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.
Advanced Base Camp
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
MindShift UltraLight Dual 36L
The Mindshift Gear Ultralight Dual 36L is a well built, cleverly designed backpack targeting the cross-section of ultralight/lightweight backpackers who are serious about their photography. The backpack is filled with clever features which make on-the-move photography very convenient, while still maintaining the look, feel, and performance of sleek outdoor backpack. Introduction: The MindShift Ultralight Dual 36L photo daypack is a very interesting product, and one that addresses several interests… Full review
The North Face Patrol 45 Duo
Sometimes they get it right. More Pros Nylon side pocket ( not cheap ) Universal buckles (easy to replace or expand ) Wide belt Loops for climbing gear inside pockets for a avalanche probe and bladder I bought this new in 2003 and have used it for everything from: Back country camping - expanded to 60lt and outside harness system handles a foamy and tent very well. Fly fishing - added buckles to my float tube and clipped it to the pack, fly rod rests in the side pocket Ski touring - 3 different… Full review
Manasalu Adventure 50+5
A well made and versatile pack for every day or for the longer trek. Very well made and designed, definitely user friendly. For some time I have been trawling through the web looking for a new 55 L pack which had all the features that I wanted in a pack; This one I had seen and it fitted all the points that was on my list. When a New Zealand supplier decided after a year plus of stocking this pack they had a silly clearance price offer which I couldn't refuse. The pack is very well designed and… Full review
Teton Sports Mountain Adventurer 4000
A fantastic pack for a great price! This pack is designed for Ultra Light backpacking. It weighs only 4lbs. I would definitely recommend this pack for those who are heading out for a few days, and want to keep the weight of their gear, including pack, to a minimum. I'm very impressed with this pack and I love using it. This is one of Teton Sports' newest packs, part of their Black-Out Line. It is a really smart-looking piece of gear, that I am happy to take on the trail. It's a modern, innovative,… Full review
REI New Star
Great pack. Rides well and very comfortable. Large size with plenty of compartments and straps to store and adjust load. Well made with beautiful colors—scarlet red and forest green. I'm 6'1" and this fit me great, was very comfortable, with a huge capacity. Compression straps allow for various size loads and kept the pack riding well. Padded shoulder straps and hip belt stayed in place and were comfortable. Three main compartments and a small one inside held items securely with easy access. The… Full review
Platypus Sprinter XT 35
This is a great pack. Well-constructed, waterproof, comfortable (probably more comfortable for men), but it may not fit everyone’s hiking needs niche perfectly. I didn’t really like this pack to start. I had taken it on several day hikes and field work, but I couldn’t figure out its niche. It holds far more than I would take on a day trip, but not enough for my typical overnight. In an attempt to think about what other people would like to know and in reading reviews is when I really started… Full review
Great pockets, good space, but small straps (meant for a shorter/smaller person). First...I read a review that said this fits small (meant for a smaller woman or larger child) and that is true! That said, it fits me perfectly because I'm small. So...I haven't actually filled/tried it yet, but it's exactly what I wanted style wise/pocket wise. Hard to find a daypack/travel pack with external pockets like I needed, but this has it at a great price! (Moosejaw has a killer deal on it as of 5/10/16)… Full review
High Sierra Karadon 55
High Sierra’s Karadon 55-liter backpack features an innovative, fully adjustable torso and waist belt. This design seems ideal for growing adolescent hikers, families with multiple children, or anyone on the market for a pack that is likely to fit a variety of body shapes and sizes. However, if you’re an experienced backpacker looking for a high-end pack designed for your specific body type, move on; this is likely not the pack for you. Testing Conditions I tested the Karadon 55-liter pack from… Full review
Outdoor Products Fieldline Alpha OPS Daypack
Good, basic bag. Comfortable to carry, roomy interior. Good for EDC, day hikes, or Get Home Bag in car or office. Good for a beginner who doesn't want to spend a lot of money on a starter bag. I picked up this bag last year from Amazon. I was looking for a black tactical-looking daypack to replace one I had worn out. This Fieldline Alpha Ops Daypack was a decent replacement for the price. It's not my every day bag but it's getting decent use. As soon as I got it last year, I loaded it up and took… 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.