A pack that comfortably fits your body’s specific shape and size can make all the difference between a joyful journey or a suffering slog in the backcountry.
There are two essential considerations in finding the right fit:
- Your torso length.
- A snug grip on your hips.
Many packs come in multiple sizes, including gender- and youth-specific designs, to accommodate different body shapes and torso lengths. Some designs offer an adjustable suspension system to custom-fit your torso. It’s also crucial to find a pack with a hipbelt that snugs in tight.
No matter what features and innovations a pack may have, a poor fit almost guarantees misery that multiplies with every step along the trail. There is no substitute for visiting an REI Co-op store and letting one of our staff members help you find the right pack with a perfect fit.
REI Seattle Flagship store staff member Andy Pelz places importance on learning to adjust and wear your pack. “Many people don’t know how to wear a pack correctly,” Pelz says. More than anything, he emphasizes learning how to correctly adjust your pack’s harness and properly distribute the load weight. At least 80 percent of the pack’s weight should ride on your hips and the hipbelt should be centered snugly on the crest of your hips. Removing any slack from the shoulder and load-lifter straps will help bring the pack body in close to your back for proper balance and support.
With these considerations in mind, here are some of the top backpacking packs of 2018. Each of these packs is highly rated by verified customers and receives high marks from staff members here at the co-op.
Best Backpacking Packs
The Gregory Jade 38 garners rave reviews for ventilated, load-bearing comfort—especially for backpackers with shorter torsos. Verified customer and reviewer Tiny Lady Hiker says, “The lumbar support in this is a game changer and the waist belt really seems made for a woman.”
- MSRP: $179.95
- Gear capacity: 38 liters (size small)
- Weight: 2 lbs. 13 oz.
If shaving every possible ounce is your goal, the Osprey Levity offers ultralight performance and a 3D tensioned-mesh back panel for cool comfort. Because stripped-down, ultralight designs give up some cushioning and durability, REI Co-op packs buyer Rebecca Randall-Lally recommends this pack for experienced backpackers who are skilled at packing for minimalist adventures.
- MSRP: $250.00
- Gear capacity: 45 liters (size medium)
- Weight: 1 lb. 12 oz.
Version: Women's An adjustable, ventilated AntiGravity™ harness and outstanding weight distribution earn the Osprey Aura AG top reviews for a fine-tuned fit. Verified customer and reviewer Bookgirl says, “Miles up and down hills and NO bruises ya’ll, I don’t know how they did it and had I realized it was possible to find a pack that compensated for a women’s hips and boney shoulders I would have paid whatever a long time ago.”
- MSRP: $270.00
- Gear capacity: 65 liters (size medium)
- Weight: 4 lbs. 7 oz.
Packs buyer Randall-Lally refers to the Osprey Exos as “light plus”—streamlined yet still comfortable, this pack is nearly lightweight enough to be considered ultralight, but offers greater cushioning and comfort. The Exos is ideal for adventurers who want to move toward ultralight backpacking without sacrificing ventilation and load support. Also highly rated, the women-specific Eja 58 is new on the market for 2018.
- MSRP: $220.00
- Gear capacity: 58 liters (size medium)
- Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz.
REI Co-op packs designer Ash Price is excited about 2018 updates to the ventilated, adjustable Traverse packs. “They’re really customizable—you can swap out the shoulder harness and the hipbelt to get a really good tailored fit,” she says. Ash also loves this pack's innovative, easy-to-reach bottle pockets and use of recycled fabrics throughout.
- MSRP: $249.00
- Gear capacity: 65 liters (size small)
- Weight: 4lbs. 11 oz.
Best for Large Loads
Version: Men'sComfortably fitting a variety of body shapes and sizes, Deuter packs are renowned for their beginner-friendly simplicity and affordability. With an adjustable frame and expandable collar for extra space, the Aircontact 65 + 10 is no exception. Verified customer and reviewer Scoutmaster Dave says, “Tried on some of the newer ‘ultra lightweight’ packs and found them wanting in the comfort, adjustability and capacity area. This pack is the ultimate in adjustable comfort and fit. 5 stars.”
- MSRP: $280.00
- Gear capacity: 75 liters
- Weight: 6 lbs. 6 oz.
Best for Large Loads
Stitched from strong 210-denier nylon with a back panel that boasts improved breathability over previous models, the Gregory Deva 80 hauls large loads in luxurious, ventilated comfort. An adjustable torso length and hipbelt let you customize the fit, while the removable hydration sleeve transforms into a lightweight daypack for side trips.
- MSRP: $349.95
- Gear capacity: 80 liters (size small)
- Weight: 4 lbs. 13.76 oz.
Best For Large Loads
A heat-moldable hipbelt and shoulder harness give the best-selling Osprey Aether 85 AG a fit that complements the unique contours of your body. A suspended-mesh back panel ensures breathable comfort for the long haul. Verified customer and reviewer SixStringApostle says, “Most comfortable pack I’ve ever used. The breathability, comfort and support are incredible. The support and padding make the loads feel much lighter on my hips.”
- MSRP: $330.00
- Gear capacity: 85 liters (size medium)
- Weight: 5 lbs. 5.9 oz.
Best Under $150
Version: Women's, Men'sDesigned with direct input from REI Co-op members, the Flash 45 is a champ when it comes to load stability and breathability. In addition to receiving rave reviews on REI.com, the women’s version was awarded “Best Women’s Fit” in Backpacker magazine’s 2017 Gear Guide. And, at $149, it boasts the technical prowess of pricier packs while being friendlier on your wallet.
- MSRP: $149.00
- Gear capacity: 45 liters (women’s size small and men’s size medium)
- Weight: 2 lbs. 11 oz. (women’s); 2 lbs. 12 oz. (men’s)