There’s a backpack for every activity, here we test the best backpacks for backpacking, hut-to-hut walks or weekend overnights.
Backpacking is a loosely defined term and can mean anything from walks of two days to those beyond a month, so therefore, backpacking packs will come in a variety of sizes. In this roundup, we include the trekking options from 35 litres to 60-litre in volume.
The size depends on your needs of course. If you’re trekking between huts or hostels, especially in warmer weather, a 35-litre backpack will be plenty. The 35L packs reviewed below were perfect for a hostel-to-hostel walk in the Brecon Beacons for example.
Related: Best Hiking Daypacks Reviewed
Ultralight backpackers – the type who chop off half their toothbrush – will also stick to around 35L for longer trips with a tarp or tent outer.
For those who like backpacking with a bit more comfort, or in colder months when you need a heftier sleeping bag, something between 35 and 55 litres should be right. Anywhere beyond that and frankly, you’ve got too much stuff for an enjoyable multi-day trekking trip. Then, anything over 55L should suit anyone heading into areas of wilderness for long periods of time – when there’s little chance of resupplying and you have to carry everything you need in with you.
What Is The Best Backpack For Backpacking?
Once you’ve decided on the size, the next consideration, and the one that you should prioritise above all else, is the comfort. The backpack is going to essentially be your home for a few days; it’s going to get heavy, it’s going to get annoying. It must be comfortable. And the only way to test that is to try it on.
The elements you need to look out for are how it fits your back. Pack it with the equipment you’ll be taking, make sure all the straps are done up – the hipbelt of course, and also the sternum strap across the chest – they all make a surprising difference to fit and weight distribution. Make sure there are no bits that poke you or have the potential to be sore, and that you feel your movement isn’t impeded.
Access is perhaps the next most important thing to think about. Larger packs (45-55L) benefit from an access point at the side or bottom, rather than just the top. The lid too needs to be easy to access and open. Pockets are increasingly scarce on pack models these days – I’m not a fan of superfluous features – but one or two of them are useful to keep wet clothes or food separate and the like.
One of the key things to consider is the type of back system. Is the back flat and padded (how padded is it?) or is there a trampoline mesh ventilation? The latter have a number of obvious benefits but some drawbacks, you can read more about that in our ventilated packs buyer’s guide.
Backpacks are rarely waterproof, although all will have some kind of water-resistant treatment and the fabric will stand up to a fair amount. Several come with rain covers. These are of limited use in very bad wind and rain it’s much better to pack your items in dry bags within the pack first.
This bag will also go through quite a lot. It’ll be thrown down on rocky ground, swung up on one strap, pulled and yanked. It needs to be well built. We’re confident these here will last well.
All of the backpacks in this Top 10 are featured in our Outdoor 100 2019/20 and the Green Gear Guide. Within these product guides, you’ll be able check out a more in depth review of each backpack, including tester’s verdicts and industry trade secrets.
- Lowe Alpine Altus 42:47 – Best Backpacking Backpack
- Fjällräven Keb 52 – Best Durable Backpack
- Osprey Kestrel 58 – Best Backpack For Trekking
- Ortlieb ATrack ST – Best Waterproof Backpack
- Mammut Trion Spine 35 – Best Alpine Backpack
- Osprey Archeon 45 – Best Eco-Friendly Backpack
- Lowepro Powder BP 500 – Best Camera Backpack
- Vango Heritage Typhoon 35 – Best Value Backpack
- Vaude Zerum 48 – Best Backpack For Weekend Wild Camps
- Gregory Paragon 58 – Best Ventilating Backpack
BEST BUY: Lowe Alpine Altus 42:47
You’ve got a great mountain pack in the Lowe Alpine Altus 42:47. The 42:47 litre size makes it suited towards winter day trips, whilst this same size makes it an ideal multi-day pack for hut-to-hut or camping trips during warmer months. Two straps on the side give the pack volume adjustment, whilst a floating lid and big stretch pockets further boost the carrying capacity.