How do you choose a good backpack?
Hi, Dan again. The news is, I started doing lots of mountain hiking with a group of friends and I love it! I will tell you today how to choose a proper backpack, since I had this sort of problem and know how I got out of it. It can be challenging, really.
For those who have hiked in the 70s-80s, you probably still remember the backpacks we had, mostly military. They looked like Christmas trees, with all sorts of objects hanging on them: pots, axe, sleeping bag, plastic bags. Of course, these objects clung to all the branches on the way.
But years have passed and technology has evolved so that for a not-so-large of an investment, you can get a good backpack to last you 20 years.
The backpack is an extremely important piece of mountain equipment and, because you will spend much time in its company, it is essential to know some details.
The shape of the backpack: I recommend you to purchase a backpack with an internal frame because it fit the back well and offers stability and a better balance than the backpacks with an external frame or no frame at all. Other accessories that a backpack should have are hip belt, shoulder straps for shoulders, and sternum strap.
The hip belt should be padded and designed such that 80% of the weight of your rucksack to be supported by the hips. The remaining 20% of the weight of your rucksack must be handled by the shoulders, so make sure you get a backpack that’s equipped with shoulder straps that are well padded, lest you suffer discomfort while walking. A military framed backpack could be the right choice, here’s an explanation why: http://www.mountaintroops.us/history_rucksack.html
The sternum strap extends over the chest and shoulder straps, so it is important to have it.
It is also advisable to choose a backpack that has a rigid plastic plate at the back. This plate, in addition to the fact that it transfers the weight to the hip belt, also has the role to protect your back so as not to be encumbered by some of the objects inside the rucksack.
The rucksack’s capacity: Don’t buy a backpack bigger than you need it to be. If you plan to do trekking without camping (day hikes), you need a backpack with a volume of 30-40 litres. If you want to go hiking for a few days, you need a backpack with a capacity of 50-80 litres, in which you can fit the camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, mat etc).
The exact size of the pack: Size is very important for maintaining balance on the trail. A backpack can be extra small, small, medium (regular), and large, and the size corresponds to the length of the torso.
Measuring your torso. The first step is to measure the length of your back (ask a friend to help you), starting from the C7 vertebra (a prominent vertebra, which lies at the base of the neck) until the upper line of the hips (put both hands over your hips and hands in the upper line of the hips).
Here’s a picture to help.
The backpack material: I recommend the Cordura nylon material, it’s still the best on the market, and if the manufacturers are using it increasingly less, that is due to the high cost. They still use it a lot in heavy-duty backpacks, see this page: http://www.rangermade.us/best-tactical-backpack/ . Make sure however that the backpack is made of a material resistant to water (or waterproof). If not, you will need to buy a rain fly. These come in different sizes, so choose the appropriate one for your backpack.
Subdivision: Get a backpack that has at least 2 compartments (with easy access from the outside) and side pockets, and pockets on the lid. It’s of great help to have easy access to the important stuff.
Buy it from any sports equipment store, or military tactical surplus store. My advice is that you should not buy your backpack online, but instead go personally to test it. Or, if buying online, read reviews written by people who actually own the item.