If you want to get into hiking, you’ll need to find the best hiking backpack. A good backpack will protect your back while allowing you to carry everything you need on the trail, so it’s important to find the right one for you.
The question is, what should you be looking for in a hiking backpack? What style should you go for? How can you tell if a backpack will be comfortable to wear? And what other features do you need to look for? We’ll answer all those questions, and give you our top 5 picks.
The bottom line up front: we like the TETON Sports Oasis 18L Backpack with Water Bladder for shorter hikes. It has a decent capacity, it’s comfortable to wear, and you get a water bladder and rain cover included.
We also like:
- DURATON Hiking Backpack 50L – best for long hikes, this has plenty of space for all your essential gear
- TOMULE 40L Daypack – a versatile daypack you can use for all kinds of situations
We’ll also be looking at:
- How our top backpack recommendations compare to each other
- What a hiking backpack is
- The main features you should look for in a hiking backpack
- Our top 5 picks, including their key features, pros, and cons
- Some frequently asked questions
- Which ones we like the best and why
Table of Contents
- Best Hiking Backpacks Compared
- What is a Hiking Backpack?
- What to Look for in a Hiking Backpack
- Top 5 Best Hiking Backpacks
- 1. TETON Sports Oasis 18L Backpack with Water Bladder – Good All-Rounder
- 2. Cali Crusher Sling Bag – Best for Short Hikes
- 3. DURATON Hiking Backpack 50L – Best for Longer Hikes
- 4. TOMULE 40L Daypack – Most Versatile
- 5. INOXTO Camping and Hiking Backpack – Most Durable
- Frequently Asked Questions
- To Sum Up …
Keep reading to find out more!
Best Hiking Backpacks Compared
What is a Hiking Backpack?
A hiking backpack is slightly different from a regular backpack. They’re designed to carry everything you need for a hike, without digging into your shoulders or giving you a backache. A good hiking backpack will allow you to keep your hands free and will be somewhat weatherproof, so you can take it outdoors even in a downpour.
What to Look for in a Hiking Backpack
When it comes to hiking backpacks, there are a few key things to look for:
Depending on the journey you’ll be taking, you might want to pick up a couple of different hiking backpacks. For example, a small backpack will be perfect for a short hike, but if you’re planning on camping on a multi-day trip, you’ll need a lot more room for your camping essentials.
Capacity in a backpack tends to be measured in liters, which makes it a little harder to tell what size to go for if you’re buying online.
Here’s a rough guide to the size range available:
- 6-10 Liters – mini/small backpacks, ideal for days out or for kids
- 10-30 Liters – daypacks, ideal for hiking or all-day walks
- 30-50 Liters – medium backpacks, ideal for long hikes, overnight trips, or camping
- 50+ Liters – large backpacks, perfect for traveling or backpacking
Looking at the dimensions of a backpack can help you to figure out whether it’s right for you. The main thing to look for is the length. Shorter people may find it less comfortable to carry long backpacks on their back, as they might get in the way while you’re trying to climb up trickier slopes.
Comfort is key for any kind of hiking gear to prevent back pain. The straps are a key area in this regard. Look for padding on the straps, to prevent them from digging in. Also, check out how adjustable they are. The closer you can fit your backpack to your body, the easier it will be to carry, and you won’t have to worry about the straps slipping off.
You can also get backpacks with padding in the back, to make them much more comfortable to carry. If you’re worried about overheating, look for backpacks with a padded mesh back area to help improve airflow.
You can find backpacks with frames, either internal or external. These give a backpack structure, removing some of the pressure from your back. These tend to be found on larger, backpacking-style bags so you can carry heavier equipment without compromising the health of your spine.
Some backpacks are water-resistant. This means you’ll be able to take them out in a rain shower and not worry too much about your stuff getting wet. However, if you want a truly waterproof backpack, it’s worth looking for one with a rainproof cover.
These tend to be stored in a zip pocket in the backpack, allowing you to quickly pull it out and cover the backpack if you end up hiking in the rain.
A good hiking backpack will have a selection of pockets. This will make things so much easier if you’re trying to stay organized on the trail. Look for smaller pockets to keep your valuables or items you need to find quickly (like your phone), and a pocket large enough to keep a water bottle.
The last thing to consider is design. You can get hiking backpacks in pretty much any color! It’s worth noting if you plan to use it as a daypack for hunting, you’ll probably want to go for one in a neutral color to avoid startling any wildlife.
You can also pick up sling-style backpacks, which look a little different from regular backpacks. These can be worn over one shoulder, and tend to be pretty small, with just enough room to carry your absolute essentials for a shorter hike.
Top 5 Best Hiking Backpacks
Now, let’s take a look at our top 5 hiking backpacks! With so many to choose from, these are 5 that stand out above the rest. We’ve tried to include a range of sizes, so you can find something for a quick walk or something for overnight stays.
1. TETON Sports Oasis 18L Backpack with Water Bladder – Good All-Rounder
- Capacity: 18 Liters
- Style: Backpack
- Extra Features: Pockets, water bladder
- Water Resistant: Yes (raincover included)
The TETON Sports Oasis 18L Backpack with Water Bladder is a pretty decent all-rounder, big enough for a day out or a long hike. It’s lightweight, and it feels comfortable to wear, with cushioning in the back and shoulder straps. It lacks cushioning in the hip straps, which is a bit of a downside. The back area is ventilated, so you won’t have to worry about getting overheated, and you can adjust the straps easily.
This backpack has pockets on each side for the included water bladder, which means you can easily have access to water on the side you prefer to use. It also has 4 zippered pockets, plenty for a day hike.
It’s a robust backpack with decent zippers, and it has a pocket at the bottom that contains the rain cover. This can be quickly taken out when needed and folded away again, but it doesn’t make the pack feel bulky.
Ultimately, we’d recommend this one for shorter hikes. It doesn’t have enough capacity for overnight stays, and for very long hikes, the lack of padding in the hip straps might start to irritate you a little. For shorter hikes, though, it works perfectly.
- Padding in back and shoulder straps
- Good amount of pockets
- Water bladder and rain cover included
- No padding in hip straps
2. Cali Crusher Sling Bag – Best for Short Hikes
- Capacity: Not stated
- Style: Sling bag
- Extra Features: Adjustable shoulder strap, smell-proof lining
- Water Resistant: No
The Cali Crusher Sling Bag is ideal for shorter hikes. It’s super lightweight and feels incredibly comfortable to wear. It has one cushioned strap with a zipper down the middle, which you can pull if you’d rather wear it as a regular backpack instead of over one shoulder.
It has 4 small pockets, and it has a smell-proof carbon lining, so you can carry food around in it and not have to worry too much about it. The exterior pocket is a little on the small side, but you should be able to fit a slim water bottle inside it. Or, you could save the main compartment for your drink and snacks, and use the pockets for the rest of your valuables.
The downside of this bag is, it isn’t waterproof, and it doesn’t come with a rain cover.
It’s a versatile bag. You could use it for all sorts of situations: work, running errands, short walks. In terms of hiking, it’s not going to be good enough for an all-day hike, as you won’t be able to use it to carry enough food or water to keep you going. However, for shorter hikes in warmer weather, it’s perfect.
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Can be transformed from a sling bag into a regular backpack
- Smell-proof lining
- Includes a lot of pockets
- No waterproofing or rain cover
- Not good for longer hikes
3. DURATON Hiking Backpack 50L – Best for Longer Hikes
- Capacity: 50 Liters
- Style: Overnight Backpack
- Extra Features: Survival whistle, clip for hydration hose
- Water Resistant: Yes (rain cover included)
The DURATON Hiking Backpack 50L is a great backpack if you’re going on a long hike, or if you need to take some camping gear with you. It’s comfortable, with breathable mesh pads in the back area, and high-density support foam in the straps, so you won’t have to worry about them digging in as you walk.
It has 2 large side mesh pockets for water bottles, smaller pockets located in the hip belt for phones, keys, or small snacks, and a sleeping bag compartment, so you can stash your sleeping bag out of the way. It also has a large main compartment (45 liters) and a secondary compartment in the lid (5 liters). If you want to keep your stuff organized, this is the one to go for.
It also has some extra features, including a safety whistle, and a clip for a hydration hose if you have a water bladder you’d like to use with it (the downside is, the water bladder isn’t included, so you’ll have to buy one separately). It also has reflective material, which is a good safety feature. Your backpack will stand out if a light shines on it, which is perfect if you’re hiking near a road.
Plus, it’s made from durable fabric, and it has a rain cover, located in its own compartment at the bottom of a pack.
We’d recommend this one if you’re going backpacking, or if you plan to tackle very long hikes requiring more gear.
- Comfortable to wear thanks to the padding
- Lots of compartments to keep things organized
- Includes safety whistle
- Made from durable, reflective fabric
- Rain cover included
- Water bladder has to be bought separately
4. TOMULE 40L Daypack – Most Versatile
- Capacity: 40 Liters
- Style: Daypack
- Extra Features: Wet pocket, foldable design
- Water Resistant: No
The TOMULE 40L Daypack is a great multi-purpose backpack. The shoulder straps are easy to adjust, with breathable padding to keep you cool and comfortable at the same time. The downside is it doesn’t have any padding in the back area, so we’d recommend this one for shorter hikes, or if you don’t have to carry much with you.
It has several pockets, including 2 at the front, 3 internal pockets, and 2 mesh side pockets for your water bottle. It also has a roomy main compartment with a wet pocket inside, which you can use to store wet items or sweaty clothes safely.
The good thing about this bag is, it can be folded down neatly into a compact size, with a small carrying handle. This makes it perfect for throwing in your suitcase on longer trips, and it’s ideal if you don’t have a lot of space in your home to keep your hiking gear.
The major downside of this bag is that while it is advertised as water resistant, it’s actually not great at keeping water out for too long (which is why we’ve marked it as a ‘no’ in the ‘Water Resistant’ category). You could resolve this by buying a rain cover, but this would take up more room in your backpack. If you hike in warm weather, it would work perfectly.
We’d recommend this one for all sorts of uses – day trips, hiking, sleepovers, etc. You could squeeze minimal camping gear in there too if your trip requires an overnight stay.
- Comfortable, adjustable straps
- Lots of pockets, including a wet pocket
- Folds up into a compact size
- Good all-purpose backpack
- No padding in the back area
- Not very water-resistant
5. INOXTO Camping and Hiking Backpack – Most Durable
- Capacity: 40 Liters
- Style: Overnight Backpack
- Extra Features: Hidden pouch, shoe compartment
- Water Resistant: Yes (rain cover included)
The INOXTO Camping and Hiking Backpack is a very robust, durable backpack. It has adjustable shoulder and waist straps with breathable padding, and a large mesh padded area in the back for comfort. It’s been ergonomically designed to protect your spine, which is perfect if you need to carry a lot of gear.
It has a lot of pockets, including side pockets, front pockets, and a pocket designed to store shoes. Plus, it has front straps to secure a sleeping bag, which are designed to be pulled tight, squeezing the air out of the sleeping bag to make it more compact to carry around with you. The downside is some of these pockets are difficult to access.
It has extra straps at the front, which means you can attach more gear easily. For example, you can use it to carry a bundle of climbing ropes.
It’s a water-resistant bag, with a rain cover included, so you won’t have to worry about the contents getting wet. It’s a tough bag, and you can put through its paces. It has high-density stitching, scratch-proof fabric, and reinforced zippers. It’s worth the investment if you want a bag that is going to last for a long time.
We’d recommend this one for any kind of outdoor adventure. Hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, you name it. You’ll be able to carry all sorts of gear in this bag with no problems.
- Lots of padding in the straps and back area
- Ergonomically designed to protect your spine
- Has a lot of pockets
- Durable and scratch-proof
- Rain cover included
- Some of the pockets are difficult to get to
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we settle on the best hiking backpack, here are some frequently asked questions you might want the answers for:
How can I protect my back while hiking?
Protecting your back on a hike is really important. There are a few things you need to do to help prevent backaches or injuries:
- Make sure your backpack fits properly to avoid unnecessary strain. You can read the REI Co-op guide on How to Fit and Size a Backpack for the full lowdown on what to do.
- Stretch before and after your hike. You can find stretching videos to help point you in the right direction if you’ve never done this before. Stretching helps to loosen your muscles, which can reduce stress on your joints.
- Don’t overload your backpack. Only take the things you think you will need, and try to keep everything as lightweight as possible.
- Consider using hiking poles. A good pair of hiking poles will help to keep you upright as you walk, improving your posture.
- Give yourself enough time between hikes. Your body needs to recover, so make sure you allow your body to completely relax, with no aches and pains, before you hit the trail again.
Can I re-waterproof my backpack?
Some backpacks are covered in a waterproof layer, which can wear off in places. Similar to tent waterproofing, you can touch up the waterproofing on your backpack. It’s pretty easy to do:
- Empty the bag completely, and shake it out to remove loose dirt
- Clean the bag with warm, soapy water, and allow to air dry
- Use a waterproofing spray to cover the areas where the waterproofing is wearing thin
- Leave to dry completely before you take it out again
It’s worth noting this may not work on all types of material. If you’re unsure, spray a tiny amount in an inconspicuous area to test it out first.
What do I need to take with me on a hike?
There are a few absolute essentials for hiking:
- A water bottle or water bladder
- Some small, lightweight snacks, like
- (if applicable to your local area)
- sunscreen (if the weather demands it)
- a small first aid kit
- Your phone or a map
Those are the key things that you’ll need to stay safe on a hike.
Can I use my hiking backpack for hunting?
Yes, you can use your hiking backpack for hunting. Just make sure to go for an inconspicuous color so you don’t draw attention to yourself!
You can check out our guide to the best elk hunting backpacks and the best bow hunting backpacks for specific recommendations.
To Sum Up …
If we had to recommend one, we’d go for the TETON Sports Oasis 18L Backpack with Water Bladder for shorter hikes. It’s durable, lightweight, and comfortable. Plus, it comes with a water bladder and a rain cover, which is great.
If you want something for overnight trips, we’d recommend the DURATON Hiking Backpack 50L. It has plenty of space, and lots of pockets to keep things organized.
Finally, if you want a general use backpack you can use for all sorts of situations, we’d recommend the TOMULE 40L Daypack. It folds up small, making it the perfect backpack to store in a small space or to put in a suitcase if you’re on a longer trip.
We hope this has helped you to find the best hiking backpack for you!