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 June 10, 2019. Stores' prices and availability are updated daily.
Recent Backpack Reviews
Over 20 years of use from -20 to 110 temps. It’s durable, able to handle heavy loads, and adjustable to different size users. Comfortable and adjustable, I have gained 65lbs since I got it and it still fits. It’s a beast. Had it over 20 years. It’s been in -20 and 110 degree temps. It hauled 70 lbs with my 17-year old 6'2" 265-lb son while elk hunting in Colorado for a week, survived eight weeks of basic training at ALERT in Texas. Was broke in while in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, been… Full review
Osprey Talon 22
A lightweight bag suitable for day trips and commuting, though the lack of a lid to protect from a downpour or two may not suit everyone. I use this bag a lot as it is great for commuting to work on my bike or for day walks. There is plenty of room in the 22l compartment for wet weather gear, food, drink, and other essentials. The mesh pocket on the front is big enough to stow a fleece or rain jacket for quick and easy access. Towards the top of the bag is a toggle to hang a bike helmet from. Two… Full review
Gregory Nano 20
Great sized daypack. I got the Nano to replace an Agio pack to use for work, also to have a brighter pack for more visibility when commuting on my motorcycle. Two nice sized pockets (one panel loading, one top loading). My only complaint is it's hard to fit a 32 oz. Nalgene in the side pockets. Full review
Gregory Baltoro 85
Excellent backpack, designed for long outings to the ground with heavy loads. Fully recommended for those who carry a lot of weight. After having tried two backpacks in the course of a year (Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre and Osprey Xenith 88) I had the pleasure of buying this backpack in a settlement of Campmor at a price of $200 U$D. After having tried it for about a year, I am very happy with the results it has given me, since the waist adapts perfectly to my anatomy and allows me to walk comfortably… Full review
Savotta Saddle Sack 339
A robust well-made bag that will last for decades. Heavier than many other backpacks, its environmental credentials, durability, robust construction, and ease of use more than make up for it. The Savotta Saddle Sack is a real workhorse. Yes, it is significantly heavier than most other modern sacks but, unlike them, this pack is likely to be still be carrying loads for decades to come and it can take a serious amount of abuse. This is central to the company’s values which reject our "throw away… Full review
Osprey Exos 46
A great bag for those wanting a lightweight pack for short trips and lightweight backpacking. The Osprey Exos is an excellent choice for short trips and lightweight hiking and trekking. There are lighter bags around, but they are much more expensive. The back is well thought through and comes with a host of useful features. I bought this for trips lasting a few days on trails in the UK, such as the Brecon Beacons Way. I have found that there is enough room for all my gear and food especially if… Full review
Osprey Poco AG
The Osprey Poco AG offers a fabulous child carrier. Osprey incorporates its super comfortable suspension system with ventilated back panel, hipbelt, and shoulder straps. Many features make this a highly coveted child carrier. With my growing quiver of active grandchildren born to my adventurous children, I decide to purchase a few child carriers. The Osprey Poco AG was my first purchase this past December. There are several models in the Osprey child carrier line. I opted for the entry level pack,… Full review
Kelty Journey PerfectFit Elite
A strong contender in the "bring your kid along on the adventure in comfort" child carrier niche. Kelty has progressed considerably in this market...and this offering is worthy of your consideration! To be cliché...this is a feature-rich pack for a child carrier. The Kelty Journey PerfectFit Signature Elite Child Carrier The constant push for better, more comfortable, and supportive child carriers for the adventurer has driven a handful of companies to continually… Full review
Gregory Zulu 35
Updates and upgrades launch the new 2019 Gregory Zulu 35L to new heights of comfort and packability! What once was thought of as a weekender pack, goes the distance for longer lightweight hikers. 2019 NEW GREGORY ZULU 35 BACKPACK Gregory Packs have really stepped up their game in recent years! Not that they’ve been a slouch...Gregory Packs have long been synonymous with easing heavy loads, durability, and comfort. Here's a look at Gregory's… 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.