Buyer’s Guide: The Best Backpacks of 2016

It’s time to start thinking about packing up and hitting the trails. Whether you’re training for a long backpacking trip, getting out every weekend for some off road exploration, or just looking for a good travel pack, we’ve searched out the very best outdoors backpacks for every discipline. Our testing has taken us from the heights of the Rockies to Southwest deserts, and everything in between.  After months of beating on them, we can say that these are our absolute favorite backpacks for every sport.

Related: The Hults Bruk Jonaker is a backpacker’s delight | Road to Adventure: Backpacking Gear


Granite Gear Lutsen 45Granite Gear Lutsen 45 ($200)
Best For: Fast and Light adventures. The Lutsen was designed with thru-hikers in mind. If you’re looking to strip down your gear weight and still hike in comfort for dozens of miles, this is the pack for you.
Buy It If: Your idea of a good time involves a long weekend on your feet, sunsets above the treeline, and seeing more animals than people on the trail.
Best Feature: The Lutsen features an adjustable harness for both your shoulders and hips. This was included for thru-hikers who may lose upwards of twenty pounds on a multiple month excursion, but we find it to be just as useful for a growing teenager, who can have their pack grow with them.

REI Flash 65REI Flash 65 ($199)
Best For:Long gear hauling in hot weather. At sixty-five liters, the Flash can handle a week’s worth of serious adventure with ease. With both top and panel access, you’ll easily be able to get any to essential gear without rummaging through your pack on the trail.
Buy It If: You’re that guy who can’t remember where he stashed his rain gear. The last thing you want is to be caught digging through everything and having to repack on the trail. The front panel J-zip gives you access to the entire main compartment when you need to get at something at the bottom of your pack.
Best Feature: The harness is incredibly well ventilated, ensuring that even when you’re hauling a heavy load you’ll still be able to stay cool this summer.

Boreas HaloBoreas Halo
Best For: Expedition loads. At seventy liters, the Halo was born to haul camping and climbing gear into exotic locations. If you can’t decide on if you should that extra six pack of your favorite beer, or just spring for the twelve pack instead, this pack has room for it. Just don’t come crying to us about the extra twenty pounds you’re carrying.
Buy It If: You would rather spend two weeks in the wilderness than any other vacation option. The Halo can haul all your gear for long trips so you can be completely independent.
Best Feature: We love the reinforced bottom panel. The fastest part of any of our packs to wear out is always the contact point with the ground. The Halo’s bottom and sleeping bag compartment are reinforced 420d nylon, so you can rest easy when you drop it or flop down on sharp rocks.


Thule Stir 20
Thule Stir 20 ($100)
Best For: Short excursions in questionable weather. We’ve been using the Stir as a haul bag for our climbing gear, and it is a mighty little pack. The main body is coated for water resistance, and that also doubles to help it take a beating when we’re out bouldering and climbing.
Buy It If: You know how to travel light. At twenty liters, this pack has room for the essentials while keeping your load light. If you really need more space, there is a thirty five liter ($140) option as well.
Best Feature: Easy Access. The Stir is a top loader only, but expandable side pouches and a snap-close sleeve on the front panel let you store essential items like water bottles and a rain jacket within reach even when the pack is on your back.

Osprey Manta AGOsprey Manta AG 28 ($)
Best For: All day summit bids. This new Manta is our all-around favorite pack this year. Multiple storage options and organization provide easy access to everything you carry, and the harness is easily the best we’ve ever tested.
Buy It If: You want the most comfortable pack on the market. We regularly carry a 3-liter hydration bladder, as well as two 32-ounce bottles on the trail, along with all our survival, harsh weather gear, and a camera with ease. This pack can do it all, and you won’t feel exhausted after that epic fifteen mile trip to the top of the mountain.
Best Feature: The Anti-Gravity Harness. Osprey’s back panel technology transfers weight to your hips (we can carry a 30 pound load with this pack with just the hip belt), and the airy construction means you won’t be drenched in sweat all day.

Salomon X-Alp 30Salomon X-Alp 30 ($)
Best For: High altitude pursuits. The X-Alp line was designed for ski mountaineers and speed climbers, and everything about this pack screams, “Let’s go fast!” A bottom crampon pouch keeps your gear protected from sharp edges, and multiple gear loops let you keep ice axes, trekking poles, and skis close at hand.
Buy It If: You have a love affair with alpine climbing. This pack is built for bagging as much distance and altitude as you possibly can in a day, so pack up you crampons, rope, harness, and disappear into the wilderness.
Best Feature: Back panel access is a novel idea born from ski specific packs. The X-Alp 30 has a vertical zipper on your back, so you can slide it around while wearing the wasit belt to access the main pouch. This is perfect for grabbing a trail meal on the run, or passing your climbing partner an extra piece of gear for that sketchy snowfield crossing up ahead.

Heritage Design

Deuter Groden 32
Deuter Gröden 32 ($129)
Best For: All Day Comfort. The Gröden was first introduced in 1984, and has been a favorite of European and American hikers ever since. It’s been updated with a new harness and burly material, making this version better than ever.
Buy It If: You want a classic looking pack that is also built like a modern gear hauler. Deuter’s design team brought this backpack into the twenty-first century without sacrificing it’s classic styling. Now you can look like you snagged an amazing thrift-store find, without dealing with an uncomfortable pack that is older than you are.
Best Feature: Deuter’s AirComfort System is one of the best on the market, and especially useful when your load gets heavy. The trampoline back panel keeps air flowing no matter if you’re carrying a light picnic lunch or a much heavier load of technical gear.

Fjallraven Raven 20Fjällräven Räven 20 ($80)
Best For: The World Traveler. The all new Räven pack is designed for the serious traveler or commuter who likes to get off the beaten trail.
Buy It If: You have to carry your gadgets with you everywhere. The Raven will carry a 15-inch laptop, and has organization pouches for all your essential electronics so you can stay connected whether you’re navigating a foreign city or heading out for a light day hike. This is our choice for having a mobile office when on spring and summer road trips.
Best Feature:  G-1000 Eco Fabric is incredibly burly, so this pack will definitely outlast anything you’ve been using for that commute from your backwoods cabin in to town. Don’t be surprised is this is the last travel pack you ever buy.

Topo Designs KlettersackTopo Designs X Chaco Klettersack ($189)
Best For: The style conscious adventurer. Topo builds packs that look like they’ve been stolen out of a 1970s climbing photo shoot. What’s more, this collaboration with Chaco Sandals pairs patterned webbing with a 1000d nylon outer body.
Buy It If: You want an indestructible pack that will look good for decades. Topo makes everything in Colorado using the best cordura nylon. Your body will probably fall apart long before this pack does.
Best Feature: The contrasting webbing and pack liner make the Klettersack stand out in all environments. Of every backpack we’ve gotten out for hands on testing, this one consistently turns heads and gets compliments on the trail the most. It doesn’t hurt that is very comfortable to carry when fully loaded too.