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The Best Backpacks & Gear Bags

Choosing and purchasing a new backpack, gear bag, or dry bag for serious outdoor adventure can be like buying a new car. Much of the same criteria applies: it’s something you’ll be spending a lot of time with, you’ll want something that can comfortably accommodate your size and body structure, you’ll want the right features to fit your particular needs, and you’ll no doubt want something that’s dependable. Finding all those qualities in one particular gear bag or pack can be a tall order to fill, but it’s certainly not impossible. I’ve done my best here to help you narrow down your search for some of the most dependable and highest rated packs and bags available.

While working as a guide on Kodiak Island, Alaska, I’ve seen a lot of backpacks and gear bags in action…and I mean a lot!!! Over the years I’ve carefully observed how those bags have held up and performed in extremely tough conditions. Whether being not-so-gently tossed in and out of float planes and jets, getting rained or snowed on for days (and even weeks) on end, tumbling down the side of jagged mountaintops, falling overboard into the stormy seas, getting covered in mud, dirt, and sand, or even being chewed on by bears, the best bags rise to the top of the list…fast! And the rest, well…they end up in the dumpster, fire pit, or at the bottom of the ocean. Along with observing how the gear bags and packs of my clients have held up and performed in the wilds of Alaska, I’ve also, of course, used and abused many of own packs and bags over the years. In fact, I’m substantially harder and more demanding of my personal gear than most of my clients are on theirs, as I’ve had to use mine on a daily basis for months on end.

What I look for in a top quality bag or pack for hunting or fishing trips, nature photography outings, hiking, camping, or other serious outdoor adventures, is a bag that is relatively quiet (no loud zippers, etc.), fully adjustable to one’s body size/shape, extremely tough, weather resistant (or 100% waterproof for dry bags), a pack/bag that is comfortable to wear or carry around for long hours in rugged terrain, is camo or earth-toned in color, and is designed with true functionality in mind…that is, without a bunch of silly bells and whistles that only complicate use in the field or on the water, as too many compartments, pockets, components, etc., can end up being a huge source of frustration when trying to find or secure gear in a hurry. I also look for a bag/pack that I can modify myself with ease, such as extra loops or grommets for additional tie downs or areas that I can confidently strap more gear to. Finally, I also look for a bag that I can easily repair myself if need be. Nothing is indestructible, and hard, heavy use will beat up and eventually damage your gear bag in time. 

Below are my top picks for bags and packs that have met the above criteria. And once again, as I relentlessly preach, keep in mind that you get what you pay for with quality outdoor gear. Don’t buy a cheap bag from a local department store to carry around hundreds and even thousands of dollars’ worth of gear in tough places. Buy a top quality bag, take care of it, and it will take care of you and your gear for many, many years. Click on the photos below to learn more and order yours today through our Amazon and Simms affiliate service.