LAST UPDATED: October 12, 2019
Best Backpacking Backpacks: Store All Your Camping Needs
Pack all the essential gear you need for your camping trip with these backpacking backpacks
The Review Team
How We Decided
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
PUBLISHED ON October 12, 2019
Backpacking is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you’re a professional or just starting out, you need the proper gear to make it through a hike more comfortably and easily. One of the best pieces of gear to bring along with you is a backpacking backpack. They allow you to stow away everything you’ll need to make camp and hike any terrain. Here are the best ones to consider for your next trip.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Backpacking Backpacks
- Comfort. One of the main purposes of backpacking backpacks is to provide less strain on your back compared to other types of luggage for your multi-day travels. Backpacking backpacks evenly distribute the weight so they don’t add more weight to one side of your body, causing strain and aches. Instead, they’re designed to evenly distribute weight on your shoulders and hips to make them comfortable to carry for hours at a time. They’re also equipped with thick straps on your shoulders to prevent the bag from digging in.
- Easy to store. Backpacking backpacks are easy to store in overhead bins and public transport, since they’re made of materials that can easily flatten, and are a suitable size and shape for these locations. Some of the best backpacking backpacks also feature compression straps so you can secure your contents and squish the back to take up minimal room.
- Organizes your belongings. Travel backpacks typically offer several compartments to securely and neatly store items such as a passport, money, camera, smartphone, and more. This ensures delicate items are protected during travel and allows you to find your items quickly.
Types of Backpacking Backpacks
Frameless backpacks are ultralight and can hold up to 40 liters of items, which is ideal for most backpackers. The backpacks themselves are the lightest types since they don’t contain any aluminum or plastic frames to support it. They’re best suited for a two-day vacation since the capacity isn’t big enough for bulky items. They are ultralight and well-suited for alpine ascents on day hikes to reduce carrying any additional weight. However, they don’t transfer the weight from your shoulders to your hips, so don’t overload them.
Internal frame backpacks are ideal for carrying ultralight to medium-heavy loads. They offer a rigid construction using flat aluminum rods and a plastic frame to prevent the backpack from collapsing. This structure transfer’s the backpack’s weight from the shoulders to the hips to encourage larger muscles in your body to hold the weight, rather than the shoulders. An internal frame backpack can typically hold up to 40 liters.
External frame backpacks are designed for the heaviest loads and typically have a capacity of 50 liters. These backpacks feature shoulder straps and a hip belt to support your body while holding a heavy backpack. To improve their durability, they use a large aluminum frame to decrease any additional weight. External-frame backpacks are easily customized to adjust the backpack’s position to suit your height.
Men’s Top Brands for The Best Backpacking Backpacks
Osprey was founded in 1974 in California and a popular search on Amazon. Their backpacks are lightweight to take the strain off of your back. Osprey produces an array of travel backpacks with a front-loading design for easy access to your belongings while you’re walking. Our favorites from Osprey are the Hikelite 18 Backpack and Aether AG 70.
Gregory was founded in 1977 in San Diego, Calif, and has a great selection of unisex bags. Their backpacks use high-quality, durable materials that can handle blizzards and rain while protecting your belongings with their rainproof designs. Our favorite products are the Mountain Border and the Zulu backpacks.
Kelty has been producing some of the best backpacking backpacks since 1952. Their selections are extremely versatile and designed for daily commutes or long vacations on the other side of the globe. They also have a wide range of prices to suit any budgets. Our top picks are the Kelty Redwing 44 Liter Backpack and the Kelty Trekker 65 External Frame Backpack.
Peak Design is one of the newest backpack brands and was founded in 2011. Their travel backpacks are minimalist, so you’re not carrying unnecessary added weight to your back. They’re also keen to use recycled materials, which is an added benefit for the environment. Our top picks are the Travel Dufflepack and the Everyday Backpack.
Backpacking Backpacks Pricing
- Under $50: For this price range, a backpacking backpack will typically hold up to 50 liters. Many backpacks under $50 are the smallest you can buy and feature up to four compartments, since they don’t have a large capacity.
- Between $50-$100: If this is your budget, you can expect a backpack between 50 and 80 liters, and more features than a basic one. Since the price is larger, the bag will be bigger and that comes with additional compartments. These are usually padded to protect your belongings, and the backpack itself will be lightweight to reduce any extra weight.
- Over $100: Backpacks over $100 are the highest quality, and will use lightweight materials, such as nylon, to reduce any excess weight on the backpack. Most are water-resistant with a rain cover and designed to withstand wear and tear. They’ll typically have a capacity of 80 or more liters, and feature shoulder straps and a hip belt to evenly distribute the weight, so you don’t ache on long walks.
Shoulder and Hip Straps
Padded shoulder straps prevent your shoulders from bruising while carrying a backpack and prevent the backpack from digging into your shoulders. Straps help to soften the load and make the backpack more comfortable to hold, especially if the straps are wide and thick.
A padded hip belt is essential for spreading the weight across your body to eliminate any strain and pain. Hip belts also secure the backpack to you so you don’t have to hold on while venturing on long hikes. Many backpacks also feature hip belt pockets for extra storage space.
Look for backpacking backpacks with numerous compartments so you have easy access to your belongings. The number and size of compartments depend on the items you typically carry. Most backpacks offer 3-5 compartments so you can safely store your devices from liquids. Look for external compartments that provide easy access to a bottle, smartphone, and other items.
Materials make a huge difference to the backpack’s weight and durability. Look for nylon or Dyneema composite fabric, which are both water-resistant, lightweight, and can withstand a few snags and tears along the way. Nylon and polyester are high-quality, durable materials, which are ideal for hikes in the wood to prevent the backpack from damaging.
Other Considerations for a Backpacking Bag
- Padding. If you’re carrying delicate items such as a laptop or glass accessories, padded compartments will keep your items safe and secure during transport. You should also look for padding features on the straps and the back of the backpack to improve comfort while walking.
- Mesh Back Panel. If you intend on carrying your backpack with you in hot climates, avoid sweaty back syndrome by purchasing a travel backpack with a mesh back panel. This material absorbs any sweat to keep you dry and comfortable during your travels.
- Size. Consider the backpack’s size for capacity and to suit your torso length. Anything below 40 liters is considered lightweight and the smallest you’ll get. 50-70-liters are ideal for a one-week vacation. Anything above 70 liters will be the largest backpacks and are designed for taller body frames.
Best Backpacking Backpacks Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The Teton Sports Scout backpack features two side pockets—one elasticated and one zippered. Both pockets are large enough for a one-liter water bottle with a snug fit to prevent the bottle from falling out. This backpack offers lower straps, which are great for attaching gear such as a sleeping tent. The mesh pocket to the back is ideal for storing small items, such as a rain jacket or map, so you have important accessories at hand, such as a hydration pack.
One of the biggest advantages of this backpack is the adjustable torso straps so the backpack fits all torso length. The Velcro system is easy to use and offers incredible adjustability. The backpack is designed to be comfortable for extended walks, thanks to the padded shoulder straps and pads for your lumbar and waist.
Something to consider with this backpack is the fabric on the side pockets. As you obtain your items, the fabric can scrape your fingers. Plus, the elastic flap covering the bottom zipper makes it difficult to quickly access the backpack in emergencies.
The G4Free backpack offers an impressive 40L capacity, while it is lightweight and durable, thanks to the nylon fabric. This soft and flexible material also allows you to fold it and store it in a drawer when not in use. It’s designed for multi-day long trips, so you can find multiple internal and external pockets to store your belongings. Some of the interior pockets are padded to protect your tablet and laptop for long haul flights.
The best feature of this backpack is that only weighs 12 ounces to eliminate any unnecessary strain during hikes. The nylon fabric is also water- and tear-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about your backpack ripping during your adventure.
One of the disadvantages of this backpack is the small amount of padding on the shoulder strap. For a backpack of this capacity, most people will fill it to its maximum, and this could create some pressure on your shoulders over time.
The Mountaintop Hiking backpack features accompanying D-rings located on the shoulder straps, so you can attach additional items that might be difficult to pack. This backpack offers many safety features, such as the reflective band to improve visibility and emergency white buckle, which is ideal for hiking.
A standout feature of this backpack is the height adjuster, so you can heighten or lower the backpack to suit different sizes. This function makes the backpack less strenuous for long walks.
Bear in mind that the backpack isn’t 100 percent waterproof, which isn’t ideal if you wish to take it outdoors in all climates. Some customers also reported that the exterior pocket for a water bottle is short, causing the bottle to hang out a little.
If you're looking for a spacious backpack for your long hiking trips, this particular model might be an excellent choice for you. With the capacity of 80 liters, the backpack can hold all the stuff you need for traveling and outdoor exploring.
The backpack weighs 5.5 pounds and proves to be strong and durable. Thanks to the multi-position torso adjustments, it fits all body sizes and shapes. You can adjust it according to your needs and enjoy comfort during your backpacking adventures. Furthermore, the open-cell foam lumbar pad and molded channels are specially designed to ensure airflow and balance.
Another great thing about this backpack is the attractive price. You'll get a quality item with thick-padded shoulder straps, waistbands, and much more. For the price, the Teton backpack is one of the best options on the market.
The product is not without drawbacks, though. First, the side pockets are a little narrow, and the zippers go from the bottom to the top. Second, there are a lot of buckles on the bag, and they make it bulky. Finally, the top cover is water-resistant but not waterproof. Keep that in mind so your stuff doesn't get soaked in the rain.
This Mountaintop backpack is ideal for those looking for a fine balance of style and functionality. It offers quite some space and comes in more than a dozen different colors. You'll most certainly be able to find the perfect one to take on your adventures.
The backpack is available in two sizes. Choose between the capacity of 55 and 80 liters. Both are equally well-built and useful. The one minor difference is that an 80-liter backpack has the zippered opening on the side to make accessing the main compartment easier.
The Mountaintop backpack offers an adjustable waist belt that extends up to 57 inches. Therefore, you can adjust it according to your body and make it more comfortable. All in all, the model is quite comfortable and features water-resistant nylon. It even comes with a waterproof cover for more protection on rainy days.
There are only a couple of things that need improvement. For example, the part that goes at the top of the shoulders needs more padding. That would make the backpack even more comfortable when carrying heavy loads. The front opening to the main compartment is also a little inconvenient because it doesn't flap open from the bottom. Additionally, the buckles don't offer a snap-release mechanism, which means you'll have more difficulty adjusting the straps.
This is another high-quality backpack worthy of your attention. With the capacity of 75 liters, it proves to be ideal for long backpacking trips that require taking a lot of stuff. Overall, the backpack is very convenient, well-built, and comes in three classy colors.
The thing that makes this backpack unique is the material used for the construction. The quality nylon and Duralite fabric are there to ensure more stability and durability. The used materials are super comfortable as well. The backpack's internal frame features aluminum bars that follow the contours of your back, and the back panel is extra padded. You can also adjust the shoulder straps and the waist belt.
It's also important to mention that this backpack allows for excellent airflow. You won't get sweaty while backpacking and stay cool and comfortable. Additionally, the backpack comes with a water-resistant cover for rainy days.
The main thing to keep in mind, though, is the fact that the backpack is a little heavy. It might require you to put more effort when backpacking for multiple days in demanding conditions. Also, some buyers complained about the quality of the shoulder straps. They are quite comfortable but might be difficult to adjust, and they wear out quickly.
If you're looking for a lighter backpack for day hikes and short backpacking trips, this item might be ideal for you. It's a stylish and spacious backpack that allows you to pack up to 50 pounds. Because it weighs only 4.56 pounds, it will provide more mobility and won't slow you down.
Now, when it comes to overall comfort, the anti-gravity suspension feature ensures ultimate balance. Therefore, you'll feel like you’re carrying less weight on your back. The features that also add to overall comfort are the adjustable harness and hip belt—they transfer weight and ensure a perfect fit. The back panel is also made of breathable mesh fabric to provide excellent ventilation.
Lastly, the backpack comes with many pockets to hold all your belongings, from clothes to small essentials. The top lid is removable, and the internal hydration reservoir sleeve holds a three-liter reservoir.
There are only a few minor drawbacks to this product, with the main one being the design of the zippers. They are awkwardly positioned and quite stiff, so moving them up and down is almost impossible with just one hand. Another inconvenience is the hip belt, which either slips or gets too tight, depending on your body type.
With the optimal capacity between 40 and 60 pounds, this backpack is suitable for both short and long backpacking trips. Kelty made sure to design an item that is not only highly functional but comfortable and stylish as well.
The backpack features one large compartment and zippered side pockets. It has a hex mesh back panel that ensures excellent ventilation. That makes the backpack ideal for summer backpacking. Additionally, there are padded and wide shoulder straps and a hip belt to balance the load and ensure more comfort during extended use.
However, some buyers did complain about the padding on the straps not being very thick. They might be a little uncomfortable when you fill the backpack to full capacity. The zipper strings are not very sturdy either. They might break quickly, so you'll need to use them carefully.
The Osprey backpacking backpack is a convenient option for those going on short trips and adventures. The item offers a capacity of 40 pounds and weighs only 2.57 pounds. It's one of the lightest options on our list, providing excellent mobility and incredible comfort.
Although the lightweight design is one of the best things about this backpack, there are some other features you'll most certainly love about it. First, the AirSpeed suspension ensures the weight is distributed properly and that your back can breathe. The material offers excellent ventilation for hot summer days. Second, there are dual-access mesh pockets for storing bottles and other essentials. Additionally, the top lid is removable, and the internal hydration reservoir sleeve holds reservoirs of up to 3 liters. You'll have to buy the reservoir separately, though.
Just don't forget that this is a lightweight backpack. With a capacity of up to 40 pounds, this product is not large enough to fit the needs of long-lasting adventures. It's mostly suitable for short day trips. Another minor thing that might bother you is the lack of zippers on the exterior side pockets. Although stored items are not likely to fall out, zippers would make these pockets more secure.
- Even though backpacking backpacks are rated to carry a lot of gear, you shouldn’t pack too much weight. This could lead to backaches and make it more difficult to carry.
- Take frequent breaks so you don’t wear yourself out. Part of the fun of hiking and backpacking is exploring and seeing the environment, not racing through it.
- Pack plenty of water with you while backpacking. You can pack several water bottles in the bag or insert a water bladder with an extendable straw for more convenience.
- Always pack a first aid kit on any camping trip and hike, so that you have supplies in case you get injured.
Q: Is there a proper way to pack a backpacking backpack?
A: There are many efficient ways to pack a backpack and no real standard or right way to do it. Make sure any clothing or cloth items are folded and placed at the bottom. You should pack the most useful and necessary items on the top, so you can reach them more quickly. Many backpacks feature special pockets and pouches specifically designed for larger items like sleeping bags and tents.
Q: What are the essential things I should pack in the bag?
A: The most important thing you should pack is water and food. Water can be stored in bottles or a bladder, while food can be a lightweight protein bar, nuts, or instant camping and hiking foods where you just add water. Make sure to also pack a tactical flashlight, hammer, and the correct type of clothes for either winter or summer.
Q: What can I do to prepare for a backpacking trip?
A: Condition yourself before setting off on any journey. If it’s a long trip, you should consider walking or exercising a bit before to limber up your body. Always make sure to stretch, and choose a trial or destination that is within your limits. If you are just starting out, you should go on a shorter hike that is closer to home. Always consider traveling with a friend, and get tips from experienced hikers as well.
The Teton Sports Scout Internal Frame Backpacking Backpack is one of the largest and best backpacking backpacks with an expansive central pocket and several exterior ones for your gear.
There’s also the G4Free Lightweight Packable Backpacking Backpack, which comes in several colors and can fit essential equipment with ease.