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 »

Category

Daypacks
Overnight
Weekend
Expedition
External Frame
Winter Packs
Hydration Packs
Front Packs
Lumbar/Hip Packs
Child Carriers
Dry Packs
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brand

other
180 Tack
3V Gear
5.11 Tactical
Aarn
ABS
Adidas
Advanced Base Camp
Advanced Elements
Adventure Driven

User

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

Geigerrig Tactical 1600

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This amazing hydration pack has an almost indestructible hydration engine that is easy to clean and room to bring everything you need for any daylong adventure. Disclaimer: I was provided with this pack by Geigerrig to trial and review. I have had a Geigerrig Rig 1600 (their non-tactical pack of the same capacity) that I purchased as a consumer two years ago, and throughout this review I will make comparisons between the two. (Left: Rig 1600 Tactical, Right: Rig 1600)THE SHORT REVIEW I LOVE THIS… Full review

MEC Brio 40

rated 3 of 5 stars I'm on the large side of "average male build", and this pack seems like a youth pack to me... which I suppose is not a failing, but it makes the pack unusable to someone of my stature. The volume and harness size seem ideally suited to either youth or petite women, who would probably find this pack very versatile and useful for small trips without a lot of gear. Fit: It doesn't say so in the product description, or anywhere on the pack itself, but I would recommend this pack to children/youth or… Full review

The North Face Men's Surge

rated 2.5 of 5 stars Please take a look at my video below. My backpack has little more than 1 year and already the rear bottom part is worn off. Wouldn't expect that from North Face. Please take a look at this video. Picture speaks more than 1000 words.. Full review

Camp Trails Ponderosa

rated 5 of 5 stars Camp Trails Ponderosa is the best pack I have ever used and I have had a more than a handful of other packs to compare with. I chucked away my first one after many years use when one of the zippers failed and regretted it afterwards and have this week bought two more on eBay and will never look back on softpacks again. I cannot wait to finally get them. Top weave, robust frame, light and roomy. I have used it around the world from Lappland, Nova Scotia, Rockies, and New Zealand and it has worked… Full review

Patagonia Ascensionist 35L

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Pretty much my go-to pack for all things NOT requiring the kitchen sink. 35 Liters is just enough for me to go most places overnight as long as I am SUPER weight/bulk conscious and don't mind a few items strapped to the outside of the pack. The Ascensionist is a fantastic day-pack when you need everything and a decent over-nighter when you don't need much.  It's Patagonia, so the top-notch quality, workmanship, and features are to be expected in a pack such as this, so I won't dwell on the material… Full review

Deuter ACT Lite 65+10

rated 5 of 5 stars I grew up with the old aluminum frame shoulder harness packs (virtually no hip support) hiking up and down the Presidential range in New Hampshire's White Mountains. This pack (mine is light blue -- slightly older) is wonderful for its capacity to make relatively light hiking a reality. My pack, with a week's worth of food and gear (with bear canister) is about 35-40# at start, and everything fits PERFECTLY. I have used it on a couple of dozen significant hikes and there is not a sign of significant… Full review

Deuter AC Lite 22

rated 5 of 5 stars This is a great everyday bag that can suffice for a light overnight backpacking trip. This has become my go-to bag for day hikes, car camping, fishing, and anything between. It carries all of my essentials in comfort with the Air Comfort back and even a 3L Hydrapak reservoir. It can even double as a short backpacking pack if you are a minimalist or use ultralight gear.  Full review

Gregory Baltoro 85

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Great pack, comfy, packs a ton and super durable. Have had mine for going on two years and I've abused it without running into any issues. It's also super easy to customize, gear stows are intuitive and extremely functional. I would recommend this pack for anyone who is OK with making the tradeoff of weight for utility. Only have two real gripes. First is the waterproof hip-pouch is not large enough to stash a GPS device (e.g. DeLorme) or a smartphone; and second is that the hanging mechanism for… Full review

Deuter ACT Trail 28 SL

rated 5 of 5 stars I love my 28L pack and cannot wait for more adventures to come! Bring it on, Nepal! The fit is incomparable to other packs, especially in the chest/hip area. Fits like a glove! #Deuterforlife Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Aqua-Quest Nautica 30L Dry Bag
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Everest Hiking Pack Overnight Pack
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
London Bridge Light Infantry Patrol Pack Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Manasalu Adventure 50+5 Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
MFH German Winter Tarn Rucksack Winter Pack
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Modern Warrior 18.5" Tactical Military Style Backpack Overnight Pack
$35 MSRP
OneCoolBackpack EcoPack-1 External Frame Backpack
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
$200 MSRP
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
The Big Heavy External Frame Backpack
user rating: 2.5 of 5 (3)
Travelon Clear View Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$13 MSRP
 
180 Tack HydraQuiver Hydration Pack Hydration Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
3V Gear Outlaw Gear Slinger Daypack
$40 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Daypack
$200 MSRP
user rating: 1 of 5 (1)
Aarn Effortless Rhythm Weekend Pack
$275 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Aarn Guiding Light 60L Weekend Pack
 
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn Marathon Magic 20L Daypack
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
Aarn Sport Balance Pockets Front Pack
$60 MSRP
ABS Vario 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
 
Adidas Alliance II Sackpack Daypack
 
Adidas Hickory Backpack Daypack
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$10
Advanced Elements CargoPak Dry Bag
$70 MSRP
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Adventure Driven WolfPack 75L Expedition Pack
discontinued
Adventure Lion Sea Lion 10L Dry Bag
$39 MSRP
Aire Frodo Bag Dry Bag
$169
Aire Waterproof Kayak Cargo Hold Dry Bag
$169
Alchemy Equipment 20L Roll Top Daypack Daypack
$119
Alchemy Equipment 20L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$157
Alchemy Equipment 25L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$179
Alchemy Equipment 30L Zip Access Daypack Daypack
$179
Alchemy Equipment 35L Top Load Daypack Overnight Pack
$209
 
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Alpina R114 Expedition Pack
discontinued
ALPS Mountaineering Amphibious Dry Sack Dry Bag
 
ALPS Mountaineering Arvada Pack Daypack
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Big Bear Lumbar/Hip Pack
discontinued
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Bryce External Frame Backpack
$149 MSRP
ALPS Mountaineering Caldera 4500 Expedition Pack
ALPS Mountaineering Caldera 5500 Expedition Pack
user rating: 4 of 5 (4)
ALPS Mountaineering Cascade 4200 Weekend Pack
$170 MSRP
user rating: 4 of 5 (9)
ALPS Mountaineering Cascade 5200 Expedition Pack
$190 MSRP
user rating: 2 of 5 (2)
ALPS Mountaineering Commander External Frame Backpack
$130 MSRP
ALPS Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack Compression Sack
$20
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
ALPS Mountaineering Cyclone Stuff Sacks Compression Sack
$22
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Denali 4500 Expedition Pack
$190 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
ALPS Mountaineering Denali 5500 Expedition Pack
$200 MSRP
ALPS Mountaineering Dry Sack Dry Bag
$26 - $29
 
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Glacier 3700 Weekend Pack
discontinued
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Orizaba 3900 Weekend Pack
$140 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Quadrant 4900 Expedition Pack
 
ALPS Mountaineering Red Tail 3900 Weekend Pack
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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.