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(The Gear Loop) - When you’re walking for miles across the wilderness, you need to make sure you’re carrying the right kit for your journey, and that means you need a backpack that can hold it all. 

Pick up one that isn’t fit for the job and you’ll either need to ditch essential items you can’t carry or spend a large part of your trip rummaging around to find stuff.

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Modern hiking backpacks are designed to make your cross-country activities as enjoyable as possible. From waterproof outer shells to easy-to-access storage features, finding the right pack for the type of hiking you’re doing can make the world of difference to your adventures.

Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes, from those designed to carry the essentials during a day hike to high-capacity options built to store everything you need to survive in the wilderness for days on end. Many also have additional features like hydration bladders, waterproof covers and back ventilation to help minimise sweat.

The Gear LoopBest Hiking Backpacks: lifestyle photo 2

Here we run through our top picks for all types of hikes, from hot mountain paths to multi-day treks across the wet English countryside.

The best hiking backpacks

OspreyBest Hiking Backpacks: product photo 4

Osprey Archeon 45

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For

  • Lean design despite high storage
  • Plenty of storage options
  • 100 per cent recycled

Against

  • Expensive
  • Too large for fast day hikes

The Osprey Archeon 45 is a do-it-all multi-day backpack that balances a comfortable, lightweight design with an impressive 45 litres of storage. That means it’s a great option if you’re tackling tough terrain and elevation,. but still need to pack a lot of kit for overnight camps.

Made from 100 per cent recycled fabrics, it’s a piece of kit that shows that sustainable design doesn’t need to skimp on performance, combining a hard-wearing build with a host of features to make any hike as enjoyable as possible.

An adjustable AirScape back panel ensures a high level of comfort with foam ridges that provide cushioning where you need it, while zippered hip belt pockets allow you to easily access essential items without needing to stop and rummage around.

There are also plenty more storage options to allow smart management of your kit including two side mesh pockets, twin ice axe loops, dual zips on the fixed lid, and a large zip opening for the main compartment. In addition, there’s a built-in detachable rain cover and compatibility for a Hydraulics reservoir.

Arc'TeryxBest Hiking Backpacks: product photo 1

Arc’Teryx Bora 65 Backpack

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For

  • High storage capacity
  • Weatherproof design
  • RotoGlide hip belt offers impressive comfort

Against

  • Expensive
  • Limited to multi-day hikes

For long distance hikes when you need to pack all of your kit, there’s no better option than the Bora 65 Backpack. Finding a pack with high capacity storage isn’t hard, but if it feels like you’re lugging around a 20kg bag of potatoes with arm straps, you’re likely to have a dismal trip to the outdoors.

The Bora 65 Backpack is designed to make the experience as comfortable as possible and has a number of features that help to both distribute the weight effectively and make it easier to access the things that you need on the go.

Our favourite feature is the RotoGlide hip-belt: a thick, padded band that moves independently of the rest of the pack. By modifying its positioning, it provides support as you move, reducing chafing and balancing the weight of the pack to allow you to move freely. This works alongside the adjustable GridLock harness, a thermoformed Tegris frame sheet and aluminium stays to ensure you can customise the fit perfectly.

It also has an impressive level of storage options, including a side-zippered main compartment, a zippered side pocket for easy access, a kangaroo pocket, and integration with a hydration bladder. You’ll also find two trekking pole attachments, weather vault storage and stretch mesh pocket on the hip-belt.

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Berghaus Arrow 30 Rucksack

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For

  • Well distributed storage spaces
  • In-built rain cover
  • A versatile option that can cover different hikes

Against

  • No easy access mesh pockets
  • Limited padding on straps

This pack from Bergaus is a great option if you’re looking for a lighter storage solution that can cover you for everything from day hikes to more prudent multi-day activities. Despite its 30-litre capacity, the shape and range of storage options dotted across the pack mean that you can carry a surprising amount of kit without it becoming annoying if you’re travelling light.

Our favourite feature is the addition of a Flow back system, which uses vented foam for a comfortable but secure feel on any hike – something that makes it a solid choice if your trip includes a more demanding level of movement, like scrambling or light climbing.

A pocket in the lid, as well as two large side pockets, make it easy to arrange your kit for ease-of-access, while a packable rain cover can be quickly taken out if you find yourself stuck in a downpour. You’ll also find some handy walking pole attachments on the back for when you need some additional support over long-distance walks.

The tough polyester fabric means that it’s a piece of kit that you’ll have in your armoury for a while and can stand up to plenty of scrapes over your trips.

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Mammut Lithium 25

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For

  • Lightweight, secure feel
  • Plenty of storage
  • Impressive rain protection

Against

  • Limited to day hikes
  • Expensive

When your focus is comfort during demanding day hikes, the Mammut Lithium 25 has everything you need. The lightweight design packs an impressive amount of kit and fits snuggly against the body to avoid sway or uncomfortable weight distribution.

The long design means that storage is spread across the length of the back while the breathable shoulder padding and hip belt hold it tightly without getting sweaty. A water-repellent treatment fabric also works alongside a detachable rain cover to keep your stuff dry when the weather changes.

There’s plenty of storage hidden in the sleek design as well, with a large front stretch pocket, a small valuables pocket, two mesh side pockets and a large zip access point for the main compartment. You’ll also find a trekking pole carrier, a removable phone holder for the hip belt and space for a hydration system if needed.

Due to the slimline design and secure fit, it’s a great option for hikers tackling tricky terrain, meaning you can clamber up rocks and elevated surfaces without it moving around on your back.

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Quechua Mountain Hiking Backpack MH100

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For

  • Good value
  • Plenty of storage options
  • Comfortable hip-belt and strap design

Against

  • No water-resistant features
  • Less durable than pricier options

Enjoying the great outdoors shouldn’t mean you have to empty your savings, and this no frills option from Quechua is more than enough for most recreational hikers.

The 30-litre storage offers enough space for multi-day hikes when you’re only carrying the essentials and there are plenty of pockets to carry smaller items conveniently. That includes one outer pocket, a water compartment, two side mesh pockets, and an easy-access belt pocket.

A ventilated back combines with a waist strap to ensure a high level of comfort and the material is designed to improve airflow and breathability when things start to heat up.

It may not have some of the more advanced features that you’ll find on this list, but for general use hiking on a budget it has everything you need to enjoy the countryside.

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What to look for in a hiking backpack

Size matters

Having more storage at your disposal may seem like a good idea, but if you’re not using the space available when you’re hiking it can result in discomfort. A fully packed rucksack is designed to fit securely on the back without loose fitting sections or unnecessary material flapping around. If you do have unused space in your backpack, it can make it difficult to secure effectively and may affect weight distribution.

Smart storage make your hikes easier

Pockets are an essential if you want to make the most of your hikes and ensures that you can manage the kit that you’re carrying in a way that means you aren’t rummaging around one main compartment.

Look for packs that have additional storage options in easy to use locations. An essentials pocket on the side of the pack - or on the belt - can save a lot of time over a long hike when all you need is a phone or a cashcard. Equally, a handy mesh pocket is the perfect place to store a jacket that can be easily pulled out when the weather turns.

Prepare for the weather

Most backpacks have some form of weather protection these days, from water repellent material across the whole bag to a detachable rain cover built in. The latter is an essential for anyone hiking in the UK and can mean the difference between turning up to camp with a dry change of clothes and a depressing morning pulling on damp kit.

Look for heavy load features

When you’re picking up a high-storage backpack over 35-litres, it can become heavy once you’re fully packed. That may not seem like an issue when you first put it on, but 10 miles into a mountain hike and any discomfort is going to become impossible to ignore. Many products include features designed to distribute weight like a padded belt or metallic load-bearing structures.

Writing by Tom Wheatley. Editing by Leon Poultney.