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
Arc'teryx
Sea to Summit
Coghlan's
Seattle Sports
SealLine
Equinox
GSI
Amphipod
Outdoor Research

Genders

Unisex
Men's
Women's
Kids'

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

Osprey Exos 58

rated 5 of 5 stars This is a great all-around backpack if you don't overload it. With less than 35lbs of well-chosen gear, it works for both weekend and long haul trips, and you can manage 40lbs for a couple of days. I'm a 5'7", 145 pound, 63-year-old woman who works in the backcountry in summer, usually for 6-8 days at a time. My pack has to be light enough to let me move quickly, but big enough to carry my personal and work gear. I can't carry the 55 pound loads that I did when I was younger. After a year of frequent… Full review

Nite Ize S-Biner MicroLock

rated 4 of 5 stars A locking mini S-biner that can secure items while providing a quick-release option. Great for adding a tool to your keychain or a lightweight light to a zipper pull. Well-made stainless steel construction with a clever design that will please those in search of a secure but easily releasable attachment device. Sometimes it's the little things in life that make the difference. This is the case with Night Ize's S-Biner MicroLock, a small item accurately identified by its name. I've used a range… Full review

ULA Equipment Ohm 2.0

rated 5 of 5 stars Lightweight, yet plenty of room for gear. Designed for comfort and durability. Unusual and useful ability to carry water bottles on shoulder straps. Exceptional hipbelt support and comfort. The ULA Ohm 2.0 is a smaller pack in the ULA line, yet has the hipbelt of some of the larger models allowing it to carry substantial weights.  The ULA hipbelts are top-of-the-line for comfort given their light weight. The Ohm 2.0 has provided plenty of space for 4-day backpacks for me with room to spare.  Its… Full review

REI New Star

rated 5 of 5 stars I highly recommend this pack if you can find one used in good shape. Big enough for a long trip, not so big it isn't practical for a weekend. Well made and long lasting (mine finally quit after 19 years and 800+ miles). I bought my New Star two years used in 1997. It had seen some trail time then. Over the next 18 years, I added over 700 miles of use to it from there. The hip strap finally broke (actually only the plastic insert broke, the nylon and padding was OK; I finished two days and 16 miles… Full review

REI Great Star

rated 4 of 5 stars Very large pack with lots of size adjustment and all the basic features you want. Well made and long lasting. Prone to being under filled and causing gear/load to shift or sit oddly, especially on shorter hikes. Great for big/tall persons or longer trips. Just inherited my Great Star from my father after my New Star finally gave up (19 years and over 800 miles on it).  My dad bought the pack new in 1998 and it has about 400 miles on it from him. I can and have comfortably carried about 80 lbs of… Full review

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

rated 3 of 5 stars The revised Osprey Atmos AG 65 is a well-made pack that fixes many of the problems with previous models; however, the new edition of the pack is much heavier than earlier models. If the increased weight does not concern you then you will like the changes. All in all this is a robust pack that may no longer fit the needs of lightweight backpackers. I tried a size large pack; I weighed it at the local REI, and it weighed 5 pounds 4 ounces. Last year's model weighed 3 pounds 12 ounces on the same scale… Full review

Dana Design Astralplane Overkill

rated 5 of 5 stars The Dana Astralplane Overkill is the most durable, comfortable, indestructible load-hauler ever created. Best loadhauler ever made. Indestructible. Bought mine in early '90's and have hiked with it on at least 50 trips and it looks almost brand new. Mine is the Astralplane Overkill, so it is pretty heavy, but I've packed 80 lbs in it and it still fits like a hug.   If you can find one on ebay, buy it — they are legendary. The guy who made them now builds for Mystery Ranch and his new version… Full review

GoLite Men's Jam2

rated 5 of 5 stars Back in May of 2010 was looking for a daypack and the clerk at the store told me about this pack. At the time this was a leftover from 2008 -2009. Didn't hesitate to grab this as I know a lot of people who have this brand of pack and of course the price! Pack was a Large version. The pack serves double duty as it's my padding with my 3/4 self-inflating sleeping pad, which is also part of the pack's frame! Fits great and works with all my lightweight gear as my Base is at 7 lb. Max load is… Full review

CamelBak Alpine Explorer

rated 5 of 5 stars Excellent! This has become my go-to day pack. Purchased this pack in 2011 and after much use it's still going strong. Is my favorite day pack. Has an easily removable waist strap (never need or use it). Shoulder/sternum straps are well placed and comfortable. Pack rides very nicely. It holds plenty of gear for summer trips and most 3-season hikes. Pack has a several sections and a couple of nice smaller pockets (e.g., micro-lined pocket on top for glasses). All in all a nice design. Should I ever… 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
Arc'teryx Kata 37 Overnight Pack
$3 - $199
Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack Dry Bag
$3 - $24
Sea to Summit Compression Sack Compression Sack
$3 - $34
Coghlan's Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$3
Nite Ize S-Biner Ahhh Backpack Accessory
$3
Coghlan's Bottle Carrier Sling/Strap
$4
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Nite Ize S-Biner MicroLock Backpack Accessory
$4
Seattle Sports Dry Doc Map Case Dry Case/Pouch
$5
SealLine iPod Nano Case Dry Case/Pouch
$5
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Equinox Marsupial Ultralite Pouch Pack Pocket
$5 MSRP
Coghlan's Arno Straps Sling/Strap
$5
Equinox Bilby Mesh Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$7
GSI N-Case 420 Waterproof Hard Case
$6
Amphipod Micropack Land Sport Pack Pocket
$6
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags Stuff Sack
$6 - $11
Outdoor Research Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$6 - $12
Granite Gear Hiker Wallet Pack Pocket
$6
Seattle Sports Dry Doc Dry Case/Pouch
$7 - $14
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Mammut Ambient Light Dry Bag Battery-Powered Lantern / Dry Bag
$7 - $49
Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac Stuff Sack
$22
Sea to Summit Neoprene Pouches Stuff Sack
$8
Osprey Sternum Three Magnet Kit Backpack Accessory
$8
Osprey Detachable Sternum Strap Magnet Kit Backpack Accessory
$8
user rating: 3 of 5 (2)
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps Sling/Strap
$8 - $10
Granite Gear Toughsack Stuff Sack
$8 - $10
Sea to Summit Mesh Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $14
Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $17
 
CamelBak M.U.L.E. Raincover Pack Cover
$8
Coghlan's Nylon/Mesh Organizer Bags Stuff Sack
$8
Witz Keep It Clear Case Waterproof Hard Case
$8
Outdoor Research Accessory Straps Backpack Accessory
$9
user rating: 2 of 5 (1)
Osprey DigiStow Pack Pocket
$9 - $19
Ultimate Direction Side Kick Clip-On Pack Pocket
$9
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$9
Nite Ize CamJam Tie Down Strap Backpack Accessory
$9 - $15
Sea to Summit Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$9
GSI N-Case 840 Waterproof Hard Case
$9 MSRP
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle Sling/Strap
$9
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps with Hooks Sling/Strap
$9 - $11
Nite Ize CamJam XT - Aluminum Cord Tightener Backpack Accessory
$9 - $11
Equinox Bilby Ultralite Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$10 - $13
Granite Gear Air Bag Stuff Sack
$9 - $26
Outdoor Research Sternum Strap Backpack Accessory
$10
REI Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$12
Seattle Sports Dry Doc Laptop Case Dry Case/Pouch
$10 - $34
Deuter Chin Pad Child Carrier Accessory
$10 - $14
Kahtoola MICROspikes Tote Sack Stuff Sack
$10
Black Diamond Ascent Crampon Bikini Pack Pocket
$10
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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.