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
Though the D3 is now considered a "classic," since 1978 I've always considered it to be an everyday "workhorse." I'm replacing the shoulder straps (one had gotten a serious cut) and I once added a layer of Ensolite on the inside of the hip belt, but otherwise the pack has already been ready to do its job regardless of whether it's for an easy overnighter or a ten-day, 75-lbs adventure. My Jansport D3 backpack is now 39 years old. I bought it new. Over most of those years it has been my main… Full review
Carries nicely at 50 lbs, and good pockets with the sleeping bag compartment un-zipable to make a continuous space. Well padded harness and shoulder straps. I carried waders, boots, flys and a tent and big pot and stove—90 liters. Full review
Bought in 2000. Still going strong. Bomb proof durability. One of the best packs I've ever even heard of. Old school Gregory. This thing is amazing. Has held up for working on 20 years now. What more can you ask? And I've had as much as 75+ lbs in it. Yes, the ride gets a little... eh, when she's loaded that heavy. But she was never designed for that, and still takes it like a champ. My go-to for the tough and long ones. Full review
The North Face Snow Leopard Pack
The North Face Snow Leopard men's internal backpack I picked up in 1986 at EMS Sporting Goods in Pinkham Notch, Gorham, New Hampshire the day before I hiked the Tuckerman Trail. It was $460, and it was the best $460 I ever spent. The backpack is grade A+++++ Nothing less then awesome. It's now 31 years old and the straps are as strong as the first day I tightened them up in the store and in 31 years I have only had to replace two load buckles, the waist/hip buckle and one of the small buckles, and… Full review
Great BIG pack. I've had this pack for about twelve years, mostly for day hiking for exercise and camping. The straps feel great and the adjustments are very easy. The hip strap could be a little longer, definitely not for those of us with a bigger belly. If this pack doesn't have the capacity you need, get an RV. There is plenty of room for everything you need to take with you. I carry two tanks of fuel for my stove, a three-piece cook set, a bivy tent, sleeping bag, large tent pegs, water purifier,… Full review
REI Flash 22 Pack
A lightweight day pack that is incredibly versatile. Great if you want a single pack for many purposes. It's a fantastic, versatile day pack. I'm using it for hiking, day trips to city, hauling around stuff for me and my kid, biking, errands, and travel. It's really light. While it doesn't have a ton of frills, this means that the pack doesn't weigh as much as the stuff you put in it (a problem with many day packs). You can also adapt it to your needs. For example, I bought a cheap cell phone pouch… Full review
Osprey Talon 44
The most comfortable backpack I have ever owned, it is lightweight, durable, and roomy. I have owned this backpack for four years now and it remains the most comfortable backpack I have ever owned. I put it on and it has a really comfortable wrap around feeling. I notice some people saying other things but I guess packs are like boots, some fit some people well but not others. The only way to find out is to try it out under load. For a framed pack it is quite light, but despite the lightweight materials,… Full review
REI Passage 65
Great youth pack with lots of room. My daughter loves it. I bought this pack for my youngest daughter. The sales staff at REI was spot on as usual. They fitted her and took the time to show her all the bells and whistles. The pack has great external pockets. And the hood converts into a daypack. Easy to adjust shoulder straps and hip belt. We went to South Mountain State Park with my Boy Scout troop. The pack served her very well. And we can't wait to do it again. Full review
Deuter ACT Lite 35+10 SL
Never used it on an overnighter. OMG I love this one. I need a lot of extra layers during winter. I don't regulate my body temp very well. This allows me to take all the extras I could possibly need and still be compact enough for a day hike. The hip fins are to die for: angled for baby loving hips, well padded, contoured just right. Shoulder straps are also angled and well padded with no seams to irritate anywhere. I probably could do a summer overnighter with this. I haven't tried yet. I normally… 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.