Buying A Backpack Tips
Which to choose? Internal or external frame
• An internal frame pack generally fits better. This means you
will stay balanced because the load moves when you move and
doesn’t sway or shift. Many people who use packs in light to
medium applications value the comfort, versatility and balance
of an internal frame pack. More people buy internals than
• External frame packs cost less and are often purchased by
beginners. External frame packs are better for carrying
extra-heavy loads because they shift the pack’s weight to the
appropriate areas of the body where large bones and muscles can
manage the load more efficiently. External frames act as
extensions of bones and muscles although you may have problems
with the pack’s balance.
Pack design: Features to look for
• Customizable harness sizing and shaping to allow a precision
• Ease of removing and shaping frames to match back shape.
• Harness movement systems to allow free body movement, greater
agility, stability and balance.
Pack materials and construction: Fabrics and features to look
Nylon is the material of choice for pack construction. There are
several types of nylon used in packs including:
• Nylon pack cloth is a water repellant fabric that is pliable
and easy to sew. Nylon pack cloth has a urethane coating.
• Ballistic nylon was developed for bullet-resistant vests and
military flak jackets. Ballistic nylon provides a smooth,
bright, high-quality look and feel for luggage, packs and bags.
• Cordura nylon has a natural, spun-like appearance and texture.
Easily cleaned and quick drying, it is not affected by rot or
mildew and has excellent strength and abrasion resistance.
• Rip stop nylon is woven with a rip stop grid and coated with
urethane water repellant finish.
Be sure to choose pack that is treated to be water-repellent or
–resistant. If your pack isn’t water repellent, consider
purchasing a water-repellent cover for it. Look for packs that
have waterproof inner liners with taped seams. Seams can also be
heat-welded to make them waterproof. Look for reinforced
stitching at stress points, such as where straps are attached.
Zippers should be reinforced. Pockets and loops should be bar
tacked. Webbing should also be reinforced. In places where the
pack is subject to abrasion, such as the bottom, the pack should
have an extra layer or two of abrasion-resistant material such
as Kevlar. The back of the pack should curve like the stays of
the internal frame and should use materials that are breathable
and that wick perspiration away from the body.
Fitting a backpack
It’s important to choose a backpack that fits properly. To do
this you have to know a couple of your body measurements: torso
length and hip measurement. To measure your torso, have a friend
use a flexible tape measure to determine the distance between
the bony bump at the back of your neck to the tops of your hips
(where you can feel the bony protrusions in the front of your
body, near your pelvis.) Armed with this number you can select a
small, medium or large frame backpack.
• Up to 17.5 inches – small
• 17.5 – 19 inches – medium
• More than 20 inches – large
You should also measure around your hips so to be sure the hip
belt of the pack will properly fit. A properly positioned hip
belt will straddle your about an inch above and below the bony
hip protrusions mentioned above.
Pack weight: Light or heavy
• Choose light weight if you are optimizing all your equipment
for low weight.
• Choose heavy weight if you don’t mind carrying heavy loads and
heavy gear. Also, choose heavy weight if you hike in rough
terrain and bush.
Pack cost: You get what you pay for
The conventional wisdom is to buy the best pack you can afford.
A flimsy or uncomfortable pack can make your backpacking or
hiking trip a disaster. Like shoes or other hiking equipment,
backpacks and backpacking equipment are critical pieces of
hiking gear. Consider it an investment: this is no place to
cheap out. $500 spent on a top-end pack for long treks outdoors
will repay you with years of comfort and utility. Don’t
underestimate its value.
Conclusion: Purchasing a backpack
Primary use, size, frame type, design, features, construction,
materials, fit, weight, cost and consumer reviews are important
components in your decision to purchase a backpack. Whether
you’re hiking, biking or mountaineering, your pack should
enhance your outdoor experience and enjoyment. A
carefully-considered decision when buying a backpack can go a
long way toward making your outdoor adventures the best that
they can be.