What Are the Benefits of a Lid on a Backpack?

A lid on a backpack adds some extra features and functionality that you do not have in a zippered top access or in a roll-top access design.

The most important benefits of a lid on a backpack are the following:

  1. With a lid, a top access to a pack is fully protected.
  2. A lid can have one, two, or even three pockets.
  3. Many packs have lids with additional attachment loops, usually four of them.
  4. Some lids are floating type so this allows for carrying more stuff and keep it under the lid.
  5. There are lids that can be removed and they transform into a lumbar pack or even into a fully functional day pack.

What Are the Benefits of a Lid on a Backpack - top picture with the lid of a Mystery Ranch backpack.

So what exactly is a lid on a pack?

A lid is a top element of a pack, and its main role is to close the pack and to protect its top access from the rain.

In many packs the lid is sewn-in above the shoulder harness and it is therefore fixed in place. On the front of a pack, a lid can have one strap with a buckle, but in most packs you have them two.

But what is a backpack brain?

Actually this is the same. Some people use the term backpack brain to describe a lid. I am not sure who invented this phrase, but I do not think it makes much sense. In any case, this is just to know if you see it somewhere.

Lid pockets

As mentioned above, a backpack lid can have one zippered pocket on the top with an external access. In larger packs you can also have one zippered pocket underneath the lid, so this is accessible only when you release the front buckles of the lid.

I use this lower lid pocket to keep my wallet, I feel this is the safest place to have it with me, and it is also more protected from the rain than in some other pockets.

In some packs you can have several lid pockets, see this Osprey Aether Plus 70 Men’s Backpacking Backpack as a great example.

The lid of the Osprey Aether Plus 70 Men's Backpacking Backpack.
The lid of the Osprey Aether Plus 70 Men’s Backpacking Backpack.

All in all, these lid pockets are one of the main benefits of a lid. This allows you to stay organized, and this adds to the volume capacity of the pack.

Sometimes on some day tours, I use a zippered top access pack, like my Osprey Stratos for example, and every time I actually miss a lid with its pockets.

Attachment loops on a lid

The picture below is from my another text about loops on a backpack, and it shows one of my Deuter packs. So you see that it has these loops that can be used with some extra pieces of cords to attach some stuff.

Four attachment webbing loops on the lid.
Four attachment webbing loops on the lid.

I have used this in the past to attach a sleeping pad. But it may be annoying as bounces all the time and touches the head. In any case, this simple addition adds almost no extra weight, but it can considerably increase the effective volume of a backpack.

What is a floating lid on a backpack?

Together with pockets, this is the most important extra function of the lid. Here is how it works.

  • Such a lid comes with adjustable straps that you have close to load lifter straps, see the picture below from the Deuter Aircontact Core 70+10 pack. This means that you can raise the lid, and this is why it is called a floating lid.
Deuter Aircontact Core 70+10 pack.
Deuter Aircontact Core 70+10 pack.
  • You can simply put some extra equipment on the top of the pack, over its closed collar. This can be a rope as an example. Then you close the lid and lock its front buckles.
  • Sometimes there is an extra top strap over the collar, underneath the lid. So you can fix these extra items in place with such a strap, and you can close the lid as usual.
  • If such added stuff is bulky, you will adjust the position of the lid to accommodate for this extra stuff.
  • Some packs have an expandable collar. This is a feature very frequent in Deuter’s packs. In some of their packs this adds +15 liters of volume. It is then essential to have a floating lid and raise it. The pack will remain fully functional and completely protected from the top.

Removable lids that transform into a day pack or a lumbar pack

The best example of this type you have in several Osprey series like their Airscape UNLTD and also in Osprey Aether Plus packs. In these packs, the lid transforms into a true day pack, see the picture below.

This is the lid converted in a fully functional DayLid daypack.
This is the lid converted in a fully functional DayLid daypack.

One great example of a lid transformed into a daypack you can see in this video about a Mystery Ranch backpack, please have a look:

So these are the most important benefits of having a lid on a backpack. But is there any disadvantage of this design?

Well, the only thing that comes to my mind is the speed of access. In a top loading pack with a zippered access, you can indeed get faster to the stuff inside. Is this really so important? I do not think so.

How about weight? There is no doubt that a lid adds weight. But I already mentioned effective volume of a pack. So with a lid, you get extra real volume in its pockets, plus the options to attach things from outside.

All in all, I love to have such a classic lid, it adds a lot to functionality of a pack. Let me know how you see this issue, there is a comment box below.

You might want to check also my text about the Osprey Atmos and Aura AG LT backpacks and about accent and main fabric of a hiking pack. Thank you for reading and have a nice day.

Me on Jalovec.Hi, I am Jovo, the founder of this OutdoorsFAQs site and several other outdoor sites. I have been mountaineering for almost 40 years already, and I have created this site to use as a reference for various questions that I receive in my sites. Being a theoretical physicist by profession, I tend to base my answers on facts and on my own personal experience.

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