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 great backpack 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
A lot of durability
Works well for multi-pitch type climbs
- Mountain Hardwear Scrambler Outdry
- Osprey Mutant 38
- Gregory Deva 60
- Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL
- Arc'teryx Alpha FL 45
- Gregory Denali 100
- Lowe Alpine Manaslu
- Patagonia Ascensionist 30L
- Black Diamond Speed 50
- Mammut Trion Pro 50 + 7
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Mountain Hardwear Scrambler Outdry
A lot of durability
Works well for multi-pitch type climbs
Could be more versatile
Mountain Hardwear’s Scrambler Backpack is designed with both comfort and durability in mind. It works well for light packs when you have to traverse steep hills or climb for quite some time. However, its comfort level is a bit limited to quick day trips, since the pack is not very large. But for smaller climbs, this is an excellent backpack.Read more
This backpack is designed to be very breathable, and that adds a lot to its level of comfort. You won’t ever have to worry about overheating when you are climbing with this backpack. It works well to fit people that are smaller, and it works well for fast climbs. You don’t get load lifter straps with this backpack, and it is small, but it still offers a great waistbelt and a lot of comfortable features.
One of the best things about this backpack is that it is designed to be very durable. It lasts for years, and that makes it a worthwhile investment. It’s the type of pack that can work well for day trips or multi-pitch rock climbs. It won’t scratch, or snag, and you won’t have any holes to worry about with this backpack.
This backpack isn’t quite as versatile as we’d like to see, and with a capacity of 35L, it doesn’t have a lot of volume. With that being said, this backpack is best suited for day trips and isn’t a great option if you want to do any overnight camping with it. Also, you have to pack it carefully and make sure you don’t overstuff it.
This backpack’s sewn lid is a bit different and is designed to go over the main compartment. Also, you need to be careful that you don’t overstuff this bag or the straps won’t be quite as functional on your pack. However, the lid pocket area is nice because you can keep some food in there, and there are also two side pockets for water bottles and a built-in hydration sleeve.
2. Osprey Mutant 38
A bevy of great features
Lots of durability
The lid can be difficult to remove
Osprey’s Mutant backpack features a great design for somebody that enjoys mountaineering. You can carry heavy loads with this backpack, and it can still work well even when packed down, allowing you to scale mountains easily. It also comes with an affordable price tag and a lot of simplicity offered in its design.Read more
This backpack is designed to be very comfortable and features a nice waist belt that gives you a lot of flexibility and freedom to move. It also works well to move with you as you move, so you won’t feel restricted as you climb. With so much flexibility, this backpack offers a wide degree of comfort you’ll love to have whenever you climb.
Typically, backpacks that are designed to be more lightweight wind up sacrificing some durability to keep them light. However, although this backpack is a bit lighter, it is designed with stretch fabrics that allow it to be both flexible when you move, and versatile when you pack. So, this backpack is very easy to pack and offers plenty of durabilities.
Unfortunately, over the past few years, many people complain that Osprey packs don’t work well for climbing. However, that’s not true of this particular backpack. It is designed to be streamlined and has very flexible fabric, which h makes it very versatile. It is easy to climb with this backpack, and it performs very well with a lot of versatility as you move.
This backpack is very versatile and includes a lot of great features. You can take the brain out of the backpack easily and it will still close just fine. Also, the backpack features a helpful mesh pocket on the inside. The side straps feel very comfortable when on, and you can choose to use either two or four straps when you wear this backpack. There is also an internal hydration sleeve, dual hip belt gear loops, and the buckles are still easy to use with gloves on.
3. Gregory Deva 60
Lots of stability and support
Nice, comfortable design
Lots of space and organization
Can feel heavy
Gregory’s Deva 60 Backpack offers a pack that is very stable for larger loads, and also offers a lot of cushioning so that it is very comfortable to carry. This backpack is designed for durability and can easily withstand the elements while providing you with years of use. You also get a great ventilation system designed into this pack, which can easily help prevent you from overheating and adds to the backpack’s comfort level. Also, this backpack is designed to evenly distribute weight, so it is easy to carry for long periods of time and keeps you well balanced no matter where you plan to go.Read more
With the Deva, you get a well-designed backpack that comes with a lot of built-in comforts. It’s designed to carry well, and it features nice cushioning on the shoulder straps. Also, the back of this backpack features a lot of cushioning that feels great when you have the backpack on. You’ll be able to easily carry your loads in comfort with this backpack.
The exterior area of this backpack is well-designed and features a durable nylon material that can resist tears, prevent holes, and also resist scratches. This backpack can handle a lot of abuse no matter where you plan to take it. You’ll get several years of use out of it, which makes it a great investment since it is built to be long-lasting.
Designed with a lot of straps to adjust your fit easily, it does take some getting used to when you want to understand how to get this pack to fit. However, the padding and the adjustability to make it fairly versatile, and it is great for all-around basic climbs. It isn’t as great for steep uphill climbs, so that is one area you’ll need to think about with this backpack’s versatility. You do get plenty of room to organize all of your items, which is a great feature of this backpack.
This backpack has a lot of great features built into it. First, there is plenty of storage space, and it offers you five compartments so you can easily organize your items. You also get pockets with this backpack, which provide a lot of easy access as well when you are on the go. You can easily pack quite a bit into this backpack, which is nice when you plan on taking longer trips. To keep all of your belongings safe, there is also a built-in rain cover.
4. Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL
Lots of comfort
Great easy to use design
Not a large capacity
The Deuter ACT Lite backpack offers you an affordable option if you are shopping on a budget. It features a lot of comfort with its cushioning, and it is also designed with simplicity in mind so it is very easy to use. It is designed to be lightweight, so it is small and streamlined, but it also doesn’t carry large packs very well. However, it’s a great all-around backpack if you plan on carrying lighter loads.Read more
Deuter’s ACT Lite Backpack is designed with simplicity in mind and is also very adjustable, so you can get the perfect fit. It is a comfortable backpack primarily because of its adjustability. You also get a lot of padding designed into the straps, so that makes the straps very comfortable, and also helps to reduce rubbing and chaffing. The back panel is well-insulated, keeping you cool on your outdoor adventures. This backpack is designed to fit well no matter how long you are adventuring outside, and that makes it extremely comfortable.
This backpack is designed with plenty of durability in mind. It features strong nylon material that resists tears and scratches, so this backpack can take plenty of abuse. It is built to last for several years, and that alone makes it a great investment.
With this backpack, you get a simple design that makes it very easy to use. You’ll be able to easily adjust it, and you also have pockets to help with organization. It could offer a better sleeping bag compartment, but its overall features give a lot of versatility. It can handle a lot of all-around types of climbing but isn’t too great for steep climbs or climbs that require you to carry a lot of items around with you because of its small size.
The ACT Lite is designed with simplicity in mind, but it still offers enough options to make it a great backpack. It features three compartments that help with organization, hydration sleeve pockets, and you also get a few additional pockets. It would be nice to have sleeping bag straps on the outside of this backpack, which you won’t get, and that is one downside. However, it still offers a bevy of great features for climbing. There are also compression straps on the outside to help keep all of your items in place.
5. Arc'teryx Alpha FL 45
Lots of durability
Designed with simplicity in mind
Heavy loads can be difficult
The Arc’teryx Alpha FL 45 Backpack works great if you prefer to take part in fast climbs since it is designed to be light. It also comes with a very durable design, and can you can pack it well. You also get a very simple design with this backpack, which makes it very easy to use.Read more
If comfort is your main concern, then you’ll want to consider the Alpha. This backpack features an HD 80 foam breathable back panel to avoid overheating and provide you with structure and support. The straps feature two different Alpha technologies and foam to evenly distribute the weight on your back. The hip belt has a nice design for comfort and sits right where it needs to. Additionally, this backpack also has a nice, easy to use design.
The Alpha backpack is decently durable but does use a thin fabric in a few areas that sacrifice its strength. However, it is still difficult to scuff or scratch up this pack, and it seems to resist holes and tears very well. So, you get a good amount of durability here, since this backpack can handle some abuse and still go strong.
The Alpha’s versatility could be better, but it does come with durable fabric materials that help it out somewhat. It doesn’t have side straps, and that takes away from the versatility of the design. However, this backpack was designed to be lightweight, which leaves less room for versatile additions.
The Alpha offers you a nice, simple design, and it does have some very nice features. You get one zipper pocket on the outside of the pack, and it is waterproof. Plus, the pocket is also easy to reach. The top of the pack is finished with a drawstring closure to ensure that you won't lose any of your belongings. You also get an elastic shock cord that can hold your tools or anything else, and that is easy to use.
6. Gregory Denali 100
Nice, durable quality
Great for cold days
Lots of comfort
Can feel heavy
The Gregory Denali 100 offers an excellent backpack 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 backpack feel very comfortable on your back without restricting your freedom of movement. So, you get a lot of motion and flexibility designed into this backpack 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 backpack 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 backpack. This fabric performs very well and helps keep the backpack in great shape, so you should get years of use out of this backpack.
The Denali offers you a decently versatile backpack, but it is not made to really go off-ground with you. It doesn’t work well for skiing or short climbing adventures. This backpack is really made to go on long trips in the mountains, so if you want something for shorter trips, this backpack might not be your best option.
The features designed into this backpack are great and work well for long mountaineering trips. You have plenty of room for food and other storage options with this backpack 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, this backpack 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 backpack, so if you like to really keep your items organized, then this backpack might offer a great option. It also feels comfortable on and provides a lot of cushioning. Plus, this backpack 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.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 backpack 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 this backpack. Plus, the ventilation system in this backpack also helps reduce both chaffing and rubbing, which is a real bonus as far as comfort is concerned.
This backpack is comprised out of a solid nylon material that is made to be abrasion resistant. So, this backpack 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 you’ll find with this backpack.
This backpack is decently versatile and works well as a good all-around hiking and climbing 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 of the backpack. 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.
This backpack has 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 with this backpack. You may find the features to be a bit excessive, but some climbers really do like the bonus options you get with this backpack.
8. Patagonia Ascensionist 30L
Plenty of exterior daisy chains
Lots of durability in this design
Good, general use backpack
Could use more organization
Hip and chest belts are not padded
This minimalist pack from Patagonia is incredibly lightweight and one of our best options for speed hiking and climbing. It is an overall comfortable backpack and best for short trips or light packers. While we would have liked to see more internal organization, there are plenty of other features that make this pack stand out.Read more
The Ascensionist is a simple backpack that will assist you in speed climbing and hiking. Most reviewers agree that this backpack is quite comfortable, and honestly, that surprised us a bit seeing as how the sternum and hip belts are not padded. However, the shoulder straps are designed ergonomically and the contoured back panel is lightly padded.
The durability is one of the Ascenionists’ best features. It is constructed from Cordura fabric (a blend of mainly nylon and a touch of polyester). The bottom of the bag is reinforced and can take quite a beating. In addition to the strong fabrics, reliable zippers, and great construction, Patagonia also offers a lifetime warranty.
The weight of this backpack, 1.09-pounds, makes it great for a multitude of adventures. However, the small capacity inhibits it from being a great option for multi-day hikes. Whether or not you are a light packer, this backpack is best paired with other lightweight gear. Due to the lack of color difference on the inside of the bag, it can be difficult to find exactly what you need at the moment. Some reviewers have recommended lining the backpack with a trash bag, to improve visibility and weather resistance.
The main feature that makes this a great option for fast climbing is its asymmetric profile. This allows for better mobility and elbow clearance. There is a small zippered pocket on the lid that is great for quick-grab items, such as snacks, keys, or a phone. The lid securely closes to the pack with a strong aluminum hook. While many users wish there were more organization offered, they do love the four rows of daisy chains on the outside of the pack that easily allows you to attach plenty of gears, tools, and safety equipment.
9. 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 backpack comes with an average comfort rating. It isn’t uncomfortable, but it certainly isn’t the most comfortable backpack on our list. You get a nice, wide hip belt with this pack, which does add to the comfort level when you carry it. This backpack 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 backpack 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 on this backpack is both 210 and 420 denier nylon, which is a durable fabric combination. However, this backpack isn’t as reinforced as some other products on our list.
As far as versatility is concerned, this backpack 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.
This backpack is designed with simplicity in mind, and that’s what this backpack 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. There are two large pockets, including one with a bit more weather protection.
10. 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 backpack for snow sports, but it doesn’t come with a lot of versatility. Still, if you are looking for a nice backpack to help you out with snow sports, then this backpack 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 backpack and its shoulders 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 backpack since it has a nice ventilation system, which can help improve the overall comfort of the backpack.
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 backpack’s design for that.
This backpack is designed to help you out on 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 backpack. 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 of the backpack 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 a backpack doesn’t feel comfortable to you, 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 of the backpack 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 on the backpacks and ensure they have the cushioning and back support you really need.
Durability is also important because it makes your backpack a more worthwhile investment. The longer the backpack lasts and the better the durability, the better the investment. Most durable backpacks 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 with the backpack. 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 backpack 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 backpack. Some backpacks 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 with your backpack, and pick one out that meets your specific goals. A couple of the backpacks 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 the backpack 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 backpacks 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 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 the backpack, but will be a lifesaver on those unpredictable weather days. On the other hand, if you have a backpack with excessive features, you may wind up with a heavier backpack that 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 a backpack 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 backpack. 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 backpack that offers you the support you really need. Sometimes, if you aren't feeling comfortable with your backpack, 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 backpacks. 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: What is a lightweight backpack? Will I still get everything I need with it?
That really depends on what you need. Backpacks that are designed to be lightweight typically cut back on features on the design of the pack to make the pack weigh less. So, you will have to let go of some features if you decide to go this route. However, that doesn’t mean the backpack won’t still have some of the features you want and need—you just won’t get as many overall features. Another thing to keep in mind with lightweight backpacks is durability. Some of them are still very durable, but some of them cut back on the reinforcement points in the materials and design of the backpack, making them less durable.
q: How do I check my backpack to make sure it is durable before I purchase it?
A big factor to consider with the durability or your backpack choice is the materials. Most of the backpacks on our list feature strong nylon materials, and some are also well reinforced to help handle any other issues and make the backpack durable. However, with durability, you won’t be able to get a backpack that is as lightweight. Not all lightweight backpacks totally sacrifice durability, but the materials in them tend to be lighter and not as strong. They also tend to feature fewer reinforcements to keep the backpack lighter. So, you can get a good, durable backpack, it just probably won’t be totally lightweight by design.
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 when you use your backpack. There are plenty of affordable backpacks 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, lightweight capacity of the backpack, and some of the features as well. Still, most affordable backpacks 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 with the backpack, but you’ll still get the features you really need to be designed into the backpack.
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 backpack 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 to use the backpack for. 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.