Looking for the best backpacks for hiking to make your next trek a little more comfy and carefree? Check out our list of the top 7 packs to get outfitted for your next adventure!
What Are the Best Backpacks for Hiking?
- Lightweight packs with excellent load distribution
- Plenty of storage with trek-friendly features and ventilation
- Customizable fit with adjustable straps for comfort
When you set out on a hike, your goal might be fun, adventure, exploration, or pushing yourself to new limits. Whatever your trek might bring, setting out with one of the best backpacks for hiking is a surefire way to get there comfortably.
But what are the best backpacks for hiking? It’s hard to trust a company’s assertion that their pack is the best when every brand says the same thing.
We’ve analyzed and reviewed hundreds of hiking backpacks – their style and design, capacity, features, and technical specs to see what the best packs have in common.
Turns out, the best hiking backpacks tend to be lightweight with excellent load distribution ability – the difference between your gear feeling heavy and uncomfortable versus light and easy to carry.
The best hiking packs will offer plenty of storage with pockets (zippered, mesh, and elastic) and sleeves (for hydration bladders and laptops) that safely stow your gear.
They’ll always come with hiking-friendly features, like exterior straps for attaching extra gear and rain covers, and state-of-the-art ventilation to keep you cool on hot hikes.
Finally, the best backpacks for hiking will feature a fully customizable fit with adjustable hip belts, sternum straps, shoulder straps, and torso length to give you the closest fit.
So which packs meet and exceed these criteria? We’ve found that the best backpacks for hiking are:
- Osprey Stratos 24
- Osprey Sirrus 24
- Osprey Aether 55
- Osprey Hikelite 18
- CamelBak Arete 18
- Mystery Ranch Coulee 30
- Mountainsmith Apex 20
Keep reading to learn about what each backpack has to offer and find out which one will be the best fit for your next adventure.
The 7 Best Backpacks for Hiking
Let’s take a look at each of the best backpacks for hiking – the pros and cons, the technical specs, and overall design details that can make a difference in your hike.
We found packs from 18L (best for day hikes) to 55L (for longer 3-4 day hikes) to suit every kind of hiking trip and give you all the capacity you need without added bulk.
Here’s our list of the best hiking backpacks!
1. Osprey Stratos 24
- Lightweight with 24L capacity to carry up to 25 lbs
- Fully customizable fit for your load, height, and weight
- Big compartments with hydration sleeve and rain cover
- Cost is on the higher end for smaller packs
- Suitable for short hiking trips (1-2 days) only
The Osprey Stratos 24 is everything you need for most short hiking trips with 24L capacity and the ability to comfortably carry up to 25 pounds of gear, water, and extras. You can fit everything you need for 1-2 day hikes in this small-but-mighty pack.
Rated as the one of the best Osprey backpacks for men, the Stratos 24 offers up to 4″ of torso adjustability and fully adjustable straps so you can make it perfectly fit you and evenly distribute the weight of your load.
While it’s not one of the cheaper hiking backpacks out there, it’s far from the priciest and offers roomy compartments and zippered pockets, a hydration sleeve, rain cover, and loops for attaching any extra gear.
2. Osprey Sirrus 24
- Breathable, lightweight pack with 24L capacity
- Raincover, internal hydration sleeve, and roomy zippered pockets
- Adjustable, comfortable, and designed for women's fit
- Costly hiking backpack priced at $180
- Scaled-down 24L size limits the trips you can carry it on
The Osprey Sirrus 24 is a women’s hiking backpack that means business. It’s designed for shorter trips of 2 days maximum, but for day hikes, it has absolutely everything you need to make your way through the wilderness.
Comfortable and designed to fit womens’ bodies perfectly with customizable straps, hip belt, sternum strap, and 4″ of torso adjustability for different heights, this pack will mold right to you and evenly distribute the weight of your load (up to 25 pounds).
As you’d expect, this pack (though not exactly cheap) comes with a rain cover and hydration sleeve, but you’ll really appreciate the zippered organization pockets, stretchy mesh pockets, and straps to attach extra gear.
3. Osprey Aether 55
- Award-winning pack with 55L capacity to carry up to 60 lbs
- Customizable fit with amazing weight distribution for longer hikes
- Extra compartments, sleeves, and pockets make room for everything
- Costs more than mid-tier hiking backpacks
- Very roomy, but may not be suitable for 5+ day trips
The Osprey Aether 55 is a famous pack in its own right, earning numerous awards and named the preferred pack of hiking legends.
With a large 55L capacity to carry up to 60 pounds for 1-4 day trips and tons of extra features, this is a pack for serious hikers who truly want the best of the best without added bulk.
Attach the included rain cover, sleeping bag/mat, a daypack for extra room, and hiking tools with room for water bottles and a hydration pack, smaller gear, and more. It’s not cheap, but the best backpacks for hiking rarely are.
4. Osprey Hikelite 18
- Lightweight and durable with 18L capacity to carry 5-20 lbs
- Tensioned mesh AirSpeed suspension for extra ventilation
- Rain cover and hydration sleeve for worry-free hikes
- Pricey for the smaller size
- Suitable only for 1-2 day hikes
The durable and ultra-lightweight Osprey Hikelite 18 is a hiker’s dream with a design that keeps the weight of the pack off your back for comfortable trekking across any terrain.
Designed to carry a little over 20 pounds of gear comfortably, you’ll feel confident lugging your gear and water just about anywhere in this hiking backpack without any extra bulk.
There’s a handy rain cover for surprise storms (always helpful, especially if you’re carrying your phone or electronics) and a sleeve with a hose port through the back panel so you can pack your hydration without bottles taking up space.
5. CamelBak Arete 18
- Breathable, lightweight hydration hiking pack
- Holds 50 oz. (1.5L) of water in the Crux reservoir
- Zip and mesh pockets with adjustable straps
- Very basic pack with limited exterior pockets
- 16.5L capacity when using the hydration reservoir
The CamelBak Arete 18 hydration hiking backpack is a great choice if you don’t need a ton of room and want to comfortably carry enough water for day-long hikes. It holds up to a liter and a half in the included Crux reservoir.
There’s a zipper pocket that works well for phones and 2 stretchy mesh exterior side pockets for things you need to be able to easily grab while you’re hiking.
With breathable mesh panels along the back and straps, it’s cool and ventilated even on hot hikes. It’s pretty basic with limited exterior pockets compared to other hiking packs and note that it only holds about 16.5L of gear when you’re using the hydration reservoir.
6. Mystery Ranch Coulee 30
- Lightweight with lots of pockets and compartments
- Adjustable torso length, straps, and waist belt
- Comes in S/M and L/XL sizes for a perfect fit
- Framed backpack carries more weight, but is slightly heavier
- Priced higher than the most affordable 30L packs
A list of the best backpacks for hiking isn’t complete without the Mystery Ranch Coulee 30, a framed-yet-lightweight pack that is fully adjustable for a perfect and stable fit.
This pack has a 30L capacity to carry up to 30-40 pounds thanks to the framed harnessing style, making it great for packing with all your hiking gear plus a full hydration bladder in the interior sleeve. Choose the S/M or L/XL size that fits your frame best.
Since it’s a framed pack, it’s not quite as lightweight as frameless hiking backpacks, but the frame allows you to carry more weight comfortably. It’s priced around $190, but is an excellent option for 1-3 day hikes.
7. Mountainsmith Apex 30
- Front panel elastic cord + webbing loop for extra storage
- "No-contact" foam back panel and lumbar pads for ventilation
- Adjustable stowaway hip belt and torso length with lots of pockets
- 30L capacity is suitable for 1-2 day hikes
- Using the hydration sleeve reduces capacity slightly
The Mountainsmith Apex 30 is a great hiking backpack for men and women with roomy compartments and features that expand the storage area for additional gear when you need it.
Use the elastic bungee cord on the front panel and webbing tool loop to carry your trekking poles, tools, or additional small daypacks for extra storage. You can cinch the elastic down for added compression.
A big zippered front pocket has interior organization for smaller gear, while the hydration sleeve lets you comfortably carry all the water you need for the day’s hike.
The foam back panel and lumbar pads keep the pack off your back for breezy ventilation that works well on hot days. Keep in mind it only holds about 30L – a little less when using the hydration sleeve.
Best Backpacks for Hiking Buying Guide
You’ve seen our list of the best hiking packs, but which one will actually work out best for you? Look at the capacity and load limit, hiking features, extra storage and attachments, and price point.
You can be sure you’ll end up with the best backpack for your kind of hiking trip with this buying guide.
1. Capacity and Load Limit
How much room do you need and how much weight are you planning to carry? These questions will help you quickly narrow your hiking backpack choices down.
For day hikes, the 18L packs on our list – Osprey Hikelite 18 and CamelBak Arete 18 – may be all you need to carry up to 20 pounds.
Weekend hikes or day hikes that require more gear call for a 20L-24L pack, like the Osprey Stratos 24 (for men), Osprey Sirrus 24 (for women), or Mountainsmith Apex 20 to carry around 25 pounds.
Longer hikes from 2-5 days mean you’ll need to check out the Osprey Aether 55 (1-5 days and up to 60 pounds) or the Mystery Ranch Coulee 30 (1-3 days and up to 40 pounds).
2. Hiking Features
Hiking-specific features are a must for any hiking backpack and should be on your list when you’re searching for the perfect one.
A hydration bladder sleeve is essential if you want to avoid carrying lots of bulky water bottles or jugs. Easy-to-reach exterior pockets that are stretchy or zip closed are great for trekking.
You’ll want a rain cover to protect your gear during unexpected downpours and overnight dew. Fully adjustable straps for your hip, sternum, and shoulders make a big difference in carrying comfort for longer hikes.
An adjustable torso (at least 4″ adjustability) can be a lifesaver to keep your pack from riding too low or high during your hike.
3. Extra Storage and Attachments
Shopping for a hiking backpack means checking out each pack’s extra storage compartments and pockets plus the ability to attach extra gear to the outside of the pack.
Look for roomy pockets that zip closed or have elastic openings to avoid gear falling out. Mesh organizers are great to have inside!
Attachment loops and webbing loops are also key for hiking backpacks if you’re carrying an extra daypack, trekking poles, ice axes, sleeping bag/mat, or other gear.
4. Price Point
Your budget is one of the main considerations when you’re searching for the right hiking backpack. If you can’t afford it, even the coolest features become meaningless!
Quality hiking backpacks are never “cheap,” but they don’t have to be crazy-expensive, either. We took price into consideration for our list to find packs at different price points for every budget.
The most affordable packs on our list range from $75 to $300 with the price typically corresponding to the backpack size.
If you truly want the best and most versatile pack, the Osprey Aether 55 is around $300 but will have you covered for hikes short and long with plenty of room and unmatched load distribution.
For the cheapest hiking backpack, the CamelBak Arete 18 is less than $80 and probably offers all the basic features you’ll need for a day hike.
Frequently Asked Questions
Got more questions about finding the best backpacks for hiking to suit your needs? Take a look at our answers to the most frequently asked questions on the topic.
Which backpack is good for hiking?
The Osprey Stratos 24, Sirrus 24, Aether 55, and Hikelite 18 are the top 4 hiking backpacks and suit different budgets and hiking trip needs.
The CamelBak Arete 18, Mystery Ranch Coulee 30, and Mountainsmith Apex 20 are other great hiking backpacks packed with useful features and room for 1-3 day hikes.
What size backpack is best for 2 day hike?
A 30L backpack with attachment loops for a sleeping bag/mat is best for a 2 day hike. You can get by with a smaller 18L-20L pack for 2 day hikes, but space will be tighter and you may have to nix unnecessary gear.
Opt for a larger 40L-55L pack if you need to pack a lot of gear for your 2 day hike, like ice axes or trekking poles.
What size backpack do I need for a 5 day hike?
You need a large 55L-80L pack for a 5 day hike to have enough room for food, water, clothes, gear, and your sleeping bag and mat.
You can stay closer to the 55L end of the range if you won't need additional gear like ice axes or if you'll have a fresh drinking water source. Opt for packs closer to 80L if you have lots of extra hiking gear.
What size pack is best for long day hikes?
An 18L-24L backpack is best for long day hikes, when you'll need to pack multiple meals, plenty of water, and extra layers for temperature differences throughout the day.
How heavy should a day hike backpack be?
A day hike backpack shouldn't weigh more than about 2.5 lbs when it's empty. With your gear, you can expect to carry up to 25 pounds (frameless packs) or 40 pounds (framed packs) in a day hike backpack.
So, What Are the Best Backpacks for Hiking?
You’ve seen the must-have hiking pack features, the 7 best backpacks for hiking, and a buying guide with 4 things to consider as you’re zeroing in on the best one to buy.
To recap, our choices for the best hiking backpacks are the Osprey Stratos 24, Sirrus 24, Aether 55, and Hikelite 18 followed by the CamelBak Arete 18, Mystery Ranch Coulee 30, and Mountainsmith Apex 20.
Once you determine how much capacity and the load limit you need, you can start looking at the options on our list that fall within your price point and have the features and extra storage you need.
Any of the 7 hiking backpacks on our list will serve you well, but if you’re really unsure about how much room you need, err on the side of bigger. It’s never a bad thing to have a pack with extra room for future longer hikes!