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 the best 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 best hiking backpack for your needs.
How To Choose A Hiking Backpack – Buying Guide
When deciding which is the best 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 you.
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.
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. The best hiking backpack will stay with you as you make lifelong memories.
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 it 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 it 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.
The best hiking backpack you can invest in 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 with come 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!
Q: What is the difference between a backpacking and hiking backpack?
In general, the difference between a backpack for backpacking and hiking comes down to the details. However, it may be best to define the difference between backpacking and hiking. Or attempting to define it because everyone has their own specific ideas. Backpacking and hiking can mostly be defined by the amount of time on the trail and what you are carrying with you.
Backpacking commonly means you will be going out in the wilderness and setting up one or more overnight camps. Backpackers normally spend days out on the trail and sometimes even weeks or months, in extreme treks. Due to the time spent on the trail, backpacking means that you have to carry all your gear with you. Typical gear includes your clothes, tent, kitchen, survival tools, and any other extras. Backpacking normally means you will go to the rugged wilderness, so don’t expect to find man-made trails.
Hiking is commonly thought of as a daytime activity. Hikers head out for one day or less and return to a base location. Hiking can also have a large range of trail conditions. Some hikes are man-made and constructed, so they are easy to walk. Others are off the beaten trail. However, due to the shorter amount of time on the trail, you don’t have to carry everything with you. A few extra layers, some survival gear, and a few snacks should safely get you through a day of hiking.
When it comes to the differences in backpacking and hiking backpacks it comes down to the volume, frame, and some added features. Backpacks for backpacking need to be rather big. Most backpackers need to carry a 60L or 70L pack to fit all their gear. This can change if people backpack in groups and share the weight. Some women may only carry a 50L or 60L pack because they have a partner to share the load. Backpacks for backpacking will always have an internal frame because frame support can be very helpful when carrying that much weight. Most backpacks have many details that can fine-tune the bag to fit your body and balance the weight. From strap adjustments to different hip belt padding, these backpacks really bring the punches when it comes to detailed adjustments.
Hiking backpacks usually have a large size range. From small 25L packs to large 70L packs; though a pack that is large, between about 50L to 70L+, is more suited for backpacking because it can hold so much gear. Normally, a hike would never constitute carrying 70L worth of gear. Hiking backpacks can have frames, but it isn’t necessary. If you are carrying less gear, the frame can actually add unneeded assistance by making you carry more weight. However, if you choose to carry more, there are certainly hiking backpacks with frames available, but think of a frame as an option versus necessity. Hiking backpacks may also lack some of the added features that backpacks for backpacking have. Hiking backpacks may not be adjustable to the extent that a backpack for backpacking is, and they may not have a high-quality padded hip belt. Most daypack styles won’t have a hip belt at all. Other hiking backpacks just have straps for the chest and hips, not a fully padded belt.
The line between backpacking and hiking can get blurry. Some people prefer to backpack into a certain location and then set up a base camp, where they do day hikes from before trekking all the way back out to the start of the trail. This means they still have to pack like a backpacker, but they may have a smaller pack tucked away to take a lighter load for the shorter hikes. In general, the difference is in the amount of gear you carry and the size pack you need. Hikers normally, don’t have to pack on all their gear.
Q: What are the benefits of using a hiking backpack?
A hiking backpack is an easy and convenient way for hikers to carry the gear they need. It’s silly to imagine someone trying to carry multiple items in their arms. Hiking requires free arms to navigate the trails. Backpacks for hiking are meant to assist you in carrying what you need on the trail. A great backpack will easily carry all your gear and protect it too. Top-rated backpacks are weather resistant to ensure that you don’t have to worry about a little rain or snow.
Backpacks for hiking are also meant to bring you convenience. It’s easier to carry all your gear in one secure backpack, so an outdoor backpack should be able to pack everything you need. But beyond just carrying it, backpacks should make carrying it easier. Top-rated backpacks will have features that help you balance the weight once you adjust the pack to your body. A better distribution of weight means you can move easier without tiring as quickly.
Your backpack is an investment, but that doesn’t mean it should be viewed only as such. Instead, a backpack should be a companion that you are excited to bring on the trail with you. It should make hiking easier and more enjoyable because it eases the stress on your body as you carry your gear.a
Q: How to clean and maintain a hiking backpack?
Every backpack is different, so there isn’t one way to clean a pack. The manufacturer of your backpack should provide a user manual or guide that has a section on how best to clean your bag. However, no backpack should ever be washed in a washing machine or dried in a dryer. An outdoor backpack is a major investment and the better care you take of it, the longer it is guaranteed to last you.
As pristine as your backpack is when you first purchase it, it will never return to that state. That’s okay. Backpacks for hiking are meant to be used and loved. From sweat and oil on your skin to dirt, kitchen grease, gunked up zippers, and food crumbs, your bag will probably have it all if it is used frequently. All of these different stains and muck can affect the performance of your bag over time, so to help combat the damage, you should clean your bag often. In general, most bags can be cleaned with mild soap, a sponge, soft brush, and lukewarm water. However, there are different techniques for light cleaning and heavy cleaning of your bag.
You should lightly clean your bag after every use. To lightly clean your bag, you should empty all pockets and keep them open. Fully open all compartments of the pack and give it a good shake upside-down to get any dirt or particles out. You can dampen a sponge with just water and wipe down the interiors. For the exterior, you can add a little mild soap for any stubborn stains. Then, rinse the spots or wipe it down again with cold water. Allow your pack to fully dry before it is stored to help prevent the possible growth of mold or rot.
To heavily clean your bag, you will want to go all out. You can use a vacuum on the seams to get out any dirt or food particles that have become trapped. You can also vacuum the interior of the pack to ensure you remove everything. If your pack allows you to, remove the hip belt and shoulder straps. These can be washed separately with a little soap on a sponge. The hip belt and shoulder straps should then be rinsed under running water. If your frame can be taken out, remove it and set it aside. Depending on your pack, it may or may not be able to be fully submerged. However, most packs with the frame removed, are safe to be fully submerged. Check the manufacturer’s user guide or manual to check. With the frame removed you can fill a bathtub or large sink with lukewarm water and mild soap. Submerge your bag and swish it around. You can gently scrub any stains with a sponge. Pay particular attention to places that come in contact with your skin to get rid of sweat and oil stains. Drain the tub/sink completely and refill with fresh water. Rinse your pack as many times as necessary to get rid of all the soap. As always, allow the pack to fully dry before you re-assemble it and store it to prevent the possible growth of mold or rot.
Zippers can be tricky. You should remove any particles that are slowing the zipper or blocking the zipper. You can do this with an old toothbrush but be gentle. Many zippers have a water protective coating that can be scrubbed away. If a zipper is stuck and stubborn, you can look for a special zipper lubricant to help it move smoothly again.
It can be a process to clean your backpack, but it is an important one. A backpack that is kept clean stands a better chance of handling the elements for a longer amount of time. Your backpack was an investment and you should treat it with care. Yes, a backpack is meant to be used and loved, but a little care can help it go a long way. Proper maintenance and care can add years of use to your backpack and it ensures that your pack is always ready to go for the next big adventure!
Globo Surf Overview
When it comes to choosing the best 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. 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 times a season or use it every week, your backpack will be a companion and you want it to be reliable. The best backpack will ensure you are hiking with ease for many years.
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Do you own one of the backpacks that made it onto our list? Let us know how it has worked for your outdoor needs in the comments section below.