Backpack Buying Guide for Medium Packs (50L – 75L)

Buying a pack is one of those exciting shopping experiences for backpackers, campers, and adventurers of all kinds. The trick is to find the best pack at the best price. If you’re looking to pack a good amount without feeling like there’s an elephant on your back, then a medium size pack is right for you. This size is perfect for extended hikes or backpacking trips around the world if you’re not quite ready to go minimalist with a pack smaller than 50 liters. However, if you’ve got a lot of hauling to do, strong legs, good endurance, or you’re just a big guy, you might be in the 80 liter and up pack category and you should read the Backpack Buying Guide for Large Packs (80L and up).

If you’re looking for a medium capacity pack you want it to be comfortable, adjustable, and relatively easy to load. These three packs meet all of those requirements and more, making them my top three picks for a medium backpack between 50 and 75 liters.

Gregory Baltoro

A great medium size pack by Gregory, the Baltoro won Backpacker Magazine’s 2008 Editor’s Choice Award. This rugged backpack can hold its own on extended trips and day hikes alike and is perfect for carrying you’re clothes through the city or heavy loads of gear through the woods.

Gregory Baltoro

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Good Suspension
  • Easy to Load
  • Highly Adjustable
  • Good Padding

Cons

At around 5.5 lbs for the small (63L) and nearly 6 lbs for the largest (68L), the Baltoro is a bit heavy for its size. Some customers also reported that the sleeping bag compartment cannot accommodate a large cold weather sleeping bag.

Description

Available Sizes: 73L, 75L, 78L

Also available in Women’s

  • Response™ AFS suspension features soft, pre-curved harness and hipbelt with EVA foam padding that help eliminate wrinkles and hot spots on your hips and shoulders
  • Independently rotating load transfer panels on the hipbelt automatically register your hip angle and articulate your body’s movements
  • Thermomolded EVA back panel features a grippy lumbar pad that helps keep the pack positioned properly and effectively transfers load weight to your hips
  • Single aluminum stay helps prevent barreling and provides optimum load transfer
  • Baltoro 65 pack offers 3 ways to get at your gear with top-loading, front zip and bottom zippered access to the main compartment
  • Hydration-compatible design features a reservoir sleeve and dual drink-tube exit ports for on-the-go hydration (reservoir sold separately)
  • Zippered front pocket, twin side pockets, dual hipbelt pockets and hideaway water bottle pocket with bungee offer easy access to often-used gear
  • Removable top lid pocket lets you keep compass, maps, small essentials or rainwear close at hand; stash pocket on the underside of the lid secures personal items
  • Gregory Baltoro 65 pack is made with 210-denier double diamond ripstop and 210- and 420-denier flat weave fabrics that offer strength, durability and lightness

Price

Price

Prices for the Baltoro run anywhere between $215 and $300 depending on the size and retailer, which is a pretty good deal for this pack. Check Google shopping results for the best price.

Recommended Retailers

Review

Chicago, Illinois

Gregory Baltoro in use“6 months ago a college teammate of mine said that it was time for some “bro-time,” a get-together and that this was going to take place on the Denny’s Creek Trailhead outside Denver over Memorial Day Weekend 2011.

There was no way I wasn’t going to go.

I had no backpacking gear at the time nor had I been camping in years. I started the quest to assemble the necessities and that same weekend my 20% member coupon showed up in the mail. I went to REI and decided to get my first real backpacking pack. I had done a decent amount of research and had my choices narrowed to an Osprey Atmos or this Baltoro.

The Baltoro is amazing. I’m not sure how someone can argue about the size of the pack. It is, after all, as advertised. The sleeping bag compartment is spacious, IMO. While in CO, I would stuff my large Big Agnes Sleeping bag and long insulated Big Agnes sleeping pad into the sleeping bag compartment with ease… along with a decently heavy Columbia jacket. A couple pairs of clothes, a stove, fuel, food and the other necessities fit in the bag with ease… any issues with pack size must be do to inefficient packing.

I had about 45 lbs. in the pack during the trip and loved every minute of it. The waist belt is outstanding, I also like the articulating feature found on both the hip-belt and shoulder straps.

I didn’t have any issues with durability, the pack withstood the 4 day trip without a blemish. I’ve used it on several occasions since, in several scenarios and am completely pleased with my purchase. There’re pockets galore, and creative minds can find multiple ways to use every aspect of the pack.”

Deuter ACT Lite

The ACT Lite is one of the best of Deuter’s lightweight line of backpacks. It won the Backpacker Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award for “Killer Deal” in 2010, and comparing the price to the specs you can see why. The ACT Lite makes light loads even lighter and is perfect for extended trips and travel where weight and comfort count the most.

Deuter ACT Lite

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Good Padding
  • Lightweight
  • Good Suspension
  • Highly Adjustable

Cons

Some customers have complained that the buckles failed or broke under high stress loads and citied the lack of attachments as another downside. The shoulder straps are also a bit narrower than some other packs and may not fit comfortably if you have a large frame or very broad shoulders.

Description

Available Sizes: 40L, 50L, 60L, 65L

Also available in Women’s

  • Vari-Quick harness adjustment system lets you dial in the best fit quickly and easily
  • Contoured, padded shoulder straps feature 3D air mesh lining for breathability and stabilizer straps for ideal positioning of pack
  • Bi-laminate foam hipbelt uses a soft interior foam for comfort and a stiff outer foam for weight transfer and lateral movement control
  • Deuter Aircontact Lite suspension features a special hollow foam which creates a pump effect, forcing warm air out and drawing cool air in
  • Hollow-core aluminum X-frame offers torsional rigidity, flexibility for body movement and effective weight transfer
  • Top- and front-loading main compartment offers lots of room for your overnight gear; 2 side mesh pockets store your water bottles and snacks
  • Adjustable lid has 2 pockets for quick access to gear such as map, headlamp, first aid kit, sunscreen and multi-tool
  • Extendable lid allows you to expand the collar, adding up to 600 cu. in. (10 liters) of storage space
  • Hydration-compatible design features reservoir pocket and drink tube exit port for on-the-go hydration (reservoir sold separately)
  • Bottom compartment lets you stuff your sleeping bag or other light, bulky items directly into the pack; shares a zippered separator with the main bag
  • Side compression straps let you cinch down loads for jostle-free carrying
  • Dual ice axe loops and front elastic cord are ideal for securing gear to the front of the pack

Price

A good value pack, you can get the ACT Lite for under $200. It runs between $140 and $190 depending on the size and retailer.

Recommended Retailers

Review

Chino, CA

Deuter ACT Lite in use“I bought this pack after Backpacker magazine gave it backpack of the year. I’ve used a lot of packs in my day and this is, BY FAR, the best pack I’ve used. If there is one thing the Germans are known for (besides their beer) it’s making efficient products. This pack doesn’t have anything more than is needed. It’s thin, adjustable and keeps the weight centered perfectly where it needs to be. The warm air system on the back is genius as well. A lot of sweat moves its way out and I keep as dry and comfy as possible.

The top pocket section is well made and can extend to allow for extra packing space (hence the 65+10 rating) so the pack can be made smaller if packing light. Everytime I go backpacking, everyone thinks I have a smaller pack yet I’m hauling just as much stuff as everyone else. Also, since the pack is so thin I never snag on tree branches on rough parts of the trail.

I can’t think of any problems with this pack and if for some reason it ever gets torn apart by wild coyotes or hungry backpacking buddies looking for a snack, I’ll buy a new one without hesitation.”

Osprey Exos

Named Best Ultralight Pack by Backpacker Magazine’s Gear of the Year Awards 2009, the Exos is a great pack for lighter loads. The Exos sports somewhat of a hybrid between internal and external frame, the frame is smaller but is still visible around the inner edges of the back though the pack has an overall look of an internal frame.

Osprey Exos

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Easy to Load
  • Large Capacity
  • Good Padding

Cons

Like many ultralight packs, some owners report that the material can develop tears after rough hiking trips. Another minority of owners complain that the weight can ride too heavily on your shoulders if packed with heavy gear. Some owners also complain that the pack rides like an external frame, which can make it feel slightly bouncy as you walk.

Description

Available sizes: 34L, 46L, 58L

  • Modified Airspeed suspension features an aluminum frame for support and a breathable mesh back panel with side ventilation for cool comfort
  • Anchored in the lumbar area, the suspension system provides uniform pressure without annoying hot spots
  • Features gender-specific BioStretch™ fixed shoulder harness and hipbelt; mesh-covered, slotted foam saves weight and enhances breathability
  • ErgoPull hipbelt closure relieves hipbone pressure by spreading the tension along both the top and the bottom of the belt, not in a single line along the middle
  • Innovative Stow-on-the-Go™trekking pole attachment allows you to stow and remove poles without removing pack
  • Top-loading design features a floating lid pocket; another pocket under the lid further extends your gear storage options
  • Features 2 vertical zippered front pockets, a stretch-woven front pocket, side mesh pockets and zippered mesh pockets on hipbelt
  • Hydration-compatible design with drinking tube portholes; reservoir (sold separately) fits in cavity behind mesh backpanel
  • Comes with superlight 7mm side compression webbing straps; route straps over or under side pockets
  • 2 thin ice axe tool loops and bungee tie-offs let you strap on ice tools
  • Use the minimalist cord tie-off points to add a bungee cord for lashing on extra gear
  • Includes adjustable sternum strap and integrated sleeping pad straps

Price

Osprey’s aren’t the cheapest but the cost is usually worth it. Buying an Exos will set you back around $150 – $250 depending on the size and the retailer. The usual base price is about $170 but if you catch a sale you may be able to get one of the smaller models for $150.

Recommended Retailers

Review

Colorado

Osprey Exos in use“i have been looking at 2 of ospreys redesigned packs the osprey atmos 65 or 50 or the osprey exos 58. they are relatively the same backpack but the exos is way lighter then the atmos 50 with 8 extra liters.

just got back from a 3 day backpacking trip in lost creek wilderness up the wigwam trail and boy did it perform. i carried 30+ lbs of gear and it felt like a feather. with the airspeed suspension it made the hike so enjoyable. one con is it didnt vent as well as i had hoped but way better then most packs.

i really got a taste of how nice this was when a first year scout toting about the same poundage in gear was having a hard time making it up this massive climb so i decided to switch him packs. he just had a gregory and compared to my osprey the thing was a piece. i was soaking wet with sweat and my shoulders were killing me.

all i can say is once you go osprey you never go back.”

 

 

Didn’t see your favorite pack on the list? Leave us a comment about why it’s awesome and we’ll include it in the next article!

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Backpack Buying Guide for Medium Packs (50L – 75L)