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 hydration pack! The Rogue was my first hydration pack and after two years I still love it. I use it for mountain biking and short hikes and it is perfect for my needs. There are two zipped pockets so you can carry your wallet, phone, energy bars, and multi-tool with you and an expandable pouch that will hold a light jacket. The 70oz bladder holds plenty of water and the pack is insulated well enough to keep it cool for a couple hours. I would not hesitate to buy another one. Full review
REI Men's Trail 40 Pack
A great pack for lightweight and ultralight backpackers. I originally purchased this bag to use as a daypack when hiking with my girlfriend. However, this was around the same time I started moving to ultralight hiking and now I use it for any kind of hiking / backpacking trip. I have only had this pack for about two months, but have already put over 250 miles on it with various loads. FIT I found the large REI Trail 40 to be a little bit on the small side (I'm 6'2"), but only slightly. The pack… Full review
Source Spinner Pro Race
This is a great unit for biking and hiking. It is easy to use and easy to clean. This is a great hydration pack. I use it all the time when I go biking and hiking and even take it hunting. It fits very comfortably and the bladder holds enough water for all my outings. T he bladder is easy to clean and easy to use. I love the valve also. This is a top notch unit. Full review
Osprey Rev Solo
Coolest fanny pack available. A sleek and sporty styling makes for the coolest fanny pack I've ever owned. Had a lot of bounce when I wore the pack on my lumbar. Moved it around to front and my belly helps keep it from jumping up and down. Rises up off the hips. Very comfortable, even after you realize how tight you need to cinch it down to keep it from moving too much. Enough space to hold a smaller smart phone (I still use an old iPhone 4 and it fits with room to spare, but I'm sure something… Full review
Osprey Talon 33
Good day pack. I bought this pack for lightweight multi-day hikes. The bag has tons of features; belt pockets, hydration sleeve, removable brain with lots of pockets for organization. The webbing in the back panel does a great job of keeping the pack off your back and your shirt dry! The pack fits me great, and is comfortable, up to the manufacturer's suggested weight limit, which is about 15 pounds. Once over that weight, the pack becomes pretty uncomfortable and feels unstable. The hydration pouch… Full review
Source DUNE X-Fit
Perfect for sports that require more movement. Great weight distribution. Lots of storage. I love this pack and have no plans of replacing it. It's so comfortable. Perfect for sports that require more movement. Great weight distribution. Lots of storage. Full review
Gregory Cairn 58
Waist belt moves with you as you walk, preventing waist bruising when properly fit. Excellent for weekend hikes. Built to compliment a woman's frame. Bought this pack because I am a small framed woman. Pack fits nicely. Contours the back very well. The waist belt moves with you as you walk instead of remaining stationary as other packs do. Helps prevent hip bruising and soreness. Three point access makes getting into the pack while on the trail very easy without having to remove the pack from your… Full review
Platypus Origin 32
This pack is a great overall pack, lightweight and works well when it's wet out. Different types of storage all over the pack. I believe it's more than just a day pack. To be honest, I think the pack fits my wife better than me. It rode up a little and when I had items in the pockets of the straps it made it a little annoying on longer hikes. It was still very comfortable. The ventilation worked pretty well between my back and the pack. The Origin had plenty of storage with many pockets. The side… Full review
Gregory Contour 60
Best fitting pack I have ever owned. This pack really works for me. I do a lot of one-night and two-night trips in NH with my kids, which usually implies carrying some extra stuff. What makes this pack great... the shape of the back and hip belt put the weight on my hips better than any pack I've owned before. The back curves in just where I want it to; the S in the shoulder straps curve in just where I want them to, and the hip belt sits on both hips even when I'm scrambling. I've never had a pack… 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.