Best Backpacks for Mountaineering
Mountaineering can be a great escape from your hectic, everyday life, and provide you with a fun, relaxing uphill adventure that can be both intrinsically rewarding and challenging. Once you reach the top of any climb, you feel a feeling of accomplishment only mountaineering can provide. In order to get to that height and accomplish your climb, you’ll need to make sure you have some appropriate gear to take along with you. One of the most important pieces of gear you can purchase for your mountaineering adventures is a solid backpack for mountaineering since you’ll want to make sure you have everything you need with you when you climb because when you’re high up in the mountains, your gear will be all you have.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 10 hrs of research
Adjustable internal frame
9 Top Rated Mountaineering Backpacks
1. Teton Sports Explorer 4000
Adjustable internal frame
Heavier than expected
Can’t seem to find a design suited for your plethora of gear? The reason we selected the Explorer 4000 by Teton Sports for the top of our list is that it’s built tough with pockets galore! It boasts an internal frame that helps easily distribute the weight to keep you steady and pockets that help you keep your gear nice and organized.Read more
The very first thing that we noticed about this design is the sheer number of pockets. It boasts a large main chamber for all of your larger gear and five smaller size pockets for easy access. It also boasts a mesh panel in the front to store your phone, keys, wallet, and a few snacks.
The outsize of this design is composed of canvas, which makes this option more rugged than nylon or polyester options. The lining is made from ripstop nylon that works to keep your gear nice and dry, even when caught in the rain. It also has an adjustable internal frame so you can find the right fit for your body type.
While most internal frame packs have a pretty steep price tag, the Explorer 4000 comes in at a more affordable price that won’t drain your bank account. We love that it is made from tough materials that are perfect for a day trip, or a few days out in the woods.
2. Osprey Atmos AG 50
Adjustable hip pads
Easy to load
Difficult to access the bottom of the bag
If you hate the idea of a big heavy load on your back as you hit the trails, the Atmos AG from Osprey is worth a look. It boasts a construction that helps evenly distribute the weight of your gear evenly on your back so you feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all. Backpackers love that it is easy to load, and has a myriad of features to keep you cool and comfortable.Read more
The design of the frame is what makes this design stand out from the pack. The long slender frame keeps weight evenly distributed to protect your shoulders and upper back. For your lower back, it hosts a hip harness that cinches in the front that works to keep your lower back from becoming strained on long hikes.
Hikers also like that this design has a comfortable back that promotes air circulation to keep you cool and dry when you start to sweat. The shoulder straps are wide and padded to prevent heavy loads from digging into your skin. It also has loops on the front to affix hiking poles or other important tools you need quick and easy access to.
If you are in the market for something that is lightweight and comfortable, yet still large enough to hold heavy loads, this design from Osprey is an excellent choice. While it’s not the most affordable design out there on the market, it is far from being the most expensive!
3. Mountaintop Adventure
Divided central pocket
No outside pockets
Do you love it when even the most simple gear is packed with a lot of extra bells and whistles? We do too! That’s why we love the Adventure design from Mountaintop. It boasts super supportive features to keep you light on your feet as well as stable, and has a few additional features that help you keep organized when traveling far from home. It boasts an impressive 80 liters of storage and comes in at a price point that won’t break the bank.Read more
One of the things that we loved most about this design is that it boasts a series of intricate pockets to keep your gear organized instead of just throwing it into a large central pocket never to be seen again! The main compartment also hosts a hydration bladder so you can ditch the bulky water bottle to save on packing space.
Hikers also appreciate that this design hosts a separate bottom compartment that makes it easier to access gear in the bottom of your pack. The frame is designed so that it evenly distributes weight across your entire back, and has a mesh panel to keep air circulating as you start to sweat.
With divided pockets, additional padding, and a hydration pack, it’s hard to find any flaws in this design. It is made by a company that knows what hikers need when out on the trails and put those features into application in their products. Plus, it comes in at one of the best values when compared to some of the larger packs out there on the market.
4. Granite Gear Crown 2
Vapor Current Mark 2 frame
Awkward access to side pockets
While the Crown 2 from Granite Gear may look fairly simple, it is packed with features that help you keep your balance on difficult trailheads. It includes a backplate that is made from lightweight materials to help prevent spots that just seem to dig right into your spine. Plus, it has a lot of extra padding that makes it feel like you aren’t wearing anything at all.Read more
The Vapor Current Mark 2 frame is a long sheet that is designed to help distribute the weight in your pack. It is composed of molded polypropylene that has holes like swiss cheese to keep things light and easy. If you just want to use it for a quick day hike, this plate is easily removed to make your pack just a little bit lighter.
One of the newest improvements in this pack is the removable cap. Hikers can add additional gear in the top compartment, and it is easily removed by a series of buckles. That allows users to access top gear quickly, or just leave it at home for shorter treks. These features are what make the Crown 2 so incredibly versatile.
If your outdoor adventures include long and short treks, and you need gear that is able to conform to your needs, you can’t go wrong with the Crown 2 from Granite Gear. It is packed with helpful features to help you keep your balance as well as keep you comfortable at a price point that won’t break the bank.
5. Osprey Exos 48
AirSpeed suspension system
Adjustable padded straps
A Removable floating top lid
Heavier than expected
If the goal is to go into the woods never to return (we know you’ll be back!), the Exos 40 from Osprey is a great choice for those long travels. It hosts a lot of supportive features that allows you to pack everything but the kitchen sink without feeling too weighed down. It may cost a bit more than other options, but we feel that it is worth every penny!Read more
The most notable feature of the Exos 48 is the AirSpeed suspension system. This system works by helping to remove the weight of the pack off of your back and disperse it throughout your body. This feature helps you to stay light on your feet as well as super stable on uneven and difficult trailheads.
It has wide and ultra-padded mesh shoulder straps that keep air circulating and won’t dig into your skin at the end of a long day. It has a large central compartment for all of your bulky gear, and a sleeve for a hydration bladder (sold separately). There are two mesh pockets on the side and one on the front for quick access to essential gear when needed.
If you are in the market for something that you can really weigh down without holding you back, the Exos 48 is worth every penny. It has a heavy-duty design that is able to withstand any type of climate and works to take the weight off of your back so you can stay light on your feet.
6. Gregory Denali 100
Nice, durable quality
Great for cold days
Lots of comfort
Can feel heavy
The Gregory Denali 100 offers an excellent option from a great manufacturer. If you like going on big climbs, then this particular backpack will work well for you. You can hook it to a sled, and it is designed with a tapered shape, meaning you’ll be able to climb very well even when you are at high altitudes. You’ll also like the freedom of movement you get with this backpack.Read more
The Denali is made to be very comfortable, and it also features a nice fit. It works well in a wide range of situations, making it quite versatile. It has a nice frame design that curves, and that helps to make the pack feel very comfortable on your back without restricting your freedom of movement. So, you get a lot of motion and flexibility designed into this pack as well. Another reason the Denali is so comfortable is that it has a lot of cushioning, and that helps to give it a lot of comforts.
You get a decent amount of durability with the Denali. This one is built to handle difficult climbs and doesn’t rip, or scratch all that easily. Designed with 210 denier nylon, you get plenty of durabilities built into this bag. This fabric performs very well and helps keep the it in great shape, so you should get years of use out of this mountaineering backpack.
The Denali offers you a decently versatile bag, but it is not made to really go off-ground with you. It doesn’t work well for skiing or short climbing adventures. It is really made to go on long trips in the mountains, so if you want something for shorter trips, this onemight not be your best option.
The features designed into this pack are great and work well for long mountaineering trips. You have plenty of room for food and other storage options since you get plenty of pockets to store items, including a designed water bottle sleeve on the side. You also get a Velcro loop you can use to attach an ice ax or other tools too. Plus, it features loops that make it easy to hook up to a sled if you need to.
7. Lowe Alpine Manaslu
Lots of comfort
Can hold quite a bit
Can feel heavy
Lowe’s Alpine Manaslu features a great design that focuses on providing a lot of adjustability and comfort. You get a lot of straps and pockets with this one, so if you like to really keep your items organized, then this might be a great option. It also feels comfortable on and provides a lot of cushioning. Plus, it can hold either light or heavy loads well. To some, it can feel heavy and might seem a little too complex, but if you can get past those factors, you’ll have an affordable, durable backpack for mountaineering.Read more
Lowe’s Alpine Manaslu was designed with comfort in mind and offers a lot of cushioning and support. You get padded shoulder straps and a padded waist belt with ample amounts of cushioning that also help to hold the pack well.
This pack also has a great ventilation system designed into it, so you’ll get a lot of breathabilities and you’ll never have to worry about overheating when you carry it. Plus, the ventilation system in this bag also helps reduce both chafing and rubbing, which is a real bonus as far as comfort is concerned.
The bag is comprised out of a solid nylon material that is made to be abrasion-resistant. So, it resists both tears and scratches and is designed to be very strong. It can take a lot of abuse no matter where you decide to go, and it will still stay in great shape and last you many years. Additionally, it also holds up very well against adverse weather conditions, which is another real plus.
This one is decently versatile and works well as a good all-around hiking and mountaineering backpack. It’s not made for very steep climbs, but it is designed well to deal with everything else. Plus, you can pack both heavy and light loads easily in it without affecting the overall performance. You also get a lot of adjustability with it so you can fit it well when you need to, although it does take some time to get used to the adjustability features. You do get a lot of room to organize your important items, which is a nice bonus.
There are a lot of features that come with it, and a few of those features might seem a bit excessive to some. With so many straps, you get a lot of adjustment options, but it takes some time to figure out how to fully use the adjustment system. You also get plenty of pockets and a lot of room for organization and easy access pockets, which is a nice bonus when you are on the go. Also, you get a hydration sleeve. You may find the features to be a bit excessive, but some climbers really do like the bonus options.
8. Black Diamond Speed 50
Lots of versatility
Can feel a bit heavier than some other packs
Black Diamond’s Speed 50 Backpack is made with a bevy of great features and a very versatile design. It is a nice all-around choice and offers you a lot of great bonus features. It works well for all types of climbs. It comes with about average durability, a nice, simple design that makes it easy to use, and features that are excellent for any climber.Read more
This pack comes with an average comfort rating. It isn’t uncomfortable, but it certainly isn’t the most comfortable option on our list. You get a nice, wide hip belt with this pack, which does add to the comfort level when you carry it. It is also designed to be thin, and it features a flat back panel. The main concern has been that the straps are thin. Overall, it isn’t terribly uncomfortable, and many people are fine adjusting to it.
Again, this one is about average in the durability category. It does have a nice, reinforced bottom in case you drop it, and it does feature some good design features that make it decently durable. The fabric is made up of both 210 and 420 denier nylon, which is a durable fabric combination. However, this bag isn’t as reinforced as some other products on our list.
As far as versatility is concerned, it can handle just about any type of climb, which means it is very versatile no matter what you need. It comes with a nice size, and the design is simple. Plus, it is also light enough to work well on faster climbs.
The Speed 50 is designed with simplicity in mind, and that’s what this option best offers you. It has the versatility to help you climb just about anywhere, and it has some nice features that can help your climbs. Since it is made with simplicity in mind, it doesn’t have every single feature you can imagine, but the design is very functional and makes it a good backpack for mountaineering. There are two large pockets, including one with a bit more weather protection.
9. Mammut Trion Pro 50 + 7
Lots of durability in pack design
Excellent pack for snow sports
Can feel heavy
Mammut’s Trion Pro runs a bit on the heavy side, but that is because it is made for backcountry skiing and it features a very durable design. It has a lot of nice features that help make it an excellent option for snow sports, but it doesn’t come with a lot of versatility. Still, if you are looking for a nice pack to help you out with snow sports, then this might be the one for you.Read more
One thing that could be improved in the Trion is its comfort level. The design of the pack and its shoulder straps seems to pull back on the shoulders and create rubbing. Although the back panel features comfortable EVA foam padding, it doesn’t always conform well to certain types of backs, since it isn’t flat. You do get a lot of breathability with this bag since it has a nice ventilation system, which can help improve the overall comfort.
The Trion really excels in the durability category. The Trion is made from Nylon, which is known to be a very strong fabric that won’t tear or scratch. It’s made well and built to last for many years. We like the durability of the fabrics and the overall quality of this one for sure.
This overall design is also a solid choice for ski trips, or for shorter hikes on trails. It comes with a compact design so that it is easy to use and carry, and that also helps make it good for traversing different types of mountains. However, the overall design doesn't make it our most versatile option. So, if you need a lot of versatility, you might want to consider something else.
You get a lot of nice features designed into this pack. It works well for people that like playing in the snow. You get ice tool and ax attachments which can help you out depending on what you plan to do. You also get easy access to these tools when you need them. The lid is removable and features a powder skirt to keep your belongings extra safe. Additionally, there is a built-in hydration port and sleeve, although the reservoir is not included.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
This seems like a no-brainer. If something isn't comfortable, you are not going to want to use it.
Comfort is a very important factor when you are investing in anything, and in this case, specifically, a backpack. If it doesn’t feel comfortable, you won’t want to use it, and you will probably wind up wasting your money. It is important to take note of the padding in the straps, the possibility of a waist or chest strap, how breathable the back panel is, etc. Also, aside from durability, the material that the bag is made from can make a difference in comfort as well. Since comfort can be a matter of personal preference, you want to make sure you try them on, if possible, and ensure they have the cushioning and back support you really need.
Durability is also important because it makes your pack a more worthwhile investment.
The longer it lasts and the better the durability, the better the investment. Most durable packs are made out of nylon and feature reinforced materials as well. Some of them also come with weather protection. For example, a DWR finish adds an extra layer of durability to any item.
Along with durability, you should take a look at the warranty that is offered. We like to assume that the product is near perfect and you won't have any issues, but we all know how life works. Every option on this list comes from a popular, well known, trusted brand. Each brand featured here has a reputation for great products and customer service.
Versatility is important if you plan on doing a lot of different types of climbs with your gear.
Some packs are designed to handle a lot of all-around climbing activities, while others are made for one specific type of climb. So, make sure you know exactly what you plan on doing, and pick one out that meets your specific goals. A couple of the packs on this list feature a detachable daypack. These are great for packing perishable items, such as food. When you have finished the food, you can fold up the bag and stuff it inside the large bag, or just leave it clipped on.
Aside from using it for outdoor activities, it is good to know if the backpack will function for other activities as well. Maybe you could pack a picnic or use it for travel. These packs are specifically great for mountaineering but can be used for other activities as well.
Features are also important when you are making a purchase, and you’ll want to make sure you have all the features you need when investing in a good mountaineering backpack.
Some of the features that we personally look for are organization, a designated spot for a water bottle, and hooks or D-rings on the outside of the bag. The hooks are great for attaching any extra things you may want to bring with you but don't have enough room. You may need to invest in a few strong carabiners if you plan to use the hooks to hold important items. Another useful feature is a rain cover. These typically fold down and won't take up much room in your pack, but will be a lifesaver on those unpredictable weather days. On the other hand, if you have one with excessive features, you may wind up with a heavier pack that also costs more. So, make sure you know what you really need, and focus on those features when you make your decision.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Packing your backpack is an art. Remember to put your least-used items in the bottom of the bag and try to distribute the weight evenly throughout the bag. While hooking things to the outside of the bag is a great way to ensure you have everything you need, remember that these items are less secure. Never have any crucial items dangling from the backpack.
Depending on the length of your trip, you will need a different sized bag. We have found that 30-50 Liter bags seem to be the most versatile. However, if you are climbing in winter, you will need a bigger pack to accommodate the weather conditions and ice tools that you may need.
The nourishment that you carry with you on your mountaineering expeditions is just as important as the backpack itself. A great snack will be high in carbohydrates and calories, providing you with a great boost of energy and enough nutrients to sustain you throughout the trek. A few examples of ideal snacks include dried fruit, nuts, bananas, and tortilla wraps.
Other Factors to Consider
How stable your backpack feels can also be important. If you have back problems, then you’ll want one that has a solid, well-designed suspension system that offers plenty of back support. You’ll also want to make sure there is cushioning along the back. Even if you don't have back problems, more stability will give you a more comfortable experience overall. And you'll also have peace of mind knowing that the contents of your bag won't be toppling around either.
The weight of the world (or the day) on your shoulders is a real thing. Support is another important item to consider because the more the backpack supports its weight, the more comfortable you will feel and the easier it will be for you to move. So, make sure you purchase a one that offers you the support you really need. Sometimes, if it isn't comfortable, a simple tightening of the straps is enough to redistribute the weight and make you feel more comfortable and supported.
Considering the fact that mountaineering backpacks are built to be put through extreme conditions and can be used for other sports and travel as well, they are incredibly valuable. To determine the value of an item, it is important to sit back and take a look at all of the features that are offered, not just the price tag. Extra perks, such as warranties or lifetime assistance, add a lot of value to your purchase. Many brands, such as Osprey, for example, offer an "all-mighty guarantee." Osprey's specific guarantee (for the United States, warranty differs by country) will aid you in repairing or replacing your item no matter how long ago you purchased it. These types of bonuses, plus useful features and overall comfort, make each product valuable.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: If I am shopping on a budget, do I need to worry about sacrificing important features in my backpack?
That all depends on what you need and what you plan to do with your gear. There are plenty of affordable options on our list that can still give you what you need. What you’ll probably wind up sacrificing when shopping on a budget is some durability, the overall capacity, and some of the more useful features as well. Still, most affordable packs will still last you long enough so that you get plenty of use out of them for the price.
Also, even if they are a bit heavier, they still can offer a lot of performance. You also won’t get as many bells and whistles, but you’ll still get the features you really need.
q: What is the most important factor to consider when purchasing a backpack?
We feel that comfort is the most important feature, because if your pack isn’t comfortable for you, then it just isn’t going to work at all. In fact, you might waste your money on it and hardly ever use it if you find it chaffs or rubs, and feels horrible when you carry it. How comfortable a backpack is to you will depend on some personal preference, but you do want something with a good design and enough cushioning to keep your climbs enjoyable.
q: Is it better to get a backpack that offers more features than others?
That really depends on what you need. Sometimes, backpacks that come with a bevy of features can seem a bit excessive and might include some things you’ll find you never need and might never use. So, having more features doesn’t always mean the backpack choice is better unless you really feel you need all of those features to make things work for you.
q: Is it important for me to consider how much pack space my backpack has?
Yes, it is. You need to know if you are going to be packing larger or smaller loads and make sure the backpack you choose will meet your needs. Some backpacks can handle both, while others are designed for more specific uses. So, if you know you need a lot of space or really like to organize a lot of items, then you’ll want something that is built a bit larger.