Even for the casual hiker, the hiking backpack is absolutely essential. Whether you are hiking a trail alone, going cross-country with a group, or following a guide, your backpack carries the things needed to make your hiking trip a fun, safe, and enjoyable experience. The first thing to realize is that not all hiking backpacks are created equally. there are many, many choices out there in hiking backpacks. Choosing the one that is right for you will take a little time, research, and smart shopping.
Considerations When Choosing a Hiking Backpack
1. Hiking backpacks come in a variety of sizes and styles. The main thing to consider is the type of hiking you are planning on doing with this backpack. Someone going for extended trips into the wilderness will need a totally different hiking backpack than someone going for a six hour hike along the trails behind their house. If you will not be hiking far or staying out overnight, a small backpack that can carry a first aid kit, water, and some food for the trip is all that is necessary. If you are going to be out overnight, you will need room for more food and water, and a sleeping bag and possibly a tent. Cross-country trips will require a large backpack with room for everything mentioned above, with a tent for sure, changes of clothing, compass, maps, cooking gear, and other survival equipment.
2. Whatever the backpack type, make sure that it fits securely and comfortably. You don’t want one that is too heavy for you when loaded, or one that does not fit snugly. If your backpack shifts too much, it can easily run your shoulders raw where the straps are rubbing.
3. The price for a hiking backpack can range from over $400 to as little as $20, depending on the backpack. For the casual hiker, or someone who intends to get serious but is just starting, seriously consider getting the least expensive one that is adequate for your needs. You will probably want to try different backpacks after you have been hiking for a while, and you don’t want to have too much invested in your old backpack. But make sure that it is sturdy and comfortable. Don’t trade off too much quality in the name of price.
4. A consideration you may not think about, is that different backpacks are made for different genders. A man’s center of balance is slightly different than a woman’s, and their torsos are shaped differently along the shoulder blades. This must be taken into account when designing the hiking backpack, so that the backpack does not throw the hiker off-balance.