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
Granite Gear Leopard V.C. 46
This bag is lightweight, customizable, and really great at fitting in everything you need without a sacrifice in quality. I use this bag mostly for two-night backpacking trips with roughly a 25-30lb load in the Northeast where there's lots of water around. I've used this bag a handful of times after buying it when looking for a smaller and lighter bag (Deuter Act Lite 60+10). It is a lot smaller than my other pack so it took some playing around to get everything to fit, but otherwise carried everything… Full review
Osprey Aether 70
Great backpack. Handled load great, added bear proof container and tent on outside of pack and it remained very stable. We did a 12-mile hike for first trip with pack and the hip belt was fantastic. I was told you should get the belt formed before hiking, but it performed great. I had plenty of room for a two-day hike / bear canister and / large sleeping bag and food for group of four. Full review
Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin 12Set
Amazing fit, so many features, and it is variable allowing a lot of flexibility. You'll forget you're wearing it. I definitely don't run much further than 30km at a time, so I was hesitant to pick up a pack designed more for long ultras. But with the variable conditions I run through this has ended up being a fantastic running vest/pack. Despite looking a little silly, I actually take it hiking too just because it is so comfortable. And when I need it just for holding a can of bear spray comfortably… Full review
Osprey Aether 60
Great pack for work and recreation. Adjustable torso length, comfortably carries big loads, mostly good features, pretty durable so far. The way it feels on my back is most important to me and it does pretty well overall. The adjustability of and subsequent comfort are great. I usually fall right between small and medium and I was able to get this pack to fit perfectly. I occasionally put 40+ pounds in it and it rides pretty well with a load. I sometimes use it as a day pack, especially if I need… Full review
Great lightweight daypack. I bought this from the REI Outlet. I wanted a lightweight day pack that I could carry with me while canoe camping and backpacking in case I stayed at a campsite for multiple days. Very lightweight. Great for carrying water, food, a shell, and any other smaller gear you want to carry. My Gregory Triconi 60 has a lid fanny pack, but I don't like taking the pack apart to use it. Set up at Dutch Doctor Shelter in Harriman State Park, and had to hike to a lake to pump water. Full review
Eberlestock V90 Battleship
This is an improvement over my old internal frame pack (a Mystery Ranch NICE 6500) and it is bigger than the Kelty Super Tioga external frame. It comes with a large tethered rain cover in a compartment in the bottom. The rain cover won't get lost in the winds from the approaching storm. If you have tried to attach a rain cover and had the wind parachute the cover and see the cover soar away you know what I'm talking about. I also sprayed the pack with weatherproofing so it keeps dry in light snow. Full review
Great all-around day pack for many uses from outdoor active to around town travel. I got this pack last year and I've used it on several outings, from day hikes, snowshoe trips, cross country skiing, and even just shopping around town while travelling. The pack is comfortable and has enough pockets to stow everything I need while not being too busy with excessive pockets. The integrated hydration pocket holds a water bladder securely, but sometimes I simply tuck a water bottle in the side pocket. Full review
Kelty Men's Coyote 4900
A bomb proof pack that does it a little on the heavy side. This product is best for 2+ day expeditions in any terrain. I would recommend this to a friend with a larger waist. The pack fits excellent and true to size. I however have a smaller waist and even with the straps fully tightened it is a little too big around the belt. I have hiked with this pack on multi-day treks and it is very comfortable. Everything is adjustable. The torso adjustment came in very handy seeing I have a longer torso. Full review
Arc'teryx Bora 65
The Bomb — indestructible, comfortable, and capable. Awesome multiday backpack can carry it all anywhere almost effortlessly due to the suspension system which transfers the load to where it should be. Originally bought a lower quality pack, but it was so uncomfortable because it was not really designed to carry loads. I'm glad I had that bad experience because it made me spend a little more so I wouldn't have to suffer again. Great accessibility through side zip and zippered pouch, has all the… 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.