So you have decided to go on a backpacking trip but you are unsure of why kind of pack to buy. There are many outdoor stores and websites to choose from all trying to sell you on something different. It’s hard to distinguish from what you need from marketing hype.
Here are just a few points to consider for choosing the right backpack.
Buy your backpacking gear before your actual backpack.
What you carry in your backpack dictates your pack size so it is important to already have those pieces of gear to “test fit”. Do your research to find out what you need to pack for the trip and cut out the unnecessary items.
- How many days of food with you be carrying?
- Will you be carrying extra warm layers?
- Will you be carrying an ice axe?
- Will you be carrying a bear canister?
- Will you need larger capacity for water?
Make sure your pack fits properly.
This seems obvious but really takes some trial and error to figure out. It’s not always easy to get a realistic idea of pack fit while standing in a retail store. It’s important to investigate which pack holds your gear most efficiently while distributing the weight comfortably. This will take some tinkering with all the adjustments and gear configurations.
Before heading to an outfitter or searching online, you will want to do a few body measurements and learn how to properly load your backpack with gear. Follow the specific guidelines in “How to Fit A Backpack” for this step.
Less is more. At least that’s what the price tag says…
It is important to note that like with any other consumer market, price doesn’t always indicate quality. Once you have determined your needs and sizing, you can begin to see what the market has to offer. Broaden your search by investigating some smaller online “cottage companies”. These companies are generally started by backpackers who wanted a better product so they made their own. Because of this, there are many high quality packs with lots of versatility and reasonable pricing available.
Here are a few additional points to consider when looking at price
“I can get a hell of a good look at a T-Bone steak by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take the butcher’s word for it.”
Many companies offer warranties on their gear. This is always a strong selling point on a product that you will be spending a lot of money on and trusting your safety with. But if you are trusting your safety with an important piece of gear, don’t you want to buy something that wont break in the first place?
Warranties are a good thing but don’t let them take precedence over factors like build quality, fair pricing and a proven track record. Think of it more as an added bonus.
Reputation and word of mouth among hikers is important when researching a piece of gear. The problem with going to an big outdoor retailer is that you cannot trust your reference. You don’t know if the person selling you a backpack has even packed a sack lunch in their life. Even if you manage to find a knowledgeable and trustworthy salesperson, they generally have a limited line of products to sell you or push a propriety brand.
The best place to start your research is with thru-hiker blogs. These are people preparing for long distance hikes who will be intensely testing gear. Most of the time these people are not sponsored so it is usually based off of product performance and personal opinion. You can get a better idea