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'
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 Atmos 65 AG

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Most comfortable pack ever. I was a little leery about purchasing the Osprey AG 65 because it was so new to the market, but once I tried it on at the store I instantly knew that it was designed for me. I have a small case of arthritis in my lower back and my old pack was killing me. I was about to give up backpacking altogether until this product came to market. I have done four trips with it so far and the comfort is superb. The fit is exact with the easy adjustable features it has. The compartments… Full review

Osprey Aether 70

rated 5 of 5 stars This pack is very durable, and can carry a large amount of gear/weight evenly, so it is very comfortable to haul over long distances. From multi-day rock climbing trips to backpacking in the wilderness, the storage on this pack has kept me organized, and held together while beating it up and abusing it. The fit of the pack is true to size. The chest strap sits in a great position, which also allows the waist belt to hold the weight like it is supposed to. This allows heavy loads to be carried comfortably… Full review

Osprey Kestrel 48

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Multiple pockets to stow equipment. Lightweight. Outside water compartment. Excellent design. Lightweight. Full review

Osprey Aether 85

rated 4.5 of 5 stars A great pack for any trip. The pack is big enough for 5-7 days and useful enough for 2-3 day trips. I have used this pack for three seasons and I have been nothing but pleased with it. I am also comforted by Osprey's Lifetime Warranty and have used it once on a previous pack and was impressed with the work they were able to do! This pack can easily let you carry 50 lbs, but why would you? It fits me like a glove and I have never had any rubs or bruises. It has a webbed outside pocket that keeps… Full review

Osprey Daylite

rated 4 of 5 stars This is a very lightweight pack, easily adjustable for either of the two us of, who are of very different sizes! Best used for short day hikes or winter activities in which a large capacity pack is not required. This little day pack weighs barely a pound, yet has served us well as a second pack for day hikes. It is very durable, comes in a variety of colors, and has nice features that project it a bit past other basic "sack" day packs I have had. The capacity is a bit small for me to use it as my… Full review

Ozark Trail Waterproof Cell Phone Dry Bag

rated 0.5 of 5 stars Bought this product at a local WalMart and it was supposed to be waterproof...put the receipt inside and dunked it in a glass of water and it was NOT waterproof!!! Extremely disappointed in this product! I purchased this product because I am going on a cruise and there will be several excursions that I go on that are in the water. This product was supposed to be a cell phone dry bag that I was to carry a cell phone and money and important documents in to keep with me during these water events. I… Full review

The North Face Men's Recon

rated 5 of 5 stars This is a versatile high quality pack that will take all the abuse you can throw at it. I don't have enough good things to say about this pack. I use this primarily for my everyday carry needs, but I do intend to test it out on the trail as well. Let's start with the quality of the pack. This pack is very solidly built. All of the zippers are very functional and solid. I wouldn't ask for better clips for the compression straps. They are sturdy and strong.   The pack has a very solid back panel. Full review

Marmot Flux 24

rated 4 of 5 stars This is a great pack for day hikes. Comfortable and durable with plenty of space. Like everything in life this pack has its pros and its cons. I find the back panel to be well designed. It provides nice breathable support that doesn't hinder the storage capacity of the pack. I wouldn't consider this an ultralight pack by any means, but, unlike my REI Flash 22 that I also use for day hikes, this pack has a nice organizational admin pocket and a floating pocket on the front.   I use the admin pocket… Full review

REI Flash 22 Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars If you want a lightweight quality day pack with plenty of room for a day hike, then this is your pack. I have had this pack for at least three years now. It's typically my go-to pack for day hikes. I am a bit of an over-preparer on a day hike and I always have enough room. Typically I carry a fleece, rain jacket, first aid kit, two 32 oz. water bottles, and a survival kit, baby wipes, sunscreen, etc. not to mention my wallet, keys and phone and I have plenty of room for everything. If there was… 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 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
Alite Big Oak Pack Overnight Pack
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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.