Best Hiking Backpack
Unfortunately, you can’t always know you have the wrong hiking backpack until you are a few hours on the trail. It’s only during use and under load that a hiking backpack reveals crucial design differences, and whether you can find out whether the fit and suspension of a hiking backpack are suited for your body. You may find pressure points on your back or hips, an awkward fit at the sternum or belt, or even simple details like pocket placement begin to really make a difference in your enjoyment of your hike.
Because a bad pack can ruin a hiking trip, it’s important to choose the best backpack you can afford. To help you make the right choice, here are our top picks for the best hiking backpack.
Best Hiking Backpack Reviews
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
An ultra-compact, ultra-lightweight pack is a must-have for any hiking trip. Having a lightweight day pack allows you to carry just what you need for short hikes, day trips, or even errands around town, without taking up space or adding weight to your full backpack and hiking gear.
The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack is a fantastic accessory for any adventure, with space, features, and convenience that also allows it to be used alone for light trips.
The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack is made of ripstop nylon. Nylon is known for being thin, lightweight, and water resistant, while also being durable and easy to clean.
When packed into the stuff sack, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack weighs just over 3 oz. and is about the size of an apple. The external loops make it easy to attach to a carabiner, pack, or keychain for easy carrying options that virtually disappear when not in use.
When unpacked, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack transforms into a versatile day pack with a lot of great features.
Unpacked, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack is 17 x 9 x 7 inches and can hold up to 18 liters at full capacity. The stuff sack is sewn into the top of the pack, becoming a spacious internal organizational pocket large enough for a phone, wallet, sunglasses, charger, and other items that need to be convenient and accessible.
The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack has an external mesh side pocket designed to hold a water bottle, with enough room to carry a 1L Nalgene bottle. However, since this pocket is only on one side, a large water bottle may unbalance your load, and it would probably be more comfortable to carry 20-25 oz. of water instead.
Speaking of comfort, the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack has a deluxe AirMesh harness. The mesh straps are breathable and lightweight, but lightly padded and designed for comfort and durability. This proprietary harness system makes the Osprey more comfortable when loaded than similar ultralight stuff packs, even though it costs nearly an ounce of extra weight when packed. The difference may not be noticeable over short trips or with light loads, but after a few hours, or when fully packed, this harness truly shines, making it well worth the slightly heavier weight than similar stuff packs.
Thoughtful features like rugged YKK zippers, reflective printing, and a generous size that will fit nearly anybody make the Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack a fantastic option for day packs and day trips of all kinds.
- Extremely small and lightweight
- Converts to a full-sized day pack with generous capacity
- Side pocket for water bottle
- Internal organizational pocket
- High-quality durable materials, construction, zippers, and straps
- Comfortable, breathable harness
- Weighs slightly more than similar stuff packs
- Packs slightly larger than similar stuff packs
Osprey Packs Exos 58 Men’s Backpacking Backpack
Osprey is one of the most respected brands in outdoor gear, and their Exos 58 Backpack is a great example of why people love this brand so much. This is a true hiker’s backpack, with thoughtful design, rugged construction, and convenient features that make it a pleasure to use.
The Osprey Exos 58 Men’s Backpack is made of 100D high tenacity nylon, a resilient, lightweight material that keeps the weight of the pack to just about 2.5 lbs. It has a 4mm Lightwire alloy frame that boosts the suspension of this pack, keeping the weight off your back and enabling comfortable ventilation, and rugged YKK zippers. It has a 58=liter or 20-40 lb. carry capacity, which is ample storage for travel, hiking, and all kinds of outdoor adventures.
The Osprey Exos 58 Men’s Backpack has a removable top compartment that clips securely into place and gives you more options when packing and organizing your gear. The top pocket has a mesh pocket and key clip and can be carried separately as a small storage pocket if necessary. Beneath the removable brain is a flap jacket lid that provides extra protection for the main compartment.
The ExoForm mesh hip belt and harness provide excellent, breathable comfort, with padding and adjustable straps for the perfect fit.
While the main compartment of the Osprey Exos 58 Men’s Backpack is just a single space, the exterior of the pack is loaded with pockets, for lots of storage options. There are stretch pockets on the front and sides, for items you need to access on the move. It also has a loop for an ice ax, removable straps for a sleeping pad, and a trekking pole attachment that keeps your poles convenient and hands-free when needed.
The Osprey Exos 58 Men’s Backpack is compatible with the Osprey Hydraulics reservoir system, so you can easily carry up to 3 liters of water (the reservoir is sold separately).
The pack and side pockets have convenient compression straps, including the Osprey InsideOut system that secures your pack.
While the Osprey Exos 58 Men’s Backpack may not be spacious enough for extended backpacking with cold weather gear, it has plenty of room for warm weather hiking or extended travel in warm climates. It is particularly loved in hot and humid climates, where the AirSpeed suspension system provides excellent ventilation and heat dissipation on your back. It’s incredibly lightweight and versatile, with attachments, straps, and loops to conveniently carry a huge range of gear, or strip it down to the essentials and travel light.
The hip belt on the Osprey Exos 58 Men’s Backpack may wear uncomfortably if the backpack is the wrong size, or if the weight distribution is incorrect.
- Lightweight and compact, with excellent compression
- Internal suspension provides excellent weight distribution for comfort and ventilation
- Versatile organizing pockets, including a removable brain
- Straps and loops for a sleeping pad, ice ax, or trekking poles
- Internal hydration reservoir sleeve
- High-quality materials and construction for durability
- Side access pockets are extremely accessible
- Reservoir needs to be purchased separately
- No rain cover and it isn’t waterproof
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpacking Pack
The Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpacking Pack is designed with a sophisticated carrying system to make heavy loads comfortable and maximize endurance. Although it only comes in one size, the advanced Vari-Quick shoulder harness allows the pack to be adjustable and comfortably fit torsos from 15-21 inches, with pivoting shoulder straps that customize a unique, individual fit for everybody.
The Deuter Aircontact Lite weighs 4 lbs. 6 oz., with a 65-liter or 40-lb. capacity. The pack collar is extendable to add another 10-liter capacity on demand. The double-layer base is reinforced for additional abrasion resistance.
The Deuter Aircontact Lite has excellent organization, with generous dual stretch mesh pockets conveniently located on the hip belt, a large front stretch pocket, and a separate bottom compartment with a zippered divider. The lid is removable and height adjustable, so you can travel light or pack for longer journeys as needed.
It has stretch side pockets for water bottles but is also compatible with the Deuter hydration system (sold separately). Numerous accessory loops and attachment points hold plenty of gear, including ice tools or hiking poles.
What really sets the Deuter Aircontact Lite apart, however, is the unique Aircontact Lite carrying system. The weight of the pack is held close to the body, with ergonomic internal X-frame design that creates stability and efficient transfer of energy to reduce fatigue and improve comfort. The open chamber foam cushions on the back function to pump hot air away from the body with every step, while creating a central channel with a chimney effect down the center of the back. This unique airflow keeps the pack cool and comfortable while maintaining the optimal center of gravity for heavy loads.
The Deuter Aircontact Lite is perfect for weekend hikes, and can comfortably travel for 2-4 day trips. The extendable collar and removable lids are fantastic features, because they add capacity as needed, or can make the pack larger on the outbound journey, then collapse down smaller when you have less to carry. It is even backed by a limited lifetime warranty from Deuter.
- Generous capacity with extendable collar and removable lid for additional volume
- Carry system optimized for efficient body mechanics and transfer of energy
- Aircontact system dissipates heat and channels cool air down the back with every step for prolonged comfort
- Adjustable harness and comfort-lock belt adjust for an individualized fit for a wide range of heights
- Excellent organization and access to pockets and attachment points
- Reinforced bottom
- Hydration system compatible
- Hydration system needs to be purchased separately
- Does not come with a rain cover
TERRA PEAK Adjustable Hiking Backpack
The TERRA PEAK Adjustable Hiking Backpack weighs just under 4 pounds, with a 65-liter capacity. The extending collar and expanding pockets add another 20 liters of storage on demand. The padded ergonomic straps and breathable mesh back panel ensure lasting comfort, even on long hikes.
The TERRA PEAK Adjustable Hiking Backpack comes with a removable PE board in the hip belt, which adds stiffness and keeps the weight of the pack properly distributed. It also comes with a free rain cover, that fits neatly into a zippered rain cover pocket on the top of the bag.
This backpack has expanding side pockets with compression straps, as well as mesh side pockets, external and internal lid pockets, and a sleeping pad compartment with divider. Numerous tool attachment points, bungee cord system, and hypalon loops can hold all your gear, from a sleeping pad, helmet, tent, hammock, trekking poles, and more. It is also compatible with a hydration system (bladder sold separately).
The TERRA PEAK Adjustable Hiking Backpack is water resistant for light showers, and the included rain cover protects you in the event of heavier rain. It is backed by a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty.
With the expandable collar and a lightweight, the TERRA PEAK Adjustable Hiking Backpack is a great balance of weight with storage capacity, and an adjustable ergonomic frame that helps you carry heavy loads, even for long hikes. It can adjust to fit a wide range of body types and fits both men and women. It isn’t made of the most rugged materials, so it would be best to avoid over-packing this backpack or taking it into rough outdoor environments, but it’s a great choice for a light, versatile, spacious backpack that can handle rain and water.
- Water-resistant material and included rain cover
- Multiple pockets and attachment points to keep gear securely stored and organized
- Adjustable internal frame and strap systems for a great fit
- Thick padding and advanced 3D mesh for comfort with breathability
- Expanding collar adds another 20 liters of carrying capacity
- Compatible with hydration system
Not the most rugged or durable materials and components
Osprey Packs Aether AG 85 Men’s Backpacking Backpack
The Osprey Packs Aether AG 85 has an incredible 85-liter capacity with just 5 lbs. of weight, with enough storage for a whole week on the trail. Even better, the custom fit harness and anti-gravity suspension allows you to max this bag with comfort, even over long treks in the outdoors. The removable top lid doubles as a light, portable day pack, so this pack is truly 2-in-1, able to go anywhere you do.
The Osprey Packs Aether AG 85 has an antigravity suspension to help you comfortably manage heavy loads. The LightWire peripheral tension frame transfers weight comfortably, with top to bottom mesh suspension for an excellent fit. The IsoForm5 harness and CM hip belt are interchangeable, for a fantastic, custom fit. Internal and side compression straps keep all your gear secure and compactly packed.
The Osprey Packs Aether AG 85 has excellent organization, with a sleeping bag compartment that has a removable, zippered divider. The zippered pockets on the hip belt keep small items convenient and accessible. The DayLid can be removed, and the integrated flap jacket covers the pack when the lid is detached.
The removable DayLid transforms into a day pack with an air mesh harness and multiple strap positions for a comfortable fit. The compact day pack has an external hydration reservoir sleeve, an ice tool loop, and a small zippered front pocket.
The convertible DayLid/daypack makes the Osprey Aether AG 85 incredibly versatile; you can carry enough gear for a week of hiking and camping, but easily convert the lid into a smaller pack for short hikes and small side trips when all your gear isn’t needed. The Aether AG 85 is our choice for best backpacking backpacks for 2019.
- Very lightweight for the storage capacity
- Suspension system and custom fit harness make heavy loads comfortable and reduce fatigue
- Multiple pockets and attachment points for organization and convenience
- Convertible lid/lightweight day pack
Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack
The Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack can hold 60 liters or 35 lbs. on the frame, but the lightweight VC Mark 2 molded polypropylene frame is also removable when you want to save weight or space. However, the frame has an air-current design that allows air flow while saving weight, so you may never need to take it out. This versatile backpack has a lot of options for how it can be worn, allowing you to adjust as needed for comfort.
The Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack has a patented Re-Fit fully adjustable dual density hip belt, that can be removed as necessary. The sternum strap is also removable, as is the frame, and the lid.
The Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack is available in three torso sizes, and fit is important. The dual density shoulder harness is comfortable and ergonomic for long hikes and heavy loads.
It has lots of options for organization, including one main roll-top compartment, two large hip pockets, a stretch mesh front pocket, and storage in the removable lid. Side and front compression straps keep your belongings securely in place.
The Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack has a hydration port and internal hydration sleeve, and the pack is made of high tenacity water repelling ripstop nylon. It’s a lightweight, versatile pack that can easily be loaded up or stripped down, and take you everywhere you want to go in comfort.
- Comfortable mesh suspension makes loads ergonomic
- Removable frame, belt, and lid make it easily convert to a day pack
- Weighs 2-2.5 lbs. depending on torso size
- Water-repelling fabric keeps belongings dry
- Multiple pockets and attachment loops for gear
Torso sizes aren’t adjustable and can be uncomfortable for those between sizes
TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
The TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack has all the features hikers are looking for, at a remarkably low price.
The TETON Sports Scout 3400 has a 55-liter capacity and weighs 4.5 lbs. It is made of 600D ripstop nylon and 600D Oxford canvas for great durability. It has a multi-torso length adjustment for excellent comfort, with aluminum stays that can be accessed and adjusted. The open-cell foam lumbar pad and back airflow channel provide breathability, while contoured and padded shoulder straps and a wide, padded waist belt work with the internal frame to distribute weight correctly.
The TETON Sports Scout 3400 has multiple storage compartments and options. It has a separate sleeping bag compartment, zippable side pockets, gear loops, and bungee storage to carry anything you need for 2-4 days in the outdoors.
In case of bad weather, the TETON Sports Scout 3400 has a sewn-in rainfly that is easily accessible and tucks away when it isn’t needed. It is also hydration-ready, with space for a 3-liter hydration bladder. And it’s backed by a lifetime warranty.
- Durable material
- Separate sleeping bag compartment
- Integrated rainfly
- Not very rugged construction
- Not a lot of back support or internal suspension
Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 Liter Men’s Backpack
The Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 Liter Men’s Backpack is made with quality and attention to detail throughout. From the high quality nylon, water-resistant YKK zippers, and a TPU coated water-resistant side pocket for electronics, this backpack is made to last for years. This backpack has won multiple awards, and it’s easy to see why.
The Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 is made of 210D nylon and 420D high-density nylon. The medium size weighs 5.5 lbs., and it has a 65-liter capacity. It has an advanced suspension system, for a balanced, comfortable load. The back panel is vented and 3D formed, with silicone areas for stability and grip, and foam areas for padding and comfort. The 10mm LumbarTune insert is removable, for just the right amount of lumbar support and contour. The pre-curved harness and hip belt can be swapped for a custom fit.
The Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 has a weather-shielded hip belt pocket to keep valuables safe and close at hand. It also has two side-mounted gear pockets, a SideWinder bottle holster, and a sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider. The top-loading design has a U-zip panel for easy access, and the double barrel lid design has dual zippered top pockets and a security pocket beneath.
It comes with a free rain cover that tucks away into its own zippered pocket. And the ultra-light reservoir sleeve can be detached and used as a lightweight day pack.
From top to bottom, the Baltoro 65 is a rugged, versatile, useful pack that will take you on an adventure in style and comfort.
- Precurved, ergonomic harness with LumbarTune for excellent fit and comfort
- Advanced suspension and wishbone frame avoid pressure points
- Weather-resistant hip belt pocket
- Multiple pockets and storage options
- Comes with SideKick reservoir sleeve that doubles as a day pack
- Comes with custom-fit rain cover
- Quick swap harness and hip belt for a custom fit
Slightly heavy for the carrying capacity
Best Hiking Backpack Buying Guide
When looking for a hiking backpack, here are the most important things to keep in mind.
All good hiking backpacks should have an internal frame, to manage the suspension of weight. This keeps the backpack from leaning on your back, adding pressure and heat, and allowing you to carry heavy packs for longer and with more comfort. However, a frame system will always add some amount of weight, and the greater the carrying capacity of the pack, the heavier the frame itself will be. Look for the lightest possible frame that still gives you the comfortable support you need.
Backpacks are sized by the length of your torso, not by your overall height, and getting the right fit is crucial. Measure your torso and hip size, and use that to determine the right backpack size for your body. If you are in between standard sizes, it’s best to choose a backpack with the ability to adjust and fine-tune the length, so that you are able to get the right fit for your body.
Every hiker will have different preferences, particularly for pocket number, size, and placement. Some of the most desirable features of a backpack include:
An attached/included rain fly
If the rain fly is attached to the pack, it reduces the risk of losing it or not having it when it isn’t needed. On the other hand, it also takes up weight and space even when it isn’t needed.
A waterproof and weatherproof pocket is an increasingly common feature on a hiking backpack so that you can store phones and electronics, cash, and a few small items without exposing them to rain or spray in bad weather. In these pockets, look not just for water-resistant fabrics, but water-proof zippers and seams as well.
Trekking pole attachments
While most backpacks have loops where trekking poles can be attached, it’s preferable to have these poles stored in a way that keeps them at hand, so they can be accessed or stored without removing the pack. Many people are also using these loops for camera tripods and recording equipment, which should also be stored with quick access.
Keep in mind that the best backpack can still be bulky, heavy, and uncomfortable if it isn’t packed correctly and that your packing technique can override even the best designed most ergonomic pack. Remember to pack your bag horizontally, as though you are stacking your supplies, with bulky, heavy, and less-frequently used items on the bottom. Tall, vertical items should be attached to the outside of the pack, using a bungee or loop storage system. Stacking horizontally helps you compress your load, and also helps you remember to keep your load equally weighted on both sides.
While many hikers love generous water bottles and canteens, they are the item most likely to unbalance your load. All our best backpacking backpacks are compatible with a hydration system, and such systems not only give you a generous amount of water, but the weight is stored ergonomically and integrated into the pack, rather than weighing down a side pocket as a water bottle does. Experiment at home with packing strategies that work best for your supplies and your pack, to ensure that you get the most value and comfort from your hiking backpack.
Our top choice as the best hiking backpack is the Osprey Packs Aether AG 85 Men’s Backpacking Backpack. This pack and Osprey packs, in general, are always given top marks from experts and hikers of all levels. The Osprey Aether is incredibly lightweight for its capacity, with a comfortable fit and the legendary Osprey Anti-Gravity suspension system that makes managing your load easy and fights fatigue and back strain. It has excellent organization options, like zippered hip belt pockets, and the separate sleeping bag compartment, but with a removable divider for times when it isn’t needed. We love the removable lid that converts into a convenient, lightweight day pack for shorter trips. As always, happy camping!