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
Hyperlite Mountain Gear
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 TFX Summit 65+15
A solid, comfortable pack that is easy to adjust. I won this Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65+15 (lime green and black version) from a photo contest on Trailspace, way back in 2008. What an awesome prize! At the time, I had purchased just two years prior a Kelty 6700 (110 liters). So the size difference was pretty significant! The weight is pretty comparable to the Kelty, so I have always found myself reaching for the Kelty, which offers more pockets, more capacity, and about the same level of comfort… Full review
Kelty Red Cloud 6650
A comfortable pack that never seems to run out of space! I would recommend this pack (or one of its smaller sibling packs) for backpackers who prefer comfort over light weight (both in the pack itself and with the gear they take). The Kelty 6650 is a high-capacity loader and allows me to take anything and everything! I've been using it for more than 10 years now. While I don't generally have the opportunity to go on more than one backpacking trip per year, the trip is normally for 3-4 days, and… Full review
ALPS Mountaineering Cascade 4200
I loved this pack from the start. It is several years old now, but I've only used it 5 or 6 times for weekend trips. I have noticed the material beginning to come apart where the stitching is. This is taking place at nearly all stress points. Very disappointed with the build materials of this pack!!!! I would give it a 5 except for it falling apart. I would upload a photo if I had that option. Full review
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler RT 35 OutDry
A versatile lightweight backpack. First off this my first MH product (yay) and I got this backpack as a lighter and more "fun", so to speak, alternative to my more serious BD Speed Zip 33L.The Scrambler RT 35 (RT stands for Roll-Top) is basically a more featured drybag that can be used for hiking, canyoning, and is praised by climbers for its outstanding durability and lightness making this a really versatile backpack for a wide range of people. The weight-to-liter ratio is amazing and further enhanced… Full review
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack 22 L
UltraLightweight at 2.3 ounces; fits in your palm! Just purchased from Backcountry Edge: regularly $32.95 but on sale $28.95. Half-moon or U-shaped zipper makes loading easy. Super lightweight and appears durable enough for summit pulls and this will be my go-to pack for section hiking and thru-hikes when I explore around base camp or head to town. Disclaimer: have not yet field tested, so will update review. Full review
Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack
A necessary accessory for any down sleeping bag, combining water resistance with good compression. A bit heavyweight, but it’s definitely lighter than a pound of water inside your sleeping bag. Quite durable and very convenient to use. Fully compressed XS bag with 3-season sleeping bag inside (compared to 450ml Toaks mug) Before purchasing a pair of such bags in 2013 I traveled a lot with synthetic sleeping bag packed into a regular fabric compression sack. In bicycle trips sometimes we have to… Full review
Gregory Alpinisto 50
Mountaineers, alpine climbers, and one-backpack-to-do-it-all types should seriously consider the updated Gregory Alpinisto 50 pack. Short Answer: This pack will do so many things so well that it may cause some of the other packs in your gear cave to shed tears of loneliness. Its durability and versatility make it a fantastic choice for backpackers and alpinists alike. I'd easily take this pack up Mt. Rainier. Trips it is NOT suited for would be single-day, smash and grab alpine climbs and UL backpacking… Full review
Black Diamond Saga 40 Jetforce Avalanche Airbag Pack
Great high end avalanche backpack that can be deployed multiple times. Best for single to multi-day backcountry expeditions and ski tours in alpine, medium to high risk conditions. If you only do a few days a year in these conditions, renting may be a more rational option. Excellent fit and carrying system for an avalanche pack. I'm a longer dude and got the M/L version. The hip belt has a metal buckle and is comfortable during longer ski tours. The volume is not accurate. It can probably hold around… Full review
GoLite Jam 50L
I have the original GoLite 50. Like all GoLite lite products they look great but have some design flaws. The 50 pack is not at all stiff, unless it is almost loaded to capacity. I improved mine by making AL stays in the back to stiffen it. Otherwise it is just an empty sack. The front pockets intrude on the interior space. 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.