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
Advanced Elements
Adventure Driven
Aire
Alite

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

Salomon Wanderer 25

rated 2.5 of 5 stars Just an overpriced schoolbag. Since before I started hiking I had two backpacks made from a company that specializes in motorbike backpacks and luggage. I used (and use) them everywhere and never had any problems whatsoever, although now and then I had a few comments from fellow hikers that I need to buy a backpack from a "proper" mountaineering brand. So I gave in and bought Wanderer 25 from Salomon as a replacement for my 25L daypack in promise of separate hydration bladder compartment and the… Full review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Porter

rated 5 of 5 stars As the editor of an outdoor website covering the outdoor sports of Central Washington, I own a lot of packs, big and small. Of all of them, this is currently my favorite. This has become my go-to pack for gear-intensive day tripping (e.g., backcountry skiing, rock climbing) as well as for lightweight multi-day trips. It’s not the very lightest pack of its capacity out there (my pack weighs 2 pounds, 1 ounce) but is the lightest pack of its capacity that has reinforced sides and bottoms for contenting… Full review

Gregory Savant 58

rated 2.5 of 5 stars I so wanted this pack to work for me. Very intelligently designed and very well made. Even comes with a very nice rain cover and pouch. Easy to get to compartments conveniently located .... and the main bag can be opened via top or horse-shoe zipper on bottom. Nice. HOWEVER, Gregory screwed up with the shoulder straps. They have NO adjustments to size to fit your torso. One size fits all. I could never adjust the shoulder straps to bear any weight. Took it to the store and they tried and couldn’t… Full review

L.L.Bean Trail Model Hunting Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars I love this pack! I use it for day hiking and snowshoeing, and I carry lots of stuff in my day pack (first aid, emergency gear, dog supplies, extra clothes), and often attach snowshoes to the exterior. It is not fancy, and does not have all the bells and whistles (i.e. specialty pockets, laptop sleeves), but I have found it to be extremely comfortable, and certainly meets my need for a highly visibility pack. First, a disclosure...I am not a hunter. But I am certainly glad I peruse the hunting specialty… Full review

Deuter Futura Pro 42

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Purchased in 2009 and used everyday while working seasonally for the USFS (six years). Pack is bombproof, no popped zippers, no torn seams or ripped attachments even while it was way overstuffed and used to carry trail maintenance tools. Used this pack for over 160 days a year for over six seasons in the Nez Perce NF with the US Forest Service without a lick of trouble. Held its shape even when stepped on by a pack mule. The pack was very comfortable to wear and my back stayed cooler than the traditional… Full review

Black Diamond Speed 30

rated 4.5 of 5 stars I bought this pack a year and a half ago, and it has served me well through daily hiking and camping use, canoe trips, and multi-pitch climbing. In one word: fantastic! I bought this pack a year and a half ago, and it has served me well through daily hiking and camping use, canoe trips, and multi-pitch climbing. It fits well to my back, and tightens on well enough that it doesn't bounce around when I run. It's been durable, and seems like it will last a good while longer as well. It has a top pouch… Full review

Mountain Hardwear Fluid 18

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Very lightweight and sleek pack perfect for day hikes, especially in tight bush. I bought this pack to replace my old Asolo light day pack. I use two different day packs depending on the circumstances, my other is a North Face Terra 40. This pack is the first one I have tried that is made of the newer, thinner nylon, altough it is still thicker than the thinnest stuff they use. I have been using this pack weekly for close to 6 months now, although it was bought about a year ago. My first impression… Full review

Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This backpack is a great day hike bag, for use in wet or dry climates, keeping your stuff dry. No frills design looks clean and is super functional. I got this bag a few weeks ago and have taken it sea kayaking, hiking, running, and climbing.  The waterproofness worked great while it was stowed in my sea kayak and kept all my stuff dry. My dry bags that I normally use for kayaking were back in the States, but I didn't need them with this backpack!  Taking this bag hiking is a nice no-frills, cleanly… Full review

The North Face Diad Pro 22

rated 4 of 5 stars The North Face Diad Pro 22 is a handy little pack that's perfect for day hikes, or even a minimalist overnight trip. Its list of features make it seem a lot bigger than it is. I'm somewhat lacking in small backpacks for three-season day hiking, my MH Snowtastic 28 is really pretty heavy for its capacity and my next larger pack is way too big, so when I saw the TNF Diad Pro 22 for $24 on S&C I scooped it up. When it arrived I unwrapped it and was really surprised by how light it was. TNF says… 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)
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
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 50L Overnight Pack
$249
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 Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$34
ABS Vario 15 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
$90
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 Silver Avalanche Airbag Pack
$500
ABS Vario Ultralight 18 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$38 - $512
ABS Vario Ultralight 8 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On SB 15 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On SB 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 15 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 24 Avalanche Airbag Pack
$77
ABS Zip-On Vario 55 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight Avalanche Airbag Pack
$54 - $59
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$9
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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.