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.
The best backpacks, reviewed and curated by the Trailspace community. The latest review was added on April 1, 2020. Stores' prices and availability are updated daily.
Recent Backpack Reviews
Mine was equipped for tequila shots and fits four travel size bottles of Cuervo Gold and one shot glass. Works great, lightweight and I really can’t add anything else as Goose nailed the efficiency and value of this product. Wear it responsibly!!! Full review
Forget brands like Platypus and Nalgene. The most efficient way to carry your beverages on the Appalachian Trail is the Mt Katahdin Hydration Belt. It’s the first of April, and the thru-hiking season is underway. Across the country, myriads of twenty-somethings are leaving their parents’ basements and setting out on the long trails to find the true meaning of life. And while thousands will start at Springer Mountain, Georgia, only a dedicated few will fight through the hangovers and public intoxication… Full review
They never should have discontinued these. These were the perfect way to carry water bottles on your hip belt. Lowe Alpine had three color offerings—all black, black/teal, and the grey model shown here. Why they were discontinued is beyond me. Perfect design...the new owners of Lowe Alpine products NEED to reintroduce these. Full review
A bespoke, no-fuss sturdy bag ideal for forest work, bushcraft, day walks, and weekend trips for those looking for something with a more traditional appearance and lifetime of use. Bison Bushcraft are based on the South Downs, in Southern England. They specialise in bespoke apparel and gear designed primarily for bush crafting and forest work. It is all handmade in England using the highest quality locally sourced materials. In the past, they outsourced the manufacture of their bags to Frost River,… Full review
This is a great lightweight pack for loads up to 30 pounds. First of all, this is my favorite backpack. I bought this pack because it weighs in at about 2 pounds and carries loads up to 30 pounds comfortably. One of the best features is the long "quiver" pocket on the side. It is a great way to carry longer items like a rolled up tarp, 2-liter water bag, camp saws, or survival knife. The stretchable mesh front pocket just continues to swallow gear. To keep weight down, the side and front pockets… Full review
CamelBak TransAlp was the best ever—no other product had these features. I would buy it immediately if I could. Unfortunately I used my CamelBak TransAlp so often over 10 years, that I had to buy a new one—but there are no packs which are similar to that prefect pack. Hopefully CamelBak makes a revival TransAlp!! The best backpack for all kinds of sports and in the mountains. Full review
Lightweight, durable comfort. A nice set of features with an easy to like price tag. If you're in the market for a new hiking, alpine, or even knocking around pack, as most of us always are, I want to share my stoke about this one. The Deuter Speed Lite 24 (also available in 12L, 16L, 20L, 22L SL, 26L, 30L SL, and 32L) is my first Deuter pack and has far exceeded my expectations. Despite being frameless, there's enough rigidity to handle loads up to 20 lbs and, given its V-shape cut, it becomes… Full review
The Kaniq 33 is a lightweight, 33-liter day pack with a full suite of features for ski alpinism or just plain backcountry skiing. Solidly built and snow and water resistant, with some well-thought-out lightweight fittings to keep weight down, but doesn’t ride well when full and not everything functions optimally. As the days get longer in Norway, the summits start calling. They come in many shapes and sizes: everything from broad, avalanche-safe slopes that are still steep enough to cut powder… Full review
Versatility is implied in the name for good reason. HMG refers to the Versa as a Fanny Pack and Pack Accessory with suggested uses far beyond just strapping it around your waist. Wearing it around the chest, like a bandolier, or attached to your pack are just a few of the options. Light at just over 4 ounces with strap and under 3 ounces with strap removed, it makes a nice addition to a pack or great standalone space for shorter adventures. Perfect for carrying items you want easy access to like… 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.
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.