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Backpack Buying Guide

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Whether you’re looking for a backpack for long term expeditions or you’re just looking for something to see you through a Sunday stroll, buying a new backpack can sometimes seem daunting with all the options out there on the market. To help you wade through our backpack brands, and find the ones that’s perfect for you, we’ve compiled the top factors you should consider in this hand guide.

Here’s the rundown of what we’ll cover:

  • How to measure your torso length – for those of you who are looking for a larger, full body length, rucksack make sure to check this out.
  • Matching a backpack size to the kind of trip you’ll be going on.
  • We’ll walk you through the different frame types available and what kind of escapade each one suits.
  • There’s a little note at the end about backpacks for women, which some of you might want to read first before you decide on everything else.

Measuring torso length

First things first, you need to determine how long your torso is before you start shopping for a new backpack. This is less important for smaller day backpacks, but with your larger packs you could potentially cause yourself a lot of discomfort during what should be a great time in the outdoors.

To measure your torso at home, follow these steps;

  1. Put your hands on your hips and use your thumbs to feel for the top of the iliac crest. Draw an imaginary line between your thumbs. Where this line intersects your spine is the start point of our measurement.
  2. Tilt your chin down so that the C7 vertebra at the base of your neck protrudes. This is the end point of your measurement.
  3. Have a friend drape a string or tape measure along the contours of your spine between the two points.

What kind of trip are you going on?

The backpack you need will be different depending on where you’re going and how long for. The longer you’re going for, the more items you’ll probably have to take with you. Here’s a breakdown of trip durations and the suggested backpack size for each.

Daypacks

Size: Less than 2,500 cubic inches or 40 litres.

Will hold:

  • Water
  • Lunch and your favourite snacks
  • A trusty camera
  • Shell and/or warm layer
  • Wee bits and bobs like emergency kit, a small first aid kit, your GPS and compass

Weekend Packs

Size: 2,500 to 3,999 cubic inches or 40 to 65 litres

Will hold:

All of the above, plus…

  • Small Tent
  • Sleeping bag and pad
  • Ultralight stove and cook kit
  • A few more clothing items
  • A weekend’s worth of meals

Weeklong Packs

Size: 4,000 to 5,999 cubic inches or 65 to 95 litres

Will hold:

All of the above, plus…

  • Extra food, fuel and kitchen gear
  • A few luxury items like a camp chair, camp shoes, pillow
  • A bigger tent
  • A warmer sleeping bag and cushier sleeping pad

Expedition Packs

Size: Greater then 6,000 cubic inches or 95 litres

Will hold:

Winter-worthy versions of all of the above, plus…

  • Mountaineering gear
  • Bear canisters (essential for carrying food in bear country)

Backpack Frames

Perfect for urban exploration or short trips in to the outdoors

As the name suggests these backpacks are for those one-in-a-day adventures. In general, daypacks are soft-backed or frameless which means they have less structure and support. For this reason, you may want to consider getting a daypack with hip belts to ensure the bag doesnt move around on your back. Daysacks are often neat and simple in design, with a single, large internal pocket and a few small ones for items such as a phone or a water bottle. The size of your daysack completely depends on what sort of activity you need it for. If it is for summer hikes and short excursions, then something like 20-30 litre pack should be fine. If you’re going to be heading out into the hills and mountains in winter, then you may need something closer to a 40-litre pack, as these trips can require more kit.

Backpack for Women

Backpacks listed as being specifically for women can have subtle but important differences in the way they fit. The shoulder straps tend to be closer together, thinner and curve outward at the chest more than men’s backpacks .The hip belts on women’s packs are curved and sit slightly higher than they would on a men’s pack to better suit a women’s hips. Some brands will also shorten the length of the backpack, which is handy if you’re looking for a petit expedition or weeklong pack.