Picking your pack made easy
Backpacking might be a hobby, or a sport depending on the people that actively participate in it. For those that have been doing it awhile, choosing a backpack that fits your needs might come easy. And those that buy a certain brand are more likely to stick to that brand for the years to come. For those that have never gone backpacking, hiking for distance or camping, choosing the right backpack can seem daunting. When you look up packs on line there seem to be hundreds of choices. Even if you know there is a sporting goods store somewhere in your town, what you see in their selection could make you wonder which is the right one for you.
After reviewing both online stores and retail stores we have come up with an easy way for you to find a backpack that will work the best for you. Keep in mind that the decision for brand will be up to you, and if you like it, you probably won’t change brands again.
Do Your Research
This is common sense to most, but some people are often in a hurry when it comes time to get a backpack. Be it for the kids on a scouting trip, or something for themselves on a last minute trip, doing your research can save you not only money, but comfort as well. Be sure to look online at different styles and take notes of the names you do like. When you go into a store, keep in mind that what you see online, may not be what you find in the store. (I visited two different Dick’s Sporting Goods recently and the stock they have in the store was minimal compared to what they show online. It was disappointing to not be able to touch and try on all the styles I wanted to see.)
If you are in a rush you will be at the mercy of what is available in the store, if you can’t wait for delivery. Many stores can have it in stock the next day if you order to the store, rather than wait for delivery to your house, which can take a week. Still, if you have to pick it up immediately, give yourself enough time to try it on, adjust the straps and get a feel for it before you purchase it. Whether you are going for a day or a week, you want to have comfort on your side rather than pinch a few pennies.
The other reason to do your research is to save some money. There are sales all over the place, whether in the store or on the internet. If you are patient, you can see the pack you want in the store and check online for better pricing. Some stores will ship to the store, so all you need to do is drive to that store. Others will ship to your house for a charge, or wave the shipping price if you spend a certain dollar amount.
Is It Comfortable For You?
As we spoke about comfort it is something you are going to want when you are wearing your pack. It doesn’t need to be made completely out of cushion or be too heavy because of the cushions, but it should be cushioned in the areas that could be the most stressful on your body. This means that any support bars should have cushions so you don’t have a bar in your back when traveling. The shoulder straps, and hip belt should be cushioned and having an air flow cushion along the back is also very helpful for comfort and to prevent sweating.
There are cheaper options that have less cushion, but depending on how long your excursion is going to be, should determine your choice. Something you are going to toss around from the car to the campground doesn’t require much cushion. (In fact, you could probably stuff everything into a duffel bag and take it with you that way.)
Depending on your camping preferences your pack might also be used as a pillow, so areas of it that are padded are going to feel a lot better to sleep on.
Will it Store What You Need?
Have you ever wondered what that number and L mean when there is the name of the backpack? That letter stands for Liters, and the number before it is an estimated safe amount that the backpack can hold. For example, a 65 L means 65 liters, and it would be unsafe to pack the back any further as it could damage the backpack or tilt the bag. (This doesn’t mean that it can’t be done, only that it is only meant to hold that capacity. It’s why some bags have tie straps, and hooks on them, in case you overload.)
So how much does that weigh? Well the problem with that is that a liter is a measure of volume while pounds are a measure of weight. You can find a conversion calculator online though if you are looking for an approximate weight the pack can carry, but this might be shown in the details of your back too. (65 Liter pack is equal to about 143 pounds.)
Will it Be Strong Enough?
Your pack needs to be durable enough to not only be able to hold everything, but to travel well with it. Over stuffing the pack could rip it, and some packs are made of a nylon material that can rip if something sharp such as a corner slides down it. Utilize the right compartments when packing your backpack and you will find that it makes all the difference.
Some packs are stronger than others, but don’t let price fool you. You could be paying for something that is not true. Stronger material will also mean more weight of the actual pack itself. There is also weather-proofing to consider as some packs are waterproof, and others come with a rain jacket that goes over the pack. Again, this will drive the price up, and it could cause the pack to weigh more. Most packs you will find are water resistant, which means a light rain won’t soak the pack but rather bounce off it. A heavy rain is a different story though, and you can’t submerge it. Therefore, they have a rain pocket that stores a cover for the pack.
The overall pack is the main concern, but for me the straps must be durable too. You will be carrying this on your back and the stitching needs to be great so nothing gives out. The same goes for any ties. If you have a pack that you’ve kept in storage, be sure to check all the straps and ties, to ensure that nothing is frayed or weak.