How To Choose A Hiking Backpack

How To Choose A Hiking Backpack

A backpack is said to be a hiker’s most valuable asset. My awesome cousin wants to take a hike and I’ve been given the task to help her choose the most versatile and comfortable backpack for her.

If you are not familiar with the concept of hiking or you’d rather I throw in a little definition, then here it is; hiking means to walk for a long distance, especially across country or in the woods.

A lot of people love to hike but are never fully aware of how to choose a backpack so I’d drop a few tips.

Sizing and Fitting A Backpack

If your backpack is too small or large, it could affect your hiking negatively and distribute weight to only a few parts of your body, thereby causing strenuous hiking.

Your torso length not your height puts you in a correct range. Most manufacturers provide a size range telling how many inches of torso length each range covers to help you make an effective choice.

For example:

  • Small may cover 16-19 inches
  • Medium may cover 18-21 inches
  • Large may fit 20-23 inches

Every manufacturer has his unique method of measuring the torso for different back pack sizes.


One of the questions you should ask yourself is the trip length. How long will your trip last, months, days? Or will you like a pack for weekends and over overnights as well?

Well, if you are going for a specific trip, it’s easier to select a backpack. If not, going on different trips at different times will need you to have two backpacks or a large adjustable/versatile backpack.

Weight Distribution

You will notice your body adjusting to leaning slightly more on steeper terrains than flatter terrains. For this reason, more weight will fall on your hips; roughly 65-80% of the weight.

The rest should be distributed along the fronts and tops of your shoulder. This is why you should get a backpack that fits your hips and wraps your shoulders.

Pack Anatomy and Adjustment

Knowing your way around your backpack, especially when carrying different weights help to give comfortable trips.

Having the knowledge of how to strap your detachable daypack onto your travel bag, adjust the load lifters, lash your skis or trekking poles to the side will give you an enjoyable trip.

Load Lifter straps

Connect the top shoulder straps with the top of the backpack, and when tightened well, they prevent the pack from leaning away from your back. They should be positioned from a 45 degree angle.

Compression straps

The compression straps are extended to give space when a pack is very full and clinched down to tighten the pack when it is almost empty. They tighten along the sides of a pack.

These allow the carrier to achieve a balanced pack even if it is not fully loaded down. These are one of the characteristics that make a pack versatile enough for a day or multi-day hike.

Hip belt stabilizer

This strap is to be tightened around the hipbelt to give balance and stability.

Sternum strap

It clips over the chest, bringing both shoulder straps in front. This makes it stable. Some manufactures made their packs in a way that allows the strap’s height to be adjusted so that it sits comfortably on your chest.

The last relevant parts are load bearing parts. External frame parts are no longer popular, these days; modern packs carry internal frame parts which carry closer to the body.

Internal frame parts provide support in these ways:

Frame sheets

This is a thin, semi-rigid piece of material that lines the back of a pack, keeping the pack’s shape and stopping objects from jabbing the carrier through the fabric.

Some manufacturers built their packs with removable frame sheets while others have theirs built in. Most packs use both frame sheets and aluminium stays to provide support.

Perimeter frame

Such packs have thin amount of aluminum tubing contouring around the outside of the pack on the backside.

Aluminum stays

These are thin support rods that run the length of a pack to give it stability and shape.

This summary is how to choose hiking backpacks. You could snag up a really great backpack by following the above listed guidelines.

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