Planning a hike, a camping trip or perhaps a whirlwind tour of the world? Whatever you're planning, you'll need a sturdy backpack! Your pack will be your constant companion on your travels, so make sure you purchase one that meets your needs. Since packs can vary widely in price and features, take a minute to consider what you need. The two most important factors to consider in a backpack are size and fit. Read on for more information below.
This ConsumerSearch guide estimates what volume you'll need for a given trip length:
* '''750-3,000 cubic inches''': Mainly for day trips, but you might want to pack one inside your week pack.
* '''3,000-4,000 cubic inches''': Small bag, good for light packers for the weekend or overnight trips that need more gear.
* '''4,000-5,000 cubic inches''': A few days or a long weekend.
* '''5,000-6,000 cubic inches''': Week-long trips or trips when you might need to carry extra gear.
* '''6,000+ cubic inches''': Very large bags, good for a week or more.
Of course, if you need to carry more gear--for example, cold weather layers--you should probably get a bag larger than these estimates suggest.
* Measure your torso size (from your seventh vertebra in your neck down to your hips). Most torsos are between 18 and 22 inches long.
* Next, measure the width of your chest and hips.
* The hip belt should ride--where else?--at your hips. If it rides higher up at the waist, it will not be as supportive.
* The shoulder straps should meet the pack just below the crest of your shoulders and fit the curves of your back, neck and shoulders.
* You should have enough room to look up unencumbered.
* Look for adjustable or removable straps. Even with a properly fitting pack, you may need to adjust the fit based on what you're wearing or carrying.
There are a few things to look for in the construction of your bag:
* '''Lacing''': Strong lacing and fabric (nylon never fails).
* '''Padding''': Well-padded, wide straps and lumbar pads that neither dig into you nor sit uncomfortably. Also a well-ventilated back panel is key - no one likes a sweaty back or things poking into them.
* '''Space''': Make sure you appropriate storage space with have hydration pack/water bottle holders. Internal hydration packs are also lighter than most water bottles, although water itself is the bulk of the weight. You also want to be able to store extra layers and jackets when you no longer need them.
* '''Weight''': You don't want the pack to add unnecessary weight, and it should sit properly on your back so that you aren't hunched over.
* '''Waterproof''': If you anticipate inclement weather, buy a bag that is waterproof and has inner pockets for things that can't get wet, and remember to go over the bag with waterproofing spray before use.
* '''Tear-Proof''': Look for strong, reinforced fabrics like rip-stop nylon; reinforced seams are good.
* '''Zippers''': Make sure they are either reinforced or double zippers, In case one fails.
* '''Bungee Cords''': Almost as useful as duct tape.
* If you are bringing children or animals, consider what you will need to carry for them. You may want a backpack carrier for your toddler.
* If you bringing electronics, pick a bag that allows you easy access to the devices you will need en route -- like a camera or GPS.
* If you are going where there will be lots of people, animals and/or brush in your path, consider a smaller pack. The bulkier the pack, the harder it is to get by in tight situations. You don't want to get caught up in a tree.
* Pick the most compact bag possible. Remember it's your back that has to carry it, unless you have a pack mule in the yard.
* Pick a bag that can handle wear and tear if you are the rough-and-tough type.
* Some backpacks have locking functions, which are a good deterrent if you are concerned with theft. But if you plan to leave the pack alone for a long period of time, it won't help.
* For women especially, be sure to get a pack that fits your frame. Although all camping packs are unisex, bags designed specifically for women tend to be more comfortable, especially for petite ladies.