The Best Outdoor Backpacks 2016-17
We put this year’s best outdoor backpacks to the test. Here’s what we discovered...
The backpack is probably one of the most important objects you will take with you to the mountains, trails and forests of the world. You will find yourself forming a strong attachment to your backpack, not just because it spends most of its time attached to you.
When it comes to choosing a backpack, it can be difficult to work out where to start. First of all, you need to ask yourself - what do I need this backpack for? Do you want a large bag for ski touring with room for avalanche equipment and an airbag? Alternatively are you heading off on a multi-day hike and need a bag to carry all of your camping equipment?
"The backpack is one of the most important objects you'll take with you to the mountains, trails and forests of the world"
Below you will find 12 excellent backpacks from the world’s leading brands, catering for every outdoorsman and woman. Our team got their hands on just about all of these backpacks - here is what they had to say.
Whether you are a first-time hiker or experienced mountaineer, we’ve got the ultimate lowdown on the perfect backpack for you.
Scroll down to view all backpacks, or skip to a particular brand using the links below.
All photographs by Dan Milner
Alpkit Bikepacking Bag
Ever been tempted to grab your bike, a tent and head for the horizon? Travelling hundreds of miles using pedal power is one of the things that makes bikepacking so appealing. British brand Alpkit make some of the UK’s best bikepacking bags.
We tested out the Stingray bespoke frame bag, the Airlock Dual 20L drybag which clips to your handlebars and the Toliari panniers. So you can hit the road with your gear cleverly balanced across your bike.
Arc’teryx Voltair Avalanche Airbag
Arc’teryx are top of their game when it comes to avalanche airbag technology. Airbags are designed to keep a skier or snowboarder on the surface of the snow if they are caught in an avalanche, increasing their chances of survival.
The Voltair is different to other airbags because it doesn’t rely on compressed air cylinders to inflate. Instead the Voltair blows air in from outside into the bag using a powerful motor. This means it can be deployed dozens of times without having to replace anything. It will inflate continuously, so you don’t have to worry about it deflating if you crash into rocks or trees.
Berghaus TrailHead 65 Backpack
If you are heading off on a multi-day hike, then you will need a good comfortable backpack with plenty of space for everything from your camping stove to sleeping bag.
Berghaus’ TrailHead is a large 65 litre rucksack, great for first-time backpackers on multi-day expeditions. It has a comfortable back fit system which is easy to adjust on the move, plus it’s great value for money.
CamelBak StoAway 100 Hydration Insulation Pack
There’s nothing worse than pulling out your hydration bladder tube to find that it is totally frozen solid. As any skier, snowboarder or mountain biker will know, this is a common problem in the winter months when you want to stay hydrated on the move. Luckily CamelBak came up with a solution. The StoAway 100 has an insulated sleeve for your water bladder. It will keep it from freezing in sub-zero temperatures, allowing the water to flow through easily.
Lowe Alpine AirZone Pro 35:45 Backpack
Looking for a lightweight day pack with seriously good ventilation? Lowe Alpine’s AirZone Pro will make you never want to wear any other backpack again. It is made with a tight mesh which lifts the bag away from your back, allowing air to flow freely and keep you cool while hiking or biking long distances. Say goodbye to a sweaty, itchy back for good! It is a 35 litre bag, however the top section opens up an extra 10 litres for spare gear.
Millican The Smith 25L Rucksack
Modern adventurers want a backpack that is not only waterproof and durable but looks good too. The Smith is a 25 litre backpack made with super strong recycled polyester, impregnated with paraffin wax to make it waterproof. Inside you’ll find a concealed laptop sleeve, zipped security pockets for iPads and phones as well as a handy roll-top to keep water out. This bag will last you a lifetime. Just as well because after trying out this bag, you won't be able to imagine heading out without it.
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler RT 40 OutDry Backpack
If you are venturing into the mountains during winter, you will want a backpack that keeps your gear bone-dry. Mountain Hardwear’s Scrambler RT backpack has long been a favourite among mountaineers and ski tourers. It is made with OutDry fabric which uses a waterproof-breathable membrane that bonds directly to the shell fabric, ensuring your gear stays dry from first lifts to last lifts.
OMM Phantom 25 Trail Running Backpack
If you see someone wearing an OMM backpack, it means they are a serious long-distance runner. OMM stands for Original Mountain Marathon, a two-day event which is widely regarded as the toughest mountain marathon in the world. The Phantom 25 is large enough to accommodate a small tent, camping stove, sleeping bag, mat and the rest. It’s incredibly lightweight, making it perfect for ultra marathon runners.
Osprey Atmos AG 65 Backpack
Osprey are known for making some of the word's most technical backpacks. The Atmos AG is part of their Anti-Gravity range which means it is lighter and more comfortable than ever before, plus it has excellent ventilation, thanks to the springy mesh back piece. It even has the world’s first ventilated hipbelt. This bag is excellent for backpackers who will be carrying their gear long distances and need to prioritise comfort.
Osprey Kamber 22 Backpack
Backcountry skiers love Osprey’s Kamber 22 backpack. It’s a day pack especially made for one-day tours and lift-accessible backcountry. Inside you’ll find space for your avalanche safety gear and a watertight main compartment to keep your dry gear away from your wet skins. Outside there is a helmet compartment plus straps to attach your skis or snowboard. Our favourite feature is the insulated hydration bladder pouch that will stop your water tube from freezing on those cold stormy days.
Patagonia SnowDrifter 30L Backpack
Patagonia is one of the most environmentally-friendly brands on the planet. Their 30 litre SnowDrifter backpack is ideal for anyone heading into the backcountry overnight this winter. Alongside having a special avalanche safety kit compartment, this backpack has two openings - big U-shaped zipper on top as well as back panel access, allowing you to get inside the bag without tipping everything out.
Salomon S-Lab Peak 20 Trail Running Backpack
Backpacks aren’t great for running, right? They bounce and jiggle about and generally irritate most runners who wear them. Salomon found a solution to this. They made a trail running backpack which fits like a jacket. No buckles, no straps - it just stays put. The S-Lab Peak 20 is bigger and more suited to colder, wetter days with waterproof and windproof central compartment. It also has a multitude of pockets for you to store all manner of gear inside.