The Best Expedition Backpacks (70+ L)

In this category, we looked at backpacks with volumes larger than 70 liters. Expedition backpacks represent a diverse range of applications, such as the ultralight backpacking focus of the Gregory Stout 75 or the mountaineering expedition usefulness of the Black Diamond Mission 75.

This category does not include drybags with straps, or any other bag that looks closer to a duffel than a true backpacking pack. This variety of application means that the category is diverse, but they share many common design features and inspirations. The packs were judged on five criteria: comfort/fit, storage, stability, durability, and extras. These seven backpacks were chosen as a representative sample covering a range of diverse use and applications.

These backpacks were tested throughout the winter and spring of 2017, during day hikes and overnight backpacking trips from 1-4 nights, with mileage hovering around a dozen miles a day. Tests were conducted on Maryland’s Western Shore, in the Olympic Range of Washington State, the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, and in the central Sierra Nevada.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Lowe Alpine Manaslu 65:75
91
Best in Class
2017
Comfort/Fit 9
Stability 8
Storage 9
Durability 8
Extras 7

Comfort

Easy torso length adjustability

Good value

Efficient expandability

Small, two compartment brain

Two drawstring cinches on top closure

A touch heavy

MSRP
$255.00
BEST DEAL
$154.94
Black Diamond Mission 75
90
Comfort/Fit 7
Storage 9
Stability 7
Durability 9
Extras 8

Best value

Second lightest bag in test set

Wide body compartment

Crampon sleeve

Good expandability and compression

Difficult buckles

Backwards leaning center of gravity

Lack of torso length adjustment

MSRP
$240.00
BEST DEAL
$239.95
Gregory Stout 75
89
Comfort/Fit 9
Storage 9
Stability 8
Durability 7
Extras 6

Lightest in the test set

Least expensive

Comfortable for most back shapes

Seam vulnerability

Pliable back padding can bunch over time

Vulnerable mesh water bottle sleeve on sides

MSRP
$200.00
BEST DEAL
$199.95
Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 70
89
Comfort/Fit 7
Storage 9
Stability 7
Durability 7
Extras 9

Light

Very good water resistance

Simple and efficient body design

Small top brain pocket

Stiff frame

Some seam concerns

MSRP
$280.00
BEST DEAL
$279.95
Osprey Aether 85
89
Comfort/Fit 8
Storage 9
Stability 8
Durability 7
Extras 7

Good expandability and compression

Comfortable with the heaviest load

Efficient storage maximization

Heavyish

Second most expensive

Mild over-ornamentation

MSRP
$330.00
BEST DEAL
$330.00
Thule Guidepost 75
84
Comfort/Fit 6
Storage 6
Stability 8
Durability 7
Extras 7

Durable construction

Good water resistance

Very good pivot

Most expensive in test set

Tied for heaviest in set

Narrow body compartment

MSRP
$350.00
BEST DEAL
$229.95
The North Face Fovero 85
77
Comfort/Fit 5
Storage 5
Stability 5
Durability 6
Extras 6

Stiffer frame for heavy loads

Large storage capacity

Rain cover pocket in brain

Tied for heaviest in test set

Tall center of gravity

Narrow body

No pivot

Seam concerns

MSRP
$305.00
BEST DEAL
$299.01
Lowe Alpine Manaslu 65:75

The Best In Class title goes to the Lowe Alpine Manaslu 65:75, which cruised to the top spot largely due to its comfort and consistent performance. The limitations are cursory, besides a general desire that it was a few ounces lighter to allow it to break into the ultralight scene.

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Black Diamond Mission 75

The second-from-the-top spot and the Best Value badge go to the Black Diamond Mission 75, which had the most consistent performance of all packs in the test. Its biggest sell is its light weight and adaptability to a variety of conditions. The only real complaint we had is its tendency to pack with a backwards leaning center of gravity.

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Gregory Stout 75

The Gregory Stout 75 tied for third in this test set. Its biggest draw is its lightweight, allowing it to anchor the ultralight backpacking corner of this set. Its biggest challenges also stem from its ultralight design, with thinner fabric allowing greater possibility for seam or fabric failure. 

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Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 70

The Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 70 Outdry tied for third in this test set. It’s best feature is its namesake Outdry technology, which gives it the best water resistance in the set. It’s biggest concern are some seam concerns, particularly at the top of the shoulder strap.

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See All Expedition Backpacks (70+ L) Reviews

What Is An Expedition Backpack?

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Trends

One market trend that became apparent in the course of this test was the increasing specialization of backpack makers, into the two main groups of this test set—those backpacks intended for ultralight, long distance backpacking, and those more suited for mountaineering expeditions and the requisite short-distance hauling of heavy loads.

Review Results

The three backpacks that tried to straddle the middle ground between the above mentioned trends (the Osprey Aether AG 85The North Face Fovero 85, and the Thule Guidepost 75), all suffered in the final results. The mountaineering expedition end of the spectrum was anchored by the Black Diamond Mission 75 and on the ultralight backpacking side of things, high scores were earned by the Lowe Alpine Manaslu 65:75, the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 70 Outdry, and the Gregory Stout 75.
The Best In Class title goes to the Lowe Alpine Manaslu 65:75, which ended up with a category-topping 91 points. The Manaslu cruised to the top spot largely on its comfort and consistent performance. The limitations are cursory, besides a general desire that it was a few ounces lighter to allow it to break into the ultralight scene.

The bottom spot in this test set went to The North Face Fovero 85, with a final rating of 77. This pack has strengths, not least of which is its large weight carrying capacity, although these pros are outweighed by cons, chief of which is the bag’s heavy weight and narrow body compartment.

Price

Prices in this test set ranged from $200 (Gregory Stout 75) to $350 (Thule Guidepost 75), and averaged at $280. The Best Value title goes to the Gregory, which finished in a tie for third and was the least expensive bag.

Weight

Backpacks in this test set ranged from 5 lbs 12 oz (The North Face Fovero 85 and the Thule Guidepost 75) to 3 lbs 2 oz (Gregory Stout 75). These backpacks were tested throughout the winter and spring of 2017, during day hikes and overnight backpacking trips from 1-4 nights, with mileage hovering around a dozen miles a day. Tests were conducted on Maryland’s Western Shore, in the Olympic Range of Washington State, the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, and in the central Sierra Nevada.