How to Choose a Hiking Backpack

Tourism is a magical word that makes us instantly dream of properly installed tents, skillfully built campfires, and cozy hiking songs. However, not everything is as romantic and effortless. Taking tourism materially, you may realize that this kind of activity is rather expensive. However, the expenses are often one-time, for example, for such solid things like camping ware or a tourist backpack which will be highlighted in the following article.To organize your hiking tour, it’s crucial to pick up your things accurately, and it’s even more important to choose how you will carry them. Otherwise, your tour may become an ordeal instead of an adventure. There’re a few types of tourist things that you’d better not economize on, and backpacks are just one of them. It’s like trying to save on proper boots. You won’t go hiking wearing your usual sneakers - as in that case, you risk gaining corns and extremely tired feet. All of these - due to the improper distribution of your body weight together with a backpack. Moreover, you may easily traumatize yourself by slipping on wet or dry rocks or sand.

It’s essential to understand what kind of backpack you need and how you can save on it. Anyway, if you’re a novice tourist, you can’t avoid visiting a sport or tourist shop. Remember that it’s not that vital to get a tourist backpack for your hiking tour specifically. Your aim should be to get a versatile backpack, which may come in handy later if you decide to go on a more extreme kind of tourism. 

Here we will tell you what backpacks you can be offered, and you’ll decide which to choose regarding your budget. Many people get an all-purpose backpack, which you can take for a 3-day hiking tour and a 2-week trip. Some people prefer comfort and pick a few backpacks, suitable for any duration and trip kind. 

A spacious but lightweight and convenient backpack is a dream of any tourist. We will tell you how to choose it in the most detailed way.

The backpack volume

The volume you’ll need depends on the trip duration as well as on its purpose. It is measured in liters, and it depends on how much gear and things you can put inside. The backpack volume often specifies its intended use. The volume depends on the oncoming trip, so here are a few tips.

Oncoming trip duration and kind

Are you aiming at a short, 1-2-day trip? Or are you planning to spend a week or more in nature’s lap? Will you use your backpack all the year through and at difficult pathways as well, or only at trodden ways in summer? 

Gear type and weight

What kind of gear will you take with you - professional, insulated, and multipurpose, or as lightweight as possible and of minimal volume? If you look at backpacks regarding their packaging arrangement, you can define two types of backpacks: ultralight and traditional. 

Traditional variant implies full value gear, including ware. It provides the traveler with comfort at a rest stop while changing the route or when vagaries of the weather take place. Ultralight backpacks, or “Fast & Light” ones, are used by travelers who want to lighten the weight at most, sometimes even sacrificing their comfort. This approach requires you great self-discipline and organization, as well as a thoroughly planned route. But, if you manage all these, light stride and fast following the path being minorly tired will be your reward. 

How does the backpack volume depend on the route length with a standard load and traditional gear?

One day or one overnight stay - 30-50 L;

2-3 days - 50-60 L;

3-5 days - 60-80 L;

A week and more - 80 L and more.

The 60-80 L backpack is the universal variant, as it will suit both a 2-day trip and a 1-week journey. That’s why most manufacturers produce such backpacks in various types and colors, adding a diversity of details. Due to their universal qualities, such backpacks can be used not only for hiking but also for long skiing trips and even mountain climbing when an overnight stay is overcoming.

For long hiking tours, you’ll need a larger backpack volume - 80 L and more. You’ll need to carry more food and other things, without those you can stay for 2 or 3 days, but during a longer trip, they’ll become necessary. Such a spacious backpack will be useful not only for hiking. It will perfectly serve you for a winter route with a pair of overnight stays. In that case, you’ll need to take warm clothes and additional gear, for example, only a warm sleeping bag will take one-third of space in your backpack, and you’ll need a thick pad for comfortable sleep and a down-padded coat which take a lot of space, too. If your kids are traveling with you, and they’re small, most of their things and gear will be on your shoulders. Teenagers, though, can carry such weight quite easily.

What backpack volume will you need when planning trips of different durations and not planning to take much weight?

1 day or 1 overnight stay - 20-30 L;

2-3 days - 30-50 L;

3-5 days - 45-55 L;

A week and more - 55 L and more.

People who choose “Fast & Light” gear like it because of modern technologies, which make it ultra-light and compact. For a several day-trip, such a 55-60L backpack will be more than enough. Though, it requires some experience in choosing gear and making a route from a tourist to avoid losing time. In winter, you should be even more careful with lightweight backpacks because an unexpected stop will cost you food which is, in that case, limited. 

A versatile tourist

Suppose you are already 100% sure that hiking is absolutely your kind of outdoor activity and want to take part in short and long trips. In that case, you may consider purchasing a couple of different backpacks or pick a universal one of a large volume. Then try to carry it tightly packed because it’s not convenient to carry a half-empty backpack. If there’s space left in the backpack - just span it with compression straps. 

What kinds of backpacks are there?

Backpacks have lots of parameters, but we can categorize them into several groups. The first two - framed/ergonomic and soft unframed. As you can guess from their names, an unframed backpack is usually a bag with straps and lots of pockets and dividers. It’s not easy to distribute the weight inside them evenly because the point of gravity will always be at the bottom, which is a negative point. On the other hand, such backpacks are made from ultralight materials, and they rarely weigh more than 2 lb. 

Framed backpacks have a rigid frame inside made of steel or plastic elements. Thanks to the frame, a backpack keeps its form greatly, you can distribute weight evenly along your back, and packing becomes much easier. Such backpacks are more convenient and universal but weigh much than unframed ones - about 6 lb. 

Backpacks’ intended use

Backpacks can be divided into different types according to their intended purpose as well.

Hiking backpacks

They may be of any construction - either framed or unframed. The convenient volume is 30-50L. It’s a full-value hiking backpack, waterproof, which will keep your things from rain, dirt, and other troubles.

Going on an expedition trip - always with a backpack!

Such a serious trip suggests a more solid and spacious backpack. Moreover, the construction will be slightly different - more rigid fabric, lots of straps allowing to span the backpack, frame inside, anti-storm cover, hip belt to fix your lower back, adjustable upper valve, and separate access to a lower compartment. These features apply to all large backpacks—an average volume of such a backpack - not less than 100 L. Water tourism lovers prefer even larger backpacks - of 110-150 L. 

Backpack Straps

They should be solid but soft and keep the form well. It’s preferable to choose ergonomic straps, not usual ones, as the ergonomic ones fit your body more tightly. That means that they won’t rub your shoulders while carrying, and it will be more convenient to carry a backpack. The strap length can be adjusted with the bottom cord of each strap. Many backpacks have an adjustable height to let the backpack fit your back more densely. It will be perfect if the straps are breathable. It’s especially important for sportspeople and in the summertime. Pay attention if there is a chest strap. If the backpack will be heavy, it’s an absolute necessity. So the straps may be fixed on your chest, and carrying becomes even more convenient. In case your backpack doesn’t have such a strap, you can purchase it separately. 

Hip Belt

This element helps to distribute almost half of the weight on your hips. Its inner side should be soft, while the outer - rigid. The width of the hip belt should be not less than 4”. Such a hip belt will function efficiently. Also, it should be easy to unfasten it with one hand only.

Why do you need compression straps?

You can constrict the backpack to be packed tighter and not let the things inside hang about. It’s more convenient to carry a tightly packed backpack, and when it’s half-empty, you’ll need compression straps to fix your things inside and to get rid of loose space. Such straps may be both horizontal and vertical: it’s better when the backpack has both types. 

Backpack valve - what for and how to choose?

40L and more volumed backpacks usually have an upper valve. The valve hides several pockets in which you can put things that you need often, or you need to access fast. The upper valve may be detached, which will make the backpack weigh less. A lot of removable valves can be used as a belt bag or a mini-backpack.

How many pockets should a backpack have?

Pockets are significant - it depends on them how comfortable it will be to use a backpack. Almost all backpacks have side meshed pockets. It’s very convenient to carry a lantern, a bottle of water and other valuable things there. Detachable pockets are as useful as a detached valve - it’s very easy to make the backpack volume and weight less. Remember that a good number of pockets is not always good. When there’re too many pockets - it makes the backpack heavier. 

What are women’s backpacks’ features?

The only differences are curved straps that let you get rid of the chest pressure and ergonomic back, which follows the lower back curve. Regarding other parameters, women’s backpacks are all the same as men’s. 

Is it worth choosing a backpack regarding your height?

It is if you’re planning a long trip where you’ll be carrying the backpack on your shoulders for a long time. Otherwise - for short trips - not really.

Soft or rigid back?

It depends on the conditions in which you will use the backpack. Generally, there’re three types of the back. 

Soft 

It has foam elements that soften the pressure of rigid parts of gear on a tourist’s back. These are the most lightweight and compact backpacks. But be careful while packing - otherwise, you’ll feel each sharp edge with your back,

Half-rigid

Such backpacks keep their form due to a plastic or a foam sheet inside. It makes the backpack and the process of packing more convenient.

Rigid

It’s the most comfortable type of backpacks. They are more expensive than the previous ones and may weigh a lot. Still, they keep their form perfectly, and with their aluminum frame, they’ll let you carry heavy loads and pack everything regardless of how you put the things - heavier on lighter or on the contrary.

Different types of the backpacks are available in our online store!