To a new hiker any backpack is good for hiking, but for hikes longer than a few miles or a few hours the right backpack is a lifesaver.
To help you choose the right backpack, the ASO Mammoth team has put together a short guide on how to choose the right hiking backpack for you and why it matters. Check it out below and avoid a pain in the neck on your next hike!
Know What Kind of Hiking You’re Doing
You should have a good idea of what type of hiking you’ll be doing if you’re investing in a backpack because that information will determine exactly what you need.
The main factor to consider here is how much gear, food, and water you’ll need to carry on your trip. For shorter hikes you’ll want a weekend bag that has space for 30 to 50 liters, or about enough space for 1 to 3 nights. Although these are the smallest type of bag, if you plan carefully you could get the benefit of having all the gear you need without the extra weight of a large bag. Next, there are the multiday bags that have 50 to 80 liters of space, or 3 to 5 nights. These are great for camping trips because they have enough room to pack cautionary gear like extra layers that you may or may not need. Lastly, there are the extended trip bags that have at least 70 liters of space. Like the multiday bags, the extended trip bags have room for gear such as extra layers as well as camping equipment like sleeping bags and tents.
Know How to Fit a Bag to Your Torso
Hiking bags are fitted based on your torso length, which is measured roughly from your lower back to the base of your neck. Once you have your torso length, you can use manufactures guidelines to find the right size backpack for you. If you want an expert’s help to measure your torso and make a decision though, don’t hesitate to go into your local outdoor sports store and try on a few bags to see what feels right.
If you do, make sure you put some sort of weight in the bag while you’re trying it on so you can feel how it will actually distribute the weight away from your shoulders. A good bag will put most of the weight onto your hips with the belt at the bottom of the bag which should sit right above your hip bones. Don’t forget to strap the sternum belt too, as doing so will balance the weight on your back.
Once you have the belts tightened to where you’re comfortable, move around and feel for pressure points. It may take a while, but you should be able to adjust the bag using the belts, straps, and load-lifters to alleviate major pressure points.
Know What Features You Want
You may be tempted to think that a hiking backpack only needs to fit well and have enough space for your gear, but the best bags are not only functional but convenient as well.
What makes a bag convenient varies by person, but if you know what you like in a bag and what conditions you’ll be using it in then you have a great chance of finding the right bag. For example, if you know you’ll be hiking through wet conditions then a bag with a rain cover included could be vital. You might also prefer a u-shaped zipper that provides easy access to the entire main pocket of the bag, or you may need a specific attachment to carry a tent or sleeping bag.
Whatever feature you need, know ahead of time so you can invest in a bag that will last you many trips over!