designed particularly with alpinists in mind, Mammut’s Trion Guide lands firmly in that happy middle ground between comfort and utility.
There’s ample space in this top-loader for a two or three-day trek, though it compresses well for use as a summit pack, too. The construction here is top-notch: most of the pack is made from ripstop packcloth, but the high-use areas are reinforced with heavy-duty ballistics cloth, giving this a certain edge for rugged environments.
At $200 ($190 for the 35-liter version), it’s not vastly expensive, nor very cheap. However, it does look damn good.
Check Mammut Trion Guide Backpack price at Amazon.
|Epic Hiking Trips|
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Cusco to Cusco
Trip Type: Small Group
10 - 12 People
Award Winning Inca Trail Program
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Trip Type: Small Group
10 - 12 People
100% Local Ripple Score
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