6 Tips for Choosing a Hiking Backpack

You need a hiking backpack for hikes longer than one or two hours. Of course, not all hiking packs are suited for all types of hiking. A small 20-liter day pack isn’t adequate for an overnight backpacking trip, and a large 70-liter backpacking backpack is overkill on a day hike. Here are a few things that you should think about when it’s time to choose a hiking backpack.

Size

The size or volume of a hiking pack determines how much gear and supplies you can carry with you. Some people like to carry more gear than others, but here’s a ballpark range for pack volume based on trip duration.

  • 10-30 liters for a day hike
  • 30-50 liters for an overnight backpacking trip
  • 50-70 liters for 3-7 nights
  • 70+ liters for backpacking trips longer than a week

Here’s some more information about choosing the right pack size.

Weight

The more you hike, the more you care about the weight of your hiking backpack. Pack weight is largely determined by the gear that you put in your pack. You can reduce pack weight by investing in lighter equipment or leaving gear at home, but the weight of your hiking backpack itself is fixed.

If going lightweight is important to you, make sure you look for lightweight hiking backpacks when making your purchase.

Features

Different hiking backpacks boast different features. Certain features lend themselves to your habits or preferences, and can influence your experience on the trail.

Look for:

  • pockets
  • external pockets
  • closure type (roll top, duffel, cinch, zippers, etc.)
  • lid pocket
  • separated sleeping bag compartment
  • sternum strap
  • attachment points, daisy chains, gear loops, etc.
  • integrated rain covers
  • waterproof pockets
  • hydration sleeve

Durability

Examine the materials used to make the pack. See if you can find fabric specs, such as denier. The higher the denier, the heavier the weight of the yarn, and the stronger the fabric.

Look at construction of the hiking pack, and examine high wear areas (shoulders, zippers, buckles, hip belt, etc.) to see if these areas have been reinforced or if they look like they may fail.

Comfort

Comfort is an important factor whether you’re out in nature for the day or for a month at a time.Of course, the longer you’re outdoors, the more important it becomes to consider comfort.

Examine the padding and mesh panels at contact points such as shoulder straps, back, and the hip belt. More importantly, try the pack on. How does the pack feel with weight? If it’s a little uncomfortable with 20 pounds of weight after 15 minutes of walking through the store, it’s going to be unbearable with 40 pounds of weight after an entire day of hiking on the trail.

Fit

Size, weight, and features don’t really amount to much if your pack doesn’t fit you well. An ill-fitting pack can be uncomfortable, it can ruin your trip, and it can lead to injuries on the trail.

Some packs offer a fair amount of adjustment for a custom fit, but it’s important to make sure that a pack will fit your body before you make a purchase.

The best way to fit a hiking pack is by trying one on in an outdoor gear store. Visit Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and let us help fit you for a hiking backpack!

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