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September 26, 2018

The Best Hiking & Camping Backpacks

A good backpack is a necessity on any hiking or camping trip. Not all backpacks are created equal–they come in different shapes, sizes, weights, materials, and layouts. Some will work better for your needs than others, so we’ve put together a list of the best backpacks that should work for just about anyone.

Camping & Hiking Backpack Reviews

Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

Weight: 4.5 lbs.
Fabric: Oxford canvas (600D)
Capacity: 55L

For the price, Teton Sports Scout backpack offers quite a value. It isn’t the most comfortable backpack on our list, but it has quite good back support and adjustability. It also comes with an inbuilt rainfly to protect your head from rain.

In terms of materials, this backpack is also remarkable since it is built from durable 600D oxford canvas, which makes this backpack more durable than most of the other backpacks we reviewed.

This backpack also has quite a lot of storage compartments. However, in those compartments lies the major downside of this backpack: the sleeping bag compartment is rather small, so it would be impractical if you have a large or possibly even a standard sleeping bag.

Pros:

  • Built-in rainfly.
  • Durable.
  • Ergonomic.

Cons:

  • Small sleeping bag compartment.

G4Free 40L Backpack

Weight: 12.7 oz.
Fabric: Nylon
Capacity: 40L

If you value inexpensiveness more than anything else, then G4Free backpack could be the right choice for you. It is the cheapest backpack on the list, so it may be a good choice for those on a tight budget.

Aside from being the cheapest, this backpack is also the lightest on the list, weighing only 12.7 ounces. If you don’t load this backpack too much, it will be able to keep your back safe during prolonged trips.

Speaking of the load, this backpack has a volume of 40L, which makes it the smallest backpack on the list.

Interestingly, this backpack is made from water-resistant nylon, so you should be able to store items in it pretty safely even in rain.

Possibly the biggest downside of this backpack is its lack of ergonomics. It only has basic shoulder straps, so you can’t really expect good back support from it. Still, we think that it is a suitable choice for shorter trips.

Pros:

  • Lightweight.
  • Inexpensive.
  • Water-resistant.

Cons:

  • Not very comfortable.
  • The smallest backpack on the reviews.

Gregory Baltoro 75L Men’s Hiking Backpack

Weight: 5.22 lbs.
Fabric: Nylon (210D)
Capacity: 75L

Baltoro hiking backpack is a great option if you need excellent comfort and material quality. In that regard, this backpack justifies its expensive price pretty well thanks to its great ventilation and back support.

What also makes this backpack stand out is its huge 75-liter capacity, which makes it the largest model on our reviews of best camping hiking backpacks.

Overall, if you want maximum functionality and comfort, then this backpack may be the right pick for you.

Pros:

  • Ergonomic.
  • Large capacity.
  • Removable rain cover.

Cons:

  • Expensive.

Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG Backpack

Weight: 4.48, 4.56, 4.92 lbs.
Fabric: Nylon (100 x 630D)
Capacity: 62, 65, 68L

Osprey Atmos AG backpack also offers excellent ergonomics, but it is a bit different. It is somewhat more expensive than Gregory Baltoro backpack on one hand. On the other hand, it is made from more durable nylon, so it may be an appropriate choice if you need a sturdy backpack.

While this backpack isn’t as large as the Baltoro backpack, it still offers good volume. However, it doesn’t come with such a handy feature as a rain cover, which is a shame given the price of the Atmos AG.

Pros:

  • Voluminous.
  • Durable.
  • Comfortable.

Cons:

  • Pretty expensive.
  • No rain cover.

Banchee 50 Backpack

Weight: 3 lbs. 5.6 oz.
Fabric: Nylon (210D)
Capacity: 50L

Banchee 50 backpack is another ergonomic backpack, but this one is a much more compact and lightweight unit.

It has quite a moderate capacity of 50 liters, first of all. Secondly, it weighs just 3 pounds 5.6 ounces. Combine that with the well-padded straps and waist belt, and you get a backpack that could be a suitable choice if you don’t really need to carry that much stuff on you.

Pros:

  • Fairly lightweight.
  • Comfortable.

Cons:

  • Pricey.

Mountaintop 5822III 55L/65L Internal Frame Backpack

Weight: 4.9 lbs.
Fabric: Nylon
Capacity: 55, 65L

This Mountaintop backpack is a fairly inexpensive model, but it still has a couple of features to boast.

Firstly, if you choose the larger model, it is a fairly capacious backpack thanks to its 65 liters of capacity. Secondly, it is covered with a water-resistant coating. Lastly, it comes with an integrated rain cover.

On the other hand, this backpack somewhat lacks lumbar support, probably due to the shortage of padding on the back. If that doesn’t really bother you, then this backpack is a good option for the money.

Pros:

  • Large capacity.
  • Integrated rain cover.
  • Water-resistant coating.

Cons:

  • Not much lumbar support.

Teton Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack

Weight: 5 lbs.
Fabric: Ripstop (600D)
Capacity: 65L

Teton Sports sure does love to put 600D fabric in their backpacks. The Explorer backpack is pretty similar to the Teton Sports Scout we reviewed in the beginning, but this one is a cheaper model.

Essentially, the Explorer backpack is more or less identical to the Scout. It has about the same level of ergonomics as the Scout, first of all. Secondly, it is made from a ripstop fabric of comparable durability. And it also comes with a rain cover!

The Explorer has more capacity though: 65 liters against the 55 of the Scout.

However, this backpack comes with not so high-quality plastic parts that could break quickly if you aren’t careful. Besides, it has the familiar small sleeping bag pocket.

Pros:

  • Ergonomic.
  • Good capacity.
  • Rain cover.

Cons:

  • Flimsy plastic parts.
  • Small sleeping bag compartment.

High Sierra Titan Backpack

Weight: 4.6 lbs.
Fabric: Nylon
Capacity: 55L

If you need an inexpensive backpack that can fit large sleeping bags, then High Sierra Titan backpack could be the right choice for you. It is pretty similar to the Teton Sports Scout we examined in the beginning. But unlike it, this backpack has a fairly roomy sleeping bag compartment that fits standard and even large sleeping bags.

Being similar to the Scout backpack, this backpack has a very comparable level of ergonomics thanks to its padded straps and the waist belt. It also comes with a rain cover. It is a tad heavier than the Scout, but the difference doesn’t make this backpack less comfortable.

Unlike the Scout, this backpack appears to have some quality issues – particularly in the straps – so keep that in mind.

Pros:

  • Integrated rain cover.
  • Ergonomic.

Cons:

  • Quality issues.

Hiking & Camping Backpack Criteria

Capacity

There is no one-size-fits all backpack that’s perfect for every need, but there are a lot of choices that are fantastic whether you’re going for an overnight stay or a week-long outing. Keep in mind that if you’re adventuring out in the winter, you’ll need a bag with more capacity to hold bulkier winter gear that keeps you warm, but doesn’t tend to compress down as well.

Generally, the capacities listed below will be sufficient for one person per bag, though you may be able to squeeze gear for two people in if you pack strategically and bring only the bare essentials.

  • For One-Night Trips: 30-50 liters
  • Two-Three Night Trips: 40-75 liters
  • 3+ Night Trips: 60-75+ liters

Size

Choosing the right capacity is crucial when it comes to ensuring you’re able to fit all your gear, but size is important when it comes to comfort when you’re wearing your backpack (especially for extended lengths of time on long treks). You’ll want a backpack that fits comfortably along your torso, so that’s what you should measure when deciding what size bag (length) you need.

To measure your torso, have a friend use a flexible tape measure to calculate the distance (along your back) from the bony knot where the base of your neck meets the top of your back (the C7 Vertebra) down to right above your tailbone, in between the middle of your hips.

  • Extra Small: up to 15 ½”
  • Small: 16″ to 17½”
  • Medium/Regular: 18″ to 19½”
  • Large/Tall: 20″ and up

Weight

When your pack is full, you’re going to be hauling around a substantial amount of weight, and the weight of your backpack itself (how much it weighs without anything in it) is going to add to the overall total.

However, it may be worth considering a slightly heavier backpack vs a bare-bones minimalist backpack simply due to the fact that the lightest-weight backpacks tend to have less padding and tend to be less comfortable. Plus the frames in ultralight backpacks are generally made of cheaper, lighter material.

Compartments & Storage

Main Compartment

Most hiking and camping backpacks are top-loaded, with the main opening for your stuff at the top which is usually cinched shut, with an extra compartment above that folds over the top opening to securely shut it.

Some backpacks have the nice touch of having access to this same main storage section through the front of the pack, which is perfect if you realize you need quick access to something near the bottom of your pack–pulling everything out to get to a particular item isn’t as much fun as it sounds.

Top Compartment

As mentioned above, many backpacks have a top compartment that straps over the opening of the main compartment. This is useful for storing items you need quick access to, such as a flashlight or headlamp, a first aid kit, a knife, and other small, useful items.

Side & Exterior Compartments

If you choose a backpack with an external floating pocket (usually comprised of mesh-like material), it’s a handy place to store a poncho or rain jacket, or a thin piece of gear you can slip on to keep you warm if you’re out in chillier weather.

Side pockets are great for storing a water bottle for quick access to hydration, a camera, and similar small, handy items.

Quality – Materials & Padding

Higher-quality backpacks tend to have thicker materials, thicker padding, and sturdier frames. The trade-off is weight (see above), and it’s usually worth an extra pound or two for all the comfort these backpacks provide.

You’ll want a backpack that has foam padding along the shoulder straps so your pack doesn’t dig into you as you walk. You’ll also want your backpack to to strap around the front along your belt line. This helps keep your pack from bouncing around as you walk and adds an additional level of support–these straps should also be covered in padding.

When it comes to padding, softer padding may seem nice, but firm padding is the way to go–heavier loads will sink through soft padding and you’ll quickly realize that firm padding would have been a better choice (we know from experience). Also, breathable padding is preferred, which helps keep you from getting too hot because of all the padding that’s hugging your body.

Waterproofing

Finding a good backpack made with effective waterproof material is nice, but it’s not 100% essential. Most modern backpacks have decent waterproofing which can protect your gear during a light rain, but they may soak through in a downpour.

Of course you don’t want your gear to get wet, but if you know it’s going to be rainy (or if you want to be extra prepared either way, which is never a bad idea), you can bring along waterproof bags and containers to put your gear in before you put it in your backpack.

Additionally, there are a number of high-quality rain covers you can purchase to wrap around your pack, just make sure you choose one that will fully cover your backpack.

Maintenance & Care for Your Backpack

After each trip you should take a bit of time to properly clean and care for your backpack. After all, a good backpack can be quite an investment (as you’ve probably seen from the prices in our reviews above), so it’s worth treating your pack well so you can enjoy it for years to come.

If you want a thorough guide, be sure to check our post: How to Clean a Backpack – Maintenance & Care Tips. If you’re in a hurry, these tips are a good starting point:

Don’t wash your pack in a washing machine, and don’t dry it in the dryer. Instead, use an unscented soap that contains no detergent–or purchase a product made especially for cleaning backpacks.

Use warm water, soap, and a soft sponge to gently wipe the backpack’s material. Be careful not to scrub too hard so you don’t remove any protective coating the pack may have. Be sure to gently wipe down the zippers as well.

Hang the pack to dry indoors or in the shade–avoid placing it in direct sunlight; doing so can cause the pack to fade and weaken the fabric.

Conclusion

Any of the backpacks reviewed above would be a solid choice for your outdoor adventures. We’ve tried to include several packs in various price ranges to ensure that anyone, no matter their budget, can obtain a reliable backpack without breaking the bank.

If none of the backpacks we reviewed above are what you’re looking for, just be sure to keep the criteria we outlined above in mind when choosing the perfect pack for you. If you find one that adequately meets the criteria, you can’t go wrong.

If we missed any great backpacks that you’ve used, please let us know in the comments below and we’ll be happy to add them to the reviews to help out our fellow explorers.

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