The Best Backpacks for Camping

February 15, 2022
man wearing hiking backpack

If you only go out to the woods occasionally, you might think any old backpack is fit to take camping—but you’d be wrong. After all, there’s an incredible variety of backpacks on the market, and many of them aren’t intended for anything beyond your commute to and from the office. But what makes a backpack worth taking on your next outdoor adventure—and where can you buy one?

We’ve got some ideas that can help you answer both of those questions. Below, you’ll find a list of essential qualities to look for in a camping backpack, as well as a few of the best such packs available right now.

If you’re looking to book a camping trip to test out a new backpack try

What Makes a Camping Backpack Great?

Before you trust any backpack to store and carry your essential camping items, you’ll want to make sure it has most (if not all) of the following features:

A Frame: Many commuter backpacks are frameless, but these prove awkward to carry through the woods when fully loaded, since they provide no structural support. Most camping backpacks will either include an internal or external frame to improve your stability while carrying them.

Access Panels: Bags that only open from the top aren’t practical when you need quick access to the items buried underneath your other gear (and making this mistake with something like bear spray can quickly turn you from an intrepid explorer into an easy snack for wildlife). Avoid this mistake by buying a bag that has extra access panels in the sides or bottom of the bag—just remember not to leave them open, or you’ll be spilling your gear out behind you while you hike!

Gear Loops: Hiking poles, ice axes, and other tools are often too large to store inside a backpack but too awkward to carry for long in your arms. That’s why the best camping backpacks usually have loops to which you can attach such items.

Waterproof Features: There’s nothing worse than putting sensitive items in your bag for safekeeping, only to have them ruined by a downpour that soaks through the lining. Look for a backpack with a waterproof lining to prevent this from happening—or better yet, buy one that comes with a raincover.

Container Sleeves: Almost every backpack comes with these—but you definitely don’t want to camping with one of the few that don’t. These pockets are specifically designed to carry water bottles (or cans of beer, if that’s the kind of camping trip you’re on—just remember to dispose of them responsibly when they’re empty!).

Comfort Padding: You might think extra padding on a backpack is an unnecessary luxury, but if you’ve ever schlepped a 50lb bag for hours on end through rough terrain, you know how sore your back and shoulders can get. Give yourself some relief by purchasing a bag with at least a little cushioning in the contact points.

A Sleeping Bag Carrier: Backpacks built for camping often come with a specific pocket for carrying sleeping bags. Having a dedicated sleeping back container prevents you from having to unload your entire bag whenever you’re bedding down for the night, saving you a ton of time and effort in making camp.

Air Vents: You know what happens when you hike for long enough?Sweat happens. And when it does, the last thing you want is a swampy back that gets stuck to the pack resting on it. That’s why backpacks intended for dynamic outdoor activities tend to have ventilated panels in the back—often in the form of “tension-mesh suspension”, which creates a breathable buffer between you and the pack’s frame.

Got it? Good. Then let’s take a look at some of the best bags you can buy with these features today.

Our Top 5 Backpacks for Camping in Canada Right Now

Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack – Men’s

Orange Gregory Baltoro 75 Backpack

Price: $445 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

This backpack has over 60 mainly glowing reviews on MEC for good reason. Not only does it come with a sleeping bag compartment, an internal hydration reservoir sleeve, twin water bottle holders, and numerous removable loops for attaching gear, but it’s also got a wishbone-shaped aluminium wire frame to move the brunt of its load to the load-bearing regions of your body—which means you can fill this baby up and carry it around for hours with less effort than most other packs.

Gregory Deva 60 Backpack – Women’s

Maroon Gregory Deva 60 Backpack

Price: $400 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

Another heavy hitter from Gregory, this women’s backpack comes with a lot of the same features as the Baltoro, but in a more compact package with slightly smaller volume. Access panels in the front, top, and bottom mean your important items are always within easy reach, and it’s intended to hold up to 25kg. It also includes a removable daypack, so you can carry a lighter load on days when you won’t be venturing too far away from your campsite—tough and practical.

Mystery Ranch Terraframe 3-Zip 50L Pack – Unisex

Black Mystery Ranch Terraframe 3-Zip 50L Pack with orange trim

Price: $465 CAD<

Where to Buy: MEC

Fit for winter expedition camping as well as your typical backpacking excursions, this efficient and no-nonsense pack uses DWR-treated fabric in the construction of its shell and comes with attachment points for your poles, ice axes, or other larger pieces of gear. It also has a removable padded hip belt to keep you from getting too sore on your longer jaunts. Our only gripe with this popular backpack is that it doesn’t have a ventilation panel in the back—but that’s probably because it’s built for use on top of winter camping layers.

Osprey 50L Renn Backpack

Black Osprey 50L Renn Backpack

Price: $210 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

An excellent option for campers on slightly tighter budgets, this mid-sized women’s backpack is still plenty capable of seeing you through a multi-day adventure in the great outdoors. Tension-mesh in the back provides a buffer between your back and the frame, while allowing plenty of airflow to keep you from getting too sweaty—and an integrated rain cover provides protection from the elements in case of rain.

Osprey Rook 65L Backpack

Green Osprey Rook 65L Backpack

Price: $230 CAD

Where to Buy: MEC

With the same tension-mesh back panel and integrated rain cover as its cousin above, the Rook is a larger and more robust version of the same bag, intended for men or campers with larger frames. It’s designed to be simple but effective—with an easily-adjustable harness, a straightforward pocket design that helps you stay organised without overcomplicating things, and soft-edged shoulder straps to make your longer treks as comfortable as possible.

There’s also an integrated safety whistle on this bag—just in case you do run into a cougar or two (and no, we don’t mean at the next campsite over). If you haven’t got your bear spray handy, that might just be the next best thing.

While you’re looking into camping gear & equipment check out our list for best camping tents.






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