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

Deuter
Mountain Hardwear
REI
Columbia
Salomon
Nathan
GoLite
The North Face
Lowe Alpine
Mystery Ranch

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

Deuter Futura 32

rated 5 of 5 stars Great pack! Very comfortable and functional. My back stayed pretty dry, despite some warm conditions on long day hikes in the Grand Canyon, recently. Purchased this pack recently to use on some long day hikes, with a few overnighters on occasion. I just came back from a week of camping at the Grand Canyon, with some long day hikes taken every day. Each day I packed a full hydration bladder, a liter of Gatorade, snacks, first aid kit, and a light jacket. Everything fit perfectly, though when the… Full review

Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic 28 Backpack

rated 3 of 5 stars The Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic 28 pack is a good idea that just wasn't executed very well. Some of the flaws can be fixed with very little time and money, others leave me scratching my head and asking "why did they choose to do it that way?" As far as carrying capacity, I'd say it's great for day trips, but accessing your stuff isn't the easiest. I bought the MH Snowtastic 28 because I want to get a little more adventurous in my snowshoeing this year, and my Camelbak pack doesn't hold much more… Full review

Deuter Aircontact 75+10

rated 5 of 5 stars Wonderful backpack. Very comfortable. Had a lot of room inside and many straps outside that you can attach you gear to them. Will advise that backpack to everyone. The best backpack I've ever had. Full review

REI Flash 45 Pack

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is a fantastic lightweight pack. It carries well for such a light pack that doesn't have much in the way of a frame. This pack would be great for those starting on the journey to ultralight backpacking, while still having a pack with a lot of features. Fit:  This pack claims it fits up to a 19" torso in the Large size. I am 6'3" with around a 20" torso but decided to give it a try anyway. The pack is essentially frameless outside of the back padding and the Delrin rod around the outside of… Full review

Columbia Vixen 22L

rated 4 of 5 stars Light, comfortable day pack designed for women. Ample pockets for water bottles, poles, camera etc. on side, top, and back of pack as well as the waist belt. Love that load is kept off the back! Pack is extremely comfortable, even with a full load. Accommodates a bladder inside or water bottles on sides of pack. Zippered top pouch and two pouches on the belt. Great overall day pack. Full review

Salomon Trail 20

rated 2 of 5 stars Though personal, I think it can be said this pack has poor fit. Even if tightened down it will bounce. Does not carry the weight well. This is a nice enough pack. Pretty solidly constructed, OK capacity for bigger unsupported runs, or smaller fast packing ventures. But where it counts most this pack fails to deliver — it is uncomfortable when loaded with any amount of weight that matches its volume. Fit/Comfort: The fit seems nice enough, until you load it up with a bit more than just your wind… Full review

Nathan Intensity

rated 4.5 of 5 stars The Nathan Intensity running vest is an excellent woman-specific pack for running medium to long distances. With a 70-ounce reservoir and pockets for gels and chews, it has plenty of capacity to cover several hours on the run year-round. Plus, it’s comfortable for hours and stable with no bounce. Best For: I highly recommend the Nathan Intensity to other women who run at least several hours at a time on trails or roads. Men may want to check out the HPL 020 model. Fit The Nathan Intensity is a… Full review

Salomon XT Twin Belt

rated 2.5 of 5 stars in my opinion, this pack is more suitable for hiking than running. The first time I ran with the Salomon XT Twin belt on I had to alter my arm swing because my elbows kept hitting off the pack due to the bottles being placed on an angle. I am not sure if my short stature (I am 5'4") and small hip width had anything to do with it. My fiancé tried it on and didn't experience the same problem, so I would imagine the design of the pack is geared toward men. I even think I could get used to the sloshing… Full review

GoLite Jam 50L

rated 0.5 of 5 stars Very uncomfortable and non-lasting pack. Not worth your money! My husband and I hiked the PCT this year and we bought some gear from GoLite (nice Chrome Dome, gloves, jackets) with the main piece being my Jam 50. I liked it because of the weight (it kept my base weight very low), but it turned out to NOT be worth it at all. Even though the guy in the Fort Collins store assured us that all the gear was top quality and would last, it turned out the gear was not made to even slightly last a thru-hike. Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

Deuter Futura 32
user rating: 5 of 5 (5)
Deuter
Futura 32
reviewed Oct 21, 2014
$104 - $145
Mountain Hardwear Snowtastic 28 Backpack
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Mountain Hardwear
Snowtastic 28 Backpack
reviewed Oct 19, 2014
$120
Deuter Aircontact 75+10
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (13)
Deuter
Aircontact 75+10
reviewed Oct 19, 2014
$289
REI Flash 45 Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
REI
Flash 45 Pack
reviewed Oct 17, 2014
$129
Columbia Vixen 22L
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Columbia
Vixen 22L
reviewed Oct 16, 2014
$83
Salomon Trail 20
user rating: 2 of 5 (1)
Salomon
Trail 20
reviewed Oct 16, 2014
$50 - $99
Nathan Intensity
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Nathan
Intensity
reviewed Oct 15, 2014
$100
GoLite Jam 50L
user rating: 4 of 5 (7)
GoLite
Jam 50L
reviewed Oct 13, 2014
$110
The North Face Base Camp Duffel
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4)
The North Face
Base Camp Duffel
reviewed Oct 12, 2014
$84 - $200
Lowe Alpine Appalachian 60+15
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Lowe Alpine
Appalachian 60+15
reviewed Oct 10, 2014
discontinued
Mystery Ranch Sweetpea
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Mystery Ranch
Sweetpea
reviewed Oct 9, 2014
Gregory Makalu Pro 70
user rating: 4 of 5 (8)
Gregory
Makalu Pro 70
reviewed Oct 9, 2014
Gregory Border 35 L Pack
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Gregory
Border 35 L Pack
reviewed Oct 8, 2014
$134 - $179
Montane Dragon 20
user rating: 4 of 5 (3)
Montane
Dragon 20
reviewed Oct 8, 2014
$154
Gregory Jade 70
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Gregory
Jade 70
reviewed Oct 7, 2014
$153 - $214
Hanchor PIPE-T1
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Hanchor
PIPE-T1
reviewed Oct 6, 2014
CamelBak Day Star
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4)
CamelBak
Day Star
reviewed Oct 3, 2014
$50 - $80
Osprey Atmos 65
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (28)
Osprey
Atmos 65
reviewed Oct 2, 2014
$239 - $255
Gregory Baltoro 65
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (9)
Gregory
Baltoro 65
reviewed Oct 2, 2014
$247 - $329
Deuter Futura 30 SL
user rating: 4 of 5 (3)
Deuter
Futura 30 SL
reviewed Sep 30, 2014
$97 - $145
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
L.L.Bean
Duffle Bag
reviewed Sep 29, 2014
Osprey Quantum
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Osprey
Quantum
reviewed Sep 29, 2014
$99
Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest
user rating: 5 of 5 (3)
Ultimate Direction
PB Adventure Vest
reviewed Sep 29, 2014
$150 - $159
Gregory Z30
user rating: 4 of 5 (5)
Gregory
Z30
reviewed Sep 27, 2014
$97 - $139
Sierra Designs Jubilee 50
user rating: 1.5 of 5 (1)
Sierra Designs
Jubilee 50
reviewed Sep 26, 2014
$117
Marmot Long Hauler
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Marmot
Long Hauler
reviewed Sep 26, 2014
$59 - $148
Deuter ACT Lite 50+10
user rating: 4 of 5 (6)
Deuter
ACT Lite 50+10
reviewed Sep 25, 2014
$179 - $185
Osprey Aether 70
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (36)
Osprey
Aether 70
reviewed Sep 25, 2014
$279 - $290
Kelty Yukon 50
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5)
Kelty
Yukon 50
reviewed Sep 24, 2014
$140 - $169
Cotopaxi Inca 26
NEW!
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Cotopaxi
Inca 26
reviewed Sep 23, 2014
$109
available 2014
Mammut Trion Guide 45+7
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Mammut
Trion Guide 45+7
reviewed Sep 22, 2014
$160 - $199
Lowe Alpine Peak Attack 42
NEW!
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Lowe Alpine
Peak Attack 42
reviewed Sep 21, 2014
$95
available Fall 2014
Equinox Gila Ultralite Horizontal Pack Pocket
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Equinox
Gila Ultralite Horizontal Pack Pocket
reviewed Sep 20, 2014
$15
Deuter ACT Lite 75+10
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Deuter
ACT Lite 75+10
reviewed Sep 20, 2014
$229
Blackhawk! Barrage Hydration Pack
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Blackhawk!
Barrage Hydration Pack
reviewed Sep 14, 2014
$200 MSRP
Osprey Volt 75
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Osprey
Volt 75
reviewed Sep 13, 2014
$199 - $200
Osprey Talon 44
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (13)
Osprey
Talon 44
reviewed Sep 12, 2014
$149 - $150
Mountain Hardwear Fluid 32
user rating: 4 of 5 (3)
Mountain Hardwear
Fluid 32
reviewed Sep 11, 2014
$120 - $127
Teton Sports Scout 3400
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
Teton Sports
Scout 3400
reviewed Sep 8, 2014
Berghaus Expedition Light 80
NEW!
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Berghaus
Expedition Light 80
reviewed Sep 7, 2014

available 2014
Lowe Alpine Vision 40
user rating: 5 of 5 (4)
Lowe Alpine
Vision 40
reviewed Sep 4, 2014
discontinued
Patagonia Atom
user rating: 5 of 5 (4)
Patagonia
Atom
reviewed Sep 4, 2014
$45 - $49
High Sierra Col 35
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
High Sierra
Col 35
reviewed Sep 4, 2014
Osprey Talon 22
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (10)
Osprey
Talon 22
reviewed Sep 3, 2014
$99 - $100
Kelty Yukon 48
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Kelty
Yukon 48
reviewed Sep 3, 2014
$110 - $169
ALPS Mountaineering Shasta 3600
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering
Shasta 3600
reviewed Sep 1, 2014
$119
Mountainsmith Mountainlight Scream 25
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Mountainsmith
Mountainlight Scream 25
reviewed Aug 23, 2014
$56 - $69
Deuter Futura 28
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4)
Deuter
Futura 28
reviewed Aug 22, 2014
$93 - $109
Big Agnes Pumphouse
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Big Agnes
Pumphouse
reviewed Aug 21, 2014
$20
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit
Ultra-Sil Day Pack
reviewed Aug 21, 2014
$33
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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.