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Best Backpacking Backpacks: Buying the Suitable Pack for Your Outdoor Needs

Best Backpacking Backpacks
Bradley Page
Written by Bradley Page

When was the last time you went backpacking and had to figure out how to carry all of your stuff? Most people purchase a backpack that will hold all their stuff and don’t think about its purpose. They assume all are the same, but that’s definitely not the case and it’s not a mistake you want to make: you might miss on some of the features you need. But what is the best backpacking backpack?

You probably started worrying you went on many adventures while carrying the wrong item. Don’t worry about that anymore: just make sure you get the proper gear from now on! And if you were happy with your previous bag, you don’t have to change it, unless it’s broken beyond repair.

Backpacking Backpacks

Now, since you’re here, continue reading to see what type of bags do backpackers want these days, and what are the features these items offer. This article should be particularly helpful if you just started collecting the gear for your future hiking or backpacking adventures!

Our top picks

ProductVolumeFrameWaterproofedPrice
Osprey Packs Exos2929 cubic inchesYesNoCheck price on Amazon
Granite Gear Crown Vc3660 cubic inchesYesNoCheck price on Amazon
Osprey Atmos 65 AG3967 cubic inchesYesNoCheck price on Amazon
Kelty Coyote4881 cubic inchesYesWater resistantCheck price on Amazon
Gregory Z653967 cubic inchesYesNo, but it has a removable rain coverCheck price on Amazon
The North Face Banchee3967 cubic inchesYesWater resistantCheck price on Amazon
Osprey Aether4600 cubic inchesYesNoCheck price on Amazon

What to Look For in Your Next Backpacking Backpack

There are actually quite a few different things you want to look for in your next backpacking backpack because you want to make sure you have something that’s going to hold everything you’re taking with you.

You also want something that is built for whatever you’re going to be doing, since you’ll be outdoors and potentially in less than desirable conditions, you need your backpack to be up to the task.

Backpacking Packs

In this section we’ll try to discuss some of the most important factors when you’re looking for your next backpack, so you’re ready for anything that comes your way.

Duration of the trip

There are several different sizes of packs that you want to consider when it comes to your shopping. Most will fit into one of three different categories which are either weekend, multiday or extended trip. The weekend back is for up to 3 nights and generally holds between 30 and 50 liters.

Daypack

The multiday on the other hand is for up to 5 nights and can hold up to 80 liters. Finally, the extended trip is designed for 5 or more nights and will hold at least 70 liters and up to whatever you decide to pick up.

Frame type

The next thing you need to think about is the type of frame that you want. An internal frame backpack is designed for little bit lighter bags or if you’re heading into uneven terrain as it helps to stabilize everything more carefully. An external frame backpack allows you to carry heavier or irregular loads because it has a more solid frame.

Internal Frame Backpack

It also has more organization and a little more ventilation as well. Finally, a frameless backpack is designed for those who really need lightweight and better movement capability.

Ventilation

There are plenty of ventilation options when it comes to backpacks and most will have at least a little, but some actually have tension mesh to keep the bag off your back or ‘chimneys that are designed to keep airflow moving throughout the backpack at all times.

These things will help you feel a little better while you’re moving and mean that you won’t have as much problems with sweating as you continue through the terrain. External frame backpacks will generally have better ventilation as well because the frame itself keeps the bag from touching your back.

Backpack Ventilation

Organization space

Another aspect to consider is the amount of specific organizational space you want. If you’re looking for just a one pocket bag then you’ll be fine with just about anything. If you want a bag with lots of different pockets you should be on the lookout.

There are some with elastic pockets on the sides, special front pockets, hip pockets and even flaps or loops to attach additional larger items. You want to know what you’re looking for and have an idea of what you’re going to need to take with you so you can figure out how to pack it up and shop for pockets.

Size

Another aspect to look at is how big the bags are through the torso and around the waist. Your bag is generally going to be down the center of your body and will attach around the hips. You want something that will fit well and won’t be too cumbersome.

Backpack Size

This means it should be small to longer based on the length of your torso so that it rests at the hips but not below or above. This keeps it more balanced and means you’ll have a better experience hiking.

Don’t overload yourself with a bag that isn’t designed for your size because you could end up injured. This applies to women and children as well who should look for a bag designed for them as some are specially created for the different body shape common in these individuals.

Backpack

Extra Features

There are plenty of additional bonuses that you could use or might like on your bag as well.

  • One of the more common is a daypack that attaches to the top but can easily be pulled off and attached around the waist by itself. This is great if you’re going for a shorter trip in the midst of your long trip, so you don’t have to carry everything with you on that short hike and can leave it back at the camp instead.
  • Another option is a sleeping bag compartment, which generally attaches to the bottom of the bag. This usually gives you some separate space to hold that sleeping bag away from the other items that you need for your trip. It also provides you with space for anything else you might want to carry along if you prefer not to bring a sleeping bag.
  • Additional padding can be a benefit if you’re going to be hiking for a long time as well because it keeps the bag from rubbing over your lower back or hip area. These pads can vary in size and shape but they generally allow you to feel more comfortable while you’re walking and that means you can keep going a whole lot longer. You also won’t have to worry about packing in a way that keeps certain items from jabbing into your back.
  • A raincover can be another benefit if you’re going to be hiking through uncertain conditions. If the weather gets bad this could mean the difference between your stuff surviving the trek and getting completely soaked or unusable. You’ll want to check out the options for this to see if the pack has this type of cover.
  • Finally, figure out if you want a hydration pack to go along with your bag. Some will have this included on the inside of the bag and you’ll be able to drink as you go, others might be able to accommodate one but may not have one included. You should decide if this is an important feature for you.

Backpack Features

Best Products on Today’s Market

Now you know the features that are important to most backpackers. The list of backpacks found below contains both their good and bad parts, to help you get a clearer and unbiased idea of what you can find on the market.

Osprey Packs Exos Backpack

Price: $180 – $190Osprey Packs Exos 48

Weight: 2.4 pounds

Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 6 inches

Specific features: Nylon, peripheral frame, 6065 aluminum alloy frame, ExoForm hipbelt, floating top pocket, tie off points, 3 liter hydration pack

Best use: Weekend backpacking, minimalist for longer trips

If you’re looking for a backpack that will help you enjoy your next weekend trip you’re going to love the Osprey Packs Exos Backpack. It has mesh on the back for breathability as well as using a frame to keep it from resting directly on your back.

It’s not the lightest bag around, but it is going to give you a good amount of balance across your back, which means that you will be able to carry it longer. It might take a little while to get it adjusted just right to your back but once you do it’s definitely going to be a benefit and it’s going to be one of your favorite packs for hiking.

It even comes in different sizes and two different colors so you can choose what you want most.

This bag has a peripheral frame that’s made of an aluminum alloy so it’s lightweight but still very strong and supported internally. This is then covered with foam to make sure that you’re more comfortable wearing it.

On the top of the pack is a smaller bag that will float in water and can hold a key as well as having a mesh pocket on the inside for more organization. If you need to carry more gear with you then you will be able to do so with the included tie off points that are scattered across the sides of this pack. This is designed to provide you with an ergonomic fit and comfortable harness.

PROS:

  • Removable floating top pocket
  • Can strap skis to it
 CONS:

  • Needs a rain cover
  • Loads only from the top

Related: In case you need a water purification system, have a look at the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System. You’ll find it useful in all sorts of situations, especially during emergencies. It removes 99.99% of all harmful elements for safe drinking.

Check the price on Amazon

Granite Gear Crown VC Backpack

Price: $160 – $200Granite Gear Crown VC 60

Weight: 2.13 pounds

Dimensions: 29 x 15 x 5 inches

Specific features: Holds 60 liters, internal frame, compression back, hydration ports & sleeve, overflow straps, men’s and women’s sizes available, vapor current suspension

Best use: Multi day trips

If you’re looking for a bag that will help you enjoy longer hikes and backpacking trips then the Granite Gear Crown VC Backpack is definitely for you. It’s designed to hold plenty of gear for several days and may even be able to work for extended stay trips if you’re able to pare things down to a few less extras.

You’ll be able to also hold a large hydration sleeve filled with water at the same time so you don’t have to worry about carrying your drinks separately and you don’t need to use up additional space in your pack for a water bottle.

This bag comes in several sizes and three different colors so you can have exactly what you’re looking for. It has several straps as well as a hip belt to ensure all of the weight is distributed evenly across your back for better freedom of movement.

You’ll also be able to compress all of your belongings down slightly and it uses Vapor Current which is a proprietary method of keeping the bag away from your back and letting air circulate through the area so you don’t get too overheated. This combines with the added padding and webbing straps for comfort and versatility.

PROS:

  • Interchangeable belts
  • Hydration ports & internal hydration sleeve
  • Lightweight
 CONS:

  • No belt pockets
  • No rain cover pocket

Related: If you more pockets, you can get additional ones. The Granite Gear Pack Harness Pocket is low priced, and perfect if you want to keep your phone safe and handy.

Check the price on Amazon

Osprey Atmos 65 AG Backpack

Price: $209 – $403Osprey Atmos 65 AG Backpack

Weight: 4.25 pounds

Dimensions: 25 x 14 x 6 inches

Specific features: Compression straps, 8 pockets, 3 color options, 3 size options, hydration sleeve, floating top is removable, tool attachment straps

Best use: Multi day trips, extended stay trips

The Osprey Atmos 65 AG Backpack is designed to fit you and your body type with three different size options. This system is designed as an anti gravity suspension system to provide more support but less pressure on your back and torso. It’s also entirely ventilated to make sure that you’re more comfortable throughout your hike or backpacking trip.

The mesh that provides the anti gravity aspect extends all the way down the to the hipbelt and the entire back is designed to fit comfortably against yours without any pulling, pressure or other problems that may occur with other bags.

If you have a lot of stuff you can adjust the harness and the compression straps and you’ll even be able to organize all of your stuff in the many pockets on the inside and outside of the bag. The hipbelt is even designed so that you can adjust it while you’re walking so it’s comfortable at all times.

Not only that but the top lid is removable and floats and there are straps on the front to hold your sleeping pad separate from the rest of your stuff. On the inside and outside are compression straps to keep everything pared down and you even get a sleeve to fill with water for the walk.

PROS:

  • Removable floating top lid
  • Dual zippered pockets
  • Inner and outer compression straps
 CONS:

  • The price
  • Needs a rain cover

Related: The Osprey Mira AG 26 Hydration Pack is a smaller backpack perfect for those with a smaller body frame, and who go for a day hike. It comes with a rain cover and it has a special hydration compartment to help you stay hydrated and not waste time.

Check the price on Amazon

Kelty Coyote Backpack

Price: Aprox. $185Kelty Coyote

Weight: 5.30 pounds

Dimensions: 34 x 17 x 14 inches

Specific features: 80 liter capacity, perfect fit suspension, top lid becomes sling pack, hydration compatible, additional straps, aluminum stays

Best use: Extended stay trips

This Kelty Coyote Backpack backpack is going to be your optimum choice when it comes to longer trips because it’s designed to hold a whole lot more than most bags you’ll find. Though it only comes in one size, it does have two different color options and is designed to adjust with the suspension system and more to ensure it works for you.

This includes a frame sheet, waist belt, sternum strap and a whole lot more. It’s even has lumbar support, load lifter straps and belt stabilizer straps to make sure even if you fill it to capacity you’re going to be comfortable using it for a long time.

The entire bag has several pockets and allows you to organize everything you have with you easily. You’ll also be able to put in your hydration sleeve and attach an ice axe (or two) or anything else you want with the hide away loops.

There’s side compression to keep everything close together and more balanced and you can pull the top section off to use as a sling pack if you’re going to take a shorter day trip. You’re not going to want this large pack if you’re only planning a short trip, but if you’re going out for a long time it’s definitely a good investment.

PROS:

  • Comfortable
  • Many pockets
 CONS:

  • Not suitable for short trips
  • Not waterproofed

Related: If you want to make sure your belongings are well protected from the rain, get the Kelty Rain Cover from the same manufacturer, to be certain that it fits in size. It has an inner pocket and packs really small which is great for backpackers.

Check the price on Amazon

Gregory Z 65 Backpack

Price: Aprox. $150Gregory Mountain Products Z 65

Weight: 4.1 pounds

Specific features: 65 liter capacity, CrossFlo suspension, ventilated EVA foam for belts, full front zipper, removable top pocket floats

Best use: Multi day trips, extended stay trips

The Gregory Z 65 Backpack is an inexpensive option that comes in several sizes and two different colors to fit your needs and interests. It has several zippered pockets on the outside and also provides a removable pocket on the top that will float and hold onto your keys for you just in case it’s dropped. Not only that but it has a stash pocket as well.

That’s just part of the benefits though because this bag uses ventilated foam on the straps and hipbelt as well as using a simple suspension system that’s designed to balance out the weight.

This bag may not look like much, but it can hold up to 65 liters, which means it’s excellent for longer trips though usually in milder weather. This bag is sleek and designed for efficiency so the better you are at packing the longer it will take you out.

If you encounter rain or less than desirable weather it does include a rain cover that can be easily attached to help you keep going through it all. It’s a little bit heavy but can compress quickly and easily and is also very easy to adjust at any point.

PROS:

  • Affordable price
  • Comes with a rain cover
  • Many pockets
 CONS:

  • Not durable enough
  • Not as comfortable as advertised

Related: Some people need a bigger backpack, and perhaps the Gregory Deva 70 Backpack could be the one. This one adapted to a female body frame, has an updated response AFS suspension and can hold about 70 liters of items, depending on the size.

Check the price on Amazon

The North Face Banchee Pack

Price: Aprox. $240The North Face Banchee 65 Pack

Weight: 2.5 pounds

Dimensions: 25 x 14 x 9 inches

Specific features: 65 liter capacity, Optifit suspension, aluminum frame, floating lid, sleeping bag compartment beaver tail pocket for wet gear

Best use: Multi day trips

The North Face Banchee Pack may offer the least amount of options of any of the packs so far but it does have a lot of features. It comes in only one color and one size option, but it does hold a whole lot of gear and lets you keep it all just as separated as you need.

You can remove the top section and you’ll have a floating bag that holds your keys and whatever else you want. You also get a dedicated pocket for your sleeping bag and space for tools as well as a breathable pocket designed for anything you might have that’s wet so it can dry out.

A little more expensive than the other bags, this one has 8 separate pockets and is designed to be comfortable even over a longer span of time. It has several straps including a hip belt that will help balance out the weight but still keep it mostly off of your back to provide ventilation.

It also has an aluminum frame that helps to keep it just stiff enough that you feel balanced but not so much that it’s uncomfortable to wear. The stretch mesh style means that it definitely holds more than you might think and you’ll be able to get into all the pockets quickly and easily without digging.

PROS:

  • Tool keepers
  • Many pockets
  • Inner frame
 CONS:

  • Not enough strapping
  • The position of some of the pockets

Related: Since this bag has a separate compartment for a sleeping bag, and you’ll need one, check out The North Face Blue Kazoo Sleeping Bag. This is a mummy form sleeping bag, filled with down, for winter and extreme weather expeditions.

Check the price on Amazon

Osprey Aether Backpack

Price: $260 – $290Osprey Aether

Weight: 6.7 pounds

Dimensions: 30 x 15 x 7 inches

Specific features: Trekking pole attachment, external hydration sleeve, cushioned hipbelt, peripheral frame, front zip pockets

Best use: Multi day trips, extended stay trips

The Osprey Aether Backpack is designed with three different color options as well as several size options. It’s more expensive than the other bags, but it definitely has a lot of features to help make up for that. It’s a large belt with over 70 liters of space available to pack and it has plenty of pockets and straps to hold everything in an organized fashion.

The hydration sleeve is actually on the outside of the bag, which makes it easier to refill and makes sure that if it spills it won’t leak over your belongings.

The hipbelt is designed to help balance out the bag and the frame ensures that the load is balanced even more without making it too stiff and restricting movement. This compression style bag has plenty of ventilation through the back to keep you cooler during use and it has extra straps to allow for add ons whenever you need them.

The hipbelt has a pocket of its own that allows for storage of smaller items like a camera or GPS and there’s a large mesh pocket on the front for even more easy access gear. This along with the lumbar pack style of the top section and the straps and pocket for sleeping bags or pads means it’s an all around benefit to have.

PROS:

  • Add on loops for attaching smaller daypack
  • Comes in 3 different sizes
  • Comfortable to carry
 CONS:

  • Quite expensive
  • Not waterproof
  • Not enough compartments

Related: Since the presented backpack is not waterproofed, the Osprey UltraLight Raincover should come in handy. It is lightweight and packs really small in its own carry case.

Check the price on Amazon

Final Thoughts

So that’s it for our quick guide and product recommendations. Now you should know what sets various backpacks apart, and what are the most important features to check out before buying one.

Once you’ve figured out your ideal backpack you’ll be able to head out on your next trip with no problems. You’ll be able to carry everything that you need and you’ll also be able to have a lot more stuff along with you with the right tools.

Backpack

So what’s your ideal backpack? What do you want to be able to carry with you on your next backpacking trip that you haven’t been able to carry in your old backpacking backpack? We definitely want to hear all about it so make sure to let us know.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bradley Page
Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!

  • Wendy Fortin

    I have been to a trip for 4 days and an Osprey 48 worked great for me! Minimalist and I feel that it’s relatively lighter the ones I’ve tried before. But I kept noticing the noisy squeaking sound which I believe is caused by the frame. I still recommend it and I agree that it is one of the best backpacks.

  • Mark Lee

    Osprey did an amazing job with the Atmos 65. It is so comfortable it feels like the backpack is giving me a bear hug. Because it carries the weight well, it feels like you are carrying less than what is stored in it. I tried it using my friend’s Osprey.

  • Bradley Page

    Hmmm, squeking noise? That’s certainly new for me. You might want to check that again to make sure you’re not carrying a rodent with you. By the way, the Osprey is one of my favorites and it is quite durable and lasted for many years.

  • Bradley Page

    The Osprey is a great backpack. It is lightweight and offers ease of carrying especially when you have lots of things to put inside the bag. However, it would be a good idea to NOT overload your backpack. This is to avoid hurting your shoulders and body when walking long hours.

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