What Type Of Backpack Do You Need?
Which is the right backpack for you? There are variations on backpacks and the right one for you depends on the type of activity you will be doing.
A day hike requires a smaller, lighter backpack, because you only pack what you need for that day. You don’t have to carry a sleeping bag or a tent. You should include water, snacks and/or lunch, a rain poncho, fire starters and a first aid kit. A padded back and contoured straps for your shoulders are essential. A sturdy waistband will keep your gear from bouncing around. Always try on your backpack before you buy it and load it up with the amount of weight you will probably be carrying. Ten or so pounds should do it for a day hike.
If you’re planning an overnight hike, you will need a full fledged backpack. You should plan on carrying thirty to forty pounds of weight. Once again, have the salesperson load up your pack so you can see how it feels.
Look for shoulder straps that are contoured and well padded. You also want to make sure your waistband is well padded because you will carry most of the weight on your hips. A sternum strap that fastens across your chest will keep the shoulder straps from slipping. The pack itself should have some padding on the part that rests against your back.
Your size and shape may determine the style of backpack that you choose. Once again, it is essential to try it on, fully loaded, and see how it feels. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t buy it. Keep on looking.
It’s a good idea to shop in an outdoor store where the salespeople have a lot of experience in fitting backpacks. It’s likely that they do backpacking themselves.
Internal versus External Frame
There are two types of backpack construction: internal frame versus external frame.
Internal frame backpacks fit more closely to your body because the frame is on the inside. They tend to carry the weight lower on your back thereby making it easier to keep your balance and to maneuver in tight places. The only problem is that you cannot tie things onto the outside of the pack. Also, they load from the top, which is easy to do, but it can be a bear if you need something from the bottom of the pack.
External frames are easier to pack. They often have multiple zippered openings and pockets on the outside, making it easier to access items you have packed inside or hooked on the outside. The weight is carried a little higher on your body and this can interfere with your balance, although it does allow you to walk more upright. External frames also allow some airflow between the pack and your back. If you sweat a lot, this could be a bonus.
The choice is yours. Try on multiple backpacks of both varieties until you find the backpack that fits you just right.