Comfortable hiking backpacks and daypacks are ideal for carrying heavy loads and hiking equipment
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A great backpack is a must for hikes of any length – whether it’s a fun day trip up a mountain, or a multi-day hiking vacation through the woods and countryside.
Whether you’re in the market for a backpack/daypack – a small hiking backpack or a bulky bag to take on treks, you’ll want to pick something reliable, sturdy and comfortable – like one of the best hiking backpacks for men and women.
The best backpacks and day packs at a glance
Are you after a day pack or a comfortable multi-day pack?
The main factor to consider when shopping for a new hiking backpack is size.
Backpacks are measured by the capacity they contain in liters – a 15 liter to 30 liter backpack is usually called a backpack or daypack, which as the name suggests contains the kit you need for a day hiking adventure. Day trips are great for those who like to see the great outdoors and sleep in their own beds at the end of the day – you might want to start with a few day trips if you’re new to hiking.
The 40-50L bag is suitable for multi-day use such as a 2-day hike or a wild camping trip. The 60-100L backpack is suitable for backpackers or anyone on a big trekking adventure who needs to carry all their gear while hiking.
If you’re going on a multi-day picnic, you’ll likely be carrying a sleeping bag and sleeping mat and will need side pockets that allow rain covers, trekking poles, and drinking bottles.
What features should I look for?
Backpacks are usually top-loaded (a hole in the top, which is more watertight and better for hikers) or front-loaded (easy to pack and unload, ideal for backpackers).
Other useful features to look for include easy-to-access interior and exterior zip pockets for valuables and mesh pockets for water bottles, as well as compression straps to tie the bag down to make it more compact.
If you’re traveling, you may want to choose a model with a small, removable backpack, so you have a smaller daypack to use on day trips.
If the bag is larger, it is helpful to have a waist belt, which helps distribute the weight. An overhead compartment for storing items you’ll need at any moment, such as a waterproof jacket, is very useful.
These days, top hiking backpacks have sophisticated suspension systems to ensure the weight of your hiking gear is evenly distributed – the best backpacks can make 20kg feel like nothing at all. The Osprey is particularly good at this miracle of back-pack engineering.
Making it weather-resistant – and water-resistant
Most backpacks are not completely waterproof – we recommend choosing a pack with a removable rain cover that you can pull out if a storm approaches, or a pack made of a waterproof material, which can usually withstand light rain. You can also put your belongings in a dry bag inside the backpack to keep them weatherproof.
Backpacks can be unisex or specifically target men or women. When choosing a smaller day pack, we’ve found after testing several models that unisex packs usually perform in gender-specific designs.
If you’re in the market for a larger package for multi-day adventures, you may find a gender-specific package more comfortable, as it has different shoulder and hip straps as well as larger or smaller rear tires.
Get ready for hiking and backpacking adventures.
Jack Wolfskin Ecoloader Backpack 24
Key specs – Gender: Unisex; Capacity: 24 liters. Material: ripstop polyester. Weight: 870 grams. Raincover: Yes; Color options: 4
Have you pledged to make more planet-friendly purchases this year? Jack Wolfskin’s Ecoloader is a truly highly sustainable daypack, made with 100% recycled materials and using no less than 18 plastic bottles.
Even the foam in the straps and back lining is innovative and made from an algae-derived material.
With a capacity of 24 liters, the Ecoloader is our favorite size for a day’s hiking and we loved how simple it was to fill and empty in our test, thanks to two wide zippers that provide easy access. Unlike many smaller day packs, it also has a good rain cover.
Vango Ozone 30 . Backpack
Key specs – Gender: Unisex; Capacity: 30 liters; Material: ripstop nylon. Weight: 900 grams. Raincover: Yes; Color options: 1
There’s not much we don’t like about Vango’s Ozone 30, and we’d give it a gold star if we could.
It’s delightfully lightweight at 900g but still feels great quality, and the durable ripstop nylon will happily withstand the elements.
The wide mesh back panel and shoulder straps were the most breathable we tested overall, ideal if you’re going hiking in hot climates, and a rain cover is included in case the weather turns stormy.
Practical pockets including a flap pocket, hip belt pocket, bottle pockets and front pocket take all your gear for a day’s adventure with ease. highest marks
Key specs – Gender: Male; Capacity: 70 liters. Material: bluesign high tenacity nylon. Weight: 2.6 kg; Rain cover: Yes
The Osprey Aether 70 might be heavy, yes, but with the advent of hiking backpacks, it’s fairly weighty.
It sits at the forefront of heavy-duty aft packs for multi-terrain excursions. While the Ether has a capacity of 70 liters, its suspension system means the weight will be well distributed.
The fit can be tailored to the back length – the easily adjustable back panel means you can shape it to perfection. The shoulder straps are expertly padded and the back panel provides ample support. Piece resistance is the thermoformable Isoform hip belt system – it ensures great support and helps the weight feel like nothing at all.
The packaging is also clever in terms of what it allows you to carry – there are straps that allow you to attach snowmobiles and trekking poles, for example.
This pack’s features continue—well-designed pocket systems, top flap converts into a daypack—it’s the go-to backpack pack for multi-day hiking by a mile (easy to walk).
It’s not cheap, but get plenty of refills for your money.
Montane Mezzo Backpack 16
Key specs – Gender: Men; Capacity: 16 liters; Material: ripstop nylon mesh. Weight: 430 grams. Raincover: no; Color options: 3
Like light travel? The smallest package in our collection is perfect for adventures where you don’t need to carry a lot of gear, such as summer hikes.
The Mezzo’s back and shoulder straps are well-ventilated, making them a great choice for hot weather.
This pack may be small and streamlined but still has plenty of useful design features, including a wide front pocket in which you can store clothes or maps on the go, easily adjustable chest and waist straps, walking pole attachment points, and interior zipped and zip pockets. Mesh bottle pocket.
columbia unisex 21l packable lightweight backpack
Key specs – Gender: Unisex; Capacity: 21 liters. Material: polyester. Weight: 700 grams. Raincover: no; Color options: 2
This stylish and lightweight bag is a great choice for everyday hiking adventures.
The lightweight ripstop backpack is tucked away in an interior accessory pocket. Take it with you collapsed for easy portability and unfold when you need it.
This practical bag works well as a carry-on bag for travel or for commuting as well as for hiking, and is priced under £25
Arc’Teryx Brize Backpack 25
Key specs – Gender: Unisex; Capacity: 25 liters; Material: nylon; Weight: 905 grams. Raincover: no; Color options: 3
Of all the backpacks we tested, we think the Brize 25, Goldilocks-style, is a perfect fit for day hikes.
It’s roomy enough to hold lunch, a set of outerwear and spare warm clothes, and there are several handy pockets, including a zip pocket for storing valuables and two large bottle pockets to hold liquids.
The shoulder straps are well-padded and feel comfortable even on all-day hikes—there’s no hip strap, but you shouldn’t need one if you’re sticking with one-day walks. Brize also works well as a portable travel bag.
Osprey Sylva Backpack / Syncro 20
Key specs – Gender: Women and Men; Capacity: 20 liters; Material: nylon; Weight: 900 grams. Raincover: Yes; Color options: 1
Osprey packaging is almost always gender specific, which makes the brand a good choice if you find bags designed for men or women that tend to fit you better.
The Sylva and Syncro are ideal for hikers who also want an all-in-one daypack that can cycle, travel, prop or climb without the fuss.
Like all Osprey packages, there’s good attention to detail here, such as an accessory for your bike helmet and a zip pocket designed for sunglasses.
Our only criticism? We would have preferred the roomier bottle pockets, and the color available for women is a dull gray that looks dirty over time.
Decathlon Trekking Travel Backpack 50g
Key specs – Gender: Men; Capacity: 50 liters; Material: polyester; Weight: 2.3 kg; rain cover: no; Color options: 1
This generously sized pack is aimed at men but works well as a unisex backpack.
It’s small enough to work as a day pack but we like using it for two day outings, or for traveling abroad as a travel backpack that you can still take on picnics when you get to your destination.
A detachable shoulder bag and lockable pockets make this design ideal for travelers, and the pack’s tough outer material will still look good after years of hiking adventures.
Our only objection is that the Trekking Travel package is on the heavy side, although the wide, well-designed hip straps help mitigate that.
Regatta Highton Backpack 45
Key specs – Gender: Unisex; Capacity: 45 liters. Material: ripstop polyester. Weight: 2.2 kg; Raincover: Yes; Color options: 1
If you’re headed on your first weekend hike or wild camping trip, signed up for the Duke of Edinburgh or just want a big no-nonsense package for under £100, Regatta’s Highton is a great option.
Notable features include a front stretch pocket to hide clothing or maps, a mesh-lined hip belt, and a back panel, which is breathable enough to work for long walks in warm weather.
The oversized zippered lid pocket is perfect for storing snacks and valuables to grab on the go.