Backpackers, hikers, and campers are lucky to have a wealth of options when it comes to choosing gear – however, sometimes having a wealth of options can feel overwhelming. The first step to choosing a new pack is deciding between external vs internal frame backpacks. Here are a few recommendations based on your needs and activities.
||What do you need?
|| Recommended Backpack
||- I don’t know, I just want a bag
||Osprey TalonKelty Redwing
||-Excellent suspension-Good airflow-Attachment points
||Osprey Packs AtmosGregory Z35 Pack
||-Fits larger load-Compression straps- Suspension and comfort
||Deuter Aircontact 65+10 Backpacking PackGranite Gear Stratus Access Sage
|Backpacker/ World Traveler
||- Lockable zippers- Raincover- Lots of pockets
||High Sierra Classic Series 59401
||- Fits in canoe-Can also go hiking and camping
|| Teton Sports Escape
||- Enough room for winter gear
|| Osprey MutantGregory Alpinisto
||- A kid’s size pack
||Osprey Kids 18 Liter Jet DaypackKelty Juniors Tioga External FrameYouths Osprey Ace
|Hiking with Baby
||- Baby-carrier-Enough room for baby’s things and my things
|| Osprey Packs Poc
|Hiking with Children
||-Enough room for my stuff, and a few of the kid’s things
||JanSport Trail Series Katahdin External Frame
For those people not too worried about technical specifications and just want to be comfortable while on the trail. If you’re thinking ‘I just want a bag, and I want my stuff to fit in it’, focus on the size and fit of the bag and don’t worry too much about the pack’s other bells and whistles. Internal frame backpacks are easier to find and more popular among outfitting stores. For a solid pack that will hold your stuff comfortably during hikes consider the Osprey Talon or the Kelty Redwing. Both are durable, affordable, and get excellent reviews. You’ll feel comfortable and impress your hiker-friends. For those looking for an inexpensive pack to get them through the day —–
Hikers with experience have a better idea of what they want on the trail. The question of internal vs external frame backpacks is largely one of personal preference and the type of trail you’ll be embarking on. External frames are generally better on smoother trails. An internal frame may be better for a very rugged hike that will require scrambling or dodging branches. Experienced hikers should also start thinking about their pack’s suspension system – this modifies how the pack carries weight so you’ll feel comfortable throughout the hike. Good airflow along your pack and whether you’ll be attaching things to your pack (sleeping bag?) are also important considerations. Osprey Packs Atmos and Gregory Z35 (or Z40 depending on size preference) are both excellent choices.
Those of you about to embark on an expedition involving steep rocky mountains, cold nights, and long nights of camping are probably experienced enough to know what you’ll need from your pack. If there’s any doubt though – you’ll want a pack large enough to carry all your gear, compression straps to hold it all in, and an excellent suspension system to make it all comfortable to hold. Durability in a pack will also be important (it should last more than one expedition right?). Popular packs among the dedicated crowd include the Deuter Aircontact and the Granite Gear Stratus.
Not everyone in the backpack market plans to spend all of their time in the woods. Checkout our article on choosing a backpackers backpack. For the quick rundown – you want zippers to protect your stuff in shady hostels, a rain cover for the elements, and pockets to separate your dirty laundry from the clean. Durability, fit, and comfort are also important. Consider the High Sierra Classic or the Osprey Talon.
If your hike is going to involve time in a canoe definitely keep in mind the size and flexibility of your pack. For the question of external vs internal frame backpacks – consider going internal so you don’t need to worry about your rigid external frame catching on to things (or worse, not fitting well into the canoe). Consider the Teton Sports Escape for its ultra-lightweight internal frame.
Winter hikers tend to have bulkier gear and more of it. You pack will have to fit thicker sweaters, thicker sleeping bags, and perhaps more fuel for your stove, etc. Winter hikes can, of course, be of differing lengths and intensity. Consider what gear you plan on bringing: ice picks, snow shoes, ski poles, extra camping gear. Then plan on your pack from there. Compression straps and attachment points for your winter gear will be useful. Whether you go external frame or internal will be up to personal preference here. Consider the Osprey Mutant or Gregory Alpinisto.
Nobody expects a 10 year old kid to lug around an 80 liter pack all day. However, it’s important for children to feel involved and gain the experience of carrying something around the woods. For kids 5-8 consider loading them up with a “normal” schoolbag. For those with hiking gusto the Osprey Kids 18 Liter Jet Daypack is a good choice as is the Kelty Juniors Tioga External Frame.
For children ages 12-16 consider the Youths Osprey Ace which offers an excellent suspension system (no more complaining!) and offers up to six inches torso adjustment for quickly growing kids.
Hiking with Baby
For those hiking with infants, consider a pack with an attached child carrier such as the Osprey Packs Poco. These packs come with attached day packs for necessary gear. Choose a hiking child carrier that is well padded and, of course, has a reputation for safety.
Hiking with Children
Offering children an enjoyable experience is key to getting them into hiking at an early age. Sometimes this means carrying some of their gear for them. If you’re hiking with tykes that can’t quite carry all their own stuff, you may have to help them out. This will require a larger pack. Focus on larger packs that have excellent suspension and compression packs. And remember how much you love your children. Consider the JanSport Trail Series Katahdin External Frame.