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
Alpine Luddites New Day Rising
Review from climbing gear reviews UK. These packs are custom made, in Colorado, to fit each customer. Review from climbing gear reviews UK: So it’s been two months since the Alpine Luddites custom pack arrived (read the article on the custom process here). It’s been the only pack I’ve used this winter so how has it fared? Pretty brilliantly to be honest! Perfect? Not quite, but it’s pretty close and I’ll explain a bit more about the pros and cons as I go on. Firstly lets establish some… Full review
Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 85
My favorite pack for heavy loads. I owned and enjoyed using a 2012 Baltoro 75 for four years before discovering the Nimbus Trace. The maple frame fits me better so I've used this pack since 2016. Carries heavy loads comfortably because frame fits my back perfectly! Definitely try it on for fit. Lots of straps to cinch down loads so nothing shifts. Cordura fabric holds up really well, virtually scratch/tear-proof. Lots of customizable options in shoulder strap and hip-belts sizes. I use large shoulder… Full review
Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Set
Water and stain resistance packing cubes keep items separate in your pack or suitcase. Cube fabric is translucent which makes it easy to locate your gear. I have found these Eagle Creek Pack-It cubes to be a great addition to my backpacking and travel kits. The Pack-It Specter Cube set pairs one small cube with two medium cubes, one of which has a plastic folding board to give it structure. These 30D Ripstop Nylon cubes are water and stain resistant and feather-light, 1.3oz for the small and 1.8oz… Full review
Osprey Stratos 36
A great pack for extended day trips or light overnight trips. One of the most comfortable packs I have worn. This is a very well made pack. Perfect size for short trips or day trips with gear for two people. As soon as I loaded it up and put it on the comfort surprised me. The only issue I was concerned with was no access to the main compartment besides the top, but then I found a zipper on the side. Osprey was way ahead of me on that one. It was stolen from my friends truck and I was ready to order… Full review
The North Face Men's Jester
This day pack has been reliable for the last four years. I can't think of a single negative issue I have had with it. It is an excellent day pack for hiking or travel. I have used this as my go-to day pack for a number of years. At first I questioned the price but managed to find it on sale. It can carry enough gear for most day trips while being comfortable to carry. The only negative issue I have found is that when fully packed the mesh water bottle holders are a bit tight for a 32 oz bottle. Full review
The North Face Men's Banchee 65
Very comfortable carry with efficient weight transfer to hip belt and an airy suspension, plus excellent load management and organization: as good as my old external frame pack in these areas while also being much lighter and having the control and balance of an internal frame pack. Model reviewed: 2016/2017 season Banchee 65 Men's L/XL Star rating: 4.5—personally, I'd probably give it a full 5, but there's always room for improvement, right? And who am I to be saying something is 5 star when… Full review
Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65+15
A solid, comfortable pack that is easy to adjust. I won this Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65+15 (lime green and black version) from a photo contest on Trailspace, way back in 2008. What an awesome prize! At the time, I had purchased just two years prior a Kelty 6700 (110 liters). So the size difference was pretty significant! The weight is pretty comparable to the Kelty, so I have always found myself reaching for the Kelty, which offers more pockets, more capacity, and about the same level of comfort… Full review
Kelty Red Cloud 6650
A comfortable pack that never seems to run out of space! I would recommend this pack (or one of its smaller sibling packs) for backpackers who prefer comfort over light weight (both in the pack itself and with the gear they take). The Kelty 6650 is a high-capacity loader and allows me to take anything and everything! I've been using it for more than 10 years now. While I don't generally have the opportunity to go on more than one backpacking trip per year, the trip is normally for 3-4 days, and… Full review
ALPS Mountaineering Cascade 4200
I loved this pack from the start. It is several years old now, but I've only used it 5 or 6 times for weekend trips. I have noticed the material beginning to come apart where the stitching is. This is taking place at nearly all stress points. Very disappointed with the build materials of this pack!!!! I would give it a 5 except for it falling apart. I would upload a photo if I had that option. 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.