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
Coghlan's
Arc'teryx
Metolius
Equinox
Backcountry Access
Gossamer Gear
Sea to Summit
Osprey
GSI Outdoors

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

Kelty Yukon 48

rated 3 of 5 stars Great, durable backpack, used from Cub Scouts to present (I'm 30). I've had this pack since I was 12, and save for a couple squirrel holes internally (my bad. [cub scout]), it's held up amazingly. I've recently gotten into lightening my load (considerably), and took a seam ripper to it (it's from 1997, and I couldn't stand getting rid of it) to fit my new lightweight approach. It now sits just over 3 lbs, and functions as an extremely comfortable (and rugged...(can't do the Cuben/sil-nylon, as I… Full review

EMS Packable Pack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Best for summer and ultralight hiking, this pack is a bargain, even at EMS list price of $40. Can hold a maximum of 25 lbs, although you will be happier at 15 to 19 lbs. The material is tougher than it looks, the seams are properly stitched, and the value is awesome, for a 25L (1500 cu in) 9 ounce pack. I used it in March for a two-day /one-night 30-mile R/T on the Appalachian Trail, the weekend that many NB thru-hikers were starting. It held up well and I even had a 20-degree down bag / 2 pound… Full review

Ozark Trail Atka 28L

rated 4 of 5 stars Ozark Trail Atka 28L lightweight backpack. Before purchasing this pack I used a more traditionally styled, and heavier, backpack for daily walks. I recently attended a seminar that explained the major difference of carrying lighter gear while outdoors. It really made a lot of sense. So while in Walmart, I saw this very lightweight bag today and decided to give it a try. While walking in various environments I only need to carry a few items: some water, orange juice, glucose meter, rain jacket,… Full review

Mountainsmith Frostfire III

rated 5 of 5 stars I've had two, first was stolen, bought replacement ~1995. Used it for years (5'10" ~180) bought a Frostfire II for my wife, she still uses it. Mine went to a friend who's 6'8" and was struggling to fit a pack. The tape measure torso length straps were brilliant, and gave this pack more work to do, and my friend USES this pack. Hopefully we'll be chasing mule muzzleloader deer in Colorado with it in 2016. I'll be carrying another Patrick Smith pack, a Kifaru Duplex. I've had two of these packs. The… Full review

Vargo Ti-Arc Pack

rated 1.5 of 5 stars Bling backpack, in beta. The market Vargo is aiming for with the ti-Arc can be worked out by three statistics: the median fit for its waistbelt is over 40", the base model costs three hundred dollars, and its capacity is that of a generous daypack. Rich weight-weenies out for a stroll & a picnic? Right... ...well, not far off as a judgement, if a bit unkind. The basics are good—arguably very good: the (vented titanium) lumbar pad, its padding, and the associated waistbelt assembly are absolutely… Full review

Lowe Alpine Sirocco Classic

rated 4 of 5 stars Great all-purpose camping/backcountry hiking backpack. Has held up over a decade with multiple people using it on overnight to 30-day trips. A bit heavy compared to what's available today. Padding is comfortable but hot. This pack has been a great pack for the family. Has held up over a decade of backpacking and intercontinental trips (as a checked bag with flight cover) and has been loaned out to friends over the years. (Each person adjusting for their size.) Loved it as a great all purpose family… Full review

Mystery Ranch Wet Rib

rated 5 of 5 stars Puts your water where you can get to it often and easily, along with a map, sunblock, glasses, and other things you want close at hand. In wilderness first aid training we are taught to assume anyone in the wilderness is dehydrated, even if there is water all around in streams and ponds and the person is carrying water. Even with in-pack hydration it can be hard to drink enough because sucking on a tube causes a walker to lose his breath and stop drinking too early, and bottles carried elsewhere… Full review

Granite Gear Leopard A.C. 58

rated 5 of 5 stars Excellent long trip pack. I recently purchased this item on eBay because I needed a little more pack room for a week long hike and for "winter" backpacking. Used it in March 2016 and I loved it. It's lightweight but had all the extra room I needed for the extra gear I was carrying. I love the fact that its height is adjustable because that is the biggest problem I have in trying to get a good pack since my torso is short. I love the roll down opening and the big stretchy side pockets. The one drawback… Full review

Ozark Trail Atka 28L

rated 4 of 5 stars Good lightweight pack. I picked up one of these at Walmart also and I have been pleasantly surprised with it. It only weighed in at 11.6 ounces on my scales and for 28 liters that tops some of the big boy manufacturers. Of course it has no side water holsters, or lid pocket, or hipbelt strap, but I think that all contributes to its low weight. For the water bottles I just use Platypus .5 liter and 1 liter flat style bottles, which you can fit in the main body of the pack on top of your other gear. Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

Nite Ize S-Biner SlideLock Backpack Accessory
$3
Coghlan's All-Weather Wallet Pack Pocket
$3
Coghlan's Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$3
Arc'teryx Kata 37 Overnight Pack
$3 - $198
Nite Ize S-Biner Ahhh Backpack Accessory
$3
 
Metolius Quickdraw Slings w/Monster Webbing Sling/Strap
$3
Coghlan's Bottle Carrier Sling/Strap
$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
Equinox Bilby Mesh Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$15
Backcountry Access Stash 20 Winter Pack
$5 - $239
Gossamer Gear Pack Liner Bags Backpack Accessory
$5
Gossamer Gear Pack Foam Inserts Backpack Accessory
$5
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags Stuff Sack
$8 - $13
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Sack Compression Sack
$6 - $39
Osprey Detachable Sternum Strap Magnet Kit Backpack Accessory
$6 - $8
 
GSI Outdoors N-Case 420 Waterproof Hard Case
$7 MSRP
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps with Hooks Sling/Strap
$7 - $879
Mountainsmith Cyber II Recycled Camera Case Pack Pocket
$7
Witz Keep It Safe Case Waterproof Hard Case
$7
 
Easton Dry Sack Dry Bag
$7
REI Mesh Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8
Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac Stuff Sack
$8 MSRP
REI Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8
Seattle Sports Glacier Clear Dry Bags Dry Bag
$8 - $21
 
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle Sling/Strap
$8
 
user rating: 3 of 5 (2)
Sea to Summit Accessory Straps Sling/Strap
$8 - $9
Granite Gear Toughsack Stuff Sack
$8 - $19
Sea to Summit Mesh Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $23
Sea to Summit Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$8 - $149
 
CamelBak M.U.L.E. Raincover Pack Cover
$8
 
Easton Ultralight Dry Sack Dry Bag
$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
Granite Gear Air Bag Stuff Sack
$9 - $11
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$9
Nite Ize CamJam Tie Down Strap Backpack Accessory
$9 - $15
Equinox Bilby Ultralite Stuff Bag Stuff Sack
$9 - $16
CamelBak Rain Cover Pack Cover
$9 - $14
Nite Ize CamJam XT - Aluminum Cord Tightener Backpack Accessory
$9 - $11
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sacks Dry Bag
$9 - $11
Sea to Summit Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$10
 
Granite Gear Air Style Hiker Wallet Pack Pocket
$10
NRS Cylinder Dry Case Dry Case/Pouch
$10
VauDe Rock 45+10 Winter Pack
$10
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Granite Gear Hiker Wallet Pack Pocket
$10 MSRP
Seattle Sports Dry Doc Dry Case/Pouch
$10 - $14
SealLine Storm Sack Dry Bag
$10 - $25
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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.