The most frequent mistake of a “novice trekker” is to overload the backpack, filling it with useless materials and equipment; However, regardless of the type of luggage chosen, there is a fairly precise parameter on how much the backpack must weigh: from 15 to 25% of the weight of the wearer, depending on the training.

How To Choose a Trekking Backpack

A man of 80 kilos, in good physical shape, can continuously carry a backpack of about 20 kilos.

The same individual, untrained and with a few extra pounds, will have to be content with fifteen pounds in order not to “suffer” more than necessary.

The backpack is nothing more than a “bag” fixed to a frame; the big difference, with the same weight and characteristics, is the structure of the saddlebag and the backrest.

Technical products for trekking and mountaineering have useful tricks to improve comfort and load distribution on the back.

Internal or external structures, rigid or semi-rigid, allow you to distribute the weight evenly from the shoulders to the pelvis, taking advantage of the ergonomics of shaped shoulder straps and the ventral band, well-padded and in breathable materials.

How To Choose a Trekking Backpack?

It can be daunting trying to figure out what trekking backpack is right for you. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Below, we’ll outline the most important factors to consider when purchasing a trekking backpack, as well as provide some recommendations for our favourites. So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, read on for all the info you need to choose the perfect trekking backpack!

What should be the capacity and size of the backpack

The first criterion on the basis of which to select the best trekking backpack that is right for us is the capacity, a value strictly linked to the size of the backpack. The capacity is nothing more than the internal volume of the backpack and is measured in litres. This value allows us to understand precisely how large the backpack is and therefore can give us an idea of ​​how many things you can take with you.

Often the capacity of the backpack is already specified in the name, also because some models are available in different sizes, and this is an easy and immediate way to differentiate them. The capacity of trekking backpacks varies a lot and ranges from 10 litres for racing backpacks up to 100 litres professional backpacks.

In general, we can say that 30-liter backpacks are suitable for long but daily excursions, while going up we find backpacks that can also be used for longer trips. It must certainly be considered that the larger the backpack, the larger it will be, a fact that should not be forgotten especially if you have to travel with some means of transport.

There is no “universal” backpack, which can fit everyone and in every situation; it is better to have at least two backpacks, one of 40/50 litres for short excursions, and one of 70/90 litres for multi-day treks.

In fact, using a single large-volume backpack, even for short excursions, perhaps half-empty, can hinder movement and progression.

And even if you plan to go a long way, be wary of huge backpacks, with a myriad of external pockets, compartments, buttonholes, straps, and coffee maker included … so beautiful to admire lying in the trunk of the car, but impossible to carry!

What should be the weight of the backpack

Weight is another important value to evaluate and that often and erroneously is not even taken into consideration when choosing a trekking backpack. Weight is a determining factor during any use that you make of the backpack, and it is even more so in case of excursions or particularly long trips.

Of course, if the curb weight of the backpack is low, for the same content the backpack will be lighter than other backpacks with a higher empty weight and the goal is always to have an optimal weight-content ratio, so that you can carry everything you need without risking damaging your back or tire yourself more than necessary.

The ideal weight of the backpack is subjective and varies according to the physical fitness of the user and other variables, but usually we try to travel with a backpack that weighs about 15-25% of the person who carries it. This means that those who weigh 70 kg must try to travel with a backpack that weighs between 10 and 17 kg. We repeat that this is an indicative value and that the weight of the backpack is a factor to be evaluated subjectively.

Even if there are backpacks with volumes greater than 100 litres, we recommend never exceeding 80, for the simple reason that the larger our backpack, the more things we will cram into, regretting the choice as soon as we leave.

The empty weight should not exceed 2 kilos, including: double internal compartment that can be separated and accessed from the outside; large hood with external and internal pocket; two side pockets; zippered pockets on the ventral band; waterproof bag cover; reinforced bottom. Everything else is just extra weight.

VolumeEmpty weight
Backpack for easy excursion25/35 litres1.2 kg
Backpack for day trips35/50 litres1.4 kg / 1.7 kg
Multi-day trekking backpack60/80 litres2 kg / 2.5 kg

What other elements should the backpack have?

In this paragraph we have analysed all the elements that are not part of the main structure of the backpack, but that can direct one’s choice towards the model that is closest to everyone’s needs.

Waterproof cover

Trekking backpacks are designed for hiking and outdoor activities and as such must be able to be used in all weather conditions. Therefore, many trekking backpacks have integrated a completely waterproof rain cover that you can use to cover the backpack and keep its contents dry.

Some backpacks are already water repellent in their own right and therefore do not need the waterproof cover in light rain. Furthermore, if the water-repellent cover is not integrated, it is possible to purchase it separately.

External pockets

Another important factor to consider when choosing the trekking backpack is the number of external pockets that the model in question has. This aspect must also be evaluated according to your needs, in fact in some cases several small pockets can be useful for storing objects such as sunglasses, gloves or snacks, in other situations these pockets are not so useful, and you prefer opt for a larger capacity than the main compartment.

The average number of external pockets varies a lot and usually there are two side pockets, two on the shoulder straps, one on the horizontal belt, one on the top of the backpack and one near the base.

The pockets are also different from each other, some are more capacious, others are breathable, some are closed by a zip and others by an elastic band. There is no better solution in this case, but you must choose what can be useful for the type of use you intend to make of the backpack.

Bottom access

Very often it happens that the thing we need is right at the bottom of the backpack. In these cases, there are two options: empty your backpack or give up looking. For this reason, on many backpacks a zip is sewn at the bottom of the backpack so that you can access the objects positioned on the bottom quickly and easily. This option is very popular on larger backpacks. Another option that allows to obtain similar results is the presence of an opening on the long side of the backpack.

Accessory holder

Especially for those who make long hikes or in the mountains it can be convenient to secure some accessories such as walking poles or ice axes to the backpack so as not to have to hold them all the time. For this purpose, many hiking backpacks are equipped with laces and elastic bands to which accessories that are not currently being used can be attached or hung.

External access for hydration

During longer hikes where you are subjected to intense effort, staying hydrated is an important aspect, however having to stop to take your bottle is not exactly the most comfortable option, and in some situations, it is not really possible.

For this reason, many backpacks have a pocket in which a special bag can be inserted to be filled with water or other liquids, which can be drunk through a sort of soft rubber straw that comes out of the pocket through a hole and reaches the front of the backpack.

Compartment for sleeping bag

For all people who use the backpack for excursions that last more than a day and for those who even travel with backpack on their backs, the sleeping bag is a fundamental accessory that allows you to sleep warm and dry even when camping or you sleep outdoors.

Modern sleeping bags can be very compact, however if you have to carry them in the main compartment of the backpack you risk taking up too much space. For this reason, many backpacks are equipped with a pair of adjustable straps or even a compartment to carry the sleeping bag with you without taking up space for other objects or accessories.

Which material should the backpack be made of

Another important aspect regarding trekking backpacks is the material they are made of, which must have a good weight / resistance ratio and is the main element that makes them resistant and allows them to last over time.

Most hiking backpacks are made of polyester, a very strong and lightweight material that we have already talked about in our gym bag buying guide. Some trekking backpacks, on the other hand, are made of nylon, which is resistant and light like polyester and is also softer to the touch. However, nylon is less breathable compared to polyester and this can favour the formation of bad smells inside the backpack, especially if there are dirty or damp clothes.

Furthermore, whatever it is, the material of which the backpack is made can be treated to become water repellent and therefore resist rain. Note however that this does not mean that the backpack is completely waterproof, but that it can withstand light rain without the need for additional covers.

Does the backpack have a back-friendly design?

In recent seasons, cutting-edge companies have focused mainly on the backs, which are the “hinge” between our back and the container with the load.

Made of hyper-breathable materials, usually with a closed cell that does not absorb sweat and humidity, the backs differ according to the load capacity of the backpack; in those in light backpacks and for day trips, the back is usually in a single piece, curved in order to create a free area between the body and the backpack, able to guarantee maximum ventilation.

In multi-day trekking backpacks, which have to withstand much more demanding loads, the main feature is the arrangement of support and shock-absorbing areas distributed according to the physiology of the back, and between these free areas are created where air can circulate freely. avoiding the stagnation of sweat.

Another fundamental detail concerns the size of the backrest: a two-meter long Marcantonio has different needs from a girl sixty meters tall. The best backpacks are now offered in different sizes and with many possibilities for adapting to the back.

So, the ergonomic backrest must adapt to our posture, allow a good weight balance, let the back breathe; some backpacks have a tensioned net in the backrest that allows the back to breathe and keeps the load stable.

The shoulder straps, possibly padded, must give the possibility to balance the weight on the back and therefore – especially for the most capacious backpacks – be adjustable. Even the waist belt, especially for multi-day backpacks, is essential to partially unload the weight on the hips.

On the market there are also “modular” backpacks, with a large central body (always greater than 70 litres) and a “removable” part (usually the hood or central pocket) which in turn becomes a small backpack of 10 / 12 litres.

Used as travel backpacks, they are not very practical for trekking even for excessive weight. On large backpacks the presence of stabilizing straps on the shoulder straps is essential because they allow an exact positioning of the backpack.

Tips for choosing the right backpack

As with many other technical products, manufacturers often tend to excessively “enrich” the models, equipping them with details and accessories that often must then be eliminated to make their backpack “perfect”.

  • Pockets, buckles and cords, straps and other external and protruding details are almost always a nuisance; avoid transforming the backpack into a “Christmas tree” decorated on the outside with various objects and tinsel.
  • The load must always and only be compacted inside, and nothing must “dangle” outside it. The compartments must be few and well organized. Also, because the essential elements, such as batteries, spare parts and supplies must be in the main space of the backpack. Especially the very light backpacks, from 15 litres maximum, have external side pockets and in the belt, as well as a central opening with zip.
  • The most capacious backpacks also have a large upper pocket, ideal for storing the rain jacket that you always have at hand or wet clothing that should be separated from the central internal space of the backpack.
  • In the case of technical mountaineering backpacks, the buckles for ice axes, trekking poles and the external elastic net for the helmet are also useful. The elasticated cords are useful for further compacting the load.
  • Much more useful, during the purchase phase, to check the quality of the materials used and of the details (hinges, hooks, padding, frame, etc); the solidity of the seams, especially on the attachment of the shoulder straps; all branded backpacks on the market offer good guarantees, and at that point you can even devote yourself to choosing your… favourite colour.
  • Never exaggerate with the volume of the external pockets, which if not perfectly balanced can unbalance the load; better those retractable, compressible, which follow the shape of the backpack.
  • A waterproof shell performs its task better than any suitably treated fabric to make the backpack impenetrable to water. The more advanced models, especially in the medium / high-end models, hide a pocket with a waterproof cape to be extracted to protect the backpack and its contents in case of rain. It can also be purchased separately, our advice is to get it, especially for multi-day excursions because the weather changes over 24 hours, especially in the mountains. Once at the shelter, having a dry spare handy is an unrepeatable feeling.
  • Very useful, especially for long treks but also for trips of a few hours, the separation of the upper part from the lower one, and the possibility of accessing both from the outside; usually, clothing and sleeping bag are placed in the lower compartment, and on top of the food, the things most frequently used and photographic equipment.
  • For large cargo backpacks, useful but without exaggerating the “extension” that allows an increase of about ten litres of the internal volume; however, remember that a backpack that is too “high” beyond the shoulder line unbalances and makes progression more tiring, forcing the torso to an unnatural posture.

Conclusion

Trekking backpacks are an important investment for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. By understanding the different types of trekking backpacks available and what to look for when making a purchase, you can be sure to find the perfect backpack for your needs.