By Ben Griffin
Do you know what the most important tool in your arsenal for hiking is? It isn’t your shoes, clothes, camping gear or walking sticks; it is your backpack.
You see your hiking backpack is your life line.
It has to hold everything you will need during your trip.
There has to be enough room for your tents, clothes, first-aid kit, food, and basically everything you will need to bring.
Without a proper hiking backpack, you run the risk of having to leave something valuable behind.
Having a proper hiking backpack is more than what you can stuff into it.
You have to think about comfort as well.
When you are picking out a hiking backpack, it is best to try it on.
See how the straps feel.
You don’t want a backpack riding too low on your back as it adds pressure to your shoulders.
You also don’t want one that is too high as it will cause your lower back to strain.
You want one as Goldie Locks puts “Just Right.”
Things To Consider When Buying A Hiking Backpack
There are essentially 4 rules that you need to follow when you are picking out your sack.
If any of these rules are broken, you run the risk of injuring yourself during your hike.
So be careful and pick the sack accordingly.
1. Your Sack Must Match The Length Of Your Torso
When you go to pick out a hiking backpack you may think that bigger is better.
After all, you will be able to fit a lot more into the sack that you normally wouldn’t.
But in the case of getting the “right one,” you need one that fits your body shape.
If you get one that is bigger than your torso and you slip on the trail, the sack will take you down.
If you buy one that is too short you run the risk of straining your muscles.
So pick out a sack that is suited to your body type.
2. Pack According To Where You Are Going
When it comes to picking out the right hiking backpack you need to take into consideration the weight you are lugging around.
You don’t want to buy a backpack that is going to be too big for the items you want to bring.
If you do, you will find yourself bogged down by the extra weight of the sack itself.
If you buy one that holds a lot of gear, be prepared for the extra weight.
A rule of thumb when it comes to picking out the right backpack for your needs is to go by trip length.
If you happen to be going for a weekend get-a-way a pack that carries about 50 liters will suffice.
If you are going on a trip that will last about a week, you will need a sack that can carry up to 80 liters.
Of course, there are those who would go for weeks at a time and you will need a sack that can carry at about 70 liters.
Most importantly, don’t buy a hiking pack that you know you won’t be able to handle.
Sure the sack that holds 70 liters is great for long trips, but if you can’t handle the weight for extended periods of time you will hurt yourself.
3. Pick The Right Frame
There are three different types of frames you can choose from when picking out your hiking backpack.
You have the internal, external and frameless.
You will find that with the internal frame backpacks will hug your body and keep you stable on uneven terrain.
This kind of backpack is best for those who are going the distance.
These are especially useful to those who are in shape and can handle the weight.
The external frame hiking backpacks are designed to help shoulder some of the weight.
If you are going on a long trip and are carrying your tent, kayak, food, etc you need to look into getting one of these to help you tackle the load that you will need to bring with you.
Last, you have the choice of the frameless sack.
These are typically used for day trips that don’t require a lot of gear to be brought.
The last thing you want is a frameless backpack to carry a tent, food, clothes, first aid and everything else.
You will quickly find yourself weighed down.
Granted, the frameless sack is perfect for those who like to travel light and hiking fast.
You will find a lot of the frameless sacks are actually framed sacks where you can remove the frame to save on weight.
4. Comfort And Access
When you are picking out your hiking backpack it is important for you to find one that offers proper ventilation.
You will need a backpack that offers these “chimneys” in order to stay cool.
If you find that your sack doesn’t have any of them you risk overheating.
You will also need a hiking backpack that offers plenty of access to your gear.
The last thing you want is to sprain your ankle and have to dig to get to your first aid kit.
You need a pack that allows you top-loading openings, side panel access, pockets and attachment points so that all of your gear is easily located during your hike.
Failure to have a sack that offers these access points could be the difference between life and death in the backcountry.
Wrapping It Up
Remember that when you are picking out a backpack you want the sack to fit your torso and not your overall height.
The best thing for you to do is get professionally fitted in a store for your backpack.
If you just go to the store and pick out a sack you may find that it doesn’t fit you right.
However, if going to a store is out of the question, here are a few tips to help you size up your backpack.
When you are buying a hiking pack, make sure that the bulk of the sack is situated at the base of your neck to your hips.
You don’t want something that is going to go over these points.
Most of the time pack sizes range from one extreme to another due to manufacturing and gender.
The best thing you can do is check the label to get the right size according to your measurements.
Next, you need to understand that the majority of the weight should rest on your hips.
Most people think that you should carry the weight on your back.
But that will just cause you to strain your muscles.
To get your exact measurements you should tilt your head forward and feel for the bony part of your neck.
This is the top of your torso.
Now run your hands down to your hips and locate the two hip bones on your back.
That will be the bottom of your torso.
Have a friend or partner measure from the top of your torso to the bottom.
That will be the length of your torso and what you need to measure your backpack to be.
Next, you should measure your hip just to make sure that your new pack can accommodate your size.
For females, this is important since your body isn’t as squared off as guys.
To measure your hip, simply take a measuring tape around your hips where you found the boney parts of your hips.
That will be your hip measurement.
Now, even with both measurements, it is important to adjust your sack according to those measurements and try to get it spot on.
Make sure that you play with your straps and adjustments before you hit the trail.
That way during your trip you will know what feels right and what doesn’t.
Just keep in mind that your pants measurement isn’t the same as your hip measurement.
You don’t want the sack resting on your pant line.
You want it resting on your hips which may be a few inches from your pants.