It's wise to give some thought to when and and where you are going to use your backpack and what gear to put in it. Finding a pack that works for just about everything is difficult, almost impossible, but it isn't that difficult to find the optimal backpack for your adventures and everyday life. Strive to find a pack that:
· has a volume that fits your purpose
· has most of the features you prefer
· has the right back length and right fit
What about the volume?
Depending on usage you need more or less volume. Of course it also matters what kind of gear you have, what kind of person you are (light or heavy backpacker), for how long you will be away or type of season. During winter time your stuff are always more bulky so you have to add on a few extra liters. Parents will probably have to carry some of their children's gear as well and then the pack requires more volume. The following recommendations may be a reference.
- Everday life and day trip: 20-35 liters
- Overnight, weekends & hut-to-hut: 35-50 liters
- Backpacking: 45-65 liters
- Weekly tours tents: 60-85 liters
To have enough volume that all your gear fit inside the pack is to recommend. This makes it easier to distribute the weight, to pack correctly and to get the perfect fit. Choose the volume of the backpack due to the the times when you use it the most. A backpack is always at its best when it is full-bodied. At other times you can tighten the compression straps or attach any gadget outside the pack. If you tighten the pack remember to tighten the bottom at first. In that way you avoid all the weight to end up in the bottom of the pack resulting a wrong weight distribution.
What kind of backpack should I choose?
Today there are unlimited models to choose from and sometimes it's simply too many. It might be good to consider the features and details you wish for in a backpack.
Loading and lid
Top, panel or bottom loaded? A top lid or roll closure? The options how to access your gear are many. A front loaded backpack is a favorite of many. You will have a quick access and will easily find an item that is far down in the pack. Most of the larger backpacks have a separate bottom compartment often called "sleeping bag compartment." The bottom compartment nearly always has a divider to the main compartment. Since you probably will pick up your sleeping bag and other sleeping gear every night this compartment is quite convenient to have .
A top lid works as an extra pocket and many backpacks allow you to convert the lid to a hip pack as well. That is handy if you will hit the summit for example and only need to bring the most necessary. Is there is a floating top lid, ie adjustable, you have access to an extra space under the lid in case you need it. The benefit with a roll closure and less opening options on your pack is that you get a pack with fewer weak points.
Waterproof or not
The obvious benefit of a waterproof backpack is of course that you never have to worry about your gear will get wet or not. Furthermore, the waterproof packs are usually of a more substantial variations in the fabric which make them more durable. Slightly heavier though and often they lack external pockets. The problem keeping your stuff in the backpack dry is otherwise easily solved with a rain cover and / or some waterproof stuff sacks.
The suspension system
Then there is this issue with the hip belt. We think it's necessary, at least on the larger packs and at least if you want to carry your load safely, correctly and comfortably. On smaller packs a hip strap is often enough because you still won't have any heavy loads. Many models also have a detachable hip belt and/or harness which can be an advantage if you travel frequently with your pack or want it in everyday life and never use the hip belt anyway. For backpackers and other frequent travellers a pack with a stow away suspension system is to recommend.Convenient to just hide when you're off the bus, train, taxi or airplane. And above that you don't need to carry around a flight bag all the time.
Light and ultralight packs
Should you carry around a lighter load, it's a good option to consider a lighter packback. Grams can quickly turn into kilos. Most lightweight backpacks have a recommended maximum load capacity that is good to relate to. Be sure to look that up before you decide on a pack. Many times the suspension system isn't as solid as on heavier packs. Moreover, the fabrics and all the details and features are less durable cause to weight saving.
Today there are, thankfully, a lot of packs that are customized for girls / women / ladies. They often have a shorter back length and the suspension system is shaped with the female form in mind: slightly narrower between the shoulders, the hip belt is angled and the shoulder straps are cut so they don't interfere with the bust. Are you a short and skinny man and have trouble finding a unisex pack that fits properly? Then a women-specific pack could be your solution.
Back length and torso size
Most backpacks have an adjustable suspensions system where you can adjust the back length to fit your height and torso size. The packs with fixed back length often come in different sizes so you can get the optimal fit. The back length measurement may differ slightly from each brand so it's important that you measure the length of your back to get a pack that fits properly.
To measure the length of your back
.Get a tape measure and a friend that helps you with the measurement
· Locate the knobby bone at the base of your neck, C7 vertebrae, and start measuring there.
· Put your hands at waist level at the top of your hip bones, the iliac crest, with the thumbs pointing into the spine.
· Then measure the distance from the C7 vertebrae, along your spine, down to the imaginary line formed between your thumbs. Done!
Some larger packs also have an adjustable and interchangeable hipbelt. To find the right size just sweep the tape measure around your waist at the top level of your hip bones.
Author: Kajsa Albrechtsson/ Outnorth