Not every backpacking backpack will give you what you need for every hike, but choosing the right one for your needs isn’t always straightforward.
To help you find the right one for you, here’s a look at six types of backpacks and some information you can use to help you choose the right one.
- 1. Types of Hiking Backpack Styles
- 2. Types of Hiking Backpacks: Level of Structural Reinforcement
- 3. Types of Hiking Backpacks: Volume and Size
- 4. Conclusion
1. Types of Hiking Backpack Styles
When going on any hike, your backpacking pack is the most important tool you bring.
Whether it’s a long journey that lasts several days, or a single trip that’ll take a few hours, you’ll need to make sure all your supplies are easy to carry, and you never want any dead weight or bursting zippers distracting you from enjoying your journey.
It’s challenging to determine your ideal backpack since it can alter how you walk and what kinds of things you can bring.
You can find many different backpacks, but there are about six different types of hiking backpacks across two broad categories that you should know about before choosing one for yourself.
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2. Types of Hiking Backpacks: Level of Structural Reinforcement
The first category of hiking backpacks has to do with their level of structural reinforcement. Some backpacks feature very little plastic or framing to keep them in a specific shape, while others will feel like carrying a square or cylindrical container.
These three cover the main types of hiking pack structures, but there are certainly some backpacks that could be defined as in-between these extremes.
These cover the majority of backpacks you can find overall, not just with hiking products. Frameless backpacks usually have little-to-no structure inside them and are primarily made of thick, durable fabric and synthetic material with supportive straps to put over your shoulders.
That said, there’s still a difference between most frameless backpacks and frameless hiking backpacks, and that’s in the straps themselves.
Hiking backpacks are expected to carry heavier loads and stay on your back for long periods, so they are often padded and thicker to ensure the frameless backpack is easier and more comfortable to carry.
An external frame pack is much more stereotypical in terms of appearance, having thick metal poles outside of the fabric to keep it restrained and secure on your back.
This design not only allows hikers to carry more equipment, but the external frame will also provide mild back support to prevent the heavy load from putting uneven pressure on their spine.
This type of backpack is generally not needed for most hikes, but trips that involve multiple days and overnight camping with a lot of hiking gear will generally need something of this size for things like tents, hiking boots, a trekking pole, sleeping bags, hydration pack, and even just additional food and water.
That said, they are also the most expensive due to their higher-quality fabric and larger size, so most hikers will be relieved to know they aren’t necessary for most journeys.
An internal frame backpack is essentially a middle ground between the best frameless backpack and an external frame pack, having a plastic or metal internal frame inside to give it slightly more structure.
This structuring can certainly be bent and broken more easily than an external frame backpack, but it allows you to carry an above-average load without immense discomfort.
While most hikers going on short journeys don’t need an internal-frame backpack, they are surprisingly useful for casual hikers than you might expect.
Frameless backpacks can often be quite uncomfortable for day hiking, and since it’s usually better to bring more resources than you expect to need on your hikes, getting something that’ll carry more with greater comfort is usually worth the slightly higher price point.
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3. Types of Hiking Backpacks: Volume and Size
The best way to choose a backpack is to consider the backpack volume, which will also relate to its size on your back.
These are even looser categories than the structural hiking backpack types from earlier, but they are great general guidelines to help you purchase a hiking backpack that will carry the proper amount of supplies for your particular trips and trails.
How Do You Know What Size Hiking Backpack to Get?
To determine what size hiking backpack you need, consider what you’ll need to pack and how much space you’ll need. Here’s a quick rundown of three types of backpacks to help you figure out which is the best size for you.
Containing 30L-50L of volume, weekend backpacks are usually the smallest styles of hiking backpacks. They tend to be either frameless or internal-frame backpacks due to their low requirements but will usually have enough room to carry at least a night’s worth of supplies.
That said, these estimates can vary greatly, and if you happen to be traveling with larger groups, you may want to go for one of the other categories of hiking backpack sizes to ensure you have enough supplies for your full adventure.
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Multi-day backpacks almost exclusively have an internal or external-frame container with a much greater range of 50L-80L of volume, guaranteeing more space for long and short trips.
These types of sizes are also extremely common among most hiking backpacks, as many who want a weekend backpack will be able to find equipment with that volume outside of hiking equipment stores. If you plan on going on hikes lasting multiple hours or more, it’s superior to purchase this size of a backpack over anything smaller.
If you need to go on a trip that lasts multiple days and requires tons of resources, including food, shelter, and trekking poles, you’ll probably want an extended-trip backpack with 70L or higher in volume.
These are almost exclusively external frame backpacks to make a large size more comfortable and provide the space to carry other tools like a trekking pole and sleeping bag.
If you’re going on a hike that lasts most of the week or even just overnight on winter trails, this is the size and style of hiking backpack you should aim for.
We hope this list of backpacks has been of use to you, particularly if you’re new to buying hiking and outdoor gear in general.
It’s not a big deal to buy a backpack that’s larger or has more structure than you need, but it’s always important to get one that gives you a little more than you might need.
You can find several great brands offering every hiking backpack type, and it’s strongly recommended you get one before going on any challenging adventures.