Even now as Im preparing for our New Zealand trek, Im getting asked, “How to choose a backpack perfect for trekking”. Preparing for a trek can be daunting, especially if it is your first time. What I would say, from over 14 years of tramping around the mountains, is that while there is not a backpack for all occasions, (I personally have four different types) here are some pointers to help find one that is most suitable for you on your next adventure.
Let’s start with three main considerations:
Backpack capacity:?The size of your pack is directly related to the length of your trip, the temperature range you expect and how much weight and bulk you want to carry.
Backpack features:? Features like gear loops (ie. to stow hiking poles, ice axe, carabiners), accessibility (ie. side access, front pockets, side pockets etc.), top load versus side load, compartments etc. affect how the pack works for you. Think about what you need your pack to do for you.
Backpack fit:?How the backpack fits you has a direct impact on how comfortable (or uncomfortable) you feel throughout the trek. What is most important is the length of your torso, not your height.
As a rule of thumb, I go by the following benchmark based on duration of the trek:
- A small to medium pack of 30-50l for a weekend trip (1-3nights).
- A medium pack of 50-70l for a multiday trip (3-5nights)
- A large pack above 70l for trips longer than 5 nights
Another key factor that affects backpack capacity is the season. During warm weather treks, I may get by with a 60l pack for a 4nights trek. On a winter trek requiring crampons, ice axe, downjacket and base layers, bulk builds up. A larger pack can more comfortably accommodate extra clothing, a warmer sleeping bag and a 4-season tent (which typically includes extra poles).
The backpack frame type makes a big difference to the fit of the pack.
Internal-frame backpacks:?These are body-hugging internal frame packs that are designed to keep a hiker stable on uneven, off-trail terrain. They incorporate a variety of load-support technologies that all function to transfer the load to the hips.
External-frame backpacks:?An external-frame pack may be an appropriate choice if you’re carrying a heavy, irregular load, like carrying actual boxes or a cooler. External frame packs also offer good ventilation and lots of gear organization options.
Frameless backpacks:?Ultralight devotees who hike fast and light might choose a frameless pack or a climbing pack where the frame is removable for weight savings.
Some packs have a ventilation feature, essentially a mesh back panel stretching taut to create space (?ie. a ventilation vent) between your back and the pack to prevent the pack from sticking to a wet, sweaty back. The ventilation vent reduces discomfort and has the added advantage of ?airing? your sweaty back to help it dry off.
Pack access is perhaps the most straightforward. Most packs come with top-loading openings?are pretty standard. Items not needed until the end of the day go deepest inside. Items that are regularly needed are located nearest to the exit point. Some packs also offer a zippered front panel which folds open exposing the full interior of the pack, or a side zipper, which also makes it easier to reach items deeper in your pack.
My personal favourite is the pockets. Side pockets that are elasticized, expanding when filled and flat when empty are like magic containers wherein all sorts of loose objects (ie. water bottle, tent poles, map etc.) may be stowed. And then there are the hipbelt pockets which would contain snacks, mobile phone, perhaps a headlight, energy gel ? items that are small are you need to access quickly. .
Front pocket(s):?Sometimes added to the exterior of a shovel pocket, these can hold smaller, less-bulky items.
A fancy feature in some packs is the Removable Daypack / Top Lid. Some packs are designed with a removal daypack that is perfect for day trips, or the summit push. Some packs have top lids that detach from the main pack and convert into a hipbelt pack for day trips.
Finally, we also need to think about where the sleeping bag would go. The Sleeping Bag Compartment is a zippered stash spot near the bottom of a packbag. It’s a useful feature if you don’t want to use a stuff sack for your sleeping bag. Alternately, this space can hold other gear that you’d like to reach easily.
It is the torso length that matters. Height is not correlated to length of torso. Your torso is essentially your trunk. Use a tape measure. Take your measurements like you would when tailoring a new suit. To find the perfect fit, you need perfect measurements.
DO NOT forget padding. If you’re using a lightweight pack with a hipbelt and lumbar pad that is not adequately padded, your hips and lower back will be sore. With the right padding, you would not even feel it.
Final note, do your research. To find the perfect match, you need to put in time and effort.
There are many styles and types of backpacks on the market. There is no perfect backpack that meets all needs.? Our advice is to find the one that?s a good fit, that fits correctly on your torso, and has good padding on the hip belt. This will keep you feeling fresh at the end of the day.