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 »

Category

Daypacks
Overnight
Weekend
Expedition
External Frame
Winter Packs
Hydration Packs
Front Packs
Lumbar/Hip Packs
Child Carriers
Dry Packs
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brands

other
180 Tack
3V Gear
5.11 Tactical
Aarn
ABS
Adidas
Advanced Base Camp
Advanced Elements
Adventure Driven

User

Unisex
Men's
Women's
Kids'
Girls'

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

Osprey Exos 58

rated 5 of 5 stars https://bencerise.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/ultralight-backpacking-gear-list/ Full review

Rivendell Mountain Works Jensen

rated 4 of 5 stars One of the first frameless packs made... Back around 1977 I heard tell of a new concept in packs—no external frame. Internal frame packs had not yet made their appearance. I read the reviews, I looked at the pictures, and I had a friend who operated a backpacking store order me one. I think it cost me an awesome $35 or $40. That was a pile of money for an impoverished grad student. The limitations of my frame pack were many for an impoverished student that traveled by hitchhiking and buses. My… Full review

Bergans Skarstind 32

rated 5 of 5 stars The Skarstind 32 is a smart, lightweight pack featuring the comfortable and ventilating Skarstind carrying system. The backpack is hydration system compatible and has multiple pockets and practical solutions for the great outdoors. Totally adjustable shoulder straps, waist belt, and load lifters making for a comfortable fit. Lightweight with a unique internal frame that keeps the pack off your back offering exceptional breathability. Removable brain, large side pockets that can hold a 1.5 L water… Full review

Karrimor SF Sabre 45

rated 5 of 5 stars This pack was designed for British Special Forces, is super tough 1000 denier nylon, 45 L main pack is expandable by adding the PLCE side pouches which add another 25 L capacity. Side pouches can also be attached to an optional yoke turning them into a day pay for exploring. Excellent pack, will easily carry 50 Lbs. I took it on a ten-day backcountry hiking trip and it was very comfortable, carried all my food and everything else with no problem, sheds water effectively in the rail. There are lighter… Full review

Deuter Speed Lite 20

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is a simple and lightweight pack. It is great for a day hikes when a tremendous amount of extra gear isn't needed. The straps and outer pockets are great when you need to bring just a little more along than you thought you would. The ability to lash stuff on makes this a nice pack for winter use as well as summer. Fit: This is a one size fits most pack. It doesn't come in different sizes. I'm 5'9"-ish with a medium build and medium torso length, and this pack fits perfectly. I was able to try… Full review

Granite Gear Lutsen 55

rated 3.5 of 5 stars I liked the adjustability of the torso and hip belt and the way the frame curves out from the lumbar area to provide ventilation. I’ve been looking for a new pack since my old one is starting to show signs of wear and tear. I had to opportunity to test the Granite Gear Lutsen 55, a new offering from Granite Gear. I was looking for a pack that weighed less than 3 lbs and this one was just over the mark at 3.1 lbs. There were a few features that I really liked. One thing I liked is the way the back… Full review

Osprey Aether 70

rated 5 of 5 stars Great pack and great service from Osprey. Has held up well with intended use. Highly recommend this pack and anything from Osprey. They stand behind their products. Bought this pack almost two years ago and have used it on a couple of extended trips. It has held up very well and has handled 30-40lbs of gear with little issue. Hiking at a fast or slow pace, jumping over rocks or trees, the pack stays in place and I barely feel the load shifting about. I have had other packs with straps fail just… Full review

REI Gemini 50L Pack

rated 4 of 5 stars Interesting hybrid pack-on-a-pack design; don't ignore the volume potential between the two packs. One of my two go-to packs; the other is a Mountainsmith Ghost. Not cutting edge for 2016 any more, but somehow a few years back I got out of the "buy new packs every year" mode. For longer trips—more than three days—or trips where I might camp and then day hike, this one is the one I carry. If you're a packrat, and you see one of these for a price that seems reasonable, consider buying it. Full review

Mountainsmith Apex 100

rated 5 of 5 stars This is a comfortable, huge capacity, well-designed, well-constructed freighter. I was looking for a lighter replacement for my Gregory Rainier, and the Apex 100, which weighs about 3lbs less, fit the bill. The suspension is comfortable with loads up to 60 lbs (most I've carried in it), and extremely easy to adjust, even in the field. The main compartment is  cavernous, easily swallowing camera gear in its own daypack, along with clothes, food, tent, sleeping bag, pad, cook kit, and fuel—4… 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: 3 of 5 (1)
Everest Hiking Pack Overnight Pack
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
London Bridge Light Infantry Patrol Pack Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Manasalu Adventure 50+5 Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
MFH German Winter Tarn Rucksack Winter Pack
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Modern Warrior 18.5" Tactical Military Style Backpack Overnight Pack
$35 MSRP
OneCoolBackpack EcoPack-1 External Frame Backpack
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
$200 MSRP
user rating: 2.5 of 5 (3)
Travelon Clear View Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$13 MSRP
180 Tack HydraQuiver Hydration Pack Hydration Pack
$68
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
3V Gear Outlaw Gear Slinger Daypack
$40 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Daypack
$200 MSRP
user rating: 1 of 5 (1)
Aarn Effortless Rhythm Weekend Pack
$275 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Aarn Guiding Light 60L Weekend Pack
Aarn Marathon Magic 11L Daypack
$79
 
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn Marathon Magic 20L Daypack
Aarn Mountain Magic 50L Overnight Pack
$249
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
Aarn Sport Balance Pockets Front Pack
$60 MSRP
ABS Powder Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$34
ABS Vario 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$35
ABS Vario 30 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario 40 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Silver Avalanche Airbag Pack
$500
ABS Vario Ultralight 18 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On SB 15 Avalanche Airbag Pack
 
ABS Zip-On Vario 24 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$77
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight Avalanche Airbag Pack
 
Adidas Alliance II Sackpack Daypack
$14
 
Adidas Hickory Backpack Daypack
$55
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$8
Advanced Elements CargoPak Dry Bag
$70 MSRP
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Adventure Driven WolfPack 75L Expedition Pack
discontinued
Adventure Lion Sea Lion 10L Dry Bag
$39 MSRP
Aire Frodo Bag Dry Bag
$169
Aire Waterproof Kayak Cargo Hold Dry Bag
$169
Alchemy Equipment 20L Roll Top Daypack Daypack
$160
Alchemy Equipment 20L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$210
Alchemy Equipment 25L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$240
Alchemy Equipment 30L Zip Access Daypack Daypack
$240
Alchemy Equipment 35L Top Load Daypack Overnight Pack
$280
 
Alite Hatcher Backpack External Frame Backpack
$131
Alite Shifter Pack Daypack
 
Alite Willow Pack Daypack
$100
 
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Alpina R114 Expedition Pack
discontinued
Alpine Luddites Park Pack Daypack
$175 MSRP
ALPS Mountaineering Amphibious Dry Sack Dry Bag
$27 - $29
ALPS Mountaineering Arvada Pack Daypack
$52
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Big Bear Lumbar/Hip Pack
discontinued
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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.