Best Hiking Backpacks for the UK in 2019
Gone are the days of pulling on whatever bag you could find, lumbering cross-country with an aching body and dumping it down in misery every night.
Thanks to the increased demand for minimalist and ergonomically designed backpacks, there are designs out there to suit every activity under the sun, come rain, wind or shine.
With advances in material technology now allowing for ultralight, waterproof, life-proof backpacks, outdoor enthusiasts can choose a bag that is designed to meet their needs without unnecessarily weighing them down. On the opposite end of the spectrum, for individuals looking to carry large amounts of gear, sleeping bags and all the rest, there are 70+ litre bags with plenty of pockets to make sure nothing gets left behind.
For everything from minimalist day hikes to extended treks, this article outlines some of our top picks – offering a range to choose from, with a variety of budgets to match. All offer impressive carrying comfort, quality build and organisation suited to the task at hand.
Before we show you some backpacks, there’s some factors that you’ll need to take into consideration to better understand the best choice for you.
Primary use and capacity
As with most equipment, you need to assess the when, where, for what and how often you’ll be using it. There’s no use buying the biggest bag with all the bells and whistles if you need it primarily for short trips and day hikes.
Equally, going for an ultra-lightweight backpack could backfire when you’re trying to stuff in a sleeping bag and three days worth of food. Put simply, multiple factors will come in to play and should be accounted for. Think about how many nights your trip will be, what you’ll need and what time of year you are adventuring as bulkier gear is generally needed for colder or wetter weather.
Make sure you are matching your pack’s capacity to the type of gear you’ll be bringing – consider camping gear, roll mats, food, bulky or sharp items, etc. Dated gear doesn’t compress well, and roll mats or wet kit bags will likely need to be suspended from the outside of your pack.
At a glance, the below provides a reference to the capacity that will work for your purpose:
- Overnight trips: 30-50 litres
- Weekend (2-3 nights): 45-70 litres
- Extended trips (over 3 days): 60+ litres
- Backpacking/travelling a country: 70+ litres
As a general guide, a 60-litre backpack will hit the sweet spot for lightweight weekend trips. The majority of backpackers take short trips, ranging from one to four days, and opting for a 50 to 70-litre bag as a result. If you generally are able to keep your packed weight low, sticking to the essentials, and either have compressible gear or are splitting your camping things across two bags, then a 50-litre would suit well. 60-litre bags provide enough space to take additional items— perfect for parents or those that just like having a few extra bits of gear. If you’re heading off cross-continent on a major expedition, then your demands will differ slightly with a larger capacity and multiple compartments and accessibility also being key.
So once you’ve got your length of trip sussed, you need to think about the activity itself. What will you be using your backpack for? Your primary activity will dictate what features and functions you’ll want in a pack. For short day hikes on well-established trails, a lightweight minimalist pack may be all you need. If you’re a climber and will need to be scrambling or moving swiftly then you’ll need a light-ish bag that fits close and is well balance. However, if you’re spending long days on the trail, you’ll likely want a pack with plenty of support, good shoulder straps and capacity for carrying heavier gear.
Just in the same way you wouldn’t buy an unnecessarily heavy waterproof jacket, sleeping bag or tent, you should carefully assess the weight of your backpack before you purchase.
Naturally, a heavier backpack is capable of hauling more weight. This is thanks to a bulkier and tougher frame, harder-wearing fabrics and thicker padding across the back and shoulder straps (probably along with various other zips, pockets, etc).
Overall, backpacks have become a lot lighter over the last five years, and are still adept at comfortably handling heavy loads. So it’s worth looking at the newest models of backpacks if your budget will allow for it.
Below is an idea of how pack weight matches up with its relative hauling ability – and sometimes manufacturers will provide their own reference points for this, so check online or the tags:
- 2-3 lb. pack weight = 15-35 pounds of gear
- 3-5 lb. pack weight = 30-50 pounds of gear
- 5+ lb. pack weight = 40-70 pounds of gear
This isn’t a primary concern in itself, as it will be so heavily influenced by your focus on other features and factors discussed here – for example waterproofing, robustness, etc. The only time that material will be a deciding factor is when it comes down to weight.
Although it seems logical to want to reduce weight as much as possible in order to move more easily and quickly, you will be sacrificing some features if you opt for an ultralight pack. As part of the compromise you will like lose the metal stays that give the bag a rigid structure, less padding and simplified organisation.
Naturally the fabric itself also gets thinner (it has a lower denier) to lighten up, which means a higher vulnerability to puncturing or tearing when it comes into contact with abrasive surfaces and you’ll need to be conscious of carrying sharp or pointy objects. If you do opt for a lightweight bag, you should be conscious that its load-bearing abilities are reduced and so the kit that goes inside it should also be lightweight.
Ultralight backpacks have become a mainstay for day hikers thanks to the reduced pressure and stress on the body over short and long distances.
Waterproofing and breath-ability
The majority of items that we take with us on outdoor adventures are vulnerable to moisture. Whether it is a phone, camera, medical supplies or down sleeping bag, you don’t want water getting inside.
The good news is that most reputable brands offer some degree of water resistance in their backpacks with hard-face nylon and are designed to encourage water to run off the back and sides. However, heavy or prolonged rainfall will eventually penetrate the fabric unless there are additional repellent coatings or a waterproof cover.
Bags made with Dyneema (sometimes known as Cuben Fiber) are waterproof, which is one of the major benefits to this ultralight fabric – however this is generally reflected in the price. Some bags may have totally waterproof panels, but on the whole, there are very few on the market that would withstand sustained downpours. Many packs do include a built-in waterproof cover that stores neatly inside the pack somewhere but if not, they can also be bought separately online or in shops.
Fit, padding and support
If the majority of your outdoor adventuring involves hiking over extended distances with a heavy load, then this should definitely be a primary consideration. A good fitting backpack with proper padding through the shoulders and hip belt will be the difference between a comfortable hike and an excursion from hell. The three main areas where the thickness and quality of the padding are important are the back panel, the shoulder straps and the hip belt.
A correctly set up backpack will place most of the weight on your hips, rather than hanging from your shoulders. The shoulder straps should only take a small amount of weight and function in keeping the bag tucked in close to your back. Although it’s down to personal preference, we’d recommend foam that offers firm support rather than being soft and compressible. Even though it might feel nicer when you first try it on, excessively soft padding doesn’t offer the same long-term support that you’ll need when hauling heavier loads – and trust us, if you’re opting for a 60 or 70-litre bag, you’ll notice the difference.
Lightweight backpacks generally offer very little in the way of foam padding in either the straps or hip belt, so the only way to ensure comfort is to keep your loaded weight to an absolute minimum – we would recommend trying to keep it to 12 kilograms or under.
Interior and exterior organisation
At this point you should consider whether you want a top-loader or a backpack that unzips the whole way down the front, allowing you to open it up like a suitcase. This is much simpler in terms of accessing what’s inside, and being able to see what’s where without rifling through it all but these bags are generally built more for trips and travel, rather than covering long distances with comfort and fit in mind.
Most backpacks have an opening at the top that is secured using a cinch cord or roll-top and then has a lid and these are referred to as a top-loaders. If you’re prepared to carry a little extra weight, access to the bottom or middle of the bag via an additional zipper can be hugely helpful as it saves you dragging everything out or rifling through and ruining what was once your carefully organised and thought through contents. Some bags will have pockets in the lid or just inside the opening, which can be handy for storing small things that you may need to grab regularly or in a hurry.
Exterior pockets are also a real bonus for quick and easy access to things like a head torch or rain jacket. Larger bags will generally have hip belt pockets, perfect for lip balm, snacks and gels or a map.
Exterior attachment points or loops are perfect for storing trekking poles and compression straps can double up as a handy place for storing taller items like tent poles. These straps are to pull the weight of the bag closer to your back and aid in load stability.
How to find your fit – in a nutshell.
The one and only characteristic that determines whether a backpack will be a good fit is its size.
To find out which size is best for you, you need to measure your torso length—not your height. There are extensive videos online around how to do this but you will need a friend. a flexible tape measure and to figure out where your 7th cervical (or C7) vertebra is. No, really!
Torso ranges for pack sizes vary between brands and models, so always check the size chart for any pack you are considering. Once you’ve got this measurement you can start shopping, but then you’ll need to make some final adjustments to the fit using the steps below.
- Put some weight in your backpack
- Loosen all belts and straps right off
- Put your backpack on and fasten the hip belt
- Tighten the shoulder straps
- Tighten the load lifters (the straps connecting the top of the shoulder harness to an anchor point near the top of the back panel)
- Fasten the sternum (chest) strap
Once you’ve chosen your bag, tried it on and checked the fit, try loading it up and wearing it around the house or nearby park for a few hours and see how it feels. Then make all the final adjustments you need before setting off on that ultra hike – you’ll thank us/yourself later!
So now you know what features to account for in your search for the perfect backpack, let’s look at some of the top picks on the market right now.
In our list below you’ll find a range of options from budget buys to wallet-bruising investments, suited to different adventures and individuals.
Hiking Backpacks Reviewed
Osprey Men’s Atmos Ag 65 Backpack
Best for: Comfortable, full-featured multi-day backpack
The Atmos has good adjustability with four compression straps to stabilise the load and a top-loading main compartment with padded 3D-suspension contouring to aid ventilation and upper body mobility. Even though it’s not the newest bag in the range, Osprey’s Anti-Gravity suspension system helps the bag to really feel like its floating on your back. This means no hot spots, and no upper back or lumbar pain after many miles of hiking. In hot or humid climates, the design provides excellent ventilation and the integrated FlapJacket protects your contents from foul weather and rain during lidless use.
A removable floating top lid contains two zippered pockets and the exterior also features one front stretch mesh pocket, two ice tool loops and Stow-on-the-Go trekking pole attachment. Other features include removable sleeping pad straps, the sternum strap has an integrated safety whistle and a hydration sleeve accommodates reservoirs of up to three litres.
The only downside is that the hip belt pockets are tricky to open and close with one hand and the fact that it’s packed full of features does make it a little heavier than some other bags in the range.
Teton Sports Scout 3400
Best for: Value for money
The Teton Sport Scout is not only one of the most affordable backpacks on the market but also offers numerous features seen only in higher-priced bags. It is high quality enough that it would last multiple trips or hiking seasons and is a trust and durable pack with sturdy zippers, mesh lumbar support and sufficiently padded straps.
The bag is the perfect beginner or quick trip pack for those who might only be testing the waters or have a one-off trip (although Teton do offer a limited lifetime warranty). At 55 litres it is perfect for long weekend adventures and it even includes a rain cover which stays hidden until you need it. There are also gear loops to hang ski poles or ice axes.
Coming in significantly below the big brands in terms of price, you’d expect that there will be some sacrifices in terms of comfort. The adjustability options aren’t quite as extensive but the multi-position torso adjustment fits a range of body sizes and the open-cell foam lumbar pad and molded channels increase comfort and airflow. The thick padded shoulder straps have upper load adjustment straps to comfortably carry heavy loads for longer.
The multiple compartments and pockets are useful for strategic packing and there is a large sleeping bag compartment. The pack also has gear loops to hang poles and a safety yellow rainfly that can be pulled out and over the bag in case of rain.
The North Face Cobra
Best for: Outstanding performance in winter and mountain environments
The North Face continues to churn out quality backpacks in a variety of styles and sizes. The Cobra has been revised to be lighter and more durable than its predecessor. The North Face Cobra is a great snow-sport backpack that can be altered or configured in numerous ways for winter backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, and back-country skiing.
For the 60 litre pack, it is best suited to multi-night/extended trips but is versatile enough that you could scale it back and use it for winter day hiking, particularly in harsh environments where you may need additional survival gear, food/water and even a sleeping bag. Despite it looking relatively strap-heavy, the Cobra is surprisingly simple to use.
Mountain-focused features include a mesh removable helmet holder, ski carry system and sled-drag clips, reinforced crampon pockets to separate crampon spikes from the rest of your gear, and wand pockets, rope carry, lash points and tool keepers with covered tips.
Other pluses are the hip belt with tool loop and pocket to keep essentials handy, a hydration sleeve and reflective segments to support visibility at night.
Patagonia Unisex Nine Trails Pack 28 Backpack
Best for: Straightforward daypack with a sleek design
The Patagonia Unisex Nine Trails Pack is smaller than the previous options, is sleek in design and offers straightforward features. The pack is big enough to hold your key gear for an overnight trip into the countryside or the mountains but still small enough to wear around town without being obnoxious.
The Nine Trails Pack has plenty of storage space for extended day hikes with a wrap-around zipper allowing for easy access and a durable front mesh pocket to store additional kit. The hip belt offers two small pockets, is plenty comfortable and seems to transfer weight well, keeping the load comfortably centred and close to your back so your gear moves with you. The pack on the whole is a comfortable wear, with a breathable mono-mesh back panel to prevent moisture buildup and aid airflow, and perforated foam shoulder harness.
The dual compression straps on each side allow you to manage various load sizes, so you can scale up or down for a day or overnight hike and the separate stash pocket holds smaller items like a map or sun cream. The limited organisational capabilities were a downside, but can be tackled with stuff sacks or mesh packing cubes. There is room for a hydration reservoir but this is sold separately.
Although the pack doesn’t come with a cover, both the ripstop nylon and 200-denier polyester lining are treated with a polyurethane coating and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack
Best for: Integrated day pack that holds up well under heavy loads
Although perhaps lesser known than some of the aforementioned pack brands, Gregory has earned a reputation for comfort over the years, and this bag is no different. If your focus is to keep things light and simple, this one is not for you. However, if you’re looking to carry a significant load and would appreciate extras like a zippered access to the main compartment, integrated rainfly and lots of organisational options, then the Baltoro is a strong choice.
Weighing in as one of the heavier backpacks on our lineup, these bags are intended to haul heavy loads. Built with strong suspensions, firm but supportive padding and a feature-rich design, the Baltoro is an integrated day pack. The response A3 suspension provides adaptive support and ventilated comfort for long days, heavy loads and technical terrain.
The Baltoro is the latest model in a line of packs, and has been updated by by slimming down slightly from the previous version, improving ventilation with mesh along the backpanel, and adding a large stretch shove-it pocket at the front. The rain cover is located on the underside of the lid compartment and there is also a removable ultra-light SideKick daypack a sunglasses holder and a sidewinder bottle cage. These bonus features do add to its weight, so we’d say it could be an overkill for minimalists but they certainly bring something extra to the table.
Mountaintop 80L Hiking Backpack
Best for: Carrying absolutely everything you need
Sometimes a daypack simply won’t cut it, and you need a giant backpack. For extended excursions, the Mountaintop 80 litre is a perfect choice to ensure that you don’t need to leave anything behind. In fact, this bag is big enough that you can hang a tent and sleeping bags from its exterior straps. And the best part is is that it recently halved in price.
The bag is constructed with water-resistant fabric but also comes with a waterproof cover stored in the bottom pocket of the pack.
There are eight compression straps, which are quite frankly necessary when trying to secure and balance the load of such a large bag. They also come in useful for tying up your pack or suspending a sleeping bag, tent or hammock. Organisation could potentially be a problem in a bag this large but luckily the zippered front access to the main compartment negates this issue, and various mesh pockets also come in handy for storing regularly accessed bits and pieces.
The Mountaintop 80 litre is also hydration system compatible, with access on the side of the backpack with water bladder sleeve in the main compartment.
Some bags have male and female versions but this Mountaintop pack is unisex with torso-length adjustment. There are eight stage height adjusters at the back, held in place with a thick hardened area with Velcro and dense padded shoulder straps and hip-belt promoting air circulation along the back and shoulders. Despite its careful design, padded straps and all the rest, it should be noted that if you load this backpack up to the brim, it won’t be long until you start to feel the strain. An 80-litre bag will always be a bit of a strain, so make sure you choose your footwear, clothing and terrain/route wisely too.
Best for: A big bag that won’t weigh you down
For those looking to benefit from weight savings out on the trails, the newly released and incredibly lightweight Osprey Levity is a great choice. Carrying forward the best features from Osprey’s popular Exos and Eja packs, the Levity is constructed with ultralight materials to keep weight to a minimum. Carrying on the trend and Osprey’s commitment to comfort, the stretch mesh back panel and secure frame on the Levity is exceptionally comfortable and seems to carry weight well.
The bag is incredibly light for a 60-litre model but seems to have compromised very little to make this weight. The pack still offers a real metal frame with a solid structure and excellent ventilation around the suspended mesh backpanel. The 200-denier nylon that covers large portions of the pack is plenty durable enough and although it seemed a little stiff on day one, the bag loosened up slightly so that by the second day the mesh functions as a shock absorber.
The external fabric on the Levity and Lumina feel relatively durable, but the interior fabric is fairly thin, so should certainly be treated with care and sharp objects should be wrapped up.
The lack of pockets in the hip belt and thin sidewall material are an obvious trade off for having a lighter bag, but the unexplained tight side pockets made removing water bottles more difficult than necessary. Based on testing, wearers couldn’t expect to carry more than 30 pounds comfortably.
Thanks to a huge variety of options on the market, a decent backpack won’t break the bank and so you can get a well made bag from a reputable brand.
Don’t buy the flashest pack on the market if you don’t need it. If you look after your backpack, if you want it you will last you many seasons and thousands of miles, it’s a good idea to invest in a decent one!
Before you go, why not check out the Amazon best sellers for hiking backpacks.
Hiking Backpacks – Amazon BEST Sellers
- MULTIPURPOSE - Ultra-light. Ultra-durable. Ultra-awesome. The backpack is perfect for day-to-day use or day trips, vacation, travel, day hikes, school, camping and shopping, and great gift for everyone
- CAPACITY - 20L storage space,Three zippered compartments,Main pocket,Inner zippered pocket,smaller pocket in front, two pockets in both side,it is Large enough to carry what you need in the trip
- QUALITY - Made with High Quality Water and Tear Resistant Nylon Material. Duarable Abrasion Resistant SBS Metal Zipper Avaliable. Reinforced more than 31 places with Bartack Process
- CONVENIENT - It fits into an ultra-compact pouch. Easy to folds up into small pocket (Sandwich size). So you can easily pack it in your suitcase for use at their destination as an extra bag for the trip
- AIRPORT HERO - Avoid overweight charges, simply unfold from your luggage and use it as a carry on for your excess baggage
- Ultra Large Capacity: 36-55L capacity with dimensions of 53*30*16cm. Large main compartment with outer functional pockets has enough for your needed things. Such as cell phone, card holder, umbrella, iPad and clothes, one pair of shoes, books etc.
- DURABLE: High quality zipper, made from lightweight materials with durability, with strong hanging system to carry more items, provides extra strength and long-lasting performance with the lightest weight possible.
- Breathable lightweight backpack: Ventilated mesh padded back and shoulder straps and allows air to pass between your back and the pack, comfortable to use in long distance hiking, 2 adjustable straps and 4 compression straps for hanging trekking pole, tripod, tent, sleeping bag, other gears and reinforcement.
- Classic Shoulder Strap Design: Ergonomic padded shoulder straps and back support for best ventilation and easing burden. So backpack back up more light.
- Ruckpack is good for most sports like Climbing, Camping, Hiking Travelling etc. More Suitable Places: Want to feel the charm of nature or walk away the choice of travel our backpack brings an unforgettable holiday travel to outdoor backpackers.
- Capacity: 36L; Dimensions: approx. 51x29x28cm (20.1"x11.4"x11.1")
- Built-in Velcro pocket for a hydro pack
- 2 separate main compartments; 2 front pockets
- Various MOLLE attachment points; Loops and D-rings on shoulder straps
- Material: 600D polyester, PVC coated; Weight: 1400g
- H2O RESERVOIR COMPATIBLE - Stay refreshed all day long with the neat interior pocket that's designed for a hydration pack.
- COMPLETE CONVENIENCE - Thoughtful internal pockets and external carabiner mean you have everything you need organised, and at your fingertips.
- EXTRA COMFORT - Stay cool and dry with the vented foam and air mesh back system.
- Padded laptop sleeve in the main compartment protects your device from bumps and falls
- Large main compartment for books and binders
- Front compartment with internal organisation has an extra padded tablet sleeve, a pen slots and additional secure-zip pockets
- Reflective bike-light loop, water bottle tabs and shoulder-strap webbing create 360 degrees of reflectivity to make you more visible in low light
- Two external mesh water bottle pockets