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Best Hiking Backpacks 2024

Hiking backpacks come in a range of capacities and designs and choosing the right one can be tricky. We're here to help you with that

Backpacking packs for hiking will come in a variety of sizes and the size that’s best for you depends on the trips you intend on undertaking. If you’re trekking between huts or hostels, especially in warmer weather, a 35-litre backpack should be adequate. The 35L packs reviewed below were perfect for a hostel-to-hostel walk in the Brecon Beacons for example. Ultralight backpackers – the types of people 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 at night, or in colder months when you need a heftier sleeping bag and sleeping mat, something between 38 and 55 litres should be right. Anywhere beyond that and frankly, you’ve got too much stuff for an enjoyable multi-day trekking trip. Backpacks 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.

Once you’ve decided on the size, the next consideration, and the one that you should prioritise above all else, is the carry 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.

OM testers Joy and Giles trialling two packs from Osprey. Photo: Chris Johnson

If you’re looking for other gear for trekking, we’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled similar comparative reviews for all kinds of kit, including round-ups of the best two person tents and the best one person tents for those who prefer to go solo. We’ve also covered the best sleeping bags and best backpacking sleeping mats, plus accessories as well, with detailed looks at the best trekking poles, best portable water filters and best backpacking stoves too.


Our Team’s Best Hiking Backpacks for 2024

Here’s the list of the best hiking and trekking backpacks we’ve come across following our extensive testing and reviewing throughout the mountains of the UK.

  • Best Overall Backpacking Backpack: Osprey Kestrel 38

  • Best Ultralight Backpack: Rab Aeon Ultra 28L

  • Best Backpack for Big Loads: Arc’teryx Bora 65

  • Best Waterproof Backpack: Ortlieb Atrack 35

  • Best Multi-Use Backpack: Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60


The Expert

I’m an outdoor gear reviewer with over ten years of experience working for various outdoor magazines and judging gear for the likes of ISPO, the Scandinavian Outdoor Awards and the OIA Awards.

When I’m not writing about gear as part of my job, I’m testing it as part of my hobby which is multi-day backpacking. I’ve hiked a long list of trails over the years, including the whole 870-mile Wales Coast Path, the Camino de Santiago, Alta Via 2 and the Cambrian Way, which I am now a trustee of.

How The Backpacks Were Tested

I tested the majority of the backpacks that are featured here, along with all of the ones that didn’t make this list too. The ones I didn’t test, which were mainly the women’s models, were assessed by members of our gear team who you’ll see in the pictures within this article. I had the final say on which items were chosen for this round up, making my selections based on things like volume flexibility and adjustment, carrying comfort, load management, durability and features. I also considered overall value and factors relating to the sustainability of the product.


Best Overall Backpack for Hiking

Osprey Kestrel 38

OM editor Will with the Osprey Kestrel in the Cairngorms. Photo: Dave Macfarlane

Price: £160
Weight: 1760g
Best for: wild camping, hut to hut trekking, winter hillwalking
Key attributes: durable, comfortable, loads of useful details

35 to 40 litre packs like this one from Osprey hit a nice sweet spot, offering the right kind of capacity to cater for a range of different types of trips, from quick weekend wild camps through to big winter days out where you need plenty of layers and technical kit for safety.

It falls within Osprey’s broad Kestrel (men’s) and Kyte (women’s) range which is made up of a number of different packs at various capacities. It’s a hugely popular series for the brand and one that we’ve always been impressed with here at Outdoors Magic. 

The Kestrel 38 is a very comfortable backpack to wear – probably one of the most ergonomic we’ve tried. There’s padding in all of the right places, support at the lumbar and plenty of air channels for ventilation too. 

The main material feels extremely hard wearing. During our tests in Scotland, the pack went through a fair bit of abrasion but emerged looking good as new. It offered good water resistance but we found ourselves using the supplied rain cover when the rain really picked up, just for the peace of mind that our kit was properly protected. 

As we’ve come to expect from Osprey, there are loads of useful details, including ice axe loops, a front shove-it pocket (we found this was perfect for a down jacket) and base access to a sleeping bag compartment. Credit to Osprey for using bluesign approved 100% recycled fabrics here too. 

Full Specifications

Available in men’s (Kestrel) and women’s (Kyte) versions / various capacities within the range / back sizes: S/M and L/XL / rain cover at base / recycled nylon fabrics / internal hydration bladder sleeve / bottom access / trekking pole and ice axe loops. 

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2023/24 – Here’s our full Osprey Kestrel 38 review.



Best Waterproof Backpack

Ortlieb Atrack 35

OM editor Will with the Atrack in Bannau Brycheiniog.

Price: £220
Weight: 1560g
Best for: Hiking in wet weather, canoe/kayak adventures
Key attributes: waterproof, durable

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. This is a pack that trekkers, bikepackers, ski-tourers, kayakers and packrafters can all genuinely rally behind.

A long waterproof zip is located on the back of the pack opens the bag up like a duffel bag, 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.

During our tests, the durability of this thing really stood out – it feels extremely hardwearing. The carry comfort was good and the pack provided its promised wet weather performance. It’s a little fiddly in places and the main zip is quite stiff due to its waterproof design, but generally this is a pack that’s innovative and that comes across as being very well made and built for the outdoors.

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




Best Backpack for Big Loads

Arc’teryx Bora 65

Our tester Giles Dean using the Bora along the coastline of Arisaig

Price: £280
Weight: 1,915g
Best for: Backcountry and long treks 
Key attributes: Very comfortable, excellent load bearing, innovative fabrics

With its 65-litre this is a pack that’s designed to cater for those big trips into the backcountry when you need extensive supplies and safety equipment. It has an incredibly innovative back system, involving a hipbelt that’s build on a pivot. This, we found out during our tests, makes the pack move with your stride and hip wiggle as you walk, all-the-while still helping to distribute the weight of your load through your hips.

A ‘Tegris’ internal frame and aluminium stays provide stability and structure to the pack itself, while helping to spread the load out. It has a lightweight but durable back panel designed to keep the pack’s overall weight to a minimum while still providing a good deal of load management. The material actually comes from a thermoplastic composite, bringing similar properties to carbon fibre (including looking almost identical), with the added benefit that it won’t shatter on impact, it’s a tenth of the cost and it’s fully recyclable.

The whole pack is cut from a toughened 210 denier Cordura fabric to help it resist any abrasion, while the lid has an integrated ‘Weather Vault’ to provide waterproof storage. Further water resistant protection comes from a DWR treatment that covers the whole pack.

It’s a premium pack and a premium cost but, from our experience, it’s extremely well made and built to withstand testing environments. If you want something that can help you to manage very heavy loads then this is worth considering if you have the budget.

Full Specifications

210 denier Cordura fabric / 65L capacity / ‘RotoGlide’ hipbelt / ‘Tegris’ (shatter-proof and recyclable) internal frame and aluminium stays / two access points for lid: drawcord under lid or via waterproof side zip / large ‘Kangaroo Pocket’ at front / stretchy mesh stash pockets on hipbelt / open side pockets / hydration bladder compatible / integrated ‘Weather Vault’ storage on lid / DWR water treatment.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2022/23. Read our full Arc’teryx Bora 65 review.



Best Ultralight Hiking Backpack

Rab Aeon Pro 28L

Price: £135
Weight: 2400g
Best for: fastpacking, ultralight hiking
Key attributes: Light, waterproof

This pack also made it into our round up of the best running packs which should say enough about how versatile we see it. From our experience, it’ll cater for anything from fastpacking and adventure racing to hut-to-hut trekking and simple day hikes where you need to carry a fair bit of kit.

During our two-day excursion covering the entire An Teallach ridgeline in Scotland, this backpack proved to be the perfect companion. It efficiently transported all our overnight gear while ensuring stability and comfort throughout the journey.

Notably, its wet weather performance is exceptional thanks to its highly water-resistant material, roll-top closure, and taped seams. We’ve found it be excellent at keeping the elements out. Additionally, it boasts a perforated foam pack system, numerous pockets, and even a dedicated sleeve for a hydration bladder.

Light it might be, but its main material has a surprising amount of durability. Our only gripe is with the mesh pockets – they’re great, but it’s easy to scuff them.

Full Specifications

28-litre capacity / 19″, 48cm back length / hydration bladder compatible / walking pole attachment points / stretch side pockets / harness pockets / 50% recycled 70D x 140D nylon fabric / moulded back panel / roll top closure.



Best Multi-Use Backpack

Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60

The Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor in use during our trip to Ryvoan Bothy. Photo: Dave Macfarlane

Price: £180
Weight: 1.23kg
Best for: Backpacking and wild camping
Key attributes: expanding volume, lightweight, good carry comfort, lots of pockets

The Flex Capacitor is a lightweight backpacking rucksack with a genuine USP: a clever expanding gusset that allows the pack to expand in volume by up to 20 litres, simply with the tweaking of a few straps. You see, while most backpacks use top-loading designs, this one expands outwards, providing useful additional capacity in its main compartment without affecting load-carrying stability or comfort. For any backpacker who’s ever needed to overstuff a pack in order to take on extra food, water or other supplies, this thing is a genuine game changer.

During our tests, we discovered that the Flex Capacitor does a lot of other things well too. First of all, it felt comfortable to wear, even when it was heavily loaded, and we loved all of the handy details, including the stretchy pockets on the sides and across the harness which give loads of extra space for snacks, maps, GPS devices and also extra layers. 

The durability was noteworthy too. This thing’s made from a 100D nylon honeycomb fabric combined with an even tougher 420D fabric at the base, making it well capable of shrugging off sharp branches and any rough rock.

There isn’t a base zip or side zip to help you access things buried in the pack, but the opening at the top is nice and wide, so you can see right into it and pull out your kit easily. 

We found that the main downside to this pack is that it isn’t waterproof and doesn’t come with a waterproof cover, so you’ll need to carry everything in drybags if you’re heading out into conditions that could be wet. 

Full Specifications

Capacity: 40-60L / available in two sizes: S/M and M/L / hydration sleeve doubles as a removable small bag / 2 stretch mesh side pockets / zipped pockets on hipbelt / trekking pole loops / 100D and 420D fabrics.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2023/24. Read our full Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60L review.




Best of the Rest


Lowe Alpine Cholatse 42:47

Our tester Jordan Tiernan using the Lowe Alpine Cholatse in the mountains of North Wales.

Price: £140
Weight: 1.77kg
Key attributes: Excellent carry comfort, feature-packed
Best for: Summer wild camps, hut-to-hut trekking, winter day hikes

Lowe Alpine’s Cholatse 42:27 is a tough old bag. With its high denier ripstop nylon throughout, you don’t need to worry about it ripping on a stray branch, that’s for sure.

What we really love about it, however, is its versatility. It’s the kind of pack that’s ideal for weekend wild camps or hut-to-hut treks, but then it’ll also serve well as a day pack – whether that’s in winter or summer.

During our tests with this in Snowdonia, we found the carry system to be very comfortable and capable of balancing out heavy loads, keeping the weight distributed between your hips and shoulders well. It involves a thermo-moulded back pad, slightly raised mesh, soft foams across the hipbelt and shoulders and a supportive PU sponge lumbar. There’s also around 6 inches of length variation, giving you the potential for what’s pretty much a custom fit. This coupled with the sliding back panel, harness adjustment and forward pull hipbelt, makes for a backpack that can be tweaked for a real custom fit. When you’re working with different volumes, you’ve also got adjustment straps across the bag to help it grow or shrink depending on the load you’re carrying.

As for access to the main compartment, you can either dive in through the drawcord sealed top, or you can open up the buckles and big U-zip across the front of the pack to have duffle bag-like access, thus saving you having to dig around for items. There’s plenty of pocket space too, including a large overlid one, an underlid pocket, the stretchy zipped pockets on the hipbelt, the stash pocket and more.

Full Specifications

High-denier ripstop nylon / stretch mesh side pockets / thermo-moulded back pad / supportive PU sponge lumbar in the hipbelt and shoulders / drawcord sealed top lid access / duffle bag-like access / hipbelt pockets / water bladder pouch / big stash pocket / multiple size options / men’s and women’s options / adjustment straps / sliding back panel /tip grippers / ice axe head locker / key clip / emergency whistle / reflective details / daisy chain loops / rain cover.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2021/22. Read our full Lowe Alpine Cholatse review.




Gregory Focal 48

Giles making the most of the Focal’s mesh pockets on a hike in Scotland

Price: £180
Weight: 1.22kg
Best for: wild camping, ultralight hiking, 
Key attributes: Lightweight, venting back system

From our experience testing out this pack, we found it struck a really good balance between being lightweight but also comfortable and well-specced.

At just 1.22kg the Gregory Focal 48 sits within the lightweight category and will really suit any long-distance hikers, particularly those who like to count grams. Its floating lid, volume adjustment straps and stretch mesh pockets make it particularly suited for any thru-hiking where your pack is going to grow and shrink in size depending on the supply availability ahead of you. You can actually strip a little extra weight off this thing too, that’s by removing the top lid and using the Weather Flap to cover the top of the pack instead.

The whole back system is lined by a suspended mesh/net, with the ventilation spreading right throughout the harness and hipbelt too. There’s plenty of padding across the straps, around the hipbelt and at the lower back too where there’s a slight curve for lumbar support.

Around half of the materials used for the main fabric of the pack are made from recycled nylon. Inside, the lining is a 40% recycled polyester. Overall, the fabric feels light but it’s actually surprisingly tough, with a tough fabric throughout and an even tougher one across the base. You can also rest assured that the water repellent treatments Gregory have used here are all completely free from those nasty, eco-hazardous PFCs that are all-too-often used on backpacks.

Full Specifications

100D fabric at top and 250D fabric at base / PFC-free water-repellant treatment / 40% recycled polyester inner lining / Polygiene anti-odour control in mesh back panel / floating removable lid / volume adjustment straps / stretch mesh pockets at front and sides / weather flap for lid / suspended mesh back system / curved back for lumbar support / padded straps, back and hipbelt / medium or large back length options / large zipped pockets on hipbelt / overlid and underlid pockets / slidable sternum strap / built-in emergency whistle / glove-friendly zip pulls / bungee and webbing loops throughout / waterproof raincover and bladder sleeve included.



Bach Daydream

Our testers using the Bach Daydream in Glen Nevis, Scotland

Price: £210
Weight: 1390g
Best for: wild camping, backpacking
Key attributes: durable, comfortable, loads of useful details

This is a great pack that you can get in either a 40L capacity (as pictured here) or in a 50L capacity. OM editor Will, who’s been using the 40L version, says that size has been brilliant for those short and simple trips where you just want something that’ll comfortably cater for a couple of nights on the trail.

The Daydream has a back system with plenty of padding right across it, including inch-thick foam across the straps and hipbelt and a thicker but softer foam across the back panel. A suspended mesh with air channels underneath brings plenty of ventilation to the equation too. And the materials used right across this thing are all super durable.

Expect loads of useful details as well, including trekking pole/ice axe attachments, loads of handy pockets, a big mesh stash pocket on the front and there’s a waterproof rain cover tucked away in the lid.

All in all, we found this to be a great all-rounder that does the basics well and that has the durability and build quality to last a long time.

Full Specifications

Available in 40L or 50L / Two different back lengths / hydration bladder compatible / overlid and underlid pockets / zipped mesh side pocket and open mesh side pocket / zipped hipbelt pockets / materials: N/100D CORDURA®, N/500D CORDURA.



Fjällräven Keb 52

Price: £275
Weight: 2260g
Best for: wild camping, backpacking
Key attributes: durable, eco-friendly, built-to-last, timeless

If you’re one of those people who appreciates careful design and timeless styling then you’re going to really like this pack. It’s a real thing of beauty. It’s only real downside is the fact that its traditional materials put it a little on the heavy side compared to packs with modern fabrics and frames.

As we found out during our tests in Wales, this thing is built for outdoor performance – it’s made by designed used to the Swedish wilderness after all. The eco-friendly G1000 waxed polycotton fabric provided excellent water resistance and gave a sense 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 and there’s the 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 and its complimented by padding and a touch of ventilation lining the back panel.

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 – read our full Fjällräven Keb 52 Backpack review



Vaude Assymetric 52+8 Backpack

Price: £160
Weight: 1.60kg
Best for: wild camping, backpacking
Key attributes: Eco-friendly touches

Not only does the Vaude Assymetric use a PFC-free durable water repellent treatment but a large proportion of the pack is made from recycled plastic bottles. The second face fabric, for instance, is made from 50% recycled polyester and there’s a recycled PU coating featured throughout. It’s not flimsy either. These materials all feel quite light but they’re still durable enough for the demands of life on the trail.

Related: Best Hiking Boots
Related: Best Three-season Sleeping Bags

The internal frame is tennis racquet shaped – wider at the top of the pack and narrow at the bottom – to channel weight from the shoulders down to the hips and it can actually be removed if you’re being really strict with your gram count, bringing the pack’s weight down from 1600g to about 1300g – firmly in ultralight territory then. The sliding sternum strap is also removable, as well as the floating top lid.

The main compartment can be accessed underneath the floating top lid, through the base or via a big U-shaped zip across the front of the pack. There’s also a zipped internal divider at the base, daisy chain webbing on the front, bungee cords for trekking poles, an overlid compartment with a large internal mesh pocket, one long pocket on the front of the pack, and two on both the hipbelt and the sides of the pack.

Selected for the Green Gear Guide 2021 – Read our full Vaude Assymetric 52+8 review.



Halti Inari 65 Backpack

OM tester Sarah demonstrating a heavily loaded Halti Inari.

Price: £250
Weight: 2.4kg
Best for: Travelling, backcountry and long treks
Key attributes: Durable, good load management, clever removable day pack 

This is another pack for those who need something that’s capable and comfortable for hauling heavy loads over long distances. It would also make a brilliant travel rucksack for summers spent backpacking around Europe when you need something roomy and robust that can sit happily on your back for hours at a time.

With a sturdy ergonomic aluminium frame, the Inari has good load-lugging capabilities and we found it to be very comfortable thanks to its fully adjustable back system and harness. It has a roomy main compartment, a separate zipped lower compartment, a chunky hip belt, a rain cover and loads of pockets too, including a front stretch pocket to stash a jacket or your rain gear. There’s also a super-useful removable 8-litre daypack that you can use when you want to venture for short trips away from your base camp.

The main fabric is made from recycled polyester derived from used PET bottles. As well as reducing the use of petrochemicals that are needed to manufacture virgin polyester, this diverts plastic waste that might otherwise end up in landfill or even worse, the ocean. Top marks.

Full Specifications

65-litre capacity / sturdy aluminium frame / adjustable back system and harness / big main compartment / separate zipped lower compartment / front stash pocket / stretchy side pockets / top lid pocket / removable 8-litre daypack / recycled PU-coated polyester fabric.

Selected for the Green Gear Guide 2021/22 – Read our full Halti Inari 65 review. 



How to Choose a Backpack for Hiking and Trekking

The first thing to consider when choosing a pack, as we mentioned in the intro to this article, is the volume. Does it match up to the load you’ll be carrying? If you’re going into the wilderness for a long period then you’re going to want a pack that can manage the amount of supplies you’ll need – something usually that’s over 50 litres. For hiking something like a national trail, I tend to look for a backpack that’s around the 40-litre mark, while if it’s summer and I want to take a lightweight approach I might carry something smaller, perhaps at around the 35-litre mark. You do see quite a few packs these days that are designed to handle varied loads, giving you adjustment straps and gussets to help the pack expand or shrink to your preference. These can be really handy and essentially give you two (or more!) packs wrapped up in one. The Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor pack is a very good example of this. As is the Fjallraven Keb.


Backpacks often come in different sizes as well as different volume. The size can usually be found on a little tag at the bottom of the back panel and brands normally state the back length in their product descriptions and usually guide to understanding their sizings. If you’re buying a pack online, most good brands will provide guidance on back lengths and corresponding sizes.

If you’re trying a backpack on in a store, once you’ve picked out the right volume and back size, 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 when you walk. I personally think that a pack should sit on my hips with the straps on the shoulders taking some weight but certainly not the bulk of it. The back panel should be totally flush with my back and, with the pack on, I should be able to stand with a straight posture without difficulty, even with a full load.

Back System and Harness

Some packs have complicated adjustable back systems designed to make heavy loads more manageable and to allow for airflow too. These packs, more often than not, can be on the heavier side. Other packs can have very simple back systems, with minimal padding and ventilation. These tend to be found on some of the lighter, more minimalist packs on the market.

Choosing the right kind of back system for you depends on your needs. If I’m going minimalist and care about the weight of the kit I’m carrying then I’ll favour a simple back system. Conversely, if I’m not too bothered about weight and would prefer the heavy load I’m carrying to feel comfortable then in that instance I’d opt for a backpack with a suspended and well-padded back system. You can read more on this subject in our ventilated packs buyer’s guide.

Pack Access

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.

Rain Protection

Backpacks are rarely waterproof (though there are exceptions, the Ortlieb Atrack being a good example there). Many will have some kind of water-resistant treatment and the fabric will stand up to a fair amount of moisture. Several will also come with rain covers or you can buy covers separately to use with them. These are of limited use in very bad wind and rain. In those types of conditions, it’s much better to pack your items in dry bags within the pack first.

For more info on the above, check out our in-depth buyer’s guide to backpacking backpacks which was composed by record-breaking long-distance trekker James Forrest.

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