If you are new to hiking, the topic of hiking backpacks may be a bit confusing at first.
What exactly do you need for your hike? What are the best backpack brands? How do you find the best hiking backpack?
What Exactly is a Backpack?
Let’s “back” up a bit and take a look at what exactly we are talking about. A backpack, when used for hiking, has a very specific purpose. It is not the same thing as a “backpack” a teenager might use to put books in for school.
It’s also not the same thing as a “backpack purse” that has a fashionable design and is generally really tiny, but simply goes over both shoulders like a backpack.
A backpack – a real, indispensable tool for serious hiking and camping – is something that needs to be not only functional but incredibly sturdy.
In the full definition of the term “backpack,” we are talking about a large back that has straps that go over both shoulders. Some backpacks might also have additional straps to go around the waist to provide additional support.
Because backpacks are designed to carry camping gear for overnight and multi-day trips, they have to be very roomy and yet very stable. This is why backpacks will often have frames built into them to provide support.
Your backpack is your lifeline to survival. At minimum, it will carry food and water. It may also carry clothes, tools, and a sleeping bag. It may even carry a tent.
The backpack will also be where you put your maps, your GPS, and any other incidentals that can help you while on your hiking trip.
A common place to buy backpacks REI, the outdoor company. REI backpacks include their own in-house REI Co-op brand as well as other major backpack brand names such as Osprey, Granite Gear, and Gregory.
What is the Difference Between a Backpack and a Daypack?
A daypack (or day pack) is a small backpack that is primarily used for day hikes and short excursions. Because you do not need to carry a sleeping bag and other gear in a daypack, it can afford to be a lot more lightweight and flexible.
Daypacks typically do not have the frames that a larger backpack has. They are as light as possible and use thinner fabric that can still withstand the weather changes that may occur on a day hike.
To further confuse things, some manufacturers also use the term “rucksack” when they really mean backpack.
Traditionally, a rucksack was a large canvas bag used in the military. It might have a few small compartments on the outside but was fairly simple in design.
Today, a “rucksack backpack” might consist of a large central compartment that opens from the top with a few smaller pockets on the front. It does not necessarily have to be made of canvas.
Choosing the Right Backpack for Your Needs
If you are new to the world of camping and hiking, you might be tempted to just go online and order the first snazzy backpack you see. This would be a mistake. Large backpacks, especially those that are designed to carry a lot of heavy objects, need to be fitted to your particular size and frame.
For this reason, you might want to first go to a store in-person to talk to a qualified sales rep. This person can help you find a backpack that fits well and has the features that you need.
Once you have a better idea of what type of backpack would fit you, you can certainly go online to order. However, do that salesperson a favor and give them the sale if you can. They can get a commission, possibly, or at least some recognition for the superior help and advice they offered you.
Additionally, if you went to a local store, you could be helping a local business. Such local businesses can offer a wealth of support and advice on hiking and have other benefits besides backpack fitting.
In the long run, you will probably need a few different types and sizes of backpacks and daypacks depending on the types of hikes you plan to go on. Having a few of these different bags doesn’t make you a frivolous person. On the contrary, it means you will be well-prepared for your next day hike or camping trip.
Good Hiking Backpacks Can Make All the Difference
Take some time to do proper research before buying your first hiking backpack. This may be something you will be wearing on your back for extended periods of time. You will want something that is comfortable, roomy, and sturdy. Good luck with your hike!