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
Great backpack. Lightweight and comfortable. Great backpack, use the size S and amber orange color. Live in Indonesia that has a lot of humid and wet tropical mountain. Feel comfort if your torso is match with the size of the backpack. Used this pack at Indonesia's mountain (mt. Sindoro) when rainy season and this pack performed well, hard rain comes when i walked down the mountain and i forgot to bring rain cover but my stuff inside still dry. Full review
Gossamer Gear G4
Ultralight, simple, effective, comfortable, proven over many years. I've used my first and only G4 for almost a decade on many short ultralight and 'Boy Scout' trips. It's never failed me. Full review
Arc'teryx Axios 50
Light & Fast pack with fine balance between BPL and comfortable. Have used this pack for 2 years, especially summer season. Harness and back panel is really cool and keeps you dry. And light, not super light, and comfortable in low weight. Only problem is pain of shoulder, when load is over 15kg. Full review
Travelon Clear View Waterproof Pouch
It ruined my phone: DO NOT PURCHASE THIS CASE I used it twice and it worked okay. It wasn't easy to use the phone like they claim it is. The third time I used it I sealed it exactly how you're supposed to and noticed water was getting on my phone. I think it was condensation being that the phone is electronic and it gets hot. If you're going to use this around water you shouldn't. You need to get one of the hard huge cases because this pouch is so thin I didn't even think about it. The design is… Full review
Arc'teryx Bora 80
In this world of ultralight BPing gear is there still a place for this 7-lb beast? Answer, "Oh hell yeah!" I bought this pack when they were still made in Canada. It is not made of the lighter waterproof materials that I've read about in some reviews. So what? That's why they make dry bags and pack covers. The benefits of the older Bora 80s is they are virtually indestructible. Let me put it to you like this and I'll let you ponder the implications of having something that weighs a couple of pounds… Full review
Arc'teryx Bora 95
Great large capacity pack that is excellent in cold wet/snowy weather. I've put this pack through some interesting situations. Once, I wanted to camp out on an island on a river so I threw the full pack on an inner tube and swam across the river to the island. Along the way the pack was about 1/4 submerged. When I unpacked, everything was dry. Another time I brought the pack up a frozen river with a bunch of small, frozen-over cascades. On the way out, I rode the pack down the iced river on a… Full review
Mammut Lithium Z 8 Pack
Nice little daypack for fast & light endeavors. This is a nice little daypack for your fast and light adventures; nice, but not perfect I've never owned a Mammut pack and this little pack caught my eye with fast and light day trips in my mind. It's light (just under 16 oz on my scale), but not so overly light it's uncomfortable to carry. The materials and construction also add to the weight, but add to its durability — you won't have to baby this pack. The 8 liter volume is just about… Full review
Lowe Alpine Morning Star 75L+
Large single compartment, no frills, no extras, water resistant pack. Does the job well but offers little in access points. Fit: Fits well and fits a variety of sizes. I've lent the pack to others over the past several years and everyone has said that it was a good ride. Comfort: I find the pack is very comfortable. The hip and shoulder straps don't look like much but they have a pretty firm closed cell foam core that works pretty well. Capacity: This pack holds a surprising amount. It expands… Full review
Osprey Crescent 85
Great pack for extended trips. Places majority of weight on the hips. Very comfortable and very durable. It is my current go to pack. Fit: Form fitted foam for the hips. Shoulder straps are very comfortable. I bought the pack used and did not get it re-fitted but the pack is still fantastic. I think the pack distributes a bit too much to the hips and my hips were sore for the first two days of a week-long trip. If I get the hips re-molded, I think it will solve the problem. Comfort: Minus 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.