Our Review of the Best Hiking Backpacks Reviewed
The hiking backpack must fulfill a number of essential criteria in order to be of use in the great outdoors. It must be roomy enough to accommodate all required gear, food, clothing and related materials. It must be able to stand up to the elements without fail. And it must be comfortable enough to be slung on the wearer’s back for hours at a time and days in a row. The fashioning of a great hiking backpack is an art form and below we present our choices for the best hiking backpacks on the market today.
Any discussion of the Osprey Aether 60 must begin with the amazing ergonomic design. This is without a doubt one of the most comfortable hiking backpacks you’ll find. The care and consideration that’s gone into the design results in a pack that always makes the load feel lighter than it actually is. And you can’t ask for much more than that out of a hiking backpack. With 60 liter capacity there’s plenty of room for a week’s worth of gear, food and clothing while the design and distribution of the various compartments means nothing is ever buried beyond reach.
- External hydration sleeve in the back panel keeps water and pack contents separate.
- Innovative frame design transfers the load to the form-fitting, comfortable hip belt.
- Trekking pole attachment lets you safely stow your pole while on the go.
- Dual access side pockets make retrieval of water or gear a snap.
- Top compartment converts to a hip pack for short excursions.
While the pack is water resistant it is not waterproof. We assume that’s because true waterproof material would have added to the weight. Not a big deal though since a waterproof cover can be purchased at most outdoor shops and easily stowed in the pack in case it’s ever needed. All told an outstanding hiking backpack at a reasonable price.
The upward-sweeping design of the Gregory Baltoro 85 liter backpack is sure to catch your eye. The good news is that this futuristic profile is no gimmick. It’s designed to relieve pressure on your lower back and move it to your shoulders. In doing so it makes the load much easier to bear. This is a classic top-loading backpack with an extendable collar and detachable lid. You also have front access to the main and bottom compartments through u-shaped zippered openings. The Baltoro 85 is not waterproof but the company do you the considerable favor of including a waterproof cover with the pack.
- Waterproof hip belt compartment for storing smartphone.
- Internal sleeve can be removed and used as a daypack.
- Both shoulder and hip belt fins pivot independently.
- Side pockets with drawstring closure for addition accessory storage.
- Removable ice axe retainers.
The pack has a discreet internal frame system that’s lightweight and provides necessary rigidity. While that frame (and therefore the pack itself) is not adjustable this won’t be a problem for most. Overall the pack is extremely comfortable, durable, allows you to distribute your materials in an intuitive fashion and provides a wealth of external straps for your sleeping mat, tent poles or whatever. Costs a bit more but worth the stretch.
The Teton Sport Scout 3400 features a more traditional profile than some of the other backpacks on this list but that in no way subtracts from its comfort or outstanding functionality. The designers of the Teton have obviously spent serious time in the backcountry because they understand the need to keep things separate and accessible. They also understand that sometimes it rains and include a detachable rain fly that saves you from having to track one down on your own.
- Numerous external pockets to hold task specific gear.
- Shoulder straps are fully adjustable to provide a custom-style fit.
- Discreet internal frame provides rigidity with minimal weight gain.
- Open cell foam padded lumbar cushion provides maximum comfort.
- Built in sleeping pad carry straps at the bottom of the pack.
The Teton 3400 is that rarest of creatures: a serious hiking backpack that’s also affordable. The sack features 600D ripstop nylon, the shoulder straps adjust to fit you perfectly, there’s plenty of durable strapping on the outside for peripherals like ice axes and tent poles and they toss in a custom fitted rain cover for good measure. If you’ve got a wilderness excursion coming up but don’t have a fortune to drop on gear you can’t fail with the 3400 from Teton.
Before The North Face began licensing their name to everyone under the sun they were known for making some of the world’s best hiking/mountaineering gear. Fortunately they still make such gear and the North Face Cobra hiking backpack is an outstanding example. Its modular construction allows you to optimize its profile for different tasks while the intelligent layout emphasizes comfort and practicality. Though it has a 60 liter capacity nothing will ever feel as though it’s lost forever in the bowels of this hiking backpack.
- Multi-purpose top compartment can be detached and used as a day pack.
- Includes winter necessities like crampon pockets and ice axe loops.
- The hip belt pad can be removed if you want or need to for any reason.
- Dyneema ripstop and 420D shredstop nylon on the exterior.
- Ergonomic design contours to your back.
If you are a serious outdoor enthusiast The North Face Cobra 60 liter hiking backpack will be either an answer to your prayers or make you rethink what you want and expect from a hiking backpack. The fact that you can essentially reconfigure this pack to serve whatever the particular needs of your excursion separates it from the competition. And the fact that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg is a pleasant reminder that quality doesn’t have to be financially punishing.
The North Face Banshee 50 hiking backpack from The North Face is a mid-sized backpack with full-sized features. Padding on the hip belt and in the lumbar region is generous and unobtrusive. The detachable top compartment provides plenty of room for first aid materials, maps (remember those?) compass, snacks and other things. On the exterior there are two large storage pockets that are great for gloves, the balaclava, dry socks, more snacks and whatever else you have in mind. Tucked in behind those pockets is a kangaroo pouch that provides fast, easy access to your rain slicker or backpack cover.
- Built in emergency whistle for when the unexpected happens.
- Opposing mesh water bottle pockets which can accommodate camping fuel.
- TNF Optifit load stabilization design that provides outstanding support and ventilation.
- Two more zippered pockets built into the hip belt.
- Outstanding load balance and lumbar support.
With the Banchee 50 you’re ready for just about anything Mother Nature throws at you over the course of your hike. The emphasis on pockets allows for a smart and efficient distribution of materials which enables you to have a variety of different things at the ready in case conditions or circumstances change (as they often do in the wild). Just be mindful of the fact that this is not a true “expedition” backpack. It’s simply not large enough. Other than that it’s all good.
The Fjallraven Kaipak puts the emphasis on comfort and reduces what can oftentimes seem like the overly busy exterior of the hiking backpack to a few clean lines. Lovers of minimalist design will appreciate it to no end as will anyone who appreciates comfort and wearability. At 38 liters this is not an expedition bag but – as long as someone in your party has a backpack large enough to carry the tent – it’s more than sufficient to meet the needs of most hikers in most circumstances. Gearheads may bemoan the lack of external pockets and strapping but less hardcore outdoor enthusiasts will be bowled over by ergonomic design and balance of the pack.
- Fully adjustable chest and shoulder straps.
- Compatibility with most external hydration systems.
- Dual mesh water bottle pockets.
- Large, zippered pocket down the front of the pack.
- Two small zippered belt pockets for phone or snacks.
The Fjallraven Kaipak 38 is a classic top loading hiking backpack. You can stash your rain slicker in the large front pocket as well as the rain cover for the bag itself. There’s a whistle on the chest strap should you get lost or separated from your group. And the internal aluminum support frame keeps everything where it’s supposed to be while adding very little weight to the pack. If comfort and convenience are what you’re looking for in a hiking backpack look no further than the Fjallraven Kaipak 38.
Let’s say you’re taking a road trip and you stop in a state or national park for some R&R. There are lots of trails, but you didn’t bring your standard backpack with you because you weren’t anticipating doing any hiking. Well, if you have the 4Monster Hiking Daypack in your glove compartment, you’re all set. In the glove compartment? Yup. The 4Monster is ultra-light and folds down when not in use to about the size of a sandwich. So the smart thing to do if you love the outdoors is to pick up one of these and pop it in the glove compartment. Because you never know.
- 2-way, highly durable and reliable YKK metal zippers.
- Collapses to sandwich size so it can be carried along as an emergency pack.
- Breathable mesh shoulder straps that keep the sweat at bay.
- Lifetime warranty provides for replacement or refund.
- A great addition to your vacation kit.
Beyond its incredible portability, the 4Monster opens up to a reasonably spacious 16 liters and is 18.9 inches long when fully deployed. While the shoulder straps are not the most robust in the business, they’re more than adequate for the type of load the 4Monster will accommodate. And the shell is also reasonably water-resistant. So even if your impromptu hike runs into some light rain, you’ll be okay.
If you don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on a hiking backpack designed by some Alpine climbing savant the Mountaintop 40L Hiking Backpack is a decent alternative. We love a good value, and the Mountaintop 40L is all of that and more. From the spacious interior to the ergonomic design and the multiple exterior straps it will accommodate just about anything you need for a weekend in the backcountry. It’s also light, tipping the scales at around 2 pounds. And there’s even a dedicated interior sleeve for your laptop.
- Adjustable hip strap accommodates virtually any size adult.
- Integrated compartment for your hydration bladder.
- Laptop compartment will accommodate up to a 17 inch screen.
- The shoulder pads are quite comfortable for a pack this price.
- The sternum strap helps you secure the load, so you stay balanced.
We love the overall comfort of the Mountaintop 40L. Even when stuffed to the gills, it doesn’t feel unwieldy or burdensome. The ergonomic arc in the design keeps the load properly distributed across your back and close in, so you’re not going to be dragged over by the pack if you struggle with your balance for a moment. The icing on the cake here is that the Mountaintop 40L Hiking Backpack is available in an astonishing 16 different colors. So there’s one that is going to dovetail perfectly with your tastes.
The G4Free Lightweight Hiking Backpack is a good example of functionality and affordability in action. It provides all the space you’ll need for your backpacking adventure (as long as the tent is small or carried by someone else) and it costs less than a good pair of jeans. It features a form-fitting design, so it’s not going to flailing around behind you, throwing you off balance. And all the straps are fully adjustable so you can tweak the fit to your liking.
- Lots of external straps for attaching peripherals.
- The sternum strap helps you keep the load properly balanced.
- The top flap has both exterior and interior pockets.
- Reasonably water-resistant outer shell.
- Emergency whistle integrated into the sternum strap.
This is a good-sized backpack that’s available in 10 different colors, won’t break your bank and folds down to next to nothing. If there’s a downside here, it’s the lack of a hip strap. This may seem like small potatoes, but a good hip strap can actually transfer quite a bit of the load to your hips if your pack is stuffed. Relieving back pressure and making your hike much more enjoyable. If you like to travel light though it shouldn’t be an issue.
The WolfWarriorX Military Tactical Assault Backpack is a better than average hiking backpack that exhibits high-end functionality at a very reasonable price. The real selling point here is not the internal volume (the marketing claim that it can expand to 64 liters is not to be taken seriously), it’s the variety of ways the design accommodates your various kit, whether high tech or low. There’s a laptop sleeve, a mobile phone sleeve, sleeves for pens and first aid gear, even a little sleeve for your whiskey flask.
- A sleeve designed to accommodate standard tools like screwdrivers.
- Molle webbing and numerous external straps to sling gear.
- Durable metal zippers on all external pockets.
- Tech pockets on each of the shoulder straps for phone, compass etc.
- Removable hip strap that’s there if you need it.
The WolfWarriorX has a nice solid feel to it, with ample padding in the shoulder and hip straps. For a mid-sized hiking backpack, it boasts an impressive array of features. Those features will tempt you to make this your regular work or school backpack as well as your go-to hiking backpack. It’s reasonably priced, very well made and the 600D water-resistant shell will protect your gear from everything but a heavy, all-day rain.
In the realm of the affordable, high-quality hiking backpack, few companies can compete with Mountaintop from a design perspective. Normally design and materials are where companies save money so they can offer their products at a reasonable price. But somehow Mountaintop manages to get around both of those typical restrictions. Their Unisex 40L Hiking Backpack is a good example of what the company does right. It’s attractive, well-constructed, lightweight and extremely practical. An all-around excellent choice for the day hiker.
- Water-resistant shell will stand up to snow and light rain.
- Ergonomically designed shoulder straps.
- Sternum strap to keep the load properly secured.
- Padded laptop compartment inside that will accommodate 15-inch screen.
- Plenty of external straps and loops for peripheral items.
The Unisex 40L Hiking Backpack is available in Mountaintop’s typical vast array of colors and includes a well-padded hip strap that relieves some of the pressure from your back. You’ll be able to carry enough food, water, and extras for several days in the wilderness with ease, though you’ll likely need to strap the tent and sleeping bag to the outside. An excellent all-around bag at a reasonable price.
We debated whether or not to put this OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack on our list primarily because we weren’t thrilled with the look of the pack. In the end though, we had to admit that it offers too much by way of practical functionality to ignore it. And besides, a hiking backpack is supposed to make your life in the backcountry more comfortable and survivable. Not necessarily more stylish. So that said, the pack features a ton of exterior straps for slinging gear, comes with a waterproof rain cover (big plus) and has plenty of interior space for all your hiking needs.
- Discrete, dedicated pocket for waterproof cover.
- Internal padded laptop sleeve for up to a 15 1/2 inch screen.
- Well-padded, ergonomically designed shoulder straps.
- Ventilated back wall keeps the sweat at bay.
- Ice axe loops enable winter hiking.
While there isn’t enough interior room to store your tent and sleeping pad, there are plenty of ways to lash them to the outside. With the waterproof rain cover in place, they’ll be just fine. The 10 different color choices also go a long way toward making the pack more palatable from a style perspective. Although to us, it’s still a look only a mother could love.
The BseasH 60L Waterproof Hiking Backpack sports the classic mountaineering backpack profile. It’s long and narrow with a fully padded waist strap designed to absorb much of the load from the cavernous interior. There’s the extensive exterior strapping you’d expect from a mountaineering backpack, the skirted top flap that melds into the body of the pack and a bottom storage compartment for spare shoes or other peripherals. While it’s advertised as a daypack, we don’t know many people who would need 60 liters of storage for a day hike.
- An emergency whistle built into the shoulder strap.
- A fixed hydration tube so you can keep moving when you’re thirsty.
- Efficient zipper pull extensions that simplify access.
- Shell fashioned from durable ripstop nylon.
- Weighs a very reasonable 2.1 pounds when empty.
You could use the Bseash 60L Backpack as a daypack, we suppose. But this is really a backpack intended for long stays in the backcountry or for straight up mountaineering. We’d be quite comfortable taking this up Shasta or any of the peaks in the Tetons. It’s light enough, durable enough and has all the bells and whistles we want to see in a mountaineering pack.
Speaking of bells and whistles, the Diamond Candy Hiking Backpack has more than its share. To begin with, it’s one of the few affordable backpacks that’s also completely waterproof. But the many joys of the Diamond Candy Backpack are really to be found in the details. Like the discrete clamp that holds the tube from the hydration bladder in place, the use of D-hooks that allow you to attach peripherals and the pockets on the hip belt for power bars, first aid items and such.
- A breathable mesh back panel that’s comfortable and keeps you dry.
- The trekking pole or ice axe loops on the side.
- The fact that interior volume can be increased by unhooking a couple of clips.
- Lots of molle webbing and adjustable exterior straps.
- Zipper extensions that make access easy.
This is a tough, handsome, versatile hiking backpack that’s earned its place on our best hiking backpacks list. It costs a bit more than some of the budget packs on our list, but you certainly get your money’s worth. It’s not big enough to be a mountaineering pack, but for day hikes, or even overnight jaunts into the woods, it’s likely to be more than enough. You’ll probably find yourself using it for school and work too.
The Free Knight 50L Hiking Backpack caught our eye right away with its unique teardrop profile. Now some will say that lots of standard daypacks have a teardrop shape, but not like this. This falls somewhere between one of those standard daypacks and the tubular profile of the mountaineering pack. Fortunately, the Free Knight 50L backpack is more than just a one-trick pony. It has a wealth of practical features including ergonomically shaped shoulder straps, an adjustable waist strap and lots of external straps for slinging gear.
- A tough, water-resistant 600D nylon shell.
- High quality, two-way metal zippers that don’t stick.
- An abrasion resistant bottom panel.
- An easy-access bottom compartment.
- A highly breathable back panel that wicks away sweat.
Considering the build quality and wealth of features, it’s a wonder that this pack doesn’t cost twice as much. Even the mesh water bottle sleeves on each side have straps that allow you to fasten them down, so you don’t lose them. Something you almost never see on hiking packs. If we were looking for a pack for long day hikes or overnights, we might start here.
The Seenlast Hiking 50L Hiking Backpack is another hiking pack that boasts the classic mountaineering profile. And because it has a more modest interior volume of 50 liters it effectively melds the long term comfort of the mountaineering pack with the practical features we want from a day pack. There’s a large bottom compartment for extra footwear, a helmet or extra food. A skirted top flap that helps ensure stability and even an emergency whistle built into the sternum strap.
- Ergonomically shaped shoulder and waist straps.
- A fully waterproof, removable cover.
- Zippered pockets on the waist strap for snacks and tech.
- A ripstop nylon shell that’s water-resistant in its own right.
- Twin loops for holding ice axes or walking sticks.
This is an ideal hiking pack for spending a weekend in the wild. It’s not so big it’s a burden. It’s not so small you have to leave things behind. And the waterproof rain cover is something we’d like all the best hiking backpacks to have. A great backpack for multi-day hikes in just about any weather.
The Pokarla Hiking Backpack is for leisurely day hikes. Even those that present themselves unexpectedly. It packs down into its compact storage bag so that it can easily be stowed under the seat of the car. When empty the Pokarla backpack weighs a scant 14 ounces but when open provides you with a more than adequate 40 liters of storage space. While the design is pretty bare bones, it’s not objectionable. Just plain. But what it lacks in looks it makes up for in practicality.
- Highly water-resistant honeycomb nylon shell.
- Heavy-duty SBS metal zippers.
- Padded shoulder straps that are meshed-backed for breathability.
- Sternum strap with integrated emergency whistle.
- Bar tacking at all major stress points.
The Pokarla Hiking Backpack is also available in 20 and 35 liter sizes in case you don’t anticipate needing so much room. Or you just want to use it to bring rain gear and water along on your daily jog. All in all it’s a convenient, useful, affordable and reasonably durable emergency or light-duty hiking backpack that you’ll probably wind up using more than you thought.
The Zomake Lightweight Hiking Daypack is another compactable backpack that can remain in your trunk or under the car seat until needed. When open it offers 35 liters of storage space beneath a shell of thin, but water-resistant ripstop nylon. It features a zippered pocket for your handsets and wallet, an internal sleeve for your laptop and a large bottom compartment for snacks, gloves or other peripheral items.
- Lightly padded mesh shoulder straps.
- Reinforced stitching at major stress points.
- Two-way anti-stick SBS metal zippers.
- Integrated carrying bag.
- Ultra-light weight of just 12 ounces.
There are quite a few collapsible backpacks on the market today and if they have anything in common other than their ability to fold up small it’s they don’t look very substantial when opened. The Zomake Hiking Daypack, however, bucks that trend pretty effectively. When opened you’d never guess it was a collapsible pack. And that alone might be worth the price of admission.
The Osprey Packs Sirrus 24 Women’s Hiking Backpack will work just as well for guys as it will for gals. This is a top of the line backpack that features sleek, leading-edge style, top-quality materials, and industry best construction. The shell is durable ripstop nylon, the back panel is well padded and covered in breathable mesh, and the waist strap is among the most comfortable you’ll find. While the interior volume is a modest 24 liters, you can be sure that whatever you carry in the Osprey will be well taken care of.
- Sternum strap with emergency whistle.
- Integrated 100% waterproof rain cover.
- Zippered pockets on the waist strap for tech and snacks.
- Robust stitching and invisible zippers throughout.
- Side mesh pockets with elasticized restraints.
This is the type of backpack people will take to the office as much, or more, than they take it hiking. But no matter how you employ it the Osprey Sirrus 24 is a serious backpack sporting serious build quality and is bound to provide you years of reliable, comfortable service.
The last item on our list of the best hiking backpacks is this offering from G4Free. And while it’s not exactly free, it is remarkably affordable without feeling cheap. When folded down and packed away, it only takes up 7 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches. But when open it’s nearly 19 inches top to bottom and provides 40 liters of storage capacity. There’s dedicated pockets for your tech and water bottle and a waterproof insert to protect your most vulnerable items.
- Durable SBS two-way metal zippers.
- A rip-stop nylon shell with water repellant treatment applied.
- A sternum strap to help stabilize the load.
- An emergency whistle built into that sternum strap.
- A handy carrying sack for when you’re not using the pack.
The G4Free Hiking Backpack is available in more than a dozen colors. So there’s sure to be one that tickles your fancy. It’s a great backpack to bring along on camping trips so you can take day hikes without having to bring along a full-sized backpack. We wouldn’t try taking this into the wild on overnight trips, but for recreational hiking, it’s a solid choice.
Today’s top of the line hiking backpacks are studies in functionality and durability. Today’s top of the line hiking backpacks are studies in functionality and durability. You can be certain any of 20 best hiking backpacks profiled above will answer the call on your next adventure. If you enjoyed our hiking backpack review, then you might want to check out more of our hiking equipment reviews. If you enjoyed this article, make sure you check out more of our reviews:
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