Shopping for the right backpack can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. With multiple categories of packs with numerous options, picking one that will fit your needs can often be a tall order. Let’s take a look at seven different categories of packs ranging in size and features and highlight the best reviewed bag in each category.
One of the primary factors in determining the right backpack is the length of your excursion. This helps determine the category of backpack you should be looking at.
Multi-Day Backpacks: Multi-day packs are designed to hold 3-5 days worth of gear. The top rated pack in this field is the Arc’Teryx Altra 65. The Altra 65 is light, comfortable, and highly adjustable. Another popular feature is the “Wingman” side pockets that can fit a large water bottle but still zip up to ensure you don’t lose anything on the trail.
Climbing Backpacks: Climbing packs are known for their easy access to picks or rock climbing tools. The Osprey Ariel 75 fits the bill with plenty of loops and straps to attach helmets and other gear. Plus there’s plenty of space inside this top-loading bag so you’ll be set for multi-day treks as well as adventurous climbs.
Military/Tactical Backpacks: While their biggest market might be the Armed Forces, military and tactical packs are also popular amongst civilians who like having plenty of pockets to organize their gear. The Kelty Tactical Raven 2500 offers just that inside of daypack-sized backpack. This pack gets strong reviews for being durable, comfortable, and having tons of compartments to hold everything you’ll need.
Expedition Backpacks: Heading out on a longer trip? Expedition packs are the largest of all the backpacks on our list. When you’re carrying such large loads it’s important to have a pack that’s comfortable in order to prevent injury on your journey. That’s exactly what we love about the Osprey Aether 85. The Aether’s easily adjustable design ensures the pack will fit properly and stay in place during your trek.
External Frame Backpacks: Traditionally external frame packs have been a popular option for those looking for an affordable pack or are new to hiking and backpacking. However the Kelty Cache Hauler 3400 takes it to the next level with an external frame that allows the wearer to clip lots of extra gear to their bag. This is also an excellent pack for those inclined to go hunting. The main pack can be removed and used as a simple day pack, which is why the Cache Hauler ranks tops in this category of packs.
Hydration Backpacks: If you’re shopping for a hydration pack chances are you’ve heard of CamelBak. Though the brand rose to prominence with their series of smaller bags, their highest rated pack is the CamelBak Fourteener, which doubles as a great daypack. In addition to having room for a day’s worth of supplies, this pack also contains a 100 oz bladder so you’ll have easy access to water on your hike or climb.
Daypacks: Finally there’s the most commonly used type of backpack: the daypack. When it comes to daypacks it’s hard not to love the Deuter AC Lite 22. The AC Lite’s unique Aircomfort ventilation system works like a charm for keeping your back cool on long hikes. It also has plenty of pockets to fit everything you’ll need for a day out in the wilderness.
Whatever type of backpack you choose you can’t go wrong with one of these well-reviewed picks. Now that you have a better idea what kind of pack you’re in the market for be sure to check out our multi-day, expedition, hydration, military/tactical, climbing, and day packs articles that look at more top rated packs in each category.