Backpacks are not just your excursion trip packaging essentials anymore. With time, backpacks have become more high-tech and ergonomic. As of today, you can get backpacks from load-haul designs for overhauls to super light slingers for biking.
When it comes to options in backpacks today, you can actually feel overwhelmed with the choices you have available.
Typically, when you’re looking for a backpack, the first thing you look for is the perfect fit, followed by the size and the features.
Naturally, if a backpack is not the right fit for you, then it can compromise your performance in whatever excursion you’re participating in. Let this guide help you understand how to choose the best backpack that can compliment your activities and performance.
THE PERFECT BACKPACK BASICS – FIT, SIZE, CAPACITY
FIT: It’s not just the ergonomics that you have to consider for the perfect fit, but your personal conditions as well. For instance, if you buy a highly ergonomic backpack that is ideal for someone who is 6 feet tall and you’re only 5 feet 8 inches tall; then it’s not as ergonomic for you, is it?
Generally speaking, most backpacks are measured from the torso length.
Hence, a person around the height of 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 2 inches can use a backpack that is ideal for 6 feet tall people. One way to get the best fit is to choose backpacks that feature linear size adjustments. This can be verified through the Fit guide of the manufacturer.
There are also branded backpacks with hip-belt sizes that can help you choose the desired fit based on your waist size. They are worth investing in if your waist is smaller or larger than the average person your height.
SIZE: Depending on the length of your trips, you should choose the size of the backpack accordingly. For instance, if your trips are generally short, then you can work with heavier backpacks that can accommodate all the things you need. However, for long hauls, you should look for smaller backpacks which can help you comfortably store only the basics that you need for the trip.
CAPACITY: The capacity is based on what you can and can’t accomplish with a pack. For specialized excursions, you will need additional capacity, and for winter trips, you will need larger backpacks for bulky clothing.
Use this capacity chart to choose the best backpack for your needs.
|20 – 50 liters||Day to overnight trips|
|50 – 60 liters||2 – 3 nights|
|60 – 80 liters||5 – 7 nights|
|80 liters +||Long haul trips|
NATURE OF ACTIVITY
There are many brands available that give backpackers the ultimate gear to leave the world behind and discover the wonders of Mother Nature. However, when you’re looking for the ideal pack, you should narrow your scope to the activities you participate in to make sure your backpack can be your ultimate partner wherever you go.
TREKKING: Climbing, hiking, and trekking require you to carry heavy gear that can be easily stored in small backpacks, regardless of the terrain. Ideally, you should look for 30 to 50 liter backpacks that are big enough to carry ropes, spikes, and other equipment, and small enough to be carried around easily. Many brands offer trekking built packs with ergonomic and streamlined designs for protection and performance. Also, great guide how to choose the best backpacks for hiking and camping available on independentwolf.com
TECHNICAL CLIMBING: Technical mountaineering in some of the most demanding terrains in the world like Alpines and the Himalayas, require large packs that can store all the required equipment. You will need at least an 80 liter + pack for base camping and climbing. However, for these conditions, it is advisable to have another smaller pack for mountain climbing where you can store all the necessities.
PADDLING: Paddling packs are not essentially designed for comfort but they are available in ergonomic fits. However, paddling packs don’t really have to be comfortable since they’re only used when you’re not paddling. Depending on the length of your trips, choose a paddling pack accordingly. Make sure that the vessel size is put into consideration. You can also make-do with smaller packs in some cases.
RUNNING: It is best to have the smallest, lightest, and most ergonomic bag for running. Thankfully, you have a plethora of choices in running packs so choose the one that best suits your needs. For instance, if you want to improve stability, choose smaller packs with hydration bladders. They generally have enough space to carry your safety gear and an extra pair of clothing. Look for the smallest capacity, typically 20 liters, in these packs.
CYCLING: Backpacks for cycling are generally available in varying designs. For instance, the most popular packs are ones with back ventilation to make your cycling trips more comfortable. Then there are shoulder-sling packs that are easy to carry around. Stick with a 20-liter pack and make sure that the ergonomics and back ventilation features are there for a comfortable biking experience.
BIKE TRAVELING: For people who bike to work or regularly use a bike as a common means of transport, you should invest in a quality pack that is not just comfortable, but offers great protection at the same time. There should be waterproof compartments in the pack for phones, laptops, and other electronics. At the same time, there should be a comfortable carry system to make sure you can conveniently travel with the pack just about anywhere you want. Ideally, look for a backpack that has 30 to 50-liter capacity.
MOUTAIN BIKING: Mountain biking is a completely different ball game but you’ll be glad to know that there are various brands available for mountain bikers as well. These include regular active packs, large multipurpose packs, and compact hydration packs. Ideally, you should look for a backpack that has a comfortable fit, is compact with a good hydration system, and has comprehensive back ventilation that aids you in higher altitudes.
SNOW: Backcountry activities have only increased with time as the routes have become more accessible. Nevertheless, backcountry has some of the most demanding terrains in the world, whether you ski, snowboard, or hike. Hence, having an adequate backpack becomes increasingly important as you will be out in the wild. In such demanding conditions, you need to have the basic equipment, safety gear, and extra food, water, and clothing.
As clothing will be generally heavier and your basic gear will also be large, you will need large packs that you can carry around as you go. For instance, backcountry ski packs are ideal for long hauls and may be able to carry avalanche probe and shovels, depending on the size of the model.
For skiers and snowboarders, an attachment system is also necessary, along with a helmet strap, and capacity to store ample amounts of food, water, clothing, and things you need during the trip. Packs with insulated pockets are great in keeping the hydration tubes from freezing.
There are specialized packs for winter use that feature air bags to protect the user from the event of an avalanche. Also known as the ABS technology, this helps you in surviving the toughest of times in difficult terrains around the world.
That being said, you will require proper safety equipment and training to use ABS bags. Ideally, your snow activity packs should have the capacity of more than 80 liters, otherwise, you’re only asking for trouble.
There are many things to consider when choosing a pack, other than the design and the purpose of use. For instance, packs of all sizes are available in one of three frame configurations:
INTERNAL FRAME: These come with generally large packs and accommodate heavy loads. When choosing such packs, consider the material used in framing as it will impact the durability. These are ideal for mountain and rock climbers and hikers.
EXTERNAL FRAME: A standard in most packs, external frames are not very rare. While they help in carrying heavy and odd shaped objects, they are more practical for hunters rather than extreme sports enthusiasts. Hence, they are not as widely available as internal frames.
NO FRAME: Generally, small packs don’t have frames and are ideal for carrying lighter loads. These types of packs are suitable for everyday biking, cycling, and running.
The construction material of the pack is something you should consider as there are various materials used in design and construction. The standard pack has plain and coated ripstop nylon, Cordura, and other fabrics for durability. Lightweight packs have high tech fabrics like Tyvec or Cuben for weight reduction. Generally speaking, if you buy a branded backpack, it will feature quality materials. However, the purpose buying a pack should always be considered for durability and long term use.
A pack is your ultimate companion for the adventurer in you. Invest in a good backpack and you will never have to deal with issues like low capacity, degrading materials, and other common issues. If you feel that it’s high time you get a new pack before you begin your trip; then make sure you consider all the factors mentioned here to become a smart buyer!