What to look for when buying a backpack

A backpack is a serious investment, not just because of the cost, but because you’ll be walking in remote country and need to be comfortable and have easy access to essential items.

There’s something special about hiking, be it for a day or a week. And regardless of the terrain – from urban walks to snowy mountain trails – your hike will be more enjoyable if your backpack is comfortable.Here are some things to consider before you invest in a new backpack:

Cost

A solid lightweight backpack shouldn’t break the bank. That said, if you take care of your backpack, it will last for many years and thousands of hiking kilometres.

Weight

Your backpack will be one of the four heaviest pieces of gear you carry (backpack, shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad), so it’s an important piece of gear for keeping overall weight down.

Frame

The lighter your overall pack weight, the less frame you’ll need. If you prefer to carry heavier loads, choose a pack with a sturdier frame.

Volume

The volume of your bag will limit how much gear you can carry in it. Most experienced lightweight backpackers can easily fit their gear in a 40-50L pack. If you’re new to lightweight backpacking, you might want to choose a pack with a larger volume and work your way down. Whereas if you plan to use your pack for snowy winter trekking, consider bumping up a size in volume.

Design

A backpack doesn’t have to be complex to be exceptional. It’s often the companies that keep design elements simple and streamlined that make the best packs. Remember it’s about function not fashion. Don’t feel the need to overdo it with a ton of excess compartments, pouches, zippers, clips, and straps.

Material

Most lightweight backpacks are made from one of two materials: ripstop nylon or cuben fibre. Cuben fiber is lighter, but more expensive. Both materials are durable and highly functional for backpacks.

Fit

Fit is one of the most important factors in a comfortable backpack, but it’s also one of the toughest features to pin down until you have a pack fully loaded and on your back. Measure your torso length and hip belt size before ordering. Here’s a guide for finding the right size.

Buying online

Check the seller’s return policy before you buy. Make sure you can always return an unused pack within a certain timeframe after purchasing. Buy your top choice then try it on at home. If it doesn’t feel comfortable at home, it definitely won’t feel better on the track. Return/exchange it if it doesn’t fit properly.

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