How to Choose the Best Hiking Backpack In 3 Easy Steps

For many people, hiking is one of the easiest ways to get outdoors. But if you’ve ever been on a hike and wanted to stay on the trail just a bit longer, you might want to try an overnight backpacking trip. The distance and time are up to you, but no matter what, the most important piece of gear you’ll need is a backpack that’s designed for backpacking.

Although plenty of hikers have taken overnight treks without specialized gear (just think of John Muir!), a quality hiking backpack will minimize the pain and discomfort that can result from heavy loads and longer distances. (In other words, your back and shoulders will thank you.) A proper pack will also enable you to bring the essentials you’ll need for an off-the-grid camping trip.

In a Hurry? Here are our quick picks for best hiking backpack…

Bestseller No. 1
Loowoko 50L Hiking Backpack, Waterproof Camping Essentials Bag with Rain Cover, 45+5 Liter Lightweight Backpacking Back Pack
  • COST EFFECTIVE HIKING BACKPACK - Loowoko hiking pack has obvious advantages at the cost performance, reliability and quality. You can get a great quality hiking bag of the same quality as a hundreds dollar without spending too much money.
  • COMPREHENSIVE UPGRADED VERSION - Compared with the same style backpack on the market, you will find that this back pack has some differences. Yes, we have made a comprehensive upgrade based on customer feedback. Better fabric, stronger straps, and more durable zippers make this a better camping bag.
  • NO INTERNAL FRAME - This lightweight & comfortable hiker backpack is specially designed for outdoor enthusiasts. Breathable mesh shoulder straps with plentiful sponge padding help relieve the stress from your shoulder. Widened and thickened S-type shoulder straps and high elastic breathable back support for best ventilation and easing burden, gives you more comfortable experience.
  • RAIN COVER INCLUDED - Made with high quality tear Polyester and nylon fabric, tear resistant, anti-scratch, wear resistant. Come with extra waterproof rain cover pouch on the bottom pouch, prevent the water and dust into the backpack, protect your valuables from heavy rain and keep everything dry.
  • CAMPING ESSENTIAL GEAR - With 50 liter large capacity but only 2.1 pounds weight, it's enough for 3-5 days travel or outdoor adventure. Fits women and men and meets size requirements for most airlines. A must have daypack for hiking, camping, backpacking, trekking, mountaineering and traveling.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Bseash 60L Waterproof Hiking Camping Backpack with Rain Cover, Lightweight Outdoor Sport Travel Daypack for Climbing Touring (Black)
  • Comfortable Daypack: This climbing backpack is specially designed for traveling enthusiasts, ergonomic padded shoulder straps and back support,gives you more comfortable feeling.Breathable mesh shoulder straps with plentiful sponge padding help relieve the stress from your shoulder. Widened and thickened S-type shoulder straps and high elastic breathable back support for best ventilation and easing burden.And this pack doesn't have an internal or external frame.
  • LARGE CAPACITY & MULTI COMPARTMENTS:Spacious main compartment and numerous pouches with large capacity.Special main pocket closing drawstring design, tight closure to prevent the items falling from the backpack.With one Interior Pouch for water bladder.Shoes separated storing pouch, preventing the items inside backpack to be dirty, convenient and practical.Two side pockets to carry more water bottles, And it meets size requirements for most airlines, enough room for 3 or 4 days trips.
  • With 8 ADJUSTABLE STRAPS:for tying up your pack or hanging sleeping bag, mat, hammock, tripod, and other gears,convenient for the hiking, climbing, camping enthusiasts.
  • Water-resistant:Made of high-quality and safe material, it is durable for long-time use.nylon fabric material, Made of High quality rip-stop polyester material, water resistant, tear resistant.and included extra rain cover pouch on the bottom pouch,prevent the water and dust into the backpack,protect your valuables from heavy rain and keep everything dry.
  • Lightweight backpack for outdoor, Ultralight, only 2.1 pounds for 60L large capacity,reducing the backpack loading weight so that you can carry more other items. The maximum loading bearing is 33lb.Unfold size:68*33*20cm / 26.77*13*7.87 inches.
Bestseller No. 3
Osprey Rook 65L Men's Backpacking Backpack, Black, One Size
  • Women's-specific sizing and fit
  • Fixed top lid with zippered pocket
  • Osprey Daylite compatible with front panel cord loop attachment points

Backpacks 101

The best hiking backpacks that are designed for backpacking have some characteristics that set them apart from standard backpacks or even, daypacks. In general, backpacking packs have a larger capacity than other backpacks and are designed to be worn for longer periods of time.

It’s important to research the options and choose the right backpacking pack for you. Here are some things to consider:

Size: Backpack sizes are given in liters and this refers to the pack’s capacity or how much it can hold. Choose your pack’s size based on your trip length and how much you can comfortably carry.

  • Small (30-50 liters): This size is ideal for weekend trips.
  • Medium (50-80 liters): This is the size you’ll want for trips lasting up to 5 days in warmer weather.
  • Large (70 liters and up): This is size is for trips longer than 5 days or trips that require winter gear.

Fit: When it comes to backpacks, fit is everything. To find your ideal fit, you’ll need to know your hip circumference and the length of your torso. Each backpack should have their fit info listed in the product specs.

Features: Today’s backpacks often come with a dizzying number of features. Here are the most important ones to consider.

  • Frame: In the past, most backpacking packs were designed with external frames. But now, the opposite it true. Most backpacking packs have an internal frame, a sturdy structure that’s concealed within the pack itself. In most cases, you’ll probably want a backpack with an internal frame, but packs with external frames can be good if you’re carrying an unusually heavy load.
  • Rain cover: Unless you plan on hiking only in arid climates, it’s a good idea to buy a pack with an integrated rain cover or one that has a separate rain cover that’s designed to fit the pack.
  • Access: Most backpacks are top-loading, but if you’re willing to spend more, there are also packs that have additional front- or side-loading options. This allows you to reach things at the bottom of the pack without removing everything else in it.
  • Ventilation: Along with fit, proper ventilation plays an important part in a backpack’s comfort level. The one drawback of an internal frame is that the pack rests against the wearer’s back. But many of today’s packs are designed with mesh panels or ventilation channels that address this issue by allowing airflow between the pack and the wearer’s back.
  • Padding: The majority of your pack’s weight (up to 90%) will be carried by your hips. That’s why you’ll want a backpack with a padded hip belt in addition to padded shoulder straps.
  • Exterior storage: While most of your gear will be inside the pack, it’s also helpful to choose a pack that has adequate external storage like external zippered pockets, daisy chains, and gear loops.
  • Hydration: Last but not least, consider a backpack that has a built-in hydration system. This will allow you to drink water and stay hydrated without having to remove your backpack.

best hiking backpack for hiking

Our Best Hiking Backpack Picks

Backpacking packs are often available in women’s and men’s styles but keep in mind that choosing a pack is more about finding one that comfortably fits your body type. In general, women’s styles are designed for people with smaller frames. Here are some of our favorites:

Small (30-50 liters)

Osprey Renn 50 Backpacking Pack (Women’s)

This hardworking pack from Osprey has it all: roomy interior, integrated rain cover, ventilated mesh back panel, and a padded hip belt complete with easy-to-access zippered pockets. Although it doesn’t come with a hydration reservoir, it does have a convenient internal hydration sleeve that will hold up to a 3-liter reservoir. This pack also sports a feature that isn’t standard on most packs: an adjustable harness that can accommodate a range of torso lengths.

Osprey Renn 50L Women's Backpacking Backpack, Aurora Purple, One Size
  • Women's-specific sizing and fit
  • Fixed top lid with zippered pocket
  • Osprey Daylite compatible with front panel cord loop attachment points
Osprey Rook 50 Backpacking Pack (Men’s)

Osprey’s Rook 50 is at the larger end of small backpacks but its streamlined shape and compressible design still make it a great choice for shorter backpacking trips. Like the Osprey Renn 50, this pack has an integrated rain cover, ventilated mesh back panel, and built-in hydration reservoir sleeve. It also has a zippered bottom compartment that’s designed to hold a sleeping bag. This allows you to access your sleeping gear without having to unload your whole pack.

Osprey Men's Rook Backpack, Black, 50L
  • Women's-specific sizing and fit
  • Fixed top lid with zippered pocket
  • Osprey Daylite compatible with front panel cord loop attachment points

Medium (50-80 liters)

Gregory Mountain Products Deva 60 (Women’s)

The Deva 60 from Gregory Mountain Products is designed for a bit more time on the trail. Not only is it a large capacity pack—it holds 60 liters—but it also comes with a removable daypack that doubles as a hydration sleeve and a water bottle holster. The Deva 60 also has a feature that was designed with comfort in mind: a pivoting hip belt. Unlike typical hip belts, a pivoting hip belt allows your pack to stay balanced as your hips move rather than constantly shifting.

Gregory Mountain Products Women's Deva 60 Backpacking Pack
  • Custom Fit Suspension - Response A3 suspension with independently rotating hipbelt and harnesses. Custom fitting available at your local retailer.
  • Included Daypack - Sidekick Daypack included doubles as an internal hydration sleeve
  • Sidewinder Bottle Holster - One-handed on-the-go water bottle access - tucks away when not in use
Gregory Mountain Products Baltaro 75 (Men’s)

Like the Deva 60, the Baltaro 75 from Gregory Mountain Products has a pivoting hip belt and a removable daypack that doubles as a hydration sleeve. At 75 liters, this pack can hold a lot of gear. Thankfully, along with its standard top-loading design, it also comes with a zippered access panel on the front so you can reach anything inside when you need it. There’s also a separate zippered compartment on the bottom of the pack for sleeping bag storage.

Gregory Mountain Products Men's Baltoro 75 Backpacking Pack, Dusk Blue, Medium
  • custom fit suspension - response a3 suspension with independently rotating hipbelt and harnesses. custom fitting available at your local retailer.
  • package weight - 2.585 kilograms
  • product type - shoes
  • country of origin: philippines
  • Sport type: Hiking

Large (70 liters and up)

Kelty Coyote (Women’s and Men’s)

Kelty’s Coyote is a pack that can go the distance. This trail-ready backpacking pack is available in four sizes with the largest topping out at 105 liters. All sizes have a top-loading design and handy front access via a zippered panel. Each also has abundant storage—from the spacious main compartment to zippered side pockets, hip belt pockets, straps, and a lid that converts to a separate sling pack. And Kelty didn’t skimp on comfort. The Coyote has a padded hip belt, sternum strap, mesh back panel, and lumber support.

Kelty Coyote 60-105 Liter Internal Frame Backpack - Hiking, Backpacking, Travel, Hydration Compatible, Fully Adjustable (85L / Dark Olive)
  • 85 Liters: Ample storage for all your essential gear. 4lb 14oz empty weight, 32 x 19 x13 inches, optimal carry weight 40-65 pounds.
  • Versatile Pack: The Coyote is the flagship trekking pack from the bright minds over at Kelty. Fully featured and re-designed for 2020, the Coyote features an advanced perimeter frame for supreme stability on the trail.
  • Plenty of Pockets: Kelty Signature wing pockets, two front zippered pockets, and large J-zip top loading access to the main compartment. Daisy chains, water bottle pockets, and sleeping bag compartment keep everything tidy on the trail.
  • Tailored Fit: A thru hiker’s dream, the Coyote features the new Fit Pro technology, providing a quick and customized torso fit for each user. Fit pro can be adjusted on the fly with ease, when shedding layers or passing off your pack.
  • Amp Flow: Sweaty backs? Not here. The Amp Flow ventilated back panel will keep you cool and dry on long jaunts in the wild. Aluminum Stay in the external frame keeps your load secure and balanced, for a stable and comfortable hike.

Inspired to take an overnight hike? Check out post on the 10 best long-distance hikes in the U.S.