Camping Backpacks Buying Guide

Had enough of society?  Maybe you are looking to give the Blackberry  a rest and put down the briefcase ?  Whatever the reason may be, if you want to go camping, you absolutely need a backpack.  Whether you plan on hitting the trail for holiday or taking an extended trek, having the right backpack is crucial.  Before leaving modernity at the car park, make sure you choose a backpack that's comfortable and suits your needs. This way you'll have more time to focus on what's important--enjoying yourself! Use this guide to choose a backpack that will keep your gear safe and sound the next time you go off the grid.

Frame Types

Camping backpacks can be roughly broken up into two categories: an internal frame or an external frame.  Each frame type has its own features and benefits for different uses. Check out the descriptions below to decide which frame you should choose.

Internal Frame  backpacks have the frame built into the pack.


  • A narrower frame hugs the body and offers more balance and a better fit on the back.
  • Easily adjustable.
  • Practical for easy-difficult terrain (off-trail trekking, climbing, skiing, etc.).
  • More usable storage space.

External Frame  backpacks have the pack and straps attached to a frame. Great for a first backpack.


  • Rigid construction allows for heavy loads.
  • Cooler during travel in hot weather (space between frame and body allows for air flow).
  • Practical for easy-moderate terrain.
  • External frame allows you to secure additional gear to the pack (firewood, water jugs, etc.).

Choosing a Size

The next decision to make after frame type is size.  This is where many novices as well as experienced campers tend to misjudge their space requirements.  Underestimating the amount of space you need can put a serious damper on your trek.  Without enough space, you will find yourself having to constantly arrange everything in the pack so it fits. Heaven help you if you need something at the bottom! Plus, if your bag is too small, you will have nowhere to stow any additional items  if needed.  Look at the general space guidelines to keep this from happening to YOU.

This pack holds a bit more than 80 litres
This pack holds a bit more than 80 litres
  • 30-40 litres: For hiking trips with a daypack .
  • 50-80 litres: For overnight and multi-day backpacking trips up to a week with moderate climate.
  • 80+ litres: For trips longer than a week or winter over-nights.

Getting a Good Fit

Comfort! Comfort! Comfort! Did we mention comfort?  There is nothing more crucial than a comfortable fit when it comes to camping backpacks.  Imagine yourself out on the trail with your favourite companions having to stop every so often because of constant back pain.  That's no fun at all! Follow these fitting suggestions so you have a pack that fits you correctly.

Don%27t let an uncomfortable pack ruin your trip!

  • Size a pack according to your torso length.
    • To do this- measure the distance from your hip bone to the base of the neck.
  • Backpack manufacturers use different sizing rubrics. What does this mean to you? Don't simply choose small, medium (regular), or large according to your size.
    • While one manufacturer calls a 50 cm. torso length a regular size, others may call it a large size.
  • Load the pack with an approximate weight you intend to carry.
    • Ensure the hip belt is comfortable, well-padded, and fits around your waist. This is important because a good amount of the pack's weight will be on the hip belt.
    • Make sure the pack doesn't restrict head or arm movement
  • Look for a pack that offers shoulder straps that adjust both on the strap itself as well as its position on the pack.
    • This affects the pack's suspension system and ultimately how the load rests on your back.
    • The sternum strap connects the two arm straps together and should pull some weight off your shoulders when attached.

Packing a Backpack

Now that you have picked out a suitable pack and planned your trek, it's time to pack your gear.  Not so fast! Did you know that how you pack your backpack is just as important as what you pack? Now that you know, let's look at some general guidelines for how to stow all your goodies, shall we?

How to pack a backpack for camping

Internal Frame

  • Start by packing your sleeping bag first (at the bottom).
  • Next, pack heavier items like clothing and mess kits  towards the centre of the pack close to your shoulders.
  • Then, pack lighter items towards the outer edges and top of the pack.

Tip: Some internal frame backpacks have dividers inside. Take advantage of these to keep your gear separated.

External Frame

  • Start by securing your sleeping bag and ground cloth  under the pack on the frame.
  • Next, pack your clothing and mid-weight items toward the bottom of the pack.
  • Then, stow all heavy items towards the middle-top of the pack directly behind your shoulders with light items on top.
    • This is especially important because external frame packs tend to be top-heavy if not loaded properly.

Tip: While bungee cords  are a great solution for securing items to the frame, rope allows for multi-use. Very resourceful!

Pack Like an Expert

  •  Take advantage of the numerous outside compartments your pack has to offer. Use them to keep these trail essentials handy:
  • Bring a few resealable plastic bags to keep matches and other important items dry. These will come in extremely handy
  • Pack your rain wear on top of everything else to be prepared for an unexpected shower.

A carabiner
A carabiner

Major Manufacturers

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