As you’re getting ready to go on your favorite hike, what kind of backpack do you want to carry with you? We started hiking two years ago, but we felt truly in love with it when we went and explore all sorts of volcanos across Hawaii last year. We soon found out that if we were going to spend over six hours walking, we were in need of some major supplies, AND, a good hiking backpack to carry all that crap uphill (and downhill) with us.
Dan and I both have very strong, personal preferences as to what makes a good hiking backpack, but, as I’m the main purchaser of the household, I decided it was up to me to figure it out. We discussed for hours the criteria we were going to use to find and review the five best out there, and, we are happy to now write a full post, and a full set of reviews about all of our favorite backpacks on the list, right now.
The comparison guide of backpacks below and the comparison that follows will you find the right backpack to meet your needs, and look as travel chic as humanly possible on all your adventures, too!
Detailed Hiking Backpack Comparison Guide and Key:
|Hiking Backpack Brand||Weight||Rating||Price|
|Sunhiker Cycling Hiking Backpack Water Resistant Travel Backpack||0.8 pound||4 stars||$|
|20L/33L Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack||0.5 pound||4.5 stars||$|
|Favofit 35L Packable Lightweight Daypack||0.7 pound||5 stars||$|
|Osprey Men's Aether 85 Backpack||3.9 pounds||5 stars||$$$$|
|The North Face Surge Backpack||1 pound||4.5 stars||$$$|
Hiking Backpack Brand: Click to view more details or purchase
Weight: Estimated weight of the backpack only
Rating: Estimated user rating on Amazon
Price: Approximate pricing on Amazon at the time of writing this article. In general terms: $ = under $40, $$ = $40 to $100, $$$ = $100 to $200, $$$$ = $200+
The backpacks on this chart are just a few of our favorite ones, and the last set we considered before we purchased ours. There are a plethora of options and brands out there, which actually makes the decision to buy your backpack very complicated and time consuming! From day trips to overnight trips, from looking at a small versus a large hiking backpack, we spent days sifting through all the information and consumer reviews.
All the backpacks included have at least 4.5 reviews and at least 50 reviews, which we think validates the seller and the brand and the model.
Feel free to use the quick jump navigation menu below to make it easier to find the most relevant information for your current search.
Disclosure: Travel Blogueras is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
Quick Jump Navigation Menu
- What’s really a hiking backpack?
- How to choose the right hiking backpack: 5 things to consider
- Overall weight: How much are you willing to carry?
- Overall capacity: How much do you need to fit in?
- Backpack functionality: How is your backpack constructed for the outdoors?
- Budget: How much should you spend on a hiking backpack?
- Styles of Backpacks: Which backpack style is best for you?
- Our review of the top 5 best hiking backpacks
- Sunhiker Cycling Hiking Backpack Water Resistant Travel Backpack Lightweight SMALL Daypack M0714
- 20L/33L- Most Durable Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack
- Favofit 35L Packable Lightweight Daypack – Backpack for Camping Hiking Cycling Travel and Daily Usage
- Osprey Men’s Aether 85 Backpack
- The North Face Surge Backpack
- So what’s the best hiking backpack for the money?
- Wrap Up and Final Thoughts
What’s really a hiking backpack?
A hiking backpack is one of the first pieces you should consider when you’re putting together your hiking supplies list. A good backpack could make the journey go unnoticed, whereas a bad backpack will not only hurt your body (or your partner’s), but also has the potential to ruin your entire vacation. Think about it. You’ll be wearing the thing for hours at a time, so it’s super important to know what you’re really going to be looking for.
For starters, the size and the weight tend to be different from regular backpacks. The material in a hiking backpack is a lot lighter and it should be a lot more durable, in addition to waterproof or at least water resistant. This is not the regular backpack you used in high school to carry your books! Remember, you are going to be wearing it for hours…under the sun and the rain, against the elements, and on really, really bad terrain.
If you’re planning an overnight hike, or maybe you are in a location where the weather changes a lot from sunrise to sunset, your hiking backpack will also carry your backpacking clothes, and a plethora of gadgets, so you are also going to be looking for a backpack that has tons of pockets and organization built in.
How to choose the right hiking backpack: 5 things to consider
Here are a few things you need to consider when picking your hiking backpack, which includes your hiking needs and budget, too.
Overall weight: How much are you willing to carry?
When choosing a hiking backpack, we think weight is perhaps one of the most important factors since it determines whether or not you’re going to be comfortable while traveling. You could argue that a better quality material should allow for more durability and quality, but we disagree. In this time and age, we believe the best and most durable materials should be the lightest. We pay a premium for a lighter phone, a lighter sneaker, even a lighter dinner! We see no reason why weight should not help you to greatly narrow your options when it comes to picking your backpack.
For day trips, I prefer to have a backpack under 1 pound, and I’m willing to go slightly over for a longer trip, but just a tiny bit. Anything else highly above one pound becomes extremely cumbersome on your back.
A word of caution here – straps! Some of the ultralight weight new backpacks come with super thin straps that will dig in into your skin after just a few hours.
One other key factor to consider for your hikes, beyond backpacks, are hiking pants! We also wrote a post about the best hiking pants for women, here.
Overall capacity: How much do you need to fit in?
The capacity of your hiking backpack is a key a differentiator when it comes to a day trip versus an overnight hiking trip. Here, it will really depend on what you do most often, and, in some instances, I will argue you might want to get one of each.
Backpacks are sized by how much they can hold, or their volume, which is measured in liters. (Just so you know 1 liter is around 4 gallons!)
As a rule of thumb, for a a full blown weekend trip (1-3 nights), we like to choose backpack that will hold between 35 to 50 liters. The experts advise up to 70 liters or more if you’re planning a 6 night+ long trip, and urge you to consider the season. If you’re hiking in the winter, you are going to need more room for thicker layers, and maybe even a warm sleeping bag.
By default, a hiking day trip backpack should be anywhere under 35 liters. This has been our first few trips so far, but we know we want to do more! For instance, we’re already planning a glamping weekend… and we can’t wait to post a full review on our favorite glamping trails in a few weeks!
Backpack functionality: How is your backpack constructed for the outdoors?
The material of your backpack is directly tied to durability, quality and weight, and it will also determine whether or not it will be waterproof. But, on top of the actual material, you should also consider its overall design and what we call “smart” features.
For starters, make sure your bag is made out of at a semi-waterproof material. We are not going into downpours or monsoons any time soon, so we think we should be okay if we are able to pour a full cup of water over it and have perfectly dry insides.
We also like the idea of lockable zippers, or having each compartment with two zippers so you can lock them together. Maybe not a must-have for a few hours of casually climbing up a small hill, but a very basic if you plan to travel by plane and need to check it out.
One of my favorite features for any of my bags is perhaps multiple compartments – any bag should have multiple compartments! This way, you can neatly organize your stuff and have easy access to retrieve what you need. For example, we want to put together gum, credit cards, IDs and phones in one pocket in the most hidden compartment just in case something falls off or we accidentally lose it as we’re looking for something else. We want to have the umbrella, flip flops and water bottles in the outside pockets, as we know we don’t really care if they get dirty, or we’re constantly using it as we’re hiking.
Padded shoulder straps and how comfortable they fit you should also be on your list of what to check out when looking for ultimate best hiking bags. As we said before, a good should strap make carrying your stuff a lot more comfortable, as the weight of the backpack will also be pushing down on your shoulders. Padding should be very thick, and ideally constructed out of a single piece of material, so it’s less likely to split.
Budget: How much should you spend on a hiking backpack?
The price of your backpack will depend on size, fabric, and brand, as well as whether you purchase it on full price or sale. A day backpack can start as low as $15, while a really good overnight or multi-day backpack can go all the way up to $300. A store brand will always be less expensive than one of the most known brand names (North Face, or Osprey).
As with anything, we don’t think going to the top of the budget gives you the best bang for you buck, no matter how nice the backpack is. After all, it’s meant to be carried under the weather for hours, set on the dirt, and much more!
Styles of Backpacks: Which backpack style is best for you?
We’re doing this article solely focusing on hiking backpacks, but know that you most always want to look for a sport-specific backpack. We have compiled a small list of the different styles available to help you out for hiking, but also overall!
- Backpacking backpacks – are meant to carry load of 30 to 50 pounds for multiple days (so up to 80 liters!). These guys are designed with an internal frame and many adjustment points and straps, and offer compartments for your camping gear too, such as sleeping bags, and water bottle slots.
- Ultralight backpacks -ultralight backpacks are typically those under 10 pound-base weight, with 5 being super minimalistic. They tend to offer less organizational options, are thinner and less durable overall. They do come in multiple sizes.
- Women’s backpacks. We found through our research that sometimes backpacks designed for women tend to have a better fit and feel overall more comfortable. In a backpack, look for a shorter torso, narrower shoulder widths, and more curved waist belts. We chose not to get this kind of backpack for now, by the way, as we like for our man to carry it for most of the way so…! Maybe for the next time around!
- Hydration backpacks: for the longer hikes, we found that a great deal of backpacks come with some sort of hydration compatibility. This kind of backpacks tend to be ideal for a biker or ultra runners, but we felt we could do without for our day hikes.
Our review of the top 5 best hiking backpacks
To be honest, any of the backpacks mentioned above are excellent options; but there are few that we wanted to point out as our favorites. Below, you’ll find our top five picks for overall qualities and design.
1. Sunhiker Cycling Hiking Backpack Water Resistant Travel Backpack Lightweight SMALL Daypack M0714
We immediately gravitated towards the hot pink of the first picture for this hiking backpack (I know, we’re such girls sometimes!). We found this one of the most popular options under $30 dollars, with over 454 reviews at 4 stars in average.
- Material:Highly tear resistant nylon, water-resistant
- MatReflective stripe, volume control system, adjustable shoulder straps
- Breathable mesh shoulder straps, bottle holder on the both sides
- Suitable for all hiking, camping, climbing, traveling outdoor activities
- Dimensions:15.7×9.1×5.9 inches. Weight:12.3oz
- Breathable mesh shoulder straps, bottle holder on the both sides
- Water-repellent and tear-resistant Nylon Material.
- It will be a fantastic necessity for not matter outdoor sports or leisure activities in or out of the city
- Convenient for hiking, traveling, camping, running, cycling, and mountaineering
It was funny to see a bunch of the reviewers mention this backpack as a top necessity for their trips to Disney and Universal Studios in Orlando. We laughed a little bit about it, yet, we know they were right. As we live in Miami, we can’t deny we go to the parks too often for our age, and we know well that sometimes, being in the sun and waiting for the rides for hours at a time could be more taxing on your body than just going hiking! So we agree with all those guys who bought this little backpack just to go to the park!
We tested this bag on a small local hike and we were pretty happy with it. First of all, it’s super light! And we were carrying (well, Dan was carrying) multiple water bottles. There’s a pretty good pocket on the inside for credit cards and keys, which we always look for, so we were pretty happy with that! It can hold a lot of items, and we found it to have a pretty comfortable fit.
Our cons? We didn’t find a separate pouch for cell phones.
20L/33L- Most Durable Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack
We’re back to featuring an awesome pink backpack! (Men, don’t worry, it also comes in green and other manly colors). The first thing that called our attention for this beauty was the extremely high number of reviews – over 5,000…for an average rating of 4.5 stars. Now, we don’t see that very often, so we had to dig in a little bit more. Plus, you can get this hiking backpack under $20.
The Outlander backpack has a stylish look, and it seems to have been designed as the go-anywhere pack, especially for super-minimalists who make every gram count. Ultra-light. Ultra-durable. Ultra-awesome. The backpack is perfect for day-to-day use or occasional travel. Adjustable breathable straps make it easy and comfortable to carry for all day use.
But, perhaps, one of our favorite features is how compact it is. The full backpack folds into zippered inner pockets to fit anywhere! You get a roomy main compartment, two front zipper pockets to hold the small stuff, one internal security zippered pocket for credit cards and keys, and two side pockets for water bottles. It’s also super light weight, at 0.46 pounds and has a pretty good capacity (up to 33 liters).
Favofit 35L Packable Lightweight Daypack – Backpack for Camping Hiking Cycling Travel and Daily Usage
This Favofit backpack also folds into a small pouch, so you can pretty much stick it in your carry-on if you’re traveling or flying to your hiking destination. It’s also very lightweight, at just 0.7 pounds, and has over 99 reviews…all 5 stars. The Favofit is crafted with high quality ripstop, water resistant nylon fabric, two way abrasive SBS zippers and 16 reinforced bartacks. Needles to say, the manufacturer claims to have designed a pretty durable hiking backpack.
Personally, we like the breathable mesh shoulder straps, and the 4 pockets and 2 compartments to keep things organized. We found most reviewers to like it for hiking, cycling, walking or just to carry as your personal item when you’re flying.
The Osprey Aether is the real deal, and will cost you around $190 depending on your size and color preference. It has over 55 reviews, all 5 stars, and we have always found Osprey to have great quality products, so we wanted to feature this hiking backpack in our main review. At 5 pounds and over 85 liters of capacity, this is one of our heaviest, and largest picks for best hiking backpacks.
Some of our favorite features include:
- Keep water bottles or other gear easily accessible in the side pockets featuring access from the top or side
- External hydration sleeve in back panel simplifies refilling and protects pack contents from spills
- New hip belt pockets provide secure storage that’s easily accessible while hiking; Perfect for digital cameras, GPS, snacks, etc.
- Strong J-zipper on front panel provides quick access to gear in main compartment
- Wide-mouth access sleeping bag compartment with divider
Our only small complaint was that we didn’t find as many outside pockets as we have wanted to, but that was easily offset by the fact that you can even carry your bulky sleeping back if you wanted to.
The North Face Surge Backpack
North Face is one of those classic brands you can never go wrong with. I used to stroll down their main store on the Upper West Side in New York when I lived there, just to feel a little bit more sporty and adventurous. I also ended up buying a skiing jacket here just to use during the regular winter because my fancy, fashionable coats never succeeded at keeping me warm!
We know that North Face is pretty great, and we were happy to include, as our last but not least pick, their Face Surge Backpack.
The FlexVent suspension system boasts custom injection-molded shoulder straps, a padded mesh back panel with a spine channel and a wicking lumbar panel for maximum support and ventilation. Plus, you get a main compartment for other gadgets such as chargers, cameras, etc. The front compartment has internal organization with a fleece-lined media pocket, secure zippered pocket and elastic webbing for cord management.
But, as much as we liked it, we ended up feeling this was more like a one and all backpack for every day, or even going to work, versus a truly hiking backpack we can carry around forever. Regardless, we thought it could be a great option for travel overall, when we had a vacation with short hikes that didn’t require speciality equipment and we could use the Surge Backpack both as a personal item for the plane AND a backpack for our daily, travel adventures outside the airports!
So what’s the best hiking backpack for the money?
Sometimes the true questions might come down to value, or your overall budget when it comes to choosing the right backpack. What’s the BEST hiking backpack I can get for my budget? We have two backpacks in our list that we would choose and that they are in a similar price range.
- Sunhiker Cycling Hiking Backpack Water Resistant Travel Backpack Lightweight SMALL Daypack M0714 (under $30)
- 20L/33L- Most Durable Packable Lightweight Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack (under $20)
As we said before, any of the above choices would be a great option for your hiking adventures. It all depends on what you’re ultimately looking for, what you can afford, and, if you’re a little bit like us, what colors you can pick!
Wrap Up and Final Thoughts
You can see there’s a lot to consider and then some when it comes to searching for the best hiking backpacks on the market today. In fact, just trying to nail down the right criteria, beyond budget, best material, best functionality and best capacity overall could be a task on its own.
At the end, you should always think of a hiking backpack as a true asset and investment, a new accomplice for your travels and adventures, remembering to look for your ultimate comfort, and use!