Hiking Backpacks & Rucksacks Buying Guide
When going on an expedition, whether a leisurely expedition or a hiking one, your backpack is your most trustworthy partner, the one you’ll count on for storing all the gear and essentials without which your expedition would be still a project. Choosing a hiking backpack is not a random choice; there are technical details to be taken into account and the present guide aims at helping you choose best depending on your needs. Should you need additional help or have other questions, feel free to contact us – we’ll be more than happy to help you choose the most appropriate backpack so you can enjoy your adventure. We’ve got you covered!
Here are a couple of things to consider:
Length of trip & Backpack’s Litre Capacity
The number of days spent travelling will dictate your choice in regards to the backpack’s litres capacity. A 30-litre backpack does not mean that you can fill it with stuff weighing 30 kg - the litres refer to the volume which is used as a reference for various sizes of luggage; this also includes the backpack’s pockets. In general, a 30L backpack is considered a medium one, and you would probably need a 60-70L backpack to fill it with stuff weighing 30kg.
You may want to consider these recommendations:
Day hikes, walks and short expeditions: 10-20 litres.
1-2 days: 25-40 litres.
3-5 days: 45-65 litres. (you may want to carry an extra small or bladder backpack for when you get to the camp base and you’ll be doing short day or climbing expeditions)
5 days or more: 65+ litres
However, season makes a difference as well, as extra warm clothing will require a bigger backpack – we recommend adding 10-15 litres more to your usual choice of a backpack.
Today’s backpacks are designed following the rules of one’s anatomy for a maximum level of comfort. Here’s what to consider:
Women’s backpacks differ from men’s backpacks: the shoulder straps are narrower and the hip belts can take the weight off the shoulders. Women’s backpacks are smaller because, compared to a men, the length from shoulder to hip is smaller. This again influences how the backpack’s weight can rest on the hip belt.
Large backpacks have adjustable back length systems, or they simply come in different back sizes. This is to ensure that the weight is distributed equally allowing freedom of movement and ensuring maximum comfort. For this to function properly, one needs to know one’s torso measurements.
Here’s how to measure your back - please mind that you’ll need a friend to help you with this.
Tilt your head forward and find the bony neck bump that sticks out – this is called your C7 vertebrae
Place your hands on your hip bones (iliac crest) with thumbs pointing behind you and draw an imaginary line to the point where your thumbs meet in the middle
Ask your friend to measure the distance from your C7 to the middle point of the iliac crest and this will give you the exact measurement of your torso
Once you know your torso dimensions, you can easily adjust the backpack yourself.
This is represented by the hip belt, the chest and shoulder straps, padded and adjustable to suit the individual’s anatomy. For small day-backpacks, the hip belt simply keeps the pack close to the body, whereas the larger, expedition backpacks rest on the hip belt which needs to be sturdy enough to support the additional weight. The shoulder straps bring the rucksack forward to ensure the thoracic and lumbar curve are not forced too much – this is mainly noticeable when ascending and the backpack pulls you backwards.
However, it’s good to remember that nowadays almost all backpacks come with advanced harness systems and that if poor performance is noticed, this is because the straps are not used or adjusted properly. So make sure you know what they do before you head on for your great expedition.
You need to consider carefully whether you want to go for a backpack that offers full ventilation via the mesh frame or one that moulds on to your back allowing various degrees of ventilation through the harness system.
The external mesh frame – it allows maximum ventilation and is usually more suitable for smaller backpacks and for hotter climates. A slight disadvantage is that it makes the backpack a bit bulkier, adding some extra inches to the original width.
The airflow tunnel –this is the channel between the big padded sides; it goes up your spine or the breathable pads. These backpacks are recommended for colder climates or for expeditions that involve scrambling or climbing. They allow more flexibility and freedom of movement.
Other Key Features:
Hip belt with pockets for phone, energy bars and similar small items
Hydration compatible – whether the backpack comes with a water bladder or not
Separate, bottom compartment for the sleeping back – large hiking rucksacks should have this feature
Fast, easy access to the main compartment
Compression system (can be internal, external or both).
Closure – drawstring vs zip-fastening (if the backpack doesn’t come with a rain cover, you may opt for the zipper, which in the event of rain, will offer more protection)
External clips and hooks or a daisy chain; these are extremely handy – you can, for instance, use carabineers to attach small gear items
Rainproof cover (this can be purchased separately)
Reflective stripe and emergency whistle