The Best Backpacks of 2020

Make light work of big hauls

(Photo: Inga Hendrickson)
buyer’s guide

Gregory ­­­Maven 65 ($250)

(Photo: Courtesy Gregory)

Built for comfort-minded backpackers who carry heaps of gear, the women’s Maven 65 (and men’s Paragon 68) has one of the most effective trampoline-style suspension systems we’ve ever seen. Wings of stretchy nylon at the lumbar produce a snug, wraparound fit for superior weight distribution and allow the sturdy, padded mesh hipbelt to pivot with each stride, keeping the pack blissfully stable under oxen-grade loads. “It feels like a bear hug on your back,” a tester said. Gregory goes full bore on the feature set, with side- and bottom-access zippers, a floating lid, phone-size pockets on the hipbelt, an adjustable back panel, and an integrated rain cover. But because it’s built on a flexible aluminum frame, the pack remains feather­light. 3.7 lbs (men’s) / 3.5 lbs (women’s)

Men's Women's

Fjällräven Bergtagen 30 ($200)

(Photo: Courtesy Fjallraven)

Best from Trail to Tavern

Short on gear-storage space? Simplify your pack lineup with the Bergtagen, which is equally suited to the mountains and a trip to the pub. The minimalist design fits most essentials in a roomy main compartment that also includes a hydration-bladder sleeve. The zippered ­pocket on the floating top lid stashes small items like batteries, headphones, and gloves. For big missions, carry your skis A-frame and attach ice tools using the daisy-chain webbing down the front panel. The padded back plate helps you shoulder it all with ease. 2.3 lbs

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Osprey Archeon 70 ($340)

(Photo: Courtesy Osprey)

Best for Travel

Basics like a rain cover, sleeping-bag divider, and compression straps make the Archeon trail capable. But it’s equally suited to urban adventure, with stylish metal buckles (they require some fiddling) and a body made of burly 1,880-denier recycled-nylon canvas that can withstand careless baggage handlers. The back panel—narrow strips of foam behind mesh—kept us dry on blistering days, and dual zippers on the front open wide for easy access. The price for these features is weight, but a massive waist belt offloads that from your shoulders. 5.5 lbs

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Granite Gear Dagger 22 ($100)

(Photo: Courtesy Granite Gear)

Best for Day Hiking

Most ultralight designs necessitate essentials-only packing. Not this featherweight daypack, which sheds ounces via a thin yet durable ­100-denier nylon shell while still delivering on features. Luxuries we love include a stretchy exterior pocket that keeps snacks or a headlamp within easy reach and zigzag elastic on the front panel to quickly stow layers. A removable framesheet helps the Dagger 22 hold its shape even when not fully loaded, and an ­arch-like zipper makes it easy to dig out those stray energy bars that inevitably sift to the bottom. 1.5 lbs

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Jack Wolfskin Kalari Trail 36 Recco ($130)

(Photo: Courtesy Jack Wolfskin)

Best for Overnight Missions

If your hiking partner has search and rescue on speed dial, this is your pack. A Recco reflector on the Kalari’s lid makes you easier to locate by helicopter. The ­dual-compartment cargo hold and trekking-pole attachments give it the functionality of a much larger pack. A 300-­denier recycled-nylon body and steel frame add brawn. On the downside: the nonfloating top lid and integrated rain cover pilfer room from the lower compartment. But we liked the ­close-fitting, vented back panel and PFC-free construction. 2.4 lbs

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Filed To: BackpacksDay PacksOvernight packsExtended-Trip BackpacksGear of the Year
Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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