Hiking packs come in a wide variety of styles and sizes and with different features or capabilities depending upon their intended use.

Many have been designed and manufactured for a unique purpose and contain all the necessary features for that purpose alone. Recognizing and understanding the hiking packs can help you gear up at the beginning of your outdoor adventure.

Hiking Packs

Here are the top five types of hiking packs:

Waist Packs or “Fanny” Packs

10 Liter Maximum Capacity

These smaller pouches are not worn on the back like usual hiking packs, but instead are fastened at the waist or the small of your back.

Many of these packs are quite small and are constructed as little more than a pouch on a comfortable belt. They also frequently include secure zipper pockets and places to keep your water bottle secure.

Even the larger models are easy to carry because they rest at your center of gravity and do not put undue strain on shoulders or upper back. Some of the largest waist packs offer shoulder straps as well, so you can better distribute the weight of the load.

If what you are carrying weighs too much or is bulky, this type of hiking pack can sag or get in the way of your natural stride. Switching to a more traditional backpack is recommended.

Hydration Pack

10 Liter Maximum Capacity

The sole purpose for hydration packs is to carry water for drinking purposes. You do not even have to stop to take a drink.

A small tube stretches between the water reservoir and a mouthpiece that is usually clipped to your shoulder for easy access. Smaller models simply have a flexible bladder on straps while some others include pockets for gear or other belongings.

Some larger backpacks that feature more room for other gear also include a pocket where a water bladder can be inserted and the tube threaded through a hole for easy drinking.

One of the most popular manufacturers of hydration packs is CamelBak.


15 to 35 Liter Maximum Capacity

These smaller sized backpacks are created for precisely what their name implies: shorter day hikes.

Many of these are indistinguishable from the type of backpack a kid carries to school. They have sturdy shoulder straps, occasionally a chest strap for more stability, but rarely a waist strap or hip belt.

The larger models are more likely to have this last feature. These backpacks are suitable to carry all the gear necessary for a day’s hike in the wilderness.

Midsize Pack

35 to 70 Liters Maximum Capacity

Backpacks offered in this mid-level size can be used for day hikes when more gear is necessary or desired.

These can be perfect for people who want to bring field guides, binoculars and camera equipment or if more clothing options are needed due to variable weather conditions.

Midsize packs are also perfect for overnight trips taken by people who know how to pack light. They have a variety of features built for maximum comfort, stability and carrying capacity.

Expedition Backpack

60 Liters + Maximum Capacity

If you carry a lot of gear with you into the wilderness or intend to stay there for a longer period of time, the largest expedition packs may be suitable for your needs.

These large and sturdy backpacks use shoulder, chest and wide hip belts to better distribute the load for maximum comfort.

They can easily carry enough gear to spend weeks away from civilization. Hiking packs with lumber pads are great for protecting the spine from the extra weight being carried.

More care should be given to ensure the heavy packs fit tight and snug to avoid staining the back area.