Hiking through the wilderness, going on a day hike, or simply wanting to explore the city, owning a strong and reliable backpack is a necessity. Every year technology gets better and gear companies compete with each other in an arms race for the next best thing.
With 2018 upon us and the winter season covering the hills and mountains with snow, now is the time to invest in quality gear. The off season is perfect for planning that one big trip, or multiple ones. Depending on your style and level of hiking, there are a variety of different backpacks, all built to fulfill specific requirements demanded by your next adventure. Let’s find out what are the best hiking backpacks for 2018.
- 1 Day Hiking
- 2 Backpacking
- 3 Ultralight Packs
Understanding the Different Types of Hiking and the Corresponding Backpack
As much as we here at HikingSpree love arduous expeditions through the wilderness, local day hikes and short weekend jaunts are just as worthy of a decent pack. Pick a pack for every occasion or find a singular model that meets all your needs.
Long summer days make it possible to get in a few miles after work. A day hike can be for a few hours or an entire Saturday (or sick day). Typically, day hikes are a relaxing activity, done with close friends and family. The trailhead is close to where you live and the trail is generally short enough to complete before the sun goes down.
Packing for a day hike requires only the essentials. A couple liters of water, some snacks, and maybe one meal. Don’t forget the sunblock, a cell phone, and whatever else you deem important. The relatively light load allows for a smaller backpack. Keep your day hikes as relaxing as they need to be. No need to bring the kitchen sink.
What to look for when choosing a daypack
- This backpack needs to carry your equipment but that’s it. Look for models that are lightweight and able to be carried comfortably for hours on end.
- The last thing you want is for your daypack to break. Choose a type that is built from good materials and with a trusted brand behind the construction.
- The right pack will fit your daypacking needs. If you have a dog that comes along, choosing a model that can hold dog equipment will be imperative to the decision. The same can be said for a photography habit or the desire to do some fishing on the hike. Choose the pack that most fits your hiking style.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous company in the backpack market, Osprey has a pack for every occasion. If you want a backpack that can hold up to the rigors of your rugged lifestyle, Osprey’s Daylite it is. Roll it up and throw it in your truck. Store it in the refrigerator at work, or just leave it on the floor. You can trust that this pack will go everywhere you do.
The pack is highly customizable and can be used for heavier or lighter loads. The removable hip belt is perfect for those heavy loads and you can leave it in the car if it’s unnecessary. Because it is an Osprey product, it can be affixed to other, larger packs such as the: Aether/Ariel Series, Volt/Viva Series, Ace 75, Shuttle Series, Sojourn Series, Farpoint 80, and Porter Series.
- 8 ounces
- 13 liters
- 18 x 9 x 9 inches
- Internal Hydration sleeve
- Removable hip-belt
Camelbak is best known for creating bombproof water reservoir systems, but they know how to design a backpack as well. The Rim Runner 22 is a rugged and durable daypack, built for the most water conscious hikers.
Camelbak is a brand that has been around for decades. They offer a terrific warranty and stand behind all products created. The Rim Runner features a crux reservoir – 2.5 liters – and a separate insulated reservoir compartment. Keep your water cold, even if the climate isn’t.
With plenty of other zippers, this relatively beefy daypack is perfect for hikers who go the extra mile. Never worry about leaving gear at home again with this on your back. To help with the increased weight, the pack comes equipped with an air mesh back panel and a permanent hip belt with cargo pockets.
- 1lb 9 ounces
- 22 liters
- 7 x 10.6 x 9.6 in
- Insulated hydration sleeve
- Permanent hip-belt with cargo pockets
Is there anything better than going on a week – or longer – backpacking trip? More intense than a day hike, backpacking trips allow for complete isolation in the wilderness. Time and labor intensive, this style of hiking requires a larger pack. Food, shelter, and clothing all needs to fit inside.
Your backpack is the one piece of gear that cannot fail in the backcountry. If it falls apart, supplies and equipment will be lost, dooming the entire trip. Of all the gear to invest in this year, choosing the right backpack for your extended trips will pay for itself immediately.
When packing for an extended trip, be sure all of your gear will be able to fit. Everything needed for survival and comfort has to be packed in, and out!
What to look for when choosing a backpack
- When deciding on a backpack, it is important to visualize the gear that will be coming with you. Either save the backpack as the last purchase or make sure every piece of gear is acquired with the ultimate goal of fitting in your pack.
The average backpack size for extended overnights is between 50-65 liters in capacity. This is only a guideline and the size of your pack is ultimately up to you and your hiking styles.
- Compared to the rest of the gear being brought on backpacking trips, the backpack will face the harshest treatment. Exposed to the elements 24 hours a day, the pack you choose needs to survive the weather, tree branches, mud, and yes, potentially animals.
- Managing loads that possibly reach 40lbs, the backpack chosen for your extended trips needs to be comfortable. Look for suspension systems that include an internal frame, large hip-belts, and plenty of straps for customizing how the load will sit on the hips and shoulders.
Osprey Atmos 65
Another Osprey backpack makes this list. The Osprey Atmos 65 is built for the toughest hikes on the planet. Reinforced stitching throughout the body and built with tough materials, this bag will not fail on the trail. It is definitely one of the best hiking backpacks for 2018.
Backed by the Osprey warranty, any failures that do happen will most likely be covered by the company. As a satisfied owner of this model of pack, I have thrown it onto airplanes, tied it to motorcycles, and put it through hundreds of miles without any failures.
Featuring the anti-gravity suspension system, a mesh lining between the back and the pack, airflow is never a problem. The customizable hip-belt makes fitting the pack easy to do for all body shapes. This is especially helpful after losing the initial water weight from hiking for a few days in a row. Osprey makes it easy to tighten the belt.
With a removable top lid, your overall weight can be further specialized for adaption to the trail. Plenty of side compression straps makes fitting additional gear to the outside child’s play. Go for a week or take it on a thru-hike, this pack will get you to where you want to be.
- 65 liters
- 10 x 16 x 23 inches
- Removable top lid
- Anti-gravity suspension system
Gregory Mountain Products Zulu 55 Liter
A crowd favorite on trails like the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, Gregory is known to make products that last. Using rugged construction techniques built from strong materials – 210D Nylon– it can take a beating. The Gregory Mountain Products Zulu 55 Liter will make it across the finish line of whatever hike you find yourself on.
Ventilated suspension is incorporated in the design, preventing the pack from turning into a friction zone of sweat. The top pocket is removable, allowing for easy and quick customization from the car to the trail.
A front pocket makes on-the-go storage possible. Quickly take off your outer layers or find your rain gear without having to unpack the entire bag. The permanent hip-belt features cargo pockets and the multiple anchor points on the straps makes finding the perfect fit easy to do. This pack is built for long term travel. Take it on an airplane or hike 20 miles to that secret fishing hole, the Zulu 55 liter is built for the outdoors.
- 55 liters
- 5 x 13.5 x 11.0 inches
- Removable top lid
- Crossflo suspension system
If backpacking is more than a hobby and closer to an obsession, being an ultralight connoisseur may be the option for you. Every pound carried on the back makes hiking that much more arduous. If walking the most miles possible in a single day is your ultimate goal, then buying a bag made of space age materials is the move for you.
Ultralight packs are not made of the same bulky, nylon materials as the more common backpacks are. Materials used in these backpacks have names like “cuben fiber” and some backpacks don’t even have internal frames.
As you can imagine, these packs are not created to carry 30-40lbs of gear. Carrying a lighter backpack translates into bringing less equipment into the backcountry. Less weight equates into more miles but it also requires efficient packing and compromise when it comes to comfort.
Durability and lightweight, two adjectives that generally don’t fit together in the ultralight gear category. Hyperlite is one of the premier companies of the backpacking universe. Made in the USA, all construction is fortified with the same determination that it takes to live in Maine – the state where manufacturing occurs.
Constructed of Dyneema Composite Fabrics (formerly known as Cuben Fiber) the pack is lightweight and nearly waterproof. The material was originally used to manufacture the sails used in racing yachts and it can handle the stresses of backpacking. Because of its impermeability, there is no need for a raincover, one less thing to pack and carry.
As light as it may be, it still features a minimalistic frame, consisting of parallel aluminum rods. It features one giant pocket which can be rolled to fit both small and large pack sizes. The outside pockets are perfect for easy to reach essentials such as rain gear, trekking poles, and snacks. Large enough for a 10 day trek into central Idaho and light enough for a day pack, Hyperlite has made a pack for the most serious of hikers.
- 40 liters
- 5 x 30 x 10.5 inches
- Waterproof single pocket pack system
- Removable aluminum frame
If hip-belts and internal frames sound like extraneous parts on a backpack then Pa’lente Packs has designed a product built for you. Leave the stove and tent at home, it’s time to enter the ultralight state of mind. For long distance hikers focused on carrying the bare essentials, less weight equals more miles.
When every gram matters and 30 mile days are in your future, this backpack is there to support you. Perfect for a daypack or even an urban backpack, this piece of gear is equally at home in Manhattan as it is on the Continental Divide Trail.
Bring it on an airplane or put it under the desk at work, even use it to set a land speed record on a long distance hiking trail. Alternatively, it makes day hikes that much easier. This pack is built to go fast and keep gear to a minimum.
- 40 liters
- 0 x 11.0 x 30 inches
- Main pocket with bottom and side storage as well
- No hip-belt