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Published Mar. 31, 2021

Every outdoorsman uses a backpack, period. Regardless of what outdoor activity you do, it is an essential item of outdoor gear. Even the best backpacks serve a simple but crucial function: They allow you to store and carry your equipment while keeping your arms free. Hunters, anglers, backpackers, and survivalists should get a pack that has ample storage and features needed to be successful.

Features to Consider When Shopping for the Best Backpacks

From a young age, backpacks likely played a large role in storing and transporting all of your stuff. Almost everyone has used one beginning in elementary school, when you lugged around your school supplies and lunchbox in a small backpack.

Of course, outdoor-oriented backpacks have come a long way from the packs you used in grade school. There are packs tailored to almost every outdoor activity—and this is a good thing. The best backpacks now come with all of the features you need to succeed, whether you’re a hunter, angler, hiker, survivalist, or mountain biker. For instance, fishing backpacks come with storage compartments for fly and tackle boxes as well as front-facing pouches and O-rings that allow you to easily access the gear you use most often. Hunting backpacks, on the other hand, should give you the ability to tote everything you need for a trip deep into the backcountry, including your firearm or bow, as well as offering extra storage space to help you pack out your kill when the time comes. When you’re looking to purchase a new backpack, make sure it comes ready-made for the activity you plan to use it for. 

In addition to being activity-specific, there are some general features to consider when you’re in the market for the best backpacks. For instance, do you use a hydration bladder, or do you prefer water bottles? If you use a water bladder, make sure that your pack has a pouch for you to carry the bladder as well as an opening to let you access the hydration pack’s hose. How much support do you need? Some only have arm straps, which work fine when you aren’t carrying much weight, but if you expect to really load up with supplies, you need a design that has chest and hip support straps. 

The devil is really in the details. Below is a comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know when searching for the best backpacks.

How Much Storage Do You Need in Your Hiking Backpack?

Perhaps the most important consideration when purchasing a hiking backpack is storage capacity. How much stuff are you going to try to fit in? Overloading a small hiking daypack will not only wear it out faster, it will impact your center of gravity. A good hiking pack will spread out the weight across your torso and shoulders, reducing the amount of effort required to carry it around all day. Conversely, underpack a large-capacity pack, and you are going to be lugging extra weight when you could’ve gotten away with a smaller, more lightweight backpack. 

How is storage capacity defined? Storage capacity is given in volume, which is how much space a pack holds, not how much weight it can carry. A 5- 10-liter pack is a very lightweight design that won’t carry anything beyond some water and a snack. Average pack sizes for multi-use daypacks are 25 to 35 liters. You’ll be able to carry food and survival gear, as well as an extra layer or two. When you’re considering multi-day trips, you need to go even bigger. A 45-liter pack should be OK for an overnight or two. If you are spending multiple days in the backcountry, you need to consider a 55+-liter pack, depending on the weight of your camping gear. 

Whatever storage capacity you end up getting, make sure to pack as light as possible. Backpacks can allow you to carry heavy loads, but remember that you’re going to be the one putting in all the effort at the end of the day.

Best Lightweight Backpack: Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking Backpack

Venture Pal

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The Venture Pal Lightweight Hiking Backpack has ventilating mesh shoulders as well as durable abrasion-resistant construction. It’s relatively roomy for a lightweight hiking pack and has multiple storage compartments to help you keep your gear organized. The pack is foldable and compact enough to quickly store in a larger bag when you’re not using it.

Do You Need a Pack for Multi-Day Trips?

Backpacking is a sport that’s named and defined by the use of backpacks. But what really is it? Backpacking is when you use your feet and a pack equipped with camping gear, food, and other supplies, to explore backcountry areas. To do so, you need a true backpacking backpack with a large storage capacity, as well as plenty of support to reduce the impact of carrying so much weight for a long time and over many miles. Backpacking is its own outdoor activity, but it doesn’t have to be. Many hunters and anglers use backpacking backpacks to target fish and critters in remote regions that are otherwise inaccessible.

Old backpacking packs were made with bulky and heavy external frames. Today, they’re built with lightweight internal frames that better distribute the weight of a loaded pack. You need to get a pack with a storage capacity of at least 50 liters and go up from there. Look for one with plenty of storage compartments that will help you stay organized on the trail. You will also likely want external straps that allow you to easily carry excess equipment, such as sleeping pads—which don’t store well inside the constraints of a pack. Above all, a good backpacking backpack will be well-made, fit your body type, carry all the camping equipment you need, and last you a long time.

Best Backpacking Backpack: Gregory Baltoro 65L Pack


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The Gregory Baltoro 65L Pack is one of the best high-quality backpacking backpacks available today. A QuickSwap 3D interchangeable pre-curved LifeSpan EVA foam harness and hip belt strap offer superb support with a lightweight design. Weighing just 5.5 pounds with a double-barrel lid design and dual zippered pockets on top, it’s perfect for keeping your things organized while camping or hiking. The nylon and polyester pack is vented and breathable, and its 65 liters offer plenty of storage capacity for multi-day trips.

What Exactly Is a Fishing Backpack?

Fishing requires equipment—lots of it. Most anglers carry their equipment with vests, sling packs, tackle boxes, or fishing backpacks. All of these carrying methods have their own benefits and drawbacks. Tackle boxes organize all your gear well, but you have to carry them with your hand or stash them into a bigger pack. Vests allow you to keep your fishing gear organized and easy to access, but the amount of gear you can ultimately carry is limited. Fishing backpacks and sling packs offer the best of both worlds in terms of carrying capacity and gear organization. 

What really is a “fishing backpack?” It can be any kind of pack design with the storage components to hold all of your gear for a day on the water. But today, there are also designs that manufacturers produce specifically for fishing. These are typically some sort of hybrid between a fishing vest and a backpack in that there are easy-to-reach D-rings and storage compartments that you can access without taking the pack off, as well as a larger carrying pouch in the back for the rest of your fishing gear.

Best Fishing Backpack: KastKing Fishing Tackle Backpack


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This fishing backpack has every feature you need for a good day on the water. Double rod pockets mean you can store multiple rods, and an easy access pouch is designed specifically for storing tackle boxes. The 420D rip-stop nylon construction is durable and water-resistant.

Are You Looking for a Hunting Pack?

Hunters often repurpose general backpacks, but they don’t have to. There are many hunting-specific packs on the market. But what really makes a good one depends on the type of hunting you are planning on doing. For instance, waterfowl hunters need a pack that’s as waterproof as a dry bag. If you are going to use your hunting backpack for backcountry elk hunts, you need a pack with a ton of storage to help you pack out your kill. 

Regardless of what you’re planning to use your hunting pack for, you should look for several qualities. Hunting packs should have a camo design that comes close to matching the environment you hunt in. They should have storage that allows you to organize your gear, excellent padding, and a bow or rifle carrier so you’ll have both hands free to drag out game or navigate your way through thick brush and across tough terrain.

Best Hunting Backpack: TIDEWE Hunting Pack 3400cu


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This hunting backpack is lightweight (weighing 6 pounds), ergonomic, and has a whopping 55-liters of storage, making this a good choice for multi-day backcountry hunts. It features a two-in-one carrier that allows you to tote either bow or rifle, is made with durable and breathable high-performance fabric, comes in a camo pattern, and has a ton of storage options—including three main spaces to keep you organized.

On a Budget? What You Can Get for $10

Many outdoor backpacks are expensive, but they don’t have to be. When it comes down to it, a backpack is a backpack. Expensive designs typically have more ergonomic designs and are constructed with more durability than cheaper models. But if you are OK with hauling a pack that is not as comfortable or durable, you can get away with a budget pack.

What should you look for in a cheap backpack? Look for a pack that is sturdy and relatively well-made. You are likely not going to find a sleek design or any additional features like waterproof fabric. Still, you should be able to find a decent one to add to your outdoor equipment arsenal.

Best Cheap Backpack: Ridge Hunter 2.0 Hunting Pack

Ridge Hunter

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The Ridge Hunter is nothing special, but it’s a cheap model and comes with a hunter-friendly camo and tan design. Several distinct compartments allow you to keep your gear organized, and zippered pockets secure your valuables. The non-slip fabric is made to reduce chafing.


Q: How do you know what size backpack to get?

What size backpack to get depends on how much you need to carry and how large you are as a person. You need to balance these two variables in order to find a design that fits well and is the appropriate size for carrying your hunting, fishing, or camping gear.

Q: Where should a backpack sit on your back?

A backpack should sit approximately 2 inches below your shoulder. Adjust your pack’s straps to make this a reality. Make sure the pack does not go past 2 inches above your hips. 

Q: What is the most comfortable backpack?

The most comfortable backpack depends on the backpack’s design, as well as personal preference. Ultimately, the most comfortable pack is one that fits well and distributes weight evenly.

A Final Word on Shopping for the Best Backpacks

Backpacks are crucial pieces of gear for every outdoorsman. Get a pack that fits well and serves you in the activities you hope to use it for. Consider cost, function, appearance, and features when you’re looking for the best backpacks. Then load it with your fishing or hunting gear, and hit the trail.