7 Best Thru Hiking Backpacks of 2024 | Ultralightweight Packs

Last Updated on 21/05/2024

best thru hiking backpack

What Are the Best Thru Hiking Backpacks?

The best thru-hiking backpacks need to be lightweight, comfortable, and durable, as well as big enough to fit all your gear in. In this guide, we look at some of the most lightweight backpacks as well as the most comfortable backpacks for long-distance hiking.

On a long-distance thru-hike, your backpack becomes a part of your body, so it is super important that it fits your back correctly, has adequate support on the hips and shoulders, and feels comfortable when fully loaded. Padding, ergonomics, and adjustability can play a big part in the comfort of your backpack, but breathability matters too. This is why we love the air mesh system on the Osprey Exos because it is both extremely comfortable and as breathable as a backpack can get.

The first decision you need to make before starting to look for a thru-hiking backpack is what size it will be. We have a guide further down the page that covers this in detail, but it is pretty hard to start looking until you know. Once you know what kind of size you want, you can make a shortlist of backpacks that you think would meet your needs.

Your aim with all thru-hiking gear is to be as lightweight as possible so that you can enjoy your hike without breaking your back. That being said, we often avoid the most lightweight backpacks in favor of better comfort and load-carrying capabilities. It is best to try a few different packs before you make your choice; however, if you want to purchase online, you should measure your back to match your body size.

Below are our 7 best thru-hiking backpacks reviews, and then further down the page, we have a buying guide and frequently asked questions.

7 Best Backpacks for Thru-Hiking

Osprey Exos 48L Backpack

Osprey Exos 48Outdoor gear buy
  • WEIGHT: 2.57 lbs / 1160 g
  • VOLUME: 48L
  • CAPACITY: 35 lbs / 16 kg

The Osprey Exos 48 is by far the best backpack for thru-hiking you can buy for the money. It is not the lightest backpack on the list, but it is by far the comfiest, and there is no surprise that it is one of the most popular backpacks for hiking the AT, CDT, and PCT. It has all the features you need from a backpack you will be hauling all your gear across the country and has a large array of benefits.

Weighing just 1.16 kg, this is by no means a heavy pack, but it does weigh more than others, so you have to decide whether saving a few hundred grams is worth sacrificing for comfort. It is available in 38L, 48L, and 58L sizes however we recommend either the 48 or 58-liter capacity. If you were thinking of getting the 38-liter Exos, consider that you can remove the brain of the 48-liter version to have a 40-liter backpack. This gives you more options in the future when you need different-sized bags.

You have plenty of space for camping gear, clothes, food, water, and any accessories you carry on a thru-hike. We found that we had more than enough space for five days of supplies and 2 liters of water, all packed inside. If you need to carry more food and water, you can fit large bottles in both side pockets, and you can easily attach your tent to the outside of your bag when needed.

Osprey Exos 48 backpack

You can easily haul 35 lbs of gear without any issue, and the comfort is another level above its rivals. When you carry more than 35 lbs, you may start to get gear touching the mesh back support, but if you pack properly, you can have a much higher maximum load weight. If you do plan to carry a heavy load, though, I would certainly recommend the 58-liter size above, which has a higher maximum load and will spread the weight out more efficiently.

With possibly the best back support of any thru-hiking backpack out there, Osprey’s AirSpeed ventilated trampoline suspended mesh back panel provides maximum comfort and ventilation. It hugs your back without making you sweaty and provides suspension and comfort with a heavy load which is perfect in the heat. The shoulder straps and hip belts are made from Exoform mesh and ventilated foam padding for maximum comfort and airflow. They look fairly minimal at first glance and don’t seem too thick or padded, but once you try them, you realize that they provide all the support you need and are very comfortable.

Osprey bags are known for being extremely comfortable and having excellent features. The mesh back panel is by far our favorite feature of the Exos backpack, but we also like the removable brain and storm flap jacket to use without the lid. There are the standard features of an organizational pocket inside the lid, whistle on the chest strap, compression straps on the outside, two side pockets with multiple access points, large stretchy mesh front pocket, trekking pole, and ice ax loops, webbing to hang wet clothes from, and internal water reservoir holder. Believe it or not, these features are fairly minimal in terms of what some of the more heavy-duty Osprey packs have to offer.

VERDICT: Until we see more mesh back panel backpacks, we will be continuing to use and recommend the Osprey Exos 48-liter backpack for thru-hiking. It is unrivaled in comfort and doesn’t weigh so much that it feels heavy or unmanageable. If you currently use a larger backpack that weighs closer to 2 kg, then this is the obvious choice to save weight and get more selective with what you pack.

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Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60

Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor Backpack

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  • WEIGHT: 2.62 lbs / 1.19 kg
  • VOLUME: 40 – 60 L
  • CAPACITY: 50 lbs / 22 kg

The Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60 is a relative newcomer in the thru-hiking backpack world however, it has built up a massive reputation in a very short period of time. It is easily affordable, generously expandable, supremely comfortable, has a multitude of pockets, and is a solid workhorse on the trail. For all these reasons, this is one of the best backpacks for thru-hiking.

Weighing the same as the Osprey Exos above, the Flex Capacitor is lightweight enough to be used on a thru-hike and has everything you might need in a backpack and more. The design allows you to expand from 40 to 60 liters and everywhere in between, making this super easy to adapt to your varying pack contents. For example, you can load it up to the maximum capacity with food and water, and as you use your supplies over the following week, you can tighten the straps to keep the weight as close to your back as possible.

The back cushions sit nicely on all points of contact and allow air to flow across and up your back on hot days. You can choose between two sizes which should be determined by your body size and, in particular, back length. The shoulder straps are very ergonomically designed to fit the contours of your shoulder and torso.

The hip belt is nice and chunky too, which really hugs your body. If you tighten the waist strap up and take your shoulder straps off, the hip belt will easily support the weight of the pack without being uncomfortable. Both the waist strap and the shoulder straps are made from thick foam padding which breaths well and keeps their shape very well over time.

Of all the top-rated thru hiking backpacks, this one easily has the best organizational pockets. To start with, there are two super hand stretch pockets at chest height on the shoulder straps which are great for your phone, snacks, GPS, or water. These pockets get used more than any other while hiking, and I often keep my phone and an energy bar on one side and a small bottle of water on the other.

The hip belt has two large zippered pockets, which are also great for keeping your phone, wallet, and keys safe, as well as storing any other items you want close to hand, like trail mix, inhalers, or multitool. Again, these pockets get used frequently during the day and meaning you don’t have to take your bag off so often. Two stretch side pockets are great for water bottles, hiking poles, waterproofs, or camping gear you don’t want inside your bag.

The lid of the bag has a zippered pocket on the outside but not on the inside. There is a mesh storage pocket on the inside that attaches to the top of the bag and can be used to store valuables and toiletries or used as a drying pouch on the outside of your bag. This is a really cool thing to have to dry socks or wet clothes during the day.

VERDICT: Overall, the Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor backpack is a great thru-hiking backpack for heavy loads and is also very user-friendly with so many external pockets close to hand. I have used this on several occasions and really feel like the designers smashed this one out of the park. There is nothing I would change about this, and I have nothing bad to say. I really would recommend this to anyone.

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Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

  • WEIGHT: 1.95 lbs / 884 g
  • VOLUME: 60L
  • CAPACITY: 35 lbs / 16 kg

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is one of the best lightweight hiking backpacks for long distances where weight, comfort, and size are of equal importance. The big benefits of this bag are the multiple pockets on the outside for easy storage, comfort with a heavy load, and its lightness. Saving over 300 grams is huge when you are trying to keep your pack weight under 9 kg (without food and water).

At just 884 grams for the average size medium, the Mariposa feels noticeably lighter compared to the Osprey Exos and Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor. When you are trying to save 10 grams here and 50 grams there, taking over 300 grams off your total pack weight is a BIG win. Thirty-six liters of internal capacity is more than enough space for over a week’s worth of gear, and then 24 liters of external space is perfect for things you want to have easy access to.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60One thing the Gossamer Gear Mariposa does incredibly well for a lightweight backpack is carrying heavy loads. The removable frame keeps the shape of the backpack ergonomic so that it always sits snugly against your back and distributes the weight evenly. The cushioning against your back is firm but spongy and helps provide great support when you are hiking, and makes an excellent backrest when you are sitting down.

The pack isn’t as breathable as others as it doesn’t feature a gap between your back and the pack, but it does have ventilation holes to help improve airflow. When you buy this backpack, you have the option to choose your waistbelt size, which allows you to customize your pack to your preferences. We tested the large waistbelt; however, we think a medium should be enough for most people. The shoulder straps are nice and wide to help disperse weight and provide extra comfort.

Our favorite thing about the Mariposa backpack, aside from the weight and comfort, is the abundance of outer pockets, which are perfect for keeping all your valuables and quick-access items close to hand. You have two large waistbelt pockets to keep your phone, camera, wallet, keys, and snacks safe and secure. The side pockets and stretchy front pockets are ideal for keeping your waterproofs and items you don’t want inside your pack. The lid zip pocket is where we like to keep my map, water filter, and sun cream – which I constantly use throughout a day of hiking.

VERDICT: We found that the Mariposa is one of the most robust and comfortable backpacks you can buy under 1 kg, and it is right on the cusp of being considered ultralightweight. We like that a good proportion of the pack’s capacity is made up of external pockets, which means you don’t need to route through your bag every time you need something.

The pockets make organizing your gear effortless, and it is great to have things like your waterproofs, snacks, water, and valuables within arm’s reach. If you want a very lightweight backpack that doesn’t compromise on comfort and support, then this is possibly the right one for you.


Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider

  • WEIGHT: 2 lbs / 907 g
  • VOLUME: 55L + 10L
  • CAPACITY: 40 lbs / 18 kg

The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider is a solid backpack for thru hiking any of America’s Great Trails and features some simple but highly valuable features. It is designed to fit more than enough supplies for a week or two on the trail and has become one of the most popular backpacks for experienced thru-hikers. The shape is tall and slender, which makes it easily maneuverable and ideal for hiking and climbing through canyons.

Weighing just 907 grams or just under 2 pounds, the HMG 3400 Windrider is very lightweight for its capacity. You can also get a smaller 2400 version as well as an even larger 4400 version, but we think that the Windrider 3400 is more than adequate for any long-distance hike. As well as the 55-liter capacity inside the bag, there are around 10 liters of storage space in outer pockets too. Despite that rather high maximum load capacity, we find that this bag feels best under 35 lbs, and you really have to be careful how you pack chunky items.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider backThe back of the pack has barely any cushioning other than the thin 1/4″ foam pad, which helps a little, which is why you have pay special attention to your placement of hard objects. I like to fold my sleeping pad and pack that right against the back, which provides all the additional padding I need and helps save weight overall. Two contoured aluminum stays can be bent to fit your posture and provide enough support to make this pack comfy over long distances. The shoulder straps and waistbelt are made from closed-cell foam and spacer mesh, which provides plenty of cushion to your high-impact zones.

While this pack does lack many features in terms of organization, it makes up for it the effectiveness and usability of the features it does have. The large mesh pocket is ideal for drying your ‘clean’ clothes and storing your wet waterproofs and comes in handy every day. The two side pockets are designed in such a way that you can easily reach around and grab a water bottle without having to take your pack off. Finally, the material itself is waterproof, so once you roll up the top and strap it down, no water is getting in.

VERDICT: The HMG Windrider 3400 is one of the best backpacks for thru hiking in wet weather because it keeps your gear dry and has an oversized back mesh pocket for drying clothes or storing your waterproofs. It is very lightweight and surprisingly durable, making it a clear choice for thru hiking in harsh weather and rough terrain. You will be surprised to see how many other thru-hikers have one of Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s backpacks once you start walking.


Ultralight Adventure Equipment Ohm 2.0

Ultralight Adventure Equipment Ohm 2.0

  • WEIGHT: 2.06 lbs / 938 g
  • VOLUME: 60 L
  • CAPACITY: 30 lbs / 13.6 kg

The Ultralight Adventure Equipment Ohm 2.0 is everything you might want from a thru-hiking backpack and more. It is one of the most customizable backpacks available today, with details such as custom embroidery, color combinations, and a choice of openings. Not only that, but the hip belt is adjustable to give you as close to a perfect fit as possible. When you need to carry days’ worth of supplies, it is so handy to have a large backpack like this to fit everything in.

Weighing just over 2 lbs, this is a super lightweight backpack with lots of features and a rugged exterior that can withstand years of abuse on the trail. Whether you choose the roll-top or the sinch opening, you can compress the bag down when low on supplies and expand it when needed. While this bag does perform best at around 16 or 17 lbs of total pack weight, it will happily carry loads of up to 30 pounds without breaking a sweat.

Ultralight Adventure Equipment Ohm 2.0 backThere is a carbon fiber hooped frame that stays at the top of the pack, which helps to transfer the weight down to the hips and improve the suspension. The back features an internal closed-cell foam pad which is pretty comfortable and can be removed if you want to use your own sleeping pad. You can choose between J-curve or S-curve shoulder straps to suit your body type, which is both very comfy and better than average for sure. The waist strap is adjustable to sit on your hips in the right position and is very comfortable with thick plush padding.

There are lots of cool features on the UAE Ohm 2.0 backpack that can be customized, but the pockets are mostly standard and are very well thought out with thru-hikers in mind. The two side pockets are adjustable to fit large water bottles in and can be tightened up when not in use. There is a large mesh front pocket that fits all your waterproof and quick access items, as well as is a great place to dry wet clothes during warmer days. Inside, there are removable pouches for valuables or toiletries and a water reservoir pouch with an H2O port.

VERDICT: This backpack is an ideal compromise between being reasonably lightweight without sacrificing features or comfort. For us at Gear Assistant, we feel this really ticks all the boxes for a legendary thru-hiking backpack, and the fact that it is so customizable really allows you to get exactly what you want. Given the choice of taking this or the ZPacks Arc Blast, I would almost always choose this for extra comfort and stability.


Zpacks Arc Blast

zpacks arc blast ultralight backpack

  • WEIGHT: 1.26 lbs / 575 g
  • VOLUME: 55 L
  • CAPACITY: 35 lb / 15 kg

The Zpacks Arc Blast backpack has been a strong contender for years and is a favorite among thru-hikers on a mission to be as lightweight as possible. It is ridiculously lightweight and features an arc-shaped frame system that creates a gap between your back and the pack for ventilation and comfort. While it doesn’t begin to compare with the mesh panel on the Osprey Exos, you reap some rewards by having it there.

At a mind-boggling 575 grams, this is by far the most lightweight thru-hiking backpack we have ever tested. To put this in perspective, two of these backpacks weigh less than one Osprey Exos 48! It has around 55 liters of claimed internal space. However, it does feel small in comparison to other 55-liter packs. That being said, there is more than enough room to store all your gear inside and keep a few things in the front and side pockets.

In the past, we have been very praising of the suspension system on the Arc Blast but having tried some much more comfortable thru-hiking backpacks recently, I am no longer such a fan. The back panel provides some suspension and support but is mostly just to help improve ventilation. It is made from two carbon fiber stays which can be tensioned to provide a wider arc and better fit.

zpacks arc blast ultralight backpack backYou really wouldn’t want to carry much more than 30 lbs, in our opinion, as once you go above that, the pack starts to lose its shape a little. The shoulder straps and waistband are comfortable enough; however, after some significant use, they do start to lose their shape and sponginess. While the waist strap does take a lot of the weight off your shoulders, after a long day of hiking, your shoulders do seem to feel it the most.

In terms of features and organizational pockets, don’t expect much. To keep weight to an absolute minimum, you only get two side pockets and a front mesh panel pocket. The side pockets are great for water bottles and storing your tracking poles, while the front mesh pouch can be used to store your waterproofs or dry wet clothing during the day. You can buy optional extras like the belt and shoulder pouches as well as other storage and attachment solutions, but these soon add to an already premium price tag.

VERDICT: Overall, this is still a great backpack for thru-hiking long distances because it saves you so much weight for a more enjoyable experience. It is still the best ultralight pack, in our opinion, but if you value wearing comfort over total pack weight, then there are better options available.

It keeps your gear dry and with some careful packing, it can sit very nicely on your back so long as you don’t make the pack too top-heavy. If you are young and don’t have any lower back pain, then this is the pack I would recommend to see you through your twenties.


Granite Gear Crown 2 60L

Granite Gear Crown 2 60 Backpack

Outdoor gear buy

  • WEIGHT: 2.12 lbs / 960 g
  • VOLUME: 60 L
  • CAPACITY: 35 lb / 15 kg

The Granite Gear Crown 2 is a rugged hiking backpack that weighs under 1 kg and meets all the criteria of a good thru hiking bag. It is extremely good value for thru hikers on a budget and has been tested all around the world with excellent feedback on the hole. It has some very cool color choices and is available in both men’s and women’s versions designed to hug the contours of your body.

With a total weight of just over 2 pounds (under 1 kilogram) this pack definitely qualifies as lightweight enough for thru-hiking. The 60-liter capacity is perfect for all your camping gear and supplies on the trail feels just as comfy when full as it is when you are light on food and water. You can pack up to 35 lbs of gear into the Granite Gear Crown 2 backpack and maybe even more; however, it feels best at around 20-25 lbs if you can get close.

Granite Gear Crown 2The pack features an internal Vapor Current mark, two compression molded polypropylene frame sheet that has molded reinforcement channels, and die-cut holes to improve breathability and reduce overall weight. This is basically a large piece of plastic that is semi-rigid and protects your back from harder items sticking to your back. It then features a molded foam back panel on the outside of the pack which has lots of ventilation channels and an overlaying mesh layer. While this looks fairly spongey, it does feel quite stiff on your back, be it ergonomically shaped for comfort.

The waist strap is width adjustable so that as you lose weight on the trail, you can alter your hip support to fit better around your waist. There is sufficient padding on the hips, back, and shoulders; however, you should always pack your heavy items close to your back and in the center of the bag, as top-heavy loads do make the shoulder straps dig in a bit. This is mainly due to the reinforced fabric straps taking a lot of the weight and pressing through the padding.

The features on the Crown 2 are fairly basic but do include two large side pockets, a mesh front panel pocket, two hip belt pockets, and a removable brain with DWR treated zip pocket. There is also a hydration bladder compartment with an H2O outlet which is also where you access the polypropylene back panel if you want to remove it. I will say that the side pockets are very deep, which is good in some regards, but it does make getting your water bottle out while hiking a little awkward.

VERDICT: We included the Granite Gear Crown 2 in this list because it is one of the more affordable packs that weigh less than a kilogram. It is almost half the price of other long-distance hiking backpacks, and it really does fit the bill in terms of performance and comfort. We find it works even better as a lightweight backpacking backpack than for wearing it all day, every day, as the back panel isn’t the comfiest, and the suspension seems to be lacking something. For an even lighter Granite Gear backpack, check out the Virga 2, which is available in a 56-liter option.

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best thru hiking backpack pct

Buyers Guide to Thru-Hiking Backpacks

If you are new to thru-hiking then it can be a bit daunting knowing what gear to buy. There are many experts recommending specific gear, but there is always someone there to contradict them, and before you know it, you have spent 4 hours looking with nothing to show for it. In this guide to the best thru-hiking backpacks, we explain all the different factors you should consider before buying.


We usually recommend finding a backpack that weighs less than 3 lbs for long-distance thru-hikes because your aim should be to stay as light as possible. Unless you are planning to carry loads above 35 lbs, then a lightweight backpack will be more than sufficient for your needs. The best way to reduce total pack weight is to upgrade your heaviest items for lightweight options. For example, you could save over a kilogram of weight by getting a new backpack or tent, but to save that much weight with smaller items is nearly impossible.

For many thru-hikers, reducing pack weight can become a bit of an obsession when you start weighing each individual item and figuring out ways to lose a few grams wherever possible. We would advise that while weight is a very significant factor, you should not overlook or sacrifice comfort for the sake of a few grams. Some lightweight packs will actually feel lighter the more comfortable they are, so just think about that when choosing.


You should have a good idea of both the amount of gear you plan to carry and also how much this will weigh before you select a backpack. The bigger the capacity, the more likely you are to take unnecessary items and end up with a heavy pack. This is why we recommend a backpack between 45 – 60 liters with a maximum load capacity between 30 – 50 lbs so that you set yourself a limit of how much you can take. Internal space should be at least 35 liters to fit the bulk of your gear and supplies, and then outer pockets can be used for things like your tent and sleeping pad if needed.


Above all else, your backpack has to fit you well and feel comfortable when loaded to the maximum capacity because you will be wearing it for up to 10 hours a day. The same goes for your thru hiking footwear, if it isn’t comfy, it won’t work on long distances. Things to look for in terms of comfort are dense foam padding for your back, some kind of frame or frame stays to disperse the weight, wide shoulder straps, an adjustable waist belt, and suspension. It is hard to know what kind of bag will work for you, but I have never heard anyone say the Osprey Exos isn’t comfortable.


Even the most lightweight thru hiking backpack on this list, the Z Packs Arc Blast, is made from incredibly tough material and is not as fragile as you might expect. You wouldn’t want to drag it across a road, but you don’t have to worry about every thorn or branch ripping it when walking through thick bush. It is always reassuring to have a reinforced base as this is the most high-impact area on a bag. All of the bags in this guide have been tried and tested on America’s toughest trails, and they are all durable enough to not even worry about them most of the time.


Getting a good fit is often the result of adjusting certain elements ever so slightly to customize where everything sits. Having adjustable straps on the shoulders, waistband, sternum, and suspension makes a massive difference to your comfort and allows you to get a really custom fit.

Shoulder straps can be tightened to pull the pack’s center of gravity closer to your core so that it can transfer weight to your hips. An adjustable waist belt can be tightened so that you take most of the weight off your shoulders and can walk further for longer. Sternum straps help stop the shoulder straps from digging in or rubbing on your arms.


For some people that sweat a lot, breathability is a big benefit when choosing a thru-hiking backpack. Many backpacks use mesh, closed-cell foam, and strategically designed air channels to try and improve ventilation on the straps and back panel. They all help to some degree, but there is one clear winner when it comes to breathability – the Osprey Exos 48. The mesh panel suspension back panel is a game-changer when it comes to breathability, and the Zpacks Arc Haul has something similar but nowhere near as effective.


Most thru-hiking backpacks will typically have one main compartment with a single opening at the top as well as some outer pockets and even internal pockets sometimes. Having one internal pocket for your valuables is a good idea because it makes it so much harder to lose things if the pocket is left open by accident (it happens).

A hydration reservoir pouch is only a benefit if you use it. Otherwise, it can just get in the way. As well as two side pockets, a front mesh pocket is something you should look for as it comes in handy so often for stuffing your waterproofs and wet clothes. Hip belt pockets often get used the most because they are such a great place to keep your phone, camera, and snacks while hiking.


While most backpacks are not waterproof, just water-resistant, the roll-top design seen in many of today’s top-rated thru hiking backpacks is far more waterproof than traditional packs. This is mostly thanks to the type of material and DWR treatments being used, but the sealed seams and roll-top closure also help. To keep your gear totally dry, I would recommend using either a backpack liner, dry bags, or waterproof bag cover.

Frame Type

Internal frames offer the most comfort as they are covered by padding and help to distribute the weight to your hips. External frames are the next best thing and help your backpack keep its shape when fully loaded as well as distribute the weight away from your shoulders. Frame stays are next and can be bent to fit the contours of your body but are fairly minimal in terms of keeping your gear away from your back.

Many ultralight backpacks for thru hiking don’t have any kind of frame and will typically feature some kind of thin padding or sheet instead. On average, heavier, more robust frames will offer the best comfort with a heavy load but will also add the most weight to your pack total.


You will typically find three types of closure on a thru hiking backpack – roll top, sinch top, or zip. All three are typically then secured with a compression strap on top, but there are some key differences to think about before choosing.

Roll-top closures are very reliable as well as waterproof and offer some extra space when you have lots of supplies. Sinch cord closures are also very reliable and often open up wider than the bag width for easy access. Zip closures are perhaps the least reliable but the easiest to access with one hand. As you can see, all three have their benefits, and you have to decide which works best for you.

best thru hiking backpack sunrise

What Size Backpack Do I Need for Thru-Hiking?

As a general rule, a backpack volume of between 45 – 65 liters is ideal for thru-hiking. This should give plenty of space for your camping gear, clothes, stove, toiletries, food, and water on Sobo or Nobo thru hikes. Bear in mind that when you have to carry several days of supplies, your pack will be much fuller and heavier, so you may have to strap your tent to the outside of your pack. For long-distance hikes without many resupply stops, a larger and more robust backpack will be better suited.

What Is the Difference Between Thru Hiking and Backpacking Backpacks?

Thru-hiking backpacks are typically lightweight and very minimalist, whereas backpacking backpacks are larger, heavier, and more feature-rich. Thru-hiking backpacks will typically have a single opening and few internal compartments to save weight, whereas backpacking packs will have multiple access points and organizational features.

Backpacking and survival backpacks are typically heavier and more durable because they do not need to be carried very often but may be handled as luggage on your travels, so they need to be heavy-duty. Lightweight backpacks for thru-hiking are designed to be as efficient as possible to reduce fatigue on the trail.

Are Hip Belts Necessary on Thru Hiking Backpacks?

Yes, hip belts are absolutely essential when thru hiking as they take most of the weight off of your shoulders and back and transfer it to your hips. This gives you a lower center of gravity and is far more sustainable over long distances. Your hip belt needs to be at the correct height and tightened enough to feel your shoulder straps get lighter. Waistbelts often come with pockets which are incredibly useful to keep your phone, camera, valuables, and snacks so that you have fast and easy access while hiking.

Where to Pack Your Heaviest Items in Your Backpack?

You should aim to back your heaviest items around the lower middle of your pack as close to your back as possible. It is also a good idea to pack things like your tent and sleeping bag at the bottom of your pack because you will only need to access them at the end of the day. As long as you consider the balance of your pack contents and spread the weight equally among both sides, you should be fine.

What Is the Sternum Strap For?

The sternum strap is designed to take some weight off your shoulders and disperse it across your chest. It is also there to pull your shoulder straps together slightly, which will prevent any rubbing on your armpit area. You can usually adjust the tightness across your chest as well as slide them up and down to match your body type. Some well-known brands often include an emergency whistle on the sternum strap, which is an amazingly simple but brilliant idea for safety’s sake. This can also help stop squeaky backpack noises.

How Much Do Thru Hiking Backpacks Cost?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $400 for a lightweight thru hiking backpack, with most being between $200 – $300. The Osprey Exos, Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor, and Granite Gear Crown 2 are all on the lower and of that spectrum and cost around $200. The more lightweight packs, which are manufactured on a much smaller scale, cost a little bit more and often have a base model to which you can then add optional extras.


best thru hiking backpack cdt


We hope you found our recommendations of the Best Thru Hiking Backpacks useful but feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.


Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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