A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: February 25, 2021
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Having the right hiking gear is important, and it doesn’t always have to be a blow to your budget. If you want a great pack with lots of storage, support, and comfort, you don’t have to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Believe it or not, there are plenty of affordable options available and you get a lot of value out of choosing the best hiking backpack under $100.
There are a few things to consider when choosing the right pack for hiking. One of the most important is capacity. The longer you’re planning to be gone, the more gear you have to take with you. Overstuffing can cause a lot of problems so getting the right size is essential. Size is important, too. These packs are designed to fit in a certain way so that the weight and pressure are distributed across your shoulders, back, and waist. If the pack doesn’t fit the right way, it won’t work like it’s supposed to. Comfort is essential, especially for long trips. A lightweight pack with plenty of padding and ventilation keeps you comfortable and pain-free. Finally, you need to consider the pockets and compartments on the pack. The better you organize your gear, the better prepared you are so making sure everything has a place is really important.
We spent hours researching these products and looking at specifications, user guides, and reviews from experts as well as the people who get out and use these packs every day. The first thing you’ll find is a table where you can quickly compare all of our top picks. After that are detailed reviews following by an in-depth buying guide to help you find the best hiking backpack under $100.
The TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack is a great choice for anyone looking for a lightweight pack suited for 2 to 4-day adventures. It features a sleeping bag compartment, compression straps, and plenty of exterior pockets, bungee storage, and gear hoops for strategic packing.
This pack weighs only 4.5 pounds and has a 55L capacity, and was thoughtfully designed to provide the best possible comfort. It features a padded back panel with airflow channels to keep you cool as well as adjustable padded shoulder straps that you can adjust according to your size or the weight of the load. There’s also a multi-position torso adjustment so it fits a wide range of body types from youth to adult men and women.
To keep your gear dry, this pack has an integrated rainfly that tucks away when not needed. Sturdy zippers and bendable aluminum stays are built to last and the main compartment stays securely closed with two barrel-lock drawstrings. One downside to this pack is that it does not come with a water bladder although there is a pocket for one so you can add your own. Some users also commented that some of the pockets were difficult to access or too small to fit anything substantial. It’s also a little too long for people who are petite.
What we liked:
Plenty of pockets and onboard storage options
Adjustable padded shoulder straps and torso adjustment
Durable aluminum stays and sturdy secure zippers
Water bladder pocket
What could be better:
Some users felt pockets were too small and not easily accessible
For a versatile, reliable pack that’s also budget-friendly, take a look at the AmazonBasics Internal Frame Hiking Backpack with Rainfly. With extensive storage pockets, a large sleeping bag compartment, and multi-directional compression straps, this pack holds 70L with an optional 5L extension. While it doesn’t include a water bladder, there is a pouch inside the pack for one with a Velcro hook to keep it in place. There really is room for all your camping and hiking essentials.
This backpack has a wide adjustable hip strap as well as padded shoulder straps that allow you to adjust for a variety of body sizes. The hip strap does a good job of distributing the weight across your body and off of your shoulders. Note that some users commented that the straps can loosen significantly during long treks, especially when the pack is heavily loaded.
The open-cell foam lumbar pad provides cushioning and support and molded channels allow air to pass through to help you stay cool. There’s also a waterproof cover to protect your gear from heavy rain and the exterior coating is water repellent to make extra sure the contents stay dry. With so many pockets and pouches, this pack gives you plenty of opportunities to organize your gear for few days out on the trail.
The TETON Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack is lightweight, comfortable, and convenient. It features an integrated hydration bladder for cold drinks on the go and multiple straps adjust to fit just about anyone. The ripstop material is super durable and available in five different colors.
This backpack is a great choice for day trips out on the trail. The BPA-free hydration bladder holds 2 liters of water and has a large 2-inch opening that’s convenient for adding ice and easy cleaning. It features a durable, kink-free sip tube and innovative push-lock bite valve that’s cushioned for protection.
The large main pocket is just big enough for a bit of gear and some food and snacks and an exterior bungee cord system to attach helmets and climbing accessories. This is an 18L daypack that’s perfect for a day trip and a night away from home and adjusts to fit men, women, and youth. The notched foam stabilizer and mesh covering bring additional comfort plus it has a shock-absorption chest strap that helps reduce bounce, making it a great choice for cycling, too.
A convenient sewn-in rain cover is there when you need it and easily tucks away when you don’t. Weather Guard and a reversed zipper provide some weather protection for the main compartment, too, although some customers have said that the zippers don’t hold up well over time.
What we liked:
Integrated BPA-free hydration bladder
Bladder has a wide 2-inch opening for easy cleaning
Perfect size for a day trip or quick overnight adventure
There are a lot of great things about the DryCASE Masonboro Waterproof Adventure Backpack but the feature that really stands out is that it has a 100% waterproof main compartment. It uses GNARWALL Marine-grade technology to keep your gear completely dry.
When closed properly, this pack can actually be submerged in water and stay completely waterproof thanks to the one-of-a-kind purge valve. It allows you to inflate or compress the pack as needed so you can use this pack as a cooler or fill it with water and use it for an on-the-go shower.
The fully waterproofed main compartment holds 35L and has a zippered internal waterproof pocket for smaller items. There’s plenty of other storage, too, including a front mesh pocket, inside Velcro wallet compartments, a side water bottle holder, bungees, and three exterior daisy chains to add hooks and other gear to the outside of the pack. One downside is that there is no internal frame for support. Users also complained that seams and zippers broke with use over time.
This backpack is also really comfortable. It features padded waist, hip, and back support as well a waterproof padded shoulder straps. Chest straps help the pack stay close to your body to reduce bouncing and the durable rubber top-hold handle makes for easy lifting. All that and it weighs under 3 pounds.
What we liked:
One-of-a-kind purge valve
Can use as cooler or shower
Plenty of storage
Padded waist, hip, and back supports
Waterproof padded shoulder pads
What could be better:
No internal frame
Some users commented that seams an zippers broke with use
The Loowoko 50L Hiking Backpack can hold enough equipment for three to four days away. With eight adjustable straps, you can add a sleeping bag, mat, tripod, and add attach carabiners holding other accessories. There are also plenty of compartments and mesh side pockets so you can keep your things separate and neatly organized.
In addition to being practical, this pack is comfortable, too. The shoulder straps have thick sponge padding covered in breathable mesh and the back support strap is breathable with just a little bit of stretch. The whole thing fits comfortably around the torso, back, and shoulders and can be adjusted for different body types.
There’s a rain cover included for heavy rain and the rip-stop polyester material prevents water from seeping into the bag in light rain. This backpack is available in six different colors so you can choose one that suits you.
As for downsides, there are a few things that users have raised concerns about. First, the zippers and seams don’t hold up after long periods of use. Second, while there are a lot of pockets, some of them are not easily accessible.
What we liked:
Large 50L capacity
Eight adjustable straps
Plenty of compartments for organization
Thick sponge padding
Adjustable for different body types
Available in five colors
What could be better:
Some users claimed that seams and zippers don’t hold up over time
If you’re looking for a great backpack for cameras, check out the TUBU 6070 Camera Backpack. This pack is sized and styled for any body type and has a lot of great features any photographer will love. It’s lightweight and roomy with flexible dividers that can be adjusted to fit most digital cameras as well as several lenses and flashes.
This pack features a waist strap for stability and support and a reflective strip for safety as well as a tripod holder to make sure you’re prepared for your next shot. Not only is the durable material waterproof, but there’s also a rain cover to completely protect your gear in bad weather. Breathable back padding keeps you cool during outdoor photo shoots and the straps are adjustable to keep things secure while you’re on the move, though some users commented that it was difficult to find a comfortable position for the straps.
There’s also a separate compartment for a laptop for on-the-go edits and the 360-degree shockproofing provides superior impact protection. Plus, it can easily be converted into a travel bag by removing the included dividers.
Something really unique about this design is the camera strap buckles that allow you to comfortably and securely hang your camera strap from the pack instead of your neck to help keep pressure off of your neck.
What we liked:
Can hold 1 to 2 cameras as well as lenses and flashes
Breathable back padding
Can convert to a travel bag
What could be better:
Some users complained that it’s not easy to find a comfortable position
The 48L Everest Hiking Pack is a great medium sized pack for shorter excursions. It’s also a good choice for starters because it’s budget-friendly and great for light, short trips. If you’ve been looking for a bag for someone just getting to hiking, this is a great one to try.
The main compartment has a snap buckle closure and zippered side pockets to keep your supplies perfectly organized. There’s also a front bungee organizer to keep extra gear secure and easy to access. Side compression straps keep everything tight and in place during your hike, too.
The sternum strap adds support and prevents the bag from bouncing around while on the move and the shoulder straps adjust to fit different body types although some users said that the straps can loosen over time, especially with heavier loads. Some of the straps break easily and there’s no internal frame for support, though the thick padding does add a little bit of structure.
This pack is made of water resistant material and comes in eight different color options including bright red if you’re concerned about visibility as well as two different camouflage options in case you want to blend in.
What we liked:
Good for short trips
Perfect for beginners
Abundant storage with pockets and bungees
Side compression straps
Adjustable for different body types
Available in eight colors
What could be better:
Some users reported that straps break easily
No internal support frame
Things to Consider
Whether you’re an experienced pro looking for an upgrade or a beginner planning their first day trip, the right hiking backpack is a key piece of equipment. It lets you carry everything you need comfortably and efficiently so you can be prepared for anything.
What backpacks are great for hiking?
All of the packs that we reviewed are great for hiking but you may have noticed that they’re all a little different. The truth is there are a lot of things to think about when deciding on a hiking backpack. Let’s take a look at the features you should consider when shopping.
Features to consider before you buy a backpack
The main things you should decide before you choose a pack are where you’re going and how long you’re planning to stay there. This gives you an idea of how much gear you need so that you can figure out which backpack best suits your needs.
Types of backpacks
When trying to figure out the kind of pack you need, take into consideration the longest time you’ll be away. For example, if you usually do quick day trips on the weekends but go on multi-day adventures a few times a year, it would make sense to get a larger bag that you can take with you for both rather than investing in two different bags.
Here are the types of backpacks you can choose:
Multi-day. If you’re planning to be away for a few days, a multi-day pack like the AmazonBasics Internal Frame Hiking Backpack with Rainfly is what you need. They’re the largest packs available and have enough room for tents, food, and cooking gear. Plus, they’re also great for winter gear which tends to be bulkier and requires more room. These are a great pack for specialty gear, too, like mountaineering equipment or skis and poles. Multi-dap backpacks usually have more structure and better comfort features, since they’re meant for long treks and you’ll be carrying them for an extended period of time.
Two-day packs. For weekends away, look for something a bit smaller in the 40 to 65-liter range like the TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack. They usually have enough room to carry a small tent, food, and the essentials for a night or two away from home but aren’t so great for winter gear that takes up a lot of space.
Overnight packs. If you’re planning for one night away from home or a long day trip, an overnight pack like the TETON Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack gives you just enough space for some food and the bare necessities. This isn’t a good pack for anyone who has to carry a lot of gear or winter clothing.
While there’s not a lot of harm in getting a pack that’s too big, you should never overstuff one that’s too small. By expecting the bag to carry more that it’s actually designed to hold, tears and rips can quickly result which is definitely not something you want to discover on the middle of the trail. That’s one reason why getting the right capacity is so important.
Backpack capacity is measured in liters. While this may seem difficult to understand at first, it’s really pretty straight forward. Liters truly does mean liters so an easy way to think about it is in liters of water. For example, a 40L pack can hold 40L of water. Imagine dumping a liter of water into the pack 40 times. Obviously, this isn’t an exact science but it does give you some idea of what to expect.
The size of the pack is important for everyone, although it’s more important for anyone who is petite. A lot of these packs adjust in size to fit a variety of body types but if you’re on the short side, pay special attention to the dimensions. One reason these packs are so good for hiking is how they distribute weight across your body, but to do this effectively, they have to sit in the right place.
If your pack is the wrong size, it won’t fit properly and can end up causing stress and pain.
Most of the weight from a hiking backpack comes from the gear you pack into it. That said, you should aim for the lightest pack possible to keep weight at the absolute minimum. A pound may not seem like a lot but after you’ve gone a few miles into the woods, you’ll definitely feel every single one.
Quality and materials used
The quality of the materials is really important with hiking backpacks. You’re going to be out in the middle of the wilderness with everything you need to survive strapped to your back so you want something that can tolerate some wear and tear.
One thing that’s really important is waterproofing. You never know what’s going to happen when you’re spending long periods of time outside. While a little bit of rain might not be a problem, heavy downpours can actually ruin a lot of your supplies if you’re not careful. A lot of these packs have a rainfly built in. They tuck away in a convenient pocket when not in use and pull out to cover your whole pack when you need them.
In addition to a rainfly, the pack itself should be made from a high-quality water-resistant material to protect against light rain and water splashes. Wet packs and gear aren’t necessarily a disaster, but they can be and they certainly don’t make anything easier. Staying dry is essential.
Comfort materials are important, too. Padding is important because it helps prevent rubbing and discomfort while also dispersing the weight across your shoulders, hips, and back.
For longer trips, look for something with channels that allow air to flow through the padding to help you stay cool, especially in the hot summer.
It’s really important not to overstuff your pack, especially if you have a small one that’s only meant for a day or two away. A load that’s too heavy can quickly cause a lot of damage to the seams of a light pack. On the surface, it might seem like maybe the material isn’t very good or the seams aren’t made well but if you put too much gear into a pack that’s not meant to hold it, it puts everything under stress and seams and zippers will tear. This has nothing to do with the quality of the materials. They’re simply not meant to take that much strain.
The more compartments you have, the easier it is to keep yourself organized. When hiking, it’s really important that everything has a place and that you keep your gear nice and tidy. You don’t want to have to stop along the trail and dig through your whole pack for more big repellant or have to empty the whole thing when setting up camp because you can’t find your stake hammer. Most of these packs give you a lot of compartments as well as exterior loops and bungees so you can find a home for everything you need while you’re away.
We included one specialty pack in our reviews, the TUBU 6070 Camera Backpack. If you’re a photographer looking for a pack to take with you for outside photoshoots, a specialty bag is the best way to go. You can’t really put your equipment in a standard pack without worrying about it getting damaged, and a camera bag is specifically designed to keep your camera, lenses, and flashes safe.
Obviously, warranties are important. If you get an inferior piece of equipment that breaks your first day away, you’re not going to be very happy. Not to mention, it can be dangerous. Generally, the better the warranty, the more the company stands behind their product. Make sure to read the fine print carefully so you know what is and isn’t covered. That way, you’ll know what to expect in case something happens.
Frameless packs are great for short trips where you don’t need a lot of gear. They usually have simpler designs that don’t have as many compartments. Because there’s no frame to give structure, how you pack your gear is really important. It’s really important not to overfill frameless packs because this really strains the seams and could cause significant damage.
There are two important things to consider: torso length and waist size. Torso length is particularly important if you’re short. Some packs come in multiple sizes and provide a range for each size. Bear in mind this varies from brand to brand so just because you’re a small in one doesn’t mean you’ll be a small in another. That said, there are a lot of packs that have adjustable torso lengths. On the surface, this is a great idea but make sure that the straps are secure and won’t loosen as you walk along. Waist size is really important to consider because your waist should be supporting most of the weight of the pack and it has to be the right size to do that. Waist belts usually fit a wide range of sizes and are easily adjustable but small-waisted people can have difficulties getting the right fit.
Our top pick is the TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack. This is a great choice if you’re going to be exploring for a few days. There are plenty of compartments to help you stay organized and the internal frame adds just the right amount of structural support.
TETON Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack is a small 18L daypack with a generous hydration bladder that’s perfect for quick adventures on hot summer days. It features comfortable padding and straps as well as a built-in rainfly to protect your gear if the weather takes a turn for the worse.