The Best Hiking Backpacks in 2021

Hikes across the country and day trips to good hiking trails are equally demanding of a good-quality Hiking backpack.

Since backpacks tend to store most of your stuff, a smart choice of a hiking backpack can significantly bring the weight down and make your hike so much better.

It’s no longer expected of you to carry a heavy double-decker backpack with bulky pockets that store your bottled water and hiking carabiners.

Luckily for us, the manufacturing process has evolved and brands specializing in outdoor equipment have come out with backpacks that don’t make your back ache but rather keep your spine straight and spirits up when that peak of the hill is not seen on the horizon yet.

The perfect backpack should have enough storage for all of your hiking essentials, not add too much weight and fit your body like a glove. It is beneficial for it to have body-hugging straps, hip-belt pockets, durable zippers, and waterproof construction.

To ease up your research and reduce the number of hours you would otherwise spend on finding ‘the one’, we tested dozens of hiking backpacks that met our main criteria.

From lightweight built to feature-rich and affordable, we are certain that you will be able to detect the backpack you are most likely to invest in based on our carefully selected picks.

Establish your priorities for the equipment of your choice and decide on the hiking backpack that will give you comfort throughout the many trails you are about to conquer.

The ‘minimalist overnighter’ is the perfect name for the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest hiking backpack. It is perfect for exploring canyons, hiking through challenging trails and climbing up the hilly mountains without too much weight on your shoulders. The Dyneema fabric makes it super lightweight yet sturdy to withstand long and demanding hikes. Its construction includes a mesh foam at the waist belt and shoulder straps that hold your load proportionately.

There is a removable aluminum stays that helps to customize the load if needed. You will most likely not need to replace your hiking backpack anytime soon as it is built from the same materials used for catching the climbers when they fall.


The Best Travel Backpacks: Does Size Matter?

One of my most frequently asked questions about backpacks is about size. Everyone wants to know what the perfect size is. No one backpack size is better than another. What matters is that your backpack should be proportional to your body — that might mean a backpack that is 40 liters or 60 liters.

If your backpack is too big or too small, the weight won’t be balanced properly and will cause back pain or maybe even make you topple over. You don’t want a skyscraper rising up from your back, but you also don’t want a pack that is clearly too small and overflowing with your stuff.

You want a backpack that is big enough to hold just a bit more than the stuff you are bringing and not more than that. If a backpack fits everything you want, has a bit of extra room, and feels comfortable, then you have found the perfect backpack size. Manufacturers also have suggested torso and waist sizes for each model they produce, but I’ve found that the best way to know if a backpack feels right is to simply try it on.

When you are at the store (and any good camping/outdoors store will do this), they should be able to stuff your backpack with the equivalent of 30 pounds (15 kilograms) so you can see how that much weight feels on your back.

It’s important to remember that the bigger your backpack is, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to carry it on the airplane. Additionally, since you can no longer bring liquids in containers larger than three ounces on airplanes if your bag has soap and liquids in it, you’ll be forced to check the bag. Most baggage sizes are 45 linear inches (22 x 14 x 9 in) or 115 centimeters (56 x 36 x 23 cm) including handles and wheels so if you get a backpack with those dimensions, you’ll be able to carry on. This is roughly 45L (depending on the brand and shape). If you want to fly carry-on only, aim for a 40-45L bag.

You won’t face any baggage fees from the major airlines for checking your bag when flying internationally. Budget airlines, on the other hand, charge a fee for checking a bag based on weight, so the more your bag weighs, the more you will have to pay to check it at the gate. Even though my bag fits in the overhead bin, I often have to check it when flying a budget airline.

The Eternal Question: Should you Buy a Backpack or Suitcase?

I have a confession: I hate suitcases for long trips. If you’re traveling around the world, your luggage is going to get thrown about and piled high on buses in random countries. It will get used and abused and it’s simply hard to walk up hills and stairs with your suitcase bumping everywhere. Try carrying a suitcase up five flights of stairs in a tiny hotel in Italy! It’s a pain!

Suitcases are great for weekends away or if you’ll be staying in one place for a long time. I always use a carry-on suitcase on my short trips.


How to choose your hiking backpack

You need a backpack for every one of your adventures! For a Sunday stroll with your family or the trek of your dreams, your backpack will be right there with you, so you should make sure you choose the right one.  Here is our advice on finding the right hiking backpack for your trip.

Where and when?
Whether you are going hiking in the desert, in the mountains or to the coast, the destination as well as the time of year should determine your choice of backpack. You won’t need the same amount of gear for a week’s hike in the mountains as you would for a trip to the desert or to the coast. You should research the local climate before you go and check the weather forecast just before you leave to help you decide on the size and model of your pack.

If you are going to hike in the mountains at any altitude, the weather conditions can change very quickly; the temperature can drop in just a few hours, the wind can pick up really quickly, and the sun can turn to rain at the drop of a hat. A change of clothes, a windproof jacket and several extra waterproof items of clothing will be essential.
— Discover our jackets selection: for HIM | for HER

The weather also changes quickly by the coast or on an island, you can experience every single weather condition in a day; sun, heat, humidity, rain and fog could come at you one after the other while hiking.

In more arid regions, the chances are that it will be sunny, however there are often large differences between temperatures during the day and at night. You will need to pack light clothing for the daytime and extra layers of warm clothing for when the sun goes down.

Your destination’s climate will determine the gear that you pack and therefore the volume in liters of your backpack. It will also guide your choice of what the backpack is made from and its technical characteristics. The goal is to optimize your performance without compromising on comfort.

The length, the destination and the weather are the first things to consider when choosing your hiking backpack. You should then take into account the sport that your bag is intended for as some bags will be better adapted to your needs than others. It’s all a question of organization, and you need to find a backpack with features that suit you best. Elasticized side pockets, a pocket for your sunglasses, waterproof stash points, top-loading openings, panel access, compression straps, attachment points for your rope, helmet, or sleeping bag…Each backpack range has different features that can help you on your adventure.These bags will have all the above features, plus extra characteristics such as attachment points for specific equipment like an ice axe, a daisy chain providing multiple external gear loops for attaching your helmet, sleeping bag, crampons etc., load lifter straps to provide extra comfort, adjustable suspension to fit your torso, and specific adjustments for differing builds particularly for women.

With the increasing popularity of fast and light hiking, where summits are reached at lightning speeds in hours instead of days and where cell phones have replaced cameras, we are currently riding on the ultralight wave, where light equals freedom.  With the evolution of hiking equipment and the use of new materials our packs have become much lighter, however the comfort level remains the same. There are lots of minimalist packs made for the trail running market, but there are also some XXL hiking packs that are just as light.



Picking the right travel backpack is an important part in planning your trip. Pick a bag that’s too big and you’ll have too much extra weight to carry around. Too small and you’ll never fit all your stuff in the thing! Pick the wrong material and your stuff will be soaked when it rains.

These days, there are so many backpacks out there that it can be confusing knowing how to pick the right one.

There’s actually a science to knowing what the best travel backpack is — and how to pick it! When I first started traveling, I spent weeks picking out my first travel backpack. I tried on dozens, did hours of online research, and tested them in the store to get a feel for what they would be like.

It was a time-consuming process. However, that research paid off though as my first backpack lasted me 8 years.

In fact, the only reason I bought a new backpack was because an airline lost that bag. Otherwise, that backpack would still be around today.

Don’t want to watch the video? No problem! Here’s a summary of it and how you can pick the best travel backpack for your trip:

The best backpacks — the ones that last the longest and stay in good condition no matter how much you abuse them — have all the following characteristics that make them durable, long-lasting, and weatherproof. Don’t get a backpack that doesn’t check off all the boxes on this list:

1. Water-Resistant Material

While your pack does not need to be 100% waterproof (that is unless you are going on some long multi-day hikes), make sure your bag is made out of a semi-waterproof material so everything doesn’t get wet in a drizzle (most travel backpacks come with covers you can put over them in case of a severe downpour).

Moreover, make sure the material won’t stay wet long and thereby get musty. I look for material that is thick but lightweight. Treated nylon fiber is really good. You should be able to pour a cup of water over it without the insides getting wet. I’m not traveling a lot during torrential downpours or monsoons, but I have been caught in small rainstorms before. Because my backpack is made out of good material, I’ve never opened my bag to find wet clothes.

2. Lockable Zippers

Make sure each compartment has two zippers so you can lock them together. While am not really worried about people breaking into my bag and stealing my dirty clothes in a hostel, I like locking up my bag when I am traveling. I’m always paranoid that someone is going to put something in my bag or that a grabby baggage handler in an airport is going to take my stuff.