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
Montane Dragon 20
Finally a nice pack that allows for multi-day runs. It's not perfect, but in the most important aspect — carry while running — it's great. I was able to get this pack out for a two day trip into the Crazy Mtns. I had to load a little more kit as we received a big dump of snow and cooler temps. Kit consisted of a 30°F down quilt, inflatable pad (had to add a thin ccf pad due to temps), eVENT bivy, small pot/esbit stove, Steripen, down jacket, hooded midlayer, tights, spare socks and the usual… Full review
Montane Dragon 20
A well-built and lightweight pack for ultrarunning and fast packing, big enough to carry layers, emergency gear, and food for long mountain runs in mixed weather, or for a UL weekender. Recommended for those kinds of activities, but not as a general purpose day pack. I received the Montane Dragon 20 from Trailspace a little too late to try it out in the 60 km Birkebeiner Ultra, but have put it to the test on some of my longer training runs and on a few day hikes. It is very well-designed and -built,… Full review
Blackhawk! Barrage Hydration Pack
A heavy-duty "military style" 3-day pack that is designed to last forever, no matter what you do with it. Although BlackHawk! categorizes it as a hydration pack, I believe the hydration bladder is a small portion of this pack. I purchased this pack prior to a deployment overseas in 2008 and it still looks brand new today. In between being an every day carry item thru Kuwait and Afghanistan, it has also been used as a day pack for hikes and hunting. As well as a great commuter bag and travel bag. … Full review
Osprey Volt 75
Great fit without a lot of weight. I would definitely recommend this backpack for anyone doing a 3-4 night outing. Just purchased this pack in July 2014. Have used it 4 times in the Adirondacks of NY and AT in NJ and Maine. I bought it for the lesser pack weight of 3lbs 12oz vs my other, older Osprey pack. This is a one-size-fits-all pack with an adjustable stay system that I really liked, especially if you're an in-between size like me. It carries 4,700 cu, so I did have to choose my gear wisely… Full review
Osprey Talon 44
Great transitional bag! I'm 5'11" with a slender build @ 162 lbs. I bought the bag at the beginning of the 2014 spring season with the intent of doing lightweight trips up to 5 nights. On a 1-2 night cool-weather trip, I carry 27 lbs of gear (including a full 3 liter hydration bladder and 1 change of clothes), minus food. For longer cool weather trips, an additional change of clothes and larger fuel bottle brings it to 30 lbs of gear, minus food. The bag handles this very well, is light, quite… Full review
Mountain Hardwear Fluid 32
I am an avid backpacker, hiker, and mountain biker. I needed a new full size day pack. I wanted a bag I could use for long day hikes, as well as around town. This pack is the newer model (Panel Loader Design). Pros: New panel load design allows me to open the bag up enough to see all the contents. Very lightweight and versatile. Does a great job and distributing the all my gear, yet I can compress it and stow the waist belt, and use it sightseeing and for quick overnight traveling. H2O bladder compatible,… Full review
GoLite Jam 50L
Solid entry into backpacking with less weight, more miles and more fun. If you're wanting to go lighter but aren't ready to commit lots of money to a specialized pack, go for this pack. Fit: 35" waist and got a large; this will put you at the end of the belt straps — lose any weight and belt won't be as tight (just a note) 19.5" back measurement (iirc); length is fine on the large Comfort: hip belt padded appropriately; no rough spots shoulder straps padded appropriately; no digging/pinching/etc… Full review
Teton Sports Scout 3400
Great quality pack with lots of pockets and loops. I purchased this backpack about 1 years ago, used it so much. On trips I carried food, a tent, a sleeping bag, sleeping pad and clothes for three days without a problem. I'm content with this product. Full review
Berghaus Expedition Light 80
The Berghaus Expedition Light 80 is a large capacity pack with a lightweight design. It has a surprisingly supportive suspension system which provides comfort in the hips and shoulders. It has a low, stable profile, even while strapping everything from skis to my dog's pack to the outside. It can be warm during hot days. I would recommended the Expedition Light to backpackers and mountaineers looking for a large capacity pack that is functional with heavy loads in the 50 plus pound range all seasons… Full review
Dragon 20 reviewed Sep 18, 2014
Barrage Hydration Pack reviewed Sep 14, 2014
Volt 75 reviewed Sep 13, 2014
Talon 44 reviewed Sep 12, 2014
Fluid 32 reviewed Sep 11, 2014
Jam 50L reviewed Sep 10, 2014
Scout 3400 reviewed Sep 8, 2014
Expedition Light 80 reviewed Sep 7, 2014
Vision 40 reviewed Sep 4, 2014
Atom reviewed Sep 4, 2014
Col 35 reviewed Sep 4, 2014
Talon 22 reviewed Sep 3, 2014
Yukon 48 reviewed Sep 3, 2014
Shasta 3600 reviewed Sep 1, 2014
Mountainlight Scream 25 reviewed Aug 23, 2014
Futura 28 reviewed Aug 22, 2014
Pumphouse reviewed Aug 21, 2014
Ultra-Sil Day Pack reviewed Aug 21, 2014
Crestone 75 reviewed Aug 21, 2014
Jam 70L reviewed Aug 20, 2014
Motion 60 reviewed Aug 19, 2014
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag reviewed Aug 17, 2014
Z55 reviewed Aug 17, 2014
Viper 7 reviewed Aug 13, 2014
Mars 80 reviewed Aug 13, 2014
Bobcat 65 reviewed Aug 10, 2014
Flat Iron reviewed Aug 9, 2014
Aether 70 reviewed Aug 7, 2014
Lookout 50 reviewed Aug 5, 2014
Mira 26 reviewed Aug 5, 2014
Mesh Ditty Sacks reviewed Aug 5, 2014
Z65 reviewed Aug 5, 2014
Accessory Straps reviewed Aug 2, 2014
Charge LR 70 Oz Hydration Pack reviewed Jul 24, 2014
Aura 65 reviewed Jul 24, 2014
Red Cloud reviewed Jul 24, 2014
Cascade 5200 reviewed Jul 16, 2014
Aircontact 75+10 reviewed Jul 14, 2014
Mira 34 reviewed Jul 11, 2014
Robson reviewed Jul 9, 2014
WatchTower reviewed Jul 7, 2014
Trekker 4300 reviewed Jul 6, 2014
Farpoint 40 reviewed Jul 5, 2014
Mijo reviewed Jul 3, 2014
Crestrail 70 reviewed Jul 3, 2014
Contour 60 Pack reviewed Jul 2, 2014
Redwing 50 reviewed Jun 29, 2014
Glittertind 55 reviewed Jun 27, 2014
Innova 50 reviewed Jun 26, 2014
Vapor Day reviewed Jun 26, 2014
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.