Heading into 2016, expedition backpackers have many options when it comes to choosing a big backcountry backpack. A few years ago, the focus then was on interior capacity, where now-a-days, gear is getting so light and compact that a smaller backpack (50-75 Liters vs 100+ from a couple years ago) can be used on 2-8 day trips and more. Let’s take a look at our top 5 best expedition backpacks for 2016 (which might not necessarily be new pack models).
#5 – Mountainsmith Lookout 50 ~ $180
The Mountainsmith Lookout 50 backpack might be a little on the small side for an expedition backpacking trip, but there are plenty of larger options below to choose from. We couldn’t leave it off the list, especially at this price point and with its features. The Lookout features excellent padding on the shoulder pads and hip belt and is a very comfortable bag with a sweetspot weight range right around 40-45 pounds. Once again, this might not be big enough if you plan to pack gear for mountaineering, but can handle a week long trip no problem. At this price point, you can’t go wrong, and is about as good as it gets bang for buck. Click the following link to pick up your Mountainsmith Lookout 50 (or step up to the Mountainsmith Apex 80) today.
#4 – The North Face Banchee 65 ~ $250
The North Face Banchee 65 features a proprietary OPTIFIT technology that helps you to dial in your fit no matter your body type, male or female, short or tall. We found this pack to be very comfortable because of this. It also weighs 3.6 pounds, which is pretty light for an expedition pack of this size. We found that the sweetspot for the weight is right around 50 pounds. Who wants to pack around more than that anyway, right? The Banchee does a great job distributing the weight with its suspension system, and is a joy to carry around for long periods of time. Click the following linkto pick up your North Face Banchee 65 today.
#3 – Osprey Xenith 75 ~ $320
The Osprey Xenith is one of the best performing expedition backpacks on the market today. It is comfortable, durable, and has the capacity to pack for an extended stay trip no problem. The 105 Liter incarnation made the list in place of the retired Argon a couple years ago, and there are good reasons that it is back for 2016: the Xenith is a well put together backpack, with 4 access points to the main compartment, as well as well placed external storage pockets. This makes it easy to pack and unpack. The external hydration pocket is another nice feature that helps you re-fill your hydration source without having to dig out your pack’s contents. The sweetspot for the weight is right around 60 pounds, which is a ton of gear in my book. The Xenith doesn’t lack in the comfort arena either, as it features great suspension and cushion, as well as a decently breathable mesh backing for those hot summer days. If you are looking for a no joke top of the line expedition backpack, the Osprey Xenith will deliver every time. Order yours through Amazon by clicking the following link.
#2 – Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 ~ $300
With a sweetspot around 55 pounds, the South Col 70 from Mountain Hardwear is a durable workhorse to get you there and back again. It is designed for mountaineering applications, but is more than adequate for extended-stay trips as well. The South Col weighs in a smidge over 4 pounds, which makes it a lightweight option in the expedition backpack category. Some of the weight was trimmed from the padding, as the shoulder and hip pads are noticeably thinner and less substantial than most packs in this category. We found the pack to be comfortable enough at the 55 pound sweetspot, but carrying more weight made a noticeable difference in comfort, so keep that in mind. One of the best features of the pack is the waterproof main compartment. No more worries about soggy gear if you don’t get your rain gear on quickly during a sudden downpour. Your main gear will stay bone dry. This feature has won over more than one field tester. Overall, the Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 is a fantastic option and was only beat out by one other bag on this list. Simply put, it is one of the best expedition backpacks on the market today. Click the following link to pick yours up today.
#1 – Gregory Baltoro 75 ~ $320
Coming in at #1 is the redesigned Gregory Baltoro 75. A few years ago, this bag was on the cusp of making the list, but was edged out by two other Gregory packs (the Whitney and the other being the audacious Denali Pro), and it was no secret why they featured 2 bags in our top 5. Gregory makes some of the most comfortable bags on the market, from the shoulder harness systems to the hip belts. They are just a pleasure to wear, and none more so than the Baltoro 75 (and its little brother the 65). All the way up to 60 pounds, this pack is comfortable and agile while on uneven terrain. Other features of this bag include an integral rain cover, 3 access points to the main compartment, divided lid compartment, a detachable day pack, large hip belt pockets (1 waterproof), and a re-worked design that makes the pack 12% lighter than its previous incarnation. This is a serious expedition backpack that is as durable as it is comfortable. If you are in the market for a do-it-all extended stay backpack, look no further than the Gregory Baltoro 75. Click the following link to order our number 1 expedition backpack for 2016, the Gregory Baltoro 75 today!
Backpacking Samurai Thoughts
As backpacking gear gets smaller and lighter, gone are the days when expedition backpackers need bags in the 100+ Liter range. You’re not doing yourself any favors bulking up to 80 pounds+ anyway. Slimmer, lighter expedition backpacks in the 50-75 Liter range are taking the spotlight, and the 5 packs above are all excellent choices, from the affordably priced Mountainsmith Lookout 50 to the Gregory Baltoro 75. Ultimately, comfort won out, as the Gregory Baltoro 75 just wasn’t matched by any other pack on our list.
What do you think of the list of expedition backpacks above? What is your top expedition backpack of choice? Let us know in the comment section below. As always, thanks for reading and happy trails!