How to Choose a Backpack for Hiking

Choosing a good backpack for hiking can be daunting as there are many types and styles to choose from. Whether you are just starting out or an experienced hiker, making a well-informed decision when selecting your backpack is essential. 

Your hiking trips will be more enjoyable and safe with the right equipment. In this article, we will discuss the key elements to consider when buying a backpack for hiking.

Good Suspension System

Selecting the ideal backpack for hiking necessitates consideration of the suspension system, which bears the load and interacts with your body. Thus, having an adjustable suspension system can impact your ability to carry loads and maintain balance while hiking. Even frameless backpacks require sizing to match the length of your back.

When it comes to the frame, there are two types:

  • External – This attaches to the backpack through straps, clips, or clevis pins
  • Internal – Fits within the pack’s fabric, often concealed within it.

Backpacks with external frames provide superior support for heavy loads, while those with internal frames offer greater stability on rugged terrain.

Frameless Packs

Frameless backpacks have become a popular design choice for various types of packs, such as school bags, day packs, and hydration packs. These backpacks have a minimalist packing style and are crafted using ultralight materials.

Unlike traditional backpacks, frameless packs do not have a rigid structure and place most or all of the weight on the shoulders. However, this can cause discomfort over an extended period, even with a modest load.

Framed Packs

Framed backpacks utilize a robust frame construction to effectively transfer the backpack’s weight onto the hips. Two types of frames are commonly used – internal and external – both designed to distribute the weight through the pack and onto the hips, with the shoulder straps only serving to prevent the backpack from falling backward. Maintaining the pack’s shape and rigidity is essential to prevent the weight from transferring to the shoulders and back.

Manufacturers incorporate frame sheets or pack stays to prevent the hiking pack from slouching. Framesheets come in different types, but their purpose remains the same – to provide structure and increase the backpack’s rigidity to avoid slouching. Framed backpacks with frame sheets provide support against hard objects in the pack, protecting the back from discomfort. Removable frame sheets provide flexibility and versatility, making them suitable for day hikes and multi-day trips.

Pack stays are typically made from aluminum or composite materials and can be used with or without frame sheets. They are more effective than frame sheets in providing vertical stability, rigidity, and comfort, especially when the pack is arched away from the back, allowing for better ventilation and air circulation.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Backpack for Hiking


Selecting the right backpack size for your outdoor excursion is a crucial factor that depends on multiple variables, such as the amount of gear you have, the duration of your trip, and how efficiently you can pack. For most backpackers, a 60-70L pack should provide ample space for an extended weekend getaway lasting two to three nights. 

However, some may find that a 50L pack is sufficient, while others may require as much as 100L. Remember that it’s better to opt for a larger backpack that is only half-full rather than a smaller one crammed to the brim. It’s essential to ensure that your backpack can accommodate all your gear and still leave enough room for food and other essential supplies. So, take some time to consider these factors when selecting your backpack to ensure a comfortable and successful backpacking experience.


The materials used significantly influence the weight and durability of a hiking backpack. Do you understand the term ‘denier’? It determines the thickness of fabric by weighing 9000 meters of yarn. For instance, a fabric weighing 400 grams over 9000 meters of yarn is called a 400-denier fabric.

A 1000-denier fabric is coarser than a 400-denier fabric, and manufacturers often use this unit of measurement to describe the thickness of backpack fabrics such as Cordura and nylon. Grams per square meter (g/m2 or GSM) is another unit of measurement used to determine fabric weight.

Most backpacks are made from a combination of coated nylons and polyesters that are durable, flexible, and non-absorbent. Cordura is the most commonly used fabric, although some companies have their own proprietary materials.

These materials are robust and long-lasting; nylon is the most commonly used material for backpacking backpacks. Ripstop nylon is popular due to its exceptional tear resistance and low weight.


Determining the ideal weight for your hiking backpack and gear can be daunting if you’re a novice backpacker. However, there is more than a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Generally, a backpack weighing between 1.5 to 2 kilograms is suitable for most backpackers.

A helpful tip for estimating the weight of your backpack is to ensure it is within 10% of your total maximum load. But if your load exceeds 20 kilograms, the additional kilogram of backpack weight is worthwhile if it enhances your comfort level while carrying the load.

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Investing in an expensive backpacking backpack doesn’t always equate to top-notch quality. While the price may reflect the features and durability, it doesn’t always guarantee a high-performance product.

Consider your backpack purchase a long-term investment and conduct thorough research to find the best value for your money. Remember that the most expensive backpack may only sometimes be the best choice for your needs.


When selecting a top-of-the-line hiking backpack, you can expect durability to be a critical factor. However, even the most robust backpacks may not withstand the rigors of prolonged hiking trips.

Given the intricacies of modern backpack designs, it’s common that components may fail after months of constant use and rough handling. Moreover, the more massive the load, the more strain on the backpack, underscoring the importance of keeping the weight as light as possible.

To ensure that your backpack is up to the challenge, it’s advisable to conduct a thorough inspection before embarking on a trip. This includes examining the pack bag for any tears, rips, or signs of stitching issues, assessing the hip belt and straps’ condition, and scrutinizing all zippers and buckles for any signs of wear and tear.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a backpack for hiking can seem intimidating, but with some basic knowledge and careful research, you can determine the best package for your needs. Knowing factors such as the type of terrain you’ll be traveling, how much gear you need to carry, and your comfort level will guide you toward the perfect backpack for your next outdoor adventure. So no matter where the trails lead you, a reliable and comfortable backpack is essential for an enjoyable excursion.