Our Top 6 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 6 best hiking backpacks on the market today.
1. Osprey Men’s Aether 60 Backpack
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. Other outstanding features of the Aether 60 include:
- 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.
2. Gregory Baltoro 85 Liter Backpack
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. Other features include:
- 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.
3. Teton Sport Scout 3400 Backpack
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. Other features of the Teton Sport 3400 include:
- 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.
4. The North Face Cobra
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. Other features include:
- 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.
5. The North Face Banchee 50 Backpack
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. Other features include:
- 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.
6. Fjallraven Kaipak 38 Backpack
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. Other features include:
- 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.
Today’s top of the line hiking backpacks are studies in functionality and durability. You can be certain any of the 6 best hiking backpacks profiled above will serve you well on your next adventure.
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