- A good hiking pack is important for enjoying your next day hike or overnight camping trip and you need a reliable pack for multi-day treks, especially if you wander miles away from civilization.
- The Osprey Stratos 50 Backpack is our top choice because it’s durable, intuitively designed, a good size, and affordable.
At the time of this writing, I have three full-sized hiking packs tucked away in my basement closet. Piled beside them are a handful of smaller daypacks. Um… four, I think, as I gave one away not too long ago. And there are a few foldable/rolling summit packs in there, too. When you get deep into a hobby, you end up with a lot of stuff, OK? And besides, I can justify owning most of them.
As similar as one hiking backpack might seem to another at first glance, different hiking packs serve purposes and are suited for different environments and users. When I set out for a 10-day trek through the mountains of South America last year, for example, I left behind a beloved pack I had relied upon for years because it just wasn’t capable of dealing with rainforest downpours. The pack I trusted during that trek, however, was quickly shelved again in favor of a much smaller pack during an overnight camp out with my son, potential rain notwithstanding. Why? Well, when you have a rainproof tent right there at your campsite, there’s really no need for a big, rugged, waterproof backpack.
Selecting the right hiking pack is a serious decision. Even if you won’t be relying on your pack for your very survival during an extended trek through the wilderness, you still want a backpack that’s comfortable, durable, well-designed, and that suits your needs.
Even the least expensive pack I’m going to recommend still costs seventy dollars, which is a notable expense for any hiker or camper who needs to watch the budget. While you can find packs out there that cost a good deal less than that, I strongly urge you not to. I’ve had a buckle break even with a decent pack and were it not for a roll of duct tape I happened to bring along on that trek (something I admittedly omit most of the time) I would have been left in a very uncomfortable position for quite a few miles.
When choosing a hiking/camping pack, make sure you consider basics like pack size, meaning the volume of gear it can carry, and design features like frame type and strap configuration. Also look at convenience features ranging from hiking pole straps to external organization pockets to removable upper compartments.
Finally, consider the unique traits that set each bag apart and that might make it a perfect fit for your needs, such as an integrated rain cover (great for use in the Pacific Northwest or the rainforests of South America) or a drop-down rifle pocket, something the hunter will appreciate, as no one likes a firearm bouncing around back there, especially when it’s loaded.
Here are the best hiking backpacks you can buy in 2019:
- Best hiking backpack overall: Osprey Stratos 50 Backpack
- Best backpack for mountaineering: Roamm Nomad 65 + 15 Backpack
- Best low-cost hiking pack: Teton Sports Scout 3400 Backpack
- Best hiking pack for hunters: ALPS OutdoorZ Commander + Pack Bag
- Best long-distance hiking pack: High Sierra Long Trail 90 Pack
Updated on 09/10/2019 by Les Shu: Updated links, formatting, and prices.
The best hiking backpack overall
The Osprey Stratos 50 Backpack has a dual-access main compartment, integrated rain cover, and ventilated tensioned mesh back panel to make it a reliable pack that will last years.
As the name suggests, the Osprey Stratos 50 Backpack has a 50-liter capacity. In case that doesn’t mean much to you, it’s the equivalent of 3,051 cubic inches of storage capacity. And in case that didn’t help much, let’s put it like this: For most people, this is a perfect pack for a backpacking trip that will last from one to four nights.
When properly packed, the Stratos 50 can carry your sleeping bag, pad, clothing, rations, a few choice accessories like a camera and a camping stove, and even a smaller tent if you lash it to the base of the backpack. Yes, many bags can carry a lot more stuff, but the ideal pack is always the smallest one providing sufficient space. Beyond that, you’re carrying extra weight.
It’s not carrying capacity alone that makes this a great pack. It’s also an intuitive design: The Osprey Stratos 50 has a built-in rain cover that you can pull out and deploy whenever precipitation threatens. It has an internal water bladder pocket that keeps your water supply properly positioned for easy hydration.
The bag offers both top and side access to the main compartment, and it features organizational elements like trekking pole attachment points, hip belt pockets, and a fully removable upper lid compartment.
One buyer speaks for many when she says: “I think the Stratos 50 is my favorite of all my packs,” going on to praise its “great organization.” Another trekker says he loves how the “built-in rain cover makes hiking in any weather super easy.”
Among the professional gear testers, the consensus is much the same. A Gear Institute reviewer called the pack loaded with “good organizational options,” while a writer from The Big Outside noted the high quality of the bag despite its reasonable price, saying it “delivers good performance without sticker shock.”
Pros: Ideal size for 1-4-day trips, logical organization, built-in rain cover
The best low-cost hiking pack
- Teton Sports
The Teton Sports Scout 3400 Backpack is very affordable for such a high-quality hiking backpack.
Even though it costs less than $100, there are many great things about the low-cost, solid-quality Teton Sports Scout 3400 Backpack. The pack has twin side storage compartments great for a camera, a hat and gloves, snacks, and other such smaller items to which you’ll want ready access.
There is also a rear mesh pocket perfect for wet apparel you need to keep separate from the fresh stuff. Additionally, the included rainfly packs away into its own pocket and the backpack has a separate sleeping bag compartment, though I have to mention that many people say it’s too small for their bags. You can always use it for something else and put the sleeping bag in the main compartment, though.
All in all, this is a great hiking pack for the outdoorsman or outdoorswoman on a budget or as a beginner pack for someone not sure they will become a die-hard wilderness enthusiast.
With nearly 1,700 reviews on Amazon, the pack commands an impressive 4.5-star average rating. An owner named Austin speaks for many when he says the Teton Sports Scout 3400 is “amazing,” calling it “low-priced, high quality, and a perfect size” for hikes, campouts, and even for a motorcycle trip through the Himalayas.
A write-up from Ultimate Backpacks Guide called the Scout 3400 “loaded with features [and] friendly for your budget.”
The only downsides are that the padding on the straps and lumbar pad of this pack are more rigid and less comfortable than you’ll find with many higher-priced options. Also, the main compartment can only be accessed from the top, which can make proper, logical packing your gear more of a challenge and certainly makes accessing your stuff more of an annoyance. But considering the pack costs less than $70, those are forgivable issues.
Pros: Great low price point, integrated rainfly and sleeping bag compartment, backed by lifetime warranty
Cons: Annoying to access main compartment, padding more rigid than other packs
The best backpack for mountaineering
The Roamm Nomad 65 + 15 Backpack combines a 65-liter main backpack with a 15-liter daypack, making it a perfect system for hiking into the hills.
The Roamm Nomad is a great backpack for mountaineering, not for mountain climbing. When I say mountain climbing, I am referring to technical ascents using hand-over-hand climbing, ropes, and harnesses, etc. For our purposes, mountaineering refers to treks that lead up to the glorious elevations of a mountain, but that does not involve actual climbing.
Why is this a great pack for mountaineering? Two reasons, primarily. The first is that the main pack offers enough capacity to carry multiple days’ worth of gear and rations, including shelter, layering, a helmet, and other such equipment you might not need on shorter and/or less trying treks. Second, the Nomad comes with a removable 15-liter backpack that’s perfect for short trips ranging out from your established campsite, such as a push for a summit.
The main 65-liter backpack has a capacious main compartment, a water bladder pocket with twin hydration ports, compression straps, and multiple loops to which you can attach additional gear, from trekking poles to rope to a solar panel. The removable 15L backpack has a single compartment but also features attachment points for the additional gear you might want to bring as you head out from camp.
Yes, this pack is the most expensive one on our list, but it’s built to last even when treated roughly. And for the record, it’s still well-priced in the greater scheme of outdoor gear.
One satisfied owner called the Nomad “comfortable even with a lot of weight” packed into it, while another praised its many fine features such as the main compartment “access from the top/side/bottom” and then handy “hip belt pockets that are actually big enough to hold more than a candy bar.”
Pros: Large backpack and summit pack combo, multiple external gear attachment points, comfortable even when laden
The best hiking pack for hunters
The versatile ALPS OutdoorZ Commander + Pack Bag external frame pack can help you carry dozens of pounds of meat back out of the bush after a successful hunt.
If you are a hunter, or if you prefer the classic design of an external frame hiking pack, then the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander is the backpack you should have along for your next trip into the wilderness.
Unlike many external frame packs, which strap an assortment of different pouches and pockets to the tubing, this one uses a full-sized backpack that straps onto the frame. That keeps the weight well distributed and means you have large storage compartments suitable for larger gear items like a sleeping bag or warm weather apparel.
The entire bag can also be removed, leaving the frame ready to accommodate large portions of meat or anything else you need to carry around, thanks to a clever lashing system that can secure even irregular loads.
Hunters will also appreciate the drop down rifle butt pocket and the dual side pouches that clip over the long gun in two places. All told, the three-strep rifle harness system keeps even a larger, longer, heavier firearm safe and stable. Said pouches are perfect for extra ammunition or other small accessories, while the pack proper has a bladder pocket, adjustable padded straps, and many of the other features you’d expect from any good hiking pack.
One hunter reported hauling more than 95 pounds of gear around with him during a two-week solo expedition and said that overall the “design is great” save for a lack of water resistance. Another owner said the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander is “not only very well made but extremely well thought out.”
A writer from ManMakesFire.com called this external frame and pack combo a “full system for hunting and packing meat quarters” and loved its effective lashing system.
Pros: Perfect for carrying meat after a hunt, supports heavy loads with ease, built-in rifle storage
Cons: Not waterproof at all
The best long-distance hiking pack
- High Sierra
The High Sierra Long Trail 90 Pack has 40% more carrying capacity than some of the other packs on our list.
If you’re going to be hiking and camping out for a couple days, a 40-liter pack is probably fine. For a three or four night outing, a 50- to 60-liter pack will likely suffice. If you’re going out for an epic through hike along the A.T. or the PCT or on any other week-plus long trek, you need a bigger pack. Makes sense, right? With a 90-liter cargo capacity, the High Sierra Long Trail 90 Pack is that bag.
The bag’s main features include a truly spacious main compartment with a gusseted drawstring closure topped by a large easy-access upper compartment, a drop-bottom sleeping bag pocket, and multiple adjustment features. This latter point is critical for multi-day hikes where you’ll have lots of weight on your back. You can customize everything from the distance between the waist belt and shoulder loops to the sternum strap to the load placement, ensuring maximum potential comfort even under load.
The sides of the pack feature webbing daisy chains that are perfect for carabiners as well as gear loops for trekking poles, ice axes, and other hardware best carried outside the pack. Inside, you’ll find a water bladder pocket and a tuck-away rain cover. And all that is yours for only a little more than a hundred bucks.
With dozens of reviews in, the High Sierra Long Trail 90 Pack enjoys a 4.2 out of five-star rating. One buyer reports using his Ling Trail 90 along dozens of miles in the Sierra Nevada mountains without encountering a single issue. He was unequivocal on his love for it, saying “this pack is badass.”
A writer from BackpackGearTest.org appreciated that the “adjustments are simple” with this pack, an important note as many hiking packs are frustrating to dial in for a custom fit. A review from UltimateBackpacksGuide.com praised the comfort of the proprietary “Ergo-Fit shoulder harness” that helped manage heavy loads with aplomb.
Pros: Huge storage capacity, easy to adjust for a comfortable fit, excellent weight distribution
Cons: Zippers get caught frequently
Check out our other outdoors buying guides
By designing hydration packs with special compartments built to hold flexible water pouches, anyone has the ability to take liters of potable water with them wherever they go. Be it a five-mile day hike, a longer backpacking trek, or even a long-distance bike ride, there’s a hydration pack available to satiate anyone’s thirst. Here are our best picks for the best hydration packs you can buy:
- Best hydration pack overall: Osprey Skarab 18
- Best hydration pack for runners: CamelBak HydroBak
- Best hydration pack for day hikes: Platypus Duthie A.M. 10.0
- Best hydration pack for cycling: Gelindo Insulated Hydration Pack
- Best hydration pack for commuting: Gregory Inertia 30
If you’re headed out for a camping trip or assembling a disaster preparedness kit, always put a lighter and some emergency matches in there with the rest of the gear. But as lighters eventually run out of fuel or break, and as you can only carry a finite number of matches, it’s a good idea to also bring along a fire starter. Here are our best picks for the best fire starter you can buy:
- Best fire starter overall: Überleben Zünden Bushcraft Ferro Rod Fire Starter
- Best fire starter for ease of use: Zippo Emergency Fire Kit
- Best fire starter on a budget: SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar
- Best fire starter for foul weather: UST Blastmatch Fire Starter
- Best solar fire starter: Cz Garden Supply Fresnel Lens Fire Starter
Effective mosquito prevention requires a multi-pronged approach in which you remove breeding grounds, kill off adult insects, and deploy products that repel these dangerous pests. If you had to choose just one item for your anti-mosquito arsenal, a wise choice would be time-tested OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent with its 25% DEET concentration that wards off mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and more. Here are our top picks for the best mosquito repellent products:
- Best mosquito repellent: OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent
- Best repellent for yards: Cutter Backyard Bug Control Spray Concentrate
- Best mosquito repellent wipes: Aunt Fannie’s Mosquito Repellent Wipes
- Best bug zapper: Stinger Insect Zapper
- Best mosquito repellent candles: Light in the Dark Votive Citronella Candles
- Best mosquito traps for water: Summit Mosquito Dunks
- Best outdoor fan: Designer Aire Outdoor Standing Pedestal Fan
A sleeping bag is more than a matter of comfort. In extreme circumstances, having the right sleeping bag can be a matter of life and death. But that’s no reason not to find one that’s nice and cozy, too. The Hyke & Byke Quandary 15 Degree sleeping bag is warm and comfortable, lightweight and compactable, and it won’t break the bank. Here are our best picks for the best sleeping bags you can buy:
- Best overall: Hyke & Byke Quandary 15 Degree sleeping bag
- Best for extreme cold: Mountain Hardware Lamina Z Bonfire
- Best for a budget: Coleman North Rim Extreme Weather
- Best for casual comfort: Teton Sports Fahrenheit
- Best for couples: Sleepingo Double Sleeping Bag
When you’re car camping, you only need to haul your gear a short distance from the back of your vehicle, so go ahead and bring along a big, bulky tent with all sorts of special features. Choosing the best car camping tent starts with simply considering the size of the tent you need and the environment you’ll be in, as well as budget. Here are our best picks for the best tents for car camping you can buy: