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How to pick the best backpack for you specifically.

As fun as winter is, we at West Adventures are all looking forward to the weather warming up and the outdoors! As hiking is one of our favourite activities, thoughts are going towards preparing for a season of finding and experiencing the best local trails here in Western Canada and USA.

To be properly prepared one of the most important things to start with is the correct back pack. It needs to be right for us and for the type of hiking or trekking we want to do. Here is an easy recap of how to choose the right pack for each of us.

Let’s start with what are the main types of packs to choose from:

Daypack – 10 – 35 Liters capacity, is frameless or has an internal frame and should weigh between 1–2 lbs. These are best for day hikes or summit climbs and should cost between $25 – $100USD.

Overnight – 40 – 60 Liters capacity, is frameless or have a an internal or perimeter frame and should weigh between 2–3.5 lbs. These are best for shorter overnight hikes and should cost between $140 – $180USD

Multi-day – 60-75 Liters capacity, needs an internal or perimeter frame and should weigh between 4-6 lbs. Needs to be used for backpacking trips. It is important to get a good quality pack for multi-day use and should cost between $200 – $350USD.

Expedition – 75-125 Liters capacity, should have an internal from and weigh between 3-6 lbs. These are best for Mountaineering or winter camping and should cost between $200 – $400USD.

Technical – 10 – 20 Liters capacity, should be frameless and 1-1.5 lbs. These are needed when skiing or mountain climbing and should cost between $40  – $70USD.

Hydration – 2 -10 Liters capacity, will be frameless and 1-2 lbs. Great for day hikes, running, climbing and cycling and should cost between $55 – $140USD

So the easiest question to ask yourself is how long am I going to be away? This helps narrow down what pack you need immediately.

Secondly, consider the weather you will be wearing your pack in. The colder the weather, keeping ion mind elevation, the more you will need to pack for your trip and the more weight you will want your pack to carry.

Once you’ve chosen the type of backpack you want, the next step is to work with a specialist at a sporting store to expertly fit you to your pack.

The right fit is one that offers:

  • A size appropriate for your torso length (not your overall height).
  • A comfortably snug grip on your hips.

Torso Length

Some packs are available in multiple sizes, from extra small to large, which fit a range of torso lengths. These ranges vary by manufacturer and by gender. Check the product specs tab for size details of a specific pack.

Other packs may feature an adjustable suspension, which can be modified to fit your torso, especially if you’re in-between sizes. The drawback: An adjustable harness adds a little weight to a pack.

Waist Size

The majority of a backpack’s weight, 80 percent or more, should be supported by your hips. Backpack hipbelts usually accommodate a wide range of hip sizes, from the mid-20 inches to the mid-40 inches. People with narrow waists sometimes find they cannot make a standard hipbelt tight enough and need a smaller size. Some packs offer interchangeable hipbelts, making it possible to swap out one size for another.

Women-Specific Backpacks

Because they often have smaller torso dimension sizes, women’s backpacks are generally shorter and narrower than men’s packs. And hipbelts and shoulder straps are contoured with the female form in mind.

Some other features to look for that are very handy are an outside elastic pocket for easy access of things you use frequently, a gear loop again for easy access and a water bottle pocket. Front loading vs. top loading: If you will be packing and unpacking often, it’s important to know the loading features of your backpack. One access point means you have to take everything out to find that one item at the bottom. Camera and laptop protection: Serious flashpackers have to worry about their tech gear staying safe through all the bumps in the road. Some backpacks have padded pockets for laptops.

When it comes to backpack prices, you get what you pay for. If you decide to go cheap, you might end up having to replace it because of broken zippers or ripped fabric. Hopefully not when you are hiking.

For West Adventures trips we suggest you purchase a pack large enough to replace a traditional suitcase as it is much easier and practical to travel with as well as a day pack for the hiking and other activities you will be taking part in each day. The great thing about our trips is that the majority of your camping equipment is provided for you and you do not need to pack bulky and heavy items like a tent, chair, dishes, coolers, BBQs, etc. Check out our trips at www.westadventures.com

Final Tips

  • Shop around. Even once you’ve selected the backpack you want, you can sometimes find it cheaper online than in store.
  • Check for any tears or even slight damage to your backpack before taking it on a trip. The smallest rip can ruin a backpack once you put your belongings in it.
  • Get it sized and fitted by a professional. Even if you didn’t buy your backpack from a store, you can still get it fitted there.
  • Backpacks can vary in sizes for torso sizes and hip belts. When packing, put the heaviest items between the shoulder blades, not at the bottom of your backpack. This should prevent back pain.
  • Backpacks aren’t like shoes. You can’t just buy the size you think you are and make it work. If it’s too big or too small, you will hate carrying it around.
  • Take it for a trial run. Bring your backpack on a short weekend trip or for a long walk to make sure you’re comfortable.
  • Invest in a rain cover. A good rain cover stops wear and tear on the straps as well as protecting your gear from the getting wet.