Best Backpacks

There are hundreds of backpack options out there – some made in the U.S. and many more made internationally. Whether you need one for day hiking, camping, skiing, or some serious alpine adventures, the options are virtually endless. We set out to help you make sense of it all. We did the research to find the best backpacks that are made right here in the USA. Check out our findings below, along with the factors we considered in our research and a helpful diagram on choosing the right pack size for you.

Our Findings

Overall, we found several manufacturers making super high quality backpacks all around America. After evaluating each one of them against our criteria, we ended up with five backpacks that we consider to be best in class. These manufacturers are making the highest quality packs all over the U.S., all the way from Maine out to Oregon and Washington. We’ve outlined each one below along with a much more in-depth analysis as to why we liked each one and the factors we considered in our research.

Top Recommendations

Best Backpacks Best for:
ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack Overall Quality
Topo Designs Rover Pack Day Pack
CiloGear 45L WorkSack Alpine
Exo Mountain Gear K² 3500 Backpack Hunting
Free Range Raven Backpack Skiing

Recommendations: Going Deeper

Check out some additional details for each of our top picks, along with what we liked and didn’t like about each one.

Best Backpack for Overall Quality

ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack


A lot of people don’t need a crazy nice alpine back like the CiloGear below, which is why we searched for a hiking backpack that is super versatile, affordable, and shines in terms of overall quality. That’s when we found the ULA Ohm 2.0. This pack stood out among the competition for its light weight, strength, comfort, and weight distribution – all qualities (along with customer service) that ULA’s Chris McMaster says their customers love most about them. Starting with weight and strength, this pack is made from the newly developed ULA 210 Robic fabric, which is some of the strongest materials ounce-for-ounce we’ve seen on the market (even they say so too – talk about confidence). Sewing their packs in the U.S. helps them make innovations like this Robic fabric and introduce new ideas quickly, says McMaster – they can “control the production and keep things simple.” Moving on to comfort and weight distribution (which go hand-in-hand), the shoulder straps, hip belt, and other straps are all well padded and comfortable. The hip belt fits nicely on a lot of different body frames and stays steady while on the trail, helping keep weight off of your shoulders, which is particularly harmful on long hikes. The compression system on the Ohm 2.0 works really well, easily compressing gear vertically, horizontally, and over the top. Overall, you can’t go wrong with the Ohm 2.0 as your go-to pack for everything from beginner to slightly advanced trips.

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Things we like:

  • Lightweight
  • Strong material
  • Comfort level and ability to contour to several torso types
  • External mesh pockets for air-drying damp gear
  • Removable hydration sleeve and water bottle holsters
  • Removable stash pocket you can hang inside the pack to store smaller items

Things we don’t like:

  • None

 

Best Day Pack

Topo Designs Rover Pack


Handmade in Colorado, the Rover Pack from Topo Designs is the perfect combination of simple and functional, while still maintaining a high degree of comfort. In terms of the construction of the pack, the base is made from 1000D Cordura (which is very durable), and the outer cloth is lightweight and water resistant. The shoulder straps are very comfortable as well, even when the pack is loaded to the top with gear. It has a couple of exterior zipped pockets for easy access to some smaller items, along with a couple of side pockets for water bottles or other gear. It has a drawstring closure and an over-the-top flap with some plastic buckles, which we found to be more than enough to keep your gear safe and dry. If you need to bring a laptop with you, the Rover Pack also has a laptop sleeve that comfortably fits most 15-inch laptops. Overall, this pack is a great rucksack or day pack option for a short trip or hike. Dimensions: 11″w x 18″h x 5″d. Holds 990 cubic inches (16.2 L).

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Things we like:

  • Water resistant and keeps your stuff dry
  • Comfortable
  • Fits plenty of gear for a full day trip
  • Material is long lasting, according to several customers who have had the pack for years

Things we don’t like:

  • None

 

Best Alpine Pack

CiloGear 45L WorkSack


This 45L WorkSack pack from CiloGear is made for serious alpine climbers. Made in their factory in Portland, Oregon, this backpack has been voted #1 by the American Alpine Institute and several other well-renowned climbing and hiking authorities, and for good reason. It’s very light, but has some serious strength to carry the heaviest gear and last for a long time. In terms of weight, the designers of the pack followed the Gu rule: if it weighs more than a pack of Gu, then it doesn’t make the cut. That essentially means that they don’t use any heavy components in the pack construction. The comfort level is off the charts too, even when the pack is completely full – this pack is made for alpine climbers who are doing the hardest routes. The 45L WorkSack comes with a removable aluminum stay and framesheet, hip belt, sternum belt, strap set, and bivy pad. It comes in seven different colors and three different sizes, which you can choose depending on your torso size (sizing chart on their site). Weighs a total of 4.1 lbs with all components intact.

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Things we like:

  • Strength and durability for hard hikes and climbs
  • Weather resistance
  • Comfort level at full capacity
  • Compression system
  • Exterior components for holding poles and other gear

Things we don’t like:

  • None

 

Best Hunting Backpack

Exo Mountain Gear K² 3500 Backpack


The K² 3500 pack from Exo Mountain Gear is a total behemoth of a pack. The price tag is higher than other typical hunting packs, but the quality is out of this world, which we believe makes it worth it. The material, 500d Cordura and 420d Diamond Ripstop, is some of the most heavy duty fabric on the market. The K² 3500 has 14 different compression straps to secure gear inside and secure additional gear, game bags, or anything else to the exterior of the pack. The pockets on each side have a couple of different benefits we really liked. First, the full length side pockets make it super easy to carry a tripod, rifle, spotting scope, tent poles, or other lengthy items. Second, all of the pockets have elastic entry (vs. traditional zippers), which make them really quiet and easy to access. The pack features a K² Titanium frame, which is pretty rigid vertically (good for you), and moves with you horizontally (also good) so it doesn’t jerk you all over the place as you’re hiking. The frame also features a meat hauling load shelf, something you won’t find on traditional packs. Overall, this is the perfect “do-it-all” pack for your next hunting trip and trips for years to come.

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Things we like:

  • Durable construction
  • Built with the hunter in mind
  • Quiet
  • Good compression system and flexible to carry other gear or game externally
  • Hydration bladder compatible
  • Removable lid that also floats

Things we don’t like:

  • Long shipping times

Straight from Exo Mountain Gear on why they love to manufacture in the U.S.:

“We are proud to make our packs right here in the USA. By utilizing domestic production, we are not only keeping American factories and workers going, we are able to be much more involved in all aspects of production. It is very important to us that we don’t have to ship our design changes and new product prototypes overseas and then wait for those factories to return production samples; instead, we can work directly with the production lines here in the States to make our product come to life in a very hands-on way.”

 

Best Pack for Skiing

Free Range Raven Backpack


The Raven pack from Free Range is built with ski touring in mind and stood out from the crowd because of its light weight, easy access, and durability. It comes in at just 21 oz and carries 25 liters worth of gear. The lightweight material doesn’t mean they sacrifice on durability, though. The Raven pack can take the harsh terrain and weather with the best of them. The back panel of the pack is the only large access point to the main compartment of the pack, so there is no risk of losing your main gear in the event of a nasty fall. There is also a small quick access pocket on the top of the pack. The front of the backpack features a diagonal ski carry, which we found you can easily clip any skis into in seconds. For any ski mountaineers out there, you can’t go wrong with the Free Range Raven pack.

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Things we like:

  • Back access point to keep everything tightly packed
  • Durable and water-resistant material that can easily survive hairy descents
  • Comfortable
  • Convenient pockets for water and snacks

Things we don’t like:

  • None

Recap: Best Backpacks Made in the USA


Related articles: Best tents made in the USA


How to Choose Your Pack Size

It’s important to know that your torso size, not your height, determines the pack size you need. Check out the diagram and instructions below from our friends at Hyperlite to figure out the pack size for you. Make sure to grab a friend to help you measure!

Factors We Considered

Strength

Strength is super important when it comes to choosing the right hiking pack. The material has to be able to handle all different types of gear. We tested several packs and also looked at other independent studies to gauge durability, longevity, and likelihood of tearing. Any packs that failed those tests did not make our list.

Weight

The weight of your pack can make or break your trip, which is why you saw so many lightweight packs on our list. We looked at what the total weight of the pack, as well as all of the removable and addable components for each, which can sneakily add a lot of weight to the final product.

Comfort

Comfort level can be a deal breaker, even if you’ve found the pack that fits all of your other decision criteria. There are a few different factors that go into comfort that we looked at:

  • Strap padding – on the shoulder straps, hip belt, and other straps.
  • Hip belt fit – super important for weight distribution, as you want most of it off your shoulders.
  • Back padding – material, thickness, and option to be removed.

Features

Camping backpacks these days come with all sorts of features. We made sure that these features were a valuable addition to the pack as we were considering all of them. Below are a few of the common feature categories that appeared in our research consistently.

  • Pockets – location, size, material, etc.
  • Removable water bladders
  • Loop holes for gear storage
  • Various access points

Compression System

The compression system on a pack is important to help you secure your gear and potentially attach anything externally to your pack. Each pack generally comes with three types of compression straps –  vertical (from the top of the pack down), horizontal (along each side of the pack), and over the top (typically to secure the main compartment).

Weather Resistance

You need to keep your clothes, food, sleeping bag, and other gear safe and dry when you’re camping or hiking, which is why water resistance is super important. We made sure each pack we chose stands up to the test, whether it’s rain, wind, snow, or some other weather event that you encounter on your next adventure.

Value

Last but certainly not least, we made sure that each hiking backpack we chose lived up to our standards for price and quality. After all, we want to make sure you’re getting the best backpack for the money. We weeded out several products where we felt like the quality didn’t live up to the price.