The art of constructing a hiking backpack rivals that of Venetian glass. And for a piece of equipment so functional, that may come as a surprise. But a comfortable and durable pack demands serious and careful thought behind each component.
In addition to the details of a hiking backpack, there is the wide variety of outings they’re used for. From daypacks to big backpacking packs, these all need slightly different features so they can excel at their task. A winter hiking pack will inevitably differ from a summer hiking pack, for example.
Atom Packs The Atom + EP50 – Best hiking backpack 2023
Vango Sherpa 60:70 – Best budget hiking backpack
Gregory Focal 48 – Best overnight hiking backpack
Osprey Kyte 58 – Best for backpacking
Mammut Trion 50 – Best winter hiking backpack
Osprey Sirrus 26 – Best daypack for summer
Ortlieb Atrack – Best waterproof hiking backpack
The hiking backpack, though a staple of hiking gear, can be a confusing item to buy. What we’ve done here is bring together our top-performing hiking backpacks from our more focused pack buying guides and recommend them to you as a collection of champions.
1. Atom Packs The Atom+ EP50
Best hiking backpack 2023
Winner of the [Trail Gear of the Year awards
- Incredibly lightweight
- Clever design features
- Tailored size options
- Patchy availability
2. Vango Sherpa 60:70
Best budget hiking backpack
There’s an assumption that when you’re starting out as a greenhorn hiker, you begin with cheaper
- Good level of features
- Made from recycled material
- Others have better breathability and sustainability
3. Gregory Focal 48
Best overnight hiking backpack
Over a three-day, 100+km east coast hike, we found the Grogory Focal 48 comfy, providing top-notch
- Superb load transfer
- Good durability-lightness balance
- Slightly unusual fit might not suit everyone
4. Osprey Kyte 58
Best for backpacking
The Kyte (or men’s Kestrel) packs are dependable and durable mainstays of the Osprey range. The
- Easy to adjust
- Lots of features
- Recycled body and bottom fabric
- You may want a lighter pack
5. Mammut Trion 50
Best winter hiking backpack
Mammut’s Trion 50 is a lighter, less expensive sibling to the Trion Spine 50. The Trion 50 is
- Comfortable with a heavy load
- Can carry skis
- One size and non-adjustable back length
6. Osprey Sirrus 26
Best hiking daypack for summer
The Sirrus and Stratos range is one of Osprey's best-selling lines. The comfort, quality, and
- Good ventilation
- Plenty of thoughtful features
- Made from 100% recycled materials
- Tough and durable
- PFC-free DWR raincover
- Not the lightest daypack
- High positioning may not suit everyone
7. Ortlieb Atrack
Best waterproof hiking backpack
We’ve used this pack for travel in addition to hiking, and it’s proven to be a very durable pack.
- Tough and durable
- IP67 waterproof
- Extra attachments available
- Not the most breathable
What to look for in a hiking backpack
Hiking backpacks normally sit within one of three categories: trekking, backpacking, and mountaineering.
Trekking packs are the most versatile. They vary in volume from small daypack (15-30L) to overnight (35-50L) pack. You can use them for your hillwalking treks all year round.
Backpacking packs are big volume gear haulers for long multi-day trips. They often have lots of clever pockets and very supportive back systems to help you carry all your kit in comfort and stability.
Mountaineering packs are light and tough. They don’t have as many features as the other types of hiking backpacks, but instead cater to carry the gear winter adventurer needs.
Ranging from small to very large volumes, it’s important to understand which volume of pack is right for you. Use this to give you some guidance:
15-25 litres: Fastpacking or super light hillwalks.
25-35 litres: Day hikes in milder conditions.
35-55 litres: Longer hillwalks and mountain hikes; hut-to-hut trips; lightweight wild camps; winter mountaineering.
55-75+ litres: Long-distance treks and epic trips.
But things vary depending on how you pack. If you like extras such as a lightweight chair, you're going to need more space.
Back systems can seem confusing because of all the technical names brands like to slap onto their designs. But they boil down to three types:
Padded foam back systems offer great comfort and stability, sitting snug on your back.
Suspended mesh back systems hold the pack away from your pack, which also aids ventilation and is great in warmer conditions.
Channelled back systems look to be a mid-point by having excellent ventilation and excellent stability.
The choice is a personal one. Try each one before you buy to find which you prefer.
Measure your back
Hiking backpacks often come in different back lengths. Carefully measure your back length to know which size is right for you.
There are also often women’s versions too. Some brands are even offering extended length or width sizes to cater for a wider variety of body types.
Many hiking backpacks have a water repellent coating on the fabric, so they can withstand some moisture. But most aren’t fully waterproof.
A raincover is a good solution to this, and many hiking packs come with one. It’s also wise to stash your gear in dry bags too.
Pockets and storage
Pack brands spend a lot of time designing storage for packs. Each model offers different options. Think about the gear you take, what you like to have access to on the move, and if you need to attach anything externally. Match these as best you can to a pack that has the ideal pocket and storage arrangement.
Hiking backpack care and maintenance
Cleaning your pack after each heavy use or at least every season will ensure the fabrics last longer and you get a better return on your investment.
Brands and retailers usually offer repair services for outdoor gear too. Packs are one of the easier pieces of equipment to repair, so make use of repair services if and when you need to.