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How To Choose A Backpack For Hiking And Backpacking?

May 06, 2021 1 Comment

how to choose a hiking backpack

Wondering how to choose a hiking backpack for your next outdoor adventure? Then read our handy guide to make that choice a little easier.

Choosing the right hiking backpack is one of the most important things to do before you hit the trails. And if you haven’t looked at backpacks recently, you’ll be surprised at how good they’ve gotten. Made with rugged yet breathable fabrics, backpacks are now able to offer a great amount of support and comfort than ever before. The best hiking backpacks even come with a waterproof feature that can keep your gear dry for several hours. Not only that but backpacks nowadays weigh a fraction of what they did a few years ago.

Having said that, a carelessly bought thru hiking backpack can spell inconvenience and make the hike unpleasant. That’s why you need to consider many factors before making your final choice when buying a hiking backpack. But there are so many different hiking backpack brands on the market today. Because of that, it can be downright confusing to choose the best hiking backpack for men and women – especially for first-time buyers. So, to help you out, we’ve come up with a list of things to consider before buying the best day hiking backpack.

In this blog, I’m going over all the things you need to take into consideration when choosing your next hiking backpack!

1) Type of activity

how to choose a backpack

For all those wondering how to choose a hiking backpack, the first thing to consider is what type of activity you want to do. Backpacks are designed to fit various sets of environments. You can find men and women hiking backpacks for all kinds of hiking scenarios and outdoor activities. If you’re only escaping into the wilds for a short break then you should opt for a small size mini hiking backpack. Staying lightweight should be your priority when it comes to one-day hikes. That being said, don’t just go and grab the smallest one. If it is too small, you won’t be able to fit everything in. The backpack you bring must be able to carry all your gears and equipment needed for the trip. 20L hiking backpacks are ideal for trips that don’t take a whole day to finish.

Likewise, you’ll need at least a 40L hiking backpack for a camping trip. Get yourself a large hiking backpack if you’re going outdoors in winter, so you can carry extra clothes and water. Your ideal backpack should be large enough to fit in all your necessities and items including sleeping pad, camping pillow and trekking poles. Consider the weather also. You may need room for your wet weather gear. If your hike is on off the beaten path, or in difficult terrain, choose a hiking backpack that offers durability. Opt for traveling hiking backpacks made from a material that will hold up to rough treatment. Nylon is good enough for short easy walks. But it can’t handle the stress of hikes on challenging terrains. Therefore, look for a pack made from synthetic fabrics instead. Plus, hiking backpack with frame are recommended for month-long trips.

Check out this blog "10 Best Outdoor Backpacks for Men" if you're looking for the best men's hiking backpack.

Check out this blog "Best Backpacking Backpacks for Women in 2021" if you're looking for the best hiking backpacks for women.

Check out this blog "10 Best Hiking Backpacks for Kids in 2021" if you're searching for the best hiking backpack for kids.

2) Weight

The second thing to consider when choosing a hiking backpack is the "weight". There’s no definitive rule to determine the weight of your ideal hiking backpack. It can depend on various factors such as the type of activity you choose, your trip duration, and weather. So, the best thing you can do is to find a bag capacity you’re comfortable with. But don’t buy a high capacity backpack if ultra-light is your goal. Do keep in mind that overnight hiking backpacks tend to be bigger and heavier than a normal day backpack.

When deciding which weight of the backpack is best for you, factor in how much gear you are going to bring. Limit the weight of your backpack by making a checklist of important items. Backpacks that weigh between 3.5 and 5 pounds are ideal for most users. Consider buying a lightweight hiking backpack of fewer than 2 pounds if you won’t be carrying gears over 30 pounds. Similarly, a frameless lightweight hiking backpack is ideal for loads below 15 pounds. Remember, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to this — there’s only what works for you. So make sure your estimate of weight is as accurate as possible.

Check out this blog "5 Best Ultralight Hiking Backpacks" if you're searching for the lightest hiking backpacks.

3) Capacity

To spend a day outdoors without embarrassment, be sure to bring a good hiking backpack that can carry all your necessities. Your hiking backpack should be large enough to keep all your gear inside. Long overnight trips typically require more capacity. For the most part, backpack capacity is usually measured in liters. 40-70 liter hiking backpacks with water bladder are very versatile and can be used by thru-hikers, and overnighters. Choose a 20-liter hiking backpack when you’re going on a half-day hike. Remember packing light is critical if you choose this type of pack. And choose a 30L hiking backpack for longer day hikes.

For one or two overnight hikes, go for a backpack with a capacity of around 50 liters. 50 to 80L hiking backpacks are suitable for long-distance overnight trips. Likewise, an 80 to 100L hiking backpack is needed for trips that last for more than 2 weeks or so. A backpack of this size will allow you to carry enough supplies and equipment. These packs are also a good choice for winter camping trips. It’s a safe bet to purchase your hiking backpack once you’ve gathered up all your items for the trip. And if you're planning to bring your camera with you on the trip then you might want to check out this blog "12 Best Camera Hiking Backpack" by Globo Treks.

4) Comfort & Fit

Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash

You need to make sure your backpack fits correctly before buying it. And one of the best ways to do that is to measure the length of your torso. This is typically done from the base of your neck to the top of your hipbones. Packs usually come in torso sizes ranging from small to large. Individuals with a torso of 15–17 inches should go for XS backpacks. 16–19 inches should go for S backpacks. 18–21 inches should go for M backpacks. And 20–23 should go for L backpacks. It's best to know your ideal hiking backpack size before making your final purchase decision.

If you're having difficulty understanding different hiking backpack sizes and volumes then do read this blog "An Essential Guide To Backpack Sizes & Volume" by The Pedal Project.

Being comfortable while carrying a backpack is a must for any trip. That is why you need to make sure that your hiking backpack has proper padding, ventilation, and straps. These things will help you balance the weight and take the stress off your back. Adjustable strap that let you adjust the length of the harness is a must-have feature. Look out for netting on the back too. You also have to ensure that your pack has easy-to-reach pockets and fits tightly enough across your hips.

Read this blog post by Outside Online if you want to learn how to size and fit a backpack.

5) Price

Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash

Last thing you need to think about when choosing a hiking backpack is the price range. You can find a good hiking backpack from under $100 to as high as $600. Usually waterproof hiking backpacks cost the most. But cheap hiking backpacks (under $100) won’t last long and are not ideal for long-distance overnight trips. Plus, cheaper ones tend to be heavier and aren’t as sturdy as you need them to be. So, it pays to buy backpacks that cost around $150 or more. To choose the right backpack, you must carry out proper research. And buy the one that best matches your needs & finances.

Check out this blog "Best Budget Hiking Backpacks" by Camino Adventures if you are looking for a budget hiking backpack that won't cost more than $100.


All in all, these are the most important factors to keep in mind whenever you are buying a new backpack for hiking and backpacking. But to be clear: there is no single “best” backpack for everyone. Every person’s needs and travel style are different. What works for us may not work for you and vice versa. So, you should take the time to find a backpack that fits your expected uses and includes your preferred features.

What do you take into consideration when buying a new hiking backpack? Tell me in the comments below!

Want to learn how to choose the right pair of hiking boots? Then check out this blog “How to choose hiking boots?”.

1 Response

Bags Essential
Bags Essential

September 25, 2022

That is some really useful information. I have a selection of bags to pick from https://www.bagsessential.com/best-backpack-for-3-day-hike/

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