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
Osprey Aura AG 50
Fits perfectly, the mesh back lining really takes the weight off my shoulders. This fits well, rides on my hips just like it should, and can carry all of my things for a weeklong hike. Full review
Osprey Aether 70
If you want a bag that is going to last and fit everything you could possibly want inside, then this is the bag for you. Extremely sturdy as well as being very comfortable and adjustable! This bag has a huge number of adjustable straps that are mostly there to make your pack as comfortable as possible. Along with the normal shoulder, chest, and hip straps, there are two more (located above the shoulder) than can move the top of the bag closer or further away from your body depending on your preference. Full review
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest
Ultralight, tough, surprisingly comfortable and versatile pack. A real winner. I've always had pretty high-tech backpacks. My original internal frame backpack was an Osprey Zenith, loaded with bells and whistles. From that 7 lb behemoth which served me well, I eventually ended up with an Osprey Aether (the original model), which at about 4 lbs, served me well on a thru-hike of the JMT. I thought I was doing pretty well getting my pack weight down to about 34 lbs for a six-day trip. I realized there… Full review
Gregory Amber 44
A really comfortable pack for women with the right size. I am 60 years old and so I don't want a really heavy pack and this suits me fine for up to 40 pounds on the trail.The medium size holds 46 litres of volume, which is plenty if you pack light. I use it for carry on as well, also included rain cover seals the deal. I dislike fancy expensive packs that leave a rain cover as an option. No pack is fully waterproof. I will not pay extra for this option. It is a necessity not a luxury. If you want… Full review
Osprey Aether 60
This is a comfortable, fully adjustable, reasonable weight pack for light backpacking. 60L is a fairly tight fit, but enough room if you pack wisely. Not much to complain about with this pack. I use it for overnight hikes and winter snowshoe trips to shelters. It holds just enough gear without anything outside. And if pressed I'm sure I could pack more. It's extremely comfortable and I often forget I'm wearing it. I've never used the removable top as a waist belt and feel it's a somewhat useless… Full review
Deuter Guide Tour 35+ SL
All the winter bag I will ever need for day hiking in the snow. Rugged, has everything I need and more! This is my first ever winter pack and I love it! I bought it specifically to strap my snowshoes on. This pack can also carry skis and a snowboard as well. My snowshoes strap to the pack easily with no hassle. The pack is waterproof as well. It holds extra gear and food. It has multiple entry areas and zippers. It has a front zipper area for emergency snow avalanche shovel pocket. This is a great… Full review
Six Moon Designs Fusion 50
FINALLY, the pack I've been looking for! Lightweight, but tough and can carry everything needed for 3-5 days...and a little more. Just for comparison purposes, I'm 5'10" tall, at 190 lb I'm about 30 lb overweight, old (55), lazy and, if you can't tell by my description so far, out of shape...unless you consider "round" a shape. Due to my advancing age and lack of physical fitness, I've been spending the last few years getting the gear I carry down to a more reasonable weight and, for a change, leaving… Full review
Osprey Aura AG 65
Fits as if it were made for me! Comfortable and able to carry 40 pounds easily. Lots of pockets and securing straps. Removable lid. I bought this pack for this season and I am in love with it already. It fits like a glove to my torso. It is comfortable with 37-42 pounds, which will be my average weight on the trail with food. I like all the pockets and the deep side pockets fit my 32 oz Nalgene bottle perfectly. I like having hip belt pockets for easy to reach snacks and gear. I got a deal on this… Full review
The North Face Snow Leopard Pack
I've had this pack since 1988. It has completed the AT, the Vermont Long Trail, the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier including a summit of Rainier, and it has seen every inch of around 400 miles of trail and summit in the Catskill Mountains of N.Y. To this day, it has never torn, zippers have not broken, stays have stayed true to my body. It is still (other than the clear faded colors) as good as new. 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.