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
Eureka! Sleeping Bag Carry Duffel
A great bag. It holds everything very well. I have heard stories of some areas breaking, but not sure if it was taken care of properly. Full review
Deuter ACT Lite 45+10 SL
Well organized, makes weight balancing a breeze. I love the easy of getting stuff into and out of this pack, including myself. I wore this thing while hiking the W in Patagonia over six days with zero hotspots. I was fitted for this pack at a big retailer—and I was most impressed with all of the points of adjustment that this pack offers. It is designed for women, but even then, I'm very short torso'd. Most packs gave me sore hips due to length, but this one cinched up great. The pack is also… Full review
ULA Equipment Circuit
This is a well-made pack that rides very comfortably for the whole day. At 2 lbs empty, it is in the "ultralight" class, and it is well suited to 2-4 night outings. The pack and suspension system can handle up to 30 lbs. I bought my ULA Circuit new, direct from the company, and have used it for two seasons now. I have certainly logged enough miles to know this pack. It is advertised to carry up to 30 pounds comfortably, and I would say that is fairly accurate. Anything over 30, I go to another pack… Full review
REI Traverse 65
This backpack has amazing comfort and adjustability, with a price that cannot be beat. I appreciate the level of organization that is capable with this pack, but wish that some of the pockets were slightly bigger. I have put in about a hundred miles in with this pack through some pretty tough terrain, and I have never had a backpack with the kind of comfort and support that this pack offers. I have mild back pain and most backpacks make me miserable within a couple days of hiking, but this backpack… Full review
Gregory Stout 65
Extremely comfortable and well built backpack. Flew several times with this bag as checked luggage and went on many several day hiking trips ranging from three to 10 days each and this bag has held up beautifully and still looks brand new. This is a great pack for multiple day hikes and backpacking trips through Europe. This backpack is highly adjustable and able to fit people of many sizes. I am relatively short (5' 6") and I was able to adjust the height of this pack so that it fit me perfectly. Full review
Kelty Red Cloud 110
The only fault I find is that the extra daypack's strap is not removable. Otherwise, we were very happy to take two of these into the Boundary Waters for a week this summer. There is plenty of room for all of our lightweight gear and the pass-through sides were great for our rods to be kept safe during portage. Fit both of our frames very well with the adjustable straps. I'm 5'7" and the husband is 6'3". Full review
Osprey Ace 50
From the minute she put it on, we knew it was the right bag for our 12-year-old. Our upcoming through hike will be so much easier with her packing her own extras! We looked at a number of other options, price not a factor. This won by far. Full review
Kelty Cache Hauler (Frame Only)
Absolute best pack for hauling out elk from deep in the back country. Carry 120-150 pounds, no problems other than being tired. This is the absolute best pack you will ever need to haul out a whole deer, elk halves or quarters, moose, caribou, bear, you name it! I have had 150 pounds on this pack numerous times and this pack is still very comfortable! It fits perfectly. When loaned to my buddies they rave about the pack and most have bought one themselves. If you like hunting in the deep backcountry,… Full review
Gregory Amber 44
Suitable for two days overnight mountain climbing or river tracing. Hip belts and shoulder and sternum straps are adjustable and comfortable. Fits a lot of stuff if you pack it correctly. 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.