The joy of leaving the car and the road behind to explore on foot is the preferred relaxation and adventure activity of millions of people. But wherever you go in the wilderness, you need to prepare for adverse weather conditions, possible accidents, and human needs for food and drink. You need to carry stuff with you to be prepared and comfortable, and the most convenient method is to put your things in a Hiking Backpack and leave your hands free while you walk.
Hiking backpack's design covers casual day-trippers to rugged mountain walkers who disappear off the beaten track for days at a time. The type of hiking backpack you need depends on:
· What you need to carry – from a light raincoat to a full camp set-up and climbing gear.
· How long you need to survive with the contents of your camping backpack.
After these considerations, your hiking backpack choices depend on your body strength and shape and the desirable features for your comfort.
1. Types of Hiking Backpack:
You see many colors, shapes, and sizes of camping backpacks, but you can sort them into these basic types depending on expedition length or frame type.
1.1 Expedition Length:
· Ultralight backpacks –the minimum weight you can get away with for your trip, sacrificing all luxuries to carry the bare minimum to take you from one place to another.
· Overnight and weekends (capacity between 30 and 350 liters) - these hiking backpacks carry enough to be comfortable for one to three nights if you are strict about essential items.
· Three to five days hiking in warm weather (extreme weather needs more warm clothing and food) uses a hiking backpack providing between 50 and 80 liters capacity.
· Longer trips of five days or more require more stuff and these hiking backpacks need upwards of 70 liters capacity.
1.2 Frame Type:
The three basic types of hiking backpack construction are:
· Internal frame – standard hiking backpack design that hugs the body and makes it easy to wear, and support your pack's weight on your hips. Most hikers find this backpack style gives them stability on uneven ground.
· External frame - these types of camping backpacks are great for hikers who need to carry uneven loads or bulky equipment because they give you more options about organizing your gear.
· Frameless - when you plan on having an ultralight backpack, you scrap anything that adds weight. You lose support, but you reduce the pack weight.
2. How to Choose the Best Hiking Backpack for You?
The crucial decisions over buying the best hiking waterproof backpack for your needs are:
· Capacity – depending on use.
· Fit – torso length is the crucial measurement.
· Features – depending on particular needs and budget.
3. Buying a Hiking Backpack to Fit Your Body
When you hike with a backpack, you wear it on your back, and you need it to fit your torso length and your hips to be comfortable and avoid injury. If you can visit a hiking equipment supplier, you can get a professional to take your measurements and help fit a backpack for you. Otherwise, get a friend to help measure your torso length and hip size as a guide to choosing the right camping backpack to fit your frame.
Gender-specific backpacks take account of a woman's body frame being narrower than a typical man's – but there are always variations with smaller men and larger women. A woman's camping backpack can suit young hikers (both genders), or you can get a youth backpack with adjustments to allow for growth and a smaller capacity to protect growing bones from overloading.
3.1 Torso Length
You measure your torso from your neck to your hips. To locate the top and bottom reference points, you first bend your head forwards. If you use your fingertips to feel your bones at the back of your neck, you can find the seventh cervical vertebrae or the bony lump where your shoulders meet your neck. This point is the top marker for your torso.
To locate your hip line, put your hands on either side of your rib cage; your thumbs will automatically point towards your back. Slide your hands down until they rest below your waist on your hips. An imaginary line between your thumbs (hip line) is the bottom of your torso.
Measure your torso length and your hip length. These give you a guide to the best size of camping backpack for your needs. Some camping backpacks come with adjustments and hip bands you can swap out so you can tweak the pack to fit.
3.2 Final Fit
Only by trying the backpack on can you ensure the best fit for you. Ensure there is an easy return policy because you may need a slightly bigger or smaller backpack. All your measurements give you an approximation to the best fit, but you need to try the backpack on for size and fit.
4. Best Hiking Backpack Features:
You don't get all the features on all the hiking waterproof backpacks, but it is worth considering the features that suit your needs best and shopping around until you find the camping backpack that fits your needs at a price you are willing to pay.
4.1 Cool Hiking – Ventilation
A hiking backpack that rests next to your back promotes heat while hiking, and you end up with an uncomfortably hot and sweaty back. Some camping backpacks take care of this with mesh ventilation features. Internal framed backpacks can include a tension mesh suspension panel that keeps the backpack a couple of inches away from your back. Others include ventilation chimneys. These features promote cooling airflow to make carrying the camping backpack a more comfortable experience.
4.2 Packing and Unpacking
Most hiking waterproof backpacks feature a top opening, and you need to plan to pack everything you need in a hurry towards the top of the bag. Some camping backpacks feature zipped panels or side zips to give you easy access to the pack's interior.
Pockets give you more places to divide and stash your stuff, and modern camping backpacks usually include useful pockets:
· Elasticated side pockets that expand and fold flat when not in use – handy for water bottles, tent poles, small first aid kit, or quick to access snacks.
· Hip belt pockets – a great place to keep your smartphone, money, and energy sweets.
· Shovel pocket – a large pocket with a buckle fastening that takes a map, rain jacket, or any other item you want to get in a hurry (like a packed lunch). Or you can carry a snow shovel in it.
· Pockets on the shovel pocket – more spaces to stash items in an accessible place.
· Sleeping bag compartment – useful as a built-in stuff sack for your sleeping bag.
The amount and quality of storage space in your hiking waterproof backpack lets you arrange your gear for convenience and easy access.
4.3 Attachment Points
Not every item of gear can or should fit inside your hiking waterproof backpack. You are better hanging some things outside like an ice axe or other useful but awkward items. Most camping backpacks will provide a couple of tool loops, but other attachment points include:
· Daisy chain – a row of tool loops.
· Extra gear loops on the hip belt.
· Reinforced crampon patches.
The number of attachment points you need depends on the amount of gear you want to hang from the outside of your back, but the option is useful for everyone.
4.4 Two-In-One Hiking Backpacks
When you are out adventuring, you don't want to carry your entire pack everywhere – a summit dash or out for an evening hike after setting up your campsite doesn't need all your gear. You want a smaller hiking waterproof backpack instead of the main hiking backpack, but carrying two bags doesn't make sense.
Some hiking backpacks let you remove the top portion, and it converts into a daysack or a hip belt pack. A handy feature if you want to plan some short trips from a base.
You want your stuff to stay dry inside your hiking waterproof backpack - waterproofing is essential. The backpack fabric usually has a waterproof coating, but seams provide weak points where water can work its way into your bag. Using additional waterproof bags to pack your essential items inside your pack and rain covering for the outside of the pack provides extra waterproof protection for your stuff.
4.6 Comfort Features
Some hiking waterproof backpacks come with a sleeve for a hydration reservoir (separate purchase) along with the fittings for the sip tube. A hydration reservoir lets you sip some water while hiking without the need to stop and unpack your water bottle or carry a water bottle in your hands. It is a useful feature if you like to walk in challenging terrains and climates.
Straps are a point where you may feel rubbing and discomfort – padded straps help distribute the weight and provide cushioning. Additional straps for comfort and fit include:
· Load lifter straps.
· Sternum or chest straps.
The load lifter straps prevent the top part of your hiking waterproof backpack from pulling away from your body. This movement redistributes the weight to the lumber part of your back instead of your hips. Ideally, your hips support 80% of the pack weight for optimum effectiveness.
Chest straps join the shoulder straps together (with a clip fastening) and stabilize the hiking waterproof backpack, so you don't get a sudden sideways movement while you are hiking. These sternum straps increase your security while hiking as you don't risk becoming unbalanced by your backpack's sudden movement.
5. How Much Kit Can a Hiking Backpack Hold?
The amount of kit you can fit in a hiking waterproof backpack depends on its capacity as a volume in liters. As an approximate guide to what you can fit in a backpack:
You can comfortably fit:
· Rain jacket – a smaller packable one will give you more room but pick one that copes with the worst weather you expect to experience.
· Insulation layer – fleeces made from high tech materials give added warmth and small volume.
· 2L water – you need to stay hydrated and need to consider refill options.
· Space blanket/emergency bivy and a small first aid kit – helps to be prepared.
· Headlamp – you'll be glad of this at night.
· Six meals – ready to eat cold food because you probably can't fit in a camping stove.
· Sleeping bag – down compressing to a small volume is the best option
· Camping equipment – a small one-person tent or part of a larger tent.
· Sleep pad – improves your sleeping arrangements
· Spare underwear
This volume gives you the bare minimum for a weekend hike in moderate weather. Depending on your gear and your packing skills, you might include some extras (like a toothbrush and soap), but it is a small hiking waterproof backpack.
More room means you can add:
· More food – enough for 5-6 days and the equipment to make a hot meal or drink.
· Change of clothes.
· Bigger sleeping bag
The extra space means you can be more comfortable while camping, but you still need to make choices about what is crucial for your trip.
You can have more of everything or scale up your equipment with a better sleeping pad and a bigger tent at this volume. What you put in the extra volume depends on what you need to maintain your happiness while out hiking.