Being lifelong travelers, we all love our lightweight, multipurpose gear that can withstand the rigors of the road. Gear should be dependable, multifunctional, durable and perform beyond expectations. Nothing could be more true when it comes to investing in a good hiking backpack, especially considering it’s going to be your home away from home. Traveling, especially long-term, will literally test the limits of your bag and your body, and thus this decision will not be made impulsively. Buying your backpack should not be a rushed decision and factors like trip length, capacity, material, functionally and comfort should be considered. When I first got serious about investing in a good pack, I was at REI for a good three hours -I think they started to suspect I was trying to get employment.
If my three hours was any indication, buying a good backpack will not be always easy. With hundreds of backpack manufacturers and designs, it could understandably be overwhelming. Anything you do, don’t go cheap. You’ll be doing a disservice and buy a new one anyways. A great backpack is definitely an investment. You needn’t spend $500 on a backpack, but be suspicious of cheap, no-frills, ordinary $70 brands, as you’ll regret the style flaws and lack of extras. Spend a bit more to get a good backpack from the trusted brand, and will also be your companion for a lot of trips in the future. The Osprey pack I eventually settled on has traveled with me through the U.S for the Middle East for 10 awesome years and that i realise it has another great ten years to travel.
Travel Backpack or Hiking Backpack – Before you begin shopping for the best pack, it’s important to be aware of difference between travel backpacks and cheap backpacks in bulk. A travel backpack is actually a backpack-suitcase hybrid with a zippered side panel comparable to a suitcase. Hiking backpacks are the more commonly seen cylindrical top loading packs with straps, clips and a top lid. Many people come with an opinion that hiking backpacks are only designed for the backcountry and has no location for the backpacker, I disagree. What works for you ultimately comes down to personal preference and style of travel. Travel backpacks are ideal for easy, organized access to gear and transporting from hostel to hostel. In addition they function well for short walks or perhaps as a daypack.
On the contrary, if you possibly have camping or long treks within your travel plans, you might like to consider a hiking backpack. Hiking backpacks are designed for comfort, proper weight distribution, and toughness. Unlike a travel backpack, hiking backpacks will have enhancements like full-sized hip belts, shoulder and back suspension systems along with plenty of load bearing straps to mitigate discomfort. Granted the very best down packing isn’t as useful to access your gear, but that’s part in parcel to proper weight distribution. A good compromise would be to get a hiking backpack with side load access.
I am generalizing a little as they will have travel backpacks which are within the upper capacity range with increased advanced suspension systems, but if you’re going to get a 70L travel backpack, you could as well go with a hiking backpack. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did for that unexpected 20 mile trek to another town.
Personal Backpacking Style – Next, determine the design of travel you normally like to do. Unless you’re ready to buy a different backpack for each and every trip, figuring out your travel style will save you a lot of money over time and provide you with some foundation gear that’s ready for just about any trip. As an example, if you generally carry on week long trips you needn’t get a high capacity bag and could probably pull off a 35 liter to 50 liter (L) pack, whereas living long term on the road may need 65L or greater.
Dimension is pretty subjective though and shouldn’t function as the only determining factor. Some people can pack very bare bones, where others require a bit more. Consider these factors:
How much time is your trip: Depending on the duration of your journey the ability and overall weight of your pack will vary. Short trips require less capacity, and long trips typically require more. But bear in mind that the bigger the pack the heavier it is going to become. 50lbs may well not seem a lot at first, but 2 months in and it will think that a bunch of bricks.
What sort of Activities are you going to do: I personally believe that one bag can rule every one of them since I generally use my pack for everything. However, this might not be the case for everyone. Knowing what type of activity you’ll be doing will help you zero in on that perfect backpack. If you’re not considering carrying it around much, consider a travel backpack or perhaps a wheeled backpack, whereas should you foresee yourself doing long treks then a hiking backpack may be more desirable. I love to be prepared for wqkgjq form of spontaneous activity, therefore i lean more towards hiking backpacks. Also, hiking backpacks are generally produced a bit tougher, so remember that the greater challenging the action, the higher the stress on the bag.
Lightweight or the kitchen sink: Although I mentioned earlier that dimensions are not the primary determining factor, it’s still vital that you consider capacity based upon what you want to bring. If ultra light is your goal, avoid high capacity backpacks as you’ll invariably bring excessive or should you do manage to pack light your backpack won’t distribute the load properly. Conversely, should your backpack is too small, you won’t have the ability to fit all things in. Know of the gear you’re bringing and pick the capacity of your own bag accordingly. Don’t hesitate to create your things to a store to find out the way it fits in the packs. A reputable retailer, like REI, won’t have a problem using this.
What To Consider In A Hiking Backpack – Backpacks vary in functionality around they are doing in looks, with the higher priced models having the most bells and whistles. Just like everything, your choice the following is closely associated with which kind of traveling you like to do.
Water-resistant – Your pack may not be gonna be completely waterproof. Meaning, if submerged, or in a torrential downpour your clothing and equipment will still get wet. Although most backpacks now come with a rain cover, you continue to want it to be made of any tough, rip proof, and lightweight silicone coated nylon or Cordura type material which allows rain or water to bead off rather than soak through.
Detachable Daypack – this alternative is truly a personal preference, rather than a real deal breaker, as many travelers bring an extra pack for day trips. But also for those focused on traveling light, carrying two bags can be cumbersome. Personally, i like the choice of a detachable daypack when i already have it only when I would like it. On my own Osprey, the very best lid doubles as a daypack. Much less comfortable as being a dedicated daypack, nevertheless it serves its purpose.
Heavy-duty Lockable Zippers – A chain is just as strong as its weakest link. No matter how good the fabric in the backpack, if the attachment points, like zippers, are weak the entire bag is worthless. Make sure the zippers are tough and lockable where applicable.
Pockets and Compartments – The better compartments the higher. Good backpacks usually have numerous compartments to assist store and separate your gear so you won’t have to search through layers of garments just to find your chapstick. As an example, maps may go inside the top flap, while your flip-flops are stored conveniently within the side pocket. However you decide to pack, separate pockets allow easy and quick access in your gear. Most backpacks may also have strategically placed pockets, like on the hipbelt, so you can get for your gear while not having to drop your pack.
Lightweight Internal Frame – Backpacks generally come with an internal frame, external frame, or no frame in any way. I strongly recommend a light-weight internal frame created from strong carbon fiber rods. This provides more load support and merely looks better. External frames are bulky, conspicuous, and utilize dated technology and frameless backpacks have awful load support at higher weights. Trust me, without the proper weight distribution, you’re shoulders will feel every single one of those pounds.
Side Load Access – I’m seeing less of this function on the newer backpacks, but should you do occur to find one with side access you’re golden. You’ll have the capacity to access items from the main compartment of the bag without digging in from the top. You’re life will simply be that much simpler.
Suspension System with Padded Shoulders and Load Bearing Straps. Don’t even consider buying wholesale novelty items unless it offers either an adjustable or fixed suspension system, in addition to a number of load bearing straps. The suspension product is the part that typically rests against your back and in which the padded shoulders connect. Fixed system implies that it fits to a single torso size, whereas the adjustable system may be calibrated. The entire system is meant to help stabilize load and transfer weight to your hips. The load bearing straps, like the sternum strap, may also help move the body weight around minimizing pain and discomfort.
Ventilation – To reduce the discomfort from an annoying sweaty back, get a backpack with ventilation. Most internal-frame packs will have some kind of ventilation system or design feature that promotes airflow, developing a permanent breathable layer between yourself as well as the backpack. While not important for load support, it certainly increases your level of comfort.
Padded Full-size Hip belt – This is among the most important feature of any backpack since your hips will likely be carrying 80% of the backpacks weight. The padding within the belt will allow you to avoid fatigue, discomfort, and of course load distribution. Make sure you get one that’s full-size, in which the padding comes around your hip bone for the front, and isn’t just a thin strap with a clip.
Multiple Straps and Tool Attachment Points – This feature is really a personal preference and doesn’t really impact comfort and load distribution however i do feel it’s equally as important. I like the thought of obtaining excess straps, clips and tool attachment points. You’re capable of perform on-the-fly spot fixes for a variety of unexpected circumstances, making your backpack function not only as being a bag. You’re in a position to tie, hook, and rig a complete mess of things while on the road while not having to carry additional gear. Some backpacks have started to include “daisy chains” (typically available on climbing packs) which is actually a number of tool attachment loops.
Internal Hydration Reservoir – An inside compartment that holds your preferred hydration bladder (i.e. Camelpak, Platypus) so you have hands-free use of H2O. Openings on the backpack will allow you access to the sip tube making it an extremely practical feature on your long treks. You won’t need to dig in your pack or stop your momentum looking for your water bottle.