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
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brands

Nite Ize
Liberty Mountain
Coghlan's
Equinox
Inov-8
Osprey
Granite Gear
Outdoor Research
GoLite
REI

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

Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic 28 Backpack

rated 3 of 5 stars The Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic 28 pack is a good idea that just wasn't executed very well. Some of the flaws can be fixed with very little time and money, others leave me scratching my head and asking "why did they choose to do it that way?" As far as carrying capacity, I'd say it's great for day trips, but accessing your stuff isn't the easiest. I bought the MH Snowtastic 28 because I want to get a little more adventurous in my snowshoeing this year, and my Camelbak pack doesn't hold much more… Full review

Deuter Aircontact 75+10

rated 5 of 5 stars Wonderful backpack. Very comfortable. Had a lot of room inside and many straps outside that you can attach you gear to them. Will advise that backpack to everyone. The best backpack I've ever had. Full review

REI Flash 45 Pack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is a fantastic lightweight pack. It carries well for such a light pack that doesn't have much in the way of a frame. This pack would be great for those starting on the journey to ultralight backpacking, while still having a pack with a lot of features. Fit:  This pack claims it fits up to a 19" torso in the Large size. I am 6'3" with around a 20" torso but decided to give it a try anyway. The pack is essentially frameless outside of the back padding and the Delrin rod around the outside of… Full review

Columbia Vixen 22L

rated 4 of 5 stars Light, comfortable day pack designed for women. Ample pockets for water bottles, poles, camera etc. on side, top, and back of pack as well as the waist belt. Love that load is kept off the back! Pack is extremely comfortable, even with a full load. Accommodates a bladder inside or water bottles on sides of pack. Zippered top pouch and two pouches on the belt. Great overall day pack. Full review

Salomon Trail 20

rated 2 of 5 stars Though personal, I think it can be said this pack has poor fit. Even if tightened down it will bounce. Does not carry the weight well. This is a nice enough pack. Pretty solidly constructed, OK capacity for bigger unsupported runs, or smaller fast packing ventures. But where it counts most this pack fails to deliver — it is uncomfortable when loaded with any amount of weight that matches its volume. Fit/Comfort: The fit seems nice enough, until you load it up with a bit more than just your wind… Full review

Nathan Intensity

rated 4.5 of 5 stars The Nathan Intensity running vest is an excellent woman-specific pack for running medium to long distances. With a 70-ounce reservoir and pockets for gels and chews, it has plenty of capacity to cover several hours on the run year-round. Plus, it’s comfortable for hours and stable with no bounce. Best For: I highly recommend the Nathan Intensity to other women who run at least several hours at a time on trails or roads. Men may want to check out the HPL 020 model. Fit The Nathan Intensity is a… Full review

Salomon XT Twin Belt

rated 2.5 of 5 stars in my opinion, this pack is more suitable for hiking than running. The first time I ran with the Salomon XT Twin belt on I had to alter my arm swing because my elbows kept hitting off the pack due to the bottles being placed on an angle. I am not sure if my short stature (I am 5'4") and small hip width had anything to do with it. My fiancé tried it on and didn't experience the same problem, so I would imagine the design of the pack is geared toward men. I even think I could get used to the sloshing… Full review

GoLite Jam 50L

rated 0.5 of 5 stars Very uncomfortable and non-lasting pack. Not worth your money! My husband and I hiked the PCT this year and we bought some gear from GoLite (nice Chrome Dome, gloves, jackets) with the main piece being my Jam 50. I liked it because of the weight (it kept my base weight very low), but it turned out to NOT be worth it at all. Even though the guy in the Fort Collins store assured us that all the gear was top quality and would last, it turned out the gear was not made to even slightly last a thru-hike. Full review

The North Face Base Camp Duffel

rated 4.5 of 5 stars It's huge!! Excelent for an expedition or for travel anywhere without concern of dust, or an angry cargo man dropping it. Use it for packaging to EL CHALTEN.  Have two of them and they were enough for me and my wife trekking in Patagonia. We put our backpacks in them for safety. And there was also space to put our stuff (clothes, shoes, etc.) I love them. Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

Nite Ize S-Biner
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3)
Nite Ize
S-Biner
Backpack Accessory
$2 - $7
Liberty Mountain 1 inch Field Repair Side Release Buckle
Liberty Mountain
1 inch Field Repair Side Release Buckle
Backpack Accessory
$3
Coghlan's Bottle Carrier
Coghlan's
Bottle Carrier
Sling/Strap
$4
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Equinox
Marsupial Ultralite Pouch
Pack Pocket
$5 MSRP
Coghlan's Arno Straps
Coghlan's
Arno Straps
Sling/Strap
$5
Equinox Bilby Mesh Stuff Bag
Equinox
Bilby Mesh Stuff Bag
Stuff Sack
$7
 
Inov-8
Mesh Pocket
Pack Pocket
$5
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags
Equinox
Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags
Stuff Sack
$5 - $13
Osprey Aether 60
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (20)
Osprey
Aether 60
Weekend Pack
$5 - $260
Granite Gear Hiker Wallet
Granite Gear
Hiker Wallet
Pack Pocket
$6
Outdoor Research Stuff Sack
Outdoor Research
Stuff Sack
Stuff Sack
$7 - $12
GoLite 8.5L Ditty Bag
GoLite
8.5L Ditty Bag
Stuff Sack
$7
REI Mesh Stuff Sack
REI
Mesh Stuff Sack
Stuff Sack
$7 - $14
 
UltrAspire
Immerse
Backpack Accessory
$7
Ultimate Direction Side Kick Clip-On
Ultimate Direction
Side Kick Clip-On
Pack Pocket
$8 - $10
Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac
Eagle Creek
Pack-It Sac
Stuff Sack
$38
Sea to Summit Neoprene Pouches
Sea to Summit
Neoprene Pouches
Stuff Sack
$8
Osprey Sternum Three Magnet Kit
Osprey
Sternum Three Magnet Kit
Backpack Accessory
$8
Osprey Detachable Sternum Strap Magnet Kit
Osprey
Detachable Sternum Strap Magnet Kit
Backpack Accessory
$8
Granite Gear Toughsack
Granite Gear
Toughsack
Stuff Sack
$8
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps
user rating: 3 of 5 (2)
Sea to Summit
Accessory Straps
Sling/Strap
$8 - $10
Sea to Summit Mesh Sacks
Sea to Summit
Mesh Sacks
Stuff Sack
$8 - $12
Sea to Summit Stuff Sack
Sea to Summit
Stuff Sack
Stuff Sack
$8 - $16
 
CamelBak
M.U.L.E. Raincover
Pack Cover
$8
Coghlan's Nylon/Mesh Organizer Bags
Coghlan's
Nylon/Mesh Organizer Bags
Stuff Sack
$8
GoLite 15.5L Ditty Bag
GoLite
15.5L Ditty Bag
Stuff Sack
$8
Granite Gear Hacky Stash
Granite Gear
Hacky Stash
Stuff Sack
$9
Outdoor Research Accessory Straps
Outdoor Research
Accessory Straps
Backpack Accessory
$9
Osprey DigiStow
user rating: 2 of 5 (1)
Osprey
DigiStow
Pack Pocket
$9 - $19
Sea to Summit Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks
Sea to Summit
Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks
Stuff Sack
$9
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle
Sea to Summit
Alloy Buckle
Sling/Strap
$9
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps with Hooks
Sea to Summit
Accessory Straps with Hooks
Sling/Strap
$9 - $11
Equinox Bilby Ultralite Stuff Bag
Equinox
Bilby Ultralite Stuff Bag
Stuff Sack
$10 - $13
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sacks
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit
Ultra-Sil Stuff Sacks
Stuff Sack
$9 - $18
Granite Gear Air Bag
Granite Gear
Air Bag
Stuff Sack
$9 - $26
Outdoor Research Sternum Strap
Outdoor Research
Sternum Strap
Backpack Accessory
$10
REI Stuff Sack
REI
Stuff Sack
Stuff Sack
$16
The North Face Sack Pack
The North Face
Sack Pack
Daypack
$10 - $20
CamelBak Rain Cover
CamelBak
Rain Cover
Pack Cover
$10 - $12
REI Lightweight Stuff Sack
REI
Lightweight Stuff Sack
Stuff Sack
$10 - $13
Kahtoola MICROspikes Tote Sack
Kahtoola
MICROspikes Tote Sack
Stuff Sack
$10
 
Black Diamond
Ascent Crampon Bikini
Pack Pocket
$10
 
Granite Gear
Air Style Hiker Wallet
Pack Pocket
$10
Sea to Summit Ultra-Mesh Stuff Sack
Sea to Summit
Ultra-Mesh Stuff Sack
Stuff Sack
$10 - $14
GoLite HydroSwift
GoLite
HydroSwift
Lumbar/Hip Pack
$10
Mammut RAS Refill Kit
Mammut
RAS Refill Kit
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$10
Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sac
Eagle Creek
Pack-It Compression Sac
Compression Sack
$11 - $28
JanSport Fifth Ave.
JanSport
Fifth Ave.
Lumbar/Hip Pack
$10
The North Face Pack Rain Cover
The North Face
Pack Rain Cover
Pack Cover
$11 - $14
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag
Advanced Base Camp
Black Box Rope Bag
Rope Bag
$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.