Next to buying the ideal pair of hiking, backpacking, or expedition boots is the need to carefully choose a backpack that addresses engineering, style and features, correct fit and sizing, and trip duration, season, and capacity. Selecting an appropriate backpack can mean the difference between a truly enjoyable and rewarding outdoor experience or a complete nightmare that ends with painful memories. Take the time and get familiar with the details below to ensure your next backpack purchase meets the performance criteria that you desire.




  • Perfect for single-day hikes, trail treks, and lightweight climbing adventures.
  • Intended for light loads between 10-15 pounds.
  • Hipbelt and torso strap recommended to prevent load thumping.


Internal frame packs  
  • Intended for heavier loads equal to or exceeding 15 pounds.
  • Frames choices typically include aluminum stays, plastic framesheets, curved Delrin rods or some combination of the following.
  • Frame setup located internally and when properly fit ensures contours body hug for optimal load transfer to hips and overall comfort.
  • Best for dynamic activities because internal frames are generally narrower and closer fitting to the body.
  • For warm to hot weather outings consider a breathable mesh “trampoline style” back to allow maximum air circulation without sacrificing stability and control.


External frame packs  
  • Also engineered for large loads, these packs are ideal for less technically challenging hiking excursions since the load is positioned farther away from your back resulting in somewhat less control or stability when compared to internal frame packs. Trekking poles are recommended to counter balance this effect.
  • Typically have higher center of gravity which 1) delivers excellent weight transfer to the hips allowing a more upright posture and 2) permits maximum air ventilation between the pack and your back.




  • Shoulder straps should wrap comfortably around your shoulders.
  • Avoid pinching or digging under your armpits.
  • Hipbelt should fit snugly against your lumbar region
  • Your pack should not sway or thump against your back.


Internal & External Frame Packs
The key issue for carrying a larger load is the fit, or pack suspension system. This addresses how the pack attaches to your body and how the corresponding weight is properly distributed using the combined shoulder straps, sternum strap, hipbelt, frame, back padding and lumber area support technologies.  The three types of suspension systems are:



Fixed suspensions:

  • Although not adjustable this style of suspension is typically offered in multiple sizes to accommodate a wide range of torsos.
  • Main advantage – fewer moving parts.
  • Another key benefit – strong connection between the wearer and the pack to ensure a high degree of stability and control.
  • Biggest disadvantage – no wiggle room for a pack that fits incorrectly.



Adjustable  suspensions:

  • System comes equipped with a shoulder yoke to adjust the length between the shoulders and hips to fit a wide variety of body types.
  • Benefit – for extended trips this adjustment option permits the ability to change the way your pack fits if you develop sore spots.



Interchangeable  suspensions:

  • For experienced outdoor enthusiasts this is perhaps the ideal system because it offers the best of both worlds. Customizing your pack using a different hipbelt or shoulder strap setup guarantees the most optimal fit imaginable, especially for those with non-average body styles.


Measure torso  
Before shopping for that perfect backpack the first step is to know your torso length. Without the proper measurement your shoulders, back and hips will not bear the load properly, which could result in a great deal of discomfort and possibly lead to an injury.



Step 1:

  • Find your starting point of measurement – the C7 vertebra.

Step 2:

  • Find your iliac crest by placing your hands on your hips and using your thumbs to locate this region – it is the most prominent bone on the pelvis. Draw an imaginary line connecting your thumbs and this is ending point of measurement.

Step 3:

  • Using a tape measure, record the distance between these two points. This is your torso length.


Women’s packs  
  • Despite the subtle differences between men’s and women’s backpacks the dissimilarities are critical for correct fit, comfort, and control and to avoid the possibility of injury.
  • Look for shoulder straps that fit closer together, are thinner, and taper to accommodate narrower shoulders, and a hipbelt that is canted to better cup the hips.




  Internal frame packs
  • Place sleeping bag crosswise at the bottom of the pack.
  • Next, store heavy items in the middle of the pack close to your spine to achieve balanced displacement.
  • Then, stuff puffy layered clothing and raingear down the sides.
  • Utilize external pockets for convenient access to snacks, maps, sunscreen, lip balm, pocket knife, first aid kit, snake bite kit, bear spray, and other small essential items that you might need throughout the day.


  External frame packs
  • Most external frame packs are designed to fasten your sleeping bag to the outside and under the pack itself. A waterproof stuff stack with a roll-top closure is recommended.
  • Position heavier gear near the top but still close to your spine.
  • Utilize external pockets for convenient access to snacks, maps, sunscreen, lip balm, pocket knife, first aid kit, snake bite kit, bear spray, and other small essential items that you might need throughout the day.




Trip Duration Season Cubic Inches Liters
5+ nights Summer 4000-5000 65-80
  Spring/Fall Over 5000 80-90
  Winter Over 5000 80-90
3-5 nights Summer 3000-4000 50-65
  Spring/Fall 4000-5000 65-80
  Winter Over 5000 80-90
1-2 nights Summer 2500-3000 40-50
  Spring/Fall 3000-3500 50-55
  Winter 4000-5000 65-80
Day hikes Summer 1500-2000 25-35
  Spring/Fall 2000-2500 35-40
  Winter 2500-3500 40-55





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