Deserts require ample water, food, and specialized gear to enjoy safely. For this reason, desert hiking is much more enjoyable when you have an appropriate backpack to haul things in. Different backpacks are made for specific purposes with specially designed features to help each accomplish its purpose. For example, the best ultralight pack will be very different from the best camping pack. However, all of the best desert hiking and backpacking backpacks do have one thing in common: they allow adventurers to experience the tranquil serenity of the desert unencumbered. In this post, we share six of the best backpacks for desert hiking and how to choose the right one for your next adventure.
Our Desert Hiking Backpack Recommendations
Here are our top picks for best backpacks for hiking in the desert.
- Best Backpacking Backpack: Osprey Aether Plus 60 Pack
- Best Ultralight Backpack: Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Ultralight Backpack
- Best Budget Backpack: Marmot Kompressor Pack
- Best Ultralight Day Hiking Backpack: Deuter Speed Lite 21
- Best All-Around Desert Hiking Backpack: Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400
- Best Sustainably Made Daypack: Osprey Talon Earth 22L Day Hiking Pack
Get the full scoop in our extended review below.
What To Look for When Buying a Backpack
There are many factors at play when searching for the best hiking or backpacking backpacks in a crowded field of contenders. Keep these core decision points in mind as you shop for your new weekend best friend.
One of the most important things to nail down is how much you expect the pack to hold. Backpacks are made for just about every type of outdoor pursuit imaginable, from quick day hikes to multi-month treks. The size, weight, and cost of an ultralight backpack will be vastly different than that of a thru-hiking backpack. Determining your desired volume in advance will prevent you from buying a pack that’s mismatched for the carry capacity you need.
Especially on hot, strenuous hikes, the lighter the backpack, the better. Finding the lightest weight backpack to suit your needs will pay dividends in the form of extra energy and de-stressed shoulders for years to come. Today, with modern materials, it’s possible to find backpacks as tough as a tank and light as a feather. When testing backpacks out in a retail store or test driving them after delivery from an online store, pay careful attention to how much they weigh on their own. After you load them with gear, they’ll only get heavier!
The best backpacking backpacks have a light, study frame built in. This makes carrying heavier loads easier by making the pack more rigid and redistributing the weight off of your shoulders and back. If you typically stick to day hikes only, you’re probably safe to skip a backpack with a frame.
The materials used to create hiking and backpacking packs vary quite a bit. Nylon is the standard default material used in making most of them. But there are a number of specialty, technical fabrics and coatings that can enhance features like breathability, durability, and water resistance.
The best backpack for the PCT may not be the best one for the Arizona Trail. You’ll want to choose a backpack that’s suited to the environment you’ll be carrying it in. For desert hiking, look for a pack that’s as lightweight and breathable as possible. Another key feature for desert hiking backpacks is a back that has a slight arch to it. This helps keep the back from constant, direct contact with your body, keeping you cooler for longer. Especially if you’re hiking during the warmer months, your body will thank you as you work your way up a slot canyon or trek across a stretch of open country.
Check out more of our top tips for hiking in the desert.
Buy the best backpack you can afford. While you may be tempted to settle for less, you truly do get what you pay for. Buying a higher-end model ensures you get a superior-quality, dependable pack that’s comfortable to wear mile after mile. And that’s a worthy investment!
6 of the Best Backpacks for Desert Hiking
While there are many excellent packs out there, here are six of our favorites for desert adventures.
1. Osprey Aether Plus 60 Pack (Best Backpacking Backpack)
Image courtesy of Osprey. Used with permission.
With a lightweight, internal aluminum frame, the Osprey Aether Plus 60 Pack won’t weigh you down on longer, multi-day treks. Its customizable shoulder straps and hip belt make finding the perfect fit simple. With a 58-liter gear capacity and plenty of pockets and compartments to keep things organized, you’ll have no trouble stowing all the essentials in this pack. (Also available in women’s.)
- SPECS: Weight: 5.93lbs | Volume: 60L | Price: $380
2. Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Ultralight Backpack (Best Ultralight Backpack)
Image courtesy of Gossamer. Used with permission.
The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 does an incredible job of pairing high durability with a light-as-a-feather feel. This unisex backpack has a large, stretchy internal compartment and a massive pocket on the foldover lid give you plenty of space for your gear — 50 liters of space, to be precise. The hip belt and internal frame are both removable, making this pack super versatile for a range of active outdoor pursuits.
- SPECS: Weight: 32.1oz | Volume: 50L | Price: $255
3. Marmot Kompressor Pack (Best Budget Backpack)
The Marmot Kompressor Pack has far more going for it than its lightweight price tag would suggest. With its minimalistic and streamlined design, you won’t find any waist straps here, however, it’s ultralight and has plenty of desirable features like ventilated shoulder straps, super light compression straps, a trekking pole attachment, and a built-in hydration port. At $55, there’s a lot of pack here for the money.
- SPECS: Weight: 1lb 4oz | Volume: 18L | Price: $55
4. Deuter Speed Lite 21 (Best Ultralight Day Hiking Backpack)
When it comes to a minimalist design, the Deuter Speed Lite 21 is tough to beat. This pack is super lightweight but comes with smart design elements like side compression straps that reduce load wobble (and stress on the hiker). Mesh shoulder straps hold down the weight and provide added breathability. This ultralight day pack is made from 100% recycled materials and carries a lifetime warranty, too!
- SPECS: Weight: 430g | Volume: 21L | Price: $80
5. Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest 2400 (Best All-Around Desert Hiking Backpack)
Image courtesy of Hyperlight Mountain Gear. Used with permission.
The Hyperlight Mountain Gear Southwest is an ideal choice for longer day hikes or shorter, weekend backpacking trips, making it our choice for best all-around hiking backpack. Designed to excel in tough climates, this backpack is made from super lightweight materials that can withstand all the scrapes and snags the desert can dish up while also making every single ounce count. Lots of outer pockets make it easy to keep essential gear at the ready. Shoulder straps with spacer mesh help keep you cool on toasty trail days. It even has a large, internal mesh sleeve for stowing a hydration bladder for easy access.
- SPECS: Weight: 32.3oz | Volume: 40L | Price: $349
6. Osprey Talon Earth 22L Day Hiking Pack (Best Sustainably Made Daypack)
This limited edition Ospry Talon Earth daypack has the same incredible fit and functionality that you’d expect from this trusted brand — but notably, this pack is also made from 100% recycled fabrics. It is a marvel of sustainable design and it meets bluesign® approved criteria. With 22L of storage space, comfortable shoulder straps, and waist straps with side pockets, the Talon lives up to its reputation of being a highly versatile and technical daypack.
- SPECS: Weight: 38.7oz | Volume: 22L | Price: $200
Want to see more? Check out some of our favorite hiking backpacks in the Erem Marketplace.
Backpack: Check. Desert Hiking Boots?
Choosing the best backpack to fit your style of adventuring is very important. But don’t forget your feet! After all, happy feet make for happy hikes. At Erem, we know how important comfortable, durable hiking boots are, especially when tackling desert extremes. Our passion for the desert is what drives us to craft some of the best desert hiking boots on the market. We take pride in manufacturing men’s and women’s hiking boots for top performance in some of the world’s most unforgiving places. Erem boots provide both durability and comfort with superior breathability, unrivaled toughness, and the comfort you need to keep you moving happily along mile after desert mile.
We cherish the fragile desert ecosystems we love to trek. That’s why our boots are created using sustainable practices to go lightly on the Earth’s resources. Every pair of Erem Xerocole™ boots is Biocircular, made exclusively with materials that have a proven path back to nature. When you’re ready to part ways, they biodegrade quickly and won’t languish in a landfill for centuries or longer. But if you can’t bear to part with them, we understand. That’s why we offer our Reboot program. Just send your old pair back and we’ll resole, refurbish, and return them in good-as-new condition. Whether you’re a day hiker or hardcore backpacker, our hiking boots have what it takes to keep your feet coming back for more.
You might also like: