Camping Backpacks


Camping Backpacks


The good camping backpacks out there will hold everything you need and allow you to keep your hands free and eyes on the trail…or wandering campers! Whether you need a pack for snacks and water bottles or a tent, cookware and sleeping bag…there are a myriad of backpacks to choose from.

It’s easy to get caught up in the look of a pack…we all do it. And while looks are always a consideration, be sure to evaluate the important stuff first: How much can it hold? Are its compartments accessible? Can I clip / strap gear to the outside of it? Can it hold water (bladders)? Does it have compression straps? Does it have load-bearing straps?

Here’s a quick checklist to help you choose the right camping backpack:

  • Will I need it to carry more than 1-2 days worth of clothing?

Yes? – Look at packs over 500 cubic inches

  • Do I want my sleeping bag to fit inside it, too?

Yes? – Look at packs over 1,200 cubic inches

  • Is it for day hikes only with 1 overnight?

Yes? – Check out some of Camelbak’s packs as they provide hydration, space for clothing and multiple loops for strapping gear to the outside.

  • Do I want a pack for multiple day or week-long hikes?

Yes? – Choose an internal frame pack that can carry all of the gear that you’ll need to sustain yourself (tent, cooking, sleeping, water, etc…). These packs can usually hold upwards of 4,000 cubic inches.

One of the features that I think is a must have is a load-bearing or suspension strap. These are horizontal straps that connect across your breast plate and waist to keep the pack snug against your body. Wearing a backpack with shoulder straps allows uneven loads to swing which can make you lose your balance or injure your back. These straps are a necessary feature for long hikes or heavier loads.

Another feature that’s easy to overlook, but extremely handy are the exterior loops. I took the CamelBak MULE on a multi-day hike, and despite its small 540 cubic inch capacity, I was able to strap gear to the sides, back, and bottom of the pack with minimal problems. Look for the external loops.

And finally, consider the environment that you’re heading into. If you’re going to a campground where coolers are plentiful and water is readily available, hydration may not be a backpack consideration. If you’re planning on hiking in the summertime or taking long excursions away from the camp, consider a pack with the ability store a bladder of water. A 70-ounce bladder is not too much water for a hot day and it’s much easier to carry than 4 water bottles!

Below are some camping backpacks from small day-packs and hydration packs to the full-frame packs to hike the Appalachian Trail. Pick the one that makes the most sense for your trip:

Hydration Backpacks:

Hydration backpacks are great for a dayhike.  You can use these to carry 2-3 liters of water, a small first aid kit, a survival kit, poncho, phone, keys, and more.

Camelbak Rogue

CamelBak Rogue

Small compartments

Camelbak Lobo


146 cubic inches

CamelBak MULE

CamelBak MULE

540 cubic inches

Overnight Backpacks:

Overnight backpacks are appropriate for a weekend campout or hike and will hold a small tent, sleeping bag, first aid kit, food rations, water, survival kit, keys, phone, and more.

High Sierra Jack Knife

High Sierra


1,950 cubic inches

Jansport Equinox



1,850 cubic inches

Kelty Redwing



2,650 cubic inches

Multi-Day Frame Backpacks:

If you’re going to be on the trail for 5 days or more, chances are your gear will exceed 35 pounds.  If this is the case, a frame backpack will help the weight bearing distribution (i.e. save your back!).  These packs have 3x-4x the capacity of daypacks and allow you additional room for water purification, cooking items, extra clothes, and severe weather gear.

Teton Sports Fox

Teton Sports Fox

5,187 cubic inches

High Sierra Long Trail

High Sierra
Long Trail

5,492 cubic inches

Kelty Coyote


4,750 cubic inches

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