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
Deuter Pace 36
The Pace 36 is a weight-shaving daypack with a very light frame and wide mesh hip belt. I applaud Deuter for figuring out how to make a bag this light that is also quite comfortable. The pockets and features are things people can actually use; I would take this along as a winter day/summit bag. The Pace 36 can carry a surprising amount of weight comfortably, but it would not be my choice for consistently carrying more than 30 pounds on a regular basis. The simplicity that helps make this so easy… Full review
I am a member of Team RailRiders. I recently put into use the RailRiders Journey overnight pack. Now upfront I have access to lots and lots of packs that I have gathered over my twenty plus years of exploration. I was also quite skeptical as to whether or not the RailRiders brand who are most noted for being "the toughest clothes on the planet" could deliver an overnight pack. I am happy to report that the pack far exceeded my expectations. I do lots of overnight trips for speaking engagements that… Full review
Lowe Alpine Netherworld 90
I've had this pack since the early '90s and it has served me well. I ended up getting Deuter's Act Lite 65+10 and shaved off about 3 pounds but that pack is already worn through in a few places. I have used the Lowe in the Sierras with 45-50 pounds and in the snow with snow shoes and it seems indestructible. The fit was adjustable with the help of the store personnel. The volume was wonderful. The separate compartment on the bottom served as another storage area without having to go into the main… Full review
Osprey Tempest 30
Comfy, light day pack with all the features I could want. I just got this day pack after owning the Osprey Ariel 55 for ten years and loving it. I wanted a smaller day pack with the same wonderful women's shoulder harness. This little pack does not disappoint. It is just as comfortable and adjustable as the larger pack and carries more than you would think. Fit: Fits great. Designed for women's shoulders. I have a long torso and I like that the length can be adjusted easily with the Velcro inside… Full review
Osprey Ariel 55
Great pack, super comfortable, rugged. I have used this pack since 2003 on the Long Trail for overnight hikes of 2-4 days, carrying 25-32 lbs. It will carry more but I try to limit the weight. Fit: This pack fits great. It is adjustable so many ways that despite layering on and off as I go. I can still feel comfortable with a pull or release on various straps. The women's shoulder harness is very well padded, but not bulky. Very comfortable, great range of motion for my arms with the pack on. Comfort:… Full review
Eberlestock FAC Track
One of my favorite backpacks. Check out the review on Youtube. Nice for outdoor and military. Have fun. Here you can watch the review. Have fun. Full review
Arc'teryx LEAF Khard 45
One of my favorite backpacks. Check out the review on Youtube. Have fun. Here you can watch the review. Have fun. Full review
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry
This backpack wasn't bad. It wasn't my favourite, but I also didn't hate it either. Great pack for wet hiking conditions, a winter snowshoe hike, or an all weather commuter. As I mentioned in the summary, I don't dislike this pack. But I was also happy to return to use my old faithful. Though the waterproofing is great, and I wish my other pack was waterproof. I took this bag on two solid day hikes of waterfalling and a canoe trip and one thing is for sure — the main compartment is definitely… Full review
Deuter Futura 32
Great pack! Very comfortable and functional. My back stayed pretty dry, despite some warm conditions on long day hikes in the Grand Canyon, recently. Purchased this pack recently to use on some long day hikes, with a few overnighters on occasion. I just came back from a week of camping at the Grand Canyon, with some long day hikes taken every day. Each day I packed a full hydration bladder, a liter of Gatorade, snacks, first aid kit, and a light jacket. Everything fit perfectly, though when the… 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.