There’s nothing like the freedom that comes with backpacking. With just a pack on your back you can hike for days, weeks, or even months in the wilderness. But carrying 30 or 40 pounds on your back doesn’t sound like a great escape. With these backpacking packs from some of the best outdoor brands, you’ll be able to forget about back pain and actually enjoy the mountains and waterfalls you came to see.
It’s rare when a company completely reimagines something simple like a backpack, but Wandrd tries to do just that when they get hold of an idea. They take a thoughtful approach to everything on their new Fernweh backpack, a wildly successful Kickstarter project set to ship in November.
“Fernweh” is German for wanderlust or more literally ‘farsickness.’ Its 48 liters of space is just enough for backpacking but makes for a great day pack when you have camera gear. The sleeping bag strap tucked in the bottom pocket can hold something rolled on the outside if you need more space. The included waterproof cover is also stored in the bottom pocket
The founders of Wandrd were sick of diving to the black hole at the bottom of their pack to find anything, so the Fernweh has four easy access points. A big pocket covers the large top entrance into the removable top ‘bucket’ which keeps gear separated from the main compartment. Lay the pack on its straps and the entire front zips open. A small opening on the left side gives quick access to the bottom or to the optional camera cube while it’s still on your shoulder.
Put the pack down on its water-resistant front and you get access to the large clamshell opening under the shoulder straps. Three different sizes of optional camera cubes fit in this slot for holding camera bodies, lenses, and drones. Even if you don’t fill it with camera gear, the sticky Velcro dividers in the camera cubes are an exceptional way to organize backpacking gear.
Six Moon Designs Swift X
From full-featured and full weight, we move to the Swift X by Six Moon Designs which weighs less than half of most backpacks. At only 36 ounces with the backpack straps, you’ll hardly feel this pack. The LiteSkin material is lightweight but durable and nearly waterproof. The optional wider vest straps replace the backpack straps, add 2 more pockets and spread the weight over more of your upper body.
The 36-liter main pocket in the Swift X holds most of your gear. Two 1-liter pockets on the sides fit water bottles and one 3-liter stretch pocket lets wet jackets or tents dry. The collar expands another 4 liters just enough to fit extra ultralight marshmallows for smores. Compression straps on the sides and a long Y-shaped strap on the top let you attach other gear like bear canisters if you need to.
Arc’teryx Bora 63
When Arc’teryx makes a pack, it’s not a regular pack. They take all their technology, materials, and experience from creating and testing gear in the Pacific Northwest and create the best piece of gear they can.
The Bora 63 uses the rotating RotoGlide suspension for the hip belt. It’s connected to the back with a rotating disc. Your hips rotate side to side when you walk and step over rocks and logs. The RotoGlide hip belt rotates with you, without limiting movement, all the while supporting the weight of the pack. The RotoGlide is the closest thing on the market to feeling like the pack is floating behind you.
Don’t worry about terrible weather or snow with the Bora. The material on the pack is weatherproof thanks to their AC² fabric. A lockable grid mounts the shoulder straps and can be adjusted up or down. Pockets on the top, side, back, and hip belts round out the storage. There are 63- and 50-liter options are available.
Osprey Exos 58
Osprey is no stranger to backpacks. Founder Mike Pfotenhauer has been custom-making packs since 1974. As a result, Osprey makes many of the most comfortable packs on the market.
The Exos 58 uses the AirSpeed 3-D tensioned mesh on the backpack to keep the pack off your back. This creates airflow to keep you cool and feels more like a hammock than a heavy backpack. A 4mm Lightwire alloy frame holds everything together but adds little weight.
To save those ounces the whole storage lid comes off revealing the tiny FlapJacket lid. The sleeping pad and compression straps are also removable. The whole package weighs 2.65 pounds, or just 2.33 pounds with the lid and straps removed.
REI Co-op Trailbreak 60
For a bag that is just going to last, the Trailbreak 60 from REI Co-op is a solid option. The bluesign-approved ripstop nylon shell is thick and durable. The spring steel frame is going to last decades. If you want to let friends borrow it or pass it on to your kids, the shoulder straps easily adjust up and down for different heights.
The main storage compartment and large lid pocket make up 60 liters of storage. An access pocket in the bottom makes it easy to get your sleeping pack for a quick nap at lunch. Nylon hip belt pockets, back, and side pockets offer more places to store layers and snacks. The more snacks the better.
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