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Now that everyone is getting back into the swing of things, summer travel is opening up, and hiking trips are being planned, it’s time to invest in your ultimate hiking backpack or your backpacking backpack. Is there a difference? For thru-hikers, the terminology remains about the same, but for clarity, we’ll call them hiking backpacks (while knowing they’re meant for longer hikes that involve camping, making them different from day packs).
But what factors should you consider when looking at expensive backpacks? Are they worth it? In most cases yes, it’s wise to invest more for a high-quality backpack that will be made from longer-lasting material that will take last you for thousands of miles. Lightweight, sturdy backpacks with padding on the back portion and stiff frames are quite common among serious thru-hikers (someone completing an entire trail; the Pacific Crest Trail being a popular example, from Mexico to Canada). The weight will often come in around 1-4 pounds, which means it’ll be one of the heaviest pieces of gear you’ll carry. Also take into consideration the season in which you’re more likely to hike in: for winter, you might want to size up for all the extra hiking gear you’ll need to combat the snow and cold.
Most hiking backpacks are anywhere from 30-50 liters, which means they can hold a ton of gear, more than you think when it’s folded and stored properly within your pack. Water is also a big factor, so be sure you have plenty of space for water bottles. Outer webbing or mesh is an excellent feature to have for wet shoes or towels to cling onto the outer part of the pack. Another key factor you’ll want to consider is if the hiking backpack is waterproof.
So check out your trailhead, get your food sorted, and find your next great hiking backpack below!
1. Osprey Atmos AG 65 Pack
The Osprey hiking backpack is well known for its excellent construction, padded shoulder straps, and style. It comes in three sizes which means it can carry a range from 62-68 liters depending on your size pack. With an internal frame, you’ll be able to sit this one comfortably on your back without pain. But at 4 pounds and 10 ounces, it’s one of the heaviest packs available on the market, so keep that in mind while choosing your other gear, because this pack will get heavy fast. With a separate sleeping bag compartment and a waterproof exterior, this pack is one of our favorites. The Osprey is an excellent choice for all ranges of backpackers, from beginners to thru-hikers.
2. Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Pack
This is one of the lightest packs on our list, coming in at 1 pound, 14 ounces for the small, and 2 pounds for the large. The Southwest Pack is a thru-hikers dream: with features like DCF fabric to keep everything waterproof to three extra outside pockets for easy access to must-have items, this pack will be your constant companion for many summers to come. The 2400 size pack is ideal for hikes where re-supply stops are available but you’ll be able to fit plenty of gear inside the 40-liter space. With a roll-top closure system, this waterproof bag will surely become your next best friend.
3. The North Face Terra 65 Pack
This backpack is a lightweight steal compared to others of the same size. With plenty of space for your gear and a floating lid that’s great for tents or sleeping bags, the Terra 65 Pack will meet and surpass expectations. By using the OPTIFIT suspension, this backpack has a great fit and plenty of padding to make for a comfortable hiking trip. If it’s just a weekend getaway or a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, the Terra 65 Pack is an excellent option for experienced hikers.
4. Kelpy Zyp 48 Pack
The Kelpy bag is one of a kind in the looks department but don’t worry, it fits just as well as other packs on the market, just for a fraction of the price. With PerfectFIT technology to make on-the-go adjustments easy, you’ll find yourself enamored with this hiking backpack on your very first hike. Other features include a sprung-steel perimeter frame, mesh lumbar pads and a seamless hip belt for comfort and plenty of reachable, excess pockets for water and snacks while you trek. Check out the Kelpy Zyp Pack for an affordable start to backpacking.
5. Gregory Optic 48
The Gregory Optic 48 has an aluminum frame that sets you up for success. This pack is ultra-lightweight, giving you plenty of packing space while you’re putting on those miles. With an easy-to-reach water bottle pocket, a removable rain flap, and AeroSpan ventilated suspension, this is one of the highest quality packs on our list. One of our favorite features is the quick stash pocket for sunglasses, an easy-to-reach pocket that will keep your sunnies scratch-free. There are even dual trekking pole attachments to go along with the bungee closure system. Need we say more? The Gregory brand is an excellent place for all backpackers to start their adventure with and the Optic 48 doesn’t disappoint.
Related: The Best Backpacks
6. ULA Circuit Backpack
Perhaps a cult classic or a crowd favorite, either way, the ULA Circuit hiking backpack is a sure winner. Although the brand has made little items like hydration sleeves, internal stash pockets, and hand loops available as add-on’s to the pack, we still love it. When checking out sizes, be sure to measure your torso before choosing a shoulder strap preference and color. While one of the lightest packs on the market with a durable frame made to equal out the balance of your pack weight, the ULA Circuit pack can still be a bit burly, so check out their even lighter options if you’re headed out on a thru-hike. Otherwise, enjoy and take a hike!
Related: Best Travel Backpacks
7. Granite Gear Crown2 60 Pack
Make your next hike as comfortable as possible with a Granite Gear pack. With plenty of storage space for your gear, this pack is ultra-cozy on the hips with extra padding. The internal frame helps ease tension off your shoulders so you can continue on for a multi-day trek through the mountains without pausing from discomfort or having to adjust your pack. With 35 pounds of gear inside, you’ll be set to go wherever your destination may be. The Granite Gear Crown2 is a crowd-pleaser with features such as a fully adjustable dual-density hip belt that extends from 28 inches to 40 inches, side and front compression straps, and a roll-top main compartment for easy compression. Wherever you’re going, be sure to take the Granite Gear Crown2 with you.
Related: Best Tactical Backpacks
8. Gossamer Mariposa 60 Backpack
Gossamer is known for its lightweight packs and removable frame systems, creating an even lighter pack. If you’re seeking something versatile in the weight department, then check out the Gossamer Mariposa 60. With seven built-in pockets, this backpack will store as much gear as you need and more. Made from robin nylon fabric, this pack is as durable as they come, even when overloaded with over 35 pounds of gear. Check out the Mariposa 60 for your next summer adventure.