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.
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
Osprey Atmos 65 AG
Amazing pack that feels like nothing at all. This is a great short hike pack (2-4 days) unless you are truly an ultra-light hiker then you could squeeze more days out of it. The AG suspension and mesh is amazing for my build (5'9" 205lbs). I wish we had a pack system like this in the military for carrying heavy loads. Overall its very comfortable even without using the load lifters appropriately (I hardly ever adjust these mostly because I forget). I like the compartments, but I'm a pocket guy and… Full review
Luke's Ultralite Accessory Pouch #2
The first waist belt pocket I've found that I can easily access with my waist belt buckled. Roomy, virtually waterproof, and well-made. I have purchased many different backpack waist belt pockets in my quest for one that fit my needs and desires: Zpacks, Gossamer Gear, Zimmerbuilt, EXIT, MLD, Elemental Horizons, and the pockets that are part of the HMG waist belt. My main frustration with all of them was that to keep them from sliding around it was usually necessary to anchor them near where… Full review
You can still find well-made Trekkers in like-new condition online if you're a smart shopper. Before Kelty switched to polyester materials and a thinner hipbelt, this pack represented a practical, comfortable on-trail option for people hauling heavy loads. For a boy scout, especially an adult leader or a teenager with the strength of a mule, these packs still represent a good choice. There are now a lot of better options on the market, but they cost more money. I recently purged my outdoor gear… Full review
This pack is perfect for the minimalist at heart, but beware of bounce with a smartphone. I'd buy it again even with it's shortcomings. This pack is all you need when you don't need much. I like to run with a car key, cell phone and some cash/card. For anything long enough to need more stuff, I carry a different pack. The Mirage is wonderfully expandable and will hold odd shaped items and much larger things than you might imagine. It weighs nearly nothing and dries out very quickly. It has a built… Full review
Kelty Flyway 43
This is the Kelty Flyway 43, which is a travel friendly daypack based off of the popular Kelty Redwing 44 pack. Like the Redwing pack, the Flyway is panel loading and has many features for organization. Additionally, there are travel friendly features like a padded laptop sleeve, rain cover and a separate bottom compartment. Features Size and design: The pack has a volume of 43L and is carry-on size. The pack uses durable 420D polyester material Panel zip main compartment and bottom zipper access:… Full review
Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25
This is the 25 liter Patagonia Black Hole Pack which is the smaller of the two Black Hole packs (the other is 35L). Like all of Patagonia's Black Hole line, the pack material is durable and water resistant. The pack is just the right size and has smart features making it a versatile day pack. Likes Sleek and simplistic design: The fabric is burly and water resistant and has not shown any wear since I've had it (since fall '14). What sets this day pack apart is it has one main compartment with a… Full review
REI Men's Trail 40 Pack
This is the ideal multi-use travel pack at 40L with a panel opening, 8 exterior pockets, 3 interior pockets and hydration sleeve. It comes in both Men's and Women's and at a price of $110, it won't break the bank. Overview: This is REI's latest all-around pack which replaces the Lookout 40 Pack. At 40 liters, it is big enough to carry a ton of gear but not so big that it can't be carried on a plane. The pack has tons of features to help with organization and the biggest change is the panel opening… Full review
Osprey Porter 46
This roomy pack is the maximum legal carry-on size and is one of the most travel friendly packs around. The pack is made of a durable material and is padded on all sides. The main compartment panel opens wide for easy packing and accessibility and the front organization panel has pockets for both laptop and tablet. Combined with lockable zippers and stowable straps, I recommend this pack to any traveler. Likes Shape and size: The shape of the pack is within most carry-on standards and I have not… Full review
Osprey Exos 58
Excellent lightweight pack (not ultra light), great for weekend, multi-day, and through-hiking. Would definitely recommend assuming you can get the correct fit for your torso. Have been backpacking for over 50 yrs., mostly high Sierras. Male, 165 lbs. Excellent pack. Had the previous version and put 52 lbs in/on it for the JMT (enough for a 10 day stretch). This model has a bunch of upgraded aspects. The older version top pack was difficult to detach. I sewed small quick release buckles on so… 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.