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

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15

rated 4.5 of 5 stars A great pack for long days in the mountains; even a bare bones overnighter. I've now had about dozen mountain runs in the 18-25 mile range with this pack and can state unequivocally, it's a keeper. This is really a nice sized pack for an all day adventure; with it's stretch pockets it's very close to 20 litersI typically have mine loaded with 6-8 lbs (about 1/2 that in water). Pack carries very nicely- no bounce or sway and it's very comfortable. The pockets are laid out nicely and easy to access. Full review

ULA Equipment Ohm 2.0

rated 5 of 5 stars Best pack I've ever carried. Works for overnight to multinight trips all year. extremely comfortable. Outstanding quality. fantastic customer service. I now only own one pack and this is it. I use it year round for 2-5 day trips. At 63 liters total volume it has plenty of room for everything I need down to below freezing hammock camping. The large side pockets and stretch mesh front pocket are great for carrying all sorts of gear. the spacious hip belt pockets can accommodate a large smartphone,… Full review

Macpac Kahu 22

rated 0.5 of 5 stars 'Lemon' day pack and poor quality customer service I purchased the Macpac Kahu 22 while in New Zealand in December 2016 and, having returned to Canada, and after light use, by April two holes appeared at the bottom of the bag. The customer service person said my photos were unconvincing and that I would have to mail the pack to New Zealand for repair. I bought a new pack from Mountain Equipment Coop instead. I did request they send me the patch kit but they did not reply. The quality of the pack… Full review

CiloGear 75L WorkSack

rated 0.5 of 5 stars Horrible painful uncomfortable miserable! I have tested expensive bag 75L W/NWD bag $1500 in the Himalayas on an expedition to Ama dablam for 1 month. This bag is the most uncomfortable bag I have worn in my mountaineering career. I wonder if you have field tested it? The shoulder straps bit into my shoulder, causing intense pain and caused the blood supply to stop to my hands. It's in fact a dangerous bag and can lead to accidents on the mountain. I covered more than 80 miles on this backpack,… Full review

CiloGear 60L Worksack

rated 0.5 of 5 stars Most uncomfortable pack ever. Poor design!! I have tested expensive bag 75L W/NWD bag $1500 in the Himalayas on an expedition to Ama dablam for 1 month. This bag is the most uncomfortable bag I have worn in my mountaineering career. I wonder if you have field tested it? The shoulder straps bit into my shoulder, causing intense pain and caused the blood supply to stop to my hands. It's in fact a dangerous bag and can lead to accidents on the mountain. I covered more than 80 miles on this backpack,… Full review

Gregory Jade 33

rated 5 of 5 stars Sturdy pack with amazing ventilation and many perks. From the built-in rain cover to the easy access sections you can't go wrong with this model. Hydration bag ready—two water bottle compartments—great for Florida summer backpacking! This pack comes in at just over 2 lbs. I needed something smaller for day/overnight hikes as my Deva 60 was just too much of a pack for these trips. Fits my petite (short person) frame very well and is designed specifically for women. Waist belt fits where it should. Full review

JanSport Alaska 115

rated 5 of 5 stars Great heavy duty pack. Perfect for heavy loads/hunting big game. It fits more weight than you can carry. I love this pack. I have about a thousand miles on it. It fits elk quarters perfectly, and I would buy another in a heartbeat if I could find one, as it is starting to show wear. The buckle finally broke with a 200+ pound load of meat last season, and the waterproofing is all but gone on the inside. This is a TOUGH pack. Zippers still going strong. I acquired it at a garage sale about 15 years… Full review

Seek Outside Unaweep 6300

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This bag is designed as a load hauler for backcountry big game hunting, so large, heavy loads are not an issue. Made to be comfortable with 100 lbs or more, smaller loads ride very well on or off trail. Great for cold weather gear, expedition style multi-week food bags, and can be used to carry hard to pack loads outside the bag. Note: Seek Outside is constantly updating their product lines, adding and removing features as they react to customer input. This review is for a pack I had made to order… Full review

Lowe Alpine Crossbow 70+15

rated 5 of 5 stars Best pack for backpacking/traveling long-term. This pack is awesome! It's been traveling cross country for over five years now. I don't know who the original owner was, but the last owner used this backpack pretty roughly, and it's only suffered minor injuries. I've been adventuring with it for the past two years, sometimes filling it with up to 70 lbs and it's still going strong. All the repairs I have made have held strong. I love this pack, highly recommended 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)
The Big Heavy External Frame Backpack
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
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 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
$9
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 Hatcher Backpack External Frame Backpack
$131
 
Alite Willow Pack Daypack
$100
 
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Alpina R114 Expedition Pack
discontinued
ALPS Mountaineering Amphibious Dry Sack Dry Bag
$21
ALPS Mountaineering Arvada Pack Daypack
$52
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Big Bear Lumbar/Hip Pack
discontinued
 
ALPS Mountaineering Breeze Pack Daypack
$30
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Bryce External Frame Backpack
$72
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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.