The 10 Best Hiking Backpacks

Updated May 16, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

10 Best Hiking Backpacks
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. Backpacks are absolutely essential to any wilderness adventure, and the right one can make an outdoors experience infinitely more enjoyable. There's a variety of designs that complement different hiking styles, so we've gathered the best models to fill any traveler's needs, based on target weights, carrying volume, and the long-term comfort of the harness and suspension. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best hiking backpack on Amazon.

10. OutdoorMaster 50L

Good for short wilderness excursions, as well as everyday travel to school or work, the OutdoorMaster 50L is one of the least expensive ways to put supplies on your back, and though it can't hold a lot of weight, it is versatile and easy to organize.
  • padded slot for laptops up to 15 in
  • makes great carry-on luggage
  • limited support and cushioning
Brand OutdoorMaster
Model FBA_800197
Weight 2.2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Osprey Xenith

The Osprey Xenith is a great way to haul over 100 liters of equipment, without shelling out big bucks for high-end mountaineering gear. Whether you're traversing Denali, or just carrying most of the family's load, this one has plenty of room for the job.
  • carries 75 pounds with relative ease
  • oversized for day trips
  • somewhat limits mobility
Brand Osprey
Model Osprey Packs
Weight 6 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

8. Deuter Speed Lite

The low-profile and ergonomic Deuter Speed Lite is a favorite among day trippers and trail runners, thanks to its light weight, its durability, and the surprising amount of support and comfort its flexible U-frame provides.
  • compatible with hydration systems
  • aerodynamic and clutter-free shell
  • doesn't have much hip padding
Brand Deuter
Model D3410418-7000
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. High Sierra Summit

The 45-liter High Sierra Summit is perfect for your first foray into wilderness adventures, combining a mid-range capacity, a sturdy internal frame, and a very low price tag, resulting in a great entry-level choice for the beginning backpacker.
  • classic and time-tested design
  • limited external access
  • not the most comfortable suspension
Brand High Sierra
Model 58450-3056
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

6. Thule Stir

Reasonably priced for such a fine item, the Thule Stir is a sleek personal cargo carrier that's great for trips in any weather, thanks to a waterproof liner and a built-in fly, which eliminate the leaking problems that occur with standard rain covers.
  • zippered side-access slot
  • removable chest and waist straps
  • almost no external storage
Brand Thule
Model 211400
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Ultimate Direction Fastpack

Essentially a hybrid trail-running vest, the Ultimate Direction Fastpack will streamline your trekking with multiple easy-access front pockets, and its body-conforming design makes it ideal for moving quickly through challenging terrain.
  • available in 15-l to 45-l capacities
  • weighs well under 2 pounds
  • no internal frame support
Brand Ultimate Direction
Model 80457117_Au_SM
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. Osprey Atmos

Routinely spotted in national parks as well as international airports, the Osprey Atmos is one of the most popular models ever, and for good reason. Its 65 liters are enough space for days' worth of gear, and its suspension system is as balanced as they come.
  • includes free repairs for life
  • back panel offers superb ventilation
  • accommodates loads of 50 lbs or more
Brand Osprey
Model 015265-544-2-MD
Weight 4.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Teton Scout

You won't spend a fortune on your first through-hike if you start with the Teton Scout, a no-frills and highly resilient piece of equipment. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg, yet it does let you heft all the gear you need for a weekend in the woods.
  • simple yet very comfortable hip belt
  • for novice and intermediate hikers
  • backed by a lifetime warranty
Brand Teton Sports
Model 161
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

2. Granite Gear Crown 2

The Granite Gear Crown 2 boasts one of the highest capacity-to-weight ratios on the market, and it does so without sacrificing functionality or stability. Plus, unlike many ultralight options, it can support 35 pounds or more comfortably.
  • perfect for overnight or day trips
  • highly water-resistant nylon
  • two large zippered waist pouches
Brand Granite Gear
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Osprey Exos

There's plenty to say about the Osprey Exos, one of the lightest, coolest, and most carefully engineered backpacks of all time. Though it weighs only a touch over 2 pounds, it offers support and long-term wearability unlike most others.
  • beloved by ultralight enthusiasts
  • holds up to 40 pounds
  • built for efficient weight transfer
Brand Osprey
Model 33948-505-LG-Parent
Weight 2.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

Get Your Gear From Here To There: The Hiking Pack

For the dedicated outdoor enthusiast, a hiking pack is more than just a way to haul gear on a trail; it is a deeply personal piece of equipment that becomes an integral part of your life. The right pack not only feels good on your back, but in fact makes you feel good each and every time you swing it up onto yourself and cinch those straps tight.

And contrary to common misconception, a great hiking pack need not cost a great deal of money. There are plenty of excellent packs available that cost less than a hundred dollars, in fact. There are even decent packs that cost less than fifty bucks.

This, though, is a case where price shouldn't be the leading factor in your consideration. A great hiking pack is the pack that's right for you, not one that costs the most and has lots of fancy attributes on paper. If a pack has the right amount of storage space (usually measured in liters or cubic inches) for your needs, a suspension system that appeals to you and suits your body shape, and offers a distribution of pockets you find appealing, then that's the pack for you.

Of course, there are a few details to weigh.

If you're a day hiker who prefers shorter loops, then consider a summit style pack; many hiking packs that distribute loads evenly over your person in fact add weight unnecessarily if all you needed to carry along was a bit of water and a layer or two.

If you're headed into the deep woods for a multiple day trip, however, then a bigger bag is crucial. But consider one that can be adjusted easily to a smaller size as your food is consumed or can be enlarged to accommodate layers of clothing you remove. Keeping your bag tightly packed ensures an even weight distribution that will help keep you balanced.

And to state the obvious, if you're headed into a climate where wet weather is likely, make sure your pack is water resistant. Most are, sure, but some aren't, and wet gear is a great way to ruin a trip.

How To Choose The Right Hiking Pack

Any decent hiking pack is adjustable in several different ways. But not every pack can be adjusted enough for every hiker, so do your research before you buy.

Hiking packs can be adjusted to accommodate various torso lengths, often adjustable as many as six inches. This adjustment usually involves adding or reducing the distance between the shoulder straps and the waist belt. Ideally you can find a hiking pack that fits you perfectly in its middle setting, e.g. a pack that accommodates torsos between 18" to 24" while your ideal setting is 21". That's the case because minor adjustments during the course of a hike can shift where you concentrate the load, from waist to shoulders, giving various parts of your body little breaks from time to time.

The waist belt itself is critical, as most of a pack's weight is carried on your hips. Make sure you choose one that fits you comfortably while still offering plenty of opportunity for tightening or loosening.

Also consider the type of padding on the back. Softer pads may seem like a draw at first, but they might also soak up sweat and hold heat, for example.

How To Pack That Pack

The way you load your hiking pack should be dictated by the type of hike at hand. If you're going on an overnight (or multiple night) trek, then you're going to have sleeping gear and a shelter of sorts, and these items will only need to be accessed once a day, thus they can be loaded into the bottom of the bag.

If you anticipate rain, keep your poncho or other foul weather gear easy to grab, as getting wet is both unpleasant and radically increases the risk for hypothermia in all seasons. Water purification systems and first aid gear should always be readily available. That of course goes for your water supply itself, too, and your camera.

But beyond those few items (water, emergency gear, e.g.) that you need to access readily and at times quickly, the most important factor when it comes to packing is weight distribution, not accessibility. You need to keep the bulk of your heavy gear as close as possible to the small of your back. That helps to keep it near your center of gravity, which means better balance. Better balance, in turn, means more safety and less fatigue, both crucial factors when you're out in the wilderness.

If you're hauling lots of extra water, go ahead and load it low in the bag. If you have lots of clothing for layering purposes (or simply because you're out in the cold) get that up near the top of your load, as it's lighter weight. And be sure to give your pack a few good shakes and bounces once you have loaded, and then check its weight distribution again: things shift around as you move, and even a pack that seems properly loaded can quickly become off balance. Take the time to readjust or even repack during breaks; your back, and the rest of your body, will thank you.

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Last updated on May 16, 2018 by Christopher Thomas

A traveling chef, musician, and student of the English language, Chris can be found promoting facts and perfect copy around the globe, from dense urban centers to remote mountaintops. In his free time he revels in dispelling pseudoscience, while at night he dreams of modern technology, world peace, and the Oxford comma.

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