The 12 Best Backpack Brands for Hiking and BackpackingPublished on 01/16/2023 · 10 min readFinding that there are too many options for backpacks? Camping & Hiking Expert Kate Wilson details her top 12 brands for you to consider when shopping around.
Photo courtesy of Deuter
Selecting the right camping and hiking backpack can be overwhelming. Each season brings better tech and newer models to choose from when the options are already endless. Fortunately, there are several respected brands in the outdoor industry that offer a wide range of camping and hiking backpacks to suit any adventure you have planned.
Learning more about a brand and what they're known for can help narrow things down. From companies that have been around for decades, to exciting newcomers with a unique vision, we'll explore some of the best backpack brands out there right now!
This company was named after Archaeopteryx, the first reptile to develop the feather for flight. It lived over 150 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, and judging by the way Arc'teryx gear is built, their products might be around 150 million years from now!
Starting in 1989, founders Dave Lane, Jeremy Guard, and Jerry Hill wanted to meet the needs for high-quality, technical outdoor gear in Canada. Today, they are headquartered in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and are known for their extreme attention to detail, high-quality fabrics, and reputation for producing some of the most durable gear available. A notable backpack is the Altra 65—a comfortable, high-capacity, top-loading backpack with an adjustable suspension system and a women's-specific version, too.
Arc'teryx is also committed to collaborative low-carbon solutions. They are a member of the Outdoor Industry Association's Climate Action Corps and one of the first companies to set a verified Science Based Target on climate action. Their ReGear program encourages the purchase of pre-owned apparel to help reduce the footprint that producing new gear inevitably causes.
Cotopaxi stands out as a brand with extreme personality. Their fun, colorful designs are popping up in the form of backpacks, luggage, and accessories everywhere. Headquartered in Utah, the company began in 2014 after founder Davis Smith traveled to Ecuador and was struck by the country's rich cultural and natural diversity. The result of his creative inspiration is an eclectic collection of unique products that are also well-made and functional.
Cotopaxi supports the missions of non-profit organizations to help make a positive impact in the world. They also work with educational institutions like Brigham Young University and the University of Utah to provide opportunities for students. Some of the popular backpack options are the Allpa 35L, the Batac 24L, and the Luzon 18L daypack—a top-loading pack with plenty of storage options for those smaller hikes and activities.
My experience with Deuter backpacks has led me to recommend them to pretty much anyone who will listen. They are extremely comfortable and offer many of the features more expensive brands showcase.
Deuter was founded in 1898 by Hans Deuter, who started the company as a small workshop producing backpacks, mailbags, and other items for the German military. Over the years, Deuter has evolved, expanding its product line and building a reputation for high-quality, durable outdoor gear. They have won several awards, including the International Sports Trade Fair Backpacking & Trekking Award, plus numerous Outdoor Industry Awards.
My top pick for a quality backpack from Deuter is the AirContact 65L. With its solid suspension system, adjustable torso length, integrated rain cover, and durable construction, I have taken this pack on some of the more advanced backpacking adventures where I literally slid down the trail—and it held up like a champ!
Glen Van Peski started Gossamer Gear in 1998 after experiencing the challenges of carrying heavy packs on long-distance hikes. Headquartered in Austin, TX, the company specializes in compact, lightweight, functional, minimalist equipment.
One of the more popular backpacks from Gossamer Gear is the Mariposa 60. Weighing just 31 ounces, made from high-quality, abrasion-resistant fabrics, and featuring a reinforced bottom, the Mariposa is a top contender with thru-hikers and ultralight enthusiasts everywhere.
Founded in 1986 by Mike and Judi Eidson, Granite Gear has made their mark in the ultralite world. The company now offers a wide range of backpacks, tents, and sleeping pads that are light in weight and popular with thru-hikers. The Crown2 60 backpack weighs just 3.5lbs and is made with durable, water-resistant materials.
Their other notable packs include the Perimeter 35—a women’s pack for shorter trips—and the Cross Trek Tarp, a versatile, waterproof, and breathable pack weighing in at just 13 ounces.
Gregory has been making outdoor gear since 1977. Founder Wayne Gregory, an avid climber and outdoorsman, saw the need for a better-designed, more functional backpack and decided to try and offer just that.
Mission accomplished. His company is the first to have designed and produced a true women's-specific backpack, and they have won numerous awards, including Backpacker Magazine’s Editor's Choice Award and several Gear of the Year awards from Outside Magazine.
Their commitment to sustainability includes practices that encourage energy-efficient manufacturing and using recycled materials in production. For example, they eliminated a cardboard tube used in shipping and replaced it with an inflatable, biodegradable bag. This one small change saves over 7,800 pounds of virgin cardboard from the landfill each year.
In my opinion, their best hiking packs are the Gregory Maven 55, Gregory Baltoro 65 and, especially, the Gregory Deva 60. With its 3D suspension system, it features a moldable, custom fit hip belt and shoulder strap, water bottle pockets, and more.
Hyperlite is a newer brand started by brothers Mike and Dan St. Pierre, who initially wanted to create lightweight gear for their own use. Their backpacks are known for their lightweight design and their USA-construction; all production is completely in-house.
One of the key features of Hyperlite backpacks is their Exo-Skeleton frame, a lightweight, sturdy structure that wraps around the pack, supporting the load and transferring it to the hips. This helps to reduce the strain on the shoulders and back and keep the pack stable and upright, making it more comfortable to carry over long distances.
Some of the popular options from Hyperlite include the Mountain Gear pack, the Daypack, and the Summit pack. These packs come in a range of sizes and capacities to suit different needs, and are designed to be lightweight and comfortable to carry.
Hunters, firefighters, and outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with the Mystery Ranch brand because of their incredible load-bearing packs, tactical gear, functional design, and extreme exterior durability. Headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, the brand was founded in 2000 by Dana Gleason and Renee Sippel-Baker, and created with the goal of producing high-quality products for military personnel and extreme adventurists.
Some of my top-rated backpacks are made by Mystery Ranch. They feature durable, water-resistant fabrics and specialized materials like Cordura fabric—known for its resistance to abrasions, tears, and other signs of wear. The Terraframe is best for heavy loads; it boasts 80 liters of space that fits comfortably to your body due to its adjustable suspension system and offers plenty of pockets. The Game Bags are a game changer for hunters, offering lightweight, durable nylon and heavy-duty handles for handling and hanging.
Osprey has been a trusted name in the outdoor industry for over four decades. Founded by Mike Pfotenhauer in 1974, and first operating as Santa Cruz Recreation Packs, word spread quickly about Mike's custom-fit, made-to-order backpacks.
Today, Osprey packs are still known for their comfort, adjustability, and extremely practical features—like their Anti-Gravity suspension system. This technology distributes weight evenly across the body and provides maximum support and ventilation with its mesh back panel and padded, conforming shoulder straps. Some of their most popular backpacking models include the Atmos and Aura series, and the Exos packs are great for those looking to go lightweight.
Osprey is also known for their commitment to sustainability, and have implemented a number of recycling programs for used packs and packaging materials. They have also made a commitment to use environmentally-friendly fabrics in their products whenever possible. The company adopted the bluesign Restricted Substances List, which promotes the use of the safest chemicals and materials to help reduce their environmental impact.
Finally, Osprey’s All Mighty Guarantee ensures that whether you purchased your gear yesterday or in 1974, they will repair or replace any damage or defect free of charge.
Founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973, Patagonia is also a brand known for its commitment to sustainability. Their Worn Wear program invites consumers to buy preowned gear and trade their stuff in rather than buy new. They also use 100% recycled fabric and down on many of their products and precisely cut materials to minimize waste. Their NetPlus line is the first fully traceable recycled-ocean-plastic fabric outerwear series and has led to the recovery of 3.37 million pounds of discarded fishing nets and waste.
While the company makes stylish clothing and accessories, their highly rated backpacks are known for their modern style and efficiency. Many canvas packs have laptop compartments and plenty of space for travel or photography equipment or student supplies.
Most notable for adventurists is the Patagonia Ascensionist Pack, designed for technical alpine climbing and backpacking. The pack has a removable frame and hip belt, allowing it to be customized to the user's needs. It also has a standard hydration sleeve and multiple pockets for organizing gear. For the bikers, the Dirt Roamer or Black Hole Waist Pack offer breathable, body-hugging packs that will keep tools and snacks handy on any ride.
The North Face is another well-respected outdoor brand that has been around for over 50 years. Founded in 1966, the company was named after the coldest, most unforgiving side of a mountain, which founders Douglas Tompkins and Kenneth Klopp believed symbolized the challenges and adventures that their customers would face outdoors. Their more popular backpack options are the Terra or Banchee 65, with their own version of suspension systems and ventilated back panels for ultimate comfort on the trail.
The company is heavily invested in the environment, too, and are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. They are also focused on eliminating plastic packaging by 2025 and use recycled shipping materials whenever possible. Their RENEWED program invites you to shop for preowned clothing and gear to save a little money and help keep things out of the landfill.
Another well-known ultralight brand is Z Packs, a company founded in 2002 by Joe Valesko, who initially operated out of his garage in Vermont. These days, Z Packs regularly bring in awards for best design and are highly regarded by thru-hikers. The Arc Blast 55 is one of their award-winning packs, weighing in at just 21 ounces and featuring an efficient airflow, removable belt, and the ability to carry up to 35 lbs.
Joe and Z Packs are involved in various outdoor education and conservation initiatives. They are transitioning shipping supplies to biodegradable, compostable, recycled materials to minimize their footprint, and the majority of their fabrics features Dyneema. This fiber technology is sourced from renewable, bio-based feedstock and reduces their reliance on fossil fuel resources.
From lightweight and minimalist designs to spacious and feature-packed models, the brands above offer packs for every camping or hiking adventure. When choosing a pack, be sure to consider your individual requirements—such as the length and type of trip, the amount of gear you need to carry, and your personal comfort preferences. Don't forget to think about the environmental impact of your gear, too. Look for options that are sustainably made and built to last. If you’re still deciding between your options, reach out to a Curated Expert for free help with finding the pack that is perfect for you. Happy trails!