Looking for the best backpacks for hiking and travel? You're in the right place. People often ask me what backpacks I use for hiking and travel, so I thought it was time to put together a blog post on the topic.

Note: I have kind of a “problem” with backpacks. You know how some women have a reputation for buying lots of shoes or purses? That's me with backpacks. There is absolutely no need for you to go out and buy this many backpacks. I actually have a couple more packs that I haven't even listed here, because while I love them, they're totally unnecessary.

Disclosure: There may be affiliate links in this blog post, which means that I may earn a small commission if you click on these links and make a purchase, at no extra cost to you. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I am also a participant in other affiliate programs. 

Dakine Go Go Mini: 5 liters

I've had this backpack for about 15 years. I don't use it very often, so it's in perfect shape. This is the tiny little backpack I'll use if I'm just going for a short walk around town or close by. It's enough to carry a bottle of water, a wallet, and my keys.

Unfortunately, it's no longer available, but Dakine does have several other small backpacks. If you click on the photo to the left, you'll be able to see similar models that are available on Amazon.

Or, head over to the Dakine website to see their latest collection. Sadly, they don't have any that are quite as small as this one.

 

G4Free Sling Bag: 5 liters?

This is a really inexpensive bag that I love. I bought it to use on my Portuguese Camino trip that was cancelled due to COVID. I needed a bag that was small and lightweight, but big enough to carry my iPad to type up my book after dinner. The Dakine (above) is a bit structured and I feared it would take up too much space in my main pack, so I got this. It's soft and can fold up if needed, yet it is lightly padded on the backside.

It also comes in 18 different colors! Ever since I got this bag, I've been using it instead of a purse. It's comfortable, big enough for everything I need to carry, and has that convenient little pocket in the front. Plus, it has a bottle pouch that fits a 500 ml bottle of water. I've been tempted to buy it in another color, but I'm trying to contain myself.

Click on the photo to get it on Amazon.co.uk. I couldn't find the same model on Amazon.com, but if you search for “G4Free” you'll find other models that they sell.

Salomon ADV SKIN 12 SET 2020: 12 liters

I love, love, love this one. This is my latest purchase for running. It's replaced an older, less expensive Aonijie pack. This beauty fits like it's a part of my body. It's got so many pockets for water, keys, gels, and all the little things you need for a long run—plus, it's got a 12 liter space in the back to carry waterproofs and other things.

It has space for two 250 ml water bottles in the front, placed so you can drink from them without removing them from the vest. You can just drink on the go, which is super convenient.

It's also easy to adjust: much like Salomon shoes and boots, it has a stretchy cord that you can pull to adapt the fit to your body. Note that these sizes are unisex and run large if you're a woman; I wear the XS and it's a perfect fit.

Click on the photo to find it on Amazon. If you're in the market for a great running vest, I highly recommend this one.

Coleman Walk-holic: 15 liters

I bought this one several years ago—before I became an Osprey addict. I found it on sale, and I loved the color. It's a nice small day pack for light walks and hikes. It's got enough room for your water, waterproofs, and a lunch. I use this one for short day walks where I don't have to carry more than the basics.

Unfortunately, it's no longer available. I do like this pack, but I've researched the current options that Coleman has on offer, and I'm really not sure that I'd recommend any of them. Ever since I discovered Osprey, I've been a huge fan of their packs.

I'm including this here because it's a good example of an entry-level pack that's inexpensive. It's a good day pack for someone who's just getting started spending more time outdoors.

 

Osprey Hikelite 18

I bought this one for my birthday one year. This is my standard day hike pack for the summer, when I don't need to carry much with me—just waterproofs, water, and that's about it.

I love this pack. It's very lightweight and comfortable. I don't really need it, but I love it. It's smaller than my other day pack, the Osprey Mira 22. Note that it doesn't have a structured hip belt, which is important for when you're carrying more weight. This is a good pack for when you don't need to load it up with a ton of stuff.

Get it on the Osprey website, or click on the photo to the left for Amazon, where you can often find better prices (and sometimes colors that are no longer available) on Osprey packs.

 

 Osprey Mira 22

I've had this one for a few years now. It's my standard day pack for most of the year. It's got plenty of room for water, waterproofs, lunch, first aid kit, gloves, hat, and more. Read my Ultimate Gear and Packing List for One-Day Hikes and Walks to see all the stuff I usually bring with me on a day hike.

I've used this pack for both of the years that I did the Walk 1,000 Miles Challenge, and more. It's been on many, many day hikes and it's still in great shape. When I bought mine, it didn't come with a hydration pack (so I had to purchase mine separately), but now it does.

Get it on the Osprey website, or click on the photo to the left for Amazon, where you can often find better prices (and sometimes colors that are no longer available) on Osprey packs.

Osprey Questa 26 liter

As if I didn't have enough backpacks, I bought this one exclusively for carry-on travel. All of my other packs are for outdoorsy purposes, and as such they don't have a laptop sleeve. I have sometimes used my little Coleman pack for travel, but again—no laptop sleeve.

This is a women's specific backpack (like most of the other packs here) that's intended for carry-on travel and daily use. It has a padded laptop sleeve that fits laptops up to 15″.

Get it on the Osprey website, or click on the photo to the left for Amazon, where you can often find better prices (and sometimes colors that are no longer available) on Osprey packs.

Osprey Kyte 36

This was my very first Osprey backpack, and it is hands down my favorite one—mostly because I have so many fond memories of using it for long-distance trails. I've used this pack for both of my South Downs Way walks, both of my Ridgeway Walks, both of my Downs Link walks, and all three of my Wey-South Path walks.

My Osprey Kyte 36 is my standard pack for a long-distance walk where I'm staying at inns and B&Bs. Meaning: I'm not carrying camping gear. It's enough to hold everything I need for a week-long walk: change of clothes, toiletries, evening shoes, etc. Head over to my Ultimate Gear and Packing List for Multi-Day Hikes and Walks to see everything I can fit in this pack.

Get it on the Osprey website, or click on the photo to the left for Amazon, where you can often find better prices (and sometimes colors that are no longer available) on Osprey packs.

Osprey Aura AG 50

This is my standard backpacking pack, for when I walk a long-distance trail and camp—or for when I go on a weekend hike and need to carry my camping gear. It's big enough for my tent, my sleeping bag, my Thermarest, and everything else I need for camping. If you want to know everything I carry with me, check out my Ultimate Gear and Packing List for Backpacking and Car Camping.

This pack would also be great for an extended urban backpacking trip—where you're visiting lots of places, maybe traveling by train public transport, and you want to be able to carry everything on your back.

Get it on the Osprey website, or click on the photo to the left for Amazon, where you can often find better prices (and sometimes colors that are no longer available) on Osprey packs. I actually got mine on eBay, because the year that I purchased mine I hated the new colors that Osprey had for this pack, and I really wanted the old teal green—which I found on eBay.

 

Osprey Aura AG 65

This was one of my ridiculous purchases. I bought this on eBay at the same time I bought the Osprey Aura AG50. I couldn't decide between the two: I really wanted a 55 liter pack, not a 50, so I bought both of these on eBay at a good discount. They were brand-new, with the tags on them. And (most importantly, haha) I found them in the pretty teal green that I love.

I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't actually used this pack yet. I think it will be useful for longer trips where I'm camping and need to carry a lot of food. But I'm also aware that having such a big pack could lead me to overpack, and weigh myself down with too many things.

This pack would also be great for an extended urban backpacking trip—where you're visiting lots of places, maybe traveling by train public transport, and you want to be able to carry everything on your back.

Get it on the Osprey website, or click on the photo to the left for Amazon, where you can often find better prices (and sometimes colors that are no longer available) on Osprey packs.

What do you need?

First off, you do not need all of these packs! If I didn't have a problem with collecting backpacks, I'd probably just have the following:

  1. Day pack. Like the Osprey Mira 22.
  2. Long-distance pack. Like the Osprey Kyte 36.
  3. Backpacking pack. Like the Osprey Aura AG 50.
  4. Running vest. Like the Salomon ADV SKIN 12 SET 2020.
  5. Carry-on pack. Like the Osprey Questa.

If you're looking for a large carry-on compatible pack for longer trips, the Osprey Porter 46 is the largest carry-on compatible pack. Click here to find it on Amazon.

You might need even fewer packs! If you don't run, you don't need a running vest. If you don't go backpacking, you don't need a big pack. If you only plan on doing day hikes and not long-distance trails, you don't need a 36-liter pack like the Kyte.

 

Related reading

Read about my two adventures along England's most popular National Trail in this second edition of my book Alone on the South Downs Way. This book contains all the blisters, sweat, and tears from my first life-changing journey—and all the joy, presence, and magic of the second one.

More than just a walking travelogue or memoirs of a walking holiday, this book contains my reflections on walking the trail, including lessons learned and practical information to help you plan your hiking adventure. It includes a suggested packing list, gear recommendations, and other useful tips, such as when to walk the trail, where to stay, and how much you'll need to budget.

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The Best Backpacks for Hiking and Travel
The Best Backpacks for Hiking and Travel
The Best Backpacks for Hiking and Travel

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