On a hike, you never want the weight on your back to distract from the beauty around you. And with the innovation that now goes into camping backpacks, it’s easy to find something that fits like a dream.
Whether you’re a thru-hiker needing the lightest product available or a first-timer wanting to be comfortable, this article will give you the best pack in each category and more.
Read on for descriptions of each backpack and the features you can’t miss out on!
Our Top Picks
REI Co-op Flash
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest
Made for campers that like to dabble in all types of adventures, this camping backpack has the ability to adapt to your needs. Especially if you’re the type of camper that likes to bring along a few luxuries.
At 4 lbs and 10 ounces, it is on the heavier side. But that’s a worthy price to pay for everything this series offers. Like the anti-gravity suspended mesh back panel, the adjustable torso straps, and the generous amounts of padding that make it great for carrying heavier loads.
No matter how much work you’re doing, the ventilation and comfort that the design provides will keep you feeling ready for more, which is exactly what you want on a long walk in the woods.
- Anti-gravity suspended mesh back panel
- Good organizational design
- Can carry heavier loads
Camping backpacks can definitely be on the pricier side, but there are some excellent products out there that won’t break the bank.
The REI Co-op Flash 55 is one of the few affordable backpacks that still come with some of the features you expect from higher-end products.
Its Packmod modular system allows you to easily remove and reconfigure straps and pockets for a completely customizable fit. And its front-facing water bottle pockets are life savers during those hot and sweaty days.
It also only weighs 2 pounds 11 ounces and has a water reservoir! The materials might be a little cheaper, and the clips might snag a bit, but this is still an amazing camping backpack for its price.
- Adjustable fit
- Good pocket design
- Removable components
- Cheaper materials
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest was built for thru-hikers. Only weighing 2 pounds 3 ounces, this backpack can hold 55L and still has some extra organizational features that are usually foregone in a pack this light.
Plus the Dyneema composite fiber that this backpack is made of is the most durable and waterproof material that you’ll find in any camping backpack. Even the harshest terrains and weather are manageable with the Southwest 3400.
This pack also has an adjustable sternum strap to make those long treks just a little easier on the body. For the minimalist packer, this camping backpack is the perfect find.
- Highly durable
- Adjustable sternum strap
Weighing 2 pounds 12 ounces, the Eja/Exos is the lightest camping backpack series that you’ll find with this amount of comfort. Which means it’s amazingly versatile.
Padded shoulder straps with load lifters and a padded hip belt with stabilizer straps are features you rarely find in something this light. Add onto that the adjustable torso and well-ventilated back panel, and you have the perfect backpack for heavier loads.
If you’re planning a shorter trip and you need to lose some weight, easily remove any unwanted straps and even the floating brain from this camping backpack. Then you can use the integrated Flapjacket in place of the floating brain.
Plus the water-resistant materials and the internal hydration sleeve with a back hose port make every season and any type of trip possible!
- Great organizational features
- Good ventilation
- Complicated design
Over the years, Gregory has been cultivating their reputation for producing the most comfortable camping backpacks on the market and the Paragon/Maven series is no different.
The body-hugging padding, stabilizing frame, and customizable aspects of this backpack allow it to sit perfectly on your hips. Equally distributing its weight and making the heaviest of loads feel pleasant.
The zips along the side and pocket design also make this one of the easiest camping backpacks to organize. There are even pockets specifically for your sunglasses, sleeping bag, and keys!
Lastly, the pack is made of a durable high-density nylon and polyester mixture. So there’s no chance of it breaking under the weight you pack into it.
- Good for heavy loads
- Very adjustable
Camping Backpack Buyer’s Guide
Types of Packs
To fit the ultralight category, a camping backpack needs to have a capacity between 40L and 70L while still weighing under 3 pounds. Then there are the lightweights that weigh between 2 and 4 pounds, the midweights that must be under 5 pounds, and the heavyweights that are anything over that.
Thru-hikers that live on trails for months on end almost always carry an ultralight or lightweight backpack. With minimal features, these backpacks aren’t the best for other types of trips.
Midweight backpacks are the most versatile option. They have the organizational features and comfort necessary for backpacking trips and the wilderness features necessary for camping trips. All while staying relatively light.
Lastly, heavyweight backpacks are often the most comfortable and well-designed since most of the weight that goes into camping backpacks is from added features and padding.
Body Specific Designs
Brands often create their camping backpacks in series, with individual designs for male or female body types.
Despite the specification, anyone can comfortably use either design. A women’s pack will fit you better if you have narrow shoulders. Choose a men’s pack if you want something that has a higher volume cap and comes in longer lengths.
A women’s pack might also have a different tilt to the hip belts, and the marketing teams tend to put more effort into the color schemes and designs. Besides that, the technology, pockets, and straps rarely change between the two.
Nylon is the most commonly used material in camping backpacks. Different brands might use different strains, like Robic nylon or some other high-density composition of the material. Sometimes the nylon is blended with polyester so that it gives a little more when packing.
In terms of durability and waterproofing, Dyneema is the best backpacking material out there. The composite fiber is stronger than steel at the molecular level and much lighter than any nylon blend.
But the material of the body isn’t your only concern. When buying a pack, you want your outer pockets, especially the water bottle pockets, to be made out of mesh. The stretch capacity of mesh makes finding free space for those last-minute bits and pieces easy.
And if your water bottle pockets are not made of mesh, you’ll want to test them and make sure they’re big enough for a bottle that can hold a full liter.
When hiking, you want your pack to be as balanced as possible on your back, especially for longer trips, where the prolonged uneven weight can cause back and even leg injuries.
The heavy weight of a water bottle on just one side will ruin that balance. That’s why features like water bladders that slip into a pocket at your back are sometimes essential.
Features like removable hip belts and straps are important for hikers that want a versatile backpack. You can turn your thru-hiking pack into a simple daypack and everything in between with a few adjustments.
The extreme weight of some heavyweight packs might seem ridiculous. But there are times when it’s worth it. If you’re always carrying lots of heavy gear, like camera equipment, a heavyweight pack that won’t destroy your back on the hike up to a viewpoint is necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
How big of a backpack do I need for an overnight trip?
The volume you need for your trip will depend on many different factors, like the size of your gear and the season you’re traveling in. The average overnight trip will require a minimum volume of 38L and a maximum volume of 50L.
What is the ideal weight for a camping backpack?
When completely loaded, your backpack should not amount to more than 20% of your body weight. Anything more can cause serious injury, especially if you’re planning a long trip. So the weight of the pack you choose should take into consideration the weight of everything else you plan to bring.
How big of a backpack do I need for a trip longer than 3 nights?
On average, the volume of your camping backpack for a trip lasting 2 to 3 nights should be a minimum of 45L and a maximum of 65L. To save up space inside, don’t forget to use the outside straps to carry things like your sleeping pad and trekking poles.
Wrapping Up the Best Camping Backpacks
Out of all the camping backpacks to choose from, these top 5 picks give you the best product in every category that matters. No matter where you’re going or what you plan to do, a quick look at this article will give you everything you need to know before you go!
And for more information on camping gear, check out our Camping Gear Archives!
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
After years of camping in the Canadian wilderness and finishing her Bachelor of Communication Studies, Liv Headley brought her passions together through the Apple Pie Media platform.
Armed with stories under open skies, at the tops of mountains, and from as young as eight years old. When it comes to picking the right camping spots, packing the best gear, and cooking the most delicious food, Liv’s got the expertise to make planning your trip easy!
Liv can be reached at email@example.com