A traveler’s backpack is a quintessential part of any hiker’s gear.
But with so many options on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? If you’re having trouble selecting the right hiking backpack for your trip, we’re here to help.
We understand just how complex it can be when trying to sift through different backpack options. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for choosing the right hiking backpack to meet your situation.
As we will see, choosing the right backpack is a pretty involved process. As there are a number of considerations you must make when choosing the right bag for you, be sure to review the following information carefully. By doing so, you can ensure that you’re getting the bag best suited to fit your hiking needs.
Below, we’ll take a look at three of the most common factors that you will need to consider when choosing the perfect hiking backpack. These three considerations relate to the fit, size, and functionality of your bag. By considering all three, you’ll have a bag better suited to fit your hiking purposes.
Ready to learn everything you’ll ever need to know about choosing the right backpack? Let’s dive in!
Why Should You Invest in a Hiking Backpack?
If you’re looking to cut costs, it can be tempting to go with a regular backpack. After all, it offers the same functionality, right?
Hikers wear special backpacks for a reason. These bags are specifically designed to carry a hiker’s materials and distribute the weight so that one can better enjoy their hike.
So what should you consider when looking for the perfect hiking backpack?
First, keep in mind that the type of bag you need greatly depends on the type of hike you’re taking. For example, those taking quick hikes with little gear will need a different kind of bag than those hiking for extended periods. Generally speaking, the longer your trip, the more gear you’ll need—and this means that you’ll need a bigger bag.
What Makes a Good Hiking Backpack?
With this in mind, it’s time to talk about what makes a hiking bag right for you. What considerations should you keep in mind to make sure that you’re getting the most from your purchase?
Typically, these can be broken down into three main categories:
- How Well Your Backpack Fits
Finding a backpack that fits comfortably is critical to enjoying your hike. Let’s face it—no one wants to wear a bag on them that doesn’t fit.
This proves especially true for those taking extended hikes. The longer you have to wear your backpack, the more important fit will become. Though, in reality, you’re never really going to want to sacrifice fit, even if you are taking only a short hike.
So what does it mean to get a bag that fits? The obvious answer is to choose a bag that you can wear comfortably.
But as you may have guessed, this is easier said than done. When determining backpack fit, you should take several considerations into account.
Despite popular misconceptions, you shouldn’t choose your backpack based off your overall height. By doing so, you’re liable to choose a bag that doesn’t fit well—causing you discomfort as you travel.
Instead, you’ll need to base your bag size off your torso length. This will provide a much more accurate measurement for the size of the backpack you need.
Of note, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t assume that all brands follow a “one-size-fits-all” type of pattern. Instead, you may find that a medium-sized bag from one company fits your torso the same as a large from another. Because of this, take time to evaluate how different bags from various companies relate to your torso size. Only in this way can you find a bag that fits most comfortably for you.
Torso length isn’t the only consideration you should make, however. The size of your waist is just as important as your overall torso length.
That’s because the majority of the bag’s weight should be supported by your hips. For this reason, you need to find a bag that latches onto your hips pretty snugly. This will help you better support the weight without any issues while walking. By getting a bag that doesn’t quite fit, you’ll find it difficult to properly support the weight. This, in turn, may limit what you’re able to do while hiking. At the very least, it can lead to severe discomfort that keeps you from fully enjoying your hiking experience.
Of note, you may find that some backpacks come with adjustable options. These will allow you to better customize the fit of your backpack to your body.
These customizable options come in the form of adjustable suspension straps for the torso and interchangeable waist belts. While adjustable suspension can be a great way to make sure that your backpack perfectly fits your torso, they’re also add weight. This means that you’ll have to carry more weight around if you purchase one of these backpacks. For this reason, you may want to consider other options if you’re going on an extended trip or if you plan on carrying a lot of gear.
Additionally, keep in mind that women and children may require specific backpacks. These backpacks are made to accommodate for the smaller waist sizes of most women and children, allowing for the best fit possible. If you’re having trouble finding a youth backpack that works well with your child, consider trying a female backpack. These generally tend to fit well on some youth due to their smaller waist size design.
You may also want to invest in backpacks that have sternum straps and/or load lifter straps. These help boost stability and better distribute the weight, respectively.
The fit of your hiking backpack is just the first consideration you should make when selecting the bag right for you. Consider the following two points as well so that you can make the best choice possible.
- The Size of Your Backpack
Remember when we said that the amount of gear you’ll take should help you determine your backpack size?
This is where this becomes important. Generally speaking, you can break different bags down into three different categories depending on the amount of gear you’ll take and the length of your trip.
Those looking to travel with light gear, for instance, may want to invest in a weekend backpack. These are those that are designed for three or fewer nights of travel. If you invest in one of these bags, be sure that you don’t overburden it, as they aren’t designed to carry large loads of gear.
If you’re like most, you may find it difficult to travel without much gear, so you may want to invest in either a multi-day or an extended trip backpack. Designed for five nights and more than five nights, respectively, these two bag types can accommodate a larger amount of gear.
Typically speaking, these bags will have a capacity of 80 liters for multiday bags and more than that for extended trip. This compares to just 50 liters for weekend bags.
If you’re not sure which size bag you need, consider preparing the rest of your gear first. Also, make sure that you have an itinerary established for your trip so that you can best plan which bag will suit you. By knowing the length of travel and the weight of your gear, you’ll be able to better select a hiking backpack. Though this requires extra planning in advance, it provides you with the knowledge necessary to make wiser purchasing decisions.
- The Functionality of Your Backpack
Finally, you’ll want to choose a backpack that offers the most in terms of functionality. This means that you’ll be able to get more out of your bag.
We’ve seen already what’s needed to buy a comfortable bag. And while comfort should be a major consideration, make sure not to skip out on functionality, either. With the right bag, you’ll be able to get more done during your trip.
This functionality can make your bag easier to use, as well as make them more comfortable in other regards.
Interested in learning how to get the most from your hiking backpack? Consider the following features your bag should have below!
Qualities of a Good Hiking Backpack
A good hiking backpack is made up of several different features. Below, we examine some of the most important of these features so that you can make a better purchase.
- They Let Your Back Breathe
If you’ve ever been hiking with the wrong backpack, you know just what we’re talking about. Even if you’ve walked across campus in hot weather, you know just how icky you back can start to feel when you sweat.
And this only gets worse when your backpack presses into you.
For this reason, consider getting a backpack with built-in mesh ventilation. These bags can decrease the amount of sweat and discomfort you feel while hiking. This can increase your overall enjoyment during your hike, making for a better experience.
As we will see, the amount of ventilation offered by your backpack depends largely on the type.
- Choose the Type Right for You
For instance, if you’re looking to get an internal-frame backpack—perhaps the most common type—you’ll need to make sure you get one with ventilation.
These bags allow one to better stabilize a load for hiking, but they come with one major drawback. They hug your back. This means that you’re going to need to choose an option that allows for breathing room.
Those who really want to take their ventilation to the next level can invest in an external-frame backpack. Typically, however, these are only used for large loads. While they do offer greater ventilation, they don’t provide the same degree of weight support—meaning they’re not quite as comfortable.
However, if you’re looking for great functionality for carrying irregular or heavy loads, these may be the option for you.
On the flipside, those looking to minimize the weight they carry may wish to choose in a frameless backpack. These bags allow one to remove frames to cut down on weight.
- It’s Got Good Storage with Easy Access
Another feature to look for in your hiking backpack is the number and the type of pockets that it has. Generally speaking, the more it has, the more convenient it will be for you.
Several different types of pockets exist, including: front pockets, hip belt pockets, side pockets, and shovel pockets. Pockets on the sides typically feature elastic stretching capabilities to accommodate for items such as water bottles.
Just as importantly, make sure to choose a backpack that allows for easy access. This will allow you to access your much-needed items even during the middle of your hikes.
- It Allows for the Essentials
Finally, you’ll want to get a hiking backpack that lets you carry the essentials needed to travel well. For example, make sure that it’s got enough attachment points to carry your tools.
Additionally, you’ll want to see if it has a sleeping bag compartment that will allow you to safely and easily store your bag.
And, of course, you’ll want to make sure that it’s got enough padding that you can travel in comfort.
Ultimately, choosing the hiking backpack that’s right for you requires an in-depth understanding of the different options available.
Before selecting your bag, make sure that you have a solid understanding of your needs. By making sure to get the right fit, you can travel in as much comfort as possible. Additionally, choosing bags with greater functionality can streamline your trip for a more enjoyable experience.
By following this guide, you can make buying your next hiking backpack easier than ever. Keep this information in mind as you look to purchase your next hiking backpack to find the option best suited for you.