The best hiking backpacks have

  • Sufficient storage capacity. For trips lasting a day or two, experts recommend a bag with a capacity of 50 liters or less. For three- to five-day trips, look for a bag with a capacity of 50 to 70 liters; for trips of five or more days, experts say you will need 70 or more liters of pack capacity.
  • Easy access to the main compartment. The best bags have U- or D-shaped zippers on the side or front to provide access to the entire main compartment.
  • Lots of external pockets in order to stay organized and have quick access to things you will need throughout the day.
  • Waterproof features. The best bags protect your gear with waterproof material or a foldaway rain cover. Zippers protected by water seals to prevent moisture from entering the compartments are also important. A hydration sleeve. Many bags are equipped with sleeves for hydration packs. This allows for quick and easy access to water without having to stop and remove your pack.

Know before you go

How long are your typical outings? Having a bag that is too large will tempt you to overpack, making your pack heavy and cumbersome on the trail. Having one that is too small may force you to leave behind important gear.

How much are you willing to spend? If you want a top-of-the-line pack, you are going to be spending upwards of $300. There are cheaper bags available, but it isn't advisable to skimp out on quality if you are going on a serious adventure.

What kind of activities do you enjoy? The type of activity you do will determine the type of pack you will need. For example, rock climbers will want to avoid a tall pack, which may hinder their ability to look up while climbing.

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