For travel addicts, a good backpack is a companion that allows you to get the most comfort and convenience of your adventurous life. Among thousands models and brands in the today's market, how can you pick up the best backpack for your trips? In this article, I will show you my 10 best hiking backpack reviews from my real-life experience in traveling for 5 years.
And before we get started, please note that this article is only for your reference. You should also check your conditions based on my below buyer's guide to get the most suitable backpack on your own.
The Best Hiking Backpacks
First, here is the overview of my 10 best hiking backpacks.
Last update on 2018-03-09 at 11:04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API / Amazon Disclosure
Buyer's Guide To Getting The Best Hiking Backpack:
First of all, there is no perfect backpack for everyone. Each backpack is designed to support a particular body fit type. To purchase the best hiking backpack on your own, you should define what you need in an ideal backpack, based on your body shape and travel conditions.
Volume is the capacity of a backpack. The higher the volume, the more stuff a backpack can carry. If you have a short day trip with your friends at school, choose a minimal one that carries your most essential stuff.
But if you take on a long trip which can be extended to more than 3 nights, pick up a bigger one to carry your belongings. You should acknowledge that although a 40-liter backpack can store more stuff than a minimal 30-liter one, it can sometimes bring discomfort for you when you have to carry it for long hours.
Here are some average backpack volume based on the trip length. The volume is calculated by liters:
- 15-30 liters: school day hiking trip
- 30-50 liters: 1-2 nights
- 45-55 liters: 2-3 nights
- More than 55 liters: long trips (usually more than 3 nights)
If you are too lazy to calculate, the most common volume for a hiking backpack is 30 liters. Based on this volume standard, you can count extra space in some individual cases.
For example, if you are a trip lead (in a hiking club or a family), you may have to get a bigger volume to carry extra gears and clothes for other members of your team or your kids. You should choose a backpack with the volume around 40 liters.
An important criterion when considering to buy a hiking backpack is your activities. Note down the activities that you can do when on the trips when picking up a backpack that most fits with that list.
For a day hiking trip, you should choose a backpack around 30 liters in volume. This backpack is appropriate for you to carry essential belongings for a day. This backpack should have small side pockets to store handy stuff (mobile phone, map, sunglasses, candies if you need sugar for your blood flow.
My current day hiking backpack has side pockets that are flat or stick to the backpack, and only seize up when I wedge them into place. I guess there should be more similar models with this pocket style! Choose a backpack with compartments (either slots or pockets) to store small items. This backpack should be able to carry a small water bottle).
If you go on mountain climbing, a 40-liter backpack is your best choice. To support long and rough terrain, this backpack should have a narrow profile. Since you will have to carry this backpack for at least few hours, only choose those with paddle backs or frame sheet for your comfort with heavy stuff.
A long run needs a small yet compacted backpack. The volume size of this backpack type is only around 25 liters. It should have hydration system to carry a water bottle and some snacks to maintain your energy while on the run. I highly recommend you to pick up a waist pack, because it is not easy to shift. Furthermore, this backpack type allows your perspiration to dry out quicker than any other backpacks.
For an overnight trip, choose a backpack with minimal style (around 30 liters). This backpack should have paddles or frame sheet to support your load. If possible, choose one with 1 to 2 aluminum stays for comfort when you have to carry a heavy burden.
Material differentiates a backpack. So what to consider about a backpack’s material? Fabrics and Coatings.
There are many types of fabrics. Below are some common ones that I have used in over 5 years of traveling.
Nylon (or nylon twill) is the most common material for many backpacks on the market. It is waterproof and sweat-persistent. You can easily recognize a nylon backpack through the sturdy diagonal weave. A combination of nylon and polyester is for backpacks with various color. It is only for fashion purpose, so you can choose a functional one from nylon or go for nylon/polyester mix.
Ripstop nylon brings extra protection to your belongings for at least 10 miles of hiking. This fabric holds your stuff in one single shape. But what keeps this fabric apart from others is its waterproofness. You can put a ripstop nylon backpack into the water without worrying about getting wet.
PVC is also a widely used fabric in the backpack world. I rate PVC as the best fabric for backpacks. It is far more water-resistant than nylon or silicone, and it can be used for years without tearing. Some PVC hiking backpacks are even fire-resistant!
Hypalon is used like flexible rubber for high abrasion areas of a backpack, like edges or touch points. But it is rarely used as a whole fabric due to its weight.
Silicone is often used to make lightweight or super lightweight hiking backpacks to reduce weight. But this material is not as durable as nylon. It is easy to break and not water-resistant.
Coatings are the internal walls of the backpack. You can see your backpack's coatings by looking on the inside. There are 2 materials for coatings: Polyurethane (PU) and Silicone.
PU is the most popular coating material when it comes to hiking backpacks. A PU coated backpack is water resistant, that is why it is commonly used for travel addicts worldwide. But this coating is not waterproof at all! That says, if you put this backpack into the water, your clothes and digital gears inside can get wet.
Although this fabric has higher tear strength than a nylon one, it is easier to break and less water resistant than a PU coating.
Loading determines how you pack your stuff in a backpack. There are two types of loading for hiking backpacks: Top loading and Panel loading.
Almost all camping or hiking backpacks are designed with top-loading. A top loading backpack has a funnel weight. That says, all the heaviest pieces of stuff are below, and lightest ones are on the top. Sometimes everything got mixed up without any rules. The weight is not well-balanced, and it can cause back pains for you in the long run.
Top loading makes it hard to take stuff out of the backpack. If you need to take your phone charger out, but it lays down in the bottom of your backpack, then you have to unpack to take the charger out, then pack your stuff back again. This wastes your time and not convenient if you have to pack and unpack multiple times in public places.
Panel loading is more back-friendly than top loading. This loading type allows you to pack your stuff just like a suitcase, while you still have the flexibility of a backpack. When you can see the overview of the inside, you have more convenience to arrange your stuff and calculate the weight. A panel loading backpack provides more for balancing stuff' weight, thus reduce the suffering from back pains. A second strong plus of panel loading is that you can quickly access your stuff without digging to the bottom of the backpack, or unpack everything out to get a small object.
A good hiking backpack must be proportional to your body. If you have to carry a backpack that is too big, then you can suffer from back pain in the long run. And you do not either want to wear on a small backpack that is not enough to carry your stuff.
So it sounds complicated to know what is the perfect body fit, doesn't it? A personal tip of mine is that you should calculate the average amount and sizes of stuff that you plan to carry with you on trips. A suitable backpack should be able to store enough or a little bigger than your total stuff's size, but not too big.
Second, make sure that your backpack is well matched with your torso length. The backpack’s length should below your C7 vertebra bone and above hips' iliac crest. Use your hand to check your 2 bones on the back, then use a measuring tape, or mark points on the wall to know the right length for your backpack.
Please notice that torso is not related to your height. A tall person can still have a short torso. When you pick up a backpack that matches with your torso length, you will avoid back pain problems. In the backpack market, there are some pack models with fixed length, and others with flexible lengths. That means you can adjust the backpack length as you want.
The best shoulder straps should be comfortable for your body shape. They do not need to be so thick since most of the weight should be transferred to the hip belt. These straps should have soft paddles to support heavy loads. And the strap's wide should not be too thin. Because a thin strap will hurt your shoulders if you carry it for a long time.
Hip belt and shoulder straps work together to balance the weight and avoid back pain problems. Please double check to make sure that the belt is long enough to fit around your tummy. And top important note: don't buy a fixed length hip belt! You should choose a hip belt with adjustable length.
Top Rated Hiking Backpack Reviews
TETON Sports Explorer 4000 - Durable travel mate for long trips (Editor's Choice)
Explorer4000 is my first hiking backpack for long trips. This travel buddy is best suitable for a journey from 2 to 5 days. With the total capacity up to 65 liters, there is a lot of full space to carry your hiking gears and personal belongings. What sets this backpack apart from other low-quality ones is that it is equipped with a multi-level torso adjustment to fit with various people from 5’1” to 6’4”.
The narrow profile design makes Explorer4000 fit with both men and women of almost all body sizes. This backpack consists of multiple compartments to detach additional parts. A built-in side pocket is ready to store your tent poles. For minimal backpackers who needs a small space for sleeping at night, you can also bring your favorite sleeping bag in the attached compartment.
Don't be scared of its big size! This backpack provides the maximum comfort for your shoulders and back. The padded waist belt supports heavy load for your back. Furthermore, 2 multi-directional compression straps with soft foam padding and molded channels comfort your shoulders when you have to walk for long hours. The air circulation system with 1-inch lumbar pad and 2 thick mess cover shoulder pads quickly dry your perspiration.
Some friends of mine have a problem with the shoulder straps. They complained that the straps are easy to slick when they use it for few months.
- Maximum comfort support
- Multiple compartments for hiking gears
- Adjustable torso length
- The straps are easy to slip out of shoulders
Outlander 20L/33L - Compact solution for any day trips
If you are seeking a super small hiking backpack for a day trip, this compact friend is the right one for you. This tiny backpack weighs only 0.46 pounds, and 20 liters (or 33 liters) in volume to store few important stuff. The unique point of this Outlander backpack is that you can fold it into a small inside zippered pocket so that you can put it in your suitcase or another backpack to use instantly.
Don’t overlook the size and weight of this bag! Although being small and lightweight, it still meets the minimum requirements of any hiking addicts. This daypack consists of 6 compartments. There is one main compartment (the center one), two front zipper pockets to store small stuff like tissue papers or candies. If you plan to bring iPod or mobile phone or money, you can put them in a small internal zippered pocket to keep them safe. In addition to the biggest compartment, there are two side pockets for an umbrella, raincoat or water bottle.
The downside of this backpack is that it is too small for covering essentials for an average hiking trip (even a day trip!).There is also not enough support for your back bones. So if you reach its maximum volume size, you will probably suffer from back and shoulder pains if you have to carry this backpack for long hours.
- Multiple compartments
- Not enought support for back and shoulders
- Too small for even a day trip
TETON Sports Scout 3400 - Maximum support for heavy loads
Come as the younger brother for the TETON Sports Explorer 4000, Scout3400 is considered an excellent choice for a medium trip from 2-4 days. This backpack consists of multiple compartments, which are flexible for strategic packing. The main compartment is securely locked with 2 barrel lock drawstrings.
The reason why I choose this backpack is its durability. This travel mate is made from 600D diamond ripstop nylon and 600D oxford canvas shell, which is water and tear-resistant. For the extra water protection under hard rains, you can open the integrated rainfly near the hip belt. If you have to carry this backpack as cabin baggage, this yellow rainfly can also protect your stuff from other suspicious travelers.
A big downside of ALPS OutdoorZ is that there is no hydration system with easy reach, and all compartments are not suitable for holding a water bottle. You can find difficulties to get hydrated with this backpack.
- Maximum support for back and shoulders
- Water-resistant and durable fabrics
- Multiple compartments for hiking equipments
- Too big for carry-on luggage
ALPS OutdoorZ - Your travel-sized home on the run
This OutdoorZ backpack from ALPS is specially designed for those who enjoys hiking and hunting for wild animals. This backpack contains multiple compartments with top loading style. There is one big main compartment with top loading style, 2 side pockets for accessories, front pocket to store small objects, and a spotting scope pocket.
The compartments are removable to fit specific needs of yours. All the back bags are removable based on your hiking demands. On the top of the main compartment, you can extend storage if needed with the spindrift collar.
This backpack is attached to a metal frame. This frame is often served to hang stuff near your tent at night. If you do not need this frame, you can leave it at home. On the front, there is a zipped wing pocket to keep your weapons safe when hauling. This pocket is best fit for rifles or handguns.
Its durability and strength is the result of the premium charcoal ripstop nylon fabric. This material allows the backpack to handle your stuff under any harsh weather conditions in forests or mountains.
A big downside of ALPS OutdoorZ is that there is no hydration system with easy reach, and all compartments are not suitable for holding a water bottle. You can find difficulties to get hydrated with this backpack.
- Removable compartments and metal frame for strategic packing
- Durable and tear-resistant ripstop nylon
- Contain weapon holder
- The top loading is not convenient to take out small stuff
- No hydration system
Venture Pal Daypack - Basic travel mate for light trips
If you are looking for an essential hiking backpack for your day trip or school camping, then this 35-liter Venture Pal Daypack should be in your wishlist. This compact backpack is made of tear and water resistant material. You do not have to bring extra plastic bags to keep your stuff secured under rainy weather (it is not environment-friendly at all, you know that!).
This backpack is flexible to go with multiple compartments: one main zipped compartment in the center, 2 front pockets to store small objects like tissues, rubber bands, dry hand sanitizer, medicines, etc. Besides those compartments, there is also a double layer bottom piece for extra storage if needed. Venture Pal cares to the smallest detail of this backpack - the zippers. The 2-way SBS zippers go across your backpack with strength and smoothness. You can easily open and close your backpack without getting stuck in the middle like other ones with cheap zipper quality.
But I love this pack not only of its durability but also because of its pocket-friendly design. When not in use, you can fold this backpack into the inner pocket, and put it in your suitable. I often bring this small pocket with me while traveling. So every time I need extra storage for shopping or daily exploration, this backpack comes at hand as an excellent travel mate of mine.
Except for the two soft shoulder straps with paddings, this hiking backpack does not have any extra support for long hiking. So if you choose it for your hiking trips which require a lot of walking or mountain climbing, your back can be hurt.
- Easy to bring as carry-on luggage
- Foldable into small pouch size
- Little support for extended walking/climbing
G4Free Large 40L - Giant hiking buddy with hidden power!
This high capacity hiking backpack can hold much more than its volume size. With 40 liters in total, you can carry some clothes, snacks, towels, journals, and also some cans of beer to cheer with your friends at night.
This G4Free hiking backpack can save much of your room space! You can fold this giant into a compact pouch and keep it in a drawer or your car. You can also retain the pouch in your current backpack for extra usage on your trips.
This backpack consists of multiple compartments: one main center compartment to store most of your belongings, 2 top pouches, one front spandex pouch to store wet or dirty clothes, 2 sported water bottle holders and padded back straps.
There is no enough back support for a long walk, and also no perspiration resistant system to cool down your heat.
- High capacity
- Super lightweight
- Can be folded into a compact pouch
- No perspiration resistant system
- Not enough back support
WASING 55L - A must-have on your backpack buying list
This narrow-profile backpack can fit perfectly with both men and women of all heights and body shapes. With the total volume 55 liters, you can carry enough stuff for long hiking trips of more than five days. There is a bottom compartment with zipper access. So instead of unpacking the whole backpack to find your mobile charge at the bottom, you can instantly get stuff at the bottom. You can also bring up to 5 extra liters of volume with a top extension collar with drawstrings.
This backpack is made of ripstop polyester fabric, which can slide water down quickly before the water has a chance to penetrate inside the backpack. You can always get hydrated on the go with two mesh water bottle holder designed for easy reach. The trekking pole attachment and bottom loops are used for hanging your ice axe or hiking poles.
The water bottle holder is a little bit small for long trips. I wish it could be bigger like 2 inches to carry more water.
- Multiple compartments with SBS zipper access
- Extension collar with up to 5 extra liters
- Bottom compartment with zipper access
- Water bottle holder is too small
Mountaintop 70L+10L - My long hiking superhero
This sports backpack from Mountaintop brand is my best friend for long hiking trips. Comes with a significant volume of 70 liters, it can fulfill the basic needs of any long hiking trip in more than 5 days and nights. This backpack can be extended to extra 5 liters per side (or 10 liters in total). So if you are a trip lead, you can always have space for storing gears and stuff of your teammates or your kids.
With 8 built-in compression straps, you can hang up your hiking gears, sleeping tents, backs, and many essentials that you need along the way. And about attachment point, it comes with a trekking pole and bottoms loops also for bringing your ice axe or hiking poles
This hiking superhero is made with ripstop nylon, which is the best waterproof fabric for a backpack. If you haven’t believed in this material, a rain cover is attached for extra water protection. Now you don’t have to scared of getting wet in any weather conditions.
Since this superhero is designed for long hiking trips, it may be not suitable for shorter one due to its length and design. The biggest compartment is 70 liters in volume, while a short or day trip only needs a minimal volume of 30 liters.
- Waterproof fabric with rain cover for best water protection
- 8 compartments to support hiking gears and equipments
- 8-stage adjustable torso length
- Too big for short people
- Not flexible for day or short trips
Osprey Aura 65 AG - Anti-gravity packpack designed for women
This is the only backpack model designed for women's body shape. The feminine yet sturdy design with narrow profile ensures a firm attach to women's body while maintains an unrestricted movement.
There are three different sizes for this backpack: X-Small, Small and Medium. You can pick up a size that best matches with your height. With the Fit-on-the-Fly hip belt, you can adjust the torso length until it fits with your torso. For extra movement support, a lightweight mesh back panel is attached to keep your body fresh and dry on the go. The hip belt brings the best assistance for heavy loads. You back will thank you a lot for that!
This compact Osprey backpack can store much more than you can imagine. There are many small pockets like two mesh side pockets, pockets with zippers on the hip belt. The floating top lid is removable when not in use. You can also hang your hiking gears on the side compression straps. Inside the backpack, there is a compression strap for load stabilization.
Top loading can sometimes be problematic when you need to take out small objects from the main compartment. If the manufacturer has a zippered bottom access, it should be a high plus to this backpack.
- Designed for anti-gravity
- Back panel with lightweight mesh
- Long loading is not convenient
G4Free Foldable - Affordable choice for occasional travels
If you are not a travel addict, then this affordable backpack from G4Free meets your minimum requirements for a light trip. Made with the high-quality water and tear resistant nylon fabric, your stuff is always kept dry under harsh weather conditions. This material also helps reduce the weight and make it comfortable enough for an extended ride or short people.
The metal zipper from SBS can avoid abrasion from rock, ice, brush, or any hard objects. With 20 liters in volume, you can store a few important stuff with you within a day.
This backpack comes with an ultra-compact pouch, and you can fold the backpack into it to carry in your suitable. You can consider it as an extra bag for shopping or storing important documents on the go. G4Free Foldable is best used for a day hanging out around the city, a camping trip with family. It is also a great airport friend of mine. I choose this backpack as carry-on luggage because it helps me reduce overweight charges.
It seems that there is not enough support for hiking. The shoulder straps do not have soft foam for extended carry. There is only one compartment, and no hip belt to support heavy loads. If you have to walk for long hours, I worry that it can cause discomfort to your back and your shoulders.
- Compact and easy to fold into a small pouch
- Water and tear resistant
- No back and shoulder support
- Too small even for day trips
With the above detailed 10 best hiking backpack reviews, I hope that you have already picked up your ideal backpack in your mind. When reading the buyer's guide, you should also consider your travel conditions and choose the requirements that well match with you. Remember that a great hiking backpack is not cheap at all. But the investment in a high-quality one is a long-term investment for your health and comfort.