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 »

Category

Daypacks
Overnight
Weekend
Expedition
External Frame
Winter Packs
Hydration Packs
Front Packs
Lumbar/Hip Packs
Child Carriers
Dry Packs
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brands

other
180 Tack
3V Gear
5.11 Tactical
Aarn
ABS
Adidas
Advanced Base Camp
Advanced Elements
Adventure Driven

User

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

Mountainsmith Apex 100

rated 5 of 5 stars This is a comfortable, huge capacity, well designed, well constructed freighter. I was looking for a lighter replacement for my Gregory Rainier, and the Apex 100, which weighs about 3lbs less, fit the bill. The suspension is comfortable with loads up to 60lbs (most I've carried in it), and extremely easy to adjust, even in the field. The main compartment is  cavernous, easily swallowing camera gear in its own daypack, along with clothes, food, tent, sleeping bag, pad, cook kit, and fuel - 4… Full review

Kelty Big Bend

rated 5 of 5 stars Great pack, durable and flexible. I think I got this pack when the model was discontinued. At least I think it was discontinued, but the lack of offerings in the current catalogs supports this theory. I have owned a pile of packs in my life and have retired all but three. This is probably the one I now use the most for actual hiking. It is rated for 75 liters with a ten liter extension sleeve.The maker classifies it as an "expedition" pack. What they mean by that I cannot say. The pack carries well… Full review

Kelty Tioga

rated 4 of 5 stars Proven design. I owned and carried one of these for years, as did a college roommate. It was quite a number of years ago but the new models seem essentially the same. It was basically the first aluminum external readily available anywhere. Other makers quickly followed when the market became obvious, but Kelty was there first and for many, including me, the proven and well reviewed design sold me.  It cost an impoverished college student a pile of money for those days. I probably ate less for a… Full review

Deuter Aircontact 75+10

rated 5 of 5 stars Awesome pack! This shares with my Kelty 75 the honor of being the best pack I have ever carried. Bear in mind that I have owned and carried a vast number of packs, so that is saying something.   Now I have not carried loads north of maybe 35 pounds, but this pack is designed for much more. The maker designates this as an "expedition" pack, whatever they may mean by that. The sleeve gives another 10 liters and both measurements seem accurate. The design is sophisticated and can hardly be improved… Full review

Lowe Alpine Contour IV 90+15

rated 4 of 5 stars Great price, tough pack. I am a big guy and long waisted to boot. I wanted a big pack when I got back into backpacking and this is the one I bought new (I picked up a second at Goodwill for less than $4). My older three season sleeping bag is a synthetic fill and it is bulky, as is much of my older gear. The suspension is well designed, the waist belt is wide and comfortable, it rides about as well as any pack this size could. The lumbar pad is awesomely thick and comfy. But...this is more pack… Full review

Gregory UM21 Backpack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Still relevant. Do you abuse gear? Do you hike off-trail, through brush, over rocks and don't want to worry about a branch tearing a hole in the latest, lightest and most expensive nano-fabric? Have you passed through the ultralight gear stage and want a pack (or in addition to UL) that lasts longer than two seasons (wasteful) and doesn't require kid gloves treatment? Are you patriotic? Do you want to reduce your visual footprint with badass three-color desert or woodland camo options? Do you need… Full review

Kelty Tioga

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is a great pack for 10 days in the mountains. I like the 3 L water side pouch that you can fill up with the Playtpus 3 L bag. Frame pack makes it easier to get on over your head. Holds a lot of weight. I used this pack while hiking Philmont Scout Reservation. It did the job for 10 days on the trail. External frame held up in the rugged environment. Easier to get on than the internal framed. Lot less bulk when empty to carry restock supplies at camp then repack. The zippers seemed to stick but… Full review

Macpac Cascade 65

rated 1.5 of 5 stars Disappointing necessity. Thought we would buy a well known quality pack to do the Milford and Kepler tracks back to back. Selling point was the fact they were supposedly waterproof. That means the pack is slightly heavier to start with, but is then not affected by rain. Bad mistake. Packs suck water like a wet and dry vacuum. Sleeping bags and clothing got wet. Packs became heavier. Between tramps had to purchase a pack cover each (pain in the arse) and some dry bags. My wife's fitted OK, but my… Full review

Osprey Stratos 24

rated 4.5 of 5 stars I'm really happy with this purchase, and it has made my day hikes far more pleasant. Fit When I bought this pack, I was over 300 pounds with a 54" waist. This pack juuust fit comfortably. Now that my weight has come down quite a lot (thanks to all that hiking), it fits even better. Comfort This pack is really adjustable and it took just a minute or two to get it really dialed in nicely. It just feels like part of my body when I'm hiking now. And I really love the ventilation. I don't arrive with… 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: 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: 4 of 5 (1)
Modern Warrior 18.5" Tactical Military Style Backpack Overnight Pack
$35 MSRP
OneCoolBackpack EcoPack-1 External Frame Backpack
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
$200 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Rothco MOLLE Compatible Water Bottle Pouch Pack Pocket / Hydration Accessory
$23 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)
3V Gear Outlaw Gear Slinger Daypack
$40 MSRP
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 Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$34
ABS Vario 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$46
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 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
Adventure Lion Sea Lion 10L Dry Bag
$39 MSRP
Aire Frodo Bag Dry Bag
$169
Aire Waterproof Kayak Cargo Hold Dry Bag
$169
Alchemy Equipment 20L Roll Top Daypack Daypack
$160
Alchemy Equipment 20L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$210
Alchemy Equipment 25L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$240
Alchemy Equipment 30L Zip Access Daypack Daypack
$240
Alchemy Equipment 35L Top Load Daypack Overnight Pack
$280
Alite Big Oak Pack Overnight Pack
 
Alite Hatcher Backpack External Frame Backpack
$131
Alite Shifter Pack Daypack
 
Alite Willow Pack Daypack
$100
 
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Alpina R114 Expedition Pack
discontinued
Alpine Luddites Park Pack Daypack
$175 MSRP
ALPS Mountaineering Amphibious Dry Sack Dry Bag
$27 - $29
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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.