Going backpacking? Then you’re gonna need a backpack.

Many first time travellers can feel daunted when choosing their first backpack…

I mean the market is just so vast and there are so many different types and brands available these days. There are different sizes, materials and limitless little “extra’s” on offer so it may indeed be very confusing to work out what this all means and where exactly to start.

The first thing you need to understand is that this backpack is going to be your home for the next 1 – 12 months. It will carry all that you hold dear in this world and will be your one constant companion. It will get tossed on and dragged off busses, will be rained on and maybe even picked over by baboons. You therefore need to make sure your backpack has got your back by being fit for purpose.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Backpack

1. Size

So how big a bag do you need? Backpacks are measured in litres and generally range from 35 – 70. A 35 litre backpack is a short stay backpack ideal for going on treks, camping or even very short backpacking trips. I often travel with a 35 litre backpack as well as my big bag and use it for excursions. It can even double as your day pack if you choose right.

Whilst I know (and admire) minimalist people who can travel long term with a 45 litre pack, most travellers opt for 65 litres for their big bag as this allows them to take all of their essentials whilst still been able to physically carry it. In 65 litres you can pack all of your toiletries, enough clothes for all weather eventualities and maybe even a sleeping bag with room still left over.

Whilst 70 and 70+ bags are available, just be mindful that you will need to carry the damn thing over vast distances. I personally find that 65 litres allows me to take all that I need without allowing room for any excess, luxury items and I can carry it quite comfortably.

It also absolutely needs to have hip and shoulder adjustment so that you can match it to your body size and ensure that you spread the weight across your whole being.

2. Design

There are all manner of weird and wonderful designs on the market these days such as backpacks that zip up into a holdall. However, I prefer the classic design that has done travellers well for some 50+ years now. It ties up at the top, folds over to fasten with clips and has two side pockets and one in the hood.

backoacks

3. Waterproofing

Get one that has at least some waterproofing and maybe then treat it yourself with a good quality spray. Many backpacks now have their own built in ‘fly sheet’ which is a waterproof sheet that is stored at the top or the bottom in a little pocket which can be stretched over the entire backpack. This will come prove absolutely invaluable when your backpack is tied to a bus roof and the monsoon rains come.

4. Stitching

Is it strong and tight? Poorly made backpacks fall apart fast and will quickly start to show strain after a few too many long Indian bus rides (as will you…). This really is a nightmare when out on the road so give the stitching a good, thorough going over. If you know how to sow then bring a kit so you can make any essential repairs in case things go wrong.

5. Zips

In our view these holes should be wide enough to take a small padlock so that the zips can be padlocked together for security. Whilst a small padlock can easily be broken be somebody sufficiently determined, it will nevertheless act as a deterrent against any opportunistic theft.

The zips themselves should also feel solid, go for proper metal rather than the weak, reinforced plastic type stuff that is sadly becoming more and more popular. If the zips have tassels or tags attached please be advised that these will break off.

Need a Recommendation?

If you are still confused (we can’t blame you) then we do have a few recommendations for you.

osprey

Osprey ATMOS AG 65

The foundation of the Osprey Atmos AG™ 65 is Osprey’s Anti-Gravity™ suspension system that delivers outstanding ventilation and carrying comfort. This award winning pack has earned a solid reputation with savvy thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.

  • Removable Floating Top Lid – Making it easy to open and get into!
  • Flap Jacket
  • Tool Attachment allowing you to fix bits and pieces to it for ease of access.
  • Removable Sleeping Pad Straps
  • Dual Zippered Front Panel Pockets – Perfect for storing smaller items
  • Compression Straps – These stop the straps from digging into you too much.

gregory

Gregory Stout 45 Backpack

The Stout carries like a champ, but it also has a series of smartly designed features that make trail life a little smoother, like a stowaway rain cover and removable lid that keep your gear dry and lighten your load, respectively.

Top and bottom access make it easy to get at gear in different parts of your pack, and front, side, and hip belt pockets keep snacks, layers, maps, and phones accessible.

Gregory also built-in loops to carry trekking poles and ice axes, compression straps for extra gear or sleeping pads, and a series of daisy-chain loops that are designed to carry portable solar panels but work as lash points for whatever other gear you decide to bring.

  • TrailFit adjustable hip belt that fits your hips
  • Top and bottom access points
  • Removable lid
  • Front, side, and hip belt pockets
  • Trekking pole/ice axe loops and side/bottom compression straps
  • Solar panel compatible daisy chain gear loops so you can charge your devices by the power of sunlight! (not applicable for use in the Scottish Highlands then…)
  • Stowable rain cover – for when it rains!

berghaus

Berghaus Freeflow 30

When on a long single or multi-day trek you need a pack that is both comfortable and practical and the adjustable Men’s Freeflow 40 Rucksack is the solution to both of these needs. A perfect fit is offered with the inclusion of Berghaus BIOFIT technology.

  • Unique comfort and fit are guaranteed with the adjustable BIOFIT®system, vented shoulder straps and the height-adjustable chest harness
  • Hike in comfort thanks to Freeflow V fresh air technology, giving minimal contact area, and a gap between your rucksack and your back to allow airflow and reduce sweat.
  • Stay one step ahead of the elements; don’t forget the waterproof rain cover if the skies open!
  • Hydration pack compatible (pack/bottle not included) allowing you to stay hydrated on the move
  • Keep everything at hand with 30-litre storage, containing a range of supporting, zipped pockets and walking pole attachments.

So there you have it, our guide to choosing a backpack along with our personal recommendations. Now you know what you need it’s time to get offline, get out to the store (or get back online to an E-store…) and find the perfect backpack for your adventures!