A backpack is one of the first pieces of gear you’ll need to get started hiking. Considering you’ll be wearing it for a lot of hours at a time, you’ll want to make sure you’re picking the right one. The best backpacks for hiking aren’t cheap but it’s an investment you make to add to your hiking gear list that will last for years.
Fit is a key issue with bigger internal and external frame packs for multi-day hikes and it’s the most important issue you’ll face. It is all about the “suspension system”, which is the part of the pack responsible for bearing the weight and connecting it to your body: the shoulder straps, the hipbelt, the frame, the back padding, and the lumbar area.
Trip Length = Volume Capacity
In hiking life, the longer you plan to spend on the trail, the bigger pack you’ll need. Backpacks are sized by how much they can hold (volume) and measured in liters. If you’re planning a trip in winter, you might need more room for extra layers and a warm sleeping bag. Weekend trips (1-3 nights = 35-45 liters), multi-day (3-5 nights = 50-65 liters), long trips (6 nights+ =70 liters+).
Size – Torso Length
In backpacks, torso length matters more than your height. How to measure: Tilt your head forward and have a friend feel along the base of your neck for a bony bump - this is your C7 vertebra in case you wanted to know and the top of your torso length. The bottom of your torso length is at the top of your hip bones. An easy way to find this spot is to put your hands comfortably on your hips; it’s where your thumbs point to on your back. Your torso length is the distance between these two points.
General guide - Extra Small: up to 15 ½”; Small: 16″ to 17½”; Medium/Regular: 18″ to 19½”; Large/Tall: 20″ and up.
Do not try to cut out weight on the backpack itself. This will usually make the straps dig into the skin. Have a good balance between weight, comfort, and durability.
7 Best Backpacks for Multi-Day Hikes
The North Face Terra 65
It’s a user-friendly design that's slimmer and lighter for all-day comfort when managing 65-liter loads. It comes with an OPTIFIT harness system offering better load control on the trails and dials in the fit between the pack and your body, without sacrificing ventilation. The North Face Terra 65 Exploration Pack has a variety of well-placed pockets improve access to trail essentials when you're on the move.
Dimensions - 11" x 6.3" x 19.3"
Weight - S/M: 4 lbs 5.8 oz, L/XL: 4 lbs 9.2 oz
- Deluxe, vertical mesh channel on back for ventilation
- Comfortable shoulder harness is sleek and anatomical
- Updated zippered sleeping bag compartment access
- Great bag at a decent price
- OPTIFIT suspension system ensures a comfortable and secure fit
- Loads of pockets
- No hipbelt pockets & weak stretch pocket
The North Face Terra 65 Exploration Pack has a light, user-friendly design and sports a sleek, slimmed-down style that improves load management and reduces overall pack weight for your long weekend trips.
Kelty Redwing 50
The Kelty Redwing 50 has the space you need for a variety of activities and is relatively lightweight for the volume and has enough pockets to stay organized. It is inexpensive and has many of the features you'll need for short backpacking trips, rock climbing, and traveling. It has LightBeam single aluminum stay and Dynamic AirFlow back panel keep your load stable and comfortable.
Dimensions - 26 x 16 x 3 inches
Weight - 3 lbs. 11 oz
- Hybrid loading: Thanks to the zipper design, the pack can be opened like a clamshell for packing, yet accessed through the top like a top-loader
- Comfortable to carry
- Plenty of internal space
- Water bottle pockets
- A few users have complained that it’s a little heavier than expected
- No rain cover and no waistbelt pockets
The Redwing’s great features and accessible price has made this backpack a favorite among users. One of the reasons why this is such a hit is that it allows you to organize your things thanks to the multiple pockets with which it is designed.
Osprey Atmos 50 AG
The Osprey Atmos 50 AG Backpack might just be the most comfortable backpack you’ll ever wear. The Atmos AG anti-gravity suspension system hugs your back and hips as one unit, thus providing exceptional load transfer that makes your pack feel lighter because it’s working as it should.
Dimensions - (S) 29 x 14w X 16 in, (L) 33 x 14 x 16 in
Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz. (S), 4 lbs. 1 oz. (L)
- Adjustable torso length
- Top access with zippered front panel access point
- Removable/floating top lid & removable sleeping pad straps
- Easily adjustable torso length and hip belt padding
- Mesh “trampoline” back panel improves air flow across the back
- Easily accessible trekking pole storage
- Mesh side pockets are prone to ripping
- Thin padding in the hip belt
While the Atmos AG 50 is a bit heavy at 4 pounds, it’s hard to argue with the comfort that this back provides. If your current overnight backpack doesn’t fit you well or is uncomfortable, we’d encourage you to try on an Osprey Packs Atmos AG 50. It may be the last backpack you ever buy.
Black Diamond Element 60
The Black Diamond Element 60 Backpack holds all the essentials you need for a weekend trip or longer and it remains incredibly comfortable whether you're hiking a mere five miles or something much longer. The most important feature of this backpack is that both the reActiv hip belt and the SwingArm shoulder straps move with your body while you hike and give you a natural stride and reduce the energy it takes to reach your destination.
Dimensions - 27 x 14 x 5 inches
Weight - [M] 3 lb 4 oz, [L] 3 lb 5 oz
- reActiv suspension system & SwingArm shoulder straps
- Bottom zippered access to sleeping bag compartment
- 210D ripstop with water-resistant finish, 420D nylon abrasion panel
- Light and comfortable
- Hydration port access point to small
- Eleven pockets and 16 straps seem excessive
This backpack exhibits some features that climbers and mountaineers expect - ice axe attachments that can be used as trekking pole attachments and a lightweight outer material, while remaining simple and functional for a week of backpacking.
Gregory Packs Stout 65
This backpack will make you feel home in an unfamiliar territory. It’s ready for anything from a week of camping to extended wanderlust. It comes with 65 liters of space and the support of TrailFlex suspension and an extra anti-barreling stay give you a 45-pound (21kg) load capacity. It has the range you need and the carrying comfort you want. The removable SideTrack daypack adds versatility for urban exploration or day hikes.
Dimensions - 7.5 x 28.7 x 18.5 inches
Weight - 4.8 lbs
- TrailFlex wishbone suspension & TrailFit adjustable hip belt
- Detachable daypack doubles as hanging reservoir sleeve
- Trekking pole/ice axe loops and side/bottom compression straps
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When you wear this Gregory Packs Stout 65, you know what you're getting: a tough, straightforward, no-nonsense pack for lightweight overnights or weekend hostel trips. It’s got smart features that make trail life a little smoother, like a stow-away rain cover and removable lid that keep your gear dry and lighten your load.
Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 65 OutDry
It’s a completely waterproof, lightweight and comfortable multiday backpack. When you’re planning for multi day hikes- for long days and heavy loads, the Ozonic™ 65’s fully waterproof body is ready to handle the most heinous conditions with a three-layer OutDry® membrane that keeps contents dry in any conditions and an ergonomic design for continuous comfort. Air circulation is promoted by air mesh shoulder straps and a vented back panel. The prefectly placed stretch and zipper pockets allow for easy access to the essentials.
Dimensions - 30 x 16 x 8 inches
Weight - 4.8 lbs
- Waterproof, simple design, easy to use and spacious
- Guaranteed watertight OutDry® construction
- Seam taped, reversible top pocket offers the choice of easy access
- Carry loops for ice axes or trekking poles
- Not hydration compatible
- Chunky back panel padding
Finally, say No to Soggy Backpacks. For backpacking in wet climates, this is indispensable. A full complement of features ensures you'll stay organized on the trail, and adjustable torso length ensures a perfect fit. The Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 65 OutDry pack is best with mid to heavy weight loads; it is not ideal for lightweight backpacking
Alps Mountaineering Red Tail 3900
The Red Tail 3900 from Alps Mountaineering is a rugged, medium sized, internal frame Backpack. It has a ton of features like bottle pockets on each side & a hydration pocket and port. It provides great storage with a kangaroo pocket on the front of the pack and this is great for storing bulkier items like a vest or light jacket. It also comes with an over the top compression strap helps to stabilize the extra gear.
Dimensions - 30 13 x 6 x 29 inches
Weight - 5 lbs
- Top Pocket Converts to a Fanny Pack
- Adjustable Harness
- Hydration Pocket & Port
- Rescue Whistle Buckle on Sternum Strap
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The Alps Red Tail 3900 is a LOT of Bug Out Bag for the money. If you need a medium sized bag that will do the job, take a good long look at the Red Tail 3900.
From day hikes to multi-day treks, a good pack on your back can make carrying a load a joy (relatively speaking). The perfect pack is a simple one: it carries everything you need and nothing you don’t & this involves careful planning and packing. After considering the important aspects of capacity, style, and fit, you should be on your way to the perfect pack for your life and activities. Remember to educate yourself on the possible adjustments and functions of your new pack so that you can make the most of it, and enjoy!