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
Osprey Atmos 65 AG
Most comfortable pack ever. I was a little leery about purchasing the Osprey AG 65 because it was so new to the market, but once I tried it on at the store I instantly knew that it was designed for me. I have a small case of arthritis in my lower back and my old pack was killing me. I was about to give up backpacking altogether until this product came to market. I have done four trips with it so far and the comfort is superb. The fit is exact with the easy adjustable features it has. The compartments… Full review
Osprey Aether 70
This pack is very durable, and can carry a large amount of gear/weight evenly, so it is very comfortable to haul over long distances. From multi-day rock climbing trips to backpacking in the wilderness, the storage on this pack has kept me organized, and held together while beating it up and abusing it. The fit of the pack is true to size. The chest strap sits in a great position, which also allows the waist belt to hold the weight like it is supposed to. This allows heavy loads to be carried comfortably… Full review
Osprey Kestrel 48
Multiple pockets to stow equipment. Lightweight. Outside water compartment. Excellent design. Lightweight. Full review
Osprey Aether 85
A great pack for any trip. The pack is big enough for 5-7 days and useful enough for 2-3 day trips. I have used this pack for three seasons and I have been nothing but pleased with it. I am also comforted by Osprey's Lifetime Warranty and have used it once on a previous pack and was impressed with the work they were able to do! This pack can easily let you carry 50 lbs, but why would you? It fits me like a glove and I have never had any rubs or bruises. It has a webbed outside pocket that keeps… Full review
This is a very lightweight pack, easily adjustable for either of the two us of, who are of very different sizes! Best used for short day hikes or winter activities in which a large capacity pack is not required. This little day pack weighs barely a pound, yet has served us well as a second pack for day hikes. It is very durable, comes in a variety of colors, and has nice features that project it a bit past other basic "sack" day packs I have had. The capacity is a bit small for me to use it as my… Full review
Ozark Trail Waterproof Cell Phone Dry Bag
Bought this product at a local WalMart and it was supposed to be waterproof...put the receipt inside and dunked it in a glass of water and it was NOT waterproof!!! Extremely disappointed in this product! I purchased this product because I am going on a cruise and there will be several excursions that I go on that are in the water. This product was supposed to be a cell phone dry bag that I was to carry a cell phone and money and important documents in to keep with me during these water events. I… Full review
The North Face Men's Recon
This is a versatile high quality pack that will take all the abuse you can throw at it. I don't have enough good things to say about this pack. I use this primarily for my everyday carry needs, but I do intend to test it out on the trail as well. Let's start with the quality of the pack. This pack is very solidly built. All of the zippers are very functional and solid. I wouldn't ask for better clips for the compression straps. They are sturdy and strong. The pack has a very solid back panel. Full review
Marmot Flux 24
This is a great pack for day hikes. Comfortable and durable with plenty of space. Like everything in life this pack has its pros and its cons. I find the back panel to be well designed. It provides nice breathable support that doesn't hinder the storage capacity of the pack. I wouldn't consider this an ultralight pack by any means, but, unlike my REI Flash 22 that I also use for day hikes, this pack has a nice organizational admin pocket and a floating pocket on the front. I use the admin pocket… Full review
REI Flash 22 Pack
If you want a lightweight quality day pack with plenty of room for a day hike, then this is your pack. I have had this pack for at least three years now. It's typically my go-to pack for day hikes. I am a bit of an over-preparer on a day hike and I always have enough room. Typically I carry a fleece, rain jacket, first aid kit, two 32 oz. water bottles, and a survival kit, baby wipes, sunscreen, etc. not to mention my wallet, keys and phone and I have plenty of room for everything. If there was… 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.