If one of your resolutions for the new year was to start trying new hobbies, then you can’t go wrong with hiking.
When you go hiking, you get a good cardiovascular workout, plenty of sunshine and vitamin D, and you just never know when you might stumble upon a truly beautiful, scenic location.
If you’re going to get serious about hiking, then you’re going to want to invest in a good quality hiking backpack that can carry all of your gear on those longer, more involved hiking excursions.
There’s obviously plenty of hiking backpacks available – but which ones are the best of the best? Read on to find out our picks for the best hiking backpack of 2018.
Best Hiking Backpack Reviews
1. Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking Backpack
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For many people who are just getting started with hiking, they aren’t going to want to run out and immediately spend hundreds of dollars on a hiking backpack. It’s a far better idea to pick up a more budget-friendly backpack at first, until you’re absolutely certain that you’ll be sticking with this hobby long term.
The Venture Pal lightweight hiking backpack is an excellent starting backpack in cases like that.
While this backpack is priced at an entry level range, it’s still made with a high quality, durable water- and tear-resistant material. It’s also incredibly comfortable to wear, featuring well designed breathable mesh shoulder straps with added sponge padding.
There’s also plenty of carrying capacity (35L), multiple compartments, and it can be folded inwards to become extremely compact.
What's to like about the Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking Backpack
Without a doubt, the best part about this hiking backpack is that it is an incredibly well-made product at an extremely affordable price. The 35L capacity means that with a little bit of careful packing, you’ll be able to bring along all of your essentials and more.
What's not to like about the Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking Backpack
While this is a great entry level backpack to help you get your feet wet with hiking, particularly for hikes that are of a shorter duration, for the long term, there are definitely better options available. The material is slightly too thin for our liking, and over longer hikes, it may not hold up as well.
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2. Osprey Atmos AG 65
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Moving on from an entry level hiking backpack, we have the Osprey Atmos AG 65. It’s considerably more expensive than the Venture Pal backpack featured in this review, but you’re getting one of the most well-made hiking backpacks that we’ve seen for that price.
If you’re really serious about hiking, then you’re going to want to give this bag some serious consideration.
The main selling point of the Atmos AG 65 is Osprey’s patented Anti-Gravity suspension system that offers nearly unmatched ventilation and carrying comfort. To add to your comfort, there’s also a Fit-on-the-Fly hip belt and the torso length can be easily adjusted.
The bag has internal compression straps to help ease the burden of heavy loads, five exterior zippered pockets, three slip pockets, and a main compartment with a rather large capacity.
What's to like about the Osprey Atmos AG 65
This hiking backpack is built to an extremely high quality. Osprey are held in high esteem when it comes to producing outdoor sporting equipment and this bag is a perfect example of why. The suspension system works flawlessly, keeping you cool, dry, and completely comfortable even on longer hikes.
What's not to like about the Osprey Atmos AG 65
The only major complaint that we could think of regarding the Osprey Atmos AG 65 is that it is on the pricier side of backpacks. It’s definitely possible to get a hiking backpack that gets the job done just fine for far cheaper prices.
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3. Sunhiker Lightweight Hiking Backpack
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The Sunhiker lightweight hiking backpack is another great, affordable bag that’s incredibly ideal for day trips. While it’s one of our top picks for shorter excursions, it’s still a perfectly valid choice to use for camping, traveling, cycling, and plenty of other outdoor activities.
This is another backpack that offers a lot of value considering its price. It’s made with a highly tear-resistant and water-resistant nylon fabric.
The bag also has a MatReflective stripe to help keep you safer in the dark, a volume control system, and a bottle holder on both sides. The shoulder straps are also designed with a breathable mesh material and are fully adjustable.
What's to like about the Sunhiker Lightweight Hiking Backpack
We really enjoyed the simplicity of this backpack. There’s no lengthy list of extra attachments – instead what you get is a solid, well made hiking backpack that is absolutely perfect for a leisurely afternoon hike.
What's not to like about the Sunhiker Lightweight Hiking Backpack
The main feature that we liked is honestly part of a two-sided coin with this backpack. While it’s absolutely perfect for day trips, it doesn’t hold up quite as well for more experienced hikers who are planning any weekend or multi-day hiking excursions.
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4. TOURIT Insulated Cooler Hiking Backpack
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Do you like to go hiking just to spend time in nature while enjoying a tasty meal with a few cold beverages? If that sounds like your idea of a great weekend, then the TOURIT insulated cooler hiking backpack is right up your alley.
Whether you plan on traveling, camping, or even just a simple day hike to enjoy a picnic, this bag will serve you well.
The main selling point of this backpack is the fact that its main compartment features an insulated cooler with enough space to carry up to 28 cans – the contents of which are your choice, of course.
The bag itself is made with a ventilated fabric that is both durable and water-resistant. There’s even multiple additional pockets to fit all of your other favorite items.
What's to like about the TOURIT Insulated Cooler Hiking Backpack
The insulated cooler built in to the backpack was easily our favorite feature of the TOURIT hiking backpack. It made it incredibly easy to plan more than one afternoon picnic excursions and worked perfectly to bring along food and drinks.
The padded shoulder straps and ventilated back also made sure we were completely comfortable while lugging around our picnic items.
What's not to like about the TOURIT Insulated Cooler Hiking Backpack
This is yet another backpack where its best feature can also be a negative, depending on what your needs are. While you’ll be hard pressed to find a better hiking backpack to use for camping or picnic excursions, when it comes to lengthier, involved hikes, there’s definitely better bags for the job.
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5. WASING Internal Frame Hiking Backpack
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If you’re going to be going for a challenging multi-day hike, or you plan on doing quite a bit of traveling with a backpack, then the WASING internal frame hiking backpack just might be the right bag for you. It’s got a very large carrying capacity to hold all of your stuff, it’s incredibly comfortable, and it’s built to last.
Featuring a water-resistant, ripstop polyester construction, this bag will help keep your belongings completely dry by ensuring water slides off before it has a chance to penetrate the fabric.
The back features a molded panel with airflow channels to help keep you cool and dry, and there’s even a contoured aluminum frame bar that can be adjusted to fit the shape of your back for added comfort. There’s also an included waterproof rain cover stored in the bottom zipper access.
What's to like about the WASING Internal Frame Hiking Backpack
This bag comes equipped with everything you could need to carry you through challenging hikes. The 55L capacity is ideal for everyone from novice hikers to experts and can hold an incredibly large amount of gear.
Even more impressive is that despite the bag’s large size, it’s incredibly comfortable to carry around, even for several hours at a time. And even better yet? Compared to other quality large capacity backpacks, it’s also extremely affordable.
What's not to like about the WASING Internal Frame Hiking Backpack
This bag held up incredibly well during our testing and review process. However, we also think that for the most hardcore hikers out there, it wouldn’t be nearly as reliable.
This bag would work quite well for the occasional multi-day hikes or international trip, but for anything more intensive than those scenarios, the material may not hold up as well.
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Hiking Backpack Buyer’s Guide
If the five backpacks that we’ve reviewed in this article aren’t quite what you had in mind, but you’re still not exactly sure what you should be looking for when purchasing a hiking backpack, then this is the section for you.
We’ll give you a better understanding of the different features most commonly available on backpacks in order to help you make a more informed decision.
We also suggest reading the "Best Waterproof Backpack for Hiking of 2018? Complete Reviews with Comparisons."
Types of Hiking Backpacks
There’s several different types of hiking backpacks available. You’ll have options for hydration packs, expedition packs, daypacks, and more.
Here’s a brief overview of some of the more common types of backpacks:
Hydration packs feature hydration systems that are built right into the backpack, with a reservoir containing a capped mouth and a hose that allow for convenient hands-free drinking.
Midsize backpacks are exactly as the name implies in that they are hiking packs that strike the ideal balance between carrying capacity and comfort. These types of packs are ideal for a wide variety of purposes and can generally even be used as carry-on luggage when traveling.
Expedition backpacks are designed to be reliable for more involved, challenging hiking excursions. They generally feature larger carrying capacities, more pockets and compartments, and are designed with higher quality materials to be built to last.
The capacity of a backpack is measured in one of two ways – cubic inches or volume in liters. The most common measurement used is volume in liters, and these types of backpacks typically range from 25L all the way up to 70L.
In general, backpacks that fall between 30L and 45L are ideal for most people, as they provide plenty of room and they are easy to transport.
Backpack Frame Types
There are two types of backpack frames that are available – external and internal.
The majority of backpacks available nowadays feature internal frames, where the frame is hidden inside of the pack material. These types of frames are designed to help keep the weight of the pack focused over your hip area, which helps to ease the burden of carrying heavier loads.
External backpacks feature frames on the outside of the pack, which helps to keep the load further away from your back. While not quite as common anymore, these types of packs are good for carrying big, heavy loads.
There are also smaller daypacks available that don’t feature any type of frame.
Sizing and Fitting
Considering that you could potentially be carrying your backpack for several hours at a time, it’s important to select a bag that is the proper size for your body type. The general rule of thumb when it comes to backpack sizing is to measure the length of your torso – the backpack you select should be of equal or lesser size than this measurement.
Other than that, many experienced hikers prefer backpacks that offer plenty of adjustable options, such as shoulder straps and waist belt. This allows the backpack to be customized to meet specific comfort needs.
There’s no shortage of options when it comes to what type of material a backpack is made out of – you can find everything from leather to canvas to nylon.
However, one of the most important considerations when deciding on what type of material your backpack is made from should be whether or not the bag will be waterproof, or at the very least, water resistant. They should also feature some sort of protection against tearing.
For this reason, we strongly recommend choosing backpacks made with 400D or 600D nylon, as it is both water and tear-resistant.
We briefly mentioned above the importance of choosing a waterproof or water-resistant backpack, and it’s so important that it bears repeating again here.
Beyond that, you should consider the type and duration of any hiking excursion that you have planned. This will give you a better idea of what size backpack you should be considering -- if you’re only planning on going for a few simple afternoon hikes, you should probably look into a lightweight bag.
Other important features to keep an eye out for are backpacks that have adjustable straps, built in emergency whistles, hydration systems, tool attachment points, and included rain covers.
Hiking Backpack FAQs
How do you clean a hiking backpack?
Before cleaning a hiking backpack, double check to ensure that you’ve emptied the bag of all its contents. With that out of the way, you generally have a choice between hand washing or machine washing the majority of backpacks, depending on the size of the bag.
If using a washing machine, make sure to remove any metal frames from the bag, if applicable. We also recommend placing your backpack in a laundry bag if it will be going through the washer.
You’re also going to want to use a milder form of laundry detergent as regular detergent may damage the material. Never put your backpack in the dryer – always allow it to dry naturally.
If you would prefer to hand wash your bag, we recommend that you do so in a bathtub filled with lukewarm water if possible. Use a soft brush or cloth scrub, and clean the bag using a detergent-free, mild soap.
Again, don’t place your bag in a dryer – allow it to dry completely by hanging it upside down.
How should a hiking backpack fit?
A hiking backpack should fit comfortably on your body. The most important measurement to consider is your torso length – your backpack size should match your measurement number.
Aside from that, you may also want to measure your waist and hips. Most bags feature adjustable straps, but if it doesn’t, you’re going to want a bag with a strap that can comfortably fit around your torso as well.
How do you adjust a hiking backpack?
Considering that not all backpacks are designed the same, the methods used to adjust hiking backpacks can vary significantly.
Rather than attempt to run through how to adjust all of the different types of straps, we thought it best to present a visual guide on the most common types of adjustments that can be made. You can check out a solid video guide right here.
What size backpack for hiking?
The ideal backpack size for hiking will largely depend on what type of hiking excursions that you are planning. For single afternoon day trips or even overnight trips, you should be more than fine with a backpack volume between 20L and 30L.
If you’re planning on going for more demanding hikes that can last from an entire weekend to a week or more, then you’ll probably want to consider bags between 45L and 55L. The extra capacity will let you pack more essential items needed for the longer durations.
For international expeditions, the ideal size will all depend on whether you would prefer to take your backpack as carry-on luggage or not. If you want to keep your bag with you at all times, you shouldn’t go any larger than 45L.
If checking your bag in isn’t a problem for you, then you may want to consider a bag that is 55L and up, especially if you’ll be traveling for extended periods of time.
How to choose a hiking backpack?
When deciding on your hiking backpack, there’s a simple three-step process that we like to follow in order to make the right decision. We take the following things into consideration:
- Our torso measurement, to help pick out the right backpack size
- The types of hiking excursions that we have planned
- The items that we are planning on packing, both essential and non-essential
By keeping these three points in mind, you will have a solid idea of what needs your backpack will need to fill and can make your decision accordingly.
If you’re looking to purchase a brand new hiking backpack in 2018, the five options that we have reviewed in this article are the cream of the crop.
There’s an option to match all interests. Whether you only plan on going for the odd weekend hiking excursion or you’re making plans to go hiking on every continent, there’s a backpack for you featured in this article.
However, if you’re only interested in one single, all-purpose hiking backpack that will be perfect for single day trips as well as multi-day excursions, then our number one pick would definitely be the Osprey Atmos AG 65.
This backpack is incredibly well made, and the Anti-Gravity suspension system is fantastic for remaining perfectly comfortable, whether you’re hiking for one hour or six. It’s 65L capacity offers you more than enough space to pack everything you need, either in the spacious main compartment or in any of the many extra pockets.
The backpack features multiple fully adjustable compression straps as well, adding to the overall great feel of this bag.
If you’re going to be serious about hiking, then this is the bag for you, and our number one recommendation.
However, we recognize that the expensive price of this bag may not exactly appeal to some readers. In that case, our top recommendation for a budget priced bag that doesn’t compromise on quality is the Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking Backpack.
No matter what backpack you decide on, we hope you enjoy your time spent out in the great outdoors!
Remember to also read our article reviewing the "Best Waterproof Backpack for Hiking of 2018? Complete Reviews with Comparisons".