A Comprehensive Guide On Choosing A Hiking Backpack
Every successful camping trip starts with the right gear, and packing the right camping gadgets and accessories will help you make your adventures even more enjoyable. While part of the joy of camping is needing very little gear to exist outdoors, it’s also nice to have a comfortable and convenient camping trip more than anything.
Whether you’re planning on taking a picturesque hike through the woods, or just want to have a quick weekend camping trip away from the hustle and bustle, your trusty hiking backpack will be your one constant companion. Your backpack will be one of the heaviest pieces of hiking gear you carry on any trip so it’s important to keep the weight as low as possible for your needs.
Knowing how to pick a hiking backpack that suits your needs is essential to a comfortable journey and many more to follow. A backpack that is too small risks not being able to carry all your gear, while a backpack that is too large risks causing shoulder, back or even knee problems. You can mistakenly over-pack and end up carrying more weight than your body can handle.
Today, we’re looking at some of the things to look out for when you choose your hiking backpack. These include:
Part 1: The Size
Part 2: The Features
Part 3: The Fit
Part 1: The Size
First things first, you need to decide what type of hiking you will be doing and how long your journeys will be. You need to take into consideration the amount of gear that you will need to carry as well as the size of each item. The volume of your hiking backpack will determine how much gear you can carry on a trip. Generally, experienced hikers can easily fit most of their gear in a 40-50L backpack. However, if you’re a new hiker, you may want to choose a pack with a larger volume, like the Hiking Backpack Lightweight 55L and slowly work your way down.
Depending on the gear you have and the number of days of your adventure, the adequate size can be anywhere between 30 and 80 liters. Below, we’ve rounded up the best backpack size for you to bring, depending on the number of nights your trip will take.
i. DAY TRIPS (1-2 NIGHTS) - 10-20 litres
Good for: Quick and simple day hikes
Our choice: TPU Dry-Wet Separating Waterproof Bag - 20L
This is the best choice when it comes to a backpack for a day hike. With the space, you can comfortably carry all the essential items suited for a day hike. Backpacks of this size are good for a fast and light approach to a day hike. You can probably fit in a bit of food, water, a jacket, a flashlight and other emergency supplies (first aid kit etc.)
ii. WEEKEND (1 TO 3 NIGHTS) - 30-45 litres
Good for: Overnight trips and light weekend trips
Our choice: Hiking Backpack Lightweight 45L
Packs of this size are a must if you’re planning for an overnight trip or a very lightly packed weekend trip as you will be able to fit in your sleeping materials and tents (provided you are getting a one-person ultralight tent). You can fit in everything you can fit into a smaller pack, and include items like a sleeping bag, an ultralight tent and a change of clothes.
iii. MULTI-DAY (3-5 NIGHTS) - 45-55 litres
Good for: Multi-day trips
Our choice: Hiking Backpack Lightweight 55L
If you’re planning on multi-day trips, a pack this size will help keep your load lightweight enough, while also giving you enough space to pack all your essentials and more. This pack will give you more volume to hold heavier items, like a synthetic sleeping bag, conventional tent and self-inflating sleeping pad, all of which take up more space.
Part 2: The Features
Backpack features can often be the deciding point for a purchase. Some features are essential for certain trips and add ease to the entire journey. Below are the hiking backpack features to look out for. Do note that not all features are suited for everyone, so it’s good to pick and choose the kind of features you need depending on your camping trip requirements.
1. Backpack Frame
There are three frame types for hiking backpacks and each will have their pros and cons. The majority of backpacks are made with an internal frame.
i. Internal Frame
Internal frame backpacks are the most common. These backpacks are designed to hug the shape of the hiker’s body and disperse the weight of the load. The majority of your backpack’s weight should ideally be on your hips rather than on your shoulders.
ii. External Frame
An external frame backpack is designed for hikers who will be carrying heavy and maybe slightly abnormal loads. Although they offer good ventilation, these packs are less common unless you are carrying huge gear, like inflatable rafts for water rafting trips.
The most lightweight option available. A frameless backpack may not be the best choice for longer hikes as the pack does not have a rigid structure for keeping your items in place.
Sweaty backs and backpacks go hand in hand, but this can be lessened with a sufficient ventilation system. Some backpacks will have their own ventilation system integrated into the back panel. Some hiking backpacks will have a breathable mesh, which allows air to flow and enhances back ventilation.
Comfort is essential when you will be carrying the backpack for an extended period of time. Padding is important because the majority of the pack load will sit on your hips. It’s always good to try on the backpack and look out for any discomfort or spots that will rub you the wrong way. Padded shoulder straps are also important to reduce the chances of a sore back or shoulder joints after a long day.
Pockets can be a hit and a miss for most hikers. Some people can’t stand them, some cannot live without them. But whichever camp you’re on, having pockets on your backpack can be quite useful. You should look out for some of the more essential pockets available. These include:
i. Side Pockets
Most often backpacks will have elasticized side pockets. These pockets are a perfect spot to keep a water bottle for quick hydration.
ii. Hip Pockets
These pockets are ideal for snacks, your phone or smaller items that you’ll need without having to stop and dig through your backpack.
iii. Front Pockets
Usually made from waterproof materials, these pockets are a good place for you to separate your wet gear and the dry gear.
A majority of the backpacks are loaded from the top, but this can be troublesome if you have not packed your bag efficiently. In this instance, you may want to find a backpack with side zippers, which can be more useful overall.
6. External Straps
Being able to carry gear on the outside of your hiking backpack is a treat. Durable straps are generally located near the bottom of a backpack as well as the sides or the front. These work great for larger items like tents or trekking poles that you don’t want to take up precious backpack space for. But the downside is that your pack may be a bit too heavy due to the additional load, so keep that in mind.
7. Load-Lifter Straps
Every hiking backpack should be equipped with load lifter straps. These straps are essential to the fit of the backpack and can help with reducing the soreness in your shoulders at the end of the day.
Last but not least whether or not your backpack is waterproof. This is especially handy when you’re traveling in wet climates or undesirable weather. You won’t want to have a backpack full of wet clothes when you set up camp.
Part 3: The Fit
The most important element when shopping for a new hiking backpack is finding one that fits your body correctly. There are two main points to focus on when you’re looking for a well-fitting hiking backpack: your torso length and your hip width.
1. Torso length
Standing straight, tilt your head forward and find the bump near the base of your neck connected to your shoulders. Next, locate your hip bones and measure the distance from the bump to your hip bone. This is your torso length.
2. Hip width
Locate your hips again and measure your hips using a measuring tape. Although this measurement won’t 100% determine your backpack size as the torso does, it is a beneficial step as you can verify if the hip belt on the backpack you are interested in will fit. Your hips are located higher than your waist so the measurement will be similar to your pants size although not the exact same.
By knowing your torso length and your hip width, you can easily find a perfect hiking backpack to fit your needs. You can refer to the size charts of a backpack you’re looking for to determine if it is the best fit for you. It’s important to know that backpack sizes vary from brand to brand, so you should always look at the size charts before making a purchase.
So there you have it. With our comprehensive guide, we hope that you’ll have an easier time looking for the right hiking backpack. With these easy tips, we hope that your search for the perfect backpack will be a breeze. So it’s time to pack up and start planning your hiking trip!
What did you think about our article? We’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comment section below! If you haven’t already done so, take a look at our list of essential camping gear for 2020 to help you better plan out your next camping trip or check out our store for more camping gear!
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