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Last updated on March 9th, 2022

Whether it’s for a quick weekend trip or a lengthy backcountry hike, your backpack will be that one gear that’s always with you. Everything you need to survive and enjoy will be carried in these satchels, so unless they’re comfortable and convenient, you won’t be able to have the best experience.

Gone are the days when you would have to strap on a large external frame and trudge through the mountains or forest with a throbbing body.

Todays’ backpacks edge more towards thoughtful and minimalistic designs, focusing on ergonomics. However, with so many options at so many different price ranges, buying one gets complicated. That’s where we come in.

From rugged, heavy-duty carry-ons to ultralight frameless packs, these are the best backpacks for every occasion of backpacking. Also, check out the thorough buying guide to know what to look out for in the perfect backpack.

Editor’s Picks of the Best Backpacks for Backpacking

Best Overall Backpacking Backpack: Mountain Hardwear men’s PCT 55women’s PCT 50

Best 65-liter Backpacking Backpack: Osprey men’s Aether 65women’s Ariel 65

Best Budget Backpacking Backpack: TETON Sports Scout 55

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10 Best Backpacking Backpacks Pinterest

What to Consider While Buying Backpacks

Now, let’s look at the factors to consider before buying a backpack for backpacking.

Design

Backpacks differ based on their use — is it for a short trip or a longer one? Naturally, you will need a bigger, more spacious option to accommodate the necessary items for a multiday trip. It’s also a good idea to know how to pack a backpack.

Here is a list of the best backpack sizes for backpacking:

Weekend (30-50 liters, 1-3 nights)

Newer gears in the market are generally less bulky. If you like keeping things light and are only going away for a day to three, these backpacks would be the best choice.

Packing light is much harder than it looks. It requires careful planning and self-discipline. However, if you can pull it off, the lightweight feeling is unparalleled.

Multiday (50-80 liters, 3-5 nights)

It’s undoubtedly one of the most popular kinds. Multiday backpacks are the ideal choice for trips in warm weather planned for three or more days. That being said, 50 to 80-liter backpacks are suitable for shorter trips, too, if you’re backpacking a bit more luxuriously.

Extended Trip (70 liters or larger, 5+ nights)

Are you planning on being out in the wilderness for five days or more? You will need these backpacks providing at least 70 liters of space. Winter treks generally require much more items to provide warmth, so you automatically need a bigger pack to carry those. Any trip in winter longer than a night needs an extended-trip backpack.

Larger backpacks can accommodate a sleeping bag, extra clothes, and a tent comfortably. In addition, they are a good option for people bringing along young kids on the journey.

black open backpacking backpack in Patagonia, Argentina
Unloaded Gregory Paragon 58L Backpack in Patagonia, Argentina

Material 

Match a backpack with your needs based on the proper materials to make sure it can serve you for many years.

Cotton Canvas: Canvas is a rough, heavy-weight weave cotton fabric. Made from synthetic and natural materials, modern canvas reduces weight and increases strength and waterproof capabilities. The most significant advantage is its inexpensiveness. Canvas backpacks are super popular with beginner hikes.

Pack-Cloth Nylon: Slick and shiny to the touch, pack-cloth nylon backpacks feature abrasion resistance, waterproof coating, and excellent puncture resistance.

Cordura: Cordura is a nylon fabric that’s air-treated, lightweight, and resistant to abrasion. The original design was made by DuPont and is a common choice in high-end backpacks.

Ripstop Nylon: Much like the name suggests, ripstop nylon offers extra protection against wear and tear. The primary advantages of this material include being lightweight and water-resistant.

Polyester: Polyester is much more resistant to UV (Ultra-violet) degradation than nylon, but it lacks the ruggedness found in the latter. But, it’s tough and strong enough for children. The material holds color well and is affordable.

Leather: Although mostly expensive, leather backpacks double the style. Vegetable-tanned, full-grain leather is the general choice for making a backpack. A patina develops on this material over time and gives the pack an organic quality.

Ergonomics

Perhaps the most crucial consideration going into buying a backpack is comfort. You probably won’t be using it that often if it hurts your back. In some cases, people also end up injuring themselves.

The build of a pack accounts for the user’s comfort, particularly the padding, the shape of the backside, and shoulder straps.

Backpacks featuring padded shoulder straps, a comfortable back panel, and an extra hip belt distribute the backpack’s weight throughout the body. Padded and adjustable shoulder straps offer a comfortable fit against the back, reducing overall strain on the back.

Padded and contoured backs maintain the natural shape of the backpacker’s lower and upper back, adding a degree of comfort. Thanks to the shape, a natural arch is formed, and there’s reduced or no back pain. Hip belts take away weight from the shoulders and back and place a significant portion of it on the leg muscles — letting you carry bulkier loads for longer.

ergonomic backpacking backpack
padding and cushions, internal frame, hip belts, and adjustable shoulder and chest straps make the backpack more comfortable and easier to carry

Compartments 

Backpacks can be very simple on the inside or filled with compartments and pockets to help you keep organized. You may have a minimalist approach to packing, so you prefer a lighter load backpack.

On the other hand, someone who likes multiple compartments on their backpack can store and access utilities easier. The more pockets and compartments in the backpack, the better organization it provides.

bottom compartment access of the Gregory Paragon backpacking backpack
having access to the bottom, main compartment allows you to easily store and access your sleeping bag

Multiple Compartments: The bag contents will be organized into smaller sections so one can access them easily.

Front Pocket: Front pockets are typically added to a shovel pocket’s exterior and can comfortably hold smaller items.

Elasticized Side Pockets: These can be found on all sorts of backpacks. When empty, elasticized pockets lie flat. They stretch out to hold a water bottle as well as other loose items.

hip belt pockets on a backpacking backpack with a Swiss Army knife
hip belt pockets are a great place to keep your Swiss Army knife, multitool, snacks, or sunscreen

Other Useful Features

Apart from the streamlined hip belts and mesh paddings, some extra features would be the cherry on top for many of these backpacks: water bladder compartment, rear stretch pockets, sunglass strap, hip belt pockets, load lifters, trekking poles/ice axe straps, and more.

With all that out of the way, let’s move onto the main event — our picks for the best backpacking backpacks that will change your hiking and trailing game forever.

water bladder compartment on Gregory Paragon
a water bladder compartment allows you to effortlessly store your water reservoir and drink it while hiking

Top 10 Backpacks for Backpacking

If you’re backpacking in one of the best places in the world or a nearby trail, make sure to choose your backpack correctly the first time. Now, it’s time to review the top 10 backpacks for backpacking.

1. Osprey Aether 65/Ariel 65

Weight: ~ 4.8lbs, Volume: 65L

View on Osprey (men’s/women’s) or Backcountry (men’s/women’s)

Osprey makes some of the best backpacks in the market. The Osprey Aether for men and Ariel for women are two premium backpacks that always give the perfect fit — a satisfying blend of comfort, durability, ventilation, and intuitive organization. This classic model comes with some of the best features we have seen from an Osprey backpack.

Keep in mind that this is a full-sized backpacking backpack and isn’t suitable for overnight trips or short hikes. We suggest you bring this out only when you’re venturing out for a proper hiking trip where you will need adequate camping gear.

These backpacks come with plenty of pockets and compartments so you can store your items in an organized fashion. The AirScape ventilated back panel offers coolness on warm days.

If you’re going to have to carry a ton of gear and a tent for your camping needs, you must have a good backpacking backpack, and the Osprey Aether/Ariel will be a great choice. Even after fitting a lot of gear in this (and attaching more outside), it remains comfy.

Pros

  • Comfortable padding
  • Detachable daypack
  • Hydration reservoir sleeve holder
  • Lifetime manufacturer warranty

Cons

  • No waist belt
  • Lacks integrated rain cover

2. Gregory Katmai 65/Kalmia 60

Weight: ~ 4.4-4.7lbs, Volume: 65/60L

View on Backcountry (men’s/women’s) or REI (men’s/women’s)

The benefits of a dynamic suspension integrated onto a lightweight, comfortable design — that’s the Gregory Katmai 65 (for men) and Kalmia 60 (for women). Made of recycled content, the Katmai/Kalmia features a PFC-free, water-resistant coating, decreasing carbon footprint.

The ventilated back panel comes with Polygiene Stays Fresh technology, an odor control fabric treatment that stops the growth of odor-causing bacteria, retaining freshness in the backpack for longer.

Well-ventilated suspended mesh back panel also features the brand’s FreeFloat 360 dynamic comfort cradle lower back system and rotating harnesses to deliver the ultimate fit. The ergonomics are excellent on this one. The torso length is fully adjustable. You can mold it to your body shape even better with the customizable hip-belt fit.

Pros

  • Custom molded loop zipper pullers
  • Stable load management
  • 3D comfort cradle
  • Internal hydration sleeve

Cons

  • No rain cover

3. Mountain Hardwear PCT 55/PCT 50

Weight: ~ 4.1lbs, Volume: 55/50L

View on Mountain Hardwear (men’s/women’s) or Backcountry (men’s/women’s)

Mountain Hardwear’s PCT 55 (for men) and PCT 50 (for women) are versatile and tough load haulers that excel on rugged backcountry terrains. They are made from a blend of 420D Cordura base and recycled 210D ripstop shell, keeping them lightweight yet durable. The top lid can be removed and contains two zippered compartments.

A perfect fit on your body is achieved through the padded, 360° pivoting hip belts as the feature keeps the load centered but moves along with you.

The trampoline back panel offers full support coupled with excellent ventilation. Keep yourself organized with the large front shove-it pocket and zippered front pocket. There are side stretch pockets so you can store your water bottles.

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Multiple compartments
  • Ergonomic fit
  • Hoverbelt technology

Cons

  • Somewhat heavy by today’s standards

4. Deuter Futura Air Trek 50+10/Futura Air Trek 45+10 SL

Weight: ~ 4.5lbs, Volume: 50+10/45+10L

View on Backcountry (men’s/women’s) or REI (men’s/women’s)

The Futura Air Trek from Deuter was made to go the distance. It’s big enough to carry a lot of items without pummeling you under the weight of it all. The backpack is standalone for its unique load-levitating suspension that will allow you to haul heavy loads day after day.

Two spring steel stays direct weight to the pack’s lumbar region, which is padded thickly with foam. Due to the floating lid, you can accommodate extra loads easily. Moreover, the addition of a large U-shaped zipped entrance allows you to access all your stuff without actually holding the lid.

This can be perfect for when you are carrying something attached to the lid, maybe a rope. As the backpack is hydration compatible, there is an inner sleeve where you can keep the water bladder.

Pros

  • Many pockets
  • Adjustable torso size
  • Multiple access points
  • High quality

Cons

  • Quite heavy

5. Gregory Paragon 58/Maven 55

Weight: ~3.3-3.6lbs, Volume: 58/55L

View on Backcountry (men’s/women’s) or REI (men’s/women’s)

The Gregory Paragon 58 (for men) and Maven 55 (for women) are two of the most comfortable midweight backpacks the market has to offer. Gregory added a bunch of unique features to this line, such as the size-adjustable hip belt and the zippered side entry pocket.

With an exceptional side strap and hip belt combination, these bags hug most body shapes perfectly. If you’re someone who likes carrying additional gear and a lot of pockets for superior organization, you will love this.

The back panel features 3D foam technology so that you will stay comfortable for more extended periods. As a fun extra, there’s a sunglasses quick stow system on the shoulder harness so you can brave the harsh rays of the sun while looking cool.

Pros

  • Adjustable size
  • Transfers weight well
  • Side entry zipper
  • Custom rain cover provided

Cons

  • Littered with pockets and compartments, some may find it busy

6. Osprey Atmos AG 50/Aura AG 50

Weight: ~ 4.2lbs, Volume: 50L

View on Osprey (men’s/women’s) or Backcountry (men’s/women’s)

Our inclination towards Osprey is pretty evident at this point, and for good reason. The brand has a stellar line of backpacks, and the Atmos (for men) and Aura (for women) are two of their finest.

Some of the great features of this line include unparalleled suspension distribution, 3D back panel for a well-ventilated journey, an adjustable frame, and more.

There are many side pockets for superior organization. You get a stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment and loops. The Atmos/Aura can store up to 3 liters of water inside with an inner hydration sleeve.

Pros

  • Incredible value
  • Very reliable
  • Lifetime guarantee

Cons

  • Expensive

7. TETON Sports Scout 3400

Teton unisex 55 liters backpacking backpack on Amazon

Weight: 4.5lbs, Volume: 55L

View on Amazon

The Scout 3400 from TETON Sports was made for comfort. The padded back panel provides a nice channel for airflow, while the adjustable padded shoulder straps offer better distribution of load.

This unisex pack is completely adjustable in the shoulder, torso, chest, and waist. The brand mentions that this is suitable for light backpacking trips. It’s packed with features like multi-direction compression straps, a sleeping bag compartment, and multiple pockets and compartments so you can get super strategic with your packing.

All in all, this is a textbook definition of the perfect backpack for beginners.

Pros

  • Integrated rainfly
  • Bungee storage
  • Budget-friendly
  • Comfy design

Cons

  • Average build quality – nothing too wow

8. Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50

unisex 50 liters Loowoko backpacking backpack on Amazon

Weight: 2.6lbs, Volume: 50L

View on Amazon

In a full polyester lining, the Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50 is what comes to mind when we think of a well-built backpack. It features eight adjustable straps for organizing your sleeping bag, hammock, mat, and other gears. With convenient mesh side pockets, the pack allows you to keep your stuff organized separately.

With comfort, the shoulder straps have a breathable mesh with adequate sponge padding. This relieves stress from the shoulders.

In addition, the thickened and widened S-type shoulder straps paired with breathable back support offers ventilation. You get a rain cover with the pack. Thanks to the ripstop polyester, rainwater cannot seep into the bag.

Pros

  • Affordable price range
  • Lightweight design
  • Rain cover included
  • 90 days limited guarantee

Cons

Not the most durable

9. Esup Hiking Backpack 50

unisex backpacking backpack on Amazon Esup 50 liters

Weight: 2.6lbs, Volume: 50L

View on Amazon

Another decent unisex option comes from Esup in the form of the Hiking Backpack 50. This one features a nylon lining and the usual zipper closure. You can fix the tightness according to need with the adjustable shoulder straps.

The 50-liter high-capacity pack includes two zipped front pockets, one main compartment, a sleeping bag compartment, and mesh side pockets. You can stash a blanket, tent, or cooking gear for a light adventure.

Made from a high-quality blend of nylon and polyester, the Hiking Backpack 50 is tear, wear, and scratch-resistant. To save the bag from rainwater, the brand provides a rain cover.

Pros

  • Breathable mesh straps
  • Amazing value
  • Available in five colors
  • Durable build

Cons

  • Single seams

10. Osprey Levity 60/Lumina 60

Weight:~ 1.8-2.0lbs, Volume: 54-63L

View on Osprey (men’s/women’s) or Backcountry (men’s/women’s)

Featuring a weight capacity of around 30 pounds, the Levity (for men) and Lumina (for women) from Osprey are a shift from the heavily padded, feature-rich rucksacks crowding the market. This is for the people who are economical about the weight they carry into trips. These backpacks are for backpackers that hike super ultralight and should not be used otherwise.

The mesh back panel’s super comfortable design and the strong metal frame provide excellent distribution.

But the lightweight design comes with its own set of cons. The generic hip belt features cutouts on the side. Pair that with the minimalist padding, and you won’t get much cushioning when the pack gets a bit heavy.

Pros

  • Surprisingly durable
  • NanoFly fabric
  • All-around ventilation

Cons

  • No hip belt pockets

Conclusion

Your needs will determine which backpack is the best for you. Make sure to keep your requirements aligned with your budget. There are plenty of affordable options. That being said, with backpacks, you get what you pay for. But with high-quality backpack brands like Osprey, Gregory, and Deuter, getting a comfortable and reliable backpacking backpack isn’t a problem.