Is it possible to get a good hiking backpack for under $100?
Even the most savvy penny pinchers of us will usually admit that when it comes to hiking gear, you get what you pay for.
Spend less than $100 on a hiking backpack and you’ll probably end up with a lemon, right?
Right, well, usually at least!
There are some exceptions!
I’m here to help you find a backpack that is affordable but also durable and functional enough to make it worth your while.
Read on for reviews of the best budget hiking backpacks of 2020, followed by a little more info on what to look for when making your decision.
- TOP 11 Affordable Hiking Backpacks of 2020
- Teton Sports Canyon 2100 Backpack
- Outlander Packable Hiking Backpack
- Mountaintop 40L Hiking Backpack
- High Sierra Pathway 40L Pack
- OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack
- Wasing Internal Frame Backpack
- Mountaintop Internal Frame Backpack
- Teton Sports Scout 3400 Backpack
- Teton Sports Explorer 4000 Backpack
- Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack
- The North Face Terra Backpack
- Buyer’s Guide to Budget Backpacks
TOP 11 Affordable Hiking Backpacks of 2020
These reviews focus on three pack aspects:
- Suspension: This includes how comfortable the shoulder straps are, how adjustable the suspension is, how it holds weight and if it allows for good ventilation or not.
- Durability: We look at buckles, snaps, zippers, backpack material, stitching, reinforcement and other factors that make a backpack durable – or not.
- Storage: What can this pack carry, how much does it hold, and how are things stored? We will look at overall capacity as well as pockets, organizational features, compartments and tie on options such as loops or daisy chains, to see what storage is like on each bag.
The packs below are grouped according to capacity, and hence whether they are best suited for day hikes, overnight hikes or multi-day hikes.
Best Hiking Backpacks under $100 for Day Hikes
Teton Sports Canyon 2100 Backpack
The Teton Sports canyon backpack is a good quality 35 liter pack – the perfect size for a day hike if you have a lot of gear, or an overnight hike if you pack light.
Suspension: Air mesh harness is fixed, not adjustable, and includes shoulder straps, sternum strap and hip belt.
Durability: Made from high-quality honeycomb material with good quality buckles and zippers.
Storage: There is a map pocket and daisy chain straps that run vertically down the pack. The pack has two bottom compression straps for tying on gear, and has a hydration pouch sleeve ready for your hydration bladder.
There is a zippered pocket at the top of the lid with a key clasp, zippered butterfly pockets on each side as well as mesh stretch pockets on each side. Lastly, this pack has a separate sleeping bag compartment.
- High quality, functional suspension system.
- Backpack is streamlined and fits close to the body.
- Versatile size for both day hikes and lightweight overnight hikes.
- No side compression straps.
- Hip straps don’t perform as well when the pack is heavily loaded.
Outlander Packable Hiking Backpack
With room for a warm layer, a waterproof layer, some food, water and valuables, the Outlander 20, 25 or 33L hiking backpack is a great, lightweight option for day hikes.
It’s also packable, meaning it folds up ridiculously small so you can pull it out just when you need it on your travels.
Suspension: The two shoulder straps are adjustable but have minimal cushioning and there are no sternum or hip straps which is a drawback and will make the pack less comfortable with heavier loads.
Durability: Made of rip-proof, water-resistant nylon, this pack is designed to be durable and cope with the wear and tear of travel and hiking. Zippers are durable two-way Abrasion Resistant SBS Metal.
Storage: Aside from the main compartment, two mesh pockets for water bottles are accompanied by two front zippered pockets, an internal zip pocket for valuable items, and an external carabiner for clipping on extra items.
- Choose between 20L, 25L or 33L for the ideal size for your day hike, and then fold the whole thing into a tiny hamburger sized pouch for easy storage when not in use.
- It is ridiculously cheap and lightweight (only 0.5lbs) which makes it quite remarkable that this bag is so durable.
- This bag is also the perfect size for hand baggage making it a great choice for travel, with room for all of your personal items while fitting under the seat in front of you.
- No sternum or hip straps so not suitable for heavier loads or overnight hikes.
Best Affordable Hiking Backpacks for Overnight Hikes
Mountaintop 40L Hiking Backpack
A cheap but good quality backpack, this 40L pack is ideal for overnight hikes in the summer if you pack light and attach some gear to the outside.
Suspension: Shoulder and hip straps are padded, and the sternum strap along with all the others are adjustable. The molded foam back panel provides some structural support and is breathable.
Durability: Lightweight, durable rip-stop nylon is coated to be water-resistant. YKK buckles and SBS zippers open and close smoothly.
Storage: One front pocket and two mesh side pockets. There are additional straps at the top and bottom for stowing something rolled up like a sleeping mat or tent, while side compression straps and the mesh pockets could hold hiking poles.
- Weighs just 2.3 lbs.
- Hydration system compatible.
- Comes with a rain cover.
- Very affordable.
- Back panel doesn’t provide as much support as it could and the pack could do with some more padding against the back.
High Sierra Pathway 40L Pack
The High Sierra Pathway is a 40 liter day pack or overnight pack with comfortable padded straps that is the perfect size for carry-on.
Suspension: The padded air mesh back panel has an internal frame for structure while adjustable, padded shoulder and hip straps and an adjustable sternum strap keep weight centered on your hips.
Durability: Very good durability for this price point with 600 denier Duraweave fabric.
Storage: There are two mesh side pockets for drink bottles, one zippered front pocket, and side and bottom compression straps that can be used to attach larger rolled items to the outside. It also has a daisy chain and hiking pole loops.
- Good suspension with center support up the back.
- Included rain cover.
- Well suited to shorter people.
- Ideal size for carry-on.
- Limited pockets.
OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack
The Outdoor Master backpack is 50 liter, medium-sized bag.
Suspension: The pack has a hip belt, padded curved shoulder straps and a sternum strap to keep the weight centered over your hips.
Durability: Brand name reliable YKK zippers, reinforced haul handle and tough nylon fabric.
Storage: This backpack has a place for a hydration system, a padded laptop sleeve, zip pockets on the hip belt, external loops to hold trekking poles, straps on the bottom to hold a sleeping pad or tent, mesh stretch side pockets, and a kangaroo style pouch on the front with a vertical zippered pocket on that.
- Medium size pack with good suspension and a lot of storage.
- Reasonable quality for the price.
- Good comfort level for the price.
- The harness length is not adjustable and does not have great ventilation making this a pack for shorter trips, and average-sized folks.
- Designed more for travel than hiking specifically.
Best Affordable Hiking Backpacks for Multi Day Hikes
Wasing Internal Frame Backpack
55 L is the perfect size for an overnight hike if you need a little more gear for wet weather and food, with just enough space for everything you need without letting you get carried away.
Suspension: Molded foam back panel helps to support the weight of the load and keep the pack comfortable. The aluminum frame is lightweight and adjustable for a customized fit.
Fully adjustable padded shoulder and hip straps with sternum strap for extra stability.
Durability: Water-resistant ripstop polyester is lightweight and durable.
Storage: Zipper access bottom compartment, one hip belt pocket, two deep zippered side pockets, two mesh side pockets, two pockets in the lid, one large front pocket and multiple compression straps.
- At well under $100, this is one very affordable backpack.
- At just under 3 lbs this is still fairly lightweight for a 55L capacity.
- Comes with a rain cover.
- Main compartment is extendable and can increase capacity from 50L to 55L.
- Hydration system compatible.
- Some durability issues with stitching but that’s to be expected at this price.
Mountaintop Internal Frame Backpack
This is another example of a budget hiking pack in the 55L size range with a good amount of storage and the main con being a slight loss of comfort with heavier loads.
Suspension: Harness is fully adjustable with a vertical slider catering to all torso lengths.
Internal steel frame supports the structure of the pack to keep the weight balanced and stop the back panel from collapsing inwards against your spine. Shoulder straps and hip belts are well padded.
Durability: SBS zippers are reasonably durable. Water-resistant polyester material is lightweight and will keep out a little water.
Storage: Separate bottom compartment can be used for a sleeping bag or wet, dirty gear. The huge main compartment is supplemented by a large zip pocket on the front, two small zip pockets on the hip belts and two mesh side pockets.
- Comes with a rain cover for extra weather-proofing.
- Hydration system compatible.
- At 3 lbs this is pretty light for a 55L capacity.
- Ventilation channels in the back panel prevent a build-up of sweat.
- This pack won’t be as comfortable carrying heavier loads as more expensive packs.
- Hip belt could do with more padding and the back panel is a little flimsy.
Teton Sports Scout 3400 Backpack
This is another top-rated and reliable but good value option from Teton Sports. It has a 55L capacity and the harness is particularly good for slim builds.
Suspension: This internal frame backpack has a great suspension system including padded shoulder straps, sternum strap, adjustable harness and lumbar pad. All work to carry the weight of the pack on your hips and keep your back ventilated.
Durability: Sturdy buckles, 600D ripstop nylon material and water-resistant fabric make for a reasonably durable pack, especially for its price.
Storage: This pack has bungee straps on the top and front to hold gear on the outside.
There is a mesh front pocket, gear ties on the top and bottom, and compression straps at the bottom to hold a sleeping pad.
It also has a sleeping bag compartment in the bottom, two stretch mesh side pockets, and a zippered back pocket.
This backpack is compatible with a hydration system. The main compartment can be accessed from the front or top of the pack and has a drawstring close top. It also has a zip-out partition to divide the main compartment.
- Effective and useful suspension system.
- Relatively high quality for the price.
- 55 liter capacity.
- Good number of pockets and options for external gear attachment.
- Cannot use tall water bottles in the side water bottle holders.
Best Cheap High Capacity Hiking Backpacks
Teton Sports Explorer 4000 Backpack
Similar to the Scout 3400, the Explorer 4000 is a good quality and comfortable sub-$100 pack but with a 65L capacity.
Suspension: It has a heavily padded hip belt, lumbar pad, padded shoulder straps, a sternum strap and adjustable harness to match your torso size. The back has good ventilation.
Durability: The backpack is made from 600D ripstop nylon, includes a rain cover, rain cover storage pouch and high-quality buckles.
Storage: The storage on this backpack is ample, including two top compression straps, a pouch in the lid, a drawstring top for the roomy main compartment, an interior zip pocket on the lid, two daisy chain elastic strips which run vertically down the front of the pack for attaching more gear.
There is a zippered bottom compartment for a sleeping bag, two generous zippered side pockets. Stretch mesh water bottle holders, and two lower ties.
The side pockets on one side open on the top and bottom making them ideal for holding longer gear, like trekking poles, axe handles, etc.
- High capacity with a lot of external storage pockets and attachment points.
- Good pack for taller people.
- The drink bottle holders are not very large.
- The hip strap is somewhat hard and can be uncomfortable.
Best Hiking Backpacks Under $200
These final two packs provide a couple of slightly more expensive options that make a great choice if you want to stretch your budget to something a little more durable and long-lasting while remaining light weight.
Osprey Kestrel 48 Backpack
Osprey is truly a top of the line backpack producer so to get an Osprey pack that is well under $200 makes this pack extremely good value.
48L makes this a highly versatile pack being suited to overnight hikes, multi-day hikes and lightweight thru-hikes.
Suspension: The harness is adjustable for different torso lengths and the Airscape back panel is nicely breathable. The hip straps and shoulder straps are nicely padded, and long with the sternum strap, they are all adjustable and guaranteed to be comfortable.
Durability: There should be no issues with durability with this pack, being a reliable Osprey product.
Storage: One large stretch pocket on the front with small pockets on the hip and shoulder straps, and two stretch mesh side pockets.
There is also an external sleeve for a hydration bladder at the back, daisy chain loops and compression straps for extra gear attachment, and side zip access to the main compartment.
- Very breathable back prevents a sweat build-up keeping you cool and comfortable.
- Hydration system compatible.
- 3.59 lbs is lightweight.
- Superior suspension system will be very comfortable.
- Plenty of pockets and gear attachment options.
- Fixed lid can’t be removed or extended upwards like some Osprey packs.
The North Face Terra Backpack
Still coming in well under $200 but with a 55L capacity, this North Face pack is a true bargain with enough capacity for a multi-day hike or a longer thru-hike.
Suspension: The pack comes in 3 harness sizes, each with an Opti-fit, fully adjustable suspension system for maximum comfort. Shoulder and hip straps are very well cushioned and distribute the weight effectively across the hips.
Durability: 210D Nylon makes up the body of the pack and is very durable.
Storage: Two hip strap pockets, two stretch side pockets, one large front stretch pocket and a lid pocket plus additional bottom loops and side compression straps.
- Hydration system compatible.
- Ventilation system keeps your back cool and dry.
- Comes with rain cover.
- Comes in women’s specific model.
- Full length ‘J’ zip for front access to the main compartment.
- At just over 4 lbs this pack is one of the heavier on the list. But, the quality of its suspension system and its large capacity should make up for this.
Buyer’s Guide to Budget Backpacks
So, you’ve decided you’re in the market for a hiking backpack but you don’t have a massive budget.
Not to worry! While spending a little more will undoubtedly get you a better quality pack (look at The North Face and Osprey options above as perfect examples), there are also some great sub-$100 options.
This is what to look for:
This has to do with durability – things like how long the seams will hold up and whether or not the zippers will fail or zip smoothly.
If the buckles and snaps can hold a heavy load, the fabric will last for more than a few trips without wearing a hole in the bottom of the bag.
For a hiking backpack, high capacity is anything over 60 liters. A backpack over 60 liters is a bit extreme in current times when lightweight is becoming more popular.
This kind of capacity is only appropriate for multiday hikes or thru-hikes in remote areas where you need to carry a lot of food and gear.
40 to 60 liters is considered medium or ‘normal’ capacity and could be used for overnight, 3-4 day hikes, or longer thru-hikes when packing ultralight.
Under 40 liters is considered a daypack or overnight hike size, depending on the season and how much gear you plan to bring.
Cooler weather requires more gear, and hence, a larger backpack. The opposite is true for summer hiking.
There are high capacity, high-quality bags that weigh a lot.
Military issue bags are a typical example of this. They can weigh several pounds or more unpacked because of the durable material they are made from.
In other cases, a lightweight bag is light because it is made from less expensive and less durable material.
A lightweight bag made of high-quality material is more expensive because the material is more expensive, which is why it is a challenge to find a bag that is high quality and lightweight for under $100. It can be done, but it will probably be a lower capacity bag.
If you must have a backpack under $100, prioritize two of these three characteristics to focus on finding the best hiking backpack under $100.
Get a Realistic Idea of the Backpack Volume You Need
Get all your gear together and either borrow a backpack or find a box that fits all of your gear. Don’t forget space for food or a bear canister if you’ll be using one.
Measure the box, or note the liter capacity of the borrowed backpack to get a realistic idea of the size pack you need.
In general, overnight hikes, and maybe 3 or 4 day hikes can be done with 50 liter bags. But, if you have bulky gear like a synthetic sleeping bag or cheaper tent, you may need more space, unless you can share the load with your hiking buddies or attach some gear to the outside.
If you don’t have a sleeping bag yet, or you’re just realizing that your sleeping bag is so outdated that it’s going to take up half of your pack space, have a read of our guide to the best budget sleeping bags.
Most hikers rarely need a 70 to 90 liter backpack. These backpacks are for longer hikes where you need to pack in all your supplies, water and food. And often, if you’re looking at carrying this much gear, an external frame backpack rather than internal frame is the way to go.
Sportsmen, hunters and hikers involved in special activities may need packs this large, but the average hiker will not.
Consider How Often You Plan to Hike
How often you plan to hike should determine how durable and high quality of a bag you should consider.
If you plan to hike three times a year, you may not need the best quality pack.
But if you plan to hike every other weekend and hiking is a big part of your lifestyle, you’ll save money in the long run if you invest in a better quality pack that you won’t have to replace after one season.
We have a guide to the best hiking backpacks which is a good place to start if you think that investing in a better quality option will make more sense for you.
And similarly, you get what you pay for when it comes to outdoor clothing as well (especially with rain jackets!). If you’re in the market for some more hiking clothes, check out our guide to the best outdoor clothing brands so you know who to trust.
If you want a better quality pack but can’t necessarily afford the higher price tag, going for a slightly smaller pack and compromising on the amount of gear you carry may be the answer.
There are plenty of great resources with information on how to pack light, especially when it comes to carrying food for longer hikes. Videos such as this one have some great advice on food to carry that doesn’t take up too much space.
That brings us to the end of this round up of the best budget hiking backpacks of 2020. Luckily for us, there are budget options that offer reasonable quality despite their low price points.
Please share your experiences below if you’ve tried out any of the packs on this list or have other budget options to recommend.
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