Buying Guide for Backpacks

With so many backpacks available for purchase on the market, it can be extremely difficult to determine which backpack is best suited for all of your needs. When searching for the perfect backpack there are four major areas to consider: the frame style of the backpack, the fit of the backpack, the backpacks capacity, as well as what features the backpack has to offers.

When shopping for a backpack it is very important one does not just choose a backpack based upon its stylish outward appearance, popular brand name, or because of its incredibly sales prices. When shopping for a new backpacks it is imperative one considers its function, as well as ones personal needs and wants.


Choosing the type of backpack you want

Backpacks come in various forms, these different packs will suit offer different capabilities based on there design. The three most common types are:

A backpack is a crucial piece of equipment necessary for any successful camping, hiking, fishing, hunting or other outdoor adventure. The following guide will offer its readers a more in-depth look into some of the key features every good backpack needs, as well as to offer wisdom as to which backpack is right for you.

Internal Frame Backpack

An internal frame backpack is typically made out of a durable fabric which has been stretched over a series of frames. The framework of the internal backpack is generally made out of pieces of aluminum, titanium or a sturdy robust plastic.

The internal frame backpack gained popularity because it is extremely light to carry and also allows the wearer to minimize the pack shifting around on ones back, making hiking with it far more comfortable. The pack also provides better ventilation, so the person wearing it does not feel as much heat.

TETON Sports Scout 3400
TETON Sports Scout 3400
TETON Sports Hiker 3700
TETON Sports Hiker 3700
TETON Sports FOX 5200
TETON Sports FOX 5200
High Sierra Long Trail 90
High Sierra Long Trail 90
Kelty Redwing 50-Liter
Kelty Redwing 50-Liter
TETON Sports Explorer 4000
TETON Sports Explorer 4000

External Frame Backpack

An external framed backpack consists of an aluminum frame. The aluminum frame is very durable which makes it extremely good for carrying heavier loads.

An external frame backpack is excellent for long backpacking trips, hunting trips and an assortment of other outdoor adventures. External backpacks also have a lot of attachment points, which makes it perfect for strapping down large loads, bulky camping gear, sleeping bags and even tents.

Kelty Yukon External
Frame Pack
Kelty Yukon External Frame Pack
Kelty Trekker External
Frame Pack
Kelty Trekker External Frame Pack
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander
Freighter Frame
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Freighter Frame
ALPS Mountaineering
Bryce External Frame
ALPS Mountaineering Bryce External Frame
Kelty Tioga External
Frame Pack
Kelty Tioga External Frame Pack
JanSport Scout
JanSport Scout Backpack


A daypack is generally used for shorter hiking trips, for use on a motorcycle, bike ride, or when climbing.

Daypacks offer their users a very lightweight, frameless style pack which is intended to carry smaller weighted loads between 10 and 15 pounds. Daypacks are more often than not a very durably cloth material, often rain proof, and offer its users a comfortable soft-backed backpack. A well built daypack will have a hip belt to offer its users a more comfortable journey and to help prevent the backpack from riding up and down on the users back.

How to Choose the Right Size Backpack

One of the first things to consider when choosing a backpack is to think about how often you will be using the backpack, and for what purpose, or purposes. Those who plan on going on frequent short hikes, such as hiking on park trails, should consider a well built daypack. A daypack is the perfect backpack for those who want to explore the great outdoors, but who will be doing so one shorter excursions. A daypack is ideal for storing a bottle of water, a lightweight coat, raincoat, as well as snack items, all while not being too bulky and cumbersome.

However, for those who plan on taking extended trips, or lengthy trips, it is recommended to purchase either an internal or external framed backpack. Ensuring you have the right storage capacity with both internal and external framed backpacks is extremely important. A backpacks internal storage capacity is measured in liters, so it is important to understand this concept before beginning ones search for the ideal sized backpack. When considering what the right internal capacity is you first need to consider what your hiking and storage needs are.

Below is a standard chart which is used to help people find the right internal storage capacity based upon their needs.

  • Day trip – 20-50 liter pack capacity
  •  Weekend trip – 50-60 liter pack capacity
  • Multiday/week – 60-80 liter pack capacity
  • Extended duration trip (5 or more nights) 80 or more liter pack capacity

How to Get the Right Fit for Your Backpack

Another key component to consider when one is searching for the right backpack is the fit of the backpack. It is of the utmost importance that one finds a backpack that is not to large, or too small, for his/her frame and also adheres nicely to the bodies torso. Finding a backpack which fits is imperative and some of the items to consider when trying on backpacks are; the length of one’s torso, how well the backpack fits around ones waist, and how well the backpack rides on one shoulders.

Regardless of how much gear one has, or how light your pack is, if the frame does not fit ones torso well, it is going to be a long uncomfortable outing. A properly fitting frame is one which will grip snuggly to ones hips and is also size appropriate to ones torso length.

When trying to choose between an internal or external frame backpack, it is important to try on each style of backpack and see how the frame, and a weighted load, will feel on ones shoulders, hips and back. Internal framed backpacks are typically made with aluminum stays, plastic frame sheets, curved rods, or a combination of the three, all of which are located inside of the backpack and will not be making direction contact with the human body.

Internal framed backpacks are ideal for skiing and climbing adventures, as they adhere to the human body incredibly well and are less bulky than its exterior backpack counterpart. An internal framed backpack is ideal for loads over 15 pounds and allows for the backpack to be cinched closely to the back and spine, allowing for more support. The main job of the internal frame is to help facilitate the weight transfer to the hip area, which allows for a more comfortable adventure.

On the contrary, external framed backpacks offer users a lightweight and simply built external frame and allows the load to be positioned farther away from ones back. External backpacks are ideal for heavy loads and are best for hiking on trails and rugged camping trips. External framed backpacks offer users a high center of gravity, which helps users have a better weight transfer and also allows users to walk in a more upright and ergonomically correct form.

The Importance of Load Distribution within a Backpack

Ensuring one properly loads his/her backpack is a key component of making sure one has a successful outing and that the weight is well balanced, stable and also well organized and easy to locate essential items in a hurry and case of emergency.

Not having the proper load distribution could potentially throw off a hikers, motorcyclists, or climbers balance and end up causing great bodily harm and injury. Some easy to follow, and recommended load distribution packing tips include:

  • Pack the sleeping back crosswise across the bottom of the backpack in a waterproof case. Not only will this keep the sleeping back from getting wet, it is also an item not needed until the end of the day, so will not interfere with trying to get into and out of the backpack for other essential items. By placing the sleeping bag at the bottom of the back, it also provides a very nice, soft, and stable base for the backpack as well as ones back.
  • Load in the heaviest items towards the bottom of the back. By loading the heaviest items towards the bottom, it helps to keep the weight lower to one’s body and closer to the spine, which helps provide more stability, balance and comfort.
  • Add softer, lighter objects to the outer pockets, or sides, of the backpack. By packing items like a rain jacket, or sweatshirt, it pockets or sides, of the back it helps provide comfort and warmth, and also ensures these essential items are easier to reach if needed. These smaller, lighter objects, can also be folded and placed into the spaces which were left from the bulkier heavier objects.
  • Finally, use the top lid and pocket to store the items one will need throughout the journey, such as maps, sunscreen, lip balm, snacks and a flashlight.

Why it is Recommended to have a Hydration System in the Backpack

More and more backpacks are offering users a built in hydration back and are growing exponentially in popularity. Build in hydration backs are recommended for any day hiker, backpacker, climber, trail runner, racer and even cyclists. With so many added benefits to having a built in water reservoir it is clear to see why this feature is growing in popularity.

Some of the benefits to having a built in hydration pack include:

  • Convenience – one does not have to slow down, or stop, to grab a bottle of water and can easily sip out of the hydration tube any time without using any hands or stopping ones activity.
  • Enhanced performance – it is universally known that proper hydration is a crucial element to performance. Due to the face it is easier to drink from a hydration pack, users tend to drink water more frequently and thereby stay properly hydrated and are able to function at a higher level.


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