How To Choose And Fit Your Backpack

Backpacks are one of the most coveted and necessary accessories for hikers, travelers and adventure seekers. It is the mother of all gears. Choosing a back​​​​pack can be confusing to say the least as there are loads of enticing options. The price also varies widely from 100-500$ or more.

There are many good well designed well-built multifunctional backpacks but there is only one backpack that will suit a person and his purpose. There are many variables that come into play in choosing a backpack from a lot of options.

How to Choose A Backpack?

The three main features which should be considered when choosing the ideal backpacks are:

How to Choose a Backpack

From Visually.

Backpack capacity and dimension:

Backpack capacity depends on the type of tour and the amount of gears that one is putting into. The size of the backpacks can be divided into four distinct categories i.e. overnight, weekend multiday and extended. An overnight tour is for 1-2 nights where an extended tour like a winter camping can last for 5 nights or more.

Type of trip
Extended (5+)
80 plus liter.
Multiday (2-5)
60-80 liter.
Weekend (2-3)
50-60 liter.
Overnight (1-2 nights)
20-50 liter.

In addition to capacity of backpack in terms of liter it is also necessary to be able to measure backpack dimensions. The simplest way to do that is using a tape and measure the height, length and width. The dimension of the backpack should be proportionate to its capacity in terms of liter. For example, a 40L backpack should have an approximate dimension of 21.3” x 12.6” x 8.3”.

One important point to be noted is the volume of a backpack can differ for same pack as manufacturers often use different approaches to calculating volume and so it is necessary to take an actual accurate measure of backpack dimension and also to compare backpack dimension with backpack volume.

Backpack features:

These are the unique benefits or refinements that a backpack offers. Backpack features can make a tour much easier and enjoyable if chosen wisely. Some common features are backpack frames, ventilation, pockets, accessibility, custom fit, different types of strap etc.

Backpacks are still evolving and many more features are being invented such as the option to charge smartphone or load shifter strengths. One should choose backpack with the features which are very necessary for her or him and leave the other ones which may have better features but not the features that she or he wants. There are also many smaller sized backpacks which are lighter and do not have any frames.

Some of the necessary backpack features are briefly described below:

Backpack Frame – internal or external:

Backpack frame keeps the hiker balanced and steady on a rough trail. It also helps to evenly distribute the weight. Hikers and travelers are often confused whether to choose an internal frame or external frame.

  • An internal frame is more common which is helpful for off trail or high mountain trails. Internal frame also helps packing stuffs in the bags and keeps things apart.
  • An external frame is good for carrying heavy objects such as a cycle or a kayak. External frames also offer better ventilation than typical internal frames.


Ventilation is needed to prevent excessive sweating in the back. Designers often add mesh back panel to prevent sweating. There are many other ways that can reduce sweating such as adding tension-mesh suspension which keeps the bag a few inches away from the back to avoid sweating.

Pack access:

Pack access refers to how the bag can be accessed such as from the top or panel wise. Top loading opening is most common where the back can be opened from the top. Panel access offer direct internal view of the pack from a frontal panel.

Water resistance:

It is a must to have for all types of backpacks. If a backpack is not sufficiently water resistant it can ruin everything in the backpack.

Lockable zipper:

Every backpack should compartments with two zipper so that they can be locked together.


Pockets are necessary for keeping things. Pockets in a bag backpacks should be organized and coherent. It is necessary to ensure a backpack contains the key pockets such as:

  • Elasticized side pocket: Pockets that lie on the side and can be extended to keep objects like water bottle, map etc.

  • Hipbelt pocket: A smart pocket on the hipbelt to keep frequently used accessories such as smart phone.

  • Shovel pocket: These pocket are stitched on the front of the backpack and tied to the top. They are originally designed to hold a snow shovel.

  • Front pocket(s): These are sometimes added with shovel pocket to hold some extra things.

Removable top lids:

Some backpacks offer removable top lids which are basically small pouch which can be detached from the backpack and then carried day trips.


Many hikers who are not accustomed to heavy backpack get sore spots on their backpack and so it is very useful to have a soft padded hip belt which can reduce the impact on the hip.

How to Pick Right Backpack ( Infographics By REI)

Backpack fit:

After choosing the right backpack it all comes down to the right size. A backpack should fit the user’s torso length and hip and offer the maximum comfort. This can be very tricky and it is advisable to take help from an experienced salesperson for choosing the best fit. Torso length can be measured by starting from C7 bone on the back and ending at the hip. Backpack fit also depends on the gender. For females the strap of backpack is narrower and the backpack is often lighter.

The hipbelt, shoulder strap, load lifter and sternum strap must keep the backpack finely fitted and wrapped around the body. One simple way to understand whether the backpack is custom fit or not is simply feeling whether the weight of the backpack is felt on the shoulder or on the hip. The hip should carry most of the weight of the backpack not the shoulder. The user should also be able to freely move his arms.

  • Updated December 24, 2021
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Maxima is a writer with a passion for storytelling and a love of language. Born and raised in Bangladesh. She believes that through her writing, she can make a difference in the world and inspire others to do the same.

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