Backpacks

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.

Learn more about how to choose a backpack below »

Category

Daypacks
Overnight
Weekend
Expedition
External Frame
Winter Packs
Hydration Packs
Front Packs
Lumbar/Hip Packs
Child Carriers
Dry Packs
Portage Packs
Rope Bags
Accessories

Brand

other
180 Tack
3F Gear
3V Gear
5.11 Tactical
Aarn
ABS
Advanced Base Camp
Advanced Elements
Adventure Driven

User

Unisex
Men's
Women's
Kids'
Girls'

Price

less than $25
$25 - $49.99
$50 - $99.99
$100 - $199.99
$200 - $299.99
$300 - $399.99
$400 - $499.99
$500 and above

Recent Backpack Reviews

Jandd Large Mountain & Expedition Panniers

rated 5 of 5 stars Cavernous and durable make them the best for bike packing/touring Specifications:Volume: 3500/ 6800 ci 56/ 109 ltr (pair)Dimensions: 16 x 13 x 6 (in) 41 x 33 x 15 (cm)(per side)Storm Sleeve: 10.5 in/ 27 cmWeight: 83.5 oz/ 2.36 kgMaterial: Dupont Cordura® Price: $265.00 I found a new pair of the Large Mountain (above) on closeout for $110 in Eugene, Or. and I snatched them up first. I used them daily and for bike touring and a year later found an ad on CL for the Expedition for $60. Other than… Full review

Deuter Fox 30

rated 2.5 of 5 stars Quality is fine, but didn't meet the specs for torso sizes I bought this online to introduce my 7 (almost 8) year old grandson Nyca to backpacking. I'd searched extensively online and felt this would be right. WRONG! Upon receiving it I adjusted it to the smallest torso setting and loaded it with a bit less than 10 lbs. for a test walkabout with me. In the short mile it kept flopping around no matter what adjustments were made. Returning home I got out the tape measure and to my surprise, the lowest… Full review

Arc'teryx Bora 65

rated 4 of 5 stars Long range comfort and durability with one issue. Read that this pack is the shizzzz, but with one big issue. The pack's main body is made of two different nylon fabrics. There's rip-stop of the main color and plain weave nylon panels of the sides, back and bottom. Both were urethane coated for waterproofing, but only the rip-stop coating remains intact and looks clear and shiny as when new. The coating on the plain weave nylon that consists of half or more of the pack has yellowed and is sloughing… Full review

Klymit Motion 60

rated 5 of 5 stars I bought this pack about a year ago to replace another ultra light pack I had worn out. (Wild Things AT pack, which I still like, but it is basically just a bag with straps on it). I was hesitant to buy this Klymit Motion 60, without trying it on first, but I took a chance, and I must say I have been absolutely pleased in every way possible. This pack is very light, super comfortable, and carries everything I need for a few days of wilderness travel. Excellent design! Well made pack. The price I… Full review

Matador Daylite16

rated 5 of 5 stars Overall, I would highly recommend the Matador DL16 backpack to anyone. Not only is this a quality piece of gear for the avid camper and hiker, it has a multitude of other uses; from carrying around school books and laptops on campus, to holding souvenirs and passports while exploring a new country. This backpack is truly a great investment and is something that I look forward to using on a variety of future adventures. As a member of another website, I was given this product in exchange for a review. Full review

Renogy Solar Backpack

rated 3 of 5 stars As a backpack it is great, and the solar panels are an added bonus. Overall I'm very happy with the backpack and will definitely make use of it, though if I were to need a solar charging kit, I'd probably buy it separately from the backpack itself. I don't see the practicality of hiking with the solar panel charging…the pack would only be a daypack, but if you only need a daypack, your phone should be fine for just a day. You'd get better performance from a stationary panel, which is how I used… Full review

Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 85

rated 0.5 of 5 stars No home run... …but it could have been.  After receiving my new NTA 85 size Short today I was at first impressed with seeing its well done aspects, so after checking the torso adjustment recommended and finding it on the 16" setting (which is my measurement), I loaded it with 30 lbs to check the feel. That's when my disappointment set in. Several huge design flaws became very evident and makes this a pack that just doesn't work for anyone, PERIOD. I know this is going to hurt sales of this pack,… Full review

Camp Trails Explorer

rated 5 of 5 stars This pack is sturdy and roomy. Perfect for the average amateur hiker. Bought this pack in 2007 for a five-day hike of the Appalachian Trail (from Springer Mountain to Neels Gap—36 miles). A group of me, two adult brothers, and a teenage grandson each. I hauled all my gear—food, water, water filter, sleeping bag, etc., plus the tent for myself and my grandson—through the heat and thunderstorms of July. This pack was flawless. I don't have anything to compare it to. I've never had any other… Full review

Osprey Ace 38

rated 5 of 5 stars This is the scaled down pack I was in search of for my 7-year-old grandson to introduce him to THE JOYS. After a disappointing experience with a kid's Deuter Fox 30 I returned for refund, I was back hunting down the right one for Nyca when I ran into this online. Retail runs $140 and I bought the last one on closeout for $84 shipped. I'm a poor grandpa so I have to hunt the bargains. When it came in a week later I was blissed. This is the real thing and it fits his 11.5" torso now and should get… Full review

Top-Rated Backpacks

Sort by: name | rating | price | availability | recently reviewed

user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Aqua-Quest Nautica 30L Dry Bag
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Everest Hiking Pack Overnight Pack
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
London Bridge Light Infantry Patrol Pack Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Manasalu Adventure 50+5 Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
MFH German Winter Tarn Rucksack Winter Pack
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
Modern Warrior 18.5" Tactical Military Style Backpack Overnight Pack
$35 MSRP
OneCoolBackpack EcoPack-1 External Frame Backpack
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
RE Factor Tactical Advanced Special Operations (ASO) Bag
$200 MSRP
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
The Big Heavy External Frame Backpack
user rating: 2.5 of 5 (3)
Travelon Clear View Waterproof Pouch Dry Case/Pouch
$13 MSRP
 
180 Tack HydraQuiver Hydration Pack Hydration Pack
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
3F Gear 40L + 16 Backpack Weekend Pack
user rating: 4 of 5 (1)
3F Gear 56L Backpack Weekend Pack
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
3V Gear Outlaw Gear Slinger Daypack
$40 MSRP
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Daypack
$200 MSRP
user rating: 1 of 5 (1)
Aarn Effortless Rhythm Weekend Pack
$275 MSRP
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
Aarn Guiding Light 60L Weekend Pack
 
user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1)
Aarn Marathon Magic 20L Daypack
user rating: 4 of 5 (2)
Aarn Sport Balance Pockets Front Pack
$60 MSRP
ABS Powder Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Powder Zip-On 5 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario 30 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario 40 Backpack Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Base Unit Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Silver Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Vario Ultralight 18 Avalanche Airbag Pack
ABS Zip-On Vario 8 Ultralight Avalanche Airbag Pack
Advanced Base Camp Black Box Rope Bag Rope Bag
$10
Advanced Elements CargoPak Dry Bag
$70 MSRP
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
Adventure Driven WolfPack 75L Expedition Pack
discontinued
Aire Frodo Bag Dry Bag
$169
Aire Waterproof Kayak Cargo Hold Dry Bag
$169
Alchemy Equipment 20L Roll Top Daypack Daypack
$112
Alchemy Equipment 20L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$136
Alchemy Equipment 25L Softshell Daypack Daypack
$168
Alchemy Equipment 30L Zip Access Daypack Daypack
$168
Alchemy Equipment 35L Top Load Daypack Overnight Pack
$196
 
user rating: 3 of 5 (1)
Alpina R114 Expedition Pack
discontinued
Alpine Luddites New Day Rising Overnight Pack
$325 MSRP
ALPS Mountaineering Amphibious Dry Sack Dry Bag
 
ALPS Mountaineering Arvada Pack Daypack
 
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Big Bear Lumbar/Hip Pack
discontinued
user rating: 5 of 5 (1)
ALPS Mountaineering Bryce External Frame Backpack
$149 MSRP
ALPS Mountaineering Caldera 4500 Expedition Pack
$96
ALPS Mountaineering Caldera 5500 Expedition Pack
user rating: 4 of 5 (5)
ALPS Mountaineering Cascade 4200 Weekend Pack
$170 MSRP
user rating: 4 of 5 (9)
ALPS Mountaineering Cascade 5200 Expedition Pack
$190 MSRP
user rating: 2 of 5 (2)
ALPS Mountaineering Commander External Frame Backpack
$130 MSRP
ALPS Mountaineering Compression Stuff Sack Compression Sack
$14 - $24
user rating: 5 of 5 (2)
ALPS Mountaineering Cyclone Stuff Sacks Compression Sack
$17 - $21
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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).

Pack Sizes

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
  • Overnight:
    2,000 - 2,999 cubic inches
    30-50 liters
  • Weekend and Multi-Day:
    3,000 - 4,499 cubic inches
    50-73 liters
  • 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?)

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.

Torso Length

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.)

Pack Gender

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.

Load

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.