Best Hiking Backpacks 2023 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Hiking Backpacks 2023

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

Backpacking packs for hiking will come in a variety of sizes. In this roundup, we include the trekking options from 28 litres to 60 litres 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.

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. Some will even go as low as 28-litres – see the Rab Aeon Ultra in this list if that’s your bag.

For those who like backpacking with a bit more comfort, or in colder months when you need a heftier sleeping bag and sleeping mat, 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 Hiking Backpack for Backpacking and Trekking?

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.

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

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.

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.

Our Team’s Best Hiking Backpacks for 2023

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: Lowe Alpine Cholatse

  • Best Ultralight Backpack: Rab Aeon Ultra 28L

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

  • Best Waterproof Backpack: Ortlieb Atrack 35

  • Best Value Backpack: Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor


Best Overall Backpacking Backpack

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.

The carry system 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.

Other useful details include tip grippers for trekking poles, an ice axe head locker, a little key clip, an emergency whistle on the sternum, reflective details, daisy chain loops that you could, say, hang your climbing gear on and then stowed at the base you’ve got a waterproof cover.

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.

Best Waterproof Backpack

Ortlieb Atrack 35

OM editor Will with the Atrack in Bannau Brycheiniog.

Price: £220
Weight: 1560g

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 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.

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

The Arc’teryx Bora 65 is designed to optimise load stability while providing an efficient and durable experience on multi-day hikes. A technical hip belt ALSO provides the Bora with an extremely comfortable carry. This ‘RotoGlide’ design has been made to move with you, giving you better balance as the pack’s weight follows your body as you rock side to side.

A ‘Tegris’ internal frame and aluminium stays provide stability and structure to the pack itself, while helping to spread the load out. Tegris, to us, looks like a carbon fibre 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 (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.

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: £334.95
Weight: 2400g

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 of the Rest


Osprey Kestrel 58

Will using the Osprey Kestrel on a Welsh trek

Price: £160
Weight: 1760g

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.

Photo: Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson

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



Gregory Focal 48

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

Price: £180
Weight: 1.22kg

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 100D rated fabric at the top and a 250D rated fabric 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.


Mammut Trion Spine 35

Price: £240
Weight: 2120g

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



Bach Daydream

Our testers using the Bach Daydream in Glen Nevis, Scotland

Price: £210
Weight: 1390g

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.

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

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 – read our full Fjällräven Keb 52 Backpack review



Vaude Assymetric 52+8 Backpack

Price: £160
Weight: 1.60kg

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.

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

Halti’s Inari 65 is a versatile and roomy trekking backpack that would work well on long-distance trails in the UK or further afield. 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 is very comfortable to carry thanks to a fully adjustable back system and harness. Additional handy features include 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 that super-useful removable 8-litre daypack that can be attached inside the main pack or to the main pack shoulder straps, and is great for dumping stuff at basecamp or for bringing extra supplies with you on the trail. 

Our favourite part, however, is the fact that 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. 



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