Hiking in the great outdoors should be a fun and memorable experience. But there’s nothing fun about spending a lot of money. The good news is that high-quality, low-cost backpacks do exist, but it takes time to find them. This guide has already done that for you and will list the best hiking backpacks available for under $100. It will also answer the most important questions to be considered when choosing a backpack, so you can find the one that’s best for you.
What Size Backpack Should I Get?
Size is one of the most important things to consider when buying a hiking backpack. Determining how big of a backpack you need is mostly a matter of how long you plan to hike. But other factors, such as how lightly or heavily you like to pack, should also be taken into consideration.
The volume of hiking backpacks is measured in liters. Use the following guidelines to figure out what size you’ll need:
10-20 Liters – Only use if you plan on hiking during the day with no intention of camping overnight. If you need to camp out for a night, you should go up to 30 liters.
30-45 Liters – Mid-sized backpacks will do for a weekend camping trip.
45-55 Liters – Large backpacks are sufficient for extended camping trips, say 3-5 days.
55+ Liters – Extra large backpacks are for those who plan on spending a whole week outdoors.
How Many Pockets Should My Hiking Backpack Have?
There’s no perfect number, but generally speaking, it’s better to have more pockets than less. It’s more convenient to have your items sorted and stored in several different pockets because it’s easier to find what you need without having to rummage through a bunch of clutter. It’s also good to have at least one pocket for a water bottle. Some backpacks even have two.
The location and capacity of the pockets is also something to consider. What good is a backpack with nothing but small pockets if you have large items? And if you have items that must be kept dry such as electronics, it’s imperative that there are enough pockets inside the backpack to protect these items in the event of wet weather. It’s also advisable to put these items in durable zip lock bags before placing them in your backpack just for good measure.
What Makes a Hiking Backpack the Most Comfortable?
Hiking in a constant state of discomfort due to a poorly made or ill-fitting backpack can ruin your trip quicker than a rabid bear. Okay, maybe not that quickly, but hiking for hours or days on end with a continuous pain in your back would not be a pleasant experience.
The length of your backpack is a large factor in determining how comfortable you’ll be while hiking. Ideally, you’ll want to get a backpack that’s about the same length as the distance between the bottom of the neck to the small of your back. You can either estimate the length or have someone measure it for you. Hiking backpacks that hang too far down can strain your back, because some of the weight will be below your back, rather than on it.
Get a hiking backpack that has soft, thick padding for your back, and is made of breathable material like mesh. This will be more comfortable for your back and will help prevent sweating as well. Some backpacks are even designed with a small space between your back and the backpack allowing air to flow through. Adequate padding on the straps is necessary as well, to prevent rubbing and increase comfort.
What About Hiking Backpacks with Built-In Water Packs?
Some backpacks come with a special water bag built into them called a water pack or hydration pack. Backpacks with this feature may be useful if you plan on hiking in hotter climates, or aren’t going to be close to a source of drinking water. They have a long hose that will allow you to drink water whenever you like without having to fiddle around with a water bottle.
Water packs tend to come in sizes between one and three liters, but some are much larger. Keep in mind that water is very heavy, so only use a water pack if the weather is hot, or if you’re going to be hiking a long distance. Otherwise, you’ll end up carrying excess weight unnecessarily.
Check out the following list of the best hiking backpacks for under $100. Compare some, and you’ll quickly find one that works for you.