Your trusty old backpack will do for a day hike. But if you're ready for more ambitious outdoor travels, you need a bag that can carry the load. Some are incredibly lightweight, some will hold up better in harsher conditions. Some are strictly hiking backpacks while others can do double duty as a travel pack. Most of the choices below are available in different sizes, and some with different hip belts or straps (or entirely different versions) to suit men or women. Grab one, and get out there.
Arc’teryx makes some well-reviewed hiking backpacks that are considerably more affordable, but the company’s Bora AR 63 isn’t likely to disappoint anyone willing to pay the premium for it. It’s for best overall backpacking pack (even if it is $200 more than the next most-expensive backpack they tested), and gets particularly high marks for what’s described as a “vastly improved suspension” compared to both the previous Bora backpack and Arc'teryx’s Altra. It’s also as weather-resistant as you could ask for, and should hold up equally well in rain or snow.
If you’re packing light for a short hike, a purpose-built daypack like Deuter’s Speed Lite 20 will serve you better than either a larger hiking pack or a more general-purpose backpack. It’s just a smidgen over one pound and has a streamlined and breathable design that’ll ensure it doesn’t slow you down or get in your way. Switchback Travel called the Speed Lite “one of the most versatile daypacks we've tested” , something aided by its inclusion of a hydration reservoir sleeve that allows it to replace a dedicated hydration pack.
There’s no mistaking the Granite Gear Crown 2 for anything but a serious, heavy-duty backpack, but it’s also one that keeps its weight down (just 2.2 pounds, or 1.7 with the frame sheet removed) and offers plenty of comfort. even goes as far as to call it “almost perfect,” with its roll-top design and removable top lid making it easy to carry larger loads while the pack’s easy-to-adjust belt ensures a great fit (the backpack itself is also available in both men’s and women’s-specific models).
Quite a few of Osprey's hiking backpacks come widely recommended, but one of the company's real standouts is its Atmos AG 65. That "AG" in the name is for the pack's so-called "anti-gravity" mesh backpanel, which one of "fits more like a jacket than a pack." The pack is full-featured beyond that as well, with no less than nine external pockets, a removable "floating top" lid, and a full range of adjustments and compression straps.
If weight is a top concern, Goassamer Gear's Mariposa 60 is one of the more popular ultralight backpacks around. In its recommendation,
Lots of serious hikers single out the Gregory Baltoro for its ability to carry heavy loads with (relative) ease. The pack itself is a bit heavier than some others, at just over five pounds, but it's "comfiest big hauler we tested" and "brimming with user-friendly features." Those features also earned it high marks from, which notes that it's also one of the better choices if you're looking for a backpack that's well-suited for traveling. The Baltoro series includes a handy rain cover, and if you are traveling, it fits rather nicely into a protective duffel like REI's.
Not everyone is prepared to spend a couple hundred bucks on a backpack. If you're new to backpacking or just looking for a budget-minded option, the Teton Sports Scout 3400 is an affordable favorite at just $60. While they unsurprisingly found this bag to be heavy for its size, the blog was especially impressed with the pack's durability and build quality, which they describe as "exceptional." It's also consistently well-reviewed by customers on Amazon, where it's maintained a 4.5 star rating after more than 1,500 reviews.
Another widely recommended ultralight pack, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest comes a premium price but delivers some of the best waterproofing and durability you're likely to find in a backpack this light. It's a top pick of , as well as , which notes that the bag doesn't skimp on functionality to keep the weight down. That includes well-thought-out pockets and compartments, and a good compression system. Among the bag's few downsides: The white color can get dirty easily, and the black version actually weighs a bit more and costs an extra $20.