Hiking Backpacks: Choosing the Perfect Pack

At HikeTrekZone, we understand the importance of choosing the right backpack for your outdoor adventures. The perfect hiking backpack should not only be comfortable and durable but also cater to your specific needs and preferences.

Following on from our Hiking and Trekking Overview, this article will provide you with essential tips specifically for buying hiking backpacks, catering to men, women and kids. We’ll discuss what women should look for in a backpack, explore considerations for selecting backpacks for kids, list the best brands available across various price ranges, and offer recommendations for hot and cold weather hikes.

1. Types of Hiking Backpacks

When it comes to hiking backpacks, they can be categorized into three main types: frameless backpacks, internal-frame backpacks, and external-frame backpacks. Each type offers distinct advantages and is suited for different hiking scenarios. Let’s explore each type in more detail:

Frameless Backpacks

Frameless backpacks, as the name suggests, lack a rigid frame. These backpacks are designed to be lightweight and flexible, making them ideal for shorter hikes or carrying lighter loads. They are often made from lightweight materials and have minimal padding. Frameless backpacks offer greater freedom of movement and flexibility, allowing hikers to navigate through narrow trails more easily. However, they may not provide as much stability or weight distribution compared to other types of backpacks.

Internal-Frame Backpacks

Internal-frame backpacks have a built-in frame that is hidden within the pack. These backpacks are designed to provide better weight distribution, stability, and comfort, making them suitable for longer hikes or carrying heavier gear.

The internal frame is typically made of lightweight materials such as aluminum or carbon fiber and is integrated into the backpack’s back panel and hip belt. This design helps transfer the weight of the pack to the hips, reducing strain on the shoulders and back. Internal-frame backpacks offer a snug fit and better load stability, making them a popular choice for backpackers and hikers tackling challenging terrains.

External-Frame Backpacks

External-frame backpacks feature a visible frame that is attached to the outside of the pack. These backpacks excel in carrying heavy and bulky loads. The external frame, usually made of aluminum or other sturdy materials, provides excellent support and allows for efficient weight transfer.

External-frame backpacks offer a more structured and organized packing system, with multiple attachment points for gear such as tents and sleeping bags. They also provide ample ventilation, keeping the backpacker’s back cool during hot weather hikes. However, due to their bulkier design, external-frame backpacks may be less manouverable in tight spaces or overgrown trails.

Each type of hiking backpack has its advantages and considerations, so it’s important to choose the one that best fits your hiking style, preferences, and the demands of your outdoor adventures.

2. Choosing the Right Backpack: Top Tips

Selecting the perfect hiking backpack is crucial for a comfortable and enjoyable hiking experience. Here are some top tips to consider:

• Size and Capacity: Determine the right size of the backpack based on the length and duration of your hikes. Consider the backpack’s capacity, measured in liters, to ensure it can accommodate all your essentials without being too heavy. Day trip bags typically have a volume of 10 to 30 liters, while overnight backpacks are generally 40 liters or larger and come with more features and robust suspension systems

• Fit and Comfort: Look for a backpack with adjustable straps and a supportive suspension system. Ensure the hip belt and shoulder straps are padded for maximum comfort. Try on different backpacks to find the one that fits your body shape well.

• Weight Distribution: A well-designed backpack should distribute weight evenly across your back and hips. Opt for a backpack with a frame or internal support to help with weight distribution.

• Accessibility and Organization: Consider the number and accessibility of compartments and pockets in the backpack. Look for features like side pockets, hip belt pockets, and a separate sleeping bag compartment to keep your gear organized and easily accessible.

Durability and Weather Resistance: Choose a backpack made of durable materials that can withstand rough terrain. Look for water-resistant or waterproof options to protect your belongings in case of unexpected rain or splashes.

3. What Women Should Look for in a Hiking Backpack

Although some gendered products can occasionally be perceived as mere marketing tactics, backpacks are an example of where there are significant design distinctions between hiking backpacks tailored for men and women so, whilst there are some good brands out there that can be adjusted to suit both male and female proportions, it may be worth considering a backpack tailored specifically for women, especially if the intention is to make hiking or trekking a regular pursuit. The ones that are tailored specifically for women take into account the below additional considerations:

• Narrower Shoulder Straps: Women generally have narrower shoulders, so backpacks with narrower shoulder straps will provide a better fit and greater comfort.

• Shorter Torso Length: Women’s torsos are typically shorter than men’s, so backpacks designed for women will have a shorter torso length to ensure a proper fit.

• Curved Hip Belts: Women’s hips have a different shape than men’s, so backpacks with curved hip belts are designed to accommodate those curves and provide better support.

4. Selecting Backpacks for Kids

When choosing a hiking backpack for your little adventurers, keep the following factors in mind:

• Size and Capacity: Select a backpack suitable for your child’s age and size. Look for backpacks with adjustable straps and a capacity appropriate for the length of the hikes they will be joining.

• Comfort and Fit: Ensure the backpack fits well on your child’s back, with padded shoulder straps and a hip belt if necessary. Consider lightweight options to prevent strain on their developing bodies.

Visibility and Safety: Opt for backpacks with reflective elements or bright colors to enhance visibility during hikes. Look for backpacks with a whistle attached to the chest strap for emergency situations.

5. Backpacks for Hot Weather Hiking

When hiking in hot weather, it’s crucial to consider a backpack with features that enhance breathability and comfort. Look for backpacks with:

• Ventilation Systems: Opt for backpacks with mesh back panels or suspended mesh frames that allow air to circulate, keeping you cooler and reducing sweat build-up.

• Hydration Compatibility: Choose a backpack with a hydration reservoir sleeve and easy-to-access hydration ports, allowing you to stay hydrated on the trail without needing to stop frequently.

6. Backpacks for Cold Weather Hiking

For cold weather hikes, focus on backpacks that offer features to keep you warm and protected. Look for backpacks with:

• Insulated Hydration Sleeves: These will help prevent your water from freezing in cold temperatures, ensuring you stay hydrated throughout your hike.

• Compression Straps: Backpacks with compression straps allow you to cinch down the load, reducing its bulk and keeping it closer to your body, which can help retain heat.

7. Choosing the Right Backpack for Short Hikes

When embarking on short hikes, you don’t need an overly large or heavy backpack. Here are some suggestions for selecting the ideal backpack for shorter adventures:

1. Smaller Capacity: Consider a daypack with a capacity of around 20-35 liters, providing enough space for essentials like water, snacks, extra layers, and a small first aid kit.
2. Lightweight Design: Look for lightweight materials and a comfortable carrying system to ensure ease of movement during shorter hikes.
3. Easy to Access pockets: Opt for backpacks with convenient pockets and compartments for easy organization and quick access to frequently used items.
4. Additional Useful Features: Consider features like hydration bladder compatibility and external attachment points for carrying additional gear like trekking poles or a camera tripod.

8. Selecting the Ideal Backpack for Multi-Day Treks

For longer multi-day treks, you’ll need a backpack that can comfortably carry all your gear and supplies. Here’s what to consider when choosing a backpack for extended adventures:

1. Larger Capacity: Look for backpacks with a larger capacity, typically ranging from 40-70 liters, depending on the length of your trek and personal gear requirements.

2. Load Bearing Capacity: Prioritize backpacks with a supportive, strong suspension system and adjustable harness or load bearing hip belts to ensure a proper fit and weight distribution. This will aid in carrying heavier loads.

3. High durability: Consider backpacks with a durable and water-resistant construction to protect your gear in changing weather conditions.

4. Multiple organisation features: Look for features like multiple access points, compression straps, and external attachment points for efficient organization and carrying of your camping gear, clothing, food, and other essentials.

5. Adjustability: Opt for backpacks with adjustable torso length and multiple straps for a customizable fit.

6. Lightweight Design: Select backpacks made of lightweight materials to minimize unnecessary weight.

7. Easy Access: Look for backpacks with top-loading access, as well as front or side zippers for convenient access to your gear.

9. Selecting the Right Brand for your Needs

There are many brands that offer exceptional hiking backpacks and it can become overwhelming when deciding on the best backpack for your needs from features and designs to price points. A key tip is to think about the essential attributes you need or would like from a backpack. Consider what features are non-negotiable and which ones are ‘nice-to-have’. This will help in narrowing down potential options and brands to arrive at the choices most suitable for you.

Refer to our Hiking backpack brands article for more information on some popular brands.


Choosing the right hiking backpack is essential for a successful and enjoyable outdoor adventure. Consider factors such as size, fit, durability, and weather resistance when making your decision and you can find. Whether you’re embarking on a short day hike or a long multi-day trek, there are backpacks available for every adventure so you will certainly be able to find the perfect backpack for your needs.

Additionally, women should look for backpacks designed specifically for their body shape, and kids’ backpacks should prioritize comfort and safety. So, take the time to explore reputable brands across various price ranges weighing up their pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision to ensure your hiking backpack enhances your outdoor adventures and select backpacks suitable for different weather conditions and types of hikes. Remember, investing in a quality hiking backpack will contribute to your overall comfort and satisfaction on the trails. Happy hiking!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Q. What is the ideal backpack size for a day hike?
A. For a day hike, a backpack with a capacity of 20-35 liters is usually sufficient to carry essentials such as water, snacks, extra clothing, and a first aid kit.

2. Q. Are hiking backpacks waterproof?
A. While some hiking backpacks offer water resistance, few are completely waterproof. It’s advisable to use a rain cover or pack essential items in waterproof bags to protect them during heavy rain.

3. Q. What is the importance of an adjustable torso length in a backpack?
A. An adjustable torso length allows you to customize the fit of the backpack to match your body, ensuring optimal comfort and weight distribution.

4. Q. Do hiking backpacks come with a warranty?
A. Many reputable brands offer warranties for their backpacks, ranging from a few years to a lifetime. It’s advisable to check the warranty terms and conditions before making a purchase.

5. Q. Are hiking backpacks unisex or are there specific options for men, women, and kids? A. Hiking backpacks come in unisex designs, but some brands offer specific models tailored to the anatomical differences between men and women. Additionally, certain brands offer backpacks designed specifically for kids, featuring smaller sizes and adjustable harnesses for a comfortable fit.

6. Q. Can I use a daypack for multi-day treks?
A. While daypacks are suitable for shorter trips, they may not provide enough space for extended multi-day treks that require carrying camping gear, food, and extra clothing. It’s recommended to choose a backpack with a larger capacity and more extensive organizational features for longer adventures.

7. Q. Are high-end backpacks worth the investment?
A. High-end backpacks often come with advanced features, premium materials, and exceptional durability. If you’re a frequent hiker or planning to undertake challenging treks, investing in a high-quality backpack can offer long-term value, ensuring comfort, performance, and reliability over many years.

8. Q. What’s the best way to determine the right backpack size for me?
A. To determine the right backpack size, consider factors such as your torso length, hip circumference, and gear volume requirements. Many brands provide sizing charts and guidelines to help you find the appropriate fit. It’s also advisable to try on backpacks in person and adjust the straps and harness to ensure a comfortable and secure fit.

9. Q. Can I use a hiking backpack for other outdoor activities?
A. While hiking backpacks are primarily designed for hiking and trekking, they can be versatile enough to use for other outdoor activities like camping, backpacking, or even travel. So look for backpacks with lockable zippers and comfortable carrying systems for extended use. However, keep in mind that specialized backpacks exist for specific activities like mountaineering or trail running, which may offer additional features tailored to those pursuits.

10. Q. Can I use a regular backpack for hiking?
A. Regular backpacks may not provide the necessary support, comfort, and durability required for hiking. It’s advisable to invest in a hiking-specific backpack designed for outdoor adventures.

11. Q. How should I clean and maintain my hiking backpack?
A. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintaining your specific backpack. In general, use mild soap, warm water, and a soft brush to clean the exterior, and avoid machine washing. Allow the backpack to air dry thoroughly before storing.

12. Q. What are the important features to consider when buying a hiking backpack?
A. Important features to consider include capacity, fit, durability, weight, suspension system, ventilation, compartments, and weather-specific features based on your hiking needs and conditions.


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At HikeTrekZone we're passionate about experiencing the great outdoors in a safe and compassionate way, whether that be on your own or with family and friends as well as pets. Getting out into nature is one of the best mood boosters and also improves health and fitness levels at the same time. What's not to like! Our aim is to help you enjoy your hiking and trekking experience in the safest and most enjoyable way possible and the way to do that, in our opinion, is to be armed with correct, up-to-date information and products. We hope you enjoy reading our content. Additional information is added regularly so be sure to come back and see what's new! Happy Hiking!

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