Backpacks

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.

Learn more about how to choose a backpack below »

Categories

Daypacks
Internal Frame
External Frame
Winter Packs
Hydration Packs
Front Packs
Lumbar/Hip Packs
Child Carriers
Dry Packs
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brands

Nite Ize
Coghlan's
Arc'teryx
Metolius
Mammut
Equinox
Backcountry Access
Gossamer Gear
Sea to Summit
Osprey

Genders

Unisex
Men's
Women's
Kids'
Girls'

Price

less 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

Deuter Futura Pro 42

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Purchased in 2009 and used everyday while working seasonally for the USFS (6 years). Pack is bombproof, no popped zippers, no torn seams or ripped attachments even while it was way over stuffed and used to carry trail maintenance tools. Used this pack for over 160 days a year for over 6 seasons in the Nez Perce NF with the US Forest Service without a lick of trouble. Held its shape even when stepped on by a pack mule. The pack was very comfortable to wear and my back stayed cooler than the traditional… Full review

Black Diamond Speed 30

rated 4.5 of 5 stars I bought this pack a year and a half ago, and it has served me well though daily hiking and camping use, canoe trips, and multi-pitch climbing. In one word: fantastic! I bought this pack a year and a half ago, and it has served me well though daily hiking and camping use, canoe trips, and multipitch climbing. It fits well to my back, and tightens on well enough that it doesn't bounce around when I run. It's been durable, and seems like it will last a good while longer as well. It has a top pouch… Full review

Mountain Hardwear Fluid 18

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Very light weight and sleek pack perfect for day hikes, especially in tight bush. I bought this pack to replace my old Asolo light day pack. I use two different day packs depending on the circumstances, my other is a NorthFace Terra 40. This pack is the first one I have tried that is made of the newer, thinner nylon, altough it is still thicker than the thinnest stuff they use. I have been using this pack weekly for close to 6 months now, although it was bought about A year ago. My first impression… Full review

Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This backpack is a great day hike bag, for use in wet or dry climates, keeping your stuff dry. No frills design looks clean and is super functional. I got this bag a few weeks ago and have taken it sea kayaking, hiking, running, and climbing.  The waterproofness worked great while it was stowed in my sea kayak and kept all my stuff dry. My dry bags that I normally use for kayaking were back in the States, but I didn't need them with this backpack!  Taking this bag hiking is a nice no-frills, cleanly… Full review

The North Face Diad Pro 22

rated 4 of 5 stars The North Face Diad Pro 22 is a handy little pack that's perfect for day hikes, or even a minimalist overnight trip. Its list of features make it seem a lot bigger than it is. I'm somewhat lacking in small backpacks for three-season day hiking, my MH Snowtastic 28 is really pretty heavy for its capacity and my next larger pack is way too big, so when I saw the TNF Diad Pro 22 for $24 on S&C I scooped it up. When it arrived I unwrapped it and was really surprised by how light it was. TNF says… Full review

UltrAspire Kinetic Bottle Vest

rated 4 of 5 stars Versatile, comfortable, flexible, usable. Skeptical at first, but this pack has become a fave! Normally I don't think I would have picked this pack for myself, I thought I was a bladder guy. After trying it out a few times I was pretty happy with it. I remember a few people asking me about the pack at the time and commenting how my elbows would hit the bottles. That has been no problem at all. The location is in a great spot I think. Lower on the back creates a nice low center of gravity, feels… Full review

Lost Creek Flint Ridge

rated 5 of 5 stars Lost Creek's Flint Ridge is an 8L, durable cave pack for those needing to travel fast and light through tight passages. While this pack is limited in size, it is ideal for shorter trips. Having used this pack for 15 years, I have no doubt about its durability. Lost Creek is a cottage manufacture of caving gear that has seen three different owners since the 1970's. Each generation of owners seems to have improved upon the original Lost Creek pack. The current owners at Seven Bends continue the tradition… Full review

Lost Creek Monster TAG

rated 5 of 5 stars Lost Creek's Monster TAG pack is a 22L, virtually indestructible cave pack that has stood the test of time. This is an exceptionally large cave pack for those carrying vertical gear, camera equipment, or group gear. Lost Creek is a cottage manufacture of caving gear that has seen three different owners since the 1970s. Each generation of owners seems to have improved upon the original Lost Creek pack. The current owners at Seven Bends continue the tradition of building nearly indestructible cave… Full review

Mountainsmith Scream 55

rated 4 of 5 stars A well-built frameless weekender, the Scream 55 can be a year-round performer if the rest of your gear allows it. Keep your total weight under 30 pounds and head for the hills. Best For: Weekend warriors with lightweight gear still looking for that 90%-of-the-time backpack. Ultralighters that want a measure of waterproofness. Design The Scream 55 is a mid-size, frameless backpack constructed mostly of Robic, one of the newest, most promising fabrics to come along since the Dimension Polyant's X-Pac… Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

Sort by: name | rating | price | availability | recently reviewed

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3)
Nite Ize S-Biner Backpack Accessory
$2 - $7
Nite Ize S-Biner SlideLock Backpack Accessory
$3
Coghlan's All-Weather Wallet Pack Pocket
$3
Coghlan's Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$3
Arc'teryx Kata 37 Overnight Pack
$3 - $199
Nite Ize S-Biner Ahhh Backpack Accessory
$3
 
Metolius Quickdraw Slings w/Monster Webbing Sling/Strap
$3
Coghlan's Arno Straps Sling/Strap
$4
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Mammut Ambient Light Dry Bag Battery-Powered Lantern / Dry Bag
$4 - $24
Coghlan's Bottle Carrier Sling/Strap
$4
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Nite Ize S-Biner MicroLock Backpack Accessory
$4
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Equinox Marsupial Ultralite Pouch Pack Pocket
$5 MSRP
Equinox Bilby Mesh Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$7 - $8
Backcountry Access Stash 20 Winter Pack
$5 - $239
Gossamer Gear Pack Liner Bags Backpack Accessory
$5
Gossamer Gear Pack Foam Inserts Backpack Accessory
$5
Sea to Summit Neoprene Pouches Stuff Sack
$6
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags Stuff Sack
$7 - $13
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Sack Compression Sack
$6 - $39
Osprey Detachable Sternum Strap Magnet Kit Backpack Accessory
$6 - $8
Mountain Hardwear Fitlock Hipbelt Backpack Accessory
$7
Mountain Hardwear Advanced Fitlock Hipbelt Backpack Accessory
$7
 
GSI Outdoors N-Case 420 Waterproof Hard Case
$7 MSRP
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps with Hooks Sling/Strap
$7 - $879
Witz Keep It Safe Case Waterproof Hard Case
$7
Granite Gear Toughsack Stuff Sack
$7 - $19
 
Easton Dry Sack Dry Bag
$7
REI Mesh Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8
Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac Stuff Sack
$8 MSRP
REI Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8
Granite Gear Air Cell Block Stuff Sack
$8
Mountain Hardwear Lani Shoulder Straps Sling/Strap
$8 - $41
Osprey Sternum Three Magnet Kit Backpack Accessory
$8
 
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle Sling/Strap
$8
 
user rating: 3 of 5 (2)
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps Sling/Strap
$8 - $9
Sea to Summit Mesh Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $25
 
CamelBak M.U.L.E. Raincover Pack Cover
$8
 
Easton Ultralight Dry Sack Dry Bag
$8
Coghlan's Nylon/Mesh Organizer Bags Stuff Sack
$8
Witz Keep It Clear Case Waterproof Hard Case
$8
Gossamer Gear Sternum Strap Assembly Sling/Strap
$8
Outdoor Research Accessory Straps Backpack Accessory
$9
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Fuel Belt Crush Lumbar/Hip Pack
$9
Mountain Hardwear Alpine Hipbelt Backpack Accessory
$9 - $41
Granite Gear Air Bag Stuff Sack
$9 - $11
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$9
Nite Ize CamJam Tie Down Strap Backpack Accessory
$9 - $15
 
GSI Outdoors N-Case 840 Waterproof Hard Case
$9 MSRP
Sea to Summit Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$9
Nite Ize CamJam XT - Aluminum Cord Tightener Backpack Accessory
$9 - $11
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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).

Pack Sizes

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
  • Overnight:
    2,000 - 2,999 cubic inches
    30-50 liters
  • Weekend and Multi-Day:
    3,000 - 4,499 cubic inches
    50-73 liters
  • 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?)

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.

Torso Length

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.)

Pack Gender

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.

Load

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.