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

Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is the 25 liter Patagonia Black Hole Pack which is the smaller of the two Black Hole packs (the other is 35L). Like all of Patagonia's Black Hole line, the pack material is durable and water resistant. The pack is just the right size and has smart features making it a versatile day pack. Likes Sleek and simplistic design - The fabric is burly and water resistant and has not shown any wear since I've had it (since fall '14). What sets this day pack apart is it has one main compartment with a… Full review

REI Men's Trail 40 Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars This is the ideal multi-use travel pack at 40L with a panel opening, 8 exterior pockets, 3 interior pockets and hydration sleeve. It comes in both Men's and Women's and at a price of $110, it won't break the bank. Overview - This is REI's latest all-around pack which replaces the Lookout 40 Pack. At 40 liters, it is big enough to carry a ton of gear but not so big that it can't be carried on a plane. The pack has tons of features to help with organization and the biggest change is the panel opening… Full review

Osprey Porter 46

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This roomy pack is the maximum legal carry-on size and is one of the most travel friendly packs around. The pack is made of a durable material and is padded on all sides. The main compartment panel opens wide for easy packing and accessibility and the front organization panel has pockets for both laptop and tablet. Combined with lockable zippers and stowable straps, I recommend this pack to any traveler. Likes Shape and size - The shape of the pack is within most carry-on standards and I have not… Full review

Osprey Exos 58

rated 5 of 5 stars Excellent lightweight pack (not ultra light), great for weekend, multi-day, and through-hiking. Would definitely recommend assuming you can get the correct fit for your torso. Have been backpacking for over 50 yrs., mostly high Sierras.  Male, 165 lbs.  Excellent pack. Had the previous version and put 52 lbs in/on it for the JMT (enough for a 10 day stretch). This model has a bunch of upgraded aspects. The older version top pack was difficult to detach. I sewed small quick release buckles on so… Full review

Mile High Mountaineering Salute 34

rated 5 of 5 stars One of the very best packs I've used. Carries and distributes loads well, and is made with durable materials. I can use this pack for day hikes to overnight stays. I tend to pack pretty lightweight as far as my tent and other gear is concerned so this backpack is perfect for my needs. Highly recommended for just about anyone looking for a well thought out, useful pack. Fit - I am a little over 5'10" with a waist between 33" and 34". I have a medium length torso and the pack fits very well. Easy… Full review

Osprey Exos 58

rated 5 of 5 stars This is a great all-around backpack if you don't overload it. With less than 35lbs of well-chosen gear, it works for both weekend and long haul trips, and you can manage 40lbs for a couple of days. I'm a 5'7", 145 pound, 63-year-old woman who works in the backcountry in summer, usually for 6-8 days at a time. My pack has to be light enough to let me move quickly, but big enough to carry my personal and work gear. I can't carry the 55 pound loads that I did when I was younger. After a year of frequent… Full review

Nite Ize S-Biner MicroLock

rated 4 of 5 stars A locking mini S-biner that can secure items while providing a quick-release option. Great for adding a tool to your keychain or a lightweight light to a zipper pull. Well-made stainless steel construction with a clever design that will please those in search of a secure but easily releasable attachment device. Sometimes it's the little things in life that make the difference. This is the case with Night Ize's S-Biner MicroLock, a small item accurately identified by its name. I've used a range… Full review

ULA Equipment Ohm 2.0

rated 5 of 5 stars Lightweight, yet plenty of room for gear. Designed for comfort and durability. Unusual and useful ability to carry water bottles on shoulder straps. Exceptional hipbelt support and comfort. The ULA Ohm 2.0 is a smaller pack in the ULA line, yet has the hipbelt of some of the larger models allowing it to carry substantial weights.  The ULA hipbelts are top-of-the-line for comfort given their light weight. The Ohm 2.0 has provided plenty of space for 4-day backpacks for me with room to spare.  Its… Full review

REI New Star

rated 5 of 5 stars I highly recommend this pack if you can find one used in good shape. Big enough for a long trip, not so big it isn't practical for a weekend. Well made and long lasting (mine finally quit after 19 years and 800+ miles). I bought my New Star two years used in 1997. It had seen some trail time then. Over the next 18 years, I added over 700 miles of use to it from there. The hip strap finally broke (actually only the plastic insert broke, the nylon and padding was OK; I finished two days and 16 miles… 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
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
$200 MSRP
user rating: 3.5 of 5 (1)
Travelon Clear View Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$13 MSRP
 
180 Tack HydraQuiver Hydration Pack Hydration Pack
$85
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
$719
ABS Powder Line 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$25
ABS Vario 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$96
ABS Vario 25 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario 30 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$44
ABS Vario 40 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
$465 - $949
ABS Vario Ultralight 18 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$38 - $99
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
$47
ABS Zip-On Vario 55 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight Avalanche Airbag Pack
$63
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$9
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Adventure Driven WolfPack 75L Expedition Pack
discontinued
Aire Frodo Bag Dry Bag
$165
Alite Big Oak Pack Overnight Pack
$115
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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.