Trail Comparisons: Hiking Pack vs. Travel Pack

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When you head out for a day of hiking or traveling, you’re going to need a bag that will hold all of your essentials. You never know what you’re going to need, so being able to access your belongings quickly and efficiently is vital. So, which is better: a hiking pack or a travel pack?

Choosing a hiking pack vs travel pack depends on your use. Hiking packs are great for long hikes, with large size, added support, and even load distribution. Travel packs are great for day hikes or when you’re flying. They are smaller, TSA-friendly with laptop pocket, can be accessed in a hurry.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both hiking packs and travel packs. This article will also go over how to choose the best pack for you. In general, the best pack will be a factor of:

  • Personal preference
  • Length of your trip
  • Whether you will be flying to get there
  • Your physical strength and endurance
  • What you need to bring
  • The terrain of your trip
  • Your budget
  • Whether you need suspension frames, compression straps, and other support features

Hiking Packs: Basic Overview

If you’re starting your search for the best pack to bring on your hiking trip, you might be wondering what the difference is between hiking packs and backpacks. Typically, the difference between these two packs depends on the features and the size.

A hiking pack is going to be designed for maximum comfort while you’re on the trail. Usually, they have enough room to carry a sleeping system along with clothes and other essential items. They’re typically opened from the front instead of from the top. 

Pros of Hiking Packs

There are a lot of pros when it comes to hiking packs. Most hiking packs come with great features for any occasion. Most of these features are designed to make the packs as comfortable as possible. You’ll find suspension frames, multiple compartments, and straps to make your hiking experience easy and safe.

  • Suspension frames: You can find hiking packs without suspension frames, which could be beneficial for a short day hike. But if you’re going for a long hike, suspension frames are great ways to keep your pack balanced and allow you to carry the pack comfortably.
  • Organizational pockets: Hiking packs typically have multiple pockets for optimal storage of everything you’ll need. These are usually zippered compartments that will divide up the load evenly.
  • Support and compression straps: This is another important part of hiking packs. These support and compression straps are going to help balance your load and keep your back straight. Most hiking packs have a hip belt, which helps by shifting the weight from your shoulders to your hips. 
  • Larger in size: While some packs can be smaller, hiking packs are designed to carry everything you’ll need on a hike, which could include a sleeping system.

Cons of Hiking Packs

Even though there are some great benefits to the hiking packs, there are some cons as well:

  • Big and bulky: If you aren’t going to need the bag for more than a day or so, a hiking pack may be too big and bulky for you. You can find smaller ones that can suit your trip, but if you do a mix of day and multi-day hiking, you may want to have two sized bags on hand.
  • Expensive: Because of a hiking bag’s size and features, these packs can typically run into the $200 price range. This may be too expensive if you’re only planning to use the pack once in a while for short trips.

Travel Packs: Basic Overview

Travel packs are also different from a regular backpack or hiking pack. Again, the differences between the two are going to be the features and size. Travel packs are great if you’re planning to fly for your trip, but there are some benefits to using them for hiking as well.

Pros of Travel Packs

What’s great about travel packs is that they are usually smaller and more compact. This can make them perfect for short day hikes or just a few hours out on a trail.

  • Airplane approved: You can find travel packs that are TSA approved for size. This can be an important consideration for those traveling by plane.
  • Suspension systems: Similarly with hiking packs, you can find travel packs with suspension frames that help balance your load. Usually, on a travel pack, any external frames are covered to protect them from damage during airplane transit. 
  • Compression and support straps: Travel packs can also come with compression straps to make them more compliant with overhead compartments on airplanes. The support straps can also adjust the weight distribution from your shoulders to your hips.
  • Organized: This is where a lot of people love travel packs. They are usually designed with airport security in mind. This means they have pockets for your laptop or tablet, pockets for your toiletries, and pockets for other items you might have to grab in a hurry when going through airport security.

Cons of Travel Packs

Even though travel packs can be great, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Too small: If you’re planning a single-bag camping trip, you may find that a travel pack is too small for this purpose. They aren’t typically designed to store sleeping bags or hiking poles.
  • Disorganized: While they are designed with airports in mind, if you aren’t planning on bringing a laptop, you may find you have useless pockets or compartments in your pack. There’s not a whole lot you can do with a skinny, empty laptop pocket.

Choosing the Best Hiking or Travel Packs for You

Ultimately, your choice to get either a hiking or travel pack will come down to your personal preference, and you may opt for both depending on your trip’s requirements.

Remember that sometimes the best bag isn’t the most expensive one. Make sure you choose the bag that is going to benefit you the most, regardless of price, looks, and brand.

When shopping for the right pack for you, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:

  • What is the intended purpose of the bag? When shopping for a pack for your trip, you need to make sure you choose one that will give you the best results. Keep the trip or hike in mind when you look at the features of each pack. Ask yourself if you need more space inside the pack or if you’re planning on bringing more than one bag. 
  • What are the features that you really want in a bag? Your pack will be your home on your hike, so what do you intend to bring with you? Make sure you look at all the features that the pack has to offer. If you’re going on a three-day hike in the mountains, getting a hiking pack with a suspension frame and hip belt could be a good way to go. This will help to keep you upright while you maneuver difficult terrain.
  • How big do you need the pack to be? In this case, size does matter. You’re going to be carrying this pack on your back, so you want to make sure you get the right size for what you need. Consider your strength and physical fitness, and remember to consider the weight of the pack itself too. Never carry more than you can handle. 
  • Are you going to expose yourself to the elements? Most travel and hiking packs are weather-resistant, but if you’re going to be exposing yourself to the elements, you may find that you need something a little more durable. There are plenty of travel and hiking packs available that are waterproof. If you can’t find one within your price range, they have rain covers available for you to consider as well.


When planning a hiking or camping trip, you want to make sure the pack you bring with you is the best option for you. There are so many types of travel and hiking packs that it’s hard to choose which one you’ll really need. In the end, it comes down to your personal preference. 

Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea of the pros and cons of hiking packs vs travel packs.


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