Best Backpacks for 14ers

Best Backpacks for 14ers | 8 Options to Help You Summit

One of the most important pieces of gear to bring along on 14er trips is a backpack to carry everything else. I get asked pretty commonly about my opinion regarding the best backpacks for 14ers. Cheap backpacks available online may seem appealing, however they often fall apart after a bit of use or are made with heavy, ineffective materials. Here are the biggest factors to consider when deciding on the best backpacks for 14ers, along with my personal top 3 recommendations.

Table of Contents

Backpack Factors to Consider

The main four categories to consider when picking the best backpacks for 14ers are their capacity, weight, comfort and hydration bladder. They also may include other features that are handy to have. Here’s a quick overview of each of these factors. 

best backpacks for 14ers

Backpack Capacity

For a 14er day trip, you should have a backpack with a 15-25 liter capacity. This is enough space for food, water, and the ten essentials like a first aid kit, emergency gear and rain gear. For overnight trips, you need a bit more space – around 40 liters, to bring sleeping gear and a little extra food. For multi-day backpacking climbs, You’ll want 60 liters or more of space to be properly prepared.

Backpack Weight

Your bag will be one of the heaviest things you bring along with you. Even a difference of half a pound makes a difference at 14,000 feet with less oxygen. If you can afford it, invest in a more expensive bag designed to cut a few extra ounces.

Backpack Comfort

The materials and design of a bag directly impact how comfortable it is to carry for long hikes required on 14ers. Many top-line bags have special designs or straps to help increase the comfort of the bag on your back.

Backpack Hydration

The materials and design of a bag directly impact how comfortable it is to carry for long hikes required on 14ers. Many top-line bags have special designs or straps to help increase the comfort of the bag on your back.

Extra Features

There are many additional features that, while not necessary, do come in handy. A helmet clip is nice for attaching climbing helmets for Class 3 and 4 climbs. Trekking Poles and Ice Axe clips are likewise great to have for storing those extra pieces of equipment. Whistles, water bottle pickets, and extra pockets are additional features to look for and keep in mind. The best backpack for 14ers depends a bit on what you plan to do, as you don’t need extra features if you only want to hike 14ers.

My Recommendations: Backpacks for 14ers

Considering all these factors, my recommendations are the same you’ll find on many backpack guides: Osprey takes the cake for the best backpacks for 14ers. Here’s all my picks.

Day Packs for 14ers

Most of the 14ers can be climbed in a single day of hiking. For these mountains, a day pack of 20-30 liters capacity will suffice to get you and your gear safely up to the summit. You can also bring these bags with you on long backpacks in to use as a summit day bag).

Top Choice: Talon 22 Backpack from Osprey

Budget Option: REI Co-op Trail 25 Pack

The Best Overnight Packs for the 14ers

On many 14ers, a single day ascent isn’t really possible or easy. Taking two days to complete your climb lets you get closer to tree line before your summit day morning climb to the top. A bag of 35 to 50 liters is usually enough or a single overnight 14er trip. Here are two of the best backpacks for 14ers in that capacity range, ideal for overnights in the Colorado mountains.

Top Choice: Osprey Mutant 38 Pack

The Osprey Mutant 38 is my favorite on this list. It was made with mountaineering in mind, and is ideal for both long single day or overnight ascents. It’s built-to last, with an inner frame system to provide support, and numerous options for customization, it has great little touches like their gear attachment options and helmet cord for storing your ice axe, trek poles and helmet on the exterior. It is a pricey bag, but it packs a punch, all with a very sleek design that cut every unnecessary ounce for a super lightweight overbag. It is without a doubt one of the best backpacks for 14ers.

Click here to learn more or buy this bag.

Second Choice: Gregory Zulu 40 Pack

The Zulu 40 from Gregory is a close runner up in the mid-capacity backpack category. It also has a lightweight frame for support and tool attachments, with slightly more space and a little extra weight to bear as well. It has the signature Gregory u-shaped zipper so you can reach gear no matter how deeply it’s buried in your backpack. It’s only available in a men’s version right now due to supply limitations related to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which is unfortunate, but it’s a great backpack nonetheless if what they have works for you. 

Click here to learn more or buy this bag.

The Best Backpacking Bags for the 14ers

For a smaller number of the 14ers, you’ll need to spend 1-2 full days hiking in to establish a base camp before you attempt to summit these mountains. For these peaks, a full backpacking pack with at least 60 liters of capacity is good idea to ensure you can bring all the food and extra gear you need for a multi-day trip in the wilderness. These two bags are some of the best backpacks for 14ers in this upper range.

First Choice: Osprey Atmos/Aura AG 65 Pack

The Atmos AG, along with its women’s version, the Aura AG, are the best backpacks you can buy for long, mult-day backpacking expeditions. When your hiking multiple miles and thousands of feet upward, their patented ant-gravity suspension system makes a real difference. It has great tool attachments and pocket space, a built-in rain hood, and enough space for your sleeping bag, tent, food, and other gear. It’s heavy bag, but don’t be fooled – the AG system more than makes up for it – it’s the most comfortable backpacking bag, and one of the best backpacks for 14ers with more than 60 liters of space.

Click here to learn more or buy this bag for men.

Click here to learn more or buy this bag for women.

Second Choice: REI Co-op Trailbreak 60 Pack

If you want a solid backpacking bag for the 14ers, but you need to find a bag on a budget, REI has made a fantastic option with the Trailbreak 60 Pack. It has the basic necessities, like tool attachments, and good pocket accessibility, that you’ll appreciate in the mountains. While it lacks the expensive anti-gravity system of the osprey bags, it makes up for it with a much lighter pack weight to carry, and a much smaller price tag as well. Of the best backpacks for 14ers requiring backpacking, this is the best budget option by far.

Click here to learn more or buy this bag for men.

Click here to learn more or buy this bag for women.

The Best Backpacks for 14ers: Now You Know!

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when picking out a backpack for the Colorado 14ers. Depending on which peak you climb, you will need a day pack, overnight pack, or backpacking pack. These options here are all great options and some of the best backpacks for 14ers. Regardless of which you end up picking out, you’ll be well on your way to reaching a 14er summit safely and successfully. I hope you found this article on the best backpacks for 14ers helpful – safe travels on the trail!

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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