Open main menu

Beginner looking for a budget friendly backpack.

My girlfriend and I have been invited to hike isle royal this coming summer and are looking to purchase some new equipment, starting with backpacks. We’re looking for something relatively comfortable and durable in the $100 each range. I know that won’t get us top of the line gear, but any recommendations would be appreciated.

1) I think you will be hard pressed to find decent quality at that price point.

2) Get your pack last, not first. It has to be the right size for everything you're carrying.

3) You've been you're going with others? Will everyone (including the two of you) need to carry everything each of you need, or will any of the equipment be shared and who will carry what? These are important considerations for determining what you need to carry.

3) Pack is all about fit. A particular brand and model that works well for me could be terrible for you, or vice versa. Go to a place like REI for an hour or two and have them fit you and try on several packs. Load them with weight and wear them around the store a while to get a feel for how they fit. 

After many questions along this line, the advice you get here can be summarized like this: 

1.  First put together the gear you will need for the trip.  Think this out carefully, and leave as much as you can behind.  Carrying dead weight is no fun anywhere. 

2.  Start looking at packs that are just large enough to carry the gear you have selected.  If you buy a larger pack, you will convince yourself to take more stuff you don't need.  See above. 

3.  Buy the pack in that size range that fits you the best--not the one recommended by some expert, or a bunch of people on the internet.  If it fits you, you will enjoy hiking in it. If it doesn't fit you, even if it's a "great pack" you will come to hate hiking in it. 

4.  Come back here and thank us for the advice 

Ha!  JR--we posted roughly the same thing at the same time. 

Next time tell me you are at work on it---and I'll let it go! 

You can buy quality external frame packs used on the internet all day long for $30.  I always wanted a Kelty tioga and finally got one. 

That does make sense. What kind of gear would you guys recommend starting with then? I’ll probably go to a store and get fitted then see what’s available online.

Well, you gear depends on where you are going, and when.  You'll probably need a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a cook kit.  Plus a first aid kid and a few extra clothes.  And the ten basics for every hike:  from food and water to maps, a compass, rain gear, etc. 

There is a nice list on our website:

Isle Royale is a fabulous destination and great for hiking,  Are you planning day hikes or overnighters? I am pretty sure you can do IR from one end to the other is no more than three days (with accommodations at each end).  If you have no suitable gear, I would recommend renting or borrowing, rather  than outright purchase for most items.  And think about how you will use the gear in the future....A well fitted pack, suitable for the load you will carry, is extremely critical.  Be sure your footgear i well broken in and comfortable.

I worked at Isle Royale for three fabulous weeks investigating shipwrecks for the NPS.  A fabulous location, wild, remote, and extremely well watered.  I have always wanted to return and hike the island, but never made it.


I have never made it to Isle Royale, but have always wanted to go.  The interaction between wolves and moose has always been a big deal. 

This week I met a vet from Michigan that spent many weeks working there.  Some great stories and close calls with moose. 

for Isle Royale you are going to need good rain gear and a pack cover.  I would bring at least one community tarp to cook under.  It is some wet country.  In summer the high temperatures average around 70 degrees with 2.5 inches of rain per month.  Bring a head net and mosquito netting. 

You dont need a pack cover use a compactor bag you can buy on amazon Put all your cloths and gear in your pack.Put the compactor bag in your pack first when you start packing your pack this will keep your pack dry...Pack cover really dont do much when it rains but gather more water,,,Compactor bags or pack liners actually do more good,,,,

I use plastic trash bags most places to keep packs dry  I will never go anywhere like Alaska or Isle Royale without a quality form fitting pack cover made for the purpose. 

Your actually on the right site to get a good quality pack advise through peoples reviews.Get fitted then look online You might save some money...

Look at used gear sites for deals. I sold mu old but very good Dana Designs Terraplane pack for $100. plus shipping and it went fast.

Otherwise I'd recommend getting an REI pack. Noe cheap but best-for-the-money. 

Absolutely all REI brand gear is very well made. I've owned two of their UL packs and now own two REI insulated mattresses, a few fanny packs and some clothes like an eVent parka. Great stuff.

Eric B.


May 28, 2022
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply