Best Backpack for Appalachian Trail: 5 Lightweight, Durable, Options, Perfect for the Trail

Best Backpack for Appalachian Trail

There are a number of essential backpacking items you can’t go hiking without. Your backpack is one such essential item, and it’s not a decision to take lightly.

Especially if you’re planning to hike the Appalachian Trail. Carefully choosing the best backpack for the Appalachian Trail can literally make the difference between success or failure.

Whether you’re hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail or going the distance. You need a lightweight, strong backpack that will carry all your gear, be comfortable, and not let you down.

With the Appalachian Trail presenting such a specific set of challenges I decided to write up this guide with what you need to know about the Trail, what to pack, expect, and show you 5 of the best backpacks for the Appalachian Trail.

What Is the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Trail (A.T.), is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail that extends between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine.

It’s approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 km) in distance and is the longest hiking-only trail in the world.

It’s no surprise then that the A.T. attracts hikers, fast packers, thru-hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe with an estimated 2 million people hiking at least part of the trail each year.

What Type of Backpack Do You Need for the Appalachian Trail?

First and foremost you need a lightweight and reliable backpack. You’re about to embark on a long hike, so every extra lb on your back will make a difference over the duration of your hike and there is no room for tears, faults, and failures.

With that in mind, here is a complete checklist of what I look for in a great backpack. Don’t worry, I’ve done the hard work for you and  taken all of this into account in the packs I’ve reviewed below:

Weight – As already mentioned, weight is right up there with the most important considerations. 1 lb doesn’t seem like a lot when you first put your backpack on, but a few hundred miles later it’ll feel like you have an extra 20 lbs.

Volume – Backpacks have a volume capacity. This relates to how much you can fit into the pack. Typically a lightweight pack will vary between 40-60L and you’ll find that this range is more than enough.

Material – The two best materials are Dyneema fabric and Ripstop Nylon. Dyneema is higher quality, lighter, and has better weather resistance, but costs more. Both are suitable, however, so It comes down to weighing up functionality over budget.

Comfort – Your backpack is going to be stuck to you for 16+ hours a day, it needs to be incredibly comfortable. The best backpacks will have you forget they are even on your back. Adjustable straps, decent padding and so on makes this possible.

Some of the features and specifications I always look for include:

Bottle holders/hydration pack compartments – Keeping well hydrated it vital when hiking and having easy access to your hydration bladder or water bottles is a must.

Weatherproof – As covered above with the materials backpacks are made from you need a pack that will withstand all that nature can throw at it.

Adjustable straps – Adjustable shoulder and waist straps are standard. It’s worth checking the measurements match up with your own so you know you can pull it for a tight fit.

Outer mesh pockets – You don’t want to be digging in your pack for snacks, your phone or other bits as you’re hiking. I always check there are a few mesh pockets on the outside of the backpack.

Wide opening – Some items like your sleeping bag and mat are pretty bulky even when rolled up. The wider the opening the easier it is to pack and remove everything.

What Do You Need in Your Backpack for the Appalachian Trail?

It’s common to start off heavy and discard items along the way to lower your pack weight. Here is a list of the essentials you should consider packing. I’ll leave the luxuries and extras up to you:

What Should Your Backpack Max Weight Be?

The total weight of the backpack will vary by a few lbs from person to person. It’s amazing what I see some people packing with them as they think they can’t live without certain items.

While other people are will to shed as much weight as possible and go minimal to save on weight and make their hike that little bit easier.

As a rule of thumb, I would aim for a maximum weight of 20 lbs with a fully loaded backpack. This is more than manageable, enough weight to pack all the items I covered and is the sweet spot for me.

Obviously, a few lbs either way isn’t going to make a huge difference. See what your pack is weighing when you have all the essentials plus a few luxuries packed and add or remove items from there.

Best Backpack for Appalachian Trail: 5 of Our Top Picks Reviewed

Outlander Lightweight Hiking Backpack – 35L

Outlander Lightweight Hiking Backpack - 35L

This backpack from Outlander is perfect for taking on the Appalachian Trail. It’s on the smaller end of the scale with a 35L capacity, but that’s more than enough if you pack smart.

It’s made from water and rip resistant nylon and has durable metal zippers. So, it checks the box for quality and durable.

It’s incredibly lightweight at just 0.7 lbs. So no surprise it’s popular among the hiking community, and has all the pockets and extras you’ll need.

You also have a choice of more than a dozen colors and the straps have decent adjustment range so you’ll find the look and fit you’re after.

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Sumtree Ultra Lightweight Foldable Backpack – 35L

Sumtree Ultra Lightweight Foldable Backpack - 35L

Another rip and water-resistant backpack with a capacity of 35L, this time from Sumtree.

It’s very similar to the Outlander above but has some subtle design and functionality differences. A cool feature is that it folds up inside its own carry bag.

It features an internal security zipped pocket, water holder, umbrella holder, roomy large main compartment, breathable shoulder straps, and a secure adjustable locking mechanism.

It’s commonly used as a travel bag to reduce charges because it’s so light, so that’s worth keeping in mind. As a hiking backpack it’s excellent in every way.

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Kimlee Hiking Backpack with Rain Cover – 40L

Kimlee Hiking Backpack with Rain Cover - 40L

This Kimlee hiking backpack is a popular choice among the hiking community and easily makes the list for best backpacks for Appalachian Trail.

It’s incredibly durable as it’s made from strong nylon fabric, has a YNS buckle, and SBS metal zippers. So, no concerns about it lasting the journey.

The removable rain cover gives you the option to shed some weight if not needed. The main compartment is huge with a 40L capacity, and there are several other pockets.

The extra capacity means a little extra weight at 2.4 lbs, but I’m sure you’ll agree that’s light for a backpack. Especially one this size and strength.

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Mardingtop Travel Hiking Backpack – 45L

Mardingtop Travel Hiking Backpack - 45L

This is my pick for the best of the 45L backpacks. Mardingtop has a range of backpacks for all types of outdoor activities, traveling, or day-to-day use.

This model is perfect for long-distance hiking. It’s roomy enough for all your kit, made from strong fabric, weighs just 2.4 lbs, and has all the pockets you’ll need, plus some.

Some of the cool features are the reflective strips to keep you visible at night. Stretchy pockets, breathable mesh fabric, and a hip belt.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to settle for the purple in the picture. There are a few colors to choose from, and loads of feedback from owners if you hit the link below.

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OutdoorMaster Hiking Backpack – 50L

Outdoor Master Hiking Backpack - 50L

This hiking/camping backpack from OutdoorMaster is the biggest of my picks with a 50L capacity. Which in my opinion is enough for a long-distance hike like the Appalachian Trail.

It goes that little extra than the smaller backpacks. You have pockets for days, a hydration bladder holder, places for your trekking poles, tent, and all the other items you want on you.

It still only weighs in at 2.6 lbs. There is a little extra padding, reinforced handles, and it’s made from a high-quality nylon, so don’t be shy filling it up.

It comes with a choice of 6 colors, a waterproof rain cover, and 6 months 100% satisfaction guarantee. An excellent choice of backpack for taking on the trail.

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