The Best Hiking Backpacks for Every Kind of Trail

Hit the trail with everything you need in the Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL Pack

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A reliable hiking backpack has to be comfortable enough to wear for hours (possibly days) and have enough storage for all your necessary gear. Plus, it needs to endure years of camping and trips off the grid. The right pack is one that's tailored to your preferred outdoor adventure style and comfort level.

Reviewed & Approved

With narrow straps and an ergonomic hip belt, the Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL Hiking Pack is our top pick. The Deuter Speed Lite 24 Pack keeps weight evenly distributed and is compatible with a hydration reservoir.

The length of your hikes is important for knowing what size backpack you need. You'll also want a pack that is adjustable and fits well. We evaluated hiking backpacks for their weight, cost, storage options such as bungee straps and pockets, if they include a wet clothing or shoe compartment, reflective stripes, and waterproofing.

Here, the best hiking backpacks for all types of hikers and backpackers.

Best Overall for Women: Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL Pack

4.8
Deuter Speed Lite 22 SL Pack

Courtesy of Amazon

Built specifically for women, the Deuter Speed Lite Pack is a top pick because it has narrow shoulder straps and an ergonomic curve on the hip belt that makes it more comfortable. It's easy to carry at just over 1.5 pounds and holds 22 liters. Inside you'll find a hydration reservoir and multiple compartments to keep all your gear organized.

It’s the ideal pack for day climbs or overnight adventures, with plenty of accessory loops and attachment holes for ice tools and trekking poles. Reflective accents increase visibility in low light, making early morning summits possible.

Best Overall for Men: Deuter Speed Lite 24 Pack

Deuter Speed Lite

Courtesy of Amazon

The Deuter Speed Lite 24 Pack is very similar to our winner for Best Overall for Women, just built for men. It weighs 1.69 pounds and has a 24-liter capacity, making it ideal for day trips. If you feel like having a hands-free drink, the pack is compatible with 3-liter hydration reservoirs. The pack also has plenty of accessory loops, a variety of zippered and side mesh pockets, and a comfortable internal frame.

The athletic shape of the pack keeps the weight distribution equal between your shoulders and hips, making it easier for you to move. 3D air-mesh lining and venting around the shoulder straps help let out some heat while you're hiking. Reflective accents increase your visibility during early morning or evening hikes, so you can get after dawn or dusk patrol.

Best Budget: Teton Sports Oasis 1100 18L Hydration Pack

Teton Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack

Courtesy of Amazon

This budget-friendly backpack is a great starter option for anyone who wants to get out on the trail more often. Its lightweight 2-pound frame can be adjusted for men, women, and youths thanks to an athletic cut and custom-fit straps. Since it’s an 18-liter pack, you can easily use it for day hikes. A wide mouth on the leakproof 2-liter hydration bladder means you can add as much ice as you want, plus it's easy to clean.

Don't worry about getting wet—a sewn-in rain cover ensures you'll never forget it. Bonus features include a safety whistle and bungee cord front to carry damp clothes, an extra layer, or another set of shoes if you need them.

Best Lightweight: Osprey Levity 60 Pack

Osprey Levity 60 Pack

Courtesy of Amazon

Osprey’s Levity Pack is a men’s hiking backpack that comes in three sizes: small (1.88 pounds, 57-liter capacity), medium (1.95 pounds, 60-liter capacity), or large (2.03 pounds, 63-liter capacity), so you can customize it to your needs.

A large main pocket fits the bulk of your gear, then a zippered top-lid compartment and dual access side pockets are great for smaller essentials like sunglasses or bandanas. A front fabric pocket allows you to store rain gear or other items you may need at a moment’s notice, and a cord-loop attachment on the top allows you to strap on any extra gear you may need.

This is your multi-day trip pack, with a weight that won’t hurt your back.  

Best Waterproof: Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack

Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

This completely waterproof pack comes in two sizes—35-liter and 55-liter—to ensure that you have the size that can carry all your gear. With a roll-top closure, two buckles, and a single reinforced strap, simply fold the bag down, snap both sides, and your belongings will stay dry. There's one main compartment with two small pockets inside: one mesh and one zippered, plus one outside as well.

The chest and waist straps adjust for men, women, and children, so it’s a win for anyone who needs a trusty accessory while camping, hiking, or kayaking. You'll never have to worry about your gear getting wet again.

Best for Day Hikes: Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack

Osprey Daylite Plus Pack

 REI

Osprey’s Daylite Plus Pack is a frameless, comfortable option that’s ideal for day hiking. Weighing in at 1.2 pounds, this 20-liter unisex pack has a plethora of pockets. There are two main compartments—one with a padded interior sleeve, so it can double as a work bag, and a smaller one. Pack your keys, wallet, sunscreen, and any other small necessities in their dedicated pockets so you know exactly where to find them mid-hike.

There's also a sleeve in the back for a water reservoir (sold separately) or you can choose to use the mesh pockets on both sides for water bottles. A single vertical pocket at the front is great for phones, and the foam frame feels nice as you ascend that peak.

Best for Multiday: Osprey Atmos AG 65 Men's Backpack

Osprey Atmos

Courtesy of Amazon

This Osprey men’s pack was made for overnight adventures. With a sleeping bag compartment and 11 exterior pockets, you can fit everything from bedding to your headlamp in its own space, thus eliminating rooting around one giant pile.

Side compression straps and removable sleeping pad straps reduce bulk and stabilize your load for ideal weight distribution. A 3-liter hydration sleeve, as well as stretch mesh side pockets, allow you easy access to water throughout your hike.

The pack comes in a small (4.50 pounds, 62 liters), medium (4.56 pounds, 65 liters), and large (4.63 pounds, 68 liters) sizes. You can take this pack on an overnight trip—whether a weekend or more—and trust that it will get the job done. 

Osprey has similar options for women.

Best With Waterpack: Mountainsmith Clear Creek 20L Backpack

Mountainsmith Clear Creek 20L Backpack

Courtesy of Dick's Sporting Goods

This Mountainsmith backpack has all the extra features you want in a hiking pack that prioritizes your hydration and wellbeing. At just 1.38 pounds, it fits 19 liters of gear inside, plus a 2-liter hydration sleeve. High-density foam frames your back and a removable waistbelt provides more structure.

Multiple pockets let you organize gear in an easy-to-find manner. The hydration sleeve is the star of the backpack, but if you need extra water there are also two additional side mesh pockets to fit 32-ounce water bottles.

Best for Travel: Gregory Deva 60 Pack

Gregory Deva 60 Pack

Courtesy of REI

Gregory’s Deva Pack for women is great for multi-step hikes thanks to its two-in-one nature. Remove the hydration sleeve (reservoir sold separately) from the larger pack and use it for shorter day hikes from camp. Then, simply re-attach to climb back down the mountain. All three sizes—extra small (4.48 pounds, 56 liters), small (4.61 pounds, 60 liters), and medium (4.83 pounds, 64 liters)—should feel good thanks to a shoulder harness and hip belt that move separately, so you don't have to adjust your carry with every step.

A full front U-zip and smaller pockets (including one on each side of the hip belt) allow you to strategically stash necessities like your phone, sunglasses, or camera. There is also a zippered bottom sleeping bag compartment and lash points for portable solar panels. No matter what you need to store for your trip, this backpack has just the space for it. 

Gregory has similar options for men

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a simple hiking backpack that can be used for a variety of purposes, Deuter’s Speed Lite Pack is an obvious choice. The fit keeps you comfortable and secure, and the features give you flexibility in how and when you use it. Deuter also offers a lifetime warranty, so you can purchase with confidence. 

If you’re looking for a larger pack with plenty of storage and all the extras, Osprey’s Atmos Pack fits the bill. It has all the compartments you could possibly need to keep your gear organized amidst travel chaos, plus hydration and rain features. It’s ready to take on the same big adventures you are.

What to Look for in a Hiking Backpack

Weight

If you’re going to carry a backpack with you for multiple hours a day, it should be as light as possible and still hold all of your equipment. Extra weight can cause injury or unwanted strain, or turn a nice hike into a miserable slog. 

Size

The size of your backpack correlates to the number of days you'll be hiking. For most weekend trips, 30 to 50 liters is appropriate. A longer trip (three to five days) generally requires 50 to 80 liters. Extended trips (five or more days), call for 70-plus liters. This differs based on your packing habits, but the backpack's capacity will need to be suitable for the duration of your hiking trip.

Fit

While the weight and size of your backpack are important for logistics, your comfort is also crucial. The fit of your backpack should work with the length of your torso, not your overall height, as that’s the part of your body that will feel the weight you're carrying the most. 

Additional Features

Most hiking backpacks have multiple compartments, a hydration pouch, adjustable external straps, and a separate compartment for shoes or wet clothes. Make a list of what additional features you'll need before you shop so you can get exactly what you want.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much should a hiking backpack weigh?

    Take your own weight into consideration when loading up your hiking backpack. To avoid injury, keep your backpack's weight (when full) at no more than 10% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your backpack for a day's hike should be at a maximum 15 pounds. This will help you hike at your optimal performance level and minimize your risk of injury.

  • How do you wear a hiking backpack properly?

    To wear a backpack properly, follow these recommendations from the National Safety Council:

    • Keep the padded shoulder straps directly on your shoulders to help distribute the weight of the pack. Don't let them fall toward your back.
    • Use the waist and chest straps and keep them closed while hiking. This helps distribute weight and keep the pack from digging into your back.
    • If you carry multiple heavier items position them throughout the pack to distribute their weight more evenly.
    • Use interior compression straps to stabilize the backpack's contents and keep them from moving around and causing injury.
  • What should you pack in a hiking backpack?

    For a day hike, pack your hiking backpack with six to eight quarts of water, an extra pair of dry-fit socks, and bug repellent that includes DEET.

    You will also need to bring enough food to last for the duration of your hike. This could include trail mix, gels, or fruit; any food of your preference that won't spoil. Bring some food that contains salt to help replenish the sodium lost from sweating.

    Wear sunscreen that is at least SPF 30, water-resistant and broad-spectrum, and bring a travel-size container in your pack so you can reapply your sunscreen every two hours.

  • Can hiking backpacks injure your back?

    Backpacks can cause musculoskeletal injuries, according to a review study from the Journal of Education and Health Promotion.

    Making a backpack too heavy, not positioning it properly on the back, and keeping the waist and chest straps open can pose a threat to your postural integrity and lead to injury.

  • How do you clean a hiking backpack?

    To clean a backpack, first empty all the contents and leave every pocket open and unzipped. Then brush off any noticeable dirt with a dry rag. If the backpack allows for spot treatments (per the label), dip a washcloth or towel into lukewarm water with a few drops of detergent in it. Wipe down the backpack and let it air dry.

  • How do you size a hiking backpack?

    To find the right size backpack for you, look for one that is narrower than your torso. The shoulder, waist, and chest straps should be adjustable. Always use them so you can distribute the weight of the pack evenly.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a previous fitness coach, long-time wellness enthusiast, and current health editor, Lily Moe understands the importance of equipment that is made to help you reach your fitness goals. She relies heavily on her Gregory Deva Pack for long, on-the-go trips—her pack has remained trustworthy both within the U.S. and overseas. Most importantly, Lily always looks for research and first-hand reviews when it comes to deciding on a product.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Safety Council. Backpack safety.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BAM! Body and Mind: Hiking activity card.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Sunscreen and your morning routine.

  4. Toghroli R, Reisy L, Mansourian M, et al. Backpack improper use causes musculoskeletal injuries in adolescents: A systematic reviewJ Educ Health Promot. 2021;10:237. doi:10.4103/jehp.jehp_306_20