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'

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

MindShift Rotation180° Professional 38L

rated 5 of 5 stars This pack is specifically purposed for day hiking through the mountains with photographers in mind. It is very roomy and comfortable and built to last forever. With the addition of an optional top pocket plus judicious use of straps, it is possible to use it as an overnight pack. The unique design of the Mindshift Rotation 180 Pro places it in a class by itself compared to all other photo day hiking packs. Basic Specs: 2287 cubic inches + 200 cu in extra with optional removable top pocket. 3.5 lbs… Full review

Gregory Z55

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Great backpack. Lightweight and comfortable. Great backpack, use the size S and amber orange color. Live in Indonesia that has a lot of humid and wet tropical mountain. Feel comfortable if your torso is matched with the size of the backpack. Used this pack at Indonesia's mountain (Mt. Sindoro) when rainy season and this pack performed well, hard rain comes when I walked down the mountain and I forgot to bring rain cover, but my stuff inside was still dry.  Full review

Gossamer Gear G4

rated 4 of 5 stars Ultralight, simple, effective, comfortable, proven over many years. I've used my first and only G4 for almost a decade on many short ultralight and 'Boy Scout' trips. It's never failed me. Full review

Arc'teryx Axios 50

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Light & Fast pack with fine balance between BPL and comfortable. Have used this pack for 2 years, especially summer season.  Harness and back panel is really cool and keeps you dry.  And light, not super light, and comfortable in low weight. Only problem is pain of shoulder, when load is over 15kg. Full review

Travelon Clear View Waterproof Pouch

rated 0.5 of 5 stars It ruined my phone: DO NOT PURCHASE THIS CASE I used it twice and it worked okay. It wasn't easy to use the phone like they claim it is. The third time I used it I sealed it exactly how you're supposed to and noticed water was getting on my phone. I think it was condensation being that the phone is electronic and it gets hot. If you're going to use this around water you shouldn't. You need to get one of the hard huge cases because this pouch is so thin I didn't even think about it. The design is… Full review

Arc'teryx Bora 80

rated 5 of 5 stars In this world of ultralight BPing gear is there still a place for this 7-lb beast? Answer, "Oh hell yeah!" I bought this pack when they were still made in Canada. It is not made of the lighter waterproof materials that I've read about in some reviews. So what? That's why they make dry bags and pack covers. The benefits of the older Bora 80s is they are virtually indestructible. Let me put it to you like this and I'll let you ponder the implications of having something that weighs a couple of pounds… Full review

Arc'teryx Bora 95

rated 5 of 5 stars Great large capacity pack that is excellent in cold wet/snowy weather. I've put this pack through some interesting situations. Once, I wanted to camp out on an island on a river so I threw the full pack on an inner tube and swam across the river to the island. Along the way the pack was about 1/4 submerged. When I unpacked, everything was dry.  Another time I brought the pack up a frozen river with a bunch of small, frozen-over cascades. On the way out, I rode the pack down the iced river on a… Full review

Mammut Lithium Z 8 Pack

rated 4 of 5 stars Nice little daypack for fast & light endeavors. This is a nice little daypack for your fast and light adventures; nice, but not perfect I've never owned a Mammut pack and this little pack caught my eye with fast and light day trips in my mind. It's light (just under 16 oz on my scale), but not so overly light it's uncomfortable to carry.  The materials and construction also add to the weight, but add to its durability — you won't have to baby this pack.   The 8 liter volume is just about… Full review

Lowe Alpine Morning Star 75L+

rated 4 of 5 stars Large single compartment, no frills, no extras, water resistant pack. Does the job well but offers little in access points. Fit: Fits well and fits a variety of sizes. I've lent the pack to others over the past several years and everyone has said that it was a good ride. Comfort: I find the pack is very comfortable. The hip and shoulder straps don't look like much but they have a pretty firm closed cell foam core that works pretty well.  Capacity: This pack holds a surprising amount. It expands… 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
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
$200 MSRP
user rating: 2 of 5 (2)
Travelon Clear View Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$13 MSRP
 
180 Tack HydraQuiver Hydration Pack Hydration Pack
$85
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 Line 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$25
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
$115
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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.