These Packs were not selected randomly. These are all packs that I’ve used personally and loved; or packs that are extremely popular and well tested on the long trails. There is a reason for their success and popularity. I’ve provided the basic specs for each pack (The pack weight, volume, and load capacity), as well as my “2 cents” to go along with it. Using the information provided you can make a very informed decision about which pack is perfect for you. By following the links provided you can also find more info on the features and sizing, as well as many more great packs by all of these manufactures!

Granite Gear Lutsen 55

Weight: 3.1 lbs

Volume: 55 Liters

Load Rating: 40 lbs

My 2 cents…

 I used this pack for my entire PCT hike. Like everything Granite Gear makes it’s tough as nails. I was drawn to this pack because of the large back mesh panel; most of Granite Gear’s Packs have small back mesh panels. This was an incredibly comfortable and tough pack, so long as you don’t exceed the load rating (as with most packs). This is one of Granite Gear’s few packs that comes with hip belt pockets (one stretchy mesh pocket and one water resistant pocket). If you’re looking for something rugged and unique even amongst Granite Gear’s line up, you might consider the Lutsen. It also comes in two smaller versions; a 40 liter and a 30 liter.  

Granite Gear Nimbus 60

Weight: 3 lbs 15 oz

Volume: 54 – 60 Liters

Load Rating: 60 lbs

My 2 cents…

I used the the Nimbus 60 for the final 300 or so miles of the Appalachian Trail. As far as packs go, it’s a little on the heavier side. Having said that, this pack can carry a heavier load extremely comfortably. It’s tough as nails, comfortable to wear, and has a detachable top which can double as a fanny pack, or be sent home. It has 5 robic mesh storage pockets on the back (two of them zippered), making it easier to keep everything organized. I would say the biggest drawback to this pack is the lack of hip belt pockets (sold separately). Aside from that, this is an ideal pack for someone who hikes on the “heavier” side, or even someone who doesn’t.  

Granite Gear Blaze

Weight: 2lbs 11 oz (Short Version)

Volume: 55 to 60 Liters

Load Rating: 30-35 lbs Maximum

My 2 cents…

The Blaze is one of Granite Gear’s original “ultralight’ packs. It’s also one of the first and few “mass produced” packs to be considered ultralight. It has many of the same features as the Nimbus, but in a lighter pack with fewer pockets. Biggest drawback is the lack of hip belt pockets (sold separately).  The Blaze has seen many a successful thru hike by many a successful thru hiker and is loved dearly by those who carry them.  

Granite Gear Crown 60

Weight:  2 lbs 4 oz

Volume: 60-65 Liters

Load Rating: 35 Pounds

My 2 cents…

Granite Gear’s Crown series of packs are incredibly popular on the long trails with newbie hikers and veteran hikers alike. It’s a very light pack with a large volume and a decent load rating. You honestly can’t go wrong with it. Biggest Drawback is the lack of hip belt pockets. 

Zpacks Arc Blast

Weight: 1 lb 5 oz

Volume: 55 Liters

Load Rating: 35 lbs

My 2 cents…

Zpacks is a cottage industry gear manufacturer with a very well known name within the hiking community. They make very light packs (as well as other gear) that carry a surprising amount of gear extremely comfortably (so long as you don’t overload them). My girlfriend used the Arc Blast for the second half of her PCT hike and plans to use it again for her CDT hike. Functionality, durability, as well as the modular features make this a favorite among long distance hikers. You can check out their other packs and gear on their website by clicking on the link provided. 


ULA Circuit

Weight: 2 lbs 9 oz

Volume: 68 Liters

Load Rating: 35 lbs

My 2 cents…

The “Circuit” is just one of many wildly popular packs that ULA makes. The circuit is probably their most popular pack, but they have many other smaller and larger options. One of my best hiking buddies used this pack for both the entire Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. After two thru hikes it was still hanging in there! Comes with a roll top, large back mesh panel, side pockets for water bottles, and good sized hip belt pockets.  This pack is a marvel of simplicity, durability, and comfort; it’s going to be a favorite for a long time. 

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 2400

2400 Southwest

Weight: 1.9 – 2.1 lbs

Volume: 50 Liter Total

Load Rating: 40 lb Maximum

My 2 cents…

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is another powerhouse in the Cottage Industry gear manufacturing arena. I used the Southwest 2400 on my thru hike of the CDT. I can honestly report that I have nothing but good things to say about it. It’s an extremely light, well built and durable pack that can hold a much heavier load surprisingly comfortably for as light as it is. I put this pack through hell, and it has hardly any wear and tear t show for it. The back mesh panels come in a couple different styles and are also extremely durable. This is another pack that is extremely simple in design, yet more than enough for anything you could possibly need. The pack also comes in black.   

Weight: 11.5 oz

Volume: 38 Liters

Load Rating: 16 – 20 lbs

My 2 cents…

The “Burn” is quite possibly the lightest pack being used for thru hikes right now. Those who use them have their gear, as well as food and water needs dialed down to a “T.”  The “Who’s who” of  the hiking community’s speed hikers and FKT (Fastest Known Time) holders LOVE this pack. Those who wear this pack turn a lot of heads, even amongst the veterans. You have to have a lot of faith in your knowledge and abilities to be comfortable with this pack and everything you can fit in it… 

Osprey Exos 48

Weight: 2.2 – 2.4 lbs

Volume: 48 Liters

Load Rating: 20 – 40 Lbs

My 2 cents…

Osprey packs are probably THE #1 most popular brand of pack amongst newbie thru hikers, section hikers, and day hikers; and for good reason. These packs are the epitome of comfort and functionality. The Exos (which comes in multiple other sizes) has gotten a lot of special attention from veteran thru hikers as well. Everyone I’ve met who owns this pack, loves it. It’s a light and functional pack with an excellent load capacity. Not to mention, Osprey has some of the best customer service in the industry. 

Osprey Volt 60

Weight: 3.9 lbs

Volume: 60 Liters

Load Rating: 30 -50 lbs

My 2 cents…

  1. The “Volt” is more in-line with the style of pack that Osprey produces for multi day excursions; the “Exos” (pictured above this pack) is more of an exception. As with anything pertaining to Osprey, their packs are extremely well made, extremely functional, and extremely comfortable under almost any load. Besides the fact that the’re one of the most widely distributed packs amongst retailers; they also have some of the most unique and beautiful colors. You can’t go wrong with an Osprey. 

My 2 cents…

Z-Pack’s Cuben Fiber Pack Cover may very well be the lightest pack cover available today. I own one and loved it while I was using it. I opt not to use a pack cover these days, only using a pack liner instead. 

My 2 cents…

The Pack covers from “Sea to Summit” are one of the best when it comes to durability and functionality. They literally buckle onto any pack, ensuring excellent protection from the rain, as well as from getting blown off. I used one in Washington state on the PCT during torrential rain and snow; I have zero complaints.  

My 2 cents…

This is the simplest of simple and cheapest of cheap when it comes to a DIY pack liner. Rip yourself off a Glad Trash Bag, stuff it in your pack like you would a trash can, then put all your stuff in; Voila! They do eventually get holes worn in them, but that’s the beauty of how cheap and easy to find they are.

My 2 cents…

I’ve never owned or purchased a professionally made pack liner. If you like durability, functionality, or simply just want something that was engineered for a specific purpose; then a real pack liner might be the best bet for you. Many major pack manufacturers, as well as Cottage Industry manufacturers make special pack liners specifically for their packs. This doesn’t mean they don’t fit and work in other packs as well, but some people prefer uniformity.   

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