When you think of high quality hiking backpacks, you’ve got to think also of all the gear you can fit into that sucker. Because odds are, if you come across an adventure of a lifetime you have to be prepared to handle it with effort and manliness.
Picture this – you are on your way across a beauty of a country and wham, someone runs into you hard enough for your life to flash before your eyes. When you catch your senses, you turn around and there’s the intelligence unit on the heels of the person who ran into you. You’re caught in the crossfire and there is no way out but to use your trusty backpack to navigate around them, whacking some of them in the face, using a tether and rope to jump onto a moving vehicle and high tail it out of there.
Okay, let’s be real. Odds are that won’t really happen when you’re in backcountry but it is really great to have gear on you that will be there for you when you need it and that’s the bottom line.
So when looking for high quality hiking backpacks, these are the things you need to scout out, no pun intended:
- Removable Day Pack
- Lumbar Support
- Gear Loop
- Extra Straps
- Rain Cover
- Good Access
- Hydration Reservoir
You may or may not want a frame depending on your needs. If you are carrying a big load such as an inflatable raft, an external frame is what you want. If you are hunting, many guys like an external frame to haul back their game. External frames position the weight high on your back and allows for more stability with an upright posture for those heavier loads. An external frame could also work better in hotter climates; because of the positioning of the frame, the backpack sits away from your back more, allowing for more air circulation and a cooler back. However you could feel off balance if climbing through hilly terrains. External frames are more difficult to find but may be more inexpensive.
An internal frame is what the majority of backpacks are made from these days. The load is more supported by your hips. The weight is more loaded between the small of your back and your shoulders. They are sleeker looking than externals. Because of this they lessen the risk of getting snagged on trees, etc. More weight can be supported and you can walk more mountainous terrains.
You can choose no frame if you want to move faster and pack lighter. You can also opt to buy a pack with a removable frame for this purpose.
The last thing you want to be is too sweaty to move. The more high quality backpacks should have tension mesh suspension in the back to minimize back sweating. There are also packs with chimneys which vent air built into back panels. Of course, if you are weathering colder weather this may not be such an issue. You may want a pack which hugs you a bit more to conserve body heat.
Removable day pack-top lid
When hiking on an extended trip, you want to be able to remove a portion of your pack for day trips so you’re lighter on your feet and back for more exploring. A high quality backpack should have this feature.
Who hates lumbar pain? This is especially evident when you are carrying a heavier load. Padding can help in this area to buffer the backpack and provide comfort. Packs which contain a hip belt are useful if you need extra cushion.
For extra cool gear! Choose a pack with gear loops closer to the bottom so you can quickly snag your gear when trekking. Carabiners, slings, cords, trekking poles are just a few items you may want to slip into your loops so keep this in mind. A daisy chain is webbing that is stitched to the pack to provide multiple gear loops. Gear loops on the hip belt are also a good feature for easy access.
Sternum strap and load lifter straps boosts your stability when climbing or over awkward terrain. These are located on the shoulder straps at the front of the backpack to strap around you. This is also where the hip or waist belt is located. Make sure and get a pack where your shoulder straps are contoured and adjustable.
Make sure your pack has one so your stuff doesn’t get wet when it rains. A good quality backpack will also have a coating on the interior to make it waterproof however zips and openings do occur and this is where the cover comes in handy. Some packs will have integrated covers. Or you might want to consider getting a waterproof backpack to make things easier.
Good access to the pack
High quality backpacks are going to be easily accessible especially if you’re looking to grab things quickly. Keep this in mind when looking for one which suits your needs.
Not just any pockets; very specific kinds of pockets! That hip belt you have on your pack could also contain pockets for easy access. This is where you want to put things like your phone/small camera/mp-3 player, Swiss army knife or some small snacks maybe a compass or GPS. Shovel pockets which were initially intended for small snow shovels…you also use for maps, or any other lightweight loose items. Elasticized pockets to fit larger loose items such as a water bottle.
Sleeping bag compartment and/or sleeping bag straps; you should have the option to use either so get a bag which offers both options.
A good pack should include a compartment which you can put a reservoir into and include a hose portal which a sip tube can be placed into.
Finally, when looking for a high quality backpack, keep in mind how lightweight you want it to be and that it fits according to your size – so go try it on and imagine all your stuff in it and hiking across treacherous terrain; will it hold up?
So while a hike is not necessarily a 007 type of theatrical reprise, it is definitely an adventure in backpacking. Hold your gear close to you, enjoy the tidbits that are all packed into it and embrace the journey that unfolds.