The 11 Best Hiking Backpacks of 2023

Our top pick, Deuter’s Speed Lite 23 SL Pack, is comfortable and roomy

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A reliable hiking backpack has to be comfortable enough to wear for hours (possibly days) and should 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 and comfort level. 

Reviewed & Approved

With comfortable straps, a supportive, ergonomic hip belt, and lots of stowing features, Deuter’s Speed Lite 23 SL Pack is our top overall pick. We also recommend Gregory’s Zulu 30, a breathable, durable backpack with plenty of storage.

“Your backpack is your lifeline in the outdoors,” Chad Martin, AMGA-certified SPI, WFR, rock climbing guide and coach, says. “The pack allows you to move and adapt when conditions or events change unexpectedly.” This is why knowing the conditions, terrain, and length of your hike is important for deciding what type and size of backpack you need. You'll also want a pack that fits well and is adjustable to prevent injury and avoid an uncomfortable journey.

To help you find the right hiking backpack, we researched dozens of options on the market and evaluated them based on weight, cost, storage options, waterproofing, and more.

Based on our research, here are the best hiking backpacks on the market.

Best Women’s Overall

Deuter Women's Speed Lite 23

Dueter Speed Lite 23 (Women’s)

Amazon

Pros
  • Ergonomic shoulder straps

  • Lightweight

  • Made with recycled materials

Cons
  • Hydration pack not included

Deuter’s Speed Lite Pack is our top overall pick because of its flexible, low-profile back and breathable, ergonomic straps. 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. At just under 1.5 pounds, it's easy to carry. And it holds 23 liters, with plenty of pockets. 

The main compartment zipper opens wide to hold larger gear and has enough room to fit a 3-liter hydration reservoir inside. Plus, we like that it has a hip belt, so you can keep essentials close by and easily access them without removing the pack.

While this lightweight pack isn’t water resistant, you can purchase a compatible rain cover for wet weather. We love that it’s made sustainably and is eligible for free repairs. The Speed Lite also comes in additional sizes ranging from 13- to 30-liter packs so you can find the right fit. But it doesn’t come with a hydration pack, unlike other options on our list.

Price at time of publication: $120

Weight: 1.49 pounds | Storage Capacity: 23 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Vest-style shoulders, sternum strap, and hip belt | Material: Recycled nylon

Best Men’s Overall

Gregory Zulu 30 Liter Men’s Hiking Daypack

Gregory Zulu 30 Liter Men's Hiking Daypack

Amazon

Pros
  • Durable

  • Rain cover included

  • Comes in two size options

Cons
  • Hydration pack not included

  • Heavy

Gregory’s Zulu is an all-around great technical day pack, making it our other top overall pick. With comfortable straps and a suspension system, an ergonomic hip belt, and a breathable back panel, it helps you haul large loads with ease. 

Side straps tighten down as you shed supplies, making this pack ideal for both short and longer hikes—or even overnight treks. It’s heavier than comparable packs on the market, but we like the durable construction and supportive internal frame, which can handle a lot. Plus, it comes with a stowable rain cover if the weather changes.

With a reputation for inclusive packs, Gregory offers the Zulu in two size options: Small/Medium and Medium/Large. It has plenty of storage and even features a compartment for a hydration pack, although you’ll have to purchase one separately. 

Price at time of publication: $160

Weight: 2.62 or 2.67 pounds | Storage Capacity: 28 or 30 liters | Water-Resistant: No, but rain cover is included | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: Nylon, polyester, foam, alloy steel, fiberglass

What the Experts Say

“Gregory packs are specifically designed to be more inclusive. They can be adjusted to accommodate a wider range of people, so they make a great pack for larger-framed people.” —Cory Goei, AMGA-certified SPI, Los Angeles, CA

Best Budget

Teton Sports Oasis 1100 18L Hydration Pack

TETON Sports Oasis 18L Hydration Pack

Amazon

Pros
  • Hydration pack included

  • Adjustable straps

  • Built-in rain cover

Cons
  • No hip belt

This budget-friendly backpack is our pick for anyone who wants to get out on the trail more often. Its lightweight, 2-pound frame can be adjusted for men, women, and youth, 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. 

In general, we like how convenient this pack is. But it doesn’t feature a hip belt for easy access to your most used gear.

Price at time of publication: $45

Weight: 2 pounds | Storage Capacity: 18 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder and sternum straps | Material: Nylon

Best Lightweight

Osprey SPORTLITE™ 25 Hiking Backpack

Osprey SPORTLITE 25 Hiking Backpack

Amazon

Pros
  • Many exterior pockets

  • Loops for storing trekking poles

  • Water-resistant

Cons
  • Hydration pack not included

If you’re looking for a hiking backpack that won’t weigh you down, we recommend the Sportlite from Osprey. It features contoured mesh shoulder straps and a hip belt with convenient pockets to keep your must-haves close by. We like that the sternum strap easily glides up or down for customizable support and that the quick-release compression straps help keep the pack close to your center of gravity (so it’s easier to wear for long periods of time). 

You’ll also find handy storage features, like a front pocket with a key loop, a front stretch compression pocket, and trekking pole loops. We especially love the external access to the hydration pack sleeve, stretchy side water bottle pockets, and outer straps that hug supplies tight until needed. It even has a designated place to clip a safety light. 

A rain-resistant coating on tough nylon keeps your gear protected if clouds roll in. The Sportlite is available in four size volumes and two torso size options, so you can find your ideal size and fit for any hike. However, you’ll have to purchase a hydration pack separately.

Price at time of publication: $120

Weight: 1.66 or 1.75 pounds | Storage Capacity: 25 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: Nylon

Best Waterproof

Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack

Earth Pak Waterproof Backpack

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros
  • Adjustable straps

  • Budget-friendly

  • Reflective elements

Cons
  • Only has a few pockets

  • Hydration pack not included

Earth Pak’s Summit Dry Bag is our recommendation for the best waterproof hiking backpack. It’s durable enough for even overnight hikes, complete with no-fuss features. With a roll-top closure, two buckles, and a single reinforced strap, sealing your essentials inside is a snap. There's one main compartment with two small pockets inside—one mesh and one zippered. 

The exterior features one larger, zippered pocket. Fewer pockets make for a simplicity some will love—but the ultra-organized might not. It's also worth noting that this backpack doesn't come with a hydration pack, like some of our other picks.

We love how the chest and waist straps are easy to adjust, so it’s a win for anyone who needs a trusty accessory while camping, hiking, or kayaking. The Summit comes in 35-, 55-, and 85-liter volumes, so no matter the journey, you'll never have to worry about your gear getting wet again. And reflectors help keep you safe in low light conditions. 

Price at time of publication: $63

Weight: 2.5 pounds | Storage Capacity: 35, 55, or 85 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: 500 PVC and PVC Molle

Best for Day Hikes

Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack

Osprey Daylite Plus Pack

 REI

Pros
  • Lots of storage

  • Can double as an everyday bag

  • Wide range of colors

Cons
  • No reflective elements

  • Hydration pack not included

Osprey’s Daylite Plus Pack is a frameless, comfortable option that’s our pick for day hiking. Weighing in at 1.2 pounds, this 20-liter pack is water-resistant and has a plethora of pockets. 

There are two main compartments, including one with a padded interior sleeve, so that the pack can easily double as a work or travel bag. Pack your keys, wallet, sunscreen, and any other small necessities in interior 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. The shoulder straps are breathable, comfortable, and like other Osprey packs on our list, we like that this one features a whistle on the sternum strap for added safety. While this durable pack does lack reflective elements, it comes in a wide range of stylish, jewel-tone color combinations.

Price at time of publication: $75

Weight: 1.29 pounds | Storage Capacity: 20 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: Polyester

Best for Multiday

Osprey Ariel 55 Women’s Backpacking Backpack

Osprey Ariel 55 Women’s Backpacking Backpack

Amazon

Pros
  • Removable top lid 

  • Easily adjustable

  • Comfortable, padded straps

Cons
  • Hydration pack not included

  • Expensive

If you’re heading out for a few days, we recommend this strategically-designed backpack from Osprey. This popular bag comes in two sizes, with slightly different capacities (52 compared to 55 liters). With long trips in mind, there’s a storage solution for virtually everything you’ll need, from your sleeping bag to your trekking poles. 

We like the thick, padded straps and strategically-designed suspension system, which help keep the pack tight to your center of gravity. And the outer buckle system pulls gear tight to help you balance. You can even remove the top lid for customizable capacity on shorter stretches. 

Thanks to easy-to-read guide markings, you can adjust this pack’s shoulder, sternum, and waist belts in minutes for the perfect fit. The pack is durable and protective rain or shine, made from water-resistant materials and featuring an included rain cover. However, it is heavier than other picks on our list—and even though it comes in at a higher price point, it doesn’t come with a hydration pack.

Need even more space? Try the Ariel Plus, which expands to a whopping 85 liters. 

Price at time of publication: $295

Weight: 4.77 or 4.82 pounds | Storage Capacity: 52 or 55 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: Nylon

Best for Travel

Gregory Deva 60 Pack

Gregory Deva 60 Pack

Courtesy of REI

Pros
  • Comes in three sizes

  • Lots of storage

  • Easily adjustable

Cons
  • Hydration pack not included

  • Expensive

Gregory’s Deva Pack is our recommendation for a hiking backpack that’s ideal for trips around the globe. Remove the hydration sleeve (reservoir sold separately) from the larger pack and use it for shorter day hikes from camp. Then, simply re-attach it to climb back down the mountain. 

All three sizes feature 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 many smaller pockets allow you to strategically stash necessities like your phone, sunglasses, or camera. 

There is also a zippered bottom sleeping bag compartment and attachment loops for trekking poles. Plus, the fabric is treated to prevent odor-causing bacteria from growing, even during long trips. No matter what you need to store, this backpack has just the space for it. 

Price at time of publication: $300

Weight: 4.48 to 4.83 pounds | Storage Capacity: 50 to 64 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: Nylon

Best for Hydration

CamelBak Fourteener 26 Hiking Hydration Pack

CamelBak Fourteener 26 Hiking Hydration Pack

Amazon

Pros
  • Built-in rain cover

  • Supportive hip belt

  • Breathable

Cons
  • Not water-resistant

Make dehydration a thing of the past when you carry this top pick. Ideal for long, hot days, the Fourteener includes a 3-liter reservoir, which is easy to fill with water and ice and has a quick-connect hose. Secured nicely along the shoulder strap for when you need a sip, the large, self-sealing bite valve on the hose also conserves water waste.

Sporting many pockets, loops, and trekking pole bungees, we love this pack for long day treks where you might need to pack a few extras. The supportive, dual waist belt distributes weight on the hips while comfortably compressing any pocketed items, so nothing hinders your movement. 

While this pack won’t protect contents from the rain on its own, it does come with a rain cover for when you’re stuck in a sudden downpour. 

Price at time of publication: $155

Weight: 2.34 pounds | Storage Capacity: 26 liters | Water-Resistant: No | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: Nylon

Best Overnight

REI Co-op Flash 55 Pack

REI Co-op Flash 55 Pack

REI

Pros
  • Removable top lid

  • Roll-top closure

  • Nine exterior pockets, plus loops

Cons
  • Hydration pack not included

The Co-op Flash Pack is our top pick for overnight adventures. Like Osprey’s Ariel, you can fill or remove this pack’s accessories to suit your preferred organization method. Nine exterior pockets and loops for attaching tools make this a technical pack that doesn’t overwhelm you. And removable, customizable compression straps help contain dangling gear. 

We especially like the angled water bottle pockets that are within easy reach of the hip belt. Nylon makes this pack lightweight and flexible, while the ripstop construction is durable whether you’re carrying light or heavy loads. The top compartment is made with a water-resistant lining, but to protect your essentials in bad weather, we recommend picking up a separate rain cover. 

This versatile pack comes in three sizes, and there’s also a women’s version. While it can fit a hydration pack inside, it doesn’t come with one, so you’ll have to purchase one.

Price at time of publication: $199

Weight: 2.34 to 2.69 pounds | Storage Capacity: 53 to 57 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: Nylon

Best for Kids

REI Co-op Tarn 12 Pack - Kids'

REI Co-op Tarn 12 Pack
Pros
  • Wide range of sizes

  • Lightweight

  • Waterproof

Cons
  • Hydration pack not included

The Tarn 12 Pack from REI is our top pick for kids who love to hike. Lightweight and comfortable, the REI Tarn series includes a range of 12- to 65-liter packs for all ages. Made from durable nylon construction in bright and earthy colors, this pack is an investment that will last long enough to be passed down to siblings or friends. 

We like that it’s waterproof, so wet items and spills stay contained, while snacks will stay dry even in the event of unexpected rain. And well-designed storage keeps your little one’s items handy for a seamless trip. Like adult REI packs, this kids’ backpack is ergonomically designed with padded shoulders, sternum straps, and a waist belt for safe weight distribution and a secure fit. 

Just be sure to add your own hydration pack if you’re going on a long trek. 

Price at time of publication: $40

Weight: 12 ounces | Storage Capacity: 12 liters | Water-Resistant: Yes | Straps: Adjustable shoulder, sternum, and waist belts | Material: Nylon

How We Selected the Best Hiking Backpacks

To make our list of the best hiking backpacks, we first spoke with certified rock climbing guides and instructors Cory Goei, AMGA-certified SPI, and Chad Martin, AMGA-certified SPI, WFR, to get their expert advice on which features every hiking backpack needs. Next, we consulted academic journals and scientific findings to understand how a great-fitting, well-designed hiking backpack can make an outing safer, more comfortable, and more organized.

Then, we researched dozens of hiking backpacks from the top, trusted brands. We only chose hiking backpacks that ranked highly in key areas, including size, fit, and storage. We also considered comfort, durability, any additional features, and overall value.

What to Look for in a Hiking Backpack

Weight

If you’re going to carry a backpack for multiple hours a day, it should be as light as possible while still offering plenty of functionality. Extra weight can cause injury or strained muscles, turning a nice hike into a miserable slog.

Look for packs made of lightweight but durable materials, like high-denier or high-tenacity nylon, polyester, or a combination of both. If you need a pack with structure, invest in one made with light materials such as foam, alloy steel, or fiberglass.

Size

The size of your backpack should reflect the number of days you'll be hiking. Smaller packs, like Deuter’s Speed Lite 23, our top overall pick, will work well for half- or one-day hikes. “Small packs have their uses and are great for going light and fast, or short and casual,” Martin says. “Some come with an internal frame which will give a lot more support if carrying more weight. While others, sometimes called summit bags, are light, carry the essentials, and can be rolled up when not in use.”

For most weekend trips, a 30-to-50-liter bag is appropriate. A longer trip (three to five days) generally requires 50 to 80 liters. Extended trips (five or more days) call for at least 70 liters. Pack size volume differs based on your packing habits, but the backpack's capacity should suit the entire 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. 

Many hiking backpacks come in various sizes and designs, depending on your frame and preferences. Men’s and women’s packs are designed with the average male and female torso and shoulder width measurement differences in mind. “There is a difference—between ½ inch and 2 inches of width in the ‘yoke’ (the distance between the shoulder straps),” says Goei. 

With men’s and women’s packs, there is also a difference in capacity. For women, it’s usually between 2 to 5 liters smaller due to a narrowed yoke, which makes the entire pack smaller, as seen in the men’s Gregory Zulu and its women’s counterpart, the Jade. Women’s packs also sometimes feature shoulder straps and hip belts designed with extra curvature. 

"The overall goal is to get it to fit correctly to create an enjoyable experience for you so that you’ll want to do it again and learn more and experience more,” Goei explains. “But if it’s not fit properly, you could cause injury.”

Additional Features

Some hiking backpacks have additional features designed for convenience and safety. The length of your trip and your personal preferences will help you decide which elements you need.

“The hip belt [on a small pack] is just a nuisance–it gets in the way, flops around, and is not supportive enough because I’m not carrying enough to warrant it,” Goei says. But “in bigger packs, a hip belt is a must,” he adds. “If you’re carrying 20 or 30 pounds, that weight on your shoulders over five miles is a lot—you’re going to notice that. So if you can transfer that load into the pelvis, it lowers your center of gravity, and you’ll be less likely to be tipping over.” 

Regardless of your trip length or hiking pack size, both Goei and Martin advise choosing a bag with exterior compression pockets and straps, like REI’s Co-op Flash 55. “A pack should always be tight on the outside,” Martin says. “People on the trail can be quite clever with the things they have dangling from their pack, but energy is wasted, and swinging momentum keeps the hiker from staying centered.”

So which extra features do you really need? Both experts suggest looking for packs with quick access pockets, a large and spacious main compartment (with pockets, if that’s your preference), a hydration reservoir or enough room to add your own, and an included rain cover or a waterproof construction.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much should a hiking backpack weigh?

    Take your body weight into consideration when loading up your hiking backpack. To avoid injury, keep your backpack's weight (when full) at no more than 10 percent of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your backpack for a day's hike should weigh a maximum of 15 pounds. 

    Martin’s advice is to pack wisely. “Generally, if your day hiking pack weighs more than 12 to 15 pounds, you might consider reevaluating what you are bringing,” he says. “It is good practice to lay out all your gear at the end of a hike and consider which was used and what was not.” 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 keeps 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?

    Hiking supplies depend on personal preference, length of the hike, and the area’s climate and weather, our experts say. 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?

    Goei recommends cleaning your backpack by hand rather than tossing it into a washing machine, which may make any unpleasant odors worse. Instead, first, empty all of the contents and leave every pocket open and unzipped. Brush off noticeable dirt with a dry rag. Spot treat (per the label) with a damp cloth and mild detergent. Wipe down the backpack and let it air dry.

  • How do you size a hiking backpack?

    In general, look for a hiking backpack that is narrower than your torso to prevent overloading. The shoulder, waist, and chest straps should be adjustable to help distribute the weight of the pack evenly. Expert fitters at many hiking gear stores can help you find the right size for your frame. If you’re buying online, use the manufacturer’s size charts. You can always take the pack to a hiking gear store to get help adjusting it for a perfect fit.

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.

Additional reporting by Jessica Murtaugh 

A certified personal trainer, avid hiker, and camper, Jessica Murtaugh, NASM-CPT, researches and reviews fitness gear for Verywell Fit. She is dedicated to reporting authentic content to her readers. One of her favorite hiking backpacks to take on trips is REI’s Co-op Ruckpack because of its versatility and water-resistant design. For this shopping guide, she prioritized eco-conscious brands that promote size, gender, and race inclusivity in their products.

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