Buy packs and other gear here!
Here are some basic hints on searching for, choosing and buying the right pack that I have pulled together for reference...
Before you begin...
Do research. Look at online catalogs of retailers (such as Marmot, Vango, REI, etc.) or order paper catalogs by calling their customer service. Read gear reviews from magazines such as Backpacker, Outside, or right here online at Travelpunk!
Decide how long you will be traveling...
The type of trip you're planning will help to narrow your choices. Here is a range of possible outings:
. You probably only need a daypack for day hikes.
on the trail or in the streets. Might still be able to use a daypack if you are able to get to facilities easily.
Five to seven days
out and about. Consider what you will have access to that you don't need to pack.
(10 days or more) trip. Time to seriously consider investing in a good pack!
Look for packs that have features you need--and don't bother with the ones you don't. When everything is on your back, every ounce counts, and those special features can get heavy.
Outside of daypacks, you will want to have a pack that has a frame. For most travelers an internal frame (vs. exterior) is advisable.
How much you will need to carry vs. how much you are able to carry COMFORTABLY will determine the pack size you need. Packs are measured in cubic inches, but even this precise-looking measurement is interpreted differently among manufacturers. Some companies measure the volume of their packs by filling them to the brim with a substance, emptying the pack, and measuring the volume of the stuffing. Depending on the materials chosen, e.g. marbles or styrofoam peanuts, the capacity of the same pack will be measured differently. What does this mean? The c.i. numbers are good guidelines, but realize that 3,000 c.i pack of one company may be smaller than a 3,000 c.i. pack of another company.
For example, an average bookbag or daypack is usually 1200-1500 cubic inches (c.i). If you're carrying a sleeping bag, you'll probably require a minimum of 3000 c.i. This size (and up to 5000 c.i.) is usually good for two to five-day backpacking. Backpacks for multi-week trips/expeditions can get as large as 7000+ c.i. For travelers 3000-4000 c.i. is typical.
Top loaders vs. Panel Loaders...
: Based on the traditional rucksack
, top-loading packs have one big hole at the top. Pro: These are stronger and more moisture resistant than panel-loaders. Con: They require more careful packing than panel-loaders, both to balance the load and to make items easily accessible.
: Also know as "front panel access". These have a large U-shaped front zipper, allowing access to more of the pack. Pro: You can find things faster, and don't have to pack as carefully. Con: You can't pack this as fully as a top-loading model, and zippers can fail.
: The best of both worlds. Usually a top-loader with vertical side zippers or some other access other than the top.
- Adjustable waist belt
. It is important that you can secure your waist belt properly above your hips to distribute weight evenly. For larger packs (4200+ ci.) look for packs that allow "interchangable" waiste belts; ei. you can buy a XL pack and a Medium waist belt (if you are tall and slender). This is essential in carrying bigger loads.
- Adjustable S-shaped shoulder straps
(Dual density). This is the norm for most packs designed by "outdoor" minded companies, but often "travel"/"luggage" minded companies leave out this feature which can reduce comfort and the ability to properly balance your load on your back. This feature basically creates a suspension system on your back.
- Hydration pocket and port
designed to hold hydration pouch systems. Hydration pouches are commonly called "bladders" and can often hold upwards of 2, 3 or more liters of water. A tube then comes out of the "bladder" with a locking nozzle which one can drink out of. This eliminates having to carry water bottles.
- Removable front pocket/daypack
. This will allow you to take a smaller pack on day excursions without taking your entire pack. It is important however to make sure the removable daypack is small and slender, or else you will have an unbalanced load. Often companies try and put too large of a day pack on a pack without considering the comfort of carrying it while it is attached and full loaded. Make sure to keep your daypack LIGHT when attached. *see next feature for important note!
- Twin vertical column pockets
. When buying a pack larger than 4000 ci., you should NOT get one with a removable daypack. Simply put, packs this size needs to stay as close to your body as possible, and the eternal daypack will compromise comfort and stability. Instead, with these larger packs, look for 2 vertical pockets on either side with length wise zips.
- Other features
(These are good features for the backcountry/camping.)
- Sleeping pad straps. Secure a pad under your pack.
- Sleeping bag compartment. This is a zip at the bottom of the pack that can be separated from the rest of the interior.
- Dual ice axe straps. Not just for ice axes, but for extra external straps.
Other important tips...
. Just like buying shoes, it's important that it fits. Most good backpacking gear stores have someone who knows how to measure your torso. Many packs come in L, M, or small. There are women specific packs. As well, really good gear companies will allow you to buy one size pack with a different size hip belt (for instance, I am 6'6 and 165lbs, so I need a L/XL pack, but a M hip belt). Make sure you try on a variety of packs. Throw gear in them to check out the balance and weight distribution.
Get everything out!
Pull everything out and see how much stuff you need to take. If need be throw it in a duffel and go pack a bag at a local store.
Just like anything else, you pay for what you get. That doesn't mean you can't find things on sale. Often a gear company will make a new model of the same pack each year, and distributors will mark down the previous years' packs. THIS IS AN EXCELLENT WAY to save money and still get a great backpack!
Get a duffle!
A small investment could save your pack. Buy a simple ripstop duffle that you can put your pack in when you check it under the airplane. This will save it from getting torn (especially the straps). It the duffle has compression straps, even better!
Buy packs and other gear here!
If you have any suggestions to add about How to Choose a Pack, please PM me!