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
Overall, the pack is very comfortable. However, I am not sure the designers ever thought about anyone carrying more than 30 lbs in it or they would have NEVER made the hip belt pads lock in place with sub-standard hook-and-loop closure system. This failed on my 5th day wearing the pack, with only 40 lbs loaded in the pack. I had to shoulder 90% of the weight of my pack for a week after this, ruining my trip. I purchased this pack new and took it on a quick weekend trip with about 32 lbs in it, and… Full review
Ozark Trail 28L Atka
Handy in town on trails and for short hikes away from basecamp. It is an ultra lightweight daypack made from durable nylon fabric. Hydration-compatible, it is versatile and rugged. This backpack is ready for your next outdoor adventure. I bought this pack recently on a whim while shopping Walmart. I needed a day pack and didn't really have lots of time to search at REI for the various styles provided having only gone to one store. This daypack ended up being the cheapest after a quick perusal. Walmart… Full review
Gossamer Gear Mariposa Ultralight
Semi-ultralight pack with lots of pockets. First, I'm not going to give you the specs. If you're interested in the pack you probably know all that. Thus my story. Long long ago in a far off national park I had my ass leveled backpacking. I had been packing with some guys on our level southern trails and was carrying over 50 lbs for a weekend, not a problem. You ask why the weight? 8 lb packs, 8 lb tents, propane stoves, you get the picture. Then we hit the mountains, what hell it was. I'm sure some… Full review
Outdoor Products Vortex 8.0
Not for long term use. My husband uses this for taking his lunch and a few other things into the plant he works in. Before it was in use for a year, the middle zipper is broken and even after leaving voice messages and emails with the company, I have gotten no response to a warranty repair. The company has a lifetime warranty and does not seem to want to honor it. By the way, the middle zipper is the one he uses least. Full review
GoLite Peak Pack
Buy one (if you can). I got it used for $30. This is the pack I take with me on short hikes. It is easy to convert so I mostly use this as a daypack, would not work for longer trips but works for an overnight camping. No problem on fishing trips with the family, takes all the gear without a problem. I got it used so I have no idea how much it had been used before I got it. I only had it for a few months but I hike quite a bit so it has seen some use. It seems durable. Backing a frameless pack… Full review
The North Face Terra 65
Just a great back. It is a simple and comfortable. Just the perfect size for a week or two of the trail. I got it as a reserve pack, but I ended up using it more that my main pack. Well organized Simple "not a lot of stuff that can go wrong" Easy to adjust Comfortable. I had issues with shoulder straps but after a little getting used to and modification it works great. It is a cheap pack that might surprise you. Full review
Arc'teryx Bora 95
A tough, durable backpack designed to last forever! You can fit a vast volume of things in this backpack, so it's perfect for longer trips, i.e. not for ultralight backpacking. Conditions: I'm living in Ecuador, and have been working a couple of years in the jungle, making maps. The humidity is constantly high and the vegetation is pretty much always wet, there are thorns and sharp rocks everywhere, and the elevations differences lead to quite high falls. I routinely fall into mud and every now… Full review
Osprey Atmos 65 AG
Combined with Osprey’s modern features like the removable lid, the “Stow-On-The-Go” trekking pole system, and the “Fit-On-The-Fly” hip belt, this pack can satisfy both the seasoned veteran and the beginning backpacker! Ridge-runners, weekend hikers, and lightweight thru-hikers can all make the most of the versatile Atmos 65 AG backpack. With a truly revolutionary “anti-gravity” (hence the “AG”) design, this ventilated backpack conforms to the wearer’s back, successfully transferring… Full review
ZPacks Arc Zip 54L
On your way to being an ultralight hiker? Try the ZPacks Arc Zip Ultralight Backpack. A versatile and tough ultralight backpack that weighs only 20 ounces! About Me I have been on a mission to lighten the overall load of my gear. Figured the best place for me to start was with my pack. Before trying to shave weight I used an Osprey Atmos 50. I liked having all of the different places to store gear, the hip belt pockets, and most of all the fit was great! There were several other things that I really… 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.