For the avid hiker, there are two pieces of equipment which rise above the rest in terms of importance – hiking shoes/boots, and a backpack. While the discussion on hiking boots will have to wait for another article, the content below is going to cover the process of searching for the perfect hiking backpack. Having the right pack will enable you to bring along all of the gear you need for the job, and hopefully, it will also make it relatively easy for you to carry that load all day long.
Comfort and capacity are two of the main buying considerations when you shop for a hiking backpack, but there are others as well. Only when you have taken the time to do your homework and browse through a number of options will you be able to pick out a great hiking backpack that can come along with you over miles and miles of trails.
To help save you some time and effort, we have pulled together five great hiking backpack options, which are listed later in this article. Each of the products comes along with a unique set of features for you to consider. There are countless hiking backpacks available today, and they range from affordable choices at the bottom of the market all the way up to expensive packs that make up the top end of the field. Knowing your budget and your needs will be the most important pieces of information to have when trying to settle on a new hiking backpack.
Before we get into product options, however, the next section will look at some of the buying considerations you need to make, and some of the common frustrations that hikers have with their gear. Whether you are a seasoned hiker, or you are looking to get into this hobby for the first time, the information that follows should be helpful.
Buying Considerations for Hiking Backpacks
The average length of your backpacking trips should be the first point of consideration for you as you are shopping for a new hiking backpack. This is the key point because it will determine how much gear you need to take with you, and in turn, how large of a bag you need to own. If you only take day hikes of a few miles, you won’t need a big pack and can settle for something lightweight in the range of a 30 – 50-liter capacity. On the other hand, if you like to head into the backcountry for a week or longer, you are going to need a large pack that can be loaded up with plenty of clothes, food, water, and more.
Obviously, if you take trips of varying lengths, you will need to purchase a pack that is capable of handling your longest trips, as that same pack could still be used for shorter journeys (although it may be a bit big and heavy for the job). As an alternative, you could consider owning two backpacks – one for your short day hikes or overnight trips, and one for longer expeditions. This will probably be the preferred solution for the avid hiker as it is difficult to settle on a single bag that is well-suited to all of your outdoor pursuits.
The frustrations that many hikers have when it comes to their backpacks usually have to do simply with the quality of the pack itself. If you buy a low-quality backpack, you are likely to run into plenty of problems out on the trail. The pack may break down in one area or another, it may leak, or it may have poor straps that are uncomfortable on your shoulders. This should serve as a warning to make sure you purchase quality gear. You don’t have to break your bank account in order to get a quality pack, but it would be a mistake to buy something low quality that is going to fail you during one of your first trips out into the woods.
Beyond quality, another frustration shared by hikers in relation to their backpacks is a poor fit that makes is uncomfortable to carry the bag over long periods of time. Specifically, bags that are either too large or too small for the hiker will not rest comfortably on the shoulders and the bag, making each step more of a chore than it needs to be. Find a bag that is a good match for your torso length (not necessarily your height) if you want to remain as comfortable as possible mile after mile.
So, the end, the goal is relatively simple – find a pack that is well-made, will hold all of the gear that you intend to take on your trips, and will fit you right when hoisted up onto your shoulders.
Hopefully, at least, one of the five packs on our list below will be able to meet those criteria for you.
Our list starts off with a rather large hiking backpack, as this model has 55 liters of space inside and weighs 4.5 pounds. The torso length on this pack is adjustable from 15’’ up to 19.5’’, meaning it will fit a variety of hikers nicely. There are both side and front compression straps included on the bag, and it has a sleeping bag compartment which is perfect for overnight hikes.
Reviewers have commented on how this pack is a quality choice for the price, as many hiking packs can easily cost double or more the price of this TETON model. The adjustability is another point that many buyers appreciated, and the spot for a hydration bladder was also enjoyed by some. With space to accommodate gear for a longer trip and plenty of features to make to going a little easier, the TETON Sports Scout 3400 is an excellent entry into the world of hiking backpacks.
For a small, less-expensive option to get you started on the trail, this Naturehike product should be considered. You won’t have to make much of an investment to own this pack and put it to the test for yourself. It is certainly not meant for long, overnight hikes where ample gear will be required, but it is capable of taking you out on the trail for the day with ease. The pack itself is made from waterproof nylon, and it has lightweight straps in an effort to keep you as comfortable as possible.
Those who bought this pack were not looking for a large bag, so they have found it perfect for day hiking, biking, and more. When shopping for a bag that will fit the essentials for a fun day spent outside – food, water, small first aid – you will want to give the Naturehike Outdoor Backpack and the value that it offers a closer look.
From an affordable small daypack, we go back to a hiking backpack that is meant for multi-day excursions into the backcountry. This pack from Mountaintop has an impressive 60L volume, meaning you should be able to store away all the gear you wish to bring along, and then some. Rather than just one big open pack, this product has a main compartment, a sleeping bag compartment, side pockets, and more. It is made from water-resistant polyester to help keep your gear safe in the rain, and there is an additional rain cover built into the bottom pocket which can provide the pack with extra protection in rough conditions.
The ‘power frame system’ used in this pack helps to move their load onto your hips and legs rather than just your shoulders and back. The bag only weighs 3.5 pounds when unloaded, and it has plenty of tool attachments points, so you can customize your experience as needed. Buyers who have put this pack to the test enjoy capacity that it offers, the sturdy design of the pack overall, and the value that was received for the modest cost of the product.
Another large pack, this one is the most expensive on our list to this point. However, with that price comes plenty of features and performance, and previous buyers have largely been happy with what they have received. The pack uses a top load design to get items in and out, and it has an aluminum frame bar which you can adjust to make carrying the pack more comfortable out on the trail. Also, there is a molded foam panel for your back, also meant to add to your comfort on long hikes.
Reviewers note just how much space is available in this pack – plenty for a tent and sleeping bag, along with some clothes and other items. If you are looking for a bag that can help you spend multiple days out on the trail, this would be a great start. Durability is also praised, like the ability to add a water bladder if desired. Overall, there are plenty of compliments to be found for this bag by current users, which is a great sign of its quality and ability to serve the duty of reliable hiking backpack.
To finish our list, we have a premium hiking bag from Kelty. This is the biggest bag on our list, and also the most expensive. Kelty is a brand name well-known to most hikers, as they offer some of the best gear in terms of performance and durability. An 80L bag, this hiking backpack is large enough to accommodate gear for even long trips on the trail. Whether you are going to be out for just a couple days, or if you are planning to hike for a week or more, the Kelty Coyote 80 is a strong contender for the job.
The ‘CloudLock II’ adjustable suspension has been designed to keep your comfortable and to lighten up even a heavy load. One of the benefits of owning this pack that has been noted by users is the number of pockets that are offered, making it easy to keep supplies organized throughout a trip. Also, the quality of the pack is noted by many, with quality construction making it easy to trust this product.
If you want to have as much fun as possible out on the trail and keep yourself as comfortable as possible along the way, a great hiking backpack is essential. Each of the five backpacks listed above fills a slightly different role in the hiking world, but all have features meant to help you enjoy your experience. Whether you need a large overnight bag like the Kelty or a small pack for day trips such as the Naturehike, be sure to weigh all of your options before submitting your order.