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
Mile High Mountaineering Fifty-Two 80
After 27,000 miles with a variety of backpacks, I've had no problems till now. The shoulder strap twists out of its flat position unto its edge, pressing into the chest like a rope. The force actually pulls the clip of the sternum strap off its track. Very uncomfortable. Customer Service appears silent additionally on its quality control. After 27,000 miles with a variety of backpacks, I've had no problems till now. The 5280 looks like a luscious lollypop and yet has a critical design flaw. The… Full review
Salomon Wanderer 25
Just an overpriced schoolbag. Since before I started hiking I had two backpacks made from a company that specializes in motorbike backpacks and luggage. I used (and use) them everywhere and never had any problems whatsoever, although now and then I had a few comments from fellow hikers that I need to buy a backpack from a "proper" mountaineering brand. So I gave in and bought Wanderer 25 from Salomon as a replacement for my 25L daypack in promise of separate hydration bladder compartment and the… Full review
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Porter
As the editor of an outdoor website covering the outdoor sports of Central Washington, I own a lot of packs, big and small. Of all of them, this is currently my favorite. This has become my go-to pack for gear-intensive day tripping (e.g., backcountry skiing, rock climbing) as well as for lightweight multi-day trips. It’s not the very lightest pack of its capacity out there (my pack weighs 2 pounds, 1 ounce) but is the lightest pack of its capacity that has reinforced sides and bottoms for contenting… Full review
Gregory Savant 58
I so wanted this pack to work for me. Very intelligently designed and very well made. Even comes with a very nice rain cover and pouch. Easy to get to compartments conveniently located .... and the main bag can be opened via top or horse-shoe zipper on bottom. Nice. HOWEVER, Gregory screwed up with the shoulder straps. They have NO adjustments to size to fit your torso. One size fits all. I could never adjust the shoulder straps to bear any weight. Took it to the store and they tried and couldn’t… Full review
L.L.Bean Trail Model Hunting Pack
I love this pack! I use it for day hiking and snowshoeing, and I carry lots of stuff in my day pack (first aid, emergency gear, dog supplies, extra clothes), and often attach snowshoes to the exterior. It is not fancy, and does not have all the bells and whistles (i.e. specialty pockets, laptop sleeves), but I have found it to be extremely comfortable, and certainly meets my need for a highly visibility pack. First, a disclosure...I am not a hunter. But I am certainly glad I peruse the hunting specialty… Full review
Deuter Futura Pro 42
Purchased in 2009 and used everyday while working seasonally for the USFS (six years). Pack is bombproof, no popped zippers, no torn seams or ripped attachments even while it was way overstuffed and used to carry trail maintenance tools. Used this pack for over 160 days a year for over six seasons in the Nez Perce NF with the US Forest Service without a lick of trouble. Held its shape even when stepped on by a pack mule. The pack was very comfortable to wear and my back stayed cooler than the traditional… Full review
Black Diamond Speed 30
I bought this pack a year and a half ago, and it has served me well through daily hiking and camping use, canoe trips, and multi-pitch climbing. In one word: fantastic! I bought this pack a year and a half ago, and it has served me well through daily hiking and camping use, canoe trips, and multi-pitch climbing. It fits well to my back, and tightens on well enough that it doesn't bounce around when I run. It's been durable, and seems like it will last a good while longer as well. It has a top pouch… Full review
Mountain Hardwear Fluid 18
Very lightweight and sleek pack perfect for day hikes, especially in tight bush. I bought this pack to replace my old Asolo light day pack. I use two different day packs depending on the circumstances, my other is a North Face Terra 40. This pack is the first one I have tried that is made of the newer, thinner nylon, altough it is still thicker than the thinnest stuff they use. I have been using this pack weekly for close to 6 months now, although it was bought about a year ago. My first impression… Full review
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry
This backpack is a great day hike bag, for use in wet or dry climates, keeping your stuff dry. No frills design looks clean and is super functional. I got this bag a few weeks ago and have taken it sea kayaking, hiking, running, and climbing. The waterproofness worked great while it was stowed in my sea kayak and kept all my stuff dry. My dry bags that I normally use for kayaking were back in the States, but I didn't need them with this backpack! Taking this bag hiking is a nice no-frills, cleanly… 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.