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
Seek Outside Unaweep 6300
This bag is designed as a load hauler for backcountry big game hunting so large, heavy loads are not an issue. Made to be comfortable with 100lbs or more, smaller loads ride very well on or off trail. Great for cold weather gear, expedition style multi-week food bags and can be used to carry hard to pack loads outside the bag. Note: Seek Outside is constantly updating their product lines, adding and removing features as they react to customer input. This review is for a pack I had made to order… Full review
Lowe Alpine Crossbow 70+15
Best pack for backpacking/traveling long-term. This pack is awesome! It's been traveling cross country for over five years now. I don't know who the original owner was, but the last owner used this backpack pretty roughly, and it's only suffered minor injuries. I've been adventuring with it for the past two years, sometimes filling it with up to 70 lbs and it's still going strong. All the repairs I have made have held strong. I love this pack, highly recommended Full review
Osprey Exos 38
Super lightweight and comfortable! I made the choice to go lightweight several years ago, so this pack is the latest addition to my arsenal. I'll first say that you have to be determined to go lightweight, and already have the proper gear BEFORE you buy this pack. The fact this pack is tiny, it shouldn't bother you. It doesn't need to be any bigger because the suspension won't support more than about 20-25 lbs. With my Western Mountaineering AlpinLite, Big Agnes FlyCreek2, self inflating torso ground… Full review
Gregory Paragon 68
Great pack for several day backpacking trips where weight is a key consideration. However, the pack does not sacrifice comfort or storage for the reduction in bulk. It was easy to pack up and traveled wonderfully with no discomfort for a humid 7-mile Alabama hike. The backpack fits comfortably on your hips and did not cause any blisters or painful spots during my hike. I am 5'8" and found that by adjusting the frame to the smallest setting the pack fit very comfortably on my back. If you were any… Full review
Eureka! Mt. Isolation 65L Pack
Loved the design, but this pack was uncomfortable and impossible to keep adjusted during a rugged week long hike. Load lifters poorly designed and strap adjustment needed frequent attention. Problems with pack shifting due to shoulder yoke attachment to pack rails. I purchased my Eureka Mt. Isolation 65L backpack a few years ago directly from Eureka at the Toronto Sportsman Show along with a number of other items. It appeared to be a good quality backpack and I was assured that it was designed to… Full review
Klymit Motion 60
Great for the weekend warrior or thru-hiker seeking a lightweight, yet durable and versatile pack. As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I was able to test the Klymit Motion 60 Back Pack. My husband was in the market to update his old backpack when I won the May camping review contest from The Dyrt. I spent some additional money and purchased their top-of-the-line backpack for him to enjoy. What we like most about this backpack: Super lightweight and comfortable…a mere 2.7 pounds. His old backpack weighed… Full review
REI Trekker Wonderland
I have used this pack for many years on extended trips of up to nine days. It has seen many cross-country hikes in very rough terrain. It has always performed well and is comfortable until I get up to 60+ lbs of weight, but over 60 lbs what pack is comfortable? Zippers are still functioning well as is the rest of the pack. I am very sad to see that you can no longer buy a new one. Fits well and is comfortable. Full review
Osprey Volt 75
Good pack for 2-5 day trips, good storage, good construction. Fit: Easy to adjust to my body type. I'm "that athletic guy", 5'10" 165 lbs. Comfort: When the pack is fitted properly it helps me stand with pretty good posture (although leaning forward a little), and that helps out a lot for longer trips because my back feels fine. The hip belt is OK and does wrap around my hips, but after a while doesn't feel that great. Because I have a fairly trim figure I don't have a lot of cushion on my hips,… Full review
Granite Gear Nimbus Meridian
Unequaled. This pack has been around the world with me and performed some the most demanding work, never letting me down. Still loving it to this day in mid-2017. I've owned this pack for 10 years and done the Tour du Mont Blanc with the GG Nimbus Meridian, in camping only mode. 110 miles and 37,000 ft of elevation gain/loss. Beyond this, it served me perfectly as a member of the Vail Mountain Search and Rescue team. I'd bought a well regarded pack to do this work rather than beating up my GG Nimbus… 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.