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

GSI
Nite Ize
Coghlan's
Arc'teryx
Mammut
Seattle Sports
Equinox
Gossamer Gear
Osprey
Kahtoola

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

High Sierra Tangent 45

rated 3 of 5 stars Great lightweight all around pack with a faulty water delivery system. I would give it a higher review if the water feature did not leak. I got a great deal on this pack at Costco. I would have bought it without the water feature but having the camel back water feature was a plus. Unfortunately it leaks at the bottom valve. I took back the first backpack right away and got a second one and had the same problem.the slow leak soaks the contents of your pack and disks through into your lower back and… Full review

JanSport Katahdin 70L

rated 4 of 5 stars After purchasing this pack in the spring, I finally put it to use on the AT the first weekend of June. The pack performed admirably carrying all the gear needed for a weekend trek. I am a large hiker at 6'4", 210 pounds, and I appreciated the adjustable shoulder straps. I was able to carry most of the weight on my hips and legs. The mesh pockets on the outside of the pack kept snacks, trail maps, lights and cameras readily available. The top pouch was also convenient for easy access. Given that… Full review

OneCoolBackpack EcoPack-1

rated 3.5 of 5 stars Good entry-level pack-frame carry-all. Detachable stowage for carrying most types of packbags (and assorted cargo.) Expandable frame for fitting a wide range of sizes., plus flexible frame to flex with torso while hiking. Lightweight, affordable, versatile. I am the inventor of Eco-Pack1, and the founder of onecoolbackpack.com. I have strived to produce an entry-level backpack which fills an unmet need in the market. My design is intentionally basic, versatile and adaptable. It is intended to be… Full review

Osprey Aether 70

rated 5 of 5 stars Bullet proof. I have the 2012 model with over 3,000 miles of hard back country California. The custom fit is excellent. I carry over 40 lbs most of the time. The fit is perfect. Take your time in the store. A total custom fit can be had if you take your time. The belt is heavy duty, perfect moulded fit. I have been on mining excursions where I have walked along the Feather River for three weeks and lived out of this pack and carried 65 lbs the whole trip. I have thousands of miles on this pack (2012… Full review

Lowe Alpine Vision 40

rated 5 of 5 stars Excellent lightweight pack that is versatile for many conditions. I've had this pack for over 12 years now and use the heck out of it. I actually use this a lightweight multi-night pack, but when doing so I typically have to strap things like my sleeping bag on the outside. I've added a few more external straps to help add items and I've sewed in a little nylon hook for my water bladder in the back storage.   This bag is indestructible. Still to this day I have no tears (and I really pull down… Full review

Gregory Deva 85

rated 4 of 5 stars Very comfortable pack that can carry a heavier load and fit smaller (petite) lady hikers (xs size). As a petite (5'2") hiker, I was having a tough time finding a pack that fit comfortably. Tried men's small, but the fit was wrong. I needed a pack to carry lots of gear up Mt. Rainier and extended hikes and this pack sealed the deal. It fit my short torso comfortably, like a glove (xs frame option). First, it is a little heavier than most packs due to padding on the waist, back, and shoulders, but… Full review

Osprey Aether 70

rated 5 of 5 stars Great pack for larger loads. I received this pack as a gift for Christmas, and now that the weather has been warmer I have been able to put it to good use.  After I received the pack I returned to the store it was purchased from (EMS)  to make sure that it was the correct size for me. Luckily the size matched my torso length and the hip belt was also the perfect size (there is the ability to switch out the hip belt, and shoulder harness to create a customized fit).  In addition to having the… Full review

Lowe Alpine Ophir

rated 3.5 of 5 stars I have had mine for more than 8 years, taking on many camping trips, backpacking, as well as several canoeing trips. iIt has lasted me the entire duration of my time in the scouting movement. This bag was easy to use, as well as had a very good back comforter. Full review

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Gobi 60

rated 4.5 of 5 stars I've used this pack on numerous canyoneering trips and two trips down the Colorado River thru the Grand Canyon. It's stlll like new with some wear in the form of scuffs. Excellent well made product! Very well made pack, good workmanship throughout. I would recommend this pack to a serious outdoorsman. Great for canyoneering, whitewater, hiking in wet conditions etc. Had it for years and beat it up and it's still going strong without one issue! Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

GSI N-Case 420 Waterproof Hard Case
$2
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3)
Nite Ize S-Biner Backpack Accessory
$2 - $7
Nite Ize S-Biner SlideLock Backpack Accessory
$3 - $5
 
Coghlan's Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$3
Arc'teryx Kata 37 Overnight Pack
$3 - $199
Nite Ize S-Biner Ahhh Backpack Accessory
$3
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Mammut Ambient Light Dry Bag Battery-Powered Lantern / Dry Bag
$4 - $39
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 Dry Case/Pouch
$5 - $14
 
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 - $8
Gossamer Gear Pack Liner Bags Backpack Accessory
$5
Gossamer Gear Pack Foam Inserts Backpack Accessory
$5
Osprey Sternum Three Magnet Kit Backpack Accessory
$6 - $7
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags Stuff Sack
$6 - $12
Osprey Detachable Sternum Strap Magnet Kit Backpack Accessory
$6 - $8
Kahtoola MICROspikes Tote Sack Stuff Sack
$6
Sea to Summit Compression Sack Compression Sack
$7 - $159
Witz Keep It Safe Case Waterproof Hard Case
$7
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$7
Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac Stuff Sack
$22
Sea to Summit Neoprene Pouches Stuff Sack
$8
 
user rating: 3 of 5 (2)
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps Sling/Strap
$8 - $10
Sea to Summit Mesh Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $14
Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $16
Granite Gear Toughsack Stuff Sack
$8 - $19
 
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
Gossamer Gear Sternum Strap Assembly Sling/Strap
$8
Outdoor Research Accessory Straps Backpack Accessory
$9
GSI N-Case 840 Waterproof Hard Case
$9 MSRP
Granite Gear Air Bag Stuff Sack
$9
 
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle Sling/Strap
$9
Sea to Summit Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$9 - $10
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
$11 - $13
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sacks Dry Bag
$9 - $29
Outdoor Research Sternum Strap Backpack Accessory
$10
REI Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$12
user rating: 2 of 5 (1)
Osprey DigiStow Pack Pocket
$10 - $19
SealLine iPad Case Dry Case/Pouch
$10 - $29
Black Diamond Ascent Crampon Bikini Pack Pocket
$10
NRS Cylinder Dry Case Dry Case/Pouch
$10
SealLine See Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$10 - $14
CamelBak Rain Cover Pack Cover
$10 - $16
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$10 - $18
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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.