A guide to choosing your Backpack

Your backpack is going to be one of the most important items on anyone’s packing list. It’s going to be the support for all of your possessions and your best friend throughout the duration of your trip, so this isn’t the sort of area you want to scrimp on. Make sure you take the time to try it on, test it out, and go to a store to get properly fitted.

When picking a backpack there are a few things you need to consider. Size, accessibility, comfort and features. Why these are important will make sense as I go along. I’ll also be posting a link to the review of the bags I’ve used so this can give you an idea of features to look out for and what to expect. Bags can be quite pricy, but it’s one of the few things that the price range makes a huge difference to the end product. Cheaper backpacks won’t come with great features like back ventilation (great for hot treks) waist support (for those heavy loads) or the material quality will suffer.

Size

When deciding on how big of a bag to get ask yourself this. How much do I need to carry? And what is the use of this bag? Lots of backpackers will have their main luggage bag, but also a smaller daypack. Much like when you go on holiday you have a suitcase and a carry-on, which means your items are contained safely inside a locker ready to be grabbed at a moment’s notice and onto your next destination. But you’ll still have a daypack to carry around which will hold your water, souvenirs, and everything else you will need for that day.

Bag Types

Bags are often categorised in two ways, framed and frameless. Framed bags are made of a metal (often aluminium) frame which means the bag will stand up by itself when empty. Whereas a frameless one has nothing at all. Framed bags have the advantage of being sturdier, and more stable. It also makes packing easier as the shape of the bag isn’t dictated by the contents. Frameless bags however have none of this, and this makes them a lot lighter, but without any support carrying heavier loads can quickly become uncomfortable.

Accessibility

A lot of bags you’ll look at will be top-loading. This means there is a panel at the top that you put your items in and everything goes straight to the bottom. Some bags will have a workaround to this, some have side pockets, or a bottom zip so you can get straight to the stuff you need. Others may have external pockets so you can keep stuff outside. Just remember though these items are more at risk of theft because if it’s more accessible for you, it will be more accessible for thieves too. If you have a bag with waist straps (and you should if it’s a larger bag) some brands will put small pockets on the straps so items are close at hand. These are massively useful for keeping things close by. I normally kept my phone or camera in them, as they were within my sight and reach at all times.

Features

Lots of bags will have their own claims and benefits and features. I’ve seen bags that claim to be more waterproof than others, some offer superior support and others comfort. Honestly, there isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to your backpack. My best advice is to do a little bit of research, and find out what is the most important to you. So my first daypack was the technicals Alpine Aqua II 25+5litre, on the whole, I was happy with the pack at the time, but eventually, I needed a bigger bag and I stretched my budget so that I could afford an Osprey Talon 44. The difference between the two bags was extraordinary, as happy as I was with the Alpine, the Talon was made of much better materials and the waist and shoulder straps were a softer material that was much better at ventilating heat. However, it certainly didn’t claim to be as waterproof as the Alpine. This was an easily resolved matter as you can buy waterproof bags for your kit inside as well as a waterproof cover that will go over your entire backpack and help protect your contents.

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