This is Part 1 of a 3-part series about hiking backpacks.
Beside your hiking shoes and water bottle, your backpack is probably the next gear that is most commonly brought along when you go hiking.
Hiking backpacks typically fall into 3 categories. This is a rough guide to the backpack size needed as it depends on how much or little you intend to pack.
- Daypacks around 10-30L. Used for carrying stuff you need for the day such as water, snacks, first aid kit. Commonly used during summit climbs or short day hikes.
- Weekend backpacks around 30-60L. You need the extra volume to carry additional overnight essentials like warm clothing, food, and tent.
- Multi-days backpacks around 50L-85L and beyond. The bulk mainly comes from carrying additional food and equipment for your multi-day expedition.
Backpacks today include quite a number of features and functionalities in them. Some of the common features found today are:
- Internal Framing – Modern backpacks today use internal framing which spreads and distribute the load vertically. This give us better comfort while carrying and helps to transfer some weight off the shoulders to your hips and back.
- Padded Shoulder Straps – Look out for the padding thickness and the width of the shoulder strap. A comfortable shoulder strap helps to distribute weight and lower the impact on our shoulders.
- Padded Hip Belt – A padded hip belt wraps around our hip comfortably. Thereby enabling us to fasten the belt securely to our hips, transferring the weight off our shoulders.
- Lightweight – Manufacturers today market some packs as lightweight backpacks. As the frame is the heaviest component of a backpack, what this usually means is the lighter the backpack, the less internal framing you get. When looking for a lightweight backpack, check to see if it has a rigid frame.
- Ventilation – We will be carrying our backpacks and hiking for a long period of time. It’s likely that we will be perspiring and our backs are feeling warm. Many backpacks today has ventilation technology which aims to keep us cool and regulate airflow on our back.
- Access Design – Smaller backpacks usually have panel loaded design (separate compartment closed by zippers) and larger backpacks usually have a top loaded design (giant cylindrical main compartment with a lid opening at the top). Top loaded design maximises space efficiency but makes retrieving an item at the bottom of a backpack difficult. Good backpacks have zippers at the bottom or sides for quick access to the main compartment. Look out for water bottle pockets and gear loops too.
- Hydration Sleeve – Some backpacks have dedicated hydration sleeve pockets within the backpack to put our hydration reservoir and special openings designed for reservoir tubes to come out.
- Waterproofing – Some manufacturers use waterproofed materials and fabrics to make their backpacks. Others lay a water repellent coating onto their backpacks. Some backpacks include an external rain cover for your backpack.
In Part 2, we will focus on buying and fitting a backpack.