In Search For The Best Hiking Backpacks Of 2017

Behind every hiker, is his best friend – a best friend that needs to be able to keep up with whatever that hiker needs as well as the demands of an active life spent mostly in rising and falling terrains of mountain trails or evergreen forests.

I’ve had my best friend for years now, and no, I’m not talking about my husband (although he is my best friend too). I’m talking about my other best friend - my backpack! To this day, I feel like it’s the best hiking backpacks out there.

Now,I’m going to help you find the best hiking backpacks for you to take on your camping or hiking trips. Since there are so many different kinds out there, let’s break it down so you can truly pick a buddy that can keep up with you!

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**Below, you'll find our more detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

How To Choose The Right Backpack

Choosing the right backpack may seem like a simple decision that doesn’t need much thought. But the truth is, having a backpack that fits you just right can be the difference between a great hiking trip or a sore back the days after.

There are some things that you need to consider, such as finding the right size and fit, as well as the different features that come with it.

So let’s get down to it!

Types Of Backpack And Their Capacity

There are different types of backpacks as well as the capacity they can hold.

The capacity of the backpack is tied closely to its size and the length of your trip. The longer your trip will be, the bigger the capacity of backpack you’ll need.

This is a traditional guideline for pack size based on the length of your trip according to Outdoor Gear Lab:

Length Of Trip

Pack Capacity (Liters)

Single day/over night (1-2 nights)

20 – 50

Weekend (2-3 nights)

50 – 60

Multi-day (2-5 nights)

60 – 80

Extended (5+ nights)

80+

This guide is geared towards “newer” backpackers or for those who like to pack a lot of gear with them on a trip. This is also a good guide if you’re packing for kids or pets, meaning you’ll need to carry a bit more gear than just for yourself.

However, more experienced backpackers or hikers don’t follow the guide above, since they prefer packing lighter and eliminating unnecessary items in their pack. If you’re willing to try packing lighter for your hike or don’t need to carry gear for anyone else, you can follow the guide below instead.

Singer Day/Weekend (1-3 Night: 30 – 50 Liters)

These are the smallest types of backpacks that you can find so you will need to learn how to pack efficiently if you are using backpacks in this range. It takes a lot of self-discipline and careful planning.

Try looking for gear that is ultralight or ones that are designed specifically to be less bulky so you can easily pack it into this bag.

Mutiday (3-5 Night: 50 – 80 Liters)

These are among the most popular types of backpackssince they can be used even on shorter day trips or overnight without being too large. But again, since this is a lighter capacity guide, you’ll need to plan your gear properly.

Extended Trip (5+ Nights: 70+ Liters)

These are the biggest types of backpacks to use for extended trips. They are also great for winter treks that are longer than one night or for parents taking their younger children out hiking with them.

I myself have an 80-liter bag that I brought with me all the time when my little boys were much younger and I had to carry all their clothes and gear for them.

I still carry most of my son’s things today, but now they have their own little backpacks that they enjoy carrying around, filled with so many favorite snacks. But the bulk of the weight is still carried by my husband and myself.

To give you an idea of what can fit in those backpacks, these are some of the things you can pack in each bag:

Singer Day/Weekend (About 40 - 65 Liters)

Multiday (About 65 - 95 Liters)

Extended Trip (About 95+ Liters)

  • Water/drinks
  • Lunch & Snacks
  • Warm jacket
  • Emergency kit, first aid kit, GPS, maps
  • Camera· Small tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Ultralight stove and cookware
  • Extra clothes
  • Weekend worth of meals
  • Water/drinks
  • Lunch & Snacks
  • Warm jacket
  • Emergency kit, first aid kit, GPS, maps
  • Camera
  • Bigger tent
  • Warmer sleeping bag and thicker pad
  • Ultralight stove and cookware
  • Extra clothes
  • Weekend worth of meals
  • Extra food, fuel and kitchen gear
  • Foldable chairs, extra shoes, pillows
  • Water/drinks
  • Lunch & Snacks
  • Winter jacket
  • Emergency kit, first aid kit, GPS, maps
  • Camera
  • Bigger tent
  • Winter sleeping bag and winter insulation pad
  • Ultralight stove and cookware
  • Extra winter clothes
  • Weekend worth of meals
  • Extra food, fuel and kitchen gear
  • Foldable chairs, extra shoes, pillows
  • Mountaineering gear (ropes, carabineers, etc.)
  • Bear canisters (when traveling in bear country)

It’s important to try to get as much of an accurate capacity as possible because if you end up getting one that is way too large, you’ll be tempted to fill it with all kinds of things you don’t need and you’ll get tired.

Or if you end up with one that is too small, you may not be able to pack all the essentials you need for your hiking trip.

The next feature of a backpack that you should look at is the frame type.

Frame Type

In general, there are two types of frames a backpack can have which can affect the way you feel as well as the way you pack your items inside them.

Internal Frame Backpacks

These are backpacks where the frames are found inside the backpack. A good internal frame will hug the contour of your back giving it a more comfortable and secure feeling.

  • ADVICE: The job of the internal frame is to distribute the weight towards your hip since that is where the human body can carry more weight. So remember to look for one with a good, supportive hip belt as well.

Internal frame backpacks are used for big and heavy loads. Since they are closer fitting than external backpacks, these types of backpacks are the best choice for activities where you move around a lot like climbing or skiing.

So when choosing an internal frame backpack, find one with proper load-bearing technologies that can evenly distribute and balance the weight and can transfer majority of the load to your hips.

Packing Tips (Internal Frame Backpack):

  • Pack your sleeping bag first in the bottom of your backpack.
  • Pack your heavy items next such as your food bag, tent, books, or whatever heavy items you bring.

Bonus Tip:

  • You can remove the poles of your tent and strap it to the side of your backpack so you have more space in your bag.
  • Fill the space where you packed your heavy items with any puffy jackets and raingear. Then pack your clothes next.
  • Pack smaller items that you constantly need such as sunscreen, water, trail snacks, maps/GPS, etc. in the easy to access pockets.

External Frame Backpacks

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External frame backpacks have their frame on the outside and can also carry big,heavy loads. However, this is better suited for trail walking and not other dynamic movement activities that you can use an internal frame backpack for.

This is because the way the frame is made, moves the load further away from your back making it a bit more difficult to balance.

The center of gravity is also higher than internal frame backpacks, which gives better transfer of weight to the hips and helps you walk upright.

They also have better ventilation and airflow between the backpack and your back. This is perfect for hikers who often hike in hot weather and get sweaty easily.

Packing Tips (External Frame Backpack):

  • Pack your sleeping bag in a waterproof sack and strap it outside and underneath your backpack.
  • Place your heavy gear such as your tent or food higher up in your backpack but try to keep them close to your spine.
  • Pack the rest of your gear such as clothes in the bottom and middle of your bag.
  • Use the side pockets and front pockets to properly organize and separate your gear for better access and organization.

The next thing you should do is to measure your torso in order to find the proper size.

Measuring Your Torso

An important factor when getting a backpack is to make sure that it fits you well by getting the measurements of your torso.

Having the right fit will not only make it more comfortable, but also properly distribute load so you don’t end up sore or even injured. All you need to do is to grab a soft tape measure and a friend to help you then follow these steps:

  • Look down to the floor and reach your arm to the back of your neck to feel the vertebra protrude. This is the C7 vertebra and it is located at the base of your neck (or the top of the spine). This will be the starting point of your measurement.
  • Next, put your hands on your hips and feel for the top of your hipbone. This is the iliac crest. Bring your thumbs together towards the middle of your back following a sort of imaginary line. This will be the end point of your measurement.
  • Ask your companion to measure the length between the two points from your C7 vertebra to your iliac crest. That is your torso measurement.

FUN FACT: The torso length of most adults is between 16 inches and 22 inches!

For the pack to fit right, your torso length should match the length of the top of the shoulder straps to the hip belt of the bag.

It’s important to note that some bags will have adjustable straps and belts to accommodate your torso length while others won’t.

Other Features

There are a few other features of the backpack that you can look for which can be useful as well.

  • Women specific: some manufacturers make backpacks specifically for women where the measurements fit a woman’s body better, such as narrow shoulder width, curved waist belts, and shorter torso lengths.
  • Rain cover: some bags have a packable rain cover to help protect your bag as well as the gear from the elements. This is great if you tend to hike it wet areas.
  • Hydration packs: some bags come with compartments where you can put a hydration pack to make drinking water a lot easier for you.
  • Ventilation: heat can be a problem and some backpacks will have materials that are more breathable, such as mesh.

Top Five Picks For Hiking Backpacks

1. Teton Sports Scout 3400


This first hiking backpack comes from Teton Sports and comes in three different colors – coyote tan, hunter green, and mecca orange.

It has a 55-liter (3,400 cubic inches) capacity that is good for a weekend trip or multiday trip or about 2-3 days and weighs around 4.5 pounds.

It has an adjustable torso length so you can adjust it depending on the size of your torso.

The torso length can be adjusted from 15 inches to 19.5 inches, which will fit most adult and some kids as well. The backpack itself is 30” x 17” x 12”.

The backpack also has a foam lumbar pad to give better comfort to your back and molded channels to help with good airflow and ventilation. The shoulder pads as well as the hip belt are also padded for comfort.

There is a large compartment in the bottom of the backpack with enough space to fit a large sleeping bag. It also has a number of different compartments and pockets so you can be more organized when packing your gear.

The compression straps on the backpack are multidirectional to help you cinch your bag tighter and closer together. The backpack also comes with a free rain cover included to protect it when you hike out in the rain.

​Pros:

  • It has a very friendly price for the size of the backpack
  • The torso length is adjustable
  • ​The right size to be able to be checked in an airplane as a carry on
  • ​Top pouch gives extra convenient storage

Cons:

  •  is slightly heavy – not too bad, but there are other lighter optionst 
  • The stitches of the chest strap and shoulder straps seem to be a bit weak
  • ​The zippers sometimes gets stuck or snag
  • The plastic clips are a bit weak as well

2. Osprey Ariel AG 65 (Women’s)


This next hiking backpack comes from Osprey and is designed specifically for women.

It comes in six different colors: Boothbay grey, deep sea blue, picante red, summer wheat brown, tidal blue, and vermillion red.

It is made from 210D nylon dobby and weighs about 5.5lbs. It is 12” x 31” x 15” and has a 65-liter carrying capacity.

The backpack has a LightWire peripheral frame that helps transfer the load of the backpack to the hip belt so you have better balance and comfort and gives it an anti-gravity feel.

The backpack also has an external hydration sleeve for you to be able to drink water easily. It also has a separate compartment for your sleeping bag but the divider can be removed.

There are compression straps both on the sides and on the inside of the pack to really ensure that you are using as much space as possible.

The backpack comes in sizes extra small, small, medium and large. Fitting is as follows (for torso length):

  • Extra Small: up to 15.5 inches
  • Small: 16 inches to 17.5 inches
  • Medium: 18 inches to 19.5 inches
  • Large: 20 inches and up

​Pros:

  • The weight of your backpack is properly distributed to your hips
  • It has hip belt pockets which are great for smaller items you need to access immediately
  • It comes with a hydration sleeve for you to be able to drink water easily

Cons:

  • It is very expensive
  • There is no rain cover so you have to purchase a separate one
  • There isn’t much compartmentalization available so you can’t separate your gear too much especially if you like a more organized bag

3. Gonex Military Molle Backpack


It is a waterproof and anti-scratch backpack that has a carrying capacity of 70-liters, making it great for multiday trips.

It also comes with a rain cover to protect it even further from the rain. It has airflow channels to help keep your back cool and dry as well, which is great during the really hot, summer days.

This next backpack from Gonex and is made from 900D oxford fabric.

The backpack also has a special carrying system or weight decomposition system that can be adjusted for three sizes.

It makes use of the Molle external expansion system, which is designed for use with other equipment and highly used in the military. You can load the pockets or hang your gear for extra space.

The main compartment of the bag also has a laptop compartment. The bag is separated into five compartments: the main compartment, a front zipped bag, two side net pockets, and a bottom compartment where you can put shoes.

​Pros:

  • Strong and durable material
  • Mid-priced
  • ​Molle system is great for your extra gear
  • It is expandable

Cons:

  • It is not very comfortable
  • The straps on the top or bottom are not big enough to fit a standard sleeping bag or bed mat

4. Osprey Atmos 65 AG (Men’s)


This backpack is the male version of the Osprey Atmos 65 for women.

It comes in three colors: absinth green, cinnabar red, and graphite gray and is made of nylon making it highly durable.

The Osprey Atmos 65 makes use of an anti-gravity suspension system that helps with good ventilation and comfort when carrying it.

The back panel is made of a lightweight mesh that starts from the top of the back panel all the way to the hip belt to give it that good ventilation. It also contours around your body for a nice and comfortable fit.

Your gear can be accessed from the top of the pack or through the zippered front panel so you can access all of your gear easily. The top lid is removable so if you want to reduce the weight, it can be done.It also comes with a FlapJacket to protect your gear.

It is 10” x 16” x 23” and weighs 3.9 pounds. The sizing for the torso length is also as follows:

  • Small: 16” to 19”
  • Medium: 18” to 21”
  • Large: 20” to 23”

​Pros:

  • The top lid is removable so you can add or reduce weight as necessary
  • There are compression straps on both the inside and outside of the pack to help maximize space
  • ​It has a nice “stow-on-the-go” compartment for your trekking poles
  • The harness and anti-gravity suspension are adjustable

Cons:

  • It is very, very expensive 
  • There are no instructions available to teach you how to adjust the backpack
  • ​The shoulder straps can be a bit narrow for some people and cause it to rub against the neck
  • The hip belts aren’t very comfortable

5. Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Day Pack


The Venture Pal Lightweight daypack is a 35-liter bag that weighs about 0.7 pounds which is perfect for a day trip or an overnight trip.

The nylon material is also tear-resistant and water-resistant, making it a durable companion for your hikes.

It also comes in nine different colors so you will be able to find one that you like: black, blue, fuchsia, green, gray, orange, purple, red, and royal blue.

It is a special backpack since it is foldable and packable into a small bag.

The Venture Pal also has a number of different compartments to help keep you organized: the main compartment, two front compartments, and two side pockets.

The shoulder straps are made of a breathable mesh to help with ventilation and the length of the shoulder straps can be adjusted.

​Pros:

  • Very price friendly
  • It is foldable and packable into a nice, small pouch so you can bring it with you as an extra bag if ever you wanted to
  • It is very breathable even during extreme heat

Cons:

  • The lining tends to fall apart easily after long time use
  • The zippers can sometimes be a problem
  • The stitching isn’t very good

The Verdict?

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Taking into consideration everything we’ve looked at when buying a backpack, I would say the winner for me would have to be the Osprey Atmos 65 AG. Even if it’s designed for men, if you can find a size that fits you, you’ll be good to go.

Although it is very expensive, I feel like it is worth the investment because of the many features it has. I very much like how the back panel is made of mesh because it really helps with ventilation.

I can’t tell you enough how important ventilation is especially if you’re going on a hike during the summer time. I often hike in hot months so having a backpack with the back panel made of mesh is great.

Osprey’s anti-gravity system is also great because it helps distribute the pack weight to your hips, which, if you remember, is where it should be.

So there you have it. Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Rita Myers
 

I’m Rita Myers, and camping is one of my utmost passions. Growing up near the base of a mountain, hiking and camping have been in my system since I was just a little girl. My love for camping and hiking stayed with me well into adulthood. Now, as a mother of two boys and a wife, I keep my passion alive by bringing my family outdoors. Of course, my family isn’t always up to it, so I write these articles and tips in the hope that you and your family can enjoy the great outdoors like I do!