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
Kelty Yukon 48
This is the pack that I always return to. Easy to pack and to carry. Durable and adaptable. Excellent for smaller adults. This review pertains to the older version of this pack, which has somewhat less heavily padded and shaped hip belt and shoulder straps, no sternum strap, no provision for a water bladder, and lashing tabs on the top flap and back pocket, rather than a daisy-chain. Conditions: I have used this pack for 8 years, for several trips annually of 1 to seven days. Construction and… Full review
The North Face Terra 65
The hiking backpack The North Face Terra 65 has an efficient and comfortable carrying system. And also, this backpack is equipped with an adjustable Opti-Fit back that provides comfort and stability. It's equipment is complete, it has two compartments with access top and bottom with removable separation. The main compartment is also accessible by a long side zip (only one :/ ). There is a flap with exterior zippered pockets, containing a second pocket zipped mesh with keyring. It also has two side… Full review
Osprey Atmos AG 65
A well built product. Very comfortable AG back support system that makes this a must have. After many hikes with this pack (Arizona, Utah, and Florida) I've found it to be the most comfortable pack I've ever worn. A+ for the AG design! Osprey stands by its product and I've heard and read that they will replace your pack no questions asked for whatever reason for the lifetime of the product. I don't know for sure because I haven't had a single problem. I ordered the large size.. but medium height... Full review
Osprey Aether 70
This pack is comfortable, durable, lightweight, and versatile. The Aether provides excellent body fit, adjustability, and balance. Very well designed storage and accessory pockets. I'm 5'9", 160 lbs. ("average build"), over 60, and have a surgically repaired back, so comfort is important to me. After a fitting at REI and trying on several competitive models, it became clear Osprey understood body symmetry. Loaded with 35-40 lbs the pack sits comfortably above my tailbone and distributes the load… Full review
Osprey Talon 11
This pack is great for day hikes as well as a short camping trip. Durable, lots of compartments and space, and can be used in many different ways. The Osprey Talon 11 is the perfect pack for day hiking and short camping trips, and with its incredible amount of adjustable counterparts, it could be used for any shape or size of person. I purchased this backpack before a trip to Zion National Park in Utah during the summer of 2014, at a thrift store for a killer price. I was hesitant because of it… Full review
Thule Men's Capstone 40L
Mesh back panel is amazing for those hot weather climates where you need ventilation. Having an adjustable MicroAdjust Suspension system, this is perfect for those that always seem to have trouble finding the right size pack to fit their body. Great for day trips that require a lot of gear, or relaxed weekend trips where not many clothes are needed. For my trip to Costa Rica, I began using the Capstone as a carry-on to take more luggage with me abroad. It may not be the right shape, but the dimensions… Full review
Black Diamond Magnum 16 Pack
The Black Diamond Magnum 16 is daypack that can take abuse, hold enough gear for a savy overnighter. It has just the right ammount of features at a doable price point. It comes from a company with one of the best warranties I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. This little pack is perfect for the budget minded day hiker. It does everything one would expect from a pack this size while not breaking your budget. If you're looking for a decent pack with a hard to beat price point, the Black… Full review
ALPS OutdoorZ Pursuit
I have come to rely heavily on this pack for all of my hunting and most of my hiking activities. Be aware that the external straps for securing items to the outside of the pack can be vulnerable to tearing at the base if the item you are attaching is too heavy. I have used it a lot for shed antler hunting; strapping on 30 or 40 pounds of antlers has caused such tearing. Nonetheless, the zippers have never failed, and now I mount the daypack on a freighter frame if I might need extra support (I drop… Full review
Osprey Aura AG 50
I love this pack. It's so comfortable. It feels like I am carrying 10 lbs less than what I am carrying. I've had always had back problems since giving birth, but with this pack's suspension my back is in heaven. I love this pack. It's so comfortable. It feels like I am carrying 10 lbs less than what I am carrying. I've had always had back problems since giving birth, but with this pack's suspension my back is in heaven. The shoulder straps are very cushioning. I took this backpack on an overnight… 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.