Joyful journeys start with the perfect pack.
But the best backpack can be so elusive. How big should it be? What are the organization options? Is there really a difference between men’s and women’s styles? And do you need more than one? Getting outside is fun and picking a backpack can be too. Here are our top backpacks for nearly any outdoor activity in your future.
Pro tip: The fit is the most important part of any pack. Our experts say the right fit is one that offers:
- A size appropriate for your torso length (not your overall height).
- A comfortably snug grip on your hips.
So head to your local store to try out a pack before buying. (Or utilize our awesome return policy if the pack you buy online isn’t the right one for you.)
For weekend warriors, there’s nothing like the REI Co-op Flash 45, which comes in both women’s and men’s styles. Built with our Cooperative Design process—where we design a product not just for our members but with them—this pack is made for you. When heading out on a weekend trip, we recommend a 35- to 50-liter pack, which has less weight and space, so you’re not as likely to bring everything you own. The Flash 45 stabilizes the load better than most and offers an incredibly breathable back panel, useful anytime you’re working up a sweat. Even better? It was recognized as the “Best Women’s Fit” by Backpacker Magazine (April 2017 Gear Guide). You can also read more about the design process here.
If you are going on an extended adventure, you’ll likely need something a little larger than the Flash 45. We’d suggest the women’s Osprey Ariel 65 AG and men’s Osprey Aether 70 AG for a longer trip. A backpacking pack is one piece of gear that actually does make a difference based on body type. Women’s packs usually have shorter torsos, curved shoulder straps to accommodate a chest, a smaller hipbelt and extra padding. When lugging a high volume of gear for a long trip or gear-intensive weekend, you’re going to be happy with the suspended mesh back panel and the heat-moldable hipbelt and harness, which contours specifically to your body. It’s pretty magical to have a pack that fits perfectly.
Read more: Backpacks: Sizing and fit.