The 8 Best Mountain Backpacks of 2023

A mountaineering backpack, also referred to as a climbing or alpine backpack, is a specialized type of backpack created specifically for use in mountainous environments.Constructed from robust materials such as nylon or polyester, these packs are designed to accommodate all of the gear and equipment necessary for a climber or mountaineer during their trip.

They typically feature reinforced bottoms, padded shoulder straps, and hip belts, which aid in evenly distributing the weight of the pack and providing a more comfortable carry. Mountaineering backpacks frequently include multiple pockets and compartments, allowing for organized storage of gear, and some may even incorporate built-in hydration systems for transporting water.

The 8 Best Mountain Backpacks of 2023:Our top pick

Best hiking backpack for womenCamelBak M.U.L.E. Mountain Biking Hydration BackpackView on Amazon
Best hiking backpacks for menEasy Refilling Hydration BackpackView on Amazon
Best camping backpackTETON Sports Ultralight Plus BackpacksView on Amazon
Hiking backpack WomenTETON Sports Explorer Internal Frame BackpackView on Amazon
Lightweight hiking backpackARC’TERYX ALPHA AR 35View on Amazon
Best Entry Level Backpacking PackOsprey Aether 65 Men’s Backpacking BackpackView on Amazon
Sporty HikingGregory Mountain Products Zulu 55View on Amazon
Most Durable BackpackJack Wolfskin Highland Trail 55 MenView on Amazon

Here are the best mountain backpack recommendations:

1.CamelBak M.U.L.E. Mountain Biking Hydration Backpack

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The CamelBak M.U.L.E. Mountain Biking Hydration Backpack is a popular choice for mountain bikers who need to carry water, snacks, and other essentials while out on the trails. Here are some of the features and specifications of this pack:

  • Capacity: 9 liters (549 cubic inches) of storage in the main compartment, plus additional pockets and compartments for organizing gear.
  • Hydration System: Includes a 3-liter (100-ounce) reservoir with an easy-to-use Big Bite valve for on-the-go hydration.
  • Ventilation: Back panel is designed to promote airflow and reduce heat buildup, keeping you cooler and more comfortable.
  • Comfort: The shoulder straps and hip belt are padded for added comfort and support, and the pack is adjustable to fit a variety of body types.
  • Durability: Constructed with high-quality materials and durable stitching, the M.U.L.E. is built to withstand the rigors of mountain biking.
  • Additional Features: Includes a helmet hook, tool organizer, and reflective accents for increased visibility.

CamelBak M.U.L.E. is a versatile and durable hydration pack that works well for mountain biking and other outdoor activities.

2.Easy Refilling Hydration Backpack

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The Air Director back panel is designed to channel airflow to help keep you cool while carrying the pack. For added fit and stability, there is a removable stability strap that you can adjust to your preference. The ventilated harness is made from lightweight and breathable materials so you don’t feel weighed down while carrying it. For a custom fit and increased stability, there is an adjustable sternum strap that you can adjust to your preferred tightness. Finally, there’s a Secure Phone Pocket that keeps your phone and other essentials secure and easily accessible while you’re on the go.

3.TETON Sports Ultralight Plus Backpacks

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This internal frame pack is perfect for hiking, backpacking, camping, and traveling. You can easily pack all your necessary gear in and on this pack, and there are even neoprene sleeves for storing rope. The extra padded split waistband, hip and torso adjustments provide a perfect fit that can be customized to your body. There is also a unique lumbar adjustment feature to ensure maximum comfort during use. This pack is suitable for men, women and teens looking for a versatile travel pack.

The strong shell of this pack is designed to withstand even the most rugged hiking and camping adventures. It features multiple compression straps, heavy duty buckles and storm resistant zippers for added durability. In addition, this pack comes with Rainfly covers to protect you and your pack from the elements.

Despite its rugged construction, this pack is lightweight and has a stable frame that helps distribute the weight evenly. You’ll hardly feel the load on your back thanks to the padded lumbar area. Designed for the pros but priced for the beginner, this pack is a great choice for anyone looking for a reliable and comfortable backpacking experience.

4. TETON Sports Explorer Internal Frame Backpack

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The TETON Sports Explorer is a top-rated internal frame backpack that is designed to cater to the needs of camping, hiking, and backpacking enthusiasts. It boasts a lightweight yet durable construction, with a spacious main compartment and multiple pockets and compartments that make it easy to organize all your gear. The backpack also features padded shoulder straps and a waist belt that ensures comfortable carrying, while the adjustable internal frame distributes the pack’s weight evenly across your body.

Moreover, the Explorer has a built-in rainfly that offers protection from harsh weather conditions, and a hydration pocket with a port that allows you to carry a water bladder, keeping you hydrated throughout your journey. All in all, this backpack is a practical and versatile option that caters to the needs of outdoor enthusiasts looking for a high-quality internal frame backpack that can withstand the rigors of their adventures.


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The Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35 is a timeless backpack design that was originally created to meet the specific needs of avid climbers. However, it has since become a versatile option for everyday use. Its climbing roots give it a sleek and slender profile that is just as suitable for scaling the North face of the Petit Dru as it is for commuting on the District line. Additionally, it has numerous attachment points that may not be necessary for daily life, but are extremely useful for outdoor activities. For instance, the ax loops can hold hiking poles just as well as they can accommodate technical leashless ice tools.

What really sets this backpack apart is its exceptional durability, ensuring it will last for years, if not decades. Arc’teryx has used advanced technology, constructing the backpack body from a “liquid crystal polymer ripstop grid” integrated into a “high tenacity nylon fabric” that’s built to withstand wear and tear. The backpack also features a removable top lid and back frame sheet, allowing you to reduce weight as needed. Its strap and hip belt combination is practically indestructible, but still comfortable enough for extended use. If you’re looking for a dependable daypack that will stand the test of time, the Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35 is a top choice.

6.Osprey Aether 65 Men’s Backpacking Backpack

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Reasons to buy:

  • Well-thought customizable harness system ensures ultra-comfortable carrying experience
  • Lots of white markings to guide you when adjusting the fit
  • Solid back frame but also super breathable
  • Plenty of pockets for organization
  • Numerous bungee ties and clips for your accessories

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • Hip belt pockets are hard to open/close while wearing
  • A pair of carrying handles in the front would be nice for portability
  • On the pricey end of hiking backpacks

Osprey is a beloved choice among outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy spending extended periods in the great outdoors. Whether you’re cycling across the country or embarking on a hiking expedition in a far-off land, they offer an impressive selection of backpacks to suit any adventure. The Aether AG 60 backpack is specifically designed for thru-hikes and alpine expeditions, where proper preparation and ample storage for essentials are essential.

To ensure proper weight distribution, the backpack features side compression straps, while zippered heat-moldable hip-belt pockets keep your essentials close at hand. The anti-gravity suspension and back panel work together to provide superior comfort and reduce the likelihood of back pain.For added convenience, the backpack has an internal hydration reservoir sleeve and a sleeping bag compartment, ensuring the highest level of comfort while on the move. Additionally, the removable top lid can be converted into a backpack that can be worn during the day, providing even more versatility to your adventure.

7.Gregory Mountain Products Zulu 55

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Reasons to buy:

  • FreeFloat suspension system is excellent for ventilation and offers premium comfort
  • It fits even broad shoulders
  • 2-way access water bottle holders, with compression straps to fit any bottle size
  • There’s a built-in emergency whistle and tube clip at the sternum strap
  • U-Zip front loading makes it easy to access the main compartment

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • Hip belt pockets are hard to open/close
  • Extra haul loops in the front (top and bottom) so you quickly move the bag while front access is open.

When it comes to hiking, the backpack you choose is a crucial component in ensuring a successful and enjoyable trek. Luckily, Gregory offers a variety of high-quality options, including the Gregory Zulu, a 55-liter backpack designed specifically for backcountry expeditions.

The Gregory Zulu comes fully equipped with all the necessary features for surviving and staying organized in the great outdoors. However, much like a pair of shoes or a car, each backpack has a unique design that can complement your personal style, cause friction, or even enhance your entire hiking experience.

8.Jack Wolfskin Highland Trail 55 Men

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Reasons to buy:

  • Stylish design works in both urban and outdoor escapades
  • The clamshell opening is one of the best
  • Zipped front pocket provides security for items you need within reach
  • Spacious sleeping bag compartment
  • You can max out another 5 liters on top

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • The back padding system isn’t as breathable as it could be.
  • Missing criss-cross bungee strings or a front mesh pocket for wet items

Looking for a hiking backpack that won’t break the bank but still looks stylish enough to carry around the city or take on a weekend getaway? The Jack Wolfskin Highland Trail 55 Backpack could be the perfect option for you.

Jack Wolfskin is known for its innovative cross-over products, offering gear that’s suitable for both the great outdoors and urban life. This German company produces high-quality products that are worthy of respect, all while remaining affordable and accessible to a wide range of consumers.

How We Tested the Best Mountain Backpacks

In an ideal world of perfect science, the optimal way to compare hiking backpacks would be for one single person to take them all on the same hikes but obviously thats utterly unfeasible. Instead, various members of our team tried and tested them at different times, at different locations over a period of a number of years. When testing them our team were of course paying close attention to how light/ comfortable the pack felt, how easy it was to pack and unpack, how it performed in adverse weather and how damn sexy they felt in it.

Backpack Weight and Load Range

Looking beyond how much space your gear takes up in a pack, it’s essential to ballpark the total weight. If your equipment is older or you prefer a comfort-oriented setup, getting a pack that can handle the extra weight is a good idea. Alternatively, if you’re into minimalism and ultralight gear, you can get away with a corresponding lightweight pack. In looking at backpacks, the pack’s frame, suspension, and padding are relevant considerations for hauling ability. One quick reference point is the pack’s empty weight, provided for nearly every model sold.

A heavier pack is logically most often capable of hauling more weight. It will have a beefy frame, rugged fabrics, and thick padding. There are some exceptions, and backpacks overall are becoming lighter but are still adept at comfortably handling a heavy load. Below is a basic guideline for matching pack weight and hauling ability.

Pros of Backpacking

1. You’ll Experience the Places You Visit – you’re not just going to find yourself staring at the hot tourist spots; you’ll live and experience everything there is in the place. Backpackers aren’t restricted by tour dates and schedules. You can literally go and do what you want.

2. Boost Social Skills – backpackers develop great social skills since they have no one to really guide them through. This means you’ll have to make new friends, spend time researching on the Web, and really get down and dirty with the locals.

3. Everything is With You – you won’t leave a few things behind when you’re out water rafting or travelling from bus to bus because everything you need is on your back. This is convenience in its most basic form and that freedom is one of the main elements that backpackers enjoy.

4. It’s Cheaper – travel agencies charge a lot of money but when you go backpacking it’s all up to you how you travel. Will you go with expensive cabs or will you venture through local public transportation? Will you cycle up the mountain trail or ride a horse? In most cases, backpacking makes it much more affordable.

5. No Restrictions – You can stay in any hotel or inn and you can opt to camp out by renting tents or couch-surf with a new friend in the area. There are absolutely no restrictions when you backpack.

Cons of Backpacking

1. You’re Travelling Blind – unless you do your research, you’ll be unaware of the places to stay, the tourist spots to go to, and where to find good local delicacies.

2. Less Than Spectacular Accommodations – backpackers usually don’t get to enjoy the best resorts and instead have to stay in dorms and cheap inns. It is part of the experience but at times it can get weary.

3. Limited Amenities – as expected with shoving everything in a single backpack, you won’t be able to carry more than the bare essentials. Sometimes a sudden emergency might require a change of clothes and if you don’t have any, you’ll have to buy cheap shirts on the spot.

How do I choose a mountaineering backpack?

When choosing a mountaineering backpack, there are several key factors to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to think about the size of the pack. Mountaineering packs come in a range of sizes, from small daypacks to large expedition packs, so it’s important to choose a pack that is the right size for your needs. Consider how much gear and equipment you’ll need to carry, as well as how long your trip will be, to determine the ideal size of pack for you.

Another important factor to consider is the materials and construction of the pack. Mountaineering backpacks are typically made from durable materials like nylon or polyester, and should have reinforced bottoms and padded shoulder straps and hip belts for comfortable carrying. Look for a pack that is specifically designed for mountaineering or climbing, as these packs will have features like ice axe loops and crampon pockets that are essential for carrying your gear in the mountains.

Other important factors to consider when choosing a mountaineering backpack include the pack’s weight, the number and size of pockets and compartments, and any additional features like a built-in hydration system or a rain cover. Consider your own personal preferences and needs, as well as the specific type of mountaineering or climbing you’ll be doing, to choose the right pack for you.

What is the ideal bag use in mountaineering?

The ideal bag for use in mountaineering will depend on the specific type of mountaineering you’ll be doing and the amount of gear and equipment you need to carry. For shorter trips or day hikes, a smaller pack in the 30-50 liter range may be sufficient. For longer trips or expeditions, a larger pack in the 50-80 liter range may be more appropriate.

In terms of materials and construction, a mountaineering backpack should be made from durable materials like nylon or polyester, and should have reinforced bottoms and padded shoulder straps and hip belts for comfortable carrying. Look for a pack that is specifically designed for mountaineering or climbing, as these packs will have features like ice axe loops and crampon pockets that are essential for carrying your gear in the mountains.

Other important features to look for in a mountaineering backpack include a built-in hydration system, multiple pockets and compartments for organizing gear, and a rain cover to protect the pack’s contents from the elements. Choose a pack that is the right size and has the features you need to carry all of your gear comfortably and securely on your mountaineering trips.

How do I choose a climbing bag?

Why is a backpack an ideal bag for mountaineering?

A backpack is an ideal bag for mountaineering for several reasons. First and foremost, a backpack allows you to distribute the weight of your gear evenly across your body, making it more comfortable to carry for extended periods of time. This is especially important in the mountains, where the terrain can be rough and uneven, and you may need to carry a lot of gear and equipment.

Another reason why a backpack is ideal for mountaineering is that it allows you to keep your hands free. This is important for activities like climbing, where you need to use your hands to grasp holds and move safely through the mountains. A backpack allows you to carry all of your gear on your back, leaving your hands free to focus on the task at hand.

In addition, mountaineering backpacks are typically designed with specific features that make them well-suited for use in the mountains. These features may include reinforced bottoms, padded shoulder straps and hip belts, ice axe loops, crampon pockets, and built-in hydration systems. These features make it easy to carry all of the gear and equipment you need for your mountaineering trips, and help ensure that your pack is comfortable and practical to use in the mountains.

How heavy is a mountaineering pack?

The weight of a mountaineering pack can vary depending on the size of the pack and the materials it is made from. In general, smaller mountaineering packs in the 30-50 liter range may weigh around 2-4 pounds, while larger packs in the 50-80 liter range may weigh closer to 4-6 pounds.

However, the weight of a mountaineering pack will also depend on how much gear and equipment you are carrying in it, as well as the specific design and features of the pack.

Some mountaineering packs may be designed with lightweight materials and minimal features to reduce their weight, while others may be more robust and feature-rich, but may be heavier as a result. It’s important to choose a pack that is the right size and weight for your needs and the type of mountaineering you’ll be doing.

What kind of backpack will you bring for hiking?

When it comes to choosing a backpack for hiking, there are several factors to consider. First and foremost, you’ll want to think about the size of the pack. For day hikes or shorter trips, a smaller pack in the 30-50 liter range may be sufficient. For longer trips or multi-day hikes, a larger pack in the 50-80 liter range may be more appropriate.

In terms of materials and construction, a hiking backpack should be made from durable materials like nylon or polyester, and should have reinforced bottoms and padded shoulder straps and hip belts for comfortable carrying. Look for a pack that is specifically designed for hiking, as these packs will have features like hydration pockets and rain covers that are useful on the trail.

Other important features to look for in a hiking backpack include multiple pockets and compartments for organizing gear, a built-in hydration system, and a waist belt to distribute the weight of the pack evenly. Consider your own personal preferences and needs, as well as the type of hiking you’ll be doing, to choose the right pack for you.

What’s the difference between a hiking backpack and a regular backpack?

The main difference between a hiking backpack and a regular backpack is the design and features of the pack. Hiking backpacks are specifically designed for use on the trail, and as such, they often have features that are useful for hiking and backpacking. These may include reinforced bottoms, padded shoulder straps and hip belts, multiple pockets and compartments for organizing gear, and built-in hydration systems. Hiking backpacks may also have additional features like rain covers, ice axe loops, and crampon pockets, depending on the specific type of hiking they are designed for.

In contrast, regular backpacks are more general-purpose bags that can be used for a variety of purposes, including school, work, travel, and more. These packs may not have the same specialized features as hiking backpacks, and may not be as durable or comfortable to carry for extended periods of time. However, regular backpacks can still be useful for shorter hikes or day trips, and may be a more affordable option for those on a budget.

Do I need a unique backpack for hiking?

No, you do not need a unique backpack for hiking.

Any regular backpack will work for day hikes. However, if you go hiking often or need to carry lots of gear (such as on overnight hiking trips), there are many features of hiking backpacks compared to regular packs, which might make them worth buying.

Ultralight Backpacking Packs

We see more and more ultralight backpacking packs each year on the trail for a good reason. These packs have a fully functional less-is-more mentality, cutting roughly 2 to 3 pounds off the weight of a standard backpacking pack and featuring bare-bones organization (the majority have one main compartment, hip belt pockets, and a few external dump pockets). In addition to streamlined storage, they shed pounds with thin yet premium materials (Dyneema and Robic nylon are standard) and minimalist suspension systems that generally include an aluminum stay and back foam panel. If you’re interested in lightening your load and don’t mind a simplified design, an ultralight backpacking pack could be a good option.

We’re big fans of ultralight packs and have used them successfully for years, but they come with one major caveat: you cannot overload your pack. With such streamlined suspensions and thin fabrics, UL packs aren’t built to handle loads over 30 to 40 pounds. If you’re a thru-hiker or lightweight enthusiast with a base weight (this refers to your entire gear kit, minus consumables) of about 15 pounds or under, this should be no problem. On the other hand, if you’re transitioning to ultralight gear, we recommend that your pack be the last thing you swap. Get yourself a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, pad, and cooking gear first, and then consider putting it together with a UL pack.


Hiking is all things to everyone, so getting the right balance between weight, size, and robustness is vital, especially for something you’ll be wearing on your back for many days. Modern materials mean that ye olde steel frame rucksacks are unnecessary unless you’re in training and want to carry the extra weight. Here are some things to look for when choosing the best hiking backpack for you:


Arguably the most crucial starting point. How much do you need to carry? Summer rambling along the coast requires a different set of kits to wild winter camping, but don’t get carried away and buy a giant windsock that needs a SAS team to have once filled.


Check and check again that the rucksack fits your back well. Most makes have different back sizes available, so try a few with both a light load and a heavy one (most shops have weight bags for this). If there’s a hip belt, this should rest on the top of your hip bones and adjust to a comfortable tightness – this can transfer a lot of weight from your shoulders to your hips, so don’t underestimate the importance of a well-fitting hip belt. And of course, none of this is any good if the straps aren’t adjusted correctly: here’s how to fit a backpack.


Walk around and move naturally to see if anything rubs or feels weird. By all means, try the super-techno suspended mesh solutions to get a sweaty back, but rest assured, after a long day with a heavy rucksack, your back will be sweaty, so don’t prioritize them over a perfect fit.


Lighter is nearly always better, meaning the minimum of random bells and whistles add weight. Don’t be afraid to cut off straps and fastenings you know you’ll never use.

Pockets and straps

Think about what you’ll need to carry and how accessible you’ll need it. Streamlined designs might look smart, but pockets start to look more appealing when you have to unpack the whole thing to access your torch in the middle of the evening.

Compression Straps

Compression straps tighten a pack from front to back and pull the load close to your body, helping to keep you balanced on the trail. Make sure the group you’re looking at has these side compression straps at both the top and bottom to aid in load stability and give them a good cinch each time you put your pack on. These straps are also helpful for storing taller items (such as tent poles) along the side of your package. When used for this purpose, we especially like a system like REI’s Packmod—seen on the Traverse 60 and Flash 55 packs—which allows you to move the straps to your preferred height via a series of daisy chains (or remove them altogether). And while some compression straps secure tightly with a simple plastic cinch, we prefer those with buckles for their ease of use, especially when attaching more oversized items like a sleeping pad.


Backpanel and hipbelt ventilation is a biggie for some, especially if you tend to run warm or plan on hiking in the summer heat. But finding an internal framed pack that breathes well can be a challenge, primarily because the point of a group is to hug and conform to your body, moving with you as you walk. Most packs have offsetting foam and mesh panels that do a passable job encouraging airflow, but you’ll likely still get sweat art on your back that traces where the foam panels contact your body.

Water Protection

Many items we store in our backpacks are vulnerable to moisture—including a camera, phone, and down sleeping bag—so we prioritize water protection. The good news is that most packs offer decent water resistance with hard-face nylon and a durable water repellant (DWR) coating, although expect sustained rainfall to penetrate the fabric.

Main design features of mountain backpack

MAIN COMPARTMENT – Most lightweight backpacks have one top-loading compartment for storing the majority of your gear. That’s really all you need. Extra compartments and zippers add unnecessary weight and complexity. Pack items you won’t need until camp (tent, sleeping bag/pad, stove) in the bottom of your pack and you’ll be set.

FRONT MESH/STRETCH POCKET – Most lightweight packs have a large mesh or stretch material pocket on the front (the side facing hikers behind you). This feature comes in very handy on the trail. It’s great for gear you want to stow quickly or keep easily accessible, like a rain jacket or water purifier. It’s also good for airing out wet gear.

HIP BELT – A good hip belt is a critical feature of any backcountry pack. Your hip belt will hold most of the weight of your pack on your hips, which keeps your shoulders from tiring. Hip belts should be comfortable and transfer weight without slipping. Every pack on this list has a solid hip belt.

SHOULDER STRAPS – Shoulder straps will hold a significant amount of your pack weight as well. You’ll want them to have comfortable padding and be well spaced to avoid chafing and odd pressure points. Every pack on this list has comfortable shoulder straps.

HIP BELT POCKETS – With a lightweight pack, you won’t need to take breaks nearly as often, so you’ll want to have certain items easily accessible, like snacks, sunscreen, lip balm, camera, etc. Most of the packs we recommend have built-in hip belt pockets, but if they don’t come standard, we recommend buying the aftermarket hip belt pockets that fit your pack.

SHOULDER POUCH – We’re also fond of using shoulder strap pouches on our packs. We mainly use them for easy camera access while we hike. A couple packs we recommend come with shoulder pouches, but most don’t. So you might consider an aftermarket shoulder pouch if it sounds like a good fit for you.

WATER BOTTLE HOLSTERS – Hydration is key in the backcountry, so your water bottles should always be easy to access. It’s shocking to us when we test packs that won’t allow us to grab a water bottle while hiking. That’s just not acceptable.

WATERPROOFING – In general, it’s not a good idea to fully rely on any backpack for waterproofing. Even seam-sealed packs made from waterproof materials will develop small leaks over time, so we always recommend protecting important items (sleeping bag, clothes, electronics, etc.) in waterproof stuff sacks or plastic bags inside your pack.

HYDRATION PORTS – If you prefer drinking from a water bladder while hiking, a pack without a hydration port could be a dealbreaker. We’re not huge fans of water bladders, so this isn’t a big deal for us, but most of the packs we recommend do have hydration sleeves and ports.

TOP LID – Many lightweight backpacks don’t have a top lid these days in order to reduce weight. Instead, they use roll-top closures, clips, and straps to keep gear secure, which is very effective. We do recommend a couple of packs with top lids, but if you don’t have one, you probably won’t miss it.

LOAD LIFTER STRAPS – Load lifter straps can be used to pull the tops of your shoulder straps towards the backpack. This will take some of the downward pressure off your shoulder straps and transfer it to the front of your shoulders and chest. Many lightweight backpacks don’t have load lifter straps these days and they’re not really necessary if you’re carrying a light load.

TREKKING POLE & ICE AXE LOOPS – Trekking pole and ice axe loops are a nice touch. They make it easy to stow your sticks when you’re not using them. We find that we use ours quite often and many of the bags we recommend come with them built in.

About De Hua

De Hua is a former New Yorker who now lives at the beach. She received a double B.A. in International Relations and Marketing from The College of William & Mary and an M.A. in Interactive Journalism from American University. De Hua has been published in The Washington Post, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among others.How We Tested and Reviewed

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