The best backpacks, reviewed and curated by the Trailspace community. The latest review was added on May 19, 2019. 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
A very well-made and designed pack for day-to-day utility, cycling, or day trips such as bird-watching on even trails. With the cost of backpacks these days, it is a great relief to see a well-respected brand such as Marmot offer inexpensive packs such as the Calistoga. It is thirty-two dollars, and free shipping from Marmot direct. The quality is evident when you receive this pack, the main zipper being the heavy-duty type that will not pull apart if the pack is over-stuffed (easy to do at 30L). Full review
Osprey Talon 22
Lightweight, super comfortable, quality daypack. I would buy it again. My wife and I both have versions of this pack. We both love them. Hers is a blue and green color combo and mine is the black and grey. I am much harder on gear and use packs more extensively. My wife uses hers for the occasional day hike and on all of our traveling adventures. These Ospreys are light and comfortable, but very durable. They are quality packs and we both feel like they are enjoyable, convenient and efficient to… Full review
Gregory Matia 28
Not for any serious outdoor use. Limited by poorly designed zippers and compartments. Straps are not comfortable and it isn't a piece of kit that I enjoy using. I didn't see many reviews on this pack when I was considering it, but what I did see were pretty decent. The sale price I paid was $29 and I figured it would be good to try it out for that cheap. I was hesitant, but took the leap and was really surprised at some of the reviews after I began using this pack. They seemed to be unrealistic. Full review
Gregory Triconi 60
Terrific backpack! Bought it eight years ago for 360$ CAD. Best pack I've ever had. Sixteen days a years in the AT and he is in really good shape in date of today. Packed ultra light—day clothes, night clothes, rain coat, water pump, nafta stove, headlamp, tent, sleeping bag etc. Full review
Fjallraven Men's Kajka 65
This pack is what I use as a Wilderness Guide in Tasmania. It is durable, adjustable, and holds more gear than it rightly should; all while transferring the load to the large hip belt in a comfortable way. Great for heavy loads. The Fjallraven Kaja 65l is a pack built with old-school workmanship and new-school features. I chose this for my work as a Wilderness Guide due to the adjustability and durability; although it is quite heavy compared to most packs. This pack is designed as a load hauler. Full review
UltrAspire Speedgoat 2.0 Hydration Belt
This cool lightweight waist pack has ended my vest wearing days! It is comfortable and stable with no bouncing or rubbing. As a long time ultra-runner I have been wearing a hydration vest since they came out as I didn't like the bouncing of the water bottle on my lower back. The vest felt heavy on my back and the bottles always seemed like they would fall out—and it was a such pain to get stuff out of the back of the pack. I wanted to rid myself of the monkey on my back so I ordered the UltrAspire… Full review
Osprey Atmos AG 65
Comfortable. Adjustable. Durable. Convenient. Affordable. This pack is very durable and comfortable. It is not anti-gravity, despite its name. Tends toward the heavy end but is a great compromise where ruggedness outweighs the need for speed. I have the 65 which has the roominess of my old favorite Kelty frame pack. If I miss something it’s the well defined compartments. I find it challenging to organize and access all my junk. But that inconvenience is moot in consideration of its comfort. If… Full review
Ozark Trail Atka 28L
This is an incredible deal, but it has been discontinued! Still available online, clearanced! I am a 6-foot tall male, weighing 185 lbs and it fits just as well as other day packs I've tried. This is almost a copy of the famed REI Flash 18 or 20L packs that cost three times this much This pack fits me fine and is very comfortable for lightweight loads. I use it as a day pack when doing multi-day hikes. It's light enough that I don't mind putting it in my backpack and it takes up almost no space… Full review
The North Face Men's Surge
Very good functional and well organized laptop and overnight pack for short and extended trips. Features multiple dedicated fleece-lined compartments including laptop, tablet, and documents sleeves, pockets for sunglasses, and phone and a padded top handle. I recently purchased this pack and took it on a business trip to Japan. There was enough storage area to pack my 15-inch laptop, accessories, sunglasses, phone, wallet, notebook, toiletries, hat, and one set of clothes. The shoulder straps are… 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.