Choosing a Backpack

Author: TG Contributor
Date: 2020-01-22

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When choosing a Backpack one should consider the following. What type of trips or hikes do I plan on taking? How long will I be gone? And how much gear do I really need to take? The following will show you what you need to know, and have you hitting the trails in no time.

What Type Should I Get?

Internal Frame

This type of pack is used mainly for large loads, they transfer a lot of the weight from your shoulders to your hips. Transferring the weight produces a better center of gravity, which can be felt on the trail.

Make sure you get a pack that has an aluminum frame or one made of the newest material called "Carbon Fiber X frame" which is made of a composite material and is very lightweight. Cheaper packs that have a steel frame. Shoulder straps should have an adequate amount of padding, new technology has produced a "honeycombed" synthetic material that feels like Gel and is a joy to use. A lumbar or lower back support is a must with heavy loads as is a waist strap. Look for packs that have loops to hang extra gear if needed, these come in handy if you access some items a lot on the trail. A pack with external pockets comes in handy allowing you to access often used items without going through the rest of the Pack.

Although this type of pack offers a better sense of balance it does have its drawbacks too. It hugs your body a little more closely than external packs and doesn't allow for much ventilation.

External Frame

These types of packs appear a little larger because the frame is on the Outside and usually made of aluminum. A higher center of gravity is typical with this type of pack, and they do a good job of transferring most of the weight to your hips.

Unlike the Internal Frame packs these have a few different frame shapes, Straight-has a good amount of room between the pack and the hikers back allowing for ventilation, S-Shape-which is made to conform to a hikers back, Hip wrap-transfers some of the weight to the hikers legs, and one that is built to conform to a Woman's body (although some might disagree with that). Look for packs that have Shoulder straps with an adequate amount of padding, new technology has produced a "honeycombed" synthetic material that feels like Gel and is a joy to use. The padding around the hip area should also be generous so you don't develop tender spots after a day on the trail.

Baby Carriers

These packs let you bring the little campers or hikers in training along. While not really a backpack they do allow you to take the infants on the trail with you.

How Much Pack Is Enough?

That all depends on how long you plan your trip, how many people are in your group? will you be going during warm weather or cold weather etc. If your hike will take place during the warmer months you'll be able to pack with the least amount of gear, however in colder months you'll need extra room for bigger sleeping bags, more clothes, even more fuel for meal times. Don't forget to add extra room if you will be carrying items for your children that may make their packs a little to heavy for them (Yes, they do make packs for children). Packs are usually rated for a few days at a time 2-3 days, 4-7 days, etc.


Most of the packs available today are made of lightweight, waterproof fabric, such as Cordura, Ripstop, etc.

What Size Is Right For You?

To determine the correct size for your pack, you will have to measure the distance between the base of your neck and the top of your hips, you don't want to buy the wrong size pack because you will loosing proper support in areas like the lower back and that could make for a very uncomfortable hike. Use the following as a guide to finding the right size pack for you, due to variances in manufacturers there doesn't seem to be an industry standard:

12-17 inches would be a small pack.
14-19 inches would be a medium pack.
15-21 inches would be a large pack.

Tips For A Good Fit

Place the Backpack on as you would a jacket by putting your arms through the shoulder straps.

· Next adjust and secure the waist strap ,It should not hang below the top of your waist.

· Adjust the shoulder straps until you can just feel a slight tug on the waist strap, making little adjustments on the shoulder straps with a full pack allows you to position the pack correctly so your upper back doesn't have the burden of all the weight.

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About the author

Steve Czuchra is an avid camper and outdoor enthusiast for 20+ years.

Author: Steve Czuchra


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