The 3 best backpacks for bugging out and hiking the wild

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When you start heading out into the wild, the last thing you want to do is go unprepared.

While some 72 hour bug out bags are great, if you thing that your trip is going to be extended, having a prepped hiking bag available is the way to go.

A hiking bag is built for traveling and as such can fit much more in it than you average backpack and is made so that it helps to offset the weight being carried. I mean, while it’s nice to travel light, you still don’t want to be out there without the essentials and sometimes those things add up.

Things to look for when buying a backpack

There are numerous things that you should be considering when picking up a backpack:

Is it comfortable to wear?

The last thing you want is to have to hike 20 miles over rough terrain with straps digging into you in all the wrong places, and being rubbed and chaffed all the time. While some people place capacity at the top of their list, I would recommend making sure it’s comfy first and foremost!

Can you adjust it?

Related to comfort, adjustability in a backpack is important, especially if your pack size and content is likely to change during your time away from home.

The ability to tighten up your straps in a smart way will help with not only general comfort, but will make sure that everything is secure too.

The backpack should also contain an adjustable suspension system to help you really tweak the weight distribution.

Is it heavy?

If you are going to be adding 50 lbs of equipment, you don’t want the backpack itself to weigh another 10 lbs!

Making sure that the backpack is as light as possible while still maintaining material strength and capacity is a key factor in your choice.

Is it easy to access things?

Being able to quickly access your gear could save your life, or at least make it easier. If you have to empty half your pack just to get a dry pair of socks, or bear spray then your backpack sucks!

The recommendations

The best backpacks that I recommend are not the cheapest backpacks in the world, but then again, when is quality ever cheap?

Arc’teryx Altra 65

Arc'teryx Altra 65 Backpack

Comfort: 10/10

Weight: 9/10

Easy to use: 10/10

Adjustability: 10/10

Available from Amazon.com

Weight4 lbs 13 oz (2.2kg)
Capacity65 liters
AccessTop & front
HydrationYes
MaterialsHigh tenacity nylon w/ silicone, EV50 Foam, Spacermesh
WarrantyLifetime
Sleeping bag compartmentNo

The Arc’teryx Altra 65 is most probably the best backpack for its size that you will find.

The 65 liter pack, is made of durable yet lightweight materials that easily stand up to being taken through brush without too much or even any damage.

As well as the overall lightweight structure, the pack is designed to distribute weight in such a way that it makes walking with it a breeze. The pivoting hip system, while weird to begin with, moves the weight of the pack from your shoulders and down to your hips. This reduces shoulder strain and also helps with mobility when traversing difficult terrain.

The Altra 65 also has numerous pockets available, not as many as others, but they are like the rest of the pack well designed and useful.

The lid area has two zippered pockets that are accessible when the pack is on to root around for smaller items. The lid is also detachable should you need to take things into your tent or shelter while leaving the pack outside.

As well as that there is a huge kangaroo style pocket that can easily fit a jacket or even a tent.

The pack can also be fully opened via a large U shaped zip. This is almost like opening a suitcase and allows for easy and efficient packing and unpacking.

Hydration is achieved via either the hydration pocket which can fit a 2 liter bladder, or the two water bottle holders that are conveniently placed so no awkward stretching required.

Are there any issues?

Even though the Arc’teryx Altra 65 is a well thought out backpack and made from quality materials, there are some downsides.

Firstly, it lacks any form of loops that can be used for things like ice picks. This isn’t a huge issue as you can pick up some that can be added on, but for the cost of the backpack you would think it would come as standard.

The hip belt can also come off if not fastened correctly and can begin to squeak after a while (though the supplied lubricant resolves that nicely).

While the backpack is water resistant, if caught in a sustained rain the bag can soak in water, so a rain cover is still recommended.


Gregory Baltoro 65

Gregory Baltoro 65 Technical Pack 3

Comfort: 9/10

Weight: 8/10

Easy to use: 10/10

Adjustability: 7/10

Available from Amazon.com

Weight5lbs 10oz (2.55kg)
Capacity65 liters
AccessTop, front & bottom
HydrationYes
Materials210D double diamond ripstop, 210D x 420D HD flat weave
WarrantyLifetime
Sleeping bag compartmentYes

The Baltoro 65 is the heaviest of the backpacks being reviewed, but this backpack is also like a multi-tool.

The designers went to town on making the content of the backpack accessible without having to dig or pull everything out.

There is a front U zip that allows access to the pack’s main content as well as the normal drawstring fastened top opening.

A mesh side pocket is big enough to handle some clothes to dry or a 1 liter bottle of water, though the diagonal water pocket on the other side is best suited to carry your water as it is very accessible while you’re moving.

The pivoting hip belt is very effective in transferring weight from the shoulders to the hips, plus it has two cargo style pockets that can easily hold a cell phone, knife or similar sized items.

The backpack’s lid also has pockets and can be taken off and used as a fanny pack. It can also be raised a little bit, effectively extending the packs capacity to 68 liters.

In total there are 10 pockets available on Gregory Baltoro 65, which combined with the various zips make it incredibly modular and accessible.

This particular pack has additional lumbar support that can help ease potential back pain, though it can be a little robust for some people making it possibly uncomfortable.

What are the downsides?

The main issue with the Gregory Baltoro 65 is the weight. While not as heavy as bigger packs, for it’s size the weight is certainly a consideration.

The pivoting hip belt (and shoulder straps) certainly helps with the weight issue, but it’s still something to be considered before purchasing the pack.

Some people may also find the number of pockets to actually be detrimental (where’s my keys syndrome) but really they are well designed and useful.

The lumbar support won’t suit everyone, but for those it does suit it will be a welcome addition to the pack’s design.

Another consideration is the material. It is tough, but it doesn’t breathe very well, so if you’re going into the wild in warm or hot conditions, you might end up getting sweaty and therefore finding it rubs more than you would like.


Osprey Aether 60

Osprey Mens Aether 60 Backpack

Comfort: 7/10

Weight: 9/10

Easy to use: 8/10

Adjustability: 8/10

Available from Amazon.com

Weight4 lbs 15oz (2.2kg)
Capacity60 liters
AccessTop, front & bottom
HydrationYes
Materials210D double diamond ripstop, 210D x 420D HD flat weave
WarrantyLifetime
Sleeping bag compartmentYes

Just a hair heavier than the Altra 65, the Osprey Aether 60 is a decent contender in the backpack market.

Even though it’s light, the pack does come in smaller at just 60 liters capacity.

This doesn’t stop it from being a decent pack, especially as it’s also between $50 and $200 bucks cheaper than the Altra 65.

It features a large, stretchy kangaroo pocket, that can easily hold a jacket or similarly sized object.

The water bottle pockets are easily accessible on the go, and there are enough pockets for most people, though not as many as the Baltoro 65.

One feature that the other packs lack is the compression system. Instead of straps that merely scrunch from the side, the Aether’s system compresses from the back for a more even compression.

As it typical for this range of pack, the lid can be removed.

The aether is definitely a more of an all-round backpack, and could easily be used in situations other than bugging out or hiking into the unknown.

That jack of all trades does limit it slightly but not by much: it will still work well as a 72 hour backpack.

It’s not perfect

There are of course some issues. The material for this pack isn’t quite as robust as the others, and the straps are less than ideally placed.

Organization wise, it could be better. It’s not bad but you may end up having to dig and pull things out, rather than having things easily accessible.

Conclusion

These bags are most certainly some of the best backpacks that you will find, and can be used in multiple situations: as a 72 hour bug out bag, hiking pack, and hunting pack.

For me the number one choice would be the Arc’teryx Altra 65: its comfort, combined with the quality build, spacious capacity and reasonable range of pockets make it stand out from the rest. The cost is definitely offset by the quality.

If you need everything in its place, then the Gregory Baltoro 65 with it’s OCD organisation should be up your alley.

If you just want a decent go bag with plenty of room that won’t break the bank, then the Osprey Aether 60 is the backpack of choice.

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