Best Hiking Backpacks to Make You a Pro Trekker

It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a day hike to a waterfall and a camping site or you’re taking a multi-day trek-maybe something like the Na’Pali Coast Hike on Kauai, Hawaii.  The key is to keep the least amount of weight on your back as possible.  You’ll perform better and you’ll like the hiking experience much, much more.  Keeping your weight down means that you have to have an awesome, lightweight backpack.

You’ve probably noticed that most of the outdoor gear makers and suppliers are all into the “light weight”, “ultra light weight” phase these days.  It’s the trend and for good reason.  Why not get the same quality out of your hiking backpack or tent while lightening the material and keeping the load off, right?  The key is to make sure that you don’t lose quality in exchange for weight.

It matters what kind of hiking you’re doing, but the backpack will probably be one of the 4 or 5 heaviest loads you’re bearing:  backpack, tent/shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food/water are the items that I would deem essential and heaviest.

What to Consider When Buying a Backpack for Hiking

Cost

You don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for your hiking backpack and, in most cases, a decent one shouldn’t your bank account all that much.  However, this is definitely a case of you get what you pay for.  The more money you spend then usually the higher quality of backpack you’ll get.  If you spend a decent and acceptable amount of money on a quality hiking pack then you can be sure that with care and maintenance, your backpack will last you a long, long time.  Our recommendations below all hit these standards.

Feel/Fit

You may think that fitting a backpack is pretty easy and that in most cases it’s a “one size fits all” sort of thing.  However, that’s not the case.  The problem is that until you have a fully loaded pack you’ll never know if the fit and feel of your backpack is good, great or lousy.  We do a pretty thorough job here of recommending only the best hiking backpacks that are known for their tremendous feel and fit.  Pay special attention to the torso and hip/waist size when ordering and it’s almost a can’t miss.

Weight

Remember when we said that the backpack will be on the heavy list of items that you do bring on your hiking and/or camping trip.  Aside from the sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and tent the weight of your backpack will be a huge consideration. Our options and recommendations below will keep weight in mind at all times.

Material

I’m really hung up on the material that my hiking backpacks are made of.  I prefer something called ripstop nylon.  Others would rather have the more expensive cuben fiber.  I just like the way the nylong feels better, but most experts would agree that many of the “best hiking backpacks” are made of cuben fiber.  What it really comes down to in this category is personal preference.

Design

I like gadgets and versatility so you’ll often see me out on the trail with a backpack of a fancy design with lots of compartments, straps, and functions.  But that’s just me.  Some of the best backpacks for camping and hiking are the simplest.  Keep in mind that, at its most basic, a backpack is no more than a sack of gear on your back.  There’s no need for fancy design, but I like it.  The ones that we’ve recommended below are a mixture of design, trend, and functionality.  You can’t go wrong…

Online Accessibility (including repair and accessories)

If you’re going to order your backpack online then you may want to make sure that it’s from a large retailer (like our partner, Amazon) so that you can get replacement parts and all the accessories that you need.  Amazon is also great because they have a pretty lenient return policy on unused backpacks.  Don’t try to take your new pack on a 10 day camping trip and then returning it.  Try it out at home and if you don’t like it then return it.

Hiking Backpack5 Features and Benefits to Look for in Backpacks for Hiking and Camping

Total Volume

The volume of your backpack will determine the amount of gear that you can gear in terms of size, not weight.  In many cases, the more experience you are at hiking then the less volume you can get by with.  If you’re new, don’t opt for the smallest just because you’re looking for the lightest.

  • Size of the Main Area:  A big, main compartment is where it’s at.  Be sure to pack the items that you’ll need later in the trip at the bottom, i.e. tent, poles, etc.  And keep what you will or may need at the top.  Food, wet weather gear, cold weather gear, flashlight, emergency equipment, etc.
  • Other storage Compartments:  Many hikers and campers will tell you that more storage equals more weight.  I don’t necessarily agree.  I think that the more storage compartments that you have then the easier it will be to organize your typical load instead of adding more to it.
  • Shoulder Storage (Pockets and Hooks):  I think that storage and a pocket on the shoulders straps is great.  If allows you to get to often used and important gear without having to drop your pack (phone, camera, bug spray, etc) and open and look for items.  If the pack that you choose doesn’t have a shoulder pouch then I’d recommend you get an accessory one after the fact.

Hydration/Water Considerations

Not staying hydrated is one of the most dangerous things while hiking and camping.  Not falling or bears but drinking water will kill you fast!  It’s important to have plenty of and ample access to water and other hydrating liquids.

  • Water Bottle Pockets:  Side pockets on your hiking backpack are great for water bottles.  Many packs have specially designed, water bottle pockets.
  • Hydration Bladder Compartments:  Here are Hiking Hydration we’re known for reviewing our hydration backpacks and bladders.  You may want to consider a hiking backpack wiht a built in bladder hydration system.  The drinking tube makes it a lot easier to hydrate and that makes it a lot more likely that you’ll do it.

Waterproof Materials

While drinking water is good, soaking up water into your backpack is not good.  You’ll want to keep all of that stuff dry, right? Sure, they make waterproof bags that you can pack most of your stuff in and then store that inside of your backpack but why not get one that does it for you? However, don’t always count on the stitching of your backpack to keep all moisture out.  Plastic bags are a great idea for an added layer of proofing.

  • Sides:  Cuben fiber is a waterproof material but stitches and seems are sometimes compromised.
  • Top lid: Some lightweight packs have top lids and others don’t.  Personally, I prefer them but remember, you’re looking for lightweight and the more material then the heavier it can be.  Choose whichever your preference is.

Straps and Load Bearing

The more straps that you have to adjust on your hiking backpack then the more you can adjust the comfort level and load bearing areas.  Look for the below characteristics.

  • Should straps: Comfortable padding for the shoulders straps is muy importante.  They hold a lot of the weight on your back.  Make sure they are well spaced and soft so as to avoid chafing.
  • Hip Belts and straps:  This is tricky to be comfy but with a good placed hip strap on your backpack then you can take a lot of pressure and weight of those shoulders.
  • Chest Straps:  Sometimes called “sternum straps”, these straps can bring additional comfort.  They move and secure the shoulder straps and do a great job at securing the pack so that there is less jostling and rubbing…and chafing.

Hiking/Trekking Poles Storage

I don’t usually use trekking poles, but they can be really handy if you do.  These straps and storage a specifically placed in order to make your trekking poles easily accessible on your hiking backpack.

5 Best Hiking Backpacks (for Camping, Hiking, Hunting)

Teton Sports Scout 3400

Probably the prime example of what a premium but affordable hiking backpack should be, the  Teton Sports 3400 Scoutis what many manufacturers strive to make but just can’t do it at the same price.  The Scout has most of the requirements that we look for:  good mesh cargo areas for water bottles, zippered pockets on both sides, padded water bladder compartment, and light weight material.

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Mountaintop Internal Frame Versatility Pack for Hiking Camping

Five color options including black, brown, red, blue and yellow stand out, but the Mountaintop Internal Frame Hiking backpack also brings hydration system compatibility, state of art load bearing design with shoulder, sternum and waist straps, a large bottom compartment, trekking pole attachments, and D hooks on the shoulder straps for accessing important gear quickly.  Also, 8 compression straps make for easy stowing and carrying of additional packs, tents, and sleeping bag.

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Vbiger Large Capacity 55L Lightweight Travel Water Resistant Backpack / Mountaineering Hiking Daypack (Navy Blue, 55L)

9 different colors options and a great price.  Don’t let the low price tag fool you, though.  The Vbiger hiking pack packs a bang of features.  Water resistant material, state of art air and breathing system on the bag to keep your back comfortable, lots of straps, 55L capacity, the large top flap is water resistant but also has an additional storage within it.

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Osprey Men’s Atmos Hiking Backpack

The Osprey is by no means an inexpensive hiking pack.  It is, however, the best pack that we’ve ever sampled here at Hiking Hydration.  The Men’s Atmos Hiking Pack has an extanable/removable top lid to save on load, sleeping pad straps, dual-zippered pockets, compression and stabilization straps for comfort and load adjustment, separate compartment on bottom for sleeping bag, extra room and less weight.  That’s what the lightweight hiking pack market is all about and Osprey delivers the best!

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Granite Gear Virga 2 52L Backpack

A great take on a hiking pack with a decent price.  Roll top covering, frameless suspension, and a built-in hydration system hanger.  1 lb and 2 oz keep it light as can be, even though this new and improved re-design adds mesh pockets and a padded waist belt.  Comfort and convenience in the Granite Gear Virga are hiker’s two best friends.

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Summary

Hope that all that information helps you out when you’re looking for the Best Hiking Backpacks.  There’s a lot of information to process but you can trust in our recommendations and information that we give.  Check out some of our other gear guides:

Best Trekking Poles Buyers Guide

Best Backpacking Water Filters

Best Hydration Packs