Whether you’re planning on taking up hiking as a serious pastime, or are gearing up for some overseas travel that will include a bit of trekking, it is vital to ensure you start off on the right foot by selecting gear that’s suited to your needs and body type. If you just go with whatever happens to be on special in the shop, you run the risk of killing your adventure before it starts by setting yourself up to be uncomfortable, unsatisfied with the pack’s features, or, if you’re really unlucky, both!
If you select the ideal hiking backpack, on the other hand, it will be like your silent best friend on every trek. It will bolster your love for the activity and will have your back, quite literally, through even the toughest of environments. Such a sturdy and reliable ally does not come cheap, so it’s worth doing the research to ensure you make the right choice the first time around. To help you out, we’ve broken down the selection process into 3 key areas: size, features, and fit. Figure out exactly what you need in each of these 3 areas and you will arrive at your perfect hiking backpack. To help you do so, we’ve broken down all the steps into a quick and easy-to-follow guide.
Size: Determined by How Long You’ll be Trekking for
When choosing what size pack to get, your main determining factor is how long your hikes are going to be. Use the handy guide below to select the right size for you:
30-50 liter packs: The smallest size range, these bags are perfect for trips of 1-3 nights. If you’re packing modern, lightweight camping gear, you’ll be able to fit everything you need in one of these little packs without weighing yourself down unnecessarily. If you’re in colder climates or are regularly going to be pushing for 3-day hikes, however, you may want to consider the next size up.
50-80 liter packs: These bags will take care of your trekking needs for 3-5 nights, so long as the weather isn’t too cold. These mid-range bags tend to be most popular among the backpacking crowd. If you’re in the market for your first-ever backpack, this is most likely the range for you.
70+ liter packs: These are essential for treks of 5 nights or more, for colder climates, and for those who are intent on hauling some serious gear. They’re also a great choice for families who need gear for kids who can’t be expected to carry it themselves!
Features: Determined by What Essentials You Need to Bring Along
With so many brands to choose from, each one offering unique features designed to carve out its own space in the market, there has never been a better time to find that one bag that feels like it was designed especially for you. To figure out what to look for, think about where you’ll be going and what items are non-negotiable for you, and make a list.
A few questions to get you started: are you going to be in a tropical or cold climate? Will you need rain covers or ventilation? What about an inbuilt hydration reservoir? Do you want an internal or external frame? How many pockets would you like? What kind of access points suit you best?
Pack Fit: Determined by Your Body Type
Even the heaviest pack can be comfortable to carry if you’ve taken the time to get one that fits you right. On the flip side, even the lightest pack can be a nightmare if it’s not a good fit for your body. To get this essential step right, the areas you need to look at are the way the bag fits with your torso length, and whether it comfortably hugs your hips.
For this step, it really is best to visit a brick-and-mortar store rather than browsing online. You will find packs with the same capacity that have varying sizes in terms of torso length and waist size. Some packs even have sizes and features designed specifically with women and youth in mind. Be sure to test out all the options before making your investment.