Best Hiking Backpacks of 2017

I love going on day hikes, but nothing beats spending a couple of nights camping in the backcountry. On a crisp spring weekend, spending a night or two in the bush with friends is a great way of de-stressing after a tough week at work. To cater for these longer hikes I needed a larger backpack than my usual trusty daypack. If you’re looking for some of the best hiking backpacks then check out our buying guide below as well as reviews of our top picks.

Quick Comparison:

*Below, you'll find our detailed reviews and a buyer's guide, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Amazon.

best hiking backpacks for a weekend away

Choosing Your Backpack 

Capacity

When choosing a backpack for a shorter hike you need to hold yourself back from getting one with too large a capacity. If you are only off for a day's hike, check out:

The Best Daypack for Hiking in 2017​

an overfull backpack

Don't be like this guy!

Firstly, it’s not necessary for such a short hike and secondly, if you’ve got the extra capacity guaranteed you’ll fill it with “just in case” stuff.

In this article we will take a look at backpacks with a 65 liter capacity which are best suited for an overnight winter hike or a 3-4 night hike in the spring or summer.

Before choosing your backpack decide upfront what kind of hiking you are planning to do. This will determine the equipment you’ll need to pack and will give you a better idea of the size and features you’re going to need.

Don’t choose a backpack and then see what you can fit into it.

A capacity of around 60-65 liters will cater just fine for 2-3 nights of comfortable camping or even a thru-hike if you are streamlined. 

If you’re flying to your hiking trail bear in mind that the overhead baggage compartment on US airlines is a standard size of 22" x 14" x 9."

Weight

Weight is always an issue when backpacking. It’s not just the overall weight of the pack that is important, but how that weight is distributed. Roughly 65-80% of the weight should fall on your hips.

The rest of the weight will be spread out along the front and top of your shoulder strap. This is why you want to make sure that your pack not only fits around your hips but also wraps around your shoulders well.

cartoon backpacker heavy pack

Compartments & Pockets

The sleeves, compartments and pockets your backpack comes with will not only allow for more even distribution of your pack weight but also allows for quick access without having to dig around through all your stuff.

Even if you prefer a more simple layout with just a single main compartment, it’s worth considering getting one that allows for additional storage for your phone, water bottle and snacks.

  • Main Compartment - This is the most important, and largest, space in your pack. It needs to be big enough to hold your tent, stove, food and the majority of the rest of your gear. Most backpacks will provide for access to this space from the top but it’s a good idea to get one that also allows access at the front of the pack. Some packs will have a removable divider for this compartment and this adds greater storage versatility.
  • Sleeping Bag Compartment - Normally catered for at the bottom in a space separate from the main storage.
  • Top Lid — Keeps the rain from getting into the main compartment. Also a good spot to store a poncho for quick access when the clouds gather.
  • Front Pockets — A decent sized front pocket is a great option for storing a bulky jacket or other larger items that you don’t want mixed in with your gear in the main compartment.
  • Side Sleeves and Pockets — These combine nicely with side compression straps to hold tent poles. Larger sleeves can also hold water bottles.
  • Hip Belt Pockets — Nice for keeping small essentials within easy reach.
best hiking backpacks

Fit

This is vitally important to both comfort and function. If the pack is too large or too small, weight will not be evenly distributed and will put pressure on different parts of your body. This can quickly make hiking and moving difficult and even painful. The key aspects related to fit are frame size and hip size.

Frame Size

Torso length, not your overall height, determines whether you take a small, medium or large frame.

For example, a small may cover 16-19 inches, a medium would fit a torso length of 18-21 inches, and a large may best fit a torso of 20-23 inches. (This varies by manufacturer, so make sure you double check before you buy.)

Some packs have an adjustable torso length. Each brand’s method of measuring your torso and fitting their packs is unique so it might be wise to visit a brick and mortar store to have your torso measured by a sales associate who has access to each brand’s specific chart and measuring device.

The standard way of measuring your torso length will give you a good idea though. It’s helpful to have a friend to help you with this since you’ll be measuring your back.

In order to correctly find out your torso length:

  • Find your iliac crest by locating the top of your hip bone and following it around to the middle of your back
  • Find your C7 vertebrae which is the bone that sticks out at the back of your neck when you look downwards
  • Standing straight up, take the measurement from that C7 bone to the point on your spine level with your iliac crest.

This is your torso measurement. Use this measurement to choose a pack size.

This video helps to explain the correct fitting of a backpack:

Hip Size

Look for a pack with an interchangeable hip belt if possible. This will allow you to first choose the frame size that suits you and then match it with a hip belt that fits your hips. Most backpacks allow for a very wide range of waist sizes and a majority of people don’t need to alter the hip belt in any way. The hip belt is where 80% of the weight rests. You don’t want that weight shifting onto your shoulders, so a snug fit around the hips is important.

Backpack Straps

Your backpack straps make a big difference to the comfort of your backpack. These are the ones you should look out for:

  • Suspension Load Lifter Straps: These straps, when tightened correctly, connect the top of the shoulder straps to the top of the pack preventing the pack from leaning away from your back. Ideally they should be positioned at a 45 degree angle.
  • Sternum Strap: The sternum strap clips across the chest, connecting both shoulder straps in the front. This enhances stability. On some packs the height of this strap can be adjusted.
  • Compression Straps: These straps tighten along the sides of a pack. When a pack is very full they should be extended and they should be cinched down when the pack is almost empty. This means the pack will always be balanced even if not completely full.
  • Hip Belt Stabilizer: This strap is made to tighten around the hip belt, it improves balance and comfort.

Internal or External Frame?

Frame Backpacks come with either an internal or external frame.

The more modern packs have internal frames, allowing the pack to be carried closer to the body. These are better suited for scrambling and carrying lighter loads. This also makes them better suited for more active hikes.

Look for one that incorporates a tensioned mesh or channel to allow cool air to get to your back.

External Frame packs are more old school but some people still like them because they manage heavier loads and allow for good airflow to your back which means less sweating.

For a weekend hike you’re going to want to go for an internal frame backpack.

best backpack for hiking

Quick pack-fitting pointers

  • Your torso length should be within the backpack’s torso range
  • The shoulder strap should fit snugly to the back of your shoulders
  • The load lifter straps should sit at a 45° angle when the pack is fitted
  • The shoulder strap padding should fit 2 or 3 inches below your armpits
  • The hip belt should cover the top of your hip bones
  • The hip belt is where you should be feeling the majority of the pack’s weight

Best Hiking Backpacks Reviewed

We’ve had a look at plenty of backpacks to find the ones best suited for a few days in the backcountry. Here are the reviews of our favorites.


We like this backpack because it has plenty of pockets, straps, pouches and loops.

This makes it easy to take along all those extra items and luxuries that make for a comfortable, 3 day, hiking and camping experience.

The torso length is adjustable to accommodate hikers with a height of between 5 feet 1 inches and 6 foot 4 inches.

Better still, this pack has some good design features to give you a comfortable fit. You can bend the removable stays to tailor them to the shape of your back.

Combined with the four multi-directional compression straps, the load lifter straps and the ½ inch thick padded,fully adjustable shoulder straps you’ll walk all day in comfort with this pack on your back.

In terms of what you get for the price, this pack is a quality, good value for money option.

  • Capacity: 65 liter
  • Weight: 5 lbs
  • Size: 32 X 18 X 12 inches

What We Like

  • Shell: 600D Diamond Ripstop shell provides good durability
  • Rain cover included
  • Adjustable torso length allows this pack to fit a range of body types
  • Floating pockets for tent poles other gear means you get more onto your pack
  • Removable, bendable stays to custom fit your back for increased comfort

What We Don't Like

  • Not ideal for folks with shorter torsos
  • No hip belt pockets

If you enjoy adding a bit of climbing to your hike and you’re looking for a medium weight backpack then this pack may be just for you.

Strap on your trekking pole and ice tool for the climb. With dual upper-side and dual front compression straps, the streamlined, no-fuss design makes it well suited to just that kind of hike.

The LightWire peripheral frame transfers the load onto the hip belt making the pack extremely comfortable.

With it’s scaled down dimensions, you get a lower profile backpack that is still capable of carrying all your essentials.

This pack also comes with an external hydration sleeve which makes it easier to do a refill while also protecting the contents of your pack from spillage.

  • Capacity: 60 liter
  • Weight: 4.8lbs
  • Size: 32 X 18 X 8 inches

What We Like

  • 210D Nylon Dobby and 550D Nylon Packcloth shell gives good durability
  • Removable top lid that converts to a day pack, great for short excursions
  • Really useful hip belt pockets big enough to take a cell phone and other gadgets
  • Front and side zippers for easy access the main compartment
  • Adjustable sternum strap compensates for small differences in torso length
  • Hipbelt designed to give you great load carrying support and comfort

What We Don't Like

  • Does not come with a rain cover
  • Sleeping bag compartment zipper hole a bit small for winter weight sleeping bag
  • Doesn’t have a lot of pockets

This premium quality backpack comes in at just over 4.5 pounds.

It boasts a suspension system that makes for great carrying comfort and ensures fantastic ventilation.

It has a back panel consisting of lightweight, seamless mesh which extends from the hip belt to the top of the back panel.

This feature provides great through-flow of air, unrestricted movement and a great fit.

An especially neat feature is the handy trekking pole attachment system which allows you to quickly detach and reattach trekking poles in response to changes in the terrain.

An added bonus is the flap jacket which is there to protect your gear if you decide to remove the floating top lid.

  • Capacity: 65 liter
  • Weight: 4.67lbs
  • Size: 33 X 15 X 15 inches

What We Like

  • Shell: 100D X 360D Nylon Dobby - 420HD Nylon Packcloth makes it super tough
  • Great weight distribution
  • Floating top lid can be removed to shed weight or increase storage capacity
  • Front panel pockets provide extra storage along with super easy access
  • Upper side, cross functional and internal compression straps streamline and stabilize pack

What We Don't Like

  • No quick access to the main compartment
  • The pack sits slightly away from the body so it’s not ideal for climbing and scrambling
  • Rain cover not included (optional extra)
  • Minimal attachment points

If you’ve decided to take up hiking recently, this is a great entry-level pack at an affordable price.

Made from durable ripstop material this pack, can be converted from a 70 to 80 liter meaning it offers a decent amount of packing space.

The adjustable frame has 8 length settings making it easy to accommodate varying torso lengths. That being said, if you’re fairly short or over 6 foot tall then the range of adjustment won’t cater for you.

This pack offers moderate to good comfort but don’t pack it too heavy because the padding compresses a little easier than we’d like.

Given the great price it is a good value for money pack which will do the job until you decide you love hiking and want to upgrade.

  • Capacity: 70 liter (+10)
  • Weight: 5lbs
  • Size: 12 X 14 X 34 inch

What We Like

  • 70 liter pack can be increased to 80 liter
  • Adjustable frame for a perfect fit
  • Daisy chains allow for carabiner clip-on or ice axe, climbing pole storage
  • Rain cover is included
  • Price

What We Don't Like

  • The top flap doesn’t fit as well as it should
  • Hip pads run short on folks with bigger waists
  • Doesn’t fit well if you are tall, that is 6 feet and above
  • The temptation to pack too much kit!

If you’re looking for a high performance pack and paying a little more then this is a great option.

With a compact, streamlined body size, this pack offers the performance experienced hikers demand.

Gregory’s suspension technology offers great load balancing, in conjunction with a customizable lumbar insert and ergonomically designed foam harness, to give you the perfect fit for absolute comfort.

It has the classic top load design but a front zipper ensures super easy access to the main body of the pack.

We like the abundance of pockets and useful gear loops including a handy waterproof pocket in the hip belt for valuables such as smartphones and other gadgets.

We also love the removable divider between the sleeping bag compartment and the main body of the bag.

The detachable daypack is ideal for a short excursion from camp and it doubles as a water bladder holder.

  • Capacity: 65 liter
  • Weight: 5.5lbs
  • Size: 25.2 X 15 X 9.5 inches

What We Like

  • Super comfortable
  • Detachable daypack doubles as a water bladder holder
  • Removable rain cover with it’s own pocket for safekeeping
  • Easily accessed bottle holster

What We Don't Like

  • This pack is on the heavier side at 5.5 pounds
  • Pricetag is a little steep but you get what you pay for

This is a one size fits all pack that can be adjusted to your torso length.

Its aluminium X-frame makes it one of the lighter packs in this capacity class.

We like the durability of this pack. The attractive, durable material means it will last ages and look good long after your first hike.

Soft-edged, ergonomically shaped shoulder straps, two layer foam support for the lumbar area and multi-layer hip belt ensure this pack sits comfortably.

The hip belt has a zippered pocket for easily accessing gadgets while also keeping them secure.

The pack also features a variety of gear loops for a helmet, ice pick, etc. as well as spacious side pockets that stretch for added room

  • Capacity: 65 liter (+10)
  • Weight: 4.6lbs
  • Size: 34 X 14 X 13 inches

What We Like

  • Shell: Polytex and Ripstop 210 has great durability
  • It can be extended into a 75 liter pack
  • The wet laundry compartment is a bonus for keeping the rest dry
  • Stretch front compartment for added storage space
  • Internal pockets for valuables

What We Don't Like

  • Rain cover not included
  • Because of the universal fit, all the straps are very long

This is a good choice if you are an experienced hiker looking for a good value for money option.

This quality pack can go the distance. Made from durable 420-denier polyester material, it can take the knocks and then some.

Kelty's innovative PerfectFIT™ suspension offers great versatility and comfort with an on-body adjustment system. So no need to take the pack off to get the size just right. The internal frame can be shaped to the unique curve of your back.

These features combined with the dual density hip belt and well padded shoulder straps ensure you have a comfortable hike.

Side compression straps, stabilizing, load-lifter straps and a ventilating back panel keep your load centered adding to your level of comfort.

Kelty Coyote is now available in a 65 liter version too.

Kelty backpack
  • Capacity: 65/80 liter
  • Weight: 5.9lbs
  • Size: 16 x 34 x 16.5 inches

What We Like

  • A very comfortable pack
  • Tough, durable shell
  • The top lid detaches into a sling pack for short excursions
  • Zippered pockets in the hip belt to keep sunscreen, chapstick etc on hand
  • Easy to adjust shoulder, hip and chest straps
  • Price

What We Don't Like

  • Middle main body pocket is a bit high meaning you have to dig to get to the bottom of the pack
  • Water bottle mesh pouches difficult to access and flimsy
  • Rain cover is an optional extra

If you’ve decided to try hiking or you’re a hiker on a serious budget, this pack may be a good option.

Fully adjustable to accommodate different torso lengths, this roomy pack has all the internal space, pockets and attachment points you need.

The ergonomically shaped shoulder harness and adjustable load lifters are designed to give you a comfortable fit.

Lower front zipper allows for easy alternate access to main compartment.

The lower compartment can also be separated from the main compartment and can serve as sleeping bag storage.

  • Capacity: 65 liters
  • Weight: 4lbs
  • Size: 14.25 X 8.75 X 32 inches

What We Like

  • Mini-Hexagon Ripstop - 300 x 250-denier Duralite with a water resistant coating
  • Removal divider between upper and lower main pocket for versatile packing
  • Pull out rain cover is attached so you won’t lose it
  • Removable media pocket that attaches to the shoulder strap

What We Don't Like

  • Medium quality construction, probably wouldn't be up to really rough treatment
  • Chest strap may detach from shoulder strap

We’ve left the best (and most expensive!) for last.

If you need absolute comfort on multi-day hikes over tricky terrain, combined with durability and great features then this one might be for you.

The shoulder straps are anatomically shaped for great next-to-skin comfort. They also have an integrated air-permeable foam that breathes really well.

We loved the expandable and removable top lid. It has a map compartment and two zippered components.

The full length Kangaroo pocket provides quick access to gear you need in a hurry.

A great feature is the pivoting hip belt which is really impressive at transferring the pack weight from your shoulders to your hips.

  • Capacity: 65 liter
  • Weight: 6.1lbs
  • Size: 26 x 17 x 8 inches

What We Like

  • Very comfortable
  • Great removable, expandable top lid with storage
  • Pivoting hip belt for great weight transfer
  • Full length Kangaroo pocket
  • High denier fabric has excellent durability

What We Don't Like

  • Price!
  • Heavier than the other packs we reviewed
  • Features probably not necessary for most backpacking trips

Conclusion

I'd happily go off for a weekend with any of these packs. However, you need to consider your budget and the features you personally prefer.

Our Favorite: The Osprey Atmos combines the best of features, durability, comfort and price. I've long been a fan of Osprey, and with this one they have not disappointed.

If someone else was paying then we’d choose the Arcteryx Altra 65. It is one of the most comfortable backpacks on the market. The pivoting hip belt sounds like a sales gimmick but it makes a huge difference to the weight distribution, particularly when climbing. But for most hikers, this is far too expensive and the extra features are unnecessary.

multi day hiking packs

Best For Budget: If you’re looking for a decent backpack but don’t want to spend a lot of money the Mountaintop 70L+10L Outdoor Sport is worth a look.

As long as you don’t load it too heavy it’ll be fine for a first time, or occasional, hiker. Just don’t expect a high degree of durability.

All of the backpacks above are good options, but some of them are exceptional.

Decide on whether you’re going to be hiking regularly or only once or twice a year and then vary your budget accordingly.

When you’re choosing the best backpack for weekend hikes you need to start with the end in mind.

First have in mind the kind of hiking you’ll be doing and your inventory list and only then start looking at different backpack options.

Also, remember that comfort is king. It’s easier to compensate for a lack of features than it is to fix an uncomfortable pack.

Have you tried any of these packs? Let us know which your favorite is and what you like about it.

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