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
Ozark Trail single burner camp stove
This burner is so simple to use. You adjust the gas flow and light the burner. No pumping or priming. The plastic base that comes with it makes the base very stable. I would recommend this burner as a starter burner for new campers. Its light weight but a little bulky. The Ozark Trail single burner stove is handy to have in camp. Its easy to pack on a boat trip. However a bit overkill for an overnight backpacking trip. I liked the 10,000 BTU burner and the ease of propane. I was also able to reduce… Full review
ALPS Mountaineering Shasta 3600
This pack is rock solid durable. I would trust it every day of the week and twice on Sunday. The extensive adjustabilty, including the torso harness and especially the well designed load lifting straps and side compression straps, made configuring a heavy load easy. I have been a lifelong loyal supporter of external frames backpacks for a variety of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with performance. As a younger hiker, the lack of disposable income meant that all of my gear was particularly… Full review
Osprey Talon 44
It is relatively light and versatile for a wide range of activities. The harness system is comfy and durable. Perfect for ultralight backpacking trips. Fit: This is the pack that we chose to do a 12 day JMT hike. We decided on this because of weight and most importantly fit. The harness system makes it easy to mold to your body and the hip belt was perfect for the load (36 lbs). Comfort: With the fit comes comfort due to its multiple adjustment points. This pack must be tried on first because… Full review
Mountainsmith Mountainlight Scream 25
This pack is a great lightweight and minimalist choice for day hikes. It is easily packed down small to fit into a larger backpack. Durability exceeds anything else in its class. It is a frameless pack with minimal padding, so it has its limitations. If you take those considerations into account before buying this pack, you might just find that it's perfect for you. Fit: This is a one-size-fits-all pack. I'm about 5'10" and have a 19-ish inch torso, and it fits me really well. I'm a fairly normally… Full review
Deuter Futura 28
Great daypack. Durable, comfortable, good storage features. Highly recommended! Comfortable pack, many pockets, I love extra storage options, the back ventilation is nice, minimal back perspiration! I am 5'4" with a longer torso and the s/m size works well for me. I have had this pack for three years and it is durable for all my crazy adventures! I also appreciate the lower sectioned zipper on bottom, great for shoes or wet items, can also be unzippered inside to make main upper larger. Great pack. Full review
Big Agnes Pumphouse
The BA Pumphouse is too low-volume to be a good inflation device, and that property is the main feature that differentiates it from any other lightweight, waterproof, roll-top stuff sack. It does, however, have an unintended use -- it makes a good solar water heater. Although it is listed as just a stuff sack in the headline here on TS, it is really intended for use as a mattress inflater, with the suggested stuff sack and pillow as secondary uses. The bottom of sack has a little nozzle on it that… Full review
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack
A minimal day pack for short side trips on longer backpacking trips. No promises on comfort, and it is not very durable or waterproof, but that's reasonable given the small weight and size. I wouldn't recommend it for all-day hikes but it fills its niche well. We brought a pair of these along on our JMT through hike, and my daughter and I did several side trips to some of the nearer and easier summits using them. Short side trips when carrying larger pack are all I ever intend to use it for. When… Full review
The North Face Crestone 75
Comfort is the one word I would use to describe this pack. Plenty of room and great support. Great pack with enough room for a thru hike. Love this pack, a bit on the heavy side though. Full review
GoLite Jam 70L
A very well designed, ultralight frameless pack at an affordable price. Since reducing my base load weight to under 20 pounds (including a 5 lb. CPAP), I decided to try an ultralight backpack. I have been using a Kelty Trekker 65 and a Yukon 48 for years, and never expected to find a lighter pack that was capable of handling my necessarily bulky load with the same amount of comfort. After taking the Jam 70 on an overnight hike, I was not disappointed in its simplicity, comfort, capacity, and compressibility. 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
Z55 Weekend Pack
Aether 60 Weekend Pack
M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack
Whitney 95 Expedition Pack
Redwing 3100 Weekend Pack
Exos 46 Overnight Pack
Aircontact 75+10 Expedition Pack
ACT Lite 65+10 Weekend Pack
Kestrel 48 Overnight Pack
Aether 85 Expedition Pack
Kestrel 38 Overnight Pack
Tour Lumbar/Hip Pack
Talon 22 Daypack
Z65 Weekend Pack
Baltoro 65 Weekend Pack
Leopard A.C. 58 Weekend Pack
UL Raincover Pack Cover
Futura Pro 34 SL Overnight Pack
Altra 75 Expedition Pack
Momentum 34 Overnight Pack
Kajka 75 Weekend Pack
Ultralight Compression Sack Compression Sack
Futura 22 Daypack
Miwok 18 Daypack
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.