Alright, let me put one thing straight here: Size matters!!!
At least when it comes to backpacks. Chose a small one and you’ll have all sorts of equipment strapped to the pack and get caught up in branches etc, chose a big one and you be prone to pack a bunch of stuff you don’t really need and have to carry that stuff around. The obvious solution is to have several different bags for hiking trips of different lengths though a minute personal discipline when packing does the trick just as well.
Most important question to ask when choosing what to bring on a trip: do I really need this item badly enough to carry it around?
Remember that everything you pack you also need to carry, the general recommendation is to never carry more than 30% of your body weight an actually I’d like to reduce that down to 25% if you want a more pleasant hiking experience. For a solo hiker this can prove a real challenge, especially if you want to stay out in the wild for two weeks or more, so plan wisely and, once you decided to make hiking an important part of your life, get good light weight gear. In this case you really benefit from going for high quality!
In my experience a 70l pack is sufficient even for several weeks long hikes, I usually manage to keep all my necessary gear inside the pack and the limited size still prevents me from bringing too many unnecessary items. Most people just pack to much stuff ‘I’m case they need it’ and that just makes the hike harder. Believe me, everything takes longer and you will probably not have hours to read books anyway. So why carry them on your back?
I provide a list of equipment you need for safe and resenable comfortable hiking and I recommend you get the best (and lightest) products your budget allows in each category. Then comes the food you need depending on duration, nature and intensity of the planned hike (always pack a few portions extra, it’s a lot better to bring back some than to run out…) and now you can add whatever you like to bring as long as it leaves you within you weight limit.
Sorry for being repetitive, just remember no one is going to carry your stuff for you (if you’re not extremely lucky)
This is not the place to get into the smaller pack, like the ones you use for day hikes or to carry your stuff to the beach, simply because you’ll never hit a weight issue with these loads.
So let’s focus on backpacks for hiking anything from a long weekend (4-5 days) to several weeks, and now it becomes crusially important to be comfortable with your pack. Basically it’s going to be closer to you than your significant other during your time in the wilderness so better make sure you develop a great relationship!
Now, one question I get all the time is which backpack is the best, and, unfortunately, my answer is always the same… It depends…
Everyone of us is different and has different needs so let me walk you through some basics and then we’ll get into how you can find a pack that’s right for you.
Slightly simplified there are two basic types of backpacks (the third, frameless type just doesn’t do the trick when the load exceeds about 12kg (26lbs) and that’s enough said about them):
- Exterior frame – the go-to backpack for carrying really heavy loads, yet rather large and inflexible and just not necessary for most of us (frankly I’ve not used one in 25 years)
- Internal frame – a much softer pack that is easier to handle and does a great job up to 25-30kg (55-65lbs) depending on the model
For alround purposes I’d aim for a 65-75l pack with an internal frame, the smaller one if you’ll seldom or never go out for more than a week at a time!
Depending in when and where you are planning to predominantly use the pack determines if you need a waterproof one (considerably more pricy) or if a separate rain cover will do. Also there are great varieties in fabric quality, as a rule of thumb one can say that the sturdier the material, the heavier the bag. Only you can determine how tough your gear has to be to fit your needs!
The most important thing is to get one that fits your back comfortably enough to be carried for hours every day for a number of consecutive days and there’s no way to know that just from looking or trying it on in the store.
Most serious suppliers will let you try it out for some time and bring it back (careful here, it needs to be in impeckeble condition) if you don’t like it, and this goes for many online stores as well. Now, obviously you cannot take it for a hike to test it out for real, that would render it used…
Yet loading it with 15, 18 or even 20kg (33, 40 or 44lbs) and carry it around inside for a weekend while going about your days would give you a pretty good feel for the equipment and how it fits your frame.
Frankly, if they don’t let you try it after purchase but tell you to decide in the store, I’d recommend you take your money somewhere else!
I hope this article is helpful to you in choosing your equipment, please leave a comment and let me know, ok?
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Peace // Claes