Fit, in more ways than one, is a key feature of best hiking & camping backpacks. A backpack has to hold all of your gear, for example, but it also has to fit your body for practical reasons besides comfort. Exterior storage capacity is as important as the interior, and they have to fit inside your modes of transportation to and from campsites at home or abroad by car, train, airplane, kayak or yours truly.
It has to be fit, or suitable, for the terrain and elements where it will be going and the cargo it carries. Key features to consider besides safety and comfort are weight, capacity, construction, and storage solutions. Here are some key features of the best hiking backpacks sport.
Table of Contents
- Top 5 Best Camping Backpacks comparison
- 5 Best Camping Backpack Reviews
- Weighing Decisions For Best Hiking and Camping Backpacks
Top 5 Best Camping Backpacks comparison
5 Best Camping Backpack Reviews
Double your pleasure, double your mountaineering and hiking fun with the leaders of the pack in this five-product review of awesome, quality backpacks. Storage galore, adjustable support, versatility and more make these professional quality backpacks some of the year’s best selections for your hiking, climbing, and mountaineering camping treks.
1. TETON Sports Scout 3400
Versatility, comfort, and convenience with ample storage make this professional quality bag the boss inside and outside. Gear loops provide hanging storage for poles and tools in all seasons. Top carry loop eases hoisting. Get comfort fit for royalty in a unisex design with ample padding and adjustable torso length from 15 to 19.5 inches. This fits heights from approximately five feet to 6 feet six inches. Water resistant polyester comes in Hunter Green.
Left and right water drinking tube clips from padded bladder storage inside the main compartment make staying hydrated twice as easy as single tube access. Sleeping bag stows in the zippered bottom pocket, or attach along with the pad, tent, and tools using six exterior compression straps on the front and side. Two barrel-lock drawstrings secure the main compartment.
2. TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Backpack
Metallic gray and black, 600D Diamond Ripstop fabric with attached, bright yellow rain fly let water bead and fall fast off this large capacity pack. Easily access mesh pouches and waterproof, zippered side and top pockets. Tent poles securely anchor to the sides of the floating pocket design. Ample storage in top loading main compartment and the upper and lower exterior gear loops. Dual shoulder drinking tube access from an internal hydration pack pocket that holds up to three liters and a separate, zippered compartment for the sleeping bag contribute convenience, comfort, and versatility. Organize tent poles, fishing rod or poles and other hanging gear with ease using daisy chair loops.
The TETON Sports Explorer 4000 backpack’s rugged, internal frame design with full-length adjustable shoulder straps and adjustable torso length of 19 to 23 inches accommodates a person five feet one inch to six feet four inches tall or smaller to the larger frame. Dense and deep upper back pads, padded waist belt and lumbar with back contour-friendly dual aluminum stays enhance comfort and good air circulation to keep you drier and cooler as you trek the trails. This powerful combination of lumbar support with a fully adjustable strap system evenly distributes the weight of the pack across the body to the hips and legs. Dual barrel-lock cinch cords keep everything secure.
3. Belvie 601 Hiking Backpack
Lightweight, frame-less, fixed strap design accommodates more weight from gear and is best for car camping, short hikes to the campsite or a few days’ travel. This pack is sized for a small to medium height person and for carrying 30-50 pounds of gear. Attractive black, water-resistant nylon lets water bead and drops quickly.
The affordable Belvie 601 Hiking Backpack has a front zippered pocket for a sleeping bag. It is packed with convenient features like zippered front and side pockets, dual side compression straps, and drawstring top closure. Exterior loops are sewn down the center back, and there are two hooks on the right shoulder strap for hanging your hydration pack and other gear.
4. Mountaintop 50L Hiking Backpack for 2016
Dense, deep padded back panel, shoulder straps, and hip belt plus breathable mesh keep your back and shoulders drier and cooler for camping, hiking, and rugged climbing. The internal bearing system supports the pack and distributes weight across the body appropriately. Internal bladder sleeve with a tube access keeps hydration easily accessible. Plenty of attachment hooks and loops for sleeping bags, tent or trekking poles and tools. Storage pockets keep contents organized. Water-resistant, coated nylon pack comes with a high visibility rain cover that lets rain roll off.
Six compression straps keep your sleeping bag, tent or hammock securely tied. Adjustable, plastic-reinforced hip belt and adjustable emergency whistle buckle on the sternum strap put comfort and convenience within easy reach. Lightweight 2.9-pound, or 1.3 kilogram, pack allows more capacity for added gear weight. Storage features two top lid pockets, two hip-belt pockets, two mesh side pockets, one front zippered pocket, and D-hooks on shoulder straps to link small items. Six compression straps keep your sleeping bag, tent or hammock securely tied.
5. Mountaintop 65L Mountaineering Backpack 2016 Model
Thickly padded hip belt and shoulder straps with emergency whistle buckle allow quality air circulation along shoulders and back. Internal zippered divider keeps contents separated in the main compartment, and the extension collar on top with drawstring makes it expandable up to five more liters. Two internal key hooks for hydration pack sleeve inside the main compartment with drinking tube access on one side. Water-resistant nylon and a high-visibility rain cover included let moisture roll off.
Like its 50L relative, a zippered bottom compartment stows sleeping bag, or hang it on the outside along with other trekking gear and tools secured with compression straps and bottom loops. D-hooks on shoulder straps store small items like sunscreen and lip balm. Located in the back, an eight-stage adjuster accommodates a wide range of torso lengths with convenient Velcro fastener in a thick, hardened area.
Weighing Decisions For Best Hiking and Camping Backpacks
What is the total weight of everything you plan on packing? A t-shirt, toothpaste, and a few energy bars may not seem to weigh much, but what about the sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, and water? Ideally, your sleeping bag weighs less than three pounds, but they can weigh upwards of a whopping nine pounds. Tents with poles, ropes and stakes weigh anywhere from 12 pounds up. Cameras may not be camping necessities, but they are commonly taken along. You have to carry water, coffee, tea etc. You can control the added weight of your gear and supplies, but what about the backpack itself? Their frames, fabrics, straps, and hardware affect their weight and its distribution while worn in motion or still.
Frame Fame – External or Internal?
Both external and internal frames work with systems of straps to support the pack and distribute its weight across the body, especially to the hips and legs. They help keep the backpack from falling apart under pressure and sometimes offer additional storage. Without proper support, backpacks place excessive strain on the neck, shoulders and lower back. They can make you sweat more or rub against the body and cause pain. Poorly framed packs are harder to put on and take off.
External frame backpacks
Exterior frame designs vary widely by region and purpose but have space for strapping on equipment too big, bulky or heavy to fit inside the backpack. Constructed mainly from lightweight materials like aluminum, plastic and synthetic polymers, it uses a system of straps and taut netting to prevent coming into contact with the body. The increased air circulation at the lower back makes it cooler to carry than a pack with an internal frame. External frames have a removable pocket and more exposed portions than internal frame packs, making it convenient to custom configure the load. This is quite handy if your camping trip includes game hunting and you need to haul your catch out.
Internal frame backpacks
Internal frame backpacks are the best choices for camping trips that include other activities like skiing or rock climbing. Their closer fit to the body reduces airflow, making for a rather sweaty trek, but it minimizes shifting of the entire load better than an external frame does when there is a lot of upper body movement. Internal frame construction has room for a larger storage compartment too. Depending on the model, they can be less comfortable with a smaller capacity load. A big section of fabric is attached to either a plastic, aluminum or titanium frame, and a complex system of straps help keep it in place and distribute the weight. Hydration packs are not a specialty backpack but are containers with a tube, usually a bladder or sturdy bottle, that hold your water and let you drink from them without having to take off the whole pack.
Getting Strap Happy
Backpack straps mainly serve to keep contents in place inside and outside the bag and to keep the backpack appropriately in place while you wear it. They can be fixed or adjustable, but the range they can be adjusted varies. The types of straps on the exterior of a backpack include a hip belt, sternum strap, and shoulder harness.
The hips should support the majority of a backpack’s weight or at least 80 percent of its weight. Hip belts move the strain of the load closer to your center of gravity at the hips instead of placing all of the weight on the shoulders. The best fitting hip belts reach full circle under the lumbar pad compared to side straps that only come out of the base of the backpack. This effectively makes the load more bearable the heavier it gets. Interchangeable hip belts available on some backpacks are a nice feature that lets you swap sizes when needed. Soft, broad padding helps avoid painful pressure points, and high-friction fabrics will help keep the hip belt from sliding down under heavier loads.
Sternum straps, or chest straps, boost your stability and make it easier to keep your backpack from pulling on the shoulders. These straps fit across the mid-chest and connect using a clip lock. Tightening the connected straps eases the load on the shoulders in general and especially during motion that causes the backpack to shift abruptly.
Similar to chest straps, a shoulder harness distributes the weight of heavier loads better and helps keep the backpack from pulling the shoulders back. Thin, narrow straps are fine for light loads but choose wide, well padded and curved chest straps to prevent them from cutting into your shoulders. Snug fitting load lifter straps stitched directly into shoulder straps will help keep the upper portion of the backpack close to your body so it does not sag in your lumbar region.
Wearing Your Backpack
Once you have selected the best camping backpacks for your trip, how do you strap them on properly? Use your thighs and hips to help support the weight. Grasp the haul loop in the back and a shoulder strap, then slide the pack up your leg. Bend your knee so the pack rests on the thigh, and slide an arm through the shoulder strap. Wrap around and underneath the pack to support it as it is hoisted onto the back. Stabilize it with the free hand, and slide the other arm through the shoulder strap. Reverse the steps to safely take it off. The idea is to keep the backpack close to the body for support while sliding it to the ground. What now?
Like seat belts, camping backpack straps have to be adjusted each time you put on the pack. Check and adjust the straps every single time you put on your backpack, even multiple times during the same day, for the most comfortable and safest fit. Once it is on your back with arms securely tucked in the shoulder straps, begin by loosening all the straps. Start adjusting first the hip belt, followed by the shoulder straps, load lifters, and sternum strap. Tighten straps until the backpack fits snug enough to stay put while you are in motion without rubbing too much on your body.
Earlier I mentioned comfort. How important is it, and what does it have to do with safety? We have covered how the way a backpack distributes its weight needs to be considered carefully. Here is where we come back to the most important fit of all, body type. Off the rack, backpacks are fine if you have an average body type, but some stores offer expert fitting services to ensure a proper fit for your particular body type. Getting the right fit will give you the best support and comfort for your height, shape, proportion, and gender.
Tall and large body types need longer straps and belts than short or slim body types. Some models come in multiple sizes. There are adjustable suspension systems which add a little weight, but they can be modified to fit the torso, which is a good feature if you are between sizes or to accommodate a child’s growth. Men’s packs are longer and wider than women-specific backpacks, which have shoulder straps and hip belts contoured for a woman’s particular form.
Backpack padding keeps the backpack from digging into your body, but it adds weight and absorbs moisture. The padding needs to hold up under the weight of the load. Low padding compressibility keeps the straps from digging into your body. Open cell foam has interconnected open-air chambers, which make it quite comfortable but highly compressible. Closed-cell foam materials have open-air chambers completely surrounded by foam but not interconnected. Some closed cell materials are made of less permeable materials like rubber and a higher compressibility factor. Dual-density foam has the advantages of supporting the load while being very comfortable. Compression molded foams are a closed cell foam used mainly in the belts, back pads, and shoulder straps. They are the lightest of closed cell foams and have softer edges.
Backpacks have comfort zones too. They can carry only so much weight and volume before splitting apart and endure limited exposure to harsh sun and excessive moisture before disintegrating at the worst possible time. Comfort is as much about making it easy to carry a backpack as it is about protecting the body from injury, preserving the joys of going camping and getting the most out of your backpack. Adequate fit for the body and gear make it easier to bear the load you carry.
Keeping a Backpack in Stitches
Choose the fabric that is lightweight, water-resistant and durable. Cotton canvas and different nylons are typically used for backpacks. Though less expensive than other backpack fabrics, cotton canvas is not used as much as nylon because it is heavy and not waterproof. It easily soaks up moisture while sitting on the ground. Canvas is durable with a rough, tight weave perfect for making your way through dense forests and brush–if no rain is likely, and it is possible to get one with a urethane coating that makes it water resistant though not waterproof.
There are three nylons used in making backpacks. Though not as puncture proof as some fabrics, Cordura nylon is a popular choice for its light weight and resistance to abrasion. It has a rough texture inside and out with a fuzzy texture on the exterior. Like canvas, it is not waterproof but can be coated to improve its water resistance. The even weave of shiny “Pack Cloth” fabric resists punctures well and accepts waterproofing, but is somewhat heavy. Modern rip-stop nylon is woven of heavy threads in regularly spaced intervals in both directions that help it stop rips from worsening.
The lightweight fabric accepts waterproofing well, and though not as abrasion resistant as pack cloth nylon, it is rather durable under pressure. Rain covers are not part of the backpack body but they are crucial accessories to pack. Besides packing a rain cover that protects the entire pack from downpours, water-resistant nylon lets water or snow quickly slide off before penetrating. Lightweight, watertight covers also are available for water travel by kayak(boatgearable.com), or canoe and in snowy weather.
Nylons are stronger than polyester, but Kevlar interwoven into polyester can improve the fabric’s tenacity, or its tendency to unravel once torn. The added strength of Kevlar helps strengthen nylon’s ability to hold up under the pressure of heavy loads. Polyester is more resistant to degradation from ultraviolet rays than nylons and canvas. Check for a tenacity resistance of 6.0 or higher for the strongest nylon backpacks. Though a backpack’s deniers, or units of measurement used for its thread count and weave patterns, are stronger than the ones used in making tents and sleeping bags, stitching matters. Too few stitches, or less than six, compromises the strength, and too many per inch can damage the fabric itself. Eight to ten stitches per inch are the optimum range.
Where does everything go? What can I reach without having to offload the backpack? An obvious question is where will the sleeping bag and tent go? Then there are tools, food, equipment, clothing, sundries and more. How easily can you reach the water and lip balm while walking? Avoid surges of the weight of loosely packed contents shifting around. Where you pack items is important in maintaining a safe yet comfortable weight distribution and load on your hips and legs. It affects how the pack will move or stay put in motion.
Sleeping bags can be strapped to the outside of the backpack frame, but awesome camping backpacks have a separate sleeping bag compartment attached to the bottom of the pack. This is a good place for storing other items besides sleeping bags, like an inflatable kayak. I would place mine in a waterproof cover first if possible. The tent can go in either the bottom of the main body, where it will add to the foundation of the pack, or it can be strapped to its exterior. Compression straps you buy at the stores can make the tent and sleeping bag much smaller to fit in tight spaces.
Tool loops on the outside of the pack are important storage features for items like trekking poles or skis. A length of daisy chain stitched onto the pack has lots of gear loops for attaching tools or headgear. Gear loops located on the hip belt or lower part of the pack are great for clip-on. Exterior pockets near the lower back portion of the pack body are great for storing items you use frequently, like lip balm, an MP3 player, map and hydration pack without having to remove the entire backpack. A zippered flap on the front or side of the pack makes it easier to access the deeper part of the main compartment.
Will one person carry everything? If a family or group going on an extended excursion plan wisely, they can decide who will carry what and take more along instead of every person carrying every item they will need. Of course, taking along more than is needed defeats the purpose of escaping the rat race, but groups have different needs.
Even rugged military backpacks used for extended trekking in harsh conditions are designed with utmost safety in mind to prevent or at least minimize personal injury and fatigue. Safety and well-being are important in any circumstance. What about the pleasures of camping? Lack of storage means something gets left behind. Get a style that puts essentials within easy access without having to offload the pack. Without reasonable comfort, a hiking backpack will become a heavy burden on the mind as well as the body.
Having to carry the wrong camping backpack can wear you out as much as the altitude does, so if you plan on trekking where mountains can be as high as your aspirations, lightening the load and a snug fit are essential. This is where having a custom-fitted frame and pack would be a wise move. Remember to choose the most lightweight frame, durable fabric, and well-fitting pack for your body for the best camping backpacks to take on your next trip–and the one after that.