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
2XU
Aarn
ABS
Adirondack Rock Press
Advanced Base Camp
Adventure Driven
Alite
Alpina

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

Deuter Futura 32

rated 5 of 5 stars Great pack! Very comfortable and functional. My back stayed pretty dry, despite some warm conditions on long day hikes in the Grand Canyon, recently. Purchased this pack recently to use on some long day hikes, with a few overnighters on occasion. I just came back from a week of camping at the Grand Canyon, with some long day hikes taken every day. Each day I packed a full hydration bladder, a liter of Gatorade, snacks, first aid kit, and a light jacket. Everything fit perfectly, though when the… Full review

Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic 28 Backpack

rated 3 of 5 stars The Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic 28 pack is a good idea that just wasn't executed very well. Some of the flaws can be fixed with very little time and money, others leave me scratching my head and asking "why did they choose to do it that way?" As far as carrying capacity, I'd say it's great for day trips, but accessing your stuff isn't the easiest. I bought the MH Snowtastic 28 because I want to get a little more adventurous in my snowshoeing this year, and my Camelbak pack doesn't hold much more… Full review

Deuter Aircontact 75+10

rated 5 of 5 stars Wonderful backpack. Very comfortable. Had a lot of room inside and many straps outside that you can attach you gear to them. Will advise that backpack to everyone. The best backpack I've ever had. Full review

REI Flash 45 Pack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is a fantastic lightweight pack. It carries well for such a light pack that doesn't have much in the way of a frame. This pack would be great for those starting on the journey to ultralight backpacking, while still having a pack with a lot of features. Fit:  This pack claims it fits up to a 19" torso in the Large size. I am 6'3" with around a 20" torso but decided to give it a try anyway. The pack is essentially frameless outside of the back padding and the Delrin rod around the outside of… Full review

Columbia Vixen 22L

rated 4 of 5 stars Light, comfortable day pack designed for women. Ample pockets for water bottles, poles, camera etc. on side, top, and back of pack as well as the waist belt. Love that load is kept off the back! Pack is extremely comfortable, even with a full load. Accommodates a bladder inside or water bottles on sides of pack. Zippered top pouch and two pouches on the belt. Great overall day pack. Full review

Salomon Trail 20

rated 2 of 5 stars Though personal, I think it can be said this pack has poor fit. Even if tightened down it will bounce. Does not carry the weight well. This is a nice enough pack. Pretty solidly constructed, OK capacity for bigger unsupported runs, or smaller fast packing ventures. But where it counts most this pack fails to deliver — it is uncomfortable when loaded with any amount of weight that matches its volume. Fit/Comfort: The fit seems nice enough, until you load it up with a bit more than just your wind… Full review

Nathan Intensity

rated 4.5 of 5 stars The Nathan Intensity running vest is an excellent woman-specific pack for running medium to long distances. With a 70-ounce reservoir and pockets for gels and chews, it has plenty of capacity to cover several hours on the run year-round. Plus, it’s comfortable for hours and stable with no bounce. Best For: I highly recommend the Nathan Intensity to other women who run at least several hours at a time on trails or roads. Men may want to check out the HPL 020 model. Fit The Nathan Intensity is a… Full review

Salomon XT Twin Belt

rated 2.5 of 5 stars in my opinion, this pack is more suitable for hiking than running. The first time I ran with the Salomon XT Twin belt on I had to alter my arm swing because my elbows kept hitting off the pack due to the bottles being placed on an angle. I am not sure if my short stature (I am 5'4") and small hip width had anything to do with it. My fiancé tried it on and didn't experience the same problem, so I would imagine the design of the pack is geared toward men. I even think I could get used to the sloshing… Full review

GoLite Jam 50L

rated 0.5 of 5 stars Very uncomfortable and non-lasting pack. Not worth your money! My husband and I hiked the PCT this year and we bought some gear from GoLite (nice Chrome Dome, gloves, jackets) with the main piece being my Jam 50. I liked it because of the weight (it kept my base weight very low), but it turned out to NOT be worth it at all. Even though the guy in the Fort Collins store assured us that all the gear was top quality and would last, it turned out the gear was not made to even slightly last a thru-hike. 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
2XU Transition Bag
2XU
Transition Bag
Daypack
$65
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
ABS Powder 5 Backpack
ABS
Powder 5 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Base Unit
ABS
Powder Base Unit
Avalanche Airbag Pack
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
$697 - $950
ABS Vario Ultralight 18
ABS
Vario Ultralight 18
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$57 - $75
ABS Vario Ultralight 8
ABS
Vario Ultralight 8
Avalanche Airbag Pack
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
 
Adirondack Rock Press
Canyon Rope Sack
Rope Bag
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag
Advanced Base Camp
Black Box Rope Bag
Rope Bag
$11
 
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
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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.