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.
Priceless 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
Arc'teryx Bora 65
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
U.S. Military ILBE Pack
By far the best pack at even double its price. It's an Arc'teryx Bora in disguise and Cadillac in comfort. This mama will carry a HEAVY load in comfort and last for lifetimes; that's plural. I bought the first one three years ago in "very good condition" from ammocanman on eBay for $135 shipped and liked it so much that when I recently saw a new one from a smaller vendor on eBay for $100 I jumped on it and gave the first to my 36-year-old son. FYI; they cost the military $700+ per unit. What a bargain… Full review
Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 85
Farewell, Granite Gear. You won't be missed nor will the turds you call packs. They're by far the worst. As soon as I received the Nimbus Trace Access 85 Short I checked the torso adjust and it came at 16", which is my size. Loaded 30+ pounds correctly and cinched the side compression straps to stabilize the light load close to my back. Long story short; after several hours on, off, adjust, on and walking around the house it was impossible to keep; as it's the most dysfunctional backpack I've ever… 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.