How to Choose the Perfect Backpack for Outdoors? - Detailed Guide

How to Choose a New Backpack / Rucksack / Trekking bag?

Are you looking to buy a new backpack for traveling, hiking, trekking, mountaineering?

Whatever activity you do, you need to choose the right backpack based on the nature of the activity, the traveling time, and the features.

Backpack Capacity - Based on the nature of the activity (e.g. hiking, trekking, climbing, etc.) and trip time (e.g. 1-day trip, multi-day trip, etc.), decide how much backpack capacity you need.

Backpack Features - Select the backpack features required such as number and size of pockets, padding, attachment points, rain cover, etc.

Backpack Fitting - The backpack should fit you properly based on your torso length and waist size.

Here are the steps to choose a perfect backpack for your upcoming expedition.

How to decide backpack capacity?

Backpack capacity can be decided mainly based on the trip length and activity.

Trip Length Capacity Activities
1-Day Trip 15-40 litres Travelling, Hiking, Trekking, Cycling
1-3 Day Trip 40-50 litres Travelling, Hiking, Trekking
3-5 Day Trip 50-80 litres Travelling, Trekking, Hiking, Mountaineering
5+ Day Trip 70+ litres Travelling, Trekking, Hiking, Mountaineering

 

Activity Recommended backpack capacity
Sahyadri 1 Day Treks 15-40 litres
Sahyadri 2+ Day Treks 40-50 litres
Himalayan Treks (5+ Days) 50-80 litres

Features of backpacks/Rucksacks

Here is the list of 15 backpack features that should be present in your bag based on the activity and equipment/gear you are carrying:

1. Backpack frame:

There are mainly 3 types of rucksacks based on the frame

i) Frameless backpacks:

These type of bags come with no frame support. Frameless backpacks generally have low capacity and can be used for day trip activities or for lightweight travel. There are also backpacks in which you can remove the frame to reduce the weight.

 

ii) Internal frame backpacks:

These backpacks have frames embedded which are not visible from outside. Rucksacks with internal frames provide better stability and generally are lightweight. The internal frame includes metal strips, metal frames, or lightweight hard plain material.

 

iii) External frame backpacks:

These types of backpacks have frames visible from the outside. They are heavy as compared to internal frames but allow proper vertical load transfer to the hips. The gap between the bag and body due to external frame improves the ventilation.

 

2. Adjustable back system

This helps to adjust the distance between the shoulder straps and hip belt to fit the backpack according to your torso length. The adjustable backpack system adds a little weight to the rucksack.

 

3. Backpack Openings

There are generally 3 types of openings present in the backpacks:

i) Top Loading

Most of the backpacks have top loading system which allows access to your items from the top. In these types of bags, you need to keep the items deep in the rucksack which are not required frequently.

Backpack Top Loading

ii) Front Openings

Large packs provide zippered access from the front to access the items in the bottom or deeper of the rucksack.

Backpack Front Loading

iii) Bottom openings

This base opening allows you to reach the items present in the bottom of the pack. Some backpacks provide separate section at the bottom of the rucksack which can be accessed using this base opening.

 

4. Top Lid / Detachable Bag

Some bags have a pocket of size around 10-25 litre or detachable bag on the top main bag. These small bags are ideal for short trip around your camping location when you do not wish to carry the entire load.

Backpack Top Lid/Detachable Bag

5. Expandable bag section

Some bags have an expandable section around the top opening that allows users to increase the height of the bag and hence the storage capacity of the bag.

Backpack Expandable Section

6. Pockets

Most of the bags contain the following types of pockets

i) Elasticated pockets

These are mesh slim pockets which are stretchable and can be used to store smaller items such as water bottles, etc.

Backpack Elasticated Pocket

ii) Shovel pocket

These pockets are present on the front face of the bag and can be used to carry things such as maps, etc.

Backpack Shovel Pocket

iii) Bellow side pockets

These are the side pockets with an expansion pleat on the outer side of the bag

Backpack Bellow Side Pockets

iv) Hip belt pockets

Pockets present on the hip belt to carry small items such as energy bar, earphones, etc.

v) Internal pockets

Most of the bags have internal hidden pockets to store small valuable items.

Backpack Internal Pocket

7. Sleeping bag section

Few backpacks have a separate compartment at the bottom for sleeping bags.

Backpack Sleeping Bag Section

8. Attachment Points

Most of the rucksack bags have attachment points for trekking poles and ice axe.

Backpack Attachment Points

9. Straps

There are mainly 3 types of straps available in the rucksack:

i) Compression straps

These straps are present on the side which allows you to compress the rucksack in order to make them more compact and easy to carry.

Backpack Compression Strap

ii) Load Lifter Straps

These straps connect the top back panel with the shoulder straps which helps to keep the top portion of the bag close to the body.

Backpack Load Lifter Strap

iii) Sternum Strap

This is a backpack chest strap which connects shoulder straps and reduces the jarring of the backpack.

Backpack Sternum Straps

iv) Hip Belt/strap

This strap helps to reduce the weight from the shoulder by transferring most of the rucksack weight to your hips. This belt with padding and pockets should fit properly on the top of your hip bones.

Backpack Hip Belt/Straps

10. Padding

Padding on the hip belt provides stability as well as more comfort to your hips and shoulders whenever you are carrying heavy weight.

11. Ventilation

Some packs have breathable mesh back panel to allow air flow and provide comfort to your back.

Backpack Ventilation - Breathable Back Mesh Panel

12. Raincover

A removable rain cover is provided that can be easily attached to the backpack using hooks provided in the bag.

13. Hydration backpacks

Most of the backpacks provide a pocket to hold a water bottle or a hydration reservoir consist of flexible bladder bag and drinking straw.

Backpack Fitting

Torso Length

It is the distance between the C7 vertebra and the horizontal line connecting iliac crest (Bony part at the top of each hip).

 

Torso Length Backpack/Rucksack Size
Upto 16" Extra small (XS)
16" to 18" Small (S)
18" to 20" Medium (M)
20" to 21" Large (L)
21" above Extra Large (XL)
Trip Stories

One response to “How to Choose a New Backpack / Rucksack / Trekking bag?”

  1. Karthik S says:

    Hi,
    I was looking for some information to create an infographic on Backpacking and came across your site.
    Very informative and thanks for taking the effort. After completing the infographics. I would like to share it.

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