When you are looking for the best hiking backpack there are so many things to take into account. How often you hike, how long you hike and who you hike with are all going to have an impact on the things that you are going to want to take with you on your hike. Therefore you need to think about these things as they are going to heavily impact the type of bag that you are going to need to bring with you so that you can properly carry everything.
Top Hiking Backpack Comparison Chart
A good backpack will cover all of your storage needs and will allow you to remain agile and comfortable throughout the duration of your hike. We have created a guide for you to make this process easier; this guide will cover the basic things that you should look for in a quality backpack and it will also show you ten of the top hiking backpacks available on the market.
Hiking Backpack Buying Guide
This is always a good place to start in terms of quality. It is important to remember that quality isn’t always reflected in the price tag, it generally can give you a pretty good idea though. A backpack that is of a higher quality is going to contain nicer materials that are not only going to last longer, but they are generally going to also look nicer and be more comfortable to wear. It is always important to remember to set yourself a budget especially if you are in a tight financial situation; although there are some very nice premium backpacks out on the market, there are some very nice ones available for a lower price tag and it shouldn’t be too hard to find something that is durable, has the storage that you need and falls within your budget range.
One of the most important factors for many long distance hikers is the comfort of the backpack while they are wearing it. A good quality backpack is not only going to have padded shoulder straps but it will likely have a couple of other straps to help support the weight of the bag. Another common feature that you will find is a padded back; this will keep whatever is in your bag from poking into your back and causing pain after long term wear.
How to Measure Backpack Size
Believe it or not, there is a huge variety of backpack sizes available and depending on the size that you buy; they are more or less meant to be used for certain things. You will find that backpacks are measured in size by liters and depending on what you are going to be carrying with you it is a good idea to know the capabilities of the different sizes. A backpack that is somewhere in the 30-50 liter range is going to be good lightweight backpack that is still capable of holding enough product that it can last you on a trip from 1-3 days in length. You may have to pack pretty efficiently, but if you want something that isn’t going to slow you down too much on your hikes then a small backpack is the way to go. A backpack that is from 50-70 liters is ideal for a trip that is about 3-5 nights long. Remember that by buying yourself a larger bag; you can still use this backpack for a smaller trip, but at least it has the carrying capacity to be able to hold enough product for a longer trip. Finally, a backpack that is 70 liters plus is going to be the best backpack for a trip that is anything over five days in length. It is important to remember that the more liters a backpack carries, the heavier it is going to be when it is full and it is going to make you less agile when hiking and it is likely going to slow you down as well.
If you are buying yourself a high-quality backpack; it is going to have a fair amount of adjustment options on it so that you can make the backpack as comfortable as possible. The first major thing that you will be able to adjust is the shoulder straps. Shoulder straps aren’t supposed to be loose as this can cause excess strain on your back. Keep these straps fairly tight and high up on your back, make sure that you are using both of the straps at once so that the weight can be distributed over both of your shoulders which will result in more comfortability and less soreness after long term use. Other things you should look for include: adjustable waist straps, adjustable organizational pockets so that you can fit large objects in your bag if you need to, you will also notice that some backpacks incorporate adjustable hanging loops, hooks or straps for your own convenience. If a backpack doesn’t have much in the way of adjustment options not only is it not going to be a comfortable bag, but it is also going to struggle to carry things properly and use the space that it has inside of it efficiently.
With so many options on the market, it can be extremely hard to narrow down the things that are the most important. The most important features for some people aren’t going to be the same as for other people because each person has their own preference when it comes to hiking and they are probably going to take different gear with them according to their preferences. Some of the most common features you will run across in your search for a hiking backpack include: water resistance or some kind of a rain cover system, straps or rings so that you can attach tools and sleeping accessories to, water storage compartment so that you can drink on the go as well as a variety of organizational pockets.
Without proper storage space to suit all of your needs a hiking backpack is basically useless. It is important to take under consideration who you are going to be hiking with and whether they are going to have their own backpack; generally, a larger hiking group is going to need more materials than a hiking group that is much smaller in size. Remember to always take a look at the backpack storage compartments and make sure that they are of high quality; something like a mesh pocket is not going to be very durable and can easily rip if something gets caught in it. It is also a good idea to look and see how the different compartments close because different closing methods are going to be more durable and secure your goods better than others. For example, a Velcro closing method is not as secure as a zipper closing method. A button closing method is secure but may leave space where things could fall out on the sides of the pockets. It is not only important to have a look at the closing method; but also the quality of each individual closing method. On some of the cheaper bags, you will notice things like plastic zippers that have small zipper heads on them, small pieces of Velcro that are used to make sure the bag stays closed and poor quality buttons with loose stitching. Sometimes the smallest feature of a bag can be its downfall and it is a good idea to keep your eyes peeled for the small things.
It can be difficult at times to remember to have a look at the manufacturer’s warranty to make sure that you are covered if there is some kind of a defect in the product or something goes wrong and damage to the backpack occurs. It is a good idea to look at warranty especially when you are buying yourself an expensive backpack because it can really help give you some peace of mind with your purchasing decision. A manufacturer isn’t going to put a warranty out on a junk product that they created because this will only make them lose money; it is nice to know that the manufacturer has some trust in the products that they create and that they believe that their product will be durable and do the job effectively for their customers.
Best Hiking Backpack Reviews
So why the Osprey Hikelite? Well, I’m glad you asked! First of all, Osprey is not just like a BMW compared to a Chevy. It’s more like a McLaren compared to a Hyundai. That is to say, it’s a big cut above the competition (at least 95% of the competition). It hits the sweet spot between size, features, and price. There are a few other packs we’d like if our wallets were bottomless, but in the real world, this pack fits the bill. It’s a pack that can very likely last you your entire life! Let’s see what it has to offer!
The Hikelite 18 is an unassuming technical pack that is perfect for day hikes and everyday use. It features a ventilated AirSpeed back pane which gives you a remarkably dry back even in hot weather or with lots of layers.
I thought it would be helpful to mention that this pack is NOT a large, overnight, long-distance wilderness pack. It’s meant for a day trip of hiking with only the essentials for a short time. That means it’s really comfortable! If you care to envision the size in your mind, the dimensions are 8.5″ x 7.5″ x 31″. It’s just over 1 pound in weight and comes in five different color combinations.
The pack also features an integrated rain cover, internal hydration sleeve which can hold up to 3L of liquid, and a trekking pole attachment. Oh, and did we mention one of the best features of all? It’s a FOREVER guarantee. Get this! Most guarantees cover manufacturing defects but NEVER carelessness or damage from the owner and certainly not wear and tear. Well, here’s a quote from Osprey regarding their guarantee:
Osprey will repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge – whether it was purchased in 1974 or yesterday. If we are unable to perform a functional repair on your pack, we will happily replace it. We proudly stand behind this guarantee, so much so that it bears the signature of company founder and head designer, Mike Pfotenhauer.
That has got to be the most open-ended and awesome guarantee (for me) that I’ve EVER seen!
- The best name in the industry
- Includes a rain cover to help protect your personal contents from water damage
- Side mesh pockets allow for easy access to water and personal items
- Unbelievably good warranty
- A small percentage of these bags might experience normal failures like a jammed zipper, or prove to be less “waterproof” than you’d like, but then you have the guarantee!
This is a very nice 40-liter backpack that has a ton of adjustable straps in order to make this backpack extremely comfortable and easy to use. This backpack comes in a total of seven different styles in order to appeal to a broad audience. The backpack itself is a pretty normal design that features a regular main pouch with a separator for added ease of organization, two front pouches, and one pouch on the interior, as well as two side, mesh pockets for easy access to some of your personal items. The pack comes with a very nice 90-day warranty in case you run into any issues with it.
- Six adjustable components include a strap for doing up your backpack, a strap for attaching your sleeping gear, a strap for a mat, a strap for attaching a hammock as well as a tripod and one more strap for attaching other gear of your choosing
- 90-day warranty on the backpack to help give you some peace of mind about your purchase
- Dense padding in the shoulder straps, as well as padded areas on the back, allow for long-term comfort even with a heavy load
- A large variety of pockets allow for easy organization of your personal items and easy access to the most important ones
- Variety of colors and styles gives you lots of options to choose from so that you can find a bag that suits your personal tastes
- There is a rain cover comes included with this backpack
- Mesh side pockets are fairly easy to rip or tear
- This backpack is not waterproof, just water-resistant
- No feet on the bottom of the bag means it will get dirty and possibly wet when you set it down
This backpack is an extremely lightweight design and is good for someone who is going for a day hike or someone who wants to spend one night on the trail and can pack pretty efficiently. This backpack is available for a very low price tag and although it doesn’t have a lot of pockets it should have enough to keep you organized and prepared for a relatively short hiking trip. This backpack comes in a total of nine different styles that vary in color to suit personal taste. Amazingly for the price of this backpack, it comes with a lifetime warranty that offers returns, as well as exchanges in order to keep their customers pleased.
- This backpack is highly durable and is made from a water-resistant nylon fabric that is also high strength in order to better protect from rips and tears
- The high-stress points on this backpack were reinforced by the company for improved durability
- An extremely lightweight bag that is capable of being filled to the brim and holding your gear without issues.
- With a total of nine different design options, you can choose a backpack that is a color that you like and that suits your personal tastes
- Metal zipper is both durable and offers a two-way zip up which allows you to do up your backpack even with one zipper that is broken
- Almost impossible to find a lifetime warranty on a backpack and especially for a backpack at this low price range
- Mesh pockets are prone to ripping when they get caught on things
- Very lightweight backpack that may not be capable of holding all of the gear that you need
- No feet on the bottom of the bag means that it will get dirty when you set it down
This backpack is extremely budget friendly and also incorporates a very nice waterproof design to help keep your personal items safe in the rain. This backpack only holds 20 liters which may be the main reason why it is available for such a low price tag, but it does have some nice features built into its design. This is one of the lightest weight backpacks available on the market and it actually is capable of folding up into a very small size for easy storage when you aren’t using the bag. The backpack comes in ten different designs to suit a wide variety of personalities and looks stylish enough to be used for things other than hiking if that is something that you are interested in.
- This backpack is available for a very low budget price range
- Waterproof design helps to keep your bag’s contents safe from the elements
- A total of ten different designs allows you to choose a backpack that you actually feel comfortable wearing
- Can be used for a variety of tasks thanks to its easy to fold design
- Extremely lightweight bag that is still quite durable for the price; in fact, his bag incorporates a total of 31 different points that were reinforced by the manufacturer for added durability
- Mesh side pockets are prone to tearing over time
- Very small backpack that may not allow you to fit all of your hiking gear if you are going on a long trip
- No feet on the bottom of the bag to keep the bottom dry and clean when you set the bag down
- Doesn’t have hardly any padding for extra comfort and may be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time
There are hiking backpacks, and then THERE ARE HIKING BACKPACKS! Yes, this is definitely the latter! For a price point of over $200 for the larger size, the Osprey Atmos AG 50 is one of an elite few packs that would be used by the absolute most serious trekkers on the planet! They really don’t come any better than this one! This is simply the best ventilated internal frame pack available. Ventilation has traditionally been a problem for internal frame packs, but Osprey conquers that problem easily with a sturdy suspended mesh panel to ensure you don’t get a sweaty back and soaking shirt.
At just over 4lbs for the medium size, it’s one of the lightest packs on the market. The only downside we saw was that its traditional top-loading design makes it a pain the butt to access items near the bottom without dumping everything out. The hip belt and mesh panel naturally want to “hug” you and that’s a VERY good thing. The fit feels totally natural and efficient.
Yes, it’s expensive, but if you have the budget and want something that will last longer than most and give you a fit that other models won’t match, here’s your choice! This is definitely our overall pick.
- Unmatched comfort with overall weight distribution design, suspended mesh back panel and waist belt
- Mesh ventilation system built into the back padding to help prevent moisture build up
- Rugged design
- Arguably the best name in hiking backpacks
- Made by a company that ONLY makes backpacks
- Extra zippered access to the main compartment would be helpful (but would also add weight)
This is another fairly large backpack that has a 50-liter capacity meaning it is ideal for a hiking trip that ranges anywhere from 3-5 days in length. This bag is quite tall and skinny which allows you to fit a variety of taller objects in your bag such as flashlights, poles, umbrellas etc. The bag comes in a total of six different color options in order to appeal to a broad audience. A rain cover comes included with the bag to help keep your personal items safe in the bad weather and the bag itself is crafted from a water-resistant fabric.
- Large 50 liter capacity allows you to camp for extended periods
- Water resistant, tear resistant fabric helps make this a more durable design
- Tall bag allows you to fit larger objects
- Lots of color options to appeal to a variety of personalities
- No feet on the bottom of the bag makes for an unclean bottom
- Mesh can tear over time
- Top carrying handle is without padding
This bag is available for a very low price tag; which largely reflects on the size of the bag. This is a very small bag that has a carrying capacity of just under 20 liters. This bag is ideal for a day trip and is extremely lightweight in design. The bag is quite simple but has a variety of pockets that you can choose from in order to keep your things organized and secure. Available in four different designs it is not hard to pick something that you like as the designs are the same besides a change in color.
- Four simple color options to choose from
- The bag features one main pocket, three zippered compartments for secure storage including the main zipper, one small exterior zipper and an interior zipper to keep your most important objects secure
- 2 large mesh pockets for easy access to important things like water
- Mesh pockets are easy to rip
This backpack is available for a very reasonable price tag considering that it has a 35-liter capacity. It features a thicker, reinforced nylon fabric exterior which is also scratch-resistant. This pack weighs an incredible 0.9lbs! That’s insane! The pack can fold into itself which is oh-so-convenient for storage purposes. It can carry up to 44lbs, it’s water-resistant, has a chest strap with whistle buckle, and even plenty of space to hold a laptop computer! It’s a great deal, but let’s temper that enthusiasm of mine with a bit of reality. This is NOT a serious trekking pack. It’s okay for an afternoon away from your camper on a 3-hour hike. It offers great value, but you’ll only get so much value in a $20 pack, right? Oh, and one other cool thing; It fits airline specifications for a carry-on. Its unfolded size is 20.86″x12.6″x9″ which is a bit smaller than the airline’s max size of 22x14x9.
- Lots of reinforcement at stress points
- Two-way zipper
- The 35-liter design allows you to go hiking for more than one day
- Water-resistant fabric
- Ventilated shoulder straps
- Glowing reviews on Amazon
- Not built for serious trekking
This is another very nice backpack that is available at a very good price. This backpack has a total of five different design options available in order to appeal to a wide audience. The backpack itself is made up of a tear resistant, water resistant fabric. The bag is very light weight considering that it is a 35 liter bag and still contains padded shoulder straps for added long term comfort. Capable of holding enough content to get you through more than one day of hiking, and with plenty of storage options to keep you organized this is a very nice backpack for its low price tag.
- Plenty of compartments for organization
- Capable of holding 35 liters for more than one day of hiking
- Compact easy to fold design for easy storage
- Heavy-duty zippers and reinforced stress points provide durability
- Mesh side pockets are prone to ripping
- Could have more padding on shoulder straps as well as padding on the top carrying strap
This backpack is a fair bit more expensive than some of the other ones on the list and it is for a good reason. This is a massive backpack that has a huge carrying capacity of 80 liters and is ideal for long hiking trips. The bag comes in a total of nine different design options and has plenty of pockets to keep you organized and to keep all of your contents secure throughout the duration of your trip. Water resistant fabric as well as a waterproof rain cover will keep your contents dry when you get stuck outside in bad weather. This backpack has plenty of adjustment options and the manufacturer offers a very nice 90-day warranty on the product in case you run into any problems.
- 90-day warranty to help give you peace of mind
- Padded back and shoulder straps for long-term comfort
- Lots of dangling loops and straps to attach all of your gear
- Massive carrying capacity
- Water-resistant, durable tear-resistant design
- 8 different adjustable options to suit a variety of body types
- The price may be out of budget for some hikers
- May have too large of a carrying capacity for some users
- Weighs more than the average backpack thanks to its large carrying capacity
Conclusions & Recommendations
A hiking backpack is by no means something that is easy to purchase and it can take a lot of thought and a lot of research in order to find something that suits your individual needs. It is important to think about whether you are going to be doing things like hiking and sleeping on the trail overnight; this will require a much larger bag because you will want to carry things like more food, water, fire-making supplies, a flashlight, and sleeping supplies. No person has the exact same needs and wants as another and it is important to be able to realize your own needs so that you can find something that suits you. Remember to do your best to try and stick within your budget and find the features that you want so that you don’t want to upgrade bags a short time down the road. Best of luck finding the backpack that is best suited for you, hopefully you learned some things from this article or found yourself a nice backpack that you think will work for you. Have a great time on your hikes!