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.
Six Moon Designs
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
Geigerrig Tactical 1600
This amazing hydration pack has an almost indestructible hydration engine that is easy to clean and room to bring everything you need for any daylong adventure. Disclaimer: I was provided with this pack by Geigerrig to trial and review. I have had a Geigerrig Rig 1600 (their non-tactical pack of the same capacity) that I purchased as a consumer two years ago, and throughout this review I will make comparisons between the two. (Left: Rig 1600 Tactical, Right: Rig 1600)THE SHORT REVIEW I LOVE THIS… Full review
MEC Brio 40
I'm on the large side of "average male build", and this pack seems like a youth pack to me... which I suppose is not a failing, but it makes the pack unusable to someone of my stature. The volume and harness size seem ideally suited to either youth or petite women, who would probably find this pack very versatile and useful for small trips without a lot of gear. Fit: It doesn't say so in the product description, or anywhere on the pack itself, but I would recommend this pack to children/youth or… Full review
The North Face Men's Surge
Please take a look at my video below. My backpack has little more than 1 year and already the rear bottom part is worn off. Wouldn't expect that from North Face. Please take a look at this video. Picture speaks more than 1000 words.. Full review
Camp Trails Ponderosa
Camp Trails Ponderosa is the best pack I have ever used and I have had a more than a handful of other packs to compare with. I chucked away my first one after many years use when one of the zippers failed and regretted it afterwards and have this week bought two more on eBay and will never look back on softpacks again. I cannot wait to finally get them. Top weave, robust frame, light and roomy. I have used it around the world from Lappland, Nova Scotia, Rockies, and New Zealand and it has worked… Full review
Patagonia Ascensionist 35L
Pretty much my go-to pack for all things NOT requiring the kitchen sink. 35 Liters is just enough for me to go most places overnight as long as I am SUPER weight/bulk conscious and don't mind a few items strapped to the outside of the pack. The Ascensionist is a fantastic day-pack when you need everything and a decent over-nighter when you don't need much. It's Patagonia, so the top-notch quality, workmanship, and features are to be expected in a pack such as this, so I won't dwell on the material… Full review
Deuter ACT Lite 65+10
I grew up with the old aluminum frame shoulder harness packs (virtually no hip support) hiking up and down the Presidential range in New Hampshire's White Mountains. This pack (mine is light blue -- slightly older) is wonderful for its capacity to make relatively light hiking a reality. My pack, with a week's worth of food and gear (with bear canister) is about 35-40# at start, and everything fits PERFECTLY. I have used it on a couple of dozen significant hikes and there is not a sign of significant… Full review
Deuter AC Lite 22
This is a great everyday bag that can suffice for a light overnight backpacking trip. This has become my go-to bag for day hikes, car camping, fishing, and anything between. It carries all of my essentials in comfort with the Air Comfort back and even a 3L Hydrapak reservoir. It can even double as a short backpacking pack if you are a minimalist or use ultralight gear. Full review
Gregory Baltoro 85
Great pack, comfy, packs a ton and super durable. Have had mine for going on two years and I've abused it without running into any issues. It's also super easy to customize, gear stows are intuitive and extremely functional. I would recommend this pack for anyone who is OK with making the tradeoff of weight for utility. Only have two real gripes. First is the waterproof hip-pouch is not large enough to stash a GPS device (e.g. DeLorme) or a smartphone; and second is that the hanging mechanism for… Full review
Deuter ACT Trail 28 SL
I love my 28L pack and cannot wait for more adventures to come! Bring it on, Nepal! The fit is incomparable to other packs, especially in the chest/hip area. Fits like a glove! #Deuterforlife 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.