While you plan your trip to the great outdoors looking at locations, weather and season details; picking a backpack is also anything but simple. The market has a wide range of backpacks, which make it confusing and daunting for beginners and pros alike. So what goes into your selection of a perfect backpack for your adventure? Let’s help you get a few ideas, with the suggestions below, to make your pick easy.
First things first, ask yourself how much gear are you ready to carry. Another huge factor that can help you decide is your trip length - weekend/extended trip?
o Weekend - Usually 1-3 nights. This would require light packing, which in turn needs self-discipline and careful planning. These backpacks are designed to accommodate enough food and gear for a light packer. Stuff that you can add to these bags would include backpacking sleeping bag, extra clothing and layers, small tent, and pad. You might want to add a small stove, food, and basic cookware, navigation tools, first aid kit and water filter/purifier. Depending on your skills you can top it up with a lightweight chair, a coffee press or small camp lantern.
o Extended - Usually 5+ nights. These are designed to carry more stuff than the weekend bag pack- which means more food and cooking fuel, and extra clothes +layers. If you’re choosing one for the colder climates, the backpacks would be larger to accommodate mountaineering equipment, a warmer sleeping setup, survival gear and first aid kit. Make sure it has a burly suspension with straps and loops for proper gear attachment or hauling the backpack itself.
The backpacks that last the longest and are most durable and protective have the following:
o Compartments - A good backpack must have multiple compartments; this ensures that you can put away your stuff in different compartments and make it easily accessible to yourself. This saves time as you don’t have to dig for stuff you need in the bag. You can keep the items that you won’t need until end of the day to go deep inside. Some backpacks offer zippered front panel from where you can have access to the bag interior.
o Zippers - Look for good lockable zippers that work well.
o Internal-frame backpack - These are designed to keep the hiker stable even on uneven terrain. Such backpacks work on the technology that shifts the entire load onto the hips.
o External-frame backpack - This would be a great idea if you’re carrying a large irregular load. These backpacks offer lots of gear organization options and good ventilation.
o Frameless backpacks - This is for those who want to keep it Ultralight and hike faster. Here, the frame is removable to save weight.
o Water resistant - Most backpacks may not be 100% waterproof but choose one that has at least semi-waterproof material. Some bags come with tarps or backpack cover that can be used when its raining.
o Ventilation - Most backpacks come with a suspended mesh back panel that helps if you have a sweaty back (the internal frame rides/rubs against your back) . Also referred to as tension-mesh suspension.
o Pockets - Pick a backpack that has several pockets like side pockets (elasticized), shovel pockets, hip belt, side sleeve, front pockets, top lid. These are helpful to put a lot of stuff away.
o Padding and attachment points - You may encounter sore spots on your hips and lower back if you’re using a minimalistic hip belt and lumbar pad. In such a case, consider using a cushier hip belt. If you travel with an ice axe or trekking poles, look for loops that will help you to attach them to the pack exterior.
o Hydration - A hydration pack is present in almost all the backpacks. They may be of different types. At the least, a hole for a hose is present to assist you in carrying a bladder. Look for the ones that best suit your need.
Pack volume refers to the space inside the pack & is measured in liters. How do you pick a backpack with the right volume? The answer would be to ask yourself what are you using it for and what do you need to carry in it.
15 – 30
30 – 50
Overnight (1-2 nights)
45 – 55
Weekend (2 -3 nights)
Extended Trips (4+ nights)
The backpack you choose needs to match your torso length. It’s very important that your backpack fits you well. Sizing may not be standardized with different brands, so do it yourself. The measurement you are looking for is from your C7 vertebrae (the more prominent one at the bottom of your neck) down to your iliac crest (essentially, the line running between the top of your hip bones). You will measure in the 16 to 23-inch range. Then look at specific charts with that measurement.
Women have smaller frames, so the backpacks differ with torso dimensions being shorter and narrower than men’s backpacks. The hip belts and shoulder straps are also contoured differently with the female form in mind. These backpacks work for beginner or younger backpackers of both genders.
The styles, sizes and shapes of backpacks are limitless, not to forget overwhelming. We hope that the tips above have made your selection process a tad easy. The most important thing to remember is that you should be comfortable with your luggage; that it (for whatever reason) does not fall apart halfway through your trip and makes your adventure simple and fun.
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