The Best Backpacks for Every Adventure
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 May 28, 2023. Stores' prices and availability are updated daily.
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 overnight, weekend, 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.
Recent Backpack Reviews
Osprey Hikelite 26
Best daypack I have ever owned. Lightweight, roomy, durable and comfortable. I have been using the Osprey Hikelite 26 every day for about 3 years (about 6000 km) and it is definitely the best all round daypack I have ever owned (and I have owned lots). I have used it for commutes, hiking and international travel and it is grehas been for all of these. Fit and comfort This pack is super comfortable even with a resonable load (say 8 kg). Put it on and the load dissapears. It has a minimalist internal… Full review
Tatonka Yukon 70+10
Good product, happy to use Worked well for me while guiding, 70 l. fits a life-size billy cape easily. Durable, good harness straps though they absorb rain they dry fast. Carries 70-lb load no problem. Heavier for longer I would want a full frame. Full review
Fjallraven Keb 52L
Pity about the breast strap. Everything else is fine. I added a clip for each shoulder strap to allow attachment of a camera bag. Replaced breast strap and two female clips attached to shoulder strap I show a camera bag capable of holding a full frame camera attached to the added shoulder strap clips. The Fjallraven Kafka models come with shoulder clips installed at the factory. When a person is wearing the pack the breast strap is much higher and in its normal place on the chest. The camera… Full review
Fjallraven Kajka 65
Best packs I have ever owned Kajka 65 and 85. In 48 years of backpack hiking these are the best. I own both the 65 and the 85 Litre versions. The three sizes (65, 75, 85) all follow a similar design. They only differ in size. The 65 and the 85 are identical except for size. I saw the 85 while on a trip. I tried it on in a store and it was “love at first sight”. I got home and ordered the 85 for winter hiking. I took it out twice and YES this was it. So I immediately ordered the 65 for summer… Full review
Klattermusen Delling 30L
An interesting full featured pack with some unique features, weighing 28.8 ounces. Straps allow for cinching tight and compression, and assist with waterproofing Pix came out unable to read: I love this tag! Reads: “ Adventure is the tightrope between danger and safety. Adventure is necessary for life and nature is life itself. This is why we make equipment that maximize your safety and minimize your ecological footprint.” Too small and mesh allows for wetting Ability to attach… Full review
K9 Sport Sack Plus 2
Robust, well-constructed backpack for those of us who want to include our furry friends in our outdoor activities. Like many of us I’d like to include my dog when I hike, however she is limited with the amount she can do, both because of her size and she is starting to get older. The K9 Sport Sack Plus 2 lets you bring your furry friend along for the experience and also carry a few essentials such as water and snacks with a detachable pouch. Now don’t get me wrong, carrying Fido plus said… Full review
RIBZ Front Pack
Great pack. Had trouble finding it as many sites say it's no longer in stock and/or the company is no longer manufacturing them. I'm here to say the company is going strong and as of Feb 2023 they are available. They are now manufactured in one size. Full review
Podsacs Waterproof 30 Litre Backpack
A very tough, versatile, and useful bag, which is impervious to the elements. Not the greatest hiking pack, but it is a roomy weekend bag, grocery getter, canoe pack, or car storage protection for your emergency warm gear. Of course, it will also keep your wet, muddy possessions corralled, after doing the opposite duty all day. I bought this bag in October 2020, along with the 20 Litre version (https://www.trailspace.com/gear/podsacs/waterproof-20l-ruscksack/#review41294) The smaller bag is an excellent… Full review
Mystery Ranch 3 Way Expandable Briefcase
For the outdoor professional who is compelled to appear as, and travel like, a professional, this "briefcase" is the perfect shoulder bag for meetings. The terminology: The "3 way" aspect of this bag is that it has storable shoulder straps, allowing it to be worn as a backpack, like a kid on their first day of school, grab handles for when you want to carry it like a briefcase, like a grifter about to make the exchange, and a shoulder strap for when it is worn on a shoulder or across the body, like… Full review