by Staff Writer
The campground is a great place to spend time in nature, but when you are looking for solitude, you really need to go into the backcountry. Hiking into the backcountry requires a backpack to hold all your gear comfortably. A good hiking backpack should hold everything you need, fit comfortably and not cost so much that you can't afford to go on any trips to use it.
How big of a backpack should I get?
The size of a backpack depends on the trips you like to take and the way you pack for them. You should also figure in how much gear will be shared and divided among the group. On average, a 45-liter to 55-liter backpack is standard on weekend backpacking trips in fair weather. A 70-liter to 80-liter pack should work well for a weeklong backpacking trip. In colder weather, when you will want a heavier sleeping bag and clothes, you will need a little more room. Fortunately, many packs will have an extra 10-liter pouch on top that can be removed when it is not needed.
What is the difference between external and internal frame backpacks?
External frame packs have a stiff frame that holds the pack slightly away from the body. This provides ventilation and allows the wearer to carry heavier loads. If you are planning on backpacking across Europe, an external frame backpack is probably right for you. An internal frame backpack will have a fairly rigid frame inside the pack, but this frame rides against the back of the wearer, keeping the center of gravity lower and allowing a greater ease of movement on uneven terrain. If your backpacking will be done in the mountains, an internal frame pack is probably more suited to the sort of travel you will be doing.
What features should I look for in a backpack?
That depends on what features you want. Hydration on-the-go is important to a lot of people, so look for a backpack that can hold your water bottle on the hip belt or is equipped to use a hydration system. The number of pockets depends on whether you want to save weight or have more convenience by storing more often used items in the pockets. The amount of padding in the shoulder straps and hip belt is also important for comfort.
How heavy should my pack be?
There is no set weight that a pack should weigh. Every backpacker has their own theory on weight. Some will cut excess straps and cords off the pack that they don't see as essential in an effort to save an ounce. Other backpackers are willing to take the additional weight in order to have a place to reach their water bottle while they hike. But if you haven't adopted an ultra-light philosophy with the rest of your gear, don't try to do so with your backpack. You'll want the extra cushioning and support when carrying a lot of weight.