One of the first pieces of gear you’ll need when going hiking is a backpack. Whether you are hiking a short trail or heading out for a few weeks, a backpack is a necessary piece of gear that will allow you to pack and carry everything you need. Since you will be wearing a backpack for hours, it is important to pick the right backpack. The best hiking backpack will help you climb those peaks and help balance the load on your shoulders.
Buying a hiking backpack is an investment, which is why it is important you find the right one. With such a large number of backpacks available on the market with different styles, sizes, and materials knowing how to recognize the best and knowing what you need can be a difficult and overwhelming process.
Our list of the 10 Best Hiking Backpacks in 2020 offers our top backpack recommendations and includes a buying guide and frequently asked questions section to help you choose the perfect backpack. Check out our list below to find the perfect hiking backpack for your needs.
How To Choose A Hiking Backpack – Buying Guide
When deciding which is the right hiking backpack to buy, it is important to consider a few key features. There are many different styles, materials, and fits for you to choose from and there are elements of each design that can enhance your time on the trail. Ultimately, you will need to choose which design works best for you.
Backpacks are an easy and convenient way to carry all the backpacking gear you need. You can bring a tent, food, clothes, and survival gear all in one backpack. Whether you are staying low or climbing high, a backpack is a great investment to add to your collection of outdoor gear. Before purchasing a backpack, it is best to consider the differences between each design and see which features might best suit your needs.
To make this selection process easier for you, we have made a guide highlighting certain key features of an outdoor backpack design that you should consider before making a purchase. We have also included some frequently asked questions and their provided answers to give you all the up to date information. With this guide, you will have the ability to confidently choose a backpack for yourself.
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With backpacks for hiking, comfort is crucial to its design. Comfort is one of the top factors you should consider when investing in a backpack. You will be carrying this backpack for miles and possibly weeks, so having a design that feels good on your body can make all the difference between an enthusiastic hiker and an irritable one.
The heavier the load is to carry, the more support it will need. Heavy loads will definitely need the extra support of a hip belt so that you can evenly distribute the weight around your body and keep the strain off your shoulders and back. By using the strength of your hips you can endure carrying more weight for longer, without tiring as quickly as you would by carrying just with your shoulders and back. A hip belt allows you to rest the majority of the weight on your hips, leaving minimal work for your shoulders and back.
A comfortable backpack will have a strong and padded hip belt and the best will have ventilation to help keep you cool. Your backpack should be fully adjustable since having straps from the shoulders to the hip that are adjustable allows you to find the perfect fit and balance for all the weight of your backpacking gear.
Related Review: Adjustable Length Backpack
The more money you spend on a backpack the better off you’ll be. The best hiking backpacks are costly, and you get what you pay for. High-quality backpacks don’t come cheap. The market will always have some good value options, but you should think of your backpack as an investment. If you find the right design that is comfortable for you and it is high-quality, it can last you for years.
Investing in a top-rated backpack allows you to reap the benefits of not only the backpack’s design but the manufacturer’s warranties as well. Most high-end backpacks made by reputable companies are backed by the company’s standard, which means lifetime guarantees for repairs and replacements.
While the cost may be expensive upfront, the value of your outdoor backpack will extend beyond the years and monetary cost.
A lightweight is key for a good backpack. When you are using a backpack to carry your gear, you don’t want the empty backpack to already be heavy. However, it is important to find a balance between a lightweight and durable design. The best hiking backpacks are all lightweight, but some are more so than others. While it is important to have a lighter backpack, there is a difference between lightweight and ultra-lightweight.
An ultra-lightweight backpack cuts down a few more ounces at most, but it may not be the best for you. Ultra-lightweight backpacks are normally made of thinner material which can mean it may not be as durable as you need them to be. If you are tossing the backpack and around and using it extensively, an ultra-lightweight design will break in a fairly short time period because it won’t be able to handle the extensive use.
However, if weight is a concern for you, perhaps using a daypack style backpack may be the best option for you. A daypack will minimize the weight of your backpack and be a smaller, more compact size. Ultra-light backpacks are great if you aren’t planning on carrying a lot of gear and you won’t be using them on a daily basis for multiple hours. A lightweight backpack should be sturdy enough to withstand a bit of tossing around and should still last for years.
Related Review: Lightweight Backpack
A backpack needs to be rough and tough, especially if you plan on giving it a beating on the trail. High-quality backpacks can withstand daily and persistent use throughout the years, without falling apart. Most backpack designs are tough because they know you are relying on them to lug your gear along.
Top-rated hiking backpacks will also be water-resistant so you can keep your gear dry and help preserve the longevity of your bag. With the added water resistance, your backpack will have an even better chance of beating the weather.
However, no backpack can last forever. A backpack that is used frequently eventually will wear down and accidents can happen, leading to damage. A durable backpack comes with a top-notch warranty. Look for a brand that backs their backpack with a Lifetime Warranty so you can be sure your backpack will last and should there be an issue you can easily get it fixed or replaced.
Depending on the level and duration of the hikes you are undertaking, an outdoor backpack that has a frame can be very useful on the trail. The frame gives a backpack structural support. It keeps the bag upright, which means the weight is stabilized and it is held closer to your body. With a frame, a backpack can’t slouch, and this can make all the difference when you are carrying a heavy backpack.
The frame is made of rods that are strategically placed into the design of the backpack at points where extra structure and stability help the most. There are two types of frames for backpacks for hiking. There is an external frame and an internal frame.
External frame backpacks are rather old-fashioned as there has been quite some advancement in the design of backpacks. External frame backpacks will have the frame on the outside. This means it can be seen and is quite bulky and heavier than other backpacks. The frame can also get in the way of your headspace, which can be an annoyance. External frames are not as practical anymore and they aren’t as commonly used.
Unlike external frame backpacks, internal frame backpacks will have the support rods built into the backpack. This means that you won’t be able to see the frame from the outside and, most likely, the inside either. Modern backpacks for hiking are excellent at integrating the frame into a non-intrusive design that you can feel, but not necessarily see. Hard parts of the frame will most likely be covered in padding, so it isn’t immediately obvious that part of the frame is there. If you want or need the added structural support, internal frames can greatly assist a backpack in evenly distributing the weight.
While frames make hiking easier, it isn’t always necessary for you to have them. Frames are built for heavier loads and generally, only larger sized hiking bags will have them. Most daypack style backpacks will not have a frame because they cannot carry as heavy a load. If you are packing light, you shouldn’t need a frame. In fact, if you pack light enough, a frame is an unnecessary additional weight on the trail.
Volume is a measurement, commonly in liters, of how much your backpack will hold. For backpacks for hiking, smaller is better. While this may seem contrary to popular belief, having a smaller volume backpack can help you economize your space and carry less weight.
To determine the volume size you need, you should take into consideration your activity, the time you will be away, and how much gear you need to carry. Always buy a bag that fits exactly what you need or is smaller. If you buy a big backpack, but don’t fill it completely, chances are you’ll have the urge to fill it. Often, when you fill a bag that is bigger than your needs, you end up carrying unnecessary weight.
If you can afford it, it might be best to invest in two backpacks. Some hikers enjoy having a set of backpacks for hiking with one that is larger and the other smaller. In general, for bigger expeditions, a 70L backpack is a good choice in volume for your gear. For smaller expeditions, a 30L backpack is a good choice in volume for your gear. Most daypack style backpacks will be 30L or less.
If you are going to be hiking in cold and snowy conditions, you might consider sizing up. While this is contrary to the ‘smaller is better’ idea, snow gear can take up a lot of space. For example, even if you aren’t packing a lot and are choosing to take along a 30L backpack and the weight of your summer and winter gear is the same, the space your winter gear takes up may not be. A 30L pack for the summer could easily fit your gear without weighing a lot. Snow gear could weigh the same as your summer gear but may not fit in a 30L pack because some of the gear, like warm layers, are puffier. Warm layers will take up more space, which requires a larger pack.
A general guide to determining how many liters you need is to calculate based on the duration of your trip. For trips that are 1-3 days long a 35-50 liter pack is a good choice. For trips that are 3-5 days, 50-70 liters should do. For long trips that are 6 days or more, you should look at packs that are at least 70 liters, if not larger.
Volume is one aspect of the size of your bag, but there is also the size in terms of how your backpack fits your body. Aside from choosing the volume size you need, you will need to find the size that correlates best to your torso. Torso length is more important than height to determine the size bag you need. The common bag sizes are extra small, small, medium/regular, and large/tall. Here is a general guide for how manufacturers determine what size bag fits what torso.
Extra Small: Up to 15 ½ inches.
Small: 16 to 17 inches.
Medium/Regular: 18 to 19 ½ inches.
Large/Tall: 20 inches and up.
To find your backpack size, you can measure yourself at home or in a store. At home, you will need a friend to help while the benefit of going to a store is that there should be a representative who is knowledgeable in backpack sizes who can help you find the best fit.
To find your measurements you will have to use a flexible tape measure. Tilt your head forward and have the person helping you feel for a bony bump that is at the base of your neck. The bony bump is your C7 vertebrae and marks the top end of your torso length. Starting at that point, you measure down to your hip bones.
The hip bones mark the bottom of your torso length. A good way to find your hip bone and where to measure to is to rest your hands comfortably on your hips. Your thumbs should point to a place on your back and this point is where you will stop the measurement. The torso length is the distance between your C7 vertebrae and your hip bones.
For women’s and kids’ backpacks, manufacturers may have a specific backpack that fits their bodies better. There are also unisex packs, but most women will find a pack catered to their torso is more comfortable and has a better fit. Backpacks that are designed with women in mind will work well with the shorter torso lengths, narrow shoulders, and a curved waist.
For youth hikers, a youth-specific backpack can be great because it has a better fit, but it also has a smaller volume. Some youth packs have an adjustable suspension that can be changed as the child grows.
Material is important when it comes to the durability and weight of your backpack. Hiking is an outdoor sport and hikers know that they are bound to face different weather elements on the trail. From rain and snow to scorching heat, hikers can face anything while out in the wilderness. The best hikers plan ahead and have gear that is prepared for the weather too.
A material that is water-resistant, tear-resistant, and quick-drying will be the best for a backpack. Water-resistant backpacks have two abilities; they can keep your gear dry and protect themselves too. A water-resistant backpack is more durable because it won’t be phased by rain or snow. The material won’t risk a buildup of mold or rot because it is better at resisting water and not allowing it to penetrate the material of the bag. Waterproof backpacks maybe even better because they can be ultra-protective. However, it’s important to learn the difference between a water-resistant vs. waterproof backpack to help determine what would best suit you. You can also invest in products like backpack rain covers and waterproofing sprays to provide extra protection.
A tear-resistant backpack can withstand a rugged trail. Accidental bumps or scrapes against rocks shouldn’t tear a hole in the side of your bag. You can confidently set the backpack down on a bumpy surface without worrying that a rock could cut a hole in the bottom. Any snag on branches should also be easily brushed off without damaging the material.
On top of water-resistance, a bag that is quick-drying has less chance of acquiring a buildup of harmful mold or rot. Plus, a quick-drying backpack means you aren’t having to lug around a soaking sack along the trail. Water is heavy, and a soaked backpack can put a major damper on your hike. Ventilated backpacks can be a great investment as they have quick dry features and also help keep you cool.
The material of your backpack also affects how much it weighs before it is packed full of your gear. The base weight of your backpack should be minimal. A way for backpacks to save on weight is to be made of lightweight, but durable materials. Nylon is a great lightweight material that is water-resistant and durable. It can be affordable for most hikers. A more expensive material that is worth the investment is called Dyneema. Dyneema is a lightweight and resistant material that can help you save a few ounces.
Related Review: Ventilated Backpack
The Cool Factor
Modern style backpacks are generally, very attractive looking bags. We can’t blame hikers for wanting to have a backpack that functions well and makes them look cool on the trail. Since backpacks for hiking are an investment, most users would also like the backpack to be stylish. Every hiker has a personal style and manufacturers keep this in mind when designing their backpacks.
There are many different styles, designs, and colors to choose from on the backpack market. From tactical backpacks to roll-top backpacks, there should be plenty of options for hikers to find a bag they think looks cool and is practical. Some of the top backpack brands that are popular amongst users are Patagonia backpacks and North Face backpacks. You can even take your dog along hiking and get dog backpacks too!
Globo Surf Overview
When it comes to choosing a hiking backpack, the task can seem daunting. With so many designs, one can feel lost trying to decide which hiking bag to choose.
This guide helps you break down the design and features for choosing a top-rated hiking pack. It is important to choose a backpack that you feel confident and comfortable using because you will most likely be using it multiple times and going quite the distance with it.
Additionally, you want to be sure your pack can handle the load. Hiking backpacks are a tool that is meant to assist you in your hike with carrying your gear. You shouldn’t have to wrestle packing or carrying your backpack.
Whether you only use it a couple of times a season or use it every week, your backpack will be a companion and you want it to be reliable.
More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:
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- Hiking Socks
- Shoe Glue
- Backpacking Sleeping Bag
- Dslr Camera
- Trekking Poles
- Tactical Boots
- Backpacking Stove
- Backpacking Sleeping Pad
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- Osprey Backpack
- Roll Top Backpack
- Solar Backpack
- Under Armour Backpack
- Black Diamond Backpack
- Columbia Backpack
- Picnic Backpack
Do you own one of the hiking backpacks that made it onto our list? Let us know how it has worked for your outdoor needs in the comments section below.