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Top 10 Backpacker Recommended Backpacks – 2017

Top 10 Backpacker Recommended Backpacks
Top 10 Backpacker Recommended Backpacks

What are the best multi-day backpacks recommended by badass backpackers? We surveyed 900 backpackers to find out what packs they use and their top picks include the ULA Circuit Backpack, Osprey Exos 58 Backpack, Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack, Osprey Atmos AG 65 Backpack and Granite Gear Crown 60 Backpack.

1. ULA Circuit Backpack

The ULA Circuit Backpack is the most popular multi-day backpack chosen by backpackers. Weighing 41 ounces, this 68 liter backpack has a load carrying capacity of 35 pounds and is available with men’s or women’s specific shoulder pads and hip belts. The Circuit has a roll-top favored by long distance hikers, with a large rear mesh pocket, two large side water bottle pockets, and two large hip belt pockets. Lightweight, but bomber tough, this pack can last through a long distance thru-hike and come back for more! Price $235. Click for more information.

2. Osprey Exos 58

Osprey Exos 58
The Osprey Packs Exos 58 is lightweight minimalist pack favored by weekend backpackers and thru-hikers alike. Weighing 40 ounces fully configured, it has a rigid frame that makes it good for hauling heavier loads up to 35 pounds. The top lid can also be removed if not needed, dropping the pack weight close to 33 ounces. Ultralight details and back ventilation make the Exos a good backpack for hiking in hot or humid conditions. Sizing is Unisex. Price $220. Click for more information.

3. Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60

Gossamer Gear Mariposa
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is a great pack for backpackers who are lightening their loads because it has plenty of storage. It’s intuitively organized for a multi-day trips, with plenty of external pockets for wet gear, and lots of covered storage for items you need less frequent access too. The Mariposa has a lightweight aluminum frame stay capable of carrying 30 pounds comfortably, and interchangeable hip belts sizes are available, ensuring a good fit. While not as durable as other packs, it is very lightweight, weighing just 32.7 ounces. Sizing is Unisex. Price $255. Click for more information.

4. Osprey Atmos AG 65

Osprey Atmos AG 65
The Osprey Atmos AG 65 is one of the most comfortable backpacks ever made with a ventilated “anti-gravity” suspension system that wraps around your hips and back. Featuring a lightweight, yet rigid frame, this 9-pocket top loader has an adjustable length hip belt, ensuring an optimal fit. While the Atmos AG 65 weighs 4 pounds and 6 ounces (70 ounces), that weight can be trimmed down by removing optional components such as the top lid. Osprey also offers a women’s version of this packs: the Osprey Aura AG 65. The maximum recommended load for the Atmos AG 65 is 45 pounds. Price $260. Click for more information.

5. ULA Ohm 2.0

ULA Ohm 2-0
The ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack is a lighter weight 32.5 ounce, 63 liter version of the #1 ranked ULA Circuit Backpack that uses the same frame and hip belt system as its bigger brother. It’s a roll-top backpack, with a large rear mesh pocket, two large side water bottle pockets, and two large hip belt pockets. Available with men’s or women’s specific shoulder pads and hip belts, it has a maximum load of 25-30 pounds. Price $210. Click for more information.

6. Osprey Exos 48

exos 48
The Osprey 48 is also a lighter weight, smaller capacity version of the #2 ranked Osprey Exos 58 pack, good for weekend backpacking trips and ultralight backpacking. Weighing 40 ounces, it  also has a removable top lid that provides additional weight savings when not needed, with a maximum load rating of 25 pounds. Sizing is unisex. Price $190. Click for more information..

7. Granite Gear VC Crown 60

Granite Gear VC crown 60
The Granite Gear VC Crown 60 is thru-hiking backpack that’s also excellent for multi-day backpacking trips. A roll top pack weighing 34 ounces, it has all of the features you’d expect in an ultralight style backpack including a large mesh back pocket and side water bottle pockets. What makes this pack distinct is its multi-tiered, wrap-around compression system. The VC Crown 60 has a maximum recommended load of 25-30 pounds. A women’s specific version, the Granite Gear VC Crown 60 Ki, is available. Price $199. Click for more information.. Granite Gear has also just released an upgraded version of this pack called the Crown 2, also available in a women’s specific version.

8. Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40

Gossamer Gear Gorilla
The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 is a 34 ounce ultralight backpack designed for minimalist, fast and light backpacking or weekend trips. It has an optional top lid pocket, rear mesh pocket, and generous side water bottles pockets, including a foam back panel which can serve double duty as a sit pad. The Gorilla has a lightweight aluminum frame stay capable of carrying 25 pounds comfortably, and interchangeable hip belts sizes are available ensuring a good fit. Sizing is unisex. Price $245. Click for more information.

9. Gregory Baltoro 65

Gregory Baltoro 65
The Gregory Baltoro 65 is a favorite for extended style adventures that require carrying very heavy 50-60 pound loads. While the Baltoro is a top loading pack with a top lid, the main compartment can be accessed from the back side like a panel loader, providing excellent gear access. Another distinguishing feature is an interchangeable hip belt available in multiple sizes (sold separately) and the ability to adjust the amount of lumbar support provided. A holster style water bottle pocket, waterproof hip belt pocket, and a separate sleeping bag compartment are a few more notable features on this fully loaded pack. Weighing 5 pounds 6 ounces (86 ounces), the Baltoro 65 is the most fully featured pack in the top 10 list. A women’s version is also available called the Deva 60. Sizing is unisex. Price $299. Click for more information.

10. Deuter ACT Lite 65+10

Deuter ACT Lite 65+10
The Deuter ACT Lite 65+10 is a traditional style top loading backpack designed for multi-day trips. Weighing 4 pounds 6 ounces (70 ounces), it has an adjustable length torso to help you dial in a good fit, with side water bottle pockets, a rear mesh pocket, top lid pocket, and separate sleeping bag compartment. Maximum recommended load is 40-50 pounds. Sizing is Unisex. Price $209. Click for more information. Deuter is the most popular backpacking manufacturer in Europe and offers many other female-specific backpack models, designated with an “SL”.

Backpack Rankings by the Numbers

The following table lists the top 10 backpacks recommended by backpackers from a survey of 900 backpackers run in January of 2017.

1ULA Circuit5.99%
2Osprey Exos 585.43%
3Gossamer Gear Mariposa3.99%
4Osprey Atmos AG 653.55%
5ULA Ohm 2.02.99%
6Osprey Exos 482.66%
7Granite Gear VC Crown 602.33%
8Gossamer Gear Gorilla2.00%
9Gregory Baltoro 651.77%
10Deuter ACT Lite 65+101.77%

About This Survey

This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of backpacking gear.

While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general backpacking population based on the size of the survey results where n=900 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.

There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: backpackers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all backpackers, backpacker who read Internet content might not be representative of all backpackers, backpackers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all backpackers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.

The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to backpackers who are interested in learning about the popularity of different backpacks.

Support SectionHiker.com, where we actually field test the products we review. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you.

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  1. Glad to see the ULA Circuit rated at number #1. It is an awesome pack. L-O-V-E mine!

    Thanks for running this survey. It’s great to see what backpackers really use instead of all the super ultralight hype.

  2. Do you have any experience with the Z-Packs Arc-Blast? This looks to be an attractive lightweight pack. I’m planning on using this rather than my ULA Ohm for an upcoming AT thru-hike.

  3. I”ve been using a Gregory Deva 60 while section hiking the AT. In Georgia this fall, water was scarce. I ended up carrying a lot more water that my norm. The extra weight was miserable. Suddenly, I’m hyper-focused on ways to cut down how much base weight I’m carrying. The Gregory has an excellent fit, but it is heavy.

    I tried on an Osprey Exos 48. It fit my husband well, but cut into my hips in a really painful way. It didn’t feel like it was built for curves. The Gossamer and Granite Gear are the two I’m interested in checking out next. Both would need to be ordered .. there isn’t any place locally that carries them.

    Do you have any advice for which one of those two I should try first? Does either have a fit that is better for women? I am 5’8″ and wear a XS or S pack-frame size.

    • First measure your torso length. Then look up to see which models fit you.

    • Win, I suggest you give the Osprey Atmos AG 65 a go. Has a woman’s version too. Me and my wife both have one. It’s just very comfortable to wear, so weight, even a lot of it, is not an issue.

    • Win, I have the Osprey Exos 58 and had a similar problem. The issue for me is the bottom corners of the aluminum frame, while rounded, are not padded very well by the hip belt padding. I was getting two bruises, one on each hip, from the metal resting against them with only a bit of fabric. I *completely* solved the problem by getting someone strong (the packfitter at REI) to bend the aluminum corners away from my body (towards the center of the pack). It only took moving those corners inward about 1/4″ – 1/2″. It’s now almost as comfortable as the Osprey Aura AG. (Well…almost)

    • Win, I suggest you try out the fit of a Granite Gear, Blaze A.C.60 in the Ki (women’s version) and a short torso if you need that. The short torso model will fit down to a 14″ torso, and will easily and comfortably carry 35 pounds when necessary. I have to laugh at people who use the Ultra Light backpacks because they either have no frame, or no substantial hip belt to transfer the weight of the pack to the hips. The Blaze A.C.60 has both.

    • Osprey Ariel 55 user in XS/S. Excellent fit for a 14.5 to 15″ torso length woman. This is the women’s version of the Atmos. I bought mine at an REI, they are pretty good about fitting up novices with the right packs for their bodies – and they assemble some “sandbags” in the pack to simulate weight. I wore my two candidates for about 30 min apiece in the store before deciding. Try squatting, leaning over, walking over an obstacle, or whatever other posture you can at the store. REI stores are fairly common, so if you happen to take a trip to a city with a store, you might do well to get fitted.

      Of course the Ariel / Atmos is not a light pack, but if you need to carry weight, a slightly heavier pack that fits well beats the heck out of a UL pack with an unsuitable (no) frame and harness. It’s all in the fit, which is very individual.

  4. I like the ULA CDT. I’ve used it for three years now. Taking off things you don’t need gets the weight down to 21 ounces. It can handle 50 liters and has most all of the features of its bigger brothers, just without the frame. I’ve loaded it up to 28 lbs without a problem. It’s performed very well for me. You do have to be careful the way you load it, but I have found it to be the most comfortable pack I’ve owned. It is more comfortable than my osprey volt.

  5. Glad to see that the Deuter ACT Lite 65+10 made the list even if it’s at the bottom. I’m a 5’6″, 130 lb. female. I was using it for section hiking the AT carrying an average of 25 lbs. The shoulder straps are easily adjusted for a woman’s torso. I would suggest to the company that they add another snack pocket on the left side of the hip belt otherwise I have no complaints. Even though it’s not considered ultra light it’s still my all time favorite pack!

  6. I’m still a Kelly Trekker external frame pack lover just thought I would throw an old timers opinion in there

  7. Guess I missed the survey. I’m another old-timer I guess. I like my GoLite Jam Packs, which are now made by My Trail out of Boulder, CO. I have both a 50 L and a 70 L. The 70 is good if you have to carry a bear can.

    • I felt the golite jam had very little padding on the shoulders and got pretty uncomfortable on a 165 mi solo trip I did.

  8. I have more backpacks than I’ll admit to (including several on this list). I’ve settled on the Zpacks Arc Haul Zip. I’m a 5’3″, 52-yr-old female, and it’s a great fit. And once you carry such a lightweight pack it’s hard to go back to heavy. I’m carrying a Zpacks Duplex tent and Zpacks sleeping bag so my total weight with food and 2L of water is generally around 20-22lbs. But I’ve had it winter camping with more weight and it did great.

  9. Per a review I read of Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers who finished…. The Osprey was the #1. pack….

  10. Do you think the Osprey 50 would be a pack good enough for a 4day trip on the AT?

  11. Philip, I’m getting back into backpacking after many years away and will be purchasing a new pack. I’m not ready to go ultra-light, and figure my weight will be in the 35-40 lb. range. Two packs I’m considering are the ULA Circuit and the Six Moon Designs Fusion 50. I’ve read your review of each. Do you have any preferences between the two? Is there another pack entirely that you suggest I look at?

    Thank you for your website. It’s a big help.

  12. Seems like Osprey was the real winner in total votes. I made the mistake of ordering a Circuit based on reviews. Ever eat at a place that sucked but had great reviews? That was my feeling. If I had been able to compare packs side by side in a store, I doubt I would have even considered a ULA pack. It must be post purchase bias or some such thing. That thing never fit right, and I hated the mesh back pocket and top enclosure. I saw one ULA pack last summer. I asked the woman about it. She said she bought it solely due to the purple fabric. Okayyy. I went on a long trip and was unable to return the pack until one day past the 30 day limit. They gave me crap about that and charged me $5 for missing hand loops. ULA trust me, I did not keep your useless handloops- did ya check the pockets??? I would not wear a ULA pack if they stuffed it with 20 dollar bills first.

  13. After trying and using many packs over the years, my current goto pack is the Arcteryx Altra 75 – leaves the others eating its dust; very surprised that Arcteryx Altra’s didn’t even get a mention in your survey.

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