10 Best Backpacks of 2024 (2024)

Best Laptop Backpack for Most People

Timbuk2 Authority Deluxe

Volume: 20 L | Electronic Storage: 17" laptop & tablet


Large, padded pocket for laptop

Thickly cushioned back and shoulders

Robust construction and quality design

Waterproof bottom


Skinny water bottle pocket

Not as deep as many

The Timbuk2 Authority Deluxe is our pick for the best laptop backpack for most people. It has an entirely separate padded pocket at the back of the bag for a 17-inch (or smaller) laptop. It also has a second padded laptop sleeve in the main compartment. We are big fans of the padding on the back and shoulder straps. They have enough cushion to keep this pack comfortable with a full load and also facilitate more airflow to stay less sweaty than the average pack. Water beads well on most of the exterior and this pack has a fully waterproof bottom for protection from wet ground.

Our primary issue with this pack is that it's not very deep. It fits flat items like folders, notebooks, and binders well but doesn't have a ton of capacity for clothing. For the hydration hounds among us, it can also only accommodate a skinny water bottle in its exterior pocket. These dings aside, this is our favorite option for high-protection, high-quality laptop protection that will more than satisfy the needs of most office-goers. If you really need extra organization and are willing to spend more to invest in your commuter bag, the Incase Icon is another backpack we love to use daily.

Read more: Timbuk2 Authority Deluxe review

Best Bang for the Buck

The North Face Borealis

Volume: 28 L | Electronic Storage: 15" laptop and small tablet


Superb pocket organization

Works well for many types of activities

Large volume

Good water resistance and durability


Looks a bit outdoorsy and unstylish

The North Face Borealis earns accolades for its excellent value in our laptop backpacks category. This pack is a super versatile option for school, work, and travel and would make a great day-to-day book bag. It's a nice commuter bag, and our testers loved using it on a bike all around town. Its 28-liter capacity is big enough to fit the extras you pick up during errands on your way home. It has a separate laptop compartment and just enough easy-access pockets to stay organized. This bag can go out on the trails after work or on the weekends as well. It's super durable and water-resistant, which only adds to its versatility.

Though we don't mind the outdoorsy look of this pack and think it's great for out on the trails, some might prefer a more stylish bag for carrying a laptop to work or school. But for the price, we think this is a great choice to carry a laptop and so much more. If taking your pack on trails isn't on your list but sticking to a budget is, the Matein Travel is another excellent option with great organization for a reasonable price.

Read more: The North Face Borealis review

Best Backpack for A Lot of Tech

Incase Icon

Volume: 17 L | Electronic Storage: 15" laptop, second laptop, & tablet


Numerous compartments with great organization

Sturdy materials and structure

Distributes heavy loads effectively

Excellent protection of and access to electronics




No cushion on the bottom

Lacks a bottle pocket

The Incase Icon takes another top spot in our laptop backpack review for its ability to protect and carry multiple devices. It boasts great organization and protection with three separate compartments for keeping all your large items organized. There's a laptop pocket, an embedded sleeve for a second laptop, and a separate pocket for a tablet. The total volume of this pack is 17 liters, and it features a wide array of auxiliary pockets for other work necessities. This pack excels at keeping all your tech well-organized.

For everything this pack has to offer, it is highly specialized and compartmentalized. It is meant for a lot of technology, and those who like to stuff everything into one main storage compartment might not love the multiple main compartments and variety of pockets. However, we think this is a great, versatile option for carrying all your gadgets and more. If you want to carry a lot of photography-specific gear, we love the Peak Design Everyday, that comes at a pretty penny but has all the best protection and organization for your camera equipment.

Read more: Incase Icon review

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Best Everyday and School Backpack

Osprey Nebula 32

Volume: 32 L | Electronic Storage: 17" laptop compartment with sleeve


Flexible multi-use design

TSA-approved laptop compartment

Top-tier suspension system

Hydration bladder port

Bike light loop



Modern yet outdoorsy style

The Osprey Nebula 32 packs a punch with a streamlined, supportive fit and heaps of useful features that can seamlessly carry you from school and work to the multi-activity fun of the weekend. You may be surprised to learn a brand most associated with innovative backcountry backpacks also earned top honors among our favorite school backpacks. But this smart, hyper-versatile daypack offers what few others can: all the lightweight strength and support of a best-in-class outdoor pack paired with a smart, travel-friendly design, all wrapped in a compact, urban-ready exterior. Students will love the abundance of storage space and large, highly functional pockets, while the easy-access TSA-approved clamshell compartment will prove just as valuable for handling laptops in the classroom as at the airport. And, even under heavy loads, you can trust your back, shoulders, and stowed gear will be well protected. A super hard-wearing, water-resistant 420D nylon exterior is stretched over a sturdy Atilon frame with thick ridge foam across the back and shoulders. This, when paired with an equally admirable suspension system, delivers superior structure, padding, and stability for a super comfy all-day fit. Come the weekend, these same high-performance features easily transition to trail, bike, or farmer's market, including the option to switch out your laptop for a hydration pack (using the helpful pass-through port at the neck) for more rigorous outings.

Very few everyday backpacks can provide this high level of comfort, protection, and functionality. So the Osprey Nebula 32 is worth the price. Yet, we recognize it won't be right for everyone. For those with a lower budget and similar needs, many of the same great features can be found in the slightly less expensive Patagonia Refugio 26L. Or, The North Face Jester would also make a nice choice for anyone willing to sacrifice a little bit of convenience on the organizational side in exchange for excellent comfort and stability at a great mid-range price.

Best Low-Cost Everyday and School Backpack

Volher Travel

Volume: 30 L | Electronic Storage: 15" laptop sleeve


Large capacity

Feature heavy

Well-padded inside and out




No suspension

Questionable durability

The Volher Travel is a high-performing yet deeply affordable, tech-forward daypack that is equally at home on a commuter train, at the airport, or in the classroom (winning a top place among the best school backpacks we tested). We wouldn't even be surprised if it made a regular appearance at the gym or as a diaper bag around town. At an impressive 30 liters of storage, with cushiony soft structural padding and a myriad of organizational pockets and tools of convenience, this is a backpack built for people on the go. Busy travel professionals, students, and travelers alike will gravitate toward its urban casual style. And all will appreciate the carefully curated set of transit-friendly design components, whether that be its built-in USB and headphone ports, a velcro-secured laptop sleeve, optional locking zippers on the main compartment, or an extra thick grab handle. It even has a handy back strap for easy attachment to the telescoping handle of a rolling suitcase.

Of course, sometimes when you save in cost, you lose foundational strength or performance benefits. We found this somewhat true with the Volher. Although it is built with generous padding, it lacks a correspondingly supportive suspension system to help avoid strain on the back and shoulders. For a bag that lends itself to large loads and tends to see weight settling toward its bottom, it could be vastly improved with a few additional options to adjust fit. Similarly, we have some doubts about the bag's long-term durability. Common themes across some reviews include poor stitching, holes in the fabric, and faulty parts. The bag we ordered was delivered with a broken USB port. But with a multitude of design perks and an extremely low price point, it remains a gamble some will be very comfortable taking. Two backpacks with a strong cross-over in design to the Volher include the Matein Travel Laptop and the Tzowla Travel Laptop.

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Best Simple and Affordable Daypack

REI Co-op Flash 22

Volume: 23 L | Weight: 0.8 lb


Simple and lightweight design

Only the necessary features

Comfy, considering how light it is


Uncomfortable with heavy loads

Could be more durable

The trusty REI Co-op Flash 22 stands out for its value in our daypack review. This pack has evolved over the years and the latest iteration has a number of new pockets and ways to lash items to the outside while remaining very light. It's a versatile minimalist daypack that is surprisingly comfortable. We were impressed by how well this ultra-lightweight pack carried loads. It has a thin piece of foam padding for a frame, side pockets for water bottles, and an ice axe loop. It doesn't have much more than those features, but that's usually all we want in a daypack anyway. We've been using versions of the Flash for over a decade now, and the newest version sets the standard for affordable and lightweight daypacks. We've even used this pack for running. And while it bounces around a bit, the lightweight build makes it work well enough for moving quickly on the trail.

With a single layer of ultralight fabric, the Flash 22 isn't the most comfortable or durable pack out there. However, the ripstop nylon it's constructed with is durable and easily patchable if you do experience any wear. This pack isn't great for heavy loads, but we don't expect that from a sub-one-pound pack. If you want a little more comfort and durability, we recommend the slightly heavier and more expensive Osprey Daylite Plus. If you're looking for an affordable pack that works for hiking, commuting, travel, or bringing along backpacking as a day pack, both the Flash and Daylite are great choices. Both are available in multiple sizes and colors as well.

Read more: REI Co-op Flash 22 review | REI Co-op Flash 18 review

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Best Travel Backpack

Osprey Sojourn Porter 46L

Available Sizes: 30L, 46L, 65L | Pockets with Exterior Access: 5


Dual compression strap system to secure gear

Rugged design provides structure and support for packing

Easy access pockets and organization features

Comfortable carrying harness system



Doesn't lay flat when unzipped

If you are looking for a backpack to take with you on your next trip, and maybe even take the place of your standard carry on suitcase, consider a specialized travel backpack. The Osprey Sojourn Porter 46L is a backpack specifically designed to haul your clothes, gear, and other travel essentials securely and comfortably on your back. It's large enough to hold a week's worth of supplies, while internal and external compression straps help compact everything down. The 100% recycled and durable ripstop nylon is rugged and water resistant, which helps protect items from airport floors, train trolleys, and the occasional rain shower while walking to your hotel. Travel backpacks are designed to keep you mobile, and the harness system on the Sojourn Porter is quite comfortable. A supportive back panel, well-padded shoulder straps, and a firm waist belt all bear and distribute the weight of your gear comfortably. If you're traveling with electronics like a laptop or tablet, the dedicated laptop sleeve has protective padding and external access zippers.

We love that the Sojourn Porter can be the only bag we need to pack on a trip, but this does mean that it can get a bit bulky. The large main pocket and compression straps make it fairly easy to overload this bag. It can get bulky when crammed full of clothes. The external shell-style compression straps are quite stiff as well. While this helps give more structure, it also prevents the bag from laying flat when you unzip it, so access is a bit like digging into a duffel versus a suitcase. Still, we found the Sojourn Porter to be a very comfortable bag to live out of, whether it's a weekend trip or travel for work, and we highly recommend it for travelers looking to stay mobile. Another great option that is incredibly pleasant to live out of while traveling is the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L. This user-friendly travel backpack has integrated packing cubes and mesh pockets on the interior of the bag to keep all your items organized during travel, and it unzips completely flat for easy access.

Read more: Osprey Sojourn Porter 46L review

Best Hiking Daypack

Osprey Talon 22

Volume: 23 L | Weight: 1.7 lb


Tons of features

Great strap adjustment


High back panel breathability

Compartment for hydration bladder


Runs small

Small side mesh pockets

No rain cover included

The Osprey Talon 22 is consistently one of our favorite daypacks, and every year it seems to get better. This year, we honored it as our favorite lightweight daypack in our best daypack review. This pack has a very versatile design that's loaded with useful features. It has a dependable, lightweight design that carries weight better than most smaller packs. Its suspension system is similar to those on larger packs, which makes it very comfortable for many different activities. The flexible frame and padded hip belt keep this pack securely in place while you move down the trail. Osprey's AirScape design on the back panel allows for plenty of airflow between your back and the pack, preventing your back from getting too sweaty. Other features include a hydration sleeve, an ice axe loop, trekking pole holders, a helmet-carrying system, and even a place to attach a blinking light.

As you might expect with a smaller volume pack, this isn't the best for carrying a lot of layers or extra items. For that, we would recommend the REI Co-op Traverse 32, which is more comfortable and has 50% more storage for a relatively modest increase in weight. The Osprey Talon 22 is great for light and fast day trips and moves well with you. For day hiking, mountain biking, and bike commuting, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Talon 22.

Read more: Osprey Talon 22 review | Women's version: Osprey Tempest 20

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Best Women's Hiking Daypack

Gregory Jade 28L

Volume: 28 L | Weight: 2.6 lb


Great ventilation

Comfortable hip belt

Good storage capacity

Solid design and construction



Heavier weight

The Gregory Jade 28 is the best women's daypack for longer hikes. With a large 28-liter storage capacity, this pack will comfortably carry all your gear wherever the trail or the day takes you. The plush, supportive hip belt evenly distributes heavier loads across your hips. Although the larger storage capacity makes it easy to accidentally overpack, the plush padding and supportive frame easily absorb the additional weight.

Because of its larger storage capacity and supportive suspension system, the Jade 28 is definitely on the heavier end of the women's daypacks we tested. But, since the pack does such a good job of supporting and distributing the load, it remains comfortable even when it's fully weighed down. If you want a smaller pack, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20, which scores nearly as well but is smaller and lighter. The Jade has all of the features you'd expect from a high-end model, including hip belt pockets, a FreeFloat mesh back panel, and plenty of adjustability. Whether you're hauling your kids' gear around town for the day or loading up a full day's worth of trail essentials, the Jade 28 is the ideal pick when storage capacity is important.

Read more: Gregory Jade 28 review

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Best Hydration Pack

Osprey Syncro 12

Volume: 12 L | Weight: 2.1 lb


Exceptional design and construction quality

Straps are comfortable and supportive

Very thoughtful storage compartments

Great back panel breathability



Lacks hip belt pockets

The Osprey Syncro 12 immediately made a positive impression on us during testing and only continued to impress us from there, earning it top honors in our best hydration packs category. This pack performed well and scored high marks in nearly every performance metric. It's very durable, too — one of our testers has been using it for over a year with no issues. The breathable back panel is always a welcome feature on hot days, and the hydration system is also excellent. We love the placement of the drinking hose and how easy it is to refill and replace the bladder. This pack has enough extra volume to store a layer or two.

While the Syncro is very capable in every regard, the burly construction and plethora of features make it quite heavy for a hydration pack. If you want to go fast and light, we recommend the Gregory Nano 18 H2O, which is lighter and offers more volume for half the price. However, because the Syncro comfortably carries weight, we didn't mind the extra ounces. The Syncro is easier to drink from and clean than the Nano. Finally, we would love to see some pockets on the Syncro's hip belt, which could only improve upon this all-around great hydration pack for hiking, mountain biking, festivals, and more.

Read more: Osprey Syncro 12 review

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Best Backpacking Pack for Men

Granite Gear Blaze 60

Volume: 60 L | Weight: 3.0 lb


Super light for its size




Small buckles are hard to operate with gloves

The Granite Gear Blaze 60 has repeatedly earned the top spot in our men's backpacking pack review. It can comfortably carry 50-pound loads and only weighs 3 pounds, which is much lighter than most backpacking packs. This pack is full of useable features that make it an excellent choice for backpacking. The hip belt width is adjustable, as is the torso length. We were able to make this pack fit a wide variety of body shapes when testing. The shoulder straps and hip belt are very padded, and the breathable back panel has just enough cushion to make wearing this pack very comfortable. It has a stretchy mesh front pocket and roll-top main compartment. The main compartment is also accessible via a zipper in the front of the pack. It also has roomy hip belt pockets, and the adjustable water bottle pockets are accessible without taking the pack off.

While this pack gets many things right, there's rarely a pack that is perfect for everyone. Some of our testers found the small buckles difficult to use, especially while wearing gloves. But we'll take that trade-off for a lightweight backpacking pack that can still handle heavy loads. If you want even more comfort, we recommend the Osprey Atmos 65 AG. However, the Atmos is more expensive and 50% heavier.

Read more: Granite Gear Blaze 60 review

We also tested the women's fit version of the Blaze. While we appreciated its low weight-to-volume ratio, it just doesn't have the comfort or adjustability to compete with the many other more impressive woman-specific packs we tested.

Most Comfortable Women's Backpacking Pack

Osprey Renn 65

Volume: 65 L | Weight: 3.6 lb


Very comfortable and well-ventilated

Low profile retains head mobility

Lightweight and durable

Mesh suspension is very breathable



Adjustability is only preset options

No large stuff pocket on the back

The Osprey Renn 65 is everything we want in a women's backpacking backpack. It's super comfortable, with a large capacity and enough features to keep us organized without going overboard. Its trampoline-style suspension system has excellent ventilation with plenty of support for most loads. The Renn has a wider base than most, helping to spread the weight of your gear lower, better matching most women's centers of gravity. It's roomy, even in the brain and hip pockets, and comes with a rain cover. Not only did our testers love this pack, but it's also one of the least expensive women-specific backpacks we tested.

The Renn has several extra pockets for keeping yourself organized, but it lacks a few of the features some ladies will want — like a large stretchy exterior pocket on the back of the pack for overflow and quick-grab items. The brain has a slightly small opening, and the hip belts don't quite fit large smartphones. And while the torso is adjustable, the hip belt doesn't have extended padding to accommodate wider hips. However, for most women, this is a very comfortable and useful pack — and a great value too. If you want more adjustability, we recommend the Osprey Aura AG 65. However, the Aura is more expensive and nearly a pound heavier.

Read more: Osprey Renn 65 review

Best Ultralight Backpack

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60

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10 Best Backpacks of 2024 (44)

10 Best Backpacks of 2024 (45)

Read the Review

Volume: 60 L | Weight: 1.9 lb


Comfortable with both light and heavy loads


Great features


Fits bear canister


Heavier than some ultralight packs

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 has repeatedly won the top honors in our best ultralight backpacks category. This pack is both comfortable and lightweight at the same time. It has well-thought-out features, but not too many. Of all the ultralight packs we tested, this one has our favorite external mesh pocket. It's big enough to fit extra layers, snacks, and other miscellaneous items we wanted to access quickly. This pack can handle a large load, too — it can even fit a bear canister. On the flip side, it can also be cinched down if it's not as full. The fabric this pack is made of is quite durable. We've done a lot of bushwhacking with this over the years, and it's still in great shape.

Some might find the 60-liter capacity of the Mariposa to be too big for an ultralight pack. But as long as you aren't constantly filling this pack to the brim, we found a little extra space helpful for longer food carries. Also, this isn't the lightest ultralight backpacking pack. But with a weight-to-volume ratio of just 0.54 ounces per liter, it's still pretty light and can comfortably carry all your backpacking gear, making it hard to beat. If you want the lightest of the light, we recommend the Gossamer Gear Murmur, which is substantially less expensive. However, it is also much less comfortable, easy to use, and adjustable.

Read more: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 review

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Why You Should Trust Us

Over the years here at GearLab, we've tested more backpacks than we can count. We tested packs on the trails, on our bikes, at the airport, during our daily commutes, and at the crag. You name it, and we've been there. Additionally, we take empirical and quantitative measurements like volume, weight, and size to compare models side by side in each category. For this review, we compiled test results from over 300 different models in total, all purchased at retail prices from many of the same popular merchants you likely shop at.

To lead the extensive testing for this review, our team includes Sam Schild, Hayley Thomas, Hale Milanoand Nick Bruckbauer. Sam is an avid backpacker with close to 10,000 miles of backpacking experience. His list of completed big trails includes the Grand Enchantment Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Colorado Trail. When he's not out on a backpacking trip, you can find him mountain biking or trail running in Colorado's Front Range or bikepacking somewhere in the American Southwest. He uses a backpack to carry all the essential gear on all his adventures.

Hayley has tested a lot of the best travel bags over the years and is based in Denver, CO. Travel is a huge part of Hayley's life. Besides traveling, her main passion is rock climbing. You can also find her hitting the slopes in the winter and taking long bike rides in the summer — almost always with a backpack in tow.

Hale has lived life on the road as both a weekend warrior, global traveler, and weekday business traveller. He's logged hours in airports, trains, and other types of travel carrying gear on his back in everything from a satchel, to a 100-liter duffel bag, to dedicated hiking backpacks, and specialized travel backpacks.

Nick manages many of the GearLab backpacking categories, and is also an avid outdoorsman and gear junkie. His passions include trail and road running, road cycling, paddling, hiking, camping, backpacking, climbing, and skiing. Nick owns packs of all different shapes and sizes and has experience hauling different packs around town, through the airport, on a bike, on the trails, and on weekslong climbing and ski expeditions.

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We've tested all kinds of backpacks in all kinds of situations and environments.

Our teams tested and rated all these backpacks for different qualities depending on the pack type and its intended use. We tested for durability, comfort, weight, features, volume, ease of use, water resistance, style, accessibility, and more. We packed and unpacked them all. We hiked, we biked, and we went through airport security with them. We loaded up our precious laptops and tablets in them. In short, we put all these backpacks through the wringer to find the best of the best.

How to Buy the Right Backpack

Choosing the right backpack for your intended use is important. You might be loading it up with heavy gear and wearing it for long hours, so you want to be sure it has the right features to organize and carry your gear and that it comfortably fits your body. Different types of backpacks can often be used interchangeably, but having the right design might make the difference in quickly accessing your camera to get that once-in-a-lifetime shot, keeping your valuables protected from the elements, or keeping your hips, back, and neck comfortable on long hikes or overnights. We'll walk you through all of the different types of packs available to help you decide which features are right for you.

Where Do You Want Your Pack To Go?

Before choosing a backpack, it's important to know what you're planning to do and where you're planning to go. If you want a pack that will organize and carry all of your essentials to work or school, that will be a very different size and shape compared to a larger backpack for travel or backpacking. If you're going to be hiking with your backpack, do you want something small for fast and light day hikes, or something heftier for multi-day adventures? Maybe you just need a hydration pack to carry water and a few essentials. Getting the right pack will make your hikes, commutes, or travels more comfortable and convenient.

Travel Backpacks

Travel backpacks are made to be efficiently carried on airplanes, trains, buses, and cars. The best travel backpacks are usually designed with a large, easily accessible main storage compartment, along with lots of pockets to organize gear and clothing while traveling. They also often have a number of adjustable carrying methods, like removable backpack straps, shoulder slings, and comfortably padded grab handles.

These packs will usually have minimal external features, so they can easily be stuffed into overhead bins, car trunks, or other tight spaces. They are typically moderate in size — somewhere between the size of a daypack and a large backpacking backpack — in order to meet airline carry on size requirements and to maintain a comfortable carrying weight. Our favorite models have great internal organization features, protective electronics pockets, and comfortable harness systems.

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Laptop Backpacks

Laptop backpacks are typically small to moderate in size and have specific design features meant to carry a laptop and other electronic devices. They usually have a well-padded internal sleeve or multiple sleeves to protect your laptop or tablet. They might have specially designed compartments for things like extra battery packs or charging cords. Because these bags carry delicate cargo, protection is one of the most important and heavily weighted factors we consider in our testing.

Most laptop bags have a more sleek and stylish look that fits into an office or urban setting. However, there is a wide range of options available today, and you can find some that look more sporty, techy, or minimalist. Laptop bags are a great option for protecting your valuable electronic equipment, and many have enough extra space for things like textbooks, lunches, gym clothes, your favorite umbrella, and other essentials to complete your commute to work or school.


The top daypacks usually have fairly simple and versatile designs that make them ideal for any type of day trip. Those day trips can be on a hike, a bike ride, or even just a stroll around the city. Depending on your intended use, may value different specs in your daypack, but in general, the bags on your shortlist should be comfortable, versatile, and easy to use.

Daypacks need to be large enough to fit everything you'd need for a day out – snacks, extra layers, a first aid kit, and more, but small enough that they you aren't packing around a lot of extra fabric for just a few items. They're also great for commuters since they usually have multiple water bottle pockets, one for coffee and one for water, and enough to carry all your daily essentials. Many hiking-specific daypacks will have more technical features like a separate internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, hip belt pockets, and additional external straps to secure things like helmets, trekking poles, an ice axe, or even skis.

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Hydration Packs

Hydration packs are typically smaller hiking-style packs with a dedicated pocket to hold an included hydration reservoir, but they can come in handy for more than just your average hike. Some minimalist models are not much bigger than the size of the hydration reservoir itself and are meant just for carrying water and maybe a small snack. Some bags swing in the opposite direction and are large, fully-featured backpacks similar to a daypack but with the added feature of the hydration reservoir.

Smaller hydration packs are great for fast and light adventures like biking, trail running, or snowboarding, where you don't need to carry much more than water and snacks, while their larger counterparts are great for longer hikes or for daylong treks through a new city where you will appreciate having a larger volume of water that is easily accessible and don't want to stop to drink or refill as often.

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While hydration packs are often a bit smaller and lighter than most hiking daypacks, they can still be a bit heavy and bouncy if you're really trying to go fast and light. Trail runners, fast hikers, or ultramarathoners often opt for one of the best running hydration packs on the market. These packs have a vest-like design that is intended to be tight-fitting to the torso, and have enough storage to hold water, snacks, and maybe an extra layer of clothing. However, they are lighter and fit snuggly to your body to allow for unencumbered movement when picking up speed. We've tested the best women's running hydration packs, too.

Backpacking Packs

Backpacking backpacks are higher-volume packs designed to comfortably carry everything you'd need to hike and camp for multiple days. Since many of these packs are in the 50 to 70-liter size range and can easily carry 40 to 50+ pounds, they typically are designed with a substantial internal frame and a comfortable suspension — which includes a well-padded, supportive hip belt and a supportive and well-ventilated back panel — to help evenly distribute heavy loads. The best backpacking packs are also very adjustable, where the hip belt, shoulder straps, sternum strap, and even load lifter straps can be adjusted to optimize the fit to your body.

High-end backpacking packs can sometimes run in the hundreds of dollars, which can be a big investment for beginning hikers. We've also reviewed the best budget options that strike a nice blend of quality, performance, and affordability.

While backpacking packs are intended for hiking, they're usually too big and clumsy to use on day hikes. And conversely, standard daypacks are usually too small and not supportive enough to carry the heavier loads required for multi-day backpacking trips.

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The best ultralight backpacks are popular items for many of today's backpackers who are aiming to lighten their load for faster and lighter adventures. These packs share many of the same features as backpacking packs but are often stripped down to save weight. Ultralight packs usually sacrifice a bit of comfort and support in the hip belts, shoulder straps, and back panels, and may eliminate extra pockets or straps, but doing so can drop the bare pack weight from around 5 pounds to under 2 pounds.

Specialty Packs

Many backpacking packs include some technical features — like hydration reservoirs and external straps for helmets, skis, ice tools, or hiking poles — but there are other more specialized types of backpacks that fill some technical roles a bit better. Rock climbers looking for a backpack to haul bulky items like climbing ropes and hardware racks can opt for a climbing pack or haul bag that typically has one huge primary storage compartment and burly construction for hauling heavy loads a short distance. Mountaineers in need of a technical pack to carry things like ice axes, crampons, or avalanche safety gear can find specific design features for these tools in the best mountaineering backpacks. And backcountry skiers willing to make an investment in an extra layer of potential protection can check out our picks for the best avalanche airbag packs to add to their beacon, shovel, and probe kit.

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Though not technically a pack that goes on your back, hip packs are very useful for mountain biking, and we have a best sling bag review with fanny packs, too. They provide a great place to store water, snacks, and your wallet, keys, and phone, but stay off your shoulders and back to reduce strain.

Bike commuters that want to reduce strain on their back, neck, and shoulders while riding can also use bike panniers that clip onto your bike rack. Some models even convert to backpacks.

Women's Backpacks

Many hiking daypacks and backpacking packs come in women's specific sizing, too. Although many women can and do comfortably wear men's or unisex models, women's packs are usually sized to more closely fit women's anatomy. This means a women's pack usually has a shorter torso length, narrower-set shoulder straps, and a wider hip belt.

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What Else to Look For?

Once you've figured out the backpack style that best suits your needs, looking at the specific design features of different individual models will help you narrow down the field considerably.

Pack Size: Storage Volume and Weight

Choosing the right pack size depends on what kind of gear you need to carry and for how long you need to carry it. A bigger pack will obviously be able to hold more gear than a smaller one, but it will almost always weigh more than a smaller pack. This might not be so important if you're just carrying your pack on the bus or to the office, but it becomes more critical if you're hauling gear for longer distances or time periods — like around town for a full day, on a long hike, or on a multi-day backpacking trip.

Smaller and lighter packs usually have more minimalist features for supporting heavier loads and tend to get uncomfortable more quickly once you load them near their full capacity. Conversely, heavier packs with more robust suspension systems might feel awkward if they're only minimally loaded but will feel more balanced and comfortable when loaded with an appropriate weight that utilizes the hip belt and suspension system.

General Sizing Guidelines

Depending on your intended use, most packs will fall into these general size ranges:

5 liters to 20 liters: Most hydration packs and smaller daypacks; ideal for fast and light outings of a few hours.
15 liters to 30 liters: Most daypacks, school bags, and laptop backpacks; ideal for a full day's worth of gear for work, school, hiking, or around town.
30 liters to 45 liters: Larger daypacks, most travel backpacks, and smaller technical hiking and climbing packs; ideal for an overnight or weekend outing.
45 liters to 60 liters: Larger technical hiking and climbing packs and smaller backpacking packs; ideal for 2-4 day outings.

60+ liters: Most backpacking packs; ideal for 5+ day outings.

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Comfort and Fit

All backpacks have shoulder straps and a back panel. What sets different packs apart from one another in terms of comfort and fit is a suspension system is what distributes the weight of the pack between your shoulders and hips. If a pack has no suspension, then all of its weight will rest squarely on your shoulders. This is okay for lightweight loads, but for heavier loads, it will be a pain in the shoulders.

The most comfortable and supportive suspension systems include an internal frame that supports the weight of the pack, a padded hip belt that transfers the load to your hips, shoulder straps that comfortably help balance the load, load lifter straps that help adjust how the pack sits on your back, and a supportive and ventilated back panel. Together, these pieces make for a comfortable pack capable of carrying heavier loads more efficiently.

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Load lifters connect the tops of a pack's shoulder straps and the main pack body. They are used to move the pack closer or farther away from your body. The tighter you make the load lifters, the more of the pack's weight will be on your shoulders. The looser the load lifters, the more of the weight will be transferred to the hip belt. You can use the load lifters to give your shoulder or hips a break by placing more of the weight elsewhere.

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A pack's hip belt is just as important as the shoulder straps. Generally speaking, the more cushioned a hip belt is, the more comfortable it will be. A hip belt should also be wide enough to not dig into your hips or stomach. But, if a hip belt is too wide that can also cause discomfort. Hip belt comfort is very dependent on body type. So, it's best to try a few different packs to figure out what works best for your body.

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Lastly, a pack's back panel is what rests on your back. Not all back panels are created equally. A good back panel will have enough cushion to rest comfortably on your body. Our favorite back panels are made with some sort of mesh material to allow air to flow between the pack and your body. We've all had a sweaty back from wearing a backpack on a hot day; this mesh helps with that.

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Other Pack Features

It's important to look for a pack that has the features that you need and doesn't have a bunch of extras that you don't need. Don't just buy a pack with a lot of features because it has a lot of features. Buy a pack with the specific features you need. These extras are usually simple in design but have a specific intended use.

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If you plan to regularly carry a laptop in your backpack, then be sure it has a protective pocket or sleeve for a laptop. If you need to carry multiple drink bottles, get a bag with big, functional water bottle pockets. If you want to quickly access a rain jacket or other layers without opening your pack, then get a pack with a big enough outside mesh pocket.

If you're using your pack for travel, get one with enough compartments to carry what you plan to travel with and keep that stuff organized. If you want a pack that carries a hydration bladder, be sure it has a designated sleeve for that. If you need to carry a sleeping pad on the outside of your pack, be sure it has straps and buckles for that.

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This guide should help make your backpack-buying decision a little bit easier. Be realistic about your goals and needs. The aforementioned list of packs is the best of the best. So, choose the one that fits your needs the best from this list and get out there. Rest assured that we will keep buying, using, and reviewing the best backpacks in the industry to keep this list current.

10 Best Backpacks of 2024 (2024)
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