Best backpacks for hiking

The 9 Best Backpacks for Hiking and Trekking in 2017

Choosing the best backpacks for hiking and trekking can be one of the most personal pieces of outdoor gear you will invest in. Aside from the necessity of correct sizing and fitted comfort, the way that you use the storage your backpack offers, to carry and organise your gear, can be very specific to not only the gear you are carrying but also to your personality. Whilst the super efficient camper might prefer as many pockets, compartments and gear loops on their backpack as possible, the more haphazard organisers out there would probably favour a simple bag where everything just gets stuffed in together. Either way, this selection of the best backpacks for hiking and trekking will have you covered.

For those looking to buy their first backpack, it might be a good idea to borrow one for a night of camping and backpacking before you commit to buying. This will help you to figure out how you like things organised and what you are likely to be carrying, thus making it easier to understand what to look for in a hiking backpack when you come to buy your own. But if trying before you buy isn’t feasible, then our guide on what to look for in a great backpack will help you on your way. There are loads of bags out there so to get you started, take a read of our reviews of some of the best backpacks for hiking and trekking in 2016.

Best backpacks for hiking and trekking in 2017

ProductFeaturesVolumeWeightCost
Arcteryx Altra 65Top choice65l2.3kg$$$$$
Deuter Aircontact 65Great for heavy loads65l2.9kg$$$$
Osprey Exos 48Best for lightweight backpacking48l1.13kg$$$
Gregory Baltoro 65Best all rounder65l2.6kg$$$$
Cotopaxi Nepal 65Highly versatile pack65l2.22kg$$$
Teton Sports Scout 3400Great value entry level backpack55l2kg$$
The North Face Banchee 65Lightest bag for its volume65l1.63kg$$$
Osprey Atmos 65 AGComfortable and good airflow65l2.18kg$$$$
High Sierra Titan 55Best value55l2.35kg$
Arcteryx Altra 65 best backpacks for hiking

Arcteryx Altra 65

What’s not to like about this bag? It radiates quality and the innovative features of this high-end backpack has put the Altra very clearly at the head of the pack. It may be on the pricey side, but the pivoting Load Transfer Disc on the hip belt does an excellent job of increasing agility and stability like no other backpack. Together with the pear-shaped design of the bag, this system distributes weight evenly and minimises the movement of the pack on rough and demanding terrain.

The unique Gridlock system allows you to adjust each shoulder strap individually for a customised fit to really maximise comfort levels. And as if there aren’t enough great things to love about this bag, it also features Wingman zip pockets that wrap over the hips, are big enough to fit a bottle in each and are designed to be accessed easily whilst wearing the backpack.

The other great features include:

  • Removable floating lid
  • U-shaped access that can be used for quick side access to the main compartment as well as fully opening the whole zip from the bottom.
  • Large front kangaroo pocket with zip
  • Separate sleeve for water bladder
  • Stretch mesh stash pockets on hipbelt
  • Compression straps

Cons – It lacks a waterproof cover and only has a couple of gear loops.

Verdict– A super high calibre backpack for serious hiking and treking that will provide unrivalled movement and control whilst carrying a heavy load.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI


Deuter Aircontact 65 backpack for hiking

Deuter Aircontact 65

At 2.9kg, the Aircontact 65 is the heaviest backpack in this review. However this does make it a great choice for really loading up on extended multi-day hikes and treks, or for winter expeditions where extra weight is unavoidable. The ActiveFit pivoting shoulder straps and super comfortable VariFlex hip fins ensure greater movement without the loss of stability or balance, and there are also two attachment points for the load lifters for a more customised fit.

The unique aircontact system on the padded back panel keeps things cool by pumping air through the pads with every movement of the body. The result is 15% less sweatiness that with other body-contour packs.

As well as access through the top of the bag, Deuter have also embraced the genius of the U-zip, enabling much easier access to the depths of your pack.

Other notable features:

  • Sleeping bag compartment with internal zipper divider
  • Rain cover
  • Front wet pocket
  • External gear loops
  • 3 litre water bladder sleeve with clips

Cons – Heavy, difficult to reach water bottle pockets when wearing the pack.

Verdict – This is a very well made, super functional and very comfortable backpack that is ideal for dealing with heavy loads on longer trips and treks.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI


Osprey Packs Exos 48 backpacks for hiking

Osprey Exos 48

The award winning Osprey Exos is the smallest and lightest backpack in this review, making it very well suited to minimalist backpackers who want to get places fast. It saves weight by using narrow straps and lightweight materials, and the trampoline suspended back panel replaces bulky and heavy padding. This back panel also provides unrivalled cross ventilation and good comfort levels that can often be compromised on lightweight backpacks.

The top lid is fully adjustable and removable to streamline your pack even more, and like the Atmos, it features a FlapJacket which acts as a top cover when the lid is off.

Despite its low weight, the Exos provides excellent load bearing abilities and stability, and also still manages to incorporate the following notable features:

  • Large stretch front pocket
  • Side mesh pockets
  • Compression straps
  • Detachable sleeping mat loops
  • Two good sized hip belt pockets
  • Internal water bladder sleeve with two ports
  • Adjustable sternum strap with integrated emergency whistle
  • Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment

Cons – Lightweight material, so a little less durable. Only top access, no rain cover.

Verdict – Ideal for lightweight thru-hikers but also good for any backpacker looking to balance weight with load bearing performance.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI


Gregory Baltoro 65 award

Gregory Baltoro 65

The Baltoro is one of the main competitors with the excellence of the Arcteryx, but with a much more appealing price tag. It provides unrivalled comfort levels with cosy removable lumbar support, and the independently pivoting shoulder straps and hip belt fins of the A3 suspension system ensure optimal movement and stability when fully loaded.

A really nice feature of this 65 litre hiking backpack is the removable water bladder sleeve that doubles as a super lightweight summit or day pack. And the innovative design features don’t stop there – there is an easy access water bottle holster that can fold away when not in use, U-zip access to the main body of the bag, and a floating top lid that is fully removable.

Other notable features include:

  • Lots of compression straps to cinch in the gear and streamline the centre of gravity
  • Fully waterproof pocket on the hip belt
  • Removable rain cover
  • Lots of gear loops
  • Sleeping bag compartment with divider

Cons – Slightly heavy.

Verdict – One of the most comfortable backpacks on the market with the ability to take really heavy loads. Loads of features and pockets and a highly innovative design at a competitive price.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI


Cotopaxi Nepal 65 backpack for hiking

Cotopaxi Nepal 65

The simple and streamlined design of the 65 litre Cotopaxi Nepal is a super appealing option for hikers and backpackers looking for versatility and durability at a very competitive price. Like the Baltoro, the internal water bladder sleeve doubles as an ultralight summit day pack and there is also an easy access angled water bottle pocket.

There is access to the main body of the bag through a large side zip, as well as a floating and removable top lid, that once removed (along with the hip belt, summit pack and rain cover), strips the weight of the bag down to a much lighter 1.5kg. The slimmed down version turns this trekking pack into a good international traveling bag where it will only be carried for short distances.

A big appeal to wilderness trekkers and travellers alike, is the excellent comfort levels and back support that the Nepal offers. The contoured padded back panel can be adjusted to your torso length.

As sleek as this design is, the following features are hiding in there somewhere:

  • Top compression straps
  • Side configurable compression straps
  • Two large zipped front pockets
  • Gear loops
  • Separate sleeping bag compartment
  • Belt pockets
  • Rain cover
  • Zippered phone pocket on the shoulder strap

Cons – Slightly on the heavy side.

Verdict – A simple but solid design that provides a highly versatile backpack for hikers and travellers alike.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


Teton Sports Scout 3400 backpack for hiking

Teton Sports Scout 3400

The traditional design of the Scout 3400 oozes classic adventuring, but without the associated bulk and weight – far from it. At 2kg this 55 litre entry level pack will neither break your back or your bank, and is the ideal choice for budget conscious casual backpackers who don’t need all the bells and whistles offered by the high end backpacks. That said, the Scout does a great job of offering a ton of super functional features for an all round great value bag. These include:

  • Large front mesh pocket
  • Front shock cord for quick storage
  • Top shock cord storage
  • Gear loops and compression straps
  • Integrated rain cover
  • Sleeping bag compartment with zipped divider
  • Internal water bladder sleeve

Open-foam padding on both the hip belt back panel provides ample comfort and plenty of lumbar support, and the molded panels ensure good levels of airflow to help keep sweat levels under control. It also has fully adjustable shoulder straps and back panel for a customised fit to suit different torso lengths.

Cons – It has a non-floating lid and only one access point to the main compartment (through the top).

Verdict – A great value and comfortable backpack with loads of features for the price.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


The North Face Banchee 65 backpack for hiking

The North Face Banchee 65

For a 65 litre hiking backpack, the Banchee is in a league of its own for its lightweight nature, that still manages to provide unrivalled control of heavy loads. This is largely down to the adjustable thoracic carriage and belt system that gives a fully customisable and precise fit. There is also excellent lumbar support and the Optifit harness system dials in for maximum comfort and fit, leaving trekkers with increased confidence and freedom of movement when carrying lots of weight.

Like the Osprey Exos, the Banchee has adopted the use of thin compression straps to save weight and to draw in the centre of gravity for further control. The unique beavertail design of the front pockets ensures even weight distribution and some roomy extra storage space.

To keep things light, the Banchee is lacking a few desirable features, but it does include:

  • Sleeping bag compartment with divider
  • Two hip belt pockets
  • Floating lid
  • Gear loops
  • Two tool keepers

Cons – There is no water bladder sleeve or rain cover, and only access through the top.

Verdict – Ideal for backpackers seeking optimal control of heavy loads without compromising comfort or adding extra weight.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI


Osprey Atmos 65 backpack for hiking

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

Even with a heavy load, putting on the Atmos feels like having a big hug from your backpack. This is down to the excellent cushioning provided by the world’s first fully ventilated hip belt that flows seamlessly from the meshed back panel. The groundbreaking AntiGravity suspension system combines excellent loads stability with unparalleled breathability and airflow. There are also stiffened load lifters that offer better weight distribution than other packs in its class.

Its many unique features make it no surprise that this is one of the most popular backpacks for hiking. These include the dual access water bottle holders that allow for much easier access when wearing the backpack, and the Stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment that fixes your poles onto the shoulder straps when they’re not needed.

Other features include:

  • Two belt pockets
  • Sleeping bag compartment with divider
  • Stretch mesh front pocket
  • Two compression straps
  • Gear loops and straps
  • Rain cover
  • Internal water bladder sleeve
  • FlapJacket cover like the Exos

Cons – It is lacking some storage features compared with the Baltoro.

Verdict – A super popular and comfortable backpack that is lightweight and highly breathable, with some really unique and useful features.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI


High Sierra Titan 55

High Sierra Titan 55

This is by far the lowest priced backpack in this review but one of the best and most popular in its price-bracket. The high density foam padded back panel provides decent comfort levels when loaded, and the large Airflow channels keep the air rolling in and out nicely.

The Titan also has a handy removable media pocket on the shoulder strap and its other features include:

  • Lots of good gear loops
  • Bed roll strap
  • Really big front pocket
  • Integrated rain cover
  • Water bladder pocket with two ports

Cons – This pack is not super durable and it can be difficult to reach the water bottle from its pocket.

Verdict – Great value for money and an ideal entry level pack.

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


Best backpacks for hiking

What to look for when choosing the best backpacks for hiking and trekking

Weight of backpack

As one of the top four heaviest things you will carry – tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad being the other three, making sure you don’t carry unnecessary weight on your shoulders before you’ve even filled your backpack is key. That said, you also need to make sure that your backpack is not so lightweight that it can’t withstand the weight of its contents or won’t go the distance when it comes to durability. The weight of your bag will largely depend upon the size of it, but the material and the presence of a frame will also have an impact. Unless you are going down the ultralight backpacking route of small frameless packs, most of the best backpacks for hiking and trekking have a built-in frame for support and stability.

Volume of your bag and the duration of your hiking trip

In the world of lightweight backpacking, where there is so much ultralight and compact backpacking gear available, there’s no need to have a backpack that can hold much more than 50 litres of gear. However that requires going pretty bare-bones on gear, or getting the absolute lightest of everything. Whilst the best backpacks for day hiking would have a volume of 20 to 30 litres, multi-day backpacking and hiking trips require something between 50 and 75 litres. Here’s a quick guide on what your backpack capacity should be based on the length of your trip:

1-3 day trip = 40-60l
3-7 day trip = 50-75l
8+ day trip = 65l+

Another thing to consider when choosing what volume backpack to go for is where and when you will be using it. During winter you should expect to carry a heavier load than during the summer. Equally, if you are hiking at altitude you will need to carry more.

Comfort

If you have an uncomfortable backpack, type-I fun (general frivolity) can very quickly turn into type-II fun (retrospective enjoyment), or worse still, type-III fun (just plain misery). If it means choosing a backpack that is heavier than you would prefer, then so be it – a comfortable backpack is simply not worth compromising.

To ensure your backpack is the best fit for you, testing it with some weight in is essential. Either head to the store and ask them to load it up for you to try, or order online and hike your stairs loaded with some books. You can always send it back, assuming you’ve not put it through its paces outdoors.

The following things all help to ensure that wearing your loaded backpack for hours on end will be as comfortable as possible:

  • Back panel
    This should provide good airflow between you and the pack, and will help temperature control when things start to get sweaty on the trail. It should also be padded or made up of a comfortable trampoline-like mesh. Some packs provide extra lumbar padding and support.
  • Hip belt
    This should be padded with straps that can be adjusted to fit your body and spread weight evenly.
  • Sternum strap
    This is a small strap that attaches across the chest and connects the shoulder straps. It provides extra stability and you can often slide the strap up or down to reposition as necessary.
  • Load lifter straps
    These connect the top of the shoulder straps to the top of the bag and can be tightened to ensure a loaded bag doesn’t pull away from your body.
  • Shoulder straps
    These are padded and adjustable, and their position on the bag can also be altered to suit your torso length and preference.

Size guide

Most packs come in different sizes based on the length of the wearer’s torso. Torso length can be measured from the base of the neck (find this point by bending your head forward and feeling the protruding vertebrae), to your iliac crest (find this by putting your hands on your hips and tracing a line between your thumbs). Your measurement will then correspond with the individual brands’ sizing systems.

Design features of the best backpacks for hiking

When choosing a backpack for hiking, look out for the following features:

  • Rain cover – most decent backpacks should come with a rain cover that lives in its own pocket and is either removable or integrated.
  • Water bladder sleeve – usually found inside the main compartment of a backpack, with a port for the tube to exit the bag and a clip to secure it on the shoulder strap.
  • Access – as well an opening on the top of the bag, many bags also have zippers on the side or front to access the main compartment.
  • Sleeping bag compartment – accessed via its own zipper at the bottom of the backpack and usually with a divider that can be left open if required.
  • Hip belt pockets – great for things you need to access easily when hiking; snacks, compass, phone etc.
  • Gear loops – to attach things to the outside of your pack: ice axe, walking poles, sleeping pad etc.
  • Side pockets – good for keeping your gear organised and providing easy access to certain items.
  • Front pocket – either a mesh pocket to stuff extra layers in, or a zipped compartment for storage of extra gear or food.
  • Top lid – either integrated or floating with pockets to provide organised storage. A floating lid enables extra gear to be placed under it, and they are often removable to save weight or to use as  a small summit bag.
  • Water bottle pockets – your water bottle should be easy to access when wearing your pack.
  • Compression straps – to cinch in the pack providing a more balanced centre of gravity.

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