Your average hiking day could be a 1 mile in and out to a waterfall, 6 mile loop, or a 15 mile dawn-to-dusk trek. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, you’ll want a high quality hiking backpack to help get you there and back again. We’ve spun up a list of packs for you to check out - pro tip, if you’re looking at shorter hikes, backs that are 30L or smaller will do the trick. Any further than 6 miles, you’ll likely want a bigger pack.
BE Outfitter was co-founded by two brothers with the goal of building gear that is technical yet approachable with a cool-looking design. One of their first products is their Tahquitz Pack, and it’s truly an innovative masterpiece in terms of functionality and modern design. This backpack, which comes in 35L or 40L, is ideal for a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking. It has several waterproofing features, including waterproof zippers, a water repellant PU coating, and an adjustable roll-top closure to prevent rain from getting into the pack. The Tahquitz backpack also has several other hidden features ideal for the trail, including a deployable stretch pocket for water bottles, ¾ zip side entry into the main compartment of the pack, daisy chain webbing for securing additional gear, and zippered stash pocket. Add all this with breathable shoulder straps and back panel, padded waist strap, and an adjustable sternum strap, and you’ve got an awesome hiking backpack. ($139, $111.20 with Reddy Yeti membership)
Kelty is a playful outdoor brand, geared towards outdoor adventure and recreation since 1952. Their 32L Redwing Backpack is a smaller version of their larger best-selling Redwing pack, and a better fit for day hikes and other single-day outings. The hiking pack has a full-access U-zipper, allowing for both top loading the panel loading versatility. Kelty’s 32L Redwing also features a padded hydration sleeve, water bottle pockets, zippered side pockets, a back panel that allows for dynamic air flow, AirMesh shoulder straps, sternum strap, and a waist belt (all straps adjustable). Like the Tahquitz, this pack is slightly larger than some of the others on this list, so keep this one in mind for a longer day hike or a combined hike/climbing excursion. ($99.95)
Outdoor Element’s products are designed to help you discover and explore the outdoors with confidence. One of their founders is a mechanical engineer, and it shows in their technical, innovative gear. The hiking backpacks they offer are all actually manufactured by a partner brand, Pureland. Their packs, like the 38L Sword, are made using the highest quality, lightweight, durable, and water resistant materials like 210D nylon. This backpack also features ergonomic suspension, shoulder straps, and hip belt, as well as a molded, perforated, dual-density back panel with great air circulation. Complete with side sleeve pockets for water bottles, water bladder compartment, and several other packets for organization, the Sword Backpack is a perfect choice for a medium or longer day hike. ($59.99)
Gossamer Gear is the self-described “Ultralight OG”; they’ve been shedding ounces off their gear for over twenty years to produce super lightweight, comfortable, durable, high performance gear. They have a bunch of backpacks in stock for multi-day and single-day adventures, and I’d like to highlight their Lonestar 30L hiking daypack. Constructed with tough Robic fabrics, the Lonestar features a top lid closure over the drawstring opening to its spacious main compartment, as well as easy access hydration carry, and ample side compression so you can contour the bag to the outdoor gear inside. This hiking backpack also has plenty of organization options including side storage pockets, removable belt with pockets, a daisy chain and several tie-on points to attach gear as needed. ($175)
Cotopaxi was founded to combine passion for travel and adventure with a poverty-fighting business model (they donate 1% of profits towards addressing poverty and supporting community development). The company produces an impressive array of uniquely designed outdoor and travel gear and apparel. Their 20L Tarak Del Día Backpack, for example, is built using repurposed materials. The Cotopaxi Tarak is lightweight, comfortable, and oriented towards technical performance, with a zippered front pocket and top lid, 210D nylon, adjustable waist belt, configurable compression and lash points, and an internal hydration sleeve. Plus, with a wide selection of color combinations to choose from, you’ll be sure to stand out from the crowd (or find your pack among a pile of other outdoor gear. Maybe I’m the only one with that problem?) ($100)
Hemetic Trading Co, an outdoor lifestyle brand based out of Burlington, VT, has a collection of great hiking backpacks to choose from (and I encourage you to check out all of them). I’d like to highlight their Cordura Top Cinch Backpack; practical and stylish, this pack adds several technical functionalities to the relatively simple rucksack design. The Cordura Top Cinch features, as you’d guess, an expandable cinch top closure for water protection and adjustability based on the amount of gear you’re carrying. It also has a top pocket and front zip pocket with magnetic closure snaps so you can keep your smaller, more important items (phone, wallet, headlamp, etc.) accessible and separate from the roomy main compartment. Like Hemetic’s other packs, this hiking backpack features ergonomic shoulder straps, a fully padded back panel, and water resistant canvas, all made in America and all backed by their lifetime warranty. ($140, $112 with Reddy Yeti membership)
Berghaus, based out of England, has been in the outdoor gear business for over 50 years. With that wealth of experience, the company has tried and true methods to build performance-ready gear that will last. Take their Freeflow 25L Rucksack; this hiking backpack is designed to create minimal contact between your back and the pack, allowing for better airflow and preventing heat and sweat buildup. This pack has several adjustable components so you can get a fine-tuned fit that avoids bbing and discomfort on the trail, including a chest strap, hip belt, tension straps, and compression straps. The Freeflow Rucksack also features side and hidden pockets for better organization. One addition that stood out to me in particular is that a raincover for the pack is included; if you’ve ever been caught hiking in a rainstorm without a cover, you know this is no small deal. ($101.74)
Exped’s motto is “less is more” - they’re whole game is that nature is best explored with only the essential and functionally-refined gear. This approach has worked well for them and won them several awards for their innovative, simple-yet-highly-technical designs. If this resonates with you, I recommend you check out their 30L Whiteout hiking backpack. Exped constructed this backpack using Dyneema Composite fabric, which is not only highly tear and abrasion resistant but also lighter, thinner, and stronger than high-end nylon that you typically see in backpacks. The Whiteout is a single compartment pack, 100% waterproof with its TPU film, and features a removable waist buckle. The back panel is streamlined (read not bulky) but cushioned for comfort. (On the more expensive side, $279)
Looking for some sweet hiking gadgets to put in one of these packs? We’ve got a few brands to recommend.
Elissa loves striking that perfect balance between outdoor adventure and organized sports. Her ideal week is full of basketball, soccer, and rock climbing followed by a weekend of hiking and camping. She works on the website migrations team at HubSpot and is based out of Cambridge, MA. Elissa is passionate about startups, particularly in the outdoor industry, and her life goal is to one day win a Reddy Yeti gear giveaway.