Need a great backpack for backpacking? You’re definitely in the right place! In this detailed review, we will show you some of our favorite bags for long hikes, ranging from lightweight overnight packs to some massive multi-day beasts.
At A Glance: Our Top Picks for Backpacking Backpacks
You’ll see all sorts of different bags here, including internal and external frame backpacks, those for women, men and even kids. So, we’re certain that we can find you to help exactly what you’re looking for! Scroll down to see for yourself what the best backpacks for backpacking are!
Best Mid-Range Backpack
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Best Budget Option
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Best External Frame Backpack
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Best Backpack For Kids (And Tiny Adults)
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Best Backpack For Multi-Day Expeditions
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The Osprey Exos backpack is a great option for you if you don’t normally carry a lot of gear on longer hikes. It has a total capacity of 48 liters with lots of external attachment points, which makes it a great backpack for day or overnight backpacking expeditions. It is made from high tenacity nylon, so it is a really rugged pack.
The best thing about this pack is the AirSpeed suspension of the backpanel. It keeps the weight of the bag off your back and provides you with premium ventilation thanks to the abundance of breathable mesh. This is actually one of my favorite backpacks for summer hikes, specifically because of that excellent ventilation.
You can remove the top lid and make the backpack even smaller, which is a pretty useful feature. There’s a FlapJacket cover that protects the contents of the main compartment even when the top lid is removed, so you don’t have to worry about the safety of your gear. And the top lid also features web loop attachment points, so you can actually secure some bulkier gear to it.
One thing that I don’t like about this backpack is that the main compartment can be accessed only from the top. There’s no dedicated sleeping bag compartment, and there are no zippers on the sides or front panel. This means you really need to think about the order in which you are packing because the stuff at the bottom of the bag will not be easily accessible.
The Exos pack has a front-shove it pocket, which is really convenient for storing a spare layer of clothing. There are also dual access side pockets, but that’s it in terms of external pockets and compartments. You can find the Exos in 38 or 48, or even a larger Exos 58L version.
At least you do get lots of external attachment points, including sleeping pad straps, trekking pole attachments, and ice axe loops.
The Explorer 4000 is a really good option if you’re on a tight budget. This is one of a few backpacks for long hikes that you can get for under $100, but which doesn’t feel or perform like a cheap bag. And it’s actually one of the brand’s best selling packs of all time,
This backpack has a total capacity of 65 liters, so it’s a good option for multi-day hikes. Especially with all the different external attachment points that allow you to secure all the bulky gear to the exterior of the pack. You can stow hiking poles behind the zippered side pockets, there’s daisy chain webbing on the front panel, as well as adjustable straps at the top and bottom of the bag.
You also get some D-rings on the shoulder straps, which happen to be heavily padded and covered with breathable mesh. Actually, the entire back system is padded and ventilated, with dedicated airflow channels for optimal breathability. It’s also possible to adjust everything about the harness including the height, so you will be able to make this fit you perfectly regardless of your body type.
The main compartment of the bag is top-loading and very spacious, but it doesn’t feature any additional access points. This means that if you want to get something that’s at the bottom of the bag, you’ll have to dig deep.
You can keep all the smaller items organized though, thanks to all the different zippered pockets on the exterior of the bag. And there’s a dedicated sleeping bag compartment, a hydration sleeve behind the backpanel, as well as an integrated rain cover. But there are no hip belt pockets, so you won’t be able to keep items within hand’s reach at all times.
The Kelty Trekker backpack is one of the best options out there if you’re specifically looking for an external frame backpack. And in case you’ve never seen a pack like this before in your life, I encourage you to check out my post on external frame backpacks – they have lots of advantages, despite their really weird design.
You might think that this is a really heavy backpack, but it’s surprisingly lightweight for an external frame bag. It weighs just a little over 5 lbs, thanks to the feather-light aluminum that the frame is made of. The body of the bag is made from 600D ripstop polyester, which has excellent tear and abrasion resistance.
This backpack has a total capacity of 65 liters, which is more than enough for overnight and even multi-day expeditions. Especially with that external frame that lets you attach pretty much anything you want to it. And with the multiple external attachment points, like the daisy chain webbing and ice axe loops.
One of the main advantages of this external frame backpack is ventilation – a large part of the system is just breathable mesh, making it an excellent option for adventures during warm weather. And the rest of the back system features thick padding, for ultimate carrying comfort.
The Trekker bag features a really spacious main compartment, as well as an abundance of external pockets. There are four zippered pockets on the sides, a large zippered pocket on the front panel, and a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom. And that’s in addition to the really spacious, top-loading main compartment. The top lid of the pack converts into a sling bag, so you have a tiny daypack for quick excursions from camp.
In case you want a backpacking pack for your little one, the Osprey Ace is one of the top options on the market. It is designed for children aged 10-17, and it features a fully adjustable torso and hip belt that will grow along with your little backpacker.
This pack features internal and external compression straps that ensure excellent load stabilization, and help make your child more comfortable on really long hikes. It also has a hip belt and a sternum strap that will secure the backpack firmly onto the child’s body, ensuring that it doesn’t move around on their body.
The Ace backpack has a total capacity of 50 liters, which is plenty for a kid. When they’re old enough to set out on backpacking adventures on their own, they’ll have plenty of room even for overnight expeditions, especially with the various external attachment points. There’s also a dedicated sleeping bag compartment, as well as a hydration sleeve inside the pack.
The exterior of the pack features stretchy side pockets, a spacious front shove-it pocket, and two zippered hip belt pockets for the items that should always be easily accessible.
In addition to that, this bag features a top-loading main compartment with a removable top lid. It also comes with an integrated rain cover, which helps stomach the higher price point – this is a pretty expensive bag for a kid’s backpack. But it’s from Osprey – you’re getting a lifetime guarantee, and you can be absolutely certain that you’re getting top-notch quality.
That’s why this is the best large-capacity backpacks for your kids. Or even for you, if you’re a petite adult – this is designed to fit teenagers up to 17 years, so it will easily fit people of small builds.
The Roamm Nomad backpack is another great option if you need a large capacity bag. You actually get two backpacks for the (high) price of one – the main pack that has a capacity of 65 liters, as well as a detachable, 15-liter daypack.
If you’re used to going on backpacking trips that include you setting up camp in one place and then going to explore the area around you, the daypack is a feature you will absolutely love. It lets you go on quick hikes with just the necessities, as opposed to lugging a 40lb bag just because you need a few items from it.
This bag is made from nylon, so it is very durable and water-resistant. It is also a comfortable pack to wear – the back system features really thick padding everywhere, as well as breathable mesh. You can adjust everything on the harness, so you will be able to get that custom fit for your own body.
The main compartment of the bag is top-loading, and it has a detachable top lid. I like this feature because it really allows you to customize the backpack – with the top and lid and daypack, you have a massive capacity for multi-day expeditions. But if you detach everything, it’s suddenly a smaller hiking backpack that easily works for day hikes.
This bag features hip belt pockets, open side pockets, a pocket in the top lid, and external attachment points for everything you could want to secure to the exterior of the bag. There’s even a retainer for your sunglasses on the sternum strap, which absolutely hits the spot for me!
Osprey is one of the top backpack manufacturers, and it’s certainly one of my favorites. Their bags are always made from premium materials, they usually have features you didn’t even realize you needed. With the Rook backpack, I think you will really love the dual access side pockets – you can reach into them even when you’re wearing the backpack, allowing you to have lots of stuff easily accessible.
The bag also has zippered hip belt pockets, for those items you want within hand’s reach, but still secure. And there a roomy pocket in the top lid, as well as a sleeping bag compartment with a floating divider.
This means that you will be able to access the main compartment from the bottom, meaning you don’t really have to think about the order in which you are packing it. It is a top-loading compartment with an internal hydration sleeve, and it is really spacious. The Rook backpack doesn’t have that many external pockets, so the majority of its 65-liter capacity comes from its main compartment.
This is a very rugged backpack made from 600D polyester. The material has excellent tear and abrasion resistance, but it’s not very water repellant. However, that is okay because the backpack comes with an integrated rain cover, which has its own compartment at the bottom.
It is also a really comfy pack to wear, with Osprey’s AirSpeed backpanel. This particular back system puts the focus on ventilation – it is also called the trampoline backpanel because there’s a tiny bit of space between your back and the back system.
Additionally, it’s important to note that the Rook is compatible with Osprey’s Daylite backpack. This means that if you own the Daylite or the Daylite Plus, you can just attach it to the front of this bag, for a total capacity of 85+ liters.
Feel free to read our more detailed review of the Rook, if you want to know more about this awesome pack.
The Redwing 50 is a great mid-range option for overnight hikes. It has a total capacity of 50 liters, with enough external attachment points to fit all the gear you might need on your two-day adventure. And it’s not too expensive, which makes it a great backpack for people who are on tighter budgets.
This backpack is made from 420D polyester, with an internal frame for optimal load distribution. The pack features Kelty’s Perfect Fit suspension with load lifter straps, an adjustable harness, a padded and ventilated backpanel, and a really thick hip belt. If your main goal is to stay comfortable during your adventures, this bag won’t disappoint you.
The main compartment of the Redwing is top-loading, and it features wide U-zipper opening for easy packing and even easier access to all your gear. And the top lid is removable; it converts into a sling pack, making it the perfect companion bag for those quick explorations just outside the camp.
This bag has seven different pockets, including three open and four zippered ones. There’s also an extra compartment on the front panel with an organizer inside, so it’s easy to find a secure spot for all your smaller items. The open pockets include a large shove-it pocket on the front panel, as well as two stretchy side pockets that perfectly fit water bottles.
In addition to that, you can stow hiking poles in the side pocket – the larger zippered pocket will keep them securely in place. The bag also has sleeping pad straps but lacks daisy chain webbing and ice axe loops.
If you need a really big backpack, the Appalachian by High Sierra is a great option. It has a capacity of 75 liters, it features a comfortable and adjustable back system and it is reasonably priced at a little over $100. Which is a really good deal for such a sturdy backpacking pack from a trusted brand.
The bag is made from ripstop nylon, so it has a really good tear, abrasion, and water resistance. And it comes with a rain cover, ensuring that you’ll be able to protect your gear in case of a heavy downpour.
The main compartment is top-loading, and features gusseted drawstring closure. But, you can also access it through the zipper on the front panel, which means that even the items at the bottom will be easy to reach. There’s also a sleeping bag compartment with a divider, as well as an internal hydration sleeve with dual exit ports.
The Appalachian backpack features zippered and open side pockets, but it does not have any hip belt pockets. It does have a lot of different external attachment points though, including ice axe loops, sleeping pad straps, daisy chain webbing, and D-rings.
In addition to that, this backpacking bag is also really comfortable to wear. You can adjust everything about the back system, from the width of the sternum to the height of the harness. This allows you to really customize the fit of the pack so that it hugs your body really well, which ultimately helps keep you comfortable even when the bag weighs a lot.
The entire back system is also padded and covered with breathable mesh, for excellent ventilation in addition to the premium carrying comfort.
The North Face Terra is an excellent option for people who need a bigger backpack. The bag has a total capacity of 65 liters, which makes it perfectly suitable for multi-day hiking adventures. And it has lots of external attachment points, for all the bulky gear that doesn’t fit inside the bag.
The body of the backpack is made from 210D nylon, which isn’t as thick as I would like it to be. But, there’s no denying that nylon is one of the most durable materials for backpacks and that it has excellent water resistance even without any additional coating. That’s going to come in handy, considering you’re not getting a rain cover with the Terra backpack.
And that’s really a shame since this isn’t exactly an affordable backpack. The value for money isn’t quite what you’d expect – sure it’s a great bag, but you can also get two amazing backpacks for the same price.
The Terra backpack features J-zip opening of the main compartment, which means that the zipper runs all the way down one side. This is really good because it gives you easy access to your belongings, especially the items that are packed at the bottom or in the middle of the main compartment.
In addition to that, this pack also features a floating top lid, a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom, stretchy side pockets, zippered hip belt pockets, and a spacious open pocket on the front panel. The back system is padded and ventilated, with load lifter straps that make it really easy to adjust.
There are also lots of different external attachment points, including sleeping pad straps, ice axe loops, hiking pole attachments, and a bunch of different compression straps.
The Zulu backpack from Gregory is an awesome medium-sized bag for for multi-day hikes. It has a total capacity of 55 liters, with lots of external attachment points for all the gear you might want to bring on your adventures.
The main compartment of this bag is top-loading, but there’s also a zipper on the front panel which allows you to get to the items inside more easily. And it’s a really wide zipper, so you’ll be able to reach everything inside, even the stuff that’s at the bottom. Plus, the top lid is removable, allowing you to make the Zulu smaller and lighter for shorter adventures.
There’s a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the bag, which also doubles as an access point to the main compartment. This bag also has multiple external attachment points, including ice axe loops, trekking pole attachments, and removable sleeping pad straps.
There aren’t that many external pockets on the Zulu – there’s one in the floating top lid, two zippered hip belt pockets, and two stretchy side pockets. It’s not a lot, but I think it’s enough to keep the smaller items organized, especially the things you want easily accessible throughout your backpacking adventures.
One of the best things about the Gregory Zulu bag is how comfortable it is. It features CrossFlo Suspension, with really thick EVA foam throughout the backpanel and harness. The breathable mesh will allow your body to breathe, ensuring you are not sweating bullets when hiking during warm weather.
Additionally, everything about the harness is adjustable, so getting the bag to fit you well will not be a problem. It’s even possible to adjust the height of the harness, which is a huge plus.
It’s important you get a backpack that’s just the right size for your needs. So, how long do your backpacking trips usually last? Are you back home within the day, or do you often spend a night or two outdoors when going on really long hikes?
If you’re used to going on hikes that last several days, then you should definitely look for a large-capacity backpack. And also make sure that the bag has enough external attachment points for all the bulky gear that’s necessary on multi-day backpacking adventures. Think ice axe loops, sleeping pad straps, daisy chain webbing, etc.
But if you return home within the day or the next day at the latest, then you’ll be okay with one of the smaller bags featured in this review. In any case, it’s important not to overdo it – if you have no intention of spending three days in the great outdoors, you don’t really need an 80-liter backpack. While it might seem like a good idea to have that backup bag, it’s very likely that you will find it too big for your needs and end up not using it as much as you hoped.
The material a backpack is made from can tell you a lot about its durability, water resistance, and performance in harsh conditions. Nylon is thought to be one of the best materials for outdoor packs – it has a high tear and abrasion resistance, and it is even water-repellant without any extra coating.
Nylon is also a pretty affordable material, so backpacks that are made from it are rarely going to break the bank. But it’s definitely not as affordable as polyester, which is the favorite material amongst cheaper and mid-range brands.
Obviously, if you go backpacking very often, you need a really durable backpack. Something that can handle harsh conditions and abuse, so go with a backpack that looks super tough. But if backpacking is something you do only occasionally, then you will be okay if you get one of the more affordable packs.
If you’re going to use the backpack once every couple of months, you certainly don’t need something that’s designed to survive being used multiple times a week. So, don’t be afraid to go for one of the cheaper bags – it will do the job just fine, and it will save you lots of money that you can spend on something else.
With big bags for backpacking, it is very important that you can make the pack fit your body perfectly. Which means that the best backpacks you can buy are the ones that are the most adjustable.
Especially if you usually struggle to find a pack that suits your body type well. We’re talking about backpacks that are designed to carry 30-40 lbs of gear here – if it doesn’t fit you properly, the load will not be distributed evenly. This means you will be uncomfortable and in pain, and that’s something nobody wants to experience while they’re out exploring.
All of the backpacks featured in this review have excellent back systems, and the majority of them are thoroughly adjustable. The only thing that you can’t adjust on every single bag is the height of the harness – if this feature is important to you, then just make sure you get a bag that allows you to do that.
Additionally, I would advise you to check the dimensions of the bags you like and see how they compare against your own body. The length and width of the packs are something you should compare against your torso, just so you have a general idea of where the bag is going to sit on your body.
That’s the easiest way to make sure you’re getting a backpack that will fit you like a glove, and not something that’s going to feel like you’re carrying a massive sack on your shoulders.
I did my best to include backpacking packs that cost anywhere from $80 to $300. The best ones are really pricey, but they’re worth every single penny if backpacking is something you do really often. In the end, it’s better to spend a lot of money on one bag that you will use for years than to get a cheap bag that you’ll need to replace in just a few months.
But, if backpacking is not your passion and it’s something you rarely do, then it doesn’t really make sense to get a very expensive bag. Go with something more affordable – even the cheapest bags in this review are very well made, and they can handle a lot of abuse. It’s kind of like with cameras – you get an entry-level DSLR if you’re an enthusiast photographer, but you’ll spring for a full-frame flagship if you’re a professional.
Having a hard time choosing just one of these awesome backpacks? We’re here to help! Go with one of our top choices, depending on the length and style of your backpacking expeditions.
If you’re an avid backpacker who needs something sturdy and reliable, I think the Roamm Nomad pack is the best option for you. The feature-packed bag will shut up even the most demanding hikers since the only thing that’s wrong with it is the higher price point. It comes with a detachable daypack, the body of the bag is made from very durable materials and the back system is very comfortable and completely adjustable. And with the ability to remove the daypack and the top lid, the 80-liter bag turns into a 24-hour bag in just a matter of seconds!
One of the best budget options you could get is the Teton Sports Explorer 4000. This backpack has a very attractive price point, making it the best choice for people who are not on the trails every single weekend. And it’s an excellent bag with a durable body, comfortable and adjustable back system, and more zippered pockets than you probably need. The Explorer also boasts an abundance of external attachment points, for all that bulky gear you can’t fit inside the bag.
In case you want a medium-sized bag that’s versatile, I have to recommend the Osprey Exos/Eja pack. It boasts the AirSpeed suspension that’s awesome for keeping the weight off your back, with lots of breathable mesh for premium carrying comfort. The bag is great for day hikes and overnight backpacking adventures, especially during the warmer months. And with external attachment points, dual access side pockets, and a hidden pocket in the top lid, you’ll have plenty of space for your essential gear.
You can see the prices of all these backpacks on Amazon. And if you want to explore even more options, go check out our related posts!