How to choose your hiking backpack

Do you want to be well equipped for the next time you hit the hiking trails? Are you tired of that shapeless bag that gives you back pain and slips off your shoulders? Are you overwhelmed by the range of models, sizes and styles of bags available? Don’t worry, we’ll explain how to choose the backpack that best suits your needs.

What kind of adventure?

Start off by asking yourself what kind of hiking adventure you plan to embark on. A one- or two-hour walk in nearby woods, a round trip up a mountain or a week-long solo hike along a trail several dozen kilometres long?

You may need a large bag with multiple pockets and adjustment modes for a long adventure, while a so-called “walking” bag which is smaller and less technical may be better suited to a shorter hike.

The effort that you put into the hike and the climate in which you intend to walk can also affect your decision when choosing the type of bag that will suit. Today, most bags have breathable fabric on the back and straps. There are also hyper-ventilated models specifically designed for situations where the body works hard or the heat is particularly intense.

Expedition backpacks Hiking backpacks Day backpacks

Visualize the space

What do you want to carry in your backpack? While certain bags are designed to hold a water reservoir with a tube that will save you from having to stop to quench your thirst, others are designed to hold a regular water bottle. How do you plan on staying hydrated?

Hydration packs

Similarly, ask yourself if you plan on carrying a tent, mattress and sleeping bag on your back. If this is the case, choose a bag that has practical straps on the sides and bottom so you can securely attach your camping kit and free up space inside the bag for the rest of your equipment.

How much do you plan on carrying? Do you see yourself heading off with hiking poles, a few books, spare shoes, a billy can and food? Whatever the plan, visualizing the space you will need and the approximate weight of the total load will help you choose a suitable bag.

Hiking with family or solo?

If you’re considering hiking alone, don’t forget that travelling alone requires more space than going with a partner, since you’ll have to carry everything yourself. Hiking with children will require even more space.

Take time to visit stores, examine a range of bags and read the labels to compare the details. Some bags have a host of hidden pockets to store pocket knives and other dangerous items out of the reach of children while others offer quick access to front pockets so you can quickly pull out your camera or boast fasteners for keys or carabiners. These little features will often help you come to a decision.

You might also want to go hiking with your baby! If you do, you can choose a baby carrier that will not only allow you to bring your favourite little human on an adventure, but will also have space for both their snacks and yours.

Baby carriers

Adjust and readjust

When you think you have chosen the right bag in the right colour and style with features that suit your needs, feel free to ask an instore specialist for advice and ask them to add weight to the bag, if possible. You can test the bag by adjusting the various straps to fit your body! A well-fitting bag is not only comfortable, but it will save you from back, neck, ankle and knee pain while making your hike easier and more enjoyable.

Don’t forget that there are models for left-handed and right-handed people, and some are ambidextrous. You can tell by the side of the pocket the zipper is on.

Bonus tip: For optimal comfort, don’t forget to readjust your bag every time you use it. Also, when you are on a long hike, you can vary the spots where the load rests by tightening or loosening the straps from time to time.

Bonus tip #2: Don’t forget to get a rain cover to keep your belongings dry. Some brands include a protective rain cover, which is an added bonus. However, most bags do not have this feature. Therefore, a cover must be purchased separately. Make sure that you choose the correct size for your bag.

What is certain is that a hiking backpack is a smart purchase that will last a long time. And it’s not just for hiking! You can use it on a daily basis. Try it once and you’ll soon be hooked on shopping hands-free with your bag on your back! You can also use your new purchase for work or school. Your laptop will fit perfectly between its cushioned inserts and still leave room for your lunch and coffee thermos.

You might even end up running more errands on foot or by bike, since your new bag will make you feel so light!