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
Lowe Alpine Sirocco II
I have been using this pack for 17 yrs..same pack...and it has outlived and outperformed many other brands in my family. It is finally getting holes and I hate to see her go. I have literally seen my pack bounce down hills a couple times in rugged country where we had to let it down and it did so less than gently, and it is still in use after 17 yrs, and lots of use. I can't say that for the bags of any of my hiking companions. I have carried enough for as much as a 10 day trek, lots of room. Full review
Eberlestock Sawed-Off Hydro Pack
Great day hiker for bowhunters or other hunters, for that matter. Small profile, big abilities! With the amount of accessories available, super flexible for specific tasks. I was looking for a day pack that I could not only use for day through hikes, but, as a hunting specific pack when the need arises. With the accessories available, this pack is an excellent hunting pack. I have scabbards for both my shotgun and my Mongolian Longbow that attach right to the pack. With a large top loading compartment… Full review
Tepui Expedition Series Gear Bag
Bomb proof fabric and excellent construction make this a great duffle for backpack travel protection or just hitting the road. A washable water resistant finish keeps the contents clean and the outside looking new. Tepui, the company that is best known for their wild cartop tents, also makes some very good expedition style duffles. I've had their duffle bag since January and have taken it on a couple of trips for testing. This is a large size duffle with interior space a bit over 3.5 square feet. Full review
Mystery Ranch Men's Glacier
Features I don't see in other packs, quality seldom seen anywhere. I used a 1970s model Lowe Expedition for years, then the sorry scum in Marsailles stole it and everything in it. I had not found a pack its equal since. Then I found this. The suspension is extremely well thought out and adjustable. It can be configured as a big sack or you can separate the bottom compartment. The compartments on the back are large enough to actually be useful—something a lot of current packs sort of miss out on. Full review
Matador Daylite16 packable backpack is a decent, lightweight option for daily use or day hikes. It has a minimalist look, two zipper pockets, two outside water bottle pockets, and packs away into a palm-sized pouch. I received this a few months ago as a gift. I have never owned a packable bag so, this was my first experience with one. Since receiving it, I have carried it almost every day packed with various items. I have never owned a bag this small, and at 16L you have to choose wisely what you… Full review
Dana Design K2 Longbed
Dana Design screwed up discontinuing LongBed K-2. It is bomb proof, great organizing external pockets, comfortable waist strap, adjustable upper frame extension, enormous capacity. It is built to last not years but decades. If you like to take the kitchen sink this is the pack for you. It is over built and will last, I dare say a lifetime. I wouldn't sell mine EVER. There is nothing out there that could replace it. People on the trail are always commenting on my pack and want to know were to get… Full review
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks
This review is for the Ultra-Sil 1 L. size bag ( in orange) that I use while canoeing, to protect my electronic keys and/or flip phone. It would also be very suitable for protecting items while hiking, snowshoeing, or in any foul weather conditions. I certainly can recommend this bag, as I have used it successfully (gear has not been damaged by water) for over a year. I purchased this bag to protect my electronic car key and fob, while canoeing, and sometimes while snowshoeing in wet weather. Since… Full review
Black Diamond Hollowpoint
Tough well made bag let down by two design flaws which in turn render the bag unusable. I have had the bag for 4-5 years mainly for urban use, cycling to work etc, and unfortunately it now has to be replaced. The bag is not at all worn out and is made of very resistant materials. Except the top zip at the corners is very exposed to wear and tear. It has prematurely worn to the point where I can no longer close the bag properly . I will avoid zips in any future purchases. Full review
Frost River Isle Royale
Just two words to describe this pack, bomb proof. My new pack arrived yesterday and as of yet has not been tested in the field, but the fit for me is perfect. At the age of 65 and a lifetime of backpacking all over the world from Arctic exercises in Norway during my service in the Royal Navy to the Yukon in Canada using military packs either British pack systems during my service or my preferred Norwegian Army pack this pack is right up there amongst the best. It does feel comfortable to wear. Not… 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.