Looking for a great expedition backpack? You’re definitely in the right place! This detailed review features ten of the best expedition packs money can buy, from versatile 70-liter bags to 100-liter beasts!
At A Glance: Best Expedition Backpacks
Our review has plenty of variety, so there’s definitely something for everyone. Below you will see both summer and winter expedition backpacks, women’s packs and waterproof packs, all of which have one thing in common – they are all top of the lines when it comes to quality, durability and comfort. So, scroll down to find the best expedition backpack for you!
Best Backpack Overall
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Best Affordable Option
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Best Back System
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Most Versatile Option
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Best Women’s Expedition Backpack
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The Aether AG backpack is a great option for multi-day expeditions. It has a capacity of 70 liters, with a load range of 35-60 lbs. Plus, the backpack has a multitude of external attachment points, so there’s going to be plenty of space for all that bulky gear that won’t fit inside the main compartment.
The pack is made from nylon, so it has good water resistance. It is not entirely waterproof, but it does come with a rain cover that will help keep your gear dry in wet conditions.
Its entire back system is adjustable, so it will be pretty easy to make this backpack fit you perfectly. In addition to that, the Aether features Osprey’s Anti-Gravity backpanel, with a peripheral LightWire frame that helps transfer the load. Everything on the backpack is heavily padded and ventilated, from the adjustable hip belt to the comfortable shoulder straps.
The main compartment of the Aether is top loading, with a removable lid. There’s a FlapJacket cover that lets you use the backpack without a lid, which is pretty cool. And you can access the main compartment through a zipper on the front panel, and through the bottom of the bag – there’s an internal divider in the sleeping bag compartment.
This pack has a variety of different pockets and external attachment points. The top lid has two zippered pockets, there are stretchy side pockets, hip belt pockets, a stretchy front panel pocket and an external reservoir sleeve behind the backpanel.
And then you also get sleeping pad straps, ice axe loops, trekking pole attachment points and more than 10 different compression straps. If you’re thinking of carrying it on an expedition, there’s a spot for it on the Aether.
The Teton Sports Explorer 4000 backpack is a great option for all of you who can’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars on an expedition pack. It has a capacity of 65 liters, so it’s still good enough for expeditions of 3-5 days.
The shell of this pack is made from a mixture 600D ripstop and 600D Oxford Canvas. It is very durable, but doesn’t have the best water resistance. The good news is that you get a rain cover with this pack; it is actually sewn onto the backpack, but can be tucked away when not in use.
This pack features a highly adjustable back system and harness, so it will fit a variety of body types. And the entire backpanel and harness and heavily padded as well as ventilated, so this pack is going to be really comfortable to wear. It also has an internal aluminum frame that helps it retain its shape, as well as a hydration sleeve hidden behind the backpanel.
One thing you’ll love about this backpack is the amount of gear you are able to fit in it. It doesn’t seem like it fits a lot, but it really does – largely thanks to multiple external attachment points. You get daisy chain webbing on the front panel, sleeping pad straps, and pass through side pockets that work for storing trekking poles. And that is in addition to the really spacious main compartment, and a total of six external pockets.
The Explorer 4000 might not be the most innovative option, or the highest quality option. But it is the best affordable option you can possibly get – with a price point under $90, it’s the perfect pack for the adventurer on a tight budget.
Gregory Mountain Products is another trustworthy brand that we already know and love. They make some really amazing backpacks, and the Baltoro is just one of the many great expedition packs you can get from them.
It is made from 630D Nylon with polyester lining, and it has pretty good water resistance. The base is actually waterproof, so you can set this aside in the snow, without worrying that your gear inside will get wet.
The Baltoro backpack is probably one of the most comfortable expedition backpacks you can get. The entire harness features really thick padding, and it is actually the reason why this backpack is heavier than most others. The shoulder straps are ergonomic and they feel really comfortable against your body, as does the hip belt. On top of that, everything about the back system is adjustable – from the height of the harness to the width of the sternum strap.
This is a top-loading backpack, but you can access the main compartment from multiple sides, including the front and the bottom. The latter access is through the sleeping bag compartment – there is an internal divider inside, but you can always unzip it to get to the main compartment.
Another thing I love about this backpack is that the hip belt pockets are made from entirely waterproof materials, with YKK Aqua Guard zippers. Which means that the things you put in these pockets (your smartphone) will stay entirely dry no matter how much it is raining outside.
Additionally, this pack features multiple external pockets and attachment points, so it will be really easy to stay organized. There’s even a dedicated slot on the shoulder strap for your sunglasses, which just goes to show how much thought was put into the design of details of this pack.
The Deuter Aircontact Lite is another premium option. It is a great expedition backpack by a trusted brand, and it has some pretty amazing features. Like the dual density foam that feels incredibly comfortable against your back, and the highly adjustable back system that allows everyone to get the perfect fit.
One thing that I love about this backpack is how lightweight it is. It has a really big capacity, but it still weighs well under 5 lbs, which makes it one of the lightest expedition backpacks you can get. And that’s a pretty big plus, considering that nobody want a heavy backpack when they already have 50 lbs of gear to put in it.
The backpack has a basic capacity of 65 liters, but you have the option to expand it, which adds another 10 liters to its total capacity. That is a pretty great feature because it makes the backpack more versatile, and it allows you to make it a bit smaller when you don’t need to full 75 liters.
The Aircontact Lite back system of this pack is proven to reduce sweating by 15%, which makes it an awesome options for expeditions during summer. In addition to being very breathable, the back system of this pack is also very comfortable to wear, thanks to the really thick padding. But we didn’t expect anything less from Deuter – they are a premium brand, which is obvious from the high quality of their products.
Other features of this pack include hip belt pockets, stretchy side pockets, a sleeping bag compartment, hydration reservoir sleeve, multiple compression straps and a front shove-it pocket. The backpack also has several external attachment points, which will lets you store your bulkier gear – sleeping pad, ice axes and hiking poles.
Ladies, if you want an expedition backpack that is going to fit you like a glove, go with Osprey Xena. It is designed to fit the contours of a female body, which means ergonomic shoulder straps, slightly wider hip belt and a somewhat shorter harness.
While I don’t normally buy into the men’s/women’s specific products – especially with outdoor gear – the amount of detail in this pack’s design easily changed my mind. And the feature that I love the most is the angled hip belt, which is designed to accommodate for the specific shape of female hips. The Xena pack will feel really comfortable on your body, even with 50lbs+ of gear inside.
Plus, everything about its back system is adjustable, so you will still be able to customize it to fit your own body type. One thing to note is that only the backpanel of the Xena is ventilated (the harness is not), so I would recommend this backpack primarily for winter outings.
The spacious main compartment can be accessed from the top and the sides, and also from the sleeping bag compartment. There’s an internal divider inside, which lets you use the bottom section as a separate compartment, or you can just merge it with the main compartment.
This pack is equipped with hip belt pockets, stretchy side pockets, an external hydration sleeve and a dual zip front pocket. It also has ice axe loops, trekking pole attachment points, sleeping pad straps and a lot of compression straps that let you dictate the shape of the pack.
In addition to that, the top lid is removable, and doubles as a small daypack for those quick explorations. And the FlapJack cover ensures that the contents of the Xena stay safe, even when you remove the top lid.
The Coyote backpack by Kelty is my favorite option for summer expeditions because of the excellent ventilation of its back system. Everything that touches your body is covered by breathable mesh, so this backpack will definitely help you stay cool on hot summer days.
Plus, everything is heavily padded, so it is really comfortable to wear even with 40lbs+ of gear in it. You can adjust the height and width of the harness, as well as the shoulder straps and the hip belt, so it’s going to be really easy to get that perfect fit. Additionally, the shoulder straps are contoured, and they really hug your body while you’re wearing the backpack.
This backpack has a capacity of 80 liters, so it’s more than suitable for long, multi-day expeditions. It features a top loading main compartment, with a lid that is secured in place with compression straps. And there are lots of pockets on the pack, so you can keep all those smaller items organized.
We’re talking hip belt pockets, top lid pocket, water bottle pockets, zippered side pockets front stash-it pocket and two extra compartments. The front compartment actually has an organizer panel, so it’s great for items you want to have easily accessible. And there’s a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom of the pack as well.
This pack also has multiple external attachment points, for all that bulky gear. You have the sleeping pad straps as the bottom, ice axe loops on the sides, and the side pass through pockets that lets you store your trekking pole. The only downside of this is that, if you do store the trekking poles behind the zippered side pockets, you can’t really use the stretchy pockets for anything else.
The MountainTop backpack is another great affordable option. This expedition backpack is available in two sizes (55 and 80 liters), and both are under $100. Perfect for adventurers on a budget!
It has an aluminum frame, with thick padding in the harness and backpanel. Everything about the back system is adjustable, so it will be pretty easy to make the pack fit your body perfectly. And both the harness and the backpanel are ventilated, which makes this backpack a great option for both summer and winter expeditions.
The main compartment of this pack is very roomy, and it is accessible from top, bottom and front. You can actually expand the capacity of the backpack – there’s a drawstring at the top collar, which lets you increase the capacity of the bag by 5 additional liters.
This pack also has a sleeping bag compartment with an internal divider, as well as sleeping pad straps. There are also ice axe loops on the sides of the front panel, and multiple daisy chain webbings. The only thing this expedition backpack lacks is a dedicated spot for trekking poles, but you can easily store those in the stretchy side pockets. The two sets of compression straps will keep the poles firmly in place.
There are also lots of external pockets on this backpack – hip belt pockets, two zippered front pockets and a top lid pocket. And the pack also has a few internal pockets, including a hydration sleeve. Which is the only feature I’m not a fan of – internal reservoir sleeves are not very convenient on backpacks that have such a large capacity.
This backpack is a great option for all of you that want a versatile bag. It comes with a detachable daypack that has a capacity of 15 liters, and which is great for short adventures just outside the camp. The daypack also makes a great everyday bag, thanks to the ventilated back system, multiple pockets and attachment points.
Without the daypack, the Roamm bag has a capacity of 65 liters, which is on the smaller side. But with the daypack attached, the total capacity of the bag is 80 liters – plenty for multi-day expeditions. And it’s easier to stay organized, since you get a removable bag for all those smaller necessities you need more easily accessible.
Another thing you will love about this backpack is the back system. It is heavily padded, well ventilated, and highly adjustable. Plus, there are several attachment points on the shoulder straps, so you can always have some of the most important things within hand’s reach.
The main compartment of this bag is really spacious, and it features top, bottom and side access. You also have the option of attaching gear to the top of the pack, thanks to the utility loops on the lid. And of course, there are multiple other attachment point on the backpack’s exterior, including sleeping pad straps and trekking pole loops.
Plus, the pack also has a lot of external pockets, which allow for easy organization. It has hip belt pockets, stretchy side pockets, a reservoir sleeve and a sleeping bag compartment. And that’s without the extra daypack and all of its pockets!
If you want a backpack that is suitable for week-long expeditions, the Denali is probably your best option. It has a capacity of 100 liters, which should be enough even for the most demanding adventures. And it has all the necessary features to ensure you are still comfortable, even when carrying some insanely heavy loads.
The aluminum frame helps the backpack retain its shape, while the contoured harness and hip belt keep you comfortable when it is at full capacity. The entire back system is adjustable, which makes it easy to get the Denali to fit your own body perfectly.
This backpack is specifically designed for winter adventures – it has a water resistant exterior, ice axe loops and a heavily padded back system. But there’s no ventilation in the harness or the backpanel, which is why I would not recommend the Denali for summer expeditions.
The main compartment can be accessed from multiple sides, including from the sleeping bag compartment at the bottom. The pack also has a dual zip front pocket, hip belt pockets, stretchy side pockets and a hidden pocket in the removable top lid.
However, the Denali doesn’t have quite as many external attachment points as I would have liked. There are adjustable ice axe loops and sleeping pad straps, but not trekking pole loops. The good news is that those can easily fit in the stretchy side pockets – you can even attach skis to the backpack sides, thanks to the compression straps. And there are two daisy chain webbings, which let you attach anything you want to the front panel.
The Teton Sports Fox is another heavy duty expedition backpack with a really attractive price tag. It is under $100, so it’s great for all of you who can’t afford to spend several hundred dollars on a large-capacity backpack. And it performs very well for the price.
The backpack is made from 600D ripstop and 1000D oxford canvas, so it’s very sturdy. It has really thick padding on the adjustable back system, and it is really easy to make the backpack fit you perfectly. On top of that, the backpanel and harness are both ventilated, which makes the Fox a great option for both winter and summer expeditions.
This bag comes with an integrated rain cover that ensures your gear will stay dry in heavy downpours. And the top lid is removable – you can use it as a fanny pack or even as a pillow, if you stuff it with something soft and comfortable.
The main compartment of this bag is very roomy, and it features an internal hydration sleeve. But you can only access if from the top, which is a shame. Additionally, the bag has a sleeping bag compartment and zippered side pockets on the front panel, but no hip belt pockets.
There are also some thing we both love and hate when it comes to the external attachment points. You get a bungee cord on the front panel, daisy chain webbing and dedicated sleeping pad straps. But no ice axe loops or trekking poles storage points – there is enough space on the pack to attach those items, just no dedicated storage.
Overall the Fox is a great option for people on a budget, or those of you who are just starting to get into outdoor expeditions. But more serious alpinists will likely be disappointed with the lack of some crucial features.
A good expedition backpack will have plenty of space for all your gear. But that differs from person to person, so there’s not one best backpack for everyone.
If you usually go on expeditions that are at least five days long, you should look for a backpack with a capacity well over 70 liters. With an abundance of external attachment points, that should be enough for all your gear.
However, such large backpacks are not very versatile, and they are not a great fit for shorter trips. Meaning that you will be getting a huge, expensive backpack that you can only use for very specific outings.
I don’t recommend wearing a really large backpack on shorter hikes, even if it has 15 different compression straps, because it will not be very comfortable. Backpacks fit you best when they are filled to capacity – if there’s too much empty space inside the compartments, you won’t be able to get the pack to fit you just right.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you will need a bigger backpack for winter expeditions. Think of all the gear you need to fit in it – crampons, ice axes, insulated clothes etc. Additionally, a great backpack for winter expeditions should be waterproof, so that your gear inside doesn’t get wet when you put it down in the snow.
The right expedition backpack for you should fit you perfectly. This is especially important with large backpacks, since they get really heavy and can be uncomfortable to wear.
So, how do you make sure you’re getting a really comfortable backpack? You need to look for a few different things – a ventilated backpanel with thick padding, a thick hip belt, and a soft and adjustable harness.
The best backpacks have a height adjustable harness, so you can really get that custom fit. It goes without saying that the shoulder straps, hip belt and sternum strap also need to be fully adjustable.
Another thing to note is that ventilation is only important if you usually go on expeditions in the summer. It is less important in backpacks that you want to use for winter adventures – breathable hoodies and clothes are more important for your comfort in that case. So, make sure you pick up a breathable winter jacket, if you don’t already have one.
High capacity expedition backpacks aren’t cheap at all. Some of the really good ones have really high price tags, and they are definitely not going to be suitable for everyone’s budgets.
So, look for a backpack you can afford. I included several options that are under $100, and these are best for beginners and people on a tight budget. You can easily tell which those are, since I’ve indicated that they are affordable in the pro boxes. If you can’t afford to splurge on an expedition backpack, you don’t have to! Just don’t expect the same premium construction and quality you get from a $400 backpack.
If you have a bigger budget, you should look for a backpack that’s at the top of your price range. It will hurt your wallet in the short term, but it will pay out in the long term – pricier backpacks are generally more durable, and equipped with more features. After all, you get what you pay for.
Having a hard time picking just one of these awesome expedition backpacks? It’s understandable – it’s not an easy choice since all of them are really good options. But you can go with one of our top three picks, if you just can’t make up your mind!
My overall favorite backpack is Osprey Aether AG. It has a very comfortable back system that is entirely adjustable, padded and ventilated. This makes it a great backpack for both summer and winter expeditions. And you get a rain cover with it, which ensures your gear will stay dry even in heavy downpours. Its total capacity is 70 liters which is not really a lot, but it is what makes the backpack a versatile option that is suitable even for more than just multi-day expeditions.
The best backpack for ladies is Osprey Xena. It has a women-specific fit that includes ergonomic and contoured shoulder straps, and a wider, angled hip belt. Its total capacity is 85 liters, so it’s a great backpack even for some really long expeditions. And the roomy main compartment is easily accessible from top, bottom and sides, so you don’t have to stress about how you’re packing it. Plus, this pack has an abundance of external pockets, as well as attachment points for any gear you might need in your adventures.
If you’re on a tight budget, go with the Teton Sports Explorer 4000. It is a 65-liter expedition backpack, with a padded and adjustable back system. The Explorer has a roomy main compartment, multiple external pockets (zippered and open), as well as loads of gear attachment points, including daisy chain webbing on the front panel. And it is under $90, which makes it one of the most affordable expedition backpacks you can get!
Head over to Amazon to see the prices of all of the packs featured in this review. And check out our related posts if you want to explore even more options!