10 Steps To Help You Choose A Backpack


So you have decided to make this backpacking trip but still aren’t sure which pack is right for you! All you know is that you need something that will hold up and with plenty of pockets and loops to fit all of your trekking and camping gear.

It’s true, buying backpacks can be a daunting task, especially for first-time campers and hikers. With so many brands in the market and products becoming more and more technical each day, deciding on the perfect pack isn’t easy even for pro backpackers.

The gear jargon alone will get your head spinning! Then there is the problem of not being sure exactly what you need to ask the retailer. So here is a guide with 10 steps to help you choose an excellent backpack so you can skip, hop, and hit the terrain with confidence.

1. What Will You Use It For?

Even before you head to the local backpacking gear store, think about what you intend to use the pack for. Are you eyeing a few weeks long trek in the Grand Canyon or a few hours expedition in the nearby woodland?

If you plan to hit a longer trail, then you are going to need a super lightweight backpack. Also, if the weather is likely to be warm, get something that allows enough airflow on your back. Even in cold atmospheric conditions, the humid air can be a little bit of trouble, and having a backpack that is well ventilated will keep moisture from collecting on your back and getting you cold.

2. Learn The Basics

Familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of a backpack design. For instance, an internal frame pack will weigh much less, distribute the weight better, and provide more comfort. An external frame pack will give you more ventilation.

Internal framed top loaders will tend to be more lightweight than panel loaders. However, if you are looking for a pack where you won’t have to dig through stuff to retrieve an item, a panel loader will be a better option because it provides multiple access points.

Loops and external pockets will also be an added advantage. Things like tents, sleeping bags, and tent poles will definitely not go inside the pack, therefore, you may want to consider a carrier with external attachments where you can hook these snuggly.

3. Choose Your Daypack Carefully

If you will be going for only a day, you won’t need a huge pack. In fact, a 30 liters backpack will hold all your important gear, water bottles, snacks, and extra clothing. If you will be bringing your kids, a 40 liters pack will get the job done.

Make sure the carrier fits your shoulders and back properly when loaded because most of these smaller packs won’t allow you to adjust the straps for a more custom fit. For added benefits and flexibility, consider carriers with hydration reservoirs. Side pockets and compression cords will provide great attachment points for water bottles, munchies, or energy drinks too.

4. Buy From A Physical Store

Buying backpacks online is undeniably convenient and time-saving. If you are doing the purchase for the first time, however, it would be wise to visit a physical outdoor specialty store. You want to avoid the hustle and bustle of the streets – we get it! But if you really want to know what you are buying, your best bet would be a brick and mortar outlet.

Such stores will not only stock the latest backpacks and accessories but will also have trained staff to guide you through the pack’s selection. Let the staff know the kind of trip you intend to take, the environment you will be visiting, and the type of weather you are likely to encounter. Sharing this information will help them determine the right backpack for you.

Of course, high-quality packs will get you squeezing your pockets a little but they could mean the difference between a mind-blowing and torturous experience on the trail. Additionally, cheaper backpacks aren’t that durable; you will end up spending lots of money on repairs and replacements in the long run. Let the staff at the store know the amount of money you plan to spend so they can explain the available options and how they will affect your buy.

5. Get The Right Size


The duration of your trip will determine the amount of gear you will carry, which will in turn determine the size of the backpack you are going to get. If your trip takes about two or three days, chances are you will be carrying less-bulky gear and so a 40 to 50 liters pack will help keep things as light as they need to be.

For a multiday trip, that is, one that takes about four to five days, a 50 to 80-liter pack will be an excellent choice. This can also be used for day trips, two-night trips, and even backcountry skiing. They are perfect for warm weather trips too.

An extended trip of more than five days however will do good with a pack of 70 liters and above. These will comfortably accommodate a four-season tent, extra poles, fresh clothes, your sleeping bag, and even a sleeping pad. If you are backpacking or camping with kids, this will be the perfect backpack size for your trip.

Once you have decided how long your trip is going to take and have selected a model of your liking, have the staff get the measurement of your torso to determine the backpack sizing that will fit your body frame perfectly.

6. Put Some Weight In The Pack

You want to know if the pack you have selected will be able to hold all your gear. As such, you must test it before you leave the store.

Have the salesperson fill the backpack with some weight (about 20 to 25 pounds) and then try it on. Learn how to adjust the hip, shoulder, load lifter, and sternum straps as well as the waist belt properly.

Once the cords have been fastened, check to see if the bag sits properly at the hips, back, and shoulders. This will also be the perfect time to get some pointers on how to organize your gear properly in and outside the pack to effectively balance the load.

7. Walk Around To Feel The Fit

Your backpack needs to have a good fit to enjoy your hike. So do not shy away from strapping it on and walking about for a few minutes.

How does it feel when you move? Does the load move to one side when you hop? How easy is it for you to access the gear attached on the outside while you walk?

If the pack keeps on dangling into your backside, then the shoulder harnesses need adjusting. Similarly, if the load keeps swaying from one side to another then you need to weigh the sides balanced. Make sure you can reach your gear easily too whenever you need to. Ask for assistance if you are having trouble adjusting the straps or distributing weight between your hips and shoulders.

8. Consider The Add-ons

Add-ons will include extra straps and buckles to secure gear to the pack, hydration reservoirs, or rain covers. Some backpacks include these in the package but others don’t, so you may want to find out which accessories you will be getting for free and which ones you’ve got to buy separately.

But don’t worry if you don’t have enough money to buy all of them in one go; you can come back later when you have decided exactly what extras you need. However, if you will be backpacking in the rain, you may want to take the rain cover home with you. A hydration reservoir is also something you would want to consider if you will be traveling to an area with a scarcity of water.

9. Don’t Forget The Kids

If it is your first time to take your little ones for a walk in the wilderness, you may want to get packs for them too. Get them started with a light load and if they manage it okay, gradually increase the weight. If your kids are the active type, they will comfortably handle a luggage 20% of their body weight. Inactive kids, however, will need to carry much less.

For short hikes, a 5 to 10-year-old will be able to carry a frameless backpack with extremely light luggage. Nevertheless, for longer expeditions, where the load will be a little heavier, these upcoming adventurers will need a pack with a frame so they can bear the weight.

10. Take A Day Hike

So you’ve just got yourself a brand new backpack and are all pins and needles about how your first time will be! Your initial experience, however, doesn’t need to be a three-week thru-hike. You can organize a day or few hours of hikes to the nearby park to feel how the bag sits at your back and shoulders. This will also give you a chance to practice proper backpack packing to have the weight distributed evenly.

Globo Surf Overview

Buying backpacks can be intimidating, but if you know exactly what to look for, things can be much easier for you. The above steps detail the process of buying a backpack and are all you need to make a successful purchase.

Having the right pack can help minimize stress on joints and prevent neck and back injuries. Just focus on getting the right size, features, and fit and everything else will fall into place.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. How To Pick A Good Pack, wikihow.com
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!