Perhaps the greatest compliment you can pay the best hiking backpacks is forgetting they're there. The burden on your back simply disappears thanks to the cushioned straps, first-class harness system and generously padded hip belt. The best hiking backpacks offer a wide range of adjustability so you can personalise the fit to your body shape – including designs specifically for the female form.
Then, when you want to access all your kit and caboodle, the best packs make it easy to access and find – with handy pockets, wide openings, and convenient zones – avoiding the need to dump all your gear on a trail to find whatever you’re looking for. We’ve concentrated on the best hiking backpacks offered by tried-and-trusted brands here, because durability is a crucial factor.
- Hiking essentials: everything you need for your trip
- Best hydration packs: an essential complement for your backpack
All of the best hiking backpacks featured below are included on merit – the Gregory Baltoro is hard to beat for the quality of its harness, while the Salomon Out Week is superb for fastpacking. The Deuter Trail Pro is arguably the best all-rounder, but the Jack Wolfskin Kingston has some excellent safety innovations.
The best hiking backpacks you can buy today
Gregory Baltoro 65
This richly featured rucksack is ideal for weekend getaways and even longer hikes with careful packing
RRP: $299.95 (US)/£270 (UK) | Volume: 65 litres | Sizes : S, M, L | Weight : 2.2kg/4lb 13oz | Colours : Onyx black/Ferrous orange/Dusk blue
Gregory Deva 60
The female-focused equivalent of the Baltoro
RRP: $299.95 (US)/£270 (UK) | Volume: 60 litres | Sizes: XS, S, M | Weight : 2.03kg/4lb 10oz | Colours: Antigua green/Nocturne blue/Plum red
It would take a very long list and a long time to itemise all the smart, useful features of this spacious backpack from US manufacturer Gregory. The Baltoro and Deva come in three back sizes for weight-saving comfort, although it’s the harness combination of shoulder straps and hip belt that steal the show. Both pivot independently, helping to keep the pack stable however bumpy the terrain – it’s hard to describe but very noticeable on the trail. Add into the mix really handy, good size waterproof pockets on the hip belt; a main compartment accessible via both the top and a U-zip that runs around the front of the pack for easy access to the heart of the pack, plus a lid with three separate pockets, and the storage solutions are brilliant. The hydration sleeve for a bladder even converts into a minimalist daypack in case you want to dump the Baltoro in the tent and nip out for an evening stroll.
Berghaus Trailhead 60
A great value, entry-level rucksack for backpacking expeditions
RRP: £110 (UK)/€180 (Europe) | Volume : 60 litres | Sizes: One size | Weight: 1.6kg/3lb 8oz | Colours : Dark blue & pink/Dark grey & black
Berghaus Trailhead 65
The male-focused equivalent of the Trailhead 60
RRP: £110 (UK)/€180 (Europe) | Volume : 65 litres | Sizes: One size | Weight: 1.7kg/3lb 12oz | Colours : Deep water/Black
The Trailhead provides everything you need from a hiking backpack at an extremely competitive price. The adjustable BIOFIT back system slides from S to XL to position the harness according to your height, and there’s a good space between the shoulder and upper back pads to create a through-flow of air. A ‘diaphragm’ gives the option to create one open main compartment or to split it into two – one for clean kit, perhaps, and one for wet or dirty gear. This compartment is accessible from both the top and from a zip that runs down the front of the pack. Side pockets swallow a map and bottles, while the lid has a pocket large enough to fit a waterproof jacket. There are also external loops to attach walking poles, a channel for a hydration bladder hose, and a rain cover, so pretty much all bases are covered.
Osprey Talon 33
A comprehensively featured, premium backpack for long day walks
RRP: $140 (US)/£120 (UK) | Volume: 33 litres | Sizes : S/M, M/L | Weight (men's): 0.9kg/1lb 16oz | Weight (women's): 0.9kg/1lb 16oz | Colours (men's): Yerba green/Black/Martian red/Ultramarine blue | Colours (women's): Chloroblast green/Mystic magenta/Black/Iris blue
Osprey Tempest 30
The female-focused equivalent of the Talon
RRP: $140 (US)/£120 (UK) | Volume: 30 litres | Sizes : S/M, M/L | Weight : 0.9kg/1lb 16oz | Colours : Chloroblast green/Mystic magenta/Black/Iris blue
The Talon 33 and Tempest 30 are something of a Swiss army knife of hiking backpacks, packing a host of practical features into a compact design, from the stretch pocket on the shoulder harness for a GPS to the zipped pockets on both hip belts for phone, keys, cash and snacks. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to their convenience. Plus, there’s the stow-on-the-go attachment for trekking poles, a pair of ice axe hooks, and a decent sized lid pocket for hat, gloves or even a lightweight waterproof. Even the chest strap that keeps the shoulder straps in place has an emergency whistle. But it’s not all show without substance. The Talon 33/Tempest 30 use Osprey’s AirScape, mesh covered foam back panel that finds a sweetspot between keeping the pack close to the spine and breathability. The only disappointment is the lack of a rain cover at this price – it’s an optional extra (£22/$37).
Salomon Out Week 38 + 6
A close-fitting backpack for high-energy outdoor activities
RRP: $180 (US)/£125 (UK) | Volume: 44 litres | Sizes: S/M, M/L | Weight : 0.85kg/1lb 14oz | Colours: Ebony/Citronelle/Mediterranea
Deploying lessons learned from its trail running expertise, Salomon has created a hiking backpack that clings limpet-like to your body. This is evident in the shoulder straps, which anchor both to the underarm area of the pack and the hip-belt zone – most packs simply join shoulder to hip belt. The vented straps are wide and thin to spread the load while maximizing breathability. A mesh pocket on the right shoulder strap can hold a 500ml bottle, while the left shoulder has a zipped pocket, as does the hip belt. The +6 refers to the removable 6-litre lid; adventure racers might want to take it off to save weight and access gear more quickly. This would still leave a zipped stretch front pocket, two stretch side pockets and the main compartment for stowing kit, although extra loops provide an additional way to attach kit, such as poles, ice axes or even a red light.
Lowe Alpine Airzone Camino Trek ND35:45
Astute packing could turn this generously featured daypack into a trekking pack for overnight hiking trips
RRP: £125 (UK)/€140 (Europe) | Volume: 50 litres | Sizes: M, L | Weight : 1.46kg/3lb 4oz | Colours : Black/blueprint
Lowe Alpine Airzone Camino Trek 40:50
The male-focused version of the Airzone Camino Trek
RRP: £125 (UK)/€140 (Europe) | Volume: 50 litres | Sizes: M, L | Weight : 1.53kg/3lb 6oz | Colours : Azure/black
Any 40- to 50-litre backpack finds itself at risk of falling between stools: too big for a day hike, yet too small for the camping equipment required for a backpacking trip. The Camino, however, puts up a good case for packing carefully for an overnighter, or carrying whatever you want for a day walk. The pack comes in two back lengths, and a huge AirZone in the centre of the mesh padding delivers maximum airflow. On the other side a zipped front panel presents easy access to your kit, with the option to split the main compartment into two zones, while water bottles slide into stretchy side pockets. Up top, the extendable lid delivers the extra 10 litres of capacity, and both hip belts have handy pockets. Compression straps pull everything tight to help avoid snagging on rocks and branches, and a rain cover keeps everything dry should the heavens open.
Deuter Trail Pro 36
A lavishly featured rucksack for long days of hiking
RRP: $165 (US)/£130 (UK)/€170 (Europe) | Volume : 36 litres | Sizes: One size | Weight : 1.49kg/3lb 7oz | Colours : Midnight-lava/Graphite-black
Deuter Trail Pro 34
The female-focused version of the Deuter Trail Pro 36
RRP: $165 (US)/£130 (UK)/€170 (Europe) | Volume: 34 litres | Sizes: One size | Weight : 1.45kg/3lb 3oz | Colours : Midnight-maron/Graphite-black
Name a desirable feature on a hiking backpack and the Deuter Trail Pro can almost certainly tick it off the list. From pole, ice axe and helmet attachments to a lid pocket, two side pockets (one zipped, one stretchy) and an internal valuables pocket, to a wet kit compartment and a rain cover – this pack has it all. A front zip even gives alternative easy access to the main compartment to find gear stowed at the bottom. But its smartest feature is arguably the breathability of its porous foam back pads, and the wide ventilation channel up the spine, facilitating airflow without compromising your centre of gravity. The hip-hugging belt fins ensure a close fit, and their generous pockets are ideal for snacks, phone and GPS. All the features come with a slight weight penalty, but it’s a small price to pay.
Vaude Asymmetric 42+8
A perfect pack for hut-to-hut hiking in the Alps or Andes
RRP: $180 (US)/$150 (UK)/€160 (Europe) | Volume: 50 litres | Sizes: One size | Weight : 1.475kg/3lb 7oz | Colours (men's): Baltic sea/Cedar wood/Black | Colours (women's): Fjord blue/Redwood/Black
Multi-day backpacking trips frequently don’t involve tents, sleep mats and all the paraphernalia of self-sufficient overnighting. Networks of huts and hostels, especially in the Alps, allow for long, high-altitude walks with the comfort of a mattress under a solid roof for sleep. The Asymmetric 42+8 is ideal for these types of adventures, with enough carrying capacity for mountain kit, without the bulk of an expeditionary pack. The adjustable back system sees the shoulder harness slide up and down to achieve a personalised fit, and the padded shoulder straps and hip belt keep the pack close and comfortable. There’s a long, flat zipped pocket on the front for a map or jacket, zipped entry to the main compartment, and separate pockets in the lid and on the hip belt. The bottom internal compartment can stow dirty kit, or even take a tightly compressed sleeping bag.
Jack Wolfskin Kingston 30 Pack Recco
An eco-friendly rucksack with the excellent RECCO safety feature
RRP: $112 (US)/£85 (UK) | Volume : 30 litres | Sizes: One size | Weight: 0.93kg/2lb 1oz | Colours : Lava red/Black
No hiker wants to get lost, but it’s reassuring to know that should you ever lose your bearings or suffer an injury, this pack is fitted with a RECCO chip that will allow mountain rescue to find you more quickly. The system doesn’t need a battery, is always ‘on’, and is widely used by emergency services in the Alps and Scandinavia, as well as the US and Canada. The pack itself gets a green tick for being made from recycled plastic bottles. There’s a decent selection of pockets, including a pouch for a hydration bladder, attachments for trekking poles, and a whistle on the chest strap (in case you ever need to use the RECCO in earnest!). A separate base compartment helps keep dirty kit away from clean, the integrated rain cover keeps everything dry, while a ventilation channel between the back pads helps to avoid a sweaty spine.
How to choose the best hiking backpack for you
1. Back system
How a backsack sits against your spine can make all the difference to your comfort and confidence on tracks and trails. Most back systems have some sort of padding to protect your spine from the pack, while deep grooves create air channels that allow sweat to evaporate. Other designs deploy a mesh trampoline that holds the entire back away from your spine for even greater breathability. This can, however, compromise your balance by holding the weight of your pack further away from your back.
Shoulder straps need to hug your body closely, sharing the weight of a backpack with the hip belt. This is one of the areas where female hikers will find women-specific backpacks with shaped straps more comfortable. Shoulder straps themselves come in different widths and with more or less generous padding – it’s a personal choice between comfort and weight. Some straps also feature a small pocket or hooks on which to hang kit.
3. Hip belt
Much of the weight of a pack is supported by the hip belt, which hugs the core of your body. A bit of cushioning here can make a big difference to comfort, and a hip belt pocket for phone, keys or credit card can prove to be very handy. Some hip belts on larger backpacking rucksacks are designed to swivel with your body movement as you walk, boosting your balance.
4. Pockets and storage
The fundamental purpose of a hiking pack is to carry kit, so how it distributes this gear is vitally important. Some walkers (and especially climbers) prefer a tall slender pack, with few external pockets and kit carefully stowed in different coloured stuffsacks inside. Other walkers appreciate a host of lid and side pockets for frequently accessed items, such as drinks, snacks, camera and credit card, while keeping extra layers of clothing and a stove in the main compartment. It’s entirely a question of personal choice, but make sure you choose a backpack with a volume large enough to accommodate all your hiking paraphernalia. (Be aware, however, that just because you have space for extra kit doesn’t mean you should take it – lugging unnecessary gear up and down mountains is a thankless task.)
Fumbling with frozen fingers to open a backpack is a huge frustration, so check you’re happy with the access points. Do they open widely enough? Are the drawcord or zips easy to use, even with gloved hands? Does a top opening work for you or would you prefer a full-length zip along the pack to give instant access into the depths of your bag?
The shoulder straps and hip belt should be adjustable to fine-tune the fit and keep the load stable, but bigger packs also come in different sizes for short, medium and tall people. Their carrying capacity is the same, but the length of the back systems is different to create a more personalised fit.
7. Extra features
Additional features typically add weight and cost to a hiking backpack, but can prove to be hugely useful. A rain cover is vital in UK hills and mountains, for example, while a pocket for a hydration reservoir and hole for a hose makes drinking on the fly much easier. Other features include compression straps to maintain a neater profile and keep kit closer to your spine, plus clips and straps for helmets, walking poles and ice axes.
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