The beauty of backpacking is that it allows us to get out of our messy urban lifestyle and enjoy the simplicity and minimalism of life, even if it’s just for a few days. It is not only the stellar views and breath of fresh air that is liberating but also the preparation building up to the trip.
Backpacking forces us to reflect and consider what we truly need rather than what we want. In a way, it instills minimalism in us especially when cutting out our need for consumer goods. After all, we can’t fit everything we want into our backpacks.
Well, when picking a backpack there are many things to consider, from the countless brands and models to choose from with varying degrees of durability, price, and accessibility.
Whether you’re a new backpacker suiting up for your first journey, a victim of a midlife crisis going through your zen-minimalist-nomad phase, it’s essential to have a backpack that works for you. That’s why in this guide, we’ve broken down the different types, styles, and factors to help you find the best hiking backpacks.
Types Of Backpacking
Having the right type of pack to suit your backpacking style is extremely important. Some backpacks have more tools and compartments for your use, while others are lighter and more comfortable. There is ‘no one size fits all’ when it comes to backpacking packs, what’s important is how it fits you.
If the purpose of your trip is to take a breather from your hectic lifestyle, to relax and enjoy rather than hiking long distances at a fast pace, you might want a backpack with more compartments to carry more things.
Choosing such backpacks would allow you to carry novelty items and extra utilities –– such as a deck of cards, flask, pillow, camera gear, or even a kite! If you don’t mind carrying a little more weight for a more comfortable experience, these are the type of backpacks you might want to consider. After all, why rush through the trip when you can take your time and enjoy the whole experience more organically!
If that’s the case, you’d want backpacking packs as they can carry more weight (30 – 50 pounds), which allows you to have a long and relaxing journey. With more compartments and utilities on the bag, it is friendlier for a more comfortable trip. Such packs are extremely flexible in terms of adjustments to maximize comfort regardless of the pack’s weight.
Go Fast And Light
However, If you are slightly experienced and you’re looking to challenge yourself by clocking in longer distances at a faster pace, you’d want backpacks that have less carrying capacity and are lighter.
Introducing the ultralight packs which are perfect for you challengers. It is much lighter and compact with a dynamic and lightweight build. Ultralight packs mostly have a 40 to 45-liter capacity so this is the chance to practice that minimalistic philosophy that Buddha preaches so much about. Do note that since ultralight packs are made to be efficient and thin, it is not as long-lasting as backpacking packs.
Unique backpacks include packs specially made for women, alpine mountaineering, hunting, and the list goes on. Such packs have paid more attention to its niche in its manufacturing and would make whatever type of journey, much less problematic.
Knowing Your Pack Anatomy
Before spending money on a backpack, it’s important to understand how each part works as it’ll help you better handle problems that may arise in your trip better. The last thing you’d want is to waste time figuring out how to adjust your load lifters!
Load Lifter Straps
Load lifter straps are the straps that connect the pack frame to your shoulder straps at approximately a 45 degrees angle. It helps to stabilize the backpack, allowing you to move with ease without it tilting or shaking. Be sure to adjust your load lifters every time you put on a bag as it could help to prevent shoulder aches and fatigue.
Sternum straps are the two loose buckles hanging from your shoulder straps. When you buckle the sternum straps, the backpack would be anchored to your body better. This would make trekking much less tiring, I mean who wants to hike several miles with a shaky backpack? The sternum straps are also adjustable, thus accommodating different chest sizes.
Compression straps go along the sides of the backpack and help to secure the pack better, especially when it is full or bulky. Even when it isn’t, these straps tighten the backpack. At least now you won’t look like a traveling hobo when your backpack isn’t full.
Hipbelt stabilizers are straps that wrap around your waist, increasing stability by bringing some weight off your shoulders.
Modern backpacks usually contain an internal frame that keeps the packs closer to our body, thus providing better stability.
These are vertical aluminum strips that are inserted into long pockets inside a backpack and behind your back. Most backpacks that use aluminum stays will use one central stay or two side-by-side stays. They’re usually pre-shaped to match the curve of your back although they can be bent further to fit your body shape.
Framesheets are semi-rigid plastic and foam sheets used to stiffen a pack’s back for a light load transfer of pack weight to the hip belt and to retain a predetermined pack shape so it doesn’t start sagging like a middle-aged woman.
These metal rods are bent which creates a gap between your bag and back, which promotes good ventilation and extra protection. These sturdy rods contain horizontal anchor points both on the bottom and top of the frame, along with a cross-bar for holding the shoulder straps down. Moreover, these frames offer excellent load transfer as the load lifters and hip belts can be attached to both ends of the frame.
Sizing Up A Backpack
Everyone has different body types, hence, it’s crucial to get a backpack that is tailor-made to your own body. If you get a backpack that’s either too large or too small, the weight will be distributed unevenly, which might cause you to stumble around all day.
Your chest size is important when choosing the size of your backpack. Small-sized backpacks should be suitable for a 16 to 19-inch chest, medium-sized backpacks should be around 18 to 21 inches and large-sized backpacks should be around 20 to 23 inches. This range varies with different brands of backpacks so don’t forget to check the specifications before buying!
Shoulder To Shoulder
Shoulder straps are usually padded for increased comfort –– even more so with a heavier load, so it is important to have well-padded shoulder straps. The load lifters should be connecting to the shoulder straps up at around 35 to 60 degrees.
Hip Belt Size
Getting a proper hip belt size is important as they help to convert some of the weight from your shoulders to your hips, thus greatly boosting the balance and stability of the backpack. This is especially crucial when hiking across technically challenging terrains, where a small shift of the backpack can trigger a fall.
Also, if you plan to have a long backpacking trip that is going to last more than two weeks, consider getting a backpack with a smaller hip belt as it is highly likely that your waist will get slimmer. Before you get too excited, losing some waist size may seem like you’re on track to that hot summer bod’ but that’s going to make things way harder for you when backpacking!
Wherever your destination is –– be it the standing in the sea-salt breeze of Honolulu or staring at the vast horizons of the Grand Canyon –– it’s the journey that counts. It is the struggle and the challenge of untamed nature unfolding before your very eyes that is the beauty of backpacking.
You can’t be unprepared in the woods. Here is a backpacking guide for beginners from Outdoor Generations.
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