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.
Priceless 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
Exped Men's Thunder 70
This is a relatively lightweight pack (3.5 lbs) without many bells and whistles but which excels at comfortably carrying 35-40 lbs in rugged terrain. Fit: The thorough review on this pack at SectionHiker.com convinced me to try this pack, particularly the warning that the belt ran a bit small. I have about a 29-30" waist, and I did not want a belt that had the padding bunched up against the buckle. In the end, I had an inch or two to spare on either side of the buckle when fully tightened… Full review
Used this backpack for aprox 15 year. Best use for heawy load The carrie system on this backpack is impresive. The foam straps feels molded to your body. The quick higth adjustment is wery easy to use. It also adjusts well from tigth fit in chalanging terrain to more relaxed in easy terrain. The backpack i huge! 125L is a lot. The backpack is designed for hunters and recon troops who needs to carry a lot of heavy equipment or even a hole reindeer. In this size of backpacks there is not made much… Full review
Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15
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
Best pack I've ever carried. Works for overnight to multi-night 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- to 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
'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
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 with this backpack,… Full review
Gregory Jade 33
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
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
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
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).
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
2,000 - 2,999 cubic inches
- Weekend and Multi-Day:
3,000 - 4,499 cubic inches
- 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?)
Types of Backpacks
Are designed for done-in-a-day hikes, runs, skis, and (for some minimalists) the occasional overnight. Daypacks may be frameless rucksacks or incorporate a stiff frame sheet or metal stay for support.
Internal Frame Backpacks
Available as weekend, multi-day, and expedition-sized backpacks, internal frames are popular for their adjustability, ease of movement, and balance.
External Frame Backpacks
External frames are also available in sizes suitable for a weekend overnight to a winter camping expedition. More rigid than internal packs, externals typically carry heavy loads well.
Designed for active, endurance pursuits, hydration packs feature space for a hydration reservoir and tube for drinking on the go. Some also have space to carry gear.
Also known as lumbar packs, fanny packs, and hip packs, these small packs allow you to carry a few essentials on short outings, such as gel flasks on a run or a camera on a short hike.
There's no need to leave Junior behind when you hit the trail. Just load him or her into a kid carrier and head on out.
Font packs allow you to carry gear that you want to access immediately on your chest.
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.
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.)
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.
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.