Efficiency is the secret to a good backpacking experience.
You need to make sure you have everything you will need for the trek, but you also have to pack light so you can spend more energy on walking instead of dealing with heavy luggage.
Basically, aside from careful planning, you need the best hiking backpack that will suit your needs.
Here is our take on the top 5 best hiking backpack brands and where they stand on price, quality and company philosophy. Plus you will find our 16 TOP best hiking backpack reviews 2018.
- Some of the Best Hiking Brands and Overall Rating
- What Makes the Best Backpack?
- TOP 16 Best Hiking Backpack Reviews 2018
- Osprey Ariel/Aether
- Osprey Packs Exos 48 Backpack
- Osprey Packs Talon 22 Backpack
- Osprey Packs Volt 75 Backpack
- Arcteryx Altra 65 Pack – Men’s
- High Sierra Tech Series Titan 65 Frame Pack
- Gregory Mountain Products Men’s Baltoro 75 Backpack
- Gregory Mountain Products Contour 60 Backpack
- Gregory Mountain Products Z 55 Backpack
- Deuter Aircontact 65+10 Backpack
- Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack
- Kelty Red Cloud 110 Internal Frame Backpack
- TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
- TETON Sports Canyon 2100 Backpack
- Mountaintop 40 Liter Unisex Camping Backpack
- Mountaintop 80L Water-resistant Internal Frame Backpack
- Wrapping Things Up
Some of the Best Hiking Brands and Overall Rating
Osprey was founded in 1974 by Mike Pfotenhauer and is headquartered near the rugged San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Mr. Pfotenhauer grew up backpacking in his home state of Oregon, wearing ill-fitting backpacks.
This experience eventually led him to open his own shop in Santa Cruz California, where he created custom fitted backpacks for his patrons.
The Osprey company grew, and the capacity to produce backpacks domestically shrank, so he and his wife moved to Vietnam to oversee production and build relationships with the employees in Vietnam.
Today the Osprey company works very closely with their design and production team in Vietnam creating the high-quality backpacks they are known for.
They also maintain Mr. Pfotenhauer original philosophy of creating and providing custom-fitted packs and this philosophy makes Osprey one of the best hiking backpack brands.
Founded in 1977 by Wayne Gregory, who had worked designing backpacks and gear since his days in the boy scouts.
He built the company making custom packs and eventually, in 2014 Gregory Mountain was purchased by Samsonite, the famous luggage company.
Kelty has been around since 1952 by Dick Kelty and his wife Nena. The handcrafted backpacks from their garage, selling 29 packs in the first year, 90 the next and 220 the third year.
Their success blossomed into a warehouse in Glendale California. The packs were used exclusively on Antarctica and Mt. Everest expeditions.
The company was sold to American Recreation Products in 1979. ARP was purchase by Exxel Outdoors, in Boulder CO in 2015. The purchase by Exxel will bring back some US manufacturing of heritage brands.
Teton Sports is a privately held company based in Utah that imports sports equipment for sale at large Sports retailers and online outlets.
The company was founded in 2005, the products are produced overseas and the customer service support is done in the US.
Mountaintop is an overseas brand that began designing and selling backpacks and other gear in 1986.
They continue to make useful backpacks at a budget-friendly price.
What Makes the Best Backpack?
Any backpack manufacturer can claim that they offer the best backpacks, but there are a few characteristics that set the best backpacks from the rest of the competition.
For this guide, we’ll make our picks based on the following criteria:
Remember the part about the need to pack light?
This also includes the weight of the backpack itself. The lighter the backpack is, the less unnecessary weight you’ll have to carry around.
Take note that lighter backpacks may mean less durability or support; the best backpacks are fairly balanced in this regard.
While you do need to keep your luggage down, you still need a lot of room to make sure everything you need to bring will fit inside.
Having barely enough storage space in your backpack could mean you’ll be carrying something bursting at the seams even with nothing but the bare necessities.
The best backpacks offer plenty of room, especially for extended trips.
You can put all the features, use the finest materials and apply cutting edge engineering to make the ultimate backpack, but it won’t be a good option if something more affordable is good enough to give you the same results.
This doesn’t mean you should always go for cheapest backpacks; you need the ones that will give you the best value for your money.
All three factors previously mentioned greatly depend on what backpacks are made of. Most hiking backpack reviews agree that those made of ripstop nylon or cuben fiber are some of the best you can find because these two are lightweight but durable.
You’ll also notice that most of the picks in this guide are made of either material.
Have you ever tried lugging around a backpack that’s either too big or too small?
A poor fit is uncomfortable right from the start and downright terrible after wearing it for some time.
When it comes to efficiency, you don’t go for a poorly-fitted backpack and hope you’ll get used to it; the best hiking backpacks offer comfort right from the start.
You don’t expect the best travel backpacks to have nothing more than a compartment or two.
However, too many bells and whistles could also mean extra useless weight. The best backpacks have just the right amount of features; convenient, but still simple enough.
Are you ready to look for the best backpacking backpack? Start your search with these highly recommended options!
TOP 16 Best Hiking Backpack Reviews 2018
The Osprey Ariel/Aether is the first (and last) option for many backpackers. Despite being loaded with a lot of great features such as the hydration sleeve, multiple access points, a sleeping bag compartment, and three separate mesh pockets, you get a neat, organized bag ideal for multi-day trips.
Aside from having plenty of convenient features, the Ariel/Ether also offers a nearly unmatched level of adjustability and comfort.
The padded hip belt, and straps means this backpack won’t be digging into your skin even at full load. The Airscape back panel also allows your back to breathe, especially during hotter days.
- Plenty of convenient features like the hydration system.
- Easy to carry even at full load.
- Excellent adjustment options.
- Very comfortable to wear.
- Could do away with a few features (side and front straps).
- Side mesh pockets are awkwardly-sized; too large for regular water bottles.
- A bit on the heavier side.
Osprey Packs Exos 48 Backpack
The Osprey Exos 48 provides the best bang for your buck among ultralight backpacks.
Brimming with features such as a FlapJacket top closure, stretchy mesh shoulder strap pockets and hip belt pockets, the Exos offers a high level of versatility at an affordable price.
Ultralight backpacks have limited carrying capacity, but the Exos also features webbing loops, a floating lid, and bottom straps to help secure bulky but lightweight items.
If you’re looking for something meant for shorter trips, then the Exos is the best travel backpack for you.
- Plenty of features for an ultralight backpack.
- Very affordable considering its versatility and carrying capacity.
- Perfect for novice backpackers or for shorter trips.
- Not the most durable option available.
- Stretchy side pockets prone to wear and tear.
- Tensioned frame makes it less comfortable when carrying light loads.
Osprey Packs Talon 22 Backpack
22 liter capacity day hike pack, internal frame, hip belt with mesh pockets, trekking pole attachments.
- Small size for day hike while still utilizing a hip belt to keep weight at the hips.
- Too tall for the 22-liter capacity.
Osprey Packs Volt 75 Backpack
Another cost-effective lightweight bag, the Osprey Volt is a fine mix of simplicity and performance.
What it lacks in extra features, it more than makes up for in durability and affordability.
This makes the Osprey Volt a favorite among beginners and veterans looking for a budget backpack.
The Osprey Volt won’t be one of the best hiking backpacks simply because it’s affordable; the straps are good enough to give it a better than average fit, offering even better comfort than the Osprey Exos, which is also included in this list.
The minimal amount of features isn’t always a bad thing; after all, fewer features mean less extra weight.
- Simple, no-nonsense backpack.
- Excellent for beginners and veterans on a budget.
- One of the most cost-effective options available along with the Exos.
- Some may find the lack of features unattractive.
- Not suitable for heavier loads.
- Not recommended for extended trips.
Arcteryx Altra 65 Pack – Men’s
The Arcteryx Altra has all the makings of the best backpacking backpack. The pivoting hip belt effectively transfers the weight of the backpack to your hips, allowing better support.
If you ever tried turning to one side with any other backpack, you’ll feel its weight shift here and there; this isn’t the case with the Altra.
Combine this feature with the lightweight and durable frame and you have one of the most comfortable backpacks. The Altra also boasts excellent accessibility and ease of use.
A couple of ample-sized pockets on the top of the lid will allow you to quickly look for anything inside.
Some backpackers claim that finding items is a breeze even with both pockets filled up. The Altra also has a U-shaped zipper to help you get those items that are too deep inside.
- Pivoting hip belt transfers weight off your shoulders and lets you move around easily.
- Features one of the best lids you can find in a backpack.
- Provides quick and easy access to everything inside your bag.
- Impressive durability despite being light for its size.
- Shoulder straps can feel too thin especially during extended trips.
- One of the priciest options, although the benefits are worth it.
High Sierra Tech Series Titan 65 Frame Pack
If the Osprey Exos is the most cost-effective ultralight backpack, then the High Sierra Tech Series Titan is its bigger counterpart.
Despite being designed to carry heavy loads, the Titan’s S-shaped Ergo-Fit shoulder straps and padded back panel provides plenty of comfort and support.
The design is plain and simple, but features such as the hip belt pocket and hinge pocket still provide a lot of convenience. It even has a sewn-on survival list underneath the lid!
At barely half the price of other products on this guide, it’s easily one of the best hiking backpacks for budget-savvy backpackers.
- Comfortable to wear even at full load.
- Highly adjustable.
- Pockets are conveniently placed for quick and easy access.
- The survival list under the lid is a nice touch.
- Extra handles doesn’t seem that useful, could lose the extra weight.
- Some loose threads on the stitching.
- A bit on the heavier side.
Gregory Mountain Products Men’s Baltoro 75 Backpack
The best backpacks for travel have a little bit of everything, and you can see it in the Gregory Baltoro.
The shoulder straps are well-articulated with high quality foam padding and the face fabric works well even if the wearer isn’t wearing clothing.
The lumbar pad also provides excellent lower back support which is perfect for long walks, but it can be removed if you don’t feel like using it.
The Baltoro sits close to the middle of the pack in terms of weight, but it’s loaded with options such as a stowable forward-facing bottle pocket, dual waist-belt pockets, and a suspension system that you’ll expect to find only on heavier backpacks.
Interchangeable hip belts and shoulder straps add an extra layer of customization for that perfect fit.
- Excellent amount of features given its weight.
- Robust frame on par with heavier bags.
- Lumbar pad and interchangeable straps and hip belts allow better customization.
- Has a little bit of everything such as easy access lids.
- Some don’t like the supportive foam.
- Still heavier than average.
Gregory Mountain Products Contour 60 Backpack
60 Liter hiking backpack with padded adjustable angle hip belt and foam back suspended mesh back panel.
This backpack has excellent organizational features, much of the backpack is designed to be waterproof.
- Included rain cover.
- Waterproof features.
- Mid-size pack.
- Water bottle pocket is hard to access while searing.
Gregory Mountain Products Z 55 Backpack
Large 55 liter capacity, easy access U panel openings, with top loading, ultra wide mouth, drawstring open and close on the main compartment.
Padded harness and hip belt, hidden zippered pocket under lid, and included rain cover.
- Mid-size pack with many great features, large openings, good organization features and good weatherproof features.
- Size runs small.
Deuter Aircontact 65+10 Backpack
Comfort is essential when it comes to extended backpacking trips, and the Deuter Air Contact ranks as one of the best in this department.
You can carry 50 pounds worth of luggage all day without any problems, thanks to its Vario adjustment system, additional straps on the bottom, and extra padding.
What’s even more surprising is that it’s one of the most comfortable backpacks even if it’s one of the heaviest options on this list!
If you don’t have the cash for the Arcteryx Altra or if you want something stronger than the Osprey Volt, the Deuter Air Contact offers a much more balanced alternative.
- One of the most comfortable bags available.
- Decent amount of features.
- An excellent all-around option, balancing cost, strength, and features.
- Hip belt is a bit bulky.
- Heavier than anything else on the list.
Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack
44-liter travel and hiking backpack, which is compact enough for carry on travel for most domestic flights. This backpack features an aluminum stay for support and an airflow back panel.
HDPE frame sheet support along with hip and shoulder strap suspension center weight on your hips for comfortable hiking.
- Can act as top loader or panel loader depending on compression strap placement.
- Fits in overhead compartments for travel.
- Can be challenging to access lower contents of bag.
Kelty Red Cloud 110 Internal Frame Backpack
High Capacity 110 liter, internal frame hiking backpack for multi-day and thru-hikes. Adjustable suspension, Plenty of organization features, mesh back panel, dual aluminum stays, with a lid that converts to a lumbar (fanny) pack.
- High capacity, high quality, supportive internal frame and suspension system.
- Waist belt comes loose.
TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
Great lighter weight pack with plenty of storage, excellent organization features, included rainfly, adjustable waist and hydration system compatible.
- Hip belt and lumbar support keeps weight at hips and supports back to avoid fatigue and back pain.
- Light, 4.4 lbs unpacked.
- Small sleeping bag compartment better suited for summer sleeping bags, not winter.
TETON Sports Canyon 2100 Backpack
Sleek low profile 20 liter pack for ease of movement in all terrains. This pack includes a dry bag, ran cover, and quick-drain holes in the event the bag is submerged in water.
You can access the main compartment from the top or bottom.
- Includes hip belt, not common in smaller bags.
- Sleek design, not bulky and awkward.
- Less compression straps than competing packs.
Mountaintop 40 Liter Unisex Camping Backpack
40-liter backpack great for day hiking. Water-resistant coating, front bungee cables for attaching gear, side mesh pockets, several zippered pockets, an easy carry handle is convenient for travel, a hip belt with mesh pockets.
- Includes hip belt for good weight distribution.
- Many organization features.
- A backpack good for travel and day hiking.
- Not as roomy as a 40 liter should be.
Mountaintop 80L Water-resistant Internal Frame Backpack
High capacity 80-liter backpack with water-resistant material, loops, and bungees to hold tools and hiking poles, an internal frame with an adjustable harness that has 8 different adjustment sizes, only 5.1 lbs unpacked.
- Large capacity.
- Internal frame.
- Included rain cover.
- The lid can shift a lot of not fully packed.
Wrapping Things Up
That’s pretty much it for the best backpacks you can find online.
Take note that there are plenty of other backpacks available out there, with some of them better at some areas than those included on this guide.
However, any of these sixteen choices are already solid options and more importantly – just an order away.
Do you know other backpacks that you think should have been included in this list?
Share us your thoughts by leaving a comment!
Good luck with your search for your ideal backpack and don’t forget about camping hammock.