The world of backpacking is an exciting one but can also be overwhelming, especially when you’re staring at a wall completely stuffed with colourful backpacks while trying to dodge the wandering and (most likely) bearded salesmen.
You want the coolest backpack, but also one that fits on your “free-soul” lifestyle and sensible budget. The stress starts setting in and the next thing you know, you’ve agreed to five canoes and something else you can’t pronounce.
Before you run out of the store and try and repress the last fifteen minutes to the farthest corner of your mind, take a breath and relax.
We have some guidelines to help you out on your journey to rucksack awesomeness.
- There are three main groups of backpacks to choose from: daypacks, internal frame packs, and external frame packs.
- Daypacks are literally only for what they are named after: take them on short day trips. They have soft backs and lots of pockets for your ipods, extra layers, and a medium pizza. The really, really, super-awesome good ones have hip straps. If you don’t know what hip straps are, they are basically the guardian angels of your spine, and help put any extra weight (like if you want double cheese on that pizza) on your hips instead of your back. Don’t try and just use a daypack for your whole trip or else you will have to get multiple bags and enter the frightening world of “bag-ladies”. You are excused from this rule if you are a ninja of packing.
- Internal frame packs are for bigger loads. This is the ideal “backpacking across Europe for the summer” backpack, with enough room for the essentials, two bags of pasta, and those high-heeled shoes you brought (just in case). There are endless feature possibilities here: we’re talking compression straps, side pockets, stabilizer straps, and more. These features all have their pluses, but don’t lose focus of the basic goal: you really just need a bag to hold your things.
- External frame packs are for those times when a ginormous backpack just won’t do. They sit slightly away from the body, allowing some air to flow in between your back and the bag, which is perfect for those long days on the trails. It’s usually best to use walking sticks with this one, so unless you’re going on a real hiking trek, you’re probably going to want to stick to an internal frame bag. That being said, if you want an external frame bag, don’t let anyone stop you. You are the bag master, in complete control of your backpack future.
- As amazing as online purchasing is (did you know you can actually track your pizza delivery as it comes to you?) I would HIGHLY suggest going to a fine establishment near yourself and trying some packs on. When it comes down to it, any bag will work, so don’t feel too much pressure. But, if you want the best fit for you (lumbar support sitting on your upper thighs isn’t going to help that much), you should try a couple of bags on. Let your backpack-tuition guide you.
- One last tip is to stop dodging those salesmen, and take advantage of their (most often) supreme backpack knowledge. Don’t go to somewhere like Target (too soon?) because they probably won’t have the right bags or knowledge. Try the Mountain Equipment Co-op, The North Face, or Europe Bound. Set aside some time, try out a couple of bags, maybe take them out for a coffee and see if you connect.
The worst thing that will happen is that you end up with a really cool backpack.
And some pizza.