The Best Packs for Your Next Backcountry Adventure
Interested in taking an off-the-grid leap but unsure if you have the right gear? Look no further for the ultimate guide to backpacking packs.
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There’s no disputing the extraordinary allure yielded by the outdoors in the wake of the pandemic, as a public eager to escape drove up interest in camping dramatically in the months after the nation first shut down. Utah alone has seen unprecedented crowds flocking to its five national parks, with many park personnel likening the scene to Disneyland. In turn, an overflow of campgrounds and public lands are compelling more seasoned campers to turn their eyes toward the backcountry, a shift confirmed by officials at Montana’s Glacier National Park, where backcountry permit requests flooded inboxes in record numbers.
Maybe you’re part of the crowd interested in taking an off-the-grid leap, but are unsure if you even have the right gear. Look no further. For our first (of many) WildLands weekly gear reviews, we decided to toss together a round-up of some of our favorite backpacking bags that will keep you comfortable and well-stocked on your next backcountry adventure.
Mammut Trion Spine 75, $399
A personal favorite for heavier loads and more extreme mountaineering, Mammut’s Trion Spine 75 is one of the best do-it-all packs I’ve ever owned. Its Active Spine Technology features greater flexibility and weight distribution, while an easy-to-use height-adjustable system allows users to tailor the pack to a fit that works best.
Of course, at 75 liters, space is abundant. And with multiple access points, including a massive front opening, the ability to fish out any deeply packed item is a breeze. Storage compartments are available to stow a hydration system, ropes, ice axes, and even skis. The addition of a gear loop on the hip belt, meanwhile, ensures critical pieces of equipment are never out of reach.
At 5.8 pounds, it’s a tad hefty, but that’s to be expected with higher-volume packs. The comfort more than makes up for it in the end.
Gregory Paragon 58 / Maven 55, $230
For something a tad smaller (and less extreme) than the Trion 75, you can’t go wrong with these Gregory best-sellers. The men’s Paragon 58 and women’s Maven 55 come with a breathable FreeFloat suspension system that adapts to the movements of your body; full-length, side-loading zippers for easy packing and organization; an internal hydration sleeve; a built in rain cover; and a zippered sleeping bag compartment with a removable divider.
Lightweight construction materials like fiberglass and perforated foam keep both packs well under 4 pounds, making them stellar options for that multi-day hike you’ve been eager to take.
Osprey Atmos AG 65 / Aura AG 65, $270
Each bag, weighing just over 4 pounds, features Osprey’s Anti-Gravity tech that clings comfortably to the contours of your body and distributes weight evenly to alleviate the sort of exertion the backcountry demands. Straps and loops are available to carry those much-needed trekking poles and sleeping systems, and the combination of adjustable external and internal front panel pockets provides plenty of space to stay organized.
Kelty Redwing 50 / Redwing 50 Tactical, $130-$150
Kelty’s collection of bags and camping gear has remained a staple of my outdoor excursions for years now. The outdoor (and military-friendly) company recently launched its second iteration of the lightweight (3 pounds, 4 ounces) Redwing 50, and to no surprise, it’s immensely reliable.
The Redwing 50’s opening is designed as a U-shaped panel (versus a traditional top-loader) that unzips about three-quarters of the way down the pack, making accessibility a premium. Its FIT-Pro adjustment allows you to select a height that best adapts your torso, and Kelty’s AMP-Flow ventilation system limits the onslaught of back sweat on those hot days.
If you want a few extra liters of space and a little color splash to go with the company’s longstanding reliability, try the all-new Asher 55.
This pack was made to move with you. Its design features a pivoting hip belt and a trampoline back panel that provides full support throughout the duration of your hike by adapting to the gait of your hips. And at just 4 pounds, 6 ounces, it’s remarkably light for a pack of its size.
Users can also appreciate Mountain Hardwear’s commitment to conservation and sustainability with this pack. Made from recycled ripstop shell, a durable Cordura fabric, and a PFC-free durable water repellant coating, the PCT 70L’s storage compacts to fit anything you may need to keep you happy on the trail—in my case, a wine bag. —Teaghan Skulszki, editorial intern
Osprey Rook 65, $165
Lastly, on Osprey’s more more budget-friendly side, there is the Rook 65. At just over 3.5 pounds, the Rook is an extremely lightweight and reliable option for backpackers of any skill level.
Its adjustable, ventilated back panel allows for comfort and air flow, while Osprey’s LightWire frame and Anti-Gravity suspension distributes weight evenly for added comfort. A zippered sleeping bag compartment comes with a floating divider to ensure organization of your gear, and side loops are ready to house trekking poles or ice tools to keep you prepared in any terrain. Like the other packs on this list, a little rain should never be an issue thanks to the Rook’s integrated rain cover, which can be stowed in seconds.
Whether you’re hearing the call of the wild or the mild, these bags will have you well-prepared. See you out there!