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
This has been a great day pack. The multiple compartments allow separation of gear, clothes and food. Very comfortable and well made. Full review
RōM Outdoors RōM Pack
A backpack that has a few specific applications and performs very well for those situations. Perfect for picnic adventures or a backup car poncho/blanket. The pack is very comfortable and quick to take apart and put back together. I received a sample of this product from the brand or its representatives in exchange for a review. I recently tried out the RoM pack on a day trip in Cheaha State Park where we packed in food for the day and planned to stop mid-hike for a nice break and to check out… Full review
I love this pack. I'm 6'1" and my wife is 5'4" and we both use it. I just finished hiking at Acadia National Park hiking just under 40 miles in four days from Sand Beach to Cadillac Mountain. I used it as a daypack carrying a soft side cooler with cold drinks and lunch for two, Swiss Army Knife, Garmin 60CSx, raincoats. I will never part with it. Full review
Eureka! Barrel StormShield Universal Harness
Add backpack straps to almost any container or object, so long as it fits within the straps. For use with a gear barrel, Pelican case, duffel bag, small kayak, etc... use your imagination!! Grey front handle and back pad, LESS padding, and yellow shoulder adjustment straps distinguish this harness from the more expensive "Expedition" model. This is the cheaper of the two barrel harnesses that Eureka! has made. (Harness only! Container reviewed separately) Fit (10/10): Unisex, Universal fit. The… Full review
REI Men's Lookout 40 Pack
Comfortable and enough volume for a winter day hike or snowshoe trip. Excellent design and arrangement. Durable, but therefore a bit heavy. Other than weight I find this product one of the best of many daypacks I have owned. I need this much volume in winter or on a climb where there is a possibility of spending an unexpected night out. Any bladder can be hung in the pack if you use a little ingenuity and paracord to attach the key clip to the bladder suspension system. My sternum straps DO move… Full review
Eureka! Terra Cotta Canoe Barrel
Gear barrel, barrel pack, canoe barrel * NOT A BEAR-PROOF BARREL * This is a 64L food-grade (HDPE) "total-opening" cylindrical plastic drum with screw-on gasketted lid. Manufactured by CURTEC, and originally used for transporting pharmaceuticals. When they are retired, EUREKA! takes these barrels, cleans them, and gives them a second life as a canoeist's gear barrel. The size and weight of gear barrels make them less than ideal for long-distance backpacking on dry land. But being waterproof gives… Full review
RōM Outdoors RōM Pack
The RōM Pack is a convertible backpack that can unfold into a poncho or a blanket....but ultimately it is this idea that is the reason the product fails. This isn't something that solves a need and even if it did, the execution was poor. The RōM Pack is a convertible backpack that can unfold into a poncho or a blanket. As a backpack… What I like: It is stylish The material quality is heavy duty What I didn't like: It is very heavy…when empty The main pocket isn't very large due to the excess… Full review
Osprey Aether 85
When it comes to packs, you want something comfortable. It needs to be well made, rugged, and have useful features. I’ve owned the Osprey Aether 85 for some time now and wouldn’t change it for anything else. Intro: When it comes to packs, you want something comfortable. It needs to be well made, rugged, and have useful features. I’ve owned the Osprey Aether 85 for some time now and wouldn’t change it for anything else. Here is my break down review of the pack: Comfort: - I find… Full review
Osprey Transporter 95
Great convertible duffle/backpack. Rain resistant and bomb-proof. TSA friendly. Check it in! As an active Scouter with a Pack AND Troop, I camp a lot. I've purchased different bags over the years in an effort to find the perfect bag. Is the Transporter the go-to bag? Not exactly, but pretty close. When my Troop went to Hawaii at Camp Pupukea, I looked around for a duffle bag that the Scouts could use regularly and was TSA friendly (i.e., lockable). After several trips to REI and beyond, I settled… 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.