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
Dry Packs
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brands

other
180 Tack
2XU
Aarn
ABS
Advanced Base Camp
Adventure Driven
Aire
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

Mountainsmith Lariat 65

rated 4.5 of 5 stars A fantastic pack for overnight or the long weekend away, the Lariat has all the features you can use without all the add-ons you don't need. Easy to carry, it puts everything right where you need it with a simple zipper. I started looking for a new pack about three years ago to replace my tried and trusted Lowe Alpine Contour which had been my companion across the US for years. I wanted a lighter pack with good suspension. I studied and compared, I tried on a lot of different styles and makes of… Full review

Mountainsmith Circuit 3.0

rated 4.5 of 5 stars I use this pack for multi-day trips into Wilderness. It is extremely comfortable and easy to adjust without stopping. I am with a federal agency. I am also a wildland firefighter and I use this pack when I take the "pack test." Loaded with 45 lbs I can do three miles in less than 45 minutes with no pain or strain with the Mountainsmith Circuit 3.0. After 30 years of backcountry travel and backpacking this pack feels better than any I have used or owned! Full review

Kelty Men's PK 50

rated 4 of 5 stars Used this pack for a 6-day Boy Scout event and worked beautifully. I didn't have to hike far to the campsite, but it was more than comfortable and I was able to stand around waiting until the site opened up without any complaints. Love the closure system and the fact that it doesn't use zippers which can often fail and bunch up on the fabric. The only real flaw that I have noticed is the two pockets which make up the flaps aren't very usable when the pack is loaded and I think it would work better… Full review

High Sierra Tangent 45

rated 3 of 5 stars Great lightweight all around pack with a faulty water delivery system. I would give it a higher review if the water feature did not leak. I got a great deal on this pack at Costco. I would have bought it without the water feature, but having the Camelbak water feature was a plus. Unfortunately it leaks at the bottom valve. I took back the first backpack right away and got a second one and had the same problem. The slow leak soaks the contents of your pack and drips through into your lower back and… Full review

JanSport Katahdin 70L

rated 4 of 5 stars After purchasing this pack in the spring, I finally put it to use on the AT the first weekend of June. The pack performed admirably carrying all the gear needed for a weekend trek. I am a large hiker at 6'4", 210 pounds, and I appreciated the adjustable shoulder straps. I was able to carry most of the weight on my hips and legs. The mesh pockets on the outside of the pack kept snacks, trail maps, lights and cameras readily available. The top pouch was also convenient for easy access. Given that… Full review

OneCoolBackpack EcoPack-1

rated 3.5 of 5 stars Good entry-level pack-frame carry-all. Detachable stowage for carrying most types of packbags (and assorted cargo.) Expandable frame for fitting a wide range of sizes., plus flexible frame to flex with torso while hiking. Lightweight, affordable, versatile. I am the inventor of Eco-Pack1, and the founder of onecoolbackpack.com. I have strived to produce an entry-level backpack which fills an unmet need in the market. My design is intentionally basic, versatile and adaptable. It is intended to be… Full review

Osprey Aether 70

rated 5 of 5 stars Bullet proof. I have the 2012 model with over 3,000 miles of hard back country California. The custom fit is excellent. I carry over 40 lbs most of the time. The fit is perfect. Take your time in the store. A total custom fit can be had if you take your time. The belt is heavy duty, perfect moulded fit. I have been on mining excursions where I have walked along the Feather River for three weeks and lived out of this pack and carried 65 lbs the whole trip. I have thousands of miles on this pack (2012… Full review

Lowe Alpine Vision 40

rated 5 of 5 stars Excellent lightweight pack that is versatile for many conditions. I've had this pack for over 12 years now and use the heck out of it. I actually use this a lightweight multi-night pack, but when doing so I typically have to strap things like my sleeping bag on the outside. I've added a few more external straps to help add items and I've sewed in a little nylon hook for my water bladder in the back storage.   This bag is indestructible. Still to this day I have no tears (and I really pull down… Full review

Gregory Deva 85

rated 4 of 5 stars Very comfortable pack that can carry a heavier load and fit smaller (petite) lady hikers (xs size). As a petite (5'2") hiker, I was having a tough time finding a pack that fit comfortably. Tried men's small, but the fit was wrong. I needed a pack to carry lots of gear up Mt. Rainier and extended hikes and this pack sealed the deal. It fit my short torso comfortably, like a glove (xs frame option). First, it is a little heavier than most packs due to padding on the waist, back, and shoulders, but… 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: 5 of 5 (1)
Eberlestock FAC Track Internal Frame Backpack
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Eberlestock G4 Operator Expedition Pack
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Eberlestock H2 Gunrunner Daypack
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Nimrod Pack System External Frame Backpack
OneCoolBackpack EcoPack-1 External Frame Backpack
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
$200 MSRP
user rating: 2 of 5 (2)
Travelon Clear View Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$13 MSRP
 
180 Tack HydraQuiver Hydration Pack Hydration Pack
$68
2XU Transition Bag Daypack
Aarn Compact Balance Pockets Front Pack
$52 MSRP
user rating: 1 of 5 (1)
Aarn Effortless Rhythm Weekend Pack
$275 MSRP
Aarn Expedition Balance Pockets Front Pack
$68 MSRP
Aarn Featherlite Freedom Weekend Pack
$260 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Aarn Guiding Light 60L Weekend Pack
Aarn Liquid Agility 31L Daypack
Aarn Load Limo 75+18L Expedition Pack
Aarn Marathon Magic 11L Daypack
$79
 
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn Marathon Magic 20L Daypack
Aarn Marathon Magic 22L Daypack
Aarn Marathon Magic 33L Overnight Pack
 
Aarn Mountain Magic 44L Overnight Pack
Aarn Mountain Magic 50L Overnight Pack
$249
 
Aarn Mountain Magic 55L Weekend Pack
Aarn Natural Balance 65+18L Weekend Pack
Aarn Natural Exhilaration 33L Overnight Pack
Aarn Peak Aspiration Overnight Pack
$175 MSRP
Aarn Photo Balance Pockets Front Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn Sport Balance Pockets Front Pack
$60 MSRP
ABS Helmet Holder Backpack Accessory
ABS Powder 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder 5 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
$539
ABS Powder Line 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$34
ABS Vario 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$96
ABS Vario 25 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 - $807
ABS Vario Ultralight 18 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$38 - $512
ABS Vario Ultralight 8 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On SB 15 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$110
ABS Zip-On SB 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 15 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 55 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight Avalanche Airbag Pack
$54 - $63
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$7
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Adventure Driven WolfPack 75L Expedition Pack
discontinued
Aire Frodo Bag Dry Bag
$165
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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.