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
5.11 Tactical
Aarn
ABS
Adidas
Advanced Base Camp
Advanced Elements
Adventure Driven
Aire

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

Arc'teryx Alpha FL 30

rated 5 of 5 stars Reassuring quality in a lightweight pack. I bought this pack as the lightest possible cabin luggage option for an international trip. I found it robust, and adequate for my needs. The expandable design to the pack allowed for last minute purchases in duty free to be added into the pack. The pack is narrow, so the toploader design can prove tricky if you want to access an item in a full pack. The kangaroo pocket is small, so a full pack inhibits its use on occasion. All in all, I bought this pack… Full review

Granite Gear Vapor Trail

rated 5 of 5 stars Best all-around backpack. Took mine on over 2,000 miles of trail (AT and John Muir). Never had any issues, no noticeable wear or tear besides a little waist belt slippage. My base was around 9 lbs (Hennesy Hammock!) so I could carry plenty of food and water and not overload it. There were times when I had at least 30 lbs food and water and it still performed well. Needed a replacement pack after losing it and ended up buying another (used) one on eBay. Not as light as some of the ultralight packs… Full review

Mountainsmith Lariat 65

rated 5 of 5 stars I have had this backpack for a little over a year now, and this thing is awesome. I take it out hunting with my dad and we end up hiking over 10 miles a weekend. Most of which is a lot of bushwhacking. The pack is very durable and comfortable for the price. I highly recommend this pack to anyone who is on a budget looking for a quality weekend pack. Full review

REI Women's Flash 65 Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars This pack is excellent for weekend and longer trips. It has a ton of adjustments to stabilize the pack and to secure its contents. It Is an all around great pack. Good job, REI! This pack is excellent for weekend and longer trips. I found the chest strap on the previous version to be too high. This version it is perfectly placed and the deep side mesh pockets are great. The bottom access makes loading and unloading extremely fast. The straps both shoulder and hip belt are the perfect size for me… Full review

Berghaus Unisex Expedition Light 40

rated 3.5 of 5 stars As I wrote in pros and cons, would be great pack if water resistant. At the back closed cell panel. As a pro, off course;-) Full review

Dana Design Shadow Peak

rated 5 of 5 stars Bought mine in 1995. It's been all over Alaska, the Philippines, N.Y., and all my other traveling in the last 20 plus years. It is always with me. Even if I have other stuff it's the first bag packed. There are a few rips and a broken clip, but 20+! years of constant use it has stood the test of time. The best pack I have ever had. It's been literally 10s of thousands of miles in airplanes, boats, cars, trucks, buses, and on foot through rivers over mountains, jungles, and cities—just about anything… Full review

REI Traverse 85

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Functional. Comfortable. REI stepping up their mid-high end packs. Fit: I'm right in between the M and L size, so it was suggested that I go with the L. After playing with a few settings, the pack fits like a glove and load is secure to my back with little shifting. Comfort: Great ventilation. Shoulder and hip straps are very comfortable and mold well to my body. Capacity: I originally picked up the Traverse 70, but hiking with kids, I needed some added space for more gear. 85 seem perfect for the… Full review

Deuter Futura Pro 40 SL

rated 5 of 5 stars This is great backpack for overnight, but I also use it for day hiking too. It carries your gear comfortably and has lots of pockets and a rain cover. I would highly recommend this for anyone looking to invest in a hard wearing, great all-around backpack. I'm a 5'5" and 120 pounds woman and it fit like a glove. I started my Camino de Santiago with another backpack that was just awful. I replaced it early on in my two-month 575 mile hike across Spain with the Deuter Futura Pro 40. Wow, it was an… Full review

Jack Wolfskin Trail Head II

rated 4 of 5 stars Love the pack. A friend found it for me and I've been using it every day for many months. The two top zippers finally broke, but the rest is in top shape. I've been homeless for 2 years and this is the best pack yet. It is very comfortable, even when I have over 50 lbs. in it, which is quite often. 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: 3 of 5 (1)
Everest Hiking Pack Overnight Pack
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
London Bridge Light Infantry Patrol Pack Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Manasalu Adventure 50+5 Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
MFH German Winter Tarn Rucksack Winter Pack
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
$85
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Daypack
$200 MSRP
user rating: 1 of 5 (1)
Aarn Effortless Rhythm Weekend Pack
$275 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Aarn Guiding Light 60L Weekend Pack
Aarn Marathon Magic 11L Daypack
$79
 
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn Marathon Magic 20L Daypack
Aarn Mountain Magic 50L Overnight Pack
$249
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
Aarn Sport Balance Pockets Front Pack
$60 MSRP
ABS Powder 5 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$34
ABS Vario 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$58
ABS Vario 25 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario 30 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario 40 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Silver Avalanche Airbag Pack
$500
ABS Vario Ultralight 18 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On SB 15 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 15 Avalanche Airbag Pack
 
ABS Zip-On Vario 24 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$77
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight Avalanche Airbag Pack
Adidas Alliance II Sackpack Daypack
$14
 
Adidas Hickory Backpack Daypack
$55
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$8
Advanced Elements CargoPak Dry Bag
$70 MSRP
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Adventure Driven WolfPack 75L Expedition Pack
discontinued
Aire Frodo Bag Dry Bag
$169
Aire Waterproof Kayak Cargo Hold Dry Bag
$169
 
Alchemy Equipment 20L Roll Top Daypack Daypack
$120
 
Alchemy Equipment 20L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$157
 
Alchemy Equipment 25L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$180
 
Alchemy Equipment 30L Zip Access Daypack Daypack
$180
 
Alchemy Equipment 35L Top Load Daypack Overnight Pack
$210
Alite Big Oak Pack Overnight Pack
 
Alite Hatcher Backpack External Frame Backpack
$131
Alite Shifter Pack Daypack
 
Alite Willow Pack Daypack
$100
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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.