How to choose a backpack for a hike?

So, you are going on a hike. The route is chosen, the place is booked, tickets are bought, you are standing in the middle of the room, things are spread out on the floor, in the center there is a backpack and the main question of any beginner hiker: “How? How to pack it all in a backpack?”

We will try to help you with this problem and describe in this article the most common principles: how to choose a backpack; how to pack it properly, how to adjust it properly, how to wear a backpack properly in a hike and give the most common mistakes that beginners make during preparations before the hike.

Our article will help you choose the right backpack, so you are not confused, standing in a store and looking at the huge selection of all kinds of models.

Separately, we strongly recommend thinking through a list of things you stow in the backpack before you start putting anything in it (in the description to each of our hike is a list of necessary equipment and clothing). Make your way on

Also note that the backpack, shoes and a tent – this is what we recommend not to save money and to approach the selection of this equipment with the utmost seriousness.

Experienced backpackers will confirm our words that there is no universal backpack and every hike has its own nuances. The first backpack will serve you maximum if before you go to buy it you know exactly the schedule of your trips for the season. But even doing all of our recommendations, only after walking a few dozen miles with a backpack on his shoulders, you can understand exactly what backpack you want to wear, and what its features are especially important for you.

The first thing you should know about backpacks is that they differ in volume, which is measured in liters. In a specialized store, you can find backpacks from 40 to 130 liters. In addition, there are women’s and men’s models and models with different types of designs.

You should also decide on the type of hike and the climatic conditions that will be along the way.

So, for a winter hike you need to take more things, which means you need a backpack and a larger volume. Number of things in a water hike is much different from the hike in the mountains and plains. Please note that, for example, climbing Elbrus starts at about +15 +20 temperatures, and on top it can be down to -20. We recommend clarifying this moment with the organizers of your hike in advance.

What size backpack to choose?

Of course, in a small backpack can hold all the necessary things, but you need to know how to properly pack equipment and considerable skill, which comes with experience. In addition, with a small backpack you often need to hang large objects “overboard” that can cause a lot of inconvenience. With a large backpack is quite the opposite: the temptation to put a lot of unnecessary things is too great and the weight of the backpack can be just incredible.

Therefore, we recommend that you make a preliminary list of items for hiking and strictly follow it.

Depending on the constitution and training, an adult, going on a hike at the weekend, enough backpacking 40-65 liters.

For hikes more difficult and longer recommended backpacks:

  • In hiking on relatively flat terrain, men enough from 80 to 100 liters, women – from 60 to 80 liters;
  • For mountain hiking men should stock a backpack of 90 liters, women the same 60-80 liters;
  • Water tourism or hiking with skiing involves the presence of additional equipment and equipment, because the recommended amount of 130 liters for men and 80 liters for women.

These figures are very tentative, but help guide you in choosing the right backpack for the first campaign. Do not also forget about the individual characteristics of each. So, for example, a fragile girl can comfortably overcome vast distances under a backpack in 80 liters, while a young man’s hike can seem like hell with a backpack and 60 liters. All very individual and learned only in practice.

We recommend that you first try to borrow a backpack from someone you know, go under it one hike and clearly define for yourself all the important features of your individual proper backpack.

Some of the manufacturers of quality backpacks make backpacks in sizes (from S to XL) or with the ability to adjust the size yourself.

Types of backpacks

Stationary backpacks have in their design a solid frame to which the harness (straps, belt, straps) and bag are attached. This type of backpack was very popular at the end of the last century, but is now hardly used by hikers, as the frame is quite significant in weight and extremely rigid in use.

Frame type backpack is now the most popular type of backpack, thanks to the maximum weight distribution through special inserts made of plastic or metal. Most often the plates are sewn into the backpack, but there are also models with removable “battens”, which simplifies backpack storage (it can be rolled up).

Soft design backpack due to the lack of any hard inserts. Which greatly simplifies its storage (you can compactly folded in a hike when necessary, and at home when there is no hiking), but such backpacks need to know how to properly stow it with their own things to make it rigid, and this is not an easy task for beginners.

Backpack construction elements

The harness system is 80% of your camping comfort. Straps must be firmly attached to the frame of the backpack, be elastic and soft, all seams well stitched, not to slip and not cut into the neck. Trying on a backpack in the store, pay attention to the buckles, they must allow the tourist to adjust the straps in the already worn and loaded backpack.

Unloading belt – redistributes the load from the shoulders and spine to the hips. The belt should be at about the level of the bones on your hips. Pay attention to make sure the belt is wide enough and soft enough. It is very important that it has a comfortable buckle that allows you to not only maximize the fit to your body structure, but also to quickly throw off the backpack if necessary.

Flap and pockets – used mainly to store small items that are often needed during the movement, or for those items that do not fit into the main volume of the backpack. And if the valve is in all modern models, and also serves to protect things from the rain, the pockets manufacturers refuse more and more, as loading them, the tourist increases the volume and shifts the center of gravity of the burden.

Additional loops, ties, fasteners serve to attach the necessary tools to the backpack (e.g., ice axes, rope, even a tent).

The bottom entrance may not always come in handy, especially if you lay a mat around the perimeter of the backpack, so this detail may be considered “optional” when choosing your first backpack for a hike.

A moisture-proof backpack cover on modern models often comes with it. It protects your belongings from getting wet during a long transition in the rain, from mud, and is even used to transport the backpack on the water.

What to do in the store when buying a backpack:

  • Study the construction of the backpack carefully;
  • Pay attention to the quality of fabric and seams;
  • All buckles and fasteners must be strong, and the ties must go through them freely;
  • The material on the back should be soft and preferably with a ventilated insert;
  • The level of tension of the straps should be about mid-back, but if it is significantly higher or lower, then the size of the backpack or its height should be adjusted;
  • Adjust the backpack loaded by fastening and tightening all possible fasteners, until the ideal result.

How to properly assemble a backpack

Here there is a basic rule – the proper distribution of weight.

Before you start backpacking, make a list of things you will need during the hike, lay things on the floor and distribute them by groups: for example, things to sleep, general equipment, heavy items, items frequently used in the hike, bulk items, clothing.

Try to use the entire volume of the backpack and not to leave voids, because during the movement it will displace the weight in the backpack and lead to a lot of inconvenience.

And now for the points:

  1. The bottom is put bulk items and things that are useful only for the evening or for the time of parking (clothes to sleep, sleeping bag), tent and padding mat is usually attached outside;
  2. The heaviest things are distributed along the back, while trying to put soft objects between the things and your back, so you avoid sharp angles that will fit into your back;
  3. Group items that came in the distribution on you, it is better to pack in a separate bag so that you can get them easily and not look for too long all over your backpack;
  4. Items that you plan to use frequently (camera, phone, map, medicine, water, insect repellent, etc.) should be placed on the top, for easy access to them;
  5. All small items should be packed in a separate container or bag to prevent them from scattering around the backpack;
  6. Documents, money, phones, chargers, and anything else you can spare, better packed in waterproof bags;
  7. Fragile items and crumbly food should be placed as close to the top as possible.

After the backpack is assembled, put it on, adjust it, and walk around. You should feel comfortable and at ease. If not, try moving things around to equalize the center of gravity of the burden.

How to Wear a Backpack Properly

To figure out how to properly wear a backpack, just stick to the rules we outlined above:

  1. You should not save on a backpack, but we would also not mindlessly buy the most expensive first backpack either.
  2. It’s not a good idea to buy a backpack online. It is better to spend some time and go to the store to try everything on.
  3. Choose a backpack should be based on: a) their own anatomical characteristics and preferences (no one has canceled the concept of “beautiful backpack”), b) the conditions of a campaign (hiking, mountain, water, etc.), c) the quality of materials, threads and accessories, d) personal sensations.
  4. The heaviest things in the backpack should be located along the back, the most necessary things – on top, those that will be needed only in the evening – at the very bottom.
  5. There should not be any empty spaces in the backpack.
  6. Properly worn and adjusted backpack is comfortable to wear, does not move anywhere when moving, fits tightly.
  7. With an assembled, adjusted backpack you should walk, try to bend in different directions, to make sure your own confidence in movement.
  8. Keep in mind that your personal belongings in the campaign should not be more than 10 kg! Add to them another 4 to 12 kg (depending on the length and autonomy of the hike and your gender). Normal weight backpack for hiking medium difficulty for 10 days for the girl about 17 kg, and for men about 23 kg.

We wish you only the most great hiking experiences and hope that our article helps with choosing your ideal first backpack.

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