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
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brands

other
180 Tack
Aarn
ABS
Adirondack Rock Press
Advanced Base Camp
Adventure Driven
Alite
Alpina
ALPS Mountaineering

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

CamelBak Charge LR 70 Oz Hydration Pack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Awesome pack for biking. Great for day hikes and biking. Lots of room for gear. Only drawback is that the last few oz of water are difficult to drink due to the bladder configuration. Full review

Osprey Aura 65

rated 5 of 5 stars So comfy. Straps are padded well and the back has air venting. The weight falls on my hips. There are a lot of pockets and tie-offs. I can put my sleeping bag in bottom zipper and the bear canister above it and the stuff around it and in the pockets. Have not messed with the compression straps much. Had it fitted at REI and they said I had a short torso. I would have bought a medium because i am 5'7" and 140 lbs. My torso is longer and my legs are shorter, but i took their advice and am glad I did. … Full review

Kelty Red Cloud

rated 3.5 of 5 stars Comfortable shoulder straps, lots of space and pockets to store all your hiking needs. Have had issues with the side pocket zippers failing. Full review

ALPS Mountaineering Cascade 5200

rated 3.5 of 5 stars Nice pack for the price, roomy. Good for long term backpacking. Held all my gear for a 10-day trip plus 5 days food. In preparation for a 10-day trek to Philmont, the Boy Scout backpacking paradise in NE New Mexico, I purchased a Cascade 5200. We did two long weekend training trips in Kansas and finally our big trip in New Mexico. The pack was roomy, held all my gear and at one time 5 days worth of food. The zippers were large and sturdy. The zippers held up well and didn’t catch on the material. Full review

Deuter Aircontact 75+10

rated 5 of 5 stars The Deuter Aircontact 75+10 pack is a great pack. It is a very comfortable pack with tons of features. The suspension is great and can carry a very heavy load comfortably. Best used for week+ trips or family backpacking trips. I love this pack and highly recommend it. One thing that really sold me on this pack is the adjustable torso length. I love this feature. If you have family members who like to borrow your gear, this pack is great because it can be adjusted to just about any length. This makes… Full review

Osprey Mira 34

rated 4.5 of 5 stars I love the mesh back panel, which is like the one on my Osprey Aura 65, for keeping me cool on the long day hikes in town. This is a great pack designed for women that feels great. The first thing that surprised me on this pack was the size I needed. I got this pack before I got my Aura and was unsure of my Osprey sizing. I got some help at my local store in getting fitted. I ended up with the XS/S. Once all of the straps were adjusted and hooked together, this pack felt great. I'm heavy chested… Full review

Gregory Robson

rated 5 of 5 stars Owned it for 20 years. To be clear Mr Weatherbottom.... The did make a Robson with carbon fiber stays, early/mid '90s before the "Pro". The Robson Pro, in my opinion, was nothing like the previous pack. And, I would offer Gregory packs don't make anything like they did then. Lighter, maybe, but not as tough. Full review

JanSport WatchTower

rated 3 of 5 stars It's a nice looking bag that falls short in its design. By adding too many compartments, they've lost valuable space. I liked the construction, but not the layout. Full review

Kelty Trekker 4300

rated 5 of 5 stars I got my first Kelty in 1968, and still use it for day hikes. In addition to the 'orginal' Kelty, I have the Trekker 4300 and the Tioga 5500.  Use depending on the length of the hike. Love all three.  Most of my hiking is in the desert SW and Grand Canyon. The externals allow greater airflow. Load is balanced over the hips—the long hike up from the bottom of Grand Canyon goes much easier with the 'over-the-hips' weight distribution. I still do an annual Rim-2-Rim at the Canyon—and of course… Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

Sort by: name | rating | price | availability | recently reviewed

Eberlestock G4 Operator
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)

Eberlestock G4 Operator
Expedition Pack
Eberlestock H2 Gunrunner
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)

Eberlestock H2 Gunrunner
Daypack
Nimrod Pack System
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)

Nimrod Pack System
External Frame Backpack
180 Tack HydraQuiver Hydration Pack
180 Tack
HydraQuiver Hydration Pack
Hydration Pack
$85
Aarn Compact Balance Pockets
Aarn
Compact Balance Pockets
Front Pack
$52
Aarn Effortless Rhythm
user rating: 1 of 5 (1)
Aarn
Effortless Rhythm
Weekend Pack
$275 MSRP
Aarn Expedition Balance Pockets
Aarn
Expedition Balance Pockets
Front Pack
$74
Aarn Featherlite Freedom
Aarn
Featherlite Freedom
Weekend Pack
$299
Aarn Guiding Light 60L
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Aarn
Guiding Light 60L
Weekend Pack
$240
Aarn Liquid Agility 31L
Aarn
Liquid Agility 31L
Daypack
$149
Aarn Load Limo 75+18L
Aarn
Load Limo 75+18L
Expedition Pack
$360
Aarn Marathon Magic 11L
Aarn
Marathon Magic 11L
Daypack
$119
 
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn
Marathon Magic 20L
Daypack
Aarn Marathon Magic 22L
Aarn
Marathon Magic 22L
Daypack
$179
Aarn Marathon Magic 33L
Aarn
Marathon Magic 33L
Overnight Pack
$199
 
Aarn
Mountain Magic 44L
Overnight Pack
Aarn Mountain Magic 50L
Aarn
Mountain Magic 50L
Overnight Pack
$274
 
Aarn
Mountain Magic 55L
Weekend Pack
Aarn Natural Balance 65+18L
Aarn
Natural Balance 65+18L
Weekend Pack
$330
Aarn Natural Exhilaration 33L
Aarn
Natural Exhilaration 33L
Overnight Pack
$199
Aarn Peak Aspiration
Aarn
Peak Aspiration
Overnight Pack
$222
Aarn Photo Balance Pockets
Aarn
Photo Balance Pockets
Front Pack
$110
Aarn Sport Balance Pockets
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn
Sport Balance Pockets
Front Pack
$64
ABS Helmet Holder
ABS
Helmet Holder
Backpack Accessory
$15
ABS Powder 15 Backpack
ABS
Powder 15 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$661
ABS Powder 5 Backpack
ABS
Powder 5 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$608
ABS Powder Base Unit
ABS
Powder Base Unit
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$510
ABS Powder Line 15 Backpack
ABS
Powder Line 15 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5
ABS
Powder Zip-On 5
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$51
ABS Vario 15 Backpack
ABS
Vario 15 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$96 - $717
ABS Vario 25 Backpack
ABS
Vario 25 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$90
ABS Vario 30 Backpack
ABS
Vario 30 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$82 - $779
ABS Vario 40 Backpack
ABS
Vario 40 Backpack
Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Base Unit
ABS
Vario Base Unit
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$604 - $699
ABS Vario Ultralight 18
ABS
Vario Ultralight 18
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$62 - $717
ABS Vario Ultralight 8
ABS
Vario Ultralight 8
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$707
ABS Zip-On SB 15
ABS
Zip-On SB 15
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$110
ABS Zip-On SB 5
ABS
Zip-On SB 5
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$76
ABS Zip-On Vario 15
ABS
Zip-On Vario 15
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$62
ABS Zip-On Vario 55
ABS
Zip-On Vario 55
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$130
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight
ABS
Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight
Avalanche Airbag Pack
$52 - $605
Adirondack Rock Press Canyon Rope Sack
Adirondack Rock Press
Canyon Rope Sack
Rope Bag
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag
Advanced Base Camp
Black Box Rope Bag
Rope Bag
$8
Advanced Base Camp Dirtbagger Rope Tarp
Advanced Base Camp
Dirtbagger Rope Tarp
Rope Bag
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Adventure Driven
WolfPack 75L
Expedition Pack
discontinued
Alite Big Oak Pack
Alite
Big Oak Pack
Overnight Pack
$115
Alite Hikari Pack
Alite
Hikari Pack
Daypack
$53 - $59
Alite Ochiba
Alite
Ochiba
Daypack
$68
 
Alite
Sake Fanny Pack
Lumbar/Hip Pack
Alite Shifter Pack
Alite
Shifter Pack
Daypack
$88 - $96
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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.