Best Hiking Backpack Reviews 2018

If you’ve ever made your way into the great outdoors, you know that the first rule of hiking and camping is “be prepared.” Being prepared isn’t just about what you bring with you. It’s also about what you bring it in. Whether you’re planning to set out for a hike of a few days or a few weeks, you’ll want to find a hiking backpack that can carry all your gear and that suits your needs and budget. There are tons of options out there, but we did the hard work for you. Here are our top 5 picks for great hiking backpacks.
Overview
PROS
CONS
SPECS
Type
Size
Capacity
Materials
Extras
Our Top Choice
The North Face Terra 65 Hiking Backpack
The Terra 65 is a high-capacity multipurpose backpack from a trusted brand. Backpackers will appreciate the load-spreading hipbelt and padded shoulder harness.
OPTIFIT suspension system offers excellent weight distribution. Several access points. Breathable padding andvertical channel for ventilation
Doesn’t include rain cover. No specialized tent attachment.
Internal frame backpacking pack
11x6x19”, 4 lbs 5.8 oz (S/M)
64 L, or 3.906 cu. in. (S/M)
600D polyester, ripstop nylon
Zippered side entry
Best Value
Deuter Speed Lite 20 Backpack
Deuter is a renowned brand for quality backpacks. The Speed Lite 20 is not for extended trips, but is a great lightweight option for short hikes and outdoor activities.
Super lightweight. Breathable air-mesh. Flexible, removable U-shaped frame.
Not big enough for more than an overnight trip. Waist strap is not padded.
Daypack; thermoplastic U-frame
19x10x7”, 1 lb, 2 oz
19.5 L, or 1200 cu. in.
Hexlite 210 ripstop nylon
Hydration-compatible design
Osprey Xenith 105 Hiking Backpack
The Osprey Xenith 105 is a backpacking pack designed with high-end features for serious backpackers and long excursions.
Super high capacity. Moldable hipbelt and harness. LightWire™ suspension system.
On the higher end of the price scale. Overkill for shorter trips.
Backpacking pack; LightWire frame
38x16x17”, 5.95 lbs
109 L, or 6652 cu. in. (LG)
420D high tenacity nylon
Custom-molded hipbelt & harness
5.11 Tactical Rush24 Backpack
The Rush24™ is one of the most rugged and durable hiking backpacks available. It is perfect for short excursions and day hikes.
Durable nylon construction. MOLLE/SlickStick compatible webbing. Ideal for short trips.
No hipbelt. Designed and marketed as a tactical pack, not a hiking pack (not necessarily a con, but a consideration).
Tactical backpack; frameless
20x12.5x8” main compartment
33 L, or 2000 cu. in.
1050D nylon
Hydration pocket; water-resistant
Teton Sports Scout 3400 Backpack
Teton Sports is a brand that creates quality outdoor equipment. The Sports Scout3400 Backpack offers a seriously good mix of value, quality construction, and capacity.
Reasonably priced. Good adjustability. Big enough for a 3-4 day trip.
May not be ideal for taller (6’+) people. Zippers can be a weak point.
Internal frame backpacking pack
30x17x12”, 4.5 lbs
55 L, 3400 cu. in.
600D ripstop nylon, 600D PU
Adjustable torso length

(Updated )
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Watch Our Hiking Backpack Review

How Do I Choose the Best Hiking Backpack?

There are many different types of outdoor packs to accommodate many diverse and specific needs. There are packs for skiing, climbing, mountaineering, and more. For the purpose of this guide, we will be looking at hiking backpacks, which can be further subdivided into three different categories. There are daypacks for short excursions, backpacking packs for hikes of several days or more, and lightweight packs for serious outdoorsmen and women who travel long distances while carrying only the bare essentials.

There are a few features everyone should look for in a hiking backpack, and there are other, optional features that vary from pack to pack. All hikers and backpackers need a pack that is made of quality materials, but not all need one with twenty different specialized pockets. Likewise, if you’re in the market for a hiking backpack, you probably know that you want it to fit comfortably but you may not have thought about whether you would like to have a hydration pack, a rain cover, or interchangeable hip straps.

Read on to find out about the features you can expect to find while shopping for hiking backpacks.
Price
When you’re checking out your options, you will notice that there’s a big difference between the prices of hiking backpacks at the high and low ends of the spectrum. Your first instinct might be to pick the most expensive one, thinking that a bigger investment always means a better product. On the other hand, you might be tempted to go with the least expensive model if you’re on a budget. Either way, we recommend you read a bit further before you trust your gut on this one.

Even if you can afford it, do you really want to drop $400 on a top of the line, full-featured backpack when you could get one that suits your needs for $200 less? We didn’t think so. And do you want to go with a cheap backpack, only to have it not meet your needs (or worse yet, fall apart after a few uses)?

In general, you can expect to spend at least $50 on a quality daypack and around $150 on a backpacking pack. You will pay more for more durable materials, comfort and support features, and accessories. Daypacks at the upper end of the spectrum cost around $200, and a high-end backpacking pack can run you upwards of $500. Ultralight packs are normally comparable to mid-range backpacking packs in terms of price. But not to worry. There are plenty of options that offer a mix of value, quality, and features.
Features
We wouldn’t call all of these features essential. Some of them are just nice to have, and others are available for separate purchase. Sometimes purchasing your accessories separately can save you a bit of money. Other features listed here can be very important, even essential, depending on your outdoor plans.

Here are some of the features you can expect to find in many hiking backpacks. Decide which ones are most important to you, and select a pack with that combination of features.
  • Compression straps
  • Internal frame
  • Hydration compatibility or hydration pack
  • Purpose-built compartments for electronics and tools
  • Multiple size (and/or gender) options
  • Adjustability
  • Suspension
  • Hip belt (some packs feature interchangeable ones)
  • Sternum strap (some are interchangeable or vertically adjustable)
  • Load lifter straps
  • Rain cover
  • Exterior attachments
These are some of the most common features you will see when shopping for hiking backpacks. Some packs advertise highly specialized compartments and accessories. However, unless you are in need of a very specific and uncommon feature that cannot be added on, you shouldn’t let bells and whistles distract you from the overall quality and value of the pack.
Construction and Design
Size should be the first thing you think about when selecting a hiking backpack. You don’t need a pack with a huge capacity if you are only going on one-day hikes. If you are planning on going backpacking for days or weeks at a time, you will need a high-capacity pack. Many serious outdoorsmen and women own multiple packs. If you know you will be taking multiple trips of different lengths, then you might want to consider investing in a small pack for short trips of one or two days, and a second pack that can support a trip of a week or more. If you can’t afford two separate packs, our advice is to look for a relatively lightweight pack of adjustable size.

The carrying capacity of a hiking backpack is normally measured in liters, with the second most popular unit of measurement being cubic inches. There is a reason capacity is measured in volume and not weight. Under normal conditions, any decent backpack should be able to accommodate whatever you can fit in there (just don’t go stuffing your pack full of bricks and rocks). When deciding what capacity you need, think about how many days you expect your longest excursion to be. Another consideration is season. Traveling in the winter normally requires more gear than traveling in the summer, for instance.

When shopping for a daypack, you should look for one with a capacity of between 25 and 55 liters, or 1500 to 3500 cubic inches. For most day hikers, 30 to 45 liters (1700 to 2700 cubic inches) would be appropriate. If you’re in the market for a backpacking pack, then you’ll be looking for a capacity of anywhere between 40 and 90 liters (2500 to 5000+ cubic inches), depending on how many days you expect your longest treks to be.

Once you have decided what size you need, you’ll want to think about whether you want a framed or unframed pack. A frame isn’t always necessary for a daypack, but most high-capacity hiking backpacks feature some kind of internal frame. There are a few different types, the most common of which include aluminum stays, plastic frame sheets, and curved rods. Many packs use a combination of these for support. External frames exist, but they are rare.

Quality materials and durable construction are absolutely essential for a product that will be used for outdoor activities. Not only will you be putting your chosen pack through its paces out in the great outdoors, you want to be absolutely certain that your pack full of gear is not going to fall apart in the middle of nowhere, leaving you with no way to carry your essentials
Performance and Ease of Use
In addition to considering size, materials, and durability, you have to think about your own size and body type. Hiking backpacks are not “one size fits all” items. Many manufacturers of high-quality outdoor packs offer backpacks designed specifically for the male and female body. You don’t want to choose a backpack designed for a petite woman if you are 6’3” man, so look carefully at what you are getting. You will also normally be offered a size choice. If you are trying to figure out which size you need, keep in mind that sizing is based on torso length rather than height. Consult the manufacturer’s sizing guidelines for more information.

You’ll definitely want to consider how easy your hiking backpack is to adjust and keep adjusted, especially if you are choosing a high-capacity pack for multi-day treks. Different packs also offer different levels of adjustability. Most have hip and/or chest straps that will adjust to fit most anyone, but more and more packs are incorporating adjustability for the length and width of the pack as well. A fully adjustable pack may be worth looking into if you want a single pack to take on trips of different lengths. The downside of this kind of customizable design is that adjusting mechanisms – zippers, straps, etc. – can be weak points in your hiking backpack’s construction.

What is the Best Hiking Backpack?

Hiking backpacks have so many different features, materials, and capacities, trying to figure out which one you need can make your head spin. Read on to see our recommendations and what you can expect from each.
Our Top Choice
The Terra 65 is the perfect hiking backpack for those who want a versatile, lightweight pack for overnighters and multi-day backpacking trips. The North Face classifies this as a unisex backpack, but if you are looking for a women’s pack, we recommend you check out the Angrstrom 28.
The North Face Terra 65 Exploration Pack – 65 Liter Capacity

The North Face Terra Pack A1N9


Features
North Face is a well-known maker of all types of outdoor products The Terra 65 is a mid-range all-purpose hiking backpack that retails for $179. Casual and serious backpackers alike will appreciate the durable construction and many comfort features offered by the Terra 65. One key feature is the OPTIFIT harness system, which is designed to improve load control. Other features include:
  • Durable polyester and ripstop nylon construction
  • Padded shoulder harness
  • Load-spreading hipbelt with soft air-mesh lining
  • Vertical ventilation channel
  • Easy side entry to main compartment
  • Sleeping bag compartment
With a wide range of features and excellent construction for the price, the Terra 65 is a great choice for most. We are featuring the Apsphalt Grey and TNF Black backpack in S/M. However, The North Face also offers this pack in L/XL and in East Blue/Mid Grey or Mountain Moss/Pompeian Red.
Construction and Design
The Terra 65 offers a good mix of durability and lightweight simplicity. Are there other bags out there that are lighter? There are, but choosing a bag always involves some trade-offs. You would be hard-pressed to find another hiking backpack in the weight category with such rugged construction and so many comfort features.

Comfort mesh padding, padded hip and shoulder support, and a vertical ventilation channel all make the Terra 65 a joy to wear (at least as much of a joy as any pack could be when you’re schlepping around 30+ pounds of stuff on your back). And this hiking backpack isn’t going to fall apart on you anytime soon. Constructed of strong 620D polyester and 420D mini-ripstop nylon, with sturdy zippers and buckles, this is a pack that should give you a very decent return on investment.
Performance and Ease of Use
Any halfway decent backpacking pack is going to give you multiple access points, but what’s really important is how easy it is to access your stuff in the real world. If you’ve been hiking for hours and want to sit down to apply some sunscreen or have a quick snack, are you going to have to remove half your stuff to get to what you need? Fortunately, with the Terra 65, you should be able to access most of the stuff in your pack without removing much of anything. You can get to the main compartment through the top or through the large zippered side entry. There are also multiple exterior pockets, including pockets on the hipbelt. The hipbelt pockets are especially welcome since they allow the user quick access to a few items without removing the pack.

The suspension system can be a little difficult to figure out at first, but once you get it adjusted it makes your life so much easier. You have to get the load positioned in just the right place to achieve the optimum weight distribution, balance, and stability. It may take some fiddling, but be patient and work with it. Try it out before the day of your big trip. Work with it at home, make sure you understand how the adjustment mechanism works, and you will be well rewarded when the time comes to carry your fully loaded pack out onto the trails.
Best Value
If you are a casual outdoorsman or woman and are looking for a quality backpack for your day hikes or quick overnighters, the Deuter Speedlight 20 may be a good choice. If you hike with your children, Deuter also offers a backpack for kids!
Deuter Speed Lite 20 Hiking Pack with Water Bladder Pocket

Deuter Day Pack 33121-3325 – Black/Granite


Features
Deuter is a German company dedicated to designing and producing quality backpacks for outdoorspeople at all levels. The Deuter Speed Lite 20, features ultra-lightweight construction and simplicity for those who enjoy the outdoors but need a simple hiking backpack for daytrips.

Let’s take a look at what you can expect from this day pack:
  • Contoured shoulder straps with breathable air-mesh
  • Flexible Delrin® thermoplastic U-frame rod (removable)
  • Mesh side pockets
  • Compression straps serve as attachment point for skis or tools
  • Specialized water bladder pocket (water bladder not included) with drinking tube exit port
The Speed Lite 20 is listed at $89, but you may be able to save a bit of cash by shopping on Amazon. Overall, this is a quality lightweight pack that is good for a variety of outdoor activities.

If black’s not really your color, this pack also comes in cranberry/fire, fire/arctic and petrol/arctic so there’s bound to be one to suit you.
Construction and Design
The Speed Lite 20 doesn’t have too many bells and whistles, and it isn’t designed for long distance or multi-day travel. What it is perfect for, however, is outdoor sports, such as running, skiing, and climbing. It would also work as a commuter pack or a daypack for short hikes, although there may be cheaper options out there that would fill these needs just as well. The Speed Lite 20 weighs a little over 1 pound, so you won’t have to worry about the backpack adding any extra weight to your load. You won’t have to sacrifice durability though – this hiking pack is constructed of sturdy Hexlite 210 ripstop nylon.
Performance and Ease of Use
This is a super simple pack. You’ll be carrying most of your gear in the main compartment, but there are also some small stretch pockets and mesh compartments on the front and sides of the bag. You can attach gear, such as skis, poles, or ice tools with the compression straps, and there is an attachment point for a helmet holder. There’s also a place to insert a hydration pack (not included).
The Xenith 105 is a backpacking/mountaineering backpack for serious outdoorsmen and women. If you’re not planning any extended adventures, or you just need a second pack for shorter trips, you might want to check out the Talon 22, a lightweight pack that’s perfect for day hikes, bicycling, and more.
Osprey Xenith 105 Outdoor Pack – 109L Capacity

Osprey Backpack OS50026 – Graphite Grey


Features
The makers of Osprey find inspiration in the landscape of the rugged San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado, where the company is headquartered. Osprey designs hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering packs that are as rugged as the mountains, and the Xenith 105 is no exception. This is a pack designed for long excursions, and it features numerous specialized compartments, straps, and attachment points for all your gear. You will also find:
  • Hydration sleeve
  • Heat-molded Bioform™ harness and hipbelt
  • LightWire™ peripheral frame
  • Detachable dual-compartment lid can be converted to lumbar pack
  • Zippered hipbelt pockets
The Osprey Xenith 105 sells for $390. It’s not cheap, but you get a lot for your money. If you will use the pack’s capacity and features, it is worth the investment.
Construction and Design
The Xenith 105 is one of the highest capacity packs you can buy. This backpacking/mountaineering pack features ultra-durable construction and materials, which are a must when you’re carrying a big load out for a long trek. Additionally, you’ll find that this pack offers personalized comfort with the heat-molded Bioform™ padded sternum and hip straps. These straps conform to the shape of your body for the ideal fit.

When you’re carrying a big load, a well-constructed frame is essential for achieving the right weight distribution. The Xenith 105 uses both a peripheral frame and an aluminum center stay to maintain the pack’s shape and transfer much of the weight to the hipbelt.
Performance and Ease of Use
When packing for a long trip, ease of access to your stuff is a big issue, and the Xenith 105 does a good job of minimizing the inconvenience of getting at your gear. For one thing, the main compartment can be accessed either through the top or through curved zippers on either side of the pack body. For another, the pack offers a number of specialized exterior compartments and attachment points.

An external hydration sleeve in the backpack’s back panel makes it easy to refill your water and also prevents your things from getting soaked in the event of a spill. The dual top compartment detaches to lighten the load, but also has the capability of converting to a lumbar pack. You’ll also have a sleeping bag compartment as well as adjustable straps for attaching a sleeping pad.
The Rush24™ is a pack to consider if you are looking for a daypack that can take a serious beating. If you’re looking at the Rush24™ because you need a tactical bag, you might also want to take a look at 5.11’s Patrol Ready™. It’s a bag designed to hold all of a law enforcement official’s gear. It would also be a decent bag to use for an overnight camping trip.
5.11 Tactical Rush24 Daypack – 33L Capacity

5.11 Hiking Pack 58601-019 - Black


Features
5.11’s motto is “Always Be Ready,” and they make tactical gear and packs to keep people ready. The Rush24™ is no exception. With durable nylon construction and a number of specialized internal and external pockets, this pack is ready to go.

Some of the features include:
  • Water-repellant coating
  • MOLLE/SlickStick wraparound webbing
  • Fleece-lined eyewear pocket
  • Hydration pocket
  • Adjustable-height sternum strap
The Rush24™ sells for $129, but you get what you pay for in terms of construction. This is a pack that will stay with you for the long haul. It’s available in 6 different colors on Amazon.
Construction and Design
Technically, the Rush24™ isn’t a hiking backpack. It is purpose-built for law enforcement and emergency response professionals. That being said, this is still a great pack for use in the great outdoors. For one thing, the Rush24™ is super durable. It is constructed of strong 1050D nylon, and features waterproof coating and a reinforced handle. This pack is also comfortable when moderately packed. There’s no frame, but there are compression straps for keeping the load stable.
Performance and Ease of Use
One advantage of a tactical backpack is that you get a number of specialized compartments. Within the main compartment of the Rush24™, you’ll find three mesh organizer pockets, a padded hydration compartment, and a fleece-lined sunglasses pocket. The exterior features a wraparound web platform that is compatible with MOLLE and SlickStick. That means you can purchase tactical pouches and accessories to attach to the outside of your pack.
The Scout3400 is hydration compatible, but many people want a separate hydration backpack to take along on shorter hikes when they don’t need all their gear. If you’re searching for a simple, lightweight stand-alone hydration option, take a look at the Trailrunner2.0 hydration backpack.
Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Pack – 55L Capacity

Teton Sports Hiking Pack


Features
Teton Sports® designs and manufactures a wide range of backpacks, tents, and other outdoor gear backed up by a limited lifetime warranty. The Scout3400 comes with the quality, value, and attention to detail that the brand is known for. Selling for just $89, this pack does not skimp on features or materials. One interesting thing about this backpacking pack is that it features a torso adjustment, so instead of measuring yourself and choosing from two or three sizes, you can simply follow the included instructions to find your perfect fit.

The Scout3400 also features:
  • Bendable aluminum stays
  • Open-cell foam hip padding
  • Compression straps at sides, front, top, and bottom
  • Integrated rainfly
  • Hydration compatible (hydration pack must be purchased separately)
If you’re looking for a pack that can get you through a multi-day backpacking trip, can keep your gear easily accessible, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the Scout3400 might be for you. This pack comes in Mecca Orange and Hunter Green.
Construction and Design
The Scout3400 is well constructed, especially the price. The internal frame is made up of bendable aluminum stays which can be removed and replaced to facilitate the torso adjustment. The material of the pack is very respectable 600D ripstop nylon and 600D PU. And Teton puts its money where its mouth is by offering a limited lifetime warranty with each backpack. The warranty should give you some peace of mind, but be aware that the zippers can, on occasion be a weak point. A warranty won’t mean much to you if you’re out in the wilderness and your zipper fails, causing you to lose the contents of your pack. However, only a very small minority of users have this problem. The Scout3400 offers durability beyond what you might expect for the price.
Performance and Ease of Use
In terms of packing and organization, the Scout3400 is quite easy to use and offers a number of useful compartments and attachment options. Compression straps at the sides, front, top, and bottom help you stabilize your load and allow you to securely attach a tent and sleeping bag. You also get a built-in rainfly which stores easily in its own compartment and pulls out to protect your pack in wet weather.

The torso adjustment system isn’t super difficult to use, but it does require a bit of fiddling to find the perfect fit. If you’re considering the Scout3400, you should also know that it may not work for very tall individuals. The torso length adjusts between 15 and 19.5 inches, so be sure to measure yourself before purchasing.

Get the Best Hiking Backpack of 2018!

We hope we’ve helped to simplify the process of picking the right hiking backpack. After lots of research, we narrowed down our list to just 5 packs, and we think there will be something here to fit every hiker’s needs and budget.

Our Top Choice
The North Face Terra 65 Hiking Backpack
Best Value
Deuter Speed Lite 20 Backpack
Osprey Xenith 105 Hiking Backpack
5.11 Tactical Rush24 Backpack
Teton Sports Scout 3400 Backpack