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 North Face
Sea to Summit
Hyperlite Mountain Gear
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
Dana Design Yellowstone
An excellent pack, simply designed and rugged in construction. It had one lifetime before reaching me and, despite my best efforts, is only now starting to show wear 30+ years after manufacture. Much like an old car—every part can be repaired, replaced, or modified as necessary. I obtained my Dana Design Yellowstone pack as a gift from a blind man who used it for close to two decades in his visually-gifted youth. It has served me well on over a dozen weekend to week-long trips across one decade. Full review
Gregory Endo 15
Gregory's new Endo 15 offers a feature-rich hydration pack with their latest technology and famed reliability. The Endo 15 is not limited to one activity, but useful for all you can dream up! Gregory Endo 15 Mountain Bike Hydration Pack PROS Superb hydration bladder Multiple storage compartments Padded zippered pocket Dual zippered hip-belt pouches Magnetic sternum strap clip Separate, removable tool kit bag Flasher attachment CONS Hydration hose tad short for sternum magnet Hip belt pockets need… Full review
Deuter Camera Case III
Camera pouch which can be mounted on your belt or the shoulder strap of your rucksack. A brilliantly practical device which allows one-handed access to your camera. The Camera Case III is the largest in a series of camera pouches produced by Deuter. It is a wonderfully practical means of keeping your camera handy while walking. You can wear it on your belt or on the shoulder strap of your backpack. I keep mine on my left shoulder strap as shown below. The zipper is on the right, so I can open the… Full review
Gregory Sucia 28
We got the Gregory Grandeur Series Sucia 28 with the hopes that it would do double duty as both a camping/weekend pack as well as a school bag my 11-year-old son can take to class and soccer practice. We especially needed a padded area for laptop/iPad as well as enough room for books, notebooks, pencils etc., but also wanted it to hold up for more than a few months. So far it's been the perfect combination of a school/work bag as well as one that holds up for weekend camping. After putting the pack… Full review
Ortlieb Dry Bag PS10
Lightweight dry bag for storing the clothes inside the backpack. The fabric is neither too lightweight nor excessively strong. We’ve been using three of these bags for almost six years until we spotted massive delamination of PU coating inside and failures of welded seam. In 2012 we received three of these bags (in 12L size) as a gift from our friend. Prior to that we hadn't used the dry bags in our trips, protecting our gear by external raincovers and regular consumer plastic bags as liners. Full review
Revamp Gear Front Pack
I found this pack very user friendly and it provided a great fit for a universal design product. Works great both when worn by itself or when I pair it with my backpacks or hydration packs. I decided to check out this pack after I met someone who was wearing one. We were both chatting as we were packing up, and he proceeded to remove his front pack and backpack with one click. I continued to loosen straps and release buckles until all my gear was off. I asked him about his pack and he gave me a… Full review
The North Face Men's Terra 40
Unbelievable find at a thrift store, $8.99. Brand new. Great pack and now is my favorite pack. Looking at doing segments on the Colorado Trail. If you're looking for a great pack, look no more. Love it for light to ultralight backpacking. Highly recommend this pack. Has everything I've been looking for in a pack. Full review
Aquapac Small Stormproof Camera Pouch
Protects your camera in wet conditions. Highly waterproof thanks to the roll-top, but not as practical as a normal camera pouch. I wouldn't be me if I didn't constantly stop to take pictures while walking in the outdoors, so I like to have my camera close at hand. I keep it in an excellent little Deuter pouch attached to the shoulder strap of my rucksack. I can unzip the pouch, take out my camera, and put it back in with quick and easy movements using just one hand. The Deuter pouch has only one… Full review
3F Gear 40L + 16 Backpack
Two-pound backpack for $56 shipped! Great ultraLight backpack. I am 62 and have a real bad heart and wanted to backpack again after a 45-year hiatus. I bought this Chinese/Aliexpress Backpack and couldn't be happier. Would I love a ZPacks Arc? Heck yes, but this does as well for not much more weight. I have taken it on two trips so far since my decision to backpack six weeks ago and I really could not be happier. Capacity: 40+16 Liters Dimensions: 80cm*30cn*22cm Back length:about 52cm Net weight:… 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.