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
Granite Gear Air Compressor
The Granite Gear medium Air Compressor is a nice lightweight alternative to the slightly heavier duty "Rock Solid" compression sack. It holds its own and has added features that increase its durability. The sack allows you to compress down to the strap limit without the fear of ripping at the seams. I have the older model with 4 nylon webbing straps. The newer model uses 4 paracord strings. The sack is easy to use. You just stuff, cinch the hole, pull the lid over the top and wrench down on the… Full review
Osprey Volt 60
A great pack for people that don't like the feel of the Antigravity line. I bought this pack because I really disliked the way the Aether and Atmos have the Antigravity feature. I found that those packs sit way too far off of my back and made me feel like I was going to fall over backwards. This pack is a simple, more affordable and traditional alternative to the newer, more expensive designs. It easily holds a two-man tent, sleeping bag, mattress pad and other camping equipment for weekend or overnight… Full review
The North Face Renegade
Hiked 88 miles at Philmont Scout Ranch with this pack in 2016. It is simply an awesome pack, tons of room, very flexible and received many comments from hikers that recognized my "vintage" pack. Going back to Philmont with my son in 2017 and taking the Renegade with me. Buy one if you can find one on the web. They are hard to find and sell very quickly on eBay and gear trade. One of the best packs that North Face has ever made. Awesome design, plenty of room, "vintage" looks, and very comfortable… Full review
Gregory Paragon 58
This newly released lightweight backpack is equipped with user-friendly features without adding unnecessary weight. Supreme comfort meets a lighter base pack weight! This backpack is ideal for both the casual overnight hiker, and the long distance backpacker covering ground day-in, and day-out. Gregory has entered the market with their new line of lightweight backpacks, the Men's Paragon & Women's Maven series. Recreational backpacking has become obsessed with becoming UL (ultralight) over the… Full review
Perfect companion to early morning runs! Disclosure: The author of this review is a brand ambassador for GoMotion. I have had the opportunity to use the Orion light belt for about 6 months now and I am super impressed with its performance. I run primarily in the early morning hours—and I like to be seen while crossing roads! I normally run with at least one doggie running companion, so I feel an extra responsibility to make sure we are all safe and visible. The light has three brightness settings… Full review
Purchased my D3 from R.E.I. in 1979. I have used this pack on the Appalachian Trail, hiking in Wyoming, more camping trips than I can count, and for a season of wilderness guiding in Maine. Love this pack. I have had this pack for 38 years. I have replaced both front panel zippers, but otherwise the pack has held up well. It has always fit me well at 5'7". It is very comfortable even with a heavy load. I love most that it has a large capacity to haul multiple days of bulky food packages. The front… Full review
Granite Gear Men's Nimbus Trace Access 70
I own a few backpacks...and this has become my go-to pack. Plenty of straps that can be used to attach your tent, poles, or a rain jacket outside. Front panel access lets you get inside without opening the top. The wood frame is top notch with well placed adjustments. I picked this pack up for $207 plus free shipping. I gave this pack a 5 out of 5 because I do own a few packs, and this one fits right @ 70 liters for trips that are more then 3 to 7 nights. I can take a few extra things like a chair… Full review
Kifaru Cargo Panel
This turns a frame into a load hauler, with the flexibility to hold things that would never fit in a pack bag. My personal experience is that it has allowed carrying a cased chainsaw, my disassembled pulk, firewood, a 65-liter dry bag with additional camping gear for my kids. I've owned a Kifaru Cargo Panel for approximately 3 years, and use it primarily with a 26" duplex frame, but have also used it inside a Kifaru Marauder. My use has included combining it with multiple other bags, including a… Full review
Though the D3 is now considered a "classic," since 1974 I've always considered it to be an everyday "workhorse." I'm replacing the shoulder straps (one had gotten a serious cut) and I once added a layer of Ensolite on the inside of the hip belt, but otherwise the pack has already been ready to do its job regardless of whether it's for an easy overnighter or a ten-day, 75-lbs adventure. My Jansport D3 backpack is now over 40 years old. I bought it new. Over most of those years it has been my… 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.