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The 16 Best Hiking Backpacks for All Your Outdoor Adventures

The 16 Best Hiking Backpacks for All Your Outdoor Adventures


Every hiker knows that in planning an outdoor adventure, strategizing on gear can be half the battle. Sure, you have that pre-trip run-through down pat: water bottle, check; sun protection, check; bug spray, check. But the perfect bag to carry it all in? Getting that right can take a little more time. To help you sort through the best hiking backpacks for your next adventure—whether you’re headed on a half-day excursion to a nearby state park, or a two-week trek through the Andes—we looked to some of our tried-and-true outdoor brands, and tapped the outdoorsy folks in our world to tell us which bags they love most.

If you’re stocking up for a one-off adventure or want to start slow by comparison-shopping our picks, there’s a cost-conscious option for you, too. Insta-famous drag queen and outdoors advocate Pattie Gonia suggests going for a rental. “Instead of buying new, there are so many ways to be an environmental queen by thrifting a bag or renting one. REI offers so many fantastic rental options, for day backpacks and bigger backpacking options, and will help fit you to one, just like a ski boot, for the perfect match.”

If you’re ready to gear up, find the best hiking backpacks out there for every level of hiker, from day bags and parent-friendly packs to multi-day workhorses, below. (And if you’re looking for one specifically designed for a woman’s frame, we have more recommendations here.)

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date. Additional reporting by Meaghan Kenny.

Best for a quick jaunt

CamelBak Hawg, 20-liter

Drinking enough water is crucial, even if your planned adventure is a mellow stroll through the woods. Hipcamp founder and CEO Alyssa Ravasio says that she always grabs her Camelbak Hawg hydration pack before heading out on a quick escape. “For overnights to glamping getaways like this one, it’s a comfortable mid-sized pack with lots of functional organization and–most importantly–solid hydration,” she says. Plus, with its padded harness and Air Director back panel, it’s comfy enough for all-day wear, too.

REI Co-Op Flash, 18-liter

This light, frameless day pack is a favorite of The Venture Out Project’s director of operations Travis Clough. “It’s so packable that it can fit in your pocket when it’s empty. This backpack can literally go anywhere,” says Clough, who has taken it on day hikes, cross-country skiing trips, to the 48 high peaks in New Hampshire, and even uses it to hold six-packs on summer afternoon bike rides to a friend’s house. ”I’ve had mine for years and it’s still going strong,” he says.

Cotopaxi Luzon del Dia, 18-liter

You don’t have to be outdoorsy to love this Cotopaxi bag, says former Traveler editor Stephanie Wu. You don’t even have to reserve it for hiking trips. “My Cotopaxi backpack has become my go-to for any type of adventurous trip. It’s incredibly lightweight, and was clearly designed by people who love to travel. There’s a compartment for my water bottle on the side, and an off-center zipper on the front that is great for when you need to reach for your passport or phone, and only want to take your backpack off one shoulder,” she says. Plus, every backpack is different—they’re made out of leftover bits of fabric, so the colors and zipper liners are unique from one bag to the next.

Best for full day hikes

REI Co-Op Flash Pack, 22-liter

Recently redesigned to feature a larger top stash pocket, double cinch straps, and a padded hip belt, REI Co-Op’s Flash 22 is an epic daypack for hikers who don’t want to break the bank. Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro and author of Nature Swagger, says it’s her favorite “all-around backpack for morning to afternoon hikes. As a safety bonus, it even has a whistle.” Other notable features? Mapp says the pack has the perfect amount of room for snacks and light layers.

Osprey Tempest, 34-liter

Ask any group of hikers what their favorite backpack is, and you’re likely to hear a chorus of “Osprey.” That’s because the company, which stitches its goods with Bluesign-approved materials, pairs excellent on-the-go features (think trekking pole attachments, perfectly-sized hip pockets, and external hydration sleeves) with its All Mighty Guarantee—a promise to repair or replace any damage or defect, free of charge, forever. The women-specific Tempest might just be the brand’s best daypack yet, with a lightweight frame, AirScape vented back panel, and top-loading main compartment. It comes in a men’s variety, the Talon, too.

Deuter Speedlite, 22-liter

Hiking with kids doesn’t just mean an extra person to keep an eye on—it means doubling up on gear as well. Shanti Hodges, the founder of Hike It Baby, swears by the Deuter Speedlite 22-liter. “I use this as my go-to for day hikes, because I am often carrying a lot if I have my six-year-old in tow. This means water for both of us, snacks and lunch, potentially extra clothing, and a first aid kit. This pack is light, but still has a lot of padding in the shoulders so I get the support I need. This bag has been through all kinds of weather with me as well and it always stays dry inside, which is really important if you are hiking in the Pacific Northwest like I am.”

Arc’teryx Brize Backpack, 25-liter

For a crossover pack that works as hard in the city as it does on the trails, Shelma Jun, the founder of female hiking collective Flash Foxy, loves the Brize backpack from Arc’teryx. “This bag is the perfect size for day hikes. It has really comfortable straps, and stretchy mesh pockets on each side for water bottles or easy-to-grab snacks. A big top pocket also makes chapstick, keys, and sunglasses easily accessible. I also love the black version for running around the city—I can just hop on my bike, headed for the office, with all of my climbing gym stuff packed in,” she says. (Editor’s note: Jun is sponsored by Arc’teryx.)

Gregory Jade Pack, 28-liter

Recommended by the founder of Out There Adventures, Elyse Rylander, this bag sits in the middle of the pack, size-wise. Efficient packers can even use it for multi-day adventures—Rylander’s sister traveled for three months in Southeast Asia with just the Gregory Jade 28-liter. Adjustable straps help it fit to your torso length, and the OpenAir ventilated back panel increases breathability. This backpack also meets carry-on restrictions for most airlines, making it a great option for those traveling light.

Best for overnight adventures

Gossamer Gear Mariposa, 60-liter

When you want to go big, sometimes you’ve got to go ultralight. Weighing in at just two pounds, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is a time-tested favorite on massive thru hikes like the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. Brian Beckstead, adventurer and co-founder of Altra Footwear, loves its “blend of comfort, functionality, weight, and simplicity.” Meanwhile, Jennifer Pharr Davis, author and owner of Blue Ridge Hiking Company, is a fan of the customizable torso lengths and hip belt options so that every hiker can find the fit that works for them.

Gregory Katmai Plus Size, 65-liter

Jenny Bruso, the founder of Unlikely Hikers, helped create a line of plus-size hiking gear designed to allow every adventurer to take on any trail feeling confident and supported. This Katmai 65-liter pack comes with extended length shoulder straps and hip belts, plus additional fit revisions to accommodate larger body shapes and sizes. Made with recycled fabrics, it has seven pockets, a trekking pole attachment, and a sleeping bag compartment.

Osprey Ariel, 55-liter

”I love the 55-liter Osprey Ariel pack. This pack is designed for women (or anyone with narrower shoulders) which means a more comfortable, chafe-free fit. Even better? The pockets on the belt clip are the perfect size for a phone,” Carlson says. Part of the backpack can also be zipped off and used as a handy day pack, perfect for side trips in the middle of longer journeys.

The North Face Terra Backpack, 55-liter

The North Face Terra Backpack is another great mid-size option for weekend-long trips. Its back panel features cushy foam and breathable mesh for extra comfort during long days. The Terra also uses a Dyno Lift System with adjustable load lifters and a pivoting hip belt for a more steady, comfortable hike. 

Granite Gear Blaze, 60-liter

Perry Cohen, the founder of The Venture Out Project, started using this bag in 2019 and can’t imagine switching to anything else. “This is the only all-gender pack I’ve found in this size or quality, and it’s fully adjustable to fit many different body types. It’s ultralight, but doesn’t compromise comfort or capacity,” he says. A side zip lets you access your gear without unpacking everything from the top and the top of the pack (or, as some hikers call it, ”the brain”), unclips and combines with the detachable hip belt to create a fanny pack for short day hikes.

Best for photographers and specialty gear

Arc’teryx Alpha AR, 35-liter

When she needs a place to stow away all her climbing gear and head out on a grand adventure, photographer and founder of PNW Outdoor Women Meghan Young turns to her trusty Arc’teryx Alpha AR. “It’s big enough to fit all my gear for a day of alpine climbing and it has plenty of loops and webbing,” she says. “The material is rugged so you don’t have to worry when traversing thick vegetation or squeezing by granite pillars.”

Peak Design Travel Backpack, 30-liter

Thoughtfully designed by camera-toting adventure lovers, Peak Design’s Travel Backpack looks as at home traipsing through downtown Athens as it does on a mountainous trail. With theft-deterrent zipper pulls, a weatherproof shell made of 100 percent recycled nylon canvas, and expandable side pockets for tripods or water bottles, the bag seamlessly blends sensible city features with rugged outdoor necessities. Pair it with a set of the brand’s camera cubes for optimal protection and organization.

F-Stop Lotus Backpack, 32-liter

If you’re trekking with photography gear, this bag will get you and your tripod wherever you need to go. “The F-Stop Lotus is the best adventure camera pack for day hikes and one night trips,” says blogger Liz Carlson, the founder of Young Adventuress. “It’s a bit smaller than their normal Tilopa, which is really designed for those with broader shoulders. With the Lotus, you can also attach plenty of gear to the outside, from a tripod to a sleeping bag to a snowboard (seriously).” F-Stop also sells a system of padded compartments for your cameras and lenses, so you can customize the interior of the bag based on your existing gear.

Patagonia Black Hole MLC, 45-liter

For those that need a bigger travel bag that just as smoothly transitions from city jaunts to camping excursions, spanning weekend to week-long trips, Patagonia’s convertible model is an easy favorite. ”I just got the Patagonia Black Hole MLC pack and I’m already obsessed—I had trouble finding a midsize pack I loved before this one,” says Faith E. Briggs, a documentary filmmaker and an ambassador for Brown Folks Fishing. ”I love Patagonia in general because they are the most thoroughly sustainable outdoor company: They repair everything, so whenever I buy from them I feel like I have a lifetime guarantee, which justifies the price.” The ultra-durable waterproof body, made from recycled materials, also fits most carry-on requirements and fits easily on the handles of your rolling luggage as it does slung over your shoulder, or strapped on your back on a backcountry trek. Talk about multitasking.





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