How To Choose The Best Backpack for Hiking?

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A roomy backpack is a real symbol of tourism. This is probably the most important piece of equipment in hiking, which, along with shoes, determines how comfortable the transitions on your route will be.

The best backpack for hiking

The best backpack for hiking, as a rule, is chosen seriously and lasts for a long time, so do it with responsible matter. Here I try to to summarize the very basics that will help you navigate in a huge range of backpacks for tourism and pick up the best backpack for hiking and the optimal model for your own needs.

Determine the required volume

The volume of the best backpack for hiking determines the amount of space inside it, and therefore how much equipment, clothing and products you can put in it. It is expressed in liters, the number of which is often indicated directly in the name of the model. Often it is the volume that determines which class the backpack belongs to and determines its purpose.

How big backpack for hiking do I need? The choice here depends on two fundamental factors:

  1. The duration and nature of the intended hikes and journeys. Do you need a backpack for short day walks or for hiking for a few days, a week or more? Are you going to use it all year round on routes of varying complexity or only as part of summer hikes on well-trodden trails?
  2. The volume and weight of wearable gear. What equipment do you have – reliable, warm, but weighty or as light and compact as possible in the package?

Based on them, we can distinguish two approaches to the equipment and product layout, which will depend on the volume of the intended best backpack for hiking – let’s name them “Traditional” and “Daypacks.”

“Traditional” backpack

The first option involves the use of a full-fledged set of equipment not ultralight class, which will provide the necessary comfort and safety in hiking including whims weather and possible changes in the traffic schedule.

“Daypack” backpack for short trips

The second is to use the techniques of the “Fast and Light” style proponents, which diligently reduce the volume and weight of the equipment, even when you have to sacrifice your own comfort. This approach requires considerable self-discipline and meticulous route planning. But if you can handle it, the reward will be a lot of pleasure from a quick movement with a light best backpack for hiking!

To make it easy to choose the volume of the backpack for hiking, I make a couple of tables. The volume of the backpack for hiking, depending on the length of the route with the “traditional” equipment:

  • 1-2 days – 20-50 L
  • 2-3 days – 50-60 L
  • 3-5 days – 60-80 L
  • 6+ days – 80+ L

As you can see from the table, best backpacks for hiking of 60 to 80 liters are great for almost any hikes lasting longer than two days. Hence the breadth of their range from any manufacturer that specializes in the production of tourist equipment. But the reason for their popularity lies not only in the optimal volume. Such backpacks for hiking are actively used not only within the framework of classic hiking routes, but also in short ski trips and even in mountaineering – when climbing to the top, requiring a night’s sleep on the way.

Backpacks of 80 litres will be required on multi-day hiking routes, which often involve a long standalone part when tourists need to carry additional supply of food and equipment. But do not think that large backpacks are suitable exclusively for expedition tourism. In fact, they will come in handy if:

  1. You are going on a winter itinerary with a few nights. In this case, you will have to carry much heavier and voluminous clothes and equipment than in the warm season. A winter sleeping bag alone can take up a third of the volume of a large backpack, and you will need a thick mat and a warm down jacket!
  2. Children are coming with you. After all, most of the children’s equipment is carried by parents to make the trip pleasant and interesting for the little ones.

The volume of the best backpack for hiking, depending on the length of the route with “light” equipment:

  • 1-2 days – 20-30 L
  • 2-3 days 40-50 L
  • 3-5 days 45-55 L
  • 5+ days – from 55 L

Modern equipment, as well as practices that have come to tourism thanks to the adherents “Fast and Light”-style, allow to do the best backpacks for hiking much smaller volume and weight. For example, a 20-30 litre backpack will be enough for a weekend hike. And the equipment needed for a multi-day hike, without much difficulty will fit in a backpack with a volume of 50-60 liters. But it is necessary to understand that easy-way tourism requires experience – both in the equipment and in competent route planning. In addition, the techniques and equipment of ultralight tourists are not always applicable – they need to be used very carefully in winter tourism, during hikes with children, as well as within the framework of multi-day autonomous expeditions.

What if I go on long and short hikes?

You can consider the option of purchasing two backpacks for hiking – small and easy for short walks and large for long or winter hikes. Or you can pick up one backpack, roomy enough for the longest of the planned routes. Large best backpacks for hiking (from 60 liters) are quite suitable for shorter distances – just make sure that the empty volume generated by minimal loading can be reduced with compression tightening.

What time of year do I plan to go camping?

If you’re in the warm season, focus on the tables above.
If you plan to take the routes in early spring or late autumn, at high altitude (more than 2500 meters) or go on winter hikes, then add to the recommended volume of tables of another 10-20 liters. This is a necessary stock, which will pack the winter sleeping bag additional warm things and an all-season tent.

Choose a backpack according to the structure of your body

The best backpack for hiking is designed to provide the most comfortable transportation of cargo, so it is important that it accurately corresponds to the features of your composition and anatomy. No matter how much equipment you take with you, your future backpack should sit on you perfectly.

The correct landing involves:

  1. The correct size of the backpack for hiking, which corresponds to the length of your torso.
  2. Comfortable and dense landing of straps and belt belt.

Measure the length of your torso before going to the store. As? Just take a centimeter and enlist the support of a comrade.

The length of the torso is measured from 7 cervical vertebra to ilium.
After it check the characteristics of the best backpack for hiking model you are interested in. Check whether it is presented in several sizes or has an adjustable suspension system to fit accurately for a specific shape. In the latter case, manufacturers usually indicate the recommended user height or length of the torso in a wide range. The most common best backpacks for hiking with multiple sizes within the same model are produced by North American brands such as Osprey, Gregory and Black Diamond.

Here is an approximate size line, which corresponds to most of the backpacks presented in their range:

  • XS, extra small – up to 40 cm
  • S, small – 40-45 cm
  • M, Medium/Regular – 45-50 cm
  • L, Large/Tall – from 50 cm

The design and coverage of the belt is also important. After all, if the best backpack for hiking is picked up correctly, most of the wearable weight – up to 80%, should fall not on the shoulders, and on the feet! The belt is obliged to provide a dense and even coverage of the pelvic bones, not to press and not to rub. In the design of many models of high-end best backpacks for hiking in a belt and straps used a dense thermoshape foam, which gradually “sits” on the figure of the user in exploitation process.

Structure of backpack for men
Structure of backpack for girls

Keep in mind that many backpacks for hiking are designed with the female anatomy of the body in mind. They have less length of back and belt coverage than unisex models. At the same time, the straps and belt have a special profile and are located at a different angle, exactly slinky hips, without interfering with the female breast and not rubbing smaller shoulders. Pay attention to the “female” versions should be those tourists who can not pick up a comfortable enough backpack among the “standard” models.

Children’s models, as a rule, have a smaller volume and are equipped with a system of adjustable suspension, designed to change the growth of the child. Also, young tourists of any gender are often great for female models of backpacks for hiking, because of their reduced size, or “male” versions of a small volume.

Before fitting the best backpack for hiking you need to load it and try. In the store it can be done with special cargo, which give an approximate idea of how the backpack for hiking sits on your back at a standard load. Alternatively, you can use the usual equipment – a sleeping bag, a tent and ropes bays. Usually a tourist backpack of medium volume is recommended to load 8-10 kilograms of equipment.

Each brand has its own planting features, so it is reasonable to try on at least 3 models and walk around the store with a backpack on the back. It’s certainly not the same as going along the route with it, but at least you’ll be able to roughly understand whether the chosen model is right for you and how well it redistributes weight from your shoulders on your waistand and legs.

Tips for fitting a backpack for hiking

Fit the backpack for hiking under you and check how well the chosen model fits a competent specialist will always help you. If you want to carry out this procedure yourself, the individual adjustment of the outboard system of the best backpack for hiking is carried out with the following elements of its design:

  • Adjustable suspension system. On some models, shoulder straps can be rearranged (e.g. with a “ladder” system). It is convenient for tourists with “intermediate” length of the torso – say, no longer M, but not yet L. There is a minus: This system adds a little weight to the backpack for hiking.
  • Adjustment points. The weight of the the best backpack for hiking, as indicated above, should be mainly on the hips. The back, shoulders and upper press are secondary to this process. To achieve maximum comfort and stability, try to play with the adjusting slings of the backpack for hiking.
  • Top screeds. They are sewn on top the straps and converge on top of the frame. Ideally, they form a 45-degree angle between the straps and the backpack for hiking. Well (but not too tight) stretched, they prevent the upper part of the best backpack for hiking from moving away from your body and sagging in your lower back. If they are too tight, the backpack for hiking will be turned back, which will negatively affect the balance. If the upper stretches form an angle of more than 60 degrees or less than 30 degrees, the backpack is not likely to suit you.
  • Stabilizing the delays. Connect the belt with the bottom of the backpack. For the best balance, they must be well stretched.
  • Breast brace. Located across the chest and needed to connect the straps with each other, which significantly increases stability. This will come in handy on uneven sections of the route, where the backpack for hiking can suddenly shift due to awkward movement and knock you out of balance.

Important backpack design features


Materials and strength

Modern best backpack for hiking is made mainly of synthetic fabrics – polyester or nylon, the durability of which varies widely. As a rule, the stronger the fabric, the higher its weight. Which of these parameters is more important depends on your hiking practice.

Often on the front side of the fabric is applied a layer of water-repellent polymer, which increases its moisture resistance – this material is less wet with water and dries faster. This makes the best backpack for hiking no heavier from the moisture absorbed and keeps its contents dry for longer.

A very important parameter is the durability and durability of the hardware used in the backpack for hiking – buckles, facetex, zippers. Responsible manufacturers have these elements able to work clearly in any weather for a very long time.

Stuffed elements, straps and belt

Comfort in carrying cargo largely depends on how the belt and straps distribute the pressure on the shoulders, belt and back of the tourist. To do this, manufacturers use in them foam filler the quality of which can vary greatly. High-end best backpack for hiking often use thermoformable foam, the equivalent of the one used in ski boots. It eventually “sits” on the user’s figure and for a very long time does not lose its properties. The cheapest backpacks on the market often use soft foam, which quickly loses its properties. It sags under load, stops distributing pressure, which leads to muscle swelling when carrying a backpack, premature fatigue and constant discomfort.

In recent years, manufacturers are increasingly making the best backpack for hiking belt mobile, allowing it to rotate limited on the axis, which provides maximum freedom of movement to the tourist.

In pursuit of low weight often suffers the comfort of the belt and straps, as the amount of filler is reduced. If the weight of your backpack is small, it does not cause inconvenience. However, if you overload an ultralight backpack with a minimalist belt, you will almost certainly get bruises on your hips. Therefore, if you are going to travel with a serious weight, pay attention to models with a more comfortable belt and straps.


This is the weak point of backpacks for hiking with an internal frame, which in the modern market – the majority. There is not enough space between the backpack and the back to circulate air, which leads to increased sweating. Developers cope with this problem in different ways, for example, embedding in the back of the backpack for hiking ventilation channels, supplementing them with absorbent materials. Best backpack for hiking use a ventilation system, which is a stretched mesh with which the back directly touches. The circulation of air between the grid and the backpack is unlimited. The frame on which the mesh is stretched provides sufficient distance between the back and the backpack.

Access to equipment

Please note that it should be easy to find and get what you need from the best backpack for hiking. This depends on its configuration – the location of the access areas in them. These can be additional front or P-shaped zippers, which will not shake the entire backpack to get to the desired object, and get access immediately to part of its main compartment. Many of the modern best backpack for hiking models have a special “compartment” for the sleeping bag – it is located at the bottom of the backpack for hiking and has a separate zipper for quick access.

Despite the described high ergonomics, remember – the greater the number of zippers, pockets and compartments, the greater the weight of the backpack itself!

Auxiliary elements in the backpack design

The top valve

Many of the best backpacks for hiking have a valve that, like a hood, covers the main compartment and has pockets for things that should always be at hand. Usually it is sunscreen, repellent, camera, snack, map, storm, etc. Sometimes the design allows you to unbuckle the valve from the backpack and use it as a belt bag or mini backpack for short radial exits.

Points of attachment of additional equipment

If you often bring an ice pick or trekking sticks, it is worth paying attention to the suitable loops for hanging this equipment on the best backpack for hiking. Although to meet a model that does not have at least a couple of such loops, it is already quite difficult. Climbing backpacks provide several anchorage points for cats, ropes, ice picks or ice tools and carbines.

Daisy Chain

Sling, slinged in the form of loops on the outer part of the backpack for attaching a helmet or other equipment. It is used mainly in backpacks for climbing and mountaineering.

A cape from the rain

As a rule, the inner surface of the best backpacks for hiking is covered with a waterproof layer. However, water can still seep through lightning and seams, and in heavy rain and outer tissue absorbs some water. Therefore, if in your hiking you run the risk of getting caught in the rain, it is better to buy a waterproof cape, if it is not in the package of the backpack initially. To protect things inside, you can do it with the garbage bag – cheap, but unsolid and short-lived. Alternatively, you can pack the equipment into waterproof cases. This solution is especially optimal for windy weather – strong wind can rip a waterproof cape off the backpack.

Pockets on a belt

It can fit small items, such as snack or a compact camera. Very easy to use, as it allows you not to take off your backpack for hiking to get small things out of it.

Elastic side pockets

Stretch edited enough to accommodate a bottle of water or arc from the tent, in the empty state adjacent to the backpack for hiking. The design of some side pockets allows you to get a container of water right on the go!


Though traveling from points A to B on a backcountry trip is conceptually simple enough, choosing the the best backpack for hiking that will get you and all of your gear to the end in the best shape possible is a bit trickier. I hope that this article will help you narrow down your options.

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