Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Gear Guide Spring 2017: Backpacks
Exped Skyline 15 Review: This daypack can handle dense loads, and an innovative suspension lets you switch between a back-hugging fit for better stability and a trampoline-style carry with enhanced ventilation. Click here to read the full review.
Osprey Aether AG 85 (w’s Ariel AG 75) Review: There are three ways to enter the packbag: from the top, through the bottom sleeping bag compartment, or via an inverted, L-shaped zippered front panel. Click here to read the full review.
Mountain Hardwear Ozonic 70 Review: Testers dubbed this watertight packbag “the vault” after one tester carried it through five soggy days of backpacking during Colombia’s rainy season without so much as a drip getting inside. Click here to read the full review.
Mystery Ranch Stein 62 Review: This pack got top marks for organization from everyone who used it. A big, two-pocket lid made it easy to separate kitchen items (utensils, mug, plate) from other at-the-ready essentials (water filter, stove fuel, headlamp). Click here to read the full review.
Granite Gear Crown 2 60L Review: The pack is so light you might be tempted to use it as a daypack despite its size; go ahead, the seven compression straps and roll-top closure lock down day-size loads. Click here to read the full review.
Gregory Paragon 58 Review: Gregory is legendary when it comes to big-load comfort and organization. In the Paragon (Maven is the women’s), that expertise is used to create a lightweight pack with big-pack features. Click here to read the full review.
Columbia Trail Pursuit 40L Review: Testers loved this pack’s ability to adapt to any situation. Need to carry skis and ice tools? Check. A small tent, sleeping bag, and pad? Check. Click here to read the full review.
Fjällräven Abisko Friluft 45 Review: Burly, 500-denier nylon at the base of the pack never leaked, even when one tester set the pack in a wet marsh while she tracked a pileated woodpecker in Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Click here to read the full review.
We hiked thousands of miles to find backpacks that blend comfort, organization and durability. Now read these reviews for day-, weekend-, and multiday packs to find the right features and fit for you.
Nights out: 214
Miles hiked: 3,010
Longest hike: 165 miles (Tahoe Rim Trail, CA)
Longest day: 18 hrs. (Yosemite)
Heaviest pack: 69 lbs. (Sierra Nevada, CA)
Hottest temp: 107°F (Sri Lanka)
Coldest temp: -14°F (Hyalite Canyon, MT)
Lowest trip: -1,410 ft. (Dead Sea)
Highest trip: 13,775 ft. (Grand Teton, WY)
How to Buy a Backpack
Bring your gear: Unsure how your current gear will fit in your new pack? Easy. Take it with you (or borrow similar stuff from the shelves). Load it up in the store and make sure there’s a place for everything.
Look for features: Whether you’re a load hauler or a minimalist, identify what extras you need—bottle holsters, shove-it pockets, an extendable lid—and only consider packs that include your must-haves.
Does it fit? Load the pack with at least 20 pounds and cinch all straps. Does the lumbar pad sit snugly in the small of your back? Are there pressure points on your hips? Do the shoulder straps wrap smoothly?
Size it right: Want a do-it-all pack? Get one that comfortably holds gear for your longest trip. It’s easier to compress a pack to fit a too-small load than strap extra gear onto a too-small pack.