Best Hiking Backpacks

Kim Suarez

Updated Oct 29, 2018

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Best Overall Day Pack

Osprey Talon 22

Best Runner-Up Day Pack

Deuter Speed Lite 20

Best Budget Day Pack

REI Co-op Flash 18

Best Lightweight Day Pack

The Best Hiking Backpacks 2018

10 Hiking Backpacks Considered 10 Top Picks
Name Price Rating Size Ideal Hike Length
Osprey Talon 22 Small/Medium: 18.1” x 11” x 11”, 20L, 1.68 lbs
Medium/Large: 20.1” x 11” x 11”, 22L, 1.78 lbs
Single day
Deuter Speed Lite 20 18.1” x 10.2” x 7”, 20L, 1.08 lbs Single day
REI Co-op Flash 18 16” x 9.5” x 8”, 18L, .625 lbs Single day
Hyperlite Daybreak Ultralight Daypack 21” x 11” x 6.5”, 17L, 1.27 lbs Single day
Matador Freerain 24 24” x 14”, 24L, .31 lbs Single Day
Osprey Atmos AG 65 Small: 32.28” x 15.35” x 16.14”, 62L, 4.48 lbs
Medium: 34.25” x 15.35” x 16.14”, 65L, 4.56 lbs
Large: 36.22” x 15.35” x 16.14”, 68L, 4.64 lbs
Multi-day
Granite Gear Crown2 60 Regular: 23.5” x 13” x 8”, 60L, 2.36 lbs Multi-day
REI Co-op Flash 45 Medium: 13” x 26” x 9”, 45L, 2 lbs 12 oz
Large: 13” x 27” x 9”, 47L, 2 lbs 14 oz
Multi-day
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Medium: 34” x 10.5”, 55L, 2 lbs Multi-day
Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 Check Site 63L Multi-day

Intro

The outdoor industry has exploded in the past few years with the popularity rising for outdoor sports like rock climbing, surfing and mountain biking. A new generation is coming up and they have a keen interest in protecting outdoor spaces and the environment. For these reasons, the amount of companies in the outdoor industry has grown exponentially and is still growing at a rapid rate. Within the category of hiking packs, a few key brands hold the top spots in popularity. However, many smaller brands and individual designers have been popping up to give the top brands competition over the market. Read below to find the feature sets to look for when purchasing a new pack, as well as the top packs in a variety of categories within day and multi-day hiking (backpacking). 

Best Overall Day Pack

Osprey Talon 22 Check Price

Simplicity is the focus here with the Osprey Talon 22. Built for day hikes, commuting or around town travel, the Talon 22 features ventilated and comfortable shoulder straps, a ventilated back padded panel, helmet carry system as well as straps for attaching trekking poles. And with pockets at the hip belt, side of the pack, shoulder straps and top of the pack, there are plenty of storage options for all of your gear, whether hiking or day use.

Main Features:

  • Side stretch mesh pockets
  • Stretch mesh harness horizontal pockets
  • Top panel zippered pocket
  • Seamless hip belt for comfort
  • Aluminum peripheral frame for support with an atilon framesheet

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to load
  • Great adjustability

Cons

  • Water bottles are not easy to reach
  • Not built for larger people
  • Capacity might appear smaller than expected

Best Runner-Up Day Pack

Deuter Speed Lite 20 Check Price

Looking for a more technical day pack? The Speed Lite 20 is built for adventure races, alpinists and ski touring in mind, so you know you'll find quality and durability. The Dynajin 210D nylon fabric with 3D air mesh at the back panel is a 1.1-pound pack built to be used under intense conditions over long periods of time. It is also hydration compatible, adjustable and offers a removable hip belt for those shorter trips. 

Main Features:

  • 3D air mesh padded back panel
  • Delrin U-frame for support
  • S-shaped shoulder harness with air mesh for breathability and comfort
  • Removable hip belt
  • Compression straps to reduce load
  • Mesh side pockets
  • Hydration compatible
  • Adjustable chest straps
  • Side access front pocket
  • Internal pockets for organization of valuables
  • Reflective hits for night hiking

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Great for climbing, travel or commuting

Cons

  • Top handle can rub against the neck when running
  • When a hydration pack is added not much else fits
  • Interior could have more organization pockets

Best Budget Day Pack

REI Co-op Flash 18 Check Price

You can't beat the price and feature set on the REI Co-op Flash 18, REI's best selling day pack. Weighing in at just 10 ounces, this could have been a contender for the best ultralight pack as well. It features a cinch cord closure with a hydration port that supports a bladder. It also offers an exterior zip pocket and daisy chain to attach additional items with ease. Whether out on the trail or on a trip across town to the farmer's market, the Flash 18 is both multi-functional and looks good all the same. 

Main Features:

  • Ripstop nylon fabric
  • 18-liter capacity
  • Lightly-padded stretch mesh shoulder straps and back panel
  • Detachable hip belt and sternum straps
  • Hydration hose exit port
  • Top access to a single compartment with cinch closure

Pros

  • Great value
  • Works well for run commutes
  • Perfect for short hikes and travel

Cons

  • Some quality issues can occur at the seams
  • Not built for larger people
  • Not very durable

Best Lightweight Day Pack

Hyperlite Daybreak Ultralight Daypack Check Price

Made from Dyneema composite fabric, this pack is built for all-day use and ultralight hiking. Dyneema composite is fifteen times stronger than steel but light enough to float on water to provide the ultimate ultralight material. The Daybreak will ensure that your pack will hold up whether in short or long hikes and will be lightweight and comfortable the entire time. This pack weighs 1.27 pounds and is offered in three torso sizes: Small, Medium and Large. 

Main Features:

  • Laptop sleeve
  • External front pocket for additional storage
  • Removable ice ax attachments
  • Side water bottle pockets
  • Lightly padded hip belt
  • Abright liner to see what's inside
  • Padded back panel
  • Adjustable sternum straps
  • Dyneema shoulder straps with padded foam

Pros

  • Durable
  • High-quality
  • Comfortable
  • Fits well

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Fabric is very loud
  • Internal pocket doesn't have enough organization

Best Innovative Day Pack

Matador Freerain 24 Check Price

Matador has become the industry leader in innovative, packable designs for technical hiking and travel packs. The Freerain 24 offers a fully waterproof, seam-sealed 24-liter pack with a rolltop construction and packs down to fit in a pants pocket. Weighing in at just 5 ounces, what the Freerain lacks in features and comfort, it makes up for in weight and durability. If you are looking for a lightweight, waterproof pack that doubles as the ultimate travel companion, the Freerain 24 is the top pick. 

Main Features:

  • Waterproof 30D Cordura
  • 24L capacity
  • Rolltop construction
  • Front organization pocket
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Seam sealed for waterproofness

Pros

  • Versatile
  • Lightweight
  • Can fit a lot more than it seems

Cons

  • Not as comfortable since the back panel is not padded
  • Not as comfortable for larger people
  • The fabric can feel slippery

Best Overall Multi-day Pack

Osprey Atmos AG 65 Check Price

Osprey built the Atmost AG 65 with the intention of creating the most comfortable pack with the best ventilation and fit. Using a proprietary suspension system, AntiGravity, to create a weightless carrying experience, the Atmos AG 65 is built for long-distance backpacking. The pack also features side pockets, a unique pole attachment system and the ability to use the pack without the lid. For the all-around best backpacking pack for outdoor use, the Osprey Atmos AG 65 is the best you can buy. 

Main Features:

  • AntiGravity suspension system
  • FlapJacket lid replaces the included lid to protect items from weather
  • Mesh front and side pockets
  • Trekking pole attachments
  • Hydration reservoir compatible
  • Upper and side compression straps
  • Zippered hip belt pockets
  • Sleeping bag zippered compartment with separate divider
  • Ice axe loops
  • Sleeping pad straps
  • Sternum strap with safety whistle

Pros

  • Fits excellent
  • Back panel suspension system great for those with chronic back pain
  • Pack compresses down easily when not filled

Cons

  • Zipper hip belt pockets cannot open and close with one hand
  • Does not come with a bladder

Best Runner-Up Day pack

Granite Gear Crown2 60 Check Price

Designed for ultimate comfort over multi-day hiking, the Granite Gear Crown2 uses a proprietary compression-molded polypropylene frame sheet to provide serious support. The adjustable, removable hip belt and three torso size offerings (Short, Regular, Long) offer the opportunity to customize the Crown2 to any body size fully. Weighing just 2.2 pounds, the pack provides a 35-pound load rating, removable top lid and is hydration compatible. 

Main Features:

  • Vapor Current Mark 2 frame
  • Re-Fit removable and adjustable hip belt
  • 210D and 100D high-density nylon ripstop with water repellent treatment
  • Side and front compression straps
  • Side stretch woven pockets
  • Stretch mesh front pocket
  • Removable lid with DWR treated zipper
  • Rolltop construction

Pros

  • Fits well
  • Quality is high
  • Load capacity is accurate
  • Great value for the price

Cons

  • Water bottles only reachable when the pack is off
  • Inconsistent workmanship

Best Budget Multi-Day Pack

REI Co-op Flash 45 Check Price

Those in search of the best budget pack that is feature-rich and highly durable need look no further than the REI Co-op Flash 45. Built with a contoured hip belt, breathable back panel, and load stabilizers, the Flash 45 ensures comfort during any multi-day backpacking adventure. REI also developed a couple of proprietary feature sets in their UpLift and Packnit technologies to provide a serious compression system as well as a back panel with triangle foam to increase airflow.

Main Features:

  • UpLift compression system
  • Packnit breathable back panel
  • Snap water bottle pockets
  • Contoured hip belt
  • Removable top lid
  • Attachment loops on the front of the pack for added items
  • Hydration port
  • Mesh front pocket at front for quick access items

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • Main pocket is very spacious

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Inside of top compartment has no internal pockets
  • Only has one pole attachment

Best Lightweight Multi-Day Pack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Check Price

Thanks to the Dyneema Composite material, this pack is built for ultralight adventures but also will maintain the highest levels of durability throughout. Used by professional climbers and guides, Hyperlite is known to offer the highest quality, most durable packs. Though the price point is quite high, this will be the only multi-day pack you'll need for a lifetime. Weighing in at just 1 pound and made in the US, this pack will exceed all expectations in both fair and foul weather. This pack is offered in Small, Medium, Tall and Large sizes. 

Main Features:

  • 100% Dyneema Composite fabric
  • Three external Dyneema pockets
  • Removable aluminum stays
  • Close-cell hip belt made of rigid foam and spacer mesh
  • Ice ax loop
  • Hydration port
  • Exterior buckles for attaching additional items
  • Fully seam sealed for waterproofness
  • Compression straps included
  • Foam back panel for comfort
  • Dyneema shoulder straps

Pros

  • Hip pockets are great for quick access
  • Compacts down nicely
  • Best durability for weight

Cons

  • Hydration pack not as functional for multi-day hiking
  • The hip belt is not detachable

Best Innovative Multi-Day Pack

Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 Check Price

Known for their innovation in simplified design and aesthetically-beautiful construction techniques, Arc'teryx is the leader in premium outdoor equipment and apparel. The Bora AR 63 features an advanced hip belt in its RotoGlide belt, which rotates from side to side and up and down to reduce rubbing and improve stability. The shoulder straps of the pack are adjustable in both width and height for the ultimate adjustability. And finally, with weatherproof and durable nylon fabrics used across the pack, this pricey pack will hold up for the long haul. This pack is offered in both Regular and Tall sizes. 

Main Features:

  • 420 and 630D fabrics used throughout the pack
  • Weatherproof fabric used in areas more prone for rain exposure
  • RotoGlide hip belt
  • GridLock adjustable shoulder straps
  • Molded Tegris frame sheet for support
  • Ventilated back panel
  • Side access zippered pockets
  • Removable top lid
  • Side pockets
  • Hip belt pockets
  • Compatible with hydration reservoirs
  • Ice axe loops

Pros

  • Durable
  • High quality
  • Works well in poor weather
  • Very comfortable

Cons

  • Side pockets are too shallow
  • No straps keep the pack simple but might not be as functional
  • Expensive

Buying Guide

Price
The first significant factor to consider when buying a new pack is the price. This should be determined by the frequency and intensity of the hiking you will be doing with this pack. If you plan to use this pack for extended, frequent periods of time, you should consider spending more money on a more durable pack from a brand with a robust warranty policy. Also, if you plan to use this pack in high-intensity situations, where there are serious safety risks involved, you should be spending as much as you can on a pack. If you plan to use this pack for occasional, low-intensity use like day hiking or backpacking close to home, you may be able to get away with a lower budget pack.

Distance
Once the price is determined, you should then focus on what specific hiking you plan to do with this pack. This is usually narrowed down to day hiking or multi-day hiking. Day hiking will allow for a smaller volume pack since you will not be needing overnight essentials. Day hiking packs are usually under 35 liters in volume. Multi-day hiking backpacks range in volume anywhere from 40-70 liters for shorter (1-5 day) backpacking or up to 110 liters for more extended expeditions. You should be purchasing a pack specific to your end use and what hikes you will go on most frequently. If you plan for both day use and multi-day use, you should purchase separate packs for each of these goals.

Weight
While weight is not as crucial for day packs, where time wearing the pack is usually kept under 6-8 hours, the weight of the pack is significant to consider in backpacking. Various pack companies exist to supply the ultralight backpacking community, which is a style of backpacking where the focus is on the lightest and most simplified setup needed to complete the trip. This usually means the total weight of all necessary equipment, including food, weighs less than 10 pounds. This is compared to standard backpacking, where the total weight is usually around 30 pounds. This should be considered when purchasing a pack, whether you want to achieve a lightweight system, or prefer more features.

Extras
Whether or not you've chosen to focus on an ultralight pack or traditional pack, the feature set is important to consider as the final factor when purchasing a pack. Some features come more standard to packs, such as a supportive hip belt with adjustability for multi-day packs or water bottle holders for day packs. It is essential to determine the end use for the pack when deciding which features are worth searching out and possibly paying extra for. Some of the most requested features on any technical pack include: an adjustable hip belt, side water bottle pockets, load lifters, rear stretch pocket, ventilated back panel, hip pockets, and an adjustable torso.

About the Author

Kim Suarez

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About the Author

Kim Suarez

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