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

Brand

Osprey
U.S. Military
The North Face
Outdoor Research
JanSport
Dana Design
Mountainsmith
Gossamer Gear
Outdoor Products
Kelty

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

Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars Super lightweight with Osprey quality and detailed pack. Just bought the Osprey Stuff Pack in my search for a lightweight packable summit/day pack. From a backpacking base camp or thru-hike, I like to leave my tent and HMG large pack and explore. However, I always take essential gear such as first aid kit, water, rain jacket, etc. This is a super light and well designed pack that folds into an inner pouch, has two zipped storage areas, and a small interior pouch with Velcro that is its own storage… Full review

U.S. Military ALICE Pack

rated 1 of 5 stars Primitive, heavy, and outdated, an Alice Pack would never make it into my gear collection. We used these in the NZ Army back in the '80s. Like a lot of the gear back then it was 1960s Vietnam era.Back in those days the gear was so bad that soldiers would go out and buy their own gear, mostly civilian issue.  SAS soldiers used to go out and buy MacPac and Fairydown backpacks. The Alice Packs were just not capable of carrying sufficient load comfortably and I can only suggest they are basically rubbish. Full review

U.S. Military ALICE Pack

rated 4 of 5 stars Not a bad pack as long as you are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the design. The as-issued ALICE does the job and holds up well to rough use, but it lacks the comfort of more modern designs and the refinements and fashionable trends of civilian products. However, upgrade the straps and the waist belt with MOLLE II replacements and you've got one solid feeling pack that is comfortable and does just about anything you want a pack to do while remaining simple in nature. Consider adding the… Full review

The North Face Rolling Thunder

rated 5 of 5 stars Terrific bag! Sturdy and tough. Nice product!! A great carry-on suitcase for air travel. Slim profile allows easy lifting to overhead bins. Three sturdy handles for lifting into trunk of auto! Wheels are smooth and sturdy. Collapsible handle works with one touch!  Full review

The North Face Snow Leopard Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars That is so funny. I have the same pack. I used it and my Gregory from the mid 1980s. I too loved the Snow Leopard. Mine was also bright blue with yellow straps. I dropped it off at the North Face shop today because the weatherproofing was flaking off on the inside of the pack. I am not sure what they will do. It is a strong comfortable pack with easy access to all parts.It has been all over the mountains of California and southern Arizona with a trip to New Mexico, Colorado, and Kenya. It never… Full review

Outdoor Research Ultralight Compression Sack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars Does the job it was meant to do. I purchased the OR compression sack when I got a new sleeping bag  You can see why. It packs up small and leave it in with the bag 8lt pouch I’ve been using this one about 15x a year for about 10 years and it is showing no signs of wear.  Works very well. I have had cheaper models that seem to bulge at the sides (what’s the point?). That is not the case with the OR. The four straps allow you to evenly cinch down the contents to what my kids call a big jelly… Full review

The North Face Base Camp Duffel

rated 5 of 5 stars My size small base camp duffel is a favorite for short work trips and toting small amounts of extra gear to and from a trailhead. It is built to withstand harsh punishment, easy to carry, and easy to access the interior contents. Cost is the only negative. Available from carry-on size to trek-swallowing massive, the base camp duffel might be the most indestructible and comfortable way to get your stuff from one place to the other. Mine is a size small, and I use it primarily for air travel, national… Full review

JanSport Rainier

rated 5 of 5 stars I, literally, lived out of this pack for four years. It was spacious, had plenty of room for everything I needed. I'm 6'4" and was grateful for the longer frame. When packed right, it was good for the long haul and routinely took me several miles down the road or trail. Having started off with milsurp packs, the Rainier was a dream to own.  Full review

Osprey Atmos AG 65

rated 5 of 5 stars Amazing pack! The most comfortable pack I have ever had with tons of extra features and storage. It's not the lightest but the comfort and versatility make up for it. The pack is made for men, but I am very short.  The small size fits me and the shoulder straps are very adjustable and the torso belt can also be adjusted. The venting is amazing thanks to the mesh that surrounds the pack. The small is about 62 L and that is plenty enough for me. I don't end up filling all the pockets and I always… Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack reviewed May 19, 2018
$26
user rating: 4 of 5 (41)
U.S. Military ALICE Pack reviewed May 17, 2018
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
The North Face Rolling Thunder reviewed May 9, 2018
$239 - $249
 
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5)
The North Face Snow Leopard Pack reviewed May 9, 2018
discontinued
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3)
Outdoor Research Ultralight Compression Sack reviewed May 7, 2018
$18 - $43
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5)
The North Face Base Camp Duffel reviewed May 3, 2018
$75 - $138
 
user rating: 4 of 5 (11)
JanSport Rainier reviewed May 3, 2018
discontinued
user rating: 4 of 5 (17)
Osprey Atmos AG 65 reviewed Apr 28, 2018
$156 - $270
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (18)
Dana Design Terraplane reviewed Apr 27, 2018
discontinued
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (11)
Mountainsmith Tour reviewed Apr 27, 2018
$60 - $79
user rating: 4 of 5 (16)
Osprey Daylite reviewed Apr 27, 2018
$50
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3)
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 reviewed Apr 26, 2018
$225 MSRP
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Outdoor Products Essential Carry-On reviewed Apr 23, 2018
discontinued
user rating: 3.5 of 5 (4)
Kelty Red Cloud 90 reviewed Apr 6, 2018
$165 - $219
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 4400 Windrider reviewed Apr 6, 2018
$380
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
JanSport Bhutan reviewed Apr 6, 2018
discontinued
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Matador Freerain24 reviewed Apr 4, 2018
$60 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (13)
ULA Equipment Circuit reviewed Apr 1, 2018
$225
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Vasque Boot Box reviewed Apr 1, 2018
user rating: 4 of 5 (5)
Osprey Kestrel 28 reviewed Mar 30, 2018
$105 - $140
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
SealLine BlockerLite Compression Dry Sack reviewed Mar 25, 2018
$30 - $33
user rating: 2.5 of 5 (2)
Black Diamond Saga 40 Jetforce Avalanche Airbag Pack reviewed Mar 25, 2018
$862 - $1,149
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 85 reviewed Mar 12, 2018
$185
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Cube Set reviewed Mar 2, 2018
$32
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5)
Osprey Stratos 36 reviewed Feb 28, 2018
$120 - $170
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
The North Face Jester reviewed Feb 28, 2018
$38 - $65
user rating: 4 of 5 (3)
Lowe Alpine TFX Summit 65+15 reviewed Feb 18, 2018
discontinued
user rating: 4 of 5 (9)
Kelty Red Cloud 6650 reviewed Feb 16, 2018
discontinued
user rating: 4 of 5 (5)
ALPS Mountaineering Cascade 4200 reviewed Feb 12, 2018
$170 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler RT 35 OutDry reviewed Feb 6, 2018
$112 - $150
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Daypack 22 L reviewed Feb 2, 2018
$55
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (10)
Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack reviewed Jan 23, 2018
$18 - $69
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
Gregory Alpinisto 50 reviewed Jan 21, 2018
$131 - $219
user rating: 4 of 5 (8)
GoLite Jam 50L reviewed Dec 27, 2017
$110 MSRP
user rating: 3.5 of 5 (1)
My Trail Backpack Light 50L reviewed Dec 27, 2017
$149 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Osprey Mira 34 reviewed Dec 26, 2017
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (23)
Osprey Exos 58 reviewed Dec 25, 2017
$220
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
3F Gear 56L Backpack reviewed Dec 21, 2017
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Simond Alpinism 55+10 reviewed Dec 18, 2017
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Eureka! Sleeping Bag Carry Duffel reviewed Dec 6, 2017
$30 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4)
Deuter ACT Lite 45+10 SL reviewed Dec 2, 2017
$132 - $149
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
REI Traverse 65 reviewed Nov 28, 2017
$249
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Gregory Stout 65 reviewed Nov 27, 2017
$135 - $179
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5)
Kelty Red Cloud 110 reviewed Nov 27, 2017
$172 - $229
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Osprey Ace 50 reviewed Nov 24, 2017
$120 - $160
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
Kelty Cache Hauler (Frame Only) reviewed Nov 22, 2017
$120 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
Gregory Amber 44 reviewed Nov 20, 2017
$120 - $159
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack reviewed Nov 18, 2017
$25 - $32
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
U.S. Military CFP 90 reviewed Nov 16, 2017
 
user rating: 3.5 of 5 (3)
The North Face Fusion reviewed Nov 15, 2017
discontinued
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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.