There's more to buying a pack than picking one that looks good. You need to think about comfort, design, what you'll use the pack for, who will wear it an
d how much gear you need to bring.
Although there are three basic styles of backpack, there is a lot of variation within each category. From brand and price, to utility, durability, size and stability – there’s literally hundreds of packs to choose from.
We've put together this buying guide to help you know what to look for in a backpack and have reviewed five of the best packs on the market. Make sure you have the best hiking backpack for your needs next time you hit the trail.
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The kind of hiking backpack that will work best for you depends in part on how long of a backpacking trip you're going on. Packs come in three basic types:
We've found that daypacks are typically the most basic type of backpack. They hold the least and have a soft shape. According to Backpacker, a quality daypack will have a hip belt to help hold the bag steady and to keep it from smacking you in the back as you hike.
Internal frame backpacks are sometimes called the cooler cousin of external backpacks. Internal frames have become more popular in recent years, even though they aren't always the best pick and also have their own specific drawbacks.
With an internal frame bag, the weight sits lower on your back. That might create some issues with posture. You're more likely to lean forward, crushed by the weight of your bag. But, an internal frame does away with the feeling of tipsiness and instability associated with an external frame.
Internal frame backpacks sit closer to your body and tend to be narrower than their external frame cousins. Generally, they’re a better pick for activities that might require more movements on your part, such as skiing or climbing.
External frames, on the other hand, are the OG of the backpacking world. The first civilian use external frame backpacks date back to the 1950s. You can easily recognize an external frame backpack by the visible metal (usually aluminum) frame and the multiple pockets and compartments that are part of the bag.
Unlike their younger cousins, external frame bags keep the weight off of your back. The backpack is usually not in direct contact with your back, which reduces sweat. The distance also makes people a bit more wobbly when wearing the backpack. Since the bag pulls away from your back, you feel like you're likely to topple over, at least the first few times you wear it.
Your posture is typically better when you wear an external frame backpack since you don't have the full weight of the bag on your back. The lack of stability associated with external frame bags makes them a better pick for trail hiking or walking, rather than for activities that require a lot of movement. Check out the ALPS OutdoorZ Commander for a sleek and modern take on the external frame backpack.
We recommend being like Goldilocks when it comes to choosing your backpack's capacity or volume. If you pick a bag that's too small, you won't be able to bring everything you need and might find yourself short on food, water or first aid supplies.
On the other hand, if you pick a bag that's too large, you might feel compelled to fill it up. Next thing you know, you've got 100 pounds on your back, and you're barely able to trudge down the block, let alone complete a day long hike.
Backpack capacity depends in large part on the length of your trip. The shorter your trip, the less stuff you need, and the smaller your bag should be.
How a backpack fits you plays a significant role in determining how comfortable you are on the hike. A properly fitting backpack also reduces the risk of injury.
To figure out what size backpack you'll need, you'll want to measure yourself before buying. You can either do it yourself with the help of a friend or visit a camping store and have a sales associate help you out.
Your torso length and the size of your waist are what determine the right size backpack for you. If you're going to measure your torso, stand up straight and tip your chin forward. If you feel at the base of your neck, you should feel a vertebra popping out.
That vertebra is your starting point. Next, find the top of your hipbone, also known as the iliac crest. Have your friend stretch the measuring tape between the vertebra at the base of your neck and the top of your pelvis. If you're like the average adult, your torso should be between 16 and 22 inches long.
When choosing a bag, look for one that has a torso length that matches your measurement. You might also find a backpack with an adjustable torso, meaning you can change the distance between the shoulder straps and hip belt.
Your hips should support the majority of your backpack's weight, to help you avoid injury and discomfort. That means you need to choose a bag with a hip belt that fits snugly around your hips. Most bags that have a hip belt have on that is adjustable, which should fit most people. The only exception is if you have tiny hips, you might need to find a smaller pack or one with a custom fit hip belt.
Once you've got the style, capacity, and size down, it's time to consider special features. What features your backpack has depends on how you plan on using it and when you plan on hiking. Some standard features include:
Without further ado, let’s dive into our roundup.
The Osprey Aether 70-Litre Backpack is a good pick if you're headed out on a multi-day hike or if you're going for a weekend hike in the dead of winter and will need to carry more warm gear. The pack has plenty of pockets, including a front pocket with a stretch-woven panel and dual-access side pockets, so you can quickly reach necessities while on your hike.
It also has loops that let you clip on a small daypack or attach trekking poles, for those times when the trail gets a little rough. It also has a 3-litre hydration reservoir, for easy access to much needed drinking water.
The backpack has an internal frame made from a LightWire alloy. The metal alloy is lightweight, and the design of the frame allows it to distribute weight evenly, helping you to avoid fatigue and to feel stable while on your feet.
The top of the backpack detaches from the rest and can double as a daypack when you're going out on shorter excursions. The pack isn't waterproof, but you have the option of purchasing a separate rain cover to protect it from downpours.
The TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack is made for the weekend warrior. It has a capacity of 55 liters, meaning it's ideal for two-night or three-night trips.
The internal frame backpack features an adjustable torso, which can accommodate people of a range of heights, including smaller women and teenagers. It also has a fully adjustable hip belt The bag's flexibility and smaller capacity make it an ideal backpack for first-time hikers.
Thanks to its padded shoulder straps and lumbar foam pad, the backpack is comfortable, even for longer trips with ample gear. Its internal frame allows the pack to distribute weight evenly across your back.
Another highlight of the backpack is the included rain fly, which protects against the elements. The rainfly is tucked away into the pack, but easy to get to when it starts raining.
The High Sierra Titan 55 Frame Pack is ideal if you're on the smaller size. If you have a long torso, you're likely to find the High Sierra backpack to be too small for your frame.
The pack has a capacity of 55 liters, making it suitable for short hikes (two or three days). Its smaller size also means that it meets the requirements for carry-on luggage for many airlines, so you can use the bag for more than just hiking.
You'll find lots of places to stash your stuff in the pack, as it has multiple front and side pockets, as well as a top load main compartment and a divided sleeping bag compartment. It also has gussets on the side for holding camping gear and ropes.
When it comes to comfort, the backpack's internal frame helps to distribute weight evenly while mesh airflow channels prevent the pack from soaking up your sweat.
Although the backpack includes a rain flap to protect against the elements, there have been complaints that the rain cover tears easily. The pack's fabric and construction also seem to be less durable than others on the market, making this pack seem more appropriate for gentle hikes and airplane travel than for a few days roughing it in the wilderness.
If you're a big and tall guy, the Arcteryx Altra 65 Pack might be just right for you. It's larger than other options and might be too large for women or guys who have short torsos.
The pack has a capacity of 65 liters, which is a good size for a long weekend hike or hikes when you're carrying the load for multiple people. For example, if you're a parent taking your kids out on a hike, this might be the ideal backpack for you.
The 65 Pack leans away from your back, providing ample ventilation and minimizing the risk of you ending up with a sweaty back. It also includes a rotating load transfer disc that helps ensure the weight of the pack is on the hips, not your shoulders or back.
Guys, here's another backpack designed with you in mind. The Osprey Men's Atmos 65 AG Backpack comes in three sizes (small, medium and large). Depending on the size, the pack is ideal for guys with torsos ranging from 16 inches to 23 inches.
One prominent feature of the Atmos AG 65 is the Anti-Gravity suspension system, which helps evenly distribute the weight to improve comfort. The suspension system also features a lightweight mesh, which improves ventilation. The torso length is adjustable, as is the hip belt, allowing you to get the perfect fit.
The backpack has some storage options, including front panel pockets, which are ideal for those items you need to grab quickly. It also has a floating top lid, which extends the storage capacity of the 65-liter bag, and attachments on the side for trekking poles.
Which backpack should you buy? We recommend the Osprey Aether 70-Litre Backpack as the best hiking backpack for 2018. Osprey are renowned for making some of the most versatile, durable and comfortable backpacks on the market; and the Aether epitomizes this with its sleek design, fit range and weight distribution.
Furthermore, its 70-litre capacity means it's ideal for longer treks, winter hikes, and shorter weekend trips, making it a perfect all-rounder no matter what your backpacking needs may be. =ZIP=