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When you are out in nature, you will probably need more than just your legs. Water, keys, some food is what we are talking about. Those who do longer tours in the outdoors will also need some additional clothing, maybe a sleeping bag and safety equipment or other tools. Depending on the different areas of use and their requirements, there are a whole bunch of different backpacks to choose from.
The area of use of your backpack – it’s not only about the volume
Volume is fairly simple. If you want to take lots of stuff with you, you need more storage space. Therefore, our backpacks range from tiny 2 liters up to more than 80 liters. The volume very much depends on where you want to use your backpack. For example, if you are a trail runner, you do not need as much storage space. Instead, you want your backpack to fit well and stable so that it does not bounce while running and at the same time, you need storage space mostly for water. Meaning around 2-20 liters. Bike backpacks similarly are in the lower volume area of up to 35 liters. These very often also provide additional back protection and mounting device for your helmet. In the alpine areas of hiking and mountaineering, as well as ski touring, is where the backpacks get real large. Again, the volume obviously depends on what tours you are doing. If you are just hiking an afternoon, you do not need as large a backpack. But if you are doing multiple day tours, you need to bring clothing, food, possibly a sleeping bag, a tent and other gear so you are well advised with a backpack that can hold 60 liters or more. Of course, the additional characteristics of your pack also depend on this.
Another criterium is the weight. Generally, of course a backpack that weighs less is more comfortable. This is especially the case when trail running or climbing! These backpacks are therefore often made lightweight material such as mesh.
What else does the outdoor backpack do?
Next to a lot of storage space, you also need some handy storage for smaller things. Therefore, many have separate departments for your keys, valuables, accessoires and so on. And what about other equipment such as hiking poles, ice tools, avalanche safety equipment, bike helmet, skis and so on? These can be stored in or fastened onto the backpack using specific departments, straps and loops. Meaning, you should also keep in mind what kind of equipment you want to take with you when buying a backpack. Larger backpacks also often have bottom compartments, that way you can access the main compartment and grab things from the bottom without having to dig through all your stuff. Also, separate day-packs are a great thing to have. You will need this when trekking for several days or even backpacking for weeks of travel and wanting to take just a few things with you for a day.
Doing some outdoor sports, a protector is great. Especially when biking, freeriding or snowboarding, a integrated back protector is often included. Another important aspect is water. Of course you could just take your backpack off to grab your water bottle. But very often, this is not that easy or handy. So instead, some backpacks have seperate mesh compartments on the sides where you can easily grab your water bottle. Others offer the possibility of integrating a hydration system. Which is especially great for climbing, biking or ski touring. If you already have a water bag, make sure it fits your backpack!
What about rain? When it rains, you need a rain cover to really prevent water from soaking your things. Some backpacks have integrated rain covers, some brands offer these separately. So if you are out in all weather conditions, you should probably get yourself a rain cover.
Next to all these characteristics, your backpack also needs to fit well!
For sure, this is not as difficult as with shoes, but still: your backpack needs to fit your back. Many brands therefore offer their backpacks in various sizes to account for different size backs. Other backpacks have adjustable carrying systems to make them fit your individual back very precisely. Additional comfort is given through mesh inserts and frame constructions that brings air to your body. Hip and chest straps are a big must. The hip strap needs to sit on your pelvic bone, that way the weight on your shoulder is reduced. In the end, it is easiest if you just try a bunch of different backpacks on to see which one you feel comfortable with. By the way, there are also backpacks made especially for women, to fit the female body.
Read more regarding hiking backpacks
©Ortovox backpack by Hansi Heckmair ©Travelling with a backpack by Lowe Alpine