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The Best Backpacks for Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

There are a number of well-loved backpacks used by Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers. Here’s a selection of the top picks.

Backpacks

The ULA Circuit Backpack is one of the most popular options on the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s extremely customizable, allowing you to select options for torso size, hipbelt size, and the type of shoulder strap you prefer. It has a volume of 68L, a max carrying capacity of 35lb, and weighs 41oz.

The ULA Catalyst Backpack is a popular option on the trail for those who want a larger carrying capacity. Like the ULA Circuit, it’s extremely customizable for your body size and shape. It has a volume of 75L, carries a max weight of 40lb, and weighs 48oz.

The Mariposa 60 Backpack is a fantastic option for those who want a lightweight backpack that’s known for both its organizational ability and comfort. It can weigh as little as 19oz depending on the options you choose, has a volume of 60L, and a max carrying capacity of 35lbs.

The ULA OHM 2.0 Backpack is another good option for those who want to travel light without sacrificing comfort. Like the other ULA backpacks listed here, it’s highly customizable to your preferences. It weighs 34.5oz, has a 63L volume, and carries a max of 30lbs.

For those traveling with minimal gear, check out the Gorilla 40 Ultralight Backpack. With its volume of 40lb, it’s for those who want to travel light and fast. It can weigh as little as 20.5oz depending on the options you choose, and carries a max of 30lbs.

The backpacks made by Hyperlite Mountain Gear are well loved on the trail and made specifically for thru-hiking. Their backpacks have anywhere from 40L to 70L capacity and a max load of 40lbs to 60lbs. These are some of the most durable, weather-resistant backpacks that you’ll find on the market.

Related Gear

Keep your gear dry with Clear Waterproof Pack Liners from Gossamer Gear. They weigh just 1.2oz and are known for their water-tight construction and durability.

How to Choose the Right Backpack

The sole purpose of your backpack is carry your gear and supplies comfortably. That’s all. Keep that in mind when selecting a pack. Overbuilt packs are the norm at most sporting goods stores. Many backpacks found in stores weigh more – when empty – than all of some PCT thru-hikers’ gear combined.

Lightweight materials are sturdier than they look. Your backpack doesn’t need to be bombproof. You’re going to a national scenic trail. You are not going to war. You aren’t going out to bushwack through the Amazon or build a trail through the Sierras. You are going out for a stroll along the PCT. Choose your pack accordingly.

You may want to choose your backpack after you’ve chosen most of your other gear. That way you’ll know about how much volume your pack will need, and you’ll have some idea of how much weight your pack will need to support. Then you can go buy the lightest and smallest pack that meets your needs.

Framed vs Frameless

The average thru-hiker has some kind of frame built into their pack. Ultralight hikers carry such a light load that they can often get by with a frameless backpack, but most hikers prefer a backpack with internal frame support. If you think you’ll be carrying 30 pounds or more (including food and water) on a regular basis then you should consider using a backpack with an internal frame.

Popular Backpacks

  • Osprey Packs Exos 58 Backpack

    Osprey Packs Exos 58 Backpack

    43 oz

  • ULA Catalyst Backpack

    ULA Catalyst Backpack

    48 oz

  • Osprey Exos 48 Pack – Men’s

    Osprey Exos 48 Pack – Men’s

    42 oz

  • Osprey Atmos AG 50 Pack – Men’s

    Osprey Atmos AG 50 Pack – Men’s

    67 oz

  • Osprey Women’s Aura 50 AG Backpack

    Osprey Women’s Aura 50 AG Backpack

    60 oz

  • ULA Circuit Backpack

    ULA Circuit Backpack

    41 oz

  • Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Pack

    Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest Pack

    32.3 oz

  • Gorilla 40 Ultralight Backpack

    Gorilla 40 Ultralight Backpack

    30.5 oz

  • Mariposa 60 Backpack

    Mariposa 60 Backpack

    30.5 oz

  • ULA OHM 2.0

    ULA OHM 2.0

    34.5 oz

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