Choosing A Hiking Backpack
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Do you want to go on a backpacking trip but don’t know where to start?
Hiking is a great way to get out into nature and enjoy the outdoors. However, choosing the right gear can be tricky. There are lots of different types of backpacks available, each suited to a particular type of activity.
This blog post is designed to give you some guidance on what to look for when buying a hiking backpack.
You should choose a backpack that fits your needs. It shouldn’t be too big or too small.
When selecting a backpack, think about how much weight you’ll carry with you. A heavy empty backpack is going to add additional unnecessary weight.
Don’t forget to consider the weather when picking out your backpack. Make sure you have a rain-cover or your gear stored in dry bags for when it rains.
I was in Boy Scouts growing up and I made it to Eagle Scout. Unfortunately, because I grew up in central Texas and my Scoutmasters weren’t the athletic type, we never took many backpacking trips. We only car camped as Scouts.
I discovered I had a yearning to go on a backpacking trip when I started watching Homemade Wanderlust on YouTube during the lockdown.
I now go on at least one multiple-day backpacking trip a year with an outfitter. I choose to use an outfitter because they take care of the logistics such as permitting and food. All I have to do is show up with my pack and hike.
I also like to do weekend trips into the primitive camping sites at the Texas state parks.
How long is your hike?
Before choosing your pack, you want to consider how long of a hike are you planning. If you only intend to do a day hike, you don’t need to invest in a camping backpack.
You instead choose to stick with a daypack. A daypack will be cheaper, smaller, and rarely has a frame. They are large enough to carry a hydration bladder, snacks, rain gear, and other essential items.
Meanwhile, if you intend to go on an overnight hiking trip, then you will need to invest in a camping backpack. These will often have an internal or external frame so that they can carry more supplies including a tent and sleeping bag.
Hiking backpack sizes and fit
It’s important to get properly fitted for a backpack. The proper size of a backpack is based on your torso length and the width of your hips.
Watch this video to see how to properly measure your body for a backpack.
You can also visit an outdoor specialty store where they can do the measurements for you.
If you plan to carry heavy loads, look for bags with a frame and/or suspension system. These systems allow you to distribute the load evenly across your shoulders, which makes hiking easier. You will want padded hip belts, shoulder straps, and ventilation.
You will want to make sure the pack can carry everything you need for your trip. And at the very least, the pack should have pockets for your water bottles though you might prefer a hydration bladder.
If you are hunting, fishing, or doing work in the outdoors, you will want to look for packs that have specialized features for these activities. For example, I have a pack that allows it to detach from the frame so that you can insert a chainsaw or a deer quarter.
I don’t need a chainsaw nor do I hunt, I got this pack because it fits my long torso.
External vs. Internal Frames
An external frame is attached to the outside of the bag, whereas an internal frame is built into the bag itself.
The two advantages of an external frame are that they are cheaper and they have more points to attach external items.
The two advantages of internal frames are that they have fewer points where you can get your pack snagged on a tree or a rock and they’re more compact.
Internal frame backpacks are more popular than external frames these days.
Shoulder and Hip Belt Padding
All backpacks will come with hip belts and shoulder straps. Look for backpacks with extra padding to make carrying them more comfortable.
A downside to internal frame backpacks is that they don’t have as much airflow between your back and the pack as external frames.
However, more expensive packs will have ventilation mesh on the pack to add more airflow while carrying your pack.
While we try to keep as much as we can in our packs, sometimes we have to attach things to the outside of our pack.
If you have a closed-foam sleeping pad, you might need to attach it to the top of your pack. Your tent might be attached to the outside of your pack. Or the trash you need to haul back home.
Sleeping Bag Compartment, Multiple Access Points
Some backpacks have a compartment designed specifically for your sleeping bag. The idea is that it will keep your sleeping bag more protected while allowing for easy access.
But I often keep my sleeping bag in the pack and use this compartment for other items such as my clothes.
Most backpacks are not waterproof and you might want a rain cover for your pack. However, you can use a trash bag over the pack or keep the items like your sleeping bag or clothes in a dry sack within the pack.
Most packs will have a lid that flips over the top of the pack. Some of these packs will allow you to detach the lid for more space or to use the lid as a day pack.
At the very least, you want your lids to be able to float on top to maximize the amount of stuff you can shove into your pack.
You must stay hydrated on the trail. While you can use a water bottle that is kept in your side pockets of your packet, it’s nice to use a hydration pack such as a Camelback or a Platypus while on the trail. The hydration pack will hold multiple liters of water with a hose that you can use to suck on without having to mess around with the bottle in your pack.
What I like to do now, is to keep water in my hydration bladder. Then use a water bottle with electrolytes such as NUUN or Gatorade in it in my side pocket.
It’s simpler to replace the 1-liter bottle in the pocket once it starts to get gross from having the drink mix in the bottle.
While hiking I will sip from the straw and then when I take my breaks, I will drink the electrolyte solution. It’s important to consume electrolytes along with the water to keep yourself functioning properly.
What Volume Pack Do I Need
The volume pack depends on what type of hiking you plan to do. The more time out on trail, the more volume you will need.
But remember, the more you want to take with you, the heavier the pack will be.
Backpacking isn’t for people who need lots of creature comforts.
30-40 Liters - Weekend Trips
These types of packs are for people who only intend to be out for a couple of nights. You can carry your clothes, rain gear, camp shoes, food, water, tent, and sleeping system without burdening yourself with this size of pack.
60-70 Liters - Extended Trips
If you want to go for 3 or more days, then you will want at least a 60-liter backpack. The extra space will allow you to carry more food, water, and fuel for your stove. There are packs that even go up to 90-liters which would be carrying quite a bit of weight on a trip.
Backpacking is a great way to provide more options for places to camp.
The best backpacking destinations include national parks, state parks, BLM land, and forest service land. These areas offer a wide range of camping opportunities from primitive campsites to developed sites with water, electricity, and toilets.
If you want to backpack solo, it’s important to know what you’re doing. It’s not just about packing light; you should also consider where you’re going, what kind of terrain you’ll encounter, and whether you’ll need shelter from the elements.
The best backpacking trips are those where you hike into remote areas away from civilization. This gives you the chance to see nature at its most pristine state.
Conclusion paragraph: Once you’ve decided on the style of a backpack that will work best for your hike, it is time to narrow down what size pack should be used.
The type of hiking gear and supplies may vary in weight depending on how long the hike will last so knowing this beforehand can help determine which size pack needs to be bought.
If you are unsure about how much weight your body can handle carrying while walking up a mountain or through some other rugged terrain, consult with an expert who has experience with these types of hikes before making any decisions related to backpacks. When choosing between external or internal frame packs, consider whether the load distribution system (the way that the bag distributes its weight) might affect where heavy items like water bottles need . It’s not just about the weight and size, but also about what you need for your hike. You will find some tips on choosing a hiking backpack here.
You’ve got your pack, now it’s time to hit the trails! Keep these tips in mind as you go. And remember to take a break and enjoy nature along the way. We all need some R&R every once in a while. Happy hiking!