MightyGoods > Backpacking backpacks

Top Backpacking backpacks Reviews and Buyer's Guide

Last updated July 3, 2019

Going on a backpacking trip is quite an adventure and so is packing for the trip. Besides choosing what to bring, one of the biggest issues is how to choose the right backpack.

There are hundreds of different models to choose from, so how can you make sure you choose the right one for your needs?

The Best Backpacking Backpack

Having checked thousands of backpacking backpack reviews, we can say that the Ethnotek Raja is the best choice for most people.

The Ethnotek Raja got a rating of 4.80 out of 5, while the average rating in the list below is just 4.30.

Ethnotek Raja
This is the best reviewed backpacking backpack.
How we rate the bags

We have checked 6,907 backpacking backpack reviews, so we can show you the weighted average rating of all the bags.

Using the average ratings, you can check what all the reviewers think instead of just viewing the subjective opinion of one specific reviewer.

It's much simplier to find the best bags that way.

Also Great

If the Ethnotek Raja isn't your style, you might also consider the Osprey Aether.

The Aether is a close runner-up with a rating of 4.66 out of 5.

Osprey Aether
The second-best reviewed backpacking backpack.
Finally, you might consider the Osprey Transporter.

The Transporter is the third-best rated backpacking backpack with a rating of 4.41.

Osprey Transporter
The third-best reviewed backpacking backpack.
Below is the list of all top 10 best backpacking backpacks. Great if none of the three bags above are your style.

The 10 Best Backpacking Backpacks

PS: We have checked 6,907 reviews to make this top 10 list!

RankBackpacking BackpackRating
1Ethnotek RajaEthnotek Raja
Available on Amazon
Check Deals
22 reviews
2Osprey AetherOsprey Aether
Available on Amazon
Check Deals
1,124 reviews
3Osprey TransporterOsprey Transporter
Available on Amazon
Check Deals
611 reviews
4Osprey StratosOsprey Stratos
1,397 reviews
5The North Face TerraThe North Face Terra
315 reviews
6Osprey SirrusOsprey Sirrus
609 reviews
7Osprey UltralightOsprey Ultralight
2,614 reviews
8Exped SummitExped Summit
15 reviews
9Osprey TrilliumOsprey Trillium
79 reviews
10Osprey AirporterOsprey Airporter
117 reviews

Buyers Guide to Backpacking Backpacks

[toc] 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.

1 More Backpacking Backpacks

Classic backpacking backpacks and models that haven't yet got enough reviews to be ranked.

RankBackpacking BackpackRating
Exped ExpeditionExped Expedition

List ID 71. Images from Amazon Product Advertising API and shop datafeeds.

Amazon deals/prices updated daily (last 2020-04-02).

Last updated on July 03, 2019