**If you are in a hurry I recommend the TETON Sports Fox 5200 Internal Frame Backpack as the best budget backpacking pack for its extreme durability, large capacity, and great value**
With all the extra straps and pockets that are included, finding a good starter backpack to use on your hiking journey can be a bit overwhelming. Knowing whether or not you need Molle webbing or a high capacity pack will depend on the type of trip you will be encountering. Learn which one is going to be durable enough to take the abuse of the outdoors while still being a good price in the best budget backpacking pack reviews below.
What Makes A Great Budget Backpacking Pack
It’s important to clarify right from the beginning that if you are a seasoned backpacker who has hit the trails for years and you have a wealth of experience with outdoor gear then a budget backpacking pack is not what you’re looking for.
Sure, everyone wants to save a buck but if you identify with the above statement you are almost guaranteed to be disappointed by your purchase. Budget packs are either for beginning backpackers looking to get started and get a feel for different brands and features or for the vets of the outdoors who need a backup pack or something in a pinch.
When you’re hauling around a ton of gear in a fully filled pack over several miles you are going to be happy you have some back support during your travels.
Most modern backpacks come with open-cell foam pads that will act as a lumbar support on the lower back area but they can also use this foam padding for the upper back and even on the waistbands to wrap around you.
These foam pads will continue up the shoulder straps so that every stress point on your body is absorbed as much as possible by the pads. You can use this in combination with the adjustable straps, waistband, and sternum strap that come with most backpacking packs to evenly distribute the weight.
The other support system you have to keep from your pack beating up your body is the internal frame. I will cover that more in the section below.
Most packs will measure the capacity of the inside compartment by using Liters. So you will see the sizes as 50L, 65L, or even as much as 85L.
The more size your backpacking pack can carry the heavier it is going to be on its own. So if you plan on having a 2-3 day hike then a 60L will be fine. But if you want a 5+ day hike then you will definitely want to level up to a 80L or even 85L.
Getting a big pack just to have one is not ideal because if it is not fully packed there is a good chance the weight is not going to be distributed evenly and can cause some extra stress on your back. Most packs come with additional Molle webbing technology or straps that you can use to attach extra items to the outside of your backpack.
Internal frames for affordable backpacking are thin, aluminum flat sheets that are built inside the area that rest on your back. They are rigid and provide stability for your pack and decrease the amount of tension that falls on your shoulders.
Without an internal frame you are going to really feel the effects after about 2 days of backpacking. Most of the options on this list include an internal frame but a couple of them do not. Make sure you take note of which bag will bring you the most comfort in the outdoors.
Hydration is always an important part of any backpacking journey and most modern packs try to accommodate water bladders and will create a special storage for them in the main compartment of the pack that allows you to attach it to a shoulder strap.
You’ll also find lots of Molle webbing, elastic cords, or straps you can use to attach and tie down extra items to the outside of your pack. You’ll also find that most packs offer a fully integrated rain cover that you can easily pop up and pull over your entire backpack for full rain protection.
Another more unique feature is to be able to detach your top lid and carry it around as a sling or small bag. You can even put something soft inside and use it as a pillow.
Best Overall: TETON Sports Fox 5200 Internal Frame Backpack
TETON is a well respected brand in the outdoor gear world and the Sports Fox 5200 is a top of the line product for the price point. It’s going to be on the higher end for the choices in this article but the backpacking pack still brings a ton of value. For starters, the 1000D oxford canvas material is the toughest you’ll find for budget packs and will last you several years without needing a replacement. And even though the canvas is water resistant you still have a fully integrated rain cover to protect your gear from getting soaked. The hood even dettaches so that you can use it as a sling or smaller carrying bag.
The open-cell lumbar support is great for the lower back and even continues on the waistband for full wrap coverage. There’s plenty of webbing, straps, and elastic cords to attach even more backpacking items without taking up additional space inside your pack. The only downside is that it is a little pricier then other options but for the quality of design there really isn’t many others that match the performance. If you need a top of the line pack for a good budget price then look no further than the TETON Sports Fox 5200.
Best Luxury: Kelty Coyote 80 Backpack
Looking for a long-hike pack that’s going to fit all the gear you need while still providing ample comfort? The Kelty Coyote Backpack holds an impressive 80L and includes lots of pockets for you to store away all your items. One of the more unique parts about the design is that you can actually take off the top lid portion of your pack and use it as a sling. So there isn’t a need to bring a smaller bag with you.
This isn’t going to be idea for shorter backpacking trips because of the large size and almost 6lbs of weight. But it has a foam cushioned mesh back support with a waistband and sternum strap to distribute weight evenly. There’s two side zippered pockets, one front pocket with organization system, a stretch front pouch and can even hold a water bag. It’s more expensive than other options and isn’t for short trips but if you’re looking for the perfect backpacking pack for longer hikes that will fit you like a glove the Kelty delivers.
Best Budget: NEVO RHINO Hiking Backpack
If you’re a beginning hiker and are looking for a affordable backpack that wont break the bank then the NEVO RHINO will be at the top of your list. It has some backpacking pack essentials like an extra mesh bag inside, elastic net to provide extra storage space, sleeping bag storage pocket, and a rain cover you can pull over your bag for complete water protection. It also has a 4mm rear steel frame for enhanced back support that wont keep you slouching as you carry your pack.
Even the waistband has pockets to keep smaller items inside so they don’t get lost on the trail. If you are packing a little too much and start seeing some gear sticking out the top of your pack the extension collar will actually cover up to an additional 5L. The backpacking pack itself is smaller in size and won’t distribute weight evenly for people nearing 6”. And the plastic buckles for all straps could be higher quality but for the price point the NEVO RHINO provides one of the best beginner experiences for backpackers who need a versatile pack.
There isn’t any doubt that the Outdoor Plus Backpack is durable enough to hold up in the outdoors but what makes this unique is the extension in size and ability to attach other bags. It’s built using molle technology that is primarily used in the military but allows even distribution of weight for load bearing. You have webbing all around the side and back pocket of your backpacking pack so that you can attach additional bags or weight without having to worry about overloading.
There’s also the unique ability to extend your pack from 70L to 85L using the extra fabric on either side. Just unzip your backpack on both sides and the extra fabric extends to give you more room inside. The bag is waterproof so you don’t have to find shelter if it happens to start raining but the way the top cover sits on the pack may leave room for water to get inside. Something to be aware of when using it. It’s not the cheapest option on the list but for the amount of gear you can pack on as well as the long lasting durability you will find its one of the best value backpacks on the market.
If you’re looking for a backpacking pack with tons of storage space that still provides unmatched comfort then the AmazonBasics Backpack with Rainfly has you covered. One of the best features is the open-cell foam lumbar pad with molded channels for extra air circulation. This will keep your lower back, which is usually under the most duress, the support it needs during your hike to keep from getting stiff or sore. It’s got a large size rear pocket, two side pockets, two mesh pockets, and a lower rear pocket for storing all your gear.
If the weather turns for the worst you have a couple of options for protection. The integrated water resistant rainfly will be enough to keep your gear dry during light rains but if you get some heavier drops coming your way you also have a full rain cover to pull over your whole outdoor pack. The main improvement the AmazonBasics could make is by adding some teeth to the strap buckles because on a longer hike your straps will eventually loosen up and you’ll have to continue to retie them. But other than that, there aren’t many options that provide this level of back support and capacity.
The Loowoko is more in line with a shorter backpacking trip anywhere from 2-3 days because of the lack of a internal frame but it’s one of the most durable and reliable packs for the price point. It has eight adjustable straps that can be used to tie your pack to a structure if you want to keep it off the ground but you can also use them to tie trekking rods or other gear. You also have some extra storage pockets at the top and bottom of your backpacking pack that is actually large enough to bring an extra pair of shoes.
Although the Loowoko is waterproof on its own it also comes with a full rain cover just in case the weather turns bad and you need to protect your gear. The lack of an internal frame is the only reason this wouldn’t be a go to options for any backpackers scenario in the outdoors but it’s going to be hard to beat the level of quality a pack at this price point provides. If you need a quick 2-3 day pack you can rely on to perform well while you hit the trials then you’ve found your solution.
TETON is a name brand in the world of backpacking and continues to produce high quality outdoor gear year after year. The Sports Explorer 400 is no exception and is one of the best backpacking packs you’ll find on the market. The price point is slightly higher than average but the 600D oxford canvas material is durable enough to last several seasons. And the 65L of capacity can last you 3-4 days out on the trails. There’s an integrated rain cover for full water protection and daisy chain webbing on the back straps you can use to attach even more gear.
The open-cell foam lumbar has thoughtful placement and provides comfortable support when placed correctly. Especially because the waistband has a large width and wraps well around your hips. The sleeping bag area isn’t very large but that can be said of most budget backpacking packs so I wouldn’t hold it against the TETON. Although you’ll pay a little extra for this pack than the average you’re going to get a ton of use out of it because it’s going to become your go-to choice when backpacking.
The MOUNTAINTOP is a well thought out backpacking pack that comes with all the essentials you would need on a hike and is spacious enough to last 2-3 days at 80L capacity. One of the best parts is that you can access the inside from one of the side zippers so you don’t have to go rummaging through your pack from top to bottom looking for gear. There’s webbing on each side of the back so you can attach even more items.
There’s a place in the main compartment that can hold a water bladder up to 3L. Overall the MOUNTAINTOP has all the features you would need but the quality tends to be less than other choices on this list and the pictures might not be accurate. There was one reviewer who received their bag without any lumbar support padding which would make you hike feel even longer with lower back pain. For the higher price point you would want full reassurance that this pack is going to hold up. Others have had no problems and enjoy the solid design.
The seenlast Hiking Backpack is another high quality build that will take care of several hiking needs while traveling through the trails. The 50L of capacity is enough for about 2-3 days of hiking and there’s enough straps on it to hold extra gear on the outside. If you’re worried about the weather you can use the integrated rain cover that will offer full protection. There’s a pocket in the top lid and also a sleeping bag pocket at the bottom of the rear.
The lumbar support is lacking and doesn’t provide as much comfort as other options but it does have some S curves that run along the length of the front. But you’ll get some great use out of the seenlast and it should provide everything you need to feel prepared for a backpacking journey. It’s also one of the less expensive options so if you’re looking for a pack that can bring some great value, this is the one.
You can’t go wrong with the Mardingtop Molle Backpack and for the price it’s one of the most reliable and better performing packs. The amount of Molle webbing that has been providing ensures you don’t have to leave a single item at home because it will all fit onto the back of your Mardingtop. You also have a fully integrated rain cover just in case you need to keep everything dry without warning. It’s got a large front pocket, two side pockets, two side pouches, and a large sleeping bag compartment you don’t have to worry about the size of your bag which is nice compared to some of the other options.
The 60L of space is great for a 2-3 day hike and the 600D polyester material is durable enough to withstand the beating of the outdoors. In case you overpack the inside of your Mardingtop you have an extension collar that fits an additional 5L of space. The quality of buckles on this bag could be improved but that’s exactly why you pay a great price instead of top dollar. If you need a reliable backpack that will hold a ton of extra gear without having confusing pockets and straps then the Mardingtop is a perfect fit.
My choice for best budget backpacking pack is the TETON Sports Fox 5200 Internal Frame Backpack because of its extreme durability and large capacity for a great price. It can hold 4-5 days of backpacking gear with 85L of capacity and the 1000D oxford canvas is the toughest on this list. The price is a little higher than average but that’s because you have above average quality. For backpackers looking for a solid investment that will last for years will enjoy the Sports Fox 5200.