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The 4 Best Budget Backpacking Packs of 2024

We tested affordable packs from Kelty, Osprey, Mountainsmith, Decathlon, and more to help you find the best pack for your budget
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Best Budget Backpacking Pack Review
Credit: Sam schild
By Sam Schild, Bennett Fisher, & Ben Skach  ⋅  May 9, 2024

The Best Budget Backpacking Packs for 2024


Over the past 5 years, we've tested 15+ of the best budget backpacking packs to get you on the trail without breaking the bank. For this year's lineup, we put 9 top models to the test in head-to-head comparisons on the trail and in the lab, 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 the same thick, overgrown trails on which we tested the other higher-priced backpacks in our related reviews. Luckily for you, a lot of these packs are pretty darn good and ready to accompany you on 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. We always highlight our favorite budget products that perform well for less. 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 pair of the best hiking boots.

Editor's Note: We updated our budget backpacking pack review on May 29, 2024, to share additional info on our testing processes and add current findings from testing the newest versions of the Osprey Rook 65L, Teton Sports 55L Scout, and Loowoko 50L Waterproof. We also include more recommendations as alternatives to our top award picks.

Top 9 Budget Backpacking Packs

Displaying 1 - 5 of 9
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Awards  Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $66 List
$41.59 at Amazon
$160 List
$159.95 at Amazon
$140 List
$104.73 at REI
$179 List
$179.00 at REI
$189.95 at Backcountry
Overall Score
47
74
68
74
69
Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight, inexpensive, comes with a rain coverDurable, simple, zipper access to main compartment, inexpensive, water resistant, lightweightLeightweight, durable, comfortable, easy to useEasy to adjust, comfortable curved back panel, durable, large volume capacity, fits larger peopleInexpensive, comfortable back panel, bottom access, included pack cover
Cons Doesn't have a frame, not comfortable for heavy loadsNo lid, only available in one non-adjustable sizeOnly one hip belt pocket, small water bottle pocketsLid is fixed in place, 21-inch torso maximumDifficult top lid access, minimal features, heavier than expected
Bottom Line This pack is extremely affordable, but it lacks a frame, so it's not suited for heavy backpacking loadsA great option for the hiker that wants a simple, lightweight pack capable of carrying moderate loadsThis affordable backpacking pack is surprisingly lightweight and comfortable, but it lacks the external pockets we'd want for hiking all dayThis pack has an easy-to-adjust back panel and fits bodies from skinny to plus sizeThis bare-bones model doesn't have many exterior pockets but is otherwise a good pack at a good price
Rating Categories Loowoko 50L Waterproof Mountainsmith Screa... Kelty Outskirt 50 REI Co-op Trailmade 60 Osprey Rook 65L
Comfort (40%)
2.0
7.0
7.0
7.5
8.0
Ease of Use (25%)
5.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
Weight-to-Volume Ratio (20%) Sort Icon
10.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Adjustability (15%)
4.0
5.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Loowoko 50L Waterproof Mountainsmith Screa... Kelty Outskirt 50 REI Co-op Trailmade 60 Osprey Rook 65L
Measured Weight 2.1 lbs 2.8 lbs 2.7 lbs 3.4 lbs 3.7 lbs
Weight per Liter (Full Pack) 0.67 oz/L 0.81 oz/L 0.86 oz/L 0.91 oz/L 0.91 oz/L
Advertised Volume 50 L 55 L 50 L 60 L 65 L
Measured Volume (Main Compartment) 35 L 40 L 35 L 50 L 50 L
Access Top, bottom Top, front Top, bottom Top, bottom Top, bottom
Hydration Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Materials Polyester 210D Robic Dynajin nylon ripstop UTS, 210D recycled nylon SD Oxford PU 600D Polyester Oxford 100% Recycled nylon 600D Polyester
Sleeping Bag Compartment Yes No Yes Yes Yes


Best Overall Men's Budget Backpacking Pack


Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 8.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio 6.0
  • Adjustability 8.0
Weight: 3.7 lb | Capacity: 50+10 liters
REASONS TO BUY
Great value
Durable
Highly adjustable
Comfortable
REASONS TO AVOID
Odd side pockets
Less comfortable with heavy loads

The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 is an all-around great backpacking pack and is our top choice for men — or anyone who fits its measurements — backpacking on a budget. When we first got our hands on this pack, we did multiple double-takes to ensure we saw the price correctly. This has all the same features you'll find in more expensive packs while still being super affordable. The suspension reminds us of some of the best trampoline mesh back panel systems we've seen. This back panel is comfortable and airy. 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 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 — a respectable weight for a full-featured pack.

Even though there is a whopping six inches of torso length adjustability, the MT500 Air is only available in one size. If your torso length is less than 14 inches or greater than 20, this pack probably won't fit. Also, better options are available if you plan to carry loads of 35 pounds or more. One oddity worth mentioning is the asymmetrical side pockets. One side sports a stretchy bottle pocket, but the other side pocket is static and works only for water bottles, as the bottom is just a single strap. Weighing in on all the considerations, the Forclaz MT500 Air is an excellent choice for a full-featured backpacking pack at a very affordable price. If you're looking for another comfortable pack and don't need as many exterior pockets, check out the Osprey Rook 65L.

Read more: Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 review

The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 has all the features you'd find on more expensive packs at a much lower price.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best Bang for the Buck


Teton Sports 55L Scout


58
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 5.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio 3.5
  • Adjustability 7.0
Weight: 4.5 lb | Capacity: 55 liters
REASONS TO BUY
Super affordable
Durable fabric
REASONS TO AVOID
Uncomfortable
Heavy
Abrasive straps

The Teton Sports 55L Scout is our pick for a truly budget backpacking pack. At such a low price point, our expectations were low when testing this model. And while it didn't blow us away, it performed better than other similarly-priced packs. At a price that's less than half of some other packs in the review, this is a good option to find out if backpacking is an activity you would enjoy. It's also a great choice if you go backpacking infrequently, like once every few years. Think of this backpack as a sampler to help you identify features you like and dislike.

While it fills the role of a true budget backpack, there are a few things to note about the 55L Scout. During testing, we found this pack wasn't as comfortable as the other award winners. It's not the most comfortable for your shoulders and left us sore when carrying heavy loads. The frame doesn't work as well to transfer the pack weight onto the hip belt either. We also found the pack felt bulky, since the buckles and padding are much larger than other models. At over 4 pounds, this is also one of the heaviest we tested. But it does feel very durable and can carry a load reasonably well. We recommend this for a first overnight trip and for anyone looking for value over perfection. But if comfort is a top priority, consider other contenders like the Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10.

Read more: Teton Sports 55L Scout review

The Teton Sports 55L Scout is an inexpensive pack that's great for testing the waters with backpacking and shorter, infrequent trips.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best for Minimalist Design


Mountainsmith Scream 55


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.0
  • Ease of Use 8.0
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio 9.0
  • Adjustability 5.0
Weight: 2.8 lb | Capacity: 55 liters
REASONS TO BUY
Streamlined design
Large U-shaped zipper access
Unique double zipper front pockets
REASONS TO AVOID
No lid
Only available in one size

If you want to lighten your base weight but not your wallet, we think you'll love 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. The internal frame is comfortable in a no-frills kind of way, and it carries loads in a way that feels securely planted on your back. Thanks to its roll-top opening, it's easy to 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 and secure no matter how much or little you're carrying. The zipper can be completely unzipped, and the front panel flipped open towards the bottom of the pack, allowing you to get to everything stored inside the main compartment. The unique double zipper pockets on the front are large enough to fit everything you'll need throughout the day — lunch, snacks, a jacket, water filter, toilet paper, headlamp, sunscreen, and more. It can even carry loads up to 35 pounds.

Due to its minimalist design, the positive aspects of the Scream 55 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 think the shoulder straps could be more padded. Lastly, this pack only comes in one size with no torso length adjustment options, so it either fits or doesn't. If it doesn't, take a look at the highly adjustable REI Co-op Trailmade 60. Although it weighs a bit more, you are more likely to achieve a better fit with this model.

Read more: Mountainsmith Scream 55 review

The Mountainsmith Scream 55 is a great choice for minimalist backpacking on a budget.
Credit: Sam Schild

Best for Serious Adjustability


REI Co-op Trailmade 60


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort 7.5
  • Ease of Use 7.0
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio 7.0
  • Adjustability 8.0
Weight: 3.4 lb | Capacity: 60 liters
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to adjust and fits larger folks
Comfortable curved back panel
Made with durable materials
Large capacity
REASONS TO AVOID
Fixed non-adjustable lid
21-inch torso maximum

The REI Co-op Trailmade 60 is an excellent choice for a budget backpacking pack, and it's one of the most size-inclusive packs we've seen, fitting up to 4XL. It comes in two sizes: Regular (small through extra large) and Extended (2XL through 4XL). Both pack sizes have an adjustable torso size that will fit anywhere from 17 to 21-inch torsos. The Regular size fits waists between 30 and 42 inches, and the Extended size fits waists from 42 to 58 inches. Both of these sizes are compatible with REI's Packmod Hipbelt Extender, so you can extend the range of this hip belt even more. Beyond the adjustability of this backpack, it has everything you'd need for a successful backpacking trip. Its many pockets include large side water bottle pockets, comfortable shoulder straps and hip belt, a top lid with zipper pockets, and a sleeping bag compartment with a front access zipper. It's also made with thick recycled nylon materials that are well-equipped to withstand daily abuse on any trail.

We love the large pocket on the lid, but it's sewn to the pack, which means it's not removable or adjustable to fit over the pack when it's stuffed with a larger load. This isn't a huge deal, but if adjustable buckles attached the lid to the pack, it would be easier to make it sit balanced when the main compartment is stuffed to the brim. That said, even when we had the Trailmade 60 packed full, we could still physically fit the lid over the top. So, this minor detail is only an inconvenience. We think this is a terrific budget backpacking pack, especially considering the massive amounts of adjustability it offers. If you prefer to ditch the lid entirely for a minimalistic design, see what the Mountainsmith Scream 55 has to offer.

Read more: REI Co-op Trailmade 60 review

The REI Co-op Trailmade 60 has some of the best adjustability features we've seen, so it will fit a wide range of body sizes.
Credit: Sam Schild

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
76
Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10
Best Overall Men's Budget Backpacking Pack
$139
Editors' Choice Award
74
Mountainsmith Scream 55
Best for Minimalist Design
$160
Top Pick Award
74
REI Co-op Trailmade 60
Best for Serious Adjustability
$179
Top Pick Award
69
Osprey Rook 65L
$190
68
Kelty Outskirt 50
$140
58
Teton Sports 55L Scout
Best Bang for the Buck
$90
Best Buy Award
57
High Sierra Pathway 2.0 60L
$105
47
Loowoko 50L Waterproof
$66
45
Nevo Rhino 60+5L
$80

budget backpacking pack - comfort, price, and a great set of easy to use features make the rei...
Comfort, price, and a great set of easy to use features make the REI Co-op Trailmade 60 a top contender for your next trip.
Credit: Sam Schild

How We Test Budget Backpacking Packs


We've been testing budget backpacking packs for the past five years. In that time, we have researched over 50 models and tested nearly 20. For this review, we identified four key metrics for evaluating budget backpacking packs. Then, we created a plan to test each of these metrics and got down to testing the most promising, top-rated, and best budget-friendly backpacking packs we could find on the trail and in the lab. We hiked everywhere with these backpacks. We loaded them with camping gear and food, noting what made them comfortable (or not). We evaluated their convenience on different types of trails and variable types of trips requiring different gear in a range of climates. We tested volume using hundreds of ping pong balls and a volume-measuring cylinder. We packed every backpack with gear and took to the trail on trips from the American West to the Northeast. We wore these backpacking backpacks for long days on the trail and shorter overnight trips, testing and assessing their strengths and weaknesses along the way.

We test every backpack using the following four rating metrics:
  • Comfort (40% of overall score weighting)
  • Ease of Use (25% weighting)
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio (20% weighting)
  • Adjustability (15% weighting)

For full details on our testing process, see our How We Test article.

We measured the internal volume of every backpack using ping pong balls and a volume-measuring cylinder calibrated with 70 liters of water.
Credit: Sam Schild

Why Trust GearLab


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, Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail (3 times!), and 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, 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.

We hauled these packs all over, noting what they do best.
We hauled these packs all over, noting what they do best.
The Scout has a sleeping bag compartment so you store and access it...
The Scout has a sleeping bag compartment so you store and access it separately.
Pockets that are not only accessible but functional are a key...
Pockets that are not only accessible but functional are a key component in a good backpacking pack.
We tested these packs in real-world backpacking scenarios and in the test lab.

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 mutually exclusive metrics that we then weighted based on their importance to the backpacking experience. Below, we delve into each metric to discuss its importance and the relevant factors we noticed in these packs.


Value


We kept value at the front of our minds when choosing which backpacks to include in this lineup. We only considered packs that offered great value at a low price, but there are still different ranges of value within this category. A higher price tag typically means better quality, more features, and an overall better design. Since this review only includes packs under two hundred dollars, you won't find the newest and most cutting-edge options here. Instead, these packs offer great value because they have tried and true designs that are just effective.

All the packs here are of high value — this is the budget backpacking packs review, after all. But the Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10, Mountainsmith Scream 55, and REI Co-op Trailmade 60 all balance affordability with a great set of features, so they're some of the highest value packs overall.

The Teton Sports 55L Scout has an excellent price tag with solid usability. It's not the pack we'd recommend for veteran hikers or folks hoping to get out frequently, but it brings great functionality for anyone just testing the waters with backpacking or heading out on infrequent, shorter trips with lighter loads.

budget backpacking pack - high value comes from more features and functionality at a lower...
High value comes from more features and functionality at a lower price, and many of the packs in this review achieve great value.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Osprey Rook 65L is the most expensive pack we tested, but it still offers great value. If you're looking for a comfortable pack with Osprey's well-loved trampoline-style mesh back panel design and don't want to break the bank, this pack is less expensive than most other Osprey backpack models.

The Osprey Rook is more expensive than many of the other budget backpacks covered here, but it still offers a great overall value.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Loowoko 50L Waterproof is the least expensive backpack we tested, and we hoped it would offer great value. However, it doesn't have a rigid frame, so it can't handle heavier loads that you'll want to carry when backpacking. For this reason, it's more suitable for use as a hiking daypack or lightweight travel bag than a backpacking backpack.

The Loowoko 50L Waterproof backpack is incredibly inexpensive, but it doesn't have a frame so it's not comfortable for the heavy loads required of a backpacking pack.
Credit: Sam Schild

Comfort


An uncomfortable pack is a pain in the neck, back, and shoulders. It can easily ruin your hopes of an enjoyable backcountry outing. To test comfort, we considered several aspects. First, we evaluated how well the suspension system distributes the pack's weight. We also tested how each pack felt on our backs, shoulders, and hips. We considered the shape of the shoulder straps, the fit of the waist belt, and how the back panel sits on our backs. 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. If a pack creates pressure points, it will be very uncomfortable when you load it with gear. Any pack that transfers the weight to your hips effectively will be much more comfortable than those that leave much of the weight resting on your shoulders. To test this, we loaded each pack with weights ranging from 20 to 45 pounds to determine if the suspension could comfortably handle the load for trips of different lengths. In addition to the suspension, the shoulder strap and waist belt designs affect how the pack rests on your body, so we evaluated those. We also considered the amount and type of padding on the pack and how comfortable the materials feel against the skin.

The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 has super plush straps and mesh back...
The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 has super plush straps and mesh back padding, and the hip belt comfortably loads weight onto the hips.
The padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt continues onto the...
The padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt continues onto the pack's back panel, which makes it very comfortable.
The Kelty Outskirt 50 has comfortable straps and back panel, but the...
The Kelty Outskirt 50 has comfortable straps and back panel, but the hip belt may not work efficiently for those with too narrow a waist.
Each pack has a slightly different back panel and strap design, which affects how they feel on your back, shoulders, and hips.

The Osprey Rook 65L and Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 offer the smoothest rides of all the packs we tested. These packs have very comfortable back panel designs that suspend the pack so it doesn't rest directly on your back, allowing airflow and reducing back sweat that can cause chafing. We found the trampoline mesh suspension systems on the MT500 Air and Rook remarkably comfortable and provided the best airflow to our backs.

budget backpacking pack - the decathlon forclaz has a super comfortable trampoline mesh back...
The Decathlon Forclaz has a super comfortable trampoline mesh back panel that allows for great airflow between your back and the pack.
Credit: Sam Schild

If you like Osprey's suspended mesh back panel, the Osprey Rook 65L features the same back panel design as their more expensive backpacking backpacks. The Rook's back panel rides comfortably on your back, the shoulder straps are well-cushioned, and the frame works well to transfer weight to your hips.

budget backpacking pack - the osprey rook 65l features the same back panel and shoulder strap...
The Osprey Rook 65L features the same back panel and shoulder strap harness design as more expensive Osprey packs at a more affordable price.
Credit: Sam Schild

The REI Trailmade 60 is another solidly comfortable model. Its back panel includes some channels to facilitate airflow, and a stiff hip belt and well-made frame help to effectively transfer the load to your hips. The shoulder straps are well-cushioned and feel good against your shoulders for long days on the trail.

budget backpacking pack - the rei co-op trailmade 60 has a comfortable back panel and shoulder...
The REI Co-op Trailmade 60 has a comfortable back panel and shoulder straps.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Kelty Outskirt 50 has plenty of cushion in the shoulder straps to cut down on discomfort. The back panel is also well cushioned with airflow channels, though we could feel the lumbar pad against our backs in a comfortable but slightly annoying way. For a minimalist frame and back panel, the Mountainsmith Scream 55 is also surprisingly comfortable if you keep your pack weight below 35 pounds. With a moderate load, this pack feels secure on your back and doesn't sway as some packs do. This makes for a comfortable and stable ride, and it's especially noticeable when hiking or scrambling over varied terrain.

budget backpacking pack - the mountainsmith scream has a no-frills back panel that feels...
The Mountainsmith Scream has a no-frills back panel that feels comfortable and secure on your back.
Credit: Sam Schild

Ease of Use


For ease of use, we evaluate the design of the pack. 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's ease of use. 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. Unique features can make your life as a backpacker easier, so we always keep an eye out for anything to help improve a backpack.


The first thing we looked at was the pocket setup. Many of the packs in this review feature variations of a main pouch, lid, rear pocket, and water bottle pockets. This is a basic design, but this simple setup works well. The Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10 performs best in this area. It has some of the most external pockets of any of the packs we tested: side zipper pockets, two pockets on the lid, a front expanding pocket, and 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, you can access the gear in the main...
With the Decathlon Forclaz, you can access the gear in the main compartment from the top, front (pictured, or bottom.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Osprey Rook 65L takes a straightforward approach to pockets, which helps its price but hurts its performance. This model doesn't have a stretchy rear pocket, so the water bottle pockets and the top lid are the only places to store gear aside from the main body. If it weren't for this missing exterior pocket, we'd like this backpack even more.

budget backpacking pack - the osprey rook 65l doesn&#039;t have an exterior mesh pocket, so you can...
The Osprey Rook 65L doesn't have an exterior mesh pocket, so you can only store items in the side water bottle pockets or top lid if you want them to be more accessible.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Teton Sports 55L Scout, Osprey Rook 65L, REI Co-op Trailmade 60, Loowoko 50L Waterproof, and Kelty Outskirt 50 have fixed lids. We found that fixed lids are harder to use when packing than removable ones, especially when the main compartments are fully loaded.

The Mountainsmith Scream 55 trades a stretch mesh pocket for two expanding zipper pockets that we found especially handy since this pack lacks a top lid. The lack of a lid makes getting into the main compartment easier, though, and these exterior zipper pockets can store plenty of gear.

We also looked at the other features found on each pack. The Osprey Rook 65L and REI Co-op Trailmade 60 are the only packs that don't have ice axe loops — these are a nice addition but not a problem if you don't anticipate carrying ice axes or similar tools that need to be looped onto the outside of your pack.

We liked the U-shaped zipper of the Mountainsmith Scream 55 that allows you to access all of your gear at once without unrolling the top opening. This U zipper makes it easy to grab a single item while leaving everything else in your pack compacted under the roll-top opening. This is the only model we tested that doesn't have a sleeping bag compartment, though it saves weight by not including the extra zipper. Also, its large U-shaped zipper almost does the same thing as a sleeping bag compartment access point, but it doesn't have a separate compartment to keep the sleeping bag clean.

budget backpacking pack - the u-shaped zipper on the mountainsmith scream 55 allows you to...
The U-shaped zipper on the Mountainsmith Scream 55 allows you to access nearly everything inside the pack without unrolling the roll-top opening.
Credit: Sam Schild

Every other pack we tested here has a separate sleeping bag compartment that's accessible from the outside of the pack. We find a sleeping bag compartment is mostly useful for keeping your bag separate from the rest of your gear, but it also is handy if you want to use your sleeping bag during chilly breaks during your hike.

Most of the packs we tested have a sleeping bag compartment to store and access your sleeping bag separately.
Credit: Sam Schild

Weight-to-Volume Ratio


Weight is important because a heavier pack means more pounds on your back. Heavier packs, however, also tend to be more equipped to carry heavy loads. Lighter packs, in contrast, can sometimes sag and perform poorly when loaded down. But weight doesn't tell the whole story, so we compared weight to pack volume and considered what any model's given weight gets you.


The Mountainsmith Scream 55 and Kelty Outskirt 50 are two of the lightest packs we tested, and each has a respectable volume that makes their low weights even more impressive. These packs comfortably carry the necessary backpacking gear you'd need for a weekend, overnight, or extended backpacking trip.

The Loowoko 50L Waterproof's main compartment only measures 35 liters in our volume testing.
Credit: Sam Schild

The absolute lightest pack we tested is the Loowoko 50L Waterproof. But since this pack doesn't have a frame, it's less impressive how little it weighs. Though the Loowoko has the lowest weight-to-volume ratio, it's incapable of carrying heavy loads like the Scream and Outskirt. And, the Loowoko's main compartment only measures 35 liters in our volume testing. This is good in one sense since this model can't carry a heavy load. But, it makes the low weight-to-volume ratio even less impressive, since a lot of the volume calculated for this pack must be in the lid, side, and hip belt pockets.

budget backpacking pack - since the loowoko 50l waterproof doesn&#039;t have a frame, it doesn&#039;t...
Since the Loowoko 50L Waterproof doesn't have a frame, it doesn't weigh much but it also can't carry as much.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Osprey Rook 65L, Nevo Rhino 60+5L, and REI Co-op Trailmade 60 have slightly higher, but still relatively low weight-to-volume ratios among packs. On the other end of the spectrum, the Teton Sports 55L Scout and High Sierra Pathway 2.0 60L are some of the heaviest packs we tested and have the highest (i.e., worst) weight-to-volume ratios in our lineup.

We weighed every pack when empty on our home scale to verify the weight.
Credit: Sam Schild

Adjustability


When rating adjustability, we looked at the range of users a pack can fit. Many packs allow you to adjust the back panel for different torso lengths. While all packs let you adjust the hip belt, shoulder straps, and sternum strap, some are able to accommodate a wider range of body sizes than others.


Most of the packs we tested come in just one torso length designed to fit all users. Because of this, they are often highly adjustable. An adjustable torso is 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 or share the same pack with multiple hikers. This way, you can get a pack that fits perfectly for you.

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 adjustable one-size-fits-all packs in this review are the Osprey Rook 65L, Teton Sports 55L Scout, Decathlon Forclaz MT500 Air 50+10, Mountainsmith Scream 55, and High Sierra Pathway 2.0 60L. These packs have a sliding or Velcro adjustment system that allows you to change the pack to fit a range of torso sizes.

The REI Co-op Trailmade 60 has one of the easiest to use torso length adjustment systems of any pack we tested.
Credit: Sam Schild

Of all the packs we tested, the REI Co-op Trailmade 60 stood out in adjustability. This pack features a simple torso adjustment system that's easier to use than most packs. This backpack also fits a huge range of hip circumferences, and it comes in two sizes: Regular (S-XL) and Extended (2XL-4XL). And if that's not enough, REI also sells a hip belt extender that further increases the adjustability of this already seriously adaptable pack.

The Osprey Rook 65L allows you to adjust the torso length easily.
Credit: Sam Schild

The Osprey Rook 65L also has a super easy-to-use system for adjusting the torso length. This model uses the same torso adjustment system we've seen on other more expensive Osprey packs. We find it's super easy to slide the tabs attached to the shoulder strap harness in and out of the back panel. You can adjust the torso length on this pack in seconds.

budget backpacking pack - our testing proved to us that you don&#039;t have to spend hundreds to...
Our testing proved to us that you don't have to spend hundreds to get good quality features, great usability, and impressive comfort from a backpack.
Credit: Sam Schild

Conclusion


Selecting a pack is one of the most important steps in gearing up for backpacking. These budget backpacking packs are a good choice for people who are just starting out backpacking and aren't sure if they're ready to fully commit to an expensive pack. They're also great for folks who pack light and don't hit the trail frequently or kids who are still growing but want to get out there while they do so. We've tested these wallet-friendly options thoroughly to give you an idea of what each pack is like and we hope we've helped you narrow down your search for the right backpack.

Sam Schild, Bennett Fisher, & Ben Skach