Having the right size hiking backpack can make or break your trip. Finding the best mountaineering and hiking backpack is all about finding the right balance between size, features, and comfort. On a backpacking trip, everyone will have different needs, wants, and ways of moving. This guide makes finding a backpack that meets all these needs and wants easy.
Over the years, I’ve tried out and read about many packs. From short day hikes to extended expeditions, peak to peak has it all. We’ll talk about everything, from how the pack fits to how to clean and take care of it. But first, let’s discuss what you need to know about hiking backpacks. Let’s start with the first thing you need to decide: where are you going to hike?
Where you’re going to hike
The first thing you’ll have to decide is this. Don’t let this part distract you too much. Many backpackers have more than one pack because they need different things for short and long hikes. How big your backpack should be will depend on where and how long you plan to hike.
The straps on a more oversized backpack will be made to put most of the weight on your hips. About 20% of the weight is on your shoulders, and 80% is on your hips.
Internal Frame vs External Frame
A backpack with an internal frame is lighter than an outside frame, and it fits tighter on your body. Most people use inner frame packs because they are easier to balance on your back while hiking.
They won’t move around on your back or float like an external frame. With this backpack style, it will be easier to roll over rough terrain because the backpack will hug your body and give you better balance.
The Center of gravity is much higher on the external frame pack, so you’ll walk more straight. Hunters like these backpacks because they can put a lot of gear on the frame.
Frameless Hiking Backpack
People often think that all hiking backpacks without a frame are very light, but that’s not true. One significant benefit of frameless is that it is lighter than built-in frames. There are other benefits, too.
Frameless packs will look different and have less stuff on them. There are fewer zippers and pockets. Fewer things will go wrong or break the package if these functionalities are not required. Look at what you need for a weekend trip and decide if you need all those pockets.
Most of the time, a pack without a frame will be smaller than a large hiking backpack with an edge. They are as small as 20 litres (L) and as big as 55L. With less room, paying attention to what’s essential will be easier.
When I go out for the weekend with my 70L internal frame backpack, I usually feel like I need to fill up all that space. Not so with a pack without a frame. Since there is less room, I only bring what I need.
How to Pack a Backpack Without Frames?
They will be just as comfortable if loaded correctly as an internal frame. How it’s packed will have to be thought about more. For example, instead of a structure, you could line the pack with your sleeping pad, either rolled up or folded. A well-made frameless backpack will fit the shape of your back this way.
When a frameless pack is filled above its capacity, it becomes unpleasant. Trying to push a frameless group for a couple additional days on the trail will be very painful.
What features should a hiking backpack have?
Features are one of the numerous ways manufacturers distinguish their packs. We would like to have all these advantages, but we must occasionally sacrifice weight and money. Some features are required regardless of the backpack you pick.
Must-Have Backpack Features
- Hip belt with adjustable/interchangeable length: I would not purchase a backpack without an adjustable hip belt. You’re not going to stay one size forever; eating a heavy meal and then putting on your pack will cause the hip belt to be too tight. During lengthy treks, I often modify my load whenever I feel uncomfortable.
- Side water bottle pockets: Even with an internal bladder, the utility of a water bottle pocket is obvious. If you’re sick of drinking just water, mix some powdered drink in a water bottle since they’re simpler to clean than an internal bladder.
- Load lifters: Load lifters tighten the straps, bringing the top portion of the backpack closer to your back. These are only necessary for bags more significant than a day pack. This will also need to be altered along the journey to be more comfortable.
- Rear stretch pocket: A fast pocket for storing a windbreaker is a convenient feature. My current huge multi-day backpack lacks this function, and I miss it. This will have to be in my next bundle.
- Hydration bladder reservoir: It is handy to take a short drink of water while walking. Reaching for a water bottle on the side of a pack causes you to stop stride and slows your pace.
These are some things to check for, but it’s not a huge concern if they aren’t on a backpack. These features are for you to determine whether they are a must-have.
- Pockets on the hip belt: These pockets are tiny and don’t store anything in the first place. If you’re accustomed to having these compartments, I can see why they’d be a need.
- Back piece with ventilation: This should be included in a giant hiking backpack. Hiking for more than three days in hot weather might strain your back.
- Adjustable torso length: Adjustable torso length will consist of torso length modification in more priced multi-day packs. This is one of those components you usually modify once to your frame and never alter again.
- Holders for trekking poles: Because they are merely a few pieces of cloth sewn inside the bag, many camping packs include them. I understand this feature is a must-have if you constantly use trekking poles.
Best Hiking Backpacks Of 2022
- 1. Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack Overall: Osprey Talon 33
- 2. Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack Hydration Pack: CamelBak Cloud Walker 18
- 3. Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack Kids’ Hiking Backpack: CamelBak Kids’ Mini M.U.L.E. 50oz Hydration Pack
- 4. Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack Lightweight Hiking Backpack: TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
- 5. Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack Sling Hiking Backpack: Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25L
- 6. Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack Hiking Backpack for Fishing: Osprey Aether 65 Men’s Backpacking Backpack
Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack Overall: Osprey Talon 33
If you pushed me to choose just one hiking backpack from my embarrassingly extensive collection, I would choose the Osprey Talon 33. I believe a 33L backpack to be the sweet spot in terms of size. I’ve packed my S/M Talon 33 for overnight gear, but I also like using it on day hikes. Additional layers, food, drink, and a first aid kit are always welcome in my bag, so the extra space is always appreciated.
And the things that this Osprey hiking backpack can carry are adaptable. Outside your main compartment, it securely takes trekking poles, a snow axe, a hydration bladder, and a variety of other goods while still feeling snug and secure to your body. It’s also a reasonable price for such a spacious and multifunctional backpack.
- S/M and L/XL sizes
- 2 pounds and 5 ounces (M/L)
- Two compartments on the hip belt
- Two tuck-away ice axe attachments and a trekking pole attachment
- External reservoir for hydration
- Top “brain” with mesh pocket beneath
- Mesh pocket with a significant stretch
- Made from recyclable materials
- 33L is an ideal size for storing layers and equipment.
- Adaptable to your torso
- The mesh back panel “AirScape” keeps you cool.
- Simple to keep organized
- Even when partially packed, it is comfortable.
- The S/M back panel may still be too lengthy for petite ladies.
- Even when the backpack is completely packed, the straps are long.
- The rain cover is not there.
Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack Hydration Pack: CamelBak Cloud Walker 18
On a day trek, you don’t always need a large pack. This CamelBak hiking backpack is an excellent hydration pack, especially for a short day when water is your primary energy source. My favourite feature of the Cloud Walker 18 is the plastic clasp on the right shoulder strap that secures the reservoir tube when walking.
CamelBak creates clever, straightforward, and well-designed hydration packs that operate well in various settings. If you don’t need much gear, 18L is a good size for a layer or two, some food, a full reservoir, and a small first-aid kit.
For a more extended day, I’ve even included a little backup 1.5L pool in the pack. Remember that the Cloud Walker lacks a waist strap, so if you overstuff it, your shoulders will suffer.
- Includes a 2.5-litre CruxTM reservoir
- 1 pound and 7 ounces
- One main pocket, one front zipper pocket, and two side bottle pockets
- Have You Obtained Your Bak Lifetime Guarantee?
- Well-ventilated and breathable
- Small and comfy
- The reservoir tube fits into the proper buckle to keep it secure when trekking
- There is no waist tie.
- A zipper side pocket might be preferable over two bottle holders on a pack built for a reservoir.
Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack for Kids: CamelBak Kids BackPack
CamelBak’s Mini M.U.L.E. is the most extraordinary compact hiking backpack because it takes everything that makes their standard hydration packs outstanding and compresses it. When you compare this kids’ pack to the Cloud Walker 18, you’ll see that they’re of very comparable quality, design, and fit one’s larger.
I think it is necessary to guide children to be self-sufficient outdoors and to provide a mini, high-quality CamelBak that can use to have an adult’s water, phone, and keys on a trail run or lightweight hike.
Just look at the parent reviews on CamelBak’s website. This backpack is popular because of its colorful colors. And the absence of stopping on treks to take a drink of water.
- 50 oz. pack
- It includes a 1.5L reserve tank.
- One body compartment, one tiny pocket, and one more oversized body pocket
- Six exciting hues and patterns
- A whistle and reflective strips on the chest strap
- Extremely small and straightforward to arrange
- A combination of rich colors and unique designs is available.
- Suitable for a big bladder
- Adults will like the lightweight choice
- It is difficult to get a full bladder into the pack.
- Thicker layers are difficult to stuff into the body compartment.
- A waist strap would be helpful.
Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack: TETON Backpack
The 55-liter TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack is made for men, women, and children. This backpack is a good deal for what it has to offer. It has features that you can find in many backpacks that cost more. The torso and waist belt of the TETON Sports Scout 3400 you can change Internal Frame Backpack fit any size person.
Other features include a big compartment for a sleeping bag, compression straps that go in different directions, and many compartments and pockets set up in a way that makes packing easier. You also get a rainfly when you buy the TETON Sports 3400 Internal Frame Backpack.
- 55 liters or 3,400 cubic inches capacity
- Compartment inside a sleeping bag
- 600D Ripstock Nylon construction
- Compact interior structure
- Dual aluminum stays
- Adjustable-height shoulder straps
- precipitation fall
- 3,400 cubic inches (55 liters) of capacity
- Section for sleeping bags
- 600D Ripstock Nylon is used to make this product.
- The internal framework is compact
- Two aluminum stays
- Shoulder straps with height adjustment
- The rain fly
- The waist belts lack pockets.
- Zippers feel cheap
- The sleeping bag compartment is limited in size.
- The mesh front pocket lacks elasticity.
Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack: Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25L
One of my main complaints with sling packs is that they don’t feel secure on steep walks and get unpleasant on my shoulder after a short time. On the other hand, this Patagonia hiking backpack includes a thick padded shoulder strap with a second strap that supports your torso.
Patagonia can’t keep this backpack in stock for long. It’s a rugged multi-purpose backpack perfect for fishing, daily usage, and day trips. It also looks terrific. If you don’t have a lot of kits, this is an excellent smaller choice for a day trek that concludes with an afternoon fishing in an alpine lake.
- 100% recycled nylon body and webbing
- 100% recycled polyester back panel and lining
- Fully submersible and waterproof
- Water does not soak or retain in the back panel or shoulder strap.
- Vert-friendly design
- 1 pound 7 ounces in weight
- Net pocket and fishing rod holder
- Organizer that can be carried out and used inside or outside the pack
- Very supportive of a baby sling.
- Great for carrying fishing gear that isn’t too heavy
- Not everyone likes the sling style.
- It only has a main pocket and an organizer on the inside.
Best Mountaineering And Hiking Backpack: Osprey Aether Backpack
Many people who consume a lot of time in nature choose Osprey as their first choice. They have a lot of different backpacks for you to choose from, whether you want to bike across the country or go hiking across the ocean. The Aether AG 60 hiking backpack is made for thru-hikes and alpine expeditions that require a lot of planning and enough gear for everyone who wants to go.
The company made sure that the Aether backpack had side compression straps to spread the weight evenly and heat-moldable zippered hip-belt pockets to keep the essentials close at all times.
The backpack has an anti-gravity suspension and a back panel to keep backaches from happening.
You will find an internal pocket for a water reservoir and a sleeping bag compartment that gives you the most comfort possible.
- Zip access to the main container via a large front panel
- Top lid floater with lash points
- Front shove-it pocket strengthened with fabric
- Compression straps on both the upper and lower sides
- Hipbelt compartments with dual zippers
- Loops for two ice axes with bungee tie-offs
- Sleeping bag compartment with zippered closure and removable divider
- Sleeping pad straps are detachable.
- Sleeve for the internal hydration reservoir
- A well-thought-out, customizable harness system makes carrying very comfortable.
- There are lots of white markings to help you get the right fit.
- Strong back frame, but also very airy
- Lots of pockets to keep things in order
- There are a lot of bungee cords and clips for your gear.
- It’s hard to open and close hip belt pockets while wearing.
- It would be nice to move it around if two handles were on the front.
- The most expensive backpacks for hiking
Finding the best mountaineering backpack for your requirements requires a careful balance of usability, durability, and comfort. Our testing measures seek to balance some of the most critical climbing pack characteristics.
We spent months comparing them as objectively as possible side by side. We hope that the accounts of our field experiences help you focus on the pack of your dreams.
Remember that our top-scoring bundles may not be ideal for your requirements. Check out packs that rank top in the criteria that are most important to you. We also included a broad range of pack styles in our assessment, but our data still show that each pack performs well in its unique mountaineering specialty.
For example, we did not penalize expedition bags because they were more prominent. To better reflect the quality of materials and the thoughtfulness of design, we analyze relative sizes by looking at weight-to-volume ratios.
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Hiking Backpacking FAQs
What is the best comfortable hiking backpack?
The “most comfortable backpack” is determined by who you are and the kind of trekking you undertake. Even while I suggest the Osprey Talon 33 as my overall selection, it’s not the most comfortable backpack for a fast three miles after work—I prefer something smaller.
So it depends on your physique and activity. Overstuffing a pack without a hip belt will feel bulky, like many loose straps and a big backpack.
What is the price of a nice hiking backpack?
The hiking backpacks on this list (excluding backpacking and kids) vary in price from roughly $50 to $200 or more. However, a backpack is not the same as a running shoe. There is no set time limit for how long you should use it or how many times you may repair it before purchasing a new one.
There are undoubtedly objective measurements of how “good” a backpack is, such as the quality of the shoulder straps or the number of pockets—but what constitutes a good backpack is up to you. A solid pack may be far less than the new price at any secondhand gear shop or the REI Garage Sale.
What makes a rucksack different from a backpack?
As the name suggests, a backpack is a bag you carry on your back. It has two shoulder straps and is made of waxed canvas or leather, depending on whether it is a hiking, travelling, or everyday backpack. On the other hand, a backpack’s shoulder straps don’t carry a lot of weight. Instead, a hip belt does this.