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keys to buying a backpack are fit capacity and weight. While fit should
be determined by your body type, capacity (the types and amount of gear
a pack is capable of carrying) should depend on intended use and length
of trip. Weight is essential depending on where and how long you will
be on your trip. Here is what to look for to determine what backpack is
right for you.
Pack Styles and Uses
The more weight you carry, the more supportive your pack needs to be.
A waist or lumbar pack or small daypack is best if you are taking a short hike with little gear
you'll be carrying a bulky or heavy load (10 pounds or more), or if you
plan to be out for more than a day, consider an internal or external
Both internal and external frame
styles have a harness system comprised of shoulder straps and a hip
belt; compression straps pull the pack and load closer to the body
Refers to a support system that is built into the interior of a pack
frames transfer a large percentage of the pack's weight onto the hips,
which can bear far heavier loads than the shoulders. This frame style
is comprised of a hip belt that works with an internal suspension
The internal frame suspension system usually consists of one or more aluminum or carbon fiber stays that curve to fit your spine
The stays extend from the top of the pack to the hip belt, and their job is to stabilize loads and transfer weight to the hips
models also include a back panel , often made of high-density
polyethylene, to stiffen the back of the pack and allow for better
Internal frames offer better balance because of their low profile and close-to-the-body fit
The first generation of framed packs
They feature a rigid support system, or framework (usually constructed of tubular aluminum), to which a pack and harness attach
External frame packs transfer weight and stabilize loads, but are much more rigid than internal packs
have a wider profile than internal frame packs. On an open trail where
balance isn't a critical factor, this should present no major problems,
but in the backcountry, the frame could snag on branches or get tangled
Because the rigid frame keeps the pack away from your back, such models tend to be comfortable when used in hot weather
Usually less expensive than their internal frame counterparts because their design and production is less complicated
Hydration packs are designed to provide an ample supply of water while you're on the move.
A bladder, or reservoir, usually made of food-grade plastic holds the water
This is placed into a specially designed pocket or sleeve within the waist pack or day pack
Users drink the water via a hose equipped with a non-leaking bite valve
Styles and uses
Hydration packs were originally used by long-distance bicyclists and runners who required lots of water, free hands, and who couldn't juggle lots of water bottles
Now they are commonplace among skiers, snowboarders, hikers, inline skaters, climbers, triathletes and adventure racers
Daypack styles offer the largest bladder capacity as well as varying degrees of storage space
Waist pack styles generally have smaller bladder and storage capacities
Generally run from 1 to 3 liters
Your choice depends on intended use and volume of water consumed during your outing
Recommended to keep water cool in warm weather and to prevent freezing in cold weather
Measure of what the bladder weighs when filled
Most indicated weights pertain to empty reservoirs
Accept ice cubes and make for easier cleaning
Moisture-wicking fabric on shoulder straps and back panel for added comfort
Sculpted shoulder harness for better fit
Hip belt on some models for load stabilization
Men's and Women's models provide an ergonomic fit
The most popular--and durable--technical pack materials are found in the polyester and nylon family: Cordura nylon, ballistics nylon, ripstop nylon, and nylon packcloth, which are all:
Strong and abrasion resistant
Many feature water-repellent or waterproof coatings or treatments
What to look for
Backstitching and bar tacking in high-stress areas, such as shoulder strap anchors and around zippers, pockets, and external loops and webbing
High-abrasion areas, such as pack bottoms, should be reinforced with a strong material such as Kevlar, Hypalon, or heavy-weight Cordura
Back panels made of reticulated or compression-molded foam covered with a breathable, wicking fabric to disperse perspiration and enhance airflow
Ventilation channel between pack and a person's back
Compression straps to tighten down a load
Number, size, and accessibility of pockets
The capacity of a backpack is measured in cubic inches. The size you need depends on what you'll be doing and the amount and type of gear you want to carry.
For a warm-weather weekend trip (two or three days), look for a pack in the 1,500 to 3,500 cubic inch range
For a week-long trip or more: 3,500 to 7,000 cubic inches
Avoid using a pack that is too big. Most people tend to fill available space, which makes for a heavier than necessary load to haul. Use of compression straps will help to minimize additional space.
Your height has little bearing on what size pack you should wear; it's your torso length that matters.
If the pack is too long, it will sag onto your rear end
If it's too short, it won't support your lower back
Determining your proper pack size
To determine your torso length, measure from the seventh vertebra (the bony protrusion at the base of your neck between your shoulders) to the small of your back (level with your hipbones)
Packs range from X-Small to X-Large, Men and Women will generally have torso lengths that overlap in pack sizes.
For torso length less than 18" (45 cm.), your suspension size will likely be Medium to Small for Men and Small in Women
For torso length between 18" and 20" (45-50 cm.), your suspension size will likely be Medium to Large for Men and Medium for Women
Torso length over 21" (52.5 cm.), your suspension size will be Large for both Men and Women
Determining your hip belt size
The hip belt should cup your hips and when cinched tightly, the pads should not touch
The hip belt should be centered over the hips, about 1/3 of the belt will be on the hips and 2/3 of the belt will rest snug above your hipbones
A proper hip belt pad will have about a 3 to 6 inch gap between each end of the hip pad. This allows for the hip belt to be adjusted according to the amount of clothing layered beneath the hip belt. If the hip belt has a gap smaller or narrower than 3 to 6 inches you may need another size hip belt.
Depending on the pack hip belts may have interchangeable sizes in S, M, L
Correct positioning of shoulder straps
Shoulder straps should anchor to the backpack just below the seventh vertebra and the crest of your shoulders. They should wrap comfortably, yet securely, around the shoulders and should be at least 5" below the armpit.
Tuning the pack fit
The hip belt should rest about 2/3 above the hip with the rest of the belt on 1/3 of the hip
There should be room to adjust the belt depending on how many layers of clothing are necessary for the trip
Shoulder straps should be flat and follow from where they attach on the back panel of the pack and over the shoulder without any visible gaps.
The load lifting straps should be at a firm 45 degree angle without any slack
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