Best for via ferrata
Vaude Prokyon 30 | £110
Vaude’s Prokyon 30 is a good-sized backpack for day hikes where you need to carry a lot of kit, whether camera gear, mountaineering equipment or a few extra sandwiches. With a long, slender silhouette, it’s suitable for a bit of light mountaineering as it won’t interfere with your arms too much and we found it easy to get a good fit for great comfort on long hot hikes in the mountains. A two-way zip down the side of the pack is a welcome addition for easy access to gear and the range of pockets and attachment points inside and out is class leading.
A fully featured traditional hiking daypack that’s comfortable and stable when fully loaded.
Value 9 | Quality 9 | Performance 9 | Comfort 10
Osprey Skarab 30 | £90 (women's Skimer)
The Skarab offers a happy medium between technical capability and clean aesthetics. Despite the usual feature set of hipbelt, sternum strap and a range of pockets, the lines are clean and the 30-litre version is very usable. ‘Bump foam’ creates air channels for ventilation but also provides comfortable cushioning, and together with the mesh overlay panel they make for a close-fitting but airy surface. We love the zip top opening for easy unimpeded access to the main compartment and the deep side pockets are zipped for extra security. The hydration bladder sleeve is separate from the main compartment which makes packing and unpacking it with a full load much easier, as well as having the obvious benefit of keeping liquid away from your valuables.
Easy, intuitive and practical storage along with high comfort levels making this a firm favourite.
Value 9 | Quality 9 | Performance 9 | Comfort 10
Best for commuting
Lifeventure Kibo 25 | £70
The Kibo 25 marries great looks with choice features in a simple pack built for modern life and travel rather than any specific outdoor pursuit. The roll top closure is bang on trend and pairs very nicely with the waterproof, durable canvas material to create an appealing overall look. The bulk of the storage is in the main compartment which also has a handy laptop sleeve and we were pleased to see a hidden RFiD pocket for safe storage of cards and ID documents in the back. Although not particularly technical the Kibo is comfortable to wear thanks to a lightly padded back panel and decent shoulder straps.
A real looker, with much more functionality and practicality than you might initially give it credit for.
Value 9 | Quality 8 | Performance 7 | Comfort 8
Best for adventure travel
Millican Fraser 32 | £145
A high price demands a high-quality rucksack and that’s just what you get with the Fraser 32. This Lake District company have come up with something that has an old-world quality combined with the most hipster of heritage stylings, altogether creating a pack that feels rather special to own. Despite the clean looks the Fraser has a lot of capability not just out on the trail but also on your travels or even just around town. And this is thanks to clever features like a removable hipbelt, hidden security pocket, laptop/hydration bladder sleeve and low-key side compression straps, all wrapped up in a beautifully tactile weatherproof bionic canvas.
The perfect pack for mixing town or city dwelling with travel and hiking.
Value 9 | Quality 10 | Performance 9 | Comfort 9 |
Best on a budget
Salomon Out Day 20 + 4 | £90
Weighing in at just 671g, it’s clear that this pack has been designed specifically with speed in mind. The overall look is one of a streamlined and stripped back pack, but closer inspection reveals a host of well thought-out features. Both the main compartment and front stash pockets can be accessed via the side, there’s zipped pockets on both sides of the hip belt for phones, cameras or snacks, and stretchy side pockets for rapid stashing. Salomon’s Motion harness system means the Out Day 20+4 feels more like a running vest than a traditional backpack which moves with you rather than sloshing around, but still with great load lugging stability.
An accomplished pack for fast and light adventures in the mountains.
Value 9 | Quality 9 | Performance 8 | Comfort 9
Best for ski touring
Ortlieb Atrack 35 | £185
Ortlieb have reimagined the backpack and what they’ve created has plenty of merit. Essentially a big drybag on steroids, the Atrack is rear opening via a seriously chunky zip pull/zip combo which reveals a cavernous inside that reminds us a lot of a duffel. This gives you unrivalled access to gear with a couple of extra zipped organisation pockets thrown in for good measure. The whole frame and carry system is lashed to the outside and offers adjustable torso length but only reasonable comfort over long distances.
Takes some getting used to but works well as a load hauling duffel or ski touring pack.
Value 7 | Quality 10 | Performance 8 | Comfort 7
Best for hiking
Gregory Zulu 30 | £115 (women's Jade)
From a new range that encompasses capacities for all journeys as well as women’s specific fits in the Jade, the Zulu 30 is the smallest in the line-up and is made for fast day hikes. We love the Free Float back system which offers adjustable torso length and heavily cushioned hip and shoulder straps, paired with a suspended mesh back panel to offer excellent ventilation and support. The hipbelt pivots and moves slightly for a natural feeling on the back and far from being a gimmick this really works. The top zipped U-panel opens up wide to give easy access to the inside where you’ll find a hydration sleeve and zipped stash pocket. On the outside you get plenty of further storage with a stretch kangaroo pocket zipped sunglasses pocket, large stretch side pockets and two large zipped hipbelt pockets. If you’re getting the feeling that this pack is fully featured for a daypack you’d be right, it’s like a shrunk down version of Gregory’s larger backpacking packs and works fantastically well for demanding hikes.
A fully featured pack for demanding hikers that’s extremely comfortable to wear and has excellent storage options.
Value 8 | Quality 10 | Performance 9 | Comfort 10
Best for mountain biking
Osprey Katari 7 | £70 (women's Kitsuma)
Osprey cleverly don’t advertise this to any particular discipline which opens it up to the worlds of cycling, fast hiking and trail running, but the 7 litre capacity means you’ll only be storing energy gels, lightweight layers and small tools inside. The main functionality is clearly in the included 2.5 litre Osprey Hydraulics reservoir so the purpose of the pack is clear, to carry your hydration for missions where you’ll need it, but not loads of other kit. The Katari is super lightweight on its own and is comfortable for such a minimalist use of materials, and you get a couple of mesh dividers inside the main compartment.
Considering the Katari comes with a 2.5 litre Osprey reservoir the value is good and the capacity is just right for everything you need for trail running, fast summer day hikes, or mountain biking.
Value 9 | Quality 9 | Performance 9 | Comfort 9
Best multi-use budget pack
Vango Heritage Trail 25 | £55
Heritage styling meets modern functionality in the Heritage Trail 25 from Vango, and although not an out-and-out performer it's enough for most recreational hiker’s needs. Although classic in style and with clean lines there’s still a decent back panel with cushioning and a little airflow and a low profile, webbing strap hipbelt. Top opening with a drawstring and lid, access to gear isn’t as good as some but the small capacity of the bag makes that a moot point. The zipped side pockets just about hold a small water bottle in place but you’re better off using the internal hydration sleeve and using the side pockets for storage of snacks and other small items.
A great mix of toned down looks with a few technical features sprinkled in, making for a decent bag for easy day hikes without tons of kit.
Value 9 | Quality 7 | Performance 7 | Comfort 8
Best grab-and-go bag
Alpkit Pelmo 18 | £60
I have a lot of backpacks but the moment I brought the Pelmo home my not particularly active wife nicked it for her own uses, something she’s never done with any of my packs before. And I guess this says a lot about its appeal as an easy going, grab and go bag for daily life rather than anything particularly technical, it also looks lovely. The waxed cotton canvas outer will probably last a lifetime and blends in much better with both town and country environments than fluro nylon. A zipped U-shaped opening, internal laptop sleeve and front pocket is all you get in terms of storage and organisation but it’s enough for commuting and days out with the kids.
Lovely looking, durable pack for day-to-day life.
Value 8 | Quality 9 | Performance 7 | Comfort 8