0 Best Budget Hiking Backpack
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.