The 6 best men’s hiking boots, perfect for backpacking trips or short day hikes

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The pair of hiking boots you wear has a huge impact on how comfortable and enjoyable a hike can be.
  • The best offer a long-lasting and comfortable fit, are stable across varied terrain, and can be broken in quickly.
  • Our top pick, the Asolo TPS 520 GV, is a water-resistant boot that’s supportive and highly comfortable.

Choosing the right hiking boot means first considering the environment in which you’ll primarily use them. Whether you’re keen on days-long backpacking trips or prefer a multi-mile afternoon day hike, the right hiking boots do plenty to make sure you’re comfortable and stable throughout.

But there isn’t just a one-size-fits-all-style of hiking boot perfect for all weather conditions, trail types, or hikes – rather, the variations in boot type are many.

With decades of hiking under my belt, I’ve worn every kind of boot imaginable. This also means I’ve made every type of mistake in picking out a boot, too. Be it a cheaply made pair that fell apart before the end of a backpacking trip, a boot that never quite broke in enough to be comfortable, or some that claimed to be waterproof but were far from it, I’ve seen it all.

But you don’t need to trudge through the same difficulties I have in searching for the perfect boot. Below, you’ll find six of the hiking boots that I turn to time and again when hitting the trail, no matter if I’m out for a quick two- to three-mile trek or a longer multi-day excursion.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some additional insight into how to shop for a hiking boot, as well as the testing methodology I used in deciding which ultimately made the cut.

Here are the best men’s hiking boots:

The best overall

BI   Hiking Boot 1   Asolo

The Asolo TPS 520 GV hiking boots are comfortable the first time you slip them on, no break-in period required, and they hold up even after thousands of miles of trekking in all conditions.

Pros: Instant comfort without break-in wearing, stellar water-resistance, great ankle and arch support, wicks moisture away from foot, easy and secure lacing system

Cons: Heavier and bulkier than many other hiking boot options, rather expensive

If you’re a committed hiker, camper, or mountaineer, you know that at the end of the day, your hiking boots are your most important pieces of gear, so you should be ready to pay a decent chunk for them.

You could leave your tent, pack, sleeping pad, stove, and all the rest of it behind, but you need a solid pair of boots on your feet if you want to trek your way back out of the wilderness safely. If you want hiking boots that will be comfortable the first time you lace them up and that stay that way after tens of thousands of steps, slip your feet into the Asolo TPS 520 GVs.

With a rugged full-grain leather exterior and a waterproof, breathable Gore-Tex interior, the TPS 520s are ready for the elements, whether those elements include rain, rock, snow, mud, and more.

The solid Vibram sole is treaded for ideal grip in a myriad of conditions and keeps your foot supported whether you’re scrambling through a boulder field, kicking steps into a snowpack with crampons attached, or just strolling through a grassy field. The boots’ sturdy uppers protect your ankles against injury even when you roll a foot over a loose rock or catch a toe on a pesky root.

I recommend them because even after trying out six or seven other brands over the past fifteen years, I always choose my Asolos for any serious hike. They’ve carried me up and down Mt. Whitney, Mt. Rainier, the Grand Teton, and through the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in Colombia, just to name a few of their many outings.

The best versatile

BI   Hiking Boot 3   Salomon

If you need one pair of hiking boots that will perform adroitly in the winter snow, the springtime mud, the summer’s heat, or the frost of fall, then you should slip on a pair of versatile Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX hiking boots.

Pros: Versatile enough for use in many conditions, lightweight with flexible sole, breathable materials keep feet cool

Cons: Thin underfoot padding leads to foot fatigue, tread pattern not ideal for some conditions

No one hiking boot is ever going to be ideal for use in all types of conditions. But, if you need to find the best possible compromise boot, whether for budgetary concerns or because you need to travel through various types of weather and terrain in a single expedition, the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX hiking boots are a fine choice.

The exterior of the boots features a blend of leather and textile, with Gore-Tex waterproofing underlying both materials. The six-inch shaft rises more than high enough to protect an ankle against a roll, while the thick rubber toecap protects your toes against a falling rock or a hard stub against a stone, log, step, or anything else.

Now here are the compromises: The tread pattern isn’t aggressive, as it’s more akin to a trail shoe than a rugged boot suitable for the loose scree of a mountain pass. And although the exterior is water-resistant, it will eventually soak through if you stand in puddles or streams.

They might not be as warm as some hikers need, but they’re suitable for all seasons when paired with the right socks and they even let your foot breathe and stay cool when you wear thinner socks. 

The best budget

BI   Hiking Boot 5   Merrell

These Merrell Men’s Moab Ventilator Mid Hiking Boots might cost half as much as many other options, but they’re fine boots at a fantastic price.

Pros: Very affordable option, air-cushioned heel reduces impact effects, soles offer reliable grip

Cons: Limited water resistance, soles wear out rather quickly

For the outdoor enthusiast who goes for day hikes, weekend camping trips, or the occasional multi-day trek but who doesn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of hiking boots, the Merrell Men’s Moab Ventilator Mid hiking boots are a great choice. These boots are reasonably lightweight, comfortable, and supportive, and have a tread pattern, water resistance, and breathability that make them suitable for use in most moderate conditions.

Are these the right boots to wear as you trek up and over the glaciers of Mt. Rainier? No, they’re not. Having done that, I can speak with confidence. But are they a fine option for traversing miles and miles of graded trail or for wearing as you blaze your own path through a pine forest or rolling meadow? Absolutely.

The Merrell Men’s Moab Ventilators feature a shock-absorbing air cushion under the heel and a flexible sole with no lugs under the arch. Those elements mean you could wear these boots for trail running if you really wanted, though they are a bit heavy for a long jaunt at speed.

While the Moab Ventilator boot is excellent at wicking moisture away from your foot to keep you dry, it’s not all that water-resistant, so in heavy rains or the event you step in a stream, your foot is going to get wet.

The best hiking shoe

Vasque1

Vasque’s Breeze LT Low GTX is waterproof, has excellent traction, and features a lightweight yet durable design that makes it great for short shoulder season and summer hikes. 

Pros: Waterproof, Vibram outsole provides plenty of traction across varied terrain, lightweight design reduces fatigue, breathable upper

Cons: Doesn’t provide as much ankle support as a higher cut boot

If you’re the kind of hiker who enjoys getting out for a few miles at a time, a hiking shoe is a far better option for your feet than a full-on boot — and Vasque’s Breeze LT Low GTX is our favorite we’re currently wearing. Lightweight and breathable yet waterproof and rugged, this shoe is great for short day hikes, no matter if you’re heading out in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, or trekking during the summer. 

The shoe features a Vibram outsole that gives it premium traction across a variety of terrain types — dry, wet, slick, it’s able to perform through it all. And with a waterproof design, you won’t have to worry about getting your socks wet (unless you fully submerge your foot). This makes it great for spring hikes or for any summer outings with shallow stream crossings. 

One of the Breeze’s best features is just how comfortable it is. Vasque prides itself on designing hiking boots that need very little (to no) break-in time, and these hiking shoes fit that intention incredibly well. Of course, hiking shoes don’t require as much break-in time as a larger boot but it was still nice to not have to worry about developing hot spots or going through an uncomfortable hike when I first put these on. 

The best classic

danner

Danner’s hiking boots are some of the most stylish boots you can buy and they’re extremely well made.

Pros: Classic, timeless design, real leather construction, well made, can be resoled, fun collaborations with other brands

Cons: May not be perfectly waterproof, which won’t serve in a torrent or muddy terrain

Danner has been making some of the most popular boots for outdoor enthusiasts for nearly a century. If you’re looking for a pair of hiking boots that are somewhat less obtuse than the busy, flashy, high-tech boots that are so terribly a la mode these days, these are the boots for you.

Back in 1932, Charles Danner founded Danner Shoe Mfg. Company in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where he sold his handcrafted work boots for four dollars a pair to the local loggers. He learned that, out west, loggers were paying upwards of $10 for a pair of calked logging boots — a small fortune back then — and moved the family and business out to Oregon to take full advantage of a lacking market.

Danner has come up with a lot of boots since those days, and the most popular of all has been the Danner Light Boots, which came out thanks to the then-new invention of Gore-Tex.

Despite rugged soles, Gore-Tex lining, and heavy-duty leather, Danner hasn’t gone without its fair share of critics. Several esteemed publications have claimed that in the process of testing Danner boots, they found that the leather uppers and the seams at the miss let some water in. While I haven’t personally experienced any seepage as of yet, one reporter at Insider Picks did notice the Danner Lights absorbing some water.

But, before you dismiss Danner boots entirely, consider this: These are still extremely sturdy, well-constructed boots using high-quality, full-grain leather. The soles are nearly indestructible, and if you do manage to damage them, they’re built to be replaced.

The Danner Mountain Passes are a middle-of-the-road boot. They’re not the most rugged, but they also don’t feel like cinder blocks on your feet. The single-piece, full-grain uppers on this model will keep you good and dry unless you’re trudging through absolute muck (in which case, just grab your wellies).

All in all, this is not your built-for-hell boot to take trudging through the mud or a mountain stream. If you want that kind of boot from Danner, rest assured that they make it. This, on the other hand, is more along the lines of a fair-weather hiking or hunting boot, though it’s wonderfully suited for relatively dry terrain.

Hiking boots are always going to come with tradeoffs, and like many other things in this life, you’ll really need about three or four of them to handle every kind of outing. If you find yourself in an urban setting more often than, say, trudging through a cranberry bog or a low country swamp, these stylish boots will keep you warm, dry, and of course, styling. — Owen Burke

The best for winter

Daska 3

Unless you plunge them into water that’s deeper than their rise, the Columbia Daska Pass III Titanium Outdry Extreme boots simply won’t let your feet get wet.

Pros: Amazing waterproof rating, cannot be inundated even by standing in water, great insulation, ideal for use in cold weather

Cons: Too warm for use in hot climates and/or seasons

When Columbia Sportswear began to release gear and apparel stamped with its OutDry Extreme certification several years ago, it changed the outdoor clothing industry. Simply put, if you see the OutDry label on a piece of apparel, count on that item to be 100% waterproof.

You can trust me on this, too; I’ve worn various pieces of OutDry gear in downpours in the middle of a South American rainforest, in knee-deep snow in the northeast of the United States, and in many places in between.

Also, the word Titanium is significant, too. That’s the top-of-the-line stuff this world-renowned apparel brand makes. If you need to rely on a pair of boots to keep your feet dry and supported in wet or wintry weather, these are a safe bet.

The Daska Pass III boots are impressively lightweight for footwear that offers such superlative waterproofing, not to mention impressive insulation. Paired with the right socks, these boots keep your feet warm even in conditions well below the freezing point. And their tall, sturdy uppers keep your ankles safe from a sprain (or worse) even when you’re trekking across unstable terrain, like a shell of ice frozen over looser snow, for example.

The boots have an outsole made from durable Vibram rubber and a poured polyurethane midsole that offers you some extra bounce in your step, almost like you might get from a running shoe. It’s not quite the same level of rebound, but better than nothing!

Columbia’s Daska Pass III boots are at a decent price point, especially considering their durability. While in many conditions, the aforementioned insulation is a great asset, it’s also the main drawback of these boots. They are just too warm for use in some places and seasons. If you wear these boots on a low elevation summer trek, your feet are going to sweat so much the waterproofing won’t matter.

How to shop for hiking boots

Some boots are designed for use in snow and ice, making them ideal when paired with crampons or spikes. Others are light and breathable, designed to keep your feet cool even in the heat of the desert. You’ll even come across boots that work well in wet conditions that repel water while wicking sweat.

Put plainly, no one hiking boot is perfect for all conditions, so it’s important you choose a boot that’s best suited to the environments you frequent (or plan to frequent).

Pay attention to material, tread pattern, weight, and design elements like the height of the rise and the lacing system. Every aspect of a boot either contributes to or detracts from its suitability for a given environment or activity, and only through a thoughtful assessment of planned uses and a close study of the boot itself can you be sure to find a proper pair.

If you’re a serious hiker, climber, or camper, you’re going to want to own a few pairs of boots. This is especially true if the seasons vary greatly in your area or if you travel for your treks.

How we test hiking boots

Each hiking boot featured in this guide went through a testing process that consisted of more than just lacing them on and hitting the trail. Specifically, we wanted to see how they held up in a variety of conditions, and how well they did across these four categories: Fit, comfort, durability, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category contributed to whether a boot made the cut or not.

Fit: The fit of a hiking boot can spell the difference between enjoying a 10-mile excursion through the backcountry and doing nothing but focusing on the budding blister starting to form on your heel. This also comes down to how true-to-size a boot fits. You don’t want to buy a size 10 boot (because you normally wear a size 10 shoe) only to find out that it runs either too big, and doesn’t provide adequate support or too small, and places into that blister scenario above.

Comfort: Like fit, comfort can make or break a hike. The best hiking boots are somewhat comfortable out of the box but after a short break-in period, fit your foot like a sturdy glove. Even if you only plan on hiking for a few miles here or there, you don’t want to be groaning during every step you take. A comfortable boot helps you enjoy the hike far better than you can imagine.

Durability: Spending upwards of $100 or more on a pair of hiking boots may shock your wallet but if you’re buying those that come with the promise of durability, that investment will surely look great in a year or two. Hiking boots take an absolute beating, no matter where you hike, so the boots featured in this guide needed to be able to stand up to the constant abuse of a hiking trail.

Versatility: If you’re only able to buy one pair of hiking boots, it’d be worthwhile if they were able to tackle a variety of terrain, weather conditions, and hike types. Of course, specialized boots, like our pick for winter, should only excel in winter, but other recommendations like the best overall or the best for any condition should have a level of versatility that allows them to stand out in a variety of use cases. 

Value: If a hiking boot carries an expensive price tag, you’d hope that it scores highly in all the aforementioned categories. In other words, value is less the actual sticker price and more so the sum of a boot’s parts. After all, you’re shopping and doing research in hopes of finding the best value for your money. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best women’s hiking pants and leggings, perfect for day hikes and backpacking trips

  • Wearing hiking pants instead of jeans offers protection against the elements and moisture management.
  • The best hiking pants are stretchy, have a gusseted crotch for movement, and handle dirt and sweat.
  • Our top pick, the Columbia Saturday Trail Pant, is durable and versatile with zip-off legs.

If you’re headed out for an easy day hike, throw on a pair of hiking boots and whatever shorts or leggings you have lying around and just get out there. But if you’re off on a technical hike with the sun blasting down on your and rock scrambles, or on an overnight backpacking trip, you’ll be a lot happier if you wear hiking-specific pants.

Read more: 10 hiking essentials for spring

Women’s hiking pants are made for movement and comfort, with many featuring stretchy fabric and a gusseted crotch so you can stretch, reach, and twist without restriction. What’s more, most pairs have features that protect against the elements, like UPF to offer sun protection for your skin, DWR finishes to repel water, and abrasion-resistant patches so you won’t tear the fabric as you scoot over big rocks.

Hiking-specific pants are also designed to be worn with a backpack, meaning you won’t typically find excess fabric or unnecessary belt loops on the waistband capable of causing pressure points or becoming uncomfortable. The best hiking pants aren’t just for hiking, either, but perform well enough for you to wear while traveling or running errands around town.

You’ll also want to find a pair that’s sun-, dirt-, and water-resistant, even if you hike in an area that doesn’t always encounter intense elements or weather changes. And finally, fit is a vital consideration, and not just how it feels around your waist. Some pants come in a variety of lengths and its always better to have excess coverage and roll up your pant legs as opposed to not fully protecting your lower legs.

To help you sift through the growing market of hiking pants, we rounded up a few pairs of our favorites from brands like The North Face, Columbia Sportswear, and Eddie Bauer. At the end of this guide, we go into more detail on how we tested the picks.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Here are the best women’s hiking pants:

Best hiking pants overall

Columbia Saturday Trail Convertible Pant

Tough, abrasion-resistant stretch nylon fabric makes the Columbia Sportswear Saturday Trail Convertible Pant a great option for women looking for one garment that does it all.

Pros: Zip-off legs, gusseted crotch, made of stretch fabric that repels water

Cons: They run small so it’s smart to size up

Size range: 2-16 in short, regular, and long

Hikers will love that the legs on these zip off, adding an extra layer of versatility, allowing you to switch to shorts if need be. When worn as pants, a subtle flap covers the zipper to avoid snagging on anything as you hike.

A gusseted crotch allows for full freedom of movement and the pant’s articulated knees won’t pull up or feel binding when you’re stepping up or down. Side-zip security pockets safely hold an ID or credit card while leg hem cinches keep out bugs and debris. The fabric is rated for UPF 50, meaning you’re able to wear these in the sun without having to worry about getting burned, too.

The comfortable stretch fabric repels water and resists stains while breathing and wicking moisture away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable. These pants feature a mid-rise design, come in three different lengths, and have enough give in the fabric to fit a variety of body shapes and sizes. Consider sizing up, though; they run small. 

Best wear-anywhere

PrAna Briann Pant

The Prana Briann Pant pant is able to do it all, from trekking through the backcountry to remaining comfortable around the house for daily use.

Pros: Stretch fabric is perfect for a variety of use cases, features SPF 50+ protection, repels water, available in three length choices

Cons: The fitted, skinny leg style may not be suitable for everyone

Size range: 00-14 in short and regular

These stretchy, slim fit pants don’t scream technical trail attire and are perfect as a travel pant, allowing you to wear them at a city tour, a hike, or while out to dinner with friends.

Stretchy and water repellent, the Briann stays comfortable no matter if you’ve been in them for hours or days, and they won’t look saggy or worn down. Made from durable, abrasion-resistant stretch nylon, the pants quick-dry moisture, offer SPF 50+ protecting, and repel water. They’re designed as a mid-rise pant with belt loops and a button closure. Prana offers the Briann in three length choices and seven different colorways.

Best capri-style

The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Capri

The Aphrodite 2.0 Capri from The North Face features oversized leg openings, making them cool in hot weather without leaving you as exposed as a pair of shorts.

Pros: Capri style keeps you cool in hot weather without completely exposing your legs, adjustable drawcord allows for a custom fit

Cons: Fit runs big

Size range: XS-3X

The waistband is two inches wide, so it won’t dig or chafe, even when you’re huffing up a steep incline or hauling a heavy backpack. An adjustable drawcord at the waist lets you easily cinch the pants for a customized fit.

The North Face manufactured the Aphrodite from durable, breathable fabric that quickly wicks and dries, allowing them to stay comfortable whether you’re hiking in the rain or breaking a sweat. A concealed zippered compartment inside the hand pocket secures valuables like car keys and its triple-stitched seams can endure miles of hard use. The shirring on the legs adds flair, so you could throw these on over your yoga tights en route to class if you don’t feel like walking around in Lycra.

Best for mountaineering

Eddie Bauer Women's Guide Pro Pants

Made for professional mountain guides, the Eddie Bauer Women’s Guide Pro Pants are lightweight, packable, and constructed from a stretchy fabric that lasts for years of hard use.

Pros: Features UPF 50+ protection, highly durable, zippered pockets able to hold plenty of loose gear like phones, wallets, etc.

Cons: Sizing can be a little tricky

Size range: 0-16

These pants are rugged and durable enough to survive anything the outdoors throws at you, and feature a treated water-repelling finish and UPF 50+ protection.

The Guide Pro Pants offer a style reminiscent of a pair of stretch jeans and feature two hand pockets, a button waist, and belt loops. Zippered pockets on the thighs are big enough to hold a phone, wallet, or ID, too. They’re styled as a mid-rise pant and come in seven different colors.

Eddie Bauer designed these for women with a somewhat curvy figure, so check the sizing guide before choosing which pair to buy.

Best leggings

abisko trekking tight_long

The Fjällräven Abisko Women’s Trekking Tights are very comfortable with stretch fabric, a very flattering fit, and reinforced at the knees and butt for durability and protection if you fall, slide, or need to scoot.

Pros: Stretchy, reinforced in key areas, wide waistband, gusseted, flatlock seams reduce chafing, interior drawcord for better fit, gear loops, phone pocket

Cons: Expensive, limited sizing, too long for short folks, can get hot during sunny summer hikes

Size range: XS-XL

Like most millennials, I prefer to wear leggings over pants in pretty much every situation, especially during exercise. The Fjällräven Abisko Women’s Trekking Tights are ideal if you want a close-to-body feel and flattering fit on a more technical hike. 

Made from 82% nylon and 18% elastane, these tights are the perfect balance of stretchy and durable. They’re breathable and sweat-wicking, though they’re a little too thick for hot summer hikes. The best part about these tights are the reinforced knees and butt areas, which offer abrasion-resistance on the areas you’re most likely to scrape against the ground slipping, sliding, or scooting.

They also have a convenient phone pocket for quick pics on your hike, and an interior drawcord for a tighter fit around the waist if you need.

The downside is they’re quite pricey. But if you hike a lot or are heading out for a big trip where you need reliable, durable bottoms, the splurge may be worth it. –Rachael Schultz

How we test

Each of the hiking pants featured in this guide went through a series of on-trail tests to see how well they compared based on these four categories: Fit, function, versatility, and value. Here’s how each category factored into which hiking pants I ultimately included:

  • Fit: A hiking pant’s fit is perhaps the single most important category when assessing whether it’s worth spending money on or not. When testing, I looked for everything from how it felt to wear casually, how it held up on both casual and technical hikes, and whether it remained comfortable enough to wear post-trail. 
  • Function: There is plenty of women-designed outdoor apparel that skimps when it comes to including functional pockets (or any kind of storage), so this was a key consideration. Even if you tend to hike with a pack, there’s still a need for being able to store a smartphone or your keys in a pant pocket, instead of fishing them out of your bag all day. 
  • Versatility: Being able to wear a pair of hiking pants outside of its singular intended purpose is important for a couple of reasons: You don’t always have the time or space to change right after a hike and if you’re investing in quality pants, you should be able to put them to use in other scenarios.
  • Value: Value is less the final sticker price as much as it’s the combination of the three categories above as well as how much it costs. I often subscribe to the idea that it’s better to spend more on something that’s built to last than to spend less, more often on an inferior product. 
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best men-sized backpacking packs, perfect for everything from multi-day treks to weeks spent on the trail

  • The right backpacking pack makes trekking with a 30-pound bag on your back a more comfortable experience.
  • The best packs evenly distribute large loads, have several access points, and feature adjustable straps and hip belts. 
  • Our top pick, the Osprey Atmos AG 65, carries tons of gear yet stays comfortable with mesh venting and padded straps.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Backpacking is a fun but grueling outdoor activity – but it doesn’t always have to be. With the right equipment, a multi-day trip into the backcountry could feel like a literal walk in the park, and achieving this starts with purchasing the right backpack. 

Since backpacking requires you to haul everything you need to survive, your pack needs to both hold up to the harshness of the outdoors yet remain comfortable across long distances. This means finding one that’s capable of packing everything from a change of clothes and a sleeping bag to ample food and water (which includes gear like backpacking stoves, changes of socks, and, of course, equipment for making coffee). 

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve embarked on my fair share of backpacking trips, both big and small. Some had me spending just a couple of days on the trail with minimal mileage hiked each day while others were more intensive multi-day to week-long treks with tens of miles of ground covered between camps. While some of the gear you bring may be influenced by the season (like sleeping bags or hiking apparel), the pack you wear depends entirely on the trip you plan on taking.

But finding the right pack isn’t always an easy process. With so many on the market, it’s difficult to know which are best suited to the type of backpacking you prefer. To help, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite packs from brands like Osprey, Arc’teryx, and Gregory, all designed to function well in a variety of use cases. 

A note on fit

The backpacking backpacks featured in this guide are marked as “men’s” packs for a few reasons, all pertaining to their specific fit. Men’s packs tend to have larger carrying capacities, wider straps, taller hip belts, and larger torso dimensions.

Though they’re marketed as “men’s” packs, this doesn’t mean someone of any gender wouldn’t be able to find a men’s pack that fits them well and serves their backpacking needs (same goes for women’s backpacking packs, too). 

Here are the best men’s backpacking backpacks:

Best overall

Atmos AG backpack

With 65-liters of cargo space, upper and lower compression straps to stabilize heavy loads, and Osprey’s Anti-Gravity mesh back panel, the Atmos AG 65 is a backpacker’s dream.

Pros: Osprey’s Anti-Gravity mesh back panel molds to your back to create a comfortable, custom fit, included FlapJacket fly helps protect against rainy weather, upper and lower compression straps reduce load weight

Cons: Size could be bulky for smaller people, not ideal for short, day trips

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 focuses on providing absolute comfort no matter how far you’re hiking or how much cargo you’re hauling. Its 65-liter capacity may be too much for anyone setting out on an overnight trip, as it’s meant more for a weekend or longer excursions. Even when it’s not completely full, the pack never feels as though it’s flopping around on your back or creating a poor fit. 

It features a top-loading design in its main compartment, as well as several exterior pockets designed to hold water bottles, ice climbing tools, or trekking poles. The Atmos also has a zippered bottom area designed to hold a sleeping bag, as well as removable exterior straps which are used to secure a sleeping pad. 

For load management, Osprey’s LightWire frame connects the upper part of the pack to the hip-belt and central core to help distribute weight. Compression straps located on both the upper and lower part of the pack also reduced the pack’s bulk and balanced out heavier loads during my tests. 

Its best feature is the Anti-Gravity ventilated mesh back-panel that contoured to our back to create a snug fit. This helped evenly distribute weight, specifically taking it off our shoulders, hips, and back. This allowed us to carry more weight without feeling bogged down. 

The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is one of the best values among any picks on this list. Being uncomfortable can quickly ruin any backpacking trip, so investing in a pack like this one is always well worth the money.  

Best for short trips

REICoop

REI Co-op’s Flash 45 offers ample cargo room for weekend-long adventures but remains lightweight enough for quick day trips or overnighters.

Pros: Smaller capacity perfect for day trips, compatible with hydration pouches, contoured foam hip belt provides a snug and comfortable fit, UpLift Compression tech raises the load to improve stability, and it’s inexpensive

Cons: Not suitable for venturing off-grid for multiple days

Backpacking trips don’t always need to be grueling multiday treks, so when shorter day trips or overnighters are on the agenda, REI Co-op’s Flash 45 is the pack you’ll want. Small enough to avoid slowing you down but with enough cargo space to support you for one or two days on the trail.

Even for a smaller pack, it’s loaded with features geared toward making backpacking easier. REI designed its back panel to provide extra lumbar support while remaining breathable and flexible. It has a contoured hip-belt with foam padding throughout which sits snug against your body to create a custom fit.

On longer trips when I had more cargo, its compression straps helped raise its load while pulling it toward my center of gravity. This helped with pack stability which left me better balanced, and the pack better supported, while I hiked.

Other features include compatibility with a hydration pouch and external tool keepers for trekking poles or ice axes. It also has conveniently-placed bottle pockets that allow you to easily remove and place back water bottles. 

The Flash 45 is a great option for anyone just getting into backpacking but not interested in investing in a larger, more expensive model. 

Best for durability

Hyperlite backpack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 2400 Southwest Pack features a Dyneema composite exterior that allows it to hold up to hanging branches, sharp rocks, or anything you come across while on the trail.

Pros: Constructed out of durable and lightweight Dyneema fabric, 40-liter volume offers enough cargo space for weekend trips, dedicated hydration pack pocket, seamed seals to keep the rain out

Cons: Only offers a few external pockets that can fill up easily

It’s not just your body that will take a beating on backpacking trips — your gear inevitably will, too. If you plan on backpacking in densely wooded areas or you find that your gear tends to get more scratched and scraped than you’d like, then check out the Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s 2400 Southwest Pack.

Constructed out of durable Dyneema fabric, the pack can be taken into the harshest environments with confidence. Dyneema’s light weight also helps reduce overall pack weight, something that proved beneficial when we packed this 40-liter bag to the brim. Its size is perfect for three-day treks and can even be an option for ultralight backpackers setting out for four or five days. 

Its roll-top closure system is easy to secure, though it did make it slightly difficult to reach gear in the bottom of the pack while we were on-the-move. There are a few external pockets to store gear that we could quickly access, but these are limited to the front of the pack. Vertical and horizontal compression straps along the sides of the pack help properly secure loads, which was especially useful when the pack wasn’t completely full. 

Its interior houses a mesh hydration sleeve that’s separate from the main compartment, so it won’t take up valuable gear space. Other features include fully-seamed seals to keep water out, as well as ice ax loops. The pack is a little expensive at $310 but its durability more than validates the investment.

Best for heavy cargo

Gregory backpack

With a lightweight aluminum chassis and an innovative suspension system, the Gregory Paragon 58 weighs less than 4 pounds, saving wearers some valuable packing weight.

Pros: Lightweight frame and suspension system makes heavy loads easier to haul, matrix ventilation system allows for increased airflow to keep your back cool, adjustable hip-belt makes it easy to customize the perfect fit, hydration sleeve doubles as a small daypack

Cons: The stitching on the daypack isn’t very durable 

Every backpacker knows that despite their best-laid plans to keep their pack light, they often end up bringing much more gear than anticipated. With Gregory’s Paragon 58, those heavy loads become much easier to handle, no matter how long the trip might be. 

The pack achieves this by way of an incredibly lightweight frame and suspension system that clocks in several pounds lighter than any other pack on this list. Though it may not seem that crucial, every pound counts when you’re hiking 10-plus miles for days-on-end and living solely out a backpack. 

Along with its matrix ventilation system that promotes increased airflow, the Paragon 58 is best-suited for trips anywhere from three to five days long. The final days of any backpacking trip can feel as though food, water, and clean socks are at a minimum but we took its lower weight into consideration and packed extra. This let us get through even a five-day trip with ease. 

One of its highlight features is its hydration sleeve that also doubles as a removable daypack. If we had camp set-up, this allowed us to not have to haul our big 58-liter pack on short treks to a nearby river just to tote along water or food. The daypack’s stitching isn’t the most durable and although it didn’t come undone on our trips, we could see how it might when used often. 

For $230, the Gregory Paragon 58 is a great backpacking option with incredible value. It’s best used for longer backpacking trips, or for anyone who has a hard time deciding on what to bring or what to leave behind. 

Best suspension system

Arc'teryx backpack

The Arc’teryx Bora AR 50’s innovative suspension system, which allows wearers to freely move without worrying about shifts in weight, is worth its high price tag.

Pros: Best suspension system on the market makes heavy loads feel lighter and promotes a wide range of movement, pivoting hip belt helps avoid the displacement of pack weight, constructed out of weatherproof materials, large enough capacity for weekend trips

Cons: Expensive

A backpacking pack’s suspension system has the ability to make or break a backpacking trip. Not only are they responsible for distributing the weight of a pack to make it more manageable for the wearer, but they help promote a range of motion and establish a comfortable fit. Right now, no pack does suspension better than the Arc’teryx Bora AR 50.

Thanks to the brand’s RotoGlide hip-belt, its suspension system is designed to completely rotate side to side while also offering free movement up and down. What this does is that with every step, the pack slides in either direction to allow for a natural stride, even when it’s packed full. This also reduces chafing and helps wearers maintain balance. 

Though this is helpful for any length of trip, we found it to be especially useful during weekend trips where our pack needed to carry the most gear. Whether crouching underneath a fallen tree or stepping up onto a high rock, the suspension system helped the pack remain stable through a wide range of motion. 

The pack also features a number of internal and external pockets that helped keep our gear organized. Its exterior kangaroo pocket was great for storing snacks we could access quickly, and would also function well for stashing wet gear. There are also side pockets sized for water bottles, as well as loops for trekking poles.

Arc’teryx designed the Bora AR 50 as a top-loading pack but included side zippers to make it easier to access gear stored at the bottom. The pack is also compatible with hydration pouches and features external storage loops for ice axes.

It’s the most expensive pack on this list at $500, but no other model offers as functional a suspension system as the Bora AR 50. If it wasn’t for the high price, we could easily see this as our overall pick.

Backpacking packs FAQ

Backpacking packs differ from traditional travel backpacks in that they’re designed to hold upward of 30 or 40 pounds of cargo, while still being comfortable to wear. The best packs do this by distributing weight across its frame to avoid having the bulk of the weight sit on any one part of your body.

These packs also tend to feature an abundance of pockets to hold a variety of gear, a sleeve for a hydration pouch, and multiple points of entry to make accessing what you pack along easier than just dumping everything out and repacking. You’ll also find most packs come with a series of adjustable (and padded) straps to fine-tune the fit, ventilation systems to promote airflow and keep you cool, and some sort of durable fabric to hold up to the harshness of the outdoors. 

How do you pick out the right size?

Many backpacking packs come in sizes such as small, medium, or large, but finding the right fit also comes down to personally customizing the pack yourself. This means adjusting the hip belt and changing the size of the pack’s torso length. You’ll also want to make sure the shoulder straps and any other stabilizing strap (sternum, load-lifter, etc.) are able to customize to your liking. 

A good rule of thumb for initially picking out a pack, too, is that your specific torso length is far more important than your height. Just because you wear medium shirts doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll wear a medium pack. Fine-tuning these adjustments and picking out the correct size allows the pack to be far less fatiguing while on the trail, and assures you’re able to get from point A to point B in as comfortable a way as possible.

How important is the pack’s fit?

Aside from packing the correct gear like sleeping bags, tents, and food and water, how your pack fits is one of the most vital steps to any backpacking trip. An ill-fitting pack can spell the difference between making it to camp without immense back pain or having to stop and readjust your load every few feet.

What are the most important features that it should have?

All backpacking packs should come with some form of padded hip belt, padded shoulder straps, a load-fitting strap (this is separate from the shoulder straps), and a sternum strap. Beyond those which help with the fit, you should also look for packs that come with a variety of useful storage pockets.

Personally, I like packs that have pockets on the hip belt for easy access to snacks, sunglasses, or anything else small I might need on the trail, as well as easily accessible water pouches (if it doesn’t come with space for a hydration pouch). Some packs also come with removable top pouches which can serve as day packs if you venture off from camp. 

You also want to make sure your pack can carry everything you need it to (but don’t go overboard). It’s not always smart to just buy the largest capacity backpack, even for long trips, because you run the risk of overpacking and a heavy backpack can severely weigh you down on trail. The best way to judge how much gear to bring is by weight, and you generally don’t want to pack more than 20% of your body weight. 

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