Camping and Hiking Backpack – Guide On What To Look For

You’re probably thinking, how hard can it possible be? It’s just a backpack, right? Well, choosing a camping and hiking backpack is not as easy as it sounds. It’s not like choosing a backpack for school and just worrying what color it’s going to be. A hiking backpack if your lifeline! It’s purpose is to be able to hold your tent, water, food, cooking wear, if needed, and of course, your emergency survival kit. So, you’re probably asking yourself, what do you need to look for in a backpack?

Proper Fitting

1st thing you want to do, is to make sure you are properly fitted. That way you know what kind of bag will work best for you. Sounds like a lot of work, but honestly it’s not. This will honestly help you in the long run, not only with size but comfortability, which is huge! Now you have a couple different ways to go about this. You can either research the best way to measure your torso (Click this link to find out more! REI: How to size yourself for a backpack), or check out a few local sporting goods stores near you.(Which we highly recommend REI: Store locator) They can actually assist you if you need help to see what size you are, or even if you want to double check to make sure your measurements are accurate. Reason this is so important, is because if you do not get a backpack that supports your load properly, it can potentially cause injuries which we will go into more detail later on.

Tip: if you are able to go to REI they not only have the ability to size you, they will also allow you to walk around the store with weight in the backpack, to make sure that everything feels comfortable and secure.

Does It Meet Your Needs

When it comes to choosing a backpack for camping and hiking, there is a ton of options that you can pick from. So, you want to make sure you have some kind of idea of what you will be carrying with you. Examples: sleeping bag, tent, clothes, food and water. All of which can take up vital space and adds precious weight. So, what you need to consider, is what will you mainly be using this bag for? If camping overnight, such as a backpacking trip, how many days will you be gone? And if so, how much food and water will you need to carry?

So while you’re exploring to see what bag fits you the best, make sure you also take the following under consideration:

  • Size of Bag: How much will fit inside? What liter backpack do you need?
  • Pockets: Is there side pockets for water bottles? Is there a hip belt pocket for items, such as chap stick, phone, GPS etc? Is there enough pockets to separate your items? Example: wet items from dry items.
  • Easily Accessible: Are you able to pull something quickly out of your backpack when needed? Does it have multiple entry areas, to make it easier to reach items?
  • Rain Proof: Is it waterproof or water resistant? Will my items be protected if it rains or will you need a rain fly? (Rain fly: covers your backpack with a waterproof layer to protect it from rain)

And Finally….

  • Test it: Make sure it is comfortable, add your gear to properly test it, get a feel for the backpack and determine if its fits you properly.

Weight Limits & Risks Of Carrying Extra Weight

Rule of thumb for backpackers and hikers, is to try to stay within 30% of your body weight. Why? Well, carrying over 30% of your body weight may not only cause issues to your back, shoulders, neck and hips, but hikers also become more susceptible to potential injuries such as: ankle sprains, knee pain, muscular fatigue, and even soft tissue damage (Sounds worse than it is, but can still be painful, some examples:hotspots, blisters & skin chafing).

To avoid the potential effects of your backpack causing some related issues stated above, make sure your backpack fits properly and that you don’t over pack it. Keep this in mind while packing. It will not only help you pack more wisely, but will also help you consider if certain items are really worth taking. Last but not least, weigh your pack. Make sure you know how much it weighs. Remember, everything you pack, YOU MUST CARRY.

Tip: is it within your 30% body weight? If so great job, if not don’t worry, make some adjustments till it works. Remember, what works for us, may be different for you. So figure out what will work best for you and your situation.

Don’t Settle, Find What Works For You

Finding a backpack is not always easy and can become frustrating, but don’t give up! Remember, take your time and find the one that best fits your needs. Keep all the topics covered here in mind when searching for your backpack. Also, backpacks are very situational (meaning something might work good for this type of trip but not so good for next one). So if you can’t find that one backpack that meets all your needs. That’s okay! At the end of the day, find what works for you, because in the long run that’s all that matters. That way in the end, you will have a much better experience knowing and feeling more comfortable in your gear and out with nature.

Tip: We do want to discourage you from buying your first backpack from a 3rd party site (offerup, letitgo, craigslist) please purchase from an outdoor store that’s has properly inspected the backpack for you and you’re getting the right sized backpack.  

**Disclaimer: we are not endorsed or paid by REI in any way we just like what they do and the ethic of the company so we will do are part in supporting them by referring them to you**