Best Hiking Backpacks Reviewed and Rated
If you want to have a successful hiking trip you need three things: a GPS device, good hiking boots and a good hiking backpack. Hiking backpacks are made to carry all of your essential items with you on a hiking trip. The old stereotype of carrying a 200 lbs. bag on your back doesn’t apply to most hikers, and surprisingly the market has made note of that. There will be some hybrid backpacks on the list that also double as good hiking backpacks, so be prepared for some surprises.
Our Top 3 Picks
- SBS zippers
- VENTURE PAL
- 11.2 ounces
When it comes to best hiking backpacks, Under Armour, Teton, Fjallraven Kanken and Speedo come to mind. Because hikers of different needs have changed how companies adapt to the market, there really isn’t a top dog brand. So while other industries are ruled by 3-4 major companies, hiking backpacks are spread thin across several.
Maintenance and Cleaning Tips
Common sense plays an important role here, with the best way to take care of your backpack coming down to unloading it within 24 hours of getting home. That means not throwing it in a corner with all of the dirty, wet and out of place items from your hiking trip. A backpack that is taken good care of can last for over a decade without any rips, tears or even moldy smells. But even if you do manage to let it sit out once in a while, no true harm will come to it-these backpacks are built for roughhousing.
10 Best Hiking Backpacks
1. WASING 55L
In the hands of an experienced, packer, they can fit in all of their materials with room to spare. If an experienced user gets their hands on this backpack, then they will still have room to spare! There is no such thing as running out of space with the 55L that this Wasing offers, even if you pack horrible.
Features and Specifications
Molded foam back panel
Two mesh bottle pouches
Front sleeping bag compartment
Two key hooks
Trekking pole attachment and bottom loops
This is the best value on the list, no question about it. At a low price you get almost quadruple the space, a highly durable backpack and a brand that can be trusted. Buyers that want a smaller backpack will be better off with another item on the list.
Going big with the Wasing 55L model is a smart choice if you’re going to be doing some serious hiking. The outdoors won’t be able to surprise you, and inside your backpack will be everything but the kitchen sink.
- Extension collar can expand to accommodate 5 extra liters
- Sternum strap comes with emergency whistle buckle
- Eight different torso length adjustments
- Can still carry on an airline
- Only weighs 3.5 pounds
- May be too big for some customers
2. OUTLANDER 20L/33L
Besides all of the usual color choices, Outlander is also offering this model in sizes 20L and 33L. The only difference between the two is their actual size, so customers won’t miss any important features if they go with the smaller model. And just to make a note, the 33L is a massive size upgrade from the 20L.
Features and Specifications
Comes in 9 different colors
Folds into zippered inner pocket
Two side pockets
Rip and water resistant
Abrasion resistant SBS metal zippers
Amazingly this is one of the lowest priced backpacks on the list, even at the #2 spot. Because of the attention to durability customers will get instant value on this purchase, along with a very strong warranty.
With a little more attention to including media compartments, then this Outlander backpack could have easily landed the top spot. Even without those compartments, there is a quality here with this model that should be respected.
- Nylon makes it light and strong
- Weak points are reinforced with bar tacking
- Several pockets to store things in
- 33L version is huge
- Warranty is ironclad
- No middle ground in sizes between the 20L and the 33L versions
- No dedicated laptop compartment
3. VENTURE PAL LIGHTWEIGHT
The reason the Venture Pal is so light comes from how it distributes weight. Good hiking backpacks don’t concentrate weight all in one area, and in this case they managed to throw in breathable mesh shoulder straps. And with the additional sponge padding for the shoulders it becomes the most pleasurable backpack experience of your life.
Features and Specifications
Tear and water resistant
Foldable into its own pocket
Folded dimensions are 9×8.5×2.2 inches
Unfolded dimensions are 20x13x7.5 inches
Weighs 11.2 ounces
Venture Pal has kept this backpack at an insanely low price for a while. The company is always good with pricing their equipment, although this ranks as the best priced. The bag is one of a kind, and a value worth having around the house.
Customers will find a use for this bag even if they aren’t big time hikers. At the price it would be a shame to pass up the deal of the century.
- Perfect for taking on flights
- More pockets than you know what to do with
- One of the most comfortable backpacks on the list
- Built from the ground up for multiple use
- Side pockets can hold water bottles
- No dedicated laptop space
- Depending on how you pack the material may be noisy
4. HIGH SIERRA LOOP
There are currently 32 different color combinations to choose from, all of them with a unique twist. High Sierra wanted to give the customers a chance to choose a design that is personal. And these are more than just plain colors mixed together, as each bag has a very nice shade that holds over the years.
Features and Specifications
Tablet computer sleeve
Monster hook and bottom straps included
Side compression straps are adjustable
Mesh beverage pockets
Sierra opted to keep this backpack at a low price which is one of the reasons it is so popular. Durable materials will protect your investment, even if it lacks water resistance.
With only three more to go on the list, the High Sierra Loop backpack has made a bit of a splash. All levels of users will have a good time using it for all purposes, even hiking.
- Colors are very well done
- Tablet sleeve is 12.5x11x0.75 inches
- Polyester is holds up well to abuse
- Multi-compartment design includes large pockets
- Backpack can have extra gear attached to it
- No laptop sleeve
- Not waterproof
5. SPEEDO TEAMSTER
Built in laptop sleeves for a backpack can be a bit of a hit or miss depending on the brand you choose. Speedo went all out and made sure that your equipment is 100% protected from the most dangerous outside elements. This model has the best laptop sleeve of any other hiking backpack on the list.
Features and Specifications
Up to 18 colors to choose from
Water resistant bottom on laptop sleeve
Abrasion resistant exterior
Removable dirt bag
Removable bleacher seat
Speedo is iconic as a brand even if people wouldn’t think to associate them with hiking backpacks. The price is low on this item, and it is about as big as you can get without getting a bag with a frame.
Trusting Speedo isn’t too hard considering they’re one of the leaders of the industry. Buyers that need a do it all pack will be just fine with the Large Teamster backpack.
- 35 liters is pretty generous for what it does
- There is no better protection for your laptop than inside this bag
- Durable material can take a lot of damage and drops
- Dirt bag is an ingenious idea and can even be used for wet items
- The bleacher seat is another one of those ingenious ideas
- A little heavy for its size
- Redesign of bag took away some cool features of the old design
6. TETON 3400
There’s nothing really technical about using a hiking backpack, although if you want to maximize the space in it there will be some trial and error. With the way the pockets and compartments are set up with this model, it’s easy to make use of all the extra room. There will be less user error to go around and more time getting ready for your big hike.
Features and Specifications
3400 cubic inches
Weighs 4.5 pounds
Large sleeping bag compartment
Multi-directional compressor straps
Limited lifetime warranty
Side mesh pockets
This one is a no brainer for all they are offering at a low-mid tier price. You’re getting everything that would be in a high end bag, although it could stand for a little more support. Once you realize how fun it is to use the dedicated compartments, it’ll be easy hiking from that point forward.
The Sports Scout 3400 is a great intro to hiking backpacks for beginners, and will help them out tremendously. With the price being so affordable, not considering this model would be a mistake.
- There is a space on this pack for anything
- Padded pocket keeps water bladder cool
- Has a lot of high end features without a high price
- Very low priced for what it offers
- Is one of the all-time top sellers in hiking backpacks
- Water bladder not included
- Some sleeping bags may not fit
7. G4Free Large 40L
What makes the G4Free backpack an ideal travel bag for backpackers with so many things to pack for a single trip is its capacious storage. This bag has a top loading sack designed with a drawstring lock. This unique feature allows user to fit more items into the back when needed or less slack if it is not packed to the brim. Unlike traditional bags, your packing is restricted to the limitations of the bag’s zipper lock. The bag’s main compartment has an integrated fabric divider and comes with a secured top double sided pouch for additional storage.
Features and Specifications
High 40 liters volume capacity for a foldable backpack
Very lightweight and convenient to use
Highly durable made from superior tear and water resistant nylon fabric proven for its long lasting performance and strength with minimal weight
For a backpack that is as versatile and durable as the G4Free backpack, this is actually very affordable too. It seldom happens that a bag this size comes with a very reasonable price even when it is sold online.
For backpackers who love to pack more things on their backpacks, this is definitely a good deal to consider.
- Heavy duty but lightweight
- Multicompartment and drawstring pouch
- High volume capacity
- Straps are not padded enough
8. TETON 1100
When you’re hiking the last thing you need to worry about is your backpack straps cutting into your shoulders. Little things like the straps not being able to be adjusted correctly and weird shapes make for an uncomfortable experience. The Sports Oasis 1100 cuts down on that problem by making it the perfect for men, women and children.
Features and Specifications
Replaceable hydration bladder
Fits all sizes
Comfort taped straps with notched foam stabilizer
Bungee cord system
At some point you will end up filling all of the space in this bag, even if it takes years. With its low price buyers will flock to it solely for all the space they’ll be given. Any fears about the durability should go away with the included limited warranty.
When you have a hiking backpack with more space than you know what to do with, then you have a winner. The Sports Oasis 1100 will fit anything you need for your next great hiking expedition.
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Hydration pack only weighs 2 pounds
- Three zipper pockets and two mesh pouches
- 1,100 cubic inches to fill
- Chest shock absorber works wonders
- Durable but could still use some work
- Won’t fit any laptop over 13 inches
9. Coreal Hiking
Within the main compartment of the hiking bag, there is a built in fabric divider that is further secured with a double sided pouch on top. This provides a perfect additional storage which can also be securely connected about the pack top using an adjustable strap to tighten or loosen slack if needed. The smart design of its double sided pouch can also be used for storing smaller items for better access and organization.
Features and Specifications
Made from heavy duty, highly water resistant rip stop nylon fabric
Top loading pouch designed with a drawstring lock
Can be folded into a very compact pouch when not in use for hiking
Unfold size: 21.56" x 11" x 7.87"
Folded size: 9" x 7"
Weight: 0.77lb with 35 Liter of storage space
The new 35L Coreal Hiking Foldable Backpack provides good value for your money considering all its features, attachments and quality of materials used.
If you want a lightweight and compact hiking bag that can store all your hiking essentials and gears for a single trip, the new 35L Coreal Hiking Foldable Backpack is an ideal hiking bag for you.
Heavy duty and water resistant materials
No waist strap
10. Mountaintop 5822III
What makes this hiking backpack from Mountaintop unique is its innovative design. This model comes with a nicely placed compartment dedicated for sleeping bags right at the bottom of the bag complete with compression straps located at the front that also serve a double purpose for carrying a sleeping mat or a tent. The straps are considerably padded and it comes with an adjustable elastic sternum strap so the bag moves with you.
Features and Specifications
Made from highly durable and relatively lightweight nylon materials
YKK Zippers and YKK Buckles
Shock corded toggle for attaching selfie sticks or trekking poles
Dedicated sleeping bag compartment
Bigger lid that adds about five liters or more of storage space
More often than not, the price of a hiking bag, regardless of its brand, usually depends on the quality of materials and the number of unique features. Overall, this hiking backpack is an incredible value considering all the additional features it has and the high quality of its design and materials.
If you want a compact yet very functional and heavy-duty hiking backpack, the Mountaintop 65L Hiking Backpack with internal frame can be a good option to consider for starters.
Heavy duty materials with innovative design
Considerable storage options and attachments
Slide-bar buckles instead of quick release buckles
The lower side compression straps are not raised enough
Criteria for Evaluation
What is the perfect hiking bag for you? Since there are no perfect generic models of hiking bag for everyone, your choice will depend on what you are actually doing and when and where you are planning to go not to mention the length of your hiking trip.
Also, you may need to know if the hiking bag you choose answers the following questions:
- Does it have the best quality of material?
- Is it waterproof?
- Is it durable?
Is the hiking bag easy to use and maintain?
- Does it meet customer satisfaction according to user reviews?
Understanding the answer to these questions will help you determine what what is the right backpack for you. Furthermore, you will also find it helpful to look for a backpack that properly fits with a suspension feature that can easily handle your body and carry the weight you place in it.
Quality of Material
Choosing a hiking backpack with the best quality of material is important especially when you are planning to use it on all your outdoor activities trips. From the outer canvass to zippers and suspension system, the quality of the materials used on the bag will determine its durability and overall function. We have considered several options based on diversity and quality of materials that are most ideal for activities that require a lot of movement and walking.
Although it is not necessary that a backpack is one hundred percent waterproof, it is still important to consider the water resistance of the bag. There are bags that are only semi-waterproof while other models come with external tarps you can wrap around the bag in case of a heavy downpour. We have here several options you can consider in terms of the hiking bag’s water resistance capacity, such as the Under Armour and Speedo options.
The hiking bag you will choose will be subjected to harsh conditions not to mention heavier loads which are its primary purpose. Just like with anything, the durability is very important because it will technically be the main factor in determining for how long your bag will used. In this regard, we have taken the liberty to prepare a list of hiking bags with higher ratings when it comes to the bags durability and resistance to wear and tear that is only natural for these things.
Ease of Use/Maintenance
When you go on a hunting trip or hike, your backpack will be the only thing that will be carrying all your important gears and camping stuff. For this, it is important to choose a model that is not too complicated to use and very easy to maintain and store every after your hunting trip is over. We have made a selection of options with different levels of ease of use and maintenance depending on the number of features that a particular model has.
When everything seems so difficult because there are simply a lot of factors you need to consider, reading several user reviews can significantly help in narrowing down your options. In this guide, we have prepared several options based on the diversity of user reviews and customer satisfaction, more specifically, those who have already tried the product.
How to Pack a Hiking Backpack Efficiently
When efficiently packed, your backpack can carry an amazing assortment of things and gears. But how do you pack a hiking backpack efficiently and know what goes where? The truth is, there is no single ideal way to pack it. The first step to any efficient packing is laying out all the gears and stuff and trying various loading and packing sequences until you are able to find the ideal packing routine that will work best for you. You may also want to make a hiking checklist to make sure you have everything.
Below are some packing tips and explanations on the right way to pack your hiking bag.
Your packing can be divided into three different levels or zones in addition to peripheral storage:
- Base Level: Ideal for bulkier gear and other similar items that are not needed until you set up camp.
- Midpoint: Ideal for your more compact or heavier items to provide balance.
- Upper Level: Ideal for other bulkier hiking essentials you need to use while you are on the trail.
- Accessory compartments: Ideal for small essentials you will need immediately or frequently.
- Lash-on points and tool loops: Ideal for overly long or oversized items that will take up too much space inside the bag.
Envision a stackwall construction. You are setting up rows and not forming columns. Stuff empty recesses and crannies up until you complete a stable and solid load although you need to make sure that the weight is balanced equally on both sides. Tauten the compression straps to make your load more efficient and keep it from shifting while you are hiking.
Bigger and bulkier items that you won’t need before you set up camp often include but not limited to:
- Sleeping bag if your hiking bag does not have a bottom compartment for this gear.
- Sleeping pad that can be rolled into a smaller dimension
- Any layers or sheets that you are planning to sleep in when you reach camp
- Down booties or camp shoes
When you pack these soft, yielding items at the base of your hiking bag, it will create a sort of internal padding or shock absorption system for your pack and your back as well.
Heavier and denser gears that are not needed while you are hiking often include:
- Food supply excluding refreshments and nibbles you will need along the way
- Cooking kit and supply
- Camping stove if you plan to bring some
- Water supply except when you prefer water bottles for your hydration
- Bear container where all scented items including feed are contained including other bulkier items that will help in filling the pack to the brim
Packing heavier items on the midpoint level of your hiking backpack helps in creating a more stable center of gravity and focuses the load below and the weight of your pack will not pull you backwards. When these heavy gears are placed too low, it causes your pack to sag and if placed too high, it will make your hiking bag feel tipsy or unsteady.
When carrying a liquid fuel for your camping stove, make sure that you fully tighten the bottle cap. Pack it upright and put it below and away from your food. Think about wrapping softer items around bigger stuff to keep it from shifting. Make use of these soft items to congest the nook and crannies while creating a cushion or barrier between bulky items and a water tank:
- Tent frame or canvass
- Tent outline
- Rain fly or the flysheet of your tent
- Additional clothing
Do not forget that when you try to slip a full water tank or reservoir into a packed hiking bag can be very difficult. It is more ideal to fill up the reservoir first and put it in your pack even if it has a compartment of its own.
The upper level of your pack is also ideal for bulky hiking essentials such as:
- rain jacket
- insulated coat
- water purifier and or filter
- first aid kit
- toilet supplies including TP bag and trowel
Some hikers also place their tents on top of the backpack for fast and easy access if they need to set up camp immediately should stormy weather comes in.
Accessory compartments are ideal storage for smaller essentials because it provides easy and fast access every time you need it. However, different models of hiking backpacks may also have different accessory compartments like front pockets, lid pockets and side pockets. Some models may also have hip or belt pockets. Some these pockets may also include smaller pockets on the inside but all these options are there to help you better organize smaller items such as:
- Map and compass
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm
- Headlamp and other camp lighting essentials
- Insect spray
- Hydration bottles
- Rain cover
- Car keys (look for a clip inside one of the pockets)
- Identification cards and cash stash
- Lash On Points and Tool Loops
When you are hiking, it is only naturally to bring some hiking tools and other important gears that will help you on the trail but may not fit in your hiking bag. This is my most backpacks and hiking bags come with tool loops and lash on points so you can strap any of the following:
- Hiking or trekking poles
- Tent shafts
- Bulky sleeping pads
- Camping stool or chair
- Ice axe when hiking during winter season
- A crampon or any traction device that you attach on your shoes to improve mobility on ice and snow during winter hiking
Most hiking backpacks come with special tool loops, buckles, fasteners and clasps or other storage options for different types of hiking gears. Compression straps, lash patches and daisy chains can be utilized to squeeze in gears that cannot be put on other sections of your pack. But on the other hand, you must remember that there is always the possibility that these gears on the outside of your pack may snag on tree branches or rub against rocks while you hike so you must minimize the number of bulky items you want to secure outside your hiking backpack.
Are internal/external frames required for a good hiking backpack?
Only if you plan on carrying excess weight on a multi-day trip. The reinforced frames are for carrying a lot of weight for long periods of time and shifts some of the stress away from your own body.
There are several frame types to choose from on any hiking bag models in the market today. If you want to go extra light, your option would be the frameless hiking bag. There are also hiking bags with an internal frame that helps provide stability when hiking on uneven terrain. These models often integrate an assortment of load support system designed to shift the load from the back to the hips. If you are planning to bring an irregular and heavier load like an inflatable kayak for your hunting trip, hiking bags with an external frame is an ideal choice because it offers plenty of organization options for your gears and good ventilation.
Can putting my laptop in a backpack without a dedicated place hurt it?
Some of the backpacks on the list have special cushioned places just for laptops. If you purchase a bag without it, simply by a sleeve for your laptop and put it in the bag where weight won’t constantly be on it.
Will the airline let me bring my backpack aboard?
Yes, as long as it meets size guidelines. No, if it contains anything on the ban list.
Is it more practical to own a hybrid backpack?
In a perfect world, yes, but there simply is no replacement for a backpack with an internal/external frame. There is no way you can fit an incredible amount of weight in a hybrid without adding stress to the backpack and your body. There is room in the industry for both, which is why people usually buy one of each.
What size of bag do I need?
The size will depend on how long your trip will be and the weight and bulk you are capable of carrying. For weekend hunting or activities that often last from one to three nights, a sturdy 30 to 50 liters hiking bag is ideal. Efficient hunters using more modern and less bulky hunting gears can really pack things light on one to three days hunting trip by using a hiking bag of this range. But you need careful planning and self-discipline if you want to pack things light because you need to carefully choose the gears you need to bring as well as your clothing.
What type of backpack is preferable for extended hunting trips?
For extended trips that go as long as five days or more, the ideal hiking bag is not smaller than 70 liters. These bag sizes are also preferable during winter because its size can accommodate additional clothing, a four season tent that comes with extra poles and a warmer sleeping bag.
How heavy should the backpack be?
How heavy your hiking bag should be is relative. Every person is unique and it is important to spend some time discovering the optimum pack weight. For example, some people may carry a twenty seven pound hiking bag which is good for a seven day pack and the overall weight is still optimum for them.
Is it important to consider ventilation?
There are hiking bags that feature a back panel with suspended mesh to work against the sweaty back syndrome which normally happens with hiking bags with internal frame that usually ride against the back. Also known as “tension-mesh suspension,” this is designed like a trampoline which allows the frame supported bag to be carried several inches from the back and rests on top the highly breathable mesh. There are also bags built with ventilation chimneys that helps promote better air flow because it is built right into the back panels of the bag.
How To Make The Best Decision When Choosing A Hiking Backpack
This one is going to get tricky since there is still a controversial divide between the casual backpacker, the lazy hiker and the determined hiker. Hiking backpacks come in all shapes and sizes, and not all of them have internal/external frames. Would it make sense to bring a huge 55L hiking backpack on a 1 day hike? Hybrid backpacks have become popular because of this, and it isn’t unusual to see people use the same backpacks for school that they use for hiking. Hiking backpacks over the years have become merged with ‘multipurpose’ backpacks. The best choice in buying one will depend heavily on the type of hiker you are. Finally, regardless of your backpack choice, always make sure to leave some room for an emergency kit, just in case something goes wrong.