Backpack Parts And Accessories Guide For Backpackers


Basic backpacks do not require a lot of explaining. You simply pack the backpack, close its zip or buckle, swing it on your back after putting the arms through its shoulder straps, and just like that, you are free to go.

Backpacking backpacks and hiking backpacks, on the other hand, are usually much more complicated. The backpacks feature numerous parts, each of the parts having a unique and necessary function.

If you are new to hiking and backpacking, there is a chance that you are new to the backpacks used by people who enjoy these activities. We crafted this guide to help you understand the backpacks better. By the time you reach our overview, you should be familiar with all the backpack parts and accessories.

Why You Should Understand the Parts of a Backpack

Understanding the different parts of a backpack can help you select an ideal backpack for your backpacking or hiking needs. While most of the features outlined in this article may be overkill for a short day hike, you will need the features if you are planning a multi-day backpacking trip.

It is worth noting that the parts you want to have on your backpack will largely depend on your preference, how you like to pack your stuff, and the stuff you intend to carry. Below, we have some questions which could help you determine the backpack parts and accessories you will need:

  • Do you use trekking poles when hiking?
  • Do you prefer to drink from the water bottle or the hydration reservoir, or both?
  • Does snacking on the move sound like a great idea?
  • Do you prefer to throw all the gear together or do you enjoy compartmentalizing?
  • Do you consider yourself an ultra-lightweight hiker or a minimalist?
  • Do multiple pockets make organization tough for you?
  • Is the idea of having additional gear attached to the outside of the backpack sound great to you?

Parts of a Backpack Explained


Modern backpacks built for multiday backpacking or hiking feature an internal frame that offers structure to the backpack and support to the wearer. It is worth noting that some ultra-lightweight backpacks may lack the frame to save weight.

Load Lifters

These are adjustable straps existing between the pack’s shoulder straps and the rest of the backpack. They are designed to aid with drawing the backpack weight towards the wearer’s torso.

This helps prevent unwanted pack movement. If you adjust the load lifters correctly, they can help lift some of the backpack weight off the shoulders.

Sternum Strap

The sternum strap height is generally adjustable up and down the pack’s shoulder straps. The straps can be easily loosened or tightened across the wearer’s chest. On more advanced backpacks, say, tactical backpacks, the buckles may feature a handy emergency whistle.

Hip Belt

The best hip belt should be breathable and padded with adjustable straps that allow the tightening and loosening of the belt to achieve an ideal fit. Some high-end packs will feature hip belts capable of pivoting the rest of the backpack. This helps ensure that the load is moving with you as you cross-country walk, rather than moving against you.

Hip Belt Pockets

Not all the hip belts will feature pockets. However, the pockets can be extremely useful when it comes to storing small items that you may need on the trails. Such items could include hiking GPS, some snacks, and sunscreen.

Haul Handle

This makes it extremely easy for you to pick and move the backpack. You will find this at the top of the backpack.

Back Panel

The back panel of a great backpack should be breathable, supportive, and comfortable. While some back panels adopt the trampoline-style structure, some will be highly padded. This allows air to pass quite easily between the wearer’s body and the rest of the backpack.

Shoulder Straps

The shoulder straps are one of the most important parts of a backpack – without them, you cannot carry your backpack. Great shoulder straps should be breathable, shaped to the body of the wearer, and padded. They should also be padded at the base.

Shoulder Harness

To achieve a fit specific to the size of your torso, you will need to have the ability to adjust the backpack’s shoulder harness up and down. The majority of the high-end backpacks often allow the wearer to change the shoulder strap width by adjusting the shoulder harness laterally.

Hydration Hose Port

Staying hydrated when you are hiking is crucial. For the pack you invest in to be hydration compatible, it should feature a hole or a port where you can feed a hydration hose out of the major compartment and down to the pack’s shoulder strap.

Hydration Hose Clip

If your hydration hose keeps flapping around while you are walking, this can be annoying. To get rid of this problem, some backpacks feature an attachment or clip point on the shoulder strap. Once you clip the hose, it should stay in place.

Side Pockets/Water Bottle Holder


You wouldn’t want to take off the backpack every time you need to drink water. Side pockets make it possible for you to access your water bottles quite easily.

The pockets are, in most instances, made of lightweight fabric or mesh. To secure the contents of the pockets, they feature an elasticated top.

Compression Straps

To locate the compression straps, you will need to check either the bottom of the backpack or the sides. They are ideal for securing gear on the outside of the backpack, as well as clinching down the internal contents. They help ensure that the backpack is as compact and stable as it can be.

Daisy Chains/Gear Loops

Gear loops are available in various locations on the outside of the pack. Their function is to clip on the extra gear.

They often provide easy access to the gear. You can also use the daisy chains for gear that is too wet or too dirty to go inside the pack.

Ice Ax Loops

You will find these hanging at the bottom of the backpack. If you will be hiking during the summer, the ice ax loops may not be useful. However, when hiking during the winter season, you can use them since you may need to use your ice ax at some point during your journey.

The ice ax loops are designed to secure the ax head. The handle can be secured via a different compression strap or attachment point.

Walking Pole Attachment

The ability to store the poles on the backpack when you are not using them is extremely important. The pole attachment point can be bungee cord loops, compression straps, or some buckled webbing straps. The walking pole attachments are usually found on the front or the back of the backpack.

Top Pocket

The best top pocket should ideally have some water resistance to protect the items you put inside. The pocket should be large enough to carry all the things you need to have quick access to when you stop.

Top Lid

The majority of the backpacks will close with a lid. This usually buckles down over the front of the backpack.

Some lids are adjustable. This allows you to store some additional gear, say, a backpacking camera or even some backpacking cookware, underneath them. On some backpacks, the top lid may come off completely – this allows the backpacker to save weight or convert the lid into a summit pack.

Side Access

In addition to the main compartment, most backpacks will feature side access via a zip. This makes accessing and organizing the gear you need extremely easy – especially the items you had stored at the bottom of the backpack.

Sleeping Bag Compartment

If your backpacking trip extends for more than a day, the sleeping bag compartment is one of the best backpack parts and accessories you can have on your pack. The compartment is usually located at the pack’s bottom.

Some compartments are completely separate from the main compartment. Others may be separated using a fabric that can be zipped or removed.

Rain Cover

The rain cover is usually an extremely useful addition to the backpack. Not all backpacks come with one.

The backpacks which come with the rain cover do feature a dedicated pocket where you can store them. Some of the rain covers are usually attached permanently to the backpack. However, most can be removed.

Hydration Reservoir Sleeve

You will find this inside your backpack’s main compartment. It should be large enough to hold a two-liter (or bigger) hydration reservoir. To keep the reservoir in place, some sleeves will have a loop or a clip at the end of their opening.

Front Kangaroo Pocket

This varies from backpack to backpack. Kangaroo pockets are large pouches that do not zip up or get secure-closed. They are ideal for temporarily storing things like gloves, maps, and even jackets – generally, the things you need to access quickly.

Front Pocket

In addition to the kangaroo pocket, a large number of backpacks will feature zippered front pockets. This helps you keep your gear compartmentalized and organized.

Globo Surf Overview

Getting a backpack that suits your preferences and needs can be a game-changer for backpacking trips that last for more than a day. Understanding the parts of a backpack is the first step towards buying a great backpack.

If your shoulder and back are not comfortable when you put on your backpack, your outdoor adventure may not be as enjoyable as you would want it to. Equally, if the backpack does not feature a design that allows you to carry all the gear you need, you may end up getting frustrated.

Before paying for a backpack, ensure it has most of the backpack parts and accessories mentioned in this article. Also, be sure to test its comfort level.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:


  1. The Definitive Guide that You Never Wanted: Anatomy of a Backpack,
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!