Best Hiking Backpacks 2018

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 Look:

Backpack


Our Top pick for features, comfort & price

If someone else is paying this is the mutts nuts

Best for Low Budget

Good combination of features at an excellent price point

*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

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

Choosing Your Backpack 

Capacity

Being able to hold more gear doesn’t necessarily make one backpack better than the other.

It really comes down to how long you’re heading out for, who’s using it and your preferred backpacking style.

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 (cram) into it.

Gear first - backpack second

an overfull backpack

Don't be like this guy!

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. 

While there are some essentials you’ll take on both longer and shorter hikes, the quantity of food, toiletries and some other gear will vary according to trip length.

You need to ask yourself: “What pack size do I need?”.

If you’re going on a weekend trip then you could get away with as little as 35-50 liters of backpack capacity.

For multi-day hikes of 3 to 5 days you’ll need to aim around the 50-80 liter mark. Going on a long trip? For 6 days or more you’ll need a larger backpack of 70 liters or more.

If you are only off for a day hike, check out:

Best Daypacks for Hiking 

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."

Who Is Using It?

There’s a good reason why you get men’s, women’s and youth backpacks. We’re all built differently and subtle changes in the design can make a big difference in comfort.

The size of your hips, height, waist and overall frame need to be taken into account when choosing the best backpack for you. We cover how to get the right fit and frame size in more detail below.

Backpacking Style

What’s your backpacking style?

Are you trying to set a personal best each day with how many miles you cover?

Are you hitting the trail hard and fast or do you prefer setting up camp and chilling?

 Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle.

If you’re an ultralight backpacker then you’ll want the lightest, smallest backpack for the bare essentials while you crush miles.

If you’re more of the “stop and smell the roses” kind of destination backpacker then you may prefer a slower pace and a bigger pack.

Essential Backpack Features

Carrying a load of gear in a backpack isn’t that hard. Carrying it comfortably? Now that’s a bigger challenge. These are some essential features you’re going to want in your backpack.

Ventilation

You may have the latest tech in breathable hiking clothing but the parts that are up against the pack are going to still get hot and sticky. 

Ventilation at the back-panel and hip-belt sections is crucial if you want to stay cool. This isn’t so easy to achieve with a backpack.

You want it to fit nice and tight up against your body for comfort, but you also want some gaps for airflow.

Some packs have offset foam profiles and mesh panels in these areas and this offers a measure of ventilation.

For the best backpack ventilation go for a full-length mesh panel that covers the entire back and hip-belt areas.

Some manufacturers use hollow chamber foam in the back and hip panels that gives you a pump effect with each movement to aid ventilation.

Padding & Support

If the padding and lumbar support of a backpack is done right then it will shift most of the weight onto your hips.

This results in a lot less weight on your shoulder straps and less stress on your lower back.

For heavier packs you’ll want a thicker, more dense foam in the padding so that you get firm support. Unfortunately, more padding means more weight.

If you’re a lightweight backpacker then you can get away with softer, more compressible padding as long as you don’t overload the pack.  

Suspension Design & Support

Some of the better internal frame backpacks have support systems that go beyond just the hip-belt and padding.

Manufacturers like Osprey have suspension designs that are a system of back-panels, stays, frames, harnesses, hip-belts and load lifters that all work in unison. 

The result is that the weight of the pack is targeted at the right parts of your body while allowing for a full range of natural motion.

Osprey boldly call their suspension design Anti-Gravity.

Sadly we don’t yet have self carrying packs but a pack with a good suspension design can feel pounds lighter than one that doesn’t.

Backpack Material

While cotton canvas was the goto fabric in the past, modern backpacks are mostly made from Nylon and Polyester.

The different thicknesses of the fabrics or the way they’re woven all impact on the durability and waterproofing they’re going to deliver. These are a few of the fabrics you’re likely to see:

Ripstop

This is a fabric made up of mostly thin nylon threads with thicker nylon threads at regular intervals. This prevents the fabric from unraveling ripping if it gets punctured. It’s not great for spots that experience a lot of abrasion as the thick and thin fabrics wear at different rates.

Ballistic Nylon  

This is made from nylon fibres woven into a special kind of weave pattern called a “ballistic weave”. Besides being fairly waterproof it’s really strong and has high abrasion resistance. It’s generally used to make things like laptop bags but you’ll sometimes see it being used in backpacks too. Ballistic nylon is always black and the high denier makes it pretty heavy.

Cordura 

This is a brand of a range of different Nylon fabrics produced by incorporating a variety of fabric technologies. It’s very durable and exhibits good waterproof properties. The nylon fibres in Cordura are texturised, as opposed to the smooth filaments in ballistic nylon. This gives the fabric a superior abrasion resistance. Cordura is a premium fabric that you’ll find in higher-end backpacks.

Kodra 

This is another brand of Nylon based fabrics. It’s pretty much exactly the same as Cordura but it’s made by a Korean company called Kodra. Both have great durability and waterproof performance. 

Polyester 

Polyester isn’t as durable as nylon and it’s heavier too. It absorbs less water than natural fabrics but it’s not as waterproof as nylon or polypropylene. But it is cheap, so you’ll often find that lower end, budget day packs are made from Polyester. If you want a pack that’s going to last then give Polyester a skip.

Polypropylene 

This polymer is used to make a range of fabrics. It’s cheap, insulates well and is very waterproof. The problem is that it’s not very durable and degrades when exposed to UV light. Some backpacks will use it as a liner on the inside of the pack.

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 your pack not only fits around your hips but also wraps around your shoulders well.

weight distribution is important with backpacks

Compartments & Pockets

The sleeves, compartments and pockets on your backpack will allow for more even distribution of your pack weight and 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.

backpackers hiking in mountains

Additional Features

While these may not necessarily be considered as essential backpack features, here are some “nice to haves” that can actually make a difference:

Water bottle holsters

Carrying your water bottle all day isn’t great and opening your pack every time you want a drink isn’t either.

A water bottle loop or mesh holster allows for easy access to your bottle without the hassle. Another good alternative is to have a loop around the neck of your water bottle that you can clip onto a carabiner.

Hydration Reservoir & Hydration Ports

If you’re too focused on your hiking to fuss with a water bottle then using a hydration reservoir is the way to go.

Make sure that your backpack has a reservoir for your hydration bladder and hydration ports to route the tube through. Some backpacks have an integrated daypack that doubles as a hydration reservoir. 

Additional Waterproofing

​​​​It may have said “waterproof” on the label but when it starts to pour down you’re bound to get some water into your pack.

An external rain cover will give your pack material a fighting chance at keeping your gear dry in heavy rain. 

Having a waterproof lining on the inside of your pack will also ensure that your clothes stay dry even if the pack material wets out.

Trekking Pole & Ice Axe Loops

Trekking poles are great for support and balance but horrible to try and stash when you don’t need them. Cinchable loops on the back of your pack make for an easy way to carry your poles or ice axe.

Straps for Bed Roll/Sleeping Pad

Bedding down on a comfy bed roll at night is a luxury you don’t want to skimp on. There’s no way it’s going to fit into your pack though. If you’re planning on overnighting then make sure your pack has sleeping pad straps.

Removable Daypack/Top Lid

If you enjoy setting up camp and then doing shorter excursions to explore then a removable top lid that doubles as a daypack is great. This gives you the extra stowage space with the convenience of a small pack when you want it.

A Note on Pack Liners

If you’re carrying things in your pack that you can’t risk getting wet then a pack liner is a worthwhile investment.

Cell phones and cameras don’t mix well with water and trying to sleep in a wet sleeping bag isn’t great either.

A pack cover may keep the rain off but it traps condensation that can make the inside of your pack pretty wet.

Even if you’re not expecting wet weather a leaky water bottle or hydration bladder failure can ruin your day if those critical items aren’t protected.

A heavy duty plastic bag will do the job in a pinch but a purpose made pack liner will be more durable and offer longer term protection.

Backpack Attachment Points 

Just because your pack is packed to the brim on the inside doesn’t mean it can’t hold more gear. Having sufficient attachment points strategically located on your pack is great for attaching bulky items or items that you want quick access to.

Webbing straps or gear loops on hipbelts are handy for holding climbing tools. Some packs also have tie out loops that allow you to set up your own custom cord attachment system. These can be handy if you’re looking for a good spot to secure a solar panel to charge your gear while hiking.

Some of the bigger expedition packs have rear loading straps. These are great for securing your tent or sleeping bag at the bottom of your pack.

If the gear is stowed too low down it can end up bumping you at the back of your thighs a bit. You’ll have to decide whether the additional carrying capacity is worth this possible annoyance.

A lot of climbing or weekend packs have compression straps to help reduce the volume of the pack. Some of these have reversible compression straps that you can wrap around and clip at the rear of the pack.

This is great for carrying snowshoes or a sleeping bag on the back of your pack.

Backpack Versatility

If you go on both short and longer multi-day hikes then buying a pack that caters for a range of scenarios can save you from having to buy two packs.

A pack with well designed compression straps will allow for a lightly packed bag to still sit firmly up against key support areas of your body.

If the pack offers good expansion then you’ll also have that extra space you need on a multi-day hike.

Having a detachable daypack is great for short excursions from camp or you could leave the rest of the pack at home if you’re just heading out for a few hours.

Your backpack doesn’t just have to be for hiking. While the packing capacity is important, if you choose a pack that isn’t too large it could work well if you’re heading into the city for the day or even as carry-on on a flight.

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:

  • check
    Find your iliac crest by locating the top of your hip bone and following it around to the middle of your back
  • check
    Find your C7 vertebrae which is the bone that sticks out at the back of your neck when you look downwards
  • check
    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.

comfortable backpack for hiking trips

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

Styles of Packs

Ultralight Packs

If your base weight (total packed weight minus consumables) is around 10 pounds or so then you fall in the ultralight hiker category. If you’ve ever packed for even a short hike then you’ll know that getting under 10 pounds is a tough ask.

These packs are pretty small with just a single internal compartment, made from lightweight material with limited durability.

Also, they don’t usually have a lot of additional features or attachment points. The lighter denier allows for a tighter weave and results in better waterproof performance. 

Backpacking Packs

A traditional backpacking pack will hold anywhere from 30 to about 50 pounds. These are typically made from a heavier denier ripstop nylon.

It will normally have a variety of external pockets and attachment points as well as thicker profile shoulder straps and hip-belts.

These packs are typically used for thru-hiking and longer distance hikes.

You can hold a decent amount of gear but it’s not too heavy and still comfortable enough for covering plenty of miles a few days in a row.

Expedition Packs

If you’re the kind of hiker that likes to head off to a single spot and set up a comfortable camp with plenty of gear then a larger expedition pack will be the right fit.

These can sometimes carry up to 100 pounds so they’re going to be really heavy. It’s going to have a more substantial frame, plenty of padding and thick profile shoulder and hip straps. 

A Note on Women-Specific Packs

Men and women are physically different so it stands to reason that a guy’s pack may not fit as well on a girl. Here are a few of the main differences:

Carrying Capacity

The difference in physical strength means that a woman would not opt for a really heavy pack. Women specific packs would smaller carrying capacities.

Torso Length

A woman’s torso or back length is shorter than a man’s. Women specific backpacks are shorter to accommodate this. This design feature makes women specific packs a good option for shorter guys.

Shoulder Straps

The gap between the shoulder straps is narrower to accommodate the narrower shoulders of an average woman. The shoulder straps are also shorter and curved to accommodate a woman’s breasts.

Chest Strap

The height of the chest strap is adjustable or positioned for maximum comfort across the bust.

Hip-Belt

Women have curvier hips than men do so the hip-belt on a woman’s pack is shaped differently to accommodate this.

Curvy Women

If you’re a woman with a curvy figure then it’s definitely worth considering a woman specific pack but if you have a slimmer build then a unisex pack may fit you just fine.

Getting one that fits right is a very personal thing. Just because it’s called a women’s backpack doesn’t mean that all women will find it a comfortable fit. 

They do look prettier though so it may be the aesthetics that seal the deal for you in the end!

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 rucksacks we looked at 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 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 pack 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.

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