Best Backpacking Backpacks for Hiking and Travel

Whether you're going traveling, backpacking for a weekend or planning a multi-day thru-hike, these are the best packs for the job.


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Welcome to our shortlist of the best backpacking backpacks for travel, multi-day and overnight backpacking trips.

All the backpacks included in this buyer’s guide are high quality packs that will last you many years and many miles as well as women’s and men’s specific fits.

There’s a pack for every need and style of backpacking, from luxe, larger capacity packs for traveling and long-haul backpacking through to minimalist, ultralight packs for fast-and-light backpacking weekenders.

Best backpacking backpacks by Trail and Kale 1

Osprey Atmos AG 65 Pack Best Backpacks for Thru Hiking Trail and Kale

Osprey Atmos AG and Aura AG 65 | Overall Best Backpacking Backpack

  • Choose if: You want a high-quality, versatile backpacking pack for travel or multi-day hiking adventures
  • Cost: $325
  • Capacity: 60-68L
  • Weight: 4lb 3 to 4lb 13 depending on size
  • Volumes available: 50L, 65L

These men’s and women’s Osprey backpacks are best sellers for good reason – they’re in that volume sweet-spot that most people look for when you want one you can use for weekends as well as week-long multi-day trips, or longer with resupply available every 5-7 days or so.

The Atmos (men’s) and Aura (women’s) are highly adjustable and comfortable to wear for long backpacking trips and round-the-world travels.

These Osprey packs are also loaded with other desirable features such, as plenty of pockets (11 plus the main compartment), external loops for hiking poles, zipped sleeping bag compartment, ventilated mesh back panel, and compression straps to secure and stabilize the load.

Gregory Deva Backpack Best Womens Backpacking Packs Trail and Kale

Gregory Packs Baltoro 65 and Deva 60 | Runner Up

  • Choose if: You want a high-quality, versatile backpacking pack for travel or multi-day hiking adventures, try on this Gregory pack as well as considering the Osprey pack, above
  • Cost: $320
  • Capacity: 60/65L
  • Weight: 4lb 11 to 5lb 4
  • Volumes available: 60/65L, 70/75L, 80/85L, 100L (Baltoro only)

These Gregory backpacks are also very popular choices when it comes to versatile and comfortable packs.

They’re durable, stable, and feature rotating load transfer panels on the hip belt, as well as other features such as well-padded straps and hip belt and a zippered bottom sleeping bag compartment.

We particularly like the side zip-up access panel, meaning you don’t need to open the top of the pack and pull everything out, or dive in to the bottom to access an item that is packed in the middle of your pack. $329.95 See Deal See Deal
Last Amazon price update was: April 18, 2024 2:00 pm

Outdoor Vitals Backpack Shadowlight Ultralight Backpacking

Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight 45L/60L | Best Ultralight Backpack

  • Choose if: You want the very best ultralight backpacking pack on the market
  • Cost: $199
  • Capacity: 45L
  • Weight: 1lb 14.5
  • Other volumes available: 60L (weighs 1lb 15.5)

When it comes to lightweight backpacks and other ultralight backpacking and hiking gear, Outdoor Vitals are a fantastic brand to check out.

The Outdoor Vitals Shadowlight backpacks are exceptionally well-designed, not to mention market-leading value for money, at less than $200 (for the 45L size) and less than 2lb in weight!

These backpacks are made from lightweight, highly technical materials, with thoughtful frame design, padding and pockets, including large mesh pockets that are great as flex space or an area to store wet gear on the outside of your pack.

This is the ultimate backpack to choose if you’re looking for an ultralight pack for ultralight backpacking, travel, and thru-hiking adventures.

Gregory Paragon 48 Backpack Best Packs for Backpacking Trail and Kale

Gregory Paragon 48 and Maven 45 | Best for Weekend Backpacking

  • Choose if: You need a compact backpacking backpack for weekend trips and overnighters.
  • Cost: $220
  • Capacity: 45/48L
  • Weight: 3lb 5 / 3lb 8
  • Other volumes available: 45/48L, 55/58L, 65/68L

Total capacity (liters) 45-48 / Weight: 3lb 5oz to 3lb 8oz / Price: $200

These smaller volume Gregory packs are a sleek choice for shorter backpacking trips and overnighters where you need to carry more than a daypack but don’t need all the volume of a 60+ liter pack – or the temptation to fill a larger pack with more weight than you really need.

The Paragon and Maven backpacks (men’s and women’s respectively) are feature-packed, including full-length side-loading access, thoughtful additional features such as a bungee to hold sunglasses, and easy-to-access mesh pockets on the side for stashing a water bottle or other essentials.

Deuter Aircontact Pro 70 Best Large Volume Backpack Trail and Kale

Deuter Aircontact Pro 70 + 15 / 65 + 15 | Best Large Capacity Backpack

  • Choose if: You need a seriously large capacity backpacking backpack for long haul travels and backpacking trips.
  • Cost: $285
  • Capacity: 65+/70+L
  • Weight: 6lb 11 to 6lb 14
  • Other volumes available: No

The men’s version features up to 70 liters capacity (65 for the women’s version) in the main compartment, plus 10-15 in the side pockets, and the top compartment can be detached and used as a separate daypack.

These Deuter packs have a tall, slimline design (it expands upwards with volume) to keep weight as close to your center of gravity as possible – super important, especially with these larger-volume, and therefore likely heavier loads.

They also come with a detachable raincover and offer many of the features you’d expect of a technical backpack, with plenty of pockets (including on the hip belt), and durable construction. $209.00
out of stock
See Deal See Deal
Last Amazon price update was: April 18, 2024 2:00 pm

REI Traverse Backpacking Backpack 1

REI Co-Op Traverse 60 Pack | Best Value Pack

  • Choose if: You’re on a budget but still want a versatile pack to take on multi-day and overnight camping trips
  • Cost: $229
  • Capacity: 60L
  • Weight: 4lb 2 to 4lb 5
  • Other volumes available: No

The new REI Traverse men’s and women’s backpacking backpacks offer a versatile and great value option at under $230 compared to the competition’s price points that are closer to the $300 mark.

These packs have plenty of great features, including a rain cover, many pockets (including on the hip belt), a removable sleeping bag section divider, water bottle pockets that are easy to access on the go, and continuous padding from the hipbelt to lumbar area.

These REI Traverse packs are also compatible with 3 liter hydration reservoir (bought separately).

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest Backpack Best Ultralight Backpack Trail and Kale

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest | Alternative Ultralight Backpack

  • Choose if: You want a very lightweight backpack and are happy to pay a premium for it
  • Cost: $379
  • Capacity: 55L
  • Weight: 2lb 2 to 2lb 4
  • Other volumes available: No

This ultralight backpacking backpack is unisex but available in small, medium and large sizes.

The Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest pack features a minimal aluminum frame, minimally padded shoulder straps (to keep the weight low), a simple hip belt (with two zippered pockets), three front pockets for essentials and one large main compartment – plus rear stash pockets.

The lightweight Dyneema fabric is already waterproof so you don’t need a separate raincover, and this HMG pack also has compression straps to pack everything down close to your body to help with stability while you hike.

Hiking and Travel Backpack Buyer’s Guide

To work out what size and style of backpacking pack is going to be the best choice for you, it helps to think about how you would answer the following questions when it comes to your personal preferences, needs, where you’ll be hiking or traveling, and how long for.

How long will you be going backpacking for?

  • Weekends?
  • A week?
  • Multi-day trips?
  • Thru-hiking?

Generally, weekend trips of between 1-3 nights can be done with a 50-liter pack or smaller.

It can be helpful to avoid taking a larger pack than you need, so you have less temptation to pack more than you will require (which would make your pack weight unnecessarily heavy!).

The most popular backpacks, and some of the best options out there, fall within the versatile 50-65 liter size range.

Most people, for most backpacking trips, including thru-hikers (assuming a reasonable resupply interval and that you don’t carry lots of luxury items) will be very happy with a pack in this size range.

This is also, therefore, the size category where you will find the most choice of men’s and women’s packs to choose from.

Within the 50-65 liter size category, pack volumes can vary depending on whether you are looking at men’s or women’s packs, and whether it’s a pack with a small, medium or large torso length (some packs are available with these size options to choose from).

Larger men’s packs tend to have a couple more liters of volume capacity than the smaller men’s, or women’s packs, for example.

You can also get backpacks that are larger than 65 liters. However, bear in mind that bigger isn’t necessarily better.

A full 65+ liter pack can amount to a very heavy load and could be difficult to carry without some great core strength and training in advance.

Some winter backpackers and thru-hikers will want packs of this size, but think carefully before taking the plunge and buying a large-volume pack like this.

How much stuff do you want to carry?

Consider in particular:

  • what will your sleeping set-up be (in particular your choice of sleeping pad and bag size)
  • how much food do you plan to take with you
  • how will you carry water (in a hydration bladder or in water bottles, or both), and
  • what is your trail cooking setup going to look like (for example, what size or type backpacking stove do you intend to carry in your pack)?

For shorter, lighter people, consider how much the contents of your pack (including food and water) will weigh compared to your own weight.

Carrying heavy loads can be really hard work and uncomfortable, making your backpacking trip less enjoyable, especially for shorter trips where you may be able to do without some luxuries that you’d consider worth carrying for those longer trips.

For longer trips, how long do you need to be self-sufficient and carry your own food and water?

The volume and weight of food and water you need to carry are going to vary depending on how much you need to carry with you (plus some for emergencies), and how quickly you consume it.

If you need to be self-sufficient for a week or more then you’ll need a bigger pack to carry all the food you’ll need, even if the rest of your gear is fairly minimal.

Also plan how you’re going to refill with water, and consider taking a backpacking water filter so you can confidently fill up at water sources along your backpacking route.

Are you going backpacking in bear country?

Bear barrels can be essential to carry with you if so, but also they are a large item to carry in your pack so you may need to consider this when choosing your backpack’s size.

What time of year will you be backpacking?

Winter backpacking, for example, normally necessitates carrying extra gear.

Such gear may include crampons and an ice axe, a larger (warmer) backpacking sleeping bag, an insulating sleeping pad to keep you off the cold ground, and extra layers of bulkier clothing than you’d need for summer backpacking trips.

Your tent and stove may also need to be bulkier to battle the colder conditions for sleeping and cooking, respectively.

All this extra winter gear will mean your backpacking pack needs to be big enough to fit it all in.

Will you be backpacking with kids?

Ideally, your kids will carry their own pack!

However, even so, you may benefit from having the additional volume capacity in your own pack in case they can’t carry everything they need and you may need to carry some additional load.

Key features of the best backpacking packs for multi-day hiking and trekking


Just like with choosing your hiking boots, when it comes to choosing the best backpacking pack, comfort should be your top priority.

When you’re wearing a potentially heavy pack to move in over uneven terrain, for hours at a time, and on consecutive days, you definitely want to make sure that pack is staying in place, fitting close and comfortably to your body, and not digging in, rubbing, chafing or otherwise causing pain on any part of your body.

Therefore, the best quality backpacks that have load distribution, responsive mesh back panels (that offer support and breathability) and comfortable, padded shoulder straps and hip belts, are going to be what to look for.

Pockets and access

The location, size and features of internal and external pockets on these backpacking packs varies, from very few exterior pockets, to 11+ pockets, plus the main compartment.

Whether you like lots of external pockets comes down to personal preference.

They can help with organization and quick access to essentials, but on the downside you need to remember what gets stored where, so you don’t misplace items, and the pockets do add some weight to the pack overall.

If pockets are important to you, look at where they are on the pack, does the pack have hip belt pockets, whether they are bungee, magnetic, zippered or mesh pockets and whether they will actually fit your gear.

For example – does the phone or water bottle pocket actually fit the phone or water bottle you’d want to carry with you?

Empty pack weight – are ultralight backpacking packs worth the money?

Backpack weight is influenced by the size, design and price point of the pack.

Generally, as with other outdoor gear, a more lightweight pack is going to be more expensive, when comparing it to other packs of a similar size.

Most backpacking backpacks weigh between 3lb and 7lb when empty, although larger (and cheaper) packs can weigh more, and you can find more minimal lightweight packs that weigh under 3lb.

However, before you go out and look for the most ultralight backpack you can find (like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear pack featured above), bear in mind that a pack with more padding, structure and support, as well as a larger selection of pockets and storage options, may make your backpacking trip much more enjoyable as you’ll be able to hike in greater comfort, despite the slightly heavier base pack weight compared to lighter options.

Other backpack features

A waterproof pack cover may be important for certain climates, and some backpacks such as many of the Gregory packs come with a rain cover included.

Otherwise, you can buy these separately.

Bungees or small zippered pockets for essentials such as snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses and your phone.

Many packs have these on the shoulder straps and hip belt pockets where you can safely store these items and easily access them while hiking.

Daisy chain and cord for storing items such as a sleeping mat and adventure gear such as helmets, pack towels (when you hang them out to dry), and even solar panels to charge your phone/headlamp with are useful extras that many quality backpacks offer.

Hydration bladder / reservoir and/or bottle storage and access – many people like having a hydration bladder in their pack, as you can carry that weight close to your core and don’t have a bulky bottle taking up space in the side pockets.

Most backpacks are compatible with hydration reservoirs and offer ports by the shoulder straps for the drinking hose.

Bottles, on the other hand, are much easier to clean and refill, so it comes down to personal preference and what features you value the most.

What are the best hiking backpacks for women?

If you’re a woman, do you really need (or would you be better off with) a women’s-specific backpack?

For people with smaller statures, narrower shoulders and a shorter torso length than the average man, then yes, probably. This applies to both men and women.

For most women, a women’s-specific backpack is likely to be a better choice, for this reason, as other features, such as the shoulder straps, are designed to take into account womens’ chest shape in a way that most men’s / unisex backpacks do not.

The good news on this front is that most of the best backpack brands design women’s-specific packs in their whole range of sizes, so if you feel you may benefit from the added thought that has gone into designing a pack for womens’ body shapes, then you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

How to pack a backpack

Pack heavier loads and bulky items in the middle of the pack body, closest to your back.

Bulky sleeping gear such as sleeping bags go at the bottom, and items you’ll need while backpacking or for emergencies, such as first aid kit, sunglasses, maps and layers, should be packed near the top and/or in easy-to-access exterior zippered or mesh pockets.

Generally, a mesh pocket is best for layers that you can quickly stuff into, and pull out of the pocket as the weather changes, whereas zippered pockets are best for keeping small and valuable items safe.

Having a place for everything is key to packing a backpack effectively so it’s not a mess every time you remove one item and have to re-pack it!

HillSound Equipment Packstack Weatherproof Backpack packing cubes
Packing cubes such as these PackStacks are a great help when it comes to backpack organization

To help with backpack organization, you can also use packing cubes to keep items together, so you have one for your clothes, one for your cooking kit, and so on.

PackStacks from Hillsound Equipment are a great example, and are actually shaped to stack in a 40 or 60 liter backpack.

What backpack is best for day hiking or fastpacking?

If you’ve read this post on the best backpacking backpacks and are thinking you’d be better off with a smaller pack because you either pack really minimal, want it primarily for day hikes, or want a pack that you can wear to run in, for example for fastpacking trips, then read these next:

As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.


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