Best Hiking Packs of 2024: Staff Picks

Hit the trail with our favorite hiking packs for traveling, snowsports and more.

Sarah Grothjan|Updated February 21, 2024

Man and woman hiking at sunset.

The requirements of a solid hiking pack are straightforward: You need one that's large enough to hold your essentials and feels comfortable while you move. But like the trails you traverse, not all packs are created equal. Some have extra padding to make heavier loads more tolerable, others have special compartments to protect electronics like cameras or laptops. Choosing the best one for you depends on how you like to hike.

Here, we share our trail favorites, whether you're heading out for a short jaunt, a hilly trudge or something in between. From efficient slings and no-frills bags to a travel pack that transitions well from plane to trail, there's a pack for every type of hiker.

Staff Picks

For quick recommendations, check out the results of our round-robin here, or scroll down for in-depth reviews.

This Goldilocks unisex pack from REI Co-op appeals to experienced hikers and newbies alike. Seasoned users might notice the functionality and comfort provided by features like padded, mesh-covered straps; an internal high-density polyethylene (HDPE) framesheet (essentially, a sheet of plastic that provides structure and protects your back from protruding gear); a removable hipbelt; and easy-to-reach pockets.

Those newer to the trails will appreciate that this pack is feature-rich but not more technical than you'd need for most day hikes. It delivers on the most basic needs by providing ample space for gear, various pockets to keep items organized and durable fabrics—primarily bluesign®-approved ripstop nylon and recycled polyester—that can withstand the scuffs and scrapes that come with trail time. Users also laud the panel-load design (compared to a draw closure), which allows for easier packing and unpacking.

"From the sunglasses holder on the chest strap to the water reservoir pocket and rainfly, this bag has everything you need while also being lightweight and tough," says one customer reviewer.

At less than $100, this pack won't break the bank either. One note on the updated design: Customers found the hipbelt too tight for larger waists, but the latest Trail 25 is designed to fit more bodies.

Perfect for quick miles or a day of live music, the Nano 22 H2O from Gregory outshines your old friend the water bottle as a hydration buddy. When looking for the best hydration pack, it's about getting little details right—so that regular use isn't such a pain that we'd rather just haul around a couple water bottles instead. A zippered pocket in the Nano 22 H2O includes a 3-liter, quick-drying 3D Hydro reservoir that dries more like a water bottle (read: faster, so less prone to getting mildewy) than the bladders of yore. In addition to the usual clip for the water hose on one backpack strap, the Nano 22 H20 also includes a magnetic sternum strap closure on which to attach the reservoir tube's bite valve for even easier access.

"I bought this hydration pack for a hiking trip to Moab, Utah, and it was terrific," says one customer reviewer. "I filled the 3-liter bladder and even in 90-degree heat, I always had enough water, even for our longest (7 hour) hike."

Users also rave about the comfort and functionality of the pack. A breathable foam back panel adds comfort while keeping you cool, a top pouch can hold small items like sunglasses and keys, and users can stash a laptop in the zippered pocket when not using the reservoir. Roomy mesh side pockets hold a light layer or extra water bottles for even longer trips, but users report that heavier loads can be a little more uncomfortable with the pack's thinner hipbelt. Also available in plus size.

Sometimes you just want a pack that's as simple as it is functional, and doesn't require a dollar more than necessary either. For times like these, the Flash 22 from REI Co-op fits the bill. The lightweight bag is streamlined down to just the essentials, like an internal sleeve to hold a hydration reservoir, stash side pockets to keep layers (or extra water bottles, if you're feeling super thirsty) within reach, internal organizer pockets for things like keys or snacks, and a back panel that can be removed to double as a sit pad. At least $20-$40 less expensive than any other bag its size (and a lot that are smaller!), the Flash 22 packs in plenty of nice-to-have features without charging for them.

"For the price, it's unbeatable," says one customer reviewer.

For such a straightforward pack, the Flash 22 gets lots of praise for its versatility and functionality. It's sleek enough to keep ready for quick after-work hikes, carry gym gear, tote kids' snacks or haul other essentials around town. If you're carrying a heavier load, you can attach an included removable bungee anywhere on the pack to lash extra gear to exterior loops.

"Love this pack! Great size for a short trail, using at a theme park or just running around in the outdoors," says one customer reviewer. "Can hold a good amount and love the zipper pocket on the side, very discreet."

At 14 ounces, this pack is also one of the lightest in our roundup. But that comes at the expense of supporting large loads. Be judicious about what you pack.

The Ruckpack 28 from REI Co-op does double duty for adventurous travelers who need a carry-on and a daypack, but only want to bring one bag. Many of the pack's features are designed to work well for both travel and trails. A laptop sleeve can alternatively accommodate a hydration reservoir; a sternum strap disperses the weight of the pack and keeps it secure while running through an airport (it happens); and a zip-top pocket can hold an ID, cash or snacks.

Says one customer reviewer of the bag: "I used this pack interchangeably as a daypack, carry-on luggage and for day hikes in the Alps and a few other places. Fit my clothes (in a compression packing cube) and everything I needed to work remotely into this bag. No other luggage needed."

Busy travelers and type A packers alike will appreciate the pack's detailed organization (like pen and stash pockets), lockable zippers, a top handle for easy maneuvering, carry-on friendly proportions and daisy chains for lashing gear, which can be concealed when not in use.

"It's a nice balance of enough organization to keep the travel mindset happy with enough versatility that you can pack your way," says Jon Almquist, REI Co-op Brands product manager.

For these extra features, you'll pay a little more for the Ruckpack than for more streamlined daypacks like the Trail 25—but not much.

Maybe you want a no-fuss pack for short trail days. Or an on-body snack holder for running errands around town. No need to get prescriptive about how you use the Osprey Talon 6 (men's) and Tempest 6 (women's)—they can hang on day hikes, lunch walks and everything in between.

The waistpack hits a sweet spot just a step above more minimalist running belts without the bulk of a full-on daypack. Like other packs in the Talon series (the Tempest is the women-specific version), this pack hugs the wearer securely thanks to a foam AirScape® back panel, a flexible BioStretch harness and hipbelt.

This lightweight pack doesn't skimp on organization. It has a dual-zippered main pocket, a stash pocket with a key clip, two water bottle sleeves and dual-zippered hipbelt pockets for easy access to items like small snacks, gels and electrolyte powders. Drawstrings and adjustment points at locations like the water bottle sleeves ensure things stay put while you're out and about.

Says one customer reviewer: "I use the Osprey Talon 6 … on 2- to 4-mile walks/hikes with my dog. It's great for carrying treats, waste bags and emergency items. In the summer, the water bottle holders will be very helpful—one for the dog and one for me."

Osprey packs stand the test of time and the Kestrel 38 (men's) and Kyte 38 (women's) are no different. These durable, functional trekking packs have ample room for the gear you'll need on a multiday trip, plus well-thought-out details, like a mesh pocket with a key clip stowed under the lid, a rescue whistle on the adjustable sternum strap and Stow-on-the-Go cords for trekking-pole toting. The packs are designed to move with you through challenging environments, whether you're working or playing for long hours outside: Dual upper and lower compression straps help keep your load tidy and the AirScape® back panel's injection-molded framesheet provides close-to-body carry support. Ventilated back panels offer cooling comfort on hot days, and the sturdy, bluesign®-approved waterproof fabric features recycled materials. Both packs include generous hydration sleeves (reservoirs sold separately), a zippered sleeping bag compartment and a raincover.

Even when this bag is fully packed, customers find it fits in most overhead storage bins. One California customer wore the Kyte 38 along the French Way (Camino Francés) of the Camino de Santiago: "[I used it] from France to the west coast of Spain and it was absolutely perfect. I carried it the whole way with no issues, then continued to use it for further travel. I didn't even have trouble with it as an overhead carry-on for a European airline."

The Osprey Kresta 30 is a favorite for days spent touring—and for good reason. This feature-rich pack stands out from the, uh, pack for its flexibility and a design that makes your life easier on the slopes, so you can focus more on shredding and less on fiddling with your gear.

To start, the pack includes built-in organization for your most important tool—your avalanche safety kit. Internal sleeves keep your kit's shovel and probe together for easy access should you need them. For the shredder who likes options, the Kresta 30 has a versatile strap system that allows you to carry your skis diagonally or A-frame, plus a flap to secure your helmet to the front or top of the pack. The pack's organization is equally thoughtful—the main pocket is situated close to the shoulder straps to help block snow from entering when opened, and front-panel access makes it easy to stash and retrieve layers.

Another perk of a pocket situated close to the body: Your hydration reservoir will receive some heat from your torso and be less likely to freeze. To prevent the same from happening to your hydration hose, you can zip the tube into a shoulder strap to keep it warm.

Says one customer reviewer: "I'm a liftie at a local ski resort and this bag is perfect for bringing what I need to work. So many pockets, so much storage."

The Futura Pro Jaypack 36 from Deuter has all the perks of a hiking backpack with thoughtful features specifically designed for outdoor shutterbugs, protecting precious camera equipment while still providing easy access when the perfect shot comes into view.

With the removable, fully padded Camera Box Two insert (included), the bag safely stows a DSLR with a mounted lens and up to four additional lenses or accessories, keeping them organized and easy to reach through a zippered front panel. (Camera Box Two can also be used on its own.) Need extra storage? The Jaypack has more than seven exterior pockets for the rest of your gear, like batteries to keep your camera going, snacks to keep you going, extra layers, a first-aid kit and more. (Glasses storage on the shoulder strap is a nice touch too.) Pull-forward side compression keeps your profile lean, and stow attachments for your ice axe or trekking poles help keep hands up when it's time to focus your camera.

Adjustable shoulder and sternum straps provide a tailored, comfortable fit, and a flexible spring steel frame provides efficient load support. Long shoots and hot days are no match for the ventilated, padded Aircomfort back system, which prevents sweat by creating a ventilation space between your back and the pack, and a detachable raincover with a nonfluorinated DWR finish keeps your gear dry. Speaking of long days: The Jaypack accommodates a 3-liter water reservoir (sold separately). The bag contains 100% preconsumer recycled polyester.

Futura Pro Jaypack 36 Pack - Men's

Buying Advice

A daypack may seem like a lower-stakes purchase than a pack for multiday backpacking trips. But choosing a really good one requires some thought about what you'll be doing with it and what you'll be bringing.

Daypacks for Different Activities

The primary activities you plan to pack for can tell you a lot about how you'll want your daypack to look. If you'll be moving faster, say running or skiing, a close-to-the-body pack with a narrower profile will stick with you while bouncing down steep hills or making turns. Maybe you're looking to accommodate gear-intensive outings like climbing or capturing sweet shots of your friends—consider packs that place every pocket and internal organizer just so for your helmet or tripod. Touches like abrasion-resistant or waterproof fabric, external loops for lashing on extra gear, or straps you can tuck away at airport security may be worth it if you're looking for a hiking pack that can pinch-hit for other activities when needed.

Daypack Capacities

Daypacks come in a wide range of sizes, but a ballpark idea of your needs can help you narrow down your choices before you even start scrolling:

10 liters or less: If your middle name is "ultralight," this is your category. Good for running, short hikes or dog park runs, these packs will fit a light layer, water, keys and not much more. The Osprey Talon and Tempest 6 fit this category.

11-20 liters: A compact size for day hikers and those doing activities like mountain biking, who want to fit more than the bare minimum without lugging around any more weight than necessary.

21-35 liters: This tends to be the sweet spot for hiking and travel backpacks—small enough to fit in an overhead bin but big enough to pack sufficient water, snacks and other essentials (you know, there are ten of 'em) for a big day of trekking. The Flash 22, Trail 25, and Ruckpack 28 from REI Co-op; Gregory Nano 22 H2O Hydration Pack; and the Kestrel, Kyte and Kresta 30 Snow Pack from Osprey fit in this category.

36-50 liters: These bags are big enough to fit all your essentials if you're spending the night outdoors, but they're also good for those who need to pack a little more for a day out. (Parents, we feel you.) The Deuter Futura Pro Jaypack 36 fits in this category. (Photographers, we feel you too.)

Fitting Your Daypack

Some packs come in a variety of sizes, and all of our picks include information on the torso and hip or waist size they will fit (depending on whether or not they have hip or waist straps). When trying on a pack, adjust the hipbelt so its top edge is about one finger width above the top of your hips. The shoulder straps shouldn't have a gap or wrap more than a few inches down your back before they connect to the pack. If your pack is not available with a hipbelt size that fits comfortably, a hipbelt extender may do the trick (this one fits most 38 mm webbed packs).

Related reading: How to Choose a Daypack


We polled REI Co-op staffers and customers for their favorite daypacks, good for everything from day hikes to treks through the airport. These are their favorites.