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
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brands

other
180 Tack
Aarn
ABS
Adirondack Rock Press
Advanced Base Camp
Adventure Driven
Alite
Alpina
ALPS Mountaineering

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

Montane Dragon 20

rated 3.5 of 5 stars A well-built and lightweight pack for ultrarunning and fast packing, big enough to carry layers, emergency gear, and food for long mountain runs in mixed weather, or for a UL weekender. Recommended for those kinds of activities, but not as a general purpose day pack. I received the Montane Dragon 20 from Trailspace a little too late to try it out in the 60 km Birkebeiner Ultra, but have put it to the test on some of my longer training runs and on a few day hikes. It is very well-designed and -built,… Full review

Blackhawk! Barrage Hydration Pack

rated 4 of 5 stars A heavy-duty "military style" 3-day pack that is designed to last forever, no matter what you do with it. Although BlackHawk! categorizes it as a hydration pack, I believe the hydration bladder is a small portion of this pack. I purchased this pack prior to a deployment overseas in 2008 and it still looks brand new today. In between being an every day carry item thru Kuwait and Afghanistan, it has also been used as a day pack for hikes and hunting. As well as a great commuter bag and travel bag. … Full review

Osprey Volt 75

rated 5 of 5 stars Great fit without a lot of weight. I would definitely recommend this backpack for anyone doing a 3-4 night outing. Just purchased this pack in July 2014. Have used it 4 times in the Adirondacks of NY and AT in NJ and Maine. I bought it for the lesser pack weight of 3lbs 12oz vs my other, older Osprey pack. This is a one-size-fits-all pack with an adjustable stay system that I really liked, especially if you're an in-between size like me. It carries 4,700 cu, so I did have to choose my gear wisely… Full review

Osprey Talon 44

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Great transitional bag! I'm 5'11" with a slender build @ 162 lbs. I bought the bag at the beginning of the 2014 spring season with the intent of doing lightweight trips up to 5 nights. On a 1-2 night cool-weather trip, I carry 27 lbs of gear (including a full 3 liter hydration bladder and 1 change of clothes), minus food. For longer cool weather trips, an additional change of clothes and larger fuel bottle brings it to 30 lbs of gear, minus food. The bag handles this very well, is light, quite… Full review

Mountain Hardwear Fluid 32

rated 4 of 5 stars I am an avid backpacker, hiker, and mountain biker. I needed a new full size day pack. I wanted a bag I could use for long day hikes, as well as around town. This pack is the newer model (Panel Loader Design). Pros: New panel load design allows me to open the bag up enough to see all the contents. Very lightweight and versatile. Does a great job and distributing the all my gear, yet I can compress it and stow the waist belt, and use it sightseeing and for quick overnight traveling. H2O bladder compatible,… Full review

GoLite Jam 50L

rated 5 of 5 stars Solid entry into backpacking with less weight, more miles and more fun. If you're wanting to go lighter but aren't ready to commit lots of money to a specialized pack, go for this pack. Fit: 35" waist and got a large; this will put you at the end of the belt straps — lose any weight and belt won't be as tight (just a note) 19.5" back measurement (iirc); length is fine on the large Comfort: hip belt padded appropriately; no rough spots shoulder straps padded appropriately; no digging/pinching/etc… Full review

Teton Sports Scout 3400

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Great quality pack with lots of pockets and loops. I purchased this backpack about 1 years ago, used it so much. On trips I carried food, a tent, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad and clothes for three days without a problem. I'm content with this product. Full review

Berghaus Expedition Light 80

rated 4.5 of 5 stars The Berghaus Expedition Light 80 is a large capacity pack with a lightweight design. It has a surprisingly supportive suspension system which provides comfort in the hips and shoulders. It has a low, stable profile, even while strapping everything from skis to my dog's pack to the outside. It can be warm during hot days. I would recommended the Expedition Light to backpackers and mountaineers looking for a large capacity pack that is functional with heavy loads in the 50 plus pound range all seasons… Full review

Lowe Alpine Vision 40

rated 5 of 5 stars A 1-2 night fast and light pack. I am 5'11" 190 and this pack has fit me very well, it is somewhat adjustable.  The hip belts and shoulder straps are very well padded with and the padding has stood up well over time.  I think it truly holds 40L, but is 40L enough for a reasonable amount of gear? If you want to get more than a day hike out of this pack you will have to be very selective about your gear selection for the sake of eliminating bulk. I do believe that you could comfortable carry 35-40lbs… Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

Eberlestock G4 Operator
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)

Eberlestock G4 Operator
Expedition Pack
Eberlestock H2 Gunrunner
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)

Eberlestock H2 Gunrunner
Daypack
Nimrod Pack System
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)

Nimrod Pack System
External Frame Backpack
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)

RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
$200 MSRP
180 Tack HydraQuiver Hydration Pack
180 Tack
HydraQuiver Hydration Pack
Hydration Pack
$85
Aarn Compact Balance Pockets
Aarn
Compact Balance Pockets
Front Pack
$52
Aarn Effortless Rhythm
user rating: 1 of 5 (1)
Aarn
Effortless Rhythm
Weekend Pack
$275 MSRP
Aarn Expedition Balance Pockets
Aarn
Expedition Balance Pockets
Front Pack
$74
Aarn Featherlite Freedom
Aarn
Featherlite Freedom
Weekend Pack
$299
Aarn Guiding Light 60L
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Aarn
Guiding Light 60L
Weekend Pack
$240
Aarn Liquid Agility 31L
Aarn
Liquid Agility 31L
Daypack
$149
Aarn Load Limo 75+18L
Aarn
Load Limo 75+18L
Expedition Pack
$360
Aarn Marathon Magic 11L
Aarn
Marathon Magic 11L
Daypack
$119
 
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn
Marathon Magic 20L
Daypack
Aarn Marathon Magic 22L
Aarn
Marathon Magic 22L
Daypack
$179
Aarn Marathon Magic 33L
Aarn
Marathon Magic 33L
Overnight Pack
$199
 
Aarn
Mountain Magic 44L
Overnight Pack
Aarn Mountain Magic 50L
Aarn
Mountain Magic 50L
Overnight Pack
$274
 
Aarn
Mountain Magic 55L
Weekend Pack
Aarn Natural Balance 65+18L
Aarn
Natural Balance 65+18L
Weekend Pack
$330
Aarn Natural Exhilaration 33L
Aarn
Natural Exhilaration 33L
Overnight Pack
$199
Aarn Peak Aspiration
Aarn
Peak Aspiration
Overnight Pack
$222
Aarn Photo Balance Pockets
Aarn
Photo Balance Pockets
Front Pack
$110
Aarn Sport Balance Pockets
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn
Sport Balance Pockets
Front Pack
$64
ABS Helmet Holder
ABS
Helmet Holder
Backpack Accessory
$15
ABS Powder 15 Backpack
ABS
Powder 15 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$614
ABS Powder 5 Backpack
ABS
Powder 5 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$561
ABS Powder Base Unit
ABS
Powder Base Unit
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$552
ABS Powder Line 15 Backpack
ABS
Powder Line 15 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5
ABS
Powder Zip-On 5
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$55
ABS Vario 15 Backpack
ABS
Vario 15 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$96 - $666
ABS Vario 25 Backpack
ABS
Vario 25 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$85
ABS Vario 30 Backpack
ABS
Vario 30 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$110
ABS Vario 40 Backpack
ABS
Vario 40 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Base Unit
ABS
Vario Base Unit
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$700
ABS Vario Ultralight 18
ABS
Vario Ultralight 18
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$57 - $614
ABS Vario Ultralight 8
ABS
Vario Ultralight 8
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$606
ABS Zip-On SB 15
ABS
Zip-On SB 15
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$110
ABS Zip-On SB 5
ABS
Zip-On SB 5
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$76
ABS Zip-On Vario 15
ABS
Zip-On Vario 15
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$62
ABS Zip-On Vario 55
ABS
Zip-On Vario 55
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$130
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight
ABS
Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$64 - $605
Adirondack Rock Press Canyon Rope Sack
Adirondack Rock Press
Canyon Rope Sack
Rope Bag
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag
Advanced Base Camp
Black Box Rope Bag
Rope Bag
$8
Advanced Base Camp Dirtbagger Rope Tarp
Advanced Base Camp
Dirtbagger Rope Tarp
Rope Bag
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Adventure Driven
WolfPack 75L
Expedition Pack
discontinued
Alite Big Oak Pack
Alite
Big Oak Pack
Overnight Pack
$115
Alite Cypress Snap On Cup Holder
Alite
Cypress Snap On Cup Holder
Backpack Accessory
$24
Alite Hikari Pack
Alite
Hikari Pack
Daypack
$53 - $59
Alite Ochiba
Alite
Ochiba
Daypack
$105
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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.