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

Coghlan's
Nite Ize
Metolius
Sea to Summit
Equinox
Backcountry Access
Mountainsmith
Gossamer Gear
Mammut
Cabela's

Genders

Unisex
Men's
Women's
Kids'
Girls'

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

Six Moon Designs Fusion 65

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Great pack, good fit This pack is great. After owning for a little over a year now I really like this bag.  The first summer I spent just adjusting the fit.  It's a one size fits all pack so it took me a bit of hiking and adjusting to get the right fit.  I just took a trip and realized it's finally broken in. Fits great and carries up to about 25# really comfortably.  I've dragged this thing through mud and up and down rock slabs and through some bushwacking adventures. This pack is still no… Full review

Osprey Exos 58

rated 4 of 5 stars The Osprey Exos 58 is a great lightweight backpack for thru-hiking. I used the older model on multiple long hikes before it began to wear out. Osprey’s tremendous warranty resulted in them sending me the new, updated version which, in most ways, seems even better than before. I bought my first Osprey Exos 58 before hiking the Colorado Trail in 2014. Last year I used the pack to hike the Long Trail and John Muir Trail. With some other trips, my total mileage with the pack was about 1,500 miles. Full review

Arc'teryx Alpha FL 30

rated 5 of 5 stars Reassuring quality in a lightweight pack. I bought this pack as the lightest possible cabin luggage option for an international trip. I found it robust, and adequate for my needs. The expandable design to the pack allowed for last minute purchases in duty free to be added into the pack. The pack is narrow, so the toploader design can prove tricky if you want to access an item in a full pack. The kangaroo pocket is small, so a full pack inhibits its use on occasion. All in all, I bought this pack… Full review

Granite Gear Vapor Trail

rated 5 of 5 stars Best all-around backpack. Took mine on over 2,000 miles of trail (AT and John Muir). Never had any issues, no noticeable wear or tear besides a little waist belt slippage. My base was around 9 lbs (Hennesy Hammock!) so I could carry plenty of food and water and not overload it. There were times when I had at least 30 lbs food and water and it still performed well. Needed a replacement pack after losing it and ended up buying another (used) one on eBay. Not as light as some of the ultralight packs… Full review

Mountainsmith Lariat 65

rated 5 of 5 stars I have had this backpack for a little over a year now, and this thing is awesome. I take it out hunting with my dad and we end up hiking over 10 miles a weekend. Most of which is a lot of bushwhacking. The pack is very durable and comfortable for the price. I highly recommend this pack to anyone who is on a budget looking for a quality weekend pack. Full review

REI Women's Flash 65 Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars This pack is excellent for weekend and longer trips. It has a ton of adjustments to stabilize the pack and to secure its contents. It Is an all around great pack. Good job, REI! This pack is excellent for weekend and longer trips. I found the chest strap on the previous version to be too high. This version it is perfectly placed and the deep side mesh pockets are great. The bottom access makes loading and unloading extremely fast. The straps both shoulder and hip belt are the perfect size for me… Full review

Berghaus Unisex Expedition Light 40

rated 3.5 of 5 stars As I wrote in pros and cons, would be great pack if water resistant. At the back closed cell panel. As a pro, off course;-) Full review

Dana Design Shadow Peak

rated 5 of 5 stars Bought mine in 1995. It's been all over Alaska, the Philippines, N.Y., and all my other traveling in the last 20 plus years. It is always with me. Even if I have other stuff it's the first bag packed. There are a few rips and a broken clip, but 20+! years of constant use it has stood the test of time. The best pack I have ever had. It's been literally 10s of thousands of miles in airplanes, boats, cars, trucks, buses, and on foot through rivers over mountains, jungles, and cities—just about anything… Full review

REI Traverse 85

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Functional. Comfortable. REI stepping up their mid-high end packs. Fit: I'm right in between the M and L size, so it was suggested that I go with the L. After playing with a few settings, the pack fits like a glove and load is secure to my back with little shifting. Comfort: Great ventilation. Shoulder and hip straps are very comfortable and mold well to my body. Capacity: I originally picked up the Traverse 70, but hiking with kids, I needed some added space for more gear. 85 seem perfect for the… Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

Coghlan's All-Weather Wallet Pack Pocket
$2
Coghlan's Nylon Mesh Dunk Bag Stuff Sack
$2
Nite Ize S-Biner SlideLock Backpack Accessory
$3
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3)
Nite Ize S-Biner Backpack Accessory
$3
Coghlan's Ditty Bag Set Stuff Sack
$3
Coghlan's Three-Piece Mesh Ditty Bag Set Stuff Sack
$3
 
Metolius Quickdraw Slings w/Monster Webbing Sling/Strap
$3
Coghlan's Bottle Carrier Sling/Strap
$3
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit See Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$4
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Nite Ize S-Biner MicroLock Backpack Accessory
$4
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Equinox Marsupial Ultralite Pouch Pack Pocket
$5 MSRP
Coghlan's Nylon/Mesh Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$5
Coghlan's Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$5
Equinox Bilby Mesh Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$8 - $14
Backcountry Access Stash 20 Winter Pack
$5 - $239
Mountainsmith Cyber II Recycled Camera Case Pack Pocket
$5
Gossamer Gear Pack Liner Bags Backpack Accessory
$5
Gossamer Gear Pack Foam Inserts Backpack Accessory
$5
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Mammut Ambient Light Dry Bag Battery-Powered Lantern / Dry Bag
$5
Cabela's Cinchsack II Daypack
$6
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags Stuff Sack
$6 - $13
Osprey Detachable Sternum Strap Magnet Kit Backpack Accessory
$6 - $8
user rating: 3 of 5 (2)
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps Sling/Strap
$7 - $11
Coghlan's Nylon/Mesh Organizer Bags Stuff Sack
$7
Columbia Treadlite 16 Daypack
$7 - $220
 
GSI Outdoors N-Case 420 Waterproof Hard Case
$7 MSRP
Outdoor Research Accessory Straps Backpack Accessory
$7
Witz Keep It Safe Case Waterproof Hard Case
$7
Witz See It Safe Case Waterproof Hard Case
$7
 
Easton Dry Sack Dry Bag
$7
Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac Stuff Sack
$40
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$8
Coghlan's Waterproof Pouch Set Pack Pocket
$8
Dry Pak Alligator Wallet Dry Case/Pouch
$8
REI Mesh Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8
Witz Glitter Box II Waterproof Hard Case
$8
Witz Keep It Clear Case Waterproof Hard Case
$8
REI Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle Sling/Strap
$8 - $10
Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $18
Granite Gear Toughsack Stuff Sack
$8 - $19
Sea to Summit Mesh Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $23
 
Easton Ultralight Dry Sack Dry Bag
$8
Gossamer Gear Sternum Strap Assembly Sling/Strap
$8
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sacks Dry Bag
$8 - $13
 
Cabela's Lightweight Dry Sacks Dry Bag
$9
Nite Ize CamJam Tie Down Strap Backpack Accessory
$9 - $15
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$9 - $785
Dry Pak Multi-Purpose Case - Clear Dry Case/Pouch
$9 - $12
Granite Gear Air Bag Stuff Sack
$9 - $15
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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.