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 pack crossing a stream

by Chris Williams |

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.

Our shortlist

Atom Packs The Atom + EP50Best hiking backpack 2023

Vango Sherpa 60:70Best budget hiking backpack

Gregory Focal 48Best overnight hiking backpack

Osprey Kyte 58Best for backpacking

Mammut Trion 50Best winter hiking backpack

Osprey Sirrus 26Best daypack for summer

Ortlieb AtrackBest 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
The Atom+ EP50 with award overlay
Live For The Outdoors

Description

Winner of the [Trail Gear of the Year awards

Pros

  • Incredibly lightweight
  • Clever design features
  • Tailored size options

Cons

  • Patchy availability
The Atom+ EP50 with award overlay

2. Vango Sherpa 60:70

Best budget hiking backpack
Vango Sherpa 60:70 hiking backpack
Live For The Outdoors

Description

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • Others have better breathability and sustainability
Vango Sherpa 60:70 hiking backpack

3. Gregory Focal 48

Best overnight hiking backpack

Description

Over a three-day, 100+km east coast hike, we found the Grogory Focal 48 comfy, providing top-notch

Pros

  • Superb load transfer
  • Comfortable
  • Good durability-lightness balance
  • PFC-free

Cons

  • Slightly unusual fit might not suit everyone
Gregory Focal 48 hiking backpack

4. Osprey Kyte 58

Best for backpacking

Description

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • You may want a lighter pack
Osprey Kyte 58

5. Mammut Trion 50

Best winter hiking backpack

Description

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

Pros

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

Cons

  • One size and non-adjustable back length
Mammut Trion 50

6. Osprey Sirrus 26

Best hiking daypack for summer
Osprey Sirrus 26
Live For The Outdoors

Description

The Sirrus and Stratos range is one of Osprey's best-selling lines. The comfort, quality, and

Pros

  • Good ventilation
  • Plenty of thoughtful features
  • Made from 100% recycled materials
  • Tough and durable
  • PFC-free DWR raincover

Cons

  • Not the lightest daypack
  • High positioning may not suit everyone
Osprey Sirrus 26

7. Ortlieb Atrack

Best waterproof hiking backpack
Ortlieb Atrack
Live For The Outdoors

Description

We’ve used this pack for travel in addition to hiking, and it’s proven to be a very durable pack.

Pros

  • Tough and durable
  • IP67 waterproof
  • PVC-free
  • Extra attachments available

Cons

  • Not the most breathable
Ortlieb Atrack

What to look for in a hiking backpack

Hiker wearing a red daypack
©Live For The Outdoors

Activity

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.

Volume

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

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.

Weatherproofing

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.

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