If you want to explore and see great heights, then backpacking is the way to go. You can be mobile while still having supplies to keep you safe. The best backpackers know that the gear makes the trip. If you choose wrong, you could end up disappointed. That is why you have to be very selective when choosing the right backpack.

Choosing your backpack is really a personal process. Everyone is different, so take some time to think about what you need and what you will be doing on your hike. Consider every aspect, from the weight of the pack to how many days you plan to be gone. Think about what you will carry and how you want the backpack to fit. You cannot just pick up any old pack and head out. You need to consider several important factors to ensure you choose the best hiking backpack to meet your needs.

We offer some great information below that will help you sift through the options and find your best hiking backpack. We provide advice on finding a good fit and give you some background on where to shop. We also go over some features to look for and explain how to know what size and type of backpack will work best for your needs. This information should help you to figure out what backpack to buy and where to buy it.

 Places To Shop

The first thing you should realize about shopping for a backpack is that you are going to have to spend some money to get a good one. Solid gear is not cheap. Even if you buy used, it will still cost some money. However, if you are serious about backpacking, it is a good idea to buy new because then you know you are getting good quality without any concerns about failure or other issues that can come when buying second hand. When it comes to buying outdoor equipment, saving money should not be high on the list of considerations. Quality should reign above all else.

With that in mind, you also need to look for trusted brands. You don't want a cheaply made backpack. The last thing you need is to end up in the middle of a hike and have a strap break or something else go wrong with the pack. For that reason, focus on reliable brands that users say will hold up and last. If you are going to spend some money for a good backpack, at least make sure it comes from a brand that has a good reputation for rugged, quality products that will stand up to the rigors of a hike.

The best places to shop would be stores that focus on sporting goods or outdoors products. These places will carry the best backpacks because they are focused on providing goods to serious hikers. They understand the need for quality and will provide top picks. You are most likely to find what you need there, and you will not have to compromise when you shop at one of these retailers. Here's a look at some of the retailers we suggest you check out:

  • Cabela's
  • The Clymb
  • Rock/Creek Outfitters
  • Dick's Sporting Goods
  • Sierra Trading Post

Size To Ponder

As you begin to check out your backpack options, the first thing you need to think about is the size and style of the pack. The main feature to look at is the capacity. You want to be sure it will hold everything you need it to, and how much you need it to hold is going to depend on the type of trip you have planned. Also, keep in mind the size plays into how heavy the pack is, so always keep your physical capabilities in mind, too.

different backpack sizes

Most serious backpacking will include at least one overnight. If you are going on a short trip where you won't be gone more than three nights, then a smaller pack will work. Look for one that holds 30-50 liters. You will have to pack light, but you also won't be weighed down by a lot of extra bulk, which is a good thing if you are concerned about fatigue.

If you are heading out on a slightly longer trip, something up to five nights, then go for a capacity of about 50 to 80 liters. This is good for lighter packing of longer trips. If you are hiking during warmer months in warmer areas, this size pack should be good to help you make it five nights with all the supplies you need.

If you are going on longer trips or you have bulky gear, then you should look for at least 70 liters capacity. This is going to hold a lot of camping equipment. It will allow you to focus more on packing everything you must have instead of being concerned over limited space and weight. You should be able to make this work for family hiking or if you are carrying gear for someone else, too.

Keep in mind that you will find backpacks of all sizes. It may be tempting to just get the biggest one, but what you don't need is a huge pack with a lot of empty space because then you will be hauling around a heavy pack for no reason. Always think about your plans and what you will be doing on your trips. Also, when buying your gear, always lean towards lighter weight items. You don't want the bulk of heavy gear weighing you down and taking up precious space in your pack. This will also allow you to keep the size of your pack reasonable. Understand that hiking in winter or colder climates means bigger gear. So, while you may only be gone a couple of days on your hike, you may need a bigger pack than those based on the guidelines above.

Features To Seek

The features of a pack will become very important to you as you get further into backpacking. You will find that some features can really make things easier for you. Other features of the backpack are going to be important to your comfort and your ability to wear the pack correctly.

features of a hiking backpack

One of the first things to understand is the frame type of the backpack. The frame should be lightweight. You don't want extra bulk from the frame if you can avoid it. The frame provides stability for your pack and helps aid you in carrying the pack, so it is an important feature. Most of the backpacks you will find have internal frames. They help keep you balanced and ensure the load weight is on your hips, making it easier for your body to carry. External frames are not as popular. They do help for really heavy or awkward loads because they allow additional organization options.

Ventilation is another feature to think about. You need adequate ventilation to prevent issues with your gear. Some packs use mesh panels or built in vents to provide the right ventilation.

You also have to think about loading and unloading items, and how the pack is built for access. Checkout the way you would load it. Some packs open at the top while others may have a panel that opens on the front. Some may have a combination of loading options. Consider your gear and how easily it would be to load the pack based on the access points.

Other features include padding, pockets and organizational aspects of the pack. You have to really focus on usability to ensure the pack will meet your needs when considering features.

Fit To Consider

Finally, you have to be sure the fit of your backpack is right. You should measure fit on your torso length. You need the pack to fit your body, so the weight is comfortable to carry. It should fit snug on your hips where the weight should fall because that is your strongest point. You will need to rely on the manufacturer's details to learn about how the pack should fit, but you also need to try the pack on. Make sure you can adjust it for a snug fit. The straps need to fit well around your waist and tight on the hips. Look for packs with adjustable straps to help ensure you can customize it to your body shape.

hikers backpack

Take time to find the right fit. This is probably the single most important aspect of finding the right backpack. If you do not get a good fit, you will regret it later. You will have a hard time carrying the pack and probably suffer from muscle strain. You may be unable to complete a trip or end up really harming your body by using a pack that doesn't fit right.


backpack on mountain top

The bottom line when it comes to buying a backpack is that you need to buy carefully. You have to focus on quality and buy from a specialty store that will offer you the best selection and options. You should focus on your requirements and ensure the pack fits right. If you take the process seriously, then you should not have any trouble finding the best hiking backpack to fit your needs.

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