How to Choose a Hiking Backpack

How to Choose a Hiking Backpack

Published: Oct 28, 2020

When choosing the best hiking backpack, you should check the different types of backpacks, frame types, backpack fit, and suspension systems. If you want to select the most notable backpack, you need to know the different features it can have. Features may include ventilation systems, pockets, pack access, compartments, paddings, and attachment points.

In this article, we covered the topics that you need to know when it comes to a camping backpack. If you're ready to buy a backpack, make sure that you check out our Best Hiking Backpack of 2021 where we have summarized the top products in the market today.

Let's get started!

Backpacks can differ depending on its purpose and capacity. When you're looking to buy a hiking backpack, it's first important to know what you should look for and what would be the best fit for your travels.

Types of Backpack to Choose From

Determining the type of backpack is one of the factors you need to consider when you want to buy for your adventure. In this section, we will be talking about the different backpacks that will suit your travel. 

The specs you need to focus on when choosing your backpack is the capacity and the duration of days or hours you are going to. 

  1. Hiking for a day or hours

A capacity of 10 up to 25 liters is recommended in this category. We suggest base backpacks with accessible small storages with an added rain cover on the external parts. Inside is recommended to have a hydration pack, dividers, and enough pockets for your other stuff. For secured carry, it should have cushioned or padded shoulder straps, hip belt, and chest strap.  

  1. Weekend hiking

You should look for a minimum of 20 liters but we suggest you look for 30 to 40 liters backpack capacity. It should have all of the features that you can see for a day hiking however, the backpack should possess attachment systems to allow you to carry other equipment that can't pack inside. This type of hiking has an estimation of 2 or 3 nights so it is better if you pack light things for your convenience.

  1. Multi-day hiking

You will be on an adventure for an approximate 3 to 5 nights. A 35-liters bag is satisfactory but around 50 to 80 liters capacity is recommended. Special features like waterproof ability is an advantage since you'll never know what will be the weather in the span of the days specified.

  1. Extended hiking

A larger capacity is recommended since you will be out for 5 nights or more. It will still depend on how or what stuff and equipment you are going to pack but, it is a fact that the number of days is quite long.

We suggest you choose a 65 and up liters backpack especially if you are going around in the winter season because you should bring equipment that will make you warm but if it is summer, you can select a lesser capacity. Another instance is if you are traveling with kids in which adults are required to carry all of the things.

Types of Backpack Frames

The body structure of a backpack is a footing that forms its shape. The frame is the component that builds up the structure of this equipment so it is essential to choose the perfect fit that may solve your requirements for a backpack. There are three types of frames and these are internal, external, and frameless. Let's discuss further each of these frames.

  • Internal Frame

This type of frame makes the backpack embrace closely to your body. From the statements of our testers, it is an advantage to have an internal frame on your backpack if you are trekking and hiking as it is appropriated properly to your back which makes it compact and stable when you carry it. The design shifts the weight to your hips.

  • External Frame

The first thing we need you to know in this type of frame is the instability if you compare it to the internal frame. If you notice, external frames are designed outside the backpack which hampers the hugging-fit feature. However, this is recommended if you carry heavy loads of gears and equipment. 

What is great in backpacks with external frames is the allowance and the freedom of organization inside. We're not saying that internal frames are not capable of this but if the frame is outside the backpack, the space that it will consume from internal frames can be an advantage for an extra leeway for your things.

  • Frameless

This is the most common type of backpacks you can in the stores. There are no external and internal frames attached to this design. It only means that you need to carry lighter materials and less bulky materials.

Though backpacks with frames are still recommended, it is still in your hands-on how to handle your baggage but, be aware that it is not advisable to carry heavy weights because there are no frames to support in lifting those. On the other hand, this is still a great option if you are just going on hiking in uncomplicated places. It is much of a carefree type of backpacking.

Fitting Your Backpack

In choosing the right backpack for you, you should also be attentive not only to the features but also to the size of the backpack. The size that we are talking about is not the internal capacity but the ones on your back. Things to look for are the size of your torso, size, and the user's class whether they are male, female, or kids.


  1. Measure Your Torso

As you have seen in the stores, there specific types of backpacks to be used exactly by the person who has that size. The best thing you need to do is try the backpack first. 

However, you will never know if it actually fits you if you put your things inside. The length of your torso is not the same as the measurement of your whole body which is from head to your feet but, only the range of your torso's length.

Bear in mind that if the backpack has modifiable suspensions which work to appropriate the equipment to your torso. This is a bit of extra weight to your baggage.

  1. Measure Your Hips

This is important to check especially for those backpacks with hip belts. It works as another support for your compact carrying however, these should be fitted well to your hips. 

After you check the length of your torso, try to adjust the hip belts if they can be securely be adjusted to hug your hips. It will still rely on your hip size so better to test it. Some of the hip belts may be loose because it is made for large sizes.

  1. Gender Basis

Although you might have found the perfect backpack for your body, we suggest you look for one of the backpacks which are designed mainly for women if you are a female. This will make your fitting easier than randomly picked a backpack on the display. 

We all know that men and women have the different torso and hip sizes so it is a specific factor you should contemplate. Manufacturers do not only structured the size but also the form and construction of the whole backpack. 

  1. Kid Sizes

Kids or children also have their own particular type of backpacks because not all of the adult's backpacks may fit their size. Regardless of gender as long as it is comfortable for them and fit for their size, it is an advantage for them during your adventures. Usually, the specs in this type of backpack are smaller and emphasize more comfort for the children. 

Suspension System

This is the spec of the backpack which summarizes the whole parts of the backpack that are involved when you carry it. Its key role is to dispense equally the total weight of your backpack to your entire body.

After we discuss the backpack fit which talks about the size that is suitable for you, the suspension system is the next attribute we will discuss. 

According to our hikers who are able to test different backpacks, the durability and the adjustable suspension is a very significant detail that your backpack should have. Even if it fits perfectly with the measurement of your torso and hips, the weight still plays a big role in your carrying aspect.

If you are carrying a heavy load, you should be attentive and check if the suspension is great. But how to choose the best suspension for you? Let's talk more about weight.

  • For backpacks with a max capacity of 10 pounds, you will need less suspension wherein the backpack is frameless and standard hip belt without cushion
  • On the situation of max caps of 20 pounds, those with frame sheet, the hip belt that is slightly cushioned and with dense frame is suggested.
  • While on the instances of 20 up to 40 pounds. It should have average features and the weights above the mentioned should bear a more dependable, durable, and strong frame and hip belt.

Lastly, take note that your backpack should make you feel the weight transfer on your weight. If it makes you feel the weight on your shoulders, it is a sign that the backpack's fit is not properly appropriated on the length of your torso and size of the hips.

Features You Would Want to Have in Your Backpack

Apart from the important specs we have reviewed, there are other features you might want to take a glance at that may bring more advantages than the common and standard backpacks have.


Not all of the backpacks have this kind of feature. This aims to provide breathability to your backs even when you carry the packs for a long duration of time. Those who lack this result the user's backs to sweat. The typical design you can see is the mesh on the back parts of the pack.


Having a backpack with side pockets is a total advantage. It works not only to hold your tumbler but can be used to store different types of gears like poles. These side pockets are stretchy or expandable. Another is the pockets on the hip belt and on the façade. 

You easily access small storage on the hip belt when the backpack is already hugging your back. You will not struggle from forcing your arms to reach the nearest pockets available on the front part of the pack. The size is quite similar to the front pocket. Small but handy. 

Last is the shovel pocket which can be used for lightweight materials but some backpacks don't have a full closure on this kind of pockets since this is primarily for portable shovels

Compartments and Backpack Access

There is a main and sleeping bag compartment. The main is the part with the big size of storage while the sleeping bag compartment can be found on the lower part of the backpack. It is in the bottom portion. 

There are also three types of access: top, front, and side. 

The top access lets you open the upper portion of the pack. For the front, the common design is a vertical zipper which gives you easier storage of your things but, not all of the backpacks have this. The best access we like is located on the sides because it exposes the storage of your backpack through side zippers.

Paddings and Attachment Points

Paddings are a great combination to support your back and hips. The attachment points, which we have mentioned earlier permits you to attach loops if you want to carry an ax and other equipment.


As we are in the midst of discussing the different specs and features that affect your choices in buying a backpack, we noticed that a user should be careful and assure the best fit for their body. 

Some users don't actually read reviews and guide in buying backpacks which is a bit of a mistake however, the specs and fit will still depend on your decisions and perceptions. But, we really recommend having knowledge of the features of the backpacks so it will be an advantage for you when you use it. 

To sum up, the focal specs we suggest you focus on are the types of the backpack, frame types, backpack fit, and suspension system. Other features we have defined are just the minor attributes you can check if you want a complete package of the backpack you will buy. 

Expect that this kind of equipment is considerably expensive however, you can still ensure the quality. Cheaper types may have limited and less dependable features. So better be wise in dealing with the contrast of the backpacks because you should remember that you will be hiking in places that the surface and surroundings are not consistent. 

You might encounter rough, rocky, and high grounds that require you to focus on your body. Those backpacks with internal frames are commendable in this kind of adventure. Just a reminder that equipment that is chosen randomly is sometimes inappropriate on the range of your usage. 

Be strict with the features because there are extra features that may be useless in the end.  


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