Best hiking backpacks for camping from Osprey, North Face

Rugged hiking bags ideal for day hikes or camping holidays

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A great backpack is an essential for hikes of any length – be it a jaunty day trip up a mountain, or a multi-day holiday walking across forests and countryside.

Whether you’re in the market for a day backpacker/day pack – that is, compact rucksack for casual walks or a big behemoth of a bag that you can take trekking, you’ll need to choose something reliable, tough and comfortable – like one of our favourite rated hiking backpacks for men and women.

Best hiking back packs and day packs at a glance

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Are you after a daypack or a comfortable pack for multi-day use?

The main factor to keep in mind when shopping for a new hiking backpack is size.

Backpacks are measured by the capacity they hold in litres – usually a 15l-30l backpack is called a daysack or daypack, which as the name suggests holds the kit you need for one day’s walking adventure. Day trips are fabulous for those who love to see the great outdoors and sleep in their own bed at day’s end – you may wish to start with few day trips if you’re new to hiking.

A bag with a capacity of 40-50 litres is suitable for multi-day use such as a two-day hike or a wild camping trip. Rucksacks with a capacity of 60-100 litres are suitable for backpackers or anyone on a big trekking adventure who needs to carry all of their kit as they hike.

If you’re off on a multi-day hike, you’ll likely be carrying a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat, and you’ll require side pockets that allow rain covers, trekking poles and drinking bottles.

What features should I look for?

Backpacks are usually either top loading (an opening at the top, which is more watertight and best for hikers) or front loading (these are easier to pack and unpack, ideal for backpackers).

Other useful features to look out for include easy-to-access zipped inner and outer pockets for valuables and mesh pockets for water bottles, plus compression straps for cinching a bag down to make it more compact.

If you’re off travelling you may want to pick a model with a removable mini rucksack, so you have a smaller daysack to use on day hikes.

If it’s a larger bag, it’s useful to have one with a waist belt, which can help with weight distribution. A top compartment to store items you’ll need at a moment’s notice, such as a waterproof jacket, is extremely useful.

These days, the top of the line hiking backpacks have sophisticated suspension systems to ensure the weight of your hiking gear is evenly distributed – the best backpacks can make 20 kilos feel like nothing at all. Osprey is particularly good at this miracle of back-packing engineering.

Making it weatherproof – and waterproof

Most backpacks aren’t fully waterproof – we recommend picking a pack with a removable rain cover you can pull out if a storm approaches, or a pack made with water resistant material, which can usually withstand light rainfall. You can also pack your belongings in a dry sack inside your rucksack to keep them watertight.

Backpacks can be unisex or aimed specifically at men or women. When picking a smaller daysack we’ve found after testing many models that unisex packs usually perform just as well as gender-specific designs.

If you’re in the market for a bigger pack for multi-day adventures you may find a gender-specific pack more comfortable, as they have differently placed hip and shoulder straps as well as larger or smaller back frames.

Get kitted out for your hiking and backpacking adventures.

Jack Wolfskin Ecoloader 24 backpack

Jack Wolfskin Ecoloader 24 backpack

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