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

Eureka! Sleeping Bag Carry Duffel

rated 4 of 5 stars A great bag. It holds everything very well. I have heard stories of some areas breaking, but not sure if it was taken care of properly. Full review

Deuter ACT Lite 45+10 SL

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Well organized, makes weight balancing a breeze. I love the easy of getting stuff into and out of this pack, including myself. I wore this thing while hiking the W in Patagonia over six days with zero hotspots. I was fitted for this pack at a big retailer—and I was most impressed with all of the points of adjustment that this pack offers. It is designed for women, but even then, I'm very short torso'd. Most packs gave me sore hips due to length, but this one cinched up great.  The pack is also… Full review

ULA Equipment Circuit

rated 5 of 5 stars This is a well-made pack that rides very comfortably for the whole day. At 2 lbs empty, it is in the "ultralight" class, and it is well suited to 2-4 night outings. The pack and suspension system can handle up to 30 lbs. I bought my ULA Circuit new, direct from the company, and have used it for two seasons now. I have certainly logged enough miles to know this pack. It is advertised to carry up to 30 pounds comfortably, and I would say that is fairly accurate. Anything over 30, I go to another pack… Full review

REI Traverse 65

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This backpack has amazing comfort and adjustability, with a price that cannot be beat. I appreciate the level of organization that is capable with this pack, but wish that some of the pockets were slightly bigger. I have put in about a hundred miles in with this pack through some pretty tough terrain, and I have never had a backpack with the kind of comfort and support that this pack offers. I have mild back pain and most backpacks make me miserable within a couple days of hiking, but this backpack… Full review

Gregory Stout 65

rated 5 of 5 stars Extremely comfortable and well built backpack. Flew several times with this bag as checked luggage and went on many several day hiking trips ranging from three to 10 days each and this bag has held up beautifully and still looks brand new. This is a great pack for multiple day hikes and backpacking trips through Europe. This backpack is highly adjustable and able to fit people of many sizes. I am relatively short (5' 6") and I was able to adjust the height of this pack so that it fit me perfectly. Full review

Kelty Red Cloud 110

rated 4.5 of 5 stars The only fault I find is that the extra daypack's strap is not removable. Otherwise, we were very happy to take two of these into the Boundary Waters for a week this summer. There is plenty of room for all of our lightweight gear and the pass-through sides were great for our rods to be kept safe during portage. Fit both of our frames very well with the adjustable straps. I'm 5'7" and the husband is 6'3". Full review

Osprey Ace 50

rated 5 of 5 stars From the minute she put it on, we knew it was the right bag for our 12-year-old. Our upcoming through hike will be so much easier with her packing her own extras! We looked at a number of other options, price not a factor. This won by far.  Full review

Kelty Cache Hauler (Frame Only)

rated 5 of 5 stars Absolute best pack for hauling out elk from deep in the back country. Carry 120-150 pounds, no problems other than being tired. This is the absolute best pack you will ever need to haul out a whole deer, elk halves or quarters, moose, caribou, bear, you name it! I have had 150 pounds on this pack numerous times and this pack is still very comfortable!  It fits perfectly. When loaned to my buddies they rave about the pack and most have bought one themselves. If you like hunting in the deep backcountry,… Full review

Gregory Amber 44

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Suitable for two days overnight mountain climbing or river tracing. Hip belts and shoulder and sternum straps are adjustable and comfortable. Fits a lot of stuff if you pack it correctly.  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 Powder Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
$539
ABS Powder Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$34
ABS Vario 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario 30 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$44 - $519
ABS Vario 40 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$525
ABS Vario Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
$372 - $569
ABS Vario Silver Avalanche Airbag Pack
$500
ABS Vario Ultralight 18 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$38 - $512
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight Avalanche Airbag Pack
$54
 
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
$135
Aire Waterproof Kayak Cargo Hold Dry Bag
$135
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
$16 - $22
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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.