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

Nite Ize
Arc'teryx
Sea to Summit
Coghlan's
Metolius
GSI
Ultimate Direction
Seattle Sports
SealLine
Equinox

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

The North Face Renegade

rated 5 of 5 stars I really really love this pack!!! Bought it in the mid '90s and I still have it and use it.  Has traveled with me through Europe, Middle East, and exploring the Annapurna Range in Nepal's Himalayas — has never let me down yet.  Now using it hiking, camping, backpacking with my sons and with their scout troop. It outperforms many of the new packs being used.  Have looked at other packs but none match up to this one. Its like your first love or car, you love them forever!!! Full review

Lowe Alpine Netherworld 90

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Great pack!!!!! I bought this pack used but in great condition about 6 years ago. It has been virtually indestructible. I have been on at least 70 overnighters and weekend trips with it and it is still going strong. I love all of the outside pockets and it has enough room to go on long hauls. It has not had a tear once and I have gone under and through some fairly thick stuff. The only thing I didn't like about this pack was there is no padding above the waistbelt. During the summer this was actually… Full review

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

rated 5 of 5 stars Amazing pack that feels like nothing at all. This is a great short hike pack (2-4 days) unless you are truly an ultra-light hiker then you could squeeze more days out of it. The AG suspension and mesh is amazing for my build (5'9" 205lbs). I wish we had a pack system like this in the military for carrying heavy loads. Overall it's very comfortable even without using the load lifters appropriately (I hardly ever adjust these mostly because I forget). I like the compartments, but I'm a pocket guy… Full review

Luke's Ultralite Accessory Pouch #2

rated 4.5 of 5 stars The first waist belt pocket I've found that I can easily access with my waist belt buckled. Roomy, virtually waterproof, and well-made. I have purchased many different backpack waist belt pockets in my quest for one that fit my needs and desires:  Zpacks, Gossamer Gear, Zimmerbuilt, EXIT, MLD, Elemental Horizons, and the pockets that are part of the HMG waist belt. My main frustration with all of them was that to keep them from sliding around it was usually necessary to anchor them near where the… Full review

Kelty Trekker 3950

rated 4 of 5 stars You can still find well-made Trekkers in like-new condition online if you're a smart shopper. Before Kelty switched to polyester materials and a thinner hipbelt, this pack represented a practical, comfortable on-trail option for people hauling heavy loads. For a Boy Scout, especially an adult leader or a teenager with the strength of a mule, these packs still represent a good choice. There are now a lot of better options on the market, but they cost more money. I recently purged my outdoor gear… Full review

Nathan Mirage Pak

rated 4 of 5 stars This pack is perfect for the minimalist at heart, but beware of bounce with a smartphone. I'd buy it again even with its shortcomings. This pack is all you need when you don't need much. I like to run with a car key, cell phone and some cash/card. For anything long enough to need more stuff, I carry a different pack. The Mirage is wonderfully expandable and will hold odd shaped items and much larger things than you might imagine. It weighs nearly nothing and dries out very quickly. It has a built-in… Full review

Kelty Flyway 43

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is the Kelty Flyway 43, which is a travel friendly daypack based off of the popular Kelty Redwing 44 pack. Like the Redwing pack, the Flyway is panel loading and has many features for organization. Additionally, there are travel friendly features like a padded laptop sleeve, rain cover and a separate bottom compartment. Features Size and design: The pack has a volume of 43L and is carry-on size. The pack uses durable 420D polyester material Panel zip main compartment and bottom zipper access:… Full review

Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is the 25 liter Patagonia Black Hole Pack which is the smaller of the two Black Hole packs (the other is 35L). Like all of Patagonia's Black Hole line, the pack material is durable and water resistant. The pack is just the right size and has smart features making it a versatile day pack. Likes Sleek and simplistic design: The fabric is burly and water resistant and has not shown any wear since I've had it (since fall '14). What sets this day pack apart is it has one main compartment with a… Full review

REI Men's Trail 40 Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars This is the ideal multi-use travel pack at 40L with a panel opening, 8 exterior pockets, 3 interior pockets and hydration sleeve. It comes in both Men's and Women's and at a price of $110, it won't break the bank. Overview: This is REI's latest all-around pack which replaces the Lookout 40 Pack. At 40 liters, it is big enough to carry a ton of gear but not so big that it can't be carried on a plane. The pack has tons of features to help with organization and the biggest change is the panel opening… 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 SlideLock Backpack Accessory
$3
Arc'teryx Kata 37 Overnight Pack
$3 - $199
Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack Dry Bag
$3 - $24
Sea to Summit Compression Sack Compression Sack
$3 - $34
Coghlan's Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$3
Nite Ize S-Biner Ahhh Backpack Accessory
$3
 
Metolius Quickdraw Slings w/Monster Webbing Sling/Strap
$3
GSI N-Case 420 Waterproof Hard Case
$4
Ultimate Direction Gel Flask Clip-On Pack Pocket
$4
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 Map Case Dry Case/Pouch
$5 - $6
SealLine iPod Nano Case Dry Case/Pouch
$5
 
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
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags Stuff Sack
$6 - $11
Outdoor Research Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$6 - $12
Seattle Sports Dry Doc Dry Case/Pouch
$7 - $14
user rating: 3 of 5 (2)
LokSak OPSAK Dry Case/Pouch / Food Bag
$7 - $8
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Mammut Ambient Light Dry Bag Battery-Powered Lantern / Dry Bag
$7 - $49
Witz Keep It Safe Case Waterproof Hard Case
$7
Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac Stuff Sack
$22
Sea to Summit Neoprene Pouches Stuff Sack
$8
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 Mesh Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $14
Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $17
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
Outdoor Research Accessory Straps Backpack Accessory
$9
Ultimate Direction Side Kick Clip-On Pack Pocket
$9
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$9
Nite Ize CamJam Tie Down Strap Backpack Accessory
$9 - $15
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
LokSak aLokSak Dry Case/Pouch / Food Bag
$9
user rating: 0 of 5 (1)
Osprey MapWrap Pack Pocket
$9 - $16
GSI N-Case 840 Waterproof Hard Case
$9 MSRP
Sea to Summit Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$9
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle Sling/Strap
$9
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
$10 - $13
Granite Gear Air Bag Stuff Sack
$9 - $26
CamelBak Rain Cover Pack Cover
$9 - $16
The North Face Sack Pack Daypack
$9 - $20
Outdoor Research Sternum Strap Backpack Accessory
$10
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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.