It doesn’t matter if you are going on a short hike or a long trek in the backcountry. The critical part of choosing the right backpack for your adventure is finding the right one. Your hike or walk will be much more successful if you have a pack that suits your needs and is comfortable. Before you start planning, it is essential to know how to choose a hiking backpack, what gear you will need, and your body shape. The biggest challenge when buying a backpack is choosing the right one for you. This guide will assist you in this decision-making process.
How to choose a hiking backpack: Things to be considered
How far is your hike?
A day? A weekend? One week? Consider the length of your hike before choose a hiking backpack. A pack of between 10-25 liters is sufficient for a day’s hike. This pack can hold your water bottle, picnic, jacket, and sunscreen for any weather condition. You should plan big for more than just a day hike. For multiday walks, you will need to pack between 20-35 liters of gear. We recommend that you have a minimum of 35 liters for adventures lasting more than 3 days. This is even if you are planning to stay in the accommodation. You will experience more unpredictable weather the longer you hike, so you will need to carry more gear, more clothes, and be tired. You will feel more secure if you have a heavier, more giant bag that can hold all of your equipment.
Learn more: How to pack for hiking
Where are you going?
Are you going to be camping in the wilderness, or will you be passing through towns? You will need to bring more material if you don’t have clean water.
What activities are you going to be participating in?
Are you going to be hiking only, or do you intend on climbing? You will need a backpack capable of carrying climbing gear if you are the latter. Once you have decided what activities you want to do, it is time to plan what equipment you will require (e.g., tent, sleeping bag, and ice pick, crampons, water filter, etc.). Your bag size will depend on how much equipment you have.
Different types of hiking backpack
These factors will affect the type of backpack you need for hiking. Below, I have categorized backpacks according to their capacity and size. It is essential to choose the correct hiking backpack. Why? Because the contents shouldn’t be moving while you are hiking. It’s easier to transport if the weight is evenly distributed throughout your body.
Check out: How to clean a hiking backpack
We are now riding the ultralight wave because light equals freedom, thanks to the growing popularity of light and fast hiking. The comfort level has not changed with the advancements in hiking equipment or the use of new materials. While there are many minimalist packs for trail running, XXL hiking backpacks are also just as lightweight. Read our comparison guide on daypack vs backpack.
Running and cycling backpacks
These bags are light and ideal for carrying small items. You can generally fit a water bladder, snacks, and a jacket inside, but not much else. You can use them for short walks. However, I tried it myself and found the straps uncomfortable.
When choosing a hiking backpack, you should consider the length, destination, and weather. The sport you are using the bag for will also be necessary. It all comes down to organization. You need to choose a backpack that suits you best. You can find various features in each backpack range, including elasticized side pockets, a place for your sunglasses, and waterproof stash points.
A 20-40 liter backpack is best for day hikes. It will hold all of your necessities, water, snacks, and camera equipment. These backpacks are lightweight and compact, so you won’t feel weighed down. You can also use the smaller end of these bags (20-25 Liters) as carry-on bags. I use the Wandrd Prvke21L backpack. This backpack is ideal for hiking with a lot of gear. It is comfortable, waterproof, and can hold everything I need.
Weekend trip backpack
You will need more space than a daypack if you are going on a weekend trip. You will still need to be light. There are many options for weekend backpacks. I personally prefer the Lowe Pro Whistler 500It is a. It is perfect for carrying all my camera gear and everything else I need to go on a weekend trip. It’s not the lightest backpack, but I don’t mind the extra weight.
Multiday backpacks for long hikes
These backpacks are ideal for longer trips (5 days or more), where you will be hiking for many days. These backpacks are more significant and can hold heavier loads. They evenly distribute weight throughout your body, so they can be carried for longer. These bags also come with more bells and whistles like additional straps, buckles, or handy pockets. I use after that Air contact Trekking Backpack (50 + 10 SL). This backpack has served me well for 8 years. It is lightweight, durable, comfortable, spacious, and can hold everything I need.
Multiday backpacks for long expeditions
Extraordinary capacity is available for backpacks with a volume greater than 70 Liters. These backpacks are ideal for people with longer/taller bodies or who need to travel in harsh environments. You should be able to carry the bag fully loaded if you have a large bag.
How to fit a hiking backpack
When choosing a backpack, it is essential to think about how the bag will fit your body. Great gear can be costly, but it won’t work well. This could lead to back and hip pain.
Padded hip belt
A properly fitting hip belt can make or break your hiking experience. The weight of your backpack should be evenly distributed to ensure that your shoulders don’t do all the work. Larger backpacks (50L or more) will have more padding and a more oversized hip belt. On the other hand, daypacks don’t always come with a hip belt. My daypack comes with a hip belt. It’s not very thick, but it provides extra support.
Padded shoulder straps
The backpack’s size will determine the type and thickness of the padding. Thicker padded straps offer greater comfort and support, while thicker ones provide more freedom.
The chest strap, also known as the sternum strap, attaches to the shoulder straps. The shoulder straps are held in place by the chest strap, which adds stability. This is my favorite accessory, and I recommend it along with a hip belt. It will be a great addition to your back, shoulders, hips, and hips.
Padded back panel
The back panel should be contoured, padded for maximum comfort. To avoid back pain, it should support your natural arch. An internal frame is a feature that makes the best backpacks. It helps to keep everything in its place and provides additional support.
Top and front-loading
A top-loading backpack lets you access all the contents from the top, while a front-loading pack only allows you to access the contents from the front. You will need both front and top loading for larger backpacks (50L or more). Accessing your items will be easier.
Although most backpacks aren’t waterproof, they are made from water-resistant materials and include a rain cover. These two features are essential if you’re ever caught in a torrential rainstorm, as I have been.
Load lifting straps
These adjusted straps link the shoulder straps to the top of the back frame. These straps can be used for adjusting the distance between the backpack and your body. This is an important feature to prevent a heavy pack from pulling away.
The average cost of a hiking backpack
There are many options available, so once you have narrowed down your requirements, you can begin to look at backpack brands. You get what you pay for, as with all travel and hiking gear. Store brands are usually cheaper than names like North Face, Osprey Gregory, Deuter, and Deuter. You can expect to spend between 250-300 USD for a high-quality backpack that will last many years. My Deuter backpack cost 250 USD and has been with me for eight years. Although the price will be lower than Deuter backpacks from stores, they will still be high quality. Extra features you must notice here is a list with additional features that you may find helpful.
Features you must notice while choosing
Here is a list of additional features that you may find helpful.
Hydration reservoir: Multiday backpacks for hiking have an interior sleeve with a hook to attach a water bladder. Although it’s not necessary, it can prove very helpful for long treks.
Sleeping bag compartment: This is the bottom compartment of a backpack. Although it isn’t essential, it can be beneficial in organizing your gear.
Compression straps These straps reduce the size of your backpack. These straps also stop items from moving.
External pockets: You will have quick access to your gear with a hip belt pocket, front stash pockets, and side pockets.
A ventilation system: A pack with a suspended mesh system is what I recommend. This reduces sweat buildup and provides better ventilation on warm- and cold-weather hikes.
Walking pole/ice ax loops: Can hold your walking sticks and/or ice-axes.
Lid: For easy access, the cover often has a top pocket. This is a great accessory.
Protection: Bags that weigh more than 20-30L must be checked at airports. Protect your bag with a cover that has lockable zippers. This is also useful for long, long-distance bus trips where your bag may be placed on the top or underneath the bus.
Additional accessory straps Extra straps are required if you plan to carry a tent or sleeping mat.
You should always test what works best for you. You can test out a variety of bags in a shop. Check how the bag feels on your hips and shoulders. It won’t be as comfortable on a hike if it is uncomfortable in the store. Although choose a hiking backpack is not an easy task, it will be worth the effort.