Best Hiking Backpacks For 2019 | Top 10 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Hiking Backpacks For 2019 | Top 10

Hiking Backpacks come in a range of capacities and designs. Here's how to find the best one for your trekking adventure

There’s a backpack for every activity, here we test the best for hut-to-hut walks or multi-day trekking.

Trekking is a loosely defined term and can mean anything from walks of a day or two to those beyond a month, so therefore, hiking packs will come in a variety of sizes. In this roundup, we include the best backpacks 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 our 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 this size 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.

How To Find The Best Backpack For Hiking

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 Outdoor 100 2018. 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 Backpack For Hiking
  • 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 Levity 45 – Best Lightweight 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

Price: £140
Weight: 1700g
lowealpine.com

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.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

There are two ways to access the main compartment of this pack: the first is through the floating lid found at the top and the second is via a U-shaped zip across the front of the pack.

OM editor Will Renwick who used the Altus on a trip to the Brandenburg Alps, said: “The back system is one of the stand-out aspects. I’ve used a different make of backpack on each of the four or five long distance walks I’ve been on in the past couple of years, and this is definitely going to be coming on my next one.”

Full Specifications

M-L 1.7kg / L-XL 1.8kg / extendable lid to increase volume by 5 litres / adjustable back-length with easy to use hook and loop backsystem / TipGripper walking pole attachments / HeadLocker axe attachment system

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Here’s our full Lowe Alpine Altus 42:47 review

 

Fjällräven Keb 52

Price: £265
Weight: 2260g
fjallraven.co.uk

The Keb 52 from Fjällräven is a real thing of beauty. The eco-friendly G1000 provides excellent water resistance, on top of long term durability. You’ve then got the Bergshell fabric which is made from recycled nylon to further boost the Keb’s eco credentials. A final eco note for the Keb is the use of a wooden frame which, according to Fjällräven, reduces CO2 emissions during the bag’s production by 90%.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

This unique wooden frame is easily adjusted to suit a variety of back lengths, whilst also providing padding and a touch of ventilation. This is all required for when you’re using the pack to its full 52 litre potential. It’s this size that make the Keb 52 the ideal pack for hiking the West Highland Way, or just weekend camping trips.

There are open side pockets for a water bottle or other small items you need access to quickly, two fairly sizeable zipped pockets on the hipbelt which provide a decent amount of weather protection, one big U-shaped pocket on the front, and then a zipped overlid pocket and small underlid one that stores the detachable rain cover.

Full Specifications

Durable G-1000 HeavyDuty Eco S / recycled polyester and organic cotton / base and sides in waterproof Bergshell fabric made from recycled nylon / unique wooden frame reduces CO2 emissions by 90% / attachment points for skis and ice axes/poles

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – take a closer look at the Fjällräven Keb 52 Backpack here

 

Osprey Kestrel 58

The 58 litre size is perfect for hiking long-distance trails. Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £150
Weight: 1760g
ospreyeurope.com

The Kestrel and women’s specific Kyte series of backpacks have become Osprey’s most popular models for hiking. Available in a range of capacities from 36 – 68 litres, meaning that they’ll be a model to fit the activities you’re planning. The size we’ve included in this top 10 is the Kestrel 58 – the kind of size you’d want for hiking a long-distance trail with – say, the Pennine Way, or even the Pacific Crest Trail.

As you’d expect from a pack this size, there’s a big compartment with different access points to aid finding that bit of tucked away gear that little bit easier. These include a toggled drawstring entry at the top, a zip that opens up the entire base, and then a long U-shaped zip across the whole of its front. It’s a floating lid design so there’s also that added volume up top for those really big loads.

Full Specifications

AirScape backpanel / integrated & detachable raincover / U-Zip suitcase opening on front panel / stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachment / PowerMesh dual access water-bottle pockets / front shove-it pocket

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Here’s our full Osprey Kestrel 58 review


 

Ortlieb ATrack ST

The Ortlieb Atrack ST is an ISPO award-winner. Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £177
Weight: 1560g
ortlieb.com

The Ortlieb Atrack 35 is a fully waterproof backpack ideally suited towards activities where you’re planning on taking a soaking, whether that be in rivers, lakes, oceans or just on hilltops: Trekkers, bikepackers, ski-tourers, kayakers and packrafters, arguably for the first time ever, have a backpack they can all genuinely rally behind.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

A long waterproof zip is located on the back of the pack opens the bag up like a duffel, allowing you to get a look inside before picking out what’s needed. Internally, there are four zippered pockets on the Atrack while on the outside there are two net pockets perfectly suited for water bottle storage.

The adjustable back panel is simple, but effective, and means that no matter your height you’ll be able to create a setup that feels compatible.

Full Specifications

Tear resistant nylon fabric / 4 zippered inside pockets / adjustable back panel / ergonomic shoulder straps / two outside net pockets / daisy chains on the front / 4 compression belts

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Here’s our full Ortlieb ATrack ST review


 

Mammut Trion Spine 35

Price: £250
Weight: 2120g
mammut.com

The focus on the all new Trion Spine 35 from Mammut is in its carrying stability whilst moving through complex climbing and scrambling terrain. Mountaineering packs without much in the way of carrying stability sometimes feel like they rock side to side, leading to the feeling that it’s pulling you off the wall, or conversely it can make your movement feel completely restricted.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

Mammut’s Active Spine technology looks to combat this unwanted instability and discomfort through the use of a lightweight rod that connects two pivot points located near the shoulders and on the waist.

A large U shaped opening similar to that of a duffel means that you’ll be able to organise and retrieve all of your kit with the pack fully opened up, rather than the classic situation of blindly diving into your pack via the top hood to reach your gear.

Full Specifications

Mammut Connect / Active Spine Technology supports a natural gait / suspension system can be adjusted / 2-layer EVA back padding / hip belt and shoulder straps with stretch fabric cover / 2 ice axe attachments / trekking pole carrier

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Here’s our full Mammut Trion Spine 35 review


 

Osprey Levity 45

Price: £220
Weight: 760g
ospreyeurope.com

Osprey have managed to shave grams from the bit of equipment that’s usually overlooked when looking to reduce the weight carried during your backpacking trip – the backpack. The Osprey Levity (and Lumina for women) is a 45-litre pack that weighs a stonkingly light 830g. To put this into perspective, the Altus 42:47 from Lowe Alpine (featured above) weighs 1,700g.

Best-suited to carrying loads of under 12kg. It’s not the largest of load-bearing capacities, but then again, anyone who chooses an ultralight pack like this is probably going to be packed quite light anyway. A number of interesting materials have been utilised by Osprey to keep that overall weight so unbelievably light. At high abrasion points like the base there’s a 210-denier nylon reinforced with a 200-denier polyethylene, whereas the main material elsewhere is a 30-denier ripstop nylon which is commonly seen on many ultralight tents.

Full Specifications

AirSpeed ventilated trampoline suspended mesh backpanel / ExoForm mesh hipbelt and harness / dual access fabric side pockets / InsideOut compression cord / removable side compression cords /

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Here’s our full Osprey Levity 45 Backpack review


 

Lowepro Powder BP 500

Price: £310
Weight: 2400g
lowepro.com

Photography and videography kit needs to be taken seriously. It’s worth a pretty penny and time in the outdoors can put a lot of stress on it. This is where camera specific hiking and climbing packs come in to safely transport your equipment around the mountains. The Powder Backpack from Lowepro offers up a dreamy balance of lightweight performance with secure, reassuring, camera carry; all wrapped up in the body of an alpine backpack. It’ll take your pro-level DSLR, with attached grip, plus two-four lenses. On top of this, it’s also capable of carrying a full size tripod.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

Aside from all this carrying power, there is a main compartment that is dedicated towards non-camera storage, where you’ve got enough room to hold gear for an overnight summer camping trip.

As well as the supreme weight-to-padding balance, the secure / hidden access to the camera compartment, and the versatile space it provides, it’s also well worth mentioning that the Powder Backpack from Lowepro comes with a cover that will effectively protect your gear from rain, snow, dust and sand.

Full Specifications

Fits Standard DSLR and Pro Mirrorless cameras and lenses / 50% of interior dedicated to non-camera storage / ski and snowboard carry system / dedicated slat pocket holds up to 15-inch laptop

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Here’s our full Lowepro Powder Backpack review


 

Vango Heritage Typhoon 35

Stretchy side pocks will comfortably take an insulated flask or widemouth Nalgene. Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £75
Weight: 1400g
vango.co.uk

You can’t help noticing that there are a few fake ‘original’ logos popping up from outdoor brands – if you don’t have the history to fit with the heritage trend then perhaps faking it is all you can do. Vango, on the other hand, have been making gear for Britain’s outdoor enthusiasts since 1966.

While the Heritage Typhoon 35 blends old and new designs, we wouldn’t go so far as saying this is a techie pack. It’s actually quite basic, but in a way we kind-of like – it’s one of those daypacks that will simply do the job. A durable nylon wraps up this pack to keep the traditional yet functional style. The top and side compression straps allow you to adjust the volume to suit your load, then there are two stretchy side pockets that will comfortably manage an insulated flask or water bottle.

Full Specifications

Heritage Excel fabric / duraflex components / X-Air back system / waterproof rain cover / reflective print / adjustable harness / padded hip belt

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Here’s our full Vango Heritage Typhoon 35 review


 

Vaude Zerum 48

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £155
Weight: 1180g
vaude.com

The Serum 48 from Vaude has been made with one or two day trips in mind. Vaude have managed to get this pack to a pretty low weight of 1200g. This lack of weight has been achieved through the use of a lightweight rip-stop siliconised fabric. They’ve reinforced this with extra strong material on the bottom and the sides, where packs typically see quicker wear – all of these materials have also been given the Bluesign seal of approval.

A floating lid allows you to increase or decrease the height depending on how much you plan on packing and there are external pockets for quick access while travelling. If you’re really focusing on keeping the weight down you can get rid of the lid altogether – bringing the weight down to 1.1kg. The adjustable suspension system lets you vary the length of the back panel so you can set it up comfortably whatever size or shape you are.

Full Specifications

Individually adjustable supportive back panel / lightweight hip belt with zip pocket / lid pocket / lid can be removed to save weight / side compression straps / 1 side stretch pocket / 1 stretch bottle pocket at the side

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – take a closer look at the Vaude Zerum 48 here


 

Gregory Paragon 58

Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £160
Weight: 1600g
eu.gregorypacks.com

The Gregory Paragon 58 has been designed to be used over long distances in different weather conditions. Over these long distances, you want airflow on your back – this is where Gregory have hit the nail on the head. The Matrix ventilation system on the Paragon 58 has to be one of the best examples of spot on ventilation. Its foam structure is surrounded by a breathable mesh which channels cool air where you need it, and allows moisture to escape. You’ll be thankful for this feature when you’re trekking about in hot conditions.

A fully adjustable shoulder harness and hipbelt that actively adapts to different shapes gives a great level of comfort, with an ideal fit. As a consequence of this, load balance is maintained with the Paragon 58. Whilst we’re speaking of comfort, a quick shout-out for the innovative internal wire frame (made of aluminium alloy) which effectively channels the load to the strongest part of your spinal column (aka ‘the lumbar region’). Twisting and turning in-sync with the wearer, the frame helps to keep things stable.

Full Specifications

Aerolon adjustable torso / matrix breathable backpanel / gription lumbar pad / die-cut dual density shoulder harness / sternum strap with hydration clip / sunglass QuickStow system on shoulder harness for quick, secure / scratch-free access to your shades.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2019/20 – Here’s our full Gregory Paragon 58 review

Other Walking Backpacks We’ve Rated In 2019

 

Montane Halogen 33

Price: £90
Weight: 880g
montane.co.uk

Impressively light, effortlessly comfortable, and pleasingly minimal Montane’s Halogen 33 is a winning backpack. It is designed for long winter days on the mountain or lighter overnight trips, perhaps staying in huts or bivvying. For full camping kit, you’d need something more substantial.

It is designed to be as versatile as possible, and that includes crossing seasons. So what we’ve got is the tough ‘RAPTOR Geo’ fabric that stands up to tough weather conditions, as well as a ventilated back system for summer. The material has a Durable Water Repellant (DWR) treatment too and the interior has a waterproof lining.

It’s a slimline ‘Alpine’ style pack, with less of the annoying straps and flaps that some backpacks have. Another consequence of this slim backpack is that there is almost no restriction in movement at all. The flexible back helps because it moves with the body.

Other features include pockets on the hipbelts, a brilliantly-named ‘baguette pocket’ that is a long stretchy pocket either side, great for stuffing, well, stuff. There is also a stowable attachment for walking poles or an ice axe. The lid has a pocket on the top and underneath. On the back, it’s comfortable, although we found it hangs quite low down. It didn’t affect comfort though.

Pros: A good price for a versatile all-season backpack. Allows free movement. Lightweight.
Cons: Seemed to hang quite low at the back, but not uncomfortably.
 

Patagonia Nine Trails 36L

Price: £160
Weight: 1357g
eu.patagonia.com

At first glance, this looks like another backpack-by-numbers, but once you start packing it, a number of quirky features become apparent. Plus there are several construction elements that set the Nine Trails apart from other backpacks, not least of all the use of Cordura material for the main body, an exceptionally strong fabric. It should last for years.

It’s not waterproof but has a PU finish and a DWR treatment meaning water will fall off it. This is the 36-litre version of the backpack designed, as Patagonia says, for ‘extra-long days and minimalist overnight missions’. I’d say that’s accurate. However, the Nine Trails does seem larger than many of the similar-billed backpacks.

Once loaded, the padded bottom of the backpack is square, meaning it often stands up without too much trouble, an elegant feature; bags that regularly fall over can become an annoyance. Another appealing feature is the long zip access point down the side, providing access to the seat of the pack. It’s a two-way zip so you can open it from the bottom too (it’s characteristics like these that set backpacks apart).

The back system is pretty stiff but very comfortable, and the whole pack moves well with the body. A lot of thought seems to have gone into the ventilating back system, but we’re never sure how effective it is. It’s especially comfortable which is the main thing.

At the front is a large stretch pocket for throwing in wet clothes or shoes; however, the main closure buckles are also attached within in the pocket. Although the straps poke out the top, it can become a minor irritant when you need to fish them out. Another niggle is that the buckles on the compression straps are the same size as the main straps, and I occasionally got them confused. However, these are minor in an otherwise fantastically made and well-designed pack. Available in two sizes: small/medium and large/extra large.

Pros: The square, padded bottom stands upright. Well constructed with a long-lasting fabric.
Cons: The main straps buckles are in a fiddly position. Not the lightest.

 

Jack Wolfskin Highland Trail XT 60

Price: £180
Weight: 2220g
jack-wolfskin.co.uk

Jack Wolfskin’s Highland Trail XT 60 is designed for multi-day backpacking trips where you’ll be carrying your tent and food with you. At 60 litres, and expandable for another five litres, it’s not for ultra-light backpackers, but for those who either like to carry plenty of kit for comfortable nights or who are venturing deep into wilderness for long periods.

Once a backpack goes over around 30 litres, access points become more and more necessary. Jack Wolfskin’s Highland Trail XT 60 has them in abundance.

It’s classic top-loading rucksack with two separate compartments. We like the long zip at the side that curves around towards the bottom of the backpack allowing easy access. There’s a separate section at the bottom for wet clothes and the like, but it can be opened up to one big compartment. There’s another large pocket at the front. The lid has a pocket on the outside and underside, and there are mesh pockets either side, plus a zipped map pocket on the side. Although we would have liked them deeper.

Other features include ice-axe straps, walking pole stows and compression straps around the side and the bottom. For us, it’s a little overkill on the straps: minimalist it isn’t.

The fit can be adjusted for your back reasonably quickly, but the cushioning always felt a little odd to me – not uncomfortable, just different! Definitely worth trying on in the shop. The fabric seems very durable, but overall it’s quite a heavy pack.

Pros: Seems durable, good access to the main compartment.
Cons: Lots of flapping straps and the back cushioning felt a little odd. Heavy.

 Salewa Alptrek 50

Price: £145
Weight: 1800g
salewa.com

Salewa is a company born in the Alps, and since 1955 it’s been known for making backpacks. No pressure then. The Alptrek 50 (+5) is undeniably alpine in its style, in that it has a slim profile. It’s designed for multi-day alpine treks and has features including trekking or ice axe attachments and a rope fastener. Somewhat traditional, but then things get a bit more curious. It’s a top loading pack and has a zipped access point at the bottom – as you would hope for a 50-litre pack. Then there are two huge zipped pockets on either side that extend the entire length of the backpack. Big enough for tent poles, or perhaps wet clothes.

The pockets require two zips. It’s not something I’ve seen before, but I can certainly see the advantage, especially if you’ve planned your packing well. A minor niggle is that opening the zips on the side pockets and the lower access zip means you need to undo the compression straps.

The back system is simple, well padded and very comfortable. I didn’t experience any hotspots – no complaints at all. This is a well-constructed pack that I’d enjoy using on long-distance treks.

Pros: I like the zipped side pockets, and it’s also comfortable over long distances.
Cons: Having to undo compression straps to access pocket. Not a biggie.

 

Thule AllTrail 35

Price: £120
Weight: 1260g
thule.com

Thule’s designers make smart luggage and packs. The details tend to be really well thought out and genuinely useful. Thule tend not to fall into the trap of solving a problem when there really isn’t one.

The AllTrail 35 is designed to be a multi-activity pack, a versatile load bearer. The 35-litre size is just right for long winter day walks and lightweight hut-to-hut walks when you’re not carrying a tent. And in true Thule style, it’s not quite like anything else we’ve tested. The main difference is the opening that is zipped across the back and top of the bag. The zips extend about halfway down the side of the bag, allowing it to open right up.

Inside are two mesh pockets, one for smaller valuables and another to hide away dirty underwear (or something). The compression straps close over the zip which is a little niggle.

The back system is a thin, barely noticeable frame, and the bag sits snugly against the back. The back length can also be adjusted very easily. QAs you’re walking, it moves well with the body without any obstruction. The wide hipbelt is comfortable and will take off a decent load when heavy.

Pros: Wide zipped opening with easy access. Easy to organise gear. Very comfortable.
Cons: A minor niggle, but the compression straps fasten over the main zip.

Millican Fraser The Rucksack 32L

Price: £145
Weight: 1300g
homeofmillican.com

Millican is a company based in the Lake District that makes beautiful, classic looking backpacks but with thoroughly modern features. Fraser the Rucksack 32L is one of the smallest rucksacks here and is best suited to long day walks or a short hut-to-hut jaunt in summer. That said, it’s quite spacious.

The opening is wider than most here, and it’s quite stunted allowing easy access to the bottom. There’s a drawstring closure with a fold-down lid. I was concerned that the rain would enter, but it’s pretty well protected. The ‘Bionic Canvas’ helps too. It’s not 100 per cent waterproof (none of the bags here are), but it stands up to most deluges.

The real advantage of the material is its strength, and combined with the careful construction, this should last for years (I’ve have had one for years actually). The features are minimal with two large side pockets that can either be used with a flip lid or not. There’s a hidden zip pocket in one. There is another, well hidden, small stash pocket in the back and accessed from the outside, and pockets in the hip belt.

It’s comfortable on – I wore it for a couple of days trekking in Iceland and found it wonderful. The removable hipbelt does take some of the weight, but it’s not designed as it would be for heavier loads. A lovely bag that will last.

Pros: Durable material and very well constructed. Comfortable.
Cons: Really just designed for day walks.

 

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