The best backpacks of 2021 are as diverse as the adventures you take them on—from minimalistic trail running packs to highly technical mountaineering carryalls. And there’s no shortage of options, no matter the excursion.
Arguably the most versatile are daypacks. Some brands lean toward commuter-friendly features while others leverage the technologies of larger mountaineering styles by introducing multiple hydration and storage options. Of course in the backpacking realm, weight distribution and support reign supreme when crafting next-generation packs that meet the demands of modern adventurers. Clever features are fun and all, but you need something that takes the strain off your shoulders and back when you’re toting a hefty amount of cargo.
And then of course we have trail running and mountain biking packs, which often put the onus on hydration. Storage is minimal and optimized for the task at hand: For runners, it’s positioned on the front to mitigate bounce and discomfort. For mountain bikers, it’s situated on the lumbar to keep a low center of gravity.
With adventures as unique as the users and the locations they traverse, we highlighted some of the best backpacks of 2021 for your ever-shifting outdoor needs.
The Best Backpacks of 2021 for Every Adventure
1. Mammut Ducan Spine
Best for: Day Hikes or Backpacking
Choose between multiple sizes to have either a robust day-hiking pack or a full-size backpacking option. The largest (3.3 pounds) includes a suspension system that moves with your body to support your natural gait. Standout features include front zipper access to the main compartment, an elasticated chest strap, adjustable volume, a rain cover, multiple pole attachment systems, and plenty of pockets and panels for organization.
Pro Tip: Venturing out for a longer backpacking trip with loads of gear? Take a gander at the Mammut Trion Spine series. The packs are designed to keep your shoulders and hips mobile and offer optimal load transfer so you’re not weighed down on technical ascents.
[$259.95; mammut.com]Get it
2. Gregory Paragon 48
Best for: Backpacking
With a completely new FreeFloat Hybrid suspension system, this multi-day backpack mimics your movements for improved comfort. Flex panels integrated into the hip belt and a 3D foam back panel help minimize contact and improve airflow while centering the weight of the pack. A sunglass stow on the shoulder harness, an internal hydration sleeve, front and side stretch mesh pockets, and a full-length side zipper round the Paragon 48 out to be a knockout pick. It comes in three sizes, starting at just 3.3 pounds.
Pro Tip: Pining for something a little smaller? Take a look at the Gregory Citro series.
[$199.95; gregorypacks.com]Get it
3. CamelBak Zephyr Vest
Best for: Trail Running
With 1L capacity, the Zephyr Vest can more than keep up with ultrarunners and fastpackers. It goes a step beyond basic trail running packs by touting ventilation and plenty of organization to secure a smartphone and trekking poles. CamelBak’s Quick Stow option moves the provided hydration flasks to the front of the vest, opening up the back for additional storage, be it fuel or gear. We like the built-in safety whistle and antimicrobial treatment, too.
Pro Tip: If you want a hydration pack for mountain biking, try the CamelBak Skyline LR 10. The water carry rests on your lumbar and includes a 3L reservoir with a max capacity of 10L.
[$150; camelbak.com]Get it
4. REI Co-op Ruckpack 28 Pack
Best for: Day Hike
Those looking for an affordable yet durable day pack should nab REI’s Ruckpack 28. It’s made of ripstop nylon and has ventilated mesh back panels and a stowaway waist belt. The main pocket access comes from the side and top and can hold a hydration reservoir. There are plenty of straps, buckles, and easy-to-access compartments, making it ideal for a long day on the trails.
[$99.95; rei.com]Get it
5. Dakine Seeker 10L Bike Hydration Backpack
Best for: Mountain Biking
Screaming descents require a pack that stays close to your body without encumbering range of motion. The Seeker 10L does just that by keeping the 3L hydration reservoir low. The pack also features a quick disconnect option for the reservoir, helmet carry straps, a breathable back panel, padded sunglasses storage, zippered hip belt pockets, and external carry straps. The weatherproofing materials make it ideal for year-round rides.
Pro Tip: The Dakine Seeker 18L is best for cooler rides, where layering requires additional gear storage.
[$160; dakine.com]Get it
6. Fjällräven Bergtagen
Best for: Mountaineering
If you want a minimalistic pack with the technical know-how to handle mountaineering, the Fjällräven Bergtagen 30 (also available in 38L) is a stellar choice. The waterproof fabric is partially made of recycled nylon, and the pack includes an adjustable top lid (take it off entirely, if you prefer) with zippered pockets. The narrow design was specifically engineered for freedom of movement.
[$265; fjallraven.com]Get it
7. Osprey Exos 58
Best for: Backpacking
Osprey has streamlined the Exos line (38L, 48L, and 58L) to be ultralightweight but capable of loading ~40 pounds of gear. The aluminum frame and tensioned back panel help keep the weight off your back, while seamless, layered mesh boosts comfort and ventilation. And just because it’s light doesn’t mean Osprey cut corners. There’s still a bevy of features for strapping, attaching, pocketing, and accessorizing.
Pro Tip: Get the Osprey Stratos 24 if you’d prefer a smaller version; it has the same ventilated, tensioned mesh back panel and the ability to adjust the fit depending on the length of your torso.
[$220; osprey.com]Get it
8. Arc’teryx Aerios 10
Best for: Day Hike, Hydration, Mountain Climbing
You may be familiar with the Arc’teryx Bora AR 50 and 63 backpacking options, but the Aerios 10 takes the cake as a trail running/rock climbing/day hike hybrid. The lightweight hydration pack offers an affordable entry point into Arc’teryx gear with a trim design that includes a hydration bladder and enough space to haul food and compact outerwear. The brand’s AeroForm back panel promotes airflow, while a modular bungee system allows you to expand or compress the pack depending on the cargo. A nice perk: The height of the waist belt can also be adjusted.
Pro Tip: If you want to invest in a pack that’s suitable for day hikes as well as everyday travel, opt for the sleek Arc’teryx Brize 32 Backpack.
[$125; arcteryx.com]Get it
9. The North Face Chimera 24
Best for: Day Hike
The North Face’s Chimera 24 makes on-the-fly adjustments possible without taking the pack off—all thanks to the compressive nature of the brand’s Dyno Cinch System. You can also access the main and secondary compartments without removing the pack, plus get to the front stash and side stretch pockets with ease. More thoughtful features include a hydration sleeve and back panel that’s quick to dry.
Pro Tip: The North Face Griffin 65 Backpack also includes many of the same features, but in a 65L capacity for multi-day trips.
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