With so many hiking backpacks to choose from, it's hard to decide on which is the best. According to reviewers, the Gregory Baltoro (*Est. $300) is just a little bit better than the competition in certain key areas. With eight external compartments in addition to its main compartment, the Baltoro surpasses the competition in organizational capabilities. Reviewers love its top-loading design that makes it easy to access gear without completely unloading the pack. It's reported as comfortable and very easy to adjust to fit.
The Arc'teryx Altra 65 (*Est. $450) has almost as many exterior pockets as the Baltoro -- seven -- but costs $150 more. Some reviewers don't feel that extra cost is fully justified, but others say you get what you pay for. At 5 pounds, the Arc'teryx weighs 10 ounces less than the Baltoro, a not-insignificant difference when one is hiking all day. The Baltoro and Altra come in several different sizes.
The Osprey Aether (*Est. $250) is highly rated for its comfortable, custom fit, but with only four external compartments many users feel it does not offer enough versatile space. Both the Baltoro and the Altra have been noted to squeak during use. This problem seems to be more prevalent in the Arc'teryx Altra, as the Altra is equipped with a swiveling hip belt to allow for even weight distribution.
The Gregory Baltoro is made of double-diamond ripstop nylon and flat-weave nylon materials. Customers have reported this pack has been through thick and thin and still comes out looking new. While the Kelty Redwing 50 has been known to last for years, the bag's design simply does not stand up to the more capable Baltoro. The Altra seems pretty tough too, but customers report the bag leaks around its zippers. Wet supplies can pose a serious problem on the trail. The Aether gets some criticism for minor durability issues. All of these bags come with a lifetime warranty, as well as top-notch customer service.