Whether you are taking a day hike or a 200 mile trek down the Appalachian Trail, a backpack will either be your greatest friend or your arch nemesis. There are many types of packs on the market today, and it can confusing to match your needs with the perfect pack for you. So, we have thrown together some tips on finding the right backpack for you.
A backpack is typically very adjustable so that it can fit a variety or people. All of those straps have a purpose, and need to be adjusted properly for the best possible fit. If you are going to be purchasing a pack for hikes and backpacking, it is recommended to take the time and visit a gear store (you can find some suggested stores or suggest your own on out Best Gear Store Map).
With that being said, we will share a few quick pointers. Let’s start at the top, the shoulder straps. They should tightened to the point the pack is tight against your back. The straps should be as close to parallel with the floor at the point they go over the top of your shoulders. This will ensure that the pack weight is being held properly on your back. If your pack has a hipbelt, it should be positioned so that the top of the belt is at the top of your hip bone. This strap will hold 70%-80% of your backpack’s load, so it will need to be drawn tight. After the hipbelt is adjusted, take the time to readjust the shoulder straps, and then you will be ready to go!
When it comes to finding the right backpack you need to first consider what it will be used for. The trip you are taking will dictate the pack you will need. Backpack size is typically measured in cubic inches, how many 1″x1″x1″ cubes something can hold. Let’s cover some simple examples of possible adventures and the suggested size of a backpack for that particular adventure.
Day Hike – Typically you will want to take a lunch/snack, water, first aid kit, and other essentials. To fit these materials a backpack would need to be from 1,000 cu.in. to 2,400 cu. in.
Overnight Trip – You will want to pack the same things as you would for a day hike, but also add some more food, clothing, sleeping bag, and possible a tent. In this instance you will need about 2,750-3,360 cu. in.
Weekend Trip – When you are sleeping out for a couple of nights, the list of required items grows, as does your quantity of food and clothing. This requires a backpack with a bit more room. A backpack with 3,360-3,970cu. in. fits this trip perfectly.
Longer Trip – So you want to take a trip where you are out in the wilds for 4-7 nights, or maybe even more. In this case you will have plenty to carry with and will need a pack capable of handling all that gear. If you are going for 4-7 days a pack with 4,000 – 4,900 cu. in. will fit your gear and help you keep out gear you don’t need. For trips longer than 7 days, you may need to with a backpack even larger than 5,000 cu. in. But be warned that packs for longer trips can get heavy quick, and a good rule of thumb is that you never want your pack to weight more than 35% of your body weight.
On a parting note, I would like to recommend one final thought on finding the Perfect Backpack for your Adventure. Even though it might be tempting to find a bargain bag, you never will! A great backpack is worth every cent. You can always save a few bucks here and there, but you will pay for it later on the trail. Maybe in the form of a busted shoulder strap, or an aching back, but rest assured you will pay for it. Pasquale once wrote, “Buy the best, cry once.” These are very apt words to remember when buying your backpack. Happy Trails!