The best backpacks, reviewed and curated by the Trailspace community. The latest review was added on December 18, 2018. Stores' prices and availability are updated daily.
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.
Recent Backpack Reviews
U.S. Military ILBE Pack
Comparison of USMC ILBE vs Eberlestock v90 Battleship backpacks with the focus on winter camping usage For Winter Camping and Expeditions you need a really HUGE backpack. I own both the Eberlestock v90 battleship and a USMC ILBE pack. I shall compare and contrast these with emphasis on winter camping. Both packs have WEB reviews on military use, hunting, and expeditions. Both packs have good reviews on TRAILSPACE. Battleship frontBattleship side Battleship Camo The Eberlestock v90 battleship pack… Full review
Mountainsmith Circuit 5400
I’ve been using the Circuit 5400 for two years now in all four seasons. It is reliable, comfortable, and has a couple of unique features that I have grown to love. Fit: The pack fits as I would expect a pack to fit. The straps allow the user to adjust hip, shoulders, and torso like most standard packs. The weight can be distributed quite evenly. I’m not sure if the circuit is unisex or not. It is not labeled as such, but my daughter has used it on several overnight hikes and did not have any… Full review
Gregory Salvo 24
Great little pack for a day hike! This pack is perfect for a day hike. Right amount of organizational pockets that let you place your gear for quick and easy access. Nice vented back panel that breathes and wicks away moistUre. Hip belt with small pockets to store quick access items. Not too small and not too big. Just perfect! Full review
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pods
Want to have the best organized pack, ability to unpack fast, pack fast in any weather condition, then these pods are for you. Organization is so good that I only have four items in my bag. Crazy eh? Ease of Use: After time, you will figure out what works in each pod. For my large pod, I have my pillow, liner, bag, pad, sleeping clothes and spare clothes. The smaller pod holds all my other loose gear, but I also have my spare socks and fleece in this pod. Features: Waterproof material with tapered… Full review
I have used the pack for a total of 20 days—two trips into the Gila Wilderness and two into the Pecos Wilderness. My pack has an external frame and four 25-litre, waterproof bags. The bags only weigh 4 oz. each, and the total empty weight for a 75-litre backpack is 32 oz. It is very comfortable to wear, however unconventional its design is. No signs of wear yet. The most weight I have carried so far is 28 pounds (my first trip), as I am solo hiking (and kind of a newbie). The pack is infinitely… Full review
Mystery Ranch Urban Assault
A relatively small, highly durable daypack that moves easily from commuting to the trail. While this is no lightweight for a backpack this small, it is comfortable to carry and supremely easy to access the contents. With inner sleeves that swallow a laptop, tablet, and cables, it would be a super solution for commuters who prefer a backpack to a briefcase. It's basically a smaller, stripped-down version of one of my favorite larger daypacks, the 38 liter Mystery Ranch Snapdragon. The lack of any… Full review
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel
This bag surpassed my expectations. It is now my go-to travel bag that can be used for many different occasions. This duffel backpack bag quickly became my favorite multi-purpose travel bag. I can use it for the gym, I use for week-long trips, and I've used it on multi-day kayaking trips. I recorded a video because I wanted to show people that you can actually fit 7+ days worth of clothes in it (I have the 60L duffel), with some room to spare, which still amazes me a bit. Here's the link if you're… Full review
RōM Outdoors RōM Pack
The RoM Pack delivers in durability and diversity. If you're looking for a twist on a daypack, the RoM Pack is hard to beat. I had the opportunity to review the RoM Pack. The RoM pack offers a durable daypack that transforms into a fleece lined blanket and water resistant poncho. This pack also includes a drawstring stuff sack as an added bonus. The pack weighs in around 4.6 pounds, slightly heavier than most daypacks I've worn hiking, but could be worn on a shorter hikes without much extra effort. Full review
Hi-Tec Tioga 65
A large pack that carries three days or more of equipment. I used this $50 internal frame pack that I bought at Big 5 to train for a one-week outing. For a three-day dry run I carried 38 lbs and the pack was comfortable. However when I took it loaded on a trip to Hawaii the baggage handler broke a buckle. Still I was able to tie the strap and continue my outing with no problem. Best money I've ever spent! 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.