Are Hiking Backpacks Worth It? (The Truth)

While hiking backpacks are often regarded as being an essential piece of gear, many wonder if they are actually worth it. It is important to consider the cost and value of a particular hiking backpack to determine whether it is worth buying.

Hiking backpacks are worth it. They provide easy storage solutions, allowing you to carry essential and sometimes life-saving equipment and gear comfortably while on a hike. No other backpacks will offer the same experience and storage capabilities as a hiking backpack.

Part of what makes hiking backpacks worth it is having a pack that is customized to your needs. Therefore, you need to understand your hiking needs and the various features that these packs offer to make the right choice, and we go into these in more detail below.

Do You Really Need A Hiking Backpack?

You need a hiking backpack if you are a regular hiker that seeks a convenient, smooth hike. Hiking backpacks are not needed 100% of the time, but having one provides numerous benefits. Many of these benefits do not exist in regular backpack options.

However, anything capable of carrying refreshments, food, and other gear will be suitable for an average hike. This means you should have some kind of carrying case with you, or you will be left trying to carry essential items by hand, and nobody wants to do that. Whether you need a hiking backpack depends on how organized and convenient you want your hikes to be.

How Important Is A Hiking Backpack For Hiking?

A hiking backpack is important for creating a safe and organized hiking experience. Backpacks designed specifically for being out in nature provide additional features that will offer more storage and protection for yourself and your gear.


Safety is everything, and that applies even on your average, daily hike. When referring to safety, we do not just mean major accidents or events. This can also mean keeping yourself protected from minor injuries and falls, and properly storing emergency equipment.

Making sure you have the correct gear to protect yourself and having a proper pack to organize it all improves your overall hiking experience. This gear could include bug spray, spare clothes, maps, or emergency tools. A hiking backpack would make it significantly easier to carry and store these necessary items.

Your Essential Items

The items that you carry with you will depend on the length and difficulty of your hike. However, no matter the amount of time or distance, you must bring food and water with you. For longer hikes, you will likely bring many other items such as extra clothing, camping equipment, or waterproof gear.

Bringing along these items will increase weight and take up space. Therefore, it is necessary to choose a hiking backpack that will distribute the weight evenly and allow for optimal storage. Hiking backpacks are great option for this.

The Weather Is Not Always The Same

You should always be checking the weather before a hike, no matter the duration. This way you can attempt to prepare accordingly. However, even with proper preparation, the weather can be unpredictable.

This means you will need a backpack that can carry everything you would need in the event of unexpected weather changes. This could include waterproof clothing, gloves, clothes for layering, or hand heaters. You never know when you may need them and having a pack with enough room to store these items would prove beneficial in an unforeseen situation.

What Happens If You Don’t Use A Backpack?

If you choose not to bring a backpack of any type on a hike, you will quickly regret it. Carrying items like your phone or water bottle, though lightweight, will soon become tiring and annoying. Sometimes pockets will be enough storage for short hikes, however if you are on rough terrain this could become frustrating as well.

Therefore, a backpack may not be essential for every hike, but it will always be beneficial. Hiking backpacks come in various styles and sizes. So, if you prefer a smaller, lightweight option there are packs that will still work well for you.

Can You Use A Regular Backpack For Hiking?

You can use a regular backpack for hiking, but it is not recommended. Hiking regularly, particularly on longer, more difficult trails would require a hiking backpack. Regular backpacks do not offer the same storage and other features that hiking packs do.

Regular backpacks may work for beginner hikers, or those that do not hike often. They offer some storage, but little in the way of protection and additional features. If you choose to hike with a regular backpack, understand your hike will not be as pleasurable.

Why It Works For A Day Hike

When going on a day hike, you do not need as much equipment as needed on longer treks. A regular backpack tends to have the same storage capacity as hiking backpacks designed purely for day-hike use.

Some regular backpacks will still come with some waterproofing. This should suffice for most day hikes unless there is severe weather. If you are only looking for a basic, carrying solution, then a regular backpack may work for you.

Suitable For Irregular Hikes

If you are not one to hike on a regular basis, then a regular backpack may suffice for your hiking needs. Hiking on an irregular basis, you will be able to choose the weather that you hike in. This reduces the need for waterproofing gear and additional items to be stored.

If this is your style, you likely will not need to have special equipment or advanced items that more avid hikers may have. Therefore, you do not need as much storage or gear protection from a pack.

There Are Differences

There are important differences between hiking and regular backpacks. These differences can make a major impact on your hiking experience. Consider the factors that are most important to you to determine if a regular backpack would suffice.

One major difference is weight distribution. Hiking backpacks offer weight distribution features using support straps. They also feature a hip belt, which spreads weight and makes your pack more comfortable. This factor is important when you carry many items while hiking.

Hiking backpacks also offer additional padding. The padding covers not only the shoulder straps, but the rear of the pack and the hip belt, as well. This padding makes a huge difference in comfort. Regular backpacks do not offer this level of padding and the difference is noticeable, particularly on longer hikes.

Are Expensive Hiking Backpacks Worth It?

Expensive hiking backpacks are worth it if the additional features make your hiking experience better. If you are investing in a high-quality pack, you want to prioritize comfort and functionality. These additional features can get expensive, but it is worth it if the pack meets your hiking needs.

The Brand Plays A Role

As with any product, brand names appearing on the backpack can affect the cost. Sometimes, the brand’s quality is not worth the money. Many non-brand name companies use the same material and features as the more expensive brands. Make sure you are choosing your backpack based on functionality and value rather than brand name.

Comfort Is Key

Comfort should be your primary concern when selecting a hiking backpack. Some believe that comfort directly relates to price, however this is not always the case. Comfort is subjective. One person may feel that only expensive items are comfortable, and another may feel the opposite way.

If you deem a backpack comfortable, then you should consider purchase no matter the price. You need a backpack that is comfortable and moves correctly with your body, this aspect should be prioritized. The investment in your comfort will prove well worth the price paid.

Infrequent Hiking Makes It Not Worth The Money

The frequency of your hiking will help you determine whether an expensive hiking backpack is worth the money. If you are an infrequent hiker, then you should consider purchasing something less expensive that still retains quality.

Many who spend a lot of money on backpacks are serious about hiking. In other cases, the value does not equate the cost. Those who do not hike often would not receive the full benefits of a hiking backpack, making it not as valuable to their hiking needs.

Research May Indicate Expensive Brands Last Longer

There’s no doubt that some expensive brands prioritize products that are built to last, and this is certainly the case with hiking backpacks. Brands such as REI focus on developing items that are durable and can withstand a lot of punishment, but this is not universal.

You should consider a products durability and any guarantees before investing in an expensive backpack. Some expensive backpacks come with a lifetime guarantee. If you do not plan on purchasing a new pack every couple of years, this option could be more affordable in the long-term.

Some expensive hiking backpacks are worth the additional investment. This is because it may feel more comfortable to you or because of a lifetime guarantee. You should not assume that expensive equates quality. Take your time to consider everything before making an expensive purchase.

How Much Should You Spend On A Hiking Backpack?

How much you should spend on a hiking backpack should directly relate to how many additional features are necessary to support your hiking needs. Everyone has different needs and requirements for a hiking backpack. As a result, the price will vary between people.

New To Hiking

If you are new to hiking, it’s suggested you do not spend more than $100 on a backpack. It would be irresponsible to spend more than that as you are still learning. As a new hiker you likely won’t know what features you will need.

By spending less than $100, you will have a backpack that will still meet your basic needs without overspending on something that may be unnecessary for you. Starting hiking as a new hobby does not need to cost you a fortune.

These packs will likely be good quality, however they will not include many features that more expensive packs offer. This is not a bad thing, as you are still learning what features you will need and what features you consider unnecessary. This will help you choose a backpack later on.

An Experienced Hiker

If you are an experienced hiker, you may spend around $200 on a backpack. This is likely because you understand the features that are necessary for you and know what to expect during your hikes. This could include having more space to accommodate for longer hikes or providing additional comfort.

A more expensive backpack is often manufactured from better materials, meaning they can tolerate more punishment. They usually offer many additional features such as waterproofing, optimized storage, and extra padding.

If you plan to hike frequently, for longer durations, or in tough conditions, then investing more money in a quality backpack is worth it. In fact, the extra features in expensive hiking backpacks are often necessary for experienced hikers.


If you plan on going backpacking or on long treks, you will often need to spend over $200 for your backpack. Again, this is due to what you will need to be carrying. Large backpacks are not as commonplace as daypacks. They are made to withstand far more punishment, store more items, and provide more weight distribution. This is exactly what you require on treks.

These are rough estimates of what you should be looking at spending when it comes to a new backpack. However, the key is to ensure the backpack fits your needs and feels comfortable when you have it on your back.

If you can achieve both of those things, then you have the perfect backpack that is well worth the investment. Remember, don’t simply go by the brand name or price. Comfort and functionality are the key.

Final Thoughts

Hiking backpacks are well worth the investment when they meet all your hiking needs. They provide a safe, comfortable, and convenient hiking experience. Those that take hiking seriously should consider investing in a hiking backpack, as the benefits will make a major difference in your hikes.