How to Choose a Backpack For Backpacking

Choose The Proper Backpack

While choosing the proper backpack for a backpacking trip, there are a lot of variables to consider.  I will try to help you narrow down your selection before looking at any particular packs.

  • Are you planning a day trip or a multiple day excursion?

The size of your backpack is a very important aspect to consider. Backpacks used for trips longer than a couple days should be 3500-5000+ cubic inches. While Day packs and weekend packs tend to be in the 700-3000 cubic inch range.  For most people, it would be a good idea to own multiple packs. Personally I tend to collect backpacks like some women collect shoes. 😉 Its hard to get enough, but I won’t get into that.

  •  What size pack do you need? You need a backpack that fits you properly! 

Generally this is based upon torso length. To find your torso length you need to measure from the base of your neck down to the top of your hips.his i  If you can get assistance from someone, the most accurate measurement is taken as shown in the diagram below.

  • Extra Small-             14″ to 15.5″

Torso measurement for fitting a backpack

  • Small-                         16″ to 17.5″
  • ​Medium/Reg.-        18″ to 19.5″
  • Large/Tall-               20″ and up

This chart above is just a Ballpark figure. It applies to Men’s and Woman’s sizing.  You should find out the measurements of the pack you are interested in, because companies sizing can vary slightly.

The internal frame pack:

an example of an internal frame backpackThis is my personal favorite. They tend to keep the weight in tighter to your body to keep you a little more stable. But the internal frame does take up space. Most internal frame packs have spin drift collars which allow you to extend the size of your pack vertically by over stuffing it.  The internal frame pack is usually the best choice in my opinion for most hiking situations.

External Frame:

An example of an external frame packThe external frame pack is a real classic. The frame being exposed will allow you to easily attach extra gear to your pack, such as sleeping pads, tents, bags, etc. The pack is usually easily removed from the frame so you can carry a large cumbersome item directly on the frame itself  (such as the hindquarter of an elk for instance).   These packs tend to keep the weight of your gear out away from your body, more than an internal frame. This causes these packs to be less stable.  However in warmer temperatures I find that the ventilation that these packs will give you is much better than an internal frame pack. 

No Framed Packs:

Frameless small backpacks are good for for fast paced quick trips. usually just to carry some water, aAn example of a frame less backpack little bit of clothing and whatever else you decide you need. These offer very little support and are not recommended for hauling much weight.

Specialty packs:

An example of an alpine climbing and skiing backpack (such as this Sierra designs Ministry designed for climbing/skiing). Are for use for particular situations. This particular pack has loops to hold your skis, and such. Climbing packs tend to be more narrow than regular packs in order to give you freedom of movement in your arms.

Once you learn how to choose a backpack for backpacking, half the battle is won. Now its time to go hiking!