Trekking in high mountains can be a really exciting experience. It is challenging and sometimes can be very difficult. So, it requires good physical conditions, good preparation in advance and proper gear. This gear can be heavy, but very helpful, sometimes even life-saving. And an important part of it is your backpack, which can provide comfortable bringing of your luggage. This is a review of the 10 best backpacks for mountain trekking for 2021.
But now, before we choose the best backpack, let’s see what makes a backpack “the best”, or at least good. What are the criteria that you have to look for?
Things to consider when you choose your mountain trekking backpack
First, as it is about every other product, there is no perfect backpack. Every backpack has its cons and pros, depending on your strength, your trekking style, average duration of your treks, and your financial ability. So, there are several important criteria that you have to consider when you make your choice. Let’s explain them.
Backpack volume is measured by L (liters). In general, it determines the inner space of the backpack, hence how many things you can put inside. Normally, you would not need more than 30-40L backpack for a one day hike. If you go for short treks (1-2 nights), 40-60L is the best volume. And for long multidays treks you would need 60+L backpack. The best volume for a person going to expeditions is 70-80L.
Size (torso length)
This is the leght of your backpack. Backpacks can have the same volume, but different size (shape). In other words, they can be wider but shorter, or narrower but longer. This is important for your comfort, as well as for how you would arrange your things inside the backpack.
So, the best backpack size is the leght that fits your torso length. This is the distance between your C7 vertebrae and the top of your hip bones. When you know this lenght, you can choose the backpack with the same size. If you can find a backpack with such size don’t worry, it can be still good, but if you find it, it would be the best.
Needless to say, weight is very important when you carry any kind of luggage. You may need to take many things with you and put them inside your backpack, but don’t forget that the backpack has its weight too. And the big backpacks designed for trekking and expeditions and always heavier than the small day-hike packs. It is not only due to the volume difference, but also because the trekking backpacks are supplied with a more complex system of pockets, straps, locks, etc. You can’t avoid this additional weight, but there are still some lighter examples that you can find (usually on higher price).
You backpack with all the things inside (and outside) can be quite heavy. Nobody likes to bring a heavy load while hiking a mountain. If you can’t avoid a heavy weight, you can at least share the weight properly on your back, so you could make it more comfortable. Every big and good backpack is supplied with a hipbel, and sometimes with one belt strap. Thus, the weight is not 100% taken by your shoulders, but mainly from your waist. It can significantly reduce the feeling of heaviness while you walk.
When you bring a backpack, even in a cold day, your back would inevitably sweat. While you hike, you stop for a rest, take off your backpack and your wet back is suddenly exposed at the cold wind. Then you take on your wet (and now very cold) backpack again, which is a highly uncomfortable feeling.
So, good backpacks are supplied with a system to prevent, or at least to reduce this effect. This system creates a space between your back and the backpack. Usually it consists of a back net, so you back doesn’t touch the backpack. You still can sweat, but anyway, now it would be much better.
When you prepare your luggage, you would not just put everything randomly inside your backpack, but you would like to arrange it better. Some things like water bottle, battery charger with a cable would be better put in a more convenient place. For this reason, backpacks are supplied with more pockets. They have “brains”- the lid of the backpack, with an inner pocket, at least two inner sections, and pockets from your both sides.
In addition, you would like to bring big things like a tent, a sleeping bag, or a mat. If possible to put these things inside the backpack, it would be more comfortable, making the whole luggage more compact. But usually the space is not enough, so you have to attach these things out of your backpack. So, the good backpacks are supplied with more straps, providing enough options for attaching- below the backpack, or on its both sides.
Water bladder function
Trekking on high mountains can make you thirsty. Sometimes very thirsty! So you need to drink water, and you would like to do it often. And to do it, your water need to be in a convenient place, without the need of taking your backpack off.
Water bladders are good solution of this problem. You put the bladder inside your backpack, prepare its hose, and you are ready to drink whenever you want, while you walk. The only think you need is a backpack providing a special hole for the hose. And the good backpacks provide it.
Yes, finally, it could be rainy. You don’t want the water penetrates inside your backpack. For this purpose, the good backpacks are usually sold along with a rain cover, normally put in the inner pocket of the backpack’s lid. It is enough elastic to coved not only the backpack, but also the attached things outside of it. However, the good thing is that even your backpack is not supplied with a rain cover, you can always buy it separately.
Features of a good backpack for long trekking in high altitude
So, let’s make a conclusion. Long trekking in the Himalaya, Tibet, Tianshan, Pamir, or the other high mountains in the world requires a good backpack, among all other important accessories. You would need to bring many things with you, as at the same time you try to make your luggage as light as possible. This means that your backpack’s volume must be at least 70 L. Other important features include lightweight, functionality, back warming, solidity and of course- price.
Take a look at this comparison table of 8 of the best backpacks of 2019, for high mountain trekking:
There is no perfect backpack, but in one or another feature, these backpacks are some of the best ones for long trekking. Let’s see each one in detail.
Osprey Aether AG70/85 and Ariel AG65/75
It is one of the best backpacks, probably the closest to perfection in all features. It comes in two versions- Aether for men, and Ariel for women. The difference is only in the style design, but the functionality and the quality features are the same. Also, Aether is slightly larger than Ariel.
This backpack is really great for long trekking, and it has an excellently organized system of pockets and straps, so you can comfortably arrange your gear.
Pros: Durability, excellent pockets-straps organization, lightweight, comfort for the body.
Kelty Coyote 85
Kelty is not on the top of the backpack brands like Osprey and Gregory, but they still present some outstanding products. They have backpacks with various capacity, but Coyote 85 is a bit different than their smaller volume products. Its main feature is the strong organization with the large pockets on the both sides of the backpack.
Kelty Coyote 85 is one of the three volume versions of the same Coyote model. The other versions are with 65 and 105 L volume. While 65 is a bit smaller for long trekking, and 105 L is too big, not comfortable for everyone, Coyote 85 L is the best backpack for multidays adventures in the mountain.
However, its straps and hipbelt are not the best, and can be not so comfortable for some people. For this reason, this backpack is still behind the products of the classical brands.
Pros: Excellent volume and pocket organization. Best for its price. Proper for carrying bulky gear.
Cons: Hipbelts and straps not very comfortable. Offered with only one size.
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 10
This backpack is perfect for those who search something lightweight. It is enough large, so it is great for multidays trekking in the mountain. Unlike most of the other backpacks, you can open this one from both the top, and the bottom.
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 10 is designed with straps that can make it shorter, if you go on a shorter trip and don’t need it full. At the same time, it has many convenient pockets for things that you would often need during your trek. It has good ventilation for your back, and in general, it has a significant durability.
But again, not everything is perfect. Maybe the most serious disadvantage of this backpack is its waterproof. Yes, using a rain cover is normal and necessary for every backpack, but this one can be wet easier than most of the other backpacks.
Pros: Lightweight. Can be opened from top and the bottom. Great pocket organization. Slimming straps.
Cons: Very low waterproof feature.
Osprey Xenith 88
Osprey is recognized as the best backpack brand. So I would present another backpack from them. Yes, their products are in the high-value range, but it is worth it since the quality is the best of all other backpack brands.
Among the most prominent features of the backpack is the adjustable system, allowing maximum comfort while bringing heavy gear. Xenith 88 has a “Stow-on-the-Go” feature, which allows you to attach your trekking poles to the backpack. Along with this, it is relatively lightweight, durable, with excellent breathability.
Pros: All the important features of a good backpack are well presented, plus the “Stow-on-the-Go” system for attaching the trekking poles.
Cons: Expensive. No rain cover included.
Gregory Baltoro 75
It is another great backpack for long trekking. The backpack also has an 85 L version, which would be good too, if you want to bring more things with you. It is excellent in all features, but maybe its best is the compactness, design for trekking and climbing in very difficult route sections with many obstacles like a thick forest, rocky and steep places, etc. One of the best choices for mountaineering on the highest mountains on Earth.
Gregory Baltoro model is designed for men, but in the world of backpacks, there is no big difference between “men’s” and “women’s”, so the ladies can use it too.
Pros: Compactness, great for trekking and mountaineering in extremely difficult areas.
Mystery Ranch Glacier
This is another great backpack for long trekking. It belongs to the high price category backpacks, so again, it is supposed to be close to perfect. And indeed, it is excellent in many of its features. Its strongest side is the comfortably arranged system for fitting your body so that it can avoid pains in your shoulders and back.
It is 70 L in volume and comes in versions for men and women. And it is also great for long trekking, having an excellent organized pocket system for your gear.
Pros: Excellent in all features, but especially in the comfortably arranged system for your shoulders and back.
Cons: Expensive. And also- a bit heavier than most of the other backpacks.
Now let’s look to backpacks in the lower price range.
Mountaintop 70 + 10
This is something like a cheap version of Osprey Aether AG70. Most of the Osprey’s features are presented in this backpack, but not in such high quality (that’s normal for its price). It comes in a few volume versions- between 55 and 80 L, and these two, 70 + 10, along with 80 L are really good for long trekking.
The backpack has side zipped pocket, 10 compression straps and hydration system compatible. In general, it is great for budget travelers.
Pros: Cheap, with all the features of Osprey Aether AG70.
Cons: Not very strong, due to using cheaper materials.
Among the cheap backpacks, Gonex 70+10 is one of the best. It presents the most important features of a proper backpack. The manufacturer recommends it for 5 to 12 days trekking. It has an adjustable bearing plate, and a pocket suitable for a water bladder (but without a hole for the straw). Gonex 70+10 has also good durability and breathability. It comes with a rain cover too.
In general, this backpack gets good reviews from the customers. This brand produces more backpacks of this model, in a smaller volume, and this one is just the right option for long trekking.
Pros: Good quality for its price, relatively lightweight, roomy.
Cons: There is a pocket for a water bladder, but no hole for the straw.
High Sierra Pathway 70
It is another good backpack in the low price range. The backpack again comes in few different volume versions, and this 70 L version is great for long trekking. It has a pocket for a water bladder, with a hole for the straw. Actually, many people buy it together with a water bladder. All other features like pockets, strap systems, adjustability, are good for its price.
There is, however, one design detail that is not convenient for many clients- the zipper for the internal divider is reversed.
Pros: Good quality for its price. Convenient, with good water bladder pocket system.
Cons: Zipper for the internal divider is reversed.
Quechua Forclaz 70
This is an excellent backpack for its price. It is strong, with reinforced seams. It has 5 pockets, including a place for a water bladder. The backpack is compact and great for long trekking, with a front opening. And it provides comfort during the trek.
Quechua Forclaz 70 comes in three versions with different prices, and the difference comes from the presence or lack of some details. Two of the versions are water repellent.
Pros: Good durability and strength, excellent organization of the pockets and straps.
Cons: Lack of good protection against zipper opening, no rain cover.
A good backpack is an important part of your trekking gear. And the good thing is that you don’t buy a backpack only for specific trekking in a specific destination. But you buy it for every kind of travel, in every place on Earth.
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