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Hiking is a healthy and exciting pastime for anyone who loves a physical challenge or getting out in nature. However, you need the right equipment to ensure a successful day on the trails or up the mountain. A hiking backpack is one of the most essential pieces of gear for any journey — they carry almost everything else you’ll use on your trip.
Whether you’re a casual camper or a committed thru-hiker, learn more about the various types of gear and find the best hiking backpack for your next adventure in the wilderness.
Types of Hiking Backpacks
Before you can decide on the best backpack for your needs, you should familiarize yourself with the various types of hiking packs. Humans have been hiking for centuries. In recent decades, outdoor companies have developed various backpack styles to suit the many different kinds of hiking. For example, you’ll need a different bag for a long-distance thru-hike than you’d use for a day trip on a local trail.
The best hiking backpacks are sorted into three categories, each serving a different purpose. Many hikers have a favorite style or a preference for one over the others:
- Frameless: A frameless backpack is exactly what it sounds like — it does not have a rigid frame inside or out, making it the most flexible and lightweight option. Instead, they typically have a sturdy foam pad back panel. Without a metal frame for extra support and weight distribution, frameless packs can’t support as much weight. They’re most often used for day hikes or other light excursions.
- Internal frame: Internal frame backpacks contain skeleton-like supports, often made of aluminum, carbon fiber or plastic. Built into the pack itself, these structures distribute weight more evenly to allow hikers to carry more for longer. These backpacks provide greater flexibility and range of motion for the wearer, making them an excellent choice for steep and rocky terrain.
- External frame: Backpacks with an external frame are typically bulkier than other options, but they make it easy to carry significant weight over longer distances. External frame backpacks have a rigid aluminum structure with a removable pack attached.
The Best Day-Hiking Backpacks
Now that you know all about the different types of hiking backpacks, you can start looking for the right pack for your adventures. Day hiking is any trail excursion that takes place on a single day, typically covering a shorter distance or a single summit. Check out these frameless hiking backpack recommendations for your next day hike.
1. REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack
REI is one of the most recognizable and beloved names in outdoor gear. Their Flash 22 Pack is a classic frameless backpack for day hikes or lighter excursions. Weighing just 14 ounces with a 22-liter capacity for gear, you can comfortably carry everything you need for a long day on the trails.
2. Osprey Talon 22
Get everything you need on the go with the Osprey Talon 22. This frameless daypack is lightweight and dynamic, allowing hikers, bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts to tackle any adventure with dexterity. You can easily adjust the harness, sternum strap and hip belt to get the right fit. Customize your pack with five color options, two sizes, trekking pole and bike helmet attachments and expandable pockets.
3. Mountain Laurel Designs BURN 38L
The BURN 38L from Mountain Laurel Designs is ultralight and ultra-durable. Whether you’re going on a tough day hike or even a longer distance, you can rely on this pack for the support you need along the way. The integrated compression straps, lash points, heavy-duty stitching and multiple size options ensure you can handle whatever the trail throws at you.
Best Long-Distance Hiking Backpacks
Longer camping trips and thru-hikes typically require backpacks that offer more support, which is where frame backpacks come in. Here’s a selection of internal and external frame backpacks to help you find the best fit for your gear.
4. Gregory Citro 24
Gregory’s internal frame Citro 24 backpack goes the extra mile to promote comfort and customization on the trail. With a ventilated suspension system and moisture-wicking mesh, you’ll stay cool even on the hottest hikes. It’s also compatible with Gregory’s 3D Hydro reservoir, which allows you to keep water close at hand at all times.
5. Osprey Talon 44
A step up from the frameless Talon 22, Osprey’s Talon 44 is an internal frame pack that delivers strength and stability for hikers on longer trips. With numerous pockets, sleeves, compartments and attachments, you can get everything you need out of the Talon 44.
6. Teton Sports Scout 3400
The Teton Sports Scout 3400 is perfect for hikers looking for an affordable multi-day pack. While the Scout 3400 is one of the bulkier internal frame backpacks available, it is built to last with rugged materials that can withstand years of wear and tear. It’s easy to adjust and hydration pack-compatible.
7. Kelty Trekker 65
If you’re in the market for an external frame, check out the Kelty Trekker 65. This classic pack has an aluminum frame that allows you to carry up to 65 liters of gear. The top-loading compartment and multiple pockets ensure you have enough room for everything you need on a long journey.
8. ALPS Mountaineering Zion External Frame Backpack
Looking for a no-nonsense pack for an upcoming trip? Check out the Zion External Frame Backpack from ALPS Mountaineering. This lightweight polyester pack has an aluminum frame and Lycra-covered suspension straps that enables a tight and comfortable fit. Make use of the sleeping bag compartment, zippered pockets and shoulder strap-customization options to get more out of this heavy-duty backpack.
9. Vargo ExoTi 50
Get the best of both internal and external frames with the Vargo ExoTi 50. The compression straps evenly balance weight like an internal frame while the external titanium alloy structure provides additional support for your comfort.
Find the Best Hiking Backpack for Your Journey
Just as everyone has their favorite trail or campground, every hiker has their favorite backpack. Whether you’re a day tripper who prefers frameless packs or you’re looking for a heavy-duty backpack that can carry your supplies on a thru-hike, you’re sure to find the best hiking backpack to suit your needs.
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.