How to Choose the Best Hiking Backpack

When it comes to hiking, no trip – however short – is complete without a hiking backpack. Since there is always something for you to carry, you need a bag to contain it all. Now, there are a great number of backpacks available on the market. This can lead to the question of which one is best for your particular trip?

Picture Brand Rating
Picture Brand Rating
Gregory - ( Baltoro 75 )

Gregory Baltoro

65-95 L / 3966-5797 CI

4.8

407 reviews
Kelty - ( Redwing 40 )

Kelty Redwing

32-51 L / 1953-3112 CI

4.9

166 reviews
Gregory - ( Zulu 55 )

Gregory Zulu

30-65 L / 1831-3966 CI

5.0

120 reviews
Gregory - ( Targhee 45 )

Gregory Targhee

26-42 L / 1587-2563 CI

4.1

19 reviews
Patagonia - ( Cragsmith 35 )

Patagonia Cragsmith

35 L / 2136 CI

4.3

11 reviews
Gregory - ( Deva 80 )

Gregory Deva

64-85 L / 3905-5187 CI

4.5

214 reviews
Gregory - ( Paragon 68 )

Gregory Paragon

38-68 L / 2319-4149 CI

5.0

37 reviews
Kelty - ( Coyote 70 )

Kelty Coyote

40-80 L / 2441-4882 CI

4.8

15 reviews
Kelty - ( Redcloud 110 )

Kelty Redcloud

80-110 L / 4882-6712 CI

4.9

9 reviews
Kelty - ( Trekker 65 )

Kelty Trekker

65 L / 3966 CI

5.0

3 reviews
Gregory - ( Stout 30 )

Gregory Stout

30-75 L / 1831-4576 CI

4.7

42 reviews
Patagonia - ( Linked 16 )

Patagonia Linked

16 L / 976 CI

4.7

22 reviews
Gregory - ( Alpinisto 50 )

Gregory Alpinisto

31-40 L / 1892-2441 CI

4.6

21 reviews
Deuter - ( ACT 65 )

Deuter ACT

22-65 L / 1342-3966 CI

4.7

113 reviews
Osprey - ( Talon 44 )

Osprey Talon

6-44 L / 366-2685 CI

4.7

412 reviews
Deuter - ( Fox 40 )

Deuter Fox

30-40 L / 1831-2441 CI

4.9

44 reviews
Osprey - ( Stratos 50 )

Osprey Stratos

24-50 L / 1464-3051 CI

4.5

267 reviews
Osprey - ( Daylite Plus )

Osprey Daylite

20 L / 1220 CI

4.5

618 reviews
Osprey - ( Kestrel 48 )

Osprey Kestrel

26-46 L / 1587-2807 CI

4.8

378 reviews
Patagonia - ( Ascensionist 40 )

Patagonia Ascensionist

30-40 L / 1831-2441 CI

4.8

1 reviews
Osprey - ( Tempest 40 )

Osprey Tempest

6-40 L / 366-2441 CI

4.5

102 reviews
Gregory - ( Jade 53 )

Gregory Jade

28-63 L / 1709-3844 CI

4.8

42 reviews
Osprey - ( Escapist 32 )

Osprey Escapist

16-30 L / 976-1831 CI

4.7

1020 reviews
Osprey - ( Kyte 46 )

Osprey Kyte

34-44 L / 2075-2685 CI

4.8

71 reviews
Sherpani - ( Indie  )

Sherpani Indie

21 L / 1251 CI

5.0

15 reviews
Gregory - ( Miwok 12 )

Gregory Miwok

6-24 L / 366-1464 CI

4.5

28 reviews
Granite Gear - ( Lutsen 35 )

Granite Gear Lutsen

35-55 L / 2136-3356 CI

4.8

58 reviews
Osprey - ( Viva 65 )

Osprey Viva

50-65 L / 3051-3966 CI

4.4

20 reviews
Deuter - ( Airlite 28 )

Deuter Airlite

16-28 L / 976-1709 CI

4.4

32 reviews
Gregory - ( Maya 22 )

Gregory Maya

5-22 L / 305-1342 CI

4.1

17 reviews
Thule - ( Capstone 22 )

Thule Capstone

22-50 L / 1342-3051 CI

3.4

21 reviews
Gregory - ( Salvo 24 )

Gregory Salvo

18-28 L / 1098-1709 CI

5.0

1 reviews
Deuter - ( Futura 32 )

Deuter Futura

30-44 L / 1831-2685 CI

4.7

36 reviews
Gregory - ( Tempo 8 )

Gregory Tempo

3-8 L / 183-488 CI

5.0

6 reviews
Gregory - ( Sula 24 )

Gregory Sula

18-28 L / 1098-1709 CI

4.0

3 reviews
Patagonia - ( Nine Trails 15 )

Patagonia Nine Trails

15 L / 915 CI

4.7

31 reviews
Osprey - ( Jet 18 )

Osprey Jet

12-18 L / 732-1098 CI

5.0

11 reviews
Gregory - ( Amber 34 )

Gregory Amber

28-71 L / 1709-4332 CI

4.9

52 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Approach 45 )

Mountainsmith Approach

25-35 L / 1526-2136 CI

4.8

14 reviews
Thule - ( Versant 70 )

Thule Versant

50-70 L / 3051-4271 CI
Kelty - ( Redtail 27 )

Kelty Redtail

27 L / 1648 CI

5.0

3 reviews
Thule - ( Stir 20 )

Thule Stir

15-35 L / 915-2136 CI

4.5

2 reviews
Deuter - ( Pace 36 )

Deuter Pace

3-36 L / 183-2197 CI

5.0

1 reviews
Deuter - ( Attack 20 )

Deuter Attack

16-20 L / 976-1220 CI

5.0

3 reviews
Fjallraven - ( High Coast 18 )

Fjallraven High Coast

18-24 L / 1098-1464 CI

5.0

2 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Clear Creek 12 )

Mountainsmith Clear Creek

12-18 L / 732-1068 CI

4.3

5 reviews
Fjallraven - ( Kajka 65 )

Fjallraven Kajka

20-85 L / 1220-5187 CI

4.7

25 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Mayhem 45 )

Mountainsmith Mayhem

35-45 L / 2136-2746 CI

4.0

3 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Lariat 65 )

Mountainsmith Lariat

58 L / 3539 CI

4.3

3 reviews
Gregory - ( Maven 55 )

Gregory Maven

35-65 L / 2136-3966 CI

3.0

4 reviews
Kelty - ( Riot 22 )

Kelty Riot

15-22 L / 915-1342 CI

5.0

2 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Rockit 16 )

Mountainsmith Rockit

16 L / 976 CI
Gregory - ( Tahquitz  )

Gregory Tahquitz

Deuter - ( Speed Lite 10 )

Deuter Speed Lite

10-20 L / 610-1220 CI

4.6

402 reviews
Gregory - ( Sketch 28 )

Gregory Sketch

19-28 L / 1159-1709 CI

4.0

1 reviews
Gregory - ( Sucia 28 )

Gregory Sucia

28 L / 1709 CI
Gregory - ( Patos 28 )

Gregory Patos

28 L / 1709 CI
Gregory - ( Matia 28 )

Gregory Matia

28 L / 1709 CI
Deuter - ( Groeden 32 )

Deuter Groeden

30-32 L / 1831-1953 CI

4.9

13 reviews
Gregory - ( Velata 30 )

Gregory Velata

30 L / 1831 CI
Gregory - ( Satuma 26 )

Gregory Satuma

26 L / 1587 CI
Osprey - ( Farpoint 70 )

Osprey Farpoint

38-76 L / 2319-4638 CI

4.7

370 reviews
Osprey - ( Volt 75 )

Osprey Volt

60-75 L / 3661-4576 CI

4.8

60 reviews
Kelty - ( Siro 50 )

Kelty Siro

50 L / 3051 CI
Deuter - ( Aircontact 65+10 )

Deuter Aircontact

60-70 L / 3661-4271 CI

4.8

20 reviews
Kelty - ( Revol 65 )

Kelty Revol

50-65 L / 3051-3966 CI

5.0

2 reviews
Deuter - ( Quantum 60 )

Deuter Quantum

60 L / 3661 CI

4.3

3 reviews
Kelty - ( Reva 60 )

Kelty Reva

45-60 L / 2746-3661 CI
Kelty - ( Sira 45 )

Kelty Sira

Mountainsmith - ( Apex 60 )

Mountainsmith Apex

52-95 L / 3173-5797 CI

4.9

13 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Scream 55 )

Mountainsmith Scream

26-55 L / 1587-3356 CI

4.4

4 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Pursuit 50 )

Mountainsmith Pursuit

50 L / 3051 CI
Osprey - ( Manta 28 )

Osprey Manta

20-34 L / 1220-2075 CI

4.6

73 reviews
Osprey - ( Raptor 14 )

Osprey Raptor

10-14 L / 610-854 CI

4.8

370 reviews
Osprey - ( Mira 34 )

Osprey Mira

18-32 L / 1098-1953 CI

4.6

66 reviews
Osprey - ( Skimmer 30 )

Osprey Skimmer

16-28 L / 976-1709 CI

4.7

37 reviews
Osprey - ( Skarab 32 )

Osprey Skarab

18-30 L / 1098-1831 CI

4.7

28 reviews
Osprey - ( Raven 14 )

Osprey Raven

10-14 L / 610-854 CI

4.9

82 reviews
Gregory - ( Juno 20 )

Gregory Juno

20-30 L / 1220-1831 CI

5.0

3 reviews
Gregory - ( Drift 14 )

Gregory Drift

6-14 L / 366-854 CI

5.0

1 reviews
Gregory - ( Amasa 6 )

Gregory Amasa

6-14 L / 366-854 CI
Thule - ( Upslope 35 )

Thule Upslope

20-35 L / 1220-2136 CI

4.3

1 reviews
Gregory - ( Denali 100 )

Gregory Denali

72-97 L / 4393-5919 CI

5.0

3 reviews
Patagonia - ( Black Hole 25 )

Patagonia Black Hole

25-32 L / 1526-1953 CI

4.7

1183 reviews
Granite Gear - ( Virga 2 )

Granite Gear Virga

26-50 L / 1587-3051 CI

4.7

33 reviews
Camelbak - ( Fourteener 20 )

Camelbak Fourteener

17-24 L / 1037-1464 CI

4.8

32 reviews
Patagonia - ( Stormfront  )

Patagonia Stormfront

20 L / 1220 CI

4.9

8 reviews
Camelbak - ( Sequoia 18 )

Camelbak Sequoia

15-22 L / 915-1342 CI

4.7

35 reviews
Timbuk2 - ( Jet  )

Timbuk2 Jet

30 L / 1831 CI

4.6

101 reviews
Gregory - ( Wander 70 )

Gregory Wander

38-70 L / 2319-4271 CI

5.0

12 reviews
Camelbak - ( Arete 18 )

Camelbak Arete

17-20 L / 1007-1220 CI

4.2

19 reviews
Camelbak - ( Cloud Walker 18 )

Camelbak Cloud Walker

16 L / 976 CI

4.7

18 reviews
High Sierra - ( Titan 55 )

High Sierra Titan

4.5

771 reviews
Jansport - ( Hatchet  )

Jansport Hatchet

3 L / 183 CI

4.5

309 reviews
Kelty - ( Sanitas 34 )

Kelty Sanitas

34 L / 2075 CI
Kelty - ( Yukon 48 )

Kelty Yukon

48 L / 2929 CI

5.0

1 reviews
Outdoor Research - ( Isolation 18 )

Outdoor Research Isolation

18 L / 1098 CI

4.8

6 reviews
Camelbak - ( Rim Runner 22 )

Camelbak Rim Runner

19 L / 1159 CI

4.1

20 reviews
Camelbak - ( Helena 20 )

Camelbak Helena

4.5

12 reviews
Granite Gear - ( Slacker Packer  )

Granite Gear Slacker Packer

25 L / 1526 CI

4.7

4 reviews
Gregory - ( J 23 )

Gregory J

23 L / 1403 CI
Kelty - ( Ruckus 28 )

Kelty Ruckus

28 L / 1709 CI

5.0

4 reviews
Maxpedition - ( Fatboy  )

Maxpedition Fatboy

4.6

1314 reviews
Mountainsmith - ( Tour  )

Mountainsmith Tour

9 L / 549 CI

4.8

87 reviews
Salomon - ( Skin 12 )

Salomon Skin

5-12 L / 305-732 CI

4.5

8 reviews
Vaude - ( Astrum 70+10 )

Vaude Astrum

Vaude - ( Brenta 25 )

Vaude Brenta

30-40 L / 1831-2441 CI

5.0

2 reviews
Vaude - ( Jura 25 )

Vaude Jura

Vaude - ( Simony 30+8 )

Vaude Simony

CamelBak - ( Daystar 16 )

CamelBak Daystar

Fox Outdoor - ( Tactical  )

Fox Outdoor Tactical

4.3

25 reviews

A Guide to Choosing the Best Hiking Backpack (Buyers Guide)

While it may seem easy enough to choose, there are actually a lot of features to consider when choosing your backpack. This includes carrying capacity, materials, weight, durability, suspension systems, and much more. This is why, in this article, we have broken down the various elements for you. Here, you will be able to see what makes the best backpack and find some tips on how to choose the finest one for you. We have also chosen some backpacks that meet all of your needs and expectations when on a hiking trip.

How Long is Your Trip?

Hiking backpacks typically fall under the category of daypacks. As the name suggests, these are backpacks that are medium-sized. They are able to carry all of the items that you will need within a day. This is why, when choosing a backpack, you will first need to determine how long the majority of your hikes. Do they last a day or less? Or, do they extend for about two days at a time? By making the necessary calculations, you can figure out just how small or large your bag needs to be.

Now, it is quite common to reach for a larger bag as you may feel as though it will suit a variety of situations. The downside to choosing a bigger backpack, however, is that it will weigh more. It can be tiresome to carry more weight strictly than necessary, especially over rough terrain. If there tends to be a lot of discrepancy in the duration of your hikes, it is best to buy at least two bags for separate occasions.

The Carrying Capacity of the Bag

When you want to determine how much a particular backpack can carry, you don’t look at the size. Instead, you will need to focus on the carrying capacity or the volume of the bag. It is more common to find the volume of the backpacks to be displayed in liters. However, those that are offered in cubic centimeters tend to be a little more accurate.

Hike Length

Following the point made above, to figure out what capacity is right for you, you will to consider the length of the trip. If you are just planning on spending a day outdoors, then you should opt for a bag that is between 20 and 30 liters. This will be enough for you to put all of the food and water that you will need. There should be enough space for a light jacket as well.

If you will be spending at least one night in the wilderness, you may want a backpack that can hold around 35 to 50 liters. If you plan on spending upwards of three nights, then a backpack between 50 and 80 liters will be a better match.

Season

Another thing to take into consideration is the weather that you will encounter. If you are hiking in the summer, you will need a minimal number of layers and therefore will not require an overly large backpack. In the winter, however, you will need to take a couple of warm, thick layers. You will need a greater amount of space in the backpack.

Woman with hiking backpack

The Length of the Bag

While you may not need to look at the size of a bag, you will need to examine the length of it. The length of the backpack will determine where it will sit when it is strapped to you. Ideally, the top of the backpack should not be loom over your head. Similarly, it should end just below your hips so that your walking will not be impaired in any way.

Of course, it is not just the length of the bag that you will need to gauge. You will also have to measure your torso. When taking the measurements, you will need to start from the base of your neck. There is a bony protrusion where your neck and shoulders meet. This is where you should place the top of the measuring tape. Then, place each hand around your hip so that each thumb is resting on your back. Make sure that this is being done at the spot just above your hip bones. Your thumbs will mark the spot where you should end measuring your torso.

Now it is simply a matter of finding the backpack that is this long. Extra small backpacks are usually about 15.5 inches long while the slightly longer options are between 16 and 17.5 inches. A regular hiking backpack also considered to be medium sized will be around 18 or 19.5 inches. The backpacks designed for the very tall measure about 20 or more inches.

The Suspension System

The suspension system refers to the way that the weight of the pack is distributed by the various straps on the backpack. Usually smaller packs only have shoulder straps while the more heavy duty ones may have hip belts and even sternum straps. The reason that the suspension system is important is because it avoids putting too much weight on your pressure points. This way, rather than making your shoulders take the brunt of the weight, it can be dispersed, settling it around your hips. This is a much more natural method for your body.

Shoulder Straps

With shoulder straps, the main focus is comfort. So, you should look for shoulder straps that are wide so that the weight will be distributed across your shoulders evenly. Another point to look at is padding. Well-padded straps will not dig into your shoulders while walking.

Hip Belts

Hip belts can be considered the main point on the suspension system. The two things to be concerned with hip belts is where they sit and the amount of padding involved. As with the shoulder straps, more padding means less discomfort. This is particularly important as the belt will be sitting where your hip bones protrude. The hip belts should encircle the top of your hip bones. The placement of the hip belt can be remedied by adjusting the shoulder straps.

Sternum Straps

Typically, women can find the placement of sternum straps most disconcerting. To remain comfortable, it needs to sit a couple of inches below your collarbones so that it will not chafe your chest while walking.

Women Specific vs. Regular Backpacks

There are backpacks that cater specifically to the height and dimensions of a female body. Female oriented backpacks are actually some of the few women specific items that are useful. This is because most traditional hiking backpacks are tailored to the average male height. Therefore, women who are shorter than most men might find such backpacks too long for them.

The same argument can be made for women who don’t have a straight-shaped body. Here, the women specific backpacks have sternum straps and hip belts that are made especially for wider hips and chests. As mentioned, these backpacks are usually only helpful for those on the smaller side.

For the truly petite individual, youth backpacks or those that are meant for children may be just as useful.

The Weight of the Pack

There is no fun in dragging a heavy hiking backpack around. This is why there are many companies that cater to light or ultra-light hikers. These backpacks weigh as little as possible so that you can keep the overall weight of your burden down. This is particularly important for those looking to cover the greatest amount of distance, in the shortest amount of time possible.

Of course, these light or ultra-light backpacks aren’t suitable for everyone. These should be avoided if you want to take a lot of equipment with you or if your main concern is comfort.

The Durability of the Bag

Each hiker requires their backpack to withstand different types of abuse. Some hike over mild terrain and with a light load and thus don’t require too much durability. Others, however, hike with a lot of brush or abrasive surfaces and do so with a lot of equipment. Here, the backpack will need to be a lot tougher.

When speaking of backpack durability, there are two important focal points. The first is the type of material that has been used to construct the backpack. For a less durable backpack, you can use one that is made from polyester. For something that is tougher, you can opt for either nylon or Cordura. If you are really concerned with rips or tears, you can even invest in rip-stop material – the same material used for parachutes.

The other thing to look for is how the bag is being held together. Usually, the toughest seams are the ones that have been tightly stitched together. It is preferable to look for a backpack that contains double-stitching that will withstand pressure even more.

Waterproof Features

This is not a feature that every hiker needs. However, if you hike in bad weather or have to cross bodies of water, a waterproof or water resistant backpack will be handy. The first step to choosing this type of backpack is to understand that backpacks aren’t a 100 percent waterproof. At some point, even the most well insulated pack will let water through.

Another important distinction to make is the difference between waterproof and water resistant. Bags that are waterproof can be submerged in water for brief periods of time. Water resistant bags though, will simply keep rain at bay and can’t be placed in water. If you want a backpack that is either water resistant or waterproof, you should choose ones where the pocket openings and seams have been reinforced as well. This is the only way to be sure that the water will not seep inside.

Top Loader vs. Panel Loader

If you are choosing a smaller hiking backpack that will serve you well for shorter trips, the way that you load the bag isn’t important. Nonetheless, if you are going on a multi-day hike, organization becomes a lot more significant.

The panel loaders zip up around the sides. This makes it simpler to organize all of your items as well as retrieve them later on. Nonetheless, it can be a bit cumbersome to open up this type of backpack. Top loaders are those that open up from the top. While these are simple to pack, it can be difficult to pack or unpack your things in any discernible order.

This are the things you will need to consider if you are attempting to choose the best hiking backpack.


Last updated on November 14, 2017

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