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
Six Moon Designs Fusion 65
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.