The Best Backpacking Packs of 2022

Shoulder the load and make miles with these trail-ready rucksacks

Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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Arc’teryx Bora 60 / Bora 65 ($320)

Arc’teryx Bora 60
(Photo: Courtesy Arc’teryx)

Best for Comfort

The route ahead may be long and challenging, but the Bora will carry you (and tons of gear) through it all comfortably. Testers heaped praise on the pack’s swiveling hipbelt, which attaches to the back panel via a single point that glides up and down within a 1.2-inch-long notch. This system allows the belt to pivot with your hips and adjust vertically as your back stretches and contracts on technical terrain. Together with a rigid, ­load-transferring framesheet made of Tegris (a woven plastic composite) and two aluminum stays, the hipbelt kept one tester stable under a 45-pound load in Olympic National Park. We appreciated the waterproof pouch in the roomy top lid for keeping electronics safe in Pacific Northwest showers, and the full-length side zipper for quick access to the rest of our gear. Biggest con: fragility. Sharp scree punctured the pack’s ­theoretically strong 420-denier nylon bottom, and an Alaskan bushwhack left a long scratch in the 210-denier body. Plus, the price is nothing to scoff at. Note: the 60-liter model is the women’s fit, while the 65-liter model is the men’s version. 4.1 lbs (women’s regular/tall) / 4.2 lbs (men’s regular/tall)

Women’s | Men’s

Granite Gear Crown3 60 ($220)

Granite Gear Crown3 60
(Photo: Courtesy Granite Gear)

Best for Customization

This modular pack suits minimalists and maximalists alike. Your building blocks: a lightweight rucksack with a molded polyethylene framesheet that’s capable of supporting up to 35 pounds. Heavy trip? Boost the Crown 60’s load-carrying capacity to 45 pounds by slotting in a U-shaped aluminum stay (sold separately for $13). Going ultralight? Strip it all for a frameless  setup that weighs 2.2 pounds total yet still let us carry 25 pounds easily on weekends in the Rockies. Webbing loops (five on the bottom, four on the top lid, and two on the main body) offer limitless lashing options, and both sternum straps are removable. Combining the pack’s removable hipbelt and top lid creates an ultralight lumbar pack for short side treks. We also loved the stretchy mesh dorsal pocket for stuffing wet items—like a camp chair, shell, sandals, and tarp—during a rainy trip in Colorado’s Mount Evans Wilderness. The Crown 60’s nylon fabric (100-denier on the main pack body and 210-denier on the boot) dries fast and holds up to scrapes with rocks and branches. 2.4 lbs (unisex short/regular/long) / 2.4 lbs (women’s short/regular)


Mystery Ranch Bridger 65 ($349)

Mystery Ranch Bridger 65
(Photo: Courtesy Mystery Ranch)

Best for Big Loads

Whether you frequently embark on big expeditions or just pack as if you do, the Bridger 65 is a ­back-saver. Thank a four-millimeter-thick ­spring-steel frame that attaches directly to the pack’s shoulder harness via a pair of adjustable, sliding steel rails. The direct integration provides superior weight transfer across the front of the body via broad, running-vest-style chest straps, while the bottom of the frame angles in toward the lumbar to direct the rest of the load to the cushy, segmented hipbelt. The result: balanced weight distribution that never shifted around, even when a Grand Canyon guide tested it with 55 pounds of gear on a four-day trip. “It made my load feel lighter than it really was,” he said. Columns of foam line the spine, creating a central channel that cooled our backs, even on summer hikes in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Neither clawing branches nor cloudbursts could penetrate the 330-denier ripstop nylon body or the ­100-denier nylon on the side panels. The Bridger’s only drawbacks? It’s heavy and expensive. 5.5 lbs (men’s S–XL) / 5.5 lbs (women’s XS–L)


Big Agnes Parkview 63 / Garnet 60 ($300)

Big Agnes Parkview 63
(Photo: Courtesy Big Agnes)

Best for Sustainability

We tested several packs this year that boast 40- to 50-percent recycled materials, but the Parkview/Garnet was the only one to up the bar: 85 percent of its nylon fabric is recycled. The fabric is ­solution-dyed at the fiber level and the rigid framesheet is injection-molded—both techniques that reduce waste. Nice touch: every pack comes with a collapsible seven-liter, ­recycled-nylon trash bag that easily clips to the pack. The recycled material performed every bit as well as the virgin stuff—our guide testers reported no signs of wear, even after a season of rubbing shoulders with Death Valley sandstone in California. Credit the 100-denier, high-tenacity ripstop (reinforced with 210-denier nylon) that’s finished with an ­eco-friendly PU coating. We were also impressed with the pack’s load-­carrying capacity. An aluminum perimeter frame surrounds the plastic framesheet, adding support without compromising torsional flex, which came in handy under 50-pound loads on a ­2,700-foot climb in Death Valley. Ding: we found the small external-release buckles fiddly. 3.6 lbs (men’s M–L) / 3.6 lbs (women’s one size)


Mountainsmith Apex 60 ($220)

Mountainsmith Apex 60
(Photo: Courtesy Mountainsmith)

Best for Organization

You’ll never lose track of your gear with the Apex 60 (yup, not even that prized folding spork). First off, this pack has pockets galore. A zippered dorsal pocket, twin mesh side pouches, dual top lid compartments, and even a deployable cup holder for on-the-go bottle access. We also loved the cavernous 2.1-liter hipbelt pockets, which were among the biggest in the test: each fit a phone, sunglasses, and several snacks. The Apex 60’s U-shaped zipper flays open the front panel, and an external shove-it sleeve admits wet tent flies and layers. We especially appreciated the organization during rainy trips—less time fishing for gear meant shorter stops with pack contents exposed to the elements. The Apex 60 also stood out as one of the most comfortable packs we carried this year. Its aluminum perimeter frame is stiff enough to transfer up to 35 pounds to the broad hipbelt wings. Both the hipbelt and the shoulder harness boast a full inch of dual-density EVA/PU foam cushioning, among the thickest in the test—something we appreciated while we pounded out 15-mile days in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. 4.6 lbs (unisex one size)

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Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60 ($120)

Sierra Designs Gigawatt 60
(Photo: Courtesy Sierra Designs)

Best Value

The Gigawatt 60 rings in at just over a Benjamin and ticks all the boxes for an entry-level pack that will delight beginners and backpacking aficionados alike: it boasts moderate weight, decent ­load-carrying capacity, and standout comfort. Credit an arched, spring-steel perimeter frame paired with a rigid plastic framesheet. The bend of the frame dives deep into the pack’s lumbar pad for effective load transfer to the sacral region of the pelvis, while the hipbelt slips behind the lumbar pad, pressing upward into the framesheet for stable load support. After three days of carrying 40 pounds in the Grand Canyon, one guide tester reported that the Gigawatt provided stable, sway-free carry, even through the route’s steepest sections—a major advantage on the Bright Angel Trail’s endless stairs and switchbacks. Enormous stretch-mesh pockets cover pretty much the entire back and sides, perfect for storing a tent, camp shoes, and rain layers. Ding: we’ve yet to put a hole in the main packbody’s medium-weight 300-denier polyester ripstop fabric, but the Gigawat’s liner fabric is prone to punctures. Pack with care. 4 lbs (unisex one size)

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Zpacks Arc Air Robic 60 ($325)

Zpacks Arc Air Robic 60
(Photo: Courtesy Zpacks)

Best for Weight Savings

Ultralight hiking is an ascetic pursuit—or it was, until the Arc Air Robic came along. This sleek little number weighs in at just over a pound but still sports a full suspension. Two carbon-fiber stays (pinch us) arch the pack away from the back, at once boosting airflow and transferring up to 30 pounds of cargo to a cushy hipbelt. The result is unreasonable comfort, even while ferrying five days of food across Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks in the baking summer sun. Unlike other featherweight packs, this one’s durable enough to go the distance. Neither bushwhacking nor rock scraping could best the nylon (100-denier on the body and 210-denier on the boot). Shoulder-width adjustments on the load lifters gave us about three inches to play with, and dual quick-release straps on each side of the waist let us cinch the top and bottom of the hipbelt wings independently: bony-hipped testers were able to angle the padding to prevent bruising. While we liked the minimalist layout—a single compartment with three external pouches—we did miss having hipbelt pockets (sold separately for $29 each). 1.4 lbs (unisex short/medium/tall)

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Gregory Focal 58 / Facet 55 ($240)

Gregory Focal 58
(Photo: Courtesy Gregory)

Best All-Around

Through-hiker-friendly but overpacker-approved, the women’s Facet and men’s Focal strikes a fine balance between lightness and features, all wrapped around a suspension that allowed us to tote up to 45 pounds. Unlike many sub-three-pound packs, this one kept us organized. The aluminum frame (supported by a horizontal cross-stay) contours to wrap the hips, adding both stiffness and superior weight transfer. Airy foam lines the hipbelt and shoulder harness, and the trampoline back panel provided best-in-test breathability. The pack’s 210-denier ­high-density nylon never sustained damage, even while we bashed through burn zones in the North Cascades (brownie points: it’s 45 percent recycled). The rest of the feature set is thoughtful but not overdone: two zippered hipbelt pockets that each fit sunblock and two granola bars, easily accessible water-bottle pockets, and a large dorsal shove-it sleeve that fit rain layers and camp shoes. We also appreciated the tapered silhouette, which kept loads from getting bottom-heavy but also made it hard to pack. 2.6 lbs (women’s XS–M) / 2.6 lbs (men’s S–L)


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