All of us need to take some time to connect with nature every once in a while. If you’re heading out into the woods for any length of time then a hiking backpack is an absolute must. A high quality hiking backpack lets you comfortably carry everything you need for your time in the backcountry, but choosing the best backpack can be a headache. To help you stay focused on your trip, we’ve put together a guide that tells you what to look for and lists the best hiking backpacks on the market today.
Our Top Pick: Don’t have time to read the whole article and just want to know what the best hiking backpack for the money is? After hours of research and testing we have concluded that the best women’s hiking backpack is Osprey Aura AG 65 and the best men’s hiking backpack is Osprey Atmos AG 65. These bags are amazingly comfortable and lightweight, but best of all, they are protected by Osprey’s lifetime warranty. No matter if for short hikes or long multi day treks, you seriously can’t go wrong with the Osprey Atmos/Aura AG 65. For a more in-depth review click here.
Comparison Table of the Best Hiking Backpacks
Below is a list of the best backpacks for hiking. Click on the name to read reviews and check prices.
|Osprey Atmos AG 65||Men||4 lbs. 9 oz.||50, 65L|
|Osprey Aura AG 65||Women||4 lbs. 5 oz.||50, 65L|
|Osprey Aether AG 70||Men||5 lbs. 3.4 oz.||60, 70, 85L|
|Osprey Ariel AG 65||Women||4 lbs. 15.2 oz.||55, 65, 75L|
|Gregory Paragon 58||Men||3 lbs. 8 oz.||48, 58, 68L|
|Gregory Maven 55||Women||3 lbs. 6 oz.||45, 55, 65L|
|REI Co-op Flash 55||Men/Women||2 lbs. 10 oz.||45, 55L|
|Gregory Baltoro 65||Men||4 lbs. 13.4 oz.||65, 75, 85L|
|Gregory Deva 60||Women||4 lbs. 9.76 oz.||60, 70, 80L|
|Deuter Aircontact Lite 50 + 10||Men/Women||3 lbs. 14 oz.||40+10, 50+10, 65+10L|
|TETON Sports Scout 3400||Unisex||4 lbs. 8 oz.||55L|
|Jack Wolfskin Highland Trail Xt 60||Unisex||4 lbs. 14.3 oz.||50, 60L|
|Kelty Redwing 50||Men/Women||3 lbs. 11 oz.||32, 44, 50L|
|The North Face Cobra 52||Unisex||3 lbs. 7 oz.||52, 60L|
What to Look for in Good Hiking Backpacks
Here are some of the main things you should consider when shopping for your new hiking backpack…
1. Size / Capacity
Consider what type of hikes you’ll be doing in what season and for how long. Also consider how much gear you’ll need to bring with you and if you’re more of a minimalist hiker or will want to carry lots of layers. Typically, if you’ll be hiking for longer than a weekend, you’ll want to choose a backpack that is 60 liters or larger. If you’re only going overnight then a pack under 50 liters should be fine. For weekend trips, a pack between 40 and 65 liters should work well depending on what gear you need to bring. Ultimately, there’s no one right answer for what size backpack will work best for you, it’s rather a matter of what’s comfortable for you.
2. Comfort / Support
The first thing you need to be sure of is that the backpack fits your torso. If it doesn’t fit your torso then no matter how much padding it has, it won’t be comfortable.
The majority of the weight of your backpack should sit on your hips with the remaining weight sitting on your shoulders, so these will be the most padded areas, along with the back panel. Padding is great for comfort, but it will add weight. The best thing to do is to find the perfect balance for you, in which you have enough support to keep you comfortable throughout your hike with all the gear you’re carrying, but not so much that it weighs you down.
- Pockets: More pockets will allow you to be more organized. This is especially important for smaller items that can be easily lost like keys, lip balm, and travel earbuds. More pockets are also practical for things like separating dirty clothes or allowing your rain jacket to be easily accessible. Some packs may only have four pockets while others can have up to ten. Think about how much you need to bring with you and how you’d like to organize your stuff before purchasing your new hiking backpack.
- Main Compartment Access: Basically all hiking backpacks have a roll-top or cinch cord which allows you to access the top of your backpack. Some backpacks will offer additional access at the bottom or in the middle of the bag. Multiple access points can be advantageous as they make it easier to get at everything without having to fully unpack every time you reach into your bag.
- Rain Fly: Unless you’re always hiking in warm and dry conditions, think about how you’ll keep your backpack protected when it rains. Some backpacks have included rain covers which are sewn into the bag and others don’t. If you find a backpack you really like that doesn’t include a rain fly, keep in mind that you can purchase one separately.
- Hydration Compatibility: Staying hydrated when you’re hiking is super important. Most hiking backpacks will have space for a hydration sleeve. Particularly if you don’t like to carry water bottles, paying attention to the capacity of the hydration reservoir is very important so you can be sure you’ll be able to stay hydrated throughout your hike.
- Compression Straps: Compression straps help with load stability as they bring the pack’s weight closer to your back. They can also be used to store certain gear like trekking poles.
4. Water Resistance
With all the valuable clothing and gear you’re carrying, it’d be a shame for it to get damaged in the rain. Yes, most hiking backpacks are resistant to a bit of rain, but in a real storm the water is almost guaranteed to seep into your backpack. You can’t put all of your stuff into a dry bag, so the next best option is to make sure that your new backpack includes a rain cover, otherwise you can purchase one separately.
A good backpack will sit close to your body, but having it rub against your back will make you sweat. To decrease that discomfort, be sure to get a backpack that has a breathable hip belt and back panel. You’ll appreciate the ventilation whether you’re doing warm-weather or cold-weather hiking.
Best Hiking Backpack Reviews
Now that you know what you need in your hiking backpack, here are the best options on the market today.
Weight: 4 lbs. 9 oz.
Capacities: 50, 65L
Gender: Men (Women: Osprey Aura AG 65)
The comfortable fit is one of the main reasons why the Osprey Atmos AG 65 is the best travel hiking backpack. This backpack offers padded 3D suspension to promote ventilation, compression straps to reduce bulk while stabilizing your load, an Anti-Gravity ventilated mesh back panel that allows for an ideal fit, and much more! There are a total of 11 exterior pockets (in addition to the main compartment), with the bottom even containing a zipper area designed to store your sleeping bag. The Osprey Atmos AG 65 comes in three different sizes/capacities – S: 62, M: 65, and L: 68 liters – with the largest one still weighing less than five pounds. The women’s version of this bag is called the Osprey Aura AG 65. It has the same amazing features but comes in different capacity options – S: 60, M: 62, and L: 65 liters. Whether you go with the Osprey Atmos AG 65 or the Osprey Aura AG 65, both are sure to keep you comfortable no matter where the trails take you.
Weight: 5 lbs. 3.4 oz.
Capacities: 60, 70, 85L
Gender: Men (Women: Osprey Ariel AG 65)
One of the best hiking backpack brands ever, Osprey has done it again with the Aether AG 70 (Men) and Ariel AG 65 (Women). These specific packs are ideal for week-long hikes like the Great Ocean Walk or hikes where you need to comfortably carry larger loads on extended trips. Some of the best backpacks for hiking, they both have hip belts and harnesses which are heat-moldable creating a fantastic fit and allowing for impressive comfort for extended hikes with heavy packs. The top lid can be used as a hiking daypack or it can be removed if you want to drop some weight. There are seven exterior pockets, removable sleeping pad straps, a trekking pole attachment, and dual ice-tool loops with bungee tie-offs. This bag also includes an internal hydration sleeve and a zippered sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider. Both the men’s and women’s versions come in four different sizes and capacity options to ensure you have the perfect fitting backpack when you hit the trails.
Weight: 3 lbs. 8 oz.
Capacities: 48, 58, 68L
Gender: Men (Women: Gregory Maven 55)
You’ll stay light on your feet no matter how heavy your pack when you choose the Gregory Paragon 58. The lightweight 7075 aluminum chassis and ventilated foam back panel offer great support while keeping the weight to under four pounds. The bottom panel is reinforced to protect against moisture and punctures. There are six exterior pockets, including dual stretch-mesh pockets for things like your portable water bottle and zipper pockets for smaller items like your hiking headlamp. The Gregory Maven 55 is the women’s version of the backpack with the same thoughtful features but a lower capacity. If you need the best trekking backpack for your next adventure, you can’t go wrong with the Gregory Maven 55 or Gregory Paragon 58.
Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.
Capacities: 45, 55L
Preparing to head out with loads from 15 to 30 pounds? Consider the REI Co-op Flash 55. The hip belt is contoured and the back panel is ventilated to increase the comfort of the backpack. It has a roll-top closure so you can adjust the size of the bag based on your load. This pack also includes a seam-taped rainshield lining to protect against damp weather. The pack has nine exterior pockets, and conveniently the water bottle pockets are positioned forward on the hip belt to give you quick access. You can easily replace a water bottle with your travel umbrella in one of the pockets if it looks like it’s about to rain. This backpack is hydration compatible, has a removable top lid, and includes attachment loops for your gear. Choose from a S: 53, M: 55, or L: 57-liter pack, each of which weigh less than three pounds. Stay cool and comfortable no matter where you hike with the REI Co-op Flash 55.
Weight: 4 lbs. 13.4 oz.
Capacities: 65, 75, 85L
Gender: Men (Women: Gregory Deva 60)
These award-winning backpacks will let you comfortably spend the weekend in the woods with everything you need. The highlights of this pack are the Response A3™ suspension and independently rotating load transfer panels on the hip belt which can register the angle of your hips and articulate with the movement of your body. There are nine exterior pockets, and the hip belt pocket is water resistant to protect items you want to easily access like your phone and point-and-shoot camera. The removable hydration sleeve converts into a daypack so you can leave your heavy pack in your camping tent for the day and enjoy some beautiful day hikes without being weighed down. The men’s Gregory Baltoro 65 and the women’s Gregory Deva 60 are high-quality packs with features that guarantee you’ll comfortably enjoy your time in nature.
Weight: 3 lbs. 14 oz.
Capacities: 40+10, 50+10, 65+10L
The Deuter Aircontact Lite 50 + 10 is an updated model that’s more durable, breathable, and comfortable. The main compartment has an expandable collar which offers 10 extra liters of storage when you want it, but conveniently tucks away when you don’t need it. The height-adjustable lid can be detached, quickly making it one of the best hiking day backpacks. In addition to the main compartment, there are four additional pockets. The bottom zipper compartment is perfect for storing your sleeping bag or camping hammock so it doesn’t take up additional space in your pack. The women’s version, the Deuter Aircontact Lite 45 + 10 SL, has a capacity of five less liters than the men’s Deuter Aircontact Lite 50 + 10, and both packs still impressively weigh in at less than four pounds. These rugged backpacks will be a welcome addition to all of your future hiking adventures.
Weight: 4 lbs. 8 oz.
The TETON Sports Scout 3400 is easily the best hiking backpack under 100 dollars. This 55-liter backpack offers a high quality product without a high price tag. Comfort is a priority in this backpack as it includes padded lumbar, waist, and shoulder straps along with a padded back panel which optimizes airflow. This unisex backpack can be adjusted at the shoulders, chest, torso, and waist in order to get the best fit for women, men, and children. Other features include side and lower gear loops, front compression straps, and a sewn-in rainfly. If you’re looking for the best budget hiking backpack, you’ll absolutely love the TETON Sports Scout 3400.
Weight: 4 lbs. 14.3 oz.
Capacities: 50, 60L
While fairly unknown in the United States, German brand Jack Wolfskin is wildly popular in Europe, and for good reason. The Highland Trail XT 60 highlights the list of the best backpacks for thru hiking. With a 65-liter capacity, it will allow you to comfortably carry everything you need for an extended time in nature. In case of emergency, the sternum strap comes with an SOS whistle and the pack also has reflectors. The X-Transition back system is designed to keep you comfortable when carrying heavy loads as it offers excellent load transfer performance and great back ventilation. Smaller items like sunglasses, headlamp, and sunscreen can easily be stored in the lid compartment so they don’t get lost in the main compartment. You’ll have dual access to the main compartment and there’s an integrated rain cover in case you get caught in a shower. There’s way too much to love about the Jack Wolfskin Highland Trail XT 60 for you not to give it a chance.
Weight: 3 lbs. 11 oz.
Capacities: 32, 44, 50L
The Kelty Redwing 50 has successfully become the best travel and hiking backpack on the market. It’s a durable and comfortable backpack which suits everything from tackling amazing hikes or exploring Vienna while touring Europe. The women’s version is called the Kelty Redwing 40. It weighs two pounds ten ounces, versus the men’s version which weighs three pounds 11 ounces, and it’s just as popular thanks to its quality and practicality. The Kelty Redwing 50 and the Kelty Redwing 40 have removable hip belts, side compression straps, a hideaway daisy chain, and attachment loops. Both models also have six exterior pockets and have a dual-use sleeve which can be used for hydration or a lightweight travel laptop. These are ideal all-around hiking backpacks no matter where your travels take you.
Weight: 3 lbs. 7 oz.
Capacities: 52, 60L
If you’re going mountaineering or alpine climbing then you need to add the North Face Cobra 52 to your travel gear collection. Choose between a 50 or 52-liter pack which includes a mesh removable helmet holder, sled-drag clips, and a ski carry system. The reinforced crampon pocket allows for easier access on the trail and lets your crampon spikes be separate from the rest of your gear. The hip belt includes a tool loop and pocket to make sure you’re able to access what you need when you need it. Wand pockets, lash points, and a rope carry make it easy to secure additional equipment for your hikes. A whistle buckle is also included on the sternum strap. If alpine climbing is your focus, the North Face Cobra 52 is soon to be your new best friend.
Hiking and backpacking are great adventures for kids and adults. Whether you’re traveling by yourself, with friends, or with small kids, make sure you’re properly prepared for an amazing adventure by getting one of these hiking backpacks.