12 Best Hiking Backpacks: Reviewed, Rated & Compared
You won’t be surprised to learn that many of the ‘hiking backpacks’ that you can easily find online at the click of a mouse, aren’t actually fit for purpose. That’s why we’ve done the hard yards for you and selected our top pick of the best hiking backpacks. We’ve included a range of sizes and weights and our list features a range of hiking backpack brands to suit all pockets.
We’ve also summarized all the features you should be looking out for in the best hiking backpacks. Knowledge is power, after all! Read on to find out more or, if you already know your stuff, just scroll down to our top 12 hiking backpack reviews…
Hiking Backpack Comparison Table
Osprey Atmos AG 65 Backpack
No - Water Resistant
Osprey Kyte 36 Women's Hiking Backpack-Ice Lake Green
No - Water Resistant + Integrated Rain Cover
Osprey Daylite Tahoe Backpack
No - Water Resistant
Osprey Tempest 20 Women’s Backpack
No - Water Resistant
Mountaintop 40L Hiking Backpack
No - Water Resistant
Photo Sport 200 AW From Lowepro
10.6” W X 19.3” H X 6.7” D
No - Water Resistant
Deuter Kid Comfort 1 Lightweight Framed Child Carrier
No - Water Resistant
Petsfit Comfort Dog Carrier
17.3''H X 13''W X 10.6''L
Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Hiking Backpack
No - Water Resistant
Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 75
No - Water Resistant
Diamond Candy Waterproof Hiking Backpack
Yes – Includes Separate Rain Cover
Sharkmouth Tactical MOLLE Hydration Pack Backpack
16.5” X 9.1” X 4.5”
No - Water Resistant
Why Do You Need a Hiking Backpack?
Good question! There’s only one simple and obvious answer: how else are you going to carry all the essentials for your trip? A plastic carrier bag from the supermarket, perhaps? Didn’t think so! Not cool - and not the most practical of solutions either.
Types of Backpacks made for Hiking
Smaller-sized packs are often called day packs for reasons which are obvious. They usually have a capacity of between 15L and 30L. There’s plenty of space for all the necessary kit for a day out on the trail, but you’re not going to be over-burdened.
Small hiking backpacks have no hip belt and the shoulder straps are of a simpler and more basic design to cope with the lighter load.
Mid-sized packs have a capacity between 35L and 70L. They’re perfect for multi-day hiking trips in straightforward conditions that don’t require too much kit. They can also serve well as a day hiking backpack if you need to carry additional equipment such as professional camera gear, for example.
These medium hiking backpacks are often ideal for backpacking trips overseas, as they’re neither too large nor too small but still have plenty of room for all your necessities. Less storage = less stuff = less weight, which is all good when you’re on your travels.
Large hiking backpacks usually have a capacity of more than 60L. Larger packs have enough space for hiking trips up to several weeks.
They usually have ergonomic features like fully-adjustable, padded shoulder straps, chest straps and wide hip belts to alleviate pressure on the spine and minimize shoulder fatigue and so on.
Just because you have a small person in your life or your pet pooch just isn’t able to run the way he did, you don’t have to miss out on the joy of hiking. These days there are plenty of different backpacks specially designed to carry babies, toddlers and dogs.
These specialist carriers are ideal because you keep your hands free at all times. As an additional feature, they often come with storage pockets for some essentials you might need while you’re out and about with your pooch or your child.
You’ll find that they have fully-adjustable shoulder and chest straps to ensure maximum comfort for the wearer. They’re also designed to be comfortable for whoever you’re carrying, so there’ll be no complaints or whimpering from your companion - they can just sit up and enjoy the ride!
What To look For In a Good Hiking Backpack
Size, Weight & Capacity
Always think carefully about the purpose and length of your hiking trip and the likely length before you buy, as this will give you some idea of the size of pack you should be looking for.
As a guide:
Remember that you’ll need a larger capacity if you’re going to be in colder climes as you’ll need space for a higher-tog sleeping bag and extra layers of clothing.
When it comes to weight, it makes sense to keep the unladen weight as low as possible to minimize the weight of your overall load.
Check out this video to make sure you get the right size backpack for you as the precise fit, especially for longer trips with larger packs, is crucial for comfort and to minimize fatigue:
Ergonomic Design & Padding
A lot of science has gone into the design of the better quality backpacks. They’re ergonomically designed to fit neatly and comfortably to the torso with multiple, padded and fully adjustable straps and hip belt. It pays dividends to spend time adjusting your pack when it’s fully-loaded for maximum comfort, and then re-adjusting when you’re out on the trail if necessary.
You’ll get tired way sooner if you don’t get it right and the muscular pain can be excruciating. It really is time well spent and can make the difference between your trip being terrific or a torment.
Don’t use the number of compartments as your guide when selecting the right hiking backpack for you. The best hiking backpacks don’t have to be complex to be super-efficient. In fact, the higher quality brands offer simple, streamlined and uncomplicated designs.
Yes, some subdivision is helpful to keep your essentials organized but you really don’t need to overcomplicate things with dozens of separate compartments.
The best backpack for travel will always be lockable, even if your destination is a ‘safe’ country. Your gear is valuable and it’ll give you peace of mind to know that it’s locked safely away.
Some backpacks offer additional security features like slash-proof lining and puncture-proof zippers. Slash-proof lining minimizes the chance of someone cutting open the material with a knife or blade; puncture-proof zippers can’t be opened with a screwdriver or other sharp implement.
Comforting though these features are, always bear in mind that they add to the weight of the pack.
If you’re planning on traveling by airplane, it’s worth thinking about some additional features.
Some brands now include TSA-friendly locks – essential if you’re checking your bag - and special scanner-friendly laptop compartments for speeding your way through security checks when you’re using your pack as carry-on.
And don’t forget you need to stow the straps and harness if you’re checking your bag – the result could get messy if you don’t! Some packs have a special zippered cover to protect them in transit but the alternative is to buy a separate lightweight cover which zips over your whole pack.
Water Resistance Levels
Backpacks often claim to be water-resistant and many even claim to be waterproof. Our advice is not to rely on any backpack 100% for its waterproofing, as even the best quality materials will start to develop leaks during their lifetime.
We suggest you protect important or sensitive items such as electronics and clothes in plastic bags or purpose-made waterproof stuff sacks to be on the safe side when you’re out and about in particularly wet conditions.
Investing in the best quality hiking backpack you can afford makes sense but that doesn’t mean that it has to break the bank. If you take good care of your pack, it’ll be with you for many adventures to come.
We’ve included a range of products from cheap hiking backpacks to premium brands to help you make the right choice at the right price.
Backpacks take quite a battering during their lifetime and there’s a world of difference between one pack and another in terms of its durability. To make sure your pack doesn’t let you down, choosing the best hiking backpack also means choosing the best warranty.
Some brands offer outstanding warranties, so it’s always worth looking at the small print.
12 Best Hiking Backpacks Reviewed
1. Osprey Atmos AG 65 Hiking Backpack
Best Mens Hiking Backpack (Large)
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-range, award winning men’s hiking backpack, then look no further than the Osprey Atmos AG 65. Yes, it has a high price tag but it’s so perfectly designed, with so many useful features for day hikers and thru-hikers alike, that you won’t regret your decision.
Osprey packs truly are state-of-the-art in terms of ergonomic design and so much thought and hiking know-how has gone into every detail.This pack features their trade-mark Anti-Gravity suspension system which is contoured to the body giving outstanding fit and unrestricted movement. Added to that, the Fit-on-the-Fly hip belt and adjustable torso length gives optimum comfort when you’re out on the trail.
Useful features like a removable top lid, which extends to allow over-size loads, easy-to-use trekking pole attachments and internal and external compression straps, all add up to make this pack supremely user-friendly. Although this pack is rugged and designed to last, Osprey will repair any damage or defect free of charge. And if it can’t be fixed, they’ll replace the pack. You simply won’t find a better warranty than that!
2. Osprey Women’s Kyte 36
Best Womens Hiking Backpack (Large)
Without doubt, Osprey is one of our favorite backpack brands and with good reason. This women-specific hiking backpack will take you almost anywhere. Its versatile design makes it suitable for overnight trips but its range of compression straps easily reduce its size to a useful daypack.
Its light wire frame takes the load off your shoulders and transfers it through the torso to the hip belt, while its mesh back panel keeps you cool. This clever suspension system guarantees comfort when you’re enjoying the great outdoors, no matter what you’re carrying.
In addition to the main compartment with top and side access, it features a number of other storage features, including two zippered hip belt pockets, external mesh pockets and a separate zippered sleeping bag compartment. Added to that, there’s an external hydration sleeve, loops for ice tools and Osprey’s unique and easy-to-use trekking pole attachments. And if the weather turns against you, there’s an integrated rain cover which stows away neatly in its own external pouch.
3. Osprey Daylite Tahoe Backpack
Best Hiking Day Pack for Men
With its 20L capacity, this lightweight pack is a generous size for a daypack. You won’t be short of storage space for all your essential kit, whether you’re heading for the backwoods, out on the trail or onto an airplane. In fact, it’ll take you from the summit to the supermarket!
Like all Osprey backpacks, it’s designed with comfort in mind, having adjustable shoulder and chest straps and a mesh-covered foam back panel. The built-in external hydration pocket and the internal laptop sleeve are really useful additional features. The main compartment is easy to access, having a large zippered panel, and there are side mesh pockets for water bottles as well as a front pocket to keep small items secure and easily accessible.
One of the most useful features of this daypack is that it’s designed to attach to a number of Osprey’s larger packs and travel bags, making it super-versatile. With no fewer than 9 different colors, your biggest headache will be selecting the best shade! We rate this as a must-have item for its versatility and functionality.
4. Osprey Tempest 20 Women’s Backpack
Best Hiking Day Pack for Women
If you like to keep things simple but also look for quality and versatility, then this is the perfect day pack for you.
The Tempest 20 from our favorite backpack brand, Osprey, will take you from shopping mall to summit and from the backwoods to the airport departure lounge. There’s plenty of storage space for all your needs, no matter what you’re doing, and lots of additional useful features.
This hiking backpack for women is designed to fit snugly to your torso, with adjustable shoulder and chest straps and hip belt, with padding where you need it most. Many daypacks or small hiking backpacks don’t have a hip belt, but there’s no doubt that being able to adjust the fit on your hips reduces strain and therefore fatigue on your shoulders, giving this pack the edge for comfort.
It features Osprey’s Stow-On-The-Go trekking pole attachments, as well as an external hydration sleeve and a Lidlock helmet attachment. The main compartment is easily accessed with a dual-zippered panel and there are two additional zippered pockets on the hip belt.
5. Mountaintop 40L Hiking Backpack
Best Budget Hiking Backpack
If you’re on a tight budget but are still looking for quality and good storage capacity, then the Mountaintop 40L hiking backpack should fit the bill perfectly. In spite of its tiny price tag,
it’s brimming with useful features for hiking, including no less than 6 adjustable external straps for attaching a sleeping bag, mat, tripod and other necessary gear. Not only is it light on price, but it’s light on weight too, tipping the scales at less than 1kg.
Its compact size means that it’s ideal for air travel, meeting the size requirements for carry-on baggage for most airlines (although you should always check before you travel as specs do vary). The 17” laptop compartment is a great feature, which doubles up as space for a hydration bladder. There’s a secure front pocket for storing smaller items and two mesh side pockets for water bottles.
The harness and hip belt is fully adjustable for optimum fit and comfort, and the padded and breathable mesh back panel offers both comfort and enhanced air circulation to keep you cool when the going gets tough.
6. Photo Sport 200 AW from Lowepro
Best Hiking Camera Backpack
When you’re out on the trail and have valuable and delicate camera equipment to carry, you need to be confident that you have the right backpack to keep it all safe and secure.
This ultra-lightweight hiking camera backpack from Lowepro ticks all those boxes, being specifically-designed to hold all the kit and accessories you’ll need to capture the perfect shot. In addition, it also has a generous 13.9L of storage space for clothes and other personal items.
The Photo Sport 200 AW is designed to fit up to a pro-sized DSLR with a kit lens attached, together with a flash, in a dedicated padded ‘Ultra-Cinch’ camera chamber. This protects your equipment and helps prevent bouncing while in motion, which is especially important when you’re hiking through difficult or steep terrain. The zippered side-access camera pocket means you can quickly rotate to front, un-zip, un-cinch when speed is of the essence.
There are loops for attaching hiking poles, straps at the base for attaching either a jacket or sleeping bag and there’s also space for a hydration reservoir of up to 2L.
7. Deuter Kid Comfort 1 Lightweight Framed Child Carrier
Best Baby Carrier for Hiking
Just because you’re a parent now doesn’t mean that you’re going to want to stay home on the couch and binge on box sets!
This specially-designed child carrier hiking backpack from Deuter is comfortable for parents and safe for kids, so you’ll still be able to hit those trails and enjoy the great outdoors with your little one. All Deuter’s packs are designed with fit, ventilation and function in mind and this baby carrier backpack is no exception.
This pack is robustly designed for heavy use and is backed by Deuter’s guarantee of free or minimum-cost repair during its lifetime. It’s JPMA certified for safety, meeting or exceeding state and federal guidelines, to give you peace of mind. It was developed with advice from a pediatric specialist to ensure a safe and healthy sitting position for your child and the padded 5-point safety harness adjusts to fit as your child grows.
Since it can be hot work carrying junior up those hills, you’ll benefit from maximum ventilation thanks to Deuter’s AirComfort system which creates ventilation space between the pack and your body. In addition to the child’s seat, there’s a 14L zippered storage compartment below for those essentials like sippy cups, extra clothing – and don’t forget teddy!
8. Petsfit Comfort Dog Carrier
Best Dog Hiking Backpack
If you’re a dog lover, there are few things more enjoyable than hitting the trail with your four-legged buddy at your heels. But what happens when the clock ticks by for a few years and they’re no longer able to run for long periods?
The answer lies in a dog hiking backpack, so you can carry your pooch for some or all of the time and let them run free as little or as much as they’re able.
Just because they’re getting a bit stiff and old, doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy the sights and those all-important smells. Neither do they want to miss out on the companionship of their ‘human’. This product from Petsfit could be just the thing. They get to enjoy the great outdoors while you take the strain.
Now, this clearly isn’t going to work if your canine chum is a Rottweiler, so we do advise that you pay close attention to the dimensions of the pack before you buy. Bearing in mind the weight of your poochy pal is important, too, as this pack can carry dogs up to 13 pounds, so more Pekinese than Pit Bull.
Manufactured from high quality, durable Oxford fabric, and featuring sturdy adjustable shoulder straps and mesh windows for ventilation, this is one of the best dog backpacks you’ll find. There’s also a zippered side pocket for those much-needed treats and poop bags.
9. Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Hiking Backpack
Best Small & Lightweight Hiking Backpack
Weighing in at just 0.7 pounds, with a roomy 35L of storage space in the main compartment, this is definitely a small but mighty pack! It folds down into its own neat pouch that will slip easily into your luggage when you’re on your travels.
If you’re looking for a cheap hiking backpack, this could be just what you’re looking for, as it’s very reasonably priced.
In spite of its minimal weight, it’s designed with strength and durability in mind and made from high quality tear and water resistant material, with reinforced stress points. It’s also comfortable to wear, with breathable padded mesh shoulder straps which are fully adjustable. There’s an adjustable chest strap, too. Its generous size means no shortage of storage space for all your essentials, clothing, electronics, etc.
We reckon that this versatile, capacious and thoughtfully designed lightweight packable backpack is a must-have for every trip. You just never know when it’ll come in handy. For example, you could avoid overweight charges by unzipping it from its pouch and using it as carry-on for your excess baggage.
10. Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 75
Best Thru Hike Backpack
When you look at the many features of this pack, designed specifically with multi-day hikes in mind, you’ll see why the Baltoro 75 from Gregory is an award winner, having scooped the Editor’s Choice Gold Award for Backpacker Magazine in 2015.
Planning a thru-hike is no easy task and you know it’ll be demanding, so it’s important to know that you have the best possible kit to support you on your epic journey. Yes, the price-tag of this multi-day hiking backpack is high, but you’ll reap the dividends in terms of comfort, durability and design. Knowing that it’s backed by Gregory’s lifetime warranty will give you peace of mind that you’ve made the right choice.
This pack is just bursting with ergonomic features all of which will help to minimize fatigue when you’re out on the trail. From customizable lumbar fit to pre-curved and ergonomically tapered shoulder harness and hip belt, it’s all designed to keep you comfortable.
Different torso lengths are available, so be sure to check your measurements before you buy to ensure the best possible fit. You won’t be short of storage space and the various compartments will keep your gear organized. The rain cover stows away into its own zippered pocket, ready to be deployed at any time. The U-zip front panel means you can access your items quickly and easily.
The waterproof accessory pocket on the hip belt is ideal for keeping small essentials like your cell handy when you’re on the move. Actually, we could go on and on about all the features that make this the best thru hike backpack but it’s best if you check it out for yourself…
11. Diamond Candy Waterproof Hiking Backpack
Best Waterproof Hiking Backpack
If you’re planning a hiking trip in a temperate or tropical climate zone where the chances of rain are high, you’d be well advised to select a pack with a reasonable level of waterproofing to avoid the misery of wet clothes and the expense and inconvenience of damaged electronics.
This simply-designed, lightweight hiking pack from Diamond Candy is made from water resistant material but has the added benefit of a rain cover which tucks away in its own easily accessible pocket at the base of the pack.
With a generous 40L storage capacity, there’s plenty of room for clothing and all the other items you’re likely to need on your hike. There’s space for a hydration bladder inside and a range of external pockets. The size of this backpack complies with most airlines’ carry-on specifications, so it would be an ideal travel backpack too.
Just a thought about waterproof backpacks while we have your attention… To avoid any chance of your precious items getting wet, we’d advise packing your clothes and sensitive items like electronics in plastic bags within your pack. That way you’ll be absolutely sure you don’t end up with a soggy mass of clothing and useless electronics.
12. Sharkmouth Tactical MOLLE Hydration Pack Backpack
Best Hydration Hiking Backpack
For more extreme adventures, keeping hydrated is essential and this tactical backpack comes complete with a BPA-free 2L hydration bladder in an insulated compartment designed to keep liquids cool for up to 4 hours. It’s specially designed so that the bladder won’t bounce when you’re on the move.
The main compartment will easily fit an extra clothing layer, an iPad and a lunch box. There are two front zippered pockets to keep those small essential items like phone, keys, sunscreen and multi-tool secure and easily accessible.
The MOLLE system allows attachment of compatible gear to the pack. The shoulder, chest and hip straps are fully adjustable for comfort and the padded breathable back panel will help to keep you cool.
The pack is lightweight, weighing in at just 26 ounces, so it won’t add to your burden. It’s made from heavy-duty 900D Oxford fabric with a PVC lining, making it durable and resistant to tears and abrasion.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
How do I pack a hiking backpack?
It’s always easier to show than to tell, so here’s a clip to show you how it’s done:
What size backpack is good for 3-day hike?
A pack between 30L and 50L should be more than sufficient for all your essentials for a 3-day hiking trip.
How to attach hiking poles to backpack?
Many backpacks have hooks or loops to attach hiking poles. Take a look at this clip to see the most efficient attachment method:
How do I make a hiking backpack lighter?
The trick here is to make sure that your pack isn’t too heavy in the first place and weights vary considerably, so make sure you read the small print before you buy. Other than that, it’s just a case of taking a minimalist approach to packing and that’s an art in itself!
Can you take a hiking backpack on a plane?
The short answer is ‘yes’, as long as it fits within the specifications of the airline you’re traveling with. Be sure to double-check this every time you fly, as the sizes vary from one airline to another, especially if you’re heading overseas where carry-on sizes may vary.
What is the price range of the bags on this list?
We’ve included everything from budget backpacks to high-end brands, so there really is something for everyone in our selection of the best hiking backpacks.
Whether you’re hitting the trails for one day or you’re planning a multi-day adventure, the amount of pleasure you’ll get out of your trip will depend largely on how comfortable you are.
It’s important to find the