best hiking backpack

Best Hiking Backpack – Find the Best One for You

A backpack is a necessary piece of equipment that you need when you are in the great outdoors hiking or camping or other areas where you will need a backpack. Your backpack will hold life-sustaining gear for you when used outdoors. Backpacks come in two types called front loaders or top loaders. Which one you decide to get will depend on what kind of packing you will be doing. Top loaders are more balanced and in general more comfortable. This makes them ideal for many hours on the trail and on long hikes. Front loaders are perfect for city travel and multi-day trips. They are not as balanced or comfortable as top loaders but this type will allow you to take out supplies without unloading the whole backpack. Plain and simple, backpacks are a fun and essential item to have for extended hikes and are useful for city or airport travel and come in many different styles and sizes. Below is a detailed review so that you will be able to find a backpack that is right for you and provides the most comfort as well holds all your camping and hiking gear.

Our Choices for the Best Hiking Backpacks

In the chart below, you will find our top ten rated hiking backpacks. For a more in-depth review of each model, please click on "Read Review."

Product Image

Product Name

Rating

Review

Earth Pak Backpack

4.7 out of 5

Gonex Ultralight Handy Travel Backpack

4.7 out of 5

best hiking backpack

Hikpro Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack

4.7 out of 5

Mountaintop 40 Liter Hiking Backpack with Rain Cover for Outdoor Camping

4.4 out of 5

best hiking backpack

OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack

4.4 out of 5

best hiking backpack

Outlander Hiking Backpack

4.6 out of 5

best hiking backpack

Sunhiker Cycling Hiking Backpack

4.0 out of 5

TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

4.5 out of 5

best hiking backpack

Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Durable Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack

4.4 out of 5

WALUCAN Lightweight Foldable Packable Durable Travel Hiking Backpack

4.3 out of 5

Top Ten Best Hiking Backpacks of 2018

  1.  Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Durable Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack
  2.  Mountaintop 40 Liter Hiking Backpack with Rain Cover for Outdoor Camping
  3.  TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
  4.  OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack
  5. Sunhiker Cycling Hiking Backpack
  6.  Outlander Hiking Backpack
  7.  Earth Pak Backpack
  8. Hikpro Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack
  9. Gonex Ultralight Handy Travel Backpack
  10. WALUCAN Lightweight Foldable Packable Durable Travel Hiking Backpack

How to Choose the Best Hiking Backpack

When choosing a backpack, think about how you will be using your pack. What kind of gear will it be carrying? Will you be doing overnight camping trips requiring a tent, sleeping bag, and food, or will it just be used for multi-day hikes? Do you want a backpack for city travel mostly or will you need a backpack for extended backwoods trips that need to hold all your hiking and camping gear? Do you need easy access to a water bottle? Our individual reviews will cover the benefit of each type of backpack and what kind of trips each type would be most suitable for. 

Things to Consider When Buying a Hiking Backpack

When purchasing a camping backpack, you need to decide what factors are your greatest needs. I have put together some items you may want to consider before you purchase your backpack. Examples to consider are price, comfort, ease of set up, pockets and compartments, color preferences, weight load capacity, and torso size, the weight of the backpack, warranty, and durability. These are the main things to consider, although you may consider more items as you learn more about what will meet your camping backpack needs the best.

Hiking Backpack Size

How big of a backpack you will need is really going to depend on how much you want to put it in it to carry in the first place. This seems simple, but you don’t want to add more weight than necessary by purchasing a bigger pack if you will only be using it for short day trips vs. long hikes for several days at a time. The longer you will be camping, the more you will want to consider a purchasing larger pack. However, some hikers enjoy ultralight camping. With ultralight camping you, you want to try to get by with the bare minimum and would, therefore, try to purchase a smaller, lightweight backpack that can still hold all of your hiking gear.

Hiking Backpack Accessories

While you are in the market for purchasing your own backpack, you might also want to consider purchasing some backpack accessories. Here is a list of items you might want to consider buying:

A Raincoat: This can be a real lifesaver if you are on a hike in wet, rainy conditions.

A Sleeping Bag: Make sure to purchase one that is suited for the temperatures and conditions that you will be using it for. If you are hiking, you will want to purchase a sleeping bag that is lightweight so that it won’t weigh your backpack down.

A Dry Sack: If you will be canoeing, kayaking, camping or hiking anywhere near water you may want to consider buying a dry sack for an unexpected spill into a lake or river. A dry sack might just save your cell phone and personal navigation system. An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

A Tent: Nothing beats sleeping out in a sleeping bag in the great outdoors unless it rains. Then you will wish you had a tent. There are ultralight tents available on the market that are suitable for sleeping outdoors that will not weigh down your backpack more than is necessary but will provide comfort in the outdoors.

A Water Filter System: You may want to consider having a way to safely purify your drinking water. Water filter systems are nice because you won't have to carry and pack in all of the water you need for your trip. A water filter system is nice for emergencies in case you run out of the water you do bring.

Freezer Dried Meals: The nice thing about freezer dried meals is that you can dine in style by simply adding some water. Freeze dried meals are lightweight and provide a way to have tasty snacks and meals along the trails or at your campsite without having to pack in other cans or ingredients to mix or use for meals that weigh down your camping backpack.

Types of Backpacks

There are two main types of backpacks available on the market. The first type is a top loading backpack and the second type is a front loading backpack. I have outlined the differences below.

Top Loading Backpacks: Top loading backpacks are opened at the top. Top loading backpacks are usually used more for hiking, mountaineering, or technical trails. They aren't used quite as much for regular traveling. The top loading backpacks are more narrow and long than the front loading type. Because the backpack is long and narrow, of this type of backpack makes it nice for keeping your items centered on your back and shoulders when hiking. You will want to purchase a top loading backpack that fits your torso length. This can also be adjusted using shoulder straps. It is recommended to get a pack with padded shoulder straps for your comfort when hiking. Make sure you check for pockets, a compartment that can hold your water bottle and other items, and a pack that is comfortable when you try it on. Nothing is worse than an ill-fitted backpack that is uncomfortable before the hike even begins!

For regular travel or trips, a top loading backpack can be annoying because you will have to dig through your backpack or empty it out every time you have to find something at the bottom. With a top loading pack, you will want to pack using a smart plan ahead so that you don't load a frequently used item at the bottom. It can be hard to see to the bottom of a top loading back and you will have to empty out the entire pack if you need an item at the bottom.

Front Loading Backpacks: A front loading backpack is a type that unzips completely. Think of how a suitcase works and you can picture the design of a front loading backpack. Front loading backpacks most often come with zippers that lock into place. This is an added security feature. The zippers also often have loops which makes it nice for adding on a combination lock to keep your gear safe. These type of backpacks also come with various pockets and compartments to store equipment for camping. Again, you will need to check your torso size when purchasing your backpack.

Front loading backpacks usually have zipped bags that can be detached which make them nice for short excursions. Some front loading backpacks have metal frames while others do not. Some even have wheels so you can roll it like a suitcase. While this might be ideal for airline travel, it will add on to your weight when backpacking. Usually, front loading backpacks weigh more than top loading backpacks.

Front loading backpacks are often reported to be not as comfortable as top loading backpacks. In general, shoulder straps are not as padded on front loaders as they are on top loaders. Top loaders are usually best for hiking long distances.

Pros and Cons of Different Types

Top Loading Back Packs


Here are some advantages and disadvantages of Top Loading Backpacks. I have listed the pros and cons here.

Pros

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     Well balanced 
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    Comfortable
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    Easy to fill

Cons

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    Often have to unload the whole pack to retrieve an item from the bottom
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    Straps can get caught and torn
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    Not as secure
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    Items can fall out when traveling through airports, etc.

Front Loading Backpacks

Front loading backpacks have some advantages and disadvantages depending on how you are traveling. I have listed the pros and cons here. 

Pros

  • plus
    Easy to get items without unpacking the whole pack
  • plus
    Lockable zippers for added security
  • plus
    More secure for traveling through airports and other areas 

Cons

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    Most often heavier than front loading packs  
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    No extra straps and loops for attaching items on the outside of the pack
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    Less padding in the straps are not as comfortable as top loading packs

Features of Hiking Backpacks

 Top Loading Backpack Features: Top loading backpacks usually contain several straps, clips, loops, and bungee cords. These extra straps and other items make it ideal for hooking on a sleeping bag or tent that won't fit inside your pack. The straps can be annoying because they can't be zipped and secured so you need to be careful not to tear them or get them caught on other objects. With top loading packs, you also have to be more careful if you will be using them for traveling through airports and other areas because they are not as secure.

Front Loading Backpack Features: When purchasing a front loading backpack, look for zipper compartments that lock into place. Because this type is not a top loading pack, you don't want to have zippers come undone along the trail or in public places only to find out later at your campsite that some of the goodies you hoped to snack on are gone. Look for the types of backpacks that have loops on the zippers so that you have the option of attaching a combination lock to keep your gear safe. This is especially helpful when traveling by air or bus. This isn’t as necessary on camping trails but it is still a nice feature to have. Another nice feature of a front loading backpack is that some models come with bags, pockets, and compartments that are detachable using a zipper. This will enable you to use only the parts of your pack that are necessary for short excursions.

Look for features on the backpack you purchase that have both a padded hip belt and a shoulder strap for more comfort. These features make hiking much more pleasant. Some backpacks will come with additional handles that will make carrying and loading the bag much easier. 

Best Hiking Backpack

After carefully reviewing the top ten hiking backpacks on the market, I have picked the Earth Pak Backpack as my choice as the best double camping backpack on the market.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Hiking Backpack

Before buying a hiking backpack to carry your gear, you want to make sure that you consider three things. 

Make sure that the backpack is comfortable.

If there is one thing that can take the fun out of a backpacking trip quickly, it is wearing an uncomfortable pack full of your gear. Make sure to get a backpack that fits comfortably. If you will be hiking long distances with your pack, top loaders are generally more comfortable. This type of pack is also more balanced. 

Think about why you are purchasing your backpack and what you will be using it for.

Top loaders aren't as secure for traveling through crowded airports or railway stations. Items can fall out of the top. However, front loaders are better suited long hikes on camping trails. 

Think about what you will be packing in your backpack.

If you want to carry a tent and sleeping bag outside of your pack, then you might want to consider purchasing a top loader because it will have straps for attaching extra items outside the pack. However, if you will be packing many small items or other equipment, then a front loader might make more sense. When a front loader is used, you won't have to unload the whole backpack to get gear or other items from the bottom of the pack. 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a Hiking Backpack

Think about why you want to buy a backpack in the first place. Then ask yourself these questions:

1. How big of a backpack do I need?

Will you be using a backpack for long, extended camping trips or just short multi-day hikes? Think about how much you will be taking and packing on your trips. 

2. How much will a backpack hold?

This depends on which type of backpack you get. Make sure you purchase a backpack that is suitable for your size and age. You don’t want to get a huge backpack of either kind if the carrier is small or too young to haul heavy packs.

3. Can I wash my backpack?

Yes, most backpacks are machine washable and are made of water-resistant material. Some are not to make sure you consider this factor before you purchase your pack. Follow the instructions that come when you purchase your backpack.

Why a Hiking Backpack Is Awesome

Backpacks are great because they will allow you to go places that you couldn't otherwise access with cars or other motorized vehicles. You can go backwoods for weeks with the right backpack or take a pack for a cross-country road trip. Backpacks can carry your food, shelter, equipment, gear, and water that you will need to survive on your trip.

 Front Loaders Work Great for Short Trips

Many front loading backpacks can be taken apart and used as separate pieces. This is a great feature when you are going to use your pack for taking short day trips or even to be used for work. Backpacks can have so many uses other than back wood trips. I like to take smaller backpacks to events or activities when I will be gone most of the day, but when a big camping backpack is not necessary. 

Top Loaders Can Get You There

I love top loading backpacks. My top loading backpack equals freedom. I can take it for miles and pack a tent, hammock, food, gear, and sleeping bag. A front loader means you literally can take off for the summer, as long as you have access to places where you can restock your food and water supply. 

Recommended Bestsellers

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Common Questions

Here are some common questions that you may have about hiking backpacks.

  • chevron-circle-right
    What type of hiking backpack do I need?
  • chevron-circle-right
    What size backpack will I need? 
  • chevron-circle-right
    How durable is the backpack? 
best hiking backpack

Conclusion

In this article, I have covered the different types of backpacks and why they are each useful. I have also covered the pros and cons of front loaders and top loaders. Each type is different and will have its advantages and disadvantages. If you are doing city traveling or short day trips, I would recommend a front loader. A front loader will allow you to get gear in and out without unloading the whole backpack. However, for camping trails, especially long hikes, I would recommend a top loader. A top loader is better balanced and will provide more comfort when hiking. In this guide, I have also covered other accessories that you might consider purchasing for your hiking trips. Some accessories will be more helpful for city travel to help keep your items secure. Other accessories will just add unnecessary weight. It really all depends on the kind of travel that you will be doing with your backpack. I hope that this comparison of the difference between top loading and front loading backpacks will serve as a helpful guide to as you choose and purchase the pack that is right for you and your individual needs.