I am a...
Man
Woman

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I need a backpack for...
Day hikes
1 - 3 nights
4+ nights

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What type of terrain do you usually go hiking in?
Mostly flat terrain
Mostly uneven terrain

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Do you need a backpack with a hydration reservoir?
Yes
No

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How to choose a backpack

Choosing the right backpack suited for you is one of the most important decision you have to make before heading out on your trip. Picking one that does not fit you or your body type might make your trip uncomfortable and in worst case, damage your back or shoulders.

But what backpack do you choose? What do you look for before purchasing one? Let’s delve deeper into this topic to help you out.

As always, if you want to make this decision simpler, just follow out step-by-step guide on the top of the page. It will guide you directly to a suitable backpack for you.

Choosing the volume of your backpack

This comes down to how long of a hike you plan on going on. If you only plan on going on day trips of use it for school, then you obviously don’t need much volume. If you plan on going on longer hiking trips, you should go for at least 40+ liters or 2441 cubic inches. This depends of course how much gear you will be carrying, like a tent or sleeping bag will take up a lot of room.

Down below you will find a chart to help you out.

Day hiking 15 – 30 liters (610 – 1831 cubic inches)

1 – 2 nights 30 – 50 liters (1831 – 3051 cubic inches)

3 – 5 nights 40 – 60 liters (2441 – 3661 cubic inches)

5+ nights 50 – 70+ liters (3051 – 4272 cubic inches)

Size of the backpack is also dependant on what time of year you’re planning on hiking. Winter hikes requires much more gear then a summer hike. Also, some people are minimalist when it comes to hiking, and don’t need a lot of gear.

How to buy a backpack that fits your body

This is a crucial part of buying a backpack. Sizes are not measured in body size but rather torso size. To find out your torso size do this:

Find the C7 vertebra, the bone that sticks out from the top of your spine, level to your shoulders. After that, find your iliac crest which is on top of your hips shelf. Reach behind your back, or get someone to help you measure the distance from your C7 vertebra to the same level as your iliac crest.

This is important for fitting the backpack correctly on your body to avoid any uncomfortable pain in your back because the length from the shoulder straps to the hip straps needs to be the right length.

What are frames?

Backpacks comes with three different types of frames. Let’s go through all of them to help you understand the differences.

Internal-frame: As the name suggests, these have a frame on the inside of the backpack. They help the hiker be more stable on uneven terrain and might have some technology to more more of the weight to your hips. These types tends to hug your back more than other types.

External-frame: These is more suitable for people who carry uneven load. They have good ventilation and a lot of options for gear management.

Frameless: Mostly used for day trips or can also be used for carry-on luggage. There is no frame which makes it lighter, but is not suitable for long hiking trips.

Compartments

Most backpacks with larger volume offers a wide range of compartments and pockets. There is the main compartment which holds most of your stuff, like clothes, sleeping bag and other gear. Some backpacks also have an own compartment for sleeping bags.

The top lid holds all the things you easily need to reach and might want to take out multiple times during your hike. It also protect your main storage room from rain.

There are also pockets or compartments on the side or front. Some also have a room on the hip belt which can be used to store smaller things like wallet or snacks.

Other questions to ask yourself

Will I use my backpack as carry-on luggage on flights? If so then you need a smaller one, preferable without a frame. The max weight limit and dimensions allowed on airplanes varies across airlines, so there is no concrete answer.

Do I need to to be water-resistant? There is nothing worse than getting caught in the rain when out hiking, and when you finally reach your stop you discover that everything in your backpack is soaking wet. However, you could also buy a rain cover. So a water-resistant backpack is not a must.

Do I need a hydration reservoir? It is fairly common for bigger backpacks to have a space for this, but the hydration flask is for the most part sold separately.