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
Black Diamond Saga 40 Jetforce Avalanche Airbag Pack
Great high end avalanche backpack that can be deployed multiple times. Best for single to multi-day backcountry expeditions and ski tours in alpine, medium to high risk conditions. If you only do a few days a year in these conditions, renting may be a more rational option. Excellent fit and carrying system for an avalanche pack. I'm a longer dude and got the M/L version. The hip belt has a metal buckle and is comfortable during longer ski tours. The volume is not accurate. It can probably hold around… Full review
GoLite Jam 50L
I have the original GoLite 50. Like all GoLite lite products they look great but have some design flaws. The 50 pack is not at all stiff, unless it is almost loaded to capacity. I improved mine by making AL stays in the back to stiffen it. Otherwise it is just an empty sack. The front pockets intrude on the interior space. Full review
My Trail Backpack Light 50L
My Trail Co. has redesigned the Jam series backpack from the GoLite days, with improvements to its lightweight and frameless design. This water-resistant backpack is designed for backpackers where low pack weight is a priority. When it comes to finding the right backpack, it appears there is never an easy choice with all of the available options in today's market. In 2016, GoLite had successfully ‘reloaded’ as My Trail Co, basing their operations out of Denver, Colorado. My Trail Co has resurrected… Full review
Osprey Mira 34
The perfect day pack. This is a Rolls Royce of a pack that rides like a Lamborghini: In it, I put the filled 2.5 L hydration bladder which, btw, is THE absolute best hydration system I’ve ever seen in any pack, bar none, ever, my Crazy Creek chair (in the side stretch pocket) rain layers, extra layers, hat, gloves, Buffs, food for the day, hygiene kit, compass, flashlight, emergency supplies, first aid kit, lip balm, sunblock. And it’s not like I’m carrying this pack, it’s more like the… Full review
Osprey Exos 58
I recently completed a 223-mile hike with an Osprey Exos 58. Not only did it easily accommodate 35 lbs, but I carried 4 liter-sized water bottles in the side pockets and a Lil' Sami bear canister inside. When a mouse chewed 3/4's of the way through one of the shoulder straps, Osprey express shipped a replacement to my next resupply point free-of-charge! My hike was not delayed at all. Second Osprey I've owned and am about to buy another! I recently completed a thru-hike of the Ouachita Trail. It… Full review
3F Gear 56L Backpack
For the money this is a solid pack with many of the features other ultralight manufacturers charge hundreds for. This pack is quite a value for the UL backpacker as it offers many of the features of more expensive packs with the added benefit of the ability to purchase through Amazon and buy an extended warranty. The ripstop nylon is on par with the market and is as described. I think when you purchase something like this at such a low cost you're ready for some tradeoffs or uncertainty. But, I… Full review
Simond Alpinism 55+10
An internal-frame backpack for weekend trips, mostly oriented on alpine climbers. It has convenient main storage compartment, high quality, durable materials, and lots of external attachment points. In the meantime it’s not very comfortable to wear and desperately lacks additional gear compartments. Me and my wife are less than amateur backpackers, and we don’t participate in multi-day backpacking trips. From ca. 2006 till beginning of 2017 I had been using very old and uncomfortable 55L backpack… Full review
Eureka! Sleeping Bag Carry Duffel
A great bag. It holds everything very well. I have heard stories of some areas breaking, but not sure if it was taken care of properly. Full review
Deuter ACT Lite 45+10 SL
Well organized, makes weight balancing a breeze. I love the easy of getting stuff into and out of this pack, including myself. I wore this thing while hiking the W in Patagonia over six days with zero hotspots. I was fitted for this pack at a big retailer—and I was most impressed with all of the points of adjustment that this pack offers. It is designed for women, but even then, I'm very short torso'd. Most packs gave me sore hips due to length, but this one cinched up great. The pack is also… 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.