ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack on Kongma La Pass, Nepal

The 6 Best American Made Backpacks

By Matt Mullins   updated August 20, 2021

These cottage industry backpacks don’t peddle in gimmicks and BS marketing, they’re simply excellent backpacks. In fact I believe they’re among the best backpacks available and they’re crafted with pride in the USA by people who love and support the outdoors. My above photo shows one of my favorite ultralight packs while trekking over Kongma La Pass, Nepal, the ULA Ohm 2.0.

Why Trust Me?

I know how hard it is to find honest recommendations and to narrow down American made gear. This is why I started American Gear Guide. I take my recommendations seriously and only recommend the best of the best. Here are a few reasons to trust me.

  • I make independent recommendations based on personal experience (not paid to endorse a product).
  • As an avid outdoorsman that reviews gear for a living, I also actually own and use all American made gear.
  • My background includes 10 yrs working with the Forest Service as a Wildland Firefighter, Ranger, Wildlife Crew-leader, and Forest Ecologist. I certified as a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). I’ve backpacked extensively throughout the USA and 34 countries including in the Middle East, Central & South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. See About page for more.
  • I attend industry trade shows like Outdoor Retailer to stay informed on the latest innovative equipment.
  • This guide receives regular updates with the newest gear.
  • Continuous learning & self improvement are encouraged, so I welcome your criticism. If you think I missed anything then please leave some helpful suggestions.

Best USA Made Backpacks at a Glance

  1. HMG 3400 Southwest: Editor’s Choice Best Overall Ultralight Backpacking Pack
  2. ULA Ohm 2.0: Best Buy Ultralight Backpack
  3. CiloGear 45L WorkSack: Best Ultralight Climbing/Mountaineering Pack
  4. Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800: Best Hunting Backpack & All-around Pack for Heavy Loads
  5. Topo Designs Klettersack: Best Commuter Backpack
  6. Equinox Parula Ultralite: Best Collapsible Daypack

Top Recommended Backpacks

Best Buy Ultralight Backpack

ULA Ohm 2.0

Ultra Light Adventure’s well thought out design, comfortable suspension, durable materials, and ultra light weight make the Ohm 2.0 a favorite on long distance thru-hikes like the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, and earns it our Best Buy Award for backpacking. This is the most comfortable ultralight pack around and happens to be my personal go-to backpacking pack. It’s a very close contest for Editor’s Choice between the HMG 2400 and this pack. I ultimately believe the ULA is the better value but you will need to cover it up in wet weather unlike the HMG. I’ve happily carried my Ohm 2.0 all over the Rocky Mountains and deserts of home and also through Nepal and Thailand rain or shine. 

ULA provides a variety of sizes and colors (including multicam) to suit your preference. The Ohm 2.0 is the right size for me with my compact ultralight gear but may be on the small side for many people starting out with ultralight backpacking. Many folks may prefer the larger Circuit or Catalyst packs depending on the compactness of your gear.

Weight: 33.1 oz

Volume: 63 L

Last observed price: $259.99

More Info/Current Pricing at ULA

Editor's Choice Best Ultralight Backpacking Pack

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest

Hyperlite Mountain Gear packs are constructed of Dyneema (formerly known as cuben fiber) fabric. Along with fully taped seams, this translates into HMG packs being impressively weatherproof, more abrasion resistant, ultra lightweight, and earning our Editor’s Choice Award. HMG packs come in a wide variety of volumes and configurations, with some geared towards ultralight backpacking and some towards climbing with external attachment points for crampons, and ice axes. I find that their 3400 size with 55 L capacity hits the sweet spot for ultralight trips. For those wanting a different volume size, take a look at the smaller 2400 and larger 4400 packs. HMG packs are specialized ultralight minimalist packs using latest tech fabrics and with that comes a higher price tag.

Weight: 32 oz

Volume: 55 L internal, 9.8 L external

Last observed price: $355


More Info/Current Pricing at REI

More Info/Current Pricing at HMG

Best Climbing & Mountaineering Pack

CiloGear 45L WorkSack

The 45L WorkSack is an incredibly versatile and light mountaineering backpack which earns our Editors’ Choice Award for Climbing and Mountaineering. Check out my in depth review. The one downside, if you’re impatient, is the waiting list since it’s made to order from the Portland factory. I also like CiloGear’s lighter and smaller 30L Guide Service WorkSack for backcountry skiing and climbing. Of course they offer many other sizes, and also optional W/NWD Dyneema construction in their top of the line (priciest) packs.

Weight: 65 oz 

Volume: 45 L normal, 75 L expanded

Last observed price: $289


More Info/Current Pricing at Cilogear

Best Hunting Backpack

Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800

The K3 4800 is a no compromise titanium frame hunting pack capable of carrying the heaviest loads with the highest comfort possible. This is my go-to pack when loads get truly heavy like carrying out elk quarters. Excellent design makes this pack highly adjustable for fit and for carrying awkward loads. The bag removes from the frame to strap meat directly to the frame or can wedge in between the bag and frame. The lid or brain of the pack can also adjust to carry an unwieldy bull elk head. Outside straps comfortably carry a rifle or bow and long side pockets easily stash items like a spotting scope, tripod, or narrow tent. The main bag opens from the roll up top or from a convenient easy access face zipper. Tough 500d cordura fabric and quality stitching make this pack extremely durable. I expect this pack to remain with me for decades. See the in depth review.

Weight: 90 oz

Volume: 85.3 L

Last observed price: $649.99


More Info/Current Pricing at ExoMtnGear.com

Best Commuter Backpack

Topo Designs Klettersack

Do you just want a simple day pack that’s well made, affordable, and good looking both on hikes and in town? The Topo Designs Klettersack fulfills those needs. Importantly for your daily commute pack, the Klettersack includes a protective internal sleeve for your laptop and plenty of room for daily essentials. You can find these packs in a bright variety of colors and materials.

Weight: 30 oz

Volume: 25 L

Last observed price: $169 – 199


More Info/Current Pricing at Backcountry

More Info/Current Pricing at Moosejaw

Best Collapsible Daypack

Equinox Parula Ultralite

This ultralight daypack (7.4 oz) stuffs down to a tiny size making it a useful addition to your main backpacking pack. Sometimes you want to leave your bigger pack behind and summit or day-trip with a minimalist pack. I like that this super light pack still has padded shoulder straps, a hip belt, and water bottle pouches that fit 1L Nalgenes. I took the Parula along for the 3 Passes Everest Trek in Nepal, and loved having it for single day side trips. I also found this pack ideal for international travel while motorbiking around Thailand. I’d leave my bigger backpack (Ohm 2.0) in the hostel while I roamed around with just the Parula. The fabric is thin so don’t expect it to take abuse. I found my Parula backpack new on eBay for a discount.

Weight: 7.4 oz

Volume: 17.2 L

Last observed price: $55


More Info/Current Pricing at Equinox

Matt Mullins of American Gear Guide and Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800

Taking it in with my Exo Mtn Gear K3 4800.

Equinox Parula Backpack in Nepal

My Equinox Parula backpack on Gokyo Ri, Nepal.

My ULA Ohm 2.0 in Canyonlands National Park, UT.

Matt Mullins on Mt. Adams with CiloGear 45L

Me with the CiloGear 45L Worksack on Mt. Adams, WA.

Our Editor's Choice Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 & 4400 Southwest Backpacks on the Teton Crest Trail.

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