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.
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 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 2 days of a week long trip. If I get the hips re-molded, I think it will solve the problem. Comfort: Minus the hip… Full review
Gregory Stout 35
Great hiking, climbing, overnight or travel pack. Beautiful design and color scheme. Nice fit and larger than expected. This is for the large size. First, the pack is larger that I expected, and probably holds more than the stated 35L. Not a bad thing, but remember this is the smallest in the line-up. Second, the color of the bag blew me away - such a nice design...the orange is a little darker, more of a rusty orange, with beautiful blue-green trim including under the lid and the rain cover. … Full review
I have had my rucksack for nearly 18 years. It still looks new! It has outlasted many others on the market which friends have purchased and is still going strong. Zip quality is exceptional. Purchased this rucksack and shell case 18 years ago — have travelled extensively since. Straps and locks still functioning as new. Zips working perfectly with the lager tags on end much easier to open and close in all weather conditions. Tough canvas cover worn extremely well; tolerates water/snow/heat without… Full review
Inov-8 Race Pro 4
My go-to short distance, sub 2 hour, trail runner pack. This has been a great purchase. I have a variety of running packs I use dependent on where and how long I intend to run. This pack is great for sub 2 hour runs. The fit is superb. It cinches tight and does not jiggle nor loosen during my runs. It is very comfortable to wear. The capacity is as advertised. Internally the bag fits my first aid kit, spare socks, tissues, and waterproof jacket. The external bungee straps I put my ultralight… Full review
Osprey Aether 70
Comfortable, rugged, reliable brand. This pack has fit like a glove since day one. I'm a big fella and able to carry some big loads. This pack ensures the weight is firmly driven into the hips and not carried on the shoulders. The hip belt is the strength of this pack. It is nicely padded and carries the load perfectly. I do long tramps for tens of kilometres a day and this bag makes that all the more doable. This is all the more so given the type of county The organisation of the pack is also great. Full review
Mountainsmith Kinetic II
My go-to hip pack. Napolean Dynamite would be proud. For bumming around outside of town, I love this pack. Big enough to hold snacks, camera, and drinks. It's comfortable, easy to work with and holds up. Overall it's great. Fit: Snug and ergonomic Comfort: Padded, good Capacity: Just enough for what you need for a day Organization and accessibility: I wish the drink pockets were just a tad deeper so it could hold store bought water bottles a bit more secure. If I transfer my drinks into the classic… Full review
The North Face Terra 60
I guess I am just and old school type. This pack does not transfer weight to hips. I will be using it for a luggage bag and will go back to my old Jansport external. Full review
Gregory Palisade 80
Finally used this for something beyond car camping. Went on a 4-day backpacking trip with son and a few others from his Boy Scout Troop. Pack was comfortable and a bottomless pit. Four-day backpacking trip with son's Boy Scout Troop and the Gregory Palisade 80 took everything I had ... even when I fell on it. It carried my gear and a good bit of the Troop gear with room to spare. The articulating hip belt made the pack feel like it wasn't even there at times even though it weighed in well over 45… Full review
The North Face Renegade
I really really love this pack!!! Bought it in the mid '90s and I still have it and use it. Has traveled with me through Europe, Middle East, and exploring the Annapurna Range in Nepal's Himalayas — has never let me down yet. Now using it hiking, camping, backpacking with my sons and with their scout troop. It outperforms many of the new packs being used. Have looked at other packs but none match up to this one. Its like your first love or car, you love them forever!!! 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.