Time to plan weekend adventures that bring us back to nature and all her beauty.
Hiking and camping with kiddos is a different breed of hiking and camping, though, isn’t it? It’s not as easy for you and your partner to just throw a few things in a bag, sling it over your shoulder and hit the trails now that you have little ones who require a host of their own things, and aren’t often reliable enough (yet!) to count on for carrying their own weight. That’s when you want to know about the best backpacks for hiking and camping; what is lightweight, carries lots and is comfortable while coming from eco-friendly companies who love adventuring as much as you and your family do. You’re in luck, as we’ve gone to the experts and our brilliant mamas in our forums, seeking out the best backpacks for hiking and camping and we’re psyched to share not only the coolest backpacks, but some pretty awesome companies with some pretty awesome missions in the process. A backpack that carries what you need and gives back in the process? We’ll take ten, please!
Choosing The Best Backpack For Hiking and Camping: Capacity
Well, when it comes to picking the best backpack for hiking and camping, we’re going to tell you right off the bat that there are a ton of different things you’ll want to take into consideration. While that may seem a bit daunting at first, realize that it is absolutely remarkable that there are so many great companies out there that take adventuring seriously, and meet the needs of their consumers.
The first thing you’ll probably want to think about when looking at backpacks is their capacity. A backpack is no good if it’s cute and eco-friendly but doesn’t hold what you need it to hold. And, what you need it to hold depends a lot on what you’ll be using the backpack for. Consider how long you plan to hike or camp. A backpack for a day hike most likely will be different than one you’d want to take on a weekend or more extended camping trip with the fam. Also consider who will be carrying the backpacks–Do you/your partner want to take the bulk of the supplies or are you also looking for your little hikers to get in on sharing the load as well?
Take all of that into account when planning your backpacking adventure and then decide what you’ll need.
These backpacks are typically suitable for about one-three nights. If you can use lighter and less-bulky gear you can easily carry all the things in these 30-50 liter bags. The thing to remember, though, is that it will take efficient planning and self-discipline and control if using them for a few days with kids. They’re typically great backpacks for hiking day trips though.
A multiday backpack for hiking is one that is typically a popular sell. They’re meant for trips that are more than three days and range from about 50-80 liter capacities. They’re often used for overnighters and backcountry skiing, and for a family doing a day-trip, could be perfect because they allow you to carry more things. That said, more things equal more weight, so figure that in when you’re calculating your trip.
Some multiday backpacks for hiking are for trips mean to be longer than five nights. They typically hold 70+ liters and are something to consider if you are in colder weather (you can pack layers of clothing) and even some 4-season tents. Some parents prefer these larger backpacks when hiking with littles because you can also fit a good bit of gear for the kiddos in. And we all know when the kids are happy, everyone is happy!
Choosing The Best Backpack for Hiking and Camping: Frames
There are differences in the frame of a backpack you’ll also want to consider. Typically there are a couple of general frame types when it comes to backpacks for hiking.
External-Frame Backpacks: These are not typically ones you want to consider when day hiking with kids unless you’re planning to hit the lake with an inflatable board or kayak or something you need that extra framing for. They’re good for distributing the weights for heavy or irregular loads, and they give you lots of options for various gear-carrying, but for a day hike in the woods with the kids, they can be bulky and awkward. Consider if you’re planning to use when camping, possibly, and you need to carry more things to accommodate.
Internal-Frame Backpacks: An internal-frame backpack is probably the most popular backpack for hiking. They often hug your body’s shape to work with you as you hike, and they’re designed to keep you stable on all types of terrain. They typically work to help shift weight load of the pack to your hips, taking the pressure off your back and shoulders, and they’re the bulk of what most outdoor retailers sell when it comes to backpacks for hiking and camping.
Frameless Backpacks: These are super popular when you are looking for quick day trips where lighter and easier is your goal. Mostly because they don’t have frames (or the frame is removable), they are comfortable to carry and a big hit for kiddos when hiking too because of their ‘less is more’ design. They’re also great because they’re versatile. You can take out to the lake for the day or an amusement park or just dinner with the family and use as a fashionable diaper bag because they’re so light and flexible.
Other Things To Consider When Choosing The Best Backpack For Hiking and Camping
The biggest reason you carry a backpack when hiking and/or camping is because you are carrying the stuff. Typically, that’s all the stuff. So, you want to make sure that the backpack you choose has easy access to said stuff. Top-loading openings are pretty much the norm, and perfect for putting things inside that you won’t necessarily need all the time.
When looking for the best backpack for hiking and camping, look at the access to the different pockets and outside paneling you have. There’s usually a standard zipper front pocket, and often there are side pockets that are elasticized for easy access to your water bottle, keys, camera, etc. Hipbelt pockets are also good for that.
Some backpacks have what are called ‘shovel pockets’–they’re like flaps that are on the front of the bag and they have a buckle closure so you can stash stuff like a jacket/umbrella/map or other lightweight things you might need while on the trail. Just be careful not to get too enamored with pockets. While they are THE BEST ever, too many of them may end up frustrating you when it’s hour three of the hike and your preschooler desperately needs his lovey but you can’t find what pocket you stuffed it in when you were packing!
Depending on how long you’re planning to hike or camp, some backpacks also have the feature for carrying the sleeping bag with you on the backpack. That’s useful if you’re also carrying a good bit of stuff just to make it through the night with your kiddos, and are looking for less gear rather than more. The more you can carry hands-free, but comfortably, the better!
We also suggest looking at hip padding when you are looking for the best backpack. The hips and even lower back areas can sometimes get sore from rubbing, particularly if you are using a bag that is ultralight and therefore not as rich in the padding. You can get a backpack with more padding or you can even get a more cushioned hipbelt to accommodate.
Decide if you want to have a hydration reservoir in your backpack. For extended trips (or even day trips, depending on length) they’re nice to have because hydration is such an important part of body function, particularly when hiking and possibly sweating. Most backpacks for hiking and camping have sleeves inside that you can slip a hydration reservoir into (typically one you buy separately) and then hose portals that come out and through which you can drink. Kids LOVE having their own hydration reservoirs and they sometimes take weight off the load in that you don’t need a separate water bottle. Still, don’t think that a huge water reservoir is always good because remember you’ll be carrying that water weight–literally.
Also consider weather conditions. NObody wants their stuff wet from icky weather. A rainstorm doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end of your hike, but if the stuff inside your backpack is wet, it sure can be more miserable. Consider the coating of your backpack, as well as the necessity of a rain cover just in case. Even ‘waterproof’ backpacks can possibly have places where the water seeps in through the zippers or seams, and there’s nothing worse than carrying a heavy backpack that’s even heavier because of the water weight.
Finding Your Fabulous Fit
You’ll definitely want to make sure the backpack you choose fits you (or your child) well. Choose a size that is best for the length of your torso and not your overall height. Some backpacks can be adjusted to fit your torso better, and that is great as the majority of your backpack should be supported by your hips. A good torso fit is pivotal to where the weight load sits, so be sure that it sits well. If you are looking for a good backpack fit for your children, you want to be sure of the capacity and the ability to have adjustable suspension so the bags can grow as you grow. Backpacks made for women often have better fits for children too because the frame sizes are smaller.
Look at the straps (load lifter and sternum) on the backpacks. You want the load lifter straps that are stitched into the top of the shoulder straps to form an approximate 45° angle between the pack and the shoulder straps. They are designed to keep the pack from sagging on your back, which puts more weight on your lumbar and lower back. The sternum strap also gives stability and is great for weight distribution and different terrains. Not a necessity, but certainly nice when looking at extended hiking or camping trips.
If you are considering buying the best backpack for hiking and camping for your children, keep in mind that they are strong, but still not as strong as we are. We’ll highlight some of the best backpacks for hiking and camping for kids as well.
The Best Backpacks For Hiking And Camping
This is a great backpack with a great purpose and function. When Kelli Bellnap and his wife Matilda backpacked all over the world, their eyes were opened to just how much poverty and hunger there was in the world. Of course, they ‘knew’ it existed, but seeing it in person made the problem so much more real to them. Avid adventurers, they’d do what they could each day on their travels. They’d load as many prepared meals as they could in their backpacks and hand them out to people in need they came across throughout their days.
And that’s how Adventurist Backpack Co. came to be. Realizing they could “Travel well, do good,” with simple acts of food in a backpack, they designed and created these lightweight, stylish packs. They were able to fit about 25 meals in their bags when they’d been traveling, and when creating Adventurist, that’s what they wanted their purpose to be as well.
Believing a little kindness goes a long way, every Adventurist bag sold results in the couple donating 25 meals to communities in need. They know that feeding hungry families feeds their ability to learn, grow and give back themselves, and they believe that integrating business and doing good is the way to do so.
The bags are 100% vegan and use no animal byproducts. They’re cool because they’re fashionable, lightweight and perfect for day backpack trips and kids and adults alike love them. Currently they’re loved by University bookstore consumers in California, Oregon, Colorado and more.
And, they’re committed to reducing fabric waste in the world by being the only backpack you’ll need to buy, so all of their bags have lifetime guarantees. If it breaks or tears, they’ll fix it or replace it free of charge. That’s a lot of hiking and camping trips you’ll be able to take!
Another company committed to reducing waste and standing behind a product, Osprey will replace damage or defect on their bags if they can’t perform a functional repair on the bag. Again, reducing fabric waste and maintaining product integrity, this lightweight bag is perfect for day hiking. It’s lightweight and can also be used as part of Osprey’s larger backpacks with easy attachment. The side mesh pockets make it easy to get to water and snacks during the day trip and it has an interior sleeve that you can use for hydration or electronics (if you want to bring them).
Osprey is a great kids’ choice too. It’s large enough for your child to carry an extra layer and a snack to power through the day and it has a 1.5L Hydraulics LT Reservoir. The shoulder harness is fleece-lined for their comfortability and it even has a bungee on the front so you can add additional lightweight layers. Because the hydration sleeve is outside, it’s easier for refills (and hopefully helps with fewer spills) and it’s lightweight. Because kids really do like carrying their own weight when it comes to adventuring.
Sebastian Westin is Co-Founder and Brand Manager of Sandqvist, and says their ambition is to make long-lasting and sustainable products. They work to be fair to everyone involved with the creation of their bags, and with care to the environment too. They buy organic cotton directly from the farmers and use recycled fibers from post-consumer waste in their synthetics. They believe you can make a good product that’s sustainable, and so do we. That’s why we like the Harald. It’s great for short day-trips and is water-resistant and light enough each member of the family could use it for the hike.
EcoGear backpacks are created from REPREVE fabric. That fabric is made from recycled water bottles. It’s chlorine-free and reduces energy consumption and pollution by conserving petroleum-based resources. REPREVE also supports non-profits committed to protecting the environment.The Pinnacle 65L backpack is a great option if you want to carry all the stuff for you and the kiddos. It’s a larger backpack, but still comfortable and lightweight. The shoulder straps are ergo-constructed for comfort, and it also has adjustable hipbelt and backstrap options.