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
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
Mile High Mountaineering Salute 34
One of the very best packs I've used. Carries and distributes loads well, and is made with durable materials. I can use this pack for day hikes to overnight stays. I tend to pack pretty lightweight as far as my tent and other gear is concerned so this backpack is perfect for my needs. Highly recommended for just about anyone looking for a well thought out, useful pack. Fit - I am a little over 5'10" with a waist between 33" and 34". I have a medium length torso and the pack fits very well. Easy… Full review
Osprey Exos 58
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.