Best Budget Hiking Backpack: Our Top Ten Reviewed [2020]

Planning on buying a new budget hiking backpack? We have you covered, and we know value matters. Therefore we have put together our buyers guide for the best budget hiking backpack. The best budget hiking backpack is not just an accessory. It can offer great functionality which can make your journey into the wild more relaxed and enjoyable. 

When picking a backpack there are three key things to look for: 

  • Capacity 
  • Features 
  • Fit

In this article, we will explore each of these areas so you can make the right choice when picking your best budget hiking backpack. Once you know what you are looking for we have put together our top recommendations. These recommendations are the result of hours of testing and research. We do this so you can be assured that you are making an informed decision when deciding which is the best hiking backpack for you. 

So let’s jump in!

Table of Contents

Best Budget Hiking Backpack: at a Glance

Best Budget Hiking Backpack: in Detail

What do I need to know before choosing the best budget hiking backpack?

What Capacity is Right for me?

The best budget hiking backpack will come in all shapes and sizes. Picking the right backpack with the correct capacity is very important. Capacity is measured in litres. The size of the backpack will determine the amount of gear which you can comfortably take before you backpack begins to feel extremely heavy and lopsided. A common misconception when looking to buy a budget hiking backpack is that they will all be small and have little built-in storage space. From our research we can say this is absolutely not the case. Some of the best budget hiking backpacks we found were also the biggest. Below we have created a buyers guide for which backpack capacity is perfect for your trip. 

Day Hiking: under 30L

If you are undertaking a day hike a backpack with 30L or less should be sufficient. A backpack this size will be lightweight and easy to carry whilst allowing you to pack essentials such as a jacket, map, water and food. There are lots of budget hiking backpacks of this size so you should ensure that you pick one with spare zipped up pockets and outer pack storage spots for items you need quick access to such as your phone or water bottle. 

Weekend (1-3 days): 30L - 50L

When going away for a couple of days you can use a 30 to 50 litre backpack. These backpacks require you to pack light. This means you will need to prioritise and compromise on some of the items you are taking so plan carefully. That being said efficient packers will get the most out of backpacks this size. It will be light, flexible and versatile whilst allowing you to add some extra items such as a sleeping bag and a small tent. The best budget backpacks of this size will have plenty of pockets and even a place for your sleeping bag. Remember, if you are going away for a few days you may need a place to carry your tent so look out for external straps which can be used to attached your tent to your budget hiking backpack. 

Multi-day (3-5 days): 50-80L

This is a popular size when it comes to buying the best budget back backpack. It allows you to carry all the essential camping equipment you need and a couple of spare items of clothes. If you are camping for the best part of a week this backpack is the right choice. Whilst these bags are heavier, manufacturers have added amazing adjustment features which can ease the lead to make a more even distribution of weight. We have included some of our favourites in our list of the best hiking backpacks under $100. These backpacks offer loads of room, a separate sleeping bag area and easy access. Given the amount of equipment you will be carrying a waist belt and shoulder strap adjuster is an absolute must and we couldn’t recommend these more. This is because you will need to adjust the carry of your bag to account for the weight. 

Extended-trip (5+ nights): 70L or larger

Extended trips call for a larger backpack. At 70L or more you will have ample room for all of your equipment and plenty of spare clothes. I would also recommend this size of you are winter trekking for any amount of time, or taking young children hiking. That was Mom and Dad can carry their gear clearing the way for an enjoyable experience for their youngsters. 

What features should I look for when picking my best budget hiking backpack?

When choosing your best hiking backpack under $100 you should consider what features you will need. Great value does not mean you should compromise on quality. Some features which you should look for are: 

  • A rain cover or rainfly. This will keep your bag (and by association all of your gear) dry when it rains. 
  • Ventilation. When carrying your backpack you are likely to get a hot (and sweaty) back. Having great ventilation will help cool down these areas whilst keep your clothes moisture free. 
  • Pack access. It may not seem important at the time of purchase but having easy access to the whole backpack is one of those real time savers. Look out for a separate sleeping bag compartment or side pockets which allow for easy access.
  • Padding. If you are using a minimalistic hip belt or lumber pad then padding is a great way to avoid pains and aches. 
  • Hydration bladder compartment: a great way to add value to your backpack is to look for one with a hydration bladder. A hydration bladder will allow you to carry large quantities of water without the fear of leakage into the rest of your bag. 
The best budget hiking backpacks we have found include most if not all of these features as standard – especially for the larger backpacks. Obviously, some of these features will not be applicable for the day hiking choices but you should still be looking for those fundamentals such as padding and adjustability. 

A common misconception is that backpack size is determined by your height. It isn’t. It is decided by your torso.

The right fit is one that offers:

  • A size appropriate for your torso length.
  • A comfortably snug grip on your hips.

Fortunately, many of the options in our best hiking backpacks for under $100 include adjusters. This means that you can purchase the backpack in the knowledge that you can adjust this to your size and shape. If you are really concerned about the size make sure you pick a backpack which has a lot of adjustable options. This will give you the scope to make the backpack fit your size perfectly. 

Frequently Asked Questions About The Best Budget Hiking Backpack

No. The best budget hiking backpack should be durable and long-lasting. I bought my current backpack for $45 in 2009 and I still use it to this day. The durability and life-span of a backpack depend on two factors: 

  • The material and construction of the backpack. 
  • User treatment. 

Most budget hiking backpacks are made using nylon. This is a quality material that is affordable and strong; meaning you will have no problem carrying all your gear. Another feature which adds to the durability of your backpack is reinforced seams. The reality is when backpacks begin to age it is the seams that go first so strong seams really do add to the age of your backpack. 

How a user treats their backpack correlates to its durability. You should make sure the backpack is clean and dry after use. You should also ensure that when you are not using it, it is stored away in a dry place (make sure it is not placed near damp or mold as this will affect the fabric). Finally, don’t overpack or stretch the fabric. This will cause tears and/or rips to appear and will strain the seams. Your backpack will withstand this for a while but eventually it will be its downturn.  

The best budget hiking backpack will use a great value, lightweight and durable material. Most backpacks are made from Nylon. This is popular because it is tear-resistant, water-resistant (when treated) and great value. Some other backpacks are made using polyester. Polyester is also used in budget backpacks. Polyester is not naturally breathable so ensure that the backpack has good ventilation built-in to the design. 

No, this should not be the case. An expensive backpack could be designed in exactly the same way as a cheap one and the only difference is the brand name. We all know you pay a premium for certain brands. Now, this isn’t always the case but in my experience you should look beyond the price tag to look at the functions and features of the backpacks you are looking to buy. 

Features like reinforced seams, material quality, and adjustability in the backpack fit can ensure that you get the quality you want whilst also getting a great deal. Furthermore, the best budget backpack may offer you the perfect minimalist design which takes the stress out of loading/unloading your backpack with your equipment/gear. 

Most backpacks will be treated with a water-resistant coating. This means they will repel water but it does not mean that they are waterproof. Some backpacks are treated with a waterproof coating and whilst this will keep you dry in light rain, my experience is that it will not withstand the heavy stuff. If you are concerned about you backpack getting wet I would suggest two things: 

  • Make sure your backpack comes with a built-in rainfly. These are a waterproof fabric which you can put over your bag when it begins to rain. They are exceptionally easy to use and will have a dedicated (small) compartment usually on the bottom or very top of the backpack. 
  • You should use waterproof bags when packing your gear in the backpack (a sealable sandwich bag will do just fine). This will keep your gear dry if any rain does get through the backpacks defences. 

For most hikers, I would recommend an internal frame. These offer great support and stability when you are walking on rocky and/or rough terrain. Many internal-frame backpacks have smart technology which transfer the weight of the backpack from your back and shoulders to your hips. This makes carrying heavy loads seem really easy. 

If you are carrying an uneven load such as a kayak and external frame will help you balance the large objects weight. 

You should only be looking into a frameless backpack if you are carrying a really light load and your priority is keeping weight down. 

This is down to personal preference. A water bladder compartment is great for having an easily accessible water storage place in your backpack. Furthermore, you will not need to empty you backpack looking for a water bottle if you have a hydration bladder which you can use whilst walking. 

Another great benefit of a hydration bladder compartment is that if (in an unlucky turn of events) it begins to leak, the rest of your gear should be protected because the water bladder is in an isolated pocket in backpack. 

Conclusion: Best Budget Hiking Backpack

The best budget hiking backpack for you will depend on a number of factors. Perhaps the most important factor is the length of time you expect to be using it for at one time. 

That is why our top pick is the Teton Sports Scout 3400. This is a versatile bag whose size makes it great for day hiking and week-long camping trips alike. Furthermore, it has loads of added value such as a rain cover and hydration bladder compartment. We love the Teton brand which offers great value and uncompromising quality.  

Whatever backpack you choose. We hope you enjoy your next adventure in the wild. 

Other pages we think you'll like

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email