Gear

Best Ultralight Hiking Backpacks

June 11, 2019 by

Anyone who has traveled knows how important it is to have proper luggage. Bring a bag that’s too big, and you’ll be stuck lugging around your things in an unwieldy, cumbersome package–not to mention the fact that you’ll probably be charged a fee at the airport and will almost certainly be given a hard time when traveling by public transit.

When it comes to hiking, everyone recognizes the importance of selecting the right ultralight weight backpack. Whether you’re an experienced hiker with thousands of miles under your belt and multiple mountains conquered or a beginner embarking on your very first hike, the backpack you bring is as essential as the boots on your feet and the clothes on your back.

#1. Top Pick
Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

The Teton Sports Scout 3400 is a top for all levels of hikers. At 4.5 pounds this backpack is lightweight and offers 55 liters of storage.

An adjustable torso strap allows for customization and a secure fit. The Teton Sports Scout 3400 is a great companion for your next hiking trip and the perfect backpack for beginners and well-traveled hikers.

Why it’s recommended: A dependable and versatile product offering a respectable capacity paired with a lightweight, minimalistic design.

Pros:

  • Comfortable, supportive internal frame
  • Versatile 55-liter capacity
  • Multi-position adjustable torso
  • Available in three colors: coyote tan, hunter green, and mecca orange.
  • Lightweight at just 4.5 pounds

Cons:

  • Small pockets
  • Smaller, may not be ideal for taller hikers

Check price on Amazon

#2. Best lightweight option
Boulder Pack Co. Lightweight Foldable Travel & Hiking Backpack

Available in four different colors, the Boulder Pack Co. Lightweight Foldable Travel & Hiking Backpack is the perfect companion for everyday adventures and casual hiking. At just 11.2 ounces, this is one of the lightest backpacks on the market and comes complete with 28 liters of space and a carrying case for your laptop computer. As if it wasn’t already compact, the Boulder Pack Co. backpack folds into an impressive 8″x6″x2″ pouch for easy packing and storage when you’re not using it.

Pros:

  • Extremely lightweight polyester
  • Comfortable
  • Compact foldable design which transforms backpack into a pouch with two exterior pockets
  • Available in four colors: black, blue, grey, and orange
  • Convenient laptop case
  • Comes with carabiner and emergency whistle

Cons:

  • Small storage
  • Limited to short trips
  • Won’t support a heavy load like a frame backpack

Why it’s recommended: This stylish backpack is perfect for short, casual trips. Its smart design offers a great backpack in a tiny little package with a surprisingly roomy interior.

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3). Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50L Travel Camping Backpack with Rain Cover

Eight adjustable straps and your choice of five colors make the Loowoko 50L Hiking Backpack a wonderfully customizable hiking buddy. Ideal for three to four-day trips, the 50-liter Loowoko backpack comfortably supports hikers from 5 feet to 6 feet 5 inches, and up to 250 pounds. Breathable mesh shoulder straps and extra padding offers superior comfort, while a rip-stop polyester construction and attached rain cover will keep your pack and belongings dry.

Pros:

  • Versatile 50L storage space
  • Water resistant polyester material
  • Includes rain cover for heavy rain
  • Available in five colors: black, dark blue, green, red, and orange
  • Adjustable straps useful for securing gear
  • Extra padding and mesh design for superior comfort

Cons:

  • Capacity does not support longer trips
  • Straps can catch and get in the way, leading to tears
  • Frameless—may not do well with heavier loads

Why it’s recommended: This backpack is designed to keep water out and keep you comfortable and dry. A highly versatile design and solid 50 liters of storage space make this backpack a great choice for your next trip.

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4). Mountain Top 40L Hiking Backpack

The Mountain Top 40-liter hiking backpack is the gold standard in short-term hiking trips. An adjustable hip belt provides snug comfort and support, while six adjustable straps allow you to tie up larger items like sleeping bags, hammocks, and tripods.

Pros:

  • Lightweight 40-liter capacity
  • Mesh back panel for comfort and breathability
  • Computer compartment for laptop storage
  • Available in seven colors: black, blue, fuchsia, grey, urban camouflage, orange, and khaki.
  • Adjustable straps useful for securing gear
  • Adjustable hip belt
  • Convenient external pockets
  • 90-day limited warranty

Cons:

  • Capacity does not support longer trips
  • Straps can catch and get in the way, leading to tears
  • Frameless—may not do well with heavier loads

Why it’s recommended: This backpack is designed to keep water out and keep you comfortable and dry. A highly versatile design and solid 50 liters of storage space make this backpack a great choice for your next trip.

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5). Teton Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack

An expansive 65-liter capacity will hold everything you need on your next trip. Lightweight and intelligently designed, the Teton Sports Explorer 4000 will carry you through hills and trails, beaches and mountains. An adjustable torso, spongy foam lumbar pad, and sturdy internal frame will help you stay pain-free throughout your journey.

Pros:

  • Lightweight construction (5 pounds)
  • Roomy 65 liters of storage space
  • Multi-torso adjustment
  • Available in three colors: navy blue, metallic silver, and hunter green
  • Soft, foam lumbar pad for optimized comfort and breathability
  • Rain cover included
  • Sleeping bag storage
  • Compression straps to tie down tents and sleeping bags
  • Compatible with up to 3L hydration bladder
  • Supportive internal frame

Cons:

  • None

Why it’s recommended: This backpack is an absolute must for hikers. With 65 liters, it’s big enough to bring on some of your longer trips, but don’t let its size fool you, this backpack weighs just five pounds.

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6). Mountain Top 55L/75L/80L Hiking Backpack

Options abound with this highly dependable nylon hiking backpack. Available in sizes ranging from 55 liters to 80 liters, choose the capacity that best suits your next trip and rest easy knowing your backpack is up for any challenge it’s faced with.

Pros:

  • Durable nylon build
  • Eight compression straps with elastic bands
  • Externally accessible hydration access
  • Multiple size and color options
  • Rain cover included
  • Water-resistant fabric
  • Conveniently accessible hip-belt pocket
  • Adjustable torso length
  • Exterior stretch pockets

Cons:

  • Pricey

Why it’s recommended: The crème de la crème of backpacks. With up to 80 liters of space, pack with peace of mind. A well-thought design will keep you prepared for any situation, providing the tools you need to carry you on all your expeditions.

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Important Features to Look for in a Hiking Backpack

Capacity: Depending on how long you intend your hiking trip to be, you’ll want to take into consideration how much space you’ll need in your hiking backpack. The majority of hiking backpacks range from 30 to 70 liters and up, and it’s imperative you choose the appropriate backpack for your trip in order to guarantee a fun, safe, and fulfilling outing.

Naturally, a smaller and lighter hiking backpack is going to be more comfortable. When you’re trekking uphill over rocks, and through streams and densely wooded forests, the last thing you want to worry about is back pain or a sore neck or shoulders. Ideally, your objective in a hiking backpack is to find the one that offers the capacity needed for your trip, and no more.

An afternoon hike can be achieved with a simple backpack that can hold a few energy bars and several liters of water. In this case, size won’t be much of an issue. However, when you’re spending the night or the weekend becoming one with nature, you’ll want to grab a pack in the 30 to 50-liter range, which should give you plenty of space for a change of clothes, a sleeping pad, a few tools, and food and water.

A longer trip like a four-day stay will demand more equipment, which you’ll need space for in your hiking backpack. A multiday backpack will offer a capacity of 50 liters and higher and will provide the space you need for that ski trip in the mountains or the Monday through Friday hike you promised you’d take with your high school mates years ago. A multiday pack is versatile and offers a commodious interior to guarantee a successful trip.

The largest available hiking backpacks are reserved for lengthy stays or trips that require extra protection from the elements, such as cold-weather outings. These backpacks will support your stay and help you haul along everything you need to stay safe throughout. At 70 liters and up, these travel backpacks are big, and you’ll be able to bring the whole family along with the extra space provided.

Frame: Most hikers nowadays opt for an internal frame when choosing a backpack. The internal frame is known for its superior comfort and support. A hiking backpack with an external frame is ideal for maximizing interior space or when bringing along large or unusually-shaped items. Unfortunately, their utilitarianism is often shadowed by discomfort. Frameless backpacks are another popular choice, though they fail to provide the valuable support offered by a high-quality frame.

Size/Fit: Like all products you wear, you’ll want to buy a hiking backpack that is made to fit your body. Since everyone is built differently, it’s important to measure the length of your torso and the width of your hips, and to buy a backpack whose length is neither too tall nor too short, and whose hip straps fit snugly but comfortably.

Other Features: Of course, there are dozens of other features to take into account when purchasing your hiking backpack. Depending on your preferences, there are all sorts of helpful additions and extras to look out for, including:

  • Pockets – Useful for storing easily accessible items in external pockets. Trying to find a small item in the main compartment of your backpack can often be like finding a needle in the haystack, so keep important items on-hand with a variety of easy-to-reach pockets.
  • Padding – Every hiking backpack should offer some padding to prevent chafing and uncomfortable pressure. Be sure to try your backpack on and make sure it feels comfortable and well-cushioned.
  • Ventilation – Once again, you want to look at your hiking backpack like a pair of shoes. You’ll want to be comfortable throughout your entire journey, and a well-ventilated backpack will help keep you cool and dry.
  • Attachments – Backpack attachments are useful for hikers who intend on using poles during a trip.

Final Thoughts

A hiking backpack is an investment, and even if you aren’t yet an avid hiker, it’s important to equip yourself with a backpack you can rely on. The two most important features in a hiking backpack are capacity and comfort. You need to make sure you choose a backpack that is going to hold everything you need on your trip, from tents and sleeping mats to water and ski poles.

For short, simple trips, a backpack in the 30 to 50 liter range should do. Overnights, especially in colder climates, demand additional storage space to accommodate larger sleeping bags, tents, and winter clothing. In this case, you’ll want to look at backpacks larger than 50 liters. Finally, for trips that have you facing the outdoors for an extended period of time, you’ll want to stick with 70 liters and up.

When it comes to comfort, don’t be afraid to be picky with your backpack. Go to the store and ask an associate to load it up with some things, then make all the necessary size adjustments. With the loaded pack on your shoulders, take a little walk around, bending and reaching to simulate your body’s natural movements. If everything feels good and there isn’t any rubbing, itching, pressing or pinching, then you’ve probably found yourself a winner.

Buying a hiking backpack can be scary, but remember there are many options out there. Try making a list of your priorities in a backpack. If you love hiking in Southeast Asia during the rainy season, you’ll want a water-resistant pack with a rain cover; if you’re looking to stay at hotels and enjoy short, daytime hikes with no overnights, a lightweight, minimalistic folding pack will be your new best friend. Take your time, explore your options, and most importantly, have fun.

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