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
Owned it for 20 years. To be clear Mr Weatherbottom.... The did make a Robson with carbon fiber stays, early/mid '90s before the "Pro". The Robson Pro, in my opinion, was nothing like the previous pack. And, I would offer Gregory packs don't make anything like they did then. Lighter, maybe, but not as tough. Full review
It's a nice looking bag that falls short in its design. By adding too many compartments, they've lost valuable space. I liked the construction, but not the layout. Full review
Kelty Trekker 4300
I got my first Kelty in 1968, and still use it for day hikes. In addition to the 'orginal' Kelty, I have the Trekker 4300 and the Tioga 5500. Use depending on the length of the hike. Love all three. Most of my hiking is in the desert SW and Grand Canyon. The externals allow greater airflow. Load is balanced over the hips—the long hike up from the bottom of Grand Canyon goes much easier with the 'over-the-hips' weight distribution. I still do an annual Rim-2-Rim at the Canyon—and of course… Full review
Osprey Farpoint 40
Capacious enough for the essentials and even a few luxuries for extended travel, so long as one is willing to wash clothes every few days, and bring along only what is necessary. It is sturdily constructed, opens all the way for easy packing and finding things, and with Osprey's famous warranty, I have no worries about it lasting into the future. Only complaint...the outside water bottle pockets are under the lower compression strap, making it difficult to use them for their intended purpose. On… Full review
Good for short distance hikes. Seems a little rickety for lack of a better word. When on long hikes becomes very uncomfortable. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm such a large person (6'2" 280 lbs) but this thing is rough on a back. When we hike I normally carry a fairly heavy pack, so I know it's not the forty pounds my son weighs. If only hiking a few miles it's great. I certainly wouldn't go more than that. Absolutely couldn't beat the price as it was a baby shower gift. Full review
REI Crestrail 70
Very nice pack for the price, good adjustment on the internal frame. This a very nice pack. It has logged some miles. I like the adjustments the pack has and ability to enter the pack on either side without having to pull all top loaded items. Has a nice cool fit on the back. Full review
Osprey Talon 44
Durable as everything. I love this bag so much. It has gone through a lot and I've never had a problem. I use it for 3 to 4 day backpacking trips and love it. I've used this thing on several trips and I love it. I usually bring it on trips 3 to 4 days long. I have stuffed it full of gear and it has never ripped or shown any type of wear. One feature I love about this bag is that it has a water pouch built into the bag for a Camelbak. Also this pouch has straps everywhere and is incredibly adjustable. Full review
Gregory Contour 60 Pack
I just got back from a backpacking trip in Colorado Springs. This bag held everything I needed and more. My body felt really great from using this pack. It was loaded down with about 25-30 lbs of gear. My girlfriend would frequently dig in the pack with great ease taking gear in and out. If you want a pack to use with little back worries this is it. I hiked 12 miles on my first 14er with my girlfriend and with no trekking poles. Background Knowledge When I was first shopping for this pack I was… Full review
Kelty Redwing 50
This is the best all around pack I've ever owned. It's versatile enough to use as a gym bag, a school bag, then turn around and do a weekend in the back country. I would recommend to anyone. Super comfortable and rugged. Full review
Denali Pro 105 Expedition Pack
Rim Runner Hydration Pack
Catalyst Expedition Pack
Cloud Walker Hydration Pack
Circuit Weekend Pack
ACT Lite 40+10 Overnight Pack
Redwing 50 Weekend Pack
Round Rock Solid Compression Sack
Trekker 65 External Frame Backpack
Baltoro 75 Expedition Pack
Aircontact 65+10 Weekend Pack
Talon 11 Daypack
Katahdin Weekend Pack
Ultra-Sil Pack Cover Pack Cover
Futura 32 Daypack
Kid Comfort II Child Carrier
Trans Alpine 30 Daypack
Manta 36 Hydration Pack
ACT Trail 24 Daypack
Cache Hauler External Frame Backpack
Aether 70 Weekend Pack
Palisade 80 Expedition Pack
Atmos 65 Weekend Pack
Aether 60 Weekend Pack
Z55 Weekend Pack
M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack
Whitney 95 Expedition Pack
Redwing 3100 Weekend Pack
Exos 46 Overnight Pack
ACT Lite 65+10 Weekend Pack
Kestrel 48 Overnight Pack
Aircontact 75+10 Expedition Pack
Aether 85 Expedition Pack
Kestrel 38 Overnight Pack
Tour Lumbar/Hip Pack
Talon 22 Daypack
Baltoro 65 Weekend Pack
Leopard A.C. 58 Weekend Pack
UL Raincover Pack Cover
Futura Pro 34 SL Overnight Pack
Tycoon Hydration Pack Hydration Pack
Altra 75 Expedition Pack
Kajka 75 Weekend Pack
Ultralight Compression Sack Compression Sack
Futura 22 Daypack
Miwok 18 Daypack
Jam 35L Overnight Pack
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.