The most IMPORTANT thing about a backpack is that it
fits YOU properly. Be certain that you are getting a backpack
that will work perfectly for YOU and your camping style.
I recommend that you have an experienced sales person
help you find a pack that fits your body correctly. Your
height and the size of your hips and shoulders are significant
factors in finding the right backpack.
REMEMBER: Like hiking boots, you should always try on
your backpack before purchasing. Before buying a new backpack,
always try it on with weight in it. Your backpack must
fit comfortably when packed full of your camping gear.
Have the sales person load it up with some gear!
ROMANTIC IDEA: Know your backpack Lingo (and other camping
Lingo too). It’s a subtle thing, but using the vocabulary
of camping gear actually distinguishes you as an outdoors
person. It demonstrates you have knowledge, experience
and dominance in this subject. This is attractive to your
- Compression Straps:
These straps are used to compress the pack when it’s
- Daisy Chain:
Series of web loops sewn vertically along the front
of the pack. Designed for connecting extra gear.
- Hip Belt:
Padded and adjustable strap to stabilize and support
- Load Lifter Strap:
Adjusts the weight and angle of the load on the shoulders.
- Padded Back: Synthetic
fabric padding should provide comfort and wick away
- Shoulder Straps:
Contoured and padded for maximum comfort and accommodating
- Sternum Strap:
This strap cnnects across the chest and take pressure
from your shoulders.
- Storm Collar:
Extends the volume of the pack at the top by an extra
8 to 12 inches.
Internal-frame packs integrate a small frame system that
consists of strips of either metal or plastic. The internal
frame style allows you to carry the weight closer to your
body. This style helps provides a lower center of gravity
and provides a more predictable movement of the load.
On the downside, the tight fit reduces ventilation. Internal
frame backpacks tend to be a little more sweaty than external
External pack frames are usually made from lightweight
metal tubes, generally aluminum. The external frame typically
has a system of straps and pads to keep the main pack
and frame from contacting the body. This open structure
has the added benefit of improved ventilation and decreased
top-loading backpack is the most water-resistant backpack
style. This is due to a single opening that can be synched-up
tight. These backpacks are the standard for serious backpacking
and mountaineering. They often include an extendable storm
collar that can add volume to the main compartment. The
top loading style requires a well planned packing strategy.
You don’t want to frequently empty your entire pack to
get at something that’s located at the very bottom.
The panel style easy allows access to your stuff through
a horseshoe-shaped zipper from the front panel of the
pack. This way you don’t have to empty everything from
your backpack to get something from the bottom. Unfortunately,
zippers are not very waterproof. You may want to keep
a backpack weather cover handy when using this style of
This hybrid style offers advantages of both the top-loading
and panel-loading backpacks. You can stuff from the top
and still access with a zipper from the front. Of course,
the additional openings mean your pack is more susceptible
to water. Don’t jump into a river wearing this style of
Backpack storage volume is measured in cubic inches.
The following breakdown of size and features may help
you determine which pack will fit your specific outdoor
- Day Pack:
1,000 – 1,500 cubic inches. Padded and contoured shoulder-straps.
Padded back. Sturdy hip-belt.
- Weekend Pack:
3000 – 4,500 cubic inches. Internal or External suspension
system. Padded and countoured shoulder-straps. Sternum
strap. Load-lifter strap. Padded back. Padded and contoured
- Trekking Pack:
4000 – 6,000 cubic inches. These Beasts include all
aforementioned features of the Weekend Pack.
Backpack Loading Strategy
The weight distribution of your backpack will affect
your balance and overall comfort. When traveling long
distances these factors become crucial. Of course, when
backpacking you always want to carry the lightest load
possible. After completing a few backpacking trips you
learn what gear you use and what stuff is simply dead
weight. The following are some basic loading strategies
for your gear:
heavy gear like tents, stoves, water bottles and fuel
at the top of your pack near your shoulders.
Middle: Load middle-weight
gear like pots and clothing in the middle area.
Bottom: Load the
lightest gear at the bottom. Sleeping bags go at the very
bottom of the pack. Light gear can also be strapped to
the outside of the backpack.
Backpack Hydration Systems
Hydration systems (a.k.a Camelbak) within backpacks include
a collapsible water reservoir with a flexible drinking
tube. There are advantages and disadvantages to using
a flexible water bladder over the standard “hard-style”
- Collapses eliminating dead space
- Molds to fit available area
- Keeps you warm when converted into a hot water bottle
- Can be used as a water pillow
- Freeze-up in cold climates
- NOT recommended for drink mixes
- Cleaning and drying is time consuming