How To Choose Hiking Backpack?

Your backpack will be one of the most important gear decisions you make if you're planning a fantastic thru-hike or a fast weekend trip. We'll help you pick the right pack for you, from frameless lightweight backpacking to durable, heavy-duty cruisers, so you can stay comfortable on the path for years to come. There are many features to look upon before buying the final hiking backpack. The most important ones are:

How To Choose Hiking Backpack

Your backpack will be one of the most important gear decisions you make if you're planning a fantastic thru-hike or a fast weekend trip. We'll help you pick the right pack for you, from frameless lightweight backpacking to durable, heavy-duty cruisers, so you can stay comfortable on the path for years to come.

There are many features to look upon before buying the final hiking backpack. The most important ones are:

  • Backpack capacity
  • Backpack features
  • Backpack fit
  • Suspension
  • Ventilation
  • Fabric Consideration

Backpack Capacity:

If You Had A Short Journey 1-3 Nights-30-50 liters:

On 1- to 3-night journeys, efficient packers using modern, lightweight hiking backpack gear can keep stuff light by utilizing a backpack in this size. However, light backpacks in this range need to be handled with extra care and more discipline to get the most out of them. The benefit of this range is that they are less bulky, so they are easy to carry and feel light on your feet as well, thus causing less stress during hiking.

If You Had Longer Journey 3-5 Nights-50-80 liters:

These are the most commonly used backpacks as people mostly plan such journeys which are not more than 3-5 nights. The backpacks in this range are fabulous for warm-weather trips that can go long for three or more days. 50-80 liter backpacks are enough to carry out all your required accessories for backcountry skiing. Consider this for your normal hiking adventure.

Extended-Journey 5+ Nights-70 liters or More:

For trips that can last for more than five days, the 70 liters backpacks are ideal. These are usually preferred by the professional who travels more and loves hiking. These are good for:

  • Winter trails lasting for more days to improve the comfort and carry extra clothing, a warmer sleeping bag, and an all-season sleeping tent that requires more space to store the poles.
  • Parents and Adults carrying kids with them to store their gears to make the journey stress-free and more enjoyable.

Backpack Features:

By Frames Type:

Internal-Frame Hiking Backpacks: Most of the hiking backpacks being sold on REI are internal frame backpacks. These backpacks are designed in such a way that they can provide comfort at uneven terrains. They encompass a system that diverts the entire load to the hips portion protecting the back from stress and injuries.

External-Frame Hiking Backpacks: External Frame backpacks are more convenient for heavy loads. They can easily carry different gears and provide different pockets to carry more stuff. Irregular load such as inflatable kayak is easy to carry with such backpacks. They are well ventilated and provide more space to carry even bigger objects.

Frameless Hiking Backpacks: These backpacks are extremely lightweight, and they are ideal for families, kids, and adults who want to hike fast at normal terrains. These are not that much spacious and good for hikers who just plan to go for a single-day trip.

By Ventilation:

There are many backpacks available in the market that offer suspended mesh back panels to counter the sweaty-back syndrome. For people who get uncomfortable due to the back sweat, such backpacks are ideal as they provide good ventilation that keeps the back comfortable and sweat-free. The mechanism includes the frame that is kept few inches away from the back by a tension-mesh suspension which provides great ventilation.

Ventilation Chimneys: This is another mechanism that serves the same purpose. Here a honey comb-like structure is built into the back panels that promote the airflow to provide ventilation.

By Pockets:

Elastic Side Pockets: These are pretty much available in every bag. They are present on the sides of the backpack and they are stretchable to hold the items tight such as water bottles or tent poles.

Hip-Belt Pockets: These pockets are very useful as they provide quick access to your phone snacks, energy drinks, etc.

Shovel Pockets: Flaps stitched to the front of the backpack with a buckle closure at the end. Originally designed to carry a snow shovel, these pockets are now used on several all-season backpacks, where they can be used to store a map, coats or jackets, or other small, light objects.

Front pocket(s): These pockets are available in all backpacks to hold some small and lightweight items.

By Removable Top Lid:

There are few backpacks that offer a Removable-Top-Lid which means that the top lid can be detached from the main pack and can be used as a Hip-Belt Pocket as mentioned earlier in the article to store different items. This is ideal for day trips, short hikes, or to store items that can be accessed quickly.

By Sleeping Bag Spot:

This is the area near the bottom of the backpack that offers huge storage along with the zip to store large-sized sleeping bags. Other than this, you can also store your shoes or any other accessory in the given area.

By Padding:

Right padding is extremely essential to avoid sore spots on the hips and lower back. If the padding is too much, then there are chances of the backpack getting out of balance, and if the padding is too little, then it will feel uncomfortable to the body. So right padding plays a huge role in overall comfort.


This is a good item to bring if you expect rain on your ride. The interior of the backpack fabric is typically handled with waterproof material. However, water can seep through seams and zippers, and the fabric's exterior absorbs little extra water during the rainstorm.

Whereas rain cover will save the bag from heavy rains and protect the items from getting wet. Zippers are the areas from where most of the water will go into the backpack interior part. So consider the rain cover feature before buying your hiking backpack.

Hydration Reservoir:

Almost all packs have an internal sleeve for storing a hydration reservoir (which is most of the time sold separately) as well as one or two "hose portals" into which the sip tube can be inserted.

Backpack Fitting:

After checking all the features in the backpack that are mentioned above, it’s time to check the backpack fit.

The right fit offers:

  • A right size for the torso length (overall height is not included).
  • A comfortable grip around the hips.

So check your size and match before purchasing hiking backpacks online, otherwise, at physical stores this issue can be resolved by trying out the backpack.

Torso Length:

Some backpacks come in a variety of sizes, ranging from small to large, to accommodate a variety of torso lengths. These sizes and ranges differ depending on the manufacturer and gender. For size information on a particular pack, go to the product specifications page.

Other packs can have adjustable suspension that can be tailored to match your torso, which is particularly useful if you're confused between the sizes. The disadvantage is that an adjustable suspension can increase the weight of your backpack.

Customized Waist Size:

Most of a backpack’s weight ought to be upheld by your hips. Hiking backpack hip belts ordinarily oblige a wide scope of hip sizes. Individuals with narrow waists in some cases discover they can't make a standard hip belt sufficiently tight and need a more modest size. A few packs offer more adjustable and exchangeable hip belts, which makes it conceivable to switch from one hip belt to another.

Women-Specific Backpacks:

Women's backpacks also fit well for young backpackers of either gender due to their smaller frame sizes. The torso of a woman's pack is typically shorter and broader than that of a man's. Hip belts and shoulder straps are also curved to fit the female body.

Youth-Specific Backpacks:

These usually have a smaller capacity and a suspension that can be adjusted to accommodate a child's development. Women's backpacks also fit well for young backpackers of either gender due to their smaller frame sizes. Smaller versions of some men's packs still exist.

Additional Backpack Fit Adjustments

Load Lifting Straps:

These attach to the top of the pack frame and are stitched further into the top of the shoulder straps. Between your shoulder straps and the pack, they should form a 45° angle. They keep the upper portion of a pack from falling away from your body, causing the pack to sag on your lumbar area, if kept snug (but not too stiff).

Sternum Strap:

This strap, commonly known as the mid-chest strap, connects your shoulder straps, which can improve stability. When traveling on uneven terrains, where the wrong step might cause your pack to change unexpectedly and throw you off balance, it's a good idea to do so.

Suspension – Luxury Or Necessity?

The suspension system is extremely helpful. In hard and tough circumstances, you will hardly feel the weight of the backpack whether it is 30 or 60 liters.

Suspension systems are made up of belts, straps, frames, and buckles, and their main purpose is to uniformly distribute weight around the body.

When this happens, the weight of your backpack isn't felt purely on your shoulders or back. It's spread around your body, and you don't feel the gravity.

It's worth mentioning that if you need a decent suspension device, you'll have to spend more money on your hiking backpack.

Almost every hiking backpack brand nowadays claims to have a suspension system, but only a few of them offer high-quality suspension systems.

You can easily find some good and high-quality suspension system hiking backpacks online on different websites such as Amazon, eBay, etc. There are many brands that offer high-end suspension systems in a decent price range.

So ideally, if you are buying a multi-day backpack, then it is recommended to have a suspension system. It will increase the overall comfort during your journey and make the movement easy for you.

Ventilation System:

Consider going camping on the weekend. For example, anywhere where the weather is particularly hot. With a soaking wet, sweaty back, you're unlikely to last longer than a few hours. At the very least, the journey would not be as magical as you had planned.

You can easily prevent this by ensuring that your pack's back panel is well ventilated. As a result, the heat and sweat will evaporate before you can notice them.

Most outdoor equipment manufacturers now make backpacks with ventilation systems. Many who do it properly, like those who do it correctly with the suspension system, are few.

High brands, such as Osprey's Sirrus and Stratos, features a trampoline suspended mesh that stays between your back and the pack, preventing the pack from touching your back.

The back hardly feels the sweat because the heat is dissipated via mesh. Having a backpack with a well-ventilated system is extremely important to increase your comfort and performance while hiking.

Fabrics Consideration:

Last but not least, the materials used for building up your hiking backpack can determine how well it will go against the situations and the elements affecting the overall quality with hard use.

The most popular materials used in lightweight backpacks are nylon or Dyneema Composite Fabric (DCF). These products are light and water-resistant to a degree. DCF is thinner and more water-resistant than nylon throughout. However, the cost of this material is more than the nylon; hence backpacks created with this item are more expensive in general.

Moreover, for most of the backpacks, the letter D is present on the description or on the label to further define the material.

As mentioned earlier, the D will stand for denier, which is a measurement of resistance and durability. The higher the denier, the more hard-core the hiking backpack is.

You’ll mostly witness that most of the waterproof hiking backpacks will consist of the ripstop polyester along with high denier ratings.

Apart from the fabric, there are various buckles that are offered with the hiking backpack. Mainly two types of buckles are provided, the plastic ones and the metal ones. Plastic buckles are also fine but they often break down during hard terrains whereas, metal buckles are more stronger on the grip side and last longer than the plastic ones. The downsides of the metal buckles are that they get hotter during hot weather conditions.


Picking the right backpack for your requirements will make your whole hiking experience more comfortable and convenient. Finding a backpack that suits your specific needs and body shape can be difficult most of the time. You'll be happy you kept searching until you've found that one.

Once it comes to investing in a backpack that you'll need for a long time, we still advise you to do thorough research before making up the final purchase. You'll be excited to hit the slopes once you've found the perfect hiking backpack.