Hiking backpacks are as vital to an awesome day hike or backpacking excursion as the shoes on your feet and the trails you walk. Multi-day backpacking trips and demanding day hikes both require careful planning and packing. Water, food, and an assortment of outdoor gear may be required for your trek, all of which you’ll need to fit into a quality hiking backpack that should be as comfortable as it is capable.
We reviewed dozens of hiking backpacks and have identified the best around that will get you to where you want to go. Considering factors such as functionality, carrying capacity, and overall comfort we’ve picked our top choices and broken down the rest to show you our favorite day hiking backpacks and multi-day hiking backpacks.
After extensively researching the various hiking backpacks on the market we’ve chosen the Osprey Stratos as our hiking backpack top pick. Ultralight and ultra-versatile, the Osprey Stratos strikes a precise balance in all aspects of size, capacity, and functionality that we believe makes it the best overall backpack available today. Read our review below to see how this highly-refined and feature-filled backpack managed to take our top spot and to see if it’s the perfect backpack for you.
In This Article
The 5 Top-Rated Hiking Backpacks
|Best Overall||Osprey Stratos||4.8|
|Runner Up||Osprey Atmos||4.9|
|Best Budget Buy||Luisport Lightweight 35L||4.9|
|Best Day Hiking Pack||Venture Pal 40L||5.0|
|Best Multi-Day Hiking Pack||Kelty Red Cloud 90||4.8|
*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change
Our Top Pick: Osprey Stratos
The Osprey Stratos excels as both an extravagantly capable daypack and as a small multi-day backpack. Sized ideally for both types out outdoor pursuits and equipped as well as any large backpack on the market, the Osprey Stratos truly is a go-anywhere-at-anytime style of backpack. Constructed with an adjustable torso length, hip belt, and shoulder straps, the Stratos is also ready to fit just about any body that’ll have it. Osprey covered all the marks with this backpack.
Numerous pockets, straps, and cords make it so you can store all of your gear in or on the Stratos backpack. Items in the dual mesh water bottle pockets can be strapped down for added security, while more important items like your cellphone and wallet can be securely tucked away in the zippered hipbelt pockets, as can tasty snacks like trail mix or Clif bars. The exterior stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachments are handy for when you want to give your arms a rest, and the functional tool loops provide the perfect storage point for an ice ax when you’re tackling extreme conditions.
Comfort is not sacrificed for the sake of functionality in the Stratos. This well-padded backpack is lined with breathable mesh everywhere that it comes into contact with your body, and Osprey’s Airspeed Suspension system paired with the torso adjustment ensures a perfect fit that’ll keep your back in tip top shape. Additional features such as the internal hydration sleeve and integrated rain cover go a long way to elevate the experience you’ll have with the Osprey Stratos. This is a complete backpack for day hikers and weekend backpackers.
Osprey Stratos Key Features:
- Airspeed Suspension system with adjustable torso length
- Side panel access and a sleeping bag compartment for organized storage
- Dual side compression straps and mesh pockets
- Integrated rain cover and hydration sleeve
Our Runner Up Pick: Osprey Atmos
A robustly featured multi-day backpack, the Osprey Atmos takes what makes the Osprey Stratos great and builds upon it to create a larger backpack that is ideal for long wilderness excursions. The upgraded Anti-Gravity suspension utilizes the hip belt to wrap around your entire body which provides airy ventilation and a superb fit. Each aspect of the suspension system is designed to distance the backpack from your skin and simulate a weightless feel that your hips and back will appreciate.
The high-capacity storage compartments can hold 65 liters of gear. The backpack is kept stable by a set of dual upper and lower compression straps that lock in the contents of your pack to reduce motion and center balance while you’re hoofing it on the trail. Optionally, the floating top lid can be crammed full for additional storage or removed completely to lighten your load.
Six different harness adjustment straps allow you to fit the bag to your body on the go, and multiple compressions straps can be tightened to secure the pack’s load. The entire system enables you to adjust your pack size and harness fit at every stage of your pack’s weight during an extended backpacking journey. Where your pack may be full and heavy at the start of a backpacking trip, that load will shrink and lighten as you consume the food and beverages you carry. All of these adjustable straps allow you to keep the Osprey Atmos tuned to the correct fit and balance for your entire adventure.
Osprey Atmos Key Features:
- Anti-gravity wrap around suspension system
- Adjustable harness and Fit-on-the-Fly hipbelt
- InsideOut side compression straps
- Removable floating top lid
Best Budget Pick: Luisport Lightweight 35L
There’s no beating the combination of affordability and adaptability that’s built into the Luisport Lightweight 35L. With a contemporary design that’s absolutely loaded with storage tools and advanced features, and weighs in at an ultralight 14 ounces, this budget backpack has what it takes to swing economical buyers away from the much more expensive big brand options.
All it takes is a quick browse through this daypack’s feature-set to see that it contends with the other top day hiking backpacks on our list. The durable nylon construction holds 35L of your hiking necessities. Separate storage compartments and mesh pockets help to organize your gear, and there is a less expensive variant of this model selectable in the color options that offers additional exterior corded straps that work great for storing items close at hand like a down jacket or rain poncho.
Breathable mesh shoulder straps help to keep you cool, and the waterproof lining will keep your contents dry. This feather-light daypack is able to carry a considerable load of gear, but when you are done with your hiking and ready to roam about town the entire bag folds down into one of its own pockets, creating a handy little tote that is easy to carry or stow away.
Luisport Lightweight 35L Key Features:
- Ultralight 14-ounce weight and compact packability
- 3-year return and refund warranty
- Multiple color and style options all at inexpensive prices
Best Day Hiking Backpack: Venture Pal 40L
The Venture Pal 40L is a stunning daypack that comes in a variety of fun designs and is equipped with a unique feature set. A distinctive set of colorful exteriors give this day hiking backpack a personalized look, but the interior wet storage pocket is an exclusive characteristic of the Venture Pal that truly makes it stand apart from the plethora of copycat backpacks on store shelves. The waterproof wet pocket is accessible inside the main storage compartment and is ideal for adventurers who prefer a little bit of fun in the water alongside their hikes.
Though this pack fills a specific niche with its water-bound design, the overall quality construction of this backpack lends itself to adventure-minded folk wherever they decide to roam. Plentiful storage allows you to go wherever your whims take you, and you’ll feel plenty comfortable along the way with well-padded shoulder straps, an adjustable chest strap, and a lightweight design that won’t contribute much to the weight on your back.
Choose from a rainbow of color options or opt for more fanciful tropical and camouflage designs. However your wanderlust decides to express itself, there is a variant of the Venture Pal for you.
Venture Pal 40L Key Features:
- Unique wet storage pocket
- A long list of colorful design options
- Bar-tacks at major stress points for extended durability
Best Multi-Day Hiking Backpack: Kelty Red Cloud 90
Born from a highly respected name in the outdoor industry, the Kelty Red Cloud 90 stands upon the shoulders of quality backpacking products from over half of a century of passion and innovation engineered by adventure experts. It’s taken decades of commitment to improving outdoor travel gear for Kelty to build the Red Cloud multi-day hiking backpack, and it stands among the greats as a top choice for long-term backpackers.
Extended backpacking excursions require a hefty amount of gear and supplies. This load hauler is rife with storage compartments that total a whopping 90 liters of capacity that can comfortably hold up to 60 pounds of weight. The folks at Kelty know that all of that weight can wreak havoc on even the strongest of backs, so they’ve equipped this backpack with an industry-leading PerfectFit suspension system that is fully adjustable to provide a, well, perfect fit, and to provide reliable support and stability out on the trail with Lightbeam aluminum stays.
The AirMesh shoulder straps, waist belt, and lumbar pad support your body with load-lifting technology while maintaining much-needed breathability in every spot the pack makes contact. Additionally, there’s no need to carry along an extra daypack on your multi-day backpacking trips because the lid of the Kelty Red Cloud can be removed and transformed into a sling bag for short hikes away from your base camp.
Kelty Red Cloud 90 Key Features:
- PerfectFit suspension system with Lightbeam aluminum stays
- Removable backpack lid that turns into a sling daypack
- AirMesh ventilation system to keep you dry while hauling heavy loads
Who Should Buy a Hiking Backpack
Anyone venturing out onto a trail should carry water, food, and emergency items. Even if your hike is short, you should be prepared for extreme circumstances. Your gear and your supplies could save your life, and even a small day hiking backpack will provide adequate, comfortable storage for your necessities. While hiking, it’s much more comfortable and fun to free up your hands and pockets by throwing your belongings into a backpack. Day hiking backpacks can also serve you well on a long urban walk or a day at the beach. If you need a backpack for watersport activities, take a look at our guide to the best waterproof backpacks.
Those who are looking to spent a night, or two, or more out on the trail absolutely need a reliable multi-day backpack. There’s no other option for hauling all of the gear you’ll need out into the wild lands. Besides all of the food and water you’ll need to store, a good multi-day backpack is equipped with storage loops and straps that you can use for carrying your tent, trekking poles, and so much more.
Important Features to Consider
There are a few important considerations to think through before purchasing a hiking backpack.
- How long of a hike are you planning? It’s absolutely essential to plan properly whenever you’re heading into the wilderness. If you’re planning a day hike, you know you won’t need to bring along sleeping gear like a tent or sleeping bag, but the length of your day hike will affect how much food and water you will need to carry. The same logic can be applied to multi-day backpacking. Once you know how many nights you will be out on the trail, you can begin to plan the amount of gear and supplies you will need to bring. Make sure your backpack has the capacity required to carry everything you need before embarking upon your journey.
- What types of items will you be storing? Perhaps you’re venturing on a simple day hike and only need to store your personal effects, like car keys and a wallet, alongside some water bottles, but what if you’re heading out on a mountain biking trip, or maybe you’ll be cross country skiing. The backpack you choose needs to accommodate your intended activities. A minimalist sling bag may work well for a short hike, but something more substantial with multiple storage compartments would work best for more hardcore outdoor activities where you would want to separate dirty or wet items from your other gear.
- Make sure it fits. A fair amount of hiking backpacks now have adjustable torso lengths so that they can fit a variety of body types. Some, however, require perfect sizing for ideal outdoor comfort. Read all sizing requirements and measure yourself before purchasing a backpack online, or visit a brick-and-mortar retailer to have a professional size you for an appropriate backpack.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you pack in a hiking backpack?
This depends on your journey, but water and food are essentials that should never be forgotten. Ideally, you will want to pack navigation tools like maps and a compass, and as needed items such as layers of clothing and a water filter should always be considered. Longer journeys require more substantial gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Refer to a backpacking pack guide if you’re about to head out on your first backpacking trip.
What is the difference between a daypack and a backpack?
The pack’s size is essentially what determines whether it is a daypack or a backpack. Packs under 40L capacity are often referred to as daypacks. Packs over 40L capacity are usually referred to as backpacks, and since they can carry quite a bit more gear they are often equipped with hipbelts for additional support and stability.
How big should a hiking backpack be?
Now that you know the difference between a daypack and backpack, you can explore the wide spectrum of sizes they both offer. Generally, a 20L daypack will be suitable for a short day hike whereas a 40L pack is capable enough for overnight trips. Larger multi-day backpacking packs just seem to get bigger and bigger, though the larger they are the heavier they will weigh. You’ll have to determine the size you’ll need. There’s a hiker saying that states, “Carry less, do more.” Basically, the less weight on your back the more fun you’ll have on your hike. Bring what you need, and leave what you don’t at home.
How do I choose a hiking backpack?
By now this guide should have given you all of the information you need to make an informed buying decision. There is no “wrong” backpack, but smaller sizes can be restricting if your travels take you to far out destinations. Make sure the size is right, both in capacity and your torso length, and you’ll be in good shape no matter which backpack you choose.
Other Hiking Backpacks We Reviewed
We looked at 20 other hiking backpacks. Even though they didn’t make our five best hiking backpacks list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your next outdoor adventure. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.
- Day Hiking Backpacks
- Budget Day Hiking Backpacks
- Multi-Day Hiking Backpacks
- Budget Multi-Day Hiking Backpacks
Day Hiking Backpacks
Water-resistant, tear-resistant, and breathable, the CAMELSPORTS 30L/40L backpack is a capable daypack that’ll survive plenty of trail abuse and keep your packed items safe inside of its durable shell.
- Water-resistant fabric
- Breathable honeycomb back liner
- Trekking pole attachment looped cord
Designed as a daypack for hunting and fishing, the camouflaged Fieldline Pro Series Treeline backpack is equipped with multiple gear lock attachment points and a convenient hydration port.
- Camouflaged design
- Multiple gear lock points for compact equipment like fishing gear
- Breathable mesh backing
The Osprey Tempest 20 is a women’s day hiking pack that is extremely lightweight yet surprisingly capable. A continuous wrap hipbelt makes carrying heavy loads easier and is a feature not often seen on daypacks.
- Continuous wrap hipbelt
- Biostretch harness with multiple adjustments and storage options
- LidLock helmet attachment
Cost: $88.48 – $205.46
This water-resistant daypack is ready for adventures whether they be urban or on the trail. The Recsolil 40L can hold over 40 pounds of weight and has an integrated USB port so you can charge your devices while you roam.
- Integrated USB port
- Dual side water bottle carry pockets
- Dual fixed buckles for carrying trekking poles
A small daypack for those who know their style, the Texbo Crossbody Sling Bag is a full leather pack with numerous small pockets ideal for personal items and small snacks. This is a great bag for short hikes and urban walks.
- Stylish full-grain cowhide leather
- Adjustable crossbody strap
- Multiple secured pockets and a clip loop
The TOURIT Cooler Backpack is an insulated, leakproof backpack intended for storage of cold or warm items. Ideal for carrying cold drinks and sandwiches out on a hot day hike, this unique backpack can keep food cold for up to 16 hours.
- Insulated cooler backpack for storage of cold or warm items
- Oxford high-density foam insulated liner
- Additional pockets and straps for carrying additional gear
Budget Day Hiking Backpacks
Laden with a myriad of features typically found on top-of-the-line backpacks, the Ayezon Hiking Backpack is a well-rounded daypack at an absurdly low price. Grab one while you can because this price cannot be beaten.
- Reflective strips for safe carrying at night
- Packable down into its own convenient storage pocket
- Padded shoulder straps
Triple-layered padding inside of the stylized BAGSPERT Lightweight daypack protects your valuables as well as the waterproof outer shell. The bag comes with plenty of pockets for a wealth of practical storage options.
- Included neck wallet
- Breathable straps with reinforced stress points
- Lifetime service guarantee
A modest backpack that is capable of more than it at first appears, the ELCM Foldable and Packable daypack weighs as light as a feather and can be folded down into a small carry bag when its full size isn’t necessary.
- Folds down into a small carry bag
- Adjustable chest and shoulder straps to dial in the perfect fit
- Double-layered bottom for added strength
The GONEX Ultralight Handy daypack is made from water-resistant and durable nylon that is reinforced at 25 points for maximum durability and longevity. The bag folds down into a sandwich-sized pocket for easy storage.
- A rainbow of color choices
- Water repellant nylon exterior
- Ultralight design
Multi-Day Hiking Backpacks
An ultralight internal frame backpack with an adjustable hipbelt and removable lid, the Granite Gear Crown 2 is an avid backpacker’s dream backpack. It has every feature you could ever want and can pack away everything you’ll ever need.
- Lockable heavy-duty zippers
- Removable lid with a waterproof zipper
- V.C. Mark 2 Frame with a 35-pound load rating
Cost: $198.00 – $200.05
The single-piece aluminum internal frame inside the High Sierra Classic Summit backpack can be adjusted to contour to your specific body frame. This ultra-comfortable backpack is also well-padded and equipped with load-lifters.
- Customizable aluminum frame
- Molded foam back panel with Airflow channels
- Hydration reservoir sleeve with dual-tube ports
A Lego kit at heart, the Osprey Farpoint 70 features several removable components that can be tucked away or added back on depending on your capacity needs. This pack stands out for its undeniable versatility. It even comes with its own daypack!
- Stowaway back panel, harness, and hipbelt
- Detachable daypack
- LightWire frame suspension transfers the load from harness to hipbelt
Cost: $152.70 – $373.96
Take the kids on your next excursion and equip them with the Osprey Youth Jet 12. This small pack is sized to for your growing child, yet it contains the same features that most adult-sized backpacks offer such as mesh water bottle pockets and an adjustable hipbelt.
- Mesh back panel provides excellent ventilation
- Fleece-lined shoulder panels for long-lasting comfort
- Front panel access to the main compartment for easy access
The Osprey Kestrel is a smaller multi-day backpacking backpack that is ready to tackle a full-sized adventure. A sleeping bag compartment and exterior sleeping pad straps help keep this pack small while retaining its ability to pack a big load when needed.
- Top-lid and under-lid zippered pocket
- Exterior mesh stretch pockets
- Integrated rain cover
Similar to the Kestrel in just about every way, the Osprey Kyte separates itself because of its women’s-specific fit. The Kyte was designed to contour to the female form for better balance and more comfort in all the right places.
- Women’s-specific backpack design
- Dual front panel daisy chains
- Bungee tie-offs for tool security
Budget Multi-Day Hiking Backpacks
Durable 420D+210D nylon fabric is held in place by an aluminum rod frame in the hardy GONEX 55L Backpack. Reviewers are excited about the backpack’s good looks and easy access to the main compartment from the front panel.
- Comfortable and breathable lumbar pad
- Front panel with U-shaped zipper for easy main compartment access
- 3D bearing system with aluminum rod support
Big brother to the 55L, the GONEX 65L/75L can carry more volume and more weight than its little brother can. In gaining the added size this variant loses the easy-access front panel but gains an adjustable Verclo bearing plate that can be adjusted to fit a wide range of torso lengths.
- Adjustable Verclo bearing plate for torsos of any length
- Adjustable chest strap with integrated emergency whistle
- Built-in inverted U-shaped steel wire support
With a 44L capacity, the Kelty Redwing 44 skirts the line between daypack and multi-day backpack, but with its strong hipbelt and all-purpose design, we know it can handle several days out on the trail. This is an ideal compact backpack for an extended journey.
- Hydration sleeve that does double duty as a laptop sleeve
- Front stash pocket with a metal hook closure
- Strong and weightless Lightbeam aluminum stay with framesheet
This unique three-headed triathlon inspired backpack has layers of storage compartments ideal for separating large items from one another. Each compartment is designed to keep wet, dirty, clean, and fragile items apart.
- Three-headed zipper system allows complete access to storage without removing the bag’s helmet
- Ergonomic 3D molded shoulder straps
- Built-in room and access for hydration