If you’re headed out into the wilderness for more than a few nights, finding the right expedition pack is a must. In addition to getting one that will adjust to your body and be easy to carry, you must also consider the gear you’ll be bringing and the best way to organize it.
Before we dive into some of the best-reviewed expedition packs, let’s discuss some basics you should keep in mind when searching for the right bag as well as some other tips for getting the most out of your new pack.
Like most other types of outdoor backpacks expedition packs are measured in cubic inches to give you a better idea of just how much the bag will be able to hold. Given the amount of gear and supplies you’ll need for a week long trek you’ll want an expedition bag between 5000 and 7000 cubic inches. If you’re not sure how much space you’ll need it’s better to go bigger as it’s better to have extra room than not enough.
Another important note is to make sure you use your space wisely. This not only means getting everything you need into your bag but also not going overboard and bringing too much. Remember: you’ll have to carry your bag around all day and you might be surprised how heavy even smaller items can feel after a long hike.
Packing and Wearing Your Bag
When carrying this much weight on your back you’ll want to ensure that everything fits nicely in your bag. Once you’re all packed, ensure that there is nothing protruding from your bag that could poke your back or scratch your arm while you’re walking. You may also want to reorganize your bag for comfort, including putting softer items closest the back of your back to give you a cushion. If you do have extra room in your back, you’ll want to tighten the straps and other devices around the top of your bag in order to secure your gear in place and prevent items from shifting.
Weight distribution is also extremely important when it comes to carrying expedition bags. In addition to finding a bag that fits you properly in the first place, you may need to adjust the straps and other settings in order to carry the bag properly. Repack your bag until you get it as comfortable as possible — you’ll appreciate it later on.
If unpacking and repacking before you leave for your trip sounds like a pain, imagine doing it on the trail. To avoid this inconvenience several expedition packs offer different points of access and compartments. This can be a huge timesaver as you can easily get to food, water, and extra layers of clothing without having to remove everything from your bag. Make sure that whichever pack you choose has at least two points of access (usually on the top and the side or front) to make your life easier.
Additionally some explorers may wish to carry some of their gear on the outside of their bags. While some packs may include such accessories, others can be outfitted with cargo nets, compression straps, or carabiners to give the wearer instant access to their most frequently used supplies.
Other Popular Features
There are several quality expedition bags on the market but choosing one that’s right for you may come down to what other small features they offer. For example, if you’ll be climbing in the winter, you might want a pack that includes ice pick loops. Additionally some hikers may want to seek out a pack with a built in rain cover instead of having to purchase a generic one.
Having a hydration pack can be a huge convenience while on the trail, but some newer adventures might not realize that it’s often unnecessary to carry an additional bag for water. Some expedition packs are “hydration compatible” meaning that you can purchase a separate bladder and tubing in order to add an easy-access water supply to your bag.
Finally some hikers may find it easier to carry their sleeping bag separately from their other gear. In these cases you might want to find a bag that has a dedicated sleeping bag compartment. Alternatively you may be able to attach your sleeping back to the bottom of your pack using additional straps.
The Best Packs by Price
Now that you know what to look for in an expedition pack, let’s take a look at the some of the best-reviewed bags and talk about what each one has to offer.
Expert Expedition Backpack Reviews Guide
First is the Kelty Tactical Eagle 7850. In addition to having plenty of room for all of your gear, the “tactical” in this bag refers to the many pockets and compartment it contains. If you want to be able to carry all of your supplies and keep them organized at the same time, this is a great option.
Next up is the Gregory Whitney 95. Featuring a sleeping bag compartment, plenty of compression straps, and up to 6300 cubic inches of capacity, this pack can hold several days worth of gear. Like the Kelty Eagle several reviews of this bag also praise its unique compartment arrangement.
While all of the bags on this list boast weight-baring systems that make it easy to carry large loads, reviews of the Osprey Aether 85 consistently point to how comfortable the pack is. Popular features of this top-loading pack include the padded hip belt and its easy adjustability to fit a number of torso sizes. Conveniently this pack can also compress down should you not require all of the space it offers.
It’s a similar story with the larger Osprey Xenith 105. While it can carry up to 70 pounds, several reviews noted that the bag easily stayed in place without requiring readjustments. Additionally the extra space makes this a great option for longer treks.
Rounding out the list are the Kelty Red Cloud 90 and the 110. Both offer a large amount of space (the 110 being larger of course) and are extremely durable. The thick abrasion resistant material even lead one reviewer to say it “feels almost bulletproof.”
Whatever you need from an expedition pack, be it organization, comfort, or ruggedness, we’ve got one for you. Ultimately choosing the best expedition pack comes down to your needs and your price range. However any of these well-reviewed packs should serve you well on your journeys.