The Best Hiking Backpack in Australia for 2020

Hiking pack for men

Author: Gaby Pilson - Professional Mountain Guide

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Even on a day hike, when we're out in the mountains, we need to carry some important safety and survival gear such as our maps, spare clothing, food, and water. To carry all that stuff, we need a good, sturdy backpack that fits well and has enough space for everything we need.

While one could use a standard backpack on a hike, after a few kilometres of uphills and downhills, these simple urban packs just won’t cut it. Instead, we need specific hiking packs that are designed with the trail in mind.

There are so many different packs out on the market today, each with its own set of bells and whistles. We’ve made this buying guide and pack review to help you understand what you should look for in a hiking backpack, so you can make an educated decision before you buy.

After the summary table below, we discuss the key things to look out for when choosing a pack, followed by reviews of the best products available in Australia.


iMAGE
PRODUCT
OUR #1 RATED
OUR #1 RATED

OSPREY ATMOS AG 65L HIKING BACKPACK

  • Lightweight (2.1kg)
    “Anti-Gravity” backpanel distributes weight well
  • Very breathable and comfortable
  • Hydration system compatible
  • Zippered belt pockets
  • Affordable


ARCTERYX BORA AR 63L HIKING BACKPACK

  • Very comfortable
  • Well padded, yet breathable
  • Good selection of pockets
  • Great size for most day hikes


OSPREY KESTREL 38L DAY PACK

  • Simple design
  • Integrated rain cover system
  • Shoulder straps and back panel are very breathable
  • Zippered belt pockets


OSPREY LEVITY 45L ULTRALIGHT HIKING BACKPACK

  • Very light for a 45L pack (830g)
  • Highly breathable
  • Top lid
  • Hydration system compatible


BEST HIKING PACK FOR WOMEN

THE NORTH FACE CINDER 55L

  • Super durable
  • Easy to pack
  • Minimalist

How to Choose Your Hiking Backpack

Hiking backpacks, as we know, are important pieces of gear. Although they might seem simple, there are quite a few considerations you ought to take into account when buying your next hiking backpack. Here is a handful:

Size

There are two things to look at here when it comes to pack size. The first is the actual carrying capacity of the pack itself, often expressed in litres. Most day hikers can make do with a 20-45L pack, so that's what we'll cover here. If you're only going out for an hour, you might be able to use a 15 or 10L pack, but if you're going out for an overnight, you'll need a pack in the 50-100L range. Each pack will have its size in litres listed next to its pack name in our reviews.

Next is the size of the pack’s harness (the part that rests against your back), which should be fit properly to match the length of your torso. This isn’t a terribly difficult process, but it involves measuring the length of your torso and comparing it to the manufacturer’s sizing guide for a specific pack. Many outdoor stores will help you do this at no cost to you.

Hydration

The reason we have backpacks is so we can carry stuff, and some of the most important stuff we carry is our water. Many hikers use modern hydration bladder systems when they’re out and about while others carry old-fashioned water bottles. Whichever technique you use, be sure that your pack is either hydration system compatible or has exterior pockets for your water bottles.

Ventilation

The last thing we want while hiking is a thick layer of sweat on our backs where our torso rests against the pack. Besides being slightly gross, it's not at all comfortable. Thankfully, most modern backpacks have great ventilation systems in the harness and hip belt areas to keep us cool and dry.

Pockets and Accessories

Although some hikers prefer a super simple pack (think a giant tube that you can just shove your gear into) that involve minimal fuss, the majority seem to prefer having at least a few pockets, straps, and accessories to make packing more convenient.

Some packs come with an abundance of zippered pockets, which can be handy for storing small items for easy retrieval. Pockets are also particularly useful on the hip belt, where they can be used to store snacks for on-the-go eating! Many, but not all, backpacks also come with a zippered top lid, which is great for storing essential items, like snacks, maps, and head torches that you want easily accessible.

Other potential accessories include ice axe/hiking pole attachment loops and rain covers, which can be used to keep your pack dry. So, what's the catch? Well, every additional accessory your pack has adds both weight and bulk. It also can make things more complicated - we can bore you with many stories of lost snacks and essentials in the depths of a pack's pockets that resurfaced weeks later. So, there's a fine line between necessary and unnecessary accessories that each hiker needs to define for themselves.

Now that you know what to look for, let’s get to the reviews!


hiking backpack reviews

#1 ​OSPREY ATMOS AG 65L HIKING BACKPACK

TOP PICK

best value

The most celebrated product from the leaders of comfortable lightweight hiking packs, the Atmos hits the sweet spot for thousands of hikers around the globe.

Osprey's new “Anti-Gravity” suspension hugs the body and distributes weight evenly, meaning you can go farther and last longer. The mesh back panel is also a real winner in terms of both comfort and ventilation.

Other than this, there's nothing particularly fancy about this pack. It just a well-rounded hiking backpack that delivers across the board. It's seriously comfortable, fairly lightweight (2.1kg), robust, and easy to use.

Pros
  • Lightweight (2.1kg)
  • “Anti-Gravity” backpanel distributes weight well
  • Very breathable and comfortable
  • Hydration system compatible
  • Zippered belt pockets     
  • Affordable                             
cons
  • No zip access to main compartment                                                 

#2 ARCTERYX BORA AR 63L HIKING BACKPACK

Arc'Teryx  is one of the most trusted names in outdoor gear and they don't disappoint with this much celebrated rucksack. The Bora AR 63 incredibly comfortable and perfectly suited to long, multi-day hikes.

Users of this pack love the superior comfort delivered by the high-tech foam padding, rotating hip belt, and advanced suspension system.

Another areas the Bora really shines is in its weather resistance. The pack body is constructed from 420d and 630d nylon with weatherproof AC² fabric in places most subject to the elements.

Weighing in at around 2.3kg, this pack is not necessarily one for ultralight hikers , but more suitable to those who value comfort and weather resistance.

Pros
  • Extremely comfortable
  • Impressive weather proofing
  • Rotating hip belt
  • Suitable for multi-day hikes                 
cons
  • Heavier than other options
  • Expensive                                                     

#3 Osprey Kestrel 38L HIKING DAY PACK

The Kestrel 38L is one of Osprey's signature daypacks and is an absolute classic. Designed as a go anywhere, do anything sort of pack, the Kestrel combines a simple design with high-quality materials and a few well-thought-out accessories.

This pack breathes super well, thanks to spacer mesh on the harness and hip belt, which let your sweat dry quickly. It’s also got an external hydration sleeve, so you no longer have to struggle with getting your water bladder back into a full pack.

With zippered belt pockets, a front mesh pocket, and two side pockets, you can fit all your gear into this pack. It’s even got a nifty integrated rain cover system, so when the drizzle starts, you can protect your gear right away.

Pros
  • Simple design
  • Integrated rain cover system
  • Shoulder straps and back panel are very breathable
  • Zippered belt pockets
cons
  • Fairly heavy for a day pack                                            

#4 Osprey Levity 45L ultralight hiking backpack

BUY AT WILD EARTH

The Levity 45L is Osprey's first foray into an ultralight pack in the 40+L range. Trimmed down to the bare minimum with super light accessories, this pack is for when you just can't spare an extra gram.

Osprey somehow managed to make a super light pack incredibly comfortable using a ventilated mesh back panel and an exofoam mesh hipbelt. Plus, it has fabric front and side pockets as well as an internal hydration sleeve, so water storage is quite simple here.

A super light pack like this requires a bit of extra love and care to keep in tip-top shape, so it might not be best for people who are rough on their gear. But, it’s a great pack for all your longer mountain jaunts!

Mountain guide
gaby pilson
professional mountain guide

"Ultralight and minimalist packs like the Levity require some extra love and care as the accessories tend to be quite fragile compared to the heavy-duty stuff. Plus, you'll need to take care when packing this pack as light packs tend to have less structural support than their beefier counterparts. But, when packed well, these bags can be super comfortable."

gaby pilson
professional mountain guide
Pros
  • Very light for a 45L pack (830g)
  • Highly breathable
  • Top lid
  • Hydration system compatible                   
cons
  • Ultralight packs aren’t for anyone
  • Questionable durability in long-term

#5 The North Face Cinder 55L

BEST HIKING PACK FOR WOMEN

BUY AT WILD EARTH

BUY AT THE NORTH FACE

The North Face Cinder 55L is designed to be a pack that can survive in the roughest conditions. Made from ultra durable 1000D PU coated nylon, the Cinder is virtually rip-proof. Plus, The North Face even used metal for all of the Cinder’s buckles so you can step on and crush them all day - they won’t break!

The Cinder has a fantastic stand-up design, which makes loading bulky gear super easy. A zippered top lid can store all your essentials for easy access. This is a very minimalist pack, however, so doesn't have outside pockets, nor a hydration system pocket. It's also not terribly well ventilated, so it's not great for very hot weather.

We recommend the Cinder for anyone who values durability over everything else. The durability of this pack is unquestionable, but it does come at a price, it’s certainly the heaviest pack in the review.

Pros
  • Super durable
  • Easy to pack
  • Minimalist                                                      
cons
  • Very heavy
  • No outside pockets
  • Not hydration system compatible
  • Minimal ventilation                                         

VERDICT

Who wins our head-to-head backpack matchup, you ask? For us, the Osprey Atmos AG 65L Hiking Backpack comes out on top because it’s comfortable, well ventilated, and is just the right size for most hiking excursions.

All of the packs in this review are worthy options, so it’s about finding the model that’s right for your needs. If you keep some key considerations in mind, you’ll be able to decide on your next hiking backpack that you can use for many adventures to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mountain guide

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gaby Pilson

Professional Mountain Guide


A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.