A back pack can make or break a hike. All walkers know choosing a good pack is key to a successful trek in the hills. Our Gear Editor, Chris Townsend reviewed 60 litre + backpacks suitable for long distance walking and shared essential advice on what to consider when selecting your pack. 


Hipbelts should fit snugly round the hips. Thickly padded belts with some form of stiffening are needed for heavy loads. Curved belts stay in place better than straight ones.

Pockets and compartments

Pockets are useful for organising gear, especially small items that might be needed during the day. Lower compartments can be used for sleeping bags and for clothing that might be needed during the day. Mesh pockets are useful for wet items, allowing them to drain and dry out. Large ones can even be used for tents.


Litres are not a fixed measurement when it comes to the volume of packs! Check all your gear will fit inside and take stated capacity as approximate only. Where two figures are given the first is the key one, the second usually refers to the inner extended as far as it will go, which makes for an unstable load.


A lid should fit closely over the biggest load. Some can be extended to do this, some just stretch, which can have limits. Detachable lids can cover items such as foam pads carried above the main pack body.


A rough rule of thumb is that the empty pack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of the total weight you’ll be carrying. This includes food and water, not just gear.


External straps can be used for attaching items such as foam pads or trekking poles and for compressing the size of the pack when a small load is carried. Straps should be easy to adjust and shouldn’t interfere with access to pockets.

Back length

The pack must be the correct length for your torso. Some packs come in different lengths for this, others just have adjustable harnesses, which are okay for fine-tuning the fit but won’t fit a wide range of backs. Some have both. Trying on a loaded pack is the best way to check the fit.

Back System

A pack for heavy loads should have a fairly stiff frame to help transfer the load to your hips. Padding or mesh holds the frame away from the back and adds comfort.

So how did the backpacks perform under test?


Millet Prolighter MXP backpack

This doesn’t make it a bad pack, just one not one for heavy loads…
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Hanchor Marble backpack

This minimalist pack is ultralight and distinctive looking…
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Vango Nanga 60+10 backpack

The well-padded, stiffened hipbelt is especially good as it’s comfortable with heavy loads…
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Montane Grand Tour 70 backpack

This is also one of the lightest, with the best volume to weight ratio of all the packs bar the ultralight Hanchor Marble…
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Berghaus Wilderness 65+15L backpack

With a stiff curved frame and wide hipbelt, the Wilderness is designed to handle heavy loads and it does so well…
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Highlander Discovery 65L backpack

The only one under £120 in fact. It’s also the smallest pack tested…
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Black Diamond Mercury 65 backpack

The Mercury 65 is the heaviest pack tested. However the harness system does work well and it should prove very durable…
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Gregory Stout 65 backpack

Gregory’s latest pack, the unusually named Stout is one of the best of those tested, with an excellent design and a reasonable price…
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Nigor Gravity 70 backpack

The Dyneema fabric is lightweight and its durability is well-proven…
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Fjallraven Kaipak 58 backpack

The Kaipak 58 isn’t light and it’s one of the most expensive packs tested. However it should prove very robust and the design is good…
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Lowe Alpine Zephyr 65:75 backpack

Lowe Alpine’s latest back system is a lightweight version of the Axiom, introduced last year…
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Osprey Atmos AG 65 backpack

The Atmos AG 65 isn’t lightweight nor is it inexpensive. But if you’re carrying heavy loads it is an excellent pack…
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