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The Best Hiking Backpacks for Every Kind of Adventure

When it comes to a long weekend getaway, you might be imagining a road trip, a short flight or maybe something more exotic like a trip on a boat or train. But one of the best ways to get away is the oldest way of getting around — walking. Of course, the kind of walking you might be used to — whether that’s from the subway station to your office or your desk to the break room — isn’t the most exciting. But grabbing a hiking backpack and heading on a long trip through trails or the backcountry can be a great way to experience nature up close.

If you’ve done all of the short hikes near you and you’re ready for a longer trip, you might be wondering what gear you need to bring. Arguably, the first piece of gear you should pick up is a hiking backpack. Buy a backpack first, and you can consider what gear you’ll be able to fit in there. When buying a hiking backpack, the first factor to consider is capacity. The amount of gear you need over the course of several hours is considerably different than the amount you’d need if you’re sleeping one, two, three or more nights in the backcountry. Since it can be hard to tell the size of a camping backpack just by looking at an empty one (especially online), camping companies make it easier by breaking it down the capacity by liters.

For example, a 20-liter bag can get you through a day hike, while for a multi-day trip, you’ll likely want something in the 40 liter-plus range. Your height also has an impact on the kind of bag you’ll want. Unlike school or commuter backpacks, hiking backpacks almost always have a buckle for your waist and chest. This adds extra support and comfort when your bag starts to get heavy. Of course, you’ll want to make sure it buckles at the right place.

If multi-day excursions sound like a bit more nature than you’re bargaining for, then consider a daypack. As the name suggests, a daypack is great for day hikes. If you need more gear than a water bottle and one granola bar, but you also don’t need an entire tent on your back, then a daypack is a great option. Plus, if you buy a daypack that’s stylish enough, it can double as your commuting bag. These are some of the best hiking backpacks to buy right now.

1. Osprey Talon 22 Men’s Hiking Backpack

Osprey is one of the most trusted brands in outdoor gear, and their Talon 22 backpack is great for experienced and new hikers alike. It also works great for a variety of other sports ranging including mountain biking. The bag is thoroughly ventilated and padded for long-term comfort in every season, and smartly placed pockets make it easy to access essential gear. The buckle at the hip has a pocket for things like food and other essentials, and there are designated clips for bike helmets and hiking poles. There’s also a pouch for storing a water reservoir because staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do. The Talon 22 has a 22L capacity, making it a great option for day hikes.

Pros: Convenient hip belt for snacks and phones. Ample padding and ventilation. Has a pouch for a water reservoir.

Cons: Somewhat expensive.

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2. TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

For longer trips, consider this backpack from Teton Sports. The 55-liter capacity makes it great for light, multi-day trips. It has designated compartments for your essential gear. There’s a specific pocket for a sleeping bag, and a pouch can accommodate a 3L water bladder. One of the smartest features is the adjustable straps. They can be moved around to accommodate people of different heights. The straps themselves are contoured and padded for comfort. Gear loops and cords allow you to attach gear to the outside of the bag, too.

Pros: Versatile bag with smart built-in features like a sleeve for a water bladder, and external spots for attaching gear. Adjustable chest strap. Built-in rainfly.

Cons: May not be ideal if you’re especially tall.

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3. Eddie Bauer Unisex-Adult Stowaway Packable 20L Daypack

Eddie Bauer is a legendary outdoors brand that’s been around for over 100 years, but thankfully that kind of pedigree doesn’t come at too steep a price. This lightweight and affordable backpack is great for short day trips, and it doesn’t look so technical that you couldn’t wear it around the city. It has two mesh outer pockets for gear like water bottles, and there are several zippered compartments. The thing that really sets this bag apart is its packability. It folds into itself into a smaller bag that you can stow when not in use. The total capacity is 20L.

Pros: Packs into itself for ultimate portability. Available in a variety of colors. Lightweight but durable ripstop polyester.

Cons: Not that many internal pockets.

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4. Diamond Candy Waterproof Hiking

This 40L bag from Diamond Candy has several compartments and hooks that make for convenient gear storage, both in the bag and on it. Latching loops on the exterior, mesh pockets, and D-ring hooks allow you to carry water bottles, hiking poles, and jackets, freeing up internal space for essential gear. The bottom buckles can be used to carry your rolled-up sleeping bag as well. Plus, the side pockets at the hip make it easy to store snacks. The bag also comes with a rainfly, so it’ll work well in wet conditions. Mesh panels on the back relieve pressure and aid in breathability.

Pros: Affordable. Comes with a rainfly. Multiple external loops and buckles free up internal storage space. Includes an emergency whistle at the chest strap.

Cons: No pouch for a water bladder. Not as durable as top brands.

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5. The North Face Borealis Backpack

The North Face’s Borealis backpack is simple enough for urban use, with enough technical details to serve as a hiking daypack. The 28L size means it can carry a substantial amount of gear, and the elastic bungee loops on the front are great for hanging lightweight items. It also has a chest and waist strap for greater support. And, if you plan on using it as a commuter bag, the 15″ laptop sleeve will come in handy.

Pros: Good hiking and urban option. Sturdy nylon and polyester construction. Variety of storage compartments.

Cons: 28L size is not ideal for extended trips.

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