Kananaskis Backcountry Camping | Best Spots for Backpacking

Kananaskis backcountry camping

Kananaskis Country is a sublime section of Rocky Mountain wIlderness that provides some incredible opportunities for backcountry camping and overnight hiking.  Situated just south of Banff National Park, Kananaskis receives far fewer visitors than its world famous neighbor, but offers up an incredible array of jaw dropping peaks, lakes, and glaciers. For the intrepid backpacker, Kananaskis Country offers a myriad of established backcountry campsites that are accessible by trails appropriate for beginners and experts alike. The backcountry campsites in Kananaskis are well maintained and come equipped with pit toilets, tables for cooking/eating, defined tent pads, and bear caches making it easy for beginners to cut their teeth on overnight backpacking without the added stress of storing food, finding a level tent site, or digging a hole to poo đź’© . If you’re ready to adventure into some of the Canadian Rockies’ most spectacular scenery, let’s take a look at a few of the incredible backcountry camping spots in Kananaskis. 

First, let’s go over a few of the basics.

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Do you need a permit for backcountry camping in Kananaskis?

Yes permits are required for backcountry camping in Kananaskis and you must make a reservation on the Alberta Parks Reservation website up to 90 days in advance of your visit. All permits must be obtained in advance as there are no walk-up permits offered. 

Once you have a permit all sites/tent pants are first-come-first serve. You do not reserve the sites themselves.

Do you need a park pass for backcountry camping in Kananaskis?

You will need to purchase a Kananaskis Conservation Pass, if you park a vehicle during your backcountry camping adventure. The cost of this pass is as follows (2024):

    • Day pass – $15 (registers one vehicle)
    • Yearly pass – $90 (registers up to 2 vehicles)

How much does it cost to camp in the backcountry in Kananaskis?

Backcountry permits cost $12 per person, per night plus a non-refundable reservation fee of $12 per booking transaction. Up four permits can be reserved per transaction.

Can you have fires while backcountry camping in Kananaskis?

The majority of Kananaskis backcountry campsites allow fires, when local conditions permit (i.e. no fire bans). When you book your permit online, double check the individual site rules for guidance and make sure to check for any local restrictions before heading out. 

Can you random camp in Kananaskis?

Random camping is not permitted in any provincial parks and provincial recreation areas in Alberta. That means that you are not allowed to pick campsites at will in large swathes of Kananaskis country including Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. That said, there are several locations in Kananaskis where random camping is allowable. Consult this page for more details if you’re looking to camp off the beaten track. 

crossing a bridge near Turbine Canyon in Kananaskis Country

What gear should you pack for backpacking in Kananaskis?

Backpacking gear is a subjective subject and everyone has a different opinion on what works best for them. If you’re new to backpacking, try to borrow gear from a friend or rent to decide what works for you before making any major investments. You might gravitate towards minimalist ultralight gear or decide that certain creature comforts are literally worth their weight. With this in mind here are few of my recommendations:

Don’t Forget

Essential Items


Clothing and Accessories 

Additional Items

Luxury Items (very optional)

Upper Kananaskis Lake

Kananaskis Backcountry Camping Sites

To help you decide on where to go, I’ve sorted the Kananaskis Backcountry campsite sites by difficulty level. Hiking difficulty level is subjective and highly influenced by your fitness level, experience, and pack weight, so use your own judgment to decide which trips/sites may be best for you. If you’re new to backpacking or backcountry camping, start slow. You’re likely to overpack and you may forget a thing or two, fortunately the consequences of your mistakes are much lower when you have the option of hiking out easily if you’re in a bind. 

Beginner Friendly Kananaskis Backcountry Camping Spots

These sites are accessible via short trails with limited elevation gain and are the perfect introduction to overnight hiking.

Elbow Lake

Situated only 1.3 km (130 m elevation gain) from the trailhead on highway 40, Elbow lake is an excellent base camp site for backcountry exploration in Kananaskis. Set up camp for a few nights at one of the tent pads around this stunning emerald green lake, and set out on one of the many day hikes in this area including Rae Lake, Tombstone Mountain or Piper Pass. For hikers looking for longer adventures, it is possible to hike to Tombstone or access the Little Elbow – Big Elbow loop. . 

    • Number of sites: 15
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 1.3 KM from trailhead on Highway 40 (Kananaskis Trail)

Jewell Bay

Jewell Bay campground is a popular backcountry camping spot situated on a small bay within the Barrier Lake reservoir. This site is one of the most accessible backcountry sites in Kananaskis lying just inside park boundaries. Although Jewell Bay lacks the remote backcountry feel of some of the other sites on this list, it makes up for it by being accessible by foot, kayak or canoe. If you’re looking to hike in, it’s just over 4 km of flat walking from the Barrier Dam Day use area. Note: This site is presently closed for construction. 

    • Number of sites: 11
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 4 KM from Barrier Dam Day Use Area

Point Campground

The Point campground sits on the shores of Upper Kananaskis Lake with epic lakefront and mountain views. Situated a mere 3.5 KM from the interlakes parking lot with negligible elevation gain, this is one of the best spots for first time backpackers to try their hand at backcountry camping in Kananaskis. For those looking to try their hand at winter camping, this site is one of the few that is open year round. 

    • Number of sites: 20
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 3.5 KM North Interlakes 

Quaite Valley

This site often receives lackluster reviews for limited views and road noise, given its proximity to Highway 1. The most common route to access Quaite Valley is via a 4.5 km hike starting from the Heart Creek Parking Area (180 m elevation gain). You’ll spend the first 2.5 km parallelling Highway 1 before cutting up the Quaite Valley to this backcountry campground. The site can also be accessed via a longer hike from Barrier Lake. While the backcountry site is acceptable, the approach hike is one of the worst on this list. There are better options on this list, even if you’re just getting started with backpacking. 

    • Number of sites: 20
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 4.5 KM from Heart Creek Parking Area.


Intermediate Kananaskis Backcountry Camping Spots

Campsites in this section are accessed via  slightly longer hikes in and my be more appropriate for those that have a trip or two under their belt. 

Big Elbow

Nestled alongside the Elbow river, Big Elbow backcountry campground is an easy 8.5 KM hike (140m elevation gain) from the LIttle Elbow Campground at the end of Highway 66. The sites are well equipped with picnic tables and firepits (firewood provided). Big Elbow campground (along with Romulus and Tombstone)is a great option for those looking to make an extended backcountry trip out of the Big Elbow – Little Elbow Loop. An out and back trip to Big Elbow is a great choice for an introductory backpacking trip.

    • Number of sites: 10
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 8.5 KM from Little Elbow Campground
River near Forks Kananaskis Backcountry Camping


Forks campground is nestled alongside the Upper Kananaskis River and just before the junction where Three Isle Lake Trail and Maude Lawson (Great Divide Trail) meet. This gorgeous little campground provides a wonderful taste of Kananaskis backcountry camping with a low work-to-reward ratio. Lying only 7.7 relatively flat kilometers (only 160m elevation gain) from interlakes parking lot, Forks is an excellent alternative to the more frontcountry feel of the Point campground. An out-and-back trip here is a great option for anyone new to backpacking. 

    • Number of sites: 20
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 7.7 KM from North Interlakes. 

Lillian Lake

Typically accessed via the 6.1km Galatea Creek Trail, Lillian Lake is a beautiful mountain lake with 17 campsites. While the distance from highway 40 is very manageable the trail does gain nearly 500m of elevation making it better suited to individuals with some backpacking experience.  This site is a great option as a base camp to explore the nearby Galatea Lakes, hike to Lost Like or summit Mount Kidd South. 

    • Number of sites: 17
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 6.1 KM from Galatea Creek Trailhead on Highway 40.  

Mount Romulus

Situated on the banks of the Little Elbow River, Mount Romulus is the first backcountry campsite for those making a counter-clockwise circuit of the Little Elbow – Big Elbow loop.  It’s an easy 10.2km of walking along a double track/service road that follows alongside the little elbow river with limited (190 m) elevation gain. For those looking to make a multi-day trip, a stay at Mount Romulus can be combined with stops at either Tombstone or Big Elbow to close out the loop. 

    • Number of sites: 10
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 10.2 KM from Little Elbow Campground along Little Elbow Trail.  

Ribbon Falls

If you imagine falling asleep to the sound of roaring water, Ribbon Falls campground has your name written all over it. Many of the 10 sites here are within earshot of the incredible Ribbon Falls. To get here it’s an 8.8KM hike into the Ribbon Fall Campground that gains around 370m of elevation as it follows the Ribbon Creek drainage. 

    • Number of sites: 10
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 8.8 KM from Ribbon Creek Parking Area


Tombstone campground provides a convenient spot to camp for exploring the Tombstone lakes (2.5 KM one-way) or as a stopover when completing the Elbow loop. Typically accessed via the Elbow Lake Trailhead it’s a casual 7.5 km hike in with 170m of elevation gain to the campsite. The site provides an incredible work reward ratio with fantastic wide open views and the opportunity for a detour to Edworthy falls. For those with more time, it’s also possible to basecamp from Tombstone and make worthwhile day trips to Piper Pass or Rae Lakes. 

    • Number of sites: 11
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers  
    • Fires Permitted: No
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 7.5 km from Elbow Lake Trailhead
Kananaskis backcountry camping

Kananaskis Backcountry Camping Spots for Experienced Backpackers

These backcountry sites are accessed via lengthy hikes often with significant elevation gain and are recommended for backpackers with higher levels of experience. 

Aster Lake

Arguably one of the more challenging backcountry campsites to access in Kananaskis country, Aster lake is commonly used as basecamp site for multiple summit routes that start within striking distance of this subalpine camp.  Although the trail beta itself is not overwhelming (11 km with 700 m elevation gain), this hike is best suited to experienced backpackers as it traverses an unmaintained trail along several steep scree sections. 

    • Number of sites: 6
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: No
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 11 KM North Interlakes

Ribbon Lake

Ribbon Lake Campground lies less than 2 KM from Ribbon Falls, but requires a significant ascent of over 250 m that negotiates the Ribbon headwall with a series of chains and steel rungs. The Ribbon Lake campground is also accessible via a 10.8 km (870 m elevation gain) hike from the Galatea Day Use Area or via a 10.1 km hike from the Buller Mountain Day Use Area (670 m of elevation gain).

    • Number of sites: 20
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: Yes, but check for restrictions.
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 10.7 KM from Ribbon Creek Parking Area
Kananaskis Backcountry Camping at Three Isle Lake

Three Isle Lake

Three Isle Lake campground is a lakeside backcountry camp situated at over 2200m and approximately 2 KM from South Kananaskis Pass. This site is broken up into 2 distinct areas with 8 sites per section. The sites located to the south of Three Isle Creek offer lakeside camping options and the northern area is situated in the forest above Three Isle Lake. This is a popular campsite for backpackers looking to complete the Three Isle Lake to Turbine Canyon loop through Height of the Rockies Provincial Park, a great multi-day alternative to the Rockwall Trail. Three Isle Lake is 11km from the Interlakes Parking with 600m of elevation, of which over 350 meters of elevation is gained in the final 2km. Brace yourself for a bun burner… 

    • Number of sites: 16
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: No
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 11km Interlakes Parking Lot

Turbine Canyon

Situated in the forest to the North of Maude Brooke, Turbine Canyon is another popular site for backpackers looking to complete a loop over North and South Kananaskis pass.A journey to this backcountry campsite takes you up along the Great Divide Trail through alpine meadows and past lawson lake with views of the Haig Glacier to the North. Like it’s cousin Three Isle Lake to the South, the journey up to the campsite is no joke as it gains over 700m of elevation over the 15.4 km from the Interlakes Parking Lot. Turbine Canyon underwent an extensive renovation in 2022, basically ensuring you find a nice level tent pad. 

    • Number of sites: 15
    • Amenities: Pit Toilet and Bear Lockers 
    • Fires Permitted: No
    • Nearest trailhead distance: 15.4 km Interlakes Parking Lot 

Final Thoughts

Kananaskis country offers an incredible setting for all types of backcountry camping adventures with incredible variety for beginners and seasoned backpackers. As always feel free to drop me a line in the comments below if you have any questions or on this post. Happy trails friends! 

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Balian Beach | Ultimate Guide to Bali’s Hidden Paradise

hidden cove near Balian beach

Balian Beach doesn’t seem real. I thought all the crowd-free, beachfront paradises died a slow and painful death a long time ago. If 6 million people come annually to this tiny island to carve out their own slice of paradise what could possibly be spared from the blight of overtourism? 

The answer, I learned, was Balian Beach. A remote little beach village midway up the island’s west coast with the simple draw of rippable waves and relaxed vibes. 

Ok, it’s not quite the pristine, undeveloped white sand beach of the Bali of the 1950’s, but on one of the world’s most overtouristed islands this little beach town is about the closest thing you’ll find to paradise. This means, no touts, a few warungs, and a maximum of 2 instagram swings!

If this sounds like your style of paradise,  it’s time to read on and see if Balian Beach is  the place for you. However,  I’m warning you now,  the vast majority of you are likely to find Balian too sleepy, the restaurant selection too limited, and the entire place maybe just a little bit boring… However, for the select few that perk up with this disclaimer, Balian Beach might just be the closest thing you find to paradise on an island that too often resembles paradise lost. 

Let’s dive in! 

person walks along Balian Beach in Bali

How to get to Balian Beach?

Balian Beach lies on the west coast of Bali, just off the busy road connecting southern Bali with the ferry to Java.  Likely the least pleasant part of your journey will be enduring the nail biting experience of sharing the road with the plethora of large trucks making the long trek from/to Jakarta. Timing to get here (like many spots on the island) is very traffic dependent, but count on a minimum of: 

Ubud to Balian Beach – 2 hours

Ngurah Rai Airport to Balian – 2 hours

Canggu to Balian Beach – 1 ÂĽ hours

Grab is your best bet for a quick and easy ride from virtually anywhere on the Island. Even if you have a driver you’ve been using on your trip, check with grab for a quote when planning your trip to Balian Beach to make sure your price is on point. 

If you’re very comfortable driving yourself, take your scooter/motorbike, but as mentioned above this road is likely to be one of the more sketchy ones you’ve been on in Bali. Don’t forget your International drivers permit, as tourists without these are frequently easy pickings for police. 

Where should you stay at Balian Beach?

Balian beach is a small village, not flush with accommodation. There is a collection of homestays, a few small hotels, and some rental villas available. 

Your best bet is to stay at Yama Balian. This gorgeous mini-resort offers a small number of impeccably designed bungalows nestled right along the peaceful Balian river and is an easy five-minute walk to the beach. There is on-site yoga and a delicious little restaurant that offers service to your bungalow balcony. This was one of our best stays in all of Bali! 

If you’re looking for a larger, villa style place to stay check out this epic spot on VRBO , which is better  suited to families and groups. 

If you’re looking for something more economical, there are also several homestays and basic hotels in the area with Istana Balian earning the best reviews. 

hidden cove near Balian beach
Incredible hidden cove and beach!

What are the best things to do at Balian Beach?

If you’re expecting a plethora of activities, restaurants, or nightlife, stop reading this post. This little village is far off the Banana Pancake Trail. If you’re someone who gets bored easily (especially non-surfers), Balian Beach is also not the place for you. 

If you don’t mind shifting down a gear, these are the best things to do in Balian Beach :


Balian Beach is best known as a surf destination and the vast majority of visitors come here for waves. Balian is a beach/rock break that is formed by the Balian River draining into the ocean and can serve up some epic surf. According to Surfline Balian is described as “not the ultra-perfect green barrels that most surfers come to Bali for, Balian is still a swell magnet, and a place that will have decent surf when everywhere else is flat. ”

Can beginners surf at Balian Beach?

While it is possible for beginners to surf at Balian Beach, it doesn’t have the draw for beginners that Kuta or Canggu do. At Balian, the bottom is rocky and you won’t find myriad board rentals spread out along the beach. That said, if you’re eager to learn, it’s definitely possible to do so here. The lone board board repairman, Roni (see below), offers lessons as well as rentals. How’s that for options! 

The lineup at Balian Beach is well defined, so make sure you brush up on your surf etiquette and know your place if you’re still leveling up from kook status. 

Where to rent a surfboard at Balian Beach?

There are a couple places to rent surfboards in Balian Beach: 

Roni Surf Board – Roni offers a limited selection of rentals, board repair, and guiding/lessons. The one stop shop in Balian, located essentially in the front yard of Roni’s house…. 🤙 

Rama Balian Surf & Coffee Shop – Grab a surfboard and a coffee. This new spot opened after my most recent visit, but has earned great reviews for both their board rentals and coffee.

Can I take surf lessons at Balian Beach?

Yes, Roni, from Roni’s Surf Board the one stop shop for everything surf related in Balian, he also offers lessons to new surfers. 

Are there sharks at Balian Beach?

Balian Beach is one of few places on Bali that has a sharky history.  While these incidents are immeasurably rare, Balian does have a record of a couple bull shark attacks on surfers.  The Balian River empties right by the beach, creating an excellent surf break and often very murky water. During periods of heavy rainfall the water gets even murkier, which has led to a couple incidents of what was likely mistaken identity. During my time in Balian, I spoke with a couple locals wh theorized that heavy rains pushes an abundance of smaller fish down river, which subsequently draws in the sharks in to feed. Following this theory, they proceeded to tell me that they avoid surfing here following heavy rains,  not due to concern for bull sharks, but due to the immense amount of pollution that is washed down the Balian river.  

On the note of Sharks, don't forget this!

Did all this shark talk get you scared?  You should be, but not of sharks! You should be scared of forgetting proper travel insurance. Between surfing or driving on dangerous roads, medical emergencies happen and you need to be prepared! A friend of our was medevaced to Bangkok from Cambodia and spent several weeks in the hospital there to the tune of $750,000. Fortunately, she had travel insurance!

Check out World Nomads*  for a quote. Their coverage includes medical emergencies, luggage & gear and trip cancellation.  Hopefully, you never need to make a claim, but if you do you’ll be beyond happy you were prepared.

*We receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.

Deserted Beach in Bali

Discover miles of deserted beaches

Aside from surfing, the Balian area treats visitors to a couple of Bali’s most unspoiled beaches. If you’re lucky and don’t mind a bit of an adventure, you may even find yourself with miles of beach entirely to yourself. 

Balian Beach

Balian beach itself is a nice stretch of black sand beach enclosed by cliffs farther to the north. The beach is seldom busy and is a nice spot to relax while watching the surfers catch a few waves. It’s the easiest access from the little village of Balian and will likely be your go to if your looking for some quality beach time without too much of an adventure. 

Mejan Beach

North of Balian beach lies one of Bali’s most remarkable sights, miles upon miles of untouched beach. No development, no touts, and on many days, no people. To find this remarkable spot head north and up the hill, passing Deki’s warung and towards the Gajah Mina Beach resort. From here, you’ll follow the coastline on a bit of a hike through several patches of forest until reaching the road from Jalan Batu Mejan and the entrance to this sublime stretch of sand. The beach stretches on for miles without a restaurant, hotel, or tourist in sight. Whether you’re planning an epic run on the beach or looking to lay out for hours with your favorite book, this is likely the closest thing you’ll find to paradise on modern Bali. 

Check out the viewpoint, cove, and bat caves

North of Balian Beach towards the Secret Bay restaurant and Gajah Mina Beach Resort lies a beautiful cove that’s great to explore at low tide. After descending a set of slippery stairs, you’ll find yourself surrounded by incredible cliffs on all sides. This is a gorgeous spot and worth the short walk from Balian Beach. Along the northern set of cliffs lies a series of caves that are bursting with bats. If your eyes don’t notice them, your nose certainly will, the scent of bat guano can be completely overpowering here. 

When you’re done checking out the cove make your way safely back up the slippery stairs and check out the viewpoint from the cliffs above. The view up here is breathtaking, but once again, so is the smell of Bat guano. The viewpoint, cove and caves are a convenient stop on the way to check out Mejan Beach. 


Aside from surfing and beaching, there isn’t a ton to do in Balian beach. This makes it a perfect place to kick back and relax. Ride some morning waves, settle into a book, sleep the afternoon away at the beach, have a leisurely riverside lunch, or start writing that novel you haven’t gotten around to, whatever relaxation looks like Balian is the place for it. The great thing about Balian is its ultra laid back pace. A younger version of me would have found a place like Balian boring AF, but now the pace here is sublime. 

Nice sunset view from Deki's Warung

Catch the sunset and watch the rippers from Deki’s Warung

Deki’s Warung is a no frills little warung situated just up the hill to the north of the entrance to Balian Beach, that serves up a few traditional eats and cold Bintang. The food is ok, but it’s a stunning view of the surf and sunset that you come here for. Grab a cold brew and watch the sun go down for an epic way to wind down everyday. 

Practice your yoga

Wow! We almost made it through an entire post about Bali post without mentioning the Y word. For better or for worse, Yoga is now synonymous with Bali and Balian beach is no exception!  Sure, it’s not drowning in studios like Ubud, but if you’re looking to work on your practice Balian beach has several great options. 

Yoga at Yama Balian

The charming hotel and my favorite place to stay in Balian Beach, Yama Balian offers daily yoga classes in their cozy riverside shala. This intimate yoga experience is a wonderful way to deepen your practice next to the healing  waters of the Balian river.

Balian Spirit Yoga

Balian Spirit Yoga offers daily classes at 8:30am and 4pm and the teacher Nicky receives glowing reviews. He also offers annual 5-day retreats for those looking to explore their practice further. 

Balian Yoga Retreats

Balian Yoga Retreats offers all inclusive retreats that include yoga, movement and ayurvedic medicine. Retreats are offered in multiple durations up to a week long.

Where to eat at Balian Beach?

Balian Beach isn’t brimming with cushy restaurants, but there are several great spots with qualify offerings of western classics and traditional balinese food. If you’re staying at Balian for more than a day, you’ll likely become a regular at all of them. 

Balian Beach Main Street with Tekor Bali on the left and Casa Balian on the right.

Tekor Bali

Tekor Bali is your stop for traditional Balinese food. The staff at Tekor are wonderful and the flavors don’t disappoint. This is best bang for your buck in Balian.  My wife was thrilled when I treated her to $16USD birthday meal here. Lucky girl! 

Casa Balian Cafe

Directly across from Tekor, Casa Balian Cafe serves up great dishes including the western favorites (pizza and burgers), smoothie bowls, and all the Balinese classics. They also offer a choice of Bali’s craft beers if your palette is getting bored of Bintang.

Pondok Pitaya

In my experience, beachside dining often equates to the worst food. When you have a view, people will come regardless, so you can get away with worse food and service. Unfortunately, Pondok Pitaya lwas no exception to this rule. We went here for beachside appetizers once and never returned. If you’re looking for a nice spot to watch the sunset, head to Deki’s Warung instead.

Yama Balian

For the most romantic setting in Balian, head to the restaurant within the Yama Balian resort. Situated directly adjacent to the Balian river and hotel pool, this restaurant serves up a delicious assortment of fusion options with great plant-based choices as well.

Deki’s Warung

As mentioned prior, Deki’s is great no-frills spot for a sunset beer and some basic food.. 

Final Thoughts on Balian Beach

If you’re looking for a relaxing, low-key beach hideaway that harks back to a Bali of old, Balian beach might just be your perfect slice of paradise. Catch some waves, work on your yoga,  and find your own private peice of beach to waste the day away on. If this kind of spot sounds like a dream, you better hurry, change comes quickly in Bali, so savor this little slice of paradise while it lasts.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click one of the links and make a purchase we’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you. Just like the travel backpacks we build, we’re very particular . So any products or services we suggest, we test and use ourselves before making any recommendations or endorsements. 

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Man sits on waterfall near Kampot, Cambodia

20 Incredible Things To Do In Kampot

Kampot is one of Cambodia’s underrated gems with many incredible things to do. It offers crumbling colonial buildings, mouth-watering food choices, and beautiful river guesthouses worthy of any adventure fairytale.

Best Backpack for Peru | How to Pick a Backpack for Peru

Corillera Blanca mountains in Peru

Choosing the best backpack for Peru is a challenge. Peru’s incredible history and geopgraphic  diversity makes it a paradise for cultural exploration, hiking and trekking, and every kind of adventure tourism. This means you likely have a lot to pack. Should you pack a dedicated hiking backpack or would a more conventional travel backpack suffice? 

I distinctly remember the struggle of choosing a backpack for my 3 week trip through Peru. Since my first trip on the Banana Pancake Trail, I’d held steadfast to the belief that I could cram everything I needed into a 30L bag. Unfortunately, this task was now proving next to impossible. I had several multi-day treks planned and needed to fit hiking clothes, hiking boots and a sleeping bag into my pack.  No matter how hard I tried, my minimalist packing wasn’t working. Ultimately, I capitulated, shoved all my gear into a 60L hiking backpack, and became a true “backpacker” for the first time in my 27 years of travel.  Did I love it so much that I decided to buy a pair of elephant pants and grow dreadlocks? Not quite…in fact my choice of backpacks was the biggest mistake I made on what was otherwise an incredible trip.

If you’ve been struggling to decide which backpack is best for your trip to Peru. this was written just for you.   Whether you’re hiking the Inca Trail, spending a week in Cusco, or independently hiking in the Cordillera Blanca, this post will ensure you pick the best backpack for your trip to Peru.  So, let’s dive in! 

What backpack did I use for traveling in Peru?

I used a 60L Arc’teryx hiking backpack as my main bag on my 3 week adventure through Peru. I made the decision to take this bag as I needed to carry gear for multi-day hikes on the Inca Trail and the Santa Cruz Trail in addition to the usual travel wardrobe I’d wear during the rest of my time in Peru. 

Me hiking in the Rockies with the same Arc'teryx backpack I brought to Peru.

What worked about this backpack

It was comfortable to carry, ergonomic, and easily fit everything I needed to bring for these hikes and the rest of my trip. It’s a great bag for hiking, but maybe not as great for travel. 

What didn’t work

Organization was a nightmare with the top-loading structure. Every time I needed something it was inevitably in the  very bottom. This became even more frustrating when I needed to dump the contents of my backpack in the middle of a busy bus station or street corner to find something.  💩 

Ultimately, I didn’t even need it for hiking! It was too large to bring on my treks, as I had the luxury of a porter (Inca Trail) and a mule (Santa Cruz) to help carry my gear. On both treks I brought only a small daypack with room for a few layers, water and snacks and the rest was carried for me. The big bulky hiking backpack stayed behind at the hostel holding the rest of my luggage. 

Now that we’ve learnt from my mistakes let’s find out what’s best for you. 

On my treks in Peru, I carried a small daypack (see above) and left my big backpack behind. Thanks to the help of porters and donkeys.

How big of a backpack do you need for Peru and what style of pack is best?

Your backpack size and style should be dictated primarily by what you’re going to be doing in Peru. Are you planning to do a multi-day trek like the Inca Trail, Salkantay or Santa Cruz? If so, will you be bringing your own sleeping bag or substantial amounts of hiking gear? Will you be taking guided treks or hiking independently? Are you planning on sticking to the sites in Cusco or Arequipa with a day trip to Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley?

City exploration more your thing? A carry-on might be the choice for you!

A carry-on backpack

These backpacks are generally in the 30-45L range and designed as a one bag solution that is carry-on compliant. This category of backpack is typically built for shorter trips or minimalist travel. They’re often easy to pack with clamshell style openings, but may not have enough space for those with large gear requirements.

Choose a carry-on backpack for Peru if you fall in one of these categories:

    • Not planning any multi-day treks during your time in Peru and are a minimalist packer comfortable fitting everything in a carry-on size bag.
    • Planning multi-day treks, but renting all bulky gear (sleeping bag, sleeping mat etc.). You’re also comfortable wearing your hiking clothes and hiking footwear throughout your trip and are happy to wear your trail runners to explore Cusco or out to any Pisco bar (see minimalist packer above).  

Great choices in this category include the:  Cotopaxi Alpa or Patagonia Black Hole MLC

Santa Cruz Trek in Peru

A full-size travel backpack

Full size travel backpacks are a hybrid of hiking style backpacks and the more minimalist carry-on style. They range in size from around 55 to 70L, provide an elevated organizational experience, and offer more robust straps/suspension systems for carrying larger loads (compared to the carry-on size). These backpacks are typically built for long term travel or trips that have larger gear requirements. 

Choose a full-size travel backpack for Peru if you fall in of these categories:

    • You’re packing multiple pairs of shoes. You’re planning to bring hiking boots for your trek to Machu Picchu, sandals for the beach , and a pair of sneakers for nights out in Cusco. 
    • You’re not planning on trekking, but you need to bring a few more items than a carry-on can fit. 
    • You’re planning to do a multi-day trek like the Inca Trail and are packing a sleeping bag, sleeping mat and other hiking gear which you’ll need to carry throughout your travels in Peru. 
    • During any multi-day treks you plan on hiking with a day pack only and plan on hiring a porter or mule to carry your extra gear.

Great choices in this category include the: Khmer Explorer Travel Set or the Osprey Farpoint(Men) or Fairview (Women).

Donkey on the Santa Cruz Trek in Peru
Your choice of backpack may depend on whether you have a helping hand on your hikes, like this donkey on the Santa Cruz Trek.

A hiking/backpacking backpack

These backpacks are a great choice if your primary goal for your Peruvian trip is to hike until your legs give out. They’re purpose built for hiking and backpacking and designed to carry gear comfortably over long distances everyday. The biggest downside with using a hiking style backpack for your trip to Peru is their lack of easy access and packability. Expect to dump everything out to find the one item you need. These styles of backpacks also give off more of the traditional “backpacker look”, which may be aspirational to some or cringeworthy to others.

Choose a hiking style backpack for Peru, If you fall into one of these categories:

    • Plan to do a multi-day hike independently, without a tour company or with a guide only. (This isn’t an option for the Inca Trail, but many other treks in Peru can be done independently). 
    • You’re planning a trek(s) with an operator, but you plan on carrying the vast majority of gear on your own (sleeping bag, sleeping mat, all clothing). Maybe you’re saving money by negating the porter on the Inca Trail, or maybe you just want even more exercise…  

Great minimalist/ultralight choice in this category: Hyperlite Southwest

Great lightweight option in this category: Osprey Exos (men) or Eja (women)

Essential features should you look for when choosing the perfect backpack for Peru

Regardless of which type of backpack you choose for your trip there are a couple essential features you’ll want to have regardless.

Weather resistance

Peru’s climate is unmatched in diversity. From bone dry desert to rainforest to high alpine. Make sure your backpack is prepared for anything the environment throws at you and features some form of weatherproofing. 

Adjustable Shoulder Straps

Comfort is king, especially when you’re carrying everything on your back. Look for adjustable and well padded shoulder straps that can be tailored to fit your size of torso. 


No matter which type of backpack you’ve chosen, invest in quality. A great backpack can last you a lifetime and save you the major pain of a blown zipper mid-trip. Look for premium quality materials including high denier Nylon or Polyester and YKK zippers to ensure durability. 

Hip Belts with Pockets

For larger backpacks, hip belts are essential. They take a majority of the weight of your shoulders and help you carry heavy loads with ease. Many backpacks offer convenient and safe storage pockets built into the hip belt, perfect for stashing your phone. 

Any other things to look for when choosing the right pack?

Theft Resistance

Lockable zippers and hidden pockets can provide peace of mind during bus rides or when leaving your bag behind in hostels or during treks.   


Packability is underrated. A great backpack makes packing and unpacking easier, saving you time and stress. If you’ve ever rushed to pack for a flight, bus, or check-out time you know the value of having an easy to pack bag. If you’re using a hiking backpack, consider investing in packing cubes or stuff sacks to help overcome the limitations of a top loading backpack. They’re also convenient for storing things at your hotel/hostel if you intend to use your backpack on any treks. 

Laptop Sleeve

If you’re only carrying one bag and need to bring your laptop along, having a laptop sleeve may be something you consider in a backpack. That said, I personally prefer to carry a small daypack for my laptop or utilize a minimalist laptop pouch as opposed to having it built into my main backpack. I’m just not too crazy about having to unload the contents of my entire travel backpack, every time I want to carry my laptop to a coffee shop. I’d rather leave my main bag at the hotel and take a small pack or laptop pouch.

Porters on the Inca Trail
If you want to carry less or a daypack only, you have the option of hiring a porter on the Inca Trail.

Should you bring a daypack to Peru?

Yes. Whether you’re using a carry-on travel backpack, a full size travel backpack or a hiking backpack I strongly suggest bringing a small daypack for your trip to Peru. 

If you’re hiring a porter on hiking trips, your daypack will likely be sufficient to hold everything you need for the day on the trail (snacks, water, a couple layers) with the porter carrying your other items. This allows you to leave your bigger bulkier Travel backpack at the hostel with all your gear. 

If you’re not using it specifically for trekking, a daypack can be nice to have for carrying extra layers, jackets or water while exploring incredible cities like Cusco or Arequipa. 

For incredible flexibility and customization check out the Kiri Backpack.

Final Thoughts

That’s a wrap. Hopefully you’ve found these pointers helpful in your quest to find the best backpack for Peru. Drop me a line in the comments below if you have any questions or feedback on the post.

Happy adventuring! 

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