The Ultimate Guide to the 10 Best Backpacking Backpacks

There is a reason that a backpacking is known as such – you carry all of the belongings that you need in a backpack for an extended period of time. So, it really should come as no surprise that the most important part of such a trip is well, the backpack. Thus, you have to pay a great deal of attention to the kind of bag that you are buying.

Now, if you previously only have experience with buying school bags, you may be in for a bit of a shock. There are thousands of backpacks to choose from but only a handful are just right for you. Don’t worry, though, thanks to this guide, you will not feel as though you are looking for a needle in a haystack. Here is everything that you need to know about making a bag-based decision:

Finding the Backpacking Backpack You Will Love to Travel With

On a backpacking trip, you will end up losing a lot of your belongings and then finding new ones. Despite this, there is one thing that you will hang tightly on to – your backpack. This is because when you are crisscrossing across the country or the world, your backpacking backpack will become your lifeline. In fact, it will practically become an extension of yourself.

As you can see, choosing the perfect backpacking backpack for you is no small task and definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly. So, without further ado, here are the characteristics that you will need to consider during your selection process:

What Storage Capacity Do You Need?

One of the first things you will analyze about a backpacking backpack is just how much it can hold. Now, this does depend on a few things. As you can imagine, the length of your trip is a rather important factor here. However, so is the items that you are planning on carrying. For instance, if you are mostly planning on carrying clothes, a smaller bag will be able to hold enough for a longer trip. On the other hand, if supplies or digital equipment will also feature in your luggage, you are going to need more space.

If you are only planning on exploring a small space like a city and will not be away from your essentials for more than three days, you will find that backpacks between 45 and 55 liters will suit you well. In the event that your trip is going to be a week or so long, then one able to hold at least 70 to 90 liters will be better.

Shape and Size

A mistake that many first time backpackers make is buying getting an overly large backpack ‘just in case’. While this might sound like a good idea, there are a few downsides to this plan. First, very big backpacks can be cumbersome and can make it difficult for you to walk. Not to mention, if you don’t have enough of items to place in the bag, the belongings that are in there will shift around as you move. Furthermore, a bigger bag will weigh more, even when it is empty. This means that you will be carrying around additional weight for no good reason.

So, what should you get instead? Well, as mentioned, only get a backpack that will actually fit your capacity requirements. Also, you should stay away from bags that have a greater width than height. Long and thin bags are ideal as they are more stable and allow you a greater range of motion.

If you have no choice but to get a large bag for a long trip, there are some dimensions to pay attention to. First, the bag should never be longer or sit below your hips. This will impede movement. Now, due to the length of the backpack, there is a good chance that it will be taller than your head when it is strapped on your bag. Still, it should not be taller than a few inches to avoid your gait from been thrown off.

If you are a woman, you may wonder if women-specific backpacks are for you or if they are just a marketing scheme. Well, these backpacks are actually designed for women – specifically to fit shorter torsos, narrower shoulders, and wider waists. If you are on the shorter side, these backpacks can come in handy. However, if you are tall and have a more athletic build, regular backpacks should be just fine for you.

Now, you should keep in mind that these bags will also function as travel backpacks and will need to be transported by an airline. So, you should check that the dimensions of the bag fit the restrictions placed on checked luggage.

Fabrics to Look For

Backpacks are made from different types of fabric and each has their own set of properties. So, when considering the material that the backpack is made from, you will need to first determine what characteristics that you are looking for most.


Do you want your backpack to last as long as possible despite years of use and abuse? Or maybe you will be heading out camping during your journey and need something a more durable backpack. Regardless, there are three main types of fabric that you can consider for these situations. For toughness, either Cordura nylon or ballistic nylon will be incredibly resistant to abrasion.

Ripstop nylon is also quite abrasion resistant but where its real strength lies is with rips and tears. This material ensures that in the event of any rips, that the tears will not increase in size, preventing further damage to the backpacks.

Low Weight

There is no denying that your backpack can get quite heavy, particularly if you are headed out on a longer trip. Looking for backpacks made from lightweight materials can help to knock off some weight from your overall load. For this purpose, either ripstop nylon or Dyneema will work well. While Dyneema is lighter and stronger, it also has a much higher price tag attached than ripstop nylon.

Water Resistant

Irrespective of where you are backpacking, having a backpack that is able to keep moisture away from your belongings at least for a while is required. Now, many of the materials used to construct backpacks aren’t actually waterproof themselves. Instead, they are coated with either polyurethane or a similar water-resistant coating. While this will not make the backpack completely waterproof, it will help to keep your things dry until you find shelter.

Internal Frame vs. External Frame

When looking for larger backpacks for backpacking, you will inevitably have to face making a decision between a bag with an internal frame or an external frame. These days, you are most likely to find an internal frame backpack with the external frame option being quite rare.

As the name suggests, the frame of an internal frame is within the bag. This makes it lighter and easier to carry when headed out on trails. The only caveat is that these bags can be quite warm to carry and there is a limit to how much equipment that you can take.

External frame backpacks, on the other hand, are where the backpack is hung from a larger frame. Due to this, you are able to store more items outside the bag, including things like sleeping bags and tents. Of course, the downside is that these bags can be heavy, even when empty. Also, while they work great on flat ground, they can be difficult to move with on uneven terrain.

The Suspension System

Since there is a good chance that you will need to carry heavy loads, the suspension system of your backpack is very important. It will determine just how comfortable it is to carry your bag for long periods of time when it is at full capacity.

First and foremost, you will need to look at the shoulder straps on the bag as they are the main support system. These straps should be wide enough so that they can evenly displace the weight of the bag without sinking into your skin. For added comfort, additional padding can be helpful as well.

Just as important is the hip belt because your body tends to carry most of the weight thrust upon it on your hips. The hip belt should be at the top of your hip bones and needs to be well padded to stop chaffing. The belt must be adjustable so that it can be securely fastened around your waist.

Now, most large bags lack proper stability. In these instances, a sternum strap that goes across your chest can help. These need to sit just below your collarbone for greatest efficiency.

Top Loading vs. Panel Access

With larger backpacking backpacks, access can be an issue. Typically, you will find that packs either have access points at the very top of the bag or that the bag is divided into zippered panels. Top loaders are often easier to pack and can even hold a greater number of items. At the same time, organization can become nearly impossible which is why most people prefer the individual compartments of the panel design.

Additional Features

Here are some other traits that you should look for in your backpack:

  • Removable Daypack: once you have settled down at your lodgings, it is unlikely that you want to carry a huge backpack everywhere that you go. This is why you should look for backpacking backpacks that have detachable daypacks. These are smaller and great for short trips.
  • Sleeping Bag Compartment: whether you are sleeping outdoors or trying to make an unfamiliar bed more comfortable, a sleeping bag can be quite handy. To make it easier to organize your bag, get one with a separate sleeping bag compartment.
  • Compression Straps: having all of your belongings moving around while you are walking can make it difficult to get around easily. Compression straps can improve the situation by holding all of the things in place, even when the bag is not at full capacity. They also help to keep the bag stabilized against your back.
  • Hydration Features: backpacking is thirsty work so you are going to want water on hand at all types. Backpacks offer two separate hydration option. The first is external mesh pockets that can hold water bottles. The other is hydration pouches that can store reservoirs and often have tubes and sip mechanisms attached.

These are all of the tips and tricks that will help you to find the backpack that will be the only travel companion that you will need.

Top 10 Best Backpacking Backpacks

1 – Arcteryx Bora 80

Arc'teryx Bora 80 Backpack - Black - Short
  • Moisture-resistant outer face fabric Construction
  • DWR finish (Durable Water Repellent) helps bead water from fabric surface
  • Occipital cavity provides unrestricted head movement
  • Double-layered fabric pack bottom for added strength and durability
  • Removable, quick-release top lid with integrated hip belt doubles as a waist pack

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Arcteryx Bora 80:

Reviewers like these things about the Arcteryx Bora 80

  • Comfortable padding. It has got improved foam padding in both hip belt and shoulder straps.
  • Ergonomic design of shoulder strap gives added convenience to the backpacker.
  • Resists weather damage thanks to AC2 fabric which also sets Arcteryx Bora Back out of other models.
  • Great suspension gives high level of comfort for adventure activities.
  • Both hip belt and shoulder straps have improved foam padding.
  • When this latest model shares its title with traditional Bora line, this particular backpack comes with various major upgrades over last models.
  • Arcteryx Bora Back is a world-class all around backpack which is comfortable and comes with attractive features, robust suspension and best weather resistance.
  • It’s a perfect staple for backcountry adventures.
  • Added weather resistance and lighter weight than other models is the most notable feature.
  • It also keeps upgrading its much-needed comfort from Bora. The most recent model is the perfect alternative to older Altra range of backpacks, with various features and similar design, apart from few major upgrades.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Average weight makes it a backpack you need to think twice before buying.
  • Another major drawback is that it has expensive price tag of around $550.
  • Lacks in pockets and areas to strap/lash oddly shaped items externally like other models.

2 – Deuter Pace 30

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Here’s what the reviewers think about the Deuter Pace 30:

Reviewers like these things about the Deuter Pace 30

  • A lot of users agree that the Deuter Pace backpack is lightweight yet compact.
  • Testers commended the presence of several roomy and stretchable pockets.
  • Some users noted that the components of the backpack, including its attachment loops, can be adjusted easily.
  • Many of those who tried the pack found it comfortable to use.
  • A lot of users praised its breathable back system for minimizing their perspiration.
  • Testers commended the backpack for having an SOS label which comes in handy in case of an emergency.
  • Several reviewers agree that the backpack is best suitable for use when alpine skiing, ski touring, and snowboarding.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the backpack might need to have a side access to the main compartment.
  • Another reviewer noted that it is quite difficult to use the hip belt when the whole backpack is loaded.

3 – Osprey Xena 70

Osprey Xena 70 Womens Hiking Backpack Small Canopy Green
  • Main Fabric: 420d High Tenacity Nylon
  • Maximum Dimensions (cm): 86 (l) X 38 (w) X 40 (d)
  • Please Note: In Europe, This Pack Is Supplied With A Standard Lid, Rather Than A Daylid.
  • Weight: 2.26 Kg (wm)

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Osprey Xena 70:

Reviewers like these things about the Osprey Xena 70

  • A lot of users thought that the Osprey Xena backpack has ample storage for necessary equipment and personal belongings.
  • Other users noted that its hip belt and shoulder straps are moldable and are anatomically contoured.
  • Many of those who have tried the backpack thought that it is comfortable and firm.
  • Several users observed that its shoulder straps also provide support to the users.
  • They also mentioned that the bag is durable due to its 210D High Tenacity Nylon material.
  • Reviewers have found that it has sufficient pockets making it easy to store and secure things in place.
  • Users found it easy to store their ice ax tools due to specific loops dedicated for such gears.
  • Testers found it easy to access its top-loading main compartment through its curved side zippers.
  • Many testers noted that its external hydration sleeve feature simplifies refilling.
  • They also thought that its hydration sleeve protects the pack from spills.
  • Other reviewers said that it is designed for women’s use.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user remarked that it is not for petite women.
  • Another user thought that it does not come with a cover to protect the pack.

4 – Marmot Graviton 34

Marmot Graviton 34 Hiking Backpack One Size Blue Night Dark Ink
  • Material: [main] 70D nylon ripstop, [reinforcements] 100D nylon ripstop
  • Volume: 35L (2135cu in)
  • Support/Suspension: Ventilated Airflow Suspension, Tubular Aluminum Frame
  • Shoulder Straps: airmesh
  • Waist Belt: yes, padded

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Marmot Graviton 34:

Reviewers like these things about the Marmot Graviton 34

  • According to several reviewers, the Marmot Graviton backpack provides sufficient airflow to the back due to its mesh back panel.
  • Other users praised the backpack for its large main compartment, providing them with enough space to fit in all the gears and equipment necessary for any activity.
  • Users also commended the bag for being able to store several more gears and valuables due to its pockets and compartments found around the bag.
  • Reviewers thought that the waist belt of the backpack provides support and comfort to the user.
  • Its attachment area for hiking tool and trekking poles are lauded by users who are into intense activities.
  • Many users have mentioned that the bag efficiently cools their backs by providing enough ventilation.
  • Other users said that the backpack is ideal for day hikes and trails.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A reviewer thought that the shoulder straps are rather thin, leaving his shoulders in pain especially when the load has reached beyond the capacity.
  • Another reviewer felt that the backpack might be too heavy, making it difficult for him to carry when engaged in prolonged high-intensity activities.

5 – Gregory Deva 60

Gregory Mountain Products Women's Deva 60 Liter Backpack, Plum Red, Medium
  • 3D AIR HIPBELT AND SHOULDER HARNESS: Gregory's PreCurve technology and multi-density foam construction combine to eliminate hotspots and relieve pressure in sensitive areas. The 3D AIR mesh wicks away moisture, increasing overall comfort.
  • WISHBONE INTERNAL FRAME: A high-strength aluminum frame defines the perimeter of the back panel, preventing the pack from losing its shape and keeping the load close to your center of gravity.
  • FREE DAYPACK: Removable hydration sleeve converts into fast and light SideKick Daypack with shoulder harnesses and accessory pocket.
  • CUSTOM FITTED RAINCOVER: Included rain cover stows in a quick access zippered pocket on underside of the top lid.
  • IDEAL USES: Backpacking, Through Hiking, Hiking, Camping, Travel. WEIGHT: 4.83 lbs. DIMENSIONS: 30.0" x 12.0" x 12.5".

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Gregory Deva 60:

Reviewers like these things about the Gregory Deva 60

  • A lot of testers complimented that the backpack is much comfortable with has great back support especially for women travellers.
  • Many travellers said that it has good space capabilities with good balanced weight for commuting comfortably.
  • People have voted for its durability and comfortable padding for longer trips.
  • Numerous reviewers said that the pack is nicely fitted and is much lighter to carry.
  • A few of the travellers are very happy with the extra pockets of the pack that helped them to organize things very well and were easily accessible.
  • Some commuters found the hip belt much more comfortable with the extra padding.
  • Some reviewers said that they have also used the backpack as a fanny/day pack as the lid comes off completely.
  • Testers have confirmed that overall it’s a great load hauler with comfy.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • Some testers complained that too much stuff strapped outside makes the pack pull backwards on the shoulders causing more pain while travelling.
  • Some reviewers also complained about the small waterproof pocket to fit in valuable tech gears.
  • A few travellers are unhappy with the shape as the pack is much larger at the top compared to the bottom. This made their travelling very uncomfortable with stuffed baggage and created pressure on the hips.
  • Many reviewers have also complained about the pricing.

6 – Deuter Quantum 60+10

Deuter Quantum 60+10 SL
  • Vari-Quick back system
  • Load bearing aluminum frame and anatomically formed hip belt to make carrying heavy loads comfortable
  • Dual access main compartment: through the lid or via the u-shaped zip at the front
  • The sleek, quickly buckled on or off daypack can be expanded with exp zipped bellows for longer day trips
  • Bottom compartment

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Deuter Quantum 60+10:

Reviewers like these things about the Deuter Quantum 60+10

  • Every reviewers comfirmed that it is a perfect light weight pack for travelling and trekking.
  • Most of them has also said that the pack is comfortable to wear and carry.
  • With good adjustment options a traveller said it was super comfortable to carry for long hours.
  • Many of the buyers said that the pack has great storing capacity with a good expansion system.
  • Other mentioned that the bag also has a good ventilation system which helped them travel without any sweat on their back.
  • A few reviewers happily mentioned that the front external pouch has direct access to the main compartment.
  • Some also said that the detachable daypack is great to use for city tours and travelling keeping the main rucksack at the base camp.
  • A few female reviewers said that it is a perfect comfortable pack for them.
  • Some buyers also said that the pack has an excellent water resistant quality.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that the daypack is much smaller and is not very useful for day travelling.
  • Another user wished that one of the side pockets came with a zipper.

7 – Thule Guidepost 75

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Thule Guidepost 75:

Reviewers like these things about the Thule Guidepost 75

  • Most of the testers said that the bag is durable enough for great outdoor travels and vacations.
  • They said that the pack was very comfortable on their back.
  • Reviewers said that the adjustable torso and shoulder harness was helpful to carry it comfortably for long hours.
  • Many users are happy to have removable lid which helped themt to convert is as a daypack for travelling.
  • A user said that the pack has great capacity with good number of organizational pockets to carry all stuffs for travelling.
  • Another user said that removable waist belt helped him to adjust the load properly over his back.
  • Most of the buyers are happy with the water resistant quality of the backpack.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that the sternum strap is only adjustable on one side which made it a bit uncomfortable to carry.
  • Few buyers said that the external side pockets are smaller in size.
  • Some buyers also complained that the pack is very expensive in comparison to the features it has offered.

8 – Cotopaxi Luzon 24L

Cotopaxi Luzon 24L Del Dia Daypack - Del Dia 24L One of A Kind!
  • Lightweight, remnant nylon fabric. Large main compartment.
  • Zippered shoe pocket with internal divider. Top drawstring closure. Front zippered pocket.
  • Ultralight mesh shoulder straps. Internal organizer with key clip.
  • Dual mesh water bottle pockets.
  • ONE OF A KIND! Each Del Dia product is made proudly in the Philippines by an employee who has total creative control over the pack's colorway. No two are the same!

Here’s what the reviewers think about the Cotopaxi Luzon 24L:

Reviewers like these things about the Cotopaxi Luzon 24L

  • Reviewers thought that the Cotopaxi Luzon daypack is one light pack.
  • Other reviewers noted that this bag is handmade, and workers have control over the colors of repurposed nylon used in each pack.
  • Testers also said that its design is enough for short hikes, beach outings, and bike rides.
  • Several users pointed out that the bag’s chest and hip belt allow them to tighten the mono-compartment.
  • Other users noted that it holds up to perspiration and light water contact when cleaning the bag.
  • Other reviewers pointed out that the manufacturer uses a nice ripstop nylon on the pack.
  • Some users are pleased with the stitching at the seams the held fast.
  • According to some users, its strength-to-weight ratio is solid.
  • Other reviewers thought that its splashy color scheme gets a lot of attention and starts a lot of conversations.
  • Some users felt that it has a unique aesthetic.
  • Many commended its sustainability ethic.
  • Users were delighted that it’s easy to like this simple, goofy bag.
  • They also mentioned that its almost imperceptible weight makes it great for easy travel and simple loads.

Reviewers don’t like these things

  • A user said that it does not have anything beyond a sleeve for a hydration bladder, one big main compartment, and an outer zip pocket for small things.
  • Another reviewer noted that the items inside will have a tendency to shift and sort on their own unless they carefully pack.

Selected reviews

Pack Config reviewed the Gregory Stout 45

Overall I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this pack. That goes for both my experience in using it, and discovering some of their clever design touches. The Stout handled everything I threw at it with ease and made carrying the load more fun that it could have been. I get people asking me what brands I recommend all the time, and what you get for your money with a Gregory Pack is a quality, solid pack that is great value for money.

Posted 23 February 2018 by Nat Wagstaff – Read full review

Her Packing List reviewed the Kelty Redwing 44

Its sturdy, reliable, versatile, and great for both hiking and travel. I ended up buying the Kelty Redwing 40W pack for my next trip because I had to give this one back, but I would definitely recommend it to travelers and hikers alike.

Posted 4 October 2017 by Ali Garland – Read full review

The Test Pit reviewed the Osprey Farpoint 40

Posted 31 March 2017 by TheTestPit – Read full review

The Big Outside reviewed the Gregory Stout 45

But besides setting you back a little less, the Stout/Amber packs are alsoa couple pounds lighterthan the Baltoro/Deva models of comparable volume. So if youre looking for a pack for carrying moderate loads, with Gregory quality atREIprices, the mens Stout and womens Amber are worth a look.

Posted 29 May 2015 by Michael Lanza – Read full review

Her Packing List reviewed the Osprey Farpoint 40

For a carry-on size, sturdy, professional and user-friendly backpack, this is a top choice.

Posted 15 November 2013 by Caroline Eubanks – Read full review

Go Green Travel Green reviewed the Osprey Farpoint 40

The Osprey Farpoint 40 is a fantastic small travel backpack. Its incredibly comfortable, lightweight, and attractive, and it has great pockets.

Posted 24 October 2012 – Read full review

Backpack Gear Test reviewed the Arcteryx Bora 80

On the whole, this pack has been bombproof. The fabric has turned out to be very abrasion resistant, and I have not detected any wear in the stitching or webbing. The gray fabric does show dirt, but it washes clean with water and a wash cloth.

Posted 24 March 2008 by Braeden Kepner-Kraus – Read full review

Backpack Gear Test reviewed the Deuter Futura 32

I love my Futura 32 and its big brother, the Futura Vario 50+10 enough that my ALICE pack is now just a souvenir from my days in the Army that I can loan out to people who need a pack for a trip.

Posted 1 August 2007 by Chuck Kime – Read full review

4 All Outdoors reviewed the High Sierra Pathway 70

Overall, this is a good pack at a great price. It is an entry level pack that can be easily adjusted to fit almost any body style.

Posted 1 January 0001 by Jason B. – Read full review

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Last update on 2018-12-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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