If you love the great outdoors, then you may be spending a lot of your time hiking and traversing the wide open spaces and natural surroundings that are close to you. While spending the day trekking up the mountain or wandering through the forest is fun, for the truly inspired they need a good backpack.
For those of you who love to spend time in nature and like to do so for more than just an afternoon, a rugged and dependable backpack is essential to bring all of your necessities with you on your journey. Whether it’s a short weekend excursion or a week-long adventure, a pack will keep you well stocked and supplied until the very end.
As any hardcore backpacker will tell you, the best gear will make the best trips, because you won’t have to worry about discomfort or pain which can end a trip as soon as it starts. With hiking backpacks, you want to make sure that you get something comfortable and practical so that you can take it with you every time you go out.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best hiking backpacks you can find, as well as see what features you should be considering when making a final decision.
Table of Contents
65 + 10
If you are an avid outdoorsman, then you will probably want to get a pack that has sufficient size for a multi-day trip. However, if you’re more casual about your wilderness exploration, then a smaller bag should suffice.
When picking out the best pack, they usually measure the space in liters, so keep that in mind when choosing a size. Obviously, large-capacity models are designed for extended journeys, and vice versa. Pick a backpack that will fit everything you need comfortably without being too big and bulky.
While the main compartment size is important, added storage compartments can be just as crucial when you’re out on the trail. Some packs have specialized pockets for water bottles, valuables, and even hydro packs (so you can drink without a bottle). While it may seem prudent to get the bag with the most pockets, you want to make sure that each one is useful. It’s no good if you buy a pack with ten extra compartments if they are too small or flimsy to be of any help.
Another thing to look for is if there are straps for additional tools, like a hiking stick or an ice ax. Depending on the type of hiking you do you may need these kinds of supplies, so it’s better to get a bag that enables you to strap them on while keeping them convenient.
For most of us, our primary experience with backpacks is for school. While those are great for carrying books and other supplies for a few hours, they will be terrible at long journeys. The reason for that is all of the weight sinks to the bottom which puts a strain on your lower back and shoulders. To help alleviate this issue, you will need to get a pack that has a durable frame on the inside. This structure will keep the bag rigid, thus distributing weight more evenly throughout.
Also, you will need a hip belt to relieve pressure on your back. Make sure that the belt is tight enough to alleviate the weight without digging into your stomach or waist.
If you plan on traversing uneven terrain for hours on end, then you need to make sure that your bag won’t kill you on the way. Shoulder straps should have extra padding, as should the hip belt. For maximum comfort, be sure to get a model that has pads for lumbar support, so you aren’t experiencing any pinching or compression on your spine.
Another way to relieve pressure and make the pack feel better overall is to get a unit that has a chest strap as well. That will distribute the weight more evenly so you can go longer distances.
As far as outdoor brands go, Osprey is well-known in the hiking community as being one of the best. Although this is a women’s backpack, it should technically be unisex as it has everything you could want, regardless of gender.
This is an upgrade from the older model, which itself was a huge success. Osprey seems to have improved the previous design, which makes this one of the best bags you can get.
For most hikers, style is not as important as functionality. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a black or brown backpack for the trail. In this case, Osprey gives you plenty of options with three unique colors and four different sizes. You can choose from a bold red, a deep blue, or a military-grade tan color. Also, it comes in small, medium, large, and extra-large depending on your needs and your body type.
Serious backpackers will forgo the water bottle and instead opt for a hydro pack to stay hydrated on the trail. If you are that type of person, the Osprey has you covered with a specially designed hydro sleeve on the outside. The reason that it’s external is so you never have to worry about a leaky bladder getting water all over your stuff. If that’s ever happened to you, then you know what a bummer it is. The size of the sleeve is also good enough to keep you sucking down liquids all day long.
While the Osprey Ariel 65 is designed for rugged outdoorsy women, that doesn’t mean that it will weigh you down. One of the most important upgrades that came with this model is the lighter frame, which means that you can carry this pack all day without it digging into your back. Osprey has some proprietary technology going on, with a LightWire Frame and an IsoForm CM Hip Belt for better weight distribution. No matter which size you get, you are going to be impressed with how it feels.
Even if you’re out on the trail for just a couple of days, you need extra pockets to keep everything handy. In addition to the bladder sleeve you get pockets on the sides and your hip belt so everything is within arm’s reach. Best of all, you also get the option to place add-on packs up top so you can increase your storage capacity for a longer trip. Finally, there is a compartment on the bottom for your sleeping bag, so you’re never without it.
As we mentioned above Osprey is one of the premier names in outdoor equipment, and the Ariel 65 Pack is the gold standard for anyone looking to hit the trail in style. With a wealth of high-quality features and materials, you are sure to get the most out of your trip with this backpack.
The worst part about hauling gear in the woods is that you are traversing over uneven terrain. Walking ten miles across pavement is bad enough, but when you have to navigate around rocks and rough ground it can be so much worse.
Thankfully, the Altra 65 comes with a proprietary suspension system, so the bag conforms to your body as you move. This feature makes the unit much more comfortable and lightweight than other similar backpacks.
One thing that separates a good hiking pack from a day bag is the inclusion of an internal frame. In this case, the Altra 65 has two aluminum M-bars to keep the bag rigid, so you get better weight distribution. Best of all, these bars are designed to work with the suspension system, so they don’t dig into your back or become too uncomfortable after a day of hiking.
The other thing that makes this backpack so comfortable is that it comes with extra padding where it counts. The shoulder straps are soft and thick, and it comes with a similar hip belt so you can make the most of your excursion without feeling sore afterward.
As we’ve mentioned, style can make a decent bag great as it gives you the ability to add some flair to your experience. In this case, the Altra 65 gives you the choice of a black or red design, and you get two size options to fit your body frame better. Overall, this bag will have your name written all over it.
If you’re looking for a backpack that can withstand almost any weather or terrain, then the Arcteryx Altra 65 is an excellent choice. It is more comfortable than most other packs, and it is designed to help you keep going, even after a full day of hiking.
Our final backpack is the Appalachian 75 from High Sierra. This is yet another brand that is synonymous with the outdoors, and the Appalachian is one of the best bags you can get from this company.
That being said, it is one of the brand’s biggest units, so don’t get it if you want a day bag or aren’t planning on any week-long excursions.
As far as color schemes go, the Appalachian comes with a minimalist design which makes it both stylish and conservative. You can choose from black and gray, gray and yellow, or two shades of blue. Overall, it’s nothing too gaudy, but it does give you a splash of color, so the bag doesn’t seem so dreary.
Whereas all hiking backpacks come with some type of internal frame, High Sierra ups the ante by making its aluminum bars contour to your body. That way you still get the same benefits as you would with a standard frame but it won’t dig into your back or pinch anything during your trip.
The other thing that we like about this backpack is that it comes with extra comfort options to keep you hiking for longer. First, you have added lumbar support which molds into a soft and thick hip belt. Second, you get ventilated strips down the back for better airflow, so you don’t become a soggy mess by the end of your hike. Overall, you get tons of padding and comfort with this bag.
As we mentioned above, the Appalachian 75 is designed for long trips. In fact, the 75 refers to the size of the compartment, which can hold up to seventy-five liters. Also, you get plenty of side pockets for your convenience, and the main pouch uses a drawstring for quicker access. But don’t worry about rain. This pack has a folding top flap to keep water out and a rain cover that stores in the bottom.
If you’re a long-term backpacker, this is the unit you need. Enough said.
Another major player in outdoor equipment is Teton, which makes all kinds of rugged and dependable gear for any excursion you may go on in the wild blue yonder.
In this case, the Sports Scout 3400 is for those who like to travel light and don’t plan on being on the trail for more than a couple of days.
As with the Osprey model above, you get some style options with the Sports Scout, meaning that you can pick a bag that fits your personality. There are three unique designs, from a forest green to a radiant orange to an earthy brown. Don’t skimp on style just because you’re looking for something practical.
One of the best things that we like about Teton is that the company knows how to make a comfortable bag. In this case, you get a customizable torso fitting and cell-foam lumbar padding. Those combined reduce the strain on your back substantially so you can hit the trails all day long without feeling the pinch. Also, the bag has molded channels to direct air through it, so you don’t have to worry about your back being covered in sweat. At least, not as much as normal.
As we mentioned, the Sports Scout is designed for two to four-day excursions, which means that it’s lightweight and has exactly the amount of storage space you need. The material is thick and rugged and can handle being outdoors just as much as you. The only downside is that if you’re looking for something for a week-long trek you will have to find something bigger.
The other significant thing that we love about Teton is that the company offers a limited lifetime warranty. If you were wondering how durable this bag is, then that should give you some idea. Most businesses will only guarantee their products for a few months or a year at most, but Teton puts its money where its mouth is.
Overall, if you’re looking for a good day bag or something that you can take on weekend trips, the Sports Scout is your best option. Perfectly sized and more than capable it will be an indispensable addition to your gear.
The most noticeable thing about the Mountaintop bag is that you can get it in a wide variety of colors. Ten different designs mean that you can pick the best one that suits your personality. But don’t worry, just because the company highlights style doesn’t mean that the bag is second-rate. The colors that you can get are coffee, orange, blue, brown, purple, yellow, black, sky blue, gray and red.
The other noticeable thing about this bag is how tall it is. Compared to the other ones we’ve seen the Mountaintop towers over the competition. The central compartment can hold up to 75 liters, which is more than enough for a week-long (or two week) trip. On top of that space, you also get all the storage pockets you need, including a hydration sleeve, hip belt pocket, side pockets, and a sleeping bag compartment. Overall, you should have a place for everything.
As with all hiking packs, you get a sturdy metal frame on the inside so as to distribute weight more evenly and keep your back from collapsing under the weight. In this case, the frame is nothing remarkable, but it does its job well, meaning that you shouldn’t feel too much pressure on your spine, even after a full day of hiking.
The last thing that we like about this bag is that the material is already water resistant. While it won’t hold up in a storm, you won’t have to worry about light rain or spills seeping into your bag. For worse weather, it comes with a rain cover that protects everything. Best of all, the cover has its own storage compartment and is sewn into the bag, so you don’t lose it.
If you’re a hiker that likes to go out for days or weeks at a time, the Mountaintop Backpack is a fantastic option for you. The nearly unlimited amount of storage space and the sturdy frame make this a valuable addition to your gear.
When comparing all of the backpacks that we’ve seen, we have to classify the best ones as either short or long-term bags. With that in mind, we highly recommend the Osprey 65 for trips that last five days or less. If you want to take a longer journey, then the High Sierra Appalachian is your best bet, hands down. Both of these bags have the best quality materials and features that you will need on the trail. Otherwise you can choose from our best hiking backpacks enlisted above.
Feedback? Rate Below:
A passionate blogger! Editor at Chooserly, and a regular author at HuffingtonPost, LifeHacker & Forbes!