Whether you’re heading into the hills for the day or are off on an epic adventure by foot, you’ll be needing a decent backpack to accompany you on your travels. And with so many on offer, it’s hard to know which to pick.
Storage capacity and other features to look for depend on the kind – and length – of hike you’re going on. But there are some important things to consider to ensure you buy the right backpack for your needs.
First up: your frame. The right fit is essential, so consider whether you want an adjustable or a fixed frame, and try before you buy.
Women get a better fit from a women-specific pack that’s designed specifically for the female hip-to-torso ratio – which is why we've called out a 'best for women' here.
A snug hip belt is the key to minimising the strain on your spine and shoulder muscles, while padding, ventilation and waterproofing are additional features to look for. When it comes to pockets and clips, make sure they’re easy to reach so you can stash your phone, water bottle and walking poles quickly and securely.
Get the right size pack
Finally, size matters when it comes to hiking backpacks. Too big and you’ll end up carrying more weight than you need to; too small and you won’t fit everything in. Storage capacity is measured in litres, and usually ranges from 20-80 litres. As a general rule, 20 litres is ideal for day trips, 30-50 litres is good for a weekend away and 70-80 is more suitable for longer trips or expeditions.
So, from daypacks for a short yomp to large packs for longer adventures, these are the best hiking backpacks to buy.
Best for day hikes
Millican 'Smith The Roll Top' Canvas 25L Pack
We love how stylish yet functional this daypack is. Its understated colours and minimalist design wouldn’t be out of place in the coolest city, yet it also has practical zip pockets and removable waist and sternum straps, so it’s perfect for anyone on the move, whether you’re hiking or doing other activities such as cycling. The shoulder straps are padded and ergonomic, ensuring a comfortable fit for different body shapes, and there’s a good amount of room inside – you can stuff 25 litres worth of kit in there.
If pockets are your thing, you’ll love the amount here – there’s a large external pocket on the front, plus others inside the bag where you can zip away valuables. There’s also a padded laptop sleeve that slots into the back panel, and the buckles are made from aluminium, which are strong and easy to fasten. The bag available in a host of earthy tones, including moss green, graphite and rusty-red.
Quechua NH500 20L Backpack
This one-dayer is surprisingly voluminous – and super affordable. There’s a choice of five different compartments to organise your maps, waterproofs, warm layers, snacks, spare change and other hiking paraphernalia. Most of these pockets are on the outside, so they’re super easy to reach, even if you’re mid-hike. It’s even got a built-in rain cover in the velcro pouch at the bottom for when the heavens open.
The back and straps are padded and ventilated – perfect for hikes on hot days – for added comfort and there are two water bottle holders, a water bladder compartment and pole loops for serious hikers. It may be the cheapest bag in our collection price-wise, but that doesn’t make it naff – Quechua hiking backpacks are guaranteed for ten years. Ultra comfortable and well accessorised for single day hikes, it’ll be tough to find a better value option than this.
Best for mountain hikes
Black Diamond Nitro 26
A slightly roomier daypack, this is the perfect backpack for hiking from dawn until dusk. Ideal for the intrepid adventurer, it works just as well in the mountains as it does in the desert, rainforest and jungle. Stash your ice axes or trekking poles in the specially-crafted loops, pull on the raincover when the weather turns, and keep your electronics safe by zipping them into a secure, fleece-lined pouch.
The “SwingArm” shoulder straps have been designed for ease of movement, and there’s great ventilation through the back panel and hip belt. The bag is well-made and light, but without sacrificing durability. Make the most of the handy stretch mesh side pockets for popping your essentials in while out on the trial. Choose from three colours – black, grey and blue.
Best for women
The North Face Women’s Hydra 38 Backpack
With so many body types out there, not every backpack will suit a women’s body shape. But a decent women’s pack needs to be more than just a girly colour. In fact we love the fact that this offering from The North Face doesn’t look too feminine at first glance – with no pink in sight (instead, choose from red, khaki and aquamarine).
It has been designed specifically for women, who tend to have a smaller frame, with a breathable back panel and super adjustable, padded straps to ensure the bag fits snugly and comfortably.
Technical features include an aluminium frame, which offers load control and freedom of movement, reflective webbing for visibility in low light, hydration sleeves and lash points where you can secure everything from hiking poles to ice axes.
Berghaus Women's Trailhead 65L Rucksack
Women needing more space in their pack should snap up this reliable rucksack from Berghaus, which can squeeze in 65 litres worth of kit. Despite having a big capacity, it’s also designed to have a snug fit for smaller female frames.
Its top and chest straps can be tailored exactly to your size, and there’s a hip-belt that has already got a curved shape, so will feel much more comfy even on that first hike. The adjustable back system offers extra comfort even after hours on the trail and there are handy features like walking pole attachment points and a rain cover.
It only comes in one colour – navy – but it’s a decent price from a trusted British brand. Just the ticket for women looking for a snug, comfy backpack that can hold a heavy load.
Best for multi-day hikes and expeditions
Osprey Farpoint Trek 75 Rucksack
We love this new number from Osprey. It includes all the same great features as the award-winning previous models and adds some handy extras into the mix. Available in two sleek colours – teal and black – it has an adjustable back system that’s made from super-ventilating mesh, which helps keep sweat at bay.
One of its best and more unusual features is its suitcase-style opening system so you can pack easily and find and grab whatever you need quickly while on the go. It also has a special cover to protect your belongings if you’re sending it onto the hold on a plane (which can also be used as a rain cover) and comes with hidden pockets for stashing your valuables, lockable zips and a sleeping bag compartment. Ideal for the adventurous backpacker.
Arc’teryx Brize 32 Backpack
If you're after a technical hiking backpack, look no further than this great option from Canadian brand Arc’teryx. First up, we love the vibrant colours you can choose – bright orange and blue – though there’s also a black option if you prefer to keep things muted. You can store 32 litres worth of kit inside – plenty for at least a couple of days on the hop – and the bag itself only weighs a little over 1kg. It also has a fully adjustable frame and padded straps to suit most body types.
You get into the main compartment easily from the top, and there’s also a zipped front pocket, as well as side pockets for water bottles and snacks, that are more easy to access. A top pocket is perfect for stashing lighter items like your maps, while the internal pocket is where you can keep everything from your head torch and passport to your phone or GPS.
There’s even an in-built clip for your keys so you’ll never have to worry about locking yourself out of your house again. Want more? The back panel is thermoformed and ergonomic, meaning airflow is improved and you’ll stay comfortable all day, whatever the load.
Best for wet weather
Patagonia Stormfront Pack 30L
There’s nothing worse than finishing a hike in the rain to discover the entire contents of your bag are soaked through. That won’t be an issue if you pick this 100% waterproof-submersible pack from Patagonia. It’s so waterproof, you could chuck it in a river and your belongings would still be bone dry inside it. Made from ultra durable, water-repellent material, it has been welded to ensure maximum dryness within, and features fully waterproof zips, too.
Inside, there are plenty of compartments for storing your kit – it’s big enough to accommodate a 15-inch laptop, as well as cameras, extra layers and food. The internal, glued-in zippered pocket keeps valuables organised, and the fully-adjustable, padded shoulder harness and removable waist belt mean you’ll be comfortable carrying it all day.