Whether you are heading out on a day hike or on a longer backpacking trip, you need a quality backpack to critical gear such as maps, spare clothing, food, and water. A standard backpack simply doesn’t cut it as they aren’t designed to be worn for long hikes across a range of terrains and in variable weather conditions.
To help you find the perfect backpack for your next adventure, we’ve analysed the best hiking backpacks on the market and assessed them against a range of important criteria including weight, comfort, adjustability, and features.
Best All-Rounder: Macpac Torlesse 65L Hiking Backpack
Material: Nylon (630D Cordura Nylon, 210D Nylon Ripstop and 630D Cordura Nylon)
Pack Volume: 65L
Pros: Reasonably priced, high-quality materials, Flexi-Fit harness, top-loading only for strength and durability, built-in rain cover, available in three sizes and three colours.
Cons: Not the lightest pack
The Macpac Torlesse is a pack that’s been designed with adventure in mind. It’s made of nylon ripstop fabrics for lightweight durability, and the Flexi-Fit harness is comfortable, breathable and adjustable.
It features the traditional hiking pack layout of a large main compartment (top-loading) and a separate base compartment with internal divider and external zip.
The zipped front and lid pockets will help keep you organized on the go, while twin side pockets are perfect for keeping your water bottle and snacks close at hand.
It’s also got a rain cover included so that even if it rains on your hike, you’ll still be able to keep your gear dry.
Best for Comfort: Osprey Atmos AG 65 Men’s Hiking Pack
Material: Nylon (1000x630D Nylon Dobby, 210D High Tenacity Nylon and 420HD Nylon Packcloth)
Pack Volume: 65L
Pros: Lightweight (2.1kg), “anti-gravity” back-panel, breathable, hydration system compatible, affordable, zippered belt pockets
Cons: No zip access to main compartment
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 “Anti-Gravity” suspension hugs the body and distributes weight evenly, meaning you can walk farther and carry your kit longer. The mesh back panel is also a real winner in terms of both comfort and ventilation.
The sleeping bag compartment with a divider is helpful for overnight trips. The pack can also accommodate a 3L hydration system while most similar hiking rucksacks can only take 2L.
There are plenty of attachments such as sleeping pad straps, ice tool loops and trekking pole loops and the compression straps let you cinch down your pack to reduce volume the hiking.
Other than this, there’s nothing particularly fancy about this backpack. 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.
Best Small Pack for Women: Kathmandu Nowaki 32L Women’s Pack
Pack Volume: 32L
Pros: Light, compact, ideal for day hikes
Cons: Top-loading only
The Nowaki is simple, lightweight and well suited to day hiking. At only 1kg and with a volume of 32L this is a good-sized day pack.
Although small in size, the Nowaki can fit a 2L hydration bladder and has plenty of storage options. The bag uses a climaticZONING harness that is breathable and keeps air flowing around your back to prevent sweat.
There are plenty of storage pockets (6 in total) and we like the security pocket that has a built-in key clip.
This rucksack is top-loading only so it’s not as easy to get an extra layer out of the bag as other options such as the Alpine Diran which is top and bottom loading and has a zippered front too. This shouldn’t be a big issue with a day pack but you may want to think carefully about how you pack before you set off.
Most Adjustable: Kathmandu Archon 65L Backpack
Material: Cordura HP 915D
Pack Volume: 65L
Pros: Lots of adjustability, water-resistant fabric, spacious
Cons: “One size fits all” may not be comfortable for everyone, limited pockets
The Kathmandu Archon is a larger and sturdier backpack compared to the Nowaki. This one is designed for multi-day hiking and has an impressive 65L capacity.
The RS2 harness is designed to be fully adjustable to suit all body types, so there is no separate size options to choose from. The one size option means that it is vital you spend time adjusting the torso length and straps to suit you otherwise the rucksack won’t feel comfortable or distribute weight evenly.
As this hiking backpack is made from Cordura fabric it offers abrasion resistance and water resistance so remains tough throughout any outdoor adventure. It doesn’t come with a waterproof cover and although water-resistant it is recommended to use a pack liner and/or pack cover to keep your gear dry.
This top loading rucksack has less storage features than most of the backpacks we’ve listed with only 3 pockets (2 side and 1 top pocket). It does have compression straps for securing and carrying heavy loads and it has toggles for attaching your hiking poles too. The Archon is also compatible with a hydration system of up to 2L.
Spacious and Lightweight: The North Face Banchee 65 Hiking Pack
Material: 70D Ironlite Nylon + 210D Ironlite Nylon
Pack Volume: 65L
Pros: Lightweight, easy to organise, lots of additional storage
Cons: Lots of straps
With the same capacity as the Archon, Alpine Atlas II, and Atmos hiking backpacks, the Banchee comes in at the lightest of the 65L options weighing only 1.5kg.
This lighter weight combined with the padded back makes this backpack comfortable to carry for longer hikes. The paddled hip belts are also adjustable so you can position the padding where it is most needed.
The shoulder straps are wide, supportive and use a soft foam that makes them fit more ergonomically across the shoulders. This is a great backpacking pack as it is user-friendly and easy to organise. It has 8 pockets in addition to the main compartment.
Overall this is a versatile backpacking backpack that can handle heavy loads and has lots of user-friendly features.
Lightest Backpack: Osprey Levity 45 Ultralight Hiking Pack
Material: 30D Cordura Silnylon Ripstop, NanoFly 210D Nylon X 200D UHMWPE
Pack Volume: 45L
Pros: Very light, highly breathable, top lid, hydration system compatible
Cons: Ultralight packs aren’t for everyone, questionable long-term durability.
The Levity 45L was Osprey’s first foray into an ultralight backpack 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 backpack 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!
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.
Budget Option: Quechua MH500 Mountain Walking Backpack
Material: Polyester + Polyurethane
Pack Volume: 40L
Pros: User-friendly, long warranty, clean design, affordable
Cons: Not every pocket it secured with a zipper
The Quechua MH500 is an affordable entry-level hiking backpack. It weighs 1.26kg making it the second lightest backpack on our list and comes with a 10 year warranty.
One of the things we like about the MH500 is the backpack looks very clean with minimal loose straps and yet it still offers 9 pockets and easy adjustability. The attention to detail is great too – for example, there is a water bottle holder that is angled towards the user for quick access and ease of use.
This backpacking backpack also has a waterproof cover built-in and the fabric is waterproof coated to help keep your kit dry.
For comfort during long hikes there is a ventilated back panel. There is also extra features including a clip for attaching trekking poles and a pocket on the padded hip belt. This pack is feature-rich and ideal for regular use.
Most Breathable: Osprey Kestrel 38 Hiking Pack
Material: 210Dx630D Nylon Dobby
Pack Volume: 38L
Pros: Simple design, integrated rain cover system, breathable, zippered belt pockets
Cons: Fairly heavy for a 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 backpack 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 compartments, you can fit all your gear into the Kestrel. It’s even got a nifty integrated rain cover system, so when the drizzle starts, you can protect your gear right away.
Versatile Option: Deuter Aircontact Lite 45+10 SL Backpack
Material: Deuter Super Polytex
Pack Volume: 45L + 10L Expansion
Pros: Great value, well padded, versatile
Cons: No rain cover
The Aircontact Lite is versatile and lightweight with plenty of ventilation on the back to help reduce sweating. This is a backpack that keeps things simple making it low-cost and great for hiking, treks and travel.
Similar to the Aircontact, the Lite version also has plenty of padding. The softer padding helps to conform to the wearer’s hips and shoulder to spread out the weight of the backpack evenly. The Lite is 800g lighter than the Aircontact and has 20L less capacity.
This hiking backpack is durable, can be adjusted up to suit the user and there are plenty of accessible pockets so you don’t need to search through the whole pack for a certain item.
One downside is the backpack isn’t waterproof and doesn’t come with a waterproof cover so it’s best to buy one separately to keep your gear dry when hiking in wet weather.
Best Lightweight Women’s Pack: Osprey Renn 50
Material: Polyester 600D + 450D, Nylon 1000D
Pack Volume: 50L
Pros: Lightweight, adjustable, great for longer hikes
Cons: Less pockets due to minimalist design
The recent launch of women’s backpacks has been a welcome addition to the Osprey collection. The Renn 50 backpacking pack is comfortable, highly adjustable and weighs only 1.5kg making it one of the lightest options on our list.
The Renn is a minimalist hiking backpack that makes sure you can pack everything you need for a multi-day hike. A definite plus is that the bag includes a removable and stowable waterproof cover and is hydration system compatible.
The backpack is accessed by the top or the bottom as there is no front zip, this isn’t a dealbreaker but is worth remembering when you are organising your gear.
The Renn 50 is best suited to casual hikers and for women looking for an affordable, lightweight and durable hiking backpack.
Great Multi-Day Option: Lowe Alpine Atlas II 65 Women’s Rucksack
Material: 420D Dobby + 450D PW/ Hydroshield
Pack Volume: 65L
Pros: Designed for women, comfortable, hydration system compatible
Cons: No hip-belt pocket
The Lowe Alpine Atlas II is comfortable, easy to adjust, and spacious with a 65L capacity. At 2kg, this bag is slightly heavier than the Osprey Renn 50.
This hiking backpack has an adjustable hip-belt, an adjustable back and handy side compression straps so you can expand and tighten it as needed.
The Lowe Alpine Atlas II hiking backpack also has a rain cover and is compatible with a hydration system. One of the differences between this rucksack and many others is that there are no pockets on the hip belts. However, there are easy access side pockets and stretch water bottle holders too.
Best for Multi-Day Hikes: Lowe Alpine Diran 55:65 Men’s Rucksack
Material: 420D Dobby + 450D PW/ Hydroshield
Pack Volume: 55L + 10L expansion
Pros: Well thought-out design, feature-rich, durable
Cons: One of the heavier hiking backpacks listed
This 55-65L rucksack from Lowe is suitable for longer trips and travel. It uses the Lowe V-Trax back system with an adjustable back length, waist belt and harness. The adjustment is easy to use and it doesn’t slip once you’ve sized it to suit you.
The padding of this backpack is comfortable without being too bulky. Although, the bag does weigh 2.3kg so it is the second heaviest backpack listed. The positive is that this backpack is durable and can handle carrying a heavy load and long trips.
The Alpine Diran is a technical backpack that has all the features you need for hiking. We particularly like the zippered front that lets you easily access the main compartment as well as the multiple lash points for storing extra items outside the backpack.
Most Durable: North Face Cinder 55L Pack
Material: 1000D PU-coated Nylon
Pack Volume: 55L
Pros: Super durable, easy to pick, minimalist
Cons: Very heavy, no outside pockets, not hydration system compatible, minimal ventilation
The North Face Cinder 55L is designed to be a hiking backpack 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.
Also Great: Deuter Aircontact 65+10 Rucksack
Material: Polymide 100D
Pack Volume: 65L + 10L Expansion
Pros: Durable, comfortable pack, adjustable
Although heavier than the average rucksack (2.5kg makes this the heaviest bag on our list), the Deuter Aircontact 65 is a comfortable backpack for hiking thanks to its thick padding and supportive shoulder straps.
This rucksack has all the key features including a wet pocket to store sweaty or damp clothes and lots of storage pockets.
One of the things that makes this pack stand out is how adjustable it is. It’s easy to make adjustments to the straps and lid to suit your gear.
Even though this is a fairly bulky option, the thick padded shoulder straps and easy adjustability makes it a great choice as a backpacking pack. This isn’t the best option for climbing or ski touring but if you need a durable backpack for a long hiking trips this is a good value option.
Hiking Pack Comparison Table
|Hydration System Compatible
|Nylon (630D & 210D)
|Osprey Atmos AG
|Best for Comfort
|Nylon (1000x630D, 210D & 420HD)
|65L + 10L Expansion
|Deuter Aircontact Lite
|Deuter Super Polytex
|45L + 10L Expansion
|Best for Women
|Polyester 600D + 450D and Nylon 1000D
|Yes, removable and stowable
|Lowe Alpine Atlas II
|Great Multi-Day Option
|420D Dobby + 450D PW
|Lowe Alpine Diran
|Best for Multi-Day Hikes
|420D Dobby + 450D PW
|55L + 10L Expansion
|Best Day Pack for Women
|Cordura HP 915D
|The North Face Banchee
|Spacious and Lightweight
|70D/ 210D Ironlite Nylon
|30D Cordura Silnylon Ripstop
|Polyester + Polyurethane
|210x630D Nylon Dobby
|The North Face Cinder
|1000D PU-coated Nylon
Hiking Backpack Buying Guide
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. This buying guide will help you find a backpack with the capacity, features and accessories you need:
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. 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.
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 backpack is either hydration system compatible or has exterior pockets for your water bottles.
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 hiking backpacks have great ventilation systems in the harness and hip belt areas to keep us cool and dry.
A good backpacking bag will have padding on the shoulder straps, back panel and hip belt. This is where you are going to be bearing the weight of the bag and quality padding helps protect you from chafing and discomfort. Padding is often made with soft foam and there is a fine line between too little padding and too much. This is why its best to go with a trusted brand that has plenty of experience creating backpacks for hiking.
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. Storage compartments 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.
The chances are if you are looking for a lightweight bag, there are going to be less storage compartments, features and accessories. It’s best to find a rucksack that offers you balance between features and usability.