Make certain to choose a backpack that has good thick padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt. Most quality backpacks have their cubic inch capacity listed in their description to give you an idea of the capacity. Another serious consideration is your torso length. This is the distance from your waist to your shoulders.
Your backpack should be selected according to your torso length and should fit comfortably within this area. Most quality packs will have the torso length listed. There are some backpacks that have adjustable torso length which I recommend as you can really dial in the exact size that is right for you.
Remember: your hips are the main weight-bearers, with your upper back and shoulders for secondary support. A woman’s backpack is constructed with the female frame in mind. The torso dimensions are narrower and the shoulder straps and hip belt are contoured to fit better.
Straps on a backpack serve an important purpose. Look for a backpack that has load-lifting straps (they don’t actually carry any of the load), which are used to cinch the pack closer to your body for better alignment. If your backpack is more than about 45 degrees away from your upper back you risk compromising your balance – and comfort. A sternum strap is a strap that runs across your chest, from one shoulder strap to the other, and improves your backpack’s stability.
Other considerations: does the backpack come with a rain fly to keep things dry in a downpour? Does it have an internal water bladder (for hauling water), or pocket for holding a water bladder?
Are there handy external pockets for some of the more commonly used items so you don’t have to empty your entire pack looking for something? Finally, there is the color itself. Many backpacks come in bright colors. This is done to make you easily visible in case you get lost.
I prefer a subdued color backpack so I can blend in with my surroundings. In fact, as I will detail later, much of my camping equipment is actually a military surplus. It blends into the surroundings giving me an edge on seeing more wildlife before it sees me.
Another bonus is that it is very well made and can stand up to many years of rugged use. After all, the military is some of the ultimate campers.
Make Sure Your Backpack Fits Well
You want to make certain your backpack is correctly adjusted to fit. Make certain the shoulder straps are cinched as tight up against your back as possible and your hip belt is nice and snug.
Types of Backpacks
Your hips are considered to be the load bearers, therefore most backpacks today are constructed with that in mind. They contain some sort of frame allowing your hips to take the brunt of the carrying weight making it possible to hike in an upright position while maintaining a normal pace.
There are three types of backpacks available:
soft side, internal frame, and external frame. The soft side pack has no sort of frame. This type of pack would be adequate for a day hike, but I wouldn’t recommend it for anything more. The soft side pack does not have any means of support, therefore your body absorbs the weight in un-natural weight-bearing areas. The internal frame and external frame backpacks are more rugged and enable you to carry more weight comfortably. They are pretty much what they sound like: an internal frame pack has a metal or aluminum frame (or stays) sewn into the pack itself. These frames run parallel to the spine and offer great load support. The external frame pack has a tubular frame with the pack attached to it.
When it comes to an internal or external frame backpack, they each have their advantages. Its a matter of personal taste when it comes to transferring the weight of the backpack to the hips and, however, keep in mind that internal frame backpacks don’t allow for good air flow between the pack and your back. Modern internal frame packs have ventilating mesh which helps in air flow, but the pack still rests mainly on your back.