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What is the best expedition backpack?

During my preparation for next month’s expedition to Iceland I did a lot of research into what was the best large pack out there.

Here are some of the good ones I found.

What is your favourite pack? What have I forgotten?

Have your say in the comments.

I have written about other expedition kit topics here. You can read about all my expedition experiences here.

Here are some more polls, and more stuff about kit.

Read Comments

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  1. I’m going to resist writing an essay, and simply mention that the current alternative/replacement for the Arctic Dry Pack you referenced is the ULA Epic pack, available from .

    In fact, all the ULA packs are really nice and well worth a look.

  2. Phil will probably kill me for the weight alone, although it has given me no hassles. I dig the Deuter Aircontact Pro 60 + 15 I used this pack to walk across Iran earlier this year and have used older models before in the Andes. Fan-bloody-tastic! Little bit heavier than the light-weight crew would approve of but it is bullet-proof and the support it provides when hauling heavy, heavy loads is hard to beat!

  3. I went with the Bergans ALPINIST I, 130L. Quite heavy but very comfortable and great carrying system. Very solid for hauling the really heavy stuff, it easily carries 60kg.

  4. Fancy brands aside- I have the Vango sherpa 65 l, absolutely brilliant and at £65 very affordable!

  5. It pains me to say it, but for lugging really heavy loads (a month of food for example) so called ‘lightweight’ packs really don’t cut it and you’ll need to be looking at the heavy, large capacity end of the market. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to apply some weight-cutting techniques to these behemoths by avoiding (or removing) unnecessary bells and whistles like overly long straps, ice axe loops etc. Fabrics like Dyneema are incredibly strong and durable for their weight, and widely used in climbing packs such those from POD – which through necessity don’t feature flappy bits that can catch on things whilst wedged in a crack. As always, try on a pack in a shop loaded with your maximum anticipated load before buying, everyone is a different shape.

  6. Phil,
    I know you are trying to resist but I sense an ‘essay’ coming on…!

    • Hi All

      Nice to see some gear chat on the website…

      Following on from the abstract of Phil’s essay, I reckon STRONG and SIMPLE are the two most important factors.

      I got my MacPac (very similar to Pod) second hand 7 years ago. It’s been mountaineering in Kyrgyzstan, backpacking around Europe and trekking across the UK and is still going strong.

      Good luck!

      MacPac ascent:

  7. You’re right, Tim, you can get decent wear out of a good pack.
    The one that I have used for every trip since 1992 (!) is this baby:
    Dodgy early ’90s colour scheme, but still going strong apart from that!
    (The hat in this picture was my cricket hat when I was a kid too)
    Oh and the trousers I got in Arizona in 2004 when I was cycling through – 6 years old and only a few patches.
    I really am a cheapskate…

  8. Hi have been travelling and working in outdoors for a number of years and have eventually got my perfect pack.
    Check out
    I have a 40B worksack which seems to do everything.Can be stripped down to superlight weight and can carry aprox 70ltrs if needed.
    I ordered the bag on line and collected at there works,i was off to to climb and ski around Bend.
    Graham the owner was vv helpfull making sure the pack fit and introducing me to all the possible tweaks.
    When i read about there dyneema bags i was blown away by the price but seeing the bags and workmanship at first hand i would definately recomend one and will seriously consider if i was to make another purchase.
    Cheers Tim
    ps there ltr sizes are generous.

  9. Tim – $650 for a pack?!?!?! That is extraordinary!
    I spent about that walking right across India – including my flight from the UK!!
    As I said before, I really am tight it seems!
    But when I look on the link you give to the site I can really see what top quality it is. And so, if it will last you for 20 years (as my current pack has), then that’s only $30 per year, which sounds much better for something that good.
    Thank you for sharing your expertise.

  10. I love ultralight but for mountain trips where a bigger load is required my first choice will always be:

    It is heavy but it is bombproof and very comfy indeed.

    I also have a very old (circa 1983) Karrimor Alpinist – purple with an extension which turned it into a kinda bivy bag thing. Still take it out for sentimental trips.

  11. Walking across Iceland on foot and pack raft – I would profer you want one as waterproof as possible, weight then wont be an issue as if you get a lightweight one and get all your gear wet the saving wont amount to much…..! Comfort wont mean a jot, you’ll be as uncomfortable as hell in Iceland in July.

    So I am with Phil and the new ULA Epic is a assured.

    One thing is for sure you are gonna need a pair of tights to pull over your face to protect you from the midges from hell, no bug spray on earth can protect you from the Hyvartn or Myvatn midges. Just when you think you have outrun them, they were hitching a ride on your ruck sack and when you stop they want to eat you….

  12. Henry Worsley Posted

    Hi Al
    Couldn’t resist joining in the kitfest you have started. Just in case there is too much unseasonal snow in Iceland (or volcanic ash) I can recommend a good sledge that will carry all you want. Let me know if you need it.

  13. I just want to thank everyone who has left a comment on this post, and indeed on any post.
    I really do appreciate the time and effort you go to to get involved with the discussions or to share your expertise. At times I am guilty of being complacent about that and I apologise for that. This website would be pointless if nobody read it. I am grateful that you do read it, and even more grateful to those of you who leave comments. Many thanks, and please keep it up!
    I also really appreciate the occasional emails I receive pointing out when my standards have slipped or I have done something a bit crappy. Please keep them coming!

  14. I’m still using my Berghaus AB System, which I bought back in 1980! It’s first outing was to the Cairngorms, followed by Iceland. It’s been used a heck of a lot, and I’ve even lugged things in it that have no business being in a rucksack when moving house etc. I tried out a TNF recently, just out of curiosity, and it felt *really* comfy, I very nearly bought it, but I’m sticking with my Berghaus for now (you probably guessed, I’m a cheapskate too).

  15. Allow me to introduce you to OMM. I feel that we make some really great backpacks. Andy

    • Andy,
      I love the OMM event ( – an essential “To Do” for all adventurous Brits.
      And I’m always impressed with the OMM kit too.

      • Arnold Nagy Posted

        HELP NEEDED!

        Could anyone help me and suggest what equipment do i exactly need? Such as what Expedition Pack Size, Quality, sleep bags, tents etc…

        I am trying to find websites or any information that can minimize the cost of my trip. Everything i see online is mostly expensive cruise packages for two, where are the single people that want to just explore different cultures off roads?

        I am planning on starting out from USA and go to Mexico (Maya Civilization), Guatemala, Peru, Egypt, India, Nepal, and Tibet… hopefully all in one trip.

        I have never done such travel, and am planning to go alone, but this opportunity arouse and i feel this is my only chance to have 4-5 months off and be able to travel. I am 31 years old, single, no attachments, no baggage, and I want to explore the road less traveled, by getting away from western civilization.

        Please anyone help and email me at with suggestions.

        Arnold Nagy

  16. I’ve read through and checked out all the recommendations, but I still am confused over what the best pack to purchase for my upcoming trips.
    My first trip in the spring is the TransSiberian Railroad from St. Pete’s to Bejing. For this pretty much anything would do I suppose. But my next trip is the Camino de Santiago and this is where I’m going to need a good pack. Since i”m not rolling in dough I was hoping for a recommendation for something that will work for both. Also important is I’m a photographer and I carry a fair bit of equipment with me, camera, a few lenses, battery packs, computer, etc. and I’m a female so I’m guessing that something with a lower center of gravity would benefit a 500 mile walk.
    Thoughts? Recommendations?

    • My wife has used the ladies version of the MacPac Ascent for everything from Trekking in Africa to Ski Touring in Greenland. It is simple in design, very robust, has a lid that extends for extra capacity and you should be able to pick one up on ebay if you cannot afford full price.

      I have used the blokes version extensively too – a bombproof bit of kit and highly recommended.

    • I have had the Karrimor Panther 55-65l for women for, oooh, 8 years now? Love it. I have problems with bags due to past back pain plus having a small waist and comparatively large hips but it is super comfy.

  17. Will Copestake Posted

    Ive used the Gregory Palisade (80L) on two expeditions now, they are as advertised wonderfully comfortable all the way until the plastic waist strap attachment breaks under stress, then it becomes razor sharp and rather less comfy. This has happened not once but twice on me in New Zealand and Once mid-way across Iceland this summer. As advice i would avoid the plastic belted bags..

  18. My two favourite packs, which I’ve used all over the planet on serious long-term expeditions, are the Macpac Cascade (90 litre) and the Karijini made by Wilderness Equipment. Superbly durable, both of them.

    Cheers, Kevin Casey

  19. Timothy Dannenhoffer Posted

    Surprised nobody mentioned Mystery Ranch backpacks, made in Bozeman, Montana by the same guy who designed the classic and bombproof Dana Designs backpacks. I don’t know of a better, tougher, more comfortable backpack for carrying heavy loads.

  20. richard turner Posted

    First off the list includes packs which are definitely not expedition packs. I have been backpacking for more than 50 years and have had quite a few packs. Which pack one chooses depends first on what fits you best. Second, how much weight will you be carrying and for how long. Third, what activity are you undertaking, just backpacking or full on mountaineering. The requirements for the two activites are quite different. For a three week backpack trip to Alaska without resupply I can figure on a pack weight of about 65 pounds give or take a few. That includes all gear and food. So forget the Golite Odyssey or Mountain Laurel and most other so-called ultralight packs. I have used the Mystery Ranch G5000, although it is a bit small, and better yet the G7000 for a really big load. Both are discontinued although the Terraplane has been resuscitated. However I find the Gregory packs such as the Denali Pro and Palisade fit me best and distribute the weight most effectively. I like a slightly taller pack with the weight close to my back rather than a shorter squat pack. The Denali Pro is my preferred pack for long trips, although it works well for any trip. I tend to stay away from manufacturers that make claims that their packs make 60 pounds feel like 30. It just ain’t so. I also avoid packs made by some of the small niche makers. This is just what works for me. It will be different for each individual. Before buying one should load the prospective pack with all the gear one is taking and go for a walk and then after buying train regularly with the pack.

  21. Alicja Posted

    Hi my fellow Hikers ! I have a question regarding my next trip. I am planning a winter Hike across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto in January 2016. My plan is to walk as close to the US border as possible, so crossing: Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Sudbury and Toronto. Of course my aim is to walk closer to nature rather than big Cities. My Question is; Is it possible in your opinion? Has anyone done this?
    Thanks a bunch

    • Jean-Luc Posted

      Hello Alicja,

      I saw your post about walking across Canada. People have walked across canada in the past, in the winter months as well.

      I am looking forward to walking sections of the TCT later this year or early next year. We could get in touch if you want.

  22. Peter Hutchinson Posted

    Great website, I’m a regular lurker! Following the.conversation about packs…I’m looking at the ULA Catalyst. If ‘expedition’ means hauling 3 weeks of food and a packraft then this pack obviously won’t cope, but does anyone know if it’s comfortable at 18kg and if the capacity could handle a week or two camping and hiking?

  23. Tejay de Kretser Posted

    Help needed! I’m a really small woman looking to invest in a 35-38l rucksack to go and explore with my boys, I’d like it to be the lightest I can get for the money. Whatever I buy is going to have to last a very long time so want quality for about £100. There’s so much to choose from and advice from women out there? I like the look of the Osprey Sirrus 36 and also Osprey Exos 38 (not women specific though).

    • Hi Tejay,
      Osprey gear is really well-made, they have gear specifically for women, and they also have a measuring App which helps you pick the right sized pack for your body. If you buy an Osprey I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.
      Good luck!



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