Choosing the right backpack for your outdoor adventures shouldn’t be that difficult, especially if you know what size your torso is, for how many days you’re going out, if you’re going to hike or not…Wait, what?
If any of these doesn’t sound familiar to you it means that you have been doing it all wrong until now. The outdoor backpack isn’t only about being big enough for all of your essentials, but also having the right size, the right capacity and so many other things that improve your outdoor experience.
Truth be told, the variety of outdoor backpacks may be overwhelming, especially for a newbie, but scrolling down for a detailed look over the outdoor backpacks is going to help you choose better next time.
- 0.1 Did you know what size you’re going to need?
- 0.2 Does your torso length count?
- 0.3 Does the type of frame count for your outdoor backpack?
- 0.4 Why do we like internally framed backpacks?
- 0.5 When should you go with an externally framed backpack?
- 0.6 Top loading or front loading?
- 0.7 What other things count when selecting your backpack?
- 0.8 Does suspension matter on an outdoor backpack?
- 0.9 Can you customize a backpack?
- 0.10 Is your backpack of choice user friendly? Can you test it?
- 0.11 4 things to always remember when selecting your backpack
- 0.12 But can you make your backpack feel more comfortable?
- 1 Top 10 Best Outdoor Backpacks
- 1.1 1. ZOMAKE Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack
- 1.2 2. Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking Backpack Daypack
- 1.3 3. High Sierra Loop Backpack
- 1.4 4. Outdoor Master Hiking Backpack 50L
- 1.5 5. MOUNTAINTOP 40 Liter Hiking Backpack
- 1.6 6. TETON SPORTS Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
- 1.7 7. Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW
- 1.8 8. High Sierra Appalachian 75 Backpacking Pack
- 1.9 9. Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 Liter Men’s Backpack
- 1.10 10. Osprey Packs Aether AG 70L Backpack
Did you know what size you’re going to need?
The size of the outdoor backpacks is given in liters so let’s see what capacity you’re going to need for a 1-day trip or a 5-night trip:
- Single day/overnight- you should get a 20-30 liters’ backpack
- 1-3nights- a 35-50 liters is going to be a good choice, especially if there’s a lot of hiking and trail walking involved.
- 3-5 nights- go with a 50-70 liters’ backpack. Alpine climbing, trekking, multi-day ski touring and mountaineering are easier to do with a backpack of that capacity
- 5 nights and more- you should choose a 70+liter backpack. Are you strong enough for carrying it?
Does your torso length count?
We’re not giving much thought into the size of our torso. You may want to measure it when buying a winter coat or a new suit, but you definitely didn’t think of measuring it before choosing your outdoor backpack.
Nevertheless, your torso’s size is really important when selecting the backpack. Sternum support and strap, load lifter straps- they all become more efficient if they fit your torso right. This is why women should go with backpacks especially designed for women, even if the unisex backpacks aren’t going to be the worst option. Every woman has a different hip shape, which is why women need to shop for women backpacks.
Use a flexible tape measure at the base of the bottom of your neck (right about where the top of your shoulders meet the neck). go with the tape measure all the way down to the small of the back between your hips. This is going to give you your torso length.
You shouldn’t stress about the waist size, as most outdoor backpacks come with adjustable straps that fit most people’s waist size. The only issue appears when your waist is under 26in or above 50in- in which case you’re going to have to get a custom hip belt.
Does the type of frame count for your outdoor backpack?
when it comes to frames, there are two types: internal and external frames.
There are many differences between the two types, no matter how much the technology of internal frame backpacks has evolved. We still don’t have a material that manages to be waterproof and breathable at the same time- which counts so much for an external outdoor backpack.
In a nutshell, each of the types comes with ups and downs, and it’s all about how right it is for your outdoor experience. You should go with an external type if you’re going to carry a lot of gear, whereas an internal frame is the better option when developing an intense outdoor activity (hiking, climbing).
Why do we like internally framed backpacks?
Internal frames come with a small profile and they’re great for keeping your gear aligned with the center of gravity, ensuring a good balance (but it’s only if you pack it right!). When you’re going to walk/hike for a couple of days, balance may improve or worsen your whole experience.
An internal frame backpack is a bit more form fitting, allowing you better handling. They conform to the shape of your body, feeling like they’re part of you. Last thing you want when climbing a mountain is to worry that your backpack is misaligned or puts you in danger.
As they’re also able to carry plenty of gear, the internal frames are comfortable and easy to move around with. They’re a great choice for the long hikes or other strenuous activities: skiing, hunting, rock climbing or anything else that involves plenty of movement.
Sitting so close to your back, chances are that the internal frames are going to get all sweaty. Finding internal frame backpacks that have efficient breathability is quite the challenge, even though the industry doesn’t stop trying creating one.
Just because internal frames are great for hiking, doesn’t mean that the external frames don’t make a good choice for this kind of outdoor activities either.
When should you go with an externally framed backpack?
External frame backpacks are made to carry heavy gear for a long time, without making walking more difficult. Hunters, gold panners and moonshiners are typically using an externally framed backpack.
For instances, a hunter is going to sleep in the forest and do some hunting, so he/she is going to need enough gear for that and the ability to carry the large quantities of meat (fingers crossed!). You can even attach equipment to the side of an external frame and some models come with built-in rifle scabbards.
An external frame backpack features plenty of compartments for storing your gear well organized so that you may easily find them when out there. An internal frame only comes with 1 or 2 compartments, so finding something you need in a blink of an eye is almost always impossible.
Thanks to the external frame, the ventilation is typically great for this type of backpack. As a matter of fact, breathability is one of the main assets in the case of external frame backpacks.
Top loading or front loading?
The way you’re loading your backpack is something else you should consider when selecting:
Top loading backpacks
When it comes to the top loading packs, the main challenge comes when you need something that is right on the bottom of the pack.
This style if common for the internally framed backpacks as you can pack the equipment against your body, which gives better support. When you have a lot of pockets, the weight may pull back away from your body, compromising both comfort and balance. The top loading backpack is a perfect option when you’re going for a long-distance experience.
Front loading backpacks
This type of backpack allows easier access to your gear and it’s a common option for the book bags, computer bags or other small backpacks for the day hikes. They also come with plenty of pockets so you’re not going to have any problems when organizing your gear.
You shouldn’t use the front loading backpack for a long hike as it’s not going to sit comfortably on your hips. Somehow, the weight is going to lean back away from you. Even if it’s very easy to load, this type of backpack doesn’t make it as the perfect option for a long trek.
What other things count when selecting your backpack?
It’s pretty clear by now that there are lots of things to take under consideration when choosing your outdoor backpack. Here are some more:
- Functionality- are you going to be able to use your backpack the right way in complete darkness
- Support- how much weight are you going to carry? Does the pack have enough pouches and pockets?
- Weight- most backpacks are made with tough and light materials, but this doesn’t mean that they’re not going to add some weight due to their base weight. You can find backpacks that weight 10lbs and others that weigh only 18 ounces.
- Hydration- do you need a backpack that comes with internal bladder or you want to use an auxiliary device? Do you want a backpack that features internal mesh hydro sleeve or comes with a Hydro port?
No matter your needs, you should always try the backpack completely empty and fully loaded. Comfort, weight and easy access to your gear should all count when making the final call.
Does suspension matter on an outdoor backpack?
Suspension is important as it spreads the weight across your back, from shoulders to your hips. You can find impressive suspension technology that distribute the weight of the load in an even way, improving your comfort while you’re on the move.
Even if many new suspension technology is patent-pending as we speak, some techniques are really common already. Adding lumbar swivel balls or using dual peripheral aluminum rods in order to transfer the weight closer to your body, stabilizing it, are some of the popular techniques that make hiking a lot more comfortable and less strenuous.
Can you customize a backpack?
Even if it sounds incredible to some, a good backpack is actually adjustable, meaning that you can customize it to your very own shape and size. The better the backpack, the better the options for adjusting it exactly to your size and body shape.
Adjustability isn’t only about the shoulder straps and the hip belt. When you’re adjusting your pack, you do it for keeping the gear tight within the pack, moving it closer to your body for resting on your hips.
There are also load lifter straps that are able to pull the upper pack closer to your shoulders.
Some recent backpacks also come with stabilizer straps that are placed right behind the hip belt. They can make your backpack really snug against your body, lightening the entire load.
Shoulder straps, hip belt or sternum straps are quite common too and you should look for all 5 of them in order to adjust the pack the best way.
Is your backpack of choice user friendly? Can you test it?
not being able to use your backpack fast and easy is another concern when selecting your backpack. It has to hold your gear without falling off your shoulders. A good backpack is going to be able to accomplish all of the following:
- The straps are adjustable for a perfect fit. Ideally, you can adjust them while wearing the backpack
- It keeps your accessories within reach (water bottle/hydration hose_
- It’s easy to put it on/take off
- You may reach and unzip the side pockets while wearing the backpack
- The fasteners always run well (zippers, snaps, hook or loop). There’s no material getting caught in the zippers either
- The pockets are deep and there’s not much zipping/unzipping required for accessing your equipment.
4 things to always remember when selecting your backpack
Not only that you need to pay attention to the size, weight, style or adjustability, but you also should remember some fundamental laws when selecting your outdoor pack:
1. If you’re going for a long trek, chances are that you’re going to be tempted to pack too much. This is why you should always have a talk with someone experienced so that you don’t end up putting way too many items in your pack.
2. Everything adds weight to your load, no matter how small or lightweight it may be. The more you walk, the heavier your load is going to feel so make sure you only take what you really need for the road.
3. No, despite what manufacturers claim, there’s no such thing (just yet) as breathable and waterproof altogether!
4. There’s always some risk for things to go South. Even if the backpack felt comfy in the store, all that gear is going to move around and shift, pulling on your shoulders and making the whole experience a lot less comfortable and fun.
But can you make your backpack feel more comfortable?
At the end of the day, it’s all about the comfort you have while wearing your backpack. No matter if you got the best option or not or you have packed and placed your gear the right way, there are still some things you can do for increasing your comfort. Ask yourself the following for getting it right:
- Does it pull back/down on your shoulders?
- Does it sit on your lower back?
- Do the straps feel comfy on the inside against your body?
- Does the pack have enough straps for keeping it in place?
The rule of thumb is that your backpack should stay firm and not shift around from side-to-side with every step of the way.
Top 10 Best Outdoor Backpacks
1. ZOMAKE Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack
Lightweight and ideal for a day trip at the Zoo, the ZOMAKE Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack Water Resistant Hiking Daypack is a lot more than meets the eye.
The backpack is made with lightweight and long lasting material, making the perfect option for day trips, camping, day hikes, camping or shopping. It gives 20L storage space and comes with enough pockets for organizing your essentials. It’s the perfect option for the minimalist packer.
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The backpack features a roomy main compartment, but also multiple pockets for easy organization and one front zipper pocket for the smaller miscellaneous. It also includes an internal zippered pocket and two open-mesh side pockets for faster access.
The material is water and tear resistant and the SBS metal zippers take the intense use. It’s reinforced in more than 31 places with bar tack technique, so the build is good and long lasting.
The shoulder straps are adjustable, well-padded and breathable, ensuring comfort while you’re on the move. They lock firmly and complete the stylish appearance of the backpack.
The backpack folds up into a small pocket so you may very well throw it in your suitcase. It comes in attractive and vibrant colors that are dirt-resistant.
2. Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking Backpack Daypack
Lightweight and versatile, the Venture Pal Lightweight Packable Durable Travel Hiking Backpack Daypack is a great option to consider when hiking, walking, camping or simply going to school.
The backpack is made with lightweight and good quality material that handles water, wear and tear. The backpack is lightweight, but it’s strong as it comes with a double-layer bottom piece so you may add more weight when travelling.
Even if it’s lightweight, the backpack comes with tough two-way SBS metal zippers that provide easy operation while wearing the pack. the bar tacks at most important stress points and the two-way abrasion resistant build make this one a durable backpack to have for your outdoor experiences.
Comfort isn’t left out of sight and this one comes with breathable shoulder straps with plenty of padding, which reduce the stress from your shoulder. The shoulder straps are adjustable and the backpack comes with chest strap for better fit and comfort. The chest strap features a whistle buckle, keeping the pack well secured.
You’re going to have plenty of space to organize your gear as the backpack comes with several compartments and pockets. The main compartment gives 35 liters of space for your gear but also features two separators so that you better organize your things.
On top of everything else, the backpack folds into its very own pocket for storage and it’s easy to unfold when you need.
3. High Sierra Loop Backpack
Cute looking and able to offer you a generous main compartment, the High Sierra Loop Backpack comes with dedicated sleeve for tablet and works great in many situations.
The backpack includes several pockets for a good organization of your gear and its compression straps are going to cinch down, securing your gear while on the move. You may easily attach more gear (lantern or water bottle) with the monster hook clip. You’re definitely going to find the right place for everything you need to carry as the backpack comes with 4 interior slip and 6 exterior pockets. It also features mesh beverage pockets.
The Suspension System doesn’t disappoint as it reduces your strain while wearing heavier loads. The side compression straps are easy to adjust, whereas the adjustable webbing straps are going to allow you attach a tent or a sleeping bag.
The shoulder straps are contoured and well padded, increasing your comfort. The built-in yoke-style grab handle makes it easier to carry around.
The structure is great and the organizing is impressive, whereas the price is going to seal the deal for many.
4. Outdoor Master Hiking Backpack 50L
If you’re looking for an affordable backpack for your hiking, the Outdoor Master Hiking Backpack 50L – Hiking & Travel Backpack w/Waterproof Rain Cover & Laptop Compartment Hiking is a valid option to keep in mind.
The backpack comes with many pockets and features and it’s going to be just the right choice when camping, hiking or as carry-on luggage.
Durable and comfortable to carry, the backpack is made with thin, lightweight and strong materials. The shoulder straps are well padded, ensuring snug and comfy fit.
You’re going to be able to store your stuff in all the small and large pockets. You can also use the external attachment points so that you can hold your trekking poles, reservoir, tent or sleeping bag. You can also carry your laptop as the backpack comes with padded laptop compartment.
The waterproof rain cover is going to protect it on a rainy day. In addition, the rain cover has a dedicated pocket.
The comfort is good as the backpack comes with padded shoulder straps and foam padded hip belt. The backpack is well balanced and the backpack is dependable in many outdoor situations.
5. MOUNTAINTOP 40 Liter Hiking Backpack
There are many things to like about the MOUNTAINTOP 40 Liter Hiking Backpack with Rain Cover for Outdoor Camping and going through the detailed look is going to help you see why you shouldn’t skip it when shopping.
The backpack comes with 6 adjustable straps that are going to allow you tie the pack or hang a mat/hammock/tripod/sleeping bag. It also features a computer compartment, but you can use that for a bladder. You shouldn’t worry about your comfort as the backpack also comes with adjustable sternum strap and S-shape shoulder straps. It includes a hip belt which is easy to adjust, but not removable.
The molded foam back panel is going to improve your comfort while you’re on the move and presents efficient breathability too.
You also get plenty of spaces for organizing your gear. The backpack has one front zipped pocket, one internal pocket, middle zipped pocket and side mesh pocket. The bottom zipped pocked provides easy access to the main compartment.
The fabric has water-resistant coating and the backpack has a durability feel to it. It has a low profile and is really affordable too.
6. TETON SPORTS Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
When you’re looking for a heavy-duty outdoor backpack without breaking the bank, the TETON SPORTS Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack is one decent option to have in mind.
The backpack is an ideal pack for the beginner and goes great for a 2-4-day outdoor experience. It offers 55L of storage space and it’s rather lightweight, considering its size.
It presents multi-position torso adjustment so it fits well a good range of body sizes. It contains long lasting open-cell foam lumbar pad and molded channels which increase both the airflow and your comfort. It’s addressing both men and women.
The design is well thought out and the pack comes with large sleeping bag compartment and several compartments and pockets for efficient organizing of your gear. It also includes multi-directional compression straps so that it sits comfortable and snug to your back. The side pockets and gear loops only give you more options to attach gear a lot easier.
You don’t need to worry on a rainy day as the backpack comes with rainfly sew-in which is easy to tuck away when you don’t need it.
The internal frame pack presents complete adjustable fit in the waist belt and the torso. The shoulder straps are well padded and come with upper load adjustment straps.
The backpack is made with 600D diamond rip stop and 600D Oxford canvas shell so it’s ready to take up a beat.
7. Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW
The photo shooting enthusiasts are going to find the Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW. Outdoor Day Camera Backpack for DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras just the perfect pack for their outdoor sessions.
The hatchback 22L fits very well a DSLR with attached lens, 2-3 extra lenses, a tablet/thin laptop, built-in memory card pocket and various miscellaneous in the zippered/mesh pockets. For the size it has, the backpack is able to store quite some items.
The design is smart and modern and you’re able to store everything you need when shooting outdoors. The pockets are well placed and the compartments are multi-functional. The reflector loops increase its visibility and attachment points.
You get easy access to your gear and the padded box for your kit is easy to remove, turning the pack into a regular day pack. the side pockets are tall and make a great option for storing water bottles or other items.
The backpack features several adjustment points, providing a customized fit. The waist, sternum and shoulder straps are sure easy to adjust. The Slip Lock attachment loops provide you more options for carrying your gear.
No worries about the weather as the backpack comes with built-in All Weather AW Cover which is going to protect it from rain, snow, sand and dust. It’s placed in a zippered pocket at the bottom of the pack.
The smart design, the versatility and reliability turn this pack into an ideal option for anyone loving to shoot outdoors.
8. High Sierra Appalachian 75 Backpacking Pack
If you’re really the outdoorsy type, a High Sierra Appalachian 75 Backpacking Pack may be exactly the addition that you need. The backpack is one power horse within its category so it’s worth every single penny.
The build recommends it for the long time and heavy-duty use. The top load main compartment comes with gusseted drawstring closure, whereas the single contoured aluminum frame is easy to adjust for a perfect fit of your shape of the back. The molded foam back panel features Airflow channels so the breathability of the pack is efficient as well.
The comfort is impressive and the pack comes with Ergo-Fit shoulder harness with easy to adjust load-lifters. It also features Hex-Vent mesh and adjustable sternum straps that increase its stability. The waist belt has high-density foam padding, wicking moisture efficiently.
The smart design continues with the side compression straps that are going to stabilize and secure your gear, whereas the bottom compression straps are expandable, allowing more storage options. Let’s not forget to mention the webbing daisy chain on both sides that lets you attach carabineers and various gear.
The backpack comes with an adjustable top lid and a drop-bottom sleeping bag compartment with divider. You have roomy dual zippered pockets on the sides for storing easy to access gear. It also contains internal hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for tube.
On top of everything else, the pack comes with tuck-away rain cover (found in the bottom pocket), protecting your gear on a rainy day.
9. Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 Liter Men’s Backpack
The long lasting feel that the Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 Liter Men’s Backpack comes with is one asset to mention, but the backpack brings a lot of other good things to the table.
Made with 210D and 420D HD nylon, the backpack is going to make any hiking experience a lot easier. It has a durable built and comes with many storage pockets. It’s a must-have for the hikers.
It has several storage pockets and side pocket with mesh drawstring closure. It’s hydration compatible and stores your water bottle. It includes a removable shock cord ice axe/trekking pole retainers. It also comes with a rain cover which stows away in a mesh compartment inside a vertical-zip pocket (external). You may very well use it as an accessory storage in mild weather.
The stability is good and the weight distribution is effective as the pack comes with adjustable shoulders straps and hip belt. The hip belt is also TPU-coated and has sealed compartment for your smartphone. The YKK Aqua Guard zipper closure is also weather-resistant.
10. Osprey Packs Aether AG 70L Backpack
The more you’re willing to pay for your outdoor backpack, the more you should expect in terms of performance, features and life span. The Osprey Packs Aether AG 70L Backpack is going to check most boxes and is worth every single penny.
The backpack is made for the alpine expeditions and impresses with its customizable fit and unique features. It comes with a convertible top lid which makes it a great option for the multi-day trips. If you’re planning to carry heavy loads, this one is the pack to get. The LightWire tensioned and full peripheral frame is going to transfer the load, for comfortable carry. It features mesh shoulders, back and hip straps that are padded and easy to adjust for best comfort.
Designed for the multi-day trip, it makes sense that the pack comes with a sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider.
The IsoForm 5 harness and CM hip belt is going to ensure amazing fit and comfort, especially when carrying a heavy load for a very long time. Both components are interchangeable, providing best fit.
The backpack also comes with internal compression strap so that you can use as much space as you need inside the pack.
The list of features continues with the Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment, the dual front compression straps with Straight jacket compression and large front J-zip access to main compartment.
You’re also going to be able to carry your water as the backpack includes an internal hydration reservoir sleeve.