Any good outdoor adventure starts with a quality hiking backpack. With the right daypack, you can carry everything you need for an excellent trip into the mountains. Without a good pack, though, a day hike can be an uncomfortable slog through the woods.
But, finding a good hiking pack can be tricky, since there are so many great options available to you. To get you started, here’s our review of the 5 best hiking backpacks on the market today.
How Big Of A Backpack Do I Need?
Hiking backpacks come in all different shapes and sizes, so it’s important to find one that is appropriate for your needs. Generally speaking, most day hikers will need a pack with a 20-30L carrying capacity.
If you tend to carry a lot of gear, or you’re looking for a pack that can also be used for climbing and mountaineering, you may want a model with a 30-45L carrying capacity. Alternatively, if you prefer to go out on very short day trips, you might be okay with a pack in the 10-20L range.
How To Pack A Hiking Backpack
Packing a pack is a skill that takes time to develop. The weight of your backpack is also important. If you’ve found that you just can’t fit everything you need into your daypack, here’s what you should do:
- Lay Out All Of Your Gear. Before you start, lay out all of your gear on the floor to get an idea of what you need to fit into your pack.
- Insert Your Hydration System. If you use a hydration system, you’ll want to place it inside its designated pocket before you start packing your bag.
- Line The Pack With A Pack Liner. This step is optional, but if you really want to keep your gear dry, it’s best to use a pack liner. Although you can use a pack cover, liners are the only sure-fire way to stop your gear dry. If you don’t have a purpose-built pack liner, a burly compactor garbage bag/bin liner works well, too, for waterproofing the inside of your pack.
- Place Heavier Items At The Bottom. Once your pack liner is in place, it’s time to start packing your backpack. Always place the heaviest items at the bottom of your pack. This will help with weight distribution as you hike. The only exception to this rule is if you will need your heavier items, like your camera, while on the trail.
- Pack Items That Don’t Need To Be Accessible. Anything else that you have that doesn’t need to be immediately accessible, like your lunch, can then be placed in your pack on top of your heavier items.
- Fill In The Gaps. Next, you’ll take your spare jackets and clothing and use them to fill in the gaps left by bulkier items. Instead of rolling up your rain jacket, just stuff it into your pack wherever there’s space. This will help ensure that your pack is balanced properly. Be sure that you pack items that you might need as you walk, like your map, toward the top of the bag.
- Make Sure Everything Is Inside. While some people really like to have gear dangling off their pack, this is a sure-fire way to lose an important piece of equipment as you hike. So, before you hit the trail, make sure everything is packed inside your bag.
The Osprey Talon 22 is a simple, yet functional pack that is versatile enough for nearly any day trip. This hiking backpack features a BioStretch harness and continuous wrap hip belt that provides a chafing-free fit.
Additionally, the Talon 22 has an AirScape backpanel that maximizes breathability. As far as gear storage goes, the Talon 22 has one large central compartment, side and front stretch mesh pockets, and zippered hipbelt pockets.
Plus, the Talon 22 has a LidLock helmet carry system, so it’s also great for short biking trips, too.
- Versatile enough for different outdoor activities
- Highly breathable back panel
- BioStretch harness is very comfortable
- Not great for very heavy loads
- Pockets are fairly small
Specifically designed to be both affordable and lightweight, the Osprey Daylite Plus is a solid all-around hiking day pack.
The Daylite Plus offers 20L of carrying capacity in a simple package. It even has a removable foam frame sheet so you can reduce your pack weight on light and fast hikes.
The pack has a large panel-loading style main compartment as well as side and front mesh pockets.
It is also attachable to over a dozen different backpacking bags for use as small summit pack on longer adventures.
If that wasn’t enough, the Osprey Daylite Plus is one of the lightest hiking packs on the market, tipping the scales at just 1lb (0.45kg).
- Very lightweight and has removable frame sheet
- Can be attached to other backpacking packs
- Not great for very heavy loads
- Doesn’t offer a lot of suspension and support
Made with lightweight hikers in mind, the Deuter Speed Lite 20 Athletic is a performance daypack for mountain adventures.
It has anatomically-shaped shoulder straps in an athletic V-line shape that provide excellent freedom of movement as you traverse tricky terrain.
The pack is made for endurance pursuits so it has been stripped down to just the essentials. This means the Speed Lite is great for medium to light loads while hiking or climbing.
The Speed Lite 20 is also environmentally friendly, thanks to its PFC-free durable water repellent (DWR) coating which protects your gear from moisture without harming the natural world.
- Fully adjustable backpanel and removable features for weight savings
- Anatomically-shaped harness provides a better fit
- Environmentally-friendly materials
- Doesn’t have very much suspension
- Thin hip belt can be uncomfortable for some hikers
When hydration is of the utmost importance, it’s hard to beat the Camelbak Fourteener 24.
This purpose-built hydration day pack features Camelbak’s proprietary 3L Crux reservoir, which provides up to 20% more water per sip than its competitors.
As far as the pack goes, the Fourteener has a backpanel with an integrated multi-direction ventilation system for added breathability.
It also includes an internal frame suspension system for better weight distribution. For organization, the Fourteener has an abundance of pockets to make gear storage a no-brainer in the outdoors.
- Comes with a 3L Crux reservoir
- Internal frame suspension system for added load support
- Lots of pockets and storage options
- Fairly heavy
The Osprey Stratos 36 is a day pack that’s designed to hold a whole lot of gear.
Thanks to its 36L capacity, the Stratos is large enough to accommodate enough gear for a winter day hike or a single-day climbing trip in the mountains. It even has a fixed top lid for storing your most essential belongings.
The pack has a seamless hipbelt interface that provides a contoured and comfortable fit. It also has an airspeed suspension to help you carry heavy loads.
Plus, the Stratos is jam-packed full of great features, like an integrated rain cover, ice tool loops, and a stow-on-the-go trekking pole system.
- Large carrying capacity with suspension system for load distribution
- Integrated rain cover
- Seamless hipbelt interface and mesh backpanel for added comfort
- Expensive for a daypack
Finding the right hiking backpack doesn’t have to be a challenge. The key is to look for a pack that’s designed for your hiking style and that fits well. Then, you can focus on the additional features that you’d prefer in a pack so that you can find one that’s perfect for your next adventure.
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