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How to Choose the Right Backpack for Hiking

by K Gordon Schultz

When I was a child, the only option I had when I left on a trip was to borrow Dad’s old, military backpack. But this was 30 years ago, and times have changed a lot since then. Today we have an incredible variety of backpacks to choose from, which makes it hard to choose the right one. There are bigger and smaller ones, cheaper ones and more expensive, in an incredible variety of shapes, sizes, colors and constitutions. Here are some tips that can help you choose the right one for your needs.


First of all, never buy a backpack and try to fit all your stuff into it. The right way is the other way around: select all the gear you want to take with you on a trip and buy a backpack that will accommodate all your gear. And you should select your gear to fit your needs and the length of your trip, too.

The bare essentials – food, water, a tablet to play mobile casino games while you rest, first aid kit and their likes – enough for a half-day trip usually fits into a 20-liter backpack, or even smaller. For a day-long hike you’ll need a larger bag, up to 40 liters, and for a multi-day trip, you should choose a 60+ liter variant.

For a trip that lasts over 5 nights, the necessary gear will most likely fit into an 80+ liter backpack.


Make sure to choose a backpack that is comfortable for your back. There can be nothing worse than having your back pressed and scoured in all the wrong places. If possible, choose a vendor that offers you the possibility to have the backpack fitted, so you can avoid discomfort on your trip.

Make sure to try the backpack on, ideally with weight inside, before making a purchase, to get an idea about how it will behave on the road.

Weight and durability

While these seem to be two different aspects, they are closely related. A heavier backpack usually comes with some extra straps, padding, and suspension, and is made of a more durable material. If you want durability, extra load, and comfort, a heavier backpack is the right choice for you. If you are only out for short trips and like to pack light, a less padded, but lighter pack awaits.

Specialty backpacks

Hydration packs are extra small and light – basically, they contain a bladder that you can fill with water that you can drink on the road. Climbing packs – also called “bullet packs” – are light, durable, and fitted with special features for climbers. There are backpacks for bikers, runners, walkers, whichever category you fit in. The only important thing is to choose the right one.

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