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 January 16, 2020. Stores' prices and availability are updated daily.
Recent Backpack Reviews
Very comfortable 73-liter backpack with advanced harness, which basically helps you carrying up to 50 lbs/25 kg with comfort. Lots of pockets, compartments, and external attachment points for better load distribution. It's made to last long. Background I’m not an avid backpacker, I was never interested in multi-day trips on foot. Though a dozen times per year I do short backpacking trips, mostly in winter, with heavy load (up to 25 kg / 50 lbs). After a season of using Simond Alpinism 55+10… Full review
The Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault is a multi-functional, durable pack that is big enough (27L) for day hikes and daylong hunting trips, yet hosts additional features, like a laptop sleeve with rear-facing zipper, that allow it to serve as an everyday carry pack (EDC) or a travel/carry-on bag too. A true Swiss Army knife of a pack. Conditions: This initial review is based on testing the 2 Day Assault pack over a six-week period during the late fall and early winter in the eastern US in mostly cool… Full review
Beyond the actual pack, I’m reporting on a fabulous experience trying on packs at REI Store. With so many options and a family with different body types I’ve had two great experiences trying on and playing with packs in the store. I ended up with the Deuter. But, close second was the REI pack. I loved the zipper setup. Looked like I could get into pack even with gear and snowshoes lashed to pack. If my hips where bigger I would have grabbed this pack. Full review
I bought my Ponderosa while in the army in Germany and later did my first PCT hike back in 1978 with it and held on to that pack until the very early '90s when the waterproofing started breaking down inside. It was a great pack and I beat the heck out of that thing in the Sierras for over 10 years after the big trip. It was a different time back then and you needed a big pack to carry the load between the too few resupply points. Heavy boots to deal with the load too. That's all ancient history… Full review
When new, the case offers admirable protection. Unfortunately, the case suffers from premature wear and allows debris/dust to collect between the screen and screen protector. I purchased this case at clearance for about $50 for my iPhone6+ around the time the iPhone 7 was released after previously using a LifeProof NÜD case with the same phone. The Nud did not adequately prevent bending of the phone resulting in "touch disease" (search it) and also blocked touch access to the edges of the screen. Full review
This slim profile case protected my phone admirably, the waterproofing especially held up well, even while kayaking. Regrettably, after one year the case "bowed" and the control buttons for volume, on/off and Bixby no longer work as they don't match up with the phone's buttons. For this reason, I don't recommend buying this case. For the first year I've owned this case, it's performed admirably for my activities: daily work commute, hiking and kayaking. And the sound quality for the speaker and… Full review
Large but not that bulky. Material seems durable. Average price for South American market. If you are around in either Chile or Peru, check this model out online in Ripley, Falabella, or any other online retailer. Size: 65.5 x 31.5 x 24 cm Weight: 1.74 kg Material: polyester 420D Ripstop and Nylon 600D Capacity: 65 liters Full review
Small, portable, capacity, maybe the air and water hoses are a bit "too cumbersome". Notice: Too small for day hikes, too big carry along a full mult-iday backpack (~45 Liters or more) That plastic taste (and at the beginning, even odor) that comes with the water out of the hose. I have washed the bag, but most probably I will have to use food grade detergent to clean it once and for all. The manufacturer recommends to wash it thoroughly and to store for an entire night water with a whole lemon… Full review
Size of the hip belt makes it easy to manipulate to ether tighten or loosen quickly if needed. The adjustable torso has proven to be a good feature. I wasn't sure about this at first but with use it has settled in. I was a diehard Osprey pack user. Then they changed the design of the model I liked. So the hunt was on for another pack. The industry still hasn't kept up with the needs of women when selecting a pack. There are a few women's specific packs, but only a few. And then it seems the industry… 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.