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
GSI
Seattle Sports
SealLine
Equinox
Gossamer Gear
Granite Gear

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

Arc'teryx Bora 95

rated 5 of 5 stars Great large capacity pack that is excellent in cold wet/snowy weather. I've put this pack through some interesting situations. Once I wanted to camp out on an island on a river so I threw the full pack on an inner tube and swam across the river to the island. Along the way the pack was about 1/4 submerged. When I unpacked, everything was dry.  Another time I brought the pack up a frozen river with a bunch of small, frozen-over cascades. On the way out, I rode the pack down the iced river on a sled. Full review

Mammut Lithium Z 8 Pack

rated 4 of 5 stars Nice little daypack for fast & light endeavors. This is a nice little daypack for your fast and light adventures; nice, but not perfect I've never owned a Mammut pack and this little pack caught my eye with fast and light day trips in my mind. It's light (just under 16 oz on my scale), but not so overly light it's uncomfortable to carry.  The materials and construction also add to the weight, but add to its durability — you won't have to baby this pack.   The 8 liter volume is just about… Full review

Lowe Alpine Morning Star 75L+

rated 4 of 5 stars Large single compartment, no frills, no extras, water resistant pack. Does the job well but offers little in access points. Fit: Fits well and fits a variety of sizes. I've lent the pack to others over the past several years and everyone has said that it was a good ride. Comfort: I find the pack is very comfortable. The hip and shoulder straps don't look like much but they have a pretty firm closed cell foam core that works pretty well.  Capacity: This pack holds a surprising amount. It expands… Full review

Osprey Crescent 85

rated 5 of 5 stars Great pack for extended trips. Places majority of weight on the hips. Very comfortable and very durable. It is my current go to pack. Fit: Form fitted foam for the hips. Shoulder straps are very comfortable. I bought the pack used and did not get it re-fitted but the pack is still fantastic. I think the pack distributes a bit too much to the hips and my hips were sore for the first two days of a week-long trip. If I get the hips re-molded, I think it will solve the problem.  Comfort: Minus the… Full review

Gregory Stout 35

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Great hiking, climbing, overnight or travel pack. Beautiful design and color scheme. Nice fit and larger than expected. This is for the large size. First, the pack is larger that I expected, and probably holds more than the stated 35L.  Not a bad thing, but remember this is the smallest in the line-up.  Second, the color of the bag blew me away – such a nice design...the orange is a little darker, more of a rusty orange, with beautiful blue-green trim including under the lid and the rain cover. Full review

Outgear rucksack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars I have had my rucksack for nearly 18 years. It still looks new! It has outlasted many others on the market which friends have purchased and is still going strong. Zip quality is exceptional. Purchased this rucksack and shell case 18 years ago — have travelled extensively since. Straps and locks still functioning as new. Zips working perfectly with the lager tags on end much easier to open and close in all weather conditions. Tough canvas cover worn extremely well; tolerates water/snow/heat without… Full review

Inov-8 Race Pro 4

rated 5 of 5 stars My go-to short distance, sub 2 hour, trail runner pack. This has been a great purchase. I have a variety of running packs I use dependent on where and how long I intend to run. This pack is great for sub 2 hour runs.  The fit is superb. It cinches tight and does not jiggle nor loosen during my runs. It is very comfortable to wear. The capacity is as advertised. Internally the bag fits my first aid kit, spare socks, tissues, and waterproof jacket.  The external bungee straps I put my ultralight… Full review

Osprey Aether 70

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Comfortable, rugged, reliable brand. This pack has fit like a glove since day one. I'm a big fella and able to carry some big loads. This pack ensures the weight is firmly driven into the hips and not carried on the shoulders. The hip belt is the strength of this pack. It is nicely padded and carries the load perfectly. I do long tramps for tens of kilometres a day and this bag makes that all the more doable. This is all the more so given the type of county The organisation of the pack is also great. Full review

Mountainsmith Kinetic II

rated 4.5 of 5 stars My go-to hip pack. Napolean Dynamite would be proud. For bumming around outside of town, I love this pack. Big enough to hold snacks, camera, and drinks. It's comfortable, easy to work with and holds up. Overall it's great. Fit: Snug and ergonomic Comfort: Padded, good Capacity: Just enough for what you need for a day Organization and accessibility: I wish the drink pockets were just a tad deeper so it could hold store bought water bottles a bit more secure. If I transfer my drinks into the classic… 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
GSI N-Case 420 Waterproof Hard Case
$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 - $8
Gossamer Gear Pack Liner Bags Backpack Accessory
$5
Gossamer Gear Pack Foam Inserts Backpack Accessory
$5
Equinox Bilby Nylon Stuff Bags Stuff Sack
$6 - $11
Granite Gear Toughsack Stuff Sack
$6 - $14
Outdoor Research Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$6 - $12
Granite Gear Air Bag Stuff Sack
$7 - $26
Seattle Sports Dry Doc Dry Case/Pouch
$7 - $14
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 - $16
 
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
Gossamer Gear Sternum Strap Assembly Sling/Strap
$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
GSI N-Case 840 Waterproof Hard Case
$9 MSRP
Sea to Summit Alloy Buckle Sling/Strap
$9
Sea to Summit Seam Sealed Stuff Sacks Stuff Sack
$9 - $10
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 Pair Stuff Sack
$9 - $12
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sacks Dry Bag
$9 - $29
Outdoor Research Sternum Strap Backpack Accessory
$10
REI Stuff Sack Stuff Sack
$12
Granite Gear Air Pocket Pack Pocket
$10 - $12
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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.