Home > Accessories

Seven of the Best Big Backpacks for 2021 Reviewed

We put packs from The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Arc'teryx, Marmot and Osprey to the test

Osprey Aether 65

Volume: 55 l
Weight: 2.231 kg
Sizes: Small/medium, large/extra large
Bag Material: bluesign-approved 420HD nylon packcloth, PFC-free DWR

Osprey is popular with users who prefer adjustability and features and are not as worried about the pack itself being the lightest on the market, If that is you, the Aether will not disappoint.

The features include a high-tech, adjustable Fit on the Fly system. Instead of the usual padding, Osprey has put a netting panel over a channelled foam panel to offer cooler, more ventilated carry in the hottest part of your pack system. The torso can be raised or lowered with straps.

The Fit on the Fly system also allows adjustment of the shoulder straps and waistbelt. The system involves detaching a hook and loop secured insert in the shoulder pads or the waistbelt itself from an inner webbing strap, adjusting their length and re-securing them. This is a somewhat tricky function made a little easier by squeezing the shoulder strap inserts while moving them, but once adjusted, it is secure and allows a better fit for a variety of users or seasonal clothing changes.

The bag itself is heavily featured. There is a sleeping bag compartment separated by the main bag by a removable panel. The main compartment includes a big outer pocket and has u-shaped zipper access, a water bladder pouch and a removable framesheet. The lid has two compartments and there’s more storage for small items on either side of the waistbelt.

This pack is comfortable with heavier loads and offers great adjustability and lost of space. This is a fully-featured, tough bag with a well-padded suspension for heavy load carrying on longer trips or short ones with more gear.

Buy Now

 

Osprey Ariel 55

Volume: 55 l
Weight: 2.231 kg
Sizes: extra small/small, medium/large
Bag Material: bluesign-approved 420HD nylon packcloth, PFC-free DWR

The Ariel 55 is Osprey’s most highly featured women’s pack. It includes high adjustability and features and are not as worried about the pack itself being the lightest on the market If that is you, the Aether will not disappoint.

The features include a high-tech, adjustable Fit on the Fly system. Instead of the usual padding, Osprey has put a netting panel over a channelled foam panel to offer cooler, more ventilated carry in the hottest part of your pack system. The torso can be raised or lowered with straps.

The Fit on the Fly system also allows adjustment of the shoulder straps and waistbelt. The system involves detaching a hook and loop secured insert in the shoulder pads or the waistbelt itself from an inner webbing strap, adjusting their length and re-securing them. This is a somewhat tricky function made a little easier by squeezing the shoulder strap inserts while moving them, but once adjusted, it is secure and allows a better fit for a variety of users or seasonal clothing changes.

The bag itself is heavily featured. There is a sleeping bag compartment separated by the main bag by a removable panel. The main compartment includes a big outer pocket and has u-shaped zipper access, a water bladder pouch and a removable framesheet. The lid has two compartments and there’s more storage for small items on either side of the waistbelt.

This pack is comfortable with heavier loads and offers great adjustability and lost of space. This is a fully-featured, tough bag with a well-padded suspension for heavy load carrying on longer trips or short ones with more gear.

Buy Now

The North Face Terra 55

Volume: 55 l
Weight: 1.644 kg
Sizes: Small/medium, large/extra large
Bag Material: 210D Nylon

The North Face Terra is built for carrying heavy loads or for people who simply like a more rigid frame. The back pad comprises two bands of foam with an air vent channel in the middle, covered by mesh to minimize overheating. Behind the foam is both a flexible aluminum u-shaped frame and a removable frame sheet. The heavily foam padded waist belt, with zippered storage pockets on both sides, rounds out a suspension system obviously intended for serious loads.

One of the most interesting features of the pack, and one that really exceeded our expectations, is the self-equalizing shoulder riser system. Instead of fussing to make the shoulders on both sides even, a single locking buckle on the right shoulder strap adjusts a strap that goes through the frame and over to the left shoulder strap. The single buckle adjusts and equalizes the shoulders automatically.

The bag itself is simple and tough. Inside, there’s a single compartment with a sleeping bag separator that can be used or untoggled to provide a larger single space. An external pocket is good for any items that are wet or dirty that you don’t want to keep with your other gear. Zipper access to the bottom of the bag in the front and through a diagonal side zipper allows you to get at your stuff without fully opening the pack. The lid comes with a single, large compartment.

Highly recommended for anyone who needs a serious backcountry pack for heavy loads.

Buy Now

Arc’teryx Alpha AR 55

Volume: 55 l
Weight: 1.3 kg (short)
Sizes: short, regular
Bag Material: high tenacity rip-stop nylon

This lightweight pack is designed for those who don’t want to carry extra weight from suspension systems, pockets and other features but who still want a tough, abrasion resistant and comfortable bag. The bag itself is a single compartment without any dividers. Compression straps on the side of the pack will snug everything in place. A side zipper allows quick access to your stuff without having to open the pack’s removable lid.

Apart from the tent pole pockets and a drawstring crampon patch, the outside of the pack has a clean profile unlikely to snag in tight scrambling and climbing situations. The bag fabric, liquid crystal polymer incorporated in a high tenacity nylon, is likely to put up with a lot of abrasion.

The full suspension system shows the pack’s climbing heritage, with gear loops on the waistbelt. The foam back pad has a channel for air circulation. The removable framesheet gives the option of making this pack even lighter.

A terrific pack for climbers, alpinists or lightweight backcountry travellers.

Marmot Graviton

Volume: 48 litres
Weight: 1.18 kg
Bag Material: 70d Nylon Ripstop
Sizes: One size

The Graviton is light but full of features, including a with a high-tech suspension and frame system.

The ripstop material is light but abrasion resistant. Extra space is provided by the mesh-sided external front pocket and the removable lid with its top pocket. Access to your gear is provided by a u-shaped zipper on the front of the pack. Two water bottle pockets on the sides and a hydration port for a bladder will be welcome on hot summer hikes.

The suspension includes an Airflow mesh back with two foam pads in the lumbar and shoulders, a framesheet and aluminum tube frame. The foam-padded hipbelt has two small zipper pouches for things you need handy during the day.

A comfortable carry in a featured, lightweight pack, ideal for any backcountry user who wants both light weight and a light but comfortable suspension.

Mountain Hardwear AMG 105

Volume: 105 litres
Weight: 3.24 kg (small/med.)
Bag Material: Spectra ripstop nylon and 840D carbonate-coated nylon

The AMG 105 is the highest capacity and heaviest-duty carrying system in this review. It’s intended for long trips in demanding conditions with heavy loads and is extensively featured.

The 7000 series aluminum frame, plus the framesheet offer extra support for the big loads this pack is designed for. Thickly passed shoulder straps and a reinforced hipbelt complete the picture. The hipbelt’s daisy chains for racking climbing gear will be handy for mountaineers. The foam backpad and lumbar pad give maximum protection from your load, and an air channel gives some ventilation, but the goal here is padding over a cool carry.

The bag itself is a serious piece of engineering.

Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10

Volume: 65+10
Weight: 2.45 kg (86 / 32 / 26 (L x W x D) cm)
Bag Material: 100D PA High Tenacity (polyamide)

Deuter has been manufacturing top-of-the-line packs for decades, which is why it’s no surprise that the Aircontact Lite is one of the best backpacks of the year. The thin yarn is sewn in a tight web structure, which has helped reduce the weight from previous models.

We found the fit was amazing and it was extremely comfortable to wear. It’s extremely durable and should last a few years, even with heavy use in the backcountry. The should straps are designed well and will fit snug even if you have a bit of a smaller frame.

It’s made to carry a heavy load, and we had no problem or discomfort with over 20 kilograms. It’s great for year-round use, and the efficient ventilation system will help to keep your back cool on those hot days. We can’t stress enough how comfortable this pack is, probably the most plush on this list. The cushy hip belt has extra paddying which folks with bony hips will love.

This pack is ideal for backcountry weekend hikers and trekkers on longer trips. It’s a little too heavy duty for technical climbing, but is a good option for glacial mountaineering. If weight isn’t an issue, then this is the perfect pack for you.