Backpack

Best Budget Hiking Backpack

Written by: Dave NartinFebruary 18, 2020Updated: March 17, 2020

Guide Overview

Hiking offers a great way to explore the outdoors and enjoy nature, as well as get some exercise. A good backpack is a vital piece of hiking kit, helping you to carry essential supplies whether you are hiking for a few hours or for several days. Even if you’re on a budget, there’s a wide range of affordable backpacks to choose from. We’re going to look at what you should consider when trying to find the best hiking backpack for the money you can afford to spend.

Things To Consider

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Weight & Size

The first and most obvious consideration is the size of backpack you need. If you only go on short or day hikes, then you’ll be looking for the best small hiking backpack. But if you frequently go on long trips and camp overnight, then a large camping backpack is essential.

The size of a backpack is usually measured by capacity, typically given in litres or cubic inches. If you’re looking for the best hiking day pack you can opt for a smaller capacity, unless you need to carry specialist kit, or supplies for the whole family. When deciding on the capacity you need, think about the essentials you’ll need to carry, for example water bottles, sun cream, bug spray and a first aid kit. 

If you’re looking for backpacks for hiking and camping over several days, you’ll need a larger capacity and you may want to look for the best lightweight backpack. If you are carrying supplies such as a tent and cooking equipment, a lightweight hiking backpack can reduce the overall weight load. The best lightweight hiking backpack may have a streamlined design, or use lighter materials to reduce the weight. 

Whatever the size of pack you are opting for, you should pay attention to the fit. You could be carrying your pack for some distance, so you really want it to be as comfortable as possible. Top rated hiking backpacks cannot make the load you’re carrying any lighter, but they can make all the difference when it comes to your comfort level. Good hiking backpacks have padded shoulder straps, to avoid rubbing, and these are typically adjustable. If the pack also has a waist strap or sternum strap, make sure these are a suitable size for you, or can be adjusted to fit. 

Frame

Backpacks are constructed using either an internal frame or an external frame. A frame gives the pack structure and helps keep it in shape. 

Internal frame backpacks, where the frame cannot be seen in the pack construction, are the more common choice. They are usually lightweight and compact, and come in a wide range of sizes. Internal frame backpacks are streamlined, so your pack is less likely to snag or get caught on branches or undergrowth if you’re exploring more remote locations. Another key benefit if you do venture on more adventurous hikes is that internal frame packs keep your centre of gravity close to its natural position. This means that if you’re scrambling over rough terrain, your pack is less likely to swing around and destabilise you. The best internal frame backpack options come with a wide range of extra features. 

External frame backpacks, with the frame on the outside of the pack, can be considered a more traditional option, but they do offer some useful benefits. One of the most relevant, as we are looking at the best budget hiking backpack, is that they can be more affordable. They can also accommodate more kit, as bulky or awkward items can be strapped to the frame. 

Another positive is that external frame backpacks sit slightly lifted from the torso, avoiding a sweaty back. The frame means that there’s ventilation between the pack and your back, making for a more comfortable experience. The best external frame backpack options also help distribute weight more evenly, transferring some to your hips and reducing strain on the shoulders. This is a real benefit if you’re carrying a large or heavy pack over longer distances or for several days. So, if you are looking for cheap camping backpacks, an external frame pack is worth considering. 

Gender

The best hiking backpacks will usually be universal and cater to men and women, but there can be some subtle points that distinguish the best men’s hiking backpack from the best hiking backpack for women.

Firstly, look for a backpack which is adjustable so you can make it the best possible fit for your body type. If you’re choosing an internal frame backpack, most of the weight you’re carrying will be loaded on your shoulders, so it’s especially important that shoulder straps don’t dig in or rub. Choose shoulder straps which can be adjusted to lift the load to where it’s most comfortable.

Packs usually also have a waist belt, which should ideally sit on top of your hip bones. A man and woman of the same height may have different torso lengths, so check the placement of the waist belt and ensure it works for you. A waist belt should be extendable to accommodate a variety of hip widths. If the belt is padded, it will help stop it rubbing as you move.

Finally, many packs have a sternum strap across the chest. Again, look for one which is adjustable. 

Features

Even cheap hiking backpacks can be packed with additional features. One of the most popular options to look out for is a waterproof camping backpack, or one with a waterproof cover, as this will mean that your kit stays dry even if you’re caught in bad weather. 

Another really useful feature, whether you’re looking for the best day hiking backpack or a pack for a longer trip, is compatibility with a hydration system. This means that you can fill a pouch, referred to as a bladder, with water and fix it into the pack. A drinking tube runs from this pouch to the shoulder strap, so you can easily stay hydrated whilst you’re hiking. 

Many top hiking backpacks will have compartments and pockets to allow you to keep your kit organised. It’s useful to have external zipped pockets so you can easily access items on the go.

Best Budget Backpacking Pack

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AmazonBasics – Internal Frame Hiking BackpackAmazonBasics - Internal Frame Hiking BackpackAmazonBasics - Internal Frame Hiking BackpackAmazonBasics – Internal Frame Hiking Backpack

This is a large internal frame backpack for longer trips, and the price point makes it one of the best cheap backpacks we have found. 

This pack is available in a range of sizes, each of which have an extension collar that can offer a further 5 litres of extra storage space. The pack is cleverly designed, with a dedicated sleeping bag compartment for easy access and packing and plenty of storage pockets and compartments. There are external mesh pockets for easy access to your water bottle. Multi-directional compression straps help keep your pack contents compact.

The back length of this pack can be adjusted to suit your torso. Shoulder straps and the waist belt are padded and adjustable to give a comfortable fit and there’s also a padded lumbar pad to give lower back support. The pack is constructed in durable polyester, with a water repellent exterior coating. There’s also a waterproof cover included, making this pack stand out against other low price backpacks.

Pros:

  • Large capacity with a choice of sizes.
  • Plenty of pockets to keep your gear organised.
  • Separate sleeping bag compartment for ease of packing and instant access.
  • Can be adjusted for a comfortable fit.
  • Comes with a waterproof cover.

Cons:

  • Best suited for longer hikes and camping, not day hikes.
  • Large capacity with a choice of sizes.
  • Plenty of pockets to keep your gear organised.
  • Separate sleeping bag compartment for ease of packing and instant access.
  • Can be adjusted for a comfortable fit.
  • Comes with a waterproof cover.
  • Best suited for longer hikes and camping, not day hikes.
TETON Sports – Scout 3400 Internal Frame BackpackTETON Sports - Scout 3400 Internal Frame BackpackTETON Sports - Scout 3400 Internal Frame BackpackTETON Sports – Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack

Another contender for the title of best budget backpack, this 55 litre pack has plenty of useful features. 

This internal frame backpack, which is available in a choice of three colours, has been designed to be as comfortable as possible. The pack can be adjusted to change the torso length, with a range of 15”-19.5”. The waist belt and torso strap are also adjustable to create your best fit. Padded shoulder straps have upper load adjustment, so once the loaded pack is on your back you can ensure the weight sits in the best position. There’s also a foam lumbar pad and moulded back panels for comfort. 

This pack is ideal for a two to four day trip. There’s a sleeping bag compartment to simplify packing and unpacking your bag, and compression straps to keep contents compact. There are large zippered pockets on the outside of the pack for quick access to essentials you might need on the move, and other items of kit can be attached using the gear loops. This pack is made from ripstop materials for durability and has an integrated rain cover. In common with the best hiking backpacks, this pack is compatible with a hydration system.

Pros:

  • Adjustable torso length to suit men, women and young adults.
  • Designed for comfort, with moulded back panels and foam lumbar pad.
  • Useful external pockets for easy organisation.
  • Integrated rain cover.
  • Compatible with a hydration system.

Cons:

  • Best for two to four day trips.
  • Adjustable torso length to suit men, women and young adults.
  • Designed for comfort, with moulded back panels and foam lumbar pad.
  • Useful external pockets for easy organisation.
  • Integrated rain cover.
  • Compatible with a hydration system.
  • Best for two to four day trips.
Maxpedition – Falcon-II BackpackMaxpedition - Falcon-II BackpackMaxpedition - Falcon-II BackpackMaxpedition – Falcon-II Backpack

This is a durable and compact tactical backpack, capable of carrying heavy gear. 

This military style 23 litre pack is robust and sturdy to be used in all kinds of conditions, for a day hike or overnight trip. Unlike many other packs where compartments are stacked on top of each other, this pack has layered compartments which makes the pack deeper when fully loaded. Each of the layered compartments is independent, with numerous pockets and pouches helping to keep your equipment well organised. The main compartment can unzip to a clamshell opening, and there’s also a water bladder compartment.. 

Even heavy loads can be carried comfortably thanks to the foam padded shoulder straps. There’s a waist support and sternum strap to distribute weight evenly through the upper body. Front and side compression straps help keep your pack compact.

These packs are made using a water and abrasion resistant nylon and stress points have been strengthened for extra durability. Webbing on the exterior allows you to attach further kit. Overall, this pack combines an ergonomic design with sturdy construction making this one of the best backpacks for hiking.

Pros:

  • Robust and sturdy construction.
  • Compact size, but capability to carry heavy loads.
  • Multiple compartments, pockets and pouches.
  • Ergonomic design.
  • Water bladder compartment.

Cons:

  • Water bottle holder available separately.
  • Robust and sturdy construction.
  • Compact size, but capability to carry heavy loads.
  • Multiple compartments, pockets and pouches.
  • Ergonomic design.
  • Water bladder compartment.
  • Water bottle holder available separately.
OutdoorMaster – Hiking Backpack 50LOutdoorMaster - Hiking Backpack 50LOutdoorMaster - Hiking Backpack 50LOutdoorMaster – Hiking Backpack 50L

This is a versatile 50 litre backpack at an excellent price point. 

If you’re looking for the best value backpack for general use as well as hiking, this is a solid choice. This backpack has a large main compartment, with various pockets to keep your kit organised and close at hand. There are also attachment points on the outside of the pack to secure extra items such as your sleeping bag, tent or trekking poles. 

The padded shoulder straps and padded waist belt are adjustable, and there’s also an adjustable sternum belt for comfort and stability. Mesh ventilation on the back panel makes for a more comfortable experience. 

This pack is made from a durable and lightweight nylon and is available in a range of colours. A waterproof cover is included, and is easily found in a dedicated exterior pocket. This flexible pack can also be used for general travel and has a useful padded laptop compartment.

Pros:

  • A versatile pack for hiking or travelling.
  • Pockets to keep your kit organised.
  • Attachment points allow further kit to be loaded.
  • Waterproof cover included.
  • Padded laptop compartment.

Cons:

  • Best for shorter trips.
  • A versatile pack for hiking or travelling.
  • Pockets to keep your kit organised.
  • Attachment points allow further kit to be loaded.
  • Waterproof cover included.
  • Padded laptop compartment.
  • Best for shorter trips.
High Sierra – Women’s Summit 45LHigh Sierra - Women's Summit 45LHigh Sierra - Women's Summit 45LHigh Sierra – Women’s Summit 45L

A strong 45 litre pack designed specifically with a woman’s build in mind. 

This pack features a contoured aluminium frame which can be adjusted to fit the shape of your back, just one of the design features aimed at maximising comfort. There is a moulded foam back panel with airflow channels to keep your back cool and dry. Both the adjustable waist belt and shoulder straps use Hex-Vent mesh to wick moisture away from the body. Adjustable load lifters on the shoulder straps mean you can find the most comfortable carry position, and the adjustable sternum strap helps keep your loaded pack stable.

There’s a front load sleeping bag compartment for quick and easy packing and access in addition to the top load main compartment. On the outside of the bag, two mesh pockets keep water bottles close at hand and there’s hardware to attach hiking poles or an ice axe. There’s a hydration reservoir sleeve and dual exit ports for the drinking tube. 

The pack is constructed in a durable, water-resistant nylon material, and a tuck away rain cover is included if you run into poor weather conditions.

Pros:

  • Designed with a woman’s build in mind.
  • Contoured, adjustable aluminium frame.
  • Moulded back panel.
  • Moisture wicking shoulder straps and waist belt.
  • Hydration reservoir sleeve.

Cons:

  • Hydration reservoir available separately.
  • Designed with a woman’s build in mind.
  • Contoured, adjustable aluminium frame.
  • Moulded back panel.
  • Moisture wicking shoulder straps and waist belt.
  • Hydration reservoir sleeve.
  • Hydration reservoir available separately.
OUTLIFE – 60L Hiking BackpackOUTLIFE - 60L Hiking BackpackOUTLIFE - 60L Hiking BackpackOUTLIFE – 60L Hiking Backpack

This ultralight 60 litre pack is a great choice for hiking or a range of other activities. 

A large capacity main compartment has a drawstring closure, and there is a separate bottom compartment, useful for items you might want to get to easily when setting up camp. There’s also a front pocket and waist pocket for easy access to items on the move, and two mesh side pockets for your water bottles.

The back structure has been designed to relieve pressure on your back and improve airflow, with breathable mesh pads. The shoulder straps are wide to spread the weight and adjustable for the best fit. There’s also a waist strap and a chest strap for stability, and the chest strap buckle has the added benefit of doubling up a safety whistle. 

Although this pack weighs just a little over 1kg, it is made with high-quality, durable fabric, which is water- and scratch-resistant. In summary, this is a versatile pack for camping, hiking or general use.

Pros:

  • Lightweight.
  • Large capacity.
  • Ergonomic back panel to relieve pressure on your back.
  • Separate bottom compartment and useful pockets.
  • Water resistant.

Cons:

  • Size makes this pack more suited to adults.
  • Lightweight.
  • Large capacity.
  • Ergonomic back panel to relieve pressure on your back.
  • Separate bottom compartment and useful pockets.
  • Water resistant.
  • Size makes this pack more suited to adults.
Kelty – Red Cloud 90 BackpackKelty - Red Cloud 90 BackpackKelty - Red Cloud 90 BackpackKelty – Red Cloud 90 Backpack

This pack combines durable construction with comfort and a large capacity. 

With a 90 litre capacity, this pack can hold all you need for a trip of several days. The main compartment is top loading and there’s a separate sleeping bag compartment at the bottom for easy packing. A great feature of this pack is that the lid converts into a sling pack, saving you the need for an extra day pack.

The front pocket unzips to reveal handy compartments, and a clip where you can attach keys, keeping them easy to locate when you return to your home or car. The stretch front pouch on the front pocket is useful for storing your waterproof or a warm layer and there are also zipped side pockets and waist belt pockets to keep items easily accessible.

This pack features PerfectFIT suspension so it can be adjusted to your torso length, and the padded, adjustable waist belt improves load support and overall comfort. The shoulder straps, waist belt and lumbar pad all feature air mesh to keep airflow circulating helping you stay cool and dry.

Pros:

  • Adjustable suspension to create your perfect fit.
  • Lid converts to a sling pack.
  • Lumbar pad designed to keep you cool and dry.
  • Large capacity.
  • Well-organised storage pockets.

Cons:

  • Large pack for longer trips.
  • Adjustable suspension to create your perfect fit.
  • Lid converts to a sling pack.
  • Lumbar pad designed to keep you cool and dry.
  • Large capacity.
  • Well-organised storage pockets.
  • Large pack for longer trips.

The Winner - Best Hiking Backpack on a Budget

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There are some strong contenders for the title best budget travel backpack. Opting for an affordable pack does not mean you need to compromise on quality or features. Of the options we’ve reviewed, the Kelty Red Cloud 90 Backpack is our best hiking backpack, thanks to these features:

  • Large capacity pack.
  • Designed to keep you cool, dry, and comfortable on your hike. 
  • Adjustable suspension to suit different heights and builds.
  • The lid converts to a sling pack, saving the need for a separate day pack.
  • Durable construction.
Dave Nartin
Founder at Mountain Leon
Hi. Im Dave. Mountain Lion is the name of this travel blog. It came from my love for both the English and Spanish language, my favourite animal (Lion), and my favourite activity (mountain climbing). Enjoy!