Backpack Tips | How to choose a Backpack for Traveling or Hiking

Last Updated on May 20, 2021

how to choose a backpackSelecting the right backpack is important because you are going to be with this backpack for a long time.  You are considering investing money for your backpack because you love backpacking. You need to spend some money for a really good pack. But if you don’t know how to choose a backpack then it’s going to waste your money.

A backpack is the first thing you need for your backpacking and airline travel. Selecting the right pack is very critical especially if you are a first-time buyer. So you really want something that is durable, affordable and comfortable. The right backpack should not only fit your body it should also be able to carry an assortment of necessary equipment you will need on your next adventure.

With the wide range of packs that are available on the market, it can sometimes be a little challenging to find on that’s just right for you. We are going to talk about 9 key factors to take into account. Hope this 9 tips will help you to buy a quality backpack for your next outdoor adventure.

tips to buy a backpack

Backpack volume according to your trip length

Trip length will determine how much cargo space you will need in your pack. If you are planning a day excursion, then you don’t need a large expedition pack just to carry a granola bar, water bottle and rain jacket. You will do really well with the day pack with a capacity around 2200 cubic inches or less or about thirty-six liters.

For extended weekend getaways, something in the two to three days range a pack with a capacity of 2200 to 4000 cubic inches or 36 to 65 liters is large enough for you to pack the essentials with a little extra room for some personal comfort items. If you are heading the road or the backcountry for an extended period like a week or more, then a pack with the capacity of 4000 cubic inches or 65 liters will make carrying the extra load a lot more safe and comfortable.

Frame design

You will get two types of backpack

  1. Internal frame backpack
  2. External frame backpack
Internal Frame Backpack

Internal frame backpacks are dominating the market making the traditional external frame models nearly obsolete. Internal frame packs keep load stable and significantly increase your stability on uneven terrain by keeping the pressure near to your natural center of gravity. A narrow profile allows the arms sewing freely reduces pack snag when you are pushing through brush.

Some packs are equipped with removable stays. Once they are removed, these states can actually bend to fit your back for a custom fit. External frame packs have many points to lash extra gear to the frame. Packs with internal frames which we see mostly on the market are built to store your gear in a variety of zipper pouches and stand first to protect them from the element and they are actually inside. That’s another advantage over external frame packs. Because internal frame backpack gets closer to the back, they can trap heat from your body and can get really uncomfortable for that reason.

With the external frame pack, some of the advantages are that it will carry a heavy load, it stands by itself, holds its shape whether it’s empty or full, easy to pack things on outside

Some of the drawbacks when you are in a close situation with rock or brush this tend to be harder to maneuver through those kinds of areas. It has a price advantage.

external frame
External Frame Backpack

The backpack industry is trending towards the internal frame pack. They are little more expensive. It’s going to maneuver through areas a lot easier. It’s much more comfortable because it keeps the weight closer to you, closer your center line.

It requires more careful packing because you can not hang a lot of stuff outside of this backpack. This is the direction that the industry is trending toward and

Some manufacturer doesn’t provide a ventilation system that actually incorporates into the pack that create an air space between your back and pack to allow more air flow and reduce heat from building up. This is an important design consideration particularly if you plan most of your hiking in a warmer climate.

Top loading vs front loading

Top loading or front loading. What you will choose, depend on your travel. In top loading backpack, all the items are packed through one porthole. One negative point of top loading backpack is you will get   all the item at the bottom. You will see this style for most of the internal frame backpack. It helps to pack your equipment against your body. Top loading system is applied for most of the long distance backpack.

In front loading backpack you will get easier access to your equipment. These are the most familiar pack. You can get many compartments which allow you to organize your backpack. Front loading backpack is not suitable for long hiking as they do not sit comfortably.

Pros of front loading:

  • You can easily access to your gear. Packing and unpacking are very easy.
  • Front loading backpack is more secure. Most of the front loading backpack use zipper closure instated of a drawstring.
  • Top loading backpack is narrower and taller. Front loading backpack is smaller but wider from side to side. As a result, weight distribution is more better than top loading.

Cons of Front loading:

  • Front loading backpack has more weight where top loading backpack is made with light weight material.
  • Zipper may break
  • When front loading backpack is open all the way, there is not much structure to hold everything
  • So which one you will buy? If you are a hiker and planning for long treks then go for top loading backpack, Otherwise, choose a front loading backpack.

Ultralight or traditional?

Another popular category of packs are the ultra-lights. Ultralight pack is one that specializes in one thing being lightweight. Most of the ultralight backpacks are meant to carry at most 25 pounds of weight with a cargo space between 35 and 55 liters. Ultralight packs usually have no frame which requires you to pack your gear with care. The load itself become its frame having a pack sheet which is a piece of formed plastic that goes inside the pack helps cut down on something poking you throw the back if you load your pack improperly.   Ultralight packs are versatile and can be used for about backpacking and day hikes. If you are an experienced hiker and want to reduce weight from your backpack, then this might be a right choice for you.

Select a backpack according to your torso length

A good backpacking pack should be comfortable and able to transfer weight from your shoulders to your hips when measuring yourself for a properly fitting pack you will need to take a torso measurement. The industry standard for measuring torso length is to measure the distance between your c7 vertebrae to the iliac crest.

To locate c7 vertebrae simply feel the back of your neck and feel for the most prominent bone right at the base. To identify iliac crest, you need to find the top of your pelvis. Just turn around essentially you have your hands right on the top of your hips. Your thumbs are going to point where the base measurement is going to be taken. The measurement will be taken from your vertebrae down to this point in your back at iliac crest. Having someone help you is definitely the best way to get the most accurate measurement. You can refer to the manufacturer’s to figure out what size of the pack is going to fit you best.

Adjustment of hip belt, shoulder harness, sternum strap

A lot of manufacturers offer interchangeable hip belts. So it’s  helpful to know your waist measurements. Your hips should support the majority of the pack weight for maximum comfort. To find your size take a flexible measuring tape and wrap it around the high of your hips where you feel your iliac crest those two protruding bones on the front of your hips. Hip belt can accommodate a wide range of hip sizes in the standard from the mid 20 to the mid 40. Most people don’t need to switch out hip belts but if you have an exceptionally narrow or wide waist having that option is vital especially for long term to choose a backpack

Good pack design allows you to do small adjustments with the shoulder harness, hip belt, the sternum strap and load lifter to position the weight.

A backpack can fit you better if it has an adjustable shoulder harness. That’s great if you have an in between torso length not quite small almost a larger. Load lifter straps are stitched to the top of the shoulders straps connecting the top of the pack frame kept snug prevent the upper portion of the pack pulling away from your body. That cause the pack to sag on your lumber region.      Stabilizer straps found on the side of the hip belt. It connects the belt the lower region of the backpack keeping it close to your body for added balance and the sternum strap is the chest high strap that allows you to connect your shoulder straps which also increase stability and prevent the backpack from shifting roughly when you are traveling over uneven terrain.

Women-specific backpacks are designed to conform to the female frame torso dimension are generally shorter and narrower than men’s packs and the hip belts and shoulder straps are contoured with the female form. Women’s backpack with their small frame sizes often works well for young backpackers of either gender as well.

Some packs are made with the pivoting hip belt and shoulder harness that extend your range of motion. This help to fit a variety of different people’s bone structures and natural body movements.

Check attachment point

You cannot fit everything inside of your backpack. You need to attach something outside of your backpack and youhow to choose a backpack need attachment point for that. If you go for hiking or climbing in a mountain you need to attach ice ax, daisy chain or crampon patches. Most backpacks especially winter packs or backpacking overnight packs come with ice ax loops at the base of the packs. You need a shovel pocket to hold a snow shovel. You need to attach crampon and snowshoes. Sometimes you can also stash wet things here. Remember all these extra gear will increase the weight of your backpack.

Hydration compatibility

You will need to stay hydrated and having a reservoir compatible pack will allow you to drink water without stopping or removing your pack. You can choose a pack with an interior sleeve. This can hold a hydration bladder.


Getting a fully waterproof backpack is rare since all the backpack needs a lot of stitching. That make hole in the top. So choose a sturdy and durable fabric that offers some water resistance. Some backpacks are coated with water repellent material.   Rain cover is another great essential. They are lightweight waterproof covers that can be placed over your bag if you get caught in bad weather. Pack covers are not standard issue with the most backpack so be sure to check to see if one is included in your pack. Otherwise, check the manufacturer website for one that’s specially designed for your new pack.

Final note

Don’t pick a backpack and try to fit all of your gear into it. Start with the gear you need to carry with you and then choose a backpack. You cannot use the same backpack for hiking and day travel. After considering all these things like capacity, fitting, style and trip length you will be able to buy a pack that is value priced. Finally you will want to look for a pack that has features that fit your specific needs and the activities you like to pursue. This can be anything from trekking pole loops, multiple attachment points, side mesh pockets, an internal hydration sleeve, organizational capabilities, pretty much anything that makes your time out on the trail as enjoyable as possible.

Hope you found all this information helpful when it comes time to choose your next backpack. Happy shopping!!!

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap