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

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

rated 2.5 of 5 stars Overall, the pack is very comfortable, however, I am not sure the designers ever thought about anyone carrying more than 30 lbs in it or they would have NEVER made the hip belt pads lock in place with sub-standard hook-and-loop closure system. This failaed on my 5 day wearing the pack, with only 40 lbs loaded in the pack. I had to shoulder 90% of the weight of my pack for a week after this, ruining my trip. I purchased this pack new and took it on a quick weekend trip with about 32 lbs in it, and… Full review

Ozark Trail 28L Atka Daypack

rated 3 of 5 stars Handy in town on trails and for short hikes away from basecamp. It is ultra light weight daypack made from durable nylon fabric. Hydration-compatible, it is versatile and rugged. This backpack is ready for your next outdoor adventure. I bought this pack recently on a whim while shopping Walmart. I needed a day pack and didn't really have lots of time to search at REI for the various styles provided having to only gone to one store. This daypack ended up being the cheapest after a quick perusal. Full review

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Ultralight

rated 5 of 5 stars Semi-ultralight pack with lots of pockets. First, I'm not going to give you the specs. If you're interested in the pack you probably know all that. Thus my story. Long long ago in a far off national park I had my ass leveled backpacking. I had been packing with some guys on our level southern trails and was carrying over 50 lbs for a weekend, not a problem. You ask why the weight? 8 lb packs, 8 lb tents, propane stoves, you get the picture. Then we hit the mountains, what hell it was. I'm sure some… Full review

Outdoor Products Vortex 8.0

rated 2 of 5 stars Not for long term use. My husband uses this for taking his lunch and a few other things into the plant he works in. Before it was in use for a year, the middle zipper is broken and even after leaving voice messages and emails with the company, I have gotten no response to a warranty repair. The company has a lifetime warranty and does not seem to want to honor it. By the way, the middle zipper is the one he uses least. Full review

GoLite Peak Pack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Buy one (if you can). I got it used for $30. This is the pack I take with me on short hikes. It is easy to convert so I mostly use this as a daypack, would not work for longer trips but works for an overnight camping. No problem on fishing trips with the family, takes all the gear without a problem. I got it used so I have no idea how much it had been used before I got it. I only had it for a few months but I hike quite a bit so it has seen some use. It seems durable. Backing a frameless pack… Full review

The North Face Terra 65

rated 4 of 5 stars Just a great back. It is a simple and comfortable. Just the perfect size for a week or two of the trail. I got it as a reserve pack, but I ended up using it more that my main pack. Well organized  Simple "not a lot of stuff that can go wrong" Easy to adjust  Comfortable. I had issues with shoulder straps but after a little getting used to and modification it works great.  It is a cheap pack that might surprise you. Full review

Arc'teryx Bora 95

rated 5 of 5 stars A tough, durable backpack designed to last forever! You can fit a vast volume of things in this backpack, so it's perfect for longer trips, i.e. not for ultralight backpacking. Conditions: I'm living in Ecuador, and have been working a couple of years in the jungle, making maps. The humidity is constantly high and the vegetation is pretty much always wet, there are thorns and sharp rocks everywhere, and the elevations differences lead to quite high falls. I routinely fall into mud and every now… Full review

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Combined with Osprey’s modern features like the removable lid, the “Stow-On-The-Go” trekking pole system, and the “Fit-On-The-Fly” hip belt, this pack can satisfy both the seasoned veteran and the beginning backpacker! Ridge-runners, weekend hikers, and lightweight thru-hikers can all make the most of the versatile Atmos 65 AG backpack. With a truly revolutionary “anti-gravity” (hence the “AG”) design, this ventilated backpack conforms to the wearer’s back, successfully transferring… Full review

ZPacks Arc Zip 54L

rated 4.5 of 5 stars On your way to being an ultralight hiker? Try the ZPacks Arc Zip Ultralight Backpack. A versatile and tough ultralight backpack that weighs only 20 ounces! About Me I have been on a mission to lighten the overall load of my gear. Figured the best place for me to start was with my pack. Before trying to shave weight I used an Osprey Atmos 50. I liked having all of the different places to store gear, the hip belt pockets, and most of all the fit was great! There were several other things that I really… 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: 2.5 of 5 (3)
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.