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The 4 Best Budget Backpacking Packs of 2023

We tested affordable packs from Kelty, Osprey, Mountainsmith, Gregory, and more to help you find the best pack for your budget
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Best Budget Backpacking Pack of 2023
Credit: Sam Schild
Thursday May 4, 2023
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After researching over 50 of the best budget backpacking packs to get you on the trail without breaking the bank, we bought 8 of our favorites to test in a head-to-head competition, searching for the perfect option for every situation. And we didn't go easy on them. We climbed the same rugged mountain peaks and bushwacked through the same lush tropical vegetation where we tested all of our other higher-priced backpacks. Luckily for everybody, these packs are darn good and ready to accompany your adventures for a reasonable price. We hope this review helps you find the right fit for your needs and budget.

The world of backpacking gear is vast and can get expensive fast. If you're on a budget, we get it — we'll help you round out your essential backpacking gear kit without breaking the bank with our reviews of the best sleeping bag under $200 and our favorite budget backpacking tents. Saving a bit of money on some of your bigger purchases will hopefully help open up your affordable travel budget and allow you to splurge on a high-quality pair of the best hiking boots.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on May 4, 2023, to remove a pack from our lineup. We also added information earlier this spring about updates to the Mountainsmith Scream 55 pack.

Top 8 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 8
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award   
Price $190 List
$201.85 at Amazon
$169 List$87.97 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$175.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$105 List
Overall Score
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Pros Handles heavy loads well, adjustable, two large side zipper pockets, affordableInexpensive, durable, highly adjustable, comfortableDurable, simple, zipper access to main compartment, inexpensive, water resistant, lightweightGreat value, adjustable hip cushioning and torso height, useful featuresInexpensive, lots of pockets, comfortable lumber support, lots of cushion in hip belt
Cons Lid pocket is hard to access, side pockets can interfere with tall bottles, heavier than mostSmall water bottle pocketsNo lid, only available in one non-adjustable sizeSuspension can bulge out against the back, front stretch pocket doesn't expand that muchLess supportive frame, shoulder straps not very cushioned
Bottom Line Our favorite budget pack that features unique pockets and a high carry capacity, all at a great priceThis pack is just as comfortable and has all the features of backpacking packs that cost twice as muchA great option for the hiker that wants a simple, lightweight pack capable of carrying moderate loadsA pack with a lot of the same features as more popular packs, but at half the priceThis is a very affordable pack that punches high for its price bracket
Rating Categories Kelty Coyote 65 Decathlon Forclaz M... Mountainsmith Screa... Gregory Stout 60L High Sierra Pathway...
Suspension and Comfort (45%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Weight (20%)
5.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
5.0
Features and Ease of Use (20%) Sort Icon
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Adjustability (15%)
8.0
7.0
5.0
9.0
7.0
Specs Kelty Coyote 65 Decathlon Forclaz M... Mountainsmith Screa... Gregory Stout 60L High Sierra Pathway...
Measured Weight 4.3 lbs 3.7 lbs 3.0 lbs 3.8 lbs 4.1 lbs
Volume 65 L 50 L + 10 L 55 L 60 L 60 L
Access Top Top, side, bottom Top and zipper Top Top, side, bottom
Hydration Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Materials Poly 420D Small Back Stafford 100% Polyamide 210d Robic Dynajin nylon ripstop UTS
210d recycled nylon SD Oxford PU
90% nylon, 10% polyester, 210D nylon, 420D high density nylon Polyester
Sleeping Bag Compartment Yes Yes No Yes Yes


Best Overall Budget Backpacking Pack


Kelty Coyote 65


79
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Suspension and Comfort 9.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Features and Ease of Use 8.0
  • Adjustability 8.0
Weight: 4.3 lbs | Capacity: 65 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Great value
Highly adjustable
Comfortable under a heavy load
REASONS TO AVOID
Heavy
Water bottle holders are hard to access

The Kelty Coyote 65 earns our top spot in the budget backpacking packs review. It performs just as well as packs that cost twice as much and can comfortably carry heavy loads between 45 and 50 pounds. Using dense foam on the shoulder straps and hip belt, the pack stays supportive all day under a full load. It also features a velcro panel for easy torso height adjustment, which helps get the perfect fit for even more comfort. One of our testers let out an audible "ahhh" when switching back to this pack. Its suspension is that impressive. We also appreciated the upper-side wing pockets on this pack. These extra pockets are like having two extra top lids or your assistant to keep you organized. These pockets are big enough for a Nalgene water bottle during extra-long water carries, but they're the perfect spot for those items you need to keep separate — toiletries, first aid, headlamp, or battery bank. The wing pockets are detached on the top and bottom, allowing items like fly rods or tent poles to slide through and store securely.

As is the trend, a pack that handles heavy loads is usually heavy, and this pack is no exception. It weighs 4.3 pounds, almost twice as much as some ultralight backpacks. While weight is a downside, its ability to carry larger loads makes this fact minimal in our eyes. Another thing to note is that the side zipper pockets get in the way of tall water bottles when stored in the side stretch pockets. To access the bottle, you need to tilt it forward, which makes it brush against your side. We also did not like the lid's zipper on the side, making the pocket a very narrow, deep space that made gear hard to locate. Kelty claims the reasoning for this is to provide easier access by a hiking partner, but it was also hard to use in this manner.

Read more: Kelty Coyote 65 review

best overall budget backpacking pack
Ergonomic and supportive, the Kelty Coyote seems happiest loaded down for a long trip.
Credit: Bennett Fisher

Best Bang for the Buck


Teton Sports Scout 3400


54
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Suspension and Comfort 5.0
  • Weight 5.0
  • Features and Ease of Use 6.0
  • Adjustability 6.0
Weight: 4.5 lbs | Capacity: 55 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Super affordable
Durable fabric
REASONS TO AVOID
Uncomfortable
Heavy
Abrasive straps

The Teton Sports Scout 3400 is our pick for a truly budget backpacking pack. At such a low price point, our expectations were minimal. And while it didn't blow us away, it performed better than other similarly-priced packs. At a price of less than half of some other packs in the review, this is a good pack to find out if backpacking is an activity you would enjoy. Think of this pack as a sampler to help you identify features you like and dislike.

While it does fill the role of a true budget backpacking backpack, there are a few things to note. During testing, we found the pack slightly lacking in the comfort department. This led to some sore shoulders when we loaded up the pack. We also found the pack felt bulky since the buckles and padding are much larger than other packs. At over 4 pounds, this pack is also on the heavier side. But, it does feel very durable and can carry a load fairly well. We recommend this pack for someone looking for value over perfection. This pack would make a good first pack for an overnight trip.

Read more: Teton Sports Scout 3400 review

budget backpacking pack - best bang for the buck
We preferred smaller packs like the Teton Sports Scout on shorter trips of one or two nights.
Credit: Ben Skach

Best Fully-Featured Pack on a Budget


Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10


75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Suspension and Comfort 8.0
  • Weight 6.0
  • Features and Ease of Use 8.0
  • Adjustability 7.0
Weight: 3.7 lbs | Capacity: 60 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Great value, durable, highly adjustable, comfortable
Durable
Highly adjustable
Comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
Only one water bottle pocket

The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 is an excellent value for a budget backpacking pack. It has many of the same features as more expensive backpacking packs while still being super affordable. When we first got our hands on this pack, we did multiple double-takes to make sure we were seeing the price correctly. This pack's suspension reminds us of some of the best trampoline mesh back panel systems we've seen. This back panel is comfortable and airy. And the well-padded shoulder straps and hip belt round out a suspension system that evenly distributes pack weight between your hips, shoulders, and back. This pack has nine external pockets, so you'll have no shortage of options to keep your gear organized. You can access everything in the main pack body through the top, bottom, or front panel opening on this pack. Also included with this pack is a waterproof pack cover to keep all that gear dry in wet weather. And with all these features, it still weighs 3.7 pounds — that's a very respectable weight for a full-featured pack.

While this pack offers six inches of torso length adjustability, it only comes in one size. If your torso length is greater than 20 or less than 14 inches, this pack might not fit you as well. Also, if you plan to carry loads of 35 pounds or more, this pack isn't the best choice. We also wish this pack had two exterior water bottle pockets because the one it has is great, but there's only one of them.

Read more: Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 review

budget backpacking pack - best fully-featured pack on a budget
The trampoline mesh back panel on the MT500 Air is super comfortable and lets your back breathe while you hike.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best Minimalist Pack on a Budget


Mountainsmith Scream 55


73
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Suspension and Comfort 7.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Features and Ease of Use 8.0
  • Adjustability 5.0
Weight: 3.0 lbs | Capacity: 55 Liters
REASONS TO BUY
Minimalist
Large U-shaped zipper access
Unique double barrel pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
No lid
Only available in one size
Product Updated Since Testing — March 2023
Mountainsmith revised the Scream 55 since our test period with updated pockets and a new orientation for the U-shaped zipper. We're linking to the latest model in this review.

If you're looking to lighten your base weight but not your wallet, we think you'll appreciate the Mountainsmith Scream 55. This pack's minimalist design will have you on the trail before sunrise, and its reasonable number of pockets will ensure you don't misplace your gear in a labyrinth of pockets. Due to its roll-top opening, it's easy to quickly shove all your gear inside, roll the pack shut, and be on your way in no time. The roll-top closure also keeps your pack tightly compressed so it will be full no matter how much or little you're carrying. Our testers liked the internal frame on this pack. It's comfortable in a no-frills kind of way. We also found this pack to be water-resistant, so you don't have to worry about a drizzle here and there, although we still recommend a pack cover if storms roll in. If you are new to the roll-top ultralight style backpack, this pack is great because its large U-shaped zipper allows access to all your equipment. The unique double-barrel pockets in the front of the pack are large enough to fit a two-pound tent, minus the poles. But, we prefer to store small essential items like toilet paper, headlamps, or sunscreen in these pockets. It can carry loads up to around 35 pounds. But in the spirit of the pack, it's happier carrying less.

Due to the minimalist design, the Scream 55's positive aspects can be negative if ultralight isn't your style. There is no traditional stretch mesh pocket for quick storage and no lid, which means less organization or quick access to items. We also thought the shoulder straps could have been more padded. Lastly, this pack only comes in one size with no adjustment options, so it either fits or doesn't.

Read more: Mountainsmith Scream 55 review

budget backpacking pack - the large u-shaped zipper of the scream 55 means that nothing is out...
The large U-shaped zipper of the Scream 55 means that nothing is out of reach.
Credit: Bennett Fisher

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
79
Kelty Coyote 65
kelty coyote 65 budget backpacking pack review
$190
Editors' Choice Award
75
Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10
decathlon forclaz mt500 air 50+10 budget backpacking pack review
$169
Top Pick Award
73
Mountainsmith Scream 55
mountainsmith scream 55 budget backpacking pack review
$160
Top Pick Award
69
Gregory Stout 60L
gregory stout 60l budget backpacking pack review
$220
63
Osprey Rook 65
osprey rook 65 backpacks backpacking review
$190
59
High Sierra Pathway 2.0 60L
high sierra pathway 2.0 60l budget backpacking pack
$105
54
Teton Sports Scout 3400
teton sports scout 3400 budget backpacking pack review
$83
Best Buy Award
42
Nevo Rhino 60+5L
nevo rhino 60+5l budget backpacking pack
$76

budget backpacking pack - comfort, price, and features make the kelty coyote 65 a top...
Comfort, price, and features make the Kelty Coyote 65 a top contender for your next trip.
Credit: Bennett Fisher

Why You Should Trust Us


We've been testing budget backpacking packs since 2017 for this review. In that time, we've researched over 50 models. We test every backpack by wearing each one in the field as you would. With the same gear loaded into every pack, we assess overall comfort and how they carry, taking note of any chafing or rubbing. We consider how it feels after wearing it for 2 hours on the trail. We load them up with food for multiple days, use every pocket and feature, and evaluate how each pack functions compared to the others in our test fleet.

We test every backpack using the following four rating metrics:
  • Suspension and Comfort (45% of overall score weighting)
  • Weight (20% weighting)
  • Features and Ease of Use (20% weighting)
  • Adjustability (15% weighting)

Sam Schild, Ben Skach, and Bennett Fisher joined forces to head up this review. Sam is a backpacker, trail runner, and mountain biker based in Colorado. He has backpacked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and the Colorado Trail 3 times, along with countless shorter backpacking trips. On top of the nearly 10,0000 miles logged while backpacking, he has bikepacked more miles than he can begin to count in the American Southwest and beyond. With all this carrying gear on his back and his bike, Sam is quite the expert on backpacks.

Ben is an avid explorer, outdoor trip leader, and gear lover. He has spent years backpacking and mountain climbing all over the country; he has led outdoor trips for students in New England and Colorado and trekked hundreds of miles through the Himalayas in Nepal. Throughout his experiences, he has used various backpacks, which has developed his knowledge of brands, designs, and features important to budget backpacking packs. While leading trips in Colorado, he was responsible for teaching each student how to pack and adjust a backpack for maximum comfort and efficiency. He understands the significance of designs that are easy to load and adjust.

Also a backpacking enthusiast, Bennett has over a year and 7,000 miles logged on America's long trails, including Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikes. Along the way, he has learned what constitutes a great backpack. He honed his knowledge at a gear shop, where he helped equip all kinds of people for their journeys. After his stint in college for product design, he further learned what makes a great product; it's all about the user experience, and he uses this knowledge in every aspect of his testing.

Price and capacity were two primary considerations when selecting products for this review. We researched over fifty different packs that matched our criteria, from which we chose eight for the hands-on testing process. Each model has been packed and re-packed with different gear sets countless times to evaluate their features and design. After deciding how to fill them best, we brought each backpack on overnight trips with varying weights to assess comfort and ease of use in real-world backcountry use.


Analysis and Test Results


We used several metrics to rate these budget backpacking packs on their performance. Depending on your intentions and priorities, different packs will suit your needs better than others. We evaluated each pack based on four criteria: Comfort and Suspension, Features and Ease of Use, Weight, and Adjustability. We weighted the metrics based on their importance as well. We believe that comfort and suspension is the most crucial factor and thus weighted them the highest. Below that in importance come features and weight, followed closely by adjustability. This reflects the way each metric influences the overall quality of a pack. Below, we delve into each metric to discuss its importance and relevant factors that we noticed in these packs.


Value


From the inception of this review, we tried to keep value in mind. We only considered packs that offered good value at a low price, but there are still different ranges of value within this category. Typically, a higher price tag means better quality, more features, and a more subtle design. Since this review only includes less expensive packs, you won't find the most high-tech suspension systems. Instead, these packs offer great value because they're simple, effective, and reasonably priced. You could take any of these packs overnight on the trail without issue, so what you're paying for is the quality and purpose the bag is built for.

All the packs above are a great value because this is the budget review, but the Kelty Coyote 65 comes in at such a great price and comfort that it earned our highest honor. Its ability to carry heavy loads and its unique storage options hooked us.

budget backpacking pack - value comes from more features at a lower price, and many of the...
Value comes from more features at a lower price, and many of the packs in the review achieve great value.
Credit: Bennett Fisher

Suspension and Comfort


An uncomfortable pack is a pain in the neck, back, and shoulders. It can easily ruin your hopes of an enjoyable backcountry outing. Because of this, we weighted Suspension and Comfort as the highest metric in our scoring matrix. Several factors affected our opinions on the comfort of each pack. First, we evaluated how well the suspension systems distributed weight and the pack's comfort against our backs. We also considered the shape and comfort of the shoulder straps and the fit of the waist belt. Third, we rated how well the padding and materials of the pack added to its comfort.


Most packs have an internal aluminum frame, but no two are alike. Every pack rides differently on the hips and torso, some more comfortably than others. This metric is significant because if a pack creates pressure points, it will be very uncomfortable when you load it with your backpacking gear. And a pack that transfers the weight to your hips will be much more comfortable than all that weight resting on your shoulders. To test this, we loaded each pack with various weights, ranging from 20 to 45 pounds, to determine if the suspension could comfortably handle the load for trips of different lengths. Aside from the suspension, the shoulder strap and waist belt designs affect how the pack's weight rests on your body. This is also an essential characteristic of a well-performing pack. Lastly, our rankings were affected by the amount and type of padding on the pack and how comfortable the materials feel against the skin.

Each pack fits differently. The straps and buckles are made of...
Each pack fits differently. The straps and buckles are made of different materials and have different designs.
Each pack fits differently. The straps and buckles are made of...
Each pack fits differently. The straps and buckles are made of different materials and have different designs.
Each pack fits differently. The straps and buckles are made of...
Each pack fits differently. The straps and buckles are made of different materials and have different designs.

The Kelty Coyote 65 had the smoothest ride and was the only pack in the review that could comfortably carry more than 35 pounds. In addition to the shoulder strap load lifters, it also features hip belt load lifters that adjust how much the hip belt can pivot. This lets you dial in on how much support is needed for each trip. We found the Mountainsmith Scream 55 good at staying comfortable in the mid-30-pound range. We also found the trampoline mesh suspension system on the Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 to be remarkably comfortable and provided the best airflow to our backs. The Gregory Stout 60 had all the right ingredients since it is highly adjustable. However, the crossbar against the back becomes too uncomfortable when the pack is weighed down, so this is one we didn't want to overstuff.

The Coyote&#039;s &quot;AMP-FLow&quot; foam provides ventilation and support for an...
The Coyote's "AMP-FLow" foam provides ventilation and support for an enjoyable ride.
The Coyote&#039;s shoulder straps are made of a supportive and firm foam.
The Coyote's shoulder straps are made of a supportive and firm foam.
We were very impressed by the suspension system and suspended mesh...
We were very impressed by the suspension system and suspended mesh back panel on the Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air.

Weight


Weight is a pretty straightforward metric to assess. A heavier pack generally means more pounds to carry on your back. Heavier packs, however, also tend to be more comfortable carrying heavy loads. Lighter packs, in contrast, can sometimes sag and perform poorly when loaded down.


The Mountainsmith Scream 55 is one of the lightest packs tested. The Teton Sports Scout 3400 and Kelty Coyote 65 are tied as the heaviest packs in our review, but the Coyote can comfortably carry more weight and is a better pack overall.

The Flash 55 is a great fast and light pack, for all types of...
The Flash 55 is a great fast and light pack, for all types of adventure.
Reviewer Ben Skach weighs his pack at the Mt. Whitney trailhead...
Reviewer Ben Skach weighs his pack at the Mt. Whitney trailhead, where you find out that every ounce counts.

Features and Ease of Use


Here we evaluate how well-designed the structure of the pack is. Is it easy to pack? Is your gear accessible? Does it have extra loops for your gear? These are just some of the questions we ask when assessing a pack. Every make and model has something that makes it unique. One of the main aspects we look for is how efficiently we can pack and unpack our gear. If pockets are easy to access and the design is well thought out, it can significantly help a pack's rating in this metric. Sometimes, unique features can make our lives as backpackers easier, so we always keep an eye out for anything to help improve a pack.


The first thing we looked at was the pocket setup. Many of the packs in this review feature variations on the main pouch, a lid, a rear pocket, and water bottle pockets. It's a rather basic design without additional pockets, but this simple setup works perfectly well. The Gregory Stout 60 and Kelty Coyote 65 are similar in this regard. The Osprey Rook 65 takes a more straightforward approach that helps its price but hurts its performance. It foregoes a stretchy rear pocket for a more streamlined look. This means that the water bottle pockets and the top lid are the only places to store gear aside from the main body. The lid is also fixed to the bag, meaning it isn't removable. This was also the case with the Teton Sports Scout 3400, and we found that both lids were harder to pack than the removable ones. The Scream 55 traded a stretch mesh pocket for two expanding zipper pockets that we found especially handy due to the absence of a top lid.

budget backpacking pack - the lid on the stout 60 is roomy, good for first aid, toiletries...
The lid on the Stout 60 is roomy, good for first aid, toiletries, and a guidebook.
Credit: Bennett Fisher

The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 had some of the most external pockets of any of the packs we tested. This pack features side zipper pockets, two pockets on the lid, and front expanding pocket, and of course, hip belt pockets. It also has three ways to access the gear inside your pack: from the top, the front, or the bottom.

budget backpacking pack - with the decathlon forclaz mt500 air 50+10, you can access the gear...
With the Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10, you can access the gear in the main compartment from the top, front (pictured, or bottom.
Credit: Sam Schild

We also looked at the other features found on each pack. The Osprey Rook 65 was the only pack that didn't have ice axe loops — these are a nice addition but not a problem if you don't anticipate snow travel. We liked the u-shaped zipper of the Mountainsmith Scream 55 that allowed access to all of our gear at once without having to unroll the top opening. The Kelty Coyote 65 is equipped with a unique and perfect stretch hip belt pocket to keep a phone handy for snapping wildlife photos or checking your GPS maps.

budget backpacking pack - accessibility is key on the trail, so our testers determined how...
Accessibility is key on the trail, so our testers determined how easy it was to find what you needed in each pack. This included both external attachment points and accessibility to the inside of the pack.
Credit: Ben Skach

Adjustability and Fit


When rating adjustability, we looked at the range of users a pack can fit. Most packs allow the suspension to be adjusted for different torso lengths, and some packs are designed for the straps and hip belts to be more easily adjustable to different body types.


Most of the packs we tested come in just one size to fit all users. Because of this, they are highly adjustable (making them a particularly good option for young hikers who might change their pack size as they grow). Even for fully grown backpackers, an easily adjustable pack means you can dial in the fit. This way, you can get a pack that fits perfectly for you. The one-size-fits-all packs in this review are the Gregory Stout 60, Kelty Coyote 65, Osprey Rook 65, Teton Sports Scout 3400, Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10, and High Sierra Pathway 2.0 60L. These feature a sliding or Velcro system that allows micro-adjustments to any size. On the other hand, the Osprey Rook has preset sizes that must be used. We found this adequate, but we prefer systems that allow more precise adjustment.

budget backpacking pack - many of the packs have a velcro adjustment system. simply pry open...
Many of the packs have a Velcro adjustment system. Simply pry open the Velcro, and the upper part of the suspension can slide up and down to adjust the torso size.
Credit: Ben Skach

The straps of each pack also factor into the adjustability. Most packs have very easy-to-adjust waist, shoulder, and sternum straps. The main exception was the Teton Sports Scout 3400. We found its straps stiff and finicky to feed through the buckles. While they were adjustable enough to work, it took some effort to get things sized right. The most significant issue was that it was quite difficult to tighten the waist belt once it was buckled, making it harder to ensure the pack's weight rests on your hips.

budget backpacking pack - the decathlon forclaz mt500 air 50+10 proves that a premium...
The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 proves that a premium suspension system and lots of useful trail features aren't only available for a premium price.
Credit: Sam Schild

Conclusion


Selecting a pack is one of the most important steps in gearing up for backpacking. These budget backpacking packs are all good options if they fit your needs, but it might not be a good idea to rush to any decisions just to save a hundred bucks. A good backpack can last decades if you treat it well, so make sure you're picking the right one for you. Consider your planned activities and determine if the pack can serve your purposes. If you decide that saving money is more important than additional pockets or better suspension, then any of these packs could be the right choice. We've tested everything to give you a better idea of what each pack is like. But this will be your pack, not ours. So, make sure to pick one with the right design for your needs and your favorite tent.

Sam Schild, Bennett Fisher, & Ben Skach

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