The best hiking backpacks reviewed (2023)

Bewildered and bemused about hiking backpacks? Rid yourself of the confusion as we take you through hiking backpacks and explain exactly what to look for and recommend the best models available.

Hiker wearing a large hiking backpack crossing a stream

by Chris Williams |
Posted on

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 a 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.

Hiker wearing a red daypack
©Live For The Outdoors

The best hiking backpacks at a glance:

Best hiking backpack 2023: Atom Packs The Atom + EP50 – View on

Best hiking daypack for summer: Osprey Sirrus 26 – View on

Best overnight hiking backpack: Lowe Alpine Cholatse 42:47 – View on Cotswold Outdoor

Best waterproof hiking backpack: Ortlieb Atrack – View on

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.

Best hiking backpack 2023

The Atom+ EP50 with award overlayLive For The Outdoors


Winner of the [Trail Gear of the Year awards


  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Clever design features
  • Tailored size options


  • Patchy availability

Best budget hiking backpack

Vango Sherpa 60:70 hiking backpackLive For The Outdoors


There's an assumption that when you're starting out as a greenhorn hiker, you begin with cheaper


  • Comfortable
  • Good level of features
  • Made from recycled material


  • Others have better breathability and sustainability

Best overnight hiking backpack


Lowe Alpine is one of the most well-known and established brands in the hiking backpack world. Its


  • Brilliant features
  • Very versatile
  • Durable
  • Comfortable


  • Maybe too many features for some (but not for us)

Best for backpacking


The Kyte (or men's Kestrel) packs are dependable and durable mainstays of the Osprey range. The


  • Durable
  • Easy to adjust
  • Lots of features
  • Recycled body and bottom fabric


  • You may want a lighter pack

Best winter hiking backpack


Mammut's Trion 50 is a lighter, less expensive sibling to the Trion Spine 50. The Trion 50 is


  • Lightweight
  • Tough
  • Comfortable with a heavy load
  • Can carry skis


  • One size and non-adjustable back length

Best hiking daypack for summer

Osprey Sirrus 26Live For The Outdoors


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

Best waterproof hiking backpack

Ortlieb AtrackLive For The Outdoors
Price: £220.00 (35L)


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
  • PVC-free
  • 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 daypacks (15-30L) to overnight packs. 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 hill walks. 
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

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.

How we tested

Our expert team of gear testers have spent many weeks throughout the year putting numerous hiking backpacks to the test in the hills and mountains.

Our testing is designed to thoroughly test the backpacks in the conditions for which they're intended. This may include long treks with a heavy load, fast and light mountain days, and peak bagging in mid-winter.

Annually, we create the ultimate shortlist of the very best gear in our Gear of the Year Awards.

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Chris Williams is a Digital Content Writer for Live For The Outdoors. He trained as a journalist in New Zealand and has been working on Live For The Outdoors since 2021.

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