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.
Advanced Base Camp
Priceless 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
Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack
A rare combination of dry sack and compression sack in one affordable package. The Sea to Summit eVent compression sack has held up in a variety of conditions without breaking a sweat. The eVent dry compression sack is a great combination of dry bag and compression sack products. This allows any outdoor enthusiast to cut back on the gear they are taking into the wild. This product is as straightforward as it gets and is easy to use. I got a large and it easily fits a 40-degree synthetic sleeping… Full review
Granite Gear Air Zippditty
Just the right size (.6L) for the little odds and ends you want to keep in one place when hiking, camping, backpacking, or any other outdoor activity. Well-made bags in high visibility colors, great for small first aid kits, fire starting kits, snacks, electronics, and more. A perfect way to bring some order to your backcountry existence. Multi-use Organization for the Outdoor Enthusiast As any outdoor enthusiast knows, organization can save time, prevent loss, and bring peace of mind to one's outdoor… Full review
Nimrod Pack Systems Haul Frame Pack
I'VE BEEN MILITARY 28 YEARS!!! I can tell you that the military could learn a few things from Nimrod Packs systems!! I own every piece from binoc/45 case to the meat rack. If you spend your money on the OTHER guys costing twice your money you're wrong! This stuff is top quality and the craftsmanship is excellent. The owner is a top quality individual and the warranty is world class. Try it! It will be the last one you will ever need!! I tell everyone I meet they need to look at the prices the "Hunting Magazine… Full review
High Sierra Wheeled Double Adjustable Ski Bag
Convenient storage and transportation for your skis. Very easy to wheel and well padded for protection of you valuable equipment. Why carry skis bags when they can be rolled? High Sierra has made transporting two pairs of skis and poles much easier with its wheeled adjustable double ski bag. Constructed of 1680D Ballistic nylon, originally made for military use and paired with a robust set of wheels built for inline skates, this double ski bag is meant to satisfy even the most serious ski traveler. Full review
Gregory Baltoro 65
I’ve crossed around 1,000 miles over the past six months with this pack, carrying an average weight of 36 pounds. I could never imagine a backpack can be so comfortable and make the weight just disappear. I’ve crossed around 1000 miles the past 6 months with this pack, carrying an average weight of 36 pounds, I could never imagine a backpack can be so comfortable and make the weight just disappear. This is the 2016 model. Suspension: Superb. I have no idea how they made it, but this pack just… Full review
Wild Things Guide Pack
This light, old-school day pack is great for people who want a low profile pack with plenty of tie-down options. Made for climbing, this pack should prove to be very durable. It has light but very comfortable shoulder straps and a removable lid and back pad for those who want to minimize weight. Unpadded hip belt and crude hydration accommodations might not thrill some people. I purchased the Guide pack a year ago because most of my 'day' packs were larger, heavier, and made to carry more weight. Full review
Osprey Exos 58
Looking for light pack ? This will be a superb choice with its 1.1kg weight. You can pack more stuff in it than in a no-frame pack, but still have to stay under 15kg if needed ultimate comfort. Sizing is crucial, so try it before buying it. I tried and tested the pack in many multi-day hikes, but the major outing was again the GR20 last summer. Since then I have been using the pack nearly every second weekend for full day hikes. I don't need that much on gear, in addition I am a trail runner so… Full review
Dana Design ArcFlex Terraplane
As an outdoor professional, I bought my Terraplane in 1996 through a work for trade deal from Appalachian Outdoors. It has been my only pack ever since. I have used it on every trip from Malaysia to Maine. My friends gave me a hard time spending 300 bucks on a pack, but 20 years later, I still have it. I have always believed in buying something once, even if it is pricy. I still have my Wiggy's sleeping bag and WhisperLite Internationale stove I last used to make coffee and warm a baby bottle on… Full review
Eagle Creek Cargo Hauler Duffel 90L
This 90-liter duffel with wheels can consume a ton of gear. Has handles if you would rather carry than wheel it. Pack straps allow it to be carried on your back. When getting ready for an airplane trip necessary for an adventure, there is always, "how am I going to transport all my gear safely?" We all would love to carry on all our outdoor gear for its own protection. Unfortunately, that isn't always possible. I found myself in that position early in September as I packed for the Tour of Mont Blanc… Full review
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).
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
2,000 - 2,999 cubic inches
- Weekend and Multi-Day:
3,000 - 4,499 cubic inches
- 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?)
Types of Backpacks
Are designed for done-in-a-day hikes, runs, skis, and (for some minimalists) the occasional overnight. Daypacks may be frameless rucksacks or incorporate a stiff frame sheet or metal stay for support.
Internal Frame Backpacks
Available as weekend, multi-day, and expedition-sized backpacks, internal frames are popular for their adjustability, ease of movement, and balance.
External Frame Backpacks
External frames are also available in sizes suitable for a weekend overnight to a winter camping expedition. More rigid than internal packs, externals typically carry heavy loads well.
Designed for active, endurance pursuits, hydration packs feature space for a hydration reservoir and tube for drinking on the go. Some also have space to carry gear.
Also known as lumbar packs, fanny packs, and hip packs, these small packs allow you to carry a few essentials on short outings, such as gel flasks on a run or a camera on a short hike.
There's no need to leave Junior behind when you hit the trail. Just load him or her into a kid carrier and head on out.
Font packs allow you to carry gear that you want to access immediately on your chest.
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.
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.)
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.
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.