Your backpack is unquestionably the most important piece of equipment you will need for your backpacking adventure. Sometimes it will be your dearest friend and support your head on those long train rides.
It will provide you with a comfortable seat or backrest when you get tired. You will cuddle with it on the floors of countless train stations and laugh at it when it falls over unannounced.
But other times, you will want nothing more than to ditch your heavy companion. After miles of hauling it around you will curse at it and wish you hadn’t brought so much junk. More, you will be enraged when you’re in a rush and have to empty all its contents just to find your toothbrush.
Therefore, it is essential that you consider a variety of factors when buying your first Backpack.
When choosing the size of your backpack you need to determine the opportunity cost of a larger bag vs. the extra weight. However, my motto is, the smaller the better. No matter how mild your plans might be, any extra weight will quickly begin to feel like a 600 pound gorilla on your back. Plus, you will find that you generally don’t need a lot of the stuff you had planed to bring.
Quality is definitely an important aspect to consider. Having a strap break is probably one of the most annoying things that can happen on the road. A tear in the bottom or a jammed zipper can really drive you nuts too. I once bought my pack from the army surplus store. It was cheap and seemed strong, but by the end of a 5 month tour of India, it was completely falling apart. I would definitely advise to go name brand despite the extra cost.
The design should be given lowest priority in your deliberations. Sure it looks cool and different from other packs, but it is really worth the extra cash? Even if you can afford it, is it the most comfortable pack for you?
The Ideal Backpack
1) Shoulder straps. Shoulder straps should be both high quality and extremely comfortable. When backpacking, other than your feet, your shoulders take a grand beating. In backpacking retailers such as REI, they can actually custom form the straps to the contours of your body. If you have the cash, I would definitely advise this.
2) Waist belt: A waist belt is vital. It helps distribute the pack weight to your leg muscles thus saving your shoulders from cramps and bruising. You should make sure that the waist best isn’t to high or low and that it fits snugly around your waist.
3) Chest straps: Chest straps are also important. Like the waste belt, they help to distribute weight forward, reducing downward pressure, thus providing a more centered and comfortable feel. You will find that you will be constantly adjusting and utilizing both the waist best and chest straps in order to relieve the pain on your shoulders.
4) An easy access front-loading panel. This is a convenience that you will definitely want. With out access to the middle of your bag, you will find yourself constantly packing and unpacking everything.
5) Waterproof: If you’re not a fan of mold and don’t want to see your electronics malfunction, make sure your pack includes this feature. As long as your pack has some degree of waterproofing you should be fine. However, if you are traveling somewhere during a rainy season, you should invest in a separate waterproof backpack cover.
6) Internal frame: The frame should be strong and light but not too bulky. It needs to be small enough that it wont give you trouble when you’re trying to jam it into overhead compartments.
7) Ample and well placed compartments: Most good packs are equipped with an array of storage compartments that are easy to access. It’s a good idea to visualize how you will organize the things you plan to bring. See if when you attach your sleeping bag it doesn’t restrict access to the compartments you need.
These are just a few basic considerations to take into account before your purchase. However, the only way to really know your ideal pack is by testing it out on the road.
If you want to know what kind of backpack I use, you can check it out here, Guerrilla Packs. It’s only a 50L but I find the size to be perfect. Plus for the price of 79$, the quality is remarkable.
Good luck and safe travels,
Ps. If you have a favorite pack and want to share, feel free to post it below.