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
Dry Packs
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brands

Osprey
Luke's Ultralite
Kelty
Nathan
Patagonia
Mile High Mountaineering
Nite Ize
ULA Equipment
REI
CamelBak

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

Osprey Atmos 65 AG

rated 5 of 5 stars Amazing pack that feels like nothing at all. This is a great short hike pack (2-4 days) unless you are truly an ultra-light hiker then you could squeeze more days out of it. The AG suspension and mesh is amazing for my build (5'9" 205lbs). I wish we had a pack system like this in the military for carrying heavy loads. Overall it's very comfortable even without using the load lifters appropriately (I hardly ever adjust these mostly because I forget). I like the compartments, but I'm a pocket guy… Full review

Luke's Ultralite Accessory Pouch #2

rated 4.5 of 5 stars The first waist belt pocket I've found that I can easily access with my waist belt buckled. Roomy, virtually waterproof, and well-made. I have purchased many different backpack waist belt pockets in my quest for one that fit my needs and desires:  Zpacks, Gossamer Gear, Zimmerbuilt, EXIT, MLD, Elemental Horizons, and the pockets that are part of the HMG waist belt. My main frustration with all of them was that to keep them from sliding around it was usually necessary to anchor them near where the… Full review

Kelty Trekker 3950

rated 4 of 5 stars You can still find well-made Trekkers in like-new condition online if you're a smart shopper. Before Kelty switched to polyester materials and a thinner hipbelt, this pack represented a practical, comfortable on-trail option for people hauling heavy loads. For a Boy Scout, especially an adult leader or a teenager with the strength of a mule, these packs still represent a good choice. There are now a lot of better options on the market, but they cost more money. I recently purged my outdoor gear… Full review

Nathan Mirage Pak

rated 4 of 5 stars This pack is perfect for the minimalist at heart, but beware of bounce with a smartphone. I'd buy it again even with its shortcomings. This pack is all you need when you don't need much. I like to run with a car key, cell phone and some cash/card. For anything long enough to need more stuff, I carry a different pack. The Mirage is wonderfully expandable and will hold odd shaped items and much larger things than you might imagine. It weighs nearly nothing and dries out very quickly. It has a built-in… Full review

Kelty Flyway 43

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is the Kelty Flyway 43, which is a travel friendly daypack based off of the popular Kelty Redwing 44 pack. Like the Redwing pack, the Flyway is panel loading and has many features for organization. Additionally, there are travel friendly features like a padded laptop sleeve, rain cover and a separate bottom compartment. Features Size and design: The pack has a volume of 43L and is carry-on size. The pack uses durable 420D polyester material Panel zip main compartment and bottom zipper access:… Full review

Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This is the 25 liter Patagonia Black Hole Pack which is the smaller of the two Black Hole packs (the other is 35L). Like all of Patagonia's Black Hole line, the pack material is durable and water resistant. The pack is just the right size and has smart features making it a versatile day pack. Likes Sleek and simplistic design: The fabric is burly and water resistant and has not shown any wear since I've had it (since fall '14). What sets this day pack apart is it has one main compartment with a… Full review

REI Men's Trail 40 Pack

rated 5 of 5 stars This is the ideal multi-use travel pack at 40L with a panel opening, 8 exterior pockets, 3 interior pockets and hydration sleeve. It comes in both Men's and Women's and at a price of $110, it won't break the bank. Overview: This is REI's latest all-around pack which replaces the Lookout 40 Pack. At 40 liters, it is big enough to carry a ton of gear but not so big that it can't be carried on a plane. The pack has tons of features to help with organization and the biggest change is the panel opening… Full review

Osprey Porter 46

rated 4.5 of 5 stars This roomy pack is the maximum legal carry-on size and is one of the most travel friendly packs around. The pack is made of a durable material and is padded on all sides. The main compartment panel opens wide for easy packing and accessibility and the front organization panel has pockets for both laptop and tablet. Combined with lockable zippers and stowable straps, I recommend this pack to any traveler. Likes Shape and size: The shape of the pack is within most carry-on standards and I have not… Full review

Osprey Exos 58

rated 5 of 5 stars Excellent lightweight pack (not ultra light), great for weekend, multi-day, and through-hiking. Would definitely recommend assuming you can get the correct fit for your torso. Have been backpacking for over 50 yrs., mostly high Sierras.  Male, 165 lbs.  Excellent pack. Had the previous version and put 52 lbs in/on it for the JMT (enough for a 10 day stretch). This model has a bunch of upgraded aspects. The older version top pack was difficult to detach. I sewed small quick release buckles on so… Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

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

user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
Osprey Atmos 65 AG reviewed Mar 26, 2015
$260
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Luke's Ultralite Accessory Pouch #2 reviewed Mar 26, 2015
$25 MSRP
user rating: 4 of 5 (9)
Kelty Trekker 3950 reviewed Mar 25, 2015
discontinued
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Nathan Mirage Pak reviewed Mar 25, 2015
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Kelty Flyway 43 reviewed Mar 10, 2015
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Patagonia Black Hole Pack 25 reviewed Mar 5, 2015
$129
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
Osprey Porter 46 reviewed Mar 5, 2015
$130
user rating: 4 of 5 (15)
Osprey Exos 58 reviewed Mar 5, 2015
$220
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Mile High Mountaineering Salute 34 reviewed Mar 1, 2015
$229
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Nite Ize S-Biner MicroLock reviewed Feb 22, 2015
$4
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
ULA Equipment Ohm 2.0 reviewed Feb 20, 2015
$200
user rating: 4 of 5 (13)
REI New Star reviewed Feb 17, 2015
discontinued
user rating: 4 of 5 (11)
REI Great Star reviewed Feb 17, 2015
discontinued
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (6)
CamelBak Alpine Explorer reviewed Feb 10, 2015
$99 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ZPacks Arc Blast reviewed Feb 9, 2015
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (7)
Gregory Triconi 60 reviewed Feb 9, 2015
$225
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5)
Kelty Trekker 65 reviewed Feb 7, 2015
$160 - $179
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (7)
Osprey Volt 60 reviewed Feb 6, 2015
$179 - $180
user rating: 5 of 5 (4)
Goruck GR1 reviewed Feb 4, 2015
$295 MSRP
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
OtterBox 1000 reviewed Feb 1, 2015
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (5)
CamelBak Fourteener reviewed Jan 30, 2015
$90 - $145
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (11)
REI Flash 18 Pack reviewed Jan 27, 2015
$27 - $34
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Millet Radikal 32 reviewed Jan 23, 2015
discontinued
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Sea to Summit Big River Dry Sack reviewed Jan 19, 2015
$20 - $56
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (12)
Lowe Alpine Contour IV reviewed Jan 15, 2015
discontinued
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Osprey Poco reviewed Jan 15, 2015
$200 - $299
user rating: 3.5 of 5 (2)
Deuter Futura 24 SL reviewed Jan 14, 2015
$129 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4)
REI Morning Star 75 reviewed Jan 13, 2015
discontinued
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Swaygo Push Pack reviewed Jan 11, 2015
$109 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Mystery Ranch Terraplane Pack reviewed Jan 8, 2015
$485 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
Osprey Xenith 75 reviewed Jan 7, 2015
$330
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
Mystery Ranch 12-Bar reviewed Jan 5, 2015
discontinued
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
Kelty Red Cloud 90 reviewed Jan 3, 2015
$200 - $224
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (7)
Dana Design Astralplane Overkill reviewed Feb 16, 2015
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Gregory Denali 100 reviewed Dec 29, 2014
$399
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Gregory Alpinisto 35 reviewed Dec 28, 2014
$129 - $199
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Mountainsmith Tour TLS reviewed Dec 23, 2014
$60 - $74
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (2)
Cold Cold World Chernobyl reviewed Dec 22, 2014
$175 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (5)
Kelty Continental Divide 5300 (External) reviewed Dec 22, 2014
discontinued
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter reviewed Dec 10, 2014
$345
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Cotopaxi Nepal 65 reviewed Nov 30, 2014
$229 MSRP
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Granite Rocx The Cascade reviewed Nov 29, 2014
$81
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Deuter Pace 36 reviewed Nov 25, 2014
$129
RailRiders Journey reviewed Nov 11, 2014
user rating: 4 of 5 (10)
Lowe Alpine Netherworld 90 reviewed Oct 29, 2014
discontinued
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Osprey Tempest 30 reviewed Oct 28, 2014
$130
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Osprey Ariel 55 reviewed Oct 28, 2014
$139 - $260
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Eberlestock FAC Track reviewed Oct 22, 2014
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Arc'teryx LEAF Khard 45 reviewed Oct 22, 2014
NEW!
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry reviewed Oct 21, 2014
$130
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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.