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
Coghlan's
Equinox
Outdoor Research
Sea to Summit
Granite Gear
REI
Eagle Creek
Osprey
CamelBak

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

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter

rated 5 of 5 stars Lightweight, super tough. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter meets all my needs in a backpack. It is very light, the material and stitching are first rate. It handles winter loads well. The strength of the fabric was tested during a trip to the Ventana Wilderness where we spent two days scrambling through some nearly impassable brush. No holes in the fabric and after a quick wash it looked like new. A forty+ pound winter load (mid tarp tent, -20 degree bag, five days food and fuel) was easily swallowed… Full review

Cotopaxi Nepal 65

rated 3 of 5 stars The Cotopaxi Nepal 65L pack has a number of innovative features, and is appropriate for trips of a few days or longer. While it didn’t work well for my body type and the weight I carry, it’s worth a look due to its design and unique features. Introduction I feel a bit conflicted in writing about this pack. I really wanted to like it. It’s an interesting pack with some unique design features. Also, Cotopaxi commits to contributing part of the proceeds of each product sale to worthy causes. Full review

Granite Rocx The Cascade

rated 4 of 5 stars The Cascade is an all-in-one convenience pack that delivers on many levels. There is ample storage and multiple compartments to store everything you need, including a cooler that attaches to the outside of the pack. Perfect for day trips to the water or the mountains, the Cascade is a pack that can be used year round, regardless of where you go. Who: Granite Rocx is a company based in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, that specializes in making functional and unique backpacks that are perfect for any day trip. Full review

Deuter Pace 36

rated 4.5 of 5 stars The Pace 36 is a weight-shaving daypack with a very light frame and wide mesh hip belt. I applaud Deuter for figuring out how to make a bag this light that is also quite comfortable. The pockets and features are things people can actually use; I would take this along as a winter day/summit bag. The Pace 36 can carry a surprising amount of weight comfortably, but it would not be my choice for consistently carrying more than 30 pounds on a regular basis. The simplicity that helps make this so easy… Full review

RailRiders Journey

rated 5 of 5 stars I am a member of Team RailRiders. I recently put into use the RailRiders Journey overnight pack. Now upfront I have access to lots and lots of packs that I have gathered over my twenty plus years of exploration. I was also quite skeptical as to whether or not the RailRiders brand who are most noted for being "the toughest clothes on the planet" could deliver an overnight pack. I am happy to report that the pack far exceeded my expectations. I do lots of overnight trips for speaking engagements that… Full review

Lowe Alpine Netherworld 90

rated 3.5 of 5 stars I've had this pack since the early '90s and it has served me well. I ended up getting Deuter's Act Lite 65+10 and shaved off about 3 pounds but that pack is already worn through in a few places. I have used the Lowe in the Sierras with 45-50 pounds and in the snow with snow shoes and it seems indestructible. The fit was adjustable with the help of the store personnel. The volume was wonderful. The separate compartment on the bottom served as another storage area without having to go into the main… Full review

Osprey Tempest 30

rated 5 of 5 stars Comfy, light day pack with all the features I could want. I just got this day pack after owning the Osprey Ariel 55 for ten years and loving it. I wanted a smaller day pack with the same wonderful women's shoulder harness. This little pack does not disappoint. It is just as comfortable and adjustable as the larger pack and carries more than you would think. Fit: Fits great. Designed for women's shoulders. I have a long torso and I like that the length can be adjusted easily with the Velcro inside… Full review

Osprey Ariel 55

rated 5 of 5 stars Great pack, super comfortable, rugged. I have used this pack since 2003 on the Long Trail for overnight hikes of 2-4 days, carrying 25-32 lbs. It will carry more but I try to limit the weight. Fit: This pack fits great. It is adjustable so many ways that despite layering on and off as I go. I can still feel comfortable with a pull or release on various straps. The women's shoulder harness is very well padded, but not bulky. Very comfortable, great range of motion for my arms with the pack on. Comfort:… Full review

Eberlestock FAC Track

rated 5 of 5 stars One of my favorite backpacks. Check out the review on Youtube. Nice for outdoor and military. Have fun. Here you can watch the review. Have fun. 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 Ahhh Backpack Accessory
$3
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 Sling/Strap
$5
Equinox Bilby Mesh Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$5 MSRP
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags Stuff Sack
$6 - $13
Outdoor Research Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$6 - $12
Sea to Summit Neoprene Pouches Stuff Sack
$6
Sea to Summit Ultra-Mesh Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$6 - $9
Granite Gear Hiker Wallet Pack Pocket
$6
REI Mesh Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$7 - $14
Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac Stuff Sack
$38
Granite Gear Toughsack Stuff Sack
$8 - $10
Sea to Summit Mesh Sacks Stuff Sack
$8 - $12
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
Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $16
 
CamelBak M.U.L.E. Raincover Pack Cover
$8
Coghlan's Nylon/Mesh Organizer Bags Stuff Sack
$8
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$8 - $18
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
Sea to Summit Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$9
Granite Gear Air Bag Stuff Sack
$9
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle Sling/Strap
$9
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps with Hooks Sling/Strap
$9 - $11
Equinox Bilby Ultralite Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$10 - $13
CamelBak Rain Cover Pack Cover
$9 - $12
Granite Gear Air Pair Stuff Sack
$9 - $12
Outdoor Research Sternum Strap Backpack Accessory
$10
REI Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$16
REI Lightweight Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$10 - $13
Kahtoola MICROspikes Tote Sack Stuff Sack
$10
 
Black Diamond Ascent Crampon Bikini Pack Pocket
$10
 
Granite Gear Air Style Hiker Wallet Pack Pocket
$10
Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sac Compression Sack
$11 - $28
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Outdoor Research Water Bottle Tote Pack Pocket
$11 MSRP
ULA Equipment Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$11 - $14
Equinox Gila Ultralite Vertical Pack Pocket Backpack Accessory
$12 MSRP
Mountainsmith Cyber II Recycled Camera Case Pack Pocket
$12
The North Face Fuel Tool Pouch Pack Pocket
$12 MSRP
DaKine Cell Case Backpack Accessory
$12 MSRP
Outdoor Research Ultralight Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$12 - $17
Arc'teryx Axe Keeper Backpack Accessory
$13 MSRP
REI Pillow Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$14
Outdoor Research Lightweight Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$13 - $16
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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.