When it comes to summiting mountains or spending a weekend camping under the stars, a fun, successful trip hinges on having the right hiking gear. Arguably, the most important piece of equipment is a backpacking backpack.
But there are so many different models, sizes, brands and features to consider that it can be tough to know where to get started. To lighten your load, we tapped the experts.
Grab your trail map and your water bottle — it's time to get outside and hit the trail with these 14 best backpacking backpacks for overnight trips and longer treks.
Many companies make and market backpacking backpacks according to gender, so we have listed women's and men's picks below. The main difference between the the two versions is torso length, and some women's bags also have shoulder straps and belts to accommodate wearer's breasts and hips. In reality, though, most bags function as unisex. So choose whatever fits you best.
1. Best Multipurpose Pick: Osprey Stratos 36
The Stratos 36 backpack is handy for overnight trips and longer day hikes. It's got a trekking pole attachment, removable rain cover, mesh pockets, ventilated back panel and hydration sleeve. The hip-belt pockets are especially handy for accessing sunblock and your phone while you're out working up a sweat on the trail. Though this internal-frame pack (more on frame types below) is designed as a men's piece of gear, it works just as well for women.
"The pack comes with an adjustable shoulder harness, so the bag's weight does not hurt your shoulders but settles on your hips," says Jennifer Schultz, an outdoor guide and instructor based in Norway.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $136.00 - $188.95
2. Best for Multi-Day Treks: Arc'teryx Bora AR 63
For longer trips, you can't beat the comfort of the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 backpacking backpack. An internal-frame option, it can hold enough gear for to last you four to seven days.
It's also made of high-performance materials that can hold up no matter what weather conditions Mother Nature throws at you.
"The bag comes with durable and protective designs to let you explore areas in varied climates," Schultz says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $516.51 - $549.00
3. Best Lightweight Option: Hyperlite 3400 Southwest
When empty, this internal-frame pick weighs just over two pounds, which is helpful when you want to fill it with 55 liters of gear, food, water and other essentials. This unisex pack, made in Maine, is ready for longer, multiple-day hikes, overnights and weekend adventures.
"I love that although this backpack is large, it is sleek and lightweight, making it a great choice for longer hikes," says Natasha Caleel, an occupational therapist, wellness coach and hiker based in Santa Barbara, California. "With minimal clips, pockets and buckles on the outside, it is less likely to get stuck on dense vegetation, and it will move with you as you climb through tight spaces."
Buy it: BackCountry.com; Price: $355 - $375
4. Best for Customizing: Ula Circuit
With this pick, you choose the torso length, shoulder-strap shape, hip-belt diameter and color. The result: You get a pack specifically made to fit your body. (You can also have your name embroidered on it!). Weighing just 2 pounds when empty, this unisex buy is great for athletes who want to be ultra-speedy out on the trail.
"I like that you can customize this backpack's fit," Caleel says. "This will make for a better fit than one-size-fits-all backpacks and will help distribute your pack's weight evenly to decrease back pain. This backpack is more structured making it suitable for packing camping equipment, food and other necessities for an overnight trip, too."
5. Best for Comfort: Granite Gear Crown 2
This internal-frame buy earns a top spot among the best backpacking backpacks for its light and comfortable construction. Handy for multi-day hikes, it has an adjustable and removable hip belt, removable zippered lid and removable frame.
It comes in both a men's and women's fit, with specially shaped shoulder straps and hip-belt for women.
6. Best for Women: Gregory Deva 70
The Deva 70 from Gregory is designed specifically for women, thanks to its adjustable shoulder straps and hip-belt panels. Perfect for extended, multi-day backpacking trips, this pack also has a fitted rain cover and a removable hydration sleeve that turns into a handy daypack. With an aluminum internal frame, bottle holster and several zippered pockets and compartments, this pack will help you reach new terrain.
"The water-bottle holder is gunslinger style so you can easily reach back for your water on a hot hike — no partner or setting down of a heavy pack required," says Nicki Bruckmann, who guides women on outdoor adventures through her company Explorer Chick.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $217.54 - $319.95
7. Best for Day Trips: Gregory Maya 16
Gregory is one of the top backpacking brands on the market, so it's no surprise it also makes one of the best packs for gear-heavy day hikes.
The Gregory Maya 16 is a frameless women's backpack with tons of handy features. It has a hydration hanger, a system for stowing sunglasses, an adjustable torso fit and a flexible hip belt with zippered pockets. There's an attachment for trekking poles, plus stretchy mesh side pockets.
"Check out the external pockets for space to shove layers, extra gear and snacks," Bruckmann says.
Buy it: GregoryPacks.com; Price: $99.95
Planning a Shorter Hike?
8. Best for Plus-Sized Hikers: Marmot Kompressor Plus 20L
If you find most backpacks tight and constrictive, this one just might be the perfect fit. Although the Marmot Kompressor Plus 20L Backpack is not specifically made for plus-sized backpackers, reviewers say its shoulder straps and hip belt are comfortable and let you hike, climb and summit mountains without rubbing or chaffing.
After all, when it comes to picking a pack, fit is the most important factor, Caleel says.
Plus, it's got everything you need for full-day hikes: plenty of storage, trekking pole attachments, a removable foam back insert and breathable straps.
Buy it: BackCountry.com; Price: $68.95
9. Best for Hydration: Lowe Alpine AirZone Trek+ 45:55
To help you stay fueled while you're building up endurance on the trail, this pack has a pocket to stash a hydration pouch and an exit point for a hose. The pack also has pole holders and a cutout design in the back that allows you to move more freely while carrying it. A unisex, internal-frame bag, it's great for full-day hikes and short overnights.
"This pack comes with a pretty fancy, yet easy-to-use suspension system that makes hauling heavier loads a breeze," says Wade Morris, a Salewa and Wildcountry athlete who has summited Denali, North America's highest peak. "I am a big fan of being to access the bottom of the pack for hard-to-reach items. This bottom compartment makes for great storage for dirty or wet items."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $249.90
10. Best for Alpine Trekking: Salewa Alp Trainer 35 + 3
The built-in ventilation in this unisex, frameless pack makes it breathable so you won't burn up while you're pushing the pace. It also has all the room you need for alpine treks: a large front compartment, side and hip-belt pockets and straps to fasten hiking poles. It's ideal for trips that last two to three days.
"The split zipper offers quick access to all levels of the pack, making that surprise rainstorm no trouble at all as you search for your rain jacket," says Morris, who is an athlete for the brand. "The suspension and straps are built to minimize skin contact, too, which equals fewer hot spots and more cooling."
Buy it: Salewa.com; Price: $179.95
11. Best for Convenience: Thule AllTrail Hiking Backpack
If you're someone who's constantly digging through their pack, you'll appreciate this bag's easy-to-access top opening and main-compartment side zipper. The shoulder straps are breathable and easy to adjust while you're on the move, too.
This frameless pack is designed for men, but the adjustable torso also makes it a useful pick for women athletes, too. It comes in three sizes — 25L, 35L and 45L — all fitting for overnighters and weekend trips.
"This men's backpack is great for those who use hiking poles as it has loops to stash them," says Holly Roser, CPT, a certified personal trainer and owner of Holly Roser Fitness Studio in San Mateo, California. "It also has a water reservoir and two places to hold water bottles if needed, because hydration is so important."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $99.95
12. Best Eco-Friendly Option: Fjällräven Kajka 75
With its unique external wooden frame, this durable unisex trekking pack from Fjällräven is both comfortable and environmentally minded.
"All of the materials — from the exterior to the rails and rods that compose the frame inside the pack — are now being made with lightweight, durable and sustainable materials," says Lentine Alexis, a Fjällräven guide and former professional endurance athlete. "Whenever I'm backpacking, it makes me realize that I'm walking with nature with nature on my back."
Plus, it easily adjusts to your body and has a comfortable hip belt for those days when you want to spend lots of time on the trail. The rain cover, wet/dry compartments and snow lock help you stay active no matter the weather. At 75 liters, it's big enough for long trips, but it also has a removable top cover that converts into a smaller chest or waist bag.
Buy it: Fjallraven.com; Price: $400
13. Best for Casual Wear: R.E.Load C-Series
Black-owned R.E.Load first launched in 1998 with a focus on messenger and bike bags, but it also makes a durable, lightweight roll-top backpack that's perfect for any adventure you want to take it on.
The C-Series line features a military-grade polymer buckle, padded shoulder straps, sternum strap, mesh-bottomed side pockets and a reflective strip to help keep you safe. Made in Philadelphia, this frameless pack is roomy and water resistant.
Buy it: RELoadBags.com; Price: $190
14. Best for Beginners: Deuter ACT Trail 30
This affordable unisex backpack from Deuter is a great basic starter pick. The no-frills design includes exactly what you need for a day hike or quick weekend getaway, including an internal frame, a zippered front compartment, a breathable mesh lining, zippered side pocket, inner pocket for valuables, gear loops and an area for wet laundry.
It also has a detachable rain cover and works well with hydration pouches.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $101.25
What to Consider When Shopping for Your Best Backpacking Backpack
fIn your search, fit comes first, says Matt Connors, a product line manager at Gregory Packs.
"The best comparison is footwear," he says. "A quality pack is designed to fit certain body shapes or has adjustments that make it compatible with a variety of body shapes. Matching your torso length to the pack you choose will provide the most comfort."
Bags are typically sized by torso length, so be sure to measure your torso length and check the brand's sizing chart before buying.
Consider the duration of your upcoming trips. You'll want to purchase a different pack based on if you're planning mostly weekend trips, slightly longer multi-day trips or extended trips. The longer the trip, the bigger the gear you'll need, Connors says.
As a general rule, get a backpack that is 70 liters or larger for trips longer than five days. Go for 50 to 70 liters for trips that are three to five days long, and 30 to 50 liters for one- to two-night hikes.
3. Backpack Features
Your hiking and backpacking goals can also help you prioritize which backpack features are most important to you.
Will you be traveling with trekking poles through rocky or uneven terrain? Look for a pack with tool loops, daisy chains and clip-on points for gear.
Also consider the climate and time of year you'll be hiking, Connor says.
"If you're in a warmer climate, a suspended mesh back panel will provide better ventilation to your back," he says.
Meanwhile, if you're hitting up a colder climate, you will likely need more gear and accessories such as trekking poles or ice axes. Pay special attention to your backpack's capacity and gear-carrying features.
5. Backpack Frames
There are three main frame types for backpacks: internal, external and frameless. Here's what to know about each style:
Frameless: This style is pretty self-explanatory. Frameless backpacks have no frame (or they may come with a removable frame). These are lighter in weight, but provide less rigid support. They're great for shorter day trips and hikes where speed matters.
External Frame: These are made with the frame on the outside of the material. They're handy for attaching objects to the frame, including bulky or awkward-shaped items. They also promote good ventilation.
Internal Frame: This is the most popular backpacking backpack style on the market today. Internal frames are designed to hug your body and help you remain stable on all sorts of uneven terrain.