Whether you’re setting off on an alpine climb, afternoon trail run, or extended thru hike, you need a pack to carry your outdoor gear and essentials while on the go.
Below you'll find our top picks for the best backpacks for hiking, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, trail running, and more, thanks to hundreds of independent reviews by real hikers, backpackers, alpinists, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
From field-tested ultralight packs to load haulers to kid carriers to hydration packs, our reviewers have shared their real-world experience to help you select an appropriate, dependable backpack for your next outdoor adventure. Find your pack. Pack your gear. Head out.
Sea to Summit
Priceless than $25
$25 - $49.99
$50 - $99.99
$100 - $199.99
$200 - $299.99
$300 - $399.99
$400 - $499.99
$500 and above
Recent Backpack Reviews
JanSport Katahdin 70L
After purchasing this pack in the spring, I finally put it to use on the AT the first weekend of June. The pack performed admirably carrying all the gear needed for a weekend trek. I am a large hiker at 6'4", 210 pounds, and I appreciated the adjustable shoulder straps. I was able to carry most of the weight on my hips and legs. The mesh pockets on the outside of the pack kept snacks, trail maps, lights and cameras readily available. The top pouch was also convenient for easy access. Given that… Full review
Good entry-level pack-frame carry-all. Detachable stowage for carrying most types of packbags (and assorted cargo.) Expandable frame for fitting a wide range of sizes., plus flexible frame to flex with torso while hiking. Lightweight, affordable, versatile. I am the inventor of Eco-Pack1, and the founder of onecoolbackpack.com. I have strived to produce an entry-level backpack which fills an unmet need in the market. My design is intentionally basic, versatile and adaptable. It is intended to be… Full review
Osprey Aether 70
Bullet proof. I have the 2012 model with over 3,000 miles of hard back country California. The custom fit is excellent. I carry over 40 lbs most of the time. The fit is perfect. Take your time in the store. A total custom fit can be had if you take your time. The belt is heavy duty, perfect moulded fit. I have been on mining excursions where I have walked along the Feather River for three weeks and lived out of this pack and carried 65 lbs the whole trip. I have thousands of miles on this pack (2012… Full review
Lowe Alpine Vision 40
Excellent lightweight pack that is versatile for many conditions. I've had this pack for over 12 years now and use the heck out of it. I actually use this a lightweight multi-night pack, but when doing so I typically have to strap things like my sleeping bag on the outside. I've added a few more external straps to help add items and I've sewed in a little nylon hook for my water bladder in the back storage. This bag is indestructible. Still to this day I have no tears (and I really pull down… Full review
Gregory Deva 85
Very comfortable pack that can carry a heavier load and fit smaller (petite) lady hikers (xs size). As a petite (5'2") hiker, I was having a tough time finding a pack that fit comfortably. Tried men's small, but the fit was wrong. I needed a pack to carry lots of gear up Mt. Rainier and extended hikes and this pack sealed the deal. It fit my short torso comfortably, like a glove (xs frame option). First, it is a little heavier than most packs due to padding on the waist, back, and shoulders, but… Full review
Osprey Aether 70
Great pack for larger loads. I received this pack as a gift for Christmas, and now that the weather has been warmer I have been able to put it to good use. After I received the pack I returned to the store it was purchased from (EMS) to make sure that it was the correct size for me. Luckily the size matched my torso length and the hip belt was also the perfect size (there is the ability to switch out the hip belt, and shoulder harness to create a customized fit). In addition to having the… Full review
Lowe Alpine Ophir
I have had mine for more than 8 years, taking on many camping trips, backpacking, as well as several canoeing trips. iIt has lasted me the entire duration of my time in the scouting movement. This bag was easy to use, as well as had a very good back comforter. Full review
Pacific Outdoor Equipment Gobi 60
I've used this pack on numerous canyoneering trips and two trips down the Colorado River thru the Grand Canyon. It's stlll like new with some wear in the form of scuffs. Excellent well made product! Very well made pack, good workmanship throughout. I would recommend this pack to a serious outdoorsman. Great for canyoneering, whitewater, hiking in wet conditions etc. Had it for years and beat it up and it's still going strong without one issue! Full review
Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus FS
My first frameless pack. I chose wisely. This is the first frameless pack I've owned. My older pack is a Kelty Coyote 80L, which works well enough, but is 4.5 pounds heavier than the Exodus empty. 4.5 pounds off my back without even having anything in it. I've had it for a year now and after ~400 miles of hiking (SHT mostly) the only damage is one small hole in a mesh pocket, which I probably could've prevented. I went with MLD based on a lot of other good reviews and the fact that they do custom… Full review
How to Choose a Backpack
Like most outdoor gear, choosing the right backpack depends on how you plan to use it and selecting one that fits you, your needs, your budget, and your gear.
Capacity (or How Big?)
Consider the following questions to help determine capacity, or how big of a pack you really need.
- How long are you heading out for: a day, an overnight, a week?
- What's your outdoor style? Are you a minimalist, or deeply attached to creature comforts, or somewhere in between?
- How much and what gear will you bring for specific trips and activities? Don't forget group gear and seasonal items (for example: winter gear will take up more room).
Obviously you need a backpack that fits all your gear. If possible, lay it all out, including food and water, and be honest about what you'll need to fit in your pack.
Backpack sizing varies between individuals and manufacturers, but the following ranges are a basic starting point:
- Day Pack:
less than 2,000 cubic inches
up to 30 liters
2,000 - 2,999 cubic inches
- Weekend and Multi-Day:
3,000 - 4,499 cubic inches
- Week-Long and Expedition:
4,500+ cubic inches
74 liters and up
Pack Tip: Don't buy a backpack bigger than you need. You'll be tempted to fill it and carry more than necessary, or you'll end up with an annoying floppy, half-filled pack.
Fit (Is It Comfy?)
Types of Backpacks
Are designed for done-in-a-day hikes, runs, skis, and (for some minimalists) the occasional overnight. Daypacks may be frameless rucksacks or incorporate a stiff frame sheet or metal stay for support.
Internal Frame Backpacks
Available as weekend, multi-day, and expedition-sized backpacks, internal frames are popular for their adjustability, ease of movement, and balance.
External Frame Backpacks
External frames are also available in sizes suitable for a weekend overnight to a winter camping expedition. More rigid than internal packs, externals typically carry heavy loads well.
Designed for active, endurance pursuits, hydration packs feature space for a hydration reservoir and tube for drinking on the go. Some also have space to carry gear.
Also known as lumbar packs, fanny packs, and hip packs, these small packs allow you to carry a few essentials on short outings, such as gel flasks on a run or a camera on a short hike.
There's no need to leave Junior behind when you hit the trail. Just load him or her into a kid carrier and head on out.
Font packs allow you to carry gear that you want to access immediately on your chest.
Nothing beats the expertise of a knowledgeable pack fitter. Find one at your local outdoor retailer. In the meantime, here are some additional tips to help you choose a backpack that fits you well.
Size a backpack to your torso length. Don't assume you need the tall (or the regular or the short) model based on your height. The sizes of different manufacturers' frames may correspond to different torso lengths. Check each pack's technical specifications.
To find your torso length, have someone measure from the iliac crest at the top of your hipbone to the prominent bone at the base of your neck (the seventh cervical vertebrae). (See how to properly fit a backpack in this instructional video.)
Many pack manufacturers produce women-specific or short torso versions. Women, kids, and others with short torsos can consider backpacks sized for them. On average, these fit the average woman better.
Pack Tip: Don't get stuck on a pack's gender though. Buy the one that fits you best.
Straps and Padding
Shoulder straps, which control the fit of the suspension system, should be well padded and adjustable.
An adjustable sternum strap, which connects the shoulder straps, helps bring the load weight forward and off your shoulders.
Since it supports your pack's weight, make sure the hipbelt provides adequate padding. Some pack makers offer interchangeable hipbelts in different styles and in sizes for both men and women for a better individual fit.
Fitting your gear in the pack is one thing. Making sure it rides comfortably is another. What's the typical weight of your gear? Check that it matches the manufacturer's recommendation, particularly if you're opting for an ultralight pack.
During a fitting, load the pack with weight to see how well it carries. Walk around with the loaded pack, practice taking it on and off, move around, and climb up and down stairs and slopes.
How well is the pack's load distributed? Does it remain comfortable over its carrying capacity and intended uses? Does it feel stable?
Features & Organization
Consider the pack's organization. Is equipment stowed securely? Is it easy to access? Intuitive?
If you'll be carrying any specialty gear, such as ice axes, snowshoes, skis, or a snowboard, look for a pack with features or accessories designed to hold those items, rather than trying to jury-rig them on later.
Depending on your different activities you may need more than one backpack, perhaps a large internal frame pack for multi-day backpacking trips and a small daypack for day hikes.
Find the best pack for you and your activities and you'll be ready to hit the trail.