Best Hiking Backpacks 2022


Call us Type-A, but you need to make a checklist (if not on paper, at least in your head) before any hike. Depending on how prepared you want to be, this list can include anything from a bottle of water and backup sunscreen to an entire first aid kit, lunch, mirrorless camera and rainproof windbreaker. But no matter how closely you follow the Boy Scout preparedness motto, having one of the best hiking backpacks on the market to carry all your essentials is a nonnegotiable.

The backpack that’s best for you depends on several factors, like how many of those necessities you want to carry, how long you’re going to be out in the wilderness, the weather you’ll be trekking through and more, if you can believe it. The options out there are endless, but there are seven in particular that are worth your attention. We did extensive research, read the recommendations of experts and scoured both positive and negative reviews from shoppers who tried these bags out themselves to bring you the best of the best. And we’ve rounded them up for you here.


Best Hiking Backpack Overall

The One That Checks All The Boxes

Weight: 2.81 pounds—2.93 pounds | Waterproof: No | Capacity: 58—61 liters

Clocking in at just under 3 pounds, you can be sure the Osprey Exos 58-liter pack won’t be weighing you down as you pack every nook and cranny with essentials. It’s minimalist by design, but not too small for a weekend-long trip, nor is it too big for a day hike with friends. The bag itself, which comes in two similar sizes, can carry loads of up to 40 pounds, but the light alloy frame and suspension system helps lift the weight off your shoulders, plus mesh panels on the straps, hip belt and back encourage airflow to keep you cool during warmer weather outings. There are pockets on each side for quick access to water bottles, straps along the bottom to attach a sleeping bag or tarp, a trekking pole attachment system and compression straps to keep everything as compact as possible.

Some of the pouches are removable if you’re considering weight and need to conserve ounces, and the bag comes in three different sizes (38, 48 and 58 liters) to scale up or down depending on your needs.

Pros:

  • Large enough for multi-day trips
  • Quick and easy access to water
  • Built for comfort

Cons:

  • Some load movement while hiking

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Best Waterproof Hiking Backpack

An All-Weather Pro

Weight: 1.75 pounds | Waterproof: Yes | Capacity: 26 liters

This coated nylon pack is sure to keep your extra clothes, fire starters and other invaluable possessions safe and dry no matter how wet it gets out there. L.L. Bean’s take on the all-weather bag is made out of 100% waterproof materials and even the seams are sealed thanks to an advanced welding process that makes each stitch essentially impenetrable. In fact, L.L. Bean stands by just how waterproof this bag is by claiming it’s totally submersible, even with a roll-top style closure that’s shut via Velcro and TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane, the same material used in hospitals to ensure tools remain clean and dry) film.

On top of keeping your stuff dry, this bag has ample storage pockets for all your hiking essentials, as well as D-rings, daisy chains, side straps and bungees for attaching and harnessing anything else you might need.

Pros:

  • Waterproof
  • Easily accessible roll-top

Cons:

  • Bulky design
  • No built-in comfort padding


Best Hiking Backpack For Cameras

A Safe Way To Tote Your Best Lenses

Weight: 5.94 pounds | Waterproof: No | Capacity: 25 liters

Toting expensive and fragile camera equipment on a hike can be a tricky and anxiety-inducing experience, particularly if you’ve got the wrong backpack. This Lowepro, however, is built specifically for housing camera bodies and attachments using the brand’s half-century of experience with camera bag designs. The modular, customizable interior has thick, supportive and movable walls that create compartments, allowing you to build room for lenses or cables (or even a drone). The bag completely opens in one easy swoop from the back compartment that reveals the entire interior, or you can enter from the top or sides if you’re looking to grab one specifically placed item. To keep everything safe, the bag has an armored hard shell over the front and a waterproof cover that can be accessed through an exterior pocket.

Unfortunately, the bag doesn’t come with add-on accessories like an attachable bag that carries a water bottle or utility belt, but those can be purchased separately if you consider them necessities. Prefer to see more options? Check out our roundup of the best camera backpacks for different kinds of photographers and outdoor expeditions.

Pros:

  • Multiple padded, movable walls for storing equipment
  • Bag opens completely via one zipper
  • Included waterproof cover

Cons:

  • Extra storage purchased separately
  • Heavy while empty


Best Small Hiking Backpack

A Day-Tripper’s Best Friend

Weight: 15.2 ounces | Waterproof: No | Capacity: 21 liters

Whether you’re heading out for just a few hours in the evening or venturing on a solo weekend trek, having a small, compact hiking bag that won’t weigh (or slow) you down is an important option to have in your quiver. This pack by Deuter weighs in at under one pound, so it’s light as air on your back before you start adding everything you need. It has a padded back panel, mesh lining and a stability frame all built for comfort and support, and elastic side pockets keep things like water bottles or energy bars handy. One unique and handy feature of this bag is the front pocket that’s accessible from the side without ever having to take the pack off your back, enabling you to quickly grab a windbreaker or extra layer.

Shoppers say it’s the “perfect size for day hikes,” and one even noted that it’s their “favorite daypack for anything from small day hikes to all day excursions.”

Pros:

  • Lightweight at under one pound
  • Compact design built for short trips
  • Stability frame and comfort padding built in

Cons:

  • Limited storage
  • Front support straps not designed with shorter hikers in mind


Best Overnight Hiking Backpack

The Overnighter

Weight: 3.97lbs. | Waterproof: No | Capacity: 42 liters

This British bag company specializes in making smart, tough hiking and travel bags that help you become a better packer. An eco-savvy option, the bag is made out of recycled plastic and has a lightweight design that was created to be as versatile on the mountainside as it is on a flight (it’s TSA carry-on approved). The adventure bag has separate and specific pockets for water bottles, shoes, a laptop and ID cards, plus there are built-in compression straps, a waistband, chest strap and padded back panel, all designed with comfort and weight distribution in mind. This bag has room to spare inside (with 42 liters of space) and out (with pockets and several ways to attach a sleeping bag and tent), and reviewers say they’ve used it as their only bag for everything from hostel hopping to solo hiking for days at a time.

Pros:

  • Sustainable materials
  • TSA carry-on approved
  • Multiple interior pockets for organized storage

Cons:

  • Bulky design sticks out from the body
  • Only available in one color


Best Hiking Backpack For Women

Thankfully, It’s Not Pink

Weight: 1.68. pounds | Waterproof: No | Capacity: 21.5 liters

It goes without saying that, unless it actually says otherwise, most hiking backpacks are designed with the shape and structure of a man’s body in mind. This pack by L.L. Bean, however, is not. The bag has a “women’s-specific fit,” meaning the chest strap, waistband and shoulder straps all land where they should and don’t choke or gape awkwardly.

The lightweight, breathable nylon and mesh materials allow air to pass through and keep things cool on your back while you’re hiking, and the exterior pockets and straps keep everything from ice picks, walking poles and water bottles within reach. Best of all, while this is a woman’s bag ergonomically, it maintains a neutral and professional aesthetic that lacks traditional feminine colors.

Pros:

  • Strategically placed straps designed to suit a woman’s body
  • Breathable materials keep things cool
  • Lightweight design

Cons:

  • Small water bottle pocket doesn’t suit all sizes
  • Hip belt pockets too small for cell phone


Best Budget Hiking Backpack

The One That Won’t Break The Bank

Weight: 14 ounces | Waterproof: No | Capacity: 22 liters

If you’re here, you’ve figured out by now that hiking isn’t a cheap sport if you’re going to do it often and want to invest in equipment that’s going to see you through season after season of adventures. It’s a wonder then that a pack made out of quality materials from a brand as well-established and respected as REI could be priced this affordably. The Co-op Flash is made with recycled materials, has breathable straps and mesh paneling, a cushioned back for comfort, draw cords and side pockets—essentially everything you’d find in other bigger, flashier bags that cost twice as much. It’s frameless, so if you pack it to the brim, you won’t have the added support systems that are built into more expensive bags, meaning you’ll feel the weight and bulk a little more against your back, but for a few hours out on the trails, you won’t miss those added creature comforts.

Shoppers describe it as a “light and versatile pack,” and say it’s roomier than they expected and acts just like “a full day pack” without costing the same.

Pros:

  • Affordable but doesn’t skimp on quality
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Built for comfort

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a support frame
  • Not lined


Best Lightweight Hiking Backpack

The One That Won’t Break Your Back

Weight: 11 ounces | Waterproof: No | Capacity: 20 liters

This super lightweight hiking backpack is easy to carry and store away when you’re not using it, thanks to its size and the ability to pack it into its own front pocket. That said, it’s also surprisingly big inside, according to shoppers. Those who bought it said that its 20-liter capacity makes it ideal for short trips and list water bottles, snacks and an extra layer of clothing among the many items it can easily tote. It’s also a great value at only $30 (though it’s currently on sale) and the straps make it comfortable to carry even over long distances.

The tough and durable 200-denier ripstop polyester means the outer shell won’t easily puncture or tear when out in the wilderness, and the padded back panel only makes it easier to carry over longer distances. The bag isn’t waterproof, but it is coated with what the brand calls StormRepel WR, a water-wicking finish that helps deter light rain (and sweat) from soaking the interior. Speaking of the inside, there’s an interior padded pocket available in case you’re traveling with a laptop, and the outside has pockets for smaller items while four loops serve as attachment points for carabiners that can carry anything from a spare camp light to a walking stick.

Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Easy to care for and wash
  • Super lightweight

Cons:

  • Not waterproof
  • Limited space


Best Hiking Backpack With Sleeping Bag Compartment

Designed For All-Nighters

Weight: 3.81 pounds | Waterproof: No | Capacity: 60 liters

As you’re reading through this list, you’ve probably noticed that several of these bags are equipped with external straps or D-rings that make it easier to attach a sleeping bag to the pack’s exterior. The only problem with this design is that it adds a ton of bulk to the outside of your bag, and unless you buy a tarp or invest in a bag with a built-in rain cover, the equipment you’ll use to sleep at night is exposed to the elements. The Trailbreak 60 from REI has thought of this problem by integrating a built-in sleeping bag compartment that sits at the base. The dedicated pocket is secured by a zipper that makes it easy to pull out only your sleeping bag from the base of the pack when you need it, rather than forcing you to unpack several items just to access the bottom.

The pack also has an internal frame to keep everything as compressed and stable as possible. As well as shoulder, back and hip padding for comfort, it has internal water, snack and stash pockets and the materials are Bluesign approved, meaning every last inch of fabric is recycled and sustainably derived.

Pros:

  • Dedicated sleeping bag pocket
  • Stability frame
  • Tons of comfortable padding

Cons:

  • No external pockets
  • Pack lid straps aren’t adjustable for over-packing


Frequently Asked Questions About Hiking Backpacks

What’s The Difference Between A Hiking Backpack And A Regular Backpack?

If you’re setting out on a hike that’s only going to keep you on the trail for a couple of hours, a regular backpack will probably serve you when you’re carrying a water bottle, phone, light snacks and an extra layer. But if you’re out there long enough, or if you’re hiking far enough that you’ll need a meal, are concerned about inclement weather, need to set up camp, or just want to be as prepared as possible, a true hiking backpack is the way to go. That’s because these bags are designed with long-term comfort and stability in mind. They feature internal frames that help support heavy loads, pockets that are easily accessible without needing to take the bag off your back and additional space for carrying and protecting everything you’ll need to have an enjoyable time in nature.

Why Are Hiking Backpacks So Expensive?

All of that thoughtful design—the padding, frame, fabrics and pockets we keep mentioning—is crafted with high-end materials that are going to keep your things dry (or dry-ish), safely secured and in place no matter where you may roam. The straps and buckles are reinforced to hold onto a ton of gear, the seams are welded to prevent leaks and even the hip belt pockets are big enough to store a phone. Suffice to say, hiking backpacks are expensive because so much thought goes into the research and development of each model.

It’s also important to keep in mind that these bags are built to last. Many of the reviews on the packs we sourced here were written by shoppers who said they were coming back to the newer model of an older bag that they used for years and brought out on the trail countless times. These bags have loyal, dedicated followings because, in spite of the initial price, you get your money’s worth with each year of use.

Who Makes The Best Quality Hiking Backpacks?

While we stand behind all of the bags on this list, there’s a reason why some brands make repeat appearances. In our opinion, brands like REI Co-op, Deuter and Osprey make some of the best quality hiking backpacks not only because they blend quality materials with thoughtful craftsmanship, but they also provide quality assurance and customer service that’s unrivaled. If a bag doesn’t live up to your expectations, these brands will make the situation right each and every time because they stand by their products. It doesn’t hurt that their goods are bolstered by solid warranties, so you’re never stuck with a pack that fails or doesn’t serve you, even if you took it on an adventure or two.



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