Best Backpacking Backpacks

best backpacking backpack

You don’t need to strap a huge and heavy external frame when you’re going backpacking. No matter where you’re off to, the best backpacking advice is to pack light. Today, the best backpacks are all about ergonomic, minimalistic, and thoughtful design.

What Is the Difference Between a Daypack and a Backpack?

A backpack is anything with shoulder straps, technically speaking. So, a daypack is a type of backpack. A daypack is a small, lightweight version of a backpack.

Not all backpacks are daypacks. A hiking daypack is big enough for shorter, day hikes. Daypacks typically range from 20 L to 35 L.

How Big of a Backpack Do I Need for Backpacking?

It depends on how long your adventure will be, but a daypack certainly won’t be enough. No matter how long you plan on backpacking, you’ll need a backpack of at least 40 L of volume.

Keep in mind that this is the bare minimum. If you need to pack a lot of gear or plan to go on an extended trip, chances are a 40 L backpack won’t be big enough, though it depends on whether you carry a tent and a summer sleeping bag.

How Big of a Backpack Do I Need for 3 Days?

If you take an ultralight or minimalist approach to backpacking, a backpack with 40 to 50 L of volume should be enough.

How Big of a Backpack Do I Need for 5 Days?

if you are planning a multi-day adventure (3 to 5 days), you’d want to go with a backpack with 50 to 70 L of volume. You can get by with a 50 L pack If the weather is warm and you pack light. If the weather is cold and you’re packing a lot of gear and thick clothing, it’s best to go with a 70 L backpack.

How Big of a Backpack Do I Need for Extended Trips?

For extended trips, you need a 70 L backpack or bigger. But, since it’s important to pack light and not get carried away, it’s best to try to stick to a 70 L pack. Extended trip packs can be much bigger and thus much heavier.

But, unless you are going on a professionally guided mountaineering trip, a 70 L backpack should do. Just make sure it has enough pockets, zippers, carabiners, and other features that will make it easier to use.

Our Top Picks

Lightweight Hiking Backpack: Gregory Baltoro 65

  • 65 L
  • 4.84 lb
  • Excellent suspension system
  • Comfortably handles heavy loads
  • Great all-around organization

Best Ultralight Backpack: Osprey Levity 60 Backpack

  • 60 L
  • 1.92 lb
  • Super lightweight
  • Exceptional build quality
  • Great ventilation

Best Small Backpack: Gregory Stout 45

  • 45 L
  • 2.8 lb
  • Adjustable suspension
  • Great ventilation
  • Great organization

Best Budget Backpack: Aveler 50 L Backpack

  • 50 L
  • 2.8 lb
  • Waterproof
  • Good organization
  • Good ventilation

Best Lightweight Hiking Backpacks

Osprey Packs Atmos AG 65

Osprey Packs Atmos AG 65

Specifications

  • Volume: 65 L
  • Weight: 4.54 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

This model does a great job of balancing weight, comfort, durability, and organization. Its “Anti-Gravity” back panel is its most prominent feature. Thanks to the feature, you’ll feel like the load you are carrying is significantly lighter than it actually is. You won’t feel the weight pulling you back.

For an internal-frame pack, the pack ventilation is more than great. The Osprey Atmos AG will keep your back dry without sacrificing convenience, comfort, and volume.

The model has a single large ventilated back panel that covers the hip belt and the entire back. The flexible mesh deftly conforms to the backpacker’s waist and body.

The Osprey Atmos AG is designed to carry heavy gear comfortably. Its build quality is tough to beat. The model can carry a load exceeding 40 lb more than well. Perhaps its only considerable drawback is the fact that there is no zippered access to the main compartment.

Pros

  • Great ventilation
  • Close fit
  • General comfort
  • Awesome pockets

Cons

  • No zipper to the main compartment

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Gregory Baltoro 65

Gregory Baltoro 65

Specifications

  • Volume: 65 L
  • Weight: 4.84 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

The Baltoro 65 makes a heavy load feel manageable. It’s all thanks to its plush padding and rock-solid suspension. Load-hauling prowess is just one of the many great features of this model.

It’s one of the most comfortable backpacks in its category and price range. The wider shoulder straps should be a huge plus for most backpackers. However, you may not like it that much if you have narrower shoulders.

The model offers great lower back support. If it’s not to your liking, this feature is removable. The pockets are very convenient and well organized. They allow you to find items quickly and easily.

Its top-notch easy access zipper hardly has any competitors. The stretchy beavertail-style pocket is great for fitting oddly-shaped things like sandals, storing a rain shell, or drying socks.

The Baltoro 65 comes in 3 torso lengths, so you will likely find the right fit for you. It also offers interchangeable shoulder straps and hip belts that are in between sizes. Even though the model is pricier than the average backpack in its category, the Baltoro 65 gives an exceptional value overall.

Pros

  • Comfortably handles heavy loads
  • Easy access zipper
  • Great padding
  • Durable
  • Great all-around organization
  • Excellent lower back support
  • One of the best suspension systems

Cons

  • A bit pricey

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Arc’teryx Bora AR 63 Backpack Men’s

Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 Backpack Men's

Specifications

  • Volume: 63 L
  • Weight: 5 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

The model offers great comfort and mobility, mostly thanks to its innovative rotating hip belt design. It comes with a feature that allows the hip belt to move up and down as the backpacker leans forward.

The Bora AR has fantastic weather resistance as it is made of durable waterproof fabric. It’s a great option for backpacking in tough conditions as well as for multi-day trips. Although it’s one of the most expensive models on the list, it’s one of the most comfortable packs out there.

The shoulder straps adjust to your body perfectly. They have a feel of a memory foam mattress. The shoulder straps will remain supportive even after a few weeks of constant use. You can tailor fit the shoulder straps both laterally and vertically, according to your body type.

For support, the model uses aluminum stays and a thermo-molded frame sheet. It will protect your back from any items that may try to poke through the back panel.

Pros

  • Extremely weather-resistant
  • Ergonomic shoulder strap design
  • Comfortable padding
  • Great suspension
  • Innovative hip belt design

Cons

  • Expensive

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The North Face Terra 65

The North Face Terra 65

Specifications

  • Volume: 65 L
  • Weight: 4.4 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon, polyester

The North Face is a manufacturer that’s famous for making some of the most aesthetically pleasing hiking and backpacking gear money can buy. The Terra 65 is one of the most popular backpacks on the market, and it’s been like that for several years now.

The latest version comes with a variety of improvements. It features 3 access points. On top of that, it has a bottom compartment entrance as well as a front-side entrance. The model has 2 internal pockets and 7 pockets with an external entrance.

The suspension is great as well, thanks to the adjustable harness and the sturdy internal frame. The hip belt and shoulder straps are well padded. The back panel is nicely padded, too.

Although Orkney models have better breathability, the North Face Terra 65 is not far behind. The model has excellent moisture wicking features. But, that doesn’t make it entirely waterproof. And, the model is missing a rain cover. However, considering the price, you’ll still get more than you pay for.

Pros

  • Intuitive design
  • Great suspension
  • Excellent ventilation

Cons

  • Lacks weatherproof features

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Kelty Coyote 65 Hiking Backpack

Kelty Coyote 65 Hiking Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 65 L
  • Weight: 5.5 lb
  • Fabric: Polyester

The Coyote 65 is an entry-level model that is surprisingly comfortable. Despite the low price point, it has quite a sturdy build. The model comes in an 80 L version as well, and there’s also the 60 and 70 L women’s specific design.

The model doesn’t come with many extra features, but it has everything one needs for backpacking. The Coyote 65 has excellent suspension. You can adjust the harness while carrying the full backpack.

To adjust the harness, all you need to do is move it up and down. The mesh back panel is quite breathable, even though it’s a bit bulky. The model has 12 pockets in total, including 2 pass-through pockets. Just like the North Face Terra 65, the Kelty Coyote 65 is also missing a rain cover.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • On-body adjustment system
  • Many enclosed compartments
  • Sturdy
  • Affordable
  • Dual access to the main compartment

Cons

  • Not as good for heavier loads
  • No rain cover

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Teton Sports Hiker 3700 R

Teton Sports Hiker 3700 R

Specifications

  • Volume: 60 L
  • Weight: 4 lb
  • Material: Nylon

The Hiker 3700 is a highly adjustable entry-level pack. Its precise adjustment feature and contoured design are perhaps its biggest perks. The harness is fully adjustable. It also features open-cell foam that increases comfort and breathability.

Instead of an internal frame, the suspension features aluminum stays. When you move, the pack rides smoothly. The padded waist wings allow for a more customizable fit. The shoulder straps are a bit narrow, but the amount of padding compensates for that. Comfort-wise, the pack exceeds expectations.

The organization is pretty decent. It even features a 10 L sleeping bag compartment. However, there’s just one hip belt compartment, when it’s obvious that the manufacturer could have included two. The model also features a hydration reservoir and a built-in rain cover.

Pros

  • Highly adjustable
  • Great price
  • Rain cover
  • Side zipper pockets
  • 10 L sleeping bag compartment

Cons

  • Narrow shoulder pads
  • Only one hip belt pocket

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Best Ultralight Backpacks

Granite Gear Crown 2 60

Granite Gear Crown 2 60

Specifications

  • Volume: 60L
  • Weight: 2.25 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

This Granite Gear model is made for minimalist hikers. It doesn’t come with many bells and whistles. In fact, there are a few elements you can remove if you want to reduce the weight even more. However, due to its weight, it doesn’t carry above-average loads. It’s not the best option for carrying more than 30 lb of gear.

But, it’s an excellent choice for carrying lighter loads. The suspension does a great job of matching the backpack’s carrying capacity. The back panel is breathable, thanks to the ventilated foam panel, although not as nearly as breathable as the back panel on any Orkney model.

The Granite Gear Crown offers ample storage space. It features 3 external stretch pockets as well as a large internal compartment. The rear stretch mesh pocket is big enough to fit rolled-up jackets. It’s also great for storing wet clothing.

The model comes with quite enough attachment points and compression straps. The manufacturer has done a great job of making them fit into the model’s streamlined design.

Pros

  • Streamlined
  • Adaptable
  • Lightweight
  • Large extension collar
  • Good ventilation

Cons

  • Not comfortable with heavy loads

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Osprey Levity 60 Backpack

Osprey Levity 60 Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 60 L
  • Weight: 1.92 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

This backpack strategically mixes ultra-thin and durable fabrics to offer great comfort and usability. Such light models usually compromise durability, but that’s not the case with the Osprey Levity 60. Their NanoFly fabric successfully tackles that problem.

Weighing only 1.92 lb, the model is undoubtedly in the featherweight category. It’s a true accomplishment considering its solid build quality.

The design is very comfortable, provided that you keep the weight under 30 lb. The durable metal frame offers great support when you’re transferring the weight to your hips.

The manufacturer is great at assembling well-ventilated packs. This model is no exception. The Osprey Levit will keep your back cool and dry. There aren’t many lightweight models that come with such excellent breathability.

Even though the shoulder straps and hip belt are fixed in place, you should be able to get a snug, comfortable fit. The model comes with three very large pockets along the body. However, it doesn’t include hip belt pockets.

Pros

  • Nice and simple design
  • Great ventilation
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • No hip belt pockets

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OneTigris LITE ROAMER Black Orca Series

OneTigris LITE ROAMER Black Orca Series

Specifications

  • Volume: 55 L + 5 L
  • Weight: 2.5 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

The Lite Roamer is an entry-level pack that has lots to offer for its price. It’s great for those who are looking for a stylish and convenient pack that comes at a pocket-friendly price. Its organization is better than that of some higher-end models.

The model features a large main compartment, two large hip belt pockets, two side water bottle pockets, and a quick-access front mesh pocket. Above the front mesh pocket, It even has an extra open pocket. This is not something you can expect to see on an entry-level model.

Its wishbone-shaped frame is durable and stiff. The frame offers sufficient support, but it makes a squeaky sound when the pack is empty. The hip belt is padded and features adjustable straps that are easy to adjust.

Almost everything sounds great, so what’s the catch? The model features S-curve shoulder pads. Such shoulder pads are usually more suitable for people who have small to medium body frames. However, their length is more suitable for men with broad chests.

So, the sizing is a bit confusing. While the shoulder straps were designed to be a universal fit, it’s no guarantee that they will be comfortable for every backpacker.

Pros

  • Stylish
  • Expands to 60L
  • Super affordable
  • Quick access organization
  • Good ventilation
  • Padded hip belts

Cons

  • Shoulder pad design could be better
  • Frame squeaks when the pack is empty

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Granite Gear Virga 2 Backpack – 52L

Granite Gear Virga 2 Backpack - 52L

Specifications

  • Volume: 52 L
  • Weight: 1.16 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

What makes this model so unique is the fact that it’s an absolutely frameless backpack with great suspension. It’s also one of the lightest models in its category. The Granite Gear Virga 2 comes at a pocket-friendly price and offers plenty of extra perks.

Backpacks with a sturdy frame are the standard these days, but some ultralight hikers and backpackers still prefer frameless models. Even without a frame, the model is great for carrying light loads (20 lb). However, carrying heavier loads isn’t so comfortable.

It’s compression and lashing system offer great carry options. It comes with two tiers of side compression systems. One is a roll-top closure which helps scrunch down the load and the second one is a pair of front compression straps over the front mesh pocket. Granite Gear is known for their durable products. Despite being very light, the Virga 2 doesn’t sacrifice durability.

Pros

  • Versatile compression system
  • Lightweight
  • Hydration support
  • Great suspension
  • Three external mesh pockets

Cons

  • Not great for heavier loads

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Loowoko 50L Waterproof Hiking Backpack

Loowoko 50L Waterproof Hiking Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 50 L
  • Weight: 2.6 lb
  • Fabric: Ripstop polyester

This is another highly-adjustable entry-level model that promises to give you a bang for your buck. It’s very similar to the Hiker 3700. The features they share include improved ventilation and a built-in rain cover. However, the main difference is the lack of a frame. But, it still manages to offer enough back support, while being significantly lighter than the Hiker 3700.

And, unlike the Hiker 3700, the Loowoko has wide, padded shoulder straps. On top of having a built-in rain cover, the pack itself is also waterproof, thanks to the ripstop polyester. The hip belt is adjustable. The pack should fit most body types.

Aside from the mesh side pockets, the model also features 8 adjustable straps. They allow you to hang or tie up your mat, hammock, tripod, or other gear.

The seams on the model are a bit weak, so one shouldn’t expect it to be as durable as the higher-end models on the list. But, the fabric and the general built-quality seem to compensate for that.

Pros

  • Rain cover
  • Wide, padded shoulder straps
  • Comfortable
  • 8 adjustable straps
  • Adjustable hip belt

Cons

  • Weak seams
  • No frame

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Best Small Backpacks

Gregory Stout 45

Gregory Stout 45

Specifications

  • Volume: 45L
  • Weight: 2.8 lb
  • Fabric: Dobby polyester, ripstop polyester

Even though it has a thin frame, the Stout 45 is a durable pack that can carry its load without any problems. The frame does a great job of eliminating any bulging against the spine. The pack leaves your shoulder tension-free by transferring the load straight to the hips.

The manufacturer has done a great job of balancing weight and comfort. The pack’s organization is up to par as well. It has a large stack pocket designed for cold weather layers and rain gear.

It has 6 external pockets in total as well as a sleeping bag compartment and trekking pole attachment. The model does not lack anything. In fact, it has a few unnecessary straps. That and the non-adjustable hip belt are the model’s only drawbacks. However, the torso length is adjustable.

The back panel is made of foam and mesh. The breathability is undoubtedly above average, but still not as good as that of the other Gregory model on the list. The padding in the lumbar zone and on the shoulder straps is excellent.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Adjustable suspension
  • Great ventilation
  • Durable

Cons

  • Dark interior
  • Non-adjustable hip belt

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Deuter Aircontact Lite 40+10

Deuter Aircontact Lite 40+10

Specifications

  • Volume: 40 L + 10 L
  • Weight: 3.3 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon, ripstop

The Deuter Aircontact Lite is a weekend backpack with just enough storage. You can expand the pack by 10 L if you need more space for your gear. The model features two mesh pockets, one on each side of the pack.

Thanks to the Vari-Quick system, you can easily tailor the backpack to your back length. The hip belt is comfortable and fits nicely, even when the pack is fully loaded.

The suspension system keeps the pack close to the body, making it easier to carry. The Aircontact Lite’s aluminum frame is both flexible and stable. The massive open-cell foam padding is super comfy.

It hugs your back nicely. The model has good ventilation. Considering how tightly the padding hugs the backpacker, this is a nice surprise. If you go with this model, do know that you’ll have to get a rain cover separately, as the pack is not entirely waterproof.

Pros

  • Extendable 10 L pack
  • Durable
  • Adjustable harness
  • Stout suspension
  • Bottom compartment

Cons

  • No rain cover
  • No bottom straps

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Osprey Rook 50

Osprey Rook 50

Specifications

  • Volume: 50 L
  • Weight: 3.52 lb
  • Fabric: Polyester, nylon

Many backpackers and hikers find the Rook attractive because of the value it offers for the price. It is more than great for a 3-day trip, but it may not be the best option for extended adventures.

It doesn’t have all the cool features of the two other Osprey models on the list, but its back panel is just as breathable. This model will do a great job of keeping you cool and dry.

The Rook 50 comes with an adjustable harness. It hugs your shoulders quite nicely, without compromising the breathability. The pack body is made of polyester, so it’s not waterproof, but the model comes with a rain cover and its drawstring closure is water-resistant.

The Rook’s design is quite sleek, but it’s missing a few pockets. This is the model’s only significant drawback as it can make grabbing your stuff out of the pack a bit inconvenient.

Pros

  • Removable rain cover
  • Good value for money
  • Well-built
  • Durable
  • Great ventilation

Cons

  • Minimal features
  • Poor organization

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Gregory Zulu

Gregory Zulu

Specifications

  • Volume: 40L
  • Weight: 3 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

Even with heavier loads (up to 35 L), the Zulu 40 is a very stable pack. The ergonomic design of the hip belt and shoulder straps and the rigidity of the suspension system allow you to comfortably carry heavy gear.

The shoulder straps are not adjustable. They connect to form an “X.” As the load bears down on the harness, the one-of-a-kind system increases tension in the frame. This helps greatly with load transfer. The stiff frame makes it great for trails. However, because of the rigid frame, it’s not the best choice for scrambling.

The padding is extra comfortable and the breathability of the pack is above average. If you pack light, the Zulu should be big enough for a 3-day adventure. The U-zip panel makes packing and unpacking much more convenient.

Pros

  • Easy access
  • Great ventilation
  • Stable and comfortable with heavier loads
  • Durable
  • U-zip

Cons

  • Non-adjustable harness

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Prospo 40 L Large Backpack

Prospo 40 L Large Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 40 L
  • Weight: 2.2 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

The Prospo 40 L hiking backpack is all about minimalism and convenience. Without a doubt, the best thing about this model is its incredibly low price. Considering the price, it has surprisingly few drawbacks.

This is by no means a fancy backpack, but it is functional and serves its purpose more than well. It should serve you well for a 3-day backpacking trip. Even though the manufacturer claims the model can fit all sorts of stuff, the volume is 40 L, so don’t buy this pack if you don’t intend on packing ultralight.

The model features pull cords that allow you to carry a smaller pillow. Each side pocket is big enough to fit a rolled-up sweatshirt. Organization-wise, it’s pretty decent considering its price and size.

The Prospo 40 L hiking backpack is even waterproof. Since is foldable, the pack is great for air travel. The model makes a great back-up backpack for extended trips.

Pros

  • Super affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof
  • Folds easily

Cons

  • Shoulder straps could be better

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Best Budget Backpacks

Seenlast 50L Hiking Backpack

Seenlast 50L Hiking Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 50L
  • Weight: 2.2 lb
  • Fabric: Ripstop polyester

The Seenlast pack is a durable model that has everything you need for a multi-day trip. For improved breathability, the model features a mesh back panel. Considering its price, the Seenplast is surprisingly comfortable.

The model doesn’t have many compartments. However, it features 8 adjustable straps that greatly help with carrying gear. The model is waterproof, but also comes with a built-in rain cover.

The Seenlast doesn’t have a frame, which kind of explains its weight. However, the model features a versatile and adjustable hip belt and shoulder straps.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • 8 adjustable straps
  • Rain cover
  • Good ventilation

Cons

  • Lack of compartments
  • No frame

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Aveler 50 L Backpack

Aveler 50 L Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 50 L
  • Weight: 2.8 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

The Aveler is another pocket-friendly option that has all the features a lightweight backpacker needs. It can comfortably carry loads of up to 30 lb. Its suspension system is above average, considering that it is a budget model.

The pack features an internal frame and adjustable shoulder straps. The shoulder straps are widened and padded. The hip belt is also padded and the back panel is designed to promote airflow.

This model is made of waterproof nylon and comes with a built-in rain cover. It comes with a trekking pole attachment and attachment points for a sleeping bag, tent or hammock. It also comes with two mesh pockets and two zippered pockets for extra storage.

It all sounds nice, so what’s the catch? Well, this is still a budget, off-brand model. Even though it comes with nice features, Its durability hasn’t been properly tested yet. Still, it’s a good choice for those who rarely go hiking or backpacking.

Pros

  • Waterproof
  • Good ventilation
  • Good organization
  • Rain Cover
  • Adjustable straps

Cons

  • Not-as durable as higher-end models

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Vbiger Hiking Backpack

Vbiger Hiking Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 55 L
  • Weight: 2.65 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

The Vbiger hiking backpack is another decent, affordable solution for people who rarely go hiking or backpacking. The shoulder straps are padded and comfortable enough, but they are susceptible to wear and tear.

The shoulder straps are even adjustable. However, the backpack seems to be more suitable for smaller body types. It has a mesh pocket on each side. The interior is quite spacious and the pack comes with multiple exterior straps that allow you to attach your gear.

The model is made of waterproof nylon. Its biggest drawback is subpar suspension. It can comfortably carry light loads, but the lack of a frame is noticeable when you carrying heavier loads. It’s a solid choice for minimalist, weekend backpacking, but not the best option for longer trips.

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Good organization
  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Not comfortable with heavy loads
  • No frame

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Coreal Hiking Backpack

Coreal Hiking Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 50 L
  • Weight: 2.1 lb
  • Fabric: Nylon

The best feature of the Coreal is the extension collar with a drawstring top. It allows you to increase the pack volume even more. Despite being a budget pack, it has generous padding on the shoulder straps. The back panel is densely padded as well, but the back ventilation is not so good.

The Coreal even comes with compression straps that allow you to hold in gear, as well as loops for holding trekking pools. The fabric is moisture resistant, but it would be wise to buy a rain cover separately.

All in all, the pack is a solid choice for lightweight backpackers on a tight budget, but if you want to carry heavier loads, you should consider something more durable.

Pros

  • Extension collar
  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable padding

Cons

  • Not so durable
  • Poor ventilation

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Aveler 50 L Lightweight Backpack

Aveler 50 L Lightweight Backpack

Specifications

  • Volume: 50 L
  • Weight: 2.4 L
  • Material: Nylon

This Aveler model is fairly similar to the other Aveler model on the list. It also features wide, adjustable shoulder straps and fine ventilation. However, it’s slightly lighter than the other Aveler pack and it has a drawstring top. It allows you to expand the top if you need more room.

One could say that this model looks a bit more stylish, but that’s for you to decide. This model is also made of water-resistant nylon, but, unlike its Aveler sibling, it doesn’t come with a built-in rain cover. It also has fewer compartments than the other model, but it comes with a nice internal compartment with an adjustable strap that can fit your tablet or laptop.

In fact, that’s the key difference between the two models. Both models perform the same, cost the same, so whether you should choose the one or the other depends on which extra features you value more.

Pros

  • Expandable drawstring top
  • Adjustable shoulder straps
  • Internal pouch for a laptop or tablet
  • Waterproof
  • Good organization
  • Fine ventilation

Cons

  • No rain cover
  • Not as durable as higher-end models

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Things to Consider Before Buying a Backpacking Backpack

Your backpack will be your closest companion during your trip. And, choosing the right pack takes a bit of time and effort. Here’s what you need to consider before buying a pack.

Pack Sizing

Your torso measurement is the most important factor in sizing a pack. You’ll find yourself constantly tweaking and adjusting your backpack if you don’t get your torso measurement right—no matter how adjustable the belts or straps are.

What you need: A sewing tape measure and a friend to help you out. No matter how flexible you are, you won’t get your size right if you try doing it yourself.

How to measure your torso: First, put your chin to your chest. Then, ask your helper to find your 7th cervical vertebra (C7). It’s where your neck meets the slope of your shoulders, so it should be easy to find.

Put your hands on your iliac crest (the top of your hips), with your thumbs back. Have your helper draw an imaginary line between your thumbs across your back. Your torso length is the distance between this imaginary line and the C7.

Weight and Load Range

The volume of the backpack can tell you a lot about how much stuff you can fit into your backpack, but its weight can tell you how heavy a load you can carry. Some manufacturers do tell you how much pounds of gear you can fit into the pack, but most fail to provide this information.

To determine the load range of your backpack, use this rule of thumb as a reference point:

  • 5+ lb backpack: 70 lb load range;
  • 3 to 5 lb backpack: 50 lb load range;
  • 2 to 3 lb backpack: 35 load range.

Do keep in mind that this is just a rule of thumb and that there are exceptions. For instance, the Baloro weights 5 pounds but can comfortably carry heavier loads.

Your own weight matters as well. If you are of average size, the load you carry on your back shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of your body weight. However, we can’t always express this in percentages.

If your weight is above average, you must take it into account, because you are not just carrying your backpack— you are carrying yourself as well. And, smaller hikers usually have enough strength to carry loads that weigh over 20% of their weight.

So, for instance, a 112-pound person may be able to handle a 40 lb load without a problem, but a backpacker that weighs 243 lb may not be able to carry a load that’s over 14% of their body weight.

Organization

Carrying all of your stuff in one place is vital when you are playing the part of a moving van. As far as compartments and pockets go, things are simple—the more, the merrier.

Almost every pack has a top-loader—an opening at the top that you can secure in a roll-top manner or with a drawstring. Some models have a U-shaped opening secured with a zipper. It is more convenient, but zippers break easier than a drawstring.

When choosing a pack, look for one with compression straps, attachment straps, and lash points. Compression straps allow you to carry a tent, sleeping bag, hammock, etc., and they help pull the weight of the backpack closer to your back.

Water Protection

Waterproof backpacks are made of hard-face, nylon, ripstop polyester, or some proprietary fabrics that are designed to be durable and waterproof. However, the material itself can only do so much to protect your stuff from moisture.

The best way to protect your gear from the elements is to get a rain cover for your pack. Some packs come with a built-in rain cover. If a pack isn’t waterproof and it doesn’t come with rain cover, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. You can always buy a rain cover separately. Rain covers are cheap and lightweight.

Padding and Support

More padding is usually better, but not always. Foam padding adds to the comfort. But, too much soft padding makes the straps and the back panel too compressible. It feels great, but it decreases ventilation and doesn’t offer long-term support that’s needed for carrying heavy loads.

The padding also adds to the overall weight of the backpack. So, brands are always trying to find the right balance. Too much soft padding usually isn’t an issue with lightweight models. But, when in doubt, it may be best to go with a bit firmer foam padding and wider shoulder straps.

Ventilation

When designed right, mesh panels encourage airflow. Look for a model that features mesh panels and offsetting foams. Not all manufacturers do a great job of utilizing these materials to offer great ventilation, but most high-end brands do.

Osprey’s full-length mesh backpacks are a great example of how it should be done. However, mesh is not a very durable material. Mesh is very convenient, but it can easily tear up. This is another trade-off you’ll have to consider when choosing your backpack and your route.

Summary

A lightweight backpack can make your trip much easier. The right backpack will keep your gear safe, easily accessible, and in one place—for as long as your journey lasts. To make sure you’ll choose the right one, first focus on the duration of your trip. Then, consider your torso size. Finally, think about your personal preferences.

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