How to Choose a Backpacking Pack

Most adventures start with a good backpack. Actually, don’t they all? 

Choosing a backpack can be intimidating! They’re an item you’ll use for years and there are a million different options. So how do you know which pack is the right one for you? Here are a few things to consider:   

  1. Size: How many liters would you like your pack to be? 
  2. Weight: How important is having a lightweight pack to you? 
  3. Fit: Would you like a pack that is fit for your body shape and size? 
  4. Use: How often will you be using your pack?  
  5. Brand: Is it important to you to buy based on the brand of backpack?

Size 

Backpack sizes are described in liters. A 10-30 liter backpack is the right size for a day hike while anything from 40-75 liters is great for a multiday trip. If your other gear (sleeping bag, tent, sleeping pad, etc.) take up a lot of space, it might be better to start with a pack that is closer to 75 liters. However, if you’re the type that always fills a suitcase to the brim, you might consider getting a 50 liter pack so you limit the weight you’ll be carrying! 

Weight 

Backpacks can weigh anywhere from 2-6 pounds. An ultralight backpack will likely cost more and have less features to conserve weight. However, shaving a few pounds off of your base weight can really make a difference. A more normally weighted backpack might be more comfortable, have more pockets and zippers and be more cost effective. Balancing lightweight gear and the affordability of that gear is always a struggle for backpackers!

Fit 

Some backpacks are sized (Small, Medium, and Large), some have adjustable hip belts, frames and straps, and some backpacks have both! Some brands also have men’s and women’s specific packs.

Osprey has men’s and women’s packs that are also sized (S, M, L) with some adjustable features. The benefit to having a men’s or women’s pack is that the hip belts, frame and shoulder straps are fitted differently. Men’s and women’s packs are not exclusive to either gender, but the difference in fit provides another option for comfort.

Deuter has a “vari-quick” system in which you can raise or lower the harness to suit your height but they don’t have small, medium and large packs. It’s really important that you feel like your pack fits you, regardless of the sizing system. 

The best way to figure out which fit is right for you is to get sized for a pack! Stop by Peace Surplus to get sized and try on a variety of packs. 

Use 

Will you be bringing any nontraditional backpacking gear with you? If you like to climb, fish, boat, etc. backpacking can serve as a method to reach even more remote places to do these fun activities. If you’re going to be lugging in extra gear to do an additional sport, you might want to consider getting a 75 liter pack to store your extra gear. 

Some backpacks have an anti-gravity system that is a webbing that separates your back from laying flat against a backpack. This helps tremendously if you’re hiking with extra gear or have heavy equipment. If you’re hiking in heat, this can also help keep your body cooler with enhanced air flow. 

Lastly, sometimes backpackers hike to a certain location and spend the following days hiking in the area. Some backpacks come with detachable daypacks so that you can take a shorter hike from a base camp with a few essential items. 

Brand 

Three of the most common backpacking brands are Osprey, Dueter and Gregory. We carry all three brands at Peace Surplus. It’s hard to directly compare these three brands as all of their packs have different features. 

Osprey is an American brand founded in 1974. Osprey’s have a lifetime guarantee on all of their products. This sometimes makes them more costly but if anything ever wears out or breaks, they’ll replace it. Osprey is also known for having well thought out backpacks with pockets, zippers and straps in just the right places. 

Dueter was founded in 1898 in Germany. Their packs are comparable in price to Osprey but only have a two year warranty that only replaces gear if it was manufactured incorrectly. They’re sturdy packs, with tube-like shapes that allow for maximum carrying capacity.. Dueter is also known for their dedication to sustainable production. 

Gregory was founded in 1977 and has been most well known for their innovation in backpack design. For example, they’re the only company that sells packs with adjustable angles for your hip belt. Although Gregory’s warranty is similar to Dueter’s, their packs can be slightly more expensive and of the highest quality.  

Still have questions about how to pick the right pack? Visit us in person to chat more!