10 Best Ventilated (Suspended Mesh) Backpacks of 2023
Ventilated backpacks, also called suspended-mesh backpacks, have a large gap behind the mesh that encourages airflow to help your shirt dry faster if you perspire. They’re much more comfortable than conventional backpacks when you’re hiking in hot and humid weather or when you’re carrying a heavy load. First invented by Deuter Packs, they’re one of the most sought-after backpack features by backpackers. While many backpack manufacturers claim that their backpacks are ventilated, it’s important to differentiate between backpacks with trampoline-style mesh backs and those that have marginally effective “foam air channels.” The performance difference is significant.
Here are the 10 best ventilated backpacks that we recommend. Many of these backpacks are available in multiple volumes and for men and women, as noted below. These are the best-of-the-best ventilated and suspended mesh backpacks that will keep you drier and more comfortable on the trail.
1. Osprey Exos 58 Backpack
The Osprey Exos 58 is a lightweight backpack with an adjustable-length torso that weighs 2 lbs 13 oz. It has a top lid, side water bottle pockets, a front shove-it pocket, and removable sleeping pad straps. The top lid is removable and can be replaced with a speed lid to lighten the pack. The ventilated mesh back panel is quite comfortable with excellent airflow to keep you dry. The men’s Exos 58 is also available in a 48-liter size. The women’s specific version of this backpack is called the Osprey Eja 58. Read our Exos 58 Review.
The Gregory Focal 58 is a multi-day, ventilated backpack that weighs between 2 lbs 9.3. The Focal is a top-loading backpack with a removable top lid. It has a pre-curved hip belt with large hip belt pockets, a front mesh stuff pocket, and side mesh water bottle pockets. The wire internal frame provides excellent support with a maximum recommended load of 30-35 pounds. The Focal is also available in 48 liter size. The women’s specific version of this pack is the Facet 55. Read our Gregory Focal 58 Review and our Gregory Facet 55 Review.
The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is a multi-day backpack with a seamless mesh ventilation system that spreads the load across your back and torso. If you’ve never tried the AG (anti-gravity) system, it really is remarkably comfortable. This pack also features an adjustable length torso and adjustable length hip belt to help you dial in a great fit. The pack has two side water bottle pockets, a front shove-it pocket, a sleeping bag pocket, and two hip belt pockets for gear organization. The top lid can be removed and a speed lid used to cover the top of the main compartment instead. Weighing 4 lbs 10 oz, the Atmos AG 65 isn’t ultralight, but it is ultra-comfortable and provides an enormous bang for the buck. The Atmos AG 65 is also available in a 50L volume. The women’s specific version of this pack is called the Aura AG 65. Read our Atmos AG review.
The Osprey Exos Pro 55 is a new streamlined version of the Exos 58 listed above that’s sufficiently different that it’s worth an independent listing. If slashing gear weight is your number one priority, this is the Exos to get. The Pro 55 is made with lighter weight and less durable materials, has a slightly lower maximum recommended load rating, and has fewer features, making it 11.8 ounces lighter than the original Exos 58. That’s pretty substantial. Despite that, the Exos Pro 55 is still a functional and lively pack to carry. If you want a very detailed breakdown of the differences between the Exos 58 and the Exos Pro 55, see our very detailed Exos Pro 55 Review. The women’s version os the Exos Pro 55 is called the Eja Pro 55.
The Gregory Katmai 65 is a ventilated internal frame backpack with an adjustable length torso and adjustable length hipbelt so you can dial in a personalized fit. Available in 65 and 50-liter sizes, the pack’s suspension and ventilated mesh back panel are designed to dynamically move with you to help you keep your balance. The pack’s shoulder harness and ventilated back panel are also pretreated with Polygiene, an odor-control fabric treatment that inhibits the growth of bacteria, so your pack won’t stink even if you do. The Katmai is a top loader with a sleeping bag compartment and a side zipper for easy access. An optional day pack is also included perfect for summit attempts or for travel. The women’s version is called the Kalmia 60 or 50. Read our Gregory Katmai 65 Review.
The Deuter Futura Air Trek 50 + 10 is a multi-day backpack with an adjustable length torso and a floating, padded hip belt pivot to match your movements for greater comfort. This top-loader has a front zipper for easy gear access and a sleeping bag pocket for better gear organization. A floating lid, side water bottle pockets, hip belt pockets, and a rain cover complete this ventilated backpack’s feature set. While the weight of 4 lbs 12 oz is a bit on the heavy side, this pack provides excellent load transfer to the hips, which is why it’s a user favorite. The women’s version is called the Deuter Futura Air Trek 45 + 10 SL. Read our Deuter Futura Air Trek Review.
The Zpacks Arc Blast 55 Backpack is an ultralight backpack made with a waterproof fabric called Dyneema Composite Fabric. It has a curved perimeter frame with a mesh panel, only it’s exposed with a user-adjustable curve angle, unlike the other ventilated backpacks listed here where the curve angle is fixed. The Arc Blast is a roll-top backpack with a front mesh pocket and side water bottle pockets. Each Blast 55 is made to order and can be customized with numerous features. Weighing just 19.9 oz, this is a popular ultralight backpack for long-distance thru-hikers. Read our Zpacks Arc Blast Review.
The Gregory Zulu 45 is a ventilated and adjustable-length backpack designed for multi-day backpacking trips. It has a comfy mesh ventilation system that spreads the load across your back and torso and is similar to Osprey’s AG (Anti-Gravity) ventilation system. The Zulu has two side water bottle pockets, a front shove-it pocket, a sleeping bag pocket, a rain cover, and two hip belt pockets for gear organization. A front U-shaped zipper also provides zipper-style access to the main compartment. Weighing 3 lbs 10 oz, the Zulu 45 is remarkably lightweight for such a fully-featured backpack. A 65 liter and 55-liter version are also available. The women’s specific version of this pack is the Gregory Jade 43.
The Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60 is an ultralight suspended-mesh rolltop backpack with a curved carbon fiber frame with an adjustable-torso length. The pack comes with load lifter straps and has a removable and interchangeable hip belt so you can dial in a personalized fit. The pack has two side pockets, a front mesh pocket, side compression, and sleeping pad straps. It is made with Ultra 200, which is a woven 200 denier Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) face fabric laminated to a waterproof lining. Ultra 200 has an extremely high tear and abrasion resistance rating exceeding Dyneema DCF and is a great option if you want a backpack that will provide years of use.
The Osprey Rook 65 is an adjustable-torso length backpack with a ventilated, suspended mesh frame. It has a fixed top lid with zippered pocket and a zippered sleeping bag compartment with a floating divider. two tiers of compression straps, in addition to removable sleeping pad straps, make it easy to attach gear to the outside of the backpack. The hipbelt has zippered pockets and a rain cover is included. The Rook 65 has a maximum recommended load of 30-40 lbs and weighs 3 lbs 8 oz. It is also available in a 50L model. The women’s version is called the Osprey Renn 65 or the Renn 50.
These are the most important variables to consider when buying a backpack.
The two most important dimensions for sizing a backpack are your torso length and your hip belt size. Measuring your torso and matching it to pack sizes is pretty straightforward. Measuring the hip belt size you need is a little more obscure because the hip belt specs published by backpack manufacturers have nothing to do with your waist size or hip bone girth. When trying on hip belts, make sure the padded portion of the hip belt covers the front of your hip bones. If it doesn’t, the hip belt is too short and more of the load will rest on your shoulders and less on your hips. If the pack you’re interested in doesn’t have a hip belt that’s large enough to cover your hip bones, do yourself a favor and buy a different backpack.
The weights of backpacks can vary widely depending on their volume and feature set. Higher volume, multi-day backpacks over 60 liters generally weigh in at 4-5 pounds, while packs 50 liters and less weigh in at 2-4 pounds. There’s no hard and fast rule that limits acceptable pack weights; just remember that a heavier backpack will be harder and more tiring to carry and let that be your guide.
The backpack volume you need will vary depending on the specific gear you need to carry, weather conditions, and the number of days you need to hike between resupply points. Generally speaking, daypacks range from 15-35 liters in size; weekend backpacks range from 30 liters to 50 liters, while multi-day backpacks range from 50-70 liters. Expedition-sized packs are much higher in volume and can range from 70-110 liters in size.
Most backpacks have a combination of open and closed pockets. Open pockets are useful for storing gear you want fast access to without having to open the main compartment of your backpack. They’re also good for stashing wet gear in order to keep it separate from the dry or delicate gear you store in closed pockets.
Load lifters are straps attached to a backpack frame, above the shoulder pads, that let you pull the top of the pack forward if you feel it pulling you back onto your heels. They’re a standard feature on high-volume backpacks but aren’t as important on smaller volume packs intended to carry lower gear weights.
Ventilated backpacks help keep your back and shirt drier by encouraging airflow behind your back and faster evaporation of perspiration. They’re also called suspended mesh backpacks or trampoline backpacks. Largely a comfort feature, they have a minor impact on hiking speed or performance.
Backpacks typically have top lids or roll-top closures to prevent rain from draining into the main compartment. Both closure systems have different merits. Top lids usually have one or two internal pockets that provide additional gear storage for gloves, hats, maps, and navigation equipment. Roll-top closures are simpler and faster to use with fewer straps and provide excellent top compression.
External Attachment Points
Backpacks are designed to carry gear internally and externally, attached to the outside of the backpack. External attachment points or straps are helpful when you need to carry bulky gear that can’t fit inside your backpack like foam sleeping pads, avalanche shovels, skis, snowshoes, or tent bodies.
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Would the Vargo pack fit into this category? I’m interested in this pack but not necessarily for ventilation purposes. I read your review and also wanted to know if the link provided will still give you some pennies. :)
No – Vargo makes three external frame packs. Suspended mesh packs are by definition internal frame packs although they both (internal and external) have decent airflow.