A good hiking backpack is an essential part of your hiking gear whether you are day walking or wild camping. It is possible to spend a great deal on a backpack, but it isn’t necessary. There are many excellent models that are accessible for people who are on a budget. Here, John Manning, Chris Townsend, Lucy Wallace and Lara Dunn look at a selection of the best budget hiking backpacks in different sizes from reputable companies.
- Best budget hiking backpacks: Daypacks
- Best budget hiking backpacks: 35-50 litre
- Best budget hiking backpacks: 50 litre +
Whichever you choose, ensure it fits and carries comfortably. Looking for something lighter? Our gear team have also recently rounded up the best lightweight backpacks.
Our team of experts
Lara has worked in outdoors media since the late 90’s as a writer, reviewer, and an editor in her own right across adventure travel and cycling titles. She has hiked, cycled, climbed, scrambled, trekked, ambled, and swum all over the UK and further afield.
Hiking the Pennine Way in 1986 inspired John to spend his life writing about the outdoors. He penned a triple award-winning column while sub-editor on his local daily newspaper, before serving 13 years as deputy editor on The Great Outdoors. He’s contributed to most UK walking magazines and edited several titles in his own right. His hiking CV includes the US Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails, New Zealand’s Rees-Dart and Kepler tracks, and Finland’s Bear’s Ring.
Our equipment editor Chris Townsend is known globally as a writer on hiking and backpacking skills and equipment, the author of 25 books – many of them award-winning – and as a record-setting long-distance hiker. He was the first person to complete a continuous round of all the Scottish Munros and Tops and the first person to complete a continuous walk the length of the Canadian Rockies. He has also walked the Scottish Watershed and walked coast-to-coast across Scotland 18 times. In the USA he has walked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail and Arizona Trail plus several self-devised long walks. Other walks include south-to-north through the mountains of Norway and Sweden and 1000 miles through the Yukon Territory. He has also worked as a Nordic ski tour leader in Scandinavia and other places and as a trek leader in the Himalayas.
Lucy is a Mountain Leader (Summer, Winter and International), and wildlife guide who has worked professionally in the outdoors since 2007. She is based on Arran and works throughout Britain, Europe and Tanzania, on everything from environmental conservation, the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme to Mountain Leader training and assessments. She has tested and reviewed outdoor gear for various titles since 2012 and joined the review team in 2019.
Best budget hiking backpacks: Daypacks
Daypacks for hiking, generally have capacities of 20-30 litres. This should hold all you need for a day out.
Vaude Skomer 24
Lara Dunn’s Best in testthe Skomer 24 is a well-designed, practical, and stable daypack that meets the needs of a demanding female hiker at a reasonable price.
- Attention to detail
- Environmental credentials
- No real padding at hip belt
- bottle holder pocket quite large
|894g (including optional waterproof cover)/818g (without cover)
|200D/320D 67% Polyamide/33% Polyester (uses recycled polyester yarns); PFC-free DWR
|single walking pole attachment, hydration bladder compatible, sternum strap, padded straps, detachable rain cover.
|No men’s version but Men’s Jura 24 is similar although not identical
The Skomer 24 is a budget daypack that is well-designed to meet the needs of a demanding female hiker. Available in four colors and three different sizes, it comes in a teardrop shape with a main compartment, internal drawstring, flap lid, and zipped pocket inside. The bag also has a hydration pack pocket and a stretch mesh pocket for a bottle.
The padded shoulder straps and back system are designed to accommodate various bust shapes and sizes, with adjustable height chest straps and a framed back system to prevent sweating. The Skomer 24 is stable and comfortable on the hill, with ample space for a lightweight waterproof jacket, warm layer, hat, gloves, packed lunch, and other items.
The pack is made from tough fabric made from recycled PET bottles and is built to last. The outside is treated with an environmentally friendly water and stain resistant finish, working well with the lid design to keep contents dry.
In summary, the Skomer 24 is a well-designed, practical, and stable daypack that meets the needs of a demanding female hiker at a reasonable price. It comes in four colour options and three sizes, including the 24 litre variant, and is made from recycled PET bottles for durability.
Osprey Hikelite 26
Lara Dunn’s verdictThe Hikelite 26 is a budget-friendly unisex pack from Osprey, priced at £100. It offers numerous features for a daypack, including a zipped valuables/sunglasses pocket, stretch mesh side pocket.
- Short waist strap
- zip-top opening makes rain cover crucial in bad weather
|823g (including optional waterproof cover)/761g (without cover)
|Bluesign approved 100% recycled 100D high tenacity bird-eye nylon; PFC-free DWR
|walking pole attachments, hydration bladder compatible, sternum strap with whistle, padded straps, detachable rain cover.
The Hikelite 26 is a budget-friendly unisex pack from Osprey, priced at £100. It is a genuine unisex model with features that work well with the female form, making it a suitable choice for hikers. With a 26 litre capacity, it can carry most essentials for a day out in the hills, but is not as spacious as the smaller capacity Vaude Skomer 24. The pack has a zip-top opening instead of a lid and clip closure.
The Osprey has numerous pockets, including a zipped valuables/sunglasses pocket, two stretch mesh side pockets, and a versatile front patch pocket. It also features two trekking pole loops for easy pole storage. The removable rain cover is water-resistant and fits neatly into a zipped pocket at the bottom.
The shoulder straps are broad, soft, and cushioned to avoid digging into soft bust tissue. The ventilated back system prevents overheating and is low profile, ensuring stability in wear. However, the detachable waist strap is not long, making it unsuitable for larger hikers. The zipped access at the top makes it easier for rain to enter during sudden downpours. Despite these minor issues, the Hikelite 26 is a comfortable and capable pack.
Berghaus Arrow 30
John Manning’s verdictA tough traditional pack, well-made from robust fabric, that should serve for many years.
- Heavy Duty
- Zipped side pockets
- Single buckle pack entry
- Removable/replaceable rain cover
- warm back system
- pockets inaccessible while wearing pack
- fiddly sternum adjustment, no above-shoulder strap adjustment
|£85 / $95.99
|760g stated/739g on JM’s scales
|pack – PFC-free, 100% recycled 150D & 600D polyester fabrics with water-resistant PU treatment; rain cover – PFC-free, 100% recycled 70D nylon
|Berghaus Flow back system; detachable/replaceable rain cover; trekking pole attachments; hydration system compatible; key clip in large, single lid pocket; adjustable sternum strap; ice axe attachment points
The Arrow 30 pack is a durable, traditional pack made from robust fabric, designed to hold various gear and provide a comfortable carry. It features zipped side pockets for storing essentials, a single lid pocket for accessories, and a 600D polyester main body and 150D fabric snow/rain collar. The pack also includes a key clip, pole attachments, and a removable rain cover made from PFC-free recycled 70D nylon.
The Arrow 30 is hydration bladder compatible, with a single back-of-the-neck hose port and a single Velcro loop suspended within an internal sleeve. The generous waist belt tightens effectively, but the sternum strap is fiddly to adjust. Shoulder strap lengths are adjustable, but there is no fine tuning available above the shoulders.
Berghaus’s Flow back system consists of two parallel, vertical, vented foam pads, designed to keep the pack away from the back while allowing airflow to dissipate condensing sweat. However, the pack can become sweaty on steep ascents and cause discomfort when removed, making it less effective than a sprung system that suspends the pack an inch or more away.
Read John’s full Arrow 30 review
Vango Apex Air 30
John Manning’s VerdictGreat for those seeking advantages of a backpack in daypack size
- Airy back system
- Removable/replaceable rain cover
- Fully adjustable shoulder straps
- Compression straps seem redundant
|980g stated/1038g on JM’s scales
|Excel 200D RS fabric, 6mm alloy frame
|X-Air UL back system; detachable/replaceable rain cover; trekking pole attachments; hydration system compatible; adjustable sternum strap with whistle; side compression straps; large front and side mesh pockets; two lid pockets; ice axe attachment points
The Apex Air 30 is a small, multi-day backpack with features reminiscent of larger, multi-day packs. It features a well-sized front storage pocket, stretchy mesh side and front pockets, a deep capacity-boosting snow collar, fine-tunable shoulder straps, hip fin pockets, and compression straps. The pack is also hydration system compatible with a hose port behind each shoulder and two Velcro loops to suspend a bladder within an internal sleeve.
The pack has a light mesh hip belt, better-distributing the load and comfortable in use. Each fin has an easily reached pocket, perfect for keeping keys, trail mix, notebooks, and pens in reach. The sternum strap is easily slide-adjusted and features an emergency whistle.
The X-Air UL Back System consists of a stretchy mesh panel suspended from the pack on a 6mm alloy frame, allowing plenty of air circulation to prevent sweat condensing on the back. Vango’s own PU-coated nylon is used to keep the pack’s weight down, while the base fabric feels heavier duty.
The rain cover is anchored by an elasticated strap within a zipped pocket on the base of the pack, making it easier to replace if they ever come a cropper. The pack is designed to be lightweight and comfortable for long-distance travel.
Mountain Warehouse Pace 30L
John Manning’s verdictGreat for carrying smaller loads in comfort on a budget
- Lots of features
- Limited volume
- Intrusive front pocket
|854g stated/870g on JM’s scales
|polyester; ripstop front panel
|Air Flow Back System; detachable/replaceable rain cover; hydration system compatible; adjustable sternum strap; waist belt; single fin pocket; stretch side pockets; trekking pole attachments; bungee cord gear attachment; side compression straps; ice axe attachment points
Mountain Warehouse’s Pace 30L is a budget-friendly kit that offers a detachable/replaceable rain cover, compression straps, stretch side pockets, hydration system compatibility, and numerous attachment points. The pack is accessible via a wraparound zip or a zippered base compartment that can be joined internally with the main pack bag. However, the Pace has limited room for kit, with no snow collar to boost capacity and a small front pocket that only holds hat, scarf, gloves, compass, and whistle accessories. The small waist belt pocket is hard to reach, and external attachment points like the bungee cord don’t feel secure.
The Air Flow back system, an alloy frame-suspended mesh, is designed to keep the main pack bag off the back, allowing air circulation to shift sweat away. However, the thin and light frame is easily distorted by the pack’s contents, compromising its effectiveness. Compression straps seem superfluous on smaller packs and serve little purpose in this pack. Despite the lack of shoulder strap adjustment and the under-effective Air Flow back system, the Pace 30L is a comfortable carry option.
Best budget hiking backpacks: 35-50 litre
Medium-sized packs in the 35-50 litre range are suitable for winter hiking with extra clothing and hardware for snow and ice, hut-to-hut (or hotel to hotel) trips where you need more than a daypack, and for three-season overnight camping trips.
With compact gear those at the larger end may also be suitable for multi-day backpacking. They aren’t too big for three-season day hiking either and could be described as general-purpose packs. Here are some of the best budget backpacks for 35-50 litre packs.
The North Face Hydra 38-Litre
Price: £140 | $170
Weight: 2 lbs 3 oz | 992 g (S/M)
The Hydra is a fully specified pack with an internal aluminium frame and a mesh trampoline back panel that creates an air gap so your back stays dry, making it good for hot weather hiking.
The pack has a padded hipbelt, buckle fastened lid and six pockets – two mesh side, large front stash pouch, zipped lid, and two zipped hipbelt. There’s a hydration sleeve inside, external lash points for extra gear, and a sternum strap with built-in safety whistle.
There are two sizes. The average weight is 992 grams.
Lowe Alpine AirZone Camino Trek 40 – 50L
Weight: 3 lb 52 oz | 1.65kg
The Camino Trek is a versatile pack as the 40-litre capacity can be increased by 10 litres by raising the lid which attaches with buckles at the front and the back.
As well as the top opening there’s a zipped front panel for easy access to the contents. The pack has an internal frame and Lowe Alpine’s AirZone breathable back to maximise airflow and keep your back dry.
The hipbelt is padded. Features include a lower compartment with zipped entry and an internal zipped divider panel, bellows side pockets, stretch water bottle side pockets, lid pockets, hipbelt pockets, rain cover, front bungee system for attaching extra gear, side compression straps, and ice axe loops.
There are two sizes, weighing 1.53 and 1.6kg.
Deuter AC Lite 25 EL
This 25-litre pack for day hiking has a ventilated harness system, lots of storage options and plenty of nifty details.
The ventilation comes from a suspended mesh harness which creates a substantial air gap. There’s also padding around the base of the harness and through the straps.
There’s a non-removable hip belt and sliding sternum strap that can be removed. Access into the pack is actually through the front of it via a long zipper, the thinking there being that it gives you more oversight into the pack and makes your belongings easier to locate.
Details include an attachment for trekking poles, a mesh helmet holder, emergency whistle, glasses holder on the shoulder strap and a rain cover. There are side mesh pockets and there’s also an inside compartment to keep a head torch or small valuables safe.
Available at: deutergb.co.uk
Quechua Mountain Hiking Backpack 40L
Weight: 2 lb 77 oz | 1.26kg
With its 40-litre capacity, floating lid, numerous pockets and stretchy mesh front pocket this is a backpack that should suit short weekend backpacking trips where extensive supplies aren’t required. Those with lightweight kit will also find this big enough for longer trips.
It has a padded back with a stretched mesh that creates an air gap and a 3D mesh across the harness and lumbar also helps to create ventilation.
It has nine pockets, including a bladder compartment and two belt pockets, a rain cover at the base and bungee toggles for attaching trekking poles. Access to the main compartment is via the top lid and also a long side zip.
You’ll find this in two sizes: size S (for those shorter than 170cm) and size L for those over 170cm.
Available at: decathlon.co.uk
Best budget hiking backpacks: 50 litre +
Packs over 50 litres are for big loads for multi-day camping trips. These are the packs where a proper fit is essential for comfort. Most packs have adjustable backs or come in more than one size.
Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60
Price: £110 | $119.95
Weight: 3 lb 98 oz | 1.81kg
This 60-litre pack has a back that’s adjustable to fit torsos from 40 to 43cm. For support and comfort there’s a sprung steel perimeter frame and a padded back panel with airflow channels. The hipbelt is wide and well-padded.
The main compartment can be accessed by a diagonal top zip or a zip side. There’s a zipped top pocket and huge zipped hipbelt pockets. On the sides and back there are oversized mesh pockets.
The pack also has compression straps and ice axe/trekking pole loops. It’s made from durable 300-denier ripstop polyester and weighs 1.84kg.
Read Chris Townsend’s full review of the Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60.
Vango Sherpa 60:70
Weight: 5 lb 42 oz | 2.46kg
Vango’s Sherpa pack is recommended by the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award due to its fit, comfort and durability. It has a back system that can be adjusted while wearing the pack.
There are two back lengths as well, the shorter one designated the 60:70S. The big hipbelt and the shoulder straps have thick padding and there’s a padded back panel that slides up and down twin frame bars to adjust the fit. The pack is made from 600 denier coated polyester. There are two compartments. The larger upper one has a buckle fastened lid, the lower one has zipped access.
Gear can be further organised in eight pockets. On each side there are zipped expansion and open-topped mesh pockets. The lid has zipped pockets inside and out.
On the front there’s a flat waterproof zipped pocket designed for maps. Finally there’s a single zipped pocket on the hipbelt.
Side and lower front compression straps can be used for attaching extra gear and if that’s not enough there are daisy chain loops on the front for attaching bungee cord.
Other features are ice axe/trekking pole loops and a rain cover in the base. The Sherpa 60:70 weighs 2.46kg.
Alpkit Pacific Crest 65l
Price: $119.99 | £84.99 (available from Alpkit)
Weight: 1,789g (one size)
Overall, the Alpkit Pacific Crest 65l is a good pack for the price. Alpkit has designed this pack for the weight-conscious trekker – and although it is the second heaviest pack in our 2023 tests of the best backpacking backpacks, it does benefit from weight-saving features you might expect from much more expensive models.
There’s a durable and very adjustable back system designed with Velcro and a helpful back length guideline, which enables a personalised fit which Fran found useful in testing. There are large air vents that prevented the reviewer from overheating on long trail days and sharp ascents. However, she found the shoulder straps less than strong and stable on technical manoeuvres.
Read Francesca Donovan’s full review of the Alpkit Pacific Crest 65l.